When Pansy finally realized what happened, when a trembling house elf woke her in the early hours of the morning where light was just beginning to grace her walls, she didn’t know quite what to feel.
A lump appeared in her throat, but it was small and easily ignorable.
She and her mother had been living very separate lives for two people living in the same house and it had been obvious that for some time now that her mother was fading.
Or, at least, it could have, it should have, been obvious. Pansy just hadn’t seen it. Had brushed it off. Had told herself that her mother was always that weak, that… passive.
Her mother had been quiet in her pain, a fact that had enabled her departure to slip past her notice. Pansy had been assured by the house elves that they had made her last days very comfortable, for she had no way of knowing these details herself. Perhaps her mother had known, and had not wanted to trouble her daughter. A scene flashed in her mind: her mother, gripping the back of a chair anxiously— Perhaps her mother had welcomed death, had not seen life as something worth living for. A dark house, lonely every hour of every day—Perhaps… perhaps their relationship could have been different, given time. But “perhaps” was for the idle, the emotionally-obsessed, and Pansy neither of those. So Pansy put her emotions away and operated as a Parkinson would.
Pansy had sent a letter through the Auror offices to inform her father in Azkaban that his wife had died (normal owling services would not have worked, since the wards at Azkaban blocked all foreign methods of communication), but she hadn’t bribed anyone to ensure that it reached its destination nor had she considered making the journey herself to Azkaban – she had worked too hard and for too long to have her family’s reputation further tarnished by the reminder of the deeds her father had committed to land himself in the heavily guarded prison for life.
She was a Parkinson and a Parkinson worked with the circumstances. Unforgivably, unflinchingly.
The employees at the Ministry, when they had heard the news, had not had any strong reactions. Her co-workers, those who she was closest to, those who had been most strident in ignoring her, tried to offer kind words and some form of comfort, to which Pansy replied with a strong face, with a hint of a trembling smile. No one trusted a person if they thought the person was unfeeling and Pansy needed to gain and keep their trust.
Her stomach clenched slightly at those thoughts and Pansy smiled through the strange feeling. There were no feelings to be felt.
Those with whom she hadn’t interacted much only gave her sad smiles.
None of them came to her mother’s funeral.
On the day of the funeral clouds swirled menacingly above the manor but no rain dared to fall. Pansy thought she wouldn’t have minded if the sky had opened upon her—her concerns were greater than the simple matter of rain falling on the funeral.
Like the lack of guests.
Rage burned through Pansy like fire in a dry forest, consuming anything and everything. Did no one care, at all?
She glared down at the wooden casket that now contained her mother and her fingers clenched furiously at her sides. She was momentarily able to express the ghosts of emotion that she allowed herself to feel—the little few that had come to her mother’s funeral had left, waiting outside the room in order to give her the customary privacy.
Did it not matter, all of the work she had done at the archives? Was the Parkinson name still so disliked that no one cared if a tragedy befell her family? Had she so damaged her position at work with her careless and stupid words?
Pansy slowly stretched out her fingers and held them open, stiff and straight. With one last glance at her mother’s coffin, she swept out of the room to inform those waiting that it was ready to be buried.
She watched, just barely hiding the anger in her eyes, as the people crowded into the long reception hall – Pansy could remember her mother insisting that they all stood there to receive their guests whenever they hosted a ball, ever the proper hostess. Her flat expression contorted slightly as she remembered this tendency which had, unfortunately forced Pansy to shake hands with everyone, even those who had sweaty hands. It had been a testament to her training that she hadn’t ever openly articulated her disgust, even as a young five-year-old.
The people surrounded her mother’s coffin, the small crowd looking ridiculous in the grandeur of the hall, and in unison raised their wands and cast the spell to lift the coffin. They carried it past Pansy and down the short corridor that separated the reception hall from the door and one of them flicked the door open with their wand; there was a slight dip in the height of the coffin as the person momentarily took their power away from the combined spells.
As a blood relative of the deceased, Pansy was exempt from casting the spell and so was free to watch as the petals from the flowers that decorated the coffin feel and littered the floor. They hadn’t been overly expensive flowers (she hadn’t been able to afford it on her budget and she hadn’t known or cared enough about flowers to try and guess which ones were considered “best” by those who occupied themselves with dirt—she had sent a house elf in her stead to purchase them), nor even flowers from her mother’s garden (for her mother hadn’t felt well enough to plant flowers or tend to their upkeep for the entire growing season), but they had been flowers all the same and now they were broken, lying in pieces on the floor.
She knew that they would eventually be cleaned by the house elves but she had ordered them to stay clear of the funeral – no creature would ruin the funeral of a Parkinson – and until she released them from their quarters, the petals would stay.
Pansy swallowed nothing, her throat suddenly feeling dry, and followed the procession, careful not to step on the petals.
Her mother’s coffin was carried past the empty gardens she had tended, past the long shadow of the manor, towards the family tomb which lay at the edge of the property.
The large stone structure was backed by the beginnings of a wild forest, one that Pansy had not been allowed to roam in as a child for her parents had said that it wasn’t ladylike to “play the savage beast—they had enough of that with the magical creatures”. Secretly Pansy had been pleased with their decision for in truth the long shadows and magical beasts that filled the woods had frightened her. One house elf, Tully, who had been her nanny of sorts when she was younger, had often regaled Pansy with tales of horses that breathed fire and ate human flesh, of birds capable of producing such annoying sounds that they often drove people insane, of lions and tigers and panthers whose very flesh and fur repelled the magic of witches and wizards, leaving them defenseless against their sharp claws and teeth.
Pansy hadn’t been able to look normally at a kneazle for weeks after she had been told that last tale. Her father had noticed her strange behaviour and, after questioning her, that had been the end of both Tully’s tales and Pansy’s paranoid behaviour. But she had still avoided the woods at the end of the Parkinson property, deciding it was better to be safe than sorry.
