My Mother Told Me Life Was Like A Box Of Weevils
By Kissaki and Libertine
Lucius ran his hand casually down Narcissa's back. They were both standing at the balcony that overlooked the front gates of the Manor. "What do you think?" he asked quietly.
Narcissa turned to face him; eyes still reading the scroll the messenger had delivered. "It seems genuine enough. I think we can believe their intentions." She handed the scroll to him.
Lucius was silent, absently twirling the rolled up scroll in his hand, watching the robed figure rapidly cross the front lawn to the group gathered by the gate. "I have to admit that I'm not entirely surprised by this. We knew that it was only a matter of time before the group tired of having no direction."
Narcissa nodded in agreement, "Well, after reports of Death Eaters reduced to pseudo-evil acts...it makes one despair, really."
Lucius chuckled lightly, "It proves that even the mighty Death Eaters can fall. Imagine, going from such impressive acts as torturing muggles and causing All Things Evil to such dubious acts as spray- painting 'Enemies of the Heir, Beware!' on the side of the Ministry's headquarters. That's just so...1992."
Narcissa smirked, "Yes there is that. But my favorite one is where the whole lot of them were arrested by muggle authorities for 'cow- tipping'." She turned to her husband, eyes wide, "Can you imagine anything more embarrassing than that?"
"There *was* that time when they were stuck in that muggle laundromat." Lucius offered.
"Yes, you're right, of course. That is more embarrassing." Narcissa frowned reflectively, "On second thought, are you sure that you want to take them all on?"
"I think we can find uses for them." Lucius shrugged.
"I can always use more domestic help. The dungeons need a good scrubbing. The house-elves seem to have lost their cleaning enthusiasm. The kitchens could also do with repainting."
Lucius considered, "I was thinking more along the lines of using them as poll takers...I can send them out to Knockturn Alley to get some demographic statistics. Maybe even have them do a bit of telemarketing. Harry refuses to do it."
"Why don't we settle this by a little friendly competition?" Narcissa purred the question.
"A wager?" Lucius raised an immaculate eyebrow, "This sounds promising. What do you propose?"
Narcissa clicked her fingernails on the balcony ridge, "What about our favorite game?"
Lucius stroked his chin thoughtfully, "Our favorite game. It's been ages, hasn't it? I admit that I do have a soft spot for that one." He nodded, "Ok, you're on."
Draco was not a morning person. He preferred to consider dawn as something that happened to other people, like tax returns, monogamy, and social etiquette. As rays of sunlight filtered in through Ron's meagre blinds, Draco pulled a pillow over his head and groaned.
He was alone in his bed - specifically, Ron's bed; something which always annoyed him on waking up. Harry never failed to remain in bed until Draco woke up, even if it meant putting off clients for a few hours. Harry would even hang around to fix Draco a mug of hot chocolate, and perhaps indulge in a few minutes of canoodling before departing. Whereas Ron.. Draco squinted out from under the pillow. There was a sign tacked onto the door, written in a barely legible hand.
GONE FISHING -R.
Fishing? Draco grunted, and curled up in the covers. One of these days, he thought grimly, he'd have to sit his errant poolman down and explain to Ron exactly how things worked in the manor.
And to that, Ron would probably say, Okay dude, catch you later. I'm off.
Keeping Harry on a leash wasn't difficult. But Ron wasn't about to be chained down by anyone. Draco had been tossing about the idea of locking Ron up with the Veela, but decided against it for two reasons - firstly because he didn't believe it would help matters in the long run, and secondly because he had the horrible feeling that Ron would probably enjoy it.
If he rolled on his side, Draco could block out the light sufficiently to fall asleep again. He dozed fitfully for a further few hours, until the smell of cooking roused him. Dragging a hand through the mess of his blonde hair, he swung his legs out of bed and fumbled for his clothing.
Staggering out of the front door, he was treated to the sight of a topless Ron, grilling fish using Sally's fiery breath. A warm feeling surged in Draco's heart: Ron had decided to cook him breakfast after all. He beamed.
/Don't look now, Ronny, but ol' Moby Dick is back to wreak his revenge on you for knocking off his little brothers./
"Moby who?" Ron turned, blinked, and gave Draco a half-wave, which Draco found rather too casual to be comforting. He padded over anyway, and found himself a seat on the grass.
"That my breakfast, then?" he asked.
"Um," said Ron, scratching his head. "I guess, sure."
/And there goes my appetite./ The dragon huffed out another gust of steam. Draco gave her an annoyed look, but chose not to comment. He wasn't sure exactly when things between he and Sally had become tense, but he suspected it had something to do with a long ago argument pertaining to the fact Spike would look a lot better with Angel than he would with Willow.
"Quit bitching," Ron muttered, turning over the spike on which he'd staked one of his fish.
/Me, bitch? Me? Never. Perish the thought./
"I didn't say a word," Draco snapped. "Don't blame me, just because your dragon happens to be suffering permanent PMS."
/Quiet there, little man,/ said Sally. /You could just as easily end up on that spike, if I'd a mind to -/
"Listen, you scaly windbag, I've had enough of your whining. I don't give a damn what you think about me, and I suspect you're just jealous, anyway."
