Chapter 5 – Rob Me Like You Do
I awake to a blindingly white and golden brightness. And to the sound of something big hissing and slithering ominously around the room.
My heartbeat skyrockets, and I desperately try to reach for... some thing or another... and try to call out for... I don't know what exactly... But it's like both my brain and my body are wading through a swamp!
"Master Malfoy, sir!" comes a screeching sort of voice from somewhere nearby, and I'm pretty sure my ears just started bleeding.
Then a pair of huge eyes and an ugly potato-shaped nose show up right in my face. "Is Loopa waking M-Master Malfoy, sir?"
Oh, a house-elf! Right! I remember now, I'm at the beach villa, sleeping on a damn sofa in the damn living room, thanks to my devil of a wife.
"Loopa thought to bring Master Malfoy his trunk, sir, I isn't meaning to make n-noise and w-wake yous, sir! Oooh, Loopa c-can't d-do anything r-right!"
And then it only doubles the racket, when it throws itself out of sight and starts making thumping sounds while crying "Bad elf! Bad elf! Bad elf!"
I'm desperately trying to find my vocal chords through the numbness just so I can tell this vile creature to shut the hell up.
But since my current predicament doesn't allow me to communicate my wishes through anything more comprehensible than mumbling, the stupid elf finally stops the thumping, only to stick its now bloody, as well as ugly, potato-shaped nose right in my face again.
"Whad? Is M-Master M-Malfoy deeding adything, sir? Loopa c-can't uderstand whad yous is s-saying, sir! Why isn' M-Master m-moving?! And now M-Master's eyes are r-r-rolling! Oh, Loopa is g-gedding w-worried indeed, sir!"
Oh great, now the elf is actually sobbing! And what the hell is its ugly face doing coming so close?! Oh hell no! It better not be planning on trying any of that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation rubbish!
I hiss and growl and put all of my force of will into bringing my arm up to push the stupid thing away. I manage to smack my own eye.
"Oooooh, M-Master is s-sick in the head indeed! M-Master is h-hitting himself! Ooooh oooooh"
With a herculean effort, and an equivalent grunt, I manage to raise myself onto shaky elbows. And I'm just about to tell the bloody creature to go drown its insufferable bawling in the pool, when another voice sounds from the direction of the door.
"What's going on?"
Just what I needed! The evil little pigmy to come laugh at my torment!
Like this isn't all her fault! If she hadn't barricaded the bedroom, I would now be going through my daily grappling for consciousness in peace and quiet! I glare at her to convey just that. Through the back of the sofa. Because the rest of my body below my chest is still in Slumberland.
"Miss Tori!" the stupid elf wails "M-Master is s-sick in the h-head!"
"Well, that's not exactly today's news, Loopa." The little devil sniggers, then comes into sight around the end of the sofa, and sweet mother of Merlin, what is she wearing?!
I mean, I know what she's wearing, obviously I recognise one of my own black high-collared shirts. But what on Merlin's name is it doing on her body and… Oh look at that, my lower body just woke up!
I'm so busy staring at my shirt on her body, and seriously pondering taking it back (slowly, with my teeth) that I only vaguely register that she's speaking to me. "Huh?"
"See?" promptly screeches the elf. Oh right, it was still there.
I shake off my stupor the best I can and pull myself properly up. (Hope they don't notice me wobbling on my legs) "Shut up, you stupid creature! I'm perfectly fine!"
I am. Even if my voice sounds hoarse and I'm dragging my words like I've been clubbed around the head by a troll.
"Clearly." The little demon snorts.
And then comes right up to me, in all her messy top bun, violet spectacles, stolen shirt and bare legs glory.
"Er, that's my shirt." I hear myself lamely point out.
And what the hell, aren't my vocal chords supposed to be fully awake by now? Why does my voice keep getting hoarser?
"Really? I did wonder when I found this in that pile of laundered clothes if maybe Loopa was doing some side work for an eighty year old gravedigger."
I glare down at her. "Yeah? Well, who told you that you could wear it?"
She narrows her eyes at me for a moment, then mocks "Oh, but what's yours is mine, you see, husband dear."
"Well, I want it back!"
And I deliberately start fingering the buttons on her shirt – my shirt, on her body – but she slaps my hand away and demands "What're you on?"
I let my fingers trail right back – it is my shirt – and glare at her some more. "What do you mean 'what am I on?'"
I don't like her tone nor the way she's pursing her little lips at me like she's my mother or something.
