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Wilted Flower by Roots in Water
Chapter 22: Interactions
Her family’s re-admittance to the upper crust of society wasn’t as quick or smooth as Pansy had hoped (though she tried to tell herself that she hadn’t been expecting anything, that it was alright to have experience delays… that her father wouldn’t think any less of her for having them). Her workplace was filled with social outcasts just like herself and those who visited the archives never stayed for long.
She had observed her co-workers for a month now and she was frustrated to find that she was no closer to understanding them than when she had begun. She had managed to glean, from hours spent listening to Lesley and Nicola gossip during lunch, that Nicola had a large family that she spent almost all of her time outside of work with – they were unavoidable, she said. But Pansy had detected a fondness in her voice as she spoke, one that she was certain Nicola hadn’t tried to conceal.
Nicola loved her family—Pansy could understand that. And yet she stopped herself from talking about her family, her mother and father, with that same fondness because she was supposed to be a changed person. And a changed person could not love her Death Eater father.
Pansy sometimes found that abominable lump appearing in her throat as she acted with a cool disdain for her heritage, her ancestry, but she would swallow and continue on. She could not let anything get in her way, not with this.
Lesley didn’t speak of her family as often as Nicola and Pansy learned that she had moved out of her parents’ house over two years to rent a flat. Instead her tales were more centered on the antics between her owl and her cat. While listening to her stories Pansy often wondered why she didn’t get rid of one or the other – ripped furniture, spilled food and unfortunate accidents on the carpeting were more than enough provocation in her eyes – or why she didn’t simply separate the two.
But Lesley thought that their battles were amusing and when Pansy asked why she didn’t simply keep her owl in a cage or put it in the owlery she replied that “they were far too precious to be locked away”.
Pansy had put aside her suggestions then and simply listened—there was no use in thinking about solutions if Lesley refused to listen to good sense.
And, though it was unhelpful right now, Pansy understood that her co-workers were united in a dance she couldn’t grasp. Though their personalities clashed on occasion, there were few enough of them that they felt close to each other. It wasn’t necessarily the closeness of friends or family but rather of those stranded together with no way out. They depended on each other for amusement during the long shifts because Theresa appeared to be the only one who truly enjoyed the sorting of the articles and documents.
Pansy sometimes wondered how many people had landed jobs here as a last resort and kept them so that they could pay the bills. No one discussed why they had chosen the Archives to work, though Pansy could see that some had chosen it for its easiness, its lack of stress; others had chosen it because of its lighter workload – so long as their workload for the shift was completed, they could occupy themselves as they wished (though one couldn’t do this if they shared the shift with Theresa—she was always ready with more tasks to work on). She knew that some desks had decks of cards hidden in them and that books were regularly smuggled into the department.
She had once caught Jonathon fiddling with a long, thick strand of silver wire that was coiled around a tube and hadn’t said anything, even after he had winked at her. She didn’t know what it would be used for and she didn’t want to gain his ire by telling anyone what he was doing (and she didn’t even know if anyone would care—Theresa, the only one who certainly would, had left to discuss something with Mr Craddle).
Later, after Theresa had reappeared, one of her drawers kept opening without her say-so and she had become increasingly frustrated with it as even locking spells couldn’t keep it closed until she was practically slamming it back into place. Pansy suspected that Jonathon’s wire coil had something to do with the drawer’s difficulty that day—there really was nothing to smile about in the articles they sorted.
Pansy had come across this closeness, had come against it. Somehow Nicola had learned of her conversation with Terrance and thought that she had been trying to irritate and “mess with him”. She had been given the cold shoulder for several days and Cyril, whose shifts unfortunately overlapped with hers, had taken the opportunity to voice his thoughts.
“It’s about time everyone realized the truth”, “I knew that she wasn’t to be trusted” and “Ancestry shows through” had been frequent markers during her time at work. Clive had sent her several glances when he thought she wouldn’t notice and Pansy knew that he had learned of her heritage. He didn’t engage in any outright hostility, though he remained more distant from her than before. Felicity’s curtain of hair never moved and Pansy didn’t know what to think about that so she didn’t think about it at all.
Pansy felt glacial during those days as she fought not to let her anger at the situation show – how could one fumble have gone so wrong? Was the mistake a fatal one to her plan?
And then, after hearing Cyril say “Scum never changes” and seeing Nicola’s refusal to return her glances, Pansy decided that she would do something that they obviously never expected that she would even consider. After all, they had obviously decided to pay attention to her ancestry now and thought that Dark families never apologized for their actions. Sorrow and regret were “Light” emotions, ones that weren’t felt by those who didn’t favour the Light.
