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Wilted Flower by Roots in Water
Chapter 21 : Curiosity
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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It was on her fourth rotation on the “outgoing” shift (as those at the Archives called the late afternoon/early evening shift) that Pansy once again saw Adri Bennett.

His dark hair was slightly messy, as though he had run down the stairs to reach the Archives, and though his robes were smarter, crisper than they had been when he had approached her in Diagon Alley all those months ago, Pansy still thought that they were too casual for work.

She didn’t have to look down at her own robes to know that they were without wrinkles and long in the sleeves and skirt, just like Theresa’s. Even if Pansy thought that Theresa was too fanatical about her job, she had decided that she could do worse than imitate her style (though of course she had added the Parkinson flair to it).

After all, Theresa was well-known in the Archives for being a great researcher—one of the rumours that had made it to Pansy’s ears while she was eating lunch with Lesley and Nicola had said that the Unspeakables had been interested in recruiting her. She had denied their offer because her uncle had also worked in the Archives (though he was now retired) and she had grown to love the Archives through his stories and his passion for it in her childhood.

“The possibilities that the Unspeakables could provide couldn’t compare to the Archives” was apparently her rationale. Pansy thought that her reasoning on this matter was ridiculous (to be an Unspeakable!) but had been careful to keep her opinions to herself. She reminded herself that in choosing to work at the Archives, Theresa had given Pansy a co-worker who was easy to understand and thus sway to her side.

And Pansy had learned to understand her, or at least she believed she had. During the shifts she had shared with her, she had watched Theresa become absorbed with a document time and time again. It was an odd thing to watch, for she would look to be entranced by the parchment, sitting as still as a statue in her chair, before suddenly jolting and moving rapidly, almost in a panicked way, to find and compare a different document.

Pansy had several times found herself jumping in reaction to Theresa’s sudden movements and then had scolded herself for making such an obvious blunder in her observations. She didn’t want to be found just watching her co-workers—it was too strange and her slowness of work would become evident.

Theresa valued knowledge and the documents that carried that knowledge. In order to stay on her good side and befriend her, all Pansy had to do was visibly show that she wasn’t treating the Archives poorly and that she was properly handling the documents.

Pansy was sometimes reminded of the librarian at Hogwarts – a Miss Pince? – and the way she had had to tread carefully around her so that she had been able to use the books.

Her other co-workers were slightly trickier.

There was no one on her shifts who was willing to go out to eat with her when it was appropriate to break for lunch save for Nicola and Lesley – she had buried the brief flashes of hurt and irritation at this realization under the weight of her observations of the personalities of her co-workers. Some of them just weren’t the type to enjoy eating out.

Unfortunately, that made connecting with them that much harder. Her notes, though they helped her to gain an understanding with them, were no help in the formation of connections, relationships. Jonathon was still as odd as he had been during her first day at the Archives—though appearing to be too slow physically to still work, he had a quickness of tongue and a mischievous spirit that put Pansy in mind of those awful Weasley twins. At least he was too old to pull off some of the tricks they had during her time at Hogwarts.

Pansy found herself unwilling to reach out to him, for she didn’t know how to unless it was through partnering up to tease Theresa (something that she couldn’t risk doing, since it could alienate Theresa) or irritating her other co-workers with silly – and sometimes stinging – comments. While her co-workers didn’t pay much attention to his words anymore (aside from when he threatened the documents, or the rules that protected the Archives, within Theresa’s range of hearing), Pansy didn’t think that they would be so forgiving with her.

Even worse (and Pansy cringed internally when this thought pushed itself to the forefront of her mind) Pansy didn’t think that she could replicate the intent of his words along with his speed and she didn’t want to try. She feared that she would be too cutting, too mean, or that she would stumble over her words. She could hear her father saying that the Parkinsons weren’t poor at anything.

