Astoria Venus Greengrass awoke early on that Thursday morn. She kicked back her silk bedsheets and thick feather duvet to get up and stretch, catlike, as the sun shone on her naked skin. Mary was not in attendance, but that was not unusual given the hour. Mary was one of the serving maids at Malfoy Manor, originally drafted in when the Malfoy's had lost their House Elf, Dobby. Narcissa had bemoaned this bitterly, maids were held in distain by those with old family gold. It was only true Pure Bloods who had House Elves to attend them and maids were very much seen as something that 'upstart' 'new gold' wizarding families indulged in. However, the House Elf population had diminished greatly this past year, chiefly due to the Death Eaters newfound zeal of tormenting and slaughtering them for sport. Astoria's own House Elf, Iddi remained at Greengrass Palace, forbidden by ancient magic to leave its walls to ensure that the Palace did not fall into disrepair. However, due to the influx of Death Eaters now coming and going out of Malfoy Manor, Mary and five other serving girls now attended to their needs and wants, as well as the upkeep of the Manor itself. Narcissa was not about to do it herself after all.
As a Pure-Blooded witch, Astoria was entitled to her own handmaid, which came in the form of Mary. Astoria was fond of Mary, and was intrigued by her often upbeat disposition. Despite all Mary had suffered, she still seemed to have hope that things would one day get better. Her company made life at Malfoy Manor just a little less strange and frightening. Mary was young and pretty, with big blue eyes and luscious dark hair. Indeed, she was not too many years older than Astoria herself, no older than twenty years. Astoria was at a loss of what to do, so she padded over to the large, gilded mirror on the eastern wall. She stood there, taking in her appearance. Her eyes automatically found the ugly skull and snake burned into her inner left forearm. It was now permanently black and often prickled every now and again, even when it was not burning for a summons. How she hated it.
Astoria looked at her protruding hip bones and ribs. She had always been slender, but her rapidly thinning figure was beginning to make her look half starved. It had been beyond her control, however. She had been unable to eat or sleep properly ever since she had begun to serve the Dark Lord, so deep was her disenchantment. Despite this, however, no one could argue that Astoria Greengrass was undeniably beautiful. She had silken hair the colour of honey that tumbled down well past her waist in a rippling river of loose curls which complimented her light golden skin perfectly. Her eyes were a piercing lilac, a rarity only found in the House of Greengrass, even if it was down to centuries of family inbreeding. Combined with her delicate nose and full lips, she would have been the envy of any Veela...Men's eyes who found her did not easily look away. Astoria had been used to male attention ever since she had blossomed into womanhood upon reaching her twelfth year.
Now standing at five feet and nine inches, with large full breasts, a tiny waist and curvaceous hips, many a man had lusted after her, had even made betrothal offers to her late Father. Naturally he had shunned them all, determined to marry her to a Nott or Selwyn. To be sure the choice for eligible bachelors was minimal in Britain, but Father would have gladly auctioned her off to some other great family from abroad if they had favourable bloodlines. Astoria's haughty, solemn manner, rather than to drive men away, only served to make them pursue her even more fiercely. They all seemed to want to 'conquer' this mysterious, frosty beauty. Astoria had always been soft spoken and quiet; with little interest in making friends. At Hogwarts she had disliked the spiteful and vapid group that Draco Malfoy had presided over, only deigning to mingle with them to keep up appearances. What had Father always said after all?
"Trust no one child, but keep matters cordial, lest they mistrust you."
Having said that, Astoria had always been rather fond of Blaise Zabini, whom was very much like herself, comfortable with solitude and only keeping to the fringes of Draco's clique. Her reminiscing thoughts then drifted to Draco. No matter what she may have thought of him in their school days, Astoria now cared for him very much and longed for his return. When they were not out enforcing the Dark Lords commands, they would have long walks together through the vast grounds of Malfoy Manor. They would discuss anything and everything that came to mind, and although it was risky, it was an inexpressible comfort to Astoria to have someone to confide in. The tender moments spent with Draco were one of the only things that kept her going during her darkest hours. To be sure, Draco could be cruel and stupid, but his truest nature was so much more than that. Most of his faults were down to his upbringing, not unlike Astoria herself. She thought that it was this that had brought them so close in the past year. They both felt alone and afraid, both now questioning everything they had ever been told, and above all, they both hated being Death Eaters. Indeed, the whole notion of what it actually meant joining the Death Eaters had horrified and disillusioned them. The murder of Albus Dumbledore had been proof of that, the fateful night when everything had come crashing down. She vividly recalled how Fenrir Greyback had come bursting into the girl’s dormitory of the Slytherin dungeons, dragging her out of bed and commanding her to dress.
When he chose to be, Draco could be kind and gentle, she had experienced it first hand when she had poured out her heart to him for the first time. He had listened quietly as she had sobbed into his chest, softly stoking her hair. The harsh, sneering bravado he projected to the rest of the world was his attempt at a show of strength. Astoria knew that deep down, Draco was desperately lonely and behaved in this way to conceal this from others, lest they see his weakness.
