The Sugar Quill
Author: CareCrystal  Story: The Diary of the Half-Blood Prince, Part 1  Chapter: 2. Duplicity at Malfoy Manor
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17 August, 1991

17 August, 1991

Whenever possible, I avoid parties. I have avoided them since my wretched youth. Ultimately, I find them to be an enormous waste of time and energy, unless there are observations to be made and information to be gathered.

Unfortunately, such was the case last week when I mentioned in passing to Dumbledore that I had been invited to a party at Lucius’s. Though normally I eschew such gatherings, Dumbledore decided that this time I should attend.

“Even if Lucius had nothing to do with the break-in, you may gather valuable information as to who did,” he pointed out.

Reluctantly I agreed, and thus last night I spent a very long evening at Malfoy Manor.

Lucius was delighted when I accepted his invitation, which naturally raised my suspicions. But I told myself that I know how to play the game; I was confident that I would play it superbly, as usual. All of the endless etiquette and elocution lessons of my youth have proven quite useful over the years. And I know the subtle entertainment that always takes place among Death Eaters in a polite social setting.

I resolved to deftly avoid it.

But soon this proved impossible, for the entertainment began almost immediately after my arrival at the Malfoy’s. As I quickly surveyed the crowded room, my eyes fell upon an old acquaintance. He saw me too and tried to hide himself by slipping into the crowd. But I was having none of that. I quickly strode across the room and forcibly grabbed him by the arm.

“Ah, Igor,” I said smoothly, as I turned him around bodily and cornered him. “It’s been a very long time, has it not?”

Igor is, of course, the cowardly turncoat who once saved his own neck years ago by attempting to sell me out to the Ministry. He could tell I’d forgotten nothing of his betrayal. I deliberately affected the most intimidating posture I could.

Severus,” he muttered as he shook my hand, then nervously looked over my shoulder. “Very good to see you. Ah, very good. I suppose….bygones are bygones, are they not?”

I nodded in mock politeness. “Of course,” I replied, as wild images of throttling him danced through my mind. “We all know those were...difficult times...”

To my annoyance, his nervous eyes darted over my shoulder again. What is it? I wondered irritably. Does he fear he will now see the Dark Lord in the flesh?

But the matter was far simpler than that, as one might expect. For Igor Kakaroff was born a coward, and he will die one, too (and soon, one would hope, at least if I have any say in the matter.) It became apparent that in his fear, he was desperately trying to signal Lucius to help him. Meanwhile, Lucius, entertained by our renewed acquaintance (which he had no doubt carefully planned), was deliberately taking his time intervening in the situation.

At last, though, he came to Igor’s rescue. “Ah, Severus,” Lucius said pleasantly, as he walked over to where we stood. “I see that you and Igor are becoming reacquainted! Did you know that, like you, he is now a part of academia?”

“Really,” I said flatly. I’d heard drift about Igor working at Durmstrang, but could not have been less interested.

“Did you know he is now the new Headmaster at the Durmstrang Institute?”

For a moment, I stopped breathing. Igor? Headmaster of Durmstrang—?

Lucius then turned to Igor. “Severus is currently at Hogwarts,” he said cheerfully. “Of course, as you know, I myself am on Hogwarts’ Board of Governors.”

Igor nodded, then glanced my way. “And what is your position at Hogwarts?” he asked, as he wiped a sheen of sweat from his brow.

I clenched my teeth and forced myself not to glare at Lucius. “Potions master,” I muttered darkly.

“Beg pardon?” Igor asked.

“Potions master,” I repeated. As I said this, I could see that both Igor and Lucius were struggling to keep the amusement off of their faces. “And head of Slytherin House,” I quickly added, though I immediately realised that this impressed neither of them.

“He will be Draco’s head of house in the fall, no doubt,” Lucius added pleasantly.

“Well, well, how wonderful!” Igor said, suddenly cheerful. He had stopped perspiring and his eyes were now as cold as steel. “You’re a teacher! And, one might say, a bit of a governess, as well. Splendid!”

I am not certain what my expression was at this point, but when Lucius next glanced at me, genuine alarm flickered across his face. “Will you excuse us, Igor?” he said quickly. “There is someone whom I would like Severus to meet.”

Before I could protest, Lucius quickly pulled me away from the corner with an iron grip. I soon saw why: standing in the middle of the room was a young woman who seemed about my age. Her awkward, vaguely tatty manner stood out immediately, fairly shouting that she was an outsider. Clearly, she was not accustomed to this sort of gathering. Just as clearly, Lucius meant to introduce us.

Of course, I was correct. “Fern,” Lucius said. “I would like to introduce you to Severus Snape, a member of the Dark Lord’s Inner Circle. Severus, may I present Fern…?” He paused. There was an awkward silence, for Lucius obviously did not know her surname.