/True. I've always wanted to look like the Michelin man./
Ron groaned, quietly. "Can we just -" he began, attempting to pacify the duo, but neither of them was listening to him.
"How can you stand back and let her talk to me like that, Ron?" Draco squeaked. "It's glandular, anyway. So my father says."
/Glandular? Next you'll be telling us you're just big boned, short- arse./
"I'm petite," Draco snarled. "I'm a bonsai person."
/Bonsai privet hedge, more like. Ronny, it's Friday. Make the nasty little boy go away./
"I'll tell my mother you've been fishing in her pond of oriental fish," Draco threatened Sally. "She'll send you packing faster than.. faster than something."
/Here's a bit of news for you, Draco. No one, ever, packs a dragon off./
"Want to make a bet? -Eeeargh! Ron, she's trying to set fire to my pants!"
Ron started to hum.
/Trust me, Ron, it's not his pants I'm trying to singe. Hold still, you git-/
Draco shot a terrified look toward Ron, but the redhead was deeply involved in filleting a fish. With a yelp, and smoking slightly at the cuffs of his trews, Draco made a run for it.
"That was rather harsh," Ron murmured, watching Draco flee over the hills toward the manor.
/At least he's getting some much needed exercise,/ the dragon smirked. /Why you put up with it, I'll never know./
"Dunno," Ron admitted. He tore away some flesh from the fish, and tasted it experimentally. "Guess I feel kinda sorry for him. He isn't always that bad, y'know."
/I've heard he's remarkably personable when unconscious,/ Sally replied, snidely. /Ron, you know we should get moving. This place is giving me the shits./
"I told you not to eat those guards. They give you the runs, every time."
/I don't mean literally. I mean I'm bloody sick of having to tow the line for humans. You and I, we need a holiday. I miss Africa, too. Remember the old days, hm? You and me-/
"And seven tons of dragon shit."
/Those were the days,/ Sally agreed. /C'mon, Ronny. Let's just get gone, eh?/
"..can't." Ron spat out a bone. "Feel like - I should stay about a little longer. Just to see how it all pans out."
/With Draco? You must be joking./
"With Harry," Ron admitted. "If I leave now, Harry'll only hate me all the more - Draco will end up taking it out on him. I figure if I hang around long enough, Draco'll work out that I ain't the type to accept a commitment of any description, and bugger off back to Harry."
/You hate Harry so much you'd make him suffer that pretentious little git's presence every day of the week?/
/C'mon, Ronny. You can't tell me you don't miss traveling. We've been cooped up in this place for seven months.. we're going stir crazy./
"Hey, girl. Give me a break," Ron said, frowning at his fish. "I'll leave when I'm ready, all right?"
/Right. Just don't expect my cute scaly toosh to stick around for much longer. I have places to go, things to see, people to ea- er, meet./
Ron said nothing. He picked glumly at the remains of Narcissa's prize goldfish and wondered how Draco could manage to make his simple life so complex in such a short period of time.
After tossing sleeplessly about all night, Harry was gently nudged from an uneasy slumber by a house elf with another summons from Lucius. Harry sighed. Already in a glum mood because of his impending Anger Control seminar and his confinement to travel by muggle airplane, the fact that Draco didn't go back to his room the night before didn't help any. 'Still with *Weasley* and his sarcastic dragon' Harry thought with no small amount of resentment.
Rousing himself with a groan and peeling back sweat-drenched sheets, he berated himself. 'I will NOT lose control.' Repeating it like a mantra, he felt an unsteady calmness come over his body. Making his way into the bath, he started the shower. Harry was irritated with himself. He still hadn't managed to get Draco out of his thoughts. The blond invaded nearly every aspect of every waking moment in Harry's thoughts. Even the times that Harry fell easily into slumber, he couldn't escape Draco. The surly man infiltrated Harry's dreams, as if Draco would not think of giving Harry this small respite.
Stepping into the scathingly hot spray, Harry was determined to get through that day without breaking down. Still, he obsessed about Draco and his ex-best friend, his thoughts making him scrape furiously at his skin as though he could scrub them away. Harry couldn't bring himself to even consider that Draco may harbor feelings more serious towards Ron. Feeling a familiar sense of panic, Harry forced his mind to blankness.
There was a part of himself that held on to the hope that Draco would tire of his new Weasley pet, but the other part knew that the blond had no compunction in drawing out Harry's torment. Harry snorted derisively; no - Draco would take delight in watching Harry lose that thin veil of control that he had worked so hard to maintain over the past few months. 'I can't give him that satisfaction.'
Minutes later, emerging from the bath with a towel draped loosely over his hips, Harry made his way toward his already-made bed. His clothes had been laid out for him as Lucius specified 'dress in muggle fashion'. Harry dressed quickly, as Lucius didn't like to be kept waiting. He had already been chastised several times for keeping clients waiting for hours because of his unwillingness to leave a sleeping Draco. He was determined not to start this day off on a bad foot.
He found Lucius' door to the study open. Upon peeking in, Lucius, who was reaching for a book on the top shelf of one of the bookshelves, turned to beckon him in. Harry noted with some amount of interest that Lucius was also dressed in a muggle suit, which flattered him disturbingly well. 'What's he getting at, then?' Harry wondered.
"Ah, Harry. I know this is sudden, but I need you to assist me with a - situation - this morning."
