Chapter 1 : après moi, le déluge
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après moi, le déluge
They'd finished. Sweaty, bodies slick, eyes darkened, skin flushed, they'd finished. Slowly, chest heaving with every breath she took, Pansy drew herself to the edge of the bed. One hand fell down off of the side of the mattress, fumbling about on the ground for the glasses she knew she had left there. Slipping them on, she repositioned herself, back pressed against the downy mattress, bespectacled eyes facing the ceiling.
It was raining, that day. A cold April morning. There was no fire in her hearth - Pansy hated it, hated warmth. Instead, the rain streamed down her panes, crying to be let in. Pansy would have let hell take over her life if it meant she'd touch water. Draco, though. He didn't like to get his paws wet.
To an outside observer, the situation here looked simple: she was enjoying an affair with an old schoolmate, and expected next to nothing out of the twisted relationship the two had agreed upon. But, however, that was as far from the truth as could be expected. Pansy had known Draco since the two were eleven, and in with whatever feelings she now had for him were the age-old senses of maternal love and irritation. But those were easily set aside. Pansy did love Draco. He was quiet, which she had always found attractive. He was funny. He shared the same values she did. And, perhaps most important of all, he put up with her. Capricious, spoiled, Pansy was rarely bearable.
What's more, she had impossibly high standards.
Standards that, it seemed, only Draco Malfoy could now meet. And Pansy would be lying if she said she didn't want a little compensation for all of the time she spent on him. Of course, she had no illusions of them having a happy marriage (oh, yes; Pansy's designs upon Draco stretched that far), but at least a comfortable one. Furthermore, she got along rather well with Narcissa. Lucius, less so, but that was only because he maintained his son should marry a blonde woman. But - God! Pansy would make an amazing wife for Draco. The best. She just couldn't understand what was stopping him from speaking up at the moment. He liked her, at least. He certainly returned to her bed every other day. And even when she wasn't laying back and thinking of England, they had perfectly civilized conversations. About politics, even. Pansy knew Draco inside out.
But maybe that was the problem. Maybe Draco was looking for a wife that didn't know him, and therefore had no expectations for him to live up to. Lazily she rolled over, studying the sleeping man at her side. He wasn't handsome, so there couldn't be much competition for his heart. Her thumb brushed over his cheek, her pug's nose wrinkled up and she smirked lightly. Yes, she loved Draco. And she wanted him for her own. Inalienably her own.
Besides, these were fluid, modern times. She wouldn't be dammed in, wouldn't be restricted by ancient societal conventions that by now should have gone to rot. She could perfectly well propose to Draco herself, and if Lucius did not like the idea, then … then … well, they would elope. Draco's well-being far exceeded his father's capillary preferences in Pansy's list of priorities.
Though, of course, there was always the fact that perhaps she'd again overestimate Draco's feelings for her. It'd happened before, with many of her other lovers, where she'd spy him looking sidelong at her and suspect him of hidden sentiments, when really, it was likely that her makeup had just leaked onto her cheek. Pansy sighed, still gently stroking Draco's jaw. He hummed lightly, waking, and turned onto his side to face her.
"Hey," she greeted him, lashes long and eyes beseeching. Puzzled, the man sat up on his elbows, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
"Hey," he responded. "How long was I out for?"
Pansy shrugged. "Twenty minutes, not more."
"What'd you read this time?"
She smiled, glad that he remembered. Whenever Draco slept, Pansy took time for herself, reading the great classics. She'd already torn through all of Austen, Conan Doyle, Proust, Maupassant, most of James, and some of Wilde. Now, she'd begun on the Russians. She thought it'd be logical to start with Nabokov's Lolita, to bridge the gap from Europe to Russia. Pansy hadn't counted on it being quite so disturbing. It was dark, it was vile, it made every last shred of her human nature revolt against her mind. And she loved it.
A noise which she'd barely registered grew louder: the rain. Pansy glanced at the ceiling, smiling slightly.
"Nothing. Not enough time. I thought instead."
He cocked a brow, tilting his head as a smile curved his lips. "You thought? What about?"
Honesty was the best policy. "You. Me." Draco frowned, already reaching for his shirt, but Pansy stayed his hand, looking at him with pure, undiluted need. "Us." She scoffed, shaking her head. "Merlin, I sound like such a cliché."
"Shut up, Draco." She glanced at him, eyes laughing. "Darling, do you think it's easy for me to say it? Of course not. But you and I, Draco … we're of the same mold. So what better way to survive? Birds of a feather, they say." Shrugging her shoulders, she slipped out of bed, sweeping up a robe from the ground. As she tied it around her waist, she looked at him, tousling her thick, dark hair. "Besides, we get along."
"Pansy, it's not that."