And then she could hear the gravelly sound of the goblin’s voice as it told her that she was poor in the plainest meaning of the word as though it was standing next to her and pushed both voices out of her head.
She would depend on herself and no one else.

Felicity, who was the fourth person Pansy had meet at the Archives, continued to be as shy as ever – she rarely spoke and used her hair as a shield to keep her from interacting with anyone. She hadn’t improved since they had met, either, and though Pansy continued to be polite with her, she hadn’t made any efforts to overcome her social inadequacies and befriend her.

She couldn’t see the benefit in becoming her friend and so she would keep their acquaintance neutral until the tide turned in one direction or another.

And though Pansy continued to write down every fact, every bit of information she came across in her notes and tried to put them into practice, she felt as though she was participating in a dance in which she had no knowledge of the steps.

The atmosphere of the office was very different from the one she had grown up with, though she continued to tell herself that they were both formal and thus the same rules applied. After all, the pureblood rules and traditions had allowed the Ministry (and her ancestors) to thrive for centuries – why would they stop working now?

And then she would see Jonathon working up the saliva to spit properly (as though there was a proper way to spit – Pansy shuddered at the thought of the vile action) or Felicity hiding behind her curtain of hair and remember that this most certainly wasn’t the atmosphere her ancestors had dealt with. It was much more difficult, and disturbing.

Even worse, she was expected to adapt to it, she needed to adapt to it.

And so, after watching Nicola break the rules of politeness and distance that she had learned as a child, after watching her co-workers display their emotions in a very public, very weak way, she decided to speak with Terrance about the rumours of his crumbling marriage.

It had not gone over well. Terrance had shown emotion, yes, but it was anger instead of the sadness and gratefulness about having someone to talk to about the matter she had expected. Her notes had not indicated that he possessed a quick temper and she had not considered the fact that perhaps he was tired of thinking about it, that he had been hoping to find solace at work, and that even if he was in the mood for discussing it he probably wouldn’t consider her as a conversation partner—she was too new, too strange, to include in discussions of the heart.

Pansy had quickly retreated when it became apparent that Terrance didn’t appreciate her overtures (though she didn’t call it a retreat in her mind—only a strategic decision that worked best with the circumstances) and was grateful that she had chosen a time when she was alone on the shift with him. Not many people were required to man the late-night shift and Pansy had been temporarily placed on it until Jonathon had switched onto it (apparently he wanted to test out what pranks he could pull at night… though he only told Pansy this. It wasn’t exactly the line of thinking that would convince Theresa to put him on that shift). She had chosen a lonely, solitary time because she had noticed that it was unusual for people to desire large displays of their sadness, even among mudbloods and half-bloods.

Evidently some people were a lot more solitary in their emotions than others.

That night she had gone home and modified her notes on Terrance. The next day she was returned to the “outgoing” shift.

Pansy wasn’t the one to open the door for Adri—Clive was, since his desk was the closest to the door. And Pansy probably wouldn’t have moved if her desk was closer to the front—she was determined to not intrude in the lives of her co-workers for a while. There had obviously been mistakes in her notes and she needed to find them and correct them.

If there was one there could be more and she could not risk making the same mistake again. Parkinsons didn’t act in so stupid a manner.
Pansy had been given the only free desk – it was the farthest from the door and closest to the beginning of the rows of shelves. It was an advantage or a disadvantage based on which shift she had been placed on and what she wanted to do during that shift.

At the moment Pansy found Adri to be more interesting than the documents in front of her and so she watched carefully from behind the pages of an article as he entered.

She noticed that he seemed to be very familiar with the process of entering the Archives, which led her to think that he had been a reporter for a least a year since most articles didn’t require trips down to the Archives and it usually took a few visits before they fell into the sway of things. It most likely wasn’t useful information but her father had said that in order to be successful one had to know both their enemies and their allies well and since Pansy didn’t know which category he fell in, she listened carefully to all the clues she heard about him.