"What *situation* would that be?"
"As you may or may not be aware by now, Death Eaters have shown up at the gate. They've been here since yesterday. It seems after Voldemort's demise, the Death Eater contingent has fallen from their wicked grace."
"Um..." Harry began.
"No doubt you're wondering what that has to do with us. The fact is that they need to have a leader. Death Eaters have a pack mentality. Now that their alpha-male, so to speak, has been destroyed, they're looking for someone else to assume leadership. Here is their pledge of loyalty, were I to accept." Lucius took a scroll of parchment from the nearby desk and tossed it to Harry, who caught it with the ease of a quidditch seeker.
Harry read the scroll, the declaration written in a childish scrawl and containing quite a few spelling errors. "So naturally, they've come to you," Harry sighed, "What do you need me to do?" Harry dreaded having to deal with a group of newly redundant Death Eaters, and he had a feeling that Lucius was about to tell him to do just that.
"I just need you to stand beside me. The situation calls for an equal number of people on each side of an argument." Lucius said absently, consulting a large tome of negotiating tactics.
"So you're actually going to meet with them? Is that what this dispute is? Every thing here seems rather cut and dry." Harry said, rolling the scroll back up and sealing it with a bit of ribbon.
"No, the dispute is with my wife," Lucius snapped the book shut and looked at Harry, "My valet told me that Narcissa is secretly planning on having Granger as a 'second'. Narcissa and I had agreed to settle the matter between ourselves." At this last statement, Lucius gave a small smile, "My wife is very clever, Harry. One of the things about being a Slytherin and a Malfoy is that you never play by the rules. You make your own. It makes for a more interesting time."
"So I'm to be your 'second', am I? Are we going to have a duel?" Harry asked nervously. Although he was quite good in a one-on-one duel and Lucius was sure to be a force of nature, Harry wouldn't put it past Narcissa to resort to equally nasty tactics to win a contest. Getting Hermione Granger, the cleverest witch of his generation, on her side was not something that a wizard with any amount of common sense should take lightly.
"Another rule...never let yourself be outnumbered in any negotiation. I need you to be another 'body' so as not to be at a disadvantage." Lucius shook his head slightly, "Not to worry, we're not going to have a duel in the traditional sense."
Harry seemed to consider, trying to practice his new poker face. "What are the stakes?"
Lucius crossed the room, and taking his suit jacket from the house- elf he was using as a coat rack, he turned to Harry. "Narcissa and I have slightly different plans on how to put the disenfranchised Death Eaters to use. She wants them for domestic labor and I want them to do the telemarketing for our company."
Harry arched an eyebrow, "Telemarketing?"
Lucius nodded, "Yes. The humor factor alone is worth the trouble."
"What kind of duel is it going to be, then?" Harry was still doubtful.
"You'll see," Lucius intimated mysteriously, "Now let's get a move on."
Narcissa and Hermione were already waiting on the west lawn, huddled closely together as if they were going over some last-minute strategy. Narcissa was looking resplendent in black velvet with her black sunglasses; Hermione, formidable in black vinyl and thigh high boots, was also sporting black sunglasses. Upon seeing Harry and Lucius emerge from the manor, they both went into a bout of frenzied whispering.
Remus was also there, looking rather worn for the wear and no doubt disgruntled for having to fertilize Narcissa's rose garden. The black- robed group of Death Eaters was off to the side to act as spectators in this Battle of the Malfoys. In the center of them all stood what seemed to be a muggle slingshot enlarged to the size of a small muggle car. It was stuck in the ground in an upward tilt.
Lucius turned to Remus, "Alright Lupin, this is a long standing tradition between Narcissa and myself. It's called 'Toss the Elf' as you can obviously tell. Now, I need you to measure how far Narcissa's launch is. Then it will be my turn. Whoever launches the elf the furthest wins the Death Eaters for the next two weeks."
Narcissa smiled coyly at Lucius. "Never to be outnumbered, right love?"
"Never, my dear." Lucius answered dotingly. "Shall we commence?" he asked. At Narcissa's nod of agreement, Lucius called out, "Sumelfandez!"
The house-elf hurriedly appeared. At seeing the slingshot, its eyes grew wide.
Lucius announced, "Seat yourself in that sling." When the elf hesitated, Lucius' voice became stern as he pointed. "Now," he commanded.
Harry, with growing nervousness, watched the elf, now violently quaking in fear, make it's way toward the sling. Harry cast a quick glance at Hermione, who had schooled her features in complete impassiveness. 'And to think she was the founder of SPEW. Guess those days are long gone.' Determined not to show his misgivings about what was about to happen, Harry followed suit.
Once the unfortunate elf was seated upon the square of leather, Lucius turned to his wife. "Ladies first." He gestured with a slight bow.
Narcissa curtsied with a tip of her head, noting with satisfaction that her husband's eyes widened imperceptibly. She withdrew her wand from the inside of her sleeve, pointed it at the wide-eyed elf and shouted, "Jaculari!"
Upon her command, the sling launched the creature straight forward into the air. The group watched as the airborne elf emitted a shriek of terror, its limbs flailing about before landing harmlessly in Narcissa's goldfish pond. The Death Eaters let out a yell upon seeing the rather unimpressive splash. Harry let out an involuntary snicker, looking quickly at Hermione who seemed to be having trouble keeping down laughter and failing miserably. 'Yes, those SPEW days are long over,' he thought bemusedly.
