Lonely Reign, Part 2
Tuesday, 2:36 pm, Study Hall (Slytherin/Ravenclaw)
Draco looked up from his Arithmancy homework to see Laura Madley on the other side of the study hall classroom with a pinny over her robes. In her hands she carried a heaping platter of succulent-smelling biscuits. Word was that she was overcome with guilt, but all overtures of atonement had been met by stony silence. And not a few death threats.
In desperation, she’d spent hours in the kitchen baking biscuits (“By hand! Without magic!” Millicent had goggled) and was now endeavoring to tempt the sixth year Slytherins into forgiveness.
Usually the House of the Snake was good to hold a grudge for eight decades, at least. Seven if they were feeling unusually lenient. But these were extremely good smelling biscuits, and Madley did look especially fetching in her pinny, her eyes big and sorrowful and pathetic, and so the biscuits were almost gone by the time she reached Draco’s side of the room.
“How’s the sprog, Gregory?” she asked Goyle.
He grabbed a meaty fistful of biscuits. “Doing well,” he replied, mouth full. “Dumbledore’s got it in his office, his phoenix is roosting on it.”
“Splendid!” Madley beamed. “Is Pansy out of St. Mungo’s yet?”
“Yeah, but she’s still under sedation.”
“I’m sure she’ll be right as rain any day now,” Madley said earnestly, then turned to Draco.
“Have a biscuit, ease my pain?” she said, proffering the platter.
“Why would I want to do that?” Draco drawled. “You turned me into a bird, Madley. And not even a bird that could fly. A totally useless, and utterly unattractive, bird.”
“Oh, no, you were a very handsome dodo!” Madley protested. “Your feathers were nice and fluffy, with a very manly beak. All the girls noticed.”
“They did?” Draco asked, interested, and reached for the platter before he realized what she was doing. “You shall not distract me,” he snapped, shoving his wayward hand under the opposite arm. “Begone, biscuit-temptress..”
“But, Draco,” she said, her pink bottom lip quivering appealingly as her hazel eyes filled with tears. “I’m really very, very s-sorry.”
“How sorry, exactly?” Draco asked slyly, his silver eyes narrowing in speculation.
“Very sorry indeed!” she replied instantly, then faltered. “I mean, not sorry enough to do, you know, certain things,” she said meaningfully. “But sorry enough to run errands for you, or do your homework, or…”
“My homework? Madley, I would get better grades than you if all the classes were taught in Swahili, and I don’t speak Swahili.” Draco smirked at her. “And if I need errands run, I have Crabbe and Goyle for that.”
“Well, what can I do to make it up to you?” she wailed.
Draco thought a moment. “Well,” he began, and she leaned forward eagerly, affording him an excellent glance down the front of her robes. Not bad. “As you’ll have doubtless noticed, I have a bit of an entourage.” He gestured at his hulking companions. “Amoung their number, until recently, was Pansy Parkinson.”
Madley bowed her head in shame.
“I do not wish to have the male-female ratio of my entourage altered, and since it was by your actions that one cannot fulfill her duties, it falls to you to replace her.”
She frowned. “Huh?”
Draco sighed. “You will take Parkinson’s place in my merry band o’ Slytherins.”
“What does that entail, exactly?” Madley inquired humbly. “Because I’m terrible at foot-rubs.”
“Foot rubs?” He looked at her, incredulous.
“It seems the sort of thing an entourage would do for its leader,” she explained. “It’s what I’d want my entourage to do.”
Draco blinked, then continued. “It means that you’ll join us for all meals and Hogsmeade trips, sit beside me in any classes we share, and support Slytherin at Quidditch matches. It might,” he continued, “even mean that you’ll be my date to the Valentine’s ball, if Pansy hasn’t recovered in time.”
“For how long?” Madley whispered.
“Until Parkinson can stand to be around Goyle again.” They both looked at him. He was stuffing the last biscuit into his maw, and his face and hands were smeared with melted chocolate and crumbs. He looked even less appealing than the giant squid, sex-appeal-wise. “It could take a while.”
“And this will make it up to you?” asked Laura doubtfully.
“You turned me into a bird, Madley,” Draco replied coldly. “You turned a Malfoy into a bird. You cannot know the depths of my pain.”
She sighed. “All right, then. I’ll be one of your minions until Pansy is back to her old self.”
“Parkinson is now an expectant—and unwed, I might add—mother of a dodo egg,” Draco pointed out. “There’s no going back from that.”
There were silent for a moment, in recognition of the truth of his words. Then, “When will my penance begin?”
“No time like the present,” Draco replied cheerfully. “Go make some more biscuits, Goyle ate them all and I didn’t get any.”
Wednesday, 7:36 am, Great Hall
There was cataclysmic shock the next day when Laura entered the hall for breakfast and failed to make her way to the Hufflepuff table comme d’habitude. Cheeks aflame, eyes resolutely downward, she stepped as unobtrusively as possible to where Draco Malfoy awaited her with his fellow Slytherins, patting the seat beside him and smiling very, very widely.