They had forgotten—or perhaps never known—that Dark pureblood families served their own ends before all others and would lower themselves to apologize when it would aid them. And so, even though Pansy didn’t believe that she was at fault in her encounter with Terrance—poor information and a quick temper were—she would send a letter to Terrance with one of her family’s owls.
Her family came before her pride.
And—though she tucked this realization away deep in her mind, so deeply that it was as if she had never thought it in the first place—she didn’t like being ignored or treated in such an ugly fashion by her co-workers (she excluded Cyril from this realization). She wanted to be on the inside of this closeness, instead of being on the outside of the solid barrier.
The day after she sent the letter to Terrance she was greeted by warm, friendly grins when she went to work and Theresa, whose shift was about to end, dropped the stack of documents that were hers to work on for that shift less loudly than she had before.
Pansy found no apologies in their eyes for the way she had been treated but they acted as though there had never been a break between them in the first place. She was once again welcome to join in the lunchtime gossip and dining with Lesley and Nicola and Clive didn’t act so edgy around her. Cyril, though, continued to be a problem but Pansy ignored him and felt satisfied that her relationships had been restored with the rest of her co-workers. She would have to be even more careful from then on with her actions but she had more than survived her first trial in the workplace.
Though she was still pleased to be working there (the money was helping to keep her life afloat), she wished for an opportunity to truly start the return of the glory era of her family’s reputation. She was more careful now than ever with her relationships in the workplace but she hadn’t yet seen an opportunity to strengthen her relationships with them outside of eating lunch with them. If she worked on the same shift as a person she didn’t want to intrude on their after-work life without a sign that they wanted her there (she wasn’t making the same mistake as she had with Terrance about overstepping her boundaries) and there was no opportunity at all if they didn’t work on the same shift as her.
There were moments where she thought she was making progress, like when Theresa showed her a spell to protect her hands from paper cuts, but they were just moments. She didn’t know how to tell if she had a strong relationship with them, how to determine if it wouldn’t fall apart if she had an altercation with one of them.
She hoped that she had the beginnings of a friendship with Lesley and Nicola, but she could hardly ask them what they would classify their relationship as (that would be revealing ignorance, a weakness) and she didn’t have her reflection to talk with. Astor, as comforting as he was, wasn’t much of a help in this area. Her feelings for him were uncomplicated and without motive, and she was more thinking than feeling in her attitude towards her co-workers.
She was comforted when Nicola told Cyril to “shut up” one afternoon after he made another rude comment about her family but she didn’t know if Nicola had made that comment to protect her or to save herself from listening to Cyril’s annoying commentary on Pansy’s work. She had said ‘Thanks’, though, to be on the safe side and Nicola had given her a large, warm smile.
But Nicola was usually smiling, Pansy reminded herself before she could read too much into the gesture.
And there were moments where Pansy thought that everything was going to fall apart and she wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop it. This feeling came most often when information was required for legal cases and the Aurors came down to the Archives to collect it. Even though she knew that she had never been convicted of everything she couldn’t forget that these witches and wizards were responsible for putting her father in Azkaban and that they could put her there as well if she annoyed or angered them.
Merlin knew that the Ministry wasn’t corruption-free and that one needed a sterling reputation before most would think twice about their arrest. If they decided that she deserved to be put away – now, before she was able to restore her family’s (and her own) reputation – she probably would be. They would probably place her in a cell near her father – perhaps even in it, so that they could really get a laugh out of how far her family had fallen—and her family truly would crumble then. Her mother certainly wouldn’t be any help and would probably find herself out on the streets, without a home and without sympathy.
Anger burned in her at the knowledge that they had so much power over her, but she let none of it leak through her mask to show on her face or in her movements.
Whenever the Aurors came she kept all of her attention focused on her work and didn’t look up to watch them, not even when she heard their cloaks swish past her desk. She was determined that they would find no reason to arrest her.
Unfortunately, her plan to avoid their attention had one fatal flaw: it would only work if there was another Archives employee in the room to help them. She had thought that she would be safe that day for she had been moved to the early shift and thus would be working with Theresa, who didn’t take any personal breaks during her shift. From this she had assumed that Theresa would be there to handle any person who came in seeking help.
However, a few hours into her shift Theresa left, saying that she needed to speak with Anthony (Mr Craddle, Pansy’s thoughts replaced instantly) urgently—apparently she had spotted an error in the documentation of several important legal documents that she needed to report. Pansy nodded her head absently – she was concentrating on the article she was reading. It was a confusing one to categorize, mostly because it used jargon that she didn’t understand. If she didn’t figure it out soon she would slip it into Theresa’s pile – even if she noticed the addition, she probably wouldn’t comment.
