Really, the abundance of sickly-sweet pink in the room was offending him to the point of nausea. He sorely regretted having agreed to meet the Minister’s Senior Undersecretary in her own office, finding the highly-feminised décor to be disturbing his composure most dreadfully. A grimace pulled at his lips of its own accord as he eyed a particularly pink circle of lace draped over the table closest to him, apparently serving no other purpose than to sear the eyes of anyone unfortunate enough to perceive it. Its ghastliness didn’t stop him from reaching out, however, and cautiously tracing over it with one gloved finger.
The door of the office creaked as it opened, and he turned around rather more sharply than he should have.
Lucius Malfoy pulled on a smile to greet the short, toad-like witch standing in the doorway. ‘Dolores. I have just been admiring your sense of taste. Really, you have managed to turn a mere office into a most delightful room.’
‘Oh, you are kind,’ Dolores Umbridge tittered in her girlish, high-pitched voice as she toddled into the room. ‘Have I kept you waiting long?’
‘Not at all,’ Lucius breezed with a dismissive wave of his hand. ‘But even if you had, it is perfectly excusable. A woman of your high position must surely have a great many things vying for her attention. I quite commend you for your ability to handle all these matters so well.’
Umbridge gave a simpering laugh, a blush spreading down to her heavy jowls. ‘Oh, you do know how to be charming, don’t you?’
‘One must try, my dear lady,’ he drawled as he watched her waddle around her desk and drop into the chair behind it. ‘Or else suffer that awful thing called barbarianism.’
‘Yes, we really can’t have that, now, can we?’ There was a slight gleam of something in the witch’s bulging eyes as she leaned over the desk towards him. ‘All that nasty, nasty barbarianism slipping through from the Muggle world. Something simply must be done about it…’
Lucius raised an eyebrow, interest piqued. ‘You have ideas?’
A large smile stretched over Umbridge’s flabby lips. ‘I have solutions.’
‘Why don’t you sit down, Lucius,’ the witch said somewhat breathily, gesturing to the stately visitor’s chair opposite with one pudgy, ring-laden hand. ‘Tea?’
‘Please,’ he replied as he carefully seated himself, avoiding looking at the plates bearing frolicking kittens on the far wall. Even one glance at the wide-eyed, saccharine-sweet creatures would be enough to undermine his smooth poise. It was only when Umbridge became distracted with making tea that he allowed himself a quick look about, noting with some satisfaction that he had been right. The kittens were hideously disconcerting.
On the other side of the desk, Umbridge hummed as she applied herself to her task, giving Lucius the opportunity to study her once again. She really was quite ugly, though that didn’t seem to prevent him from appraising her each time her attention was drawn elsewhere.
There was something so peculiar and striking about her that he could not quite resist from staring at her when he thought her to be not looking. That she looked like a toad who had undergone a poor transformation into a human being was just one of the things that fascinated him. Her obsession with pink and overly-girlish taste simply added to the grotesque orchestration that was Dolores Umbridge.
She really was the very opposite of Narcissa, but her support and involvement of their Cause was far from inferior to that of his wife. In fact, Lucius would go so far as to say that she showed more enthusiasm for it than any woman he knew, and so he maintained his pleasantness and issued another smile when Umbridge passed him his cup of tea.
‘You were saying something of solutions, my dear Dolores?’
He resisted the urge to recoil when the witch giggled slightly and grew flushed in a most unbecoming manner.
‘Do you know, I don’t think I should be telling you, Lucius, but you really are a wizard after my own heart. We have so much in common, don’t we?’
Lucius felt his right eye twitch a fraction as he continued to smile. ‘Quite.’
‘I haven’t known anyone who has shown quite so much sympathy to the cause of ridding our world of Muggle barbarianism. You really are an exemplary wizard.’
‘I am glad you think so. Your opinion means a lot to me.’
Umbridge’s eyes seemed to bulge more. ‘Really?’
Lucius tensed in his seat. ‘Certainly.’
