Pardon My French

By Violet Beck

Arc I :: Quelle Chance!

Chapter Two :: Tastes Like Chicken

No one noticed when I walked through the dining room's back doors with Asmodeus on my shoulder. The small hall was already full. People come early to dinner at the Manor--it's a time to gossip sordidly and embarrass your rivals to the fullest. Life's favorite pastimes, amplified and dignified by fine cutlery.

My Lord was at the table's head. I couldn't hear his voice from where I sat near father's place at the far end, but I could tell from his expression that business was being conducted. I paused, and leaned back against the hall wall to watch the proceedings before I chose concretely whether I wanted to be a part of them.

It is rumored among the lower ranks that he isn't human. Voldemort, Scourge, Taker of All--they have a variety of strange and almost cult-like nicknames for their master, and legend surrounds his birth. The thing that always occurs to me, however, as I watch his face, is not the cool, calm mask that he wears, or even the heartlessness of his hard eyes. There are little, bitter lines around his lips that instead grasp my attention, and scars on his temple and throat. Sometimes I think only I notice the way his eyes sometimes flick to the side, searching for someone who isn't there.

Through all his careless humor, his careless cruelty, his careless glances; even through the refined methodology he uses to achieve any end, my Lord is very human. Because, for all his assumed preternatural ability, his hand still shakes when he is tired, and he's knocked over several wine glasses with his elbow to date.

That is why he needs Marian.

Marian Lestrange. Now there is a Scourge, if I've ever seen one. She was once a beautiful woman. Her skin was pale and fine; her brow high and arched over cool, dark eyes. Perfectly styled hair falls around her cheeks in so many pictures from twenty, thirty years in the past. Most of her former glory remains, but Azkaban shows in all the tell-tale spots. Furrows crease her brown; she can no longer smile without looking like she is passing a kidney stone. Her eyes are deadened by the horror of her own memories.

She is a seer; one of the best and the brightest. Visions of past, present and future come to her every time she goes to sleep. It's rather revolting, some of the things she knows. Her leer is almost patented; she obnoxiously feels it is her fundamental right to flaunt even the basest, most gratuitous parts of her knowledge: I almost died the time she informed half the dinner table that I was only relaxed that morning because I'd jacked off in the shower...argh...sodding whore....

I didn't have any more time to think at the moment, because Father made his grand entrance through the dining room's main doors, and I impulsively retreated from sight.

Daddy dearest was particularly repulsive that evening, in his best robes with a smug smile curving his lips. He made his way straight to Voldemort, and without even a bow, he leaned close to him and whispered something that made my Lord smile.

My stomach turned with the lovechild of jealousy and hatred, and now I truly retreated, back up the passage from which I'd come. Fuck Father and his little golden mandate trying to bring me to dinner. I was going to sit on my ass in my room eating candy until he came to beat the hell out of me later. I didn't need to watch him put on the Greatest Show on Earth for the ten thousandth time this lifetime. Little Mr. Heir-of-Evil.

I was starting to hate him. You know, really hate him.

I rejoined the Manor's main thoroughfare from behind a tapestry of Kali Ma, and got into the lift. I leaned against the wall, and patted Asmodeus a few times where he sat on my shoulder, messing with my hair.

Crying.

I noticed it just as the elevator started to move, and froze where I stood, focusing on the sound from the dungeons far below.

Crying?

It wasn't the sobs of one in pain, but rather of one without hope. The voice of a woman, perhaps? Or a child? No...no child sounded like that.

It's none of your business.

I got out of the lift on my floor, considerably sobered, and trudged to my room. I tossed Asmodeus on the bed. He protested loudly, and then jumped down to go hide out somewhere in the tapestries.

With a thud, I sat down at my writing desk, and loosened the collar of my robes.

Crying? Honestly, who cries here? Who would have a reason....

We must have a prisoner, then.

I tried sifting through the mess of magazines and leaflets and books and quills on my desk to remove the crying from my head, but it wasn't very helpful. So forsaken, that sound....

Nope. Not thinking about that. No sirree. I hurriedly scooped up a writing utensil and some slightly torn parchment, setting it neatly in front of me. I could write a letter. Didn't have to think about Father, or his prisoners. I'd just gotten a letter today that deserved a reply, actually. Yeah.

Quill poised above paper, I paused, wondering what the hell I was going to write to Potter. This really was absurd.

Dear Potter, I wrote, and promptly scratched the "Dear" out. That was disgustingly affectionate. I put a semicolon after the "Potter", and admired that. No, too cold. I scratched Potter out and wrote Harry, with a semicolon after that. Okay, that looked alright. Properly detached, but not plain nasty. Just polite. Polite...ugh.