Even though she hadn’t been an employee of the Archives for a long time yet, she had already witnessed (and been irritated by) several people who were quite obviously new to the Archives try and extract information. They hadn’t waited at the door, identification in hand, like the Archives’ policies required and had seemed surprised that Clive had wanted it. Then they had proceeded to waste even more of Clive’s time because they weren’t specific enough in their search for information.

“Uh… I want, er, information on Potions” wasn’t a sufficient enough guideline for Clive (or, indeed, just about anybody Pansy could think of) and it had taken several prompts before he had gotten the information that he needed to help them.

The people they hired at the Daily Prophet… Pansy shook her head.

At least it had provided her with an opportunity to sympathize with Clive—for all Theresa said that he liked to be on the “outgoing” shift, Pansy found that he didn’t chat much while he worked.

He was, however, almost always the first to answer the door and help the person standing beyond it.

And this time that person was Adri Bennett.

After examining his papers (though not very thoroughly – perhaps Adri had been to the Archives often enough that Clive trusted that he was who he said he was), Clive stepped aside to let him enter the room.

“Clive—” though he may have run to the Archives, his voice didn’t betray it “—have you gotten any new documents?” Clive opened his mouth to respond but Adri didn’t give him enough of a pause to do so.

“Of course you have—what a silly question to ask. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I get by as a journalist. What I meant to say is: ‘Do you have any interesting new things?’” Adri nodded, seeming much more satisfied with his question now.

“Same as it always is,” Clive answered. “Now what is it you came for?”

Pansy frowned a little at this—she found it odd that though he was always among the first to help the people at the door, he wasn’t very communicative with them. She didn’t understand why he wanted to help when it looked like he felt ill at ease doing so.

And he received no answer to his question, for Adri was looking around the Archives as though he could see all of the new documents put away on their shelves just by looking. Pansy knew the moment he saw her, though she made it seem as though she was intently reading the article in front of her – his eyes widened slightly and his smile stretched even further across his face.

“Clive—it’s not same old, same old here! You’ve gone and hired somebody new!” Clive muttered something about it not being his choice who they hired but Adri had turned his attention towards Pansy and missed his comment.

“Pansy Parkinson…” he said in a hushed tone, as though he was trying to figure something out. “How has she been doing? Does she fit in here?” Adri seemed to have slipped into his reporter mindset—Pansy had seen it before when he had seen the protestors in Diagon Alley. It looked as though an idea for a new article was forming in his head – Pansy knew that the questions couldn’t be for his current article because he couldn’t have known that she was here.

She wondered what the sight of her could have inspired and realized that the pair had forgotten that she was in the room – perhaps her lack of reaction to Adri’s previous comments had contributed to the effect. Clive was answering his questions with what Pansy presumed was complete honesty – his emotions passed freely over his face. This was perfectly agreeable to Pansy—it would allow her an outside opinion on her progress.

“Miss Parkinson?” Clive’s tone was questioning, as though he couldn’t understand why Adri was wondering about her. “She’s only been working here for a little while—just over two weeks, I think. It’s hard to know exactly because of the shift schedule we follow. I don’t know exactly when she started. But she seems to be doing just fine – she hasn’t had any troubles shelving the materials, or at least none that I know of.”

“And she hasn’t experienced any prejudice?” Pansy’s breath seemed to stop short at that moment and she forced herself to continue looking at the documents in front of her. Why would Adri be asking something like that? She couldn’t stop herself from quickly glancing at Clive, though.

To her relief, his expression seemed slightly puzzled before it smoothed out.

But his words raised her worry again.

“Prejudice? Why would she experience prejudice? She’s not a muggleborn… Or, at least, I don’t think she is.” Irritation swept quickly through her at the thought that Clive could even think that she was a mudblood. She noticed Adri’s eyes quickly flit over to her and suppressed any outward reaction to Clive’s answer. She should be counting herself lucky that at least one person didn’t hold her ancestry against her, even though it was because he obviously wasn’t following current news.

