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Chapter 16: Decisions
It was harder than Pansy had thought to decide on a career. It was made even more difficult by her family’s looming financial disaster. Though they weren’t about to go broke by any means, soon they wouldn’t have enough money left in Gringotts to continue with their lavish lifestyle. Though Pansy had already cut back on some of their expenses, she hadn’t been able to do much since her mother kept interfering with her efforts. For every three things Pansy replaced with cheaper things (Pansy still shuddered when she thought about the shoddy quality of several things she had ordered the house elves to buy—disguised, of course. She didn’t want the news of the poor state of her finances to spread), her mother noticed a change and pestered her to return it back to its normal state. Pansy often acquiesced to her requests because she found that, finally, her mother had a stubborn streak when it came to the things she wanted to do the rest of the Parkinsons proud. With their reputation already trashed Pansy didn’t want to live in a world where their monetary worth was just as repugnant. She didn’t want to be like the Weasleys, proper pedigree in hand but without the necessary money to support it.
Still, Pansy refused to apply for a job that was beneath her, a characteristic that unfortunately applied to the majority of the jobs in the Wizarding world. Her choices were further limited by her dismal grades which were, while acceptable, not impressive enough to force employers to look at her while there were others with the same marks who didn’t carry the same stigma against them.
Sometimes, when her indignation burned bright at the thought of being inferior to those of a lesser breeding, she comforted herself with the thought that she had always expected to fulfill the typical pureblood wife’s role and nowhere in its description was it expected of her to have obtained Outstandings in her N.E.W.T.s.
At times she cursed Draco, not for having not loved her but rather for denying her the position as his wife. It had been what she had long envisioned her future to be and when that dream had shattered beyond repair Pansy had not thought of pursuing a different man.
Instead she had chosen to become an independent woman, one who had taken her future into her own hands.
Besides – the questions on the exams had been pointless and confusing and the coldness of the room, so unlike the Great Hall of Hogwarts where she had written the majority of her exams, had made her slightly uncomfortable. As much as it now ashamed her to think of it, she could remember her constant fidgeting in the room: tugging the sleeves of her robes down before rolling them back up when they annoyed her, biting the tip of the quill before pulling it from her mouth in disgust at the action, tapping her feet and twisting strands of her hair. Though she always tried to remain neat, she knew that her appearance was always slightly messy when she left the room at the end of each exam and her mood had always been dangerously black.
Several times she had had to stop herself from snarling and curling protectively over her exam when the woman opened the door to collect it; other times she had barely contained her absolute joy at getting rid of the over-long papers.
Luckily for her there had been a washroom towards the end of the corridor where she had been able to wash her face, rid her hands of the ink stains the quill had left on them, smooth out her robe and ensure that she looked presentable enough to walk in public without humiliating her family. Her stomach still twisted when she thought of the lady who had supervised all of her exams – she hoped that she wasn’t the gossiping type – and she cursed herself for losing control.
At least at home when her mood turned sour she was able to prevent it from affecting anyone and anything that could affect her future plans.
At least the N.E.W.T.s, stressful and exhausting as they were, were behind her now. A whole new challenge lay before her and she hoped that she was capable of performing it.
A smaller list of jobs in hand, Pansy turned her sights to the Ministry but there her ancestry put her at a disadvantage. No one wanted to hire the daughter of a Death Eater because they all feared the public backlash if they did. The lineage that she had always placed such pride in prevented her from being considered for any jobs in the public sector, though Pansy hadn’t been eager in the least sense of the word at the opportunity to serve other people, especially in the tasks that were usually relegated to her house elves.
A career as an Auror was much too dangerous—why in Merlin’s name would she want to risk her life for the pathetic people who had placed themselves in trouble?—and she didn’t have the necessary writing skills to be a journalist for the Daily Prophet. Even Professor Snape, who had always been biased towards those of his House, had been unable to ignore her awful structure and her essays had often been returned more red than black.
