Snacks And Letters - Part 74

Author: [info]sionna_raven and [info]valkyriekat
Title: Snacks and Letters - part 74
Word Count: 3900
Rating: PG 13


~Sirius~

After the owls are sent, we can only wait for the replies. I'm pretty confident that Slughorn and the Malfoys will agree to attend. Lucius will be suspicious, but also curious to find out what I'm truly up to. I imagine that they keep their owls busy to discuss the strange invitation from the blood traitor among each other. Regulus wants Malfoy, Nott and Flint to be at his funeral. That's all that counts to me.


Some time after lunch the fire announces the arrival of Boruk. We've met before, when I made my will and again when the legacy was returned to me by Harry. The younger Boruk isn't really young. He looks older than Kreacher. He probably is older than the elf. Goblins don't give a damn about wizard laws and they don't talk to the Ministry about their clients. Severus eyes him suspiciously, a reasonable reaction. One can trust a Goblin to act like a Goblin and they trust a Black to act like a pureblood wizard. That has been a working business arrangement for centuries.

It's a question of manners not to use a wand in their presence unless it can't be avoided. They are still touchy about wands. It's a bit absurd, because they don't really need them. Boruk smirks at the sight of the signet ring. I return the smirk. They charge a handsome fee each time it is passed from one owner to the other, but I know they already deducted it in advance several years ago.

The ring passed to you, Mr Black, whether you have it at your disposal or not.” No use to argue with a Goblin in such matters.


The mere formalities are quickly done with. The guest list is a bit tricky. There seems to be a Ministry decree that for a gathering of more than three former Death Eaters in public which do not live in the same household – how thoughtful of them to take families into consideration – we need to obtain an official authorisation. We can't get one today and tomorrow is a bit late. Our list contains four marked Death Eaters. Severus snorts as Boruk explains he doesn't count, because he has been a Member of the Order of the Phoenix and a war hero. Leaves us with the legal three, young Theodore Nott managed to avoid taking the Mark before he finished Hogwarts. I wish Regulus had done the same. Boruk suggests that I contact the Head of the Auror Office and the Minister in private, because we are on friendly terms.


“Is it legal to have three former Death Eaters in one place or not?” I bark. I don't feel like begging with Harry and Kingsley to be allowed to bury my brother the way he wants it. Legilimency is not needed to read Severus' face. He's thinking 'stubborn Gryffindor' or 'arrogant pureblood'.


“Well, yes Mr Black. It is legal and with three Order members to be responsible for the meeting the Ministry shouldn't interfere, but using your connections won't do any harm. The Ministry is still nervous. There were rumours of an investigation of Dark activities yesterday.”


Rumours? I'm sure Boruk knows which house they searched. Severus inspects a spot on the ceiling with utmost interest.


~Severus~

“So I am discounted as a Death Eater. How quaint. All that trouble for nothing,” I can't keep silent on this one. “On my left arm is the mark of perfection, a sure sign of a war hero,” I sneer.


“You should know,” Boruk says nastily.


“Hermione Weasley should know, took her long enough to obliterate the past.” I sneer some more.


“If we could keep it to Mr Black, I am here to see him only. Other wand-carriers are beneath my notice,” he says harshly. “The time of the funeral?”


“Two in the afternoon. That's tradition.” They are back at it. I examine the ceiling again, listening to Sirius' stubborn, spoiled voice, the one he always used around James Potter. Pureblood Gryffindor. And I like him?


Click. An idea falls into place. Sirius is treating me just as he used to treat James. Blind loyalty, he'd do anything for me, it's his honour. Same with Regulus and Andromeda. Everyone else can go to hell, or be so secondary they don't matter to him. Maybe he still cares for Harry... but there's an estrangement. Great Salazar, I thought I was socially backwards. He takes the cake.


I wait for Sirius to be finished, observing only. Not that Boruk won – I couldn't be bothered when it comes to goblins. I have my train of thought derailed by the return of Zara, my faithful owl. He is tapping on the window, bearing three letters. Every answer. I take the owl out and over to a large ornate cage. He nearly inhales the water in his eagerness for a drink. He made it in good time. I would stroke him but Sirius and Boruk are still here, just parting.


“Let's not count our Death Eaters before they're hatched shall we? The answers. Malfoy, Nott and Flint.” I riffle through the envelopes and open Flint's first. “Richard is coming, and let's see...” I flick open another envelope and whisk it though the air, and scan it, “Theo is indeed coming. And for the ace card- Lucius indicates he will come under condition of talking to the blood traitor that's hosting this happy event.” I stare at the paper. “He will be in touch just after two pm today.” I hold the parchment in one hand. “Exceptions for families are included even here? The family added would make more than three offenders.” I am thinking of Draco. Narcissa never took the mark, as far as I know.