Remus rolled his eyes before casting a measurement spell. "Twenty- seven point nine meters for Mrs. Malfoy," he announced to the glee of the Death Eater group.
Harry looked at the group closely. Was he imagining it, or did a few of them actually have bags of popcorn? Two were passing a set of omniculars between themselves. Death Eaters obviously came prepared for any kind of eventuality.
"My turn." Lucius turned to face the pond, as the elf got out, soaking wet. "Sumelfandez! Get back here!" When the house-elf began bowing and scraping, playing for time, Lucius let out an impatient growl before quietly threatening, "Don't make me have to tell you twice. I *can* always give you Veela duty."
At this threat, the house-elf, its pillowcase-tunic sopping wet, ran over to the sling and flung itself into the leather square, eyes still wide. Pointing his wand toward the unfortunate creature, Lucius intoned, "Siccare." With that command, the elf's clothing completely dried. At Narcissa and Hermione's curious looks, Lucius explained, "Water-soaked clothing adds weight and will hinder trajectory." He pointed his wand at the sling and casually uttered, "Jaculari."
Once again, the elf was launched into the morning air, wailing and thrashing its limbs about before landing in the pond with a more spectacular splash that pleased the Death Eater crowd.
Remus enacted the measurement spell before announcing, "Twenty-six point seven meters for Mr. Malfoy." The crowd yelled in delight. "The wager is won by Mrs. Malfoy." Remus announced to more shouting and stomping of feet.
Narcissa sauntered to the group and set them off to the manor, giving them laundry duty until suppertime. The command was received with much grumbling and gnashing of teeth. This only served to increase her amusement, "And mind that you separate the darks from the lights!" she shouted to their retreating forms.
Hermione and Narcissa shared a triumphant gleam before turning to Harry and Lucius. Narcissa stepped forward to her husband, holding out her hand and smiling slightly, "It seems that I won this one, dear."
Lucius took the proffered hand, raised it to his lips and answered, "Yes, you now own the Death Eaters for two weeks." He then dug his fingernails into her wrist before kissing the back of her hand. "But I still own you."
After an action-packed morning, the remainder of the day went by uneventfully, except for a moment when Draco went running down the hallway sporting trousers that were singed and smoking. Harry hadn't seen him move so quickly in months. Draco was rather...stationary.
Later that evening, as Harry was finishing up some last minute reports, Lucius walked into his office dragging a rather irritated- looking Remus. Without preamble, Lucius announced, "After much consideration, I decided to send Lupin here along with you to your Anger Management seminar as well as your personal shopper engagement. In addition to taking you as a student of the more complicated curses and hexes, I am going to hire Lupin here to run our Accounts Department. I can't have an employee represent our estate looking less than respectable."
Lupin looked a bit put out. "I think that teaching curses will be enjoyable, but really...Accounts?" He complained, "That's so...uninspiring. So boring, in fact, that they're now using accounting spreadsheets in hospitals to put people under instead of the regular anesthesia. Whatever happened to job satisfaction?"
"You hardly have a choice. The ministry has released you on work furlough and it seems that Malfoy Enterprises is the only employer that is inclined to hire a Dark Creature. So, as they say, convicts can't be choosers."
"I *told* you, I didn't plot to kill you! In fact..." Remus blundered.
"Yes, well that's very nice, and I'm sure we'd love to hear the story, but we've got a lot to cover." Lucius interrupted.
Harry asked, "Is Professor Snape going to be coming along as well?"
Lucius looked aggrieved, "No, word got out that he was a free agent, just like I feared. We're going to have to give him a signing bonus of 50,000 galleons. He is one of three people in the world capable of brewing the Draught of Living Death as it is, not to mention the added benefit of having that brooding gothic Heathcliff look about him. It's a good thing he doesn't know about that, otherwise he'd be unbearable and more expensive. No, I'm not sending *him* to a personal shopper." Turning to leave, he added, "I suggest that you finish up whatever you've got on your plate. Tomorrow's going to be a long day for the both of you."
In his death eater robes, Sirius Black sweated, and pulled his hood lower over his face. The material was made of some unnaturally coarse fabric, and chaffed in all the worst places.. he grunted as he moved to the middle of the crowd, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. It wouldn't do for Narcissa or Lucius to spot him, and have the game given away before it had even begun.
It'd been his idea to infiltrate the ranks of the Death Eaters. He'd been in hiding a long time, mainly because he didn't wish to become embroiled again in wizard politics. But the rise of Voldemort was enough to pull him out of his hiatus. He'd heard word that the Malfoys were somehow involved, and he and the Malfoys always had issues (who didn't, when you thought about it?)..
Sirius figured that if he wanted the Malfoys to roast he'd have to do the hard slog himself. Then again, even the most stupid members of the ministry would have to be completely blind not to take heed of the resurgence of the Death Eaters, even after Voldemort's destruction.
The problem was that the Death Eaters hadn't exactly done anything wrong, this time. Sirius, having appropriately disguised himself, had gone to speak to Cornelius Fudge in regards to the matter. "They're back," he'd told the head of the Ministry. "They're still around. You have to do something. Send them to Azkaban."