And then Pansy found that a strange lump had appeared in her throat and she had to resist the urge to touch her skin to make sure it didn’t show to the others in the room. She swallowed and found that she didn’t have trouble doing so, though the lump felt large enough to permanently block access from her mouth to her lungs.

She swallowed again and refused to give any outward indication of her problem. Parkinsons were strong—they didn’t show anyone their weaknesses—and if this was her way to go then she would be brave about it. She certainly didn’t trust Adri or Clive to care enough to help her now. How could she be sure that they just wouldn’t turn around and laugh? Or, even worse, ignore her plight entirely?

Why had the lump appeared when she realized that it was over two years since the last time her family had found its name in the Daily Prophet?

The lump seemed to grow bigger with her growing anxiety and Pansy fought down a rising wave of panic to listen to the conversation. She couldn’t miss anything they said—it could prove to be vital information later. Adri’s voice soon cut through her panic and as Pansy focused her attention on a new target she didn’t notice the lump subsiding.

“So everyone’s been perfectly friendly to her?” Adri seemed determined to press the issue and Pansy wondered once again why he wanted the information. What possible use could he have for it? She couldn’t imagine a possible subject that fit in with the theme of his previous articles.

Clive’s puzzlement grew alongside Pansy’s and his answer was very disjointed as he struggled to find a good reply. “Um… I think so. I don’t know… I don’t work on all of the shifts, you see.” Adri was nodding his head, his eyes fixed intently on Clive’s face. “I don’t know.” With that, he seemed to be finished with his willingness to discuss Pansy. Pansy found his attempt to change conversation topics very clumsy – her tutors would have stung her with comments of scorn if she had attempted that with them.

“But I do know how to find whatever it is that you came here for, Adri.” Clive looked at Adri expectantly, though Pansy thought that he didn’t expect the wide smile Adri bestowed upon him nor the light smack on the shoulder he gave him.

“That sounds lovely, Clive, but I think Miss Parkinson would be more of a help to me today.” Clive’s face barely had time to fall before Adri continued, trying to appease him. “I have a few questions I’d like to ask her—for an article – and I don’t think that it would be very fair to waste your time in the Archives—yours or hers.”

Clive nodded his head and Pansy, who had not yet managed to grasp the strange twist in the conversation, barely managed to conceal her shock at Adri’s appearance before her desk. “Yes?” she asked him, looking for all the world as though she was quite busy with her reading of the article in front of her (it was the second article now that she was “reading”—she’d have to come back to them later because she hadn’t a clue what their subjects were).

“I’ve come to ask you if you can escort me in my quest for information?” His smile seemed even wider than the one he had given Clive and his eyes twinkled as he watched Pansy.

Pansy paused for a moment as she collected her thoughts before finally putting down the article on the desk and raising her head to look at Adri. “Of course I am able and willing to help you.” She couldn’t say anything else – her job was too new, her position too shaky, and there was nothing to gain by refusing his request.

And so, with Clive’s disappointed face watching them, she slipped out from behind her desk and started to lead Adri to the shelves. It was just before the shelves that she realized that she didn’t know what subject Adri was looking for and so she stopped abruptly and turned, trying to make it appear as though this was a usual occurrence for her.

She turned to find Adri watching her with curious eyes. Behind him she could see that Clive had returned to sit at his desk, though he did glance over at them every few moments. She wondered if he would continue to do so after they had vanished into the corridor of shelves and why he paid such attention to Adri. She hadn’t noticed him doing so with the other witches and wizards who had come searching for information. Did he have an interest in the Dark Arts as well? She made a mental note to include this in her notes on him.