Boruk looks coldly and me and I watch him carefully. If there's anyone who draws a calculated look from a wand-carrier it's a goblin. I can see his gigantic wheels turning. “That will be acceptable, as Nott never took the Dark Mark in the first place. Three is three. It has been thought through. The Ministry will be informed.” At last he seems to be departing.


I look at Sayla Flint's watch on my wrist. “Two-fifteen. Lucius should be here any minute. He is going to take a piece out of Richard if we're not careful. Unrepentant meets repentant. Richard says he will avoid politics.”


Boruk's expression is unfathomable. Black eyes and in a domed head, elongated fingers, feet in long thin black over-shined shoes. He turns to exit via Floo powder, and he is getting ready to leave when emerald sparks sail into the air and roaring green flames expel Lucius Malfoy into the room.


We're all taken aback by Lucius' arrival. He looks at me with grey disdainful eyes, then at Boruk, then at Sirius. “Boruk,” Lucius says smoothly and his glib ambiguity just oozes out of him. He always could make an entrance.


“Severus, you haven't changed. Slip of a man, and slippery as an eel. Keeping out of trouble? Judging by your present company, I rather think not.”


~Sirius~

Boruk has obviously decided to leave us to deal with our differences. It's better not to have knowledge of certain things.


“We'll collect the body in the morning. Everything will be arranged to your wishes, Mr Black.”


“Thank you, Boruk. Good day to you.”


The goblin steps into the fire and is gone. I turn my attention to Lucius. The rumours have not exaggerated. He's only the shadow of the young man I once knew who believed the world belonged to him. Do I feel pity for a Death Eater? Maybe I just know how it feels when the cause you dedicated your life to came to nothing.


“Nice to meet you, Lucius,” It's only slightly meant as a mockery. I spoke the truth when I said to Draco Lucius wasn't the worst of the lot. “And a belated 'Merry Christmas'.


“Black, what are you up to? First you try to corrupt my wife and son with expensive presents and now you're trying to lure us to an illegal gathering. I'm not that stupid!”


“We've just discussed the legal concerns with Boruk. Three pardoned Death Eaters are balanced out by three Order members. Strictly spoken it is a family event the Ministry shouldn't interfere with. Regulus wants you and your friends to attend. I'm willing to do him the favour. There aren't many left he called friends or family.”


“Family and friends? Narcissa mentioned that you remembered the importance of family lately. Who would have thought? What category do you count Severus in? You weren't the best of friends in the past.”


Severus calmly takes the jibe at his blood status. I want to slap Lucius, but I notice the flicker in his eyes. The man is scared. He cannot afford to make us his enemies, but he doesn't trust us.


“Severus fits both as you very well know, much more closely related to the Blacks than you are, Malfoy. Yes, I remember the importance of family. Isn't it strange what war does to men? Some remember what really counts and others forget everything, even their manners.”


“Sirius, I don't need a watch dog to defend me. Put your mutual dislike aside, both of you. This is about Regulus, not your pride.” Severus growls impatiently.


I back down smiling. I know he's right with both. He doesn't need me to watch his back and this is about Regulus.


“Maybe your old friend could do with a dose of your home-brew to help him think.


-Severus-


I see Lucius look at me sharply. “I am taking no drink from a potioneer who lives two or three lives at once. Once a Death Eater, though, always a Death Eater.” He stares insolently at my left arm, where the brand still exists. I had hoped it would fade completely, and he knows it hasn't. I hate him at the moment. But this man was the one who first greeted me when I was a greenhorn at the the Slytherin table, fresh from the Sorting, with his prefect's badge and shoulder length whitish hair.


I find Draco easier to deal with, fine have it your way, Malfoy. I nod to Sirius, who looks bemused. Maybe even amused. “Sirius, if you could? I know you offered my poison, perhaps Lucius wishes another death by another brand.” I lay delicate stress on the last word. His eyes are still on my left arm, but they flicker over to Sirius.


“How about Severus brings the drink and we all have some? We can all expire together,” Sirius jokes most earnestly, shaking his shaggy head at our foolishness.


Fine,” I say, muttering “More paranoid than Alastor Moody,” under my breath, carefully enunciated so as to carry to the other two. “Be warned, Lucius, this hound isn't always that tame,” I add more loudly.


I don't look at Sirius but try to assess Lucius, take in the image of him. He is thinner than I am and his hair is straggly, longer even than usual. He looks all angles. His cheeks are hollowed, and a tic goes in his right cheek. Gaunt is the right word, and his pale eyes have lost their dominance, no matter how good an entrance he made. I raise my wand, and give it an irritable jerk, silently summoning the best of the Firewhiskey...which is my only Firewhiskey. I'll avoid drinking any. It's not good to let down any defences, not now.


