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Chapter 11 : Studying
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She had stuck a written reminder of this fact to the backside of her chamber door, positioning it such that only she and the house elves that tended to her rooms would see it. She didn’t want to risk her mother becoming aware of their financial situation and the note was the only way in which she would become so as her mother had never shown any inclination to manage their finances. Pansy could already imagine her reaction.
“Why, whatever do you mean my dear?” she would say. “Your father wouldn’t have left us with nothing. He was a very thoughtful and hard-working man.”
Her mother would be unable to understand the concept of money running out when there was nothing there to continue its supply.
Pansy hadn’t yet told her mother that she planned to gain employment, though she had mentioned one night at dinner that she was sitting her N.E.W.T.s. Her mother’s reaction had been mild; beyond the simple question of ‘why’, to which Pansy had answered ‘for credibility in society’, her mother hadn’t had any further concerns. She hadn’t offered her help, for she had been about as academically gifted as Pansy.
In the weeks since she had first brought Astor home to the manor Pansy had found her days growing less lonely. Though she wasn’t constantly around the pug, Astor sought out her company frequently enough that she had grown close to him. Their relationship was helped by the fact that Astor was hyperactive enough for the both of them, filling the empty halls with his yapping, but was strangely aware of the times when she required silence. She was also fortunate in that her house elves were capable of repairing the damage the pug’s nails caused to the hardwood floors and carpets, of clearing his fur from the furniture and of training him.
Pansy had sat in on several of his training sessions and had joined in on praising him when he obeyed simple instructions such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ and when he learned, finally, to wait to go pee until after he was let outdoors. She was convinced that she had purchased the cleverest pug in the store and had she had anyone to brag to, she would have.
Her mother continued to hover around the peripheries of her life and had barely reacted beyond a small ‘Do keep him away from the good china’, which Pansy had roughly assured her she would.
The sudden glare of the sun through the library window brought Pansy sharply back to the present. Her eyes once again focused on the second-year Transfiguration text-book open in front of her and began to scan the words, though they might have been in German for all she understood them.
She had had to start her studying from the very beginning for she had found while doing the practice exams the Ministry released that her knowledge was very scattered. While she could remember the theory behind forcing a pineapple to tap dance (it had been an amusing charm to cast on inanimate objects in lieu of studying) she had forgotten how to transfigure a matchstick into a needle. The gaps in her memory had led her to reread all the textbooks she had purchased during her seven years at Hogwarts, an overwhelming task to say the very least.
Her reflection hadn’t been much help either; Pansy hadn’t seen her in days. In fact, her reflection had been missing ever since Astor had shown a fondness for glass of all types, mirrors included and Pansy hadn’t been inclined to stop him from examining the mirror in her chamber.
He had just looked so cute pawing at his own reflection in the mirror.
Unfortunately Astor wasn’t with her at the moment; Pansy had handed him off to Milly several hours ago for training and he wouldn’t be returning for at least another thirty minutes. Sighing, she resigned herself to another long stretch of boredom, punctured by frustrating struggles to understand the most basic of concepts.
Such was the level of her frustration that she had thought about hiring the services of a tutor to teach her the material but she was stopped from pursuing this course of action by the low levels of her bank account and the knowledge that the majority of the public would be reluctant to be seen in her service.
Needless to say, she hadn’t yet gotten far in improving the Parkinson reputation in society—her correspondence had so far been limited to communication with the office of Wizarding Examinations Authority at the Ministry of Magic in an attempt to learn if and when she could sit her N.E.W.T.s. Luckily for her, her situation was not unusual, though her request had come much later than the others.
Madame Marchbanks had suggested that she sit her N.E.W.T.s with the current seventh year at Hogwarts at the end of June but Pansy had refused. Not only did she feel that June was much too soon for her to take her exams and still be successful enough to gain employment with her grades (though she wasn’t holding out much hope no matter how long she studied for), but she had no desire to return to Hogwarts. Though it might become necessary for her to make amends for her actions during the period when Professor Snape had been Headmaster of Hogwarts at some point in the future, Pansy felt no inclination to do so at the moment and knew that her presence would not be gladly received by the staff and students.
Fortunately Madame Marchbanks had been accommodating and had allowed Pansy to set a date further in the year. She had chosen December, a date close enough that it wouldn’t slow her down overly much in her desire to restore her family’s reputation but still far enough away that she felt that it would give her a sufficient amount of time to study the material.