Slightly pleased at having gathered more information on her co-worker (her file on Clive was sadly small) she concentrated her attention on Adri once again. Upon seeing that Adri had opened his mouth to speak already (and she could hardly cut him off now by speaking herself—that would be rude), she scolded herself. She shouldn’t have let her attention wander far enough away from the present concern that he was able to gain an advantage, even if he didn’t realize he had done so. She consoled herself with the fact that it didn’t look like Adri had thought her momentary silence as anything other than a great opportunity to speak.

“How are you finding the Archives?” Pansy blinked before quickly regaining focus. She hadn’t been expecting him to restart on that line of thinking, especially not with her. Hadn’t the conversation with Clive been enough to satisfy his curiosity?

But Pansy couldn’t refuse to give him an answer—that would seem too suspicious, as though she had something to hide, some secret that needed guarding—so she instead gave him a very plain answer, one that would give her no trouble later.

She hadn’t counted on Adri giving her trouble about it now, though, and resolved to change the conversation in a direction better suited to her needs as soon as she finished answering his second question.

“I have been met with no trouble. Everyone has been very kind to me and helped me to become settled into my new job. I’m very grateful to have found such a welcoming community.” Though this speech felt disgusting as it spilled out of her mouth, she had been too well trained to let her thoughts show. And then quickly, before Adri could form a response to her answer, she said, “And what help can I give you today?”

The question made her sound servile and though she hated it she knew that it was necessary. She comforted herself with the knowledge that other purebloods had operated under disguises before and that she had a noble cause, a worthy cause, and that this pretending, this mask, would allow her to reach it.

And with the question Pansy had once again regained control of the conversation. She had reminded him that they weren’t out on the street and that she had a job that she needed to do—and that he wouldn’t stand in her way. She didn’t like his curiosity about her life because she didn’t understand why he wanted to know about it and thus prevented his questions through reminders that the Archives were supposed to be quiet (never mind the fact that at the point she said that they were far enough into the shelves that normal conversational tones wouldn’t make their way back to Clive’s ears) and questions that asked for more detail about the topic he was searching for.

It wasn’t very long before they were both back at Pansy’s desk, a thick (though not dusty—the Archives were too well maintained for a book to be dusty) book clutched in Adri’s hands. Pansy moved smoothly around the desk and reached for the documents that would record Adri’s name and magical signature, allowing him to take the large tome out of the Archives.

He stood patiently as she readied everything and took the quill when she offered it, dipping it into the ink well that Pansy had moved so that it was closer to him (she couldn’t have ink dripping all over her desk, now could she?). Pansy was required to watch carefully as he wrote his signature as a preventative measure over someone faking their name and, thus, their magical signature, and so couldn’t help noticing that Adri wrote his letters in the same style of those who had had pureblood tutors.

It could mean nothing (Pansy knew that there were half-bloods whose parents had attempted to give them more class by hiring the same tutors as the pureblood families used) but it could also mean that the purebloods had someone with public influence who was on their side no matter what. After all, blood was of the utmost importance and only idiots betrayed it.

She gave him a smile that was slightly wider than the one she usually gave, ignoring the hard looks Clive was sending their way. However, any good will she had towards him melted away when he once again tried to pry into her personal life.

“How is your dog doing? Does he like the food?” Pansy’s smile hardened and slowly slipped into nothing. She would not discuss Astor with him, not if he was going to use him as fodder for an article like she thought he was. Astor wasn’t to be used like that—he was hers, and he was going to remain solely hers.

“Yes—he finds it perfectly lovely,” she said stiffly before pointedly shuffling the papers on her desk and starting to read the article again—this time for real.

Luckily Adri took the hint and walked out of the Archives, pausing only to say goodbye to Clive, who waved at him with a large, goofy smile on his face. Pansy didn’t know what he was smiling about and didn’t think it of enough consequence to try and figure it out.

Instead she made a mental note to start a file on Adri Bennett that night.

A/N: I'm sorry that it took so long for this chapter to be uploaded but I was distracted with a new story that I just posted. It's called While You Were Sleeping and explores Moody's missing year. Thank you for your reviews!

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