The tomb itself was solid, white and weathered. It was asymmetrical for many generations of Parkinsons had made it their final home, many more so than the original builders had accounted for (a fact that always gave Pansy pause, for who could not have predicted the grandeur of the family?), and so new wings had had to be tastefully added as necessary. It could be called a thing of beauty, grim though its duty was, for Parkinsons would never have created an ugly monument for themselves.
And though it was large in size, its door was narrow in frame, so as to guard against the entrance of threats to the coffins of her ancestors and the exit of death. Pansy could remember her father telling her, one evening as the setting sun danced across the stones of the tomb, that one of the surest ways to avoid death was to never invite it in. Those who obsessed over death, he had said to her, are the ones who have lived the least for even if they have spent longer on this Earth in numbers, they have lived less than most for they have forgotten to enjoy life as it came.
She knew that if she asked him about her determination to restore the Parkinson reputation to its former glory, he would not say that she was obsessing or even forgetting to savour life; instead he would say that she had found one of the highlights of living: pursuing that which one is passionate about. It helped to boost her confidence, which had flagged during the obstacles that continued to weigh her down, to know that her father would not only have supported her mission from an honour perspective but also from the point of view of the enjoyment of life.
The crowd stopped at its entrance and turned to look expectantly at Pansy. Her eyes swept over them, searching for one person in particular.
Everyone there knew what she sought and waited patiently, for everyone there was a pureblood and thus well versed in the traditional Wizarding funeral practices. Pansy had noted somewhat grimly after she had made the required announcement in the Daily Prophet that no half-bloods or mudbloods had replied to it in a positive manner – she had even received several rude letters from the more fanatic “Light” followers.
Perhaps they did not even know where to look for funeral arrangements. Perhaps they expected a personal invitation. Her mouth began to twist again in disgust but Pansy soon froze her face back into its bland expression.
It seemed to her that she had made no visible progress in ameliorating the Parkinson reputation during her months at the archives and, as her eyes met with Draco’s (the only person she was disappointed had accepted the announcement of the funeral), decided that she needed to change her plan. She was going too slowly, too cautiously, for it to work.
She pointed at Draco, indicating that it was him that she wanted to accompany her into the tomb, and he nodded, accepting it for the honour that it was. She walked towards the narrow door of the tomb and cast a ball of light into it to light their way. She had been practicing that spell for several days, in order to ensure that she didn’t embarrass herself or the family name in front of others.
As the ball of light glided into the tomb, highlighting the cavernous walls of the tomb along with the beginnings of the spidery web of corridors that led to all of the individual rooms for the coffins, the crowd averted their eyes as the ancestral tomb of a pureblood family was highly valued. It was tradition that only those descended from the line could enter the tomb, along with the select few that they invited.
Those who were invited into the tomb only did so because of the power required to lift the coffins. Unfortunately, their line had not always been plentiful and the remaining relatives had sometimes found themselves incapable of lifting the coffin, requiring them to ask the aid of outsiders. To be invited into an ancestral tomb was considered to be an act of trust or, in times of war, a peace offering. In any circumstance, it was an honour and a great gift to be allowed into the tomb of another.
Draco Malfoy had not been her ideal choice but Pansy did not have the magical aptitude to lift her mother’s coffin by herself. Furthermore, fewer had responded to her invitation to attend her mother’s funeral than Pansy had expected and thus her pool from which she could select had been slim. She had not felt close to any of the older pureblood generation and of her pureblood generation few remained in the country.
Her mother had not been so greatly loved, nor would be so greatly missed, that many felt that her death required a visit across borders.
Deciding that there was no use in hesitating, Pansy entered the tomb – one of the only places on the Parkinson property that she had never been inside. A tomb was, as could be expected, only to be entered upon a death and none of her family members had died since her birth. Not until her mother.
After she had passed into the dimly lit tomb, she turned and released the ball of light. She couldn’t hold both the spell for the ball of light as well as the spell to lift her mother’s coffin at the same time and, if what she had read in her family’s rituals book was correct, the ball would keep on shining until the counter spell was cast.
She desperately hoped that the book’s words weren’t an old family prank, though she doubted that any Parkinson would play a trick that placed shame on another Parkinson – it simply wasn’t done.
She was relieved when the tomb continued to be lit.
Turning her attention now to the coffin, she cast the spell to lift it, doing so before Draco as he was only an invited in this situation. If her father had been here, he would have been the first, and she the second. She bit her tongue slightly in concentration as she struggled to lift the coffin – it was heavier than she had expected it to be. She was relieved, though she was careful not to let it show on her face, when Draco’s magic joined hers.
Together they lifted the coffin and started towards the newest addition to the tomb, which was the farthest back from the entrance. Though it was called “new” Pansy’s father had commenced its construction years ago after it had become apparent that the tomb was almost full.
“This way it is done to my satisfaction,” Pansy had overheard him telling her mother, when she had asked why he was building his home after death already. “I lived through one war and I saw many men die before their time.” His voice had softened, ever so slightly, as he spoke the words. “Their families weren’t ready for their deaths. I’m just ensuring that we’re ready for mine.” A pause, then: “I’m not dying yet but we Parkinsons are always prepared.”
But he still wasn’t dead; he had lived through another war and, instead of finding death, which he had prepared for, he had found a lifetime sentence in the worst prison Wizarding society had ever known. He hadn’t been prepared for that, nor had his family. And now it was his wife who was first to use the addition he had built.
To be continued...
A/N: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post this update. I know it's not the longest chapter I've written but part 2 should be up soon- I've pretty much finished writing it already. It was just too long to post as one long chapter. Thank you for continuing to read and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter! I promise, something large will happen in Part 2. :)