After her first successful visit to Diagon Alley, Pansy rearranged her schedule so that she wasn’t consistently spending all of her time in the library. Instead, she would take small, regular breaks to play with Astor or wander through the streets of Diagon Alley. She’d stumbled across many useful artifacts in the shops as she tried to project her newly minted social attitude, even though she rarely purchased them due to her tight budget, and had taken to writing down the product’s name in the hope that perhaps, once her fortune had turned around again, she would still be interested in purchasing it.
She wasn’t well-liked, not yet, but as she hadn’t caused any incidents nor given them any new reasons to dislike her (save for her stinginess with her money), she was tolerated. No one was openly scornful of her presence, a welcome difference from the open hatred she had faced months before.
Still, it was a rare occasion when anyone approached her to start a conversation and she found that, now that she was back in the company of wizards and witches, she missed the social interaction. She sometimes found herself looking in the crowds or among the rows of shelves of Magical Menagerie for the man who had spoken to her that day, but she hadn’t encountered him again.
She was curious to know of his identity, but thoughts about him were fleeting as her mind centered once again on the various magical subjects she was sitting her N.E.W.T.s on. She found that she progressed more easily through the heavy magical theory when she gave herself breaks from learning but she still struggled with the practical portion.
She had twice now turned her dark hair a vibrant shade of purple when she failed to hold the swish of her wand long enough (human transfiguration was hard) and had almost lost all feeling in her hands when she tried to transfigure her nails blue – she had thought it would save her from needing to use nail polish but it had turned out to be more of a bother than it was worth.
Sometimes, when she was struggling to fall asleep or feeling particularly frustrated at her failed attempts to learn a spell, the thought crossed her mind that she would fail, that she wouldn’t pass her N.E.W.T.s and that the Parkinson name would be stained from the fall of the Dark Lord or, even worse, fade from history altogether.
And sometimes those thoughts would linger, taking root in her mind and casting doubt over everything she did. The restoration of the Parkinson reputation rested solely on her shoulders—her father was locked away in Azkaban for the rest of his life, his mind destroyed by their wards, and her mother was too weak to be able to shoulder the necessary responsibility. What would happen if she failed? Though it was unlikely that anyone else would take notice of her failure, she would be very much aware of it and she knew that the knowledge of her lack of success would drive her mad.
Parkinsons didn’t fail. Not with something this important (she ruthlessly squashed the tiny voice inside her head that whispered that her father had thought the Dark Lord’s cause of the utmost importance and that it had failed—then, her father had not been the leader of the cause, like she was this time; she also suppressed the thought that she was better than the Dark Lord… but then, she was alive and he was dead).
Each time the thoughts threatened to grasp control of her actions, she would dive even further into her efforts to restore their reputation, spending an hour combing through the library looking for tips to help her with her spell work or contemplating various topics of conversation with which she could reasonably approach a witch or wizard with that would never stray into dangerous, controversial areas.
In further attempts to regain her lost social position, Pansy continually scanned the pages of the Daily Prophet, determined to keep abreast of any news that might affect her plans for the future. Unfortunately, the nature of some of the articles made her despair of ever being able to hold her tongue in public (for how could she keep silent when they were discussing the abolishment of all official blood statuses, trying to make it illegal for anyone for anyone to state, with or without pride, their magical background or when they suggested that they rework the entire Ministerial structure to make it prejudiced against purebloods?).
It was on one of the more depressing news days that Pansy caught sight of something that cheered her up immensely.
Suddenly she was glad that she had decided against cancelling her subscription to the newspaper for there, before her eyes, next to the curl of her finger, was the picture of the man who had approached her in Magical Menagerie. He looked very serious in the photograph, intently writing with a quill across a writing pad that looked very similar to the one he had conjured that day for the protest—Pansy now looked at the headline and saw that it was inspired by the protest.
And his slant was very much to her liking, though she was surprised that the Daily Prophet had allowed it to be printed—they usually tried to avoid controversy and tried to take the reins on popular opinions. His article against the banning of the Dark Arts was unusual; perhaps the newspaper was once again trying to spark interesting news, provoke a conflict. Wizarding society in and of itself had been calm as of late, Pansy realized, a state that was not helpful for those whose job it was to write about it. People didn’t want to read about the mundane—they lived it. Peace, while good for the Ministry, had the opposite effect on journalism.
Banning the Dark Arts will do no good, he wrote, for it will simply push the knowledge into the shadows where it will be allowed to fester. The knowledge won’t vanish; it won’t disappear from our world. It will simply find other ways of bringing itself back into the spotlight. Darkness will attract darkness. In the past we tried to bury these spells but the forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter than the one whose flesh is easily obtained and they weren’t lost but rather hidden like precious treasure.
