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Chapter Forty-One: Déjà Vu and Deliberation

Harry felt himself grow cold at the shock of hearing Lucius Malfoy's voice from the fireplace, yet at the same time he felt the heat of anger in his hatred of the arrogant man who dared to contact Severus after all that had recently come to pass. Harry was ready to stalk over to the fireplace and give the elder Malfoy a piece of his mind when he caught sight of Severus' aura of caution, and his wordless warning to stay still and silent. Harry wasn't happy about it but he agreed to Severus' wish since he would know the situation better, as evidenced by his pointed stare.

Severus approached the fireplace, his aura still darkened by caution but startlingly without hatred despite his neutral-toned greeting. "Good day, Lucius. I expect that you have any number of reasons for flooing me." Harry couldn't see Malfoy from where he stood but he most certainly would watch Severus for clues.

"And you know them all, Severus," Malfoy's voice replied from the bowels of the fireplace, "Likely you could deliver an hour dissertation on each." To Harry's surprise, Snape's aura gained a touch of fond amusement at the proclamation.

"And from the sound of things, you must be alone. I hope things didn't go too badly for you?" Severus asked with what almost sounded like concern.

"Too badly?" Malfoy's voice echoed its sarcasm from the floo, "No, not at all- for me at any rate. I just got to take a tour of America's charming eastern countryside and seaboard with nothing to show for it apart from nettles in my cloak and sand in my shoes." Harry felt a surge of satisfaction at the sound of Malfoy venting his irritation. He probably got stains all over his best suit and had to get his other house elves to clean it. Harry suddenly wondered where Dobby was, but Malfoy's continued words drew him back to the conversation at hand. "So I was away while the Dark Lord was venting his displeasure upon the others. That will change later, I expect, when he next summons us and I tell him the results of my search."

Severus winced, the darkness in his aura mingled with an understanding that Harry wasn't happy to see. He knew Severus was punished by Voldemort; he was on hand during the most recent times. "I suppose you're calling to make me feel guilt over it."

Malfoy's voice was arrogant and contained none of the entreaty that one might hear from someone hoping to receive a favor, "That and to ask for a bit of your specialty for when I get home." Sounding even more forthright, he added. "You look rather hellish if I might say so."

"You may," Sighing, Severus seemed to keep himself from glancing in Harry's direction; something that Harry wasn't going to complain about as he was too amazed at Severus' familiar reaction to Malfoy to control his expression. He didn't want to get caught gaping like a fish. "I'll send some of the potion over to Narcissa when it's ready; it's time to make a fresh batch." Resignation without resentment...

Malfoy muttered, "It's been a busier summer than we'd anticipated last year, eh Severus? Looks like you'll have to get back into the habit of keeping that in stock now that he's back." Harry's irritation grew at Malfoy's manner and how he told Severus what he should do.

"You're hardly safe on that end," Severus growled, his aura reflecting his own irritation mingled with the concern that Harry couldn't believe remained. "And neither is Draco. When are you going to swallow your pride and leave? Especially now that I seem to have been sunken into his disfavor?"

Malfoy snorted, "If you were any more disfavored you'd be a pile of ash, Severus. He hasn't actually called you a traitor yet, but between his paranoia and his intelligence it won't be long. I'd suggest you don't go out for a while."

Severus shook his head, suddenly decisive and cunning, "I'll trade your services of shopping for a few of my more ... selective ingredients in exchange for this month's supply of the potion, then."

"Agreed. So long as you don't use the version that contains that repulsive tasting wart root." Malfoy's sneering voice replied.

Severus actually chuckled, that perplexing fondness appearing again. "Stay on my good side, then."

Harry grew even more confused as Malfoy's voice became suddenly warm, "Always." More seriously, he asked, "How is the old fool treating you?"

"The same," Severus immediately replied, impassivity taking hold of voice, expression and aura as though to automatically hide something. Not a surprise to Harry considering what had been recently revealed of Dumbledore to them both.

Malfoy didn't seem to take that reply as the truth, growling, "You know how much I despise that man. Even since Fifth year you hadn't been the same. You shouldn't stay there." Harry's eyes widened; Could Malfoy be referring to the Shrieking Shack incident?

"And where would I go? With you in the Manor?" Severus dubiously asked.

"You could," was Malfoy's almost impish sounding reply.

"Not the most intelligent move. How long do you think it would take for word to get out?" Severus sighed. "Not only would I be at risk, but so would you as well as Draco and Narcissa." Not to mention Harry himself. And who would teach Potions if Severus wasn't here? Harry tried finding amusement at his internal jest but couldn't in light of things.

There was a moment's pause, during which Severus' aura reflected quiet confidence; he didn't think anything bad would come of the conversation. Did he have that much trust in Malfoy? The aristocrat spoke again, this time more formally, "Send a list of ingredients with the potion and I'll see them delivered tomorrow afternoon."

Severus tried for a smile, his voice kinder than Harry had heard since Severus had regained his memories. "Thank you, Lucius. Watch your back."

"You too." The floo disconnected itself, the fire dying down to embers once more.

When Severus turned to regard Harry, the surrounding aura implied that Severus was ... in a good mood- and showing signs of nostalgia in the background. "Close your mouth, Harry. You never know what might fall into it otherwise."

Damn, Harry thought. He caught me out.

Thankfully the boy didn't waste his time in composing his expression again - at least as well as he was able to. I'll likely have to see about teaching him more about that sometime in future, but for now I just wanted to secure a bit of time to myself. Seeing Lucius again had brought back thoughts and feelings more effectively than time and my general healing elixir had. "Well? Go on to your rooms, Harry. Surely you haven't already forgotten the password?"

That is enough to goad him into movement once more. Once he reached the door, however, he turned back and entreated, "What was that all about, with Mr. Malfoy? What potion was he referring to? And why was he-"

Upon figuring where this line of questioning was going, I cut the boy off before he could go any further, "You'll find out in short order, Mr. Potter," I sternly intoned the formal form of his name for effect, "... as you'll be assisting me in brewing it. The potion is one which aids in the recuperative process for those inflicted by the Cruciatus curse." The boy started to look excited, so I cut off his most likely thought as well, "I've already tried it with Mr. Longbottom's parents, and while it did relieve some minor physical impairments they showed no further signs of returning sanity. I think we both know why that is so- something else you can research during the summer. Now go and settle yourself into your rooms. I'll summon you when it is time for lunch."

Harry looked like he wanted to speak again, but restrained himself and left the room. That blasted aura sight can be annoying and an invasion of my privacy, but at least it comes in handy in letting him know when he'd best not push things and should instead obey me.

I must be getting soft.

Harry. When did I start feeling comfortable calling him that? Yes, I must be getting soft. Although the boy hasn't exactly failed to prove himself to be growing up, nor has he shown himself to be unintelligent. Just ... impulsive and emotional sometimes. Something that he can be taught to control when necessary. Especially when he's around me.

But then, I'm not especially into self-delusion or rationalization. The boy is slowly becoming a breath of fresh air rather than a stagnant waste of a stuffy and spoiled Gryffindor. Reality, it seems, is a matter of perspective.

Perhaps I'll take a few moments to review my last paper on the debate of Heredity versus Environment.

In the meantime, I determined it was safe enough to secrete away that which I do not want the boy to have access to. Harry seemed capable enough of handling and playing a musical instrument in our shared dream, but this does not mean I would approve of him touching my Father's violin. I take it from its long-time home on my bookcase and hide it away in one of the secret drawers in my desk with a whisper of apology to the polished wood protected by the aged case. I locked and concealed the opening once more as fluid notes played themselves over in my mind.


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