Title: A Sour Compromise
Pairing: Severus/Lucius
Rating: PG-13. Or G, even, because there's no sex. :P
A/N: Some unresolved awkwardness and tension after S├Ąchlichkeit. Beta-ed by the lovely miss [livejournal.com profile] crimsonrainfall. Stupid title, wtf.



Severus stared up at the boy, refusing to believe his proposed request.

"You'd like my what?"

"Your assistance." Lucius stood in front of the table, facing Severus.

The dark-eyed boy looked up from his tome, warily watching the primogeniture of the Malfoy name. He leaned back in his chair. The awkwardness long between them now evolved swiftly in sarcasm, and he remarked to the walls of the library, "Lucius Malfoy is asking a lowly 3rd year to help him with his NEWT." Boring twin chasms into the older youth, he tried not to sneer, out of courtesy. "That's rich, Malfoy, really rich."

Stunned, Lucius recovered quickly and leaned in closer, both hands gripping the table tightly. Gathering patience, he spoke as quietly as his irritation would let him.

"Snape. No one will deny that you are far beyond your years in your field, not even Bellatrix. I am asking, politely, for your help, because no one else is more qualified. If you have not the time in your busy schedule to help me, I will understand."

He looked Severus in the eye. "Do consider."

Lucius stalked off, leaving Severus surrounded by his barrier of books.

_____________________________________________________________________________

It was down to a matter of weeks to the NEWTS. Pockets of distressed 7th years dispersed all over the castle, studying, some already beginning to burn out. Teachers worked tirelessly, holding consultations into the late evening.

Pewter clouds hung outside; oily rivers of rain trickled down the windows unceasingly. Even though it was the weekend, the Slytherin Common Room was close to empty, everyone since scattered to their accustomed studying spot. Only Lucius had the sense to remain in there, near the fire. Sitting amidst piles of textbooks and reference books, he idly read and noted information. The ash from his cigarette fell silently to the floor.

He was scribbling footnotes for Strychnos nux vomica on his list of poisonous plants as Potions ingredients when a loud boom of several heavy books slamming onto a wooden table jolted him out of his peaceful routine.

It was all Lucius could do to prevent his heart from stopping. He glared fiercely at the malefactor, but his gaze softened when he realized it was none other than Severus, who wore a disdainful expression.

"What do I get out of it?"

Lucius blinked. "I'll gladly offer you help. Any subject you like. Anything."

Severus sat down across Lucius. "Are you any good at Charms?"

"Fantastic."

A final stony stare, and he nodded. "Deal. Theory or Practical?"

"Practical, mostly."

"It's either addition of wrong ingredients or inaccurate directions."

"I mix up ingredients occasionally, yes."

"Common ailment. This is because most do not understand the significance of each ingredient. Once you appreciate the use of an ingredient, understand its effect, this will not be a problem. You will know and it will be, should be, completely natural to you. There is absolutely no use in trying to memorize everything; that is not how it should be done." Severus spoke quickly and with what sounded like a tinge of impatience.

"A example would be cinnamon, as a culinary ingredient. There is a reason why no one would put cinnamon in vegetable soup, because it has no desirable effect in that concoction, and does not compliment it. However, cinnamon is used widely in the confectionely, because it highlights certain tastes in the recipe, complimenting it. Which brings me to another point - every potion has a nature. Certain ingredients are always linked to potions of a particular nature, and will have little to no effect in another potion with a different nature. You must understand how ingredients in combinations work."

He should teach here in several years time, thought Lucius bemusedly.

Without pausing for feedback, he continued. "I want you to write out the use and significance of every single Potion ingredient that appears in all tested formulae in the NEWT syllabus."

Lucius's eyes widened. "You must be joking."

"Do I look as if I am jesting, Malfoy? You wanted help. This will also aid your theory work immensely."

Lucius was about to protest, but he could not argue with Severus. He nodded.

"I'll do it." He flicked his cigarette nonchalantly while retrieving more parchment, earning him a disapproving frown. Severus watched the tendrils of acrid gray smoke winding out into the air. Lucius noticed the boy's imminent reproval.

"You are a Prefect. You are seventeen. Who allowed you to pick up this bad habit?"

"I did." He looked at Severus, meeting his stern gaze. "This is the Slytherin Common Room, Snape. There is no authority here. Everyone is allowed to do what they please, against rules or not."

Severus remained silent, but Lucius knew from his eyes that he was biting his tongue with obvious difficulty. He grabbed his own quill and ink, noting down all the potions he could pull from his memory, mind and hands working at breakneck speed. When his memory finally failed him, he relented and delved into reference books. Soon, he had compiled a vast list of Potions ingredients, crammed onto a piece of parchment in tiny, barely legible handwriting.

"Here. It's approximately complete. This is everything I can think of at the moment. Try to recall the use of the ingredient instead pulling the answer straight from the textbook, Malfoy." Severus thrust it across the table at Lucius, who had finished his own interrupted list. Lucius tried not to gape at the tedious length of Severus's list.

"You might as well get started on it now." Severus rose to leave. "I'll leave these books here - you'll need them."

He was halfway out the Common Room door when he heard Lucius ask, "Just out of curiosity, where are you going?"

Severus paused for a second.

"To eat."
_____________________________________________________________________________

Severus sought and quickly located Madam Pince. He was the only student that was not constantly berated by her, even though he was close to being a permanent fixture in the library. He called her, quietly.

"Yes? More Potions reference books?"

"Yes. NEWT level."

"This way."

No surprise crossed her face, and she led him through the maze of bookshelves, quiet as a grave.