“Johnson,” the young woman offered. “Fern Johnson.”

Ah, yes. Fern Johnson,” Lucius continued, then glanced at me. “Miss Johnson is a loyal Plebeian follower of the Dark Lord.”

Already smiling, she turned to me, but her smile disappeared when she saw my dark glare. She hesitated for a moment.

“Pleased to meet you,” she said finally, with uncertainty in her voice.

I continued to glare and said nothing in reply. She was not entirely unattractive, but she was highly inappropriate for a man of my status. Scowling, I looked away; and as I did, I saw Narcissa Malfoy nearby. I caught Narcissa’s eye, then glanced back sourly at the Plebeian. A moment later, Narcissa was at her husband’s side.

Lucius,” she said through clenched teeth as she stared at the young woman. “I need to speak to you. Now.”

A nasty frown crossed Lucius’s face, followed quickly by a forced smile. “If you will excuse us,” he murmured. As they turned to leave, Lucius forcibly kicked a cowering house-elf aside, then Narcissa firmly led him away.

Ignoring the young woman, much as I would a common insect, I quickly followed the Malfoys across the room to the doorway. They had stepped out into the hallway and were immediately beyond the door. I stayed inside the room, pausing by the doorway, and discreetly listened to their conversation.

From the tone of her voice, I realized that Narcissa was furious. “I want her out of this house!” she said. “Draco is going to Hogwarts soon. Severus is to be his master!”

“What has that to do with her?” Lucius replied blandly.

“If you can’t see it, I can!” she said. “Your continuing games will hurt our son’s future!”

“I highly doubt that,” he replied. “Draco is a Malfoy. His future is already assured—he will be a success.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you,” she argued. “How good can your judgment be if you can casually bring that sort of woman into our home? She’s as filthy as the Mudblood toys the Dark Lord once gave out as rewards—”

“Perhaps,” Lucius interrupted. “Although of course in this case, she is hardly a Mudblood.”

She might as well be!” Narcissa hissed. “Pure-blood, half-blood, I don’t care! She’s worse than a common witch-whore in Knockturn Alley! Giving away her favours for free— ”

“Not for free, my dear,” Lucius replied sharply. “She knows her place, and she follows orders. And of course, the Dark Mark is payment beyond all riches. Is it not?”

I strained my ears to hear Narcissa’s reply, but apparently, she had no ready answer. I stepped away from the door, having heard enough.

I found Narcissa’s outrage amusing, which lessened my annoyance at Lucius’s ill-conceived attempt at an introduction. For both Lucius and Narcissa know quite well that I have no interest in such women. In fact, the very notion of having sexual relations with a promiscuous, low-status Death Eater is repulsive to me.

Now, if someone were to introduce me to a respectable woman, one from a good pure-blood family, an alliance of a more permanent sort might be beneficial. But as Narcissa has pointed out, with each passing year there are fewer and fewer such women. And I have silently observed how—even in the best of families, irrespective of their allegiance—one can never be sure if a person is a potential traitor.

Look at the Blacks, after all.

My thoughts were interrupted when Lucius and Narcissa stepped back into the room. As Narcissa swept back into the crowd and headed directly to the hapless woman, Lucius caught my eye and approached.

“Well,” he said, “I see you’ve managed to escape the Plebeian. No matter. She will be leaving soon, anyway.” His manner was suddenly sober. “It is just as well, I suppose. We need to have a brief word in private.”

Together, we stepped out of the room and into the same hallway where he and Narcissa had just been. Though everything seemed deserted, he looked around carefully, then cautiously led me all the way to the far end of the hall. He then turned to me and quietly said, “There are important matters I need to discuss with you.”

“Of course,” I replied.

“The break-in at Gringotts,” he said, without delay. “I know their security. How could this occur?”

Wanting to obtain information while revealing as little as possible, I nodded thoughtfully and chose my words carefully. “I see what you mean. When you heard the news, what were your first thoughts?”

“The same as they are now,” he replied, as urgency crept into his voice.
Severus, how can such a thing happen? Is everyone’s wealth now in danger? I keep a vast majority of my fortune there. They say nothing was removed from the vault in question, but— ”

I gazed at him and said nothing, as I hid my incredulity. Obviously, Lucius had no idea about what really had happened at Gringotts. Instead, Dumbledore now had his answer: Lucius had nothing to do with the break-in. Lucius’s only concern was to protect his endless wealth, and as usual, his own greed blinded him.

Lucius’s tone became slightly more agitated as he began to pace in the hallway. “How was someone able to get into a top-security vault in the first place? Can you imagine the money and artefacts I have in my own vault? Are they no longer safe?”

He stopped suddenly, and his voice dropped to no more than a whisper as he stared into the distance. “I even have a keepsake that the Dark Lord himself gave me years ago. It is my most prised possession. Now it’s not safe—nothing is safe. Who could break into a Gringotts’ vault? Has Dumbledore said nothing about this?”