"And have them poked at by Cornish Pixies?" Cornelius blinked. "What planet are you from, Mister, er - "
"My name is of no importance," said Sirius, rather melodramatically. "Look, these are the same people who tried to take over the world twenty five years ago.."
"We can't prove that," said Cornelius, nervously. "They could be, um, different Death Eaters."
"Well, black cotton is all the rage these days. I mean, they could be completely different people. Innocent until charged, sir."
"I'm afraid we don't have any proof of strange behaviour from them, except for a few incidents involving goats - which, ahem, are currently being taken care of. Listen, if we hear anything, you'd be the first person we'd contact - if, of course, I knew who you were or what on earth you wanted -"
"Mm." Cornelius twiddled with a pen. "Can you please stop hitting my desk? Er."
Sirius left after punching a rather large hole in the wall outside Cornelius' office. But the encounter left him determined to seek vengeance on his own. And the Malfoys were really making it too easy for him. The Death Eaters were a wreck when Sirius reached them, and they'd automatically believed Sirius was one of them; and they'd even led him straight through the gates of the manor. Sirius' plan was in action. He'd have Lucius Malfoy by the balls, soon enough.
Strange, though, the requests that Narcissa had made of them. Perhaps it was a code for something else. Sirius wouldn't put it past the Malfoys to create some secret language to order their new minions about. As the Death Eaters filed through the halls, Sirius looked for an avenue to escape - somewhere he could hide until Narcissa and the others were gone, and he could explore the manor for its dirty secrets at his leisure.
He spotted a cupboard at the edge of the hallway, and ducked swiftly into it, closing the doors behind him as the others moved past.
"..eek," said Sirius.
It seemed that the cupboard wasn't entirely empty.
"Would you like oral pleasure? I assure you, my only pleasure is gained from making you sparkling and clean, monsieur."
"What the fuck -? Get the hell away from me, you - you french maid, you."
Sirius struggled to push the Veela off, finally pining her against one side of the cupboard with his foot.
"Alors! Monsieur is playing dirty.."
"..cripes." Sirius poked his head out of the cupboard, to find the halls emptied. He bolted out, and shut the door sharply on the Veela's whines.
"This is fucked up, right here," he muttered to himself, wiping his brow.
A stairwell in front of him looked inviting. Having nowhere better to start, Sirius padded upward, trying to look as much like a Death Eater as he could.
Reaching the landing, he bumped into a fuzzy haired dominatrix and a gimp on a leash.
"'kin hell? What is with this place?" Sirius jumped backwards, involuntarily, and very nearly fell down the stairs again.
"My goodness," said the dominatrix. She scratched her head. "Are you one of mine, or..? It gets so hard to remember.. how'd you get out of the basement?"
"Do I know you?" Hermione perked a brow.
Sirius looked at the gimp.
"Mrrf," said Cornelius.
"..ferp," said Sirius, distinctly. He felt as if his brain was spontaneously combusting.
"Listen, if you're a Death Eater, you should be downstairs with the others, doing the laundry. At least, that's what Narcissa's plan was. If you aren't a Death Eater, I suggest you go to the basement. Right now, slut." Hermione slapped her riding crop against her palm, and Cornelius winced.
"I'm - a Death Eater," Sirius spluttered. "I - er."
"Then it's the laundry for you. Off you go."
"But I don't - I'm new to the Death Eaters, actually," said Sirius, his features contorted with the effort of being surreptitious. "I forgot what the code laundry meant. Does it mean that we have to go, um, destroy the ministry, or something?"
"Not unless the ministry lives in one of Harry's socks," said Hermione. "Then again, you could grow just about anything in one of them.."
"Fine, fine. But what does it really mean? Are we going to take over the world again, or what?"
Hermione laughed. "You -are- new to the Death Eaters," she said.
"That's what I've been telling you."
"Here's the story, then, cowboy," Hermione said, leaning forward secretively. "The Death Eaters aren't exactly the tyrannical bunch they used to be. Now I don't know what Lucius has planned for them in the future any more than anyone else, but right now, I'm afraid it's housekeeping duty for the lot of you. Though the rates here are very good, so I've found. Especially if you're working in a job that provides its own in tips - and job satisfaction."
She tugged on the leash, and Cornelius let out another whimper. "Good pet."
"Does the gimpy want a cookie?"
"Er - I'll leave you both alone now," said Sirius, backing away from them.
"Quite. Oh, wait a second.." Sirius froze, and turned back. Hermione was looking at him thoughtfully. "How do you know my name, anyway? I don't remember dealing with any Death Eaters before. Then again, most of my clients don't tell me much about themselves.."
"I, er. I think um, I recognised your picture from somewhere. Yes, that's it."
"What? You saw the centrefold in The Dominatrix Digest?" Hermione beamed. "It was a very good picture, if I may say so myself. They had the most marvelous make up technician."
"Much better than the one in the Witches Weekly. Or perhaps you saw me there. I write a column for them. A self-help relationship column for pissed off house witches."
"You look rather pale. Are you sick?"
"No sicker than.. look. I really have to go, and do the laundry. Yeah. Laundry." Sirius gave them both a sickly grin. "I'll, er, be back later. Or not."