‘Oh, I can’t decide whether I should tell you what the Minister has planned for Hogwarts,’ she cooed affectedly, toying with the little black bow pinned to her tightly curled brown hair. ‘It is supposed to be confidential…’
‘Hogwarts, did you say?’ Lucius cut in, having to take a moment to check his eagerness.
‘No, I really have said too much,’ Umbridge declared with a forced sigh. ‘I can’t be sharing the Minister’s secrets, even with you, Lucius.’
Lucius curbed his annoyance, hiding it behind an amiable face as he tried to court her into confiding in him. ‘Well, now, it would hardly be sharing a secret, would it? You would merely be alerting me a little ahead of time to whatever Fudge has planned, and then I can show my support from the very start of his venture.’
‘Won’t you drink your tea?’ Umbridge said simply, smiling at him sweetly.
Lucius glanced down at untouched cup at the edge of the desk and reigned in his temper. With a semblance of admiration, he looked up at the witch again. ‘My dear Dolores…’
Lucius blinked. The witch was gazing at him expectantly, a ghastly expression of languor drooping from her sagging features. He found himself staring when she stretched out one plump hand towards him, the large, gaudy rings wedged on her thick fingers glinting slightly in the light of the room.
‘We really shouldn’t,’ Umbridge whimpered, ‘but you have such a way with words…’
‘Ah,’ was all that he could think to say as he reluctantly reached out to take her hand, thankful that he hadn’t taken off his gloves. Barely keeping himself from wrinkling his nose in repulsion, he did his utmost to lessen the contact between them, propping up the surprising weight of her small, fat hand on his forefinger.
‘I know the Minister doesn’t always appreciate you as you deserve, but I know what a great man you are.’ Her voice had become even more breathy and sultry, making it impossible for Lucius to relax as he continued to hold up her hand. ‘You are the perfect friend of the Ministry, and of me.’
He inclined his head, neck feeling somewhat stiff. ‘How generous of you to say so.’
Umbridge beamed at him – a frightening thing in its own right – and withdrew her hand, much to Lucius’ relief. The keenness of her attention was far from comforting, however, causing him to battle with the desire to leave immediately.
‘If you come back next week, I can clear my schedule for you,’ she offered with a flash of white teeth. An image of a shark streaked through Lucius’ mind as he considered her.
‘We can talk of Fudge and his plans for Hogwarts?’ he asked, somewhat guarded.
‘We can talk of anything you like,’ Umbridge purred like one of the painted kittens on the wall.
After a brief moment’s deliberation, Lucius stood up, adjusting his cuffs. ‘Very well. I shall call on you next week. Will eleven do?’
‘Eleven will be perfect.’
He gave a nod and forced out a smile, cheeks aching slightly from the effort. Umbridge continued to gaze at him with a languid expression that suited neither her toad-like face or the situation, and spurred him into leaving more flustered than he should have been.
Once he was out in the hallway and the door of Umbridge’s office was firmly closed behind him, Lucius paused for a moment to recompose himself. His pulse was quicker than usual and a thin layer of sweat coated his forehead and upper lip, and as he dabbed it away with his handkerchief, it occurred to him that he was in a serious predicament.
He was quite trapped. Relations with Umbridge simply had to be maintained in order to ensure his influence over Fudge, but he certainly wasn’t comfortable with it. Images of pink kittens mewing and blinking fluttered through his mind and he felt a swooping sensation in the pits of his stomach.
Truly, he wasn’t happy at all. Yet he would come back next week, and the week after that, and the one after that. He would keep on coming back in spite of his disgust and despair, and all because there was a woman with bulging eyes and thick, slack lips, who held his political ambitions in her small, fleshy hands.
Lucius drew in a deep breath and stood up straighter. He readjusted his face to express innate smugness as he fell into a lazy walk.
He was being threatened by a future promising Umbridge and pink lace and mewling kittens, but if it meant it would result in a greater happiness, then he would bear it. After all, the witch was bizarrely fascinating, though quite hideous, and when combined with the amount of power she wielded, Lucius couldn't completely deny a desire to behold the curiosity that was Ms Umbridge again.
Yes, he would play to her whims for another glimpse at her toady soul.
He was game for more.