Without answering me but without taking her eyes off me either, she asks in turn "Loopa, has he been taking any potion or powder?"
"That's none of your business!" I snap, but the traitorous elf promptly answers "M-Master was asking Loopa to g-get phial along with p-pyjamas from bedroom last n-night, Miss Tori."
I glower at it, and it immediately cowers behind my trunk, which is now sitting in the middle of the room. Meanwhile the nosy little vixen is already lifting the wand I hadn't even noticed she was holding, and firmly saying "Accio Draco's phial."
At once the little crystal phial with my precious liquid sleep zooms from under the sofa straight into her hand.
She shows it to the elf "This the one?"
The traitorous creature raises its head from behind the trunk and gives a shaky nod. I snarl at it, but it instantly scampers back behind the trunk with a whimper, and then the little devil lets it off the hook with a dismissive "Loopa, leave."
As soon as the elf pops out, she rounds on me "How long have you been taking this?"
"That's none of your bloody business!"
"How long, Malfoy?"
Bossy little thing, with that would-be stern little frown and her hands on her hips! I'd like to put my hands on those hips… Under my shirt… God, is she even wearing anything under my shirt?
There's an impatient little huff and then she snaps "Either you start talking, or I'm walking out!"
"Please do." I sneer down at her.
"Fine." She says, sticking her chin up. "Rita Skeeter's been asking me for tea and a chat since the engagement announcement… You won't mind that I take your little phial to show her what you've been doping yourself with, do you?"
The nerve of her!
"What! That's not even true! You can't do that!"
The worst part is that not only am I certain she can, I believe she actually would.
"You've got no clothes!" I scathingly remind her "You're not going anywhere with no clothes!"
"If you're so sure that would stop me…" She airily says, turning to walk to the door "The Daily Prophet's headquarters are still in Diagon Alley, yes?"
Why, that sly, devious little blackmailer!
Exhaling harshly, I sourly grumble "Every night for two and a half years, give it or take…"
"What!" she whirls back around, her big blue eyes going so wide that if it wasn't for her spectacles, her eyeballs might pop out of their sockets.
"Are you deaf, as well as shortsighted?" I sneer.
"No, I'm not deaf, I just can't believe you really are that stupid!"
I glower at her, but she doesn't give me a chance to call her out on her disrespectful manners.
"Didn't you learn the first thing about Potions at school? They're meant to be used sparingly, in specific circumstances! And ones that work on the mind, especially, are not meant for prolonged use! You know what, this actually explains a lot!"
Great, first the elf blubbering, now the wife nagging!
I roll my eyes at her. "It's just a Sleeping Potion, Astoria, not exactly Moonseed Poison."
"Oh, I know what it is." She says, planting her fists on her hips again, glaring sternly up at me. "I also know that it can become addictive, and in excess can make you lethargic, easily fatigued…"
I bet she's just making that up, I don't remember Snape or Slughorn mentioning any of that.
"… temporary muscle paralysis, mess with your memory, your concentration, and a bunch of other cognitive and physiological functions…"
Then again, Snape's classes were the only ones I could get away with teasing Potter and even see him get told off for it, so I might have missed a few things; and by the time Slughorn came around, his lessons were the last thing on my mind.
But I haven't experienced any of those effects, anyway. Have I? No, I would have noticed if I had.
So I just scoff and sneer back at her "Don't tell me that between poisoning cakes and posing as a shark, you try your hand at being a Healer."
She crosses her arms over her chest tightly. "You've met my mother, haven't you?"
"Yes…" I say, failing to see where this is coming from now, and wishing she'll just go away so I can finally sit back down.
"What did you think of her?"
I rack my brain for a moment, before I recall a vague image of a sallow-faced woman with a limp smile sitting beside her grandmother at the wedding.
What can I say? One does not simply call one's mother-in-law 'limp' and 'lifeless'. Out loud, at least.
But apparently my lack of eloquence is answer enough.
"Exactly." Says the little pigmy with a slight purse of her lips. "And you've met her on good days, she's been clean for six months. We're hoping for a new record. The current one is eight months and three weeks."
I stare back at her mutely for a moment, trying to wrap my head around what she's saying. I'm sure I don't know what she means with this, and I'm even surer that I don't want to know.
"Yeah, well, I'm not your mother! And you're certainly not mine, so quit nagging and give me my damn potion." I snap at last, and extend my hand for the phial.