Her musings were cut off as there was a rap on the door. "Miss, may I enter?" called Mary's voice.
"You may" Astoria replied. Mary then came through the door with a basket of freshly laundered robes hovering in front of her. Midnight blue, pistachio green, lilac and so many more, Astoria’s vast wardrobe had come along with her from Greengrass Palace after her Father had died. She could no longer take any pleasure in garbing herself in rich fabrics and colours as she had done before, those days were over. But she supposed she had to wear something. Mary was dressed in simple, navy maid’s robes and was quite unabashed by Astoria's nakedness. Handmaids were used to this, after all. They were involved in some of the most intimate parts of the lives of the ladies they served.
"A bath, Miss?" Mary asked, as she began flicking her wand so that each set of robes flew into the large, mahogany wardrobe in the adjacent dressing room.
"Yes, and I think we shall go with the midnight blue brocade and silver today, if you please" replied Astoria. "And I will take my breakfast up here this morn."
"As you say Miss." Mary replied.
Minutes later Astoria entered the bathing suite, a large room done in white and pink marble, silver gilt mirrors sparkling in the dim candlelight. She climbed into the steaming hot water in an elaborate, solid silver bathing tub. The taps were in the form of snakes, their mouths wide and gaping. She lay there staring at the carved ceiling as Mary saw to her hair, lost in thought. To be sure, Astoria hated eating downstairs in the morning room with everyone else. The other Death Eaters frightened her more than she could say. It was not just the fear of being cursed, tortured or killed for the slightest misdeed, the likelihood of one of the men taking her by force was growing by the day. Indeed, Mary had warned her that this may happen. She had told her of one night when she was clearing the kitchen, alone, as all the other girls had retired to the servant’s quarters. There, she was accosted by Mulciber, who proceeded to drag her into the pantry where he had beaten and raped her for close to an hour. Astoria had been horrified, but what disturbed her most of all was the matter of fact way Mary had described it, almost as if she seemed to expect this kind of treatment. To hear her tell it, she was not the only one this had happened to either.
Astoria suspected that it was only her Pure Blood that had thus far protected her from this fate. As a shield, it was getting ever weaker; the male Death Eaters were becoming incredibly scary to be around. Antonin Dolohov in particular, frightened her more than all the others put together, even more than the Dark Lord. Dolohov had an evil reputation as a depraved pervert, thug and a drunk. It was common knowledge that he was always the first to rape and torture Muggle women before killing them. Why should his own kind be any different? Indeed, it was whispered that he had a wife some years ago, during the First Uprising. However, she had disappeared under suspicious circumstances and was never mentioned in society again. The most consistent rumour was that he had killed her in a drunken rage, transfiguring her body and dumping it in a lake. Astoria could easily believe that, Dolohov had the coldest eyes she had ever seen, not one drop of kindness or remorse in their icy blue depths. Like Bellatrix Lestrange, he gloried in his horrific acts, nothing giving him greater pleasure than causing pain and suffering to others. She imagined he had killed his wife without a second thought.
Astoria would always catch Dolohov staring at her avidly whenever he was in residence, hunger and malice in his gaze. At mealtimes, Dolohov would make sure he was sat next to or opposite her. He would put his food slowly and deliberately into his mouth, licking his lips lustfully, a gesture she found remarkably obscene. Other times, Dolohov would slyly stroke his finger along her hand, or else grasp her thigh under the dinner table and whisper in her ear telling her how beautiful she was, all the while leering at her breasts. His unwanted advances made Astoria sick with fear. When Dolohov's constant besetting failed to illicit a satisfactory response from her, he would then take to constantly prowling about after her around the vast Manor, looking, she suspected, for an opportunity to strike. Once Dolohov had almost succeeded. One morn, he had silently come up behind her in the drawing room and attempted to fondle her between her legs. Astoria had jumped violently, knocked Dolohov’s hand away and ran from him.
“Come, sweet lady!” Dolohov had called in a delighted voice as she fled. “I was just going to make love to you!” He had then laughed loudly. “No, no, I am only japing, I am going to fuck you.”
Astoria had escaped through a tapestry, dashed up to her bedchamber and used the most powerful form of magic she knew to seal her door, heart hammering. She had not slept that night. Rigid with fear, she had spent the twilight hours sitting on the window seat, her wand pointing at the door. As if this wasn't terrifying enough, she had so far been forced to endure the others too: Yaxley's sly pinching, Mc Nair's obscene suggestions and Rowle's endless hints about how much he wanted to bed her. They were like a pack of hungry wolves, all determined to claim her. Severus Snape was the only one that showed little to no interest in joining in their sport of pestering. Perhaps he was disinclined towards women and for that she was thankful. She had never liked Snape at Hogwarts, despite him being head of Slytherin house. He had always struck her as a cruel and bitter individual who delighted in preying on the weak. But was she truly any better than he was? They had both chosen the Death Eater path after all.