He dashed off, while Hermione called out behind him, "But the laundry is that way.."
As if it wasn't bad enough to run into Hermione, the next corner of the corridor brought Sirius slap bang into Lucius Malfoy himself. The tall blonde wizard was deeply involved in a book, and didn't notice Sirius' hysterical approach until they were literally on top of each other.
Bouncing off Lucius' chest and back against a wall, Sirius noticed that, in the thirty years that had elapsed since he'd last seen Lucius, the man hadn't changed a bit. Lucius must be well on the way to fifty now, but he still looked like the perfectly composed young man Sirius remembered after his escape from Azkaban. Some people had all the luck, Sirius thought, glumly.
Lucius was rearranging his robes with meticulous and almost comical care. He stooped to pick up his book - he'd dropped it in the kerfuffle - and then rose to his stately height to regard Sirius down the length of his sharp nose.
"Do you mind, sir?" he drawled. "I do believe there's a sign in the main hall that states quite clearly that there is to be no running in the corridors. Especially not naked."
"I'm - er, not naked."
"Yet." Lucius smirked. "Another Death Eater? I had imagined Narcissa would have sent you all off to do some mundane task or another. I certainly didn't expect to find one in my corridors. Mm, could you flex your biceps a little?"
Sirius, who couldn't think of anything else to do, flexed his biceps, though with a fair amount of trepidation.
"Quite nice. Narcissa would be terribly impressed. Tell me, have you ever considered becoming a pool man?"
"Pardon, my dear man. 'What' is so horribly common. Yes, we'll definitely have to see about getting you fitted out for overalls. For your own good, naturally. Those Death Eater robes do chafe horribly about the privates, don't they?"
"I think it's something to do with the cut. I own quite a few cotton robes and none of them possess such an infuriating capacity for wedging themselves right up the you-know-what. In fact, I do believe it's in your best interests to strip naked, right now."
"What?" Sirius gulped, and corrected himself. "Pardon?"
"You heard me. And I do believe that the Death Eaters now take their orders from me, now that Voldemort has been - ah, taken care of. In the most delightful sense of the words. Thus - I demand that you strip."
"I'm not that sort of man," Sirius blurted.
"Of course you aren't." Lucius smiled, thinly. "You'll find I'm very discreet, too."
"I - I - I.."
"That's my man," said Lucius, approvingly. And, to Sirius' horror, Lucius winked.
Early the next morning, Harry was roused from bed by another house- elf. Grumbling and not looking forward to the next several hours, he dragged his feet going about getting ready. Finally dressed and not being able to procrastinate the inevitable, Harry made his way down to breakfast. Remus was already seated at the table looking annoyed. It seemed to be a permanent expression on his otherwise mild countenance. 'That's what the Malfoys do to unsuspecting people.' Harry thought.
Upon Harry's entrance, Remus looked up. "It appears that we're not having breakfast since *Mr. Malfoy* wanted us to get a move on first thing. So the house-elves have left these for us." He tossed Harry a granola bar.
Harry sighed, peeling the wrapper off the bar and taking a bite, "I guess we'd better go. But since I've got the Master-Wizard Card, we can go have an elaborate lunch. You can fix the books since you're Head of Accounts now."
Remus considered the thought, "I didn't even think of that. I've got a lot to learn about being devious I think. It's against my nature, but I can certainly try." Remus smiled for the first time since he'd arrived at Malfoy Manor.
They both walked up to the fireplace. Pinching a bit of floo powder, Harry tilted his head towards Remus, "Ready?"
After stepping through the chaos of the Floo Network, they arrived at Madam Malkin's shop during the middle of the morning rush. Harry looked around for anyone that would look like a personal shopper. Remus was also looking rather confused, but was starting to turn sour when the shop patrons started casting smug looks upon his threadbare robes.
Remus leaned over to whisper to Harry, "Did Lucius tell you who to look for?"
Harry shook his head and was about to reply when a whirlwind of blond hair appeared before them. "Good morning! Sorry I'm late. The traffic these days...dreadful. How about that tube? They say it runs on schedule 95 percent of the time. As if! More like 95 percent of the time after waiting for it, people just decide to hoof it on foot. Speaking of pedestrians, positively hopeless! Jaysus, you'd think people were barely learning how to walk the way they took their time with it. And the police! Gah! They aren't helping anyone by giving tickets to jaywalkers. Everyone knows they only do it to meet ticket quotas...it's enough to make any sensible person go mad!"
Harry and Remus looked staggered. "Er-" Harry began.
"Oh, I'm sorry. You don't remember me, oh this *is* embarrassing. I can't believe it, Harry! It's me...Seamus! You'd think you'd remember someone you shared a dorm with for seven years!" He exclaimed, wide- eyed.
"Seamus Finnegan?" Harry asked disbelieving. Harry barely recognized the man. Seamus had grown about five inches taller and had obviously been working out over the years. Seamus had certainly been popular while they were in school. Looking at the man now, Harry began to understand why. Harry shook himself. Finding another man attractive seemed like cheating on Draco, though the gods knew he deserved it.
"The one and only, Harry my boy. So, let's get you sorted then, shall we?" Seamus said as he started to herd the two men further into the shop.
