Master Severus Snape, Esteemed Potions Master, Head of the House of Slytherin, Professor of Potions at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, client of House Malfoy and godfather of Draco Lucius Malfoy, Heir Malfoy, was accustomed to spending the first fortnight of every summer at Malfoy Manor. For his part, he benefited from the excellent hospitality as he recuperated from the labours of the school year; in exchange, he was able to offer his observations on the ongoing political dynamics at Hogwarts, provide entertainment for his godson, and restock the Malfoy potions store with high quality brews.
The Malfoy Receiving Room, when he flooed in shortly after ten o’clock the night school term concluded, was as elegantly appointed as ever, although he noted some slight alterations in the decorations around the room. No sooner had he stepped from the hearth than a house elf apparated into the room, greeting him with a bow. “Lady Malfoy has been told you is here, Professor,” said the elf. “May Diply be taking your bags to your room?”
“You may,” Severus told her, directing his trunk and workbag to one side of the hearth with a flick of his wand, then cleaning his robes of ash with another.
Diply bowed again, and snapped her fingers, and the bags disappeared. “Diply will be fetching tea from the kitchens,” she said. “You is welcome to be making yourself comfortable.”
Severus nodded and waved his hand to dismiss her, but did not sit down in one of the available armchairs. If he sat, he rather feared he would fall asleep, and there were social niceties to observe first.
Narcissa must have been waiting for his arrival; he spent only a few minutes examining the room before she entered, greeting him with a smile. “Severus!” she exclaimed. “Welcome to our home. I’m sorry to keep you waiting, you must be exhausted.”
“Lady Malfoy,” Severus replied, bowing over her hand. “No apologies are necessary - indeed, I apologise myself for disturbing you so late at night.”
She smiled warmly at him, shaking her head. “Do call me Narcissa, please,” she insisted, gliding over to the tea tray that had quietly appeared and pouring him a cup. “Sit. Are you well? Draco informed us that you have been absent from the High Table since the end of exams.”
Severus sat, inclining his head to acknowledge the implicit scold at not informing her of his health. “Mere magical exhaustion,” he reassured her, taking a grateful sip of the excellent tea. “An incident with the Defense teacher - which, if I may, I will discuss with Lord Malfoy and yourself another evening - compounded with the usual effects of the school term. I require only rest and I will be quite well.”
Narcissa frowned slightly. “I find it is hard for me to be as sanguine about your usual end-of-term exhaustion when you are acting as Draco’s guardian while he is away from home,” she admitted. “And something must be done about his Defense education.”
Severus hid his surprise behind another sip of tea. If Narcissa were to petition Lucius on the matter, the woeful staffing situation at Hogwarts might have a chance of improvement. “I am sure that your influence could only benefit him,” he said. “I hope his trip home was without incident?”
“He’s been chattering almost non-stop since we met him in London,” Narcissa replied with a fond smile. “I only just sent him to bed. School has been good for him, I think.”
“There comes a time when children are ready to strike out on their own in a larger world,” Severus agreed. “He is very much his father’s son, but still, he will benefit from being out of his father’s shadow.” Discreetly, he leaned back in his chair, blinking tired eyes.
“And here I am keeping you talking when you’re already exhausted,” Narcissa exclaimed with chagrin, setting her cup aside. “My apologies for being such a terrible hostess, Severus, I ought to have let you retire rather than keeping you up with conversation.”
“You are never less than the best of hostesses,” Severus objected politely, but gratefully put his own cup down and stood. “Nevertheless, I believe I will retire for the night.”
Narcissa stood as well, gesturing elegantly to the door. “Your usual suite has been prepared for you, and Tonny will be able to assist with any requests you have,” she said. “I’ve already instructed the kitchen to deliver breakfast directly to your suite after you rise, so please feel free to sleep as late as you like. Would you like me to ask Healer Bulstrode to see you after Draco’s annual check-up tomorrow afternoon?”
Severus bowed his head in thanks, trying to calculate the advantages and disadvantages of the offer. After a minor struggle, he conceded that such difficulty decision-making was only symptomatic of his exhaustion, and it was probably wiser to comply. “Thank you, Narcissa, that would be very kind of you,” he agreed. “Good night.”
“Good night, Severus. Pleasant dreams.”