“Morning, Madley!” he said with almost offensive cheeriness. “Hope you’re a morning person, because I certainly am.”
One look round the immediate vicinity told Laura that his compatriots did not share his enthusiasm for early rising—they were all looking a bit rough around the edges. Goyle was yawning as he propped his head on one meaty fist as the other fed strips of bacon into his mouth two at a time, Bulstrode was blinking sleepy eyes and spreading porridge on her toast, Zabini merely stared fixedly at his cooling cup of tea, and Crabbe had simply laid his head down and was unashamedly snoring fit to beat the band.
He was also, Laura was dismayed to observe, drooling onto the table. She slipped a muffin under his mouth to serve as a sponge and turned to Malfoy.
“I do all right in the mornings,” she said hesitantly. “I probably like it the best of all times of day.”
“Excellent! We shall get on like a house afire, then.”
“You seem rather optimistic about this whole thing, I must say,” Laura ventured. “Aren’t you horrified at the idea of enduring a Hufflepuff for… however long I’ll be replacing Pansy?”
“Naw,” Malfoy replied. “What’s the worse that you’ll be? Hopelessly stupid? I’ve had enough classes with Longbottom to be inured to that by now.”
“Poor Neville,” Laura sighed. She caught the Gryffindor’s eye and smiled supportively at him, making him blush furiously and choke on his pumpkin juice.
“Oi, none of that,” Malfoy snapped. “No fraternizing with the enemy.”
“Fraternizing? Enemy?” she repeated, baffled. “Neville’s not an enemy, he’s a very sweet boy.”
“Not while you’re being Alterni-Pansy, he’s not. As long as you’re one of my minions, Neville Longbottom is the very antithesis of what is good and right in the world, and you will shun him like a leprous untouchable.”
Laura gaped at him a moment before one of the words he’d used caught her attention. “Minion?” Her eyes narrowed. “Draco, I don’t like the word ‘minion’. It’s… too evil.” She shivered as Malfoy rolled his eyes.
“You’re my minion. Get over it.”
“Shan’t,” she declared, and somehow managed to flounce whilst sitting down.
“Don’t, then,” he muttered, slanting a teasing glance at her. “I don’t care how happy you are with your lot in life. Most minions aren’t thrilled with their status, after all. ‘Ceaseless joy’ is pretty low in the list of job characteristics.”
Laura giggled and asked, “How low?”
“Under ‘health benefits’ and above ‘possibility for advancement’. And those are right at the bottom.” He shot another look at her and noticed she was watching him with a very curious expression, of amusement but also puzzlement.
“You’re… not so bad, Draco,” she said at last.
“You’re too kind,” he demurred with mocking graciousness, bowing in his seat.
“Don’t make fun of me,” Laura said plaintively. “I’m trying to reach out, here.”
“Don’t reach too far,” Malfoy advised. ”Crabbe’s soaked through his muffin.”
Laura patiently exchanged a fresh crumpet for the soggy muffin. “Ugh,” she said, to which Malfoy replied, “I see your ‘ugh’ and raise you an ‘ew’.”
“Now, where were we?” she asked after wiping her hands very fastidiously on a serviette.
“You were regaling me with how superb a human being I am,” Malfoy supplied helpfully.
“I don’t think I was,” Laura said, frowning. “I think I was grudgingly admitting that you weren’t as horrid a prat as most people think.”
“Semantics.” He waved his hand to indicate of how little consequence it was. “Point is, you’re shocked at how easy it can be to spend time with me.”
“I have two things to say to that.” He patted his lips with his serviette and turned to face her. “Firstly, as Alterni-Pansy, you are part of the exclusive clique that is the sixth year Slyths, and as such, entitled to all the perks and advantages thereof. Meaning, I treat you with less cruelty, mockery, and open hostility than the rest of this lot of wankers.” Malfoy gave another wave, this one encompassing the whole of the Great Hall.
“Lastly, you’d best remember that a few pleasant moments at the beginning of our little affiliation do not constitute a window to my soul. I’m not some misunderstood spoiled rich boy, just waiting for someone to get to know the ‘real me’.” Malfoy looked like he wanted to be sick at the very idea. “That’s just as two-dimensional an idea as the legends of me being a malicious, purely evil twat with naught on my mind but mayhem and chaos.”
He’d said all this with a perfectly bland expression, his tone perfectly bland, but Laura felt a chill shiver its way up her back nonetheless.
“Oh, dear,” she murmured. “I’m entirely out of my league on this one, aren’t I?”
“That you are, little badger,” he replied with an angelic smile. “Now, if you’re done, pull Crabbe away from his crumpet and let’s get to Transfigurations, you know how cranky McGonagall is if we’re late.”