I’d just like to extend a small note of thanks to my beloved Coldplay, for their song “Princess of China” heavily influenced the inspiration and development of this piece.
Thank you, and please enjoy!
Pansy did not feel much like a princess.
She clutched helplessly at the air as she stumbled along the dirt path, having to balance moving slowly so as not to trip in her high-heeled shoes and trying to walk more briskly so that the chilly February air would sink less deeply into her exposed skin. Her next move brought the thin heel of one shoe down upon a large pebble, and she barely caught herself by the railing of the bridge, grateful that she had managed to make it this far before stumbling.
As she caught her breath, she paused for just a moment, staring out into the darkness before her. In the distance, she could see Hagrid’s home, and beyond that, the lake and the surrounding woods. For a split second, she considered stripping off the shoes and making a run for it, putting the castle and the night’s events firmly behind her and starting over somewhere else.
But no, she was a good girl, and her parents would expect her to graduate in a little over a year.
Just because you expect something, that doesn’t make it happen.
The thought pushed her along, fumbling in the night along the bridge, her awkward movements protected by the shelter of the walls around her. Then, on the other side of the small valley, she sank to the ground, laying her head back against the icy stone, and resigned herself to waiting.
The thin, blonde thirteen-year-old sank down onto the grass, taking the empty space next to her dark-haired best friend. The latter had already discarded her shoes and socks and was reclining casually against the stone foundation of the bridge, unwrapping an Acid Pop with a smile.
“Yes, here. What’s wrong with it?”
“It just feels so out in the open, you know, for a secret place,” Daphne replied, taking the lollipop and watching as Pansy stuck hers in her mouth. “Careful, you’ll burn your tongue.”
“I will not. You just have to not clamp down on it. Haven’t you ever had these before?” Pansy said. “It’s not really out in the open. No one ever looks over here. They just go back and forth between the castle and the grounds, and they don’t even take a second glance. It can be ours.”
Daphne gingerly licked the lollipop, finding the sour taste a little shocking but pleasant nevertheless. “What’s the point of having a secret place anyway?”
“So we can talk about things,” Pansy said. “Secrets.”
Daphne smirked. “Do you have a secret?”
Pansy glanced over at her and smiled, and Daphne couldn’t help but appreciate the pretty way in which her friend’s face lit up. “Draco Malfoy asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him.”
“Oh,” Daphne responded. It wasn’t very much of a surprise, so she wasn’t sure why a secret place had been necessary. Pansy had fancied Draco since the two of them had met in a boat on the Black Lake on their first trip into Hogwarts, and two years of hanging on his every word and offering to help with his homework when he wanted to go fly on his broomstick instead seemed to have finally paid off for her. Daphne had always found Draco a little annoying, but she wasn’t about to say that to him personally, and it was a bit obnoxious to not be able to tell Pansy either.
Still, Pansy had invited her to a secret place, and told her a secret that was not a surprise, and now she was smiling at Daphne and waiting to receive some sort of congratulatory reply.
“That’s great. I hope you have fun.”
“Of course we will,” Pansy licked her Acid Pop happily. “Can’t you just picture us, sitting together in Madam Puddifoot’s, having tea and scones and planning our future together?”
“Yeah,” Daphne lied, changing the subject. “Pansy, next time you steal candy from the kitchens, can you try to get Chocolate Frogs instead?”
“I don’t know why you’re telling me,” Pansy said, smiling again. “Next time, it’s your turn.”
At some point, Pansy drifted off, and she could almost feel a lush carpet underneath her and the delicate weight of a crystal crown embedded in her brown hair. Then, she put her palm down upon a sharp stick, and she winced as she came back to life, to the cold and dirt and solitude.
In the stillness, she heard the soft patter of feet crossing the bridge, and she moved quietly around the corner, glancing up into the opening. There, out of the darkness, Daphne appeared.
“What took you so long?” Pansy frowned.
“Baron just found me,” Daphne said, offering her friend the thin sweater she’d pulled on, the note from Pansy’s owl still residing in the pocket. She tugged fruitlessly at the long sleeves of her pajama top, grateful for the thick, fluffy slippers on her feet. “What are you wearing?”