“Yes, he has,” I replied without hesitation. Lucius immediately turned and stared into my eyes. “He was very interested in the break-in. We quickly agreed that it would take an extremely powerful wizard to do such a thing. In fact, Lucius, his immediate assumption was that it was you.”

“Me?” Lucius froze, like a trapped animal. A puzzled look crossed his face.

“Yes,” I said. “You. He guessed that you broke into the vault. It’s quite a compliment, if you think about it.”

His features slowly relaxed as his eyes began to brighten with pleasure. “Of course,” he said, practically preening. “Dumbledore naturally assumes it was me. And I suppose he has sent you here tonight to spy on me, and find out if indeed I am the criminal?”

“Of course,” I said, unable to keep from smirking.

Lucius laughed out loud, which seemed to relax him. Together we began to walk back down the hallway. “So very typical of Dumbledore, isn’t it?” he sneered. “Well, Severus, you may inform him that you have discovered that in fact it was not me. Since he continues to be as meddlesome as ever, we might as well give him a tidbit of accurate information. It may help preserve your ongoing cover.” Then his expression grew serious again. “But the problem remains: who did this, and what would prevent this from happening again?”

“I have no answer to that, Lucius,” I replied as we reached the door. “But it is reasonable to assume that if a wizard can break into one Gringotts’ vault, he can surely break into another.” I shrugged my shoulders and glanced at Lucius, who was observably disturbed at my opinion. So I paused for a moment, then suggested, “If you have something particularly valuable, perhaps it would be wise to create some sort of alternative plan—?”

The rest of the evening was predictable enough. There was the usual endless discussion about finding a new rallying point in the Dark Lord’s absence. This discussion has been going on at Death Eater gatherings for a decade, mind you, which is just one more reason why I find their parties so tedious.

This time, though, the discussion was not only boring, but downright irritating. For just as I was beginning to pleasantly daydream, getting lost in my own thoughts, imagining how I could overcome certain magical barriers at Hogwarts, a single spoken word jumped out at me: “Potter.”

I looked up. Walden was speaking, and everyone, including both Lucius and his young son Draco, were paying close attention.

“I tell you,” Walden insisted, “Potter could be the key.”

“But he was the one who supposedly defeated the Dark Lord,” Lucius argued, as he shook his head vehemently. “His parents never knew their place; that’s why they are dead. Their son could never be our leader. We’d never stand for it!”

“I didn’t say leader,” said Walden. “Instead, we could use the boy. Get him on our side, then use him as a symbol. Use whatever power he seems to have. Use him up to the point of death, for all I care.” With that, everyone laughed.

“He may have a point, Lucius,” said Igor thoughtfully. “Get the Potter boy young. Form his thoughts. Make sure they’re proper. He’s about Draco’s age, after all, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is, and I am certain he starts Hogwarts next month.” Lucius looked at me. “Isn’t that so, Severus?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes. For some reason, the boy tried to evade all of our letters, but the Hogwarts groundskeeper tracked him down a few hours before deadline.”

Lucius’s eyes glinted in a way I did not like. “The Potter boy’s parents were in your year, weren’t they, Severus?” he said, in a suddenly too-pleasant tone of voice. “You knew them quite well, did you not? So you would know this for certain: the Potter boy is a half-blood, correct?”

I shrugged as Lucius continued to speak. “In fact, one might say his questionable background is very much like— ”

I immediately interrupted him, for I now saw where this was going:  I was once again the public target of Lucius’s superciliousness. “Yes, yes,” I spat, unable to hide my irritation. “The Potter boy is a half-blood.”

As Lucius heard my tone of voice, he smiled smugly. “Good,” he said. “As such, one might say he is marginally acceptable.”

This, of course, infuriated me, but I refused to let it show. Instead, in the most dismissive voice I could muster, I said, “Your point is quite well taken, Lucius. In fact, I am entirely unable to see how the Potter boy could be a rallying point for anyone.”

“He certainly is for the blood traitors,” Walden pointed out. “Why not for us instead?”

Draco could help.” Narcissa, who had been sitting silently at Lucius’s side, spoke up suddenly, as young Draco’s eyes lit up. “When Draco goes to Hogwarts, he can help. He can befriend the Potter boy straight away, before he has the chance to fall in with the wrong sort. Once Draco and the Potter boy are in the right house, the rest should be easy. Harry Potter will be as good as ours.”

I cringed inwardly as expressions of delight and intrigue crossed all of their faces.

The Potter boy in the “right” house. In other words, my house. Slytherin House. Where I would be forced to be tolerant of, if not downright helpful to, the spawn of a reprehensible bastard.

Condemned to be the brat’s damnable governess— just as Igor so helpfully pointed out.

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