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Wilted Flower by Roots in Water
Chapter 28: The Funeral: Part 2
Pansy continued to bite her tongue as she carried the coffin through the tomb. She had never been so aware before that this was where her ancestors had been buried, that she was surrounded by dead people. Her eyes were darting every which way as she strove to find control over herself in the darkness of the tomb. In a way, though, she was grateful for the darkness because it prevented Draco from seeing her loss of control.
She found her panic receding after she stumbled – quietly (and she was inwardly grateful that Draco hadn’t noticed her moment of clumsiness) – over a loose stone, thinking that she really needed to send a house elf into the tomb to clean it up. Almost immediately after that, she scolded herself, for a house elf couldn’t be sent in here, not when it was just a house elf. It could never, after all, be blood-related to her family nor would she stoop to gifting it with the honour of being an invited. Her family would just have to get along with the occasional loose stone.
Less afraid now, Pansy started to subtly watch Draco. They were walking slightly apart from each other and, shielded now from the sharp gazes of the other purebloods, Pansy had the opportunity to exercise her curiosity. She hadn’t seen him in over a year, not since he had broken her disillusions about their relationship, and he had changed.
The mental picture she had had of him, tainted by his poor appearance at their last meeting and blurry from her attempts to repress all of her memories of Draco, was very different from the man she was walking beside now. He had grown, causing him to tower over her more than ever as they walked, and he no longer seemed to be sleep-deprived. He had filled out a little, though Pansy didn’t know if that was because of his job or a result of a personal decision to increase his fitness. She didn’t know much about him now, wasn’t aware of his life to the degree that she had once been.
She didn’t even know what his job was, having chosen to ignore all information about him.
But due to the attachment she had once felt for him, she couldn’t stop herself from trying to catch a glimpse of his left hand. Had he married? It was possible, after all, that she had missed the announcement in the newspaper. Or was he still engaged? The thought crossed her mind that perhaps he and Astoria had even broken their engagement, however unusual an affair that was for purebloods.
Even if that was the case, Pansy told herself that she no longer viewed Draco as a possible suitor because she knew that doing so would irreparably destroy the Parkinson reputation. The Malfoys had the greater history, the greater reputation for supporting the Dark Arts and, no matter what steps Draco and Narcissa took now, their dark past would not be soon forgotten. To marry him would be to hinder her cause, something that Pansy was not willing to do.
The dim light cast by the ball was not the best guide in her search but Pansy eventually was able to catch a glimpse of the fingers of his left hand in the light. He was only wearing one ring—he had not yet married Astoria. An odd feeling swept through her, one that Pansy was reluctant to identify as relief. Why would she be relieved that Draco was not yet married? That part of her life was over. Her crush on him was gone.
Her arm shaking slightly with the strain of holding the spell (and her mother’s coffin) and their footsteps echoing off the walls of the tomb, Pansy decided that it was too boring to simply wander through the corridors of the tomb without communicating at all with the only other living person. After a moment’s deliberation, she decided that speaking to Draco wouldn’t be considered disrespectful to her ancestors, and so broke her silence.
It was an awkward topic to broach, considering their personal relations over the past year and a bit, and Pansy struggled to find a suitable way to start. Finally, though, Pansy gave in, noticing that there were getting very close to their destination and not wanting to lose the opportunity to talk with Draco. She was sure that their walk back to the exit of the tomb would pass much quicker, since they wouldn’t have a coffin to support.
“Draco—” she paused as Draco turned to glance sharply at her before continuing to forge ahead, “—are you married?” She already knew the answer to that, of course, but she wanted to gauge Draco’s willingness to participate in the conversation.
It appeared that he wasn’t interested in conversing – he simply waved his left hand, the solitary ring glinting in the light.
“You could have taken your engagement ring off – I read in Witch Weekly that many young witches nowadays are following this path so that they can protect the ring from the wear and tear of daily life.” Pansy continued to plunge onwards with the conversation and, as the words left her mouth, began to feel like she was once again at Hogwarts, desperate to catch Draco’s attention. If she could read anything in Draco’s smirk, it was that he thought so as well.
Her anger bloomed at the thought that he thought that she was no better than a school girl. She had grown just as much as he had, perhaps even more, since the day the Dark Lord had been defeated. She had sat her N.E.W.T.s, she had obtained a job – she was surviving in the adult world. It hadn’t swallowed her up, not yet. And, what’s more, she was doing so without the aid of her parents.
Draco still had Narcissa to support him every step of the way.
Feeling nasty, Pansy asked, “Why aren’t you married yet? Did Astoria decide she was better than you and the engagement just hasn’t been cut off yet?”
The look Draco shot her was one full of pity and it made her anger burn even hotter. She didn’t need his pity. She didn’t need his anything. Why, in Merlin’s name, had she thought it would be a good idea to invite Draco, of all people? Why couldn’t she have just gone with a safer pureblood, one that she didn’t have such a troubled past with? However, unfortunate as it was, she had chosen Draco and now that they were both in the tomb she could not send him away if for no other reason than the fact that she wasn’t capable of supporting the coffin on her own.
