Chapter 7 : Azkaban
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“Oh Pansy, dear, I heard that a certain person has visited the Manor recently—do you have anything to announce?” Her mother was not so subtly eyeing Pansy’s bare hand, which Pansy hid in the folds of her robes. Her every action said that she believed herself to be “in” on a juicy secret—the joyous twinkle in her eyes, the forward lean of her body and the shuffling from foot to foot. Pansy thought that at that moment her mother was playing the part of a pubescent teenager better than she was.
“No, Mother, I do not.” Pansy wished that the house elf would hurry up and return with her travelling cloak. She had no desire to continue this conversation with her mother. Luckily, her mother hadn’t had time to decide whether Pansy was lying to her or her beliefs were wrong before Pansy’s cloak arrived. Unfortunately it provided a new topic of conversation, one that her mother immediately seized.
“Where are you going, dear?” Her mother watched Pansy allow the house elf to secure the cloak as though she had never seen it occur before.
“I’m visiting Father in Azkaban.” Pansy’s response was brief, as she was anxious to leave this house and her mother behind. She was worried that if she allowed herself to dally at the manor long enough her nerve would fail. She slipped past her mother, hoping that the hint would be obvious to her, and moved towards the door leading to the outside world. She wondered how much had changed during her imprisonment and self-imposed isolation in the manor—a visit to Diagon Alley was another thing that she needed to do.
“We should go together!” Her mother looked excited at the thought of a mother-daughter trip to Azkaban but Pansy never looked back. She pulled open the heavy door and stepped outside, marveling in the feel of the wind on her face. Unfortunately the sun was too weak for her to feel its heat on her skin but she was aware of its brightness. She didn’t know when the last time she had experienced its light without a glass barrier between them was, but it didn’t matter. What mattered now was the present.
Though she had never visited Azkaban before she had been well informed of its atmosphere. Dark and oppressive, it sucked all the positivity from your mind the moment you stepped foot on the island. It was the prison all criminals dreaded, for it was there that you went insane and forgot your reasons for living, your goals in life.
It was the prison that broke you into tiny pieces to ensure that you would no longer be a threat to Wizarding society.
It was the place that housed her father, alongside the other Death Eaters from the war. And though no one openly disagreed with the statement that they were inhuman creatures that deserved no mercy, the Dementors had been one of the first changes the new Minister had made after the Dark Lord’s downfall.
He had argued that the Dementors had escaped from the Ministry’s control before and allowed dozens of previously imprisoned Death Eaters to escape, that there was no certainty that they would be able to control the beasts now. His only opposition had come from traditionalists, who could see no other way to guard the prisoners, but they hadn’t held much sway in the after-war atmosphere.
His biggest setback had been in figuring out a new method for ensuring the security of the Britain’s Wizarding prison and once he had ironed out that wrinkle the path to revolutionizing Azkaban had been smooth.
The end result hadn’t been too different, though. The powerful anti-magic wards that the Department of Mysteries had created blocked a wizard or witch’s access to their magic unless they were keyed into the wards, which very few were. And witches and wizards, as a rule, didn’t like being separated from their magic. It was an integral part of their being and when it was missing it felt as though they were lacking an arm or a leg. They could feel its absence with every beat of their heart, with every thought in their brain. Those who visited Azkaban dreaded doing so because Ministry procedure did not allow them to be keyed into the wards. Those who were prisoners in Azkaban were slowly driven insane by their magic’s absence.
Her father didn’t look the same. In fact, if the guard who had accompanied her through Azkaban hadn’t told her, without any room for doubt, that this shell of a man before her was her father, Pansy would have believed that she had walked into the wrong cell.
The man before her was ungroomed, something that her father had never failed to be. He was far from clean-shaven, something that he said that every respectable man was. She had never seen him with facial hair and she didn’t like the look of the bristly, jagged spikes of hair that his beard was composed of. It conjured up images of dirty, homeless men, of filthy muggles and wizards filled with unclean blood, the bitter opposites of the man her father used to be.
