“I hate that he’s here,” Draco brooded as he sat at her bureau. Astoria smiled softly at him and remarked how much he was pouting like a toddler.
“I don’t like it either, but my father doesn’t want to risk him being there.”
“And you want to risk him being here ,” Draco shot back. “I’ve finally put the war behind me, Astoria, and now it’s back again in the form of a six-foot tall, middle-aged man, who could very well murder us in our sleep.”
Astoria was frowning now. She sighed as she walked up behind him and slipped her hands down his chest. She let her lips curl up a bit when he grabbed her hands and held them close to his body. She even stared at them in the mirror, thinking that the ornate frame around it made their image a pretty picture. Too bad no one on either side of the family would think it a proper portrait.
“Dolohov isn’t going to kill us,” Astoria said firmly. Draco twisted himself so that he could look at her and not at her reflection.
“Can you honestly promise that?”
Honestly? No. But for the sake of her husband Astoria gave her best, reassuring smile and cupped his cheeks. “Yes. This is his sanctuary. He has no choice but to behave. Come on.” Astoria took a step back and held out her hand to him. “We should get going. Dolohov's been waiting in the tea room for over fifteen minutes by now.”
“We should let him rot there,” Draco huffed before resigning himself to stand and put his hand in hers.
Astoria was essentially dragging him along as they left their bedroom. She was quite enamored with her husband when he was grumpy like this. A night of him spooning her was guaranteed as he mumbled about what he hated of their predicament until they succumbed to lust and desire before falling asleep. She hoped dearly that this initial meet-and-greet with Dolohov didn't last long.
Dolohov had Flooed from Ethan Greengrass’ home to the one his daughter shared with her husband not more than twenty minutes ago. Draco Malfoy, so Dolohov had learned. He had been worried about the problems this would pose. Draco was an accomplished Occlumens. Swaying the blond his way would have been either a fool’s errand or simply sincerely hard work. However, once he saw the married couple enter the room and the way Astoria had taken the lead, Dolohov knew who his way in would be, and he addressed her first.
“Why Astoria, look at you,” Dolohov smiled in what a stranger would consider an endearing smile. “You’ve grown up to be a lovely young woman.”
Astoria mimicked the upturn of her lips as a young, aristocratic witch was taught to do and inclined her head. “Thank you, Mr. Dolohov. The last time you saw either me or my sister we were both teenagers.” She paused for a moment to turn to Draco. “You remember Draco, don’t you?”
Dolohov directed his eyes at the blond who looked like he’d rather die than interact with him. The feeling was mutual. “Of course, I do. You’re looking every bit like your father.” The devil decided to raise its ugly head with his next comment as he replied, “Have you seen your father lately?”
Astoria nearly yelped aloud. Her hand was now in a death grip by her husband and he very well may have broken a bone or two. She understood, however, and Dolohov should've been ashamed of himself. Everyone knew that Draco's father was in Azkaban serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for the part he played in the war. To make a reference to that was utterly reprehensible.
“We should show him to his room and get to bed, Astoria,” Draco said, completely choosing to ignore their smug guest. “It's late.”
“A personal escort?” Dolohov asked with a raised brow. “I expected to be shuffled around by a house elf.”
“It's late,” Astoria reiterated. “Our house elves only work until ten p.m. unless there's a function or an emergency.”
Dolohov scoffed in both mirth and derision. “House elves with working hours. Very well then. Lead the way.”
Astoria and Draco did just that, heading up the front as they pointed out various need-to-know information such as the locations of the library and parlor room should he ever want to entertain himself. The pair both stepped aside once they made it to the room where Dolohov would be staying.
“The master bath is in the corner to your right,” Astoria gestured. “Everything you need for routine hygiene is already prepared for you. Should you need anything the guest house elf will be on call first thing at six in the morning.”
“I see,” Dolohov mused as he stood in the middle of the large guest bedroom. He sat on the bed’s edge and swiped his hand over the bed sheet. Cheap thread count for people who had money he brooded. He looked over his shoulder at the impatient blond and his wife as he addressed the latter. “Six in the morning, you say? Does that mean I should call upon you to...satisfy my needs until then?”
“Yes,” Astoria regrettably agreed. She didn’t miss the flaring of her husband’s nostrils and she took his hand yet again. “Is there anything that you need now?”
Dolohov shook his head.
“Good then. Good night.”
Astoria couldn’t sleep. Her husband was partly to blame although she didn’t mind it. Their clothes lay discarded off to the side of the bed and she felt contentment at feeling his naked torso pressed against her bare back as they cuddled and slept. However, the other and more pressing reason for her inability to sleep was the guest who shared her home at the end of the hall.
After disentangling herself from Draco’s arms, Astoria slipped on her husband’s shirt and grabbed her night robe. She silently slipped herself out of the bedroom after securing her wand under her sleeve. As she took quiet, purposeful strides down the hall, she wasn’t worried about waking Dolohov. From what she remembered of him and from what she’d been told, he had troubles sleeping and would therefore most likely be awake. Astoria wasn’t disappointed as she saw the bright light under the guest bedroom. She paused briefly before giving the door a soft, but still audible tap and waited until it was opened. How unfortunate it was that her house guest liked to sleep in only his undergarments.
“Well, isn't this a lovely late night surprise?” Dolohov smiled at the witch. “Did I mistakenly call your name in my sleep?”
Astoria let her distaste for both him and his comment show with a crinkle of her nose. “I came because I’d like to have a word with you, Mr. Dolohov.”