She shakes her head disapprovingly, but then gives in with a shrug. "Well, it's your life, it's your right to cowardly sleep it away, if you want."
And without warning, she throws the phial in a tight arc through the air at me.
I wasn't ready for it.
My fingers are still numb, my arms too heavy.
And the phial smashes on the floor at my feet in an explosion of crystal and purple liquid.
No! No! No!
What has she done?!
"Hmm" says the evil little pest, completely unrepentant "And to think you used to be the second best Seeker in the school…"
And with that, she turns on her heel and heads out of the room.
It was an early winter evening in my fourth year. The events of the first task of the Triwizard Tournament seemed to be the main topic on everyone's minds in the entire school. In the Slytherin Common Room, I was lounging on one of the high-backed armchairs near the fire and entertaining my usual eager audience with a hilarious parody of Potter pirouetting like a ballerina on his precious Firebolt, trying to avoid the dragon's fire-breaths.
To my annoyance though, only Crabbe and Goyle and a couple of younger students showed a decent reaction. The girls were rather disrespectfully whispering amongst themselves and only now and again taking odd glances my way.
"Well, do you have something more interesting to say, then?" I eventually snapped, when my punchline about Firebolts catching fire was ruined as Pansy and Daphne both began rather frantically elbowing Tracey, who flushed crimson, and a silly little scuffle ensued with them all hissing at each other. All because some bloke had just passed by and supposedly smiled toward them.
"Sorry, Draco" Pansy said while the other two buried their faces in their hands in a pathetic fit of giggles "It's just that Neal has been smiling at Trace a lot, and we're sure he's about to ask her to the Yule Ball any time now."
Tracey shot her a mortified look, flushing even more crimson if possible. But I don't think Pansy noticed, because she was looking at me rather expectantly, as though she thought I would accept that as reason enough to ruin my punchline or something.
And just when I was about to salvage what was left of my joke, there was another interruption. This time in the form of a little pigmy with long brown braids and violet spectacles. She swept between our seats in that bouncy manner of hers and halted in front of Daphne, extending in her hand a small fancy gift box with the announcement "From Blaise Zabini." And then with a self-satisfied grin, she added "You're welcome."
Daphne had gone perfectly quiet, and seemed to even be holding her breath, as her hands took the box as though it were a relic made of fine crystal. Her two friends were eyeing it avidly and rather enviously, as well. At least until she opened it.
"It's empty!" Pansy exclaimed, while the three of them pawed around inside, perfectly bewildered. The girl smirked mischievously at them. "Well, he only said to give her the box."
The three girls glared up at the little pigmy.
She simply said "So, it seems Grandma conveniently forgot to send me my dress robes. But I understand that, between the three of you, you've got about a dozen to choose from. I rather like those purple ones with the silver fastenings."
"Yeah? What do you want them for? It's not like you're going to the ball!" Pansy retorted scathingly.
"The greatest band of the last decades comes to the school and I'm not going. Sure, that's likely!"
"You're not old enough!" Daphne pointed out, before her eyes widened rather comically and she whispered, as though afraid saying the words aloud would make them true "Was that… why you were in the Durmstrang ship when Professor Snape caught you? Were you…? Has one of the Durmstrang boys…?"
"Oh, don't be silly, Daph!" snapped Pansy "What boy would want to take a twelve-year-old to a ball?"
"A few more than those who'd want to take fourteen year-old-girls, apparently" the girl retorted without missing a beat "But don't worry, I've been telling them this twelve-year-old is already taken by me, myself and your purple gown with silver fastenings."
And with that cocky smirk upon her face, she turned to leave, leaving the other three debating which was more dispensable, the purple robes or the contents of Zabini's box.
As she passed between mine and Crabbe's and Goyle's seats though, she paused to ask us "Who are you taking to the ball?"
The girls' debate came to an abrupt stop, but apparently a decision had been reached, because Pansy immediately squealed "Fine, whatever, take the gown!"
Smiling victoriously, the girl produced from inside her robes and handed over to them a little spray of flowers of some sort with a couple ribbons and a bracelet attached. Then she turned away without even waiting for mine or Crabbe's and Goyle's answers to her question. Which, I had to admit, had been a valid one.
I glanced in the direction of the sofa where Pansy was looking at her two cronies dissolve into a fit of giggles and squeals as though she'd just swallowed a Bertie Bott's vinegar-flavoured bean without even knowing how.
"So, I suppose you'd like to go to the ball."