Draco’s tone when he responded to her comment led her to believe that he was only responding because he was an invited and her mother had just died. There was no sharpness behind the words, no trace of condescension.
Just simply: “She was two years behind us at Hogwarts. She wanted to stay in school and sit her N.E.W.T.s.”
“And you couldn’t be married during the summer?”
“It was better this way.”
Draco’s tone signaled that he wanted his words to be the end of the conversation but Pansy was reluctant to stop the conversation. Ignoring the way he was purposefully looking away from her, she plowed onwards.
“Have you planned your marriage?”
Draco was even more direct about his wishes this time; he responded, “I don’t wish to talk about this with you.”
Slightly hurt, Pansy lowered her eyes and allowed them to walk in silence for the rest of the way to her mother’s resting place.
However, after hearing the slight clink as her mother’s coffin came into contact with the floor and rubbing the wood of the coffin for the last time (Draco had already left the room), Pansy decided to try one last time to start a discussion with him. Draco had played too large a role in her life before for her to completely ignore his presence when he was the only other living person near her.
So, with the ball of light guiding their steps and the sound of their footsteps echoing softly off the walls, Pansy cleared her throat. Draco glanced briefly at her before slightly increasing his speed.
“Draco,” she started, and then Draco had to slow down or risk being outright rude, “what are you doing now?”
“Doing?” His eyes were sharp and his body betrayed his annoyance, though Pansy suspected that he wasn’t trying very hard to hide it. “Why, I’m walking in this tomb, on my way out of it. What did you think I was doing?”
Draco was speaking in a mocking tone that he had rarely directed at her at Hogwarts and Pansy felt the anger that had subsided in their previous silence once again rise to the surface. Who was he to speak to her in such a manner? She was a woman in her own right and he- he—did he even have a job?
When she spoke, her voice was cold. “You know perfectly well what I meant and you really shouldn’t be rude to me. Society doesn’t view those who attack others in a very kind light.”
“Oh, they don’t, do they? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks for pointing out that vital piece of information – I shall use it wisely in my future interactions.” Draco’s tone had become crueler and Pansy tried to hide her trembling hands in the folds of her robes.
Controlling her voice, she said, “It is no concern to me how you behave yourself in the social situations you find yourself in. I only wish that you treat me with respect, not with scorn.” She was pleased with herself for those words.
The tomb was growing brighter as they approached its exit and, just before they passed through the arch, Draco swept one last glance at her.
“I see some things have indeed not changed since Hogwarts. Don’t contact me again.”
Then he walked arrogantly out of the door and into the light. Pansy was behind him, having paused at his blatant insult. She didn’t know exactly what he was trying to convey with his “change” comment but she bristled at his command. Parkinsons didn’t follow the commands of others, unless they had willingly submitted to their authority. Pansy had never openly admitted to seeing Draco as her superior and definitely did not see herself below the boy now. If she didn’t contact him again, it was because she didn’t want to talk with him either.
With his attitude, he wouldn’t survive in today’s society and she knew that the best way to show him that he should have treated her better was to prove that she knew how to manipulate a situation to suit her needs and come out with a better position than the one Draco possessed.
If nothing else, Pansy was more determined than ever to repair her family’s reputation in society.
After dismissing her guests, Pansy slowly made the trek up to her chambers. She paused briefly after entering the house and seeing the petals that still littered the floor, snapping her fingers to call Milly to her. She tersely ordered Milly to tell the other house elves that they were released from their quarters and to start cleaning the manor. She didn’t want to see those petals again.
She was aware that Astor was still with the house elves but she didn’t feel up to his company at the moment. She felt that his barking and excited behaviour would only serve as distractions and she needed to plan.
She retreated to her chambers, locking herself behind the door. She knew that the house elves wouldn’t bother her – her family had never encouraged them to inform them of their every move – and she was the only human in the manor. She was quite alone – except for one thing.
Pansy was undressing herself, for she had no desire to remain in her funeral clothes for longer than necessary, when she heard rather than saw her reflection.
“I heard that you spoke with Draco today.” Pansy ignored her reflection’s comment and focused instead on the feel of her robes slipping off her arms and down her body. She stepped out of the cloth pooling at her feet and hung it back in the closet before pulling out and putting on a more casual robe.
Draco didn’t mean anything to her, not anymore. She glanced briefly at the warded drawer, remembering the many nights she had fallen asleep with his scent in her nose. A momentary desire to break through the wards and break the flasks burned inside her but she resisted. A Parkinson didn’t give into temptation, into needless destruction, unless they were secure in their victory or had fallen so low as their actions didn’t matter. Pansy was at neither of those stages – she was only at the beginning of her rise to glory and so she could not risk failure.
Besides – the house elves had warded the drawer and she was loath to be disturbed by them at all, no matter how quick they could be at their tasks.
“You don’t talk with me anymore.” Pansy paused and turned to face the mirror. She was surprised by what she saw – her reflection looked harried and little wisps of her hair escaped from her bun to create a static-y halo around her head.
“You don’t come anymore,” Pansy countered. Her reflection had never appeared when Pansy was in her room, though it was not often anymore that she spent hours there. No longer were her chambers where she spent the majority of her time – now she had her work, her plan, and Astor to spend time on. However, she always spent the later part of her evenings there, preparing for the night, and she always slept in her bed. Never had her reflection approached her.