_____________________________________________________________________________

When Severus returned with even more reference books for Lucius, it was obvious he would not be leaving the Common Room before midnight. Already used to strange sleeping hours, both studied fervently, and as the hour grew later, the feverish pace increased. Severus sought out every single bit of information Lucius would require, while overseeing his work through the immense list. Time soon sunk into the early wee hours of the morning. Lucius, unable to stand working on the interminable list any longer, stood, stretched, and announced his need to retrieve coffee. With reluctance, Severus allowed him the rest.

Grateful for the opportunity to go for a stroll, he took his time heading down to the kitchens. He tickled the pear and entered the kitchens, greeted by swarms of squeaking house elves. His request for coffee was granted; had he been able to lug it back to the Common Room, the Hogwarts house elves would have provided him with an entire vat of Colombian brew. He left with a compromise - a flask.

He strolled at the same leisurely pace, all the way back to the Common Room, expecting to be reprimanded for the obvious delay. Lucius hoped to placate the youth and his austere air with the retrieved coffee.

"I brought enough for th -"

He rounded the corner, and stopped mid-sentence when he saw Severus asleep, head resting on top of a thick textbook, sprawled over several treatises on different classes of invertebrates' parts as Potions ingredients.

Lucius set the flask down on the table quietly. He crouched down next to the Severus, already deep in slumber, and pried his forehead off the book. The corner of the the hardcover had left an angry red V on his forehead. Lucius chuckled softly to himself.

He stacked all the books neatly, Charming them to levitate. He considered briefly, decided against levitating the boy along with the entire lot into the dormitories, and picked Severus up without difficulty. He noted with some concern at how light the boy was, picked up his wand, and their whole strange cavalcade proceeded up the stone flight of winding stairs. The heavier volumes of publications trailed behind.

The dorms were completely deserted, since the other 7th years had found it more convenient to fall asleep where they had been studying. Lucius dumped Severus carefully onto the bed, and left all the books sitting quietly on the floor beside it, and changed out of his school clothes.

He stood back, arms crossed, staring at his occupied bed. He looked over at Rodolphus's, briefly entertaining the notion of borrowing his bed. Lucius cringed, and thought better of it.

"Well, I'm not going to sleep in someone else's bed just because you're here."

Decisively, he sat down on his bed. He tried to quietly shift Severus, making space for himself, and settled down, leaning against the pillows. Severus was curled up, sound asleep. It was the first time he had seen Severus with a softer expression on his face; in sleep, he looked so much more childlike. The older boy watched him, running a hand over the youth's jet hair.

Lucius lay back, with Severus coiled next to him; his presence and warmth felt oddly comfortable.

Apart from the tiny strange noises he emitted occasionally, the dorm was silent.

This is going to be interesting in the morning, he ruminated.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Severus awoke the next morning with the beastly feeling of sleeping in one's own clothes overnight. He had no idea where he was, and his confusion was compounded when he realized he had been sleeping in bed that did not belong to him, in an unfamiliar dorm. Horror followed his disorientation in quick succession, as his fuzzy brain worked out whose bed he was in. His eyes widened, and he sat up with a great jolt.

Thrown into a strange unexplained panic, Severus scrambled out of the bed, stubbing his toe on several huge reference books lurking surreptitiously beside the bed. Swearing loudly, he sought out the nearest bathroom, and after washing up, went downstairs to confront Malfoy.

Lucius was already up, with his customary textbooks sitting around him. A towering stack of toast, buttered and coated liberally with marmalade, sat next to Amazonian Amphibians and their Relevance as Potions Components. Cigarette in one hand, and quill in the other, he had resumed work on the list a few hours ago.

Angry stomping resounded down the stairway, and Lucius only raised his eyes from his studies when the source of the noise stood in front of him, fuming.

"Ah, you're up. I took the liberty of bringing up breakfast -"

"What on earth were you thinking?" hissed Severus viciously.

A drag on his cigarette. "I don't follow."

"Someone - could have seen-" Severus started, outraged, though his still-dormant brain hadn't yet explained why.

Lucius held up a hand to stave off his acrimony.

"But no one did," he pointed out, logically. "Nobody uses the dorms much nowadays - you'd be surprised how occasionally some of us use our beds, they're all too busy."

Lucius turned his focus back to his work, and resumed writing. "No one will suspect your chastity has been violated."

Severus's indignation exploded into incensed stutters. After a few minutes the flow of attempted livid objections ceased, once Severus realized there was no point in getting mad. He sat down, snatched a piece of marmalade-smothered toast and devoured it savagely.

Lucius watched Severus out of the corner of his eye, with concealed mirth. Finally, he ventured some damage control, just before Severus was about to take the fourth and final piece of toast.

"Snape, would it have made more sense, entering your dorm to risk waking your classmates?"

Severus glared at him stonily. "You could've left me in the Common Room."

Lucius could see there was absolutely no winning this argument, and took the last piece of breakfast before Severus could.

After fuming silently for several more moments, glaring at Lucius like a deranged hawk, he asked, "How are you getting on with that list, anyway?"

"Well." He waited until Severus had plunged into another textbook before mumbling, "You look cute when you're asleep," deliberately.

Severus's head snapped up and he stared at Malfoy, still innocently writing away.

"What?"

Lucius looked up. "I'm sorry?"

"Did you say something?"

Lucius pretended a puzzled look. "I didn't say anything."

"I thought I heard something." He looked at Lucius warily.

"I've been writing this whole time, Severus. Are you sure you don't want to get some more sleep?"

"I'm fine," he replied curtly.

Head bowed slightly over his parchment, Lucius's tiny grin was barely noticeable.

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Lucius Malfoy/Severus Snape

April 2017

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