His cell was in a similar state of squalor—there was little protection from the elements in Azkaban and the snow that had seemed so fresh and pure in her gardens had turned to muddy slush that soaked through her father’s robes. The splendor of the soft furniture he had once enjoyed was replaced by loneliness of a single metal bed topped by a parchment-thin mattress—Pansy could see bruises on his body that she assumed were caused by the unforgiving nature of his sleeping circumstances.
There were no windows and even if there were they would only show other prisoners in their cells. Her father’s cell was hidden deep within the compound—all the “dangerous” criminals were held there so as to make escape more difficult on the off chance that they were break out of their cell. On her way there she had passed the shadows of the men who had once frequented her families’ balls and she had found it difficult to reconcile their present images with their past.
Her father deserved much better than to be treated like a commoner but she was in no position to demand anything from the Ministry. Not with the current state of her family’s reputation.
“Father,” she began and had to stop. She glanced behind her, towards the guard, and was relieved to see that he had his back to them. She had the semblance of privacy, at the very least.
“Father, I wish to speak with you.” Pansy had never spoken with her mother regarding her visits to Azkaban but she had assumed that her father had communicated with her. Why else would her mother have continued to visit her husband? An unresponsive man, no better than a shell, was not a person Pansy would fancy spending long periods of time with and yet her mother had continued to return to Azkaban, her visits extending for hours. Was her father angry that she hadn’t visited him before this? She hoped not, for she was not in possession of a suitable explanation for her actions.
“It is important.” Her father’s eyes showed no recognition and his fingers didn’t stop picking at the hem of his uniform. Pansy couldn’t help thinking that her father would never have played with his clothing before this—he would have considered it beneath him, a commoner’s habit. He had always looked down on those who couldn’t control themselves in front of others, telling her that if you weren’t capable of respecting the expectations of society then you weren’t fit to participate in it.
“I am going to restore our reputation, Father. I am going to make us respected again. I had hoped that you would impart some words of wisdom.” Pansy paused, hoping that her father would respond to her statement, even if it was just a blink of his eye. Something to show that he was listening, something to show that her visit here hadn’t been in vain.
“I can see that this isn’t a convenient time for you. Very well, I shall try to come back later, when you aren’t as busy.” Pansy knew, though, that she wouldn’t be returning. Her father couldn’t offer her anything, not in the state he was in. She was going to have to rely on herself.
“Goodbye, Father. Until we meet again.” She stood from where she had been crouching close to the shell that was her father and brushed her robes, even though she was certain that they hadn’t been dirtied by the filth of Azkaban.
“I’m ready to go.” She didn’t know the guard’s name; he hadn’t offered it and she hadn’t asked. To ask would have put her at a disadvantage during the short time they had been together and it was a fact that she was able to do without.
He nodded and she followed him back through the labyrinth that was Azkaban, certain that she would have been lost without his presence. She ignored the reminders that still littered the path back to gate of the lost cause, even though the war had ended years earlier.
It wasn’t too long before they reached the exit and she was reunited with her wand. She clutched it, grateful to once again hold it in her hand, and curtly thanked the guard. He nodded and gave her a small smile that she returned.
She apparated home, already making plans for the weeks to come.
It was most likely too late for her father but it wasn’t too late for her and her mother. Not yet. And if Pansy had anything to do with it, not ever.
The Parkinsons would once again be held in high esteem in Wizarding society, even if it killed her to make it so.
The first thing Pansy did after shaking herself out of the Azkaban-induced misery, was decide that she needed to figure out what the second step in her plan should be. Though her father, having been unable to produce a male heir, had tutored her in the skills required of his successor they had both expected that she would marry a man who would carry out those duties for her. There was, however, no suitable male candidate on the horizon at the moment so she was on her own.
She knew that if her father was in her position he would have immediately inspected their finances since he was already aware of their social position. As much as the poor like to deny it, money went hand in hand with power and status in civilized societies and, though anyone well-versed in politics would be loath to admit, wealth was a key component in popularity campaigns.
With her father in jail there was no one monitoring their investments or the flow of money to and from their vault, save for the goblins. Pansy was well aware that the beasts, though they claimed they were neutral in all Wizarding affairs, were quite capable of holding a grudge and didn’t trust them to manage their accounts without bias. Perhaps one day they might simply neglect to inform them of an important change made to their account and if Pansy wasn’t watching they could be financially ruined.