The sun is starting to lower on the rosy sky outside, its rays coming slanted through the gauzy green curtains of the game room, where I sit at the card table gazing unseeingly out the window.
The little demon's secret diary/recipe book lays open before me, still utterly unhelpful and useless. By this point, I only bother to take it out and leaf through just so I can tell myself I'm still investigating, when the truth is I have no clue how to go about figuring out whoever it is that wrote the stupid love letter she had tucked so preciously inside it.
I take a glance at the clock on the wall above the chess table, then turn back to the stupid window. Where there's still nothing to see but my own impatient scowl staring back at me.
At least my hair is back to its natural platinum blond. Or, as the insolent talking mirror pointed out the second I stepped into the hallway this morning and repeatedly reiterated through the whole two minutes it took me to browse the cards on the console, my "overlong locks are back to matching the washed out palette of my complexion".
I swear I'm going to take down that stupid mirror before this stupid honeymoon is over!
A knock followed by the door inching open bring me back from my thoughts. And forces me to hastily grab the notebook off the table and shove it under my robes as an ugly potato-shaped nose pokes into the room.
"Master Malfoy, sir…"
"Did I say you could come in?" I snap, quickly rearranging my robes to better conceal the lurid orange thing.
The elf's eyes go wide as saucers on its stupid face and it whimpers "N-no, s-sir…"
Then backs out, closes the door, and knocks again. This time, I'm guessing by the heavy thumps, with its head, while crying "Bad elf! Bad elf! Bad elf!"
"Alright, enough! What?"
It stops thumping. But then starts shouting through the door "L-Loopa is c-coming to tell…"
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, you can come in now!"
Slowly, the door inches open again and the elf steps in, twisting the hem of its burlap sack. "L-Loopa is c-coming to tell M-Master that d-dinner is s-served, sir…"
"Oh. Anything else?" I ask "Anything arrived for me?"
It shakes its bald head in that way it has that makes its ears flap and slap its face.
"N-no, sir. Loopa is checking the s-sky every t-ten m-minutes."
"Well, keep checking, and tell me the second something arrives." I say, and wave it away.
"W-what about d-dinner, sir?"
I puff irritably. "What about it? I'll get there when I want to! God!"
It whimpers a wobbly "Y-yes, s-sir…" and promptly scurries back out.
Tucking the little notebook tighter under my robes, I get to my feet with one last glance out the window.
"Waiting for post?"
I whip around on my feet. To find the little shirt-thieving adulteress smirking smugly at me from the doorway.
"It wouldn't by any chance be a phial-shaped package from one…" she lifts said package up to her bespectacled face and theatrically scrunches her eyes to read "Professor Luwalhati, number one Potioneer, Seer and Snake-Charmer in all the Islands, Isles and Islets of the Indo-Pacific, would it?"
I can feel warmth creep to my ears.
I know it's got 'money-grubbing fraud' all over it, but what choice did I have? I need Sleeping Potion, and the card was on the console in the hallway, with a bunch of other cards of wizarding services in the region…
Well, it's her fault, for spilling the perfectly reliable potion I'd brought from home!
"Give me that!" I snap, and without waiting for her to comply, I lunge for it.
But the little brat nimbly sidesteps me and enters further into the room. "Careful there, this one smashes as easily as the other…"
"Ooooh!" chorus the obnoxious little chess pieces.
"Shut up!" I snap at them, and then turn back to glower at the little she-demon. "What do you want?"
"You mean besides world peace, a cure for lycanthropy and not being married to an idiot doping himself with Sleeping Potion?" she quips, taking a suspiciously keen look around the room. Her bespectacled eyes come to rest on the chess table, where the silent but restless chess pieces are tenaciously vying for attention. "How about a game? You can play me for your precious fix."
You'd think she's just announced Christmas had come earlier, the way the chess pieces go mad!
"A game! A game! We've got a game!"
"Ready your swords, mount your horses, the lady wants a battle!"
"Lovely lady, blacks or whites?"
"Nobody's playing anything!" I snap over their insufferable racket "It's my damn package, I don't need to play for it!"
Unsurprisingly, the bloody chessmen are as vocal about their disappointment as they are about their excitement. Hell, I didn't even know armless crystal rooks were capable of rude gestures!
"Give the lady a game! What kind of a man refuses his lady a game?"
"A coward one, for sure!"
"No wonder someone else has so easily captured your Quee…"
"QUIET!" I explode, effectively shutting up the blabbering chessmen for the time being. It won't last long, though, so I better get the little brat out of hearing range before they start running their mouths again.