"You're the personal shopper?" asked Remus. "How did you fall into *that* profession?"
"You don't have friends like Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil and not pick up a thing or two about fashion." Seamus replied. "After graduating from Hogwarts, I spent some time in New York, then Milan and Paris. I picked things up here and there. I've managed to eek out a good living by telling people what to wear." He led Harry and Remus into what seemed to be a private room in the back of the shop.
After closing the door behind them, Seamus motioned for the two men to be seated in the oversized couch in the center of the room. Facing opposite was a large three-way mirror and a small platform off one side and a desk on the other. Seamus sat on top of the desk, conjured up a clipboard and began scribbling on a roll of parchment before turning to Remus.
"Professor Lupin, I think that we should go for a casual look for you. With your frame being as delicate as it is.."
"I am *not* delicate!" Remus declared, affronted.
"Ah- yes, of course not, sir. I meant to say slender." He paused noticing Remus' mollified nod. "With your physique, I think we need to forgo the thick heavy materials and accentuate the fact that after all these years, you've managed not to become thick around the middle."
At this, Seamus waved his wand and a dark-haired witch walked in the door also holding a clipboard. "Ah, Marie. I think we need to have some robes made to three-quarters length. Be sure to add trousers of the same material. Colors...should not be overpowering. With his brown hair and eyes, he's very lucky. He could wear any of them, but with his understated personality, bold colors wouldn't work right. Let's try hunter's green, deep burgundy and a rich chocolate brown. Let's keep the fabrics light, but warm enough to endure winter comfortably. Make up six sets of robes. For outerwear, keep a basic black full length, but not the cape-cut, let's make it more like a long jacket type."
Marie was nodding as she was writing Seamus' instructions. "Very good, sir. I think I have all I need to begin."
Remus gaped at such an order. *Six* sets of robes? And a winter robe as well? Maybe working for the Malfoys wasn't such a bad deal.
Seamus turned to Remus, "Professor, if you could follow Marie so she can take measurements. You can have your pick of materials that I've already selected for you. Just remember, keep away from bright colors."
Remus nodded absently, following the sales clerk out of the room.
Seamus turned his attention to Harry. After a prolonged moment, Seamus seemed to shake himself and began writing on his parchment. Harry fidgeted nervously at the awkward silence. He laughed weakly, "I expect I'm rather hopeless, aren't I?"
Seamus froze and slowly looked up from his writing. He took a deep breath and put the clipboard down on the desk in a deliberate gesture; his face frowned in concentration, as if he was choosing his words carefully. "Harry, I don't know what's been going on with you all of these years outside what they print up in Witches Weekly, but I do know that you've always had a low opinion of yourself. Believe me when I say that there's not much more I can do to improve what the gods have already given you."
Harry blushed, not being able to meet the other man's eyes, instead focusing on his intertwined fingers resting on his lap.
Seamus suddenly smiled, "It's been a long time, hasn't it? You always did manage to get yourself into the middle of things. It always made for an exciting, if not scary experience at school. Of all the things that I remember from school, do you know the one thing that I think of whenever people ask 'What's he like anyway?'"
Harry shook his head, biting his lower lip, "Seamus, really. You don't have to-"
"It's your encounter with the Hungarian Horntail during fourth year. No curses, no illusions, no complicated charms...just your Firebolt. It really was something spectacular to see, you know. How many fourteen year-old wizards have done that? I'd be willing to bet not many."
Harry grinned slightly, "Yes, I do remember that. I just imagined that the dragon was an opposing quidditch team. It made it easier for me to deal with." Harry paused before adding, "At times it seemed that my broom was my best friend. It never did let me down when I needed it." Harry's shoulders drooped, remembering his best friends. "You know, those were the best years of my life, Hogwarts." He took a deep breath and let it out shakily. Suddenly reminiscing was quite painful.
As if Seamus knew what Harry thinking, he suddenly pushed himself off the desk, grabbing the clipboard. "Harry, I think all we need to do with you is refine the small things. Don't look so worried, this will be fun, you'll see." Seamus waved his wand again, this time another witch, this one blonde, entered the room. "Gloria, it's been a while, eh? This is Harry, an old schoolmate of mine." Harry and the witch shook hands. She then conjured up a clipboard similar to the one that Seamus had.
Seamus' brow furrowed in thought, "I think we'll go with everyday robes that were designed to be worn open." At Harry's doubtful look, he explained, "Harry, I don't know if you understand this, but robes are not exactly designed to be flattering if you have a decent body. No, if you got it, flaunt it, that's what I say." He chuckled as Harry blushed. "We'll go with basic colors. We'll do the black, dark grey, and dark blue. My instructions also say that I have to make sure we do lots of formal robes as well. So let's go with the floor length black...velvet, I think. No, not the cut that made Draco look like a vicar in fourth year, but one with a mandarin collar. Two of them, I think. And let's do a jewel green, to bring out those eyes. And for shock value, let's do a deep ruby red."
Harry found himself ushered onto the platform, where a self-measuring tape whirled around him. "This is going by a lot faster than I thought it would." Harry commented while the tape measured the circumference of his ear.
Seamus laughed, "Oh, we're not anywhere near being done. This is only our first stop."