Pansy realized that she had once again become distracted and decided to put her books away. Perhaps she could coax her reflection out of hiding and, if she failed at that, she could always track down Astor.
At least he was never boring (though she doubted that anything could be worse than transfiguration).
Time passed and Pansy’s head began to swim with useless charms. Her hands, no matter how many times she washed them, stubbornly smelled of burnt daisy roots and spilled leech juice from potion mishaps (even after all her practice with Amortentia, she still wasn’t any better at making potions). She had managed to progress to her fourth-year textbooks and had found that turning a hedgehog into a pincushion was just as difficult as she remembered.
She had gifted her surprised mother with an exceedingly ugly purple version of a pincushion –she hadn’t yet mastered the expluso charm and felt too exhausted to even attempt to incinerate it. She hadn’t waited to hear her mother’s quiet ‘Thanks’ before retreating to her chambers.
It had gotten to the point where she found almost any book that didn’t cover material in the Hogwarts curriculum interesting and she spent the majority of her time in the library. In fact, Pansy suspected that if it wasn’t for Astor she would have spent all of her time there.
In her opinion, if she failed to pass her N.E.W.T.s, she would have to give up the restoration of the Parkinson reputation, something that she absolutely would not let happen. Thus, Pansy found herself concentrating on schoolwork for the first time in her life.
However, old habits were hard to break and she often found her gaze looking longingly at the shelves of books around her or, even worse, found herself doing small chores around the house, trying to avoid the library.
To prevent this from happening, Pansy allowed herself small breaks (that sometimes turned into larger ones). It was during one of these breaks that she stumbled across the potion that was currently entrancing her.
Its recipe had been hidden in an old copy of Witch Weekly that she had found stashed behind volumes two to five of Ancient Egyptian Wizarding society, its pages curled and yellowing. With bold font, the Alluring elixir promised to highlight all desirable features while minimizing the traces of undesirable ones in the eyes of the subject, once a lock of the object’s hair had been added to the potion.
Pansy found it fascinating because it was essentially a reverse Amortentia and, though she could see no way to utilize the potion at the moment, saw the possibilities. With a dose of this potion one could trick oneself into believing the best of someone else and no one else would be able to find fault with your act because you would really believe it. It would be useful at times when appearance was everything.
But it held no relevance in her N.E.W.T. studies, which she really ought to return to, and so she sighed and added the magazine to her pile of Witch Weekly issues.
It was always fun to glance through old magazines and mock the models for the outrageous fashion trends of the season. Who in Merlin’s name had thought it would be a good idea to wear a hat that weighed more than your head?
Pansy’s temper worsened as the weeks passed at an achingly slow pace until even Astor’s visits failed to amuse her and she snapped when he yipped, chasing him out of the library. She had never been one for academics and it was only her pride and devotion to the Parkinson name that kept her going.
At Hogwarts she had occupied her time with Dra—with her year mates, filling the long hours of class with passed notes and smothered giggles, mourning the quick passing of the time outside of class. She had never found the material covered in class worth her time and even now, wading through the information with a new sense of purpose, found half the spells worthless for practical use.
The paper in the textbooks wasn’t smooth enough—its roughness irritated her hands and its sharp edges sliced her fingertips. The sunlight spilling through the window was too bright—it bothered her eyes—and when the curtains were drawn she had no light by which to see the words, giving her a headache.
Transfiguration was confusing, Potions difficult, Charms annoying. Hour by hour, day by day, words merged into a useless mass of slime in her mind, their definitions blurred beyond recognition and their uses blended until nothing was where it belonged.
Her drive to restore the Parkinson reputation at all costs was driving her mad and she was close to giving up.
Perhaps, she reasoned on a day when the sunlight was particularly bright, it was time for a different tack. Perhaps she could permit herself a day’s break from studying (or maybe even a week)—time to allow herself to cool down and restore her motivation to see her project through.
It was while she was laying on her bed, relishing the feel of the soft fabric on her skin and the knowledge that she didn’t have anything to do that day, that she realized that she could use her day off to improve society’s opinion of her, to show them that she had reformed (as if). It would further her plan and ease the guilt she felt at ignoring her mission (this was one of the rare times she had felt it and she didn’t like it). An image of her father crossed her mind, telling her that he had never taken any breaks, not when there was work to do.
She only needed a task, something that would take her out into the heart of Wizarding society.
