Bellatrix twitted on about how great and wonderful her Master was. It was distinctly unpleasant, and not just for the rampant toadyism. Lucius had always been a toad and a bully, and was highly obnoxious to boot. But Bella... had been something, once. Deep in Snape's mind, so deep in the sea of sand it was almost hidden in basalt, a dark corner of his mind mourned who she'd been.
Bella is dead. So is Lily.
Here I stand, and for what?
Lucius began talking once Bellatrix launched into one of her too-frequent weeping jags of joy. "Fudge would be pleased to fall in a heap at your feet, my Lord."
Snape cut in coldly, "Fudge is a fool and a fop. In that, Lucius and the August Minister are well matched." His eyes on the Dark Lord, he did not need to look over at Lucius to feel the warmth of his glare.
The Dark Lord sat expressionless on his throne. To someone less accomplished at reading a room, this might have been considered a bad sign. Severus Snape knew better. Insulting one of the Dark Lord's most highly regarded followers? Well, perhaps it wasn't an insult, then, as it was all perfectly true. The lack of Cruciatus for his temerity told Snape that his pointed jab had gone over well in the Dark Lord's eyes.
"The primary obstacle that stands in your way is Albus Dumbledore," Snape said, sneering - his loathing for the old fool seeping out from beneath his normal expressionless visage. "Isn't it curious, how he is named? White, as if he could claim to be purity itself. We know better, do we not? How sullied his conscience would be, if he had one - other than self-righteousness, of course."
"To the point, Severus..." The Dark Lord rasped. Snape had never thought one way or the other about his given name, until the Dark Lord had adopted his current snake-like visage. Now, Snape wished he'd been named Todd, or something else more appropriate. He was nowhere near as severe as his name would have him, nor as serious. Even while standing at the side of the Dark Lord. Perhaps especially then.
"Albus has two main powerbases." Snape said quickly. "The Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts itself."
Lucius made to speak up, but Snape's soft voice overrode Lucius' smooth baritone.
"A novice tactitian would strike at one or the other." Snape's smooth voice said, "But I sit in a roomful of Slytherins. We are not unacquainted with strategy, are we?"
Even Bellatrix listened when Snape spoke, he saw with satisfaction. Having stolen the topic right out from under Lucius' nose, Snape was content to let the blond drone on. Even the Dark Lord would tire, eventually, of listening to Lucius loudly spilling all the accumulated secrets he'd gathered over years of listening like a magpie. Until then, Snape was a dark presence, listening carefully for any blackmail potential - either for Lucius himself or for his 'friends.'
[a/n: Did you know Jag was a north americanism? I didn't either. Snape's well read enough that I don't need to worry about him adopting just as many slang terms from other places as I do! (Can you tell I love writing his perspective?)
JKR keeps us tight in Potter's perspective, which helps with "not knowing what Snape/Dumbledore/Adults In General know."
Snape, however, is a proficient mentalist. He is quite capable of deceiving himself if necessary, and simply doesn't think about a lot of what he knows.
He is not a man who doesn't smile, as you can clearly see if you read about his Summertime Training with Harry.
His Hogwarts persona doesn't smile, and there are reasons for that. Coming to a theater near you! (when I get around to writing it).
His Hogwarts persona represents a strict paring of himself, down to a more easily understandable personality. You'll note that Snape refers to Harry Potter as Potter while using it (and generally in a snarl, hiss or howl). During Summertime Training, Harry Potter was Harry.
Of course, one might deservedly ask what parts of Snape he puts on display in his Summertime Training Persona.
Read it again and see.
JKR has an unfortunate tendency to name people "on the nose" (something I attribute to her telling the story before writing it), as well as a rather pronounced love of alliterative names. Snape spends enough time with Albus droning on that this isn't the first time he's thought of his comments here.
And I have one more thing to ask of you readers. I've had one or two reviews that have asked me to "get on with it already" - are you still reading? Of my faithful reviewers, do you agree? I can write a few scenes that will let me skip a lot of the next term, and "get on with it already"... or I can keep us pegged to Potter's perspective, in which a lot of sometimes-trivial things happen, only some of which will be later relevant. Review and tell me what you think! ]