Who: Narcissa Malfoy and Severus Snape What: Engaging Severus in a project and testing loyalties When: Afternoon of 8 April Where: Malfoy Manor library Warnings: A bit of Death Eater talk
"I'm so glad you could join me this afternoon, Mr Snape," Narcissa told Severus over her cup of tea. As with everything else he had seen this afternoon, Narcissa's attention to the details of tea and its accompaniments was elegant and performed with an aura of grace. "I know that working hours at Mulpepper's must be quite difficult, and the work undemanding to a gentleman of your intellect. Lucius has spoken well of you in your common endeavours."
Young Draco was at their feet in a magically constructed pen. He was, at least, a happy child, making occasional gurgling noises as he played with his toys instead of crying or indicating displeasure in some other way. A well-bred child, of course, and he was, so far, acting like it.
The invitation had come as something of a surprise, albeit a… well, Severus couldn’t quite call it a pleasant one. He was unaccustomed to social niceties, and tea served by a Malfoy was bound to require the sort of concentration he usually devoted to particularly finicky bits of potion work. He’d have to watch his tongue as well as his fingers, and if he recalled correctly, there would be a small child involved, which was the sort of thing that Severus tried to assiduously avoid where possible.
Small children were like unexploded bombs. They might go off at any moment, and Severus preferred not to be caught in the fallout, whether that be aural or olfactory.
Still, one did not refuse an invitation from any Malfoy, right down to the tiny one currently playing on the carpet nearby.
“I’m gratified to hear it,” Severus remarked, long fingers curled very delicately around his teacup, “And even more gratified to find myself in your good company, Lady Malfoy.” His smile was a thin-lipped thing, barely a curl at the corners of his mouth.
"I should like to arrange for the pleasure of your company more often, actually," Narcissa said with a smile of her own. Hers was more generous and more freely given. "There is a--task, which I am engaged upon for Lucius and for the cause of bettering out society, which we both find so important, and I would like to ask for your help. It involves work among the rariora and rarissima of the library, which I think you would find beneficial and to your taste. I didn't marry Lucius for his library," she confessed with that full-lipped smile, matched with a fond light in her eye, "but it has proved to be one of the joys of this house. Even Lucius and I don't know all of what lies concealed in this room. There are certainly forgotten texts that I'm sure a researcher such as yourself would find of interest."
The answering gleam of avarice in dark eyes said that Narcissa had touched upon a topic that truly did ignite interest. Severus could never quite get the hang of pretending focus on the vagaries of small talk- yes, the weather was dreary, no, he hadn’t seen the match last weekend, his health was fine, though he appreciated that he apparently always looked peaked- but when a subject really did draw his focus? It was hard to miss.
“I have always been at home in libraries,” he remarked, in a tone that could almost pass for wistful. “It was only a pity that there were so many limitations on the collections at Hogwarts.” If he’d been given the opportunity, Severus probably would’ve moved in. He could’ve made a bunk under a table and lived there quite happily. But, alas. There were hours and whole sections set out-of-bounds, and it had all been very unfair, in his estimation.
Arching a brow, he ventured a mild, “What, precisely, is the task?” Not that there was much she could say to dissuade him of the chance to look through whatever collection of books might be contained here. The only chance for Narcissa to go wrong might involve destroying items, and he couldn’t imagine her suggesting that.
"We're looking for a specific item that Lucius' father added to--or rather, hid in--the collection. If the instructions we were given are correct," which Narcissa was clearly not entirely certain about, "the contents aren't significant but the book itself is--required by certain persons of our mutual acquaintance. We know that you're committed to the cause, as we are, and thought that we could arrange your assistance to our mutual advantage."
Narcissa hoped that Severus was committed to the cause exactly as she was, which was to say that ruling society to its betterment was an improvement over worshipping an undead Dark wizard, but this was going to be her chance to find out.
Ah. The Cause, of course. Severus dipped his head just a fraction, lowering the sharp jut of his chin, and hummed a thoughtful noise. “A pretty puzzle, hiding something that appears inconsequential,” he remarked. In a library that was, presumably, full of all manner of useful and intriguing options, a book that appeared trifling might be easily overlooked… or lost altogether. It was easy to find oddities. The mundane, not so much.
“Of course I would be glad to offer my assistance, to you and the greater good.” That was his aim, really. It was always a tricky business, to sort out loyalties. Severus tended to give his to ideas, rather than people. Less disappointment was to be had, that way. People were flawed and difficult to mend, but ideas were flexible. You could always go back to the proverbial drawing board.
"Then I'm sure," Narcissa said, inclining her head and offering Severus one of those gracious smiles, "that we can work everything else out." Draco had been watching the adults talk with solemn curiosity, but he recognised that something had made his mother happy. He laughed with apparent glee and grinned at Severus.
The promise of access to the Malfoy library had been suitably diverting enough that Severus had nearly forgotten the presence of a small child in the room. The giggling drew his attention and his eye, and while he didn’t match that grin, he did allow a tiny smile. “I’ve no doubt,” he agreed, lifting his teacup in something like a brief salute.
Theirs would be a mutually beneficial agreement, he was certain.