The bottle soars to me and I grasp it firmly and unstopper it. Sirius conjures fine crystal glasses, and I pour three separate shots in three separate glasses. We all take one. I use a non-verbal Evanesco to clear the glass the moment it reaches my lips. Sirius barely touched his, put set in on the table next to him. We all sit at long last.


Lucius turns the glass in his hands watching the amber liquid glitter through the cut crystal.

“I see you are started to value your heritage again, though you still receive guests in the kitchen.”


There's a dangerous gleam in Sirius' eyes, but his words are merely amused.


“I do indeed. That my blood is not a recommendation nowadays doesn't mean I can't enjoy the few comforts it offers. I'm sorry that you don't like the kitchen. The drawing room is not fit for guests. We had a little party last night, close friends only.” Sirius jerks his head in way that leaves no doubt who he refers to.


It still confuses me, when Sirius calls me a close friend. Lucius is even more confused.


Relax, sit back, and tell us what you've come to say,” Sirius plays the expansive host easily, he is an excellent actor sometimes.


“I want to know about Regulus wanting me there. I want to know what happened to Severus, that he's befriended a blood traitor extraordinaire. I want to know what this gathering means, and I refuse to be around Flint. He's the Repentant Slytherin capitalized, and I can't withstand his presence. There's one thing denying who you are. It's worse that he attempts to shove it on the rest of us.”
Lucius is looking at me, transparent eyebrows raised.


Regulus portrait decided who should attend. He wishes for you, Narcissa and Draco to come, among others, Nott and yes Flint. And we're not changing Regulus' wishes to suit you.” I snarl the last three words.


Ah, yes. Portraits are tricky. Why Regulus should choose me... we were alike in pure blood and cunning intentions, but he was ever the idealist, I was more practical... more willing to make hard decisions...” Lucius sounds didactic, This is very vexing.


“Were you? You don't look I'll like a man who can cope with the consequences of his decisions.” Sirius mutters under his breath. I glare at him to shut up. He smirks. Lucius hasn't heard his remark.


You're not here to give lectures. I'm answering no questions on my recent behaviour. This is about Regulus. You made an impression on him. He looked up to you, remembers you well. He met Draco at the Christmas party and young mister Malfoy made a good impression too. He likes Narcissa. The group is balanced by two opposing parties coming for Regulus. It's legal. If you wish to attend, let us know now.” I sound irritated.


I stand and pour him another shot, one for myself and leave the bottle beside Sirius again. He doesn't drink. Lucius' eyes follow my drink as again I have it evaporate as it touches my lips, and he drinks. I want him to either whine petulantly for acceptance or have his old disdain and sense of personal control. He seems almost himself as he clicks his fingers for another drink. I get neither response. I refuse to fill a glass at such a vulgar prompt. I stare at Lucius, and knit my brow,


The family – the immediate family will attend. This is Regulus, with his ideals of the young, and the pure. Fine, we accept.” Belch. I suppress a snort of disgust and disbelief. A Malfoy belched in public. The world will end.


He tries to make an exit as grand as his arrival but fudges it by stumbling on the corner of his robes. A pathetic Lucius is a horrible thing to witness. If I were the type to have pity on anyone, one of my first choices would be Lucius Malfoy.


No strut, just a disappearance amid green flames and emerald sparks.


~Sirius~

I shove the bottle away and watch the green flames disappear.

“Let's hope that his own pride stops him from being like this tomorrow. There won't be a reception after the funeral. I don't think Reggie's portrait is up to face this. He admired him since he was a boy. Given that the only alternatives were Bella and her gargoyles, it's not completely unreasonable.”


Severus looks at me thoughtfully. “He's ....”


“No need to tell me. I know I was as bad four years ago. Believe it or not I'd invited him without Reggie saying so. He is family.”


Severus snorts. “A family to be proud of.”


“Just family. Can you tell me a bit about Richard Flint and Theodore Nott? I've met Flint as a boy. He was a friend of my father and my uncle Alphard which actually makes it hard to imagine what kind of ex-Death Eater I've got to expect. Harry and Ron mentioned his son, but more in connection with Quidditch than politics. I don't know young Nott. His father was close to Bella's gargoyles,” I can't suppress a grin. “the Lestranges, but the son obviously managed to keep his distance from Draco and his cronies. Harry doesn't seem to remember much of the boy.”


