Chapter 1 : Why did you leave me?
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Credit: Splendid chapter image by &thenboom at TDA!
“Watch yourself, Miss.”
The lady gave the guard a smile and he instantly felt himself blush. In his line of work, it was rare, sometimes sheer impossible, to receive a smile from visitors so when one came by, all he could muster was a crude shadow of a grin in response.
“Thank you, kind sir. I will,” the lady replied, her voice carefully sculpted with poise and elegance as taught long ago by her now ex mother-in-law.
She stepped through the kissing gate of the cemetery, her heels clicking on the stone pavement pathway. She ignored the church. Prayers were of no use to her. She passed dozens of headstones but paid no attention to any of them. None of them was the one she came for.
The aroma of various flowers on graves wafted in the air mixing with the distinct stench of death and despair, creating some kind of bizarre perfume. She had to walk a long way to the grave she was headed to but she might as well be blind, she knew the way so well. Her satin-clad feet with kitten-heels knew where they were going; so many times had they walked this path.
After some time, she finally arrived. She was standing at the highest peak of the cemetery, a small hill that overlooked the entire field of graves with brightly coloured flowers sprinkled on the mounds of dirt. In the distance, the sun was slowly setting into fluffy white clouds, casting shadows on the headstones while the sky became a clashing combination of purple, red and orange with specks of blue fading into nothing. She stood under a large weeping willow tree that provided a shade over her and one lone grave as the beautiful yet depressing scenery reflected in her dark orb-like eyes.
She was still for a moment, drinking in her surroundings, then in one swift motion, threw open the hood of the cloak that had been covering most of her face. Had her old Hogwarts schoolmates seen her right then and there, they wouldn’t have thought it was the same Pansy Parkinson they knew back in school.
She was by no means a beauty, never was. But time and life has the power to change anything and that included outward appearances. While her face retained what her schoolmates cruelly deemed ‘pug-ness’, her features had softened considerably as well as her manners, movement and voice. These changes, so very different from her previous harsh and haughty air, made her distinctively unrecognizable from her schooldays.
Robes of white hung from her worrisomely frail frame as her grey travelling cloak fluttered and flapped in the breeze. She knew the colour black was more traditionally known as the colour of mourning but she never liked it. Black was dark, depressing and morbid. White was clean, simple and pure. She always thought white was better suited to mourn in, which was why she was always exclusively clad in the colour, earning her the moniker of 'Woman in White', both from those who knew her and those who didn't.
The lone grave at her feet was no different from any of the other graves except for two things. One was the dozens upon dozens of memorials scattered all over it and the second, the name on the headstone that perfectly explained the first.
She bent down and traced the carving of the name with one delicate finger, the rough surface sending a chill down her spine. She didn’t need to read the inscription on the stone either, it was already permanently engraved on her heart.
31st July 1980 – May 2nd 1998
Beloved Son, Cherished Friend
The last word was the one that always aroused immensely conflicted emotions within her.
It was what defined him.
It was also what destroyed him.
She was careful not to disturb the numerous tributes scattered on the mound. Various soggy and moulding gifts were rotting away while fresher and more recently placed ones took their place, an endless stream of testaments to his valiant deeds. Near the stone, she saw the faint neat handwriting of Granger and the messy scrawl of Weasely on a pile of envelopes. She always made sure to come when neither of them were there. They wouldn’t have understood. Not then and especially not now.
“Why did you have to leave, Harry? Why couldn’t you have just stayed? Stayed here with me?” she murmured, scrunching her eyes up in anger.
She hated him. She hated him for leaving her alone, to fend for herself in a dark, wicked world. Yes, the Dark Lord and his followers were gone but the stigma of being one of their supporters, albeit an ignorant one, left its residue behind. Add to the fact she had at one point been married to the son of one of the more prominent followers, she can pretty much say goodbye to civil conduct. They were never forefront but she still felt them. The eyes of suspicion burning a hole into her back, the tremble of distrust as she entered a room. She didn’t even go to the burial or the yearly memorials; she knew when she wasn’t wanted. All of them, ever single one of them refused to accept the fact that she had changed for the better.
“You believed in me, Harry, even when I couldn’t believe in myself.”
It astounded her that while he could inspire so much in others, he had so little faith in himself. He could breathe hope into even the most dissolute of souls. She was living poof of that. She had been insignificant before he came into her life. She was the Pansy she was today because of him. Even though she was unpleasant-looking on the outside, he made her feel beautiful where it counted. If only she had realized sooner that he needed her as much as she needed him. But would it really have mattered in the end? Would everything have changed?
“I’d do anything for you. All you had to do was ask.”