Oh boy.

Browsing for inspiration, I picked up a few scattered pieces of correspondence from the floor beside me, and inspected them. Pansy's eye-catching flowery pink cursive adorned the first one, along with a big red wax seal (P for Parkinson). I re-opened it, and caught a faint whiff of her perfume. Reading the message, I remembered why I rarely open her letters. Too many adjectives and exclamation points.

The other six or seven hastily scratched notes from Crabbe and Goyle, devoid of signatures or dates. However, their origins and chronology were relatively easy to piece together. Laying them out on my desk, I'd soon come up with the following story:

Sorry, haven't written. Dad took me to Paris. Germans can't play Quidditch at all. I hate them.

Did you know Greg's in Paris? Jackass. He saw Germany/Austria--Austria one by two hundred. Stupid Germans.

Won money on Austria in Austria/France! They're not so bad this year. You should bet on them.

Do you have Goyle's address in Paris!?

Vince isn't answering my letters, Draco--beat him up.

Disregard last letter and do not beat up Crabbe, he just didn't have my address. Will be home in a week or so.

Well, that wasn't confusing.

Shoving the mass of Crabbe-and-Goyle-Invincible-Team drivel back to the floor where it belonged, I was once again confronted by Potter, semicolon. Yeargh. Wincing, I put my quill on the paper, and forced myself to start scribbling.

I am having a very nice boring summer, hope you are too. My cat is fine, he thanks you for asking. My father says you live with Muggles, right? Hope yours aren't as barbaric as the rest.

I'm going on holiday soon tomorrow, so you'll have to look up the Address Charm if you want to owl me again.

Love, From, Draco Malfoy

I looked at that for a few seconds, and had to resist the urge to bang my head against my desk. I traced my quill a few times over the name Harry, and finally just made a vast ink blot of it.

Why was this so hard!? It was obvious he hadn't had this much trouble!

Knock, knock.

I looked up, and instantly grimaced. Probably one of Father's little minions at the door, out to drag me back to dinner.

"Come in," I said, feeling I was going to regret it.

Severus pushed the door open. "Surprise, surprise," he said dryly.

My mouth dropped open from the shock of seeing him, and then I smiled. "Oh, you," I said, smirking at him. "Where the hell have you been? I haven't seen or heard from you all summer."

"All sorts of lovely places, I assure you," he said. "Your presence is requested at dinner. Lucius is miffed that you weren't there to see me come in. He figured it would be a nice little surprise for you." He had an amused glint in his eyes at this final pronouncement.

"Tough luck for him, then," I said, and motioned to a chair by the fire. "Sit down. I want to hear of your travels, wise one."

"Quiet, upstart," Severus muttered, but seated himself anyway. He looked grateful for the place to rest.

"So, where'd He send you?"

"North America. Had to chat with the Native Nations."

I raised my eyebrows. "And how did that go?"

"Well, from your standpoint, it went very well. Most of their leaders are in support of what we do. The majority of non-natives in that area are Muggles, and the Indians would give anything to flush them out and get their land back, after all these years. Even allegiance to my Lord seems worthwhile to them." The last sentence came out with a distinctive bitter tinge to the tone.

I looked my mentor sternly in the eye. "Someone's been smoking the peace pipe a bit much if they think they can speak like that in this house without someone hearing them."

Snape lowered his voice, returning my cold stare. "I'm a dead man anyway, now," he said calmly. "Marian's back."

I looked at him quizzically, not quite understanding.

"She sees everything!" he snapped in answer to my blank stare.

Oh. Oh, that wasn't nice at all. If Severus made one physical manifestation of his...choice against my Lord, Marian would see it, sooner or later. And then....

Not nice. Not nice at all.

"I've missed you, in any case," I said, and then, giving him a hard look: "You're not thinking of...going anywhere, are you? Because I might not forgive you for that. I might be so angry that I'd say something to hurt your reputation."

Severus raised his eyebrows. "Are you trying to blackmail me?"

I thought about that. "Yes," I concluded after a moment.

Severus flashed a wry little half-smile. "You're lucky I'm not going anywhere other than Hawaii, then. Otherwise we'd have an interesting little altercation on our hands."

"You're coming to Hawaii with us!?"

Severus rolled his eyes, and sighed. "The things I do...."

I sneered. "You're a brave, brave man."

"And may the gods preserve me for it."

"But seriously...Hawaii?"

"There is more method to the madness then you to know."

I quirked my eyebrows. "Really? Pray tell."

"No."

Chapter One | Chapter Three


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