It was a few minutes later, when she was just about to give up, that she heard the knocks on the door to the Archives. Glancing quickly around the room to make sure that she was truly the only one in it, she stood slowly and walked towards the door.
The knocks came again as Pansy was pushing the frustrating article into the bottom of Theresa’s pile (if she had to move once, she might as well accomplish as much as she could in the one run) and she frowned slightly at the door – who were they to hurry her? And yet she still picked up the pace as she approached the door—she couldn’t risk a poor review on her service reaching its way to Mr Craddle. As forgiving as he was, she didn’t think that he’d let anyone get away with lowering the reputation of the department (she wouldn’t, if she was in his place).
Upon reaching the door she opened it just enough to see the person standing beyond the door. She already knew that it wouldn’t be Theresa, because she would have been able to let herself back in, and she was hoping that she would see a reporter, already holding out their badge for her to see. Instead, her thoughts began to spin rapidly around in her mind.
The person on the other side of the door had looked over immediately as the door began to open, allowing Pansy to see his face. The rest of his solid and tall body followed quickly, allowing Pansy to see his robes—not that she hadn’t been able to identify them from the side. She had certainly seen enough of those robes as they scoured her manor and, later, as they came into the Archives for information. The man, whose hair was as dark as his skin, was wearing Auror robes.
Straightening her back (because as much as she had wanted to avoid their attention, she couldn’t avoid it at the moment and so she would face it with the pride of a Parkinson), she asked, “Identification?”
The man nodded and reached into a deep pocket on his robes. He pulled out the required identification and Pansy reluctantly opened the door to admit him. He strode in confidently, looking immediately towards the back, and the shelves. Pansy closed the door behind him.
“I’m looking for information on the Wizengamot cases George Henlay has been a part of. You can find that for me, can’t you?” The man looked down at her with what Pansy interpreted as condescension. She nodded sharply, not wanting to risk speaking, and gestured for him to follow her. Walking briskly (perhaps he would leave sooner if she found the proper documents quickly), she went straight into the shelves, towards the legal section.
She found herself walking faster than she usually did in order to stay ahead of the Auror, who had a large stride, and she wondered if he recognized her. One part of her hoped that he did, because she didn’t want anyone to think that her family was forgettable, but the larger part, the more dominant part, hoped that she was no longer considered necessary to watch.
However, it seemed that he did recognize her, though he made no verbal mention of it.
As she paused in front of the shelf that contained the most recent Wizengamot trials she was acutely aware of his gaze on her. A quick flick of her eyes to the side told her that he was standing almost right behind her, as though he didn’t trust her to give her everything that he needed.
Anger rose in her like a tidal wave, sweeping through her every limb and thundering through her thoughts. How dare he? Had she given him any indication that she would fail to give him everything that he required? She had done nothing but satisfactory work since she had obtained her job here and she wouldn’t risk it for the likes of him!
Restraining her anger behind a tight mask Pansy straightened abruptly from where she had bent over to better see the records. She turned and practically shoved the papers she was holding into his hands. The man had to fumble for a second before he was properly able to hold them, so sudden were her actions.
“Now I do hope that that’s everything, sir,” Pansy said, forcing the ‘sir’ through her lips. She wanted there to be nothing reproachable in her manner, nothing that he would be able to complain to Mr Craddle about. “Or are there other records that you require?”
She smiled a sickly smile, one that managed to look scary while still being able to be mistaken for a sign of being scared. The man took it to mean that she was frightened of him, of the situation, and smiled coldly at her.
“No, I do believe this to be quite satisfactory. Thank you for your help.” And then he walked sweepingly away, forcing Pansy to hurry so that she would reach the door before him and be able to let him out. He knew as well as she did that she couldn’t leave him there to wait while she sauntered up casually, as much as she might want to do just that. That would be a sign of bad service and she could be reported for it.
As she rushed past her desk she picked up the papers he had to sign as well as a quill with which he could do so. Her anger flared again at having been reduced to such a menial task but she knew (and, more importantly, she knew that he knew) that she couldn’t order him to return to her desk. The papers would have to be signed at the door.
Afterwards, Pansy held the door open for him, watching as he walked away with the confidence of a man who thought he knew everything and believed himself to be absolutely correct in every matter (a trait that Pansy thought was dangerously common in the Auror department). It was only after he had passed the corner at the end of the corridor that she released the door from her hand, hearing it slam with glee. It was the only form of anger that she would allow herself at the moment. Then she went back to her desk, sat down, and started reading the article at the top of her stack.
When Theresa came in several minutes later, she found Pansy deeply involved in a long article with nothing amiss in the picture.