“You don’t need me.” The words were spoken so very softly that Pansy would not have heard them had she not moved close to the mirror.
“What do you mean?” Pansy spoke sharply, her nerves frayed by her unpleasant with Draco. “I don’t have to need you for you to talk with me.” She had missed talking with her reflection, though their conversations had not always been pleasant.
Her reflection had always been the one person who could not betray her, who Pansy could rely on to share her opinions. Astor, as fine a companion as he was, could not speak and Pansy wouldn’t share her thoughts with anyone else.
She couldn’t trust anyone else.
It had been odd, in the beginning, spending her days without communication from her reflection. Her reflection had been with her for years, had supported her whenever she felt frustrated. No one else had done that for her. Those who she had once filled her time with had left Pansy behind, had gone off to find their own lives. She had been left alone, and her reflection had been her companion. A better companion than any of them had ever been, Pansy thought bitterly as she stared at the person who had reappeared in her life after months without contact.
Today was apparently a day for re-connections, however unwanted.
Her reflection stared at her, her eyes cooler than her position in the situation would recommend.
“But I do.” The answer was short and Pansy could feel an argument brewing—what kind of a response was that? Pansy could remember evenings where she had been completely exhausted at having to act as a different person all day, at having to hide herself. There had been no one for her to talk with where there could have been one. Didn’t that count as need?
But she bit back the words that she wanted to say – she was tired and she didn’t want another confrontation. Not in her room where she should be safe from conflict.
She moved away from the mirror, weary of standing but not willing to sit directly in front of her reflection – she didn’t want to give her reflection that much access to herself. Instead she walked slowly, her feet sinking into the carpet that lined her floor, to sit gingerly on the side of her bed.
Silence took over the room, and stillness. Her reflection didn’t move from her position in the mirror, her eyes staying focused on Pansy’s form. It was as though she was waiting for something and, eventually, Pansy gave it to her.
Her thoughts had not calmed during the moments she sat on the bed – if anything, they had raced harder and faster than ever as though to compensate for her body’s inaction. They collided; half-formed plans were abandoned before Pansy even recognized that she had thought of them. And though they were all varied, they shared one thing in common: Pansy needed to increase her tactics against Wizarding society.
In one fluid movement Pansy erupted from the bed, her robes rippling behind her body as she paced. She couldn’t keep still.
Her reflection’s eyes followed her every movement.
“It’s not working. It’s just not working. Not quickly enough. I don’t understand why not – are they too stupid to see? I’ve spent months with them – months! I’ve devoted my time – my time!—to their work, to becoming their friend.” Pansy spat the word, her hands twisting angrily in the empty air. “I’ve hidden my true opinions of their lives, of their values! There is nothing – nothing!—to indicate that I am not what I appear to be! And yet—and yet…”
Pansy slumped slightly, her arms falling as though they were too heavy to hold up. “And yet nothing has changed. They greet me with smiles, yes, but they show me no sympathy. No true kindness.”
Not one of her co-workers had come to the funeral, even though it was custom, it was tradition, that if one knew the person, or one of their family members, that they would go to their funeral, to support them in their time of grief. It appeared that the muggle world was colder, crueler, than the Wizarding world in their traditions, and this coldness had crept into the Wizarding world.
Pansy fiercely brushed aside murmurs of how she had hurt them, had betrayed a secret of one of her colleagues. What did that matter, in the face of death?
It was yet another reason why the purebloods were superior, but they were too small a number. The only way to survive was to adapt to the new society, to become powerful in it, and Pansy was failing to do so. No one believed that she had changed, even though she had months of evidence to the contrary.
“I need to go in deeper.” The speed of her pacing increased as Pansy grew excited. This, this, was how she would succeed! This, this, would not allow her to fail! “I need to make it completely clear that I have changed – I need to do something that they cannot refute!”
She glanced over at her reflection, as though seeking her approval, and saw her nodding.
“But what will you do? You’ve already taken a job among half-bloods and mudbloods. You’ve kept your true values to yourself, sharing only what society would want to hear.”
Pansy’s eyes blazed with determination. She stood, staring at her reflection, and said, “I’m going to marry one of them.”
Saying the words almost made her gag. For her to not marry a pureblood was to ruin thousands of years of pure ancestry. It was to go against all that she believed in, all that she had been taught. For her, and for all purebloods, the purity of their family was of the utmost importance.
But for her to marry a pureblood would be to ruin all of the work she had done to get this far, all of the hopes she had had of restoring the Parkinson reputation to its former glory. The small steps she had taken had not worked, had not made a difference in the way society viewed her family. It would take a large gesture to push her change into their attention and marriage to someone of lesser blood would not – could not – fail to change the way society thought of the Parkinsons.
For the Parkinsons, family trumped all.
“You would do this?” Her reflection was peering at her, as though she was a new person. “You would sacrifice so much?”
The unwavering gaze of Pansy’s eyes was all the answer she got, and all the answer she needed.
The Parkinson name would rise again.