Pansy sighed, crushing her hair against the wall behind her. The dress had been a good idea earlier this evening, or at least over the summer, when she asked her mother to trim it down from dress robes to a more casual outfit suitable for being seen in while out on the town with Draco Malfoy. But the glittery pink fabric left her shoulders, arms, and most of her legs exposed, and the pale blue of the veins visible under her white skin made an ugly contrast with the tone of the dress. The sight of her pink toenails crammed into ungainly black heels just added insult to injury.
“I thought he’d like it,” she finally said, and when the words left her lips, she knew how ridiculous they sounded. “I thought it would remind him of the fun we had in fourth year. He’s barely even talked to me this year.” Fresh tears began to fill the tracks etched into her face.
“Come on, let’s go inside,” Daphne frowned, looking sadly at her friend.
“No, I don’t want to. What if I run into him again?” Pansy curled up, trying to find warmth.
“I’ll be with you. I won’t let him bother you.”
Pansy glanced up at Daphne, and the faintest of smiles graced her lips. “I love you, Daph.”
Daphne returned the gesture, feeling her heart stop. “I know. I love you, too.”
And then, without even trying to find a way to ignore the chilly air, she sat down next to her.
“Are you okay?”
Daphne glanced up, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear and watching as Pansy turned from side to side before the mirror, admiring the way her curled hair cascaded down her back.
“I know you liked him.” Pansy had paused, turning her eyes upon the girl on her bed.
No, Blaise was Pansy’s idea. Daphne hadn’t really objected; Draco’s friend was handsome and had always been nice to her. But several of the boys in their year met these bare qualifications. She didn’t like the idea of having to choose one to prance around with all night at the ball, not with her experience at other society parties, where young men spoke of nothing but their money. Why risk being bored all evening when she could just go by herself and ensure a good time?
“Well, who else should we ask? Theodore?”
Daphne smiled despite herself. Pansy was adorable in her formality, being the only person besides Theo’s grandparents to use his full first name. He probably hated it. “We?”
“Yes, silly. The only reason Blaise didn’t ask you to the ball is because he doesn’t like being told what to do. Besides, I think he and Draco had a row during the summer over a Quidditch wager.” Pansy sat down on the bed next to Daphne, still wearing the dress robes her mother had sent her. “Draco is the reason Theodore still has a place on the house team. He’ll do whatever Draco says.”
“Can’t I just go by myself?”
Pansy’s face fell slightly. “But the robes your mother sent are so pretty.”
The powder blue silk outfit hung in the wardrobe they shared with their roommates, a perfect contrast to the fluffy pink of the robes Pansy was trying on. They would be quite the sight, Pansy with her dark curls and thick eyeliner and Daphne looking like a cloud with a soft blonde halo. But no, Pansy would be on Draco’s arm, a mere accessory for his expensive black Italian getup.
“I’ll find someone, you’ll see,” Pansy was saying. “You’ll be the prettiest girl at the ball.”
Daphne looked into her eyes and tried not to melt. No. Not me.
“What did I do wrong?”
Now it was Pansy slowly turning into a puddle, curled up in Daphne’s embrace like a child. The words came out muffled by tears and dirty taffeta, and Daphne tightened her grip just slightly.
“That dress, for starters,” she tried, but no smile emerged. “Where did you find it?”
“My mother made it,” Pansy said, and the tiny shivers of her body multiplied with her sobs. “I found it in a Muggle fashion magazine in King’s Cross when I got off the train last year, while Mum was in the loo, in this awful red color. I told her you had one like it and I wanted one, too.”
She looked ridiculous, sitting there in the cold with her skin all exposed and her feet situated in an awkward, tangled mess in those shoes, which might possibly have been the worst part of all. Daphne hugged Pansy a little tighter and chose the nicest thing she could think of to say.
“Why would you think Draco would like something that Muggle girls wear?”
“He wouldn’t,” Pansy admitted softly, sniffling. “But he won’t talk to me. He barely even looks at me. The other day in Potions, I asked him to pass me a shrivelfig, and he told Goyle to do it.” She glanced up at her friend, her eyes watery and red around the edges from the sting of mascara. “I didn’t know what else to do. I’m willing to try anything. I just want him to like me again.”