“Of course,” Dolohov answered politely with a gentle tilt of his head. “And it's Antonin, please.”
Dolohov had made room for Astoria to come inside, but she would have had to be mad to enter the bedroom with him.
She remained the doorway as she replied in a short tone, “Antonin, I trust that my father made it clear to you that your stay here will be brief? The Ministry is still looking for you, and I don't want them to find you here. In the interim, I’d like to remind you that you are not the owner of this house and that you are a guest. Respect for those who are is required.”
Feisty. Commanding. It appeared that all Malfoy men preferred this quality in a spouse. Not that he could blame them. It was an attractive and endearing trait.
“I'll be on my best behavior,” Dolohov replied. “I promise.”
Astoria didn't believe him for a moment. She also despised the way that he was looking at her. He was giving her a full body overview and it was skin-crawling.
“Until the morning then, Antonin,” Astoria nodded. She promptly turned on her heel to leave when she heard Dolohov call her name. She regretted turning around, not because she hated him, but because she found herself face-to-face with his wand.
Astoria's own wand clattered to the floor when it fell from her sleeve. Dolohov ignored the sound for now and lowered his own wand as he drew closer to the witch who now looked as dazed as a drunkard. Inches from her body now, he realized that she smelled both of roses and Draco.
“Your father mentioned a short term here, yes, but it wouldn't be too terrible if I stayed longer, would it?” Dolohov asked her. Astoria’s brows knitted together in confusion.
“No, of course not. You want to be a good hostess, don't you? It’s what you were raised to do.”
Yes, it was how Astoria had been raised. Her mother had always told her that part of being a wife was to make sure that guests were properly entertained. It annoyed her, if she were to be honest. She stood there now, conflicted on what she wanted to do and what she should do. So lost in her thoughts she was, Astoria hadn’t realized that Dolohov was standing behind her. He tried his best to distinguish her scent from that of her husband and when he had he smiled.
“An extra day or two can’t hurt, can it?” Dolohov questioned. His hand was raised and poised over her shoulder, his urge to let his fingers slide down her shoulder strong, but he resisted. For now.
“I… I suppose it couldn’t,” Astoria found herself saying.
“Of course not. It's absolutely harmless.”
It had been a week. One full week and heading into a second and Dolohov was still in the house. Astoria remembered the morning after he had come and telling him that he could stay up to one week, far longer than the two days he was supposed to be there. It frustrated Draco for her to have made that decision, and her too, for that matter. It bothered her because she hated having him in the house, but courtesy dictated her, didn't it?
Regardless of that fact, courtesy did not dictate the things that had been happening when Draco wasn't home.
Astoria arrived home from work at least one hour before Draco did. That, unfortunately, left her alone with Dolohov. She wished that he behaved as a recluse, but he had become too comfortable. She often found him in the living room, perfectly placed for when she came through the fireplace. Annoyance turned to complicitness and she didn’t know why. It wasn’t the Imperius Curse. She knew what that was like and no, Dolohov wasn’t bending her will, yet somehow, some way, the despicable man grew closer in proximity. Closer in...touch. What disturbed her most was that she let him.
Well-thought out arguments on his part that shouldn’t have been enough to make Astoria second-guess herself. She let him kiss her hand once. He gave her a back massage another time. He did the same again rather recently and she despised how he had coaxed her into allowing his lips to press onto her neck and shoulders. So easily swayed she was, and not only to permit his closeness, but also not to tell Draco.
Today as she got home Astoria feared what she may be walking into. To her surprise, it was nothing. She did hear Dolohov, however, and Astoria followed his laugh to one of the fireplaces upstairs. However, she didn’t go in. She listened to the conversation that she would have been intruding on.
“People think too little of the Confundus Charm,” Dolohov was saying. From what Astoria could see as she sneakily watched him from the doorway slightly-cracked open, he was on a Floo Call with someone but she had no idea who. “While not necessarily the best that magic has to offer, taking advantage of someone in a confused state is quite the advantage. A little nudge here and there, and you have the witch or wizard in your hand.”
“You’ve been casting a charm on me?” Astoria accused after having barged into the room. Dolohov had had his head stuck in the fireplace, but he had promptly sat back on his heels when he was no longer in the room.
“Astoria,” he greeted. “What a lovely surprise.”
“Answer me, Antonin. You’ve been using magic on me?”
Dolohov sighed although he was hardly apologetic. There was a naughty smile playing on his lips as he rose from the floor and faced his accusing witch. “I might have. How else was I supposed to get my way?”
Astoria felt a deep, sinking feeling hit her chest at hearing what she feared. A close second was anger and her eyes flashed dangerously at the man who had dared to abuse her in such a way. She could see the barest of movements from his right arm behind his back, but Astoria was faster. She whipped out her wand and aimed it.
The pleasure she took in watching Dolohov seize up and fall under her control may have been sadistic, but at this point she didn’t care. Astoria kept her wand aimed as she walked close enough to be face-to-face with him.
“Only someone as wicked as you would use Confundo to control someone,” Astoria sneered. “You, a man who’s always enjoyed playing with his food. I, on the other hand, have far less patience than that. Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Imperius Curse. It’s much more fun, in my opinion.”
“Astoria, what are you doing?”
The witch turned when she heard Draco’s voice. Dolohov’s eyes flickered from one person to the next as he tried his best to fight his way out of the curse.
“Entertaining our guest,” Astoria answered. “He’s outstayed his welcome.”
Draco tilted his head, gazing at his wife intently before letting his stare shift to the man behind him. “May I watch?”
Dolohov’s heart stopped when he heard the witch say yes.