Pansy sat up in the bed and left her chambers to wander through the corridors of the manor, hoping that inspiration would strike her. The sunlight highlighted the golden frames that surrounded her ancestors and she shielded her eyes and headed towards the darker areas of the manor, where natural light struggled to reach and she would be left in peace.
Her feet sinking into the soft carpet and her robe trailing on the ground (over-long robes were the latest trend in high Wizarding society, or so Witch Weekly told her and Pansy found herself agreeing with the style for once—the extra fabric provided further protection for her feet from the cold), she struggled to find the perfect cover. Whatever she decided to use as her pretext would have to be a trivial task—she couldn’t allow the public to suspect her true intentions—but not so trivial that it was obviously beneath her.
She couldn’t lose the respect of the other pureblood families in her quest to gain the approval of the half-bloods and mudbloods.
She thought about asking the house elves for a grocery list and buying the food from the store—that would certainly give the impression that she wasn’t above the common populace. However, there were several problems with the idea, the most prominent of which was the fact that she would have to lower herself to asking the house elves for something. Another flaw was that she didn’t know where she would even go to purchase the food—the elves had always taken care of that task. Making a fool of herself wasn’t in the plan and Pansy dismissed the grocery idea once it became obvious that her humiliation was an unavoidable aspect of it.
The darkness of the corridor was soothing for her eyes but its location disturbed her. She had somehow, in the midst of her thoughts, wandered into territory dangerously close to the servants’ quarters. In fact, if she strained her ears, she was able to hear the low stream of their chatter. Their high-pitched voices annoyed her and she was about to retreat from (sorry—leave) the area when the sound of an even higher pitched yip reached her ears and planted an idea in her mind.
She had Astor, who was a dog. All dogs needed food. She could buy food for Astor, a task which would show her caring for another being (an animal, to boot!) and create a bond between her and other animal owners. Even better, she had already been to the Magical Menagerie once and knew where to find the food—she could complete this task without humiliating herself.
She turned to immediately start on her task before realizing that she was without money and shoes and changed her direction to return to her chamber. She would brave the harsh sunlight to purchase food for her dog, taking a break from her N.E.W.T. studies to do so. She could only hope that the selflessness of her task penetrated through the dull minds of Wizarding society.
Black boots slipped firmly on and a soft scarf wrapped around her head to protect her eyes from the glare of the sun, Pansy stepped out of her chambers and began the walk down to the front gate. She felt so light, so free—she had a purpose but even better she was escaping the weight of studying for a day.
She was surprised by the state of the grounds she saw after she closed the door of the manor behind her—the landscape had changed since her last visit outdoors weeks ago. No longer were the piles of melting snow apparent, turning the expansive land into mud. Instead meters of green grass lay stretched out before her and tiny buds were blooming into leaves on the trees that outlined the property.
She briefly wondered how long it would take her mother to realize that spring had arrived and come out to shape a new year’s worth of growth. Gardening was one of the few things in which her mother was halfway competent and even then her feminine delicacies prevented her from dirtying her hands in the ground; instead she supervised house elves as they transplanted, pruned and watered the flowers that decorated the grounds. Still, she admitted as her boots continued to hit the stone path, moving her steadily further from the manor, some of the floral arrangements had been pretty.
Pansy realized only as she neared the gate, which was glittering brutally in the sunlight, that she hadn’t told anyone of her trip. The house elves probably thought that she was cloistered in the library again and, well, it didn’t matter what her mother thought she was doing. They only saw each other at the table during meals—their lives were completely separate and Pansy didn’t care to learn the details of her mother’s life so long as she wasn’t out spending what was left of the family fortune.
If she started to, however, Pansy would have to interfere.
As her fingers touched the gate the image of a house elf popping frantically into Magical Menagerie looking for her crossed her mind and she paused before deciding to send one of floating airplanes that Draco had been so fond of in Hogwarts. The only problem was that she didn’t have any paper from which to form a plane.
She sighed and decided that the potential humiliation from a hysterical house elf was worse than the wasted time it would take to walk back up that path and warn the house elves of her departure. She started back up the path before realizing that she could just order Milly to come here, which she then proceeded to do. Today was just not her day.
With a sharp pop, Milly appeared and eagerly carried her words back to the house elves’ quarters, leaving Pansy finally able to return to the gate and unlock it. She apparated away with the image of the corner near Ollivander’s fixed firmly in her mind.
A/N: Sorry for the longer wait between chapters but hopefully I'll have more free time on my hands now that I can use to write. As always, I look forward to reading your thoughts on the chapter!
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