Twenty minutes later, after fetching Remus, Seamus had shown them into a salon called Max's. Leaving them in the lobby, Seamus went to the back and disappeared behind a set of double doors. A minute later, he reappeared with two wizards in tow.
"Professor Lupin, this is Thomas. He'll be your stylist." Seamus indicated the tall, dark wizard to his right.
Remus gulped and tried not to think of Severus.
Seamus noticed and winked slightly at Lupin before turning to Thomas, "Now mind that you don't get carried away. We are going for a professional, dignified look."
Thomas replied, never taking his eyes off Remus, "Oh, I don't think we'll have a problem." He grinned cheekily at Remus, who flushed, "I think we'll get along famously." He sauntered over to Remus, and linking arms, began to lead an unresisting Lupin toward the doors. Remus barely managed to grin incredulously at the others before disappearing from the room.
Seamus and the other wizard exchanged amused glances before turning their attention to Harry. Harry was discomfited by their appraisal and began shuffling his feet. Seamus interrupted his thoughts. "Harry, this is Max, the owner of this establishment, and the only place to come for a haircut." He nodded toward the blond wizard.
As they shook hands, Max smiled. "Ah, I see what you mean, Seamus. This will be much easier than I thought. So the sooner we start, the sooner we finish." He led the way into the adjoining room, where Harry found himself seated again, this time in a stylist's chair.
Seamus commented, "Harry always did have a time keeping his hair tamed. Those three cowlicks aren't any help either."
Harry nodded, "Draco's always after me to get a haircut. In fact, he bugged me about it just yesterday."
Max shook his head, "That's the last thing you need. Short hair will only emphasize that. If your hair was longer, it would be less likely to stick out. The weight of longer hair would bring that down. So I think for you, we'll grow your hair to shoulder length. With your black healthy hair to die for, it'll look smashing."
Seamus smiled widely, "Oh good call, Max! I think it'll work out nicely." Then looking at Harry, who looked uneasy, "Harry, if you don't like it, we can always undo it. But I think you will love it."
Harry seemed to consider before nodding in agreement.
Seamus turned to Max with a smile, "Sir, whenever you're ready."
An hour later, Harry and Seamus left the salon. Harry with his shoulder-length hair and slightly tanned skin, thanks to a short fifteen-minute 'solaris' session. He had wanted to go darker but Seamus had been adamant. 'You may envy the tans today Harry, but 20 years from now your face will look like ancient dragonhide.' So he contented himself with a healthy glow.
Seamus giggled as he bounced down Diagon Alley, "Looks like Professor Lupin is getting the deluxe version of 'personal service'. I've known Thomas for years. He's always had a thing for the...slightly wicked. His last boyfriend was a vampire."
Harry grinned. It was impossible to be despondent around Seamus; it was almost like old times. "Will Remus be able to find us? I said we'd meet him for an extravagant and expensive lunch." He was tugging at his hair, which was currently tied back with a bit of leather.
Seamus shook his head, "He won't need to. If I know Thomas, our dear professor won't even notice we're gone. Thomas will be sure to treat him to a very...decadent lunch. Besides, I just told Max to charge everything to my account."
Harry protested, "Seamus you don't have to do that."
The other man laughed, "Don't worry, I'm not. Lucius Malfoy is paying a pretty galleon, so I'm not worried. Besides, we're finished with the good professor. You, on the other hand, need to have muggle clothes for those robes I've ordered for you."
At the end of the day, Harry found himself with new glasses. Seamus had wanted Harry in contact lenses, but Harry was set on wearing glasses. In the end, they decided to get both. Seamus had said, 'You've been wearing those things since 1939! I think the phrase 'it's time for an update' is a gross understatement.' Harry had reluctantly agreed. Excluding his wand, his glasses were the only things he had that tied him to his past. He was forced to admit that they did look good.
After a few hours of wandering in and out of the upscale shops in muggle London, Harry found himself completely wiped out while Seamus seemed to be going on his fifth wind that day. He shook his head, amazed. "And you do this often? How do you find the energy?" He was outside a dressing room, trying on an outfit that consisted of a black turtleneck sweater with black suede pants.
Seamus was behind him, checking the fit. "It has its moments. Like this one." He said absently. "Here, see for yourself. I think we've found your look." He gently turned Harry to the mirror.
Harry looked at his reflection, momentarily speechless. The stranger in the mirror was, simply put, *hot*. Nothing completely different, just a bit adjusted. However, the small changes made a huge difference.
Seamus came up behind him, his eyes meeting Harry's through the reflection. "Now do you see what everyone else sees? What Draco sees but will never admit?"
Harry stood still, frozen like a statue. He couldn't believe that *he* was that mirror image. He tilted his head in wonder. The reflection mimicked his actions. He turned to Seamus with a brilliant smile, "Thank you. For everything. For today."
Seamus nodded knowingly, "It's times like this that make my job worthwhile. It's fun when you actually enjoy what you do."
"I suppose that's true. I have to admit the days are passing by more quickly since I've taken up the family business."
Seamus drew in his eyebrows, "What exactly *is* the Malfoy family business, by the way? I've always wanted to know."
Harry looked shifty. "We're in the consulting field. Legal problems, things of that nature. I suppose you can say that we're lobbyists."
"You have no idea."
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