Summary: This is a melding of the book and movie verse: Howl's ego can't handle the fact Sophie declined his offer for a drink on May Day. He still doesn't have a heart and his pride demands retribution. Oddly, the wizard can't stop thinking of the plain girl, and devises a plan to make Sophie pay for rejecting his offer. He wants to hurt her the way she hurt him - though he doesn't understand why. When she mixes his potions and his hair goes wrong a slime tantrum won't do! However, in time, his heart will melt for Sophie…
Rating: T for the time being.
The door of the castle slammed hard. The dirty cups and dishes in the sink clattered. The dusty books and rubbish on the kitchen table came crashing to the wooden floor in a cloud of dirt.
The purple red flicker in the hearth remained under his grate, fast asleep. It was late and he was tired moving the castle around the wastes. No tantrums tonight would wake him.
"How DARE that plain, silly pathetic girl refuse me!"
The tiny flickers under the logs hissed, aggravated. He knew too well this child's tantrum couldn't be ignored away. "Howl, you fool! As if this dingy cave of yours isn't dirty enough. I'm surprised Markl doesn't die from catching some disease from all this mould, mildew, dust and slime you got going on. Even the insects, spiders and mouse live better than we do!" The wavering flame reprimanded testily.
"SHUT UP! I'll teach her a thing or two."
The Wizard paced back and forth at the front of the hearth, throwing his jacket on the chair, jade earrings moving wildly like irate green flames. He kicked the stool by the fireplace into the dining table, knocking the foodstuffs and disused knick-knacks from the table top, all of it tumbling noisily to the ground.
"Howl! Quit it! What the hell has gotten into you? This place is gonna be more of a pig sty tomorrow if you don't cut it out! NOW!" Calcifer crawled to the top of the logs, bellowing his flames at the out of control Wizard. "Did some girl dump you again?"
"So my castle is dirty, is it? Very well. Then we'll need a cleaning lady. I'll have her by the end of tomorrow, you demon." And the slender Wizard shot up the stairs to his room. His pale green eyes glinted maliciously. "I know how to find out more about her: from her sister at that bakery."
The red sun rose in the east and a layer of mist began lifting early the next morning.
"A small ragged looking girl with unattractive, limp, ginger red hair, terrible style and badly attired at that; No social manners; no conversation; nothing but an old woman's dress sense. She's such a pathetic slip of girl no one will miss her, even if she fell off the face of the earth," the Wizard simmered, standing by the lamp post watching the girl serving the customers in the hat shop. "No class at all." He leapt up effortlessly into the air, above garish colored rooftops, air walking himself towards Cesari Bakery.
"Lettie Hatter. There is a gentle man caller for you. He says it's about your sister Sophie. He's at the back."
The bubbly, beautiful young lady stood to attention hearing her sister's name.
"Ok, I'll be back right away," she said, running to the back entrance wondering what was wrong. Who was the gentleman caller?
"Hello Lettie. You don't know me, but my name is Howl Pendragon," the Wizard smirked lazily, letting his gleaming blonde hair fall over his eyes.
"You are here about my sister, Mr. Pendragon?" Lettie asked worriedly, overwhelmed by the man's flamboyant yet striking appearance.
"You are beautiful indeed. No wonder Cesari has so many male customers," he glibly remarked, raking his eyes up and down her curvaceous body, flagrantly appreciating what he saw. "So why is your sister such an ugly little mouse then?"
"Stop it! I won't have you talk about my sister like that. If this is all you seek I must get back to work," Lettie hissed at the arrogant, infuriatingly, remarkably elegant man.
"I apologize. My intentions are honourable and I come to ask for information. Your sister is Sophie? She is in trouble, correct? Always working night and day at that hat shop?" His voice was now low, humble and beseeching.
"Y- Yes. How did you know?" Lettie halted her steps at hearing 'Sophie' and the sudden soft timber of the man's tone.
"My wife frequents that hat shop, and being a compassionate soul, she tells me about Sophie being miserable all the time. I love my wife and want to make her happy. Even if it means helping out a girl I don't know. I can't bear to see my beloved suffer." The lie rolled off Howl's tongue like honey: his tone devastatingly rendering.
Beguiled and taken in by Howl's wiles, Lettie found herself blurting out how her dead father had left all the debts to her sister, Sophie. They had to leave school because the tuition bills were piling up, and the hat shop was now Sophie's responsibility too. She told of how their mother had run off to find a rich man, leaving Sophie with all the family debts. Lettie was hoping this dashing, surely noble man could pay the debts. Certainly, he would if he desired to make his wife happy and relieve Sophie of her undeserved burdens. There couldn't be any harm in divulging the family problems to such a seemly sagely and kindly gentleman. Why else would a man want to help Sophie?