"Look" I say to her, nonchalantly stepping out of the room and holding the door for her "Dinner's served, so why don't we take this to the dining room? You can blackmail and eat at the same time, can't you?"
Insolent little brat that she is, perkily retorts "I could, but I've already eaten, thanks."
I glare at her. "Did you now? Didn't I tell you that you were to start eating dinner with me at the damn table?"
She rudely snorts and takes another sweeping look around, before stepping up to me - careful to keep my package angled in line of sight, but just out of easy reach.
"Here's the thing" she says, watching me closely "When you went through my stuff and despicably ruined all my clothes, did you do anything with … hum… well, anything else?"
I discreetly feel for the lump of her precious secret little notebook under my robes.
"Why? Anything else got 'despicably ruined', did it?"
She frowns. "No… But something is missing and I can't find it anywhere."
This is my chance. Do I show her the notebook? Do I confront her about the letter?
But if I open the game, what guarantee do I have that she'll tell me the truth? She's already guarding the rest of her things like a dog. The notebook and the few loose scraps she kept in it are the only things I have to go on, and if she gets her mitts on them again, I might lose every chance of figuring out who the prat is…
So instead, I do the only thing I can: I take a step closer so that I am crowding her and glare menacingly down at her. "Are you accusing me of something, little wife?"
She stands her ground and glares right back. "No, husband dear, just asking the logical questions."
And suddenly she produces her wand with a cry of "Accio!"
I feel the little orange notebook slip out of my grip beneath my robes, only just managing to hold on to it with the tips of my fingers, and quickly cover up any suspicious movement by ostensibly stepping back, protesting "Watch out, will you! Are you trying to poke my eye out?!"
The little pest frowns and lets out a frustrated huff.
"Satisfied yet?" I indignantly sniff, for good measure. "You've got some nerve, you know, accusing me of stealing from you! You see, I, unlike some people, am not a thief." I say, and look pointedly to my shirt that she's wearing and my parcel that she's holding.
"So, just a vandal, a bully and a stoner, then." She retorts. "But don't worry, your shirt's simply on loan until you restore my clothes. Believe me" the little brat adds, scrunching her nose "I take no pleasure in dressing like I'm off to a funeral on a daily basis!"
"As opposed to dressing like a homeless man or wearing your grandmother swimsuits!"
"As for your precious package" she goes on, ignoring my remark and unceremoniously shoving the parcel against me chest. "I'm actually here to return it. You see, I've learned my lesson…"
And with a scowl, the crazy witch raises her fist, as if about to clock me right in the nose. I flinch; but all she does is clench it tight until the scars across her knuckles stand out. 'I MUST NOT STEAL POST'
There's only one occasion I can think of when stealing post might have been punished by carving a lesson in her own skin…
It's a good thing next second she simply turns her back and walks away, because I don't think I could even meet her eye right now.
I lay on the sofa that is now my improvised bed, in my improvised bedroom, with a certain little orange notebook once again open on my lap, reminding me – as if any reminder were necessary - that my wife is an adulteress lover of scum that spends her free time playing elf, but otherwise providing no useful information.
Exhaling harshly, I jerk the bloody notebook shut and with an irritable flick of my wand, send it zooming into my trunk along with the useless scraps she'd kept inside it.
Then lock everything up, plump up my pillow, snuggle down as comfortably as I can possibly get in a damn sofa, and retrieve the package from the local potioneer from between the cushions.
"Well, Professor Luwalhati, number one Potioneer, Seer and Snake-Charmer in all the Islands, Isles and Islets of the Indo-Pacific" I mutter, unknotting the twine and opening the parcel "time to come through…"
I pull from inside a small crystal phial. Filled with what appears to be… water? And sand. And a bit of rolled up parchment swirling around inside.
What the hell is this rubbish?!
I hold the phial upright for a minute, letting all the sand and the paper settle down at the bottom, pull out the stopper and point the tip my wand at the opening, muttering "Accio".
The little scroll flies up to my hand, drier than even the air in the room. I unfold it, to find a single line in that curly handwriting I've become all too familiar with over the past couple days.
Nighty night, sleep tight, husband dearest
With a growl, I scrunch the stupid damn note in my hand.
Sleep tight?! Sleep tight?! Any chance at sleeping at all is now eradicated!
Just like any shred of guilt and pity over her damn scars! Hell, I wish I'd told Umbridge the letter was from Dumbledore himself!