We ignored the dangers of this technique because we believed our methods to be faultless and it is through this false notion that You-Know-Who and Grindlewald were able to gain much of their power. If we had monitored their use, if the dark techniques had been brought out into the open , then it is likely that they would have been caught long before they rose to power, that we would have had the means by which to stop them without having to resort to years of war.
Banning the Dark Arts is useless, he concluded, unless we take the proper precautions to educate every single person about their dangers.
Pansy carefully folded the paper after she finished reading, though she didn’t intend to keep the issue. It didn’t matter to her, in that moment, that the article was possibly a publicity stunt. It didn’t matter to her that the man might not have meant a single word of what he wrote. What mattered to her was that not everyone was set on opposing her style of life.
She gave a brief smile, though no one was there to see it as she was sitting alone at the dining room table, the crumbs of breakfast long since swept away by the house elves, and it widened when she thought of the name under the man’s picture: Adri Bennett.
She now had a name to match with the face and though she hadn’t found the information from a source she expected, the Daily Prophet wasn’t the most unusual place to find it. The Daily Prophet, after all, found ways to report the most mundane of things.
She just wondered what a journalist had been trying to accomplish, talking to her in public and was now more grateful than ever that she hadn’t made a fuss at the register or snapped at the man to leave her alone—she could only imagine the disaster that would have done to her family’s reputation (she could see the words ‘Death Eater Traits Inheritable!’ written in the bold, black font of the Daily Prophet’s headlines—she had seen similar titles far too often for it to be a stretch of the imagination).
With a sign, Pansy left the table, leaving the troublesome newspaper behind. The house elves would attend to it (she could already hear the tell-tale signs of house-elf apparition). She knew that there was nothing she could do at the moment—she hadn’t seen the man since that day in the shop, though she had returned to it several times, and she could only hope that he hadn’t discovered something about her in their interaction that would be harmful for her.
The proper use of the human transfiguration spell was a much more present and pressing concern and Pansy reluctantly turned in the direction of the library.
Who knew—perhaps she would never see him again anyways.
The pleasant spring breezes soon gave way to the heat of summer and Pansy found reminders of lost traditions everywhere she turned. As heavy rainfalls turned the grounds of the manor to mud, she remembered moments from the beginning of her childhood: of dancing soaking wet with other pureblood children while their parents socialized in the safety of the dry manor (she was certain that it was one of the few occasions that her parents had allowed her to break the usually strict rules of pureblood society—the rain, her parents always told her, symbolized renewal and the continual cycle of life, though that didn’t make it any less miserable a state of weather), of hours spent struggling not to fidget in uncomfortable robes while listening to her mother gossip (though she had found the information interesting, the childish wish to be in constant movement had been present in her—she hadn’t even been allowed to swing her feet!) and, as she grew older, of balls where ladies swished by in elegant and colourful robes while their husbands congregated in the corners, attempting to look too busy to dance.
The memories were bittersweet and gave Pansy an even greater desire to succeed in her set task—with her family’s reputation in shambles she had received no invitations to the summer balls nor to any other social gathering. It was exactly like every year had been for her since the Final Battle at Hogwarts, except this time her isolation wasn’t Ministry-imposed but imposed on her by society.
In a sad way, she supposed that she ought to be grateful—the lack of invitations left her with no good excuse to neglect her studying, which she sank into with less enthusiasm each day.
She had grown so used to her isolation and the silence that accompanied it (except for the rare occasion when the employee of a shop approached her, no one spoke to her; house elves didn’t count—they were servants), that when her mother spoke to her one morning at breakfast the jam slipped off her knife and onto her robe.
“Mfhmm,” she said, muffling the curse that jumped to her lips and dropping the knife with a clang onto her plate and dabbing at the spilled jam with a napkin until she remembered that she had brought her wand down with her to the table and used it to clear her dress of the spill. However, the colour of the jam hadn’t vanished to her satisfaction and she made a mental note to tell Milly to pay special attention to the spot when she gave it to her for cleaning.
She glanced at her mother, wand still clenched tightly in her hand, and realized that her mother hadn’t said a word or moved at all during Pansy’s struggle. Instead she looked small, sitting as she was with her hands grasped in her lap and her hair piled into a bun so tight and placed such that it was impossible to see it when looking at her from the front. She looked as though her skin had only seen the sun through the glass of the windows, for her skin was very pale. Her eyes, though, her eyes: they weren’t wide with shock but rather in careful observation, and Pansy realized that her mother had been watching her.
They stayed that way for several moments, eyes locked, daughter watching mother with concern and slight confusion—why, after all these months of silence between them, had her mother chosen to speak? What could she possibly have to say?
Then, finally, her mother broke the silence, her soft voice filling the empty room.
“I’ve noticed that you’ve been spending a lot of your time in the library.” She let the comment dangle in the air, her question unspoken but understood.