-Severus-

I consider my answer for a minute. “Theodore Nott is a paradox. He studies the Dark Arts but is as nervous about it as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He always fell into high average in Potions classes, no true distinction. He's high-strung and yappy like one of those nervous small dogs. And when he wants, he can snap at your ankle with flair. He doesn't only do that when provoked. A shrinking violet with Venomous Tentacula creepers. He was the “Charms geek” at Hogwarts. It should be very hard to predict him, but from what I know of him, he'll be silent but cast a nervous hex on those nearest him, passive-aggressive. Always more than what he seems.” I stare at the wall while I think, and try to put weighed words to my thoughts.


He didn't get involved with Draco and friends out of fear of committal. A wise boy out of self-interest, in short.” I finish.


He sounds quite the Slytherin,” Sirius gives me a small dry wink. I ignore him. Trying to sum up these people in few words would be easy, but I know he wants detail. Something to sink your teeth into. Analysis. Sizing things up. I know more than a little about these things. And he knows it. He's not too lazy to find out, he's just making good use of resources. Or – asking a friend for information? That would be it … along with my shame at not realizing the simple truths in front of my face. I decide not to ignore Sirius.


“Yes, quite. Just as Pettigrew was a Gryffindor. Nott's far more decent by any comparison.” I can't keep a hate-twisted smirk from my face, and it must be terrible, because Sirius looks away.


“Don't remind me.” Sirius looks ill.


“I wouldn't dream of bringing it up. Theo Nott is coming to stand in for his father, Edwin. Edwin has a wasting illness of some sort, deathly ill. He's a wild card, Theo, so we'll have to see how things go and hope he doesn't go off biting ankles. Odds are good he'll be quiet but we must watch.”


“So tell me how lovely our next decent snake is.” He's recovered a little from the mention of Pettigrew. If he feels badly about that, how does he think I felt when Dumbledore said “Perhaps we sort too soon”? Wretched man, manipulator. Sirius and I agree there, indeed we agree on a lot for former enemies par excellence. I think now of Richard Flint.


“Richard calls himself a repentant Death Eater but really he's an unrepentant racist of the worst sort- the humorous, pleasant, joking, belittling sort. The one no one takes seriously but everyone remembers what he said because he's (I sneer strongly here) 'a nice guy'.

Like Arthur around Muggles only in Richard's case it's more than amusement at how clever these little Muggles are, he sends the message that Muggles are great for hex practise or joke about seeing if they're immune to magic by casting Unforgivables. He thinks Muggle-borns should be tagged in the ear .. what was his term … “like common faggots.” He's vile.

I don't know how Orion and Alphard had anything to do with him. But he was more decent at one point and that was the point when Regulus knew him. He was very gifted with the glib tongue. I blame him for being half the reason Regulus was drawn to the Dark Lord's ideology.

People like to feel in on secret knowledge and have secret power. At least those I know and have met. For you it was the Order. For Richard... for Regulus... for me, at first... it was the Death Eaters.


I get back to the point. “Lucius will probably be less of a problem than non-Death Eater Theo. We should try to keep them separated. Better to stick Lucius in some prestigious seat, because Theo will respect that, and keep his distance. Those two together are quite a handful. But as you say, there will be no reception. By the time it's over I don't doubt the Ministry will be there for what Hermione would call damage control. Let's hope to avoid it.

Where do we stick Lucius? Top of a pecking order with the most decrepit Death Eater at the top and Richard at the bottom. That's how I see it. Draco can keep an eye on his father, and Narcissa can watch them both. Draco can sit next to her, and Theo. Theo will be excited to see Draco again, even if they were in different crowds. Same house, same year, somewhat the same nonsense. Theo will sit next to me or I'll have his wand. You in front, I suppose? I'd rather sit with you. The whole aspect of a social gathering has me grinding my teeth to so many very small millstones. This won't be easy. Richard can't be allowed to sound off at Reg's funeral even in his genial way. Perhaps if we ask Horace to watch him, if Horace wouldn't be too put out at not making the funeral's shelf.” I smirk. “Any suggestions?”


~Sirius~

I consider his words carefully. Flint fits my father and Uncle Alphard perfectly except that they thought themselves so high above the common folk that they wouldn't even have thought of dirtying their hands with active Muggle baiting. Nott reminds me a bit of Severus, but of course I wouldn't tell him.


“Narcissa will certainly take care of Lucius. She's always been capable of controlling him and make him do her bidding. I'm sure she won't let him endanger Draco's future any more than he already has. Draco himself... you know how much the boy looks up to you? With him and the other two I rely on the proverbial Slytherin sense of self-preservation. They certainly don't trust me and they are not the only ones. We'll be watched, but they should be aware of that.

Let's trust the power of your intimidating glare to keep our guests under control.” I add laughing. ”Yeah, that's perfect......”



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October 2013

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