"Where is your mother, Lettie? I shall need to speak with her then," the Wizard urged, knowing fully he had yet another woman wrapped twice over around his perfectly manicured fingers.
In the parlour of the hat shop, shadows crept along the floors as twilight dawned. The oil lamp hissed quietly, as if disquieted by the conversation in the room.
Sophie screamed at her mother. "NO! I don't want to go with this man. I don't know him. How could you sell me to him, Mother? Why? I could have worked harder and found a second job to pay off the debts for the school fees and still run the hat shop. Please. Please don't let him take me mother. PLEASE!"
However, it was too late. The eager Fanny had already signed a contract with the Wizard, selling her oldest, plainest daughter with no prospects to this powerful Wizard who had, as promised, paid off all her debts that very day. As a mother, Fanny had to look after three daughters. One was lovely Lettie, who would have her choice of suitors and would marry well; one was Martha, who was smart and witty with a good head to learn any trade easily. Her oldest was just simple and bland as corn flour, reserved with no prospects. It hurt to say this, but sacrificing one daughter's life for the future of two was a bargain she was willing to make: or a sacrifice she would force on Sophie to burden.
"Come, Miss Hatter. There is nothing left for you here. You belong to me now." The Wizard Jenkins smiled benignly at her, his eyes shimmering the sweetest shades of green, offering her his open hand.
"NO!" Sophie cried, her body trembling in morbid grief. She was slowly backing towards the front door. "Mother, PLEASE!" In a final attempt to escape the dire situation, Sophie stumbled and knelt at her mother's knees. "Please mother I don't want to go with this man!"
"I'm sorry Sophie. I am sure he'll treat you well," she replied, and Fanny swivelled on her designer heels, walking uncaringly out of the hat shop, and Sophie's life.
"Sophie. It's time," the Wizard gently ordered. He had been adamant not to show pity on this little mouse who'd brushed him off. His only concern was tearing her from family, into a life of servitude and suffering: he wanted to hurt her as she'd hurt him. However, the victory weighed heavily in his chest: an alien sensation constricting his breath. A soft kindness ignited in his eyes watching Sophie's slumped body on the floor: but it died as quickly as it had appeared.
"NO!" She viciously bit, glaring spears at the Howl. Through her mist of bitter tears, Sophie remained defiant, refusing to budge. Until she felt herself be-spelled, a magical force pulling at her like strings, to stand, and gait towards the tall blonde man who now owned her life.
"Why are you doing this me? I don't know you," Sophie gasped between bursts of tears, questioning her fate, for the first time in her life.
He beamed a devilish grin, a flash of gratification danced in his eyes. "Well Sophie. No one says no to Howl Jenkins Pendragon. You shouldn't have refused my offer to escort you for a drink yesterday. You should have been flattered I even wasted my breath on you, my ugly duckling," he sneered spitefully.
"Y-You ruined my life for your ego?" Sophie's hand lashed lightening fast, her actions urged on by adrenaline, striking him hard on his peachy cheek.
SLAP! The sound of flesh on flesh ricocheted off the paisley paper walls.
"You egotistical bastard!"
The Wizard snarled briefly, before regaining his suave composure, twisting Sophie's arm behind her back, roughly jerking her hard against him. "You'll pay for that if my skin is damaged in anyway, Sophie Hatter." His tone was a promise that froze Sophie's blood to ice.
"I'll never go with you!" Kicking and struggling courageously as Sophie could, she knew undeniably: the stranger had trapped her.
"Yes you will. You're mine now, Sophie. " Howl glowered down at her drawn face, a salacious maliciousness playing at his mouth.
The colour bled from Sophie's face, along with all hope of escape. He gestured one arm into the air and they were gone.
AN: Reviews? Comments? I love all the stories of romance and portrayals of Howl as an arrogant self-indulgent fool, but a total push over when it comes to Sophie. However, I wanted to portray a darker Howl who really is a lecherous, sinful womanizer and a self absorbed Wizard who couldn't care less about anything, unless it involves inflating his ego.
Saotoshi thank you soooooo much for the brilliant beta job on my fic. *huggles to you* You've got eagle eyes for detail and have a steadfast grip on grammar; EXACTLY what I don't have. :D
DISCLAIMER: I didn't create Howl's Moving Castle, write the book, animate the movie or create the characters. I'm borrowing the characters to write for fun. I have no money so it's useless taking me to court. This disclaimers goes for all chapters I write for this story and another others I write for ff.