She wouldn’t allow that to happen.
Taking a sheet of parchment from the stack in the library Pansy carefully penned a letter to their vault manager at Gringotts, an old goblin by the name of Tebak. He had been managing their vault since her grandfather’s days but Pansy’s father hadn’t deemed him trustworthy and so she wouldn’t as well. If anything, his great age meant that he would soon die and be replaced by a younger and even more foolish goblin.
Words flowed smoothly onto the parchment and Pansy’s practiced hand didn’t need to be reminded to hold the quill in such a manner that it barely skimmed the page or to form her letters uniformly. Years of practice had rendered her writing even and beautiful (if you can describe calligraphy in such a way) in ways that the writing those without the proper training weren’t. Pansy had seen the scrawl some people called writing and had had to refrain from sneering at the poor quality.
It wasn’t long before Pansy was watching the letter disappear into the sunset and being summoned by Milly to eat dinner.
Her mother was quiet during dinner and, to Pansy’s surprise and great relief, abstained from annoying Pansy with questions about her trip to Azkaban. The dinner was quiet, the only sound coming from the scrape of cutlery on plate, and Pansy was soon free to leave to the welcome solitude in her bedroom.
She was close to half-way up the stairway when her mother’s voice made her pause.
“Di-did he talk to you?” Her mother’s face was hidden in the shadows but her hands were visible and Pansy watched as her fingers twisted worriedly.
“No.” The word seemed to echo in the large hall and Pansy saw her mother flinch. She looked as though she was going to say something more, perhaps ask another question, but her nerve failed her. The hand that she had begun to raise fell back to her side and hung there limply.
Pansy watched her mother carefully, looking for signs that her mother would speak again, but failed to find any. Still, she thought it would be rude for her to leave her mother standing there at the foot of the stairs and resigned herself to waiting, hoping that her mother would soon understand that she was not wanted.
As her mother stood there, timid as a mouse, Pansy admired the contrast between her pale hand and the polished, dark wood of the staircase. She could remember the many times her father had proudly displayed this staircase, using it as a conversation starter while his guests’ coats were being taken by the house elves.
“Do you see the way the light gleams when it touches the wood? It will never show a single crack—this staircase has been in my family for generations and it has never needed to be repaired. Not a single scratch—that’s quality.”
From the dining room Pansy could hear the faint clinking sounds as the elves cleared away the dishes. She knew that if she was to return to the room the table would once again be pristine, an emblem of the properness of pureblood society. It was too bad that that decorum and politeness was now frowned upon, that the furniture that had stood proudly in pureblood manors for centuries was being sold for half of its value.
The sounds seemed to jolt her mother from her thoughts and Pansy looked on as her mother tried to put herself back together from whatever swirling mud her mind had sunk into. She allowed herself to continue to climb the staircase when her mother decided to do so as well, following the same path her daughter had taken minutes earlier.
Not another word was exchanged and they silently turned in opposite directions at the top of the staircase, heading to their separate chambers in the manor.
They wouldn’t see another being until the next morning at breakfast, isolated as they were.
She didn’t open the drawer of her bedside table that night and in her drunken state of mind had forgotten to the night before. It was hard to sleep without the scent she had long associated with security and comfort but she managed. The next morning she ordered a house elf to ward it against entry and breathed a little easier with the knowledge that the flasks were beyond her reach.
If Draco had chosen someone else, then it was his loss. She had a new goal, something that she could focus her all attention on.
Her family’s reputation wasn’t something to toy with and she was determined to repair the damage the war had done to it. Nothing would stand in her way and when she was done the name ‘Parkinson’ wouldn’t be immediately associated with pureblood scum.
The contents of the drawer eventually faded from her mind as time passed and other things occupied her attention. She slowly forgot what it was like to fall asleep with her nose and mind filled with Draco’s scent and stopped relating each of her possessions back to Draco. Her days were spent figuring out methods by which to achieve her goals and then carrying out those steps.
In short, she had more important things on her mind than Draco and she grew to like that.
A/N: Sorry for the longer wait between updates- real life was taking up a lot of my time for a while there and I didn't have as much time to write. Thanks for your patience!
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