She had tossed off her Career Advice sessions in fifth year, believing them to be unnecessary, and Professor Snape had allowed her to, loath as he was to do so. During her first session she had admitted to having no grander ambitions than to be Mrs Draco Malfoy (though look how that had turned out for her, she thought bitterly, stuck in the memory of her momentary failure) and Professor Snape had been unable to convince her to turn her attention towards her studies. He had ended their sessions after just the one, stating that they were a waste of both her time and his. She had eagerly agreed—she wished now that she hadn’t.
She had no idea of what to do, no direction in which to shape her life. She knew the end goal but without the path to get there she was lost. The sensation of being slowly sucked under the water level was frightening and inescapable. The small voice at the back of her head whispered to her that it had known that this would happen but offered no further comments when she asked it for help.
Alone, Pansy wasted her days scouring through the Daily Prophet for ideas, flicking through her pile of Witch Weekly and wandering through Diagon Alley in search of possible careers. As the time since she received her N.E.W.T.s results grew larger her motivation grew smaller and she was pushed onwards because a Parkinson never gave up on an idea. Not when it was a good one and Pansy logically knew that getting a job was necessary. Still, when there was only need, not desire, behind an idea it was easier to get off track and she occasionally found herself wasting her time on idle pursuits instead of staying focused on her task.
She spent an afternoon crafting the Alluring elixir, the potion that had caught her attention all those weeks ago. She still found the notion of capturing love—or the closest imitation of love they could produce—in a bottle fascinating and sporadically she found her eyes wandering towards the drawer where her vials of Amortentia were contained. This potion was easier to create than Amortentia had been; it was less time consuming and the ingredients were more common. Pansy thought that the only reason it wasn’t more popular was because it didn’t force someone else to love you but rather you to love someone else and no one enjoyed having something foreign control their behaviour.
After she had finished brewing the potion she tucked it away in flasks sealed with wax at the bottom of her closet. She had no use for the potion at the moment but her lesser fortune (of the moment) had taught her to never waste something that cost money. Perhaps it would come of use in the future... The footnotes of the magazine had said that nothing dangerous would result from a long-term storage of the potion; its affect would only strengthen as time passed.
She also spent more time with Astor, enjoying the way his tail would wag when he was excited, finding the sight of his paws sinking into the carpet that covered the manor’s floors comical and laughing at the way he would push around the house elves when he grew overanxious or energized. The more time she spent with him, the less she communicated with her reflection—and she didn’t notice this imperfect balance of time.
It was while she was watching Milly walk Astor that an appropriate career came to her. She was inside, looking at the small house elf chase after the small dog through the dining room window, for the weather was brutally cold that day. It was still early in the morning, though she had already eaten breakfast and the table had been cleared, and she often had to shield her eyes from the glare of the sun reflecting off the snow. It was during one of these moments where she had to glance away from the grounds that a black speck in the sky caught her attention. It was becoming larger as it drew nearer and Pansy was eventually able to see that it was an owl. She flicked open the top pane of the window, high enough above her that she was less likely to feel the cold wind as it whistled past the manor, but still providing the owl with a way inside to her.
Dangling from its claws was the Daily Prophet, late in its arrival. However, from the bedraggled state of the owl as it glided inside the manor, Pansy knew that the owl had been flying for a long time and had probably been waylaid by the snow storm from the previous night. She sighed and decided that owling the Daily Prophet about its tardiness would come off as her being spoiled rather than her seeking righteous justice.
The owl landed behind her on the back of a wooden chair and Pansy turned around to see it offering its leg to her. She reached over and untied the newspaper, ready to see what had happened recently in the Wizarding world.
She sniffed as the front page story turned out to be an article about Harry Potter’s latest and greatest capture – he obviously still had his compulsive need for attention. The fact that he was an auror without having ever completed his schooling annoyed her—why should he be allowed to skip the rules that everyone else had to follow? Why should he be considered special? Him, a half-blood, while those with purer breeding were held to the same regulations as mudbloods.