"Then what?" she asked, hands planted on her hips. "Draco, what is it? Why is it that even though you can go out in public, have fun at parties, I can't attend the same functions - even if I'm invited!"
Refusing to give in to shame, Draco met her eyes and stated: "We agreed to split invitations."
"So what? I want to have my fun, too, Draco - it's not fair. Is it because you think you won't be able to deal with people seeing us together? Draco, everybody knows. Everybody knows you're fucking me and it's turning you into such a hypocrite." Pansy snorted derisively. "Not that you weren't one before, you know. You're no god, Malfoy."
He smirked, and Pansy knew she'd hit a nerve. He'd mask it - oh, of course he'd mask it. Merlin forbid her Draco show any sort of weakness, especially towards her. A woman. It hurt to know that despite whatever Prince Charming Draco may pretend to be in the inky swath of the night, he didn't mean a single word he said. And that was why it was always during the night she only deigned to see him. Then, at least, Pansy could pretend. Pansy could call herself little mermaid and still hope to be swept off of her feet.
But even such a candle of hope is no match for the dark. Aglow, Pansy stared at Draco, wondering how on earth she had managed to fall in love with him. There was no romance between the two of them, just lies. Worst of all, it was this that seduced Pansy, made her tremble and sink. Her nature was such that any story he told her, any web he spun, she would gladly believe. Because of the gleam behind his eyes. Because of the looks he'd given her in years past. Draco gambled with Pansy, cheated with her life, played aces on her heart.
He was talking now, low whispers of words that made her skin crawl in the most delicious of ways. Meeting his eyes, she allowed herself to be drawn back to the bed, glasses falling askew and fingertips roaming the expanse of his forehead. But the echo of his words - "Pansy, it's not that," -
thudded in her head and she pulled back, standing up again. Her arms folded themselves across her chest, her bright eyes studied his slender form. "So what is it, Malfoy?" she asked. "I hate the secrets - tell me."
Draco met her gaze, silver swallowing ocean blue. "Pansy, I can't marry you."
She nodded quickly; she should have expected this. But she couldn't have ever anticipated the blow it struck across her throat, the constriction winding itself around her stomach. The words barely made it past her lips, a ghost of a gasp: "I know." He looked up then, surprised, seeing her collected and statuesque. He'd expected a shout, a scream, but not this. The Pansy he knew fought against everything that challenged her. His Pansy was a tidal wave. His Pansy was a hurricane. So he reached out, hand circling her wrist, blessing her with the touch of his skin.
"I think you should sit down."
"No, I won't." She moved backwards, towards her bookcase. Strange that literature had always been her point of salvation. If she lost a cause, books would help her feel better, because, for the most part, books didn't have unhappy endings, books didn't contain things she couldn't understand. Pansy was intelligent - fiercely so. But she didn't understand life, and whenever she was confronted with sadness, anger, or futility, books, though unreal, made it a little more tolerable.
She suspected that this was what she'd have to resort to, now. But which story? And which heroine? Her fingers reached behind her, felt the familiar leathery spine of Mansfield Park. Merlin, what an idiot that Fanny had been! Pansy swallowed, hard.
"Do you know what book I've been reading this month, Draco?"
Silence. And then … "No, Pansy."
"I'm sure I told you."
"So you didn't pay attention."
Of course not. Pansy, again, had overestimated Draco's investment in their relationship. Why should he care what she had been reading that month? She was only a fuck on the side, after all. Pansy combed her fingers through her hair. She loved Draco, she knew Draco, she wanted Draco. He couldn't desire anything other than she, could he? It was Lucius, it had to be.
"It was Lolita. It's a … love story. But I haven't finished."
But what if it wasn't? What if it was Draco's decision?
"You should read it, darling."
Suddenly she couldn't breathe. Music thrummed in her mind, her hand sought the shelf, and she staggered backwards. Immediately Draco was at her side, arms circling her waist, holding her together. Adam's ale Pansy. She allowed herself to sag, to weigh into him. It felt good, to be like this: just the two of them together. Alone. Without flaw or craving. But if it was his decision, then … then Pansy would have to say goodbye. She couldn't stay. And it was likely a farewell would kill her.
For a few moments, she clung to Draco, shuddering, swallowing, quiet tears spilling over her dramatic, liquid eyes. Burying her head into the crook of his neck, she indulged one last time, hands laid flat against his broad bare back.
"You love me, Pansy." The words weren't arrogant. They were true, true like the rain running down her windowpanes, true like the mirror's limpid reflection, true like the knowledge that her books imparted. Pansy wanted to drown.
"Yes." A watery chuckle to accompany the worst of certainties. "I'm sorry, Draco. I'm sorry."
She'd let the rain in. She'd let the flood come. Just let him hold her a few more moments.