“I’m studying for N.E.W.T.s,” Pansy said, “I’ve told you this before.” Her voice felt somewhat stiff and she cleared her throat. The noise felt unnaturally loud and she wished she hadn’t.
“It’s unlike you.” Her mother kept her eyes on her as she spoke, watching in her quiet way for Pansy’s reaction. Weak as she may be, she was still a Slytherin and they knew that if one relied only on verbal comments then they were missing the majority of the conversation.
“How would you know?” How she spent her free time at Hogwarts had not been something she had written home about (no, those letters would have been bland to an adult, filled as they were with the gossip of the Slytherin common room and the basic knowledge from the classroom) and her mother hadn’t had a great presence in her schooling before that.
Her mother’s hand came up from below the table and began to fidget with the neck of her glass. Her eyes glanced towards the head of the table, as though checking to see if her husband was there, before she slowly stopped playing with the glass and put it down. Pansy waited for her next question, her defensive statement that she did know, that she had been paying attention.
But it never came. Instead they sat in silence, the sound of their breathing filling the room, until Pansy decided that the conversation was over and started to move. At the first screech of her chair, however, her mother’s eyes flicked towards her again and she began to speak.
“I’ve noticed that the salmon your father loves isn’t being served anymore.” Her voice was quiet but her eyes were hard and Pansy noticed the tenseness in her arms. “Why?”
Pansy swallowed with some difficulty for there seemed to be a lump in her throat. “I asked them not to.”
“It’s your father’s favourite dish.” Pansy saw that her mother was clinging to this argument like a drowning man would clutch a piece of drift wood but didn’t comment. They couldn’t afford to eat fancy dishes, no matter that they once had.
Her mother just wasn’t aware of it.
“He’s not here to eat it.” Her mother’s fingers clenched at her words.
“It’s your father’s favourite dish.” The words that tumbled from her mouth had a harsher edge this time and Pansy’s grip on the edges of her wooden chair tightened. She wouldn’t let her mother become aware of their financial state but she didn’t know what to do if her mother kept pressing her on this topic.
“He’s in Azkaban. He. Can’t. Eat. It.” Her words now had a bite to them as well and she was leaning closer to the table.
Her mother flinched at the words and Pansy wondered for a brief moment if she should feel guilty at the movement. She didn’t though, and continued to stare at her mother. It was her turn to speak, after all.
Her mother blinked her eyes slowly, once, twice, and Pansy could see the beginnings of tears collecting in them. Her mother had never been one for arguments; she had always stood quietly by her father’s side as he made the decisions and announced them to the world. Pansy had never heard her exchange a heated word with anyone, had never heard her yell in anger—it was always tense silence and fragile tears with her— and wondered if today would be the day she raised her voice.
She saw her mother take a deep breath before releasing it bit by bit and waited. She knew that soon her mother would speak.
When finally she did, her voice held no signs of weakness and the tears that Pansy had seen in her eyes were gone.
“It’s my favourite dish.” Her dark eyes (so similar to Pansy’s) met hers, almost daring her to contradict her words. Pansy, though she didn’t know exactly which dish her mother favoured, knew that it wasn’t the salmon—she always took smaller than usual portions of the fish when it was served—was unsure of how to react. Did she want to challenge her mother? Say that she was lying?
Her mother continued to stare at her as she thought. She tried to appear defiant but Pansy could see the slight tremors that were running up and down her mother’s arms and knew that her mother was feeling desperate.
She paused to make a slight mental calculation before she opened her mouth and said calmly, as though she wasn’t giving in to her mother’s desires, “I’ll speak to them about putting it back into the rotation.”
Her voice had returned to its soft state and her eyes had lit up at her words. At the sight of her mother’s joy Pansy felt something in her stomach squirm. She allowed her hands to loosen from their grip on the wooden handles of the chair and she nodded to her mother as she stood.
“Is there anything else you wish to discuss?” Pansy knew that her mother would say no—she was too happy to request anything else from her—and barely waited for her answer before sweeping out of the dining room.
They didn’t speak that night, or for many weeks after that, and Pansy was content with the return to the regular routine, though she sometimes got a funny feeling in her stomach when she watched her mother silently from across the table.
Her mother didn’t comment a few weeks later when Pansy slipped the expensive cuts of beef from the menu (less expensive than the salmon but also less popular at the manor) and lessened the serving size and Pansy breathed a sigh of relief.
Their pocketbook would survive until she passed her N.E.W.T.s and was able to get a job.
This would work.
It had to.
A/N: Sorry it's been so long since the last update- I've been really busy with work. However, now that it's summer, I should have more time to write and hopefully the updates will come at a more regular pace. Thank you for continuing to read and review- I appreciate your comments!