She turned the page and noted that this issue of the Daily Prophet was obviously centered on crime in society. They had an entire page dedicated to Auror statistics: how many they had employed, how many criminals they had captured, the success rate of their missions. Though her father would have scoffed at the notion of being so blatant about their defense, Pansy knew that Wizarding society was still obsessed with stamping out any and all traces of the Dark Arts and these statistics helped them to feel as though they were living in a safe society, as though they were helping to keep it safe.
The Daily Prophet, though it claimed to be a newspaper, catered to the masses. It held very few controversial articles and—Pansy flipped quickly through the pages to find Adri Bennett’s name—those that it did were small. She smiled as she read Adri Bennett’s article; he had obviously chosen today’s topic in a bid to counter the anti-Dark Arts statistics from the first few pages and hid it under the guise of cultural knowledge. His article covered the topic of keeping society safe, just like the rest of the issue did, but he wrote about it from the angle of being an informed citizen, one with the knowledge of how to use the Dark Arts. Durmstrang, he argued, taught its pupils some of the Darker Arts and exposed them to even more. It didn’t shy away from Magic’s darker side. He remarked that if one looked at the Auror statistics of Norway one would find that they had a higher success rate than the department in Britain and had been troubled by fewer Dark Lords. It was, he concluded, simply a matter of knowing the consequences of one’s actions and if the Dark Arts were hidden away they would become that much more enticing. Once again it was time to state that that which was forbidden became that much more tempting.
Pansy sometimes wondered how he was still employed at the Daily Prophet, for his articles always went against the grain. She had once wondered if his articles were publicity stunts but the continuous articles advocating the same angle had convinced her that he truly believed in what he was writing. Now, she supposed that his articles provided the much needed second opinion on Wizarding politics that the intelligent people of Wizarding society wanted, and that was the only reason he still retained his job.
Pansy placed the newspaper on the table, where the house elves would later collect it, and was about to return to the window when a breeze from the open window pane ruffled the pages of the paper. She whipped out her wand and shut the window pane but the damage had been done: the newspaper was no longer neatly folded. Instead, its sheets littered the room. Pansy was about to leave the mess for the house elves to clean when a lone sheet on the table caught her eye or, rather, the small, italicized words at the bottom of the page caught her eye.
Statistics collected from the Ministry of Magic archives.
The archives… She was furious at herself for a few moments for not thinking of this opportunity sooner – hadn’t Adri Bennett mentioned that he was going there when he had stopped her in the Ministry? Why hadn’t she remembered about the archives sooner?
But her thoughts soon turned to more practical matters – she knew that she had to obtain a job soon if she was to continue to be able to support herself and her mother. The archives would provide a suitable work place – why didn’t she apply there? Or, for that matter, why didn’t she apply for a job at the newspaper? The Daily Prophet had employed Rita Skeeter, who had a worse reputation than she did. There were also the less-known magazines that she could apply to. Hidden behind the written word—she could always write behind a pen name—she would be safe from the current animosity society bore towards her family. And, after the public had grown to love her articles, she could reveal that was her, Pansy Parkinson, who had written them. After that point, the Parkinson’s old reputation would no longer matter as society would embrace her once again.
And at the archives she would have access to all the information of the Ministry of Magic. She would be in a position of power without being in the eyes of society. No one, save for her employer, would have to know that she worked there and as such she would once again be safe from the society’s hostility. From there, she could work herself into the trust and friendship of her co-workers and, by following the rules of the archive, gradually earn the trust of society, for society always trusted those who didn’t abuse their power or, at least, didn’t appear to.
Yes—that decided it. She would send out her applications to the magazines, to the archives and to the Daily Prophet. She could decide later, after they had accepted her, which one would best suit her needs.
Pansy smiled and snapped her fingers, summoning a house elf to clean the mess of newspaper sheets. When one appeared, she told it to get rid of all of them, save for the one with the quote about the archives. That one she would keep.