A sad smile crept onto her face as she thought about all the times he’d constantly agonized about everyone else, putting their needs before his own. Everybody else came first, Harry Potter second. He never asked for anything from anyone. It was a trait people frequently took advantage of. It had been one of the few things they argued about. It irritated her to no ends, his ‘hero complexities’. She couldn’t care less what anyone else thought or how they might feel. She was selfish and unashamed of it. But it was also one of the things he taught her. That sometimes to be happy, you have to make those around you happy.
She had been happy.
She prayed he had been as well.
Her knees were starting to sink deeper into the dirt but she couldn’t bring herself to care. It felt stupid to care about such frivolous matters. Her soul was already tainted, what did it matter what happened to her robes? It was quite funny, if one took the time to think about it. The biggest concern she’d ever had was whether a particular dress robe made her look fat or if her hair was out of place. Such trivial things they were, things that she now cringed at whenever she thought of them, her former shell of self.
She took everything for granted back then. She thought she had all the time in the world, she thought they had all the time in the world together. They talked about the future, how bright it would be, how everything would be all right. That’s what he always insisted, that everything would be okay. She believed him, simply because she wanted to.
After the war, she tried to pick up the pieces, she really did. In a desperate attempt to salvage what was left of her family name, she married Draco Malfoy. It was doomed from the start and they both knew it. Her heart was broken and his soul was maimed. Their short-lived union was proof that two broken halves can’t always be put together to make a whole. They stayed together for only a few years, finally seeking a quiet divorce when it became apparent that she couldn’t produce an heir for the Malfoy dynasty. It was as though her body was too grief-stricken to carry a child. The divorce was settled and Draco went on to marry the younger sister of one of her few good friends. She could honestly say she was happy for them.
Now she lived on the money she got from the divorce settlement, lived each day as it came. Some days were better than others, the days when she was too numb to feel the crushing blow of loneliness. She never knew what to do with herself. She had nothing in her life, nobody to live for. So she came here. Here where she surrounded herself with death. Here where she could be with the only one who ever meant anything to her.
“I need you, Harry. I need you here with me.”
She needed to feel his skin on hers, his hands to hold and caress her. Even though they were marred by his constant Quidditch playing and battle fighting, they were the most perfect hands, always warm to the touch. She needed his kisses, his lips on hers, on any part of her. His kisses were tender, always tender. He treated her like fine porcelain, afraid he might break her. It almost scared her, how gentle he always was with her. Everyone else before him always tried to control her, to dominate her. He was the first to care about her. She needed that. She needed to be cared about again.
A panging pain that coursed through her thighs finally convinced her to stand up. The large patches of dirt that clung to her robes didn’t register in her mind. She didn’t see them. She could barely see anything, her vision blurred as tears threatened to escape. She wrapped her arms around her torso, as though holding herself together to keep from breaking down.
This was what she was reduced to: a broken mess with nothing to live for. If that was the case, what was the point of living? Surely death couldn’t be half as excruciating as living with constant grief. By dying, she could be reunited once more with the one person who ever made a difference in her life.
Filled with this newfound resolution, she approached the edge of the cliff overlooking the entire cemetery. Her dark eyes swept over the dismal setting as it slowly became swallowed by the impending darkness of night. It suddenly occurred to her that she couldn’t have chosen a more convenient place to do what she was about to do and chuckled at the irony. Yes, she wouldn’t be a burden. Not anymore.
She was almost there. Almost...
And then, it came. The leaves of the willow tree barely felt it, its creepers barely rustling. It was unlike any other breeze she’d ever felt before. It crawled up her skin, throbbing in her very veins, holding her back from taking another step forward. She felt it caress her face, leaving a tingle on her lips. And maybe, just maybe, if she tried hard enough, she could hear him whisper in her ear just like he used to.
“All is well.”
Could she really believe that, that somewhere he was safe and happy? Even without her? Perhaps that meant she could be the same without him.
As she came to this realization, something amazing happened. The crippling grief and numbing depression that had plagued her all these years was slowly ebbing away, like ice water through her veins. She could still feel traces of them there, maybe she always would, but they no longer clogged her heart, rendering her incapable of feeling anything. For the first time in a very long time, she felt something that wasn’t equivalent to emptiness. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was at first, not until the wind came back and sent indescribable warmth up her arms all the way to her face, pulling her away from the edge.
It was hope.
And with that, she was free.
A/N: Did you know I was a closeted Harry/Pansy shipper? Well, now you do, hehe. This was written around the time I wrote my earlier one-shots, about 2006/2007. Woah, has it really been that long? Vintage Misty_Rey alert!
So I hope you can pardon the AU-ness of this particular piece and enjoy it for what it is: a portrait of pure, utter grief and despair. Please leave me some feedback aka a review, I'd love to hear how I did and what I can do to improve.