“Did you tell him all this?”
“I tried,” Pansy wiped her eyes, moving Daphne’s sweater to cover her frozen legs and feet. “I told him I wanted to talk to him, and he asked me to meet him in the common room. I thought he was going to apologize, but… he didn’t even notice my dress. He already knew what to say.”
“What?” Daphne asked, closing her eyes against the icy breeze that had found their secret place.
“He just said that he’s too busy for me. After all I’ve done for him, I’m not even important.”
“He’s been acting strange lately, anyway. I think you’re better off.”
This, too, fell flat. “It’s true, though. He is busy, with his father in prison and his mother unwilling to leave their house. But I told him I would be there for him. I love him, Daphne.”
“So why doesn’t he love me?”
Daphne didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what it was like to not love Pansy.
“Isn’t there anything to love about me?”
And then, there was no need to speak. The tears that chilled Daphne’s cheeks said it all.
“Was it really that bad?”
“It was awful,” Pansy replied with a groan, sinking down onto the edge of the elaborate bathtub and staring absently at one of the many stained glass windows that dotted the Prefect’s bathroom. “She’s so strange. She kept staring me down every time I accidentally slurped my tea.”
“What about Mr. Malfoy?”
“He seemed to like me.” Pansy shrugged. “He spent most of the night talking to my parents.”
“That’s a good sign, right?” Daphne asked, idly turning on and off a few of the numerous knobs for the tub, watching as the water shifted hues and different scents filled the enclosed space. She didn’t know what it would be like to have a good visit with someone’s parents, let alone a bad one. She had no suitors to speak of, and preferred to keep it that way. She was busy with exams.
“I guess so,” Pansy said, glancing at her. “I asked them what he said, but they wouldn’t tell me.”
“I’m sure she was just nervous.”
Pansy said nothing until Daphne looked back at her a full minute later.
“Draco didn’t ask me to go with him to Hogsmeade this weekend.”
Daphne turned another faucet on, watching the bathtub fill up with delicate rose-colored bubbles. She waited until the water rose high enough for one of the clear objects to tickle Pansy’s manicured fingers as it popped against the side of the tub. “I’m going. Come with me.”
Pansy looked at her. She hadn’t gone to Hogsmeade without Draco since spring of third year.
“We’ll go to Honeydukes and buy Acid Pops.”
“They turn your teeth green.”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t smile.”
The corner of Pansy’s thin lips twitched. “I won’t. Draco needs to see me pouting.”
Daphne rolled her eyes, turning off the bathtub before it began to overflow.
“Maybe we should get Chocolate Frogs instead, though, just in case one slips out.”
“It’s a deal.”
“Okay,” Pansy said, slipping off her shoes and socks and putting her feet into the warm water. “Now get out. Prefects only.”
Daphne popped a bubble that had escaped into the air, turned neatly on her heel, and obeyed.
“What if he never talks to me again?”
Daphne had had enough. She reached over to brush a piece of hair out of Pansy’s face, freeing it from where it had become gingerly attached to the wet line on her friend’s cheek. Then, without a word of warning, she leaned over and pressed her mouth against Pansy’s soft, thin lips.
Pansy closed her eyes, feeling a blush spurred on by the cold rising underneath her pale flesh. The warmth of Daphne’s kiss was so small, and yet it reached down to her bones in a way that Draco never could have. She felt for her friend’s hand on the grass, aching for more subtle heat.
When they parted chastely a moment later, neither of them was ready for it.
Pansy met Daphne’s eyes, and the silence hung between them, punctuated by the chilly breeze. Finally, Daphne stood up, and the pulse of heat that issued from their still entwined fingers helped Pansy to rise to her feet as well. After a brief hesitation, she took off the shoes.
“Want to go inside now?” Daphne asked.
“Let’s go to the common room.”
“What if he’s there?” Daphne regretted the reminder the moment she let it slip.
Pansy considered this, and then she shrugged. “I want to burn this dress.”
Daphne grinned. After so many years of planning, she couldn’t have chosen a better first date.