Chapter 1 : One of the Boys
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All Pansy Parkinson wanted was to be bad.
Bad may be a strange word, but its reality is undeniable. It can mean many things and, throughout Pansy’s life, it switched meanings frequently.
When she was merely a shrill, flat-chested nine-year-old, bad meant parading her torn robes and scratched knees around her parent’s large mansion. She would make faces at her mother’s outrage and relish in the contrast between the clumps of dirt on her dress and her mother’s frilly expectations. On the other end of the conflict, her mother paced back and forth, her eye-brows migrating so far up her forehead that the skin underneath threatened to snap at any moment. But, just like the woman it belonged to, it never did snap. Instead, the two carefully plucked arcs remained perched up there for the rest of the day, stretching and pulling at her face.
“Darling, I try - I try so hard to teach you elegance… Slaving away day and night just so you could have a place in society,” the woman sighed finally. She sank into a hard leather armchair and patted the back of her perm absentmindedly with one hand. “Do you think it has been easy, raising a girl like you?”
When she observed the strained string that was her mother, Pansy could never help but be filled with contempt. Unlike her parents, she considered herself as belonging to a new generation, a new species, almost. Pansy Parkinson was not a pragmatic. Instead, she considered herself to be a creature of intuition, a being that stood above all responsibility, a force of nature almost – something bad. A pragmatic could never, unlike her, maintain the proper overview of the ways of the world. From a young age, Pansy knew that power did not lie in extensive garden parties. Or in well-pressed dresses. Power did not lie in agreeableness at all. It lay in war.
Once puberty hit, it became more difficult. Being bad suddenly didn’t mean what it used to. The sneaking off, the pranks, the exhilarating freedom from all civilizational constraints became more difficult to hold on to. But she gave herself to the role completely, making sure to laugh the loudest, punish the hardest and then to hide behind the sweetest, most privileged smile of all.
Years later, as Pansy marched at the head of a group down the hallways of the Hogwarts castle and watched younger students rush out of the way, she was filled with the same light-headed excitement, that ever elusive badness.
The path cleared before the girl in slow motion. She felt taller, stronger and absolutely radiant. As her thoughts raced and tangled more and more with every step, she remained aware of the one idea that mattered: that, briefly, all the pieces had aligned into their rightful places. At a moment in time, no matter how fleeting, she had made it to the top, accepted among those that were there naturally.
The resulting image was so perfect, she ran the risk of destroying it altogether by grinning like an idiot. Her fingers itched with pent up energy as they clasped her wand, but it was in moments of power that she felt particularly merciful. And so she rarely registered that her peers stepped out of her way only when she resorted to shoving and cursing them. And that they saw her only when she wasn’t alone.
Pansy Parkinson’s life was accompanied by her own private theme song – a powerful melody that helped her find her place whenever her mind began to wonder. She lived in many single, encapsulated moments, which she replayed over and over again in her mind until they fit together.
Pansy never gave it much thought, but she knew intuitively that there was no privilege in upholding rules that were dictated by others. She imagined the dark, neatly dusted rooms of her family mansion, the cruel gossip that kept a girl in her place, the stiff robes and pointy shoes, the miserable eyes of impatient children at her side. She imagined herself yelling at a team of house-elves in preparation for an important dinner - another strained performance promising to glue together the ones one called family and keep everybody safe for a while longer.
She saw herself standing behind a window, the reflection of light on the glass distorting her face. She was patting her hair or rearranging her scarf as she watched the world outside and waited for the news to get back to her, to tell her what she was to do next.
No matter what bad meant to Pansy Parkinson at any given time, it always boiled down to one thing – fighting to the death against the walls of that mansion and making sure that, no matter what the cost, she could stride confidently past the heavy curtains and through the tastefully decorated foyer, into the world outside.
For the most part, Pansy was sure she had successfully transcended her gender. In her mind, as she got up in the morning and placed a harsh smile on her carefully made-up face, Pansy saw herself as a fascinating oddity. A strange mutation that could live only on account of its inherent wrongness, its badness. Hands stuffed into the pockets of her robes and face arranged in a careful mask, she would tread down the stairs of her dorm calmly, her soundtrack driving her forward and assuring her that she would never stop.
* * *
“I can’t wait until I get out of this place,” Draco asserted with a sigh, twirling his wand impatiently.
He allowed Pansy to place a consoling hand on his shoulder.
Certain images were more difficult to hold on to than others. While some moments left Pansy electric with badness, others filled the girl with an underlying unease - The blond head leaning on her shoulder, causing her to freeze like a terrified animal, regulating her breathing until her insides began to ache. The passionless face that took excruciatingly long to mold into a half-smile of approval.
But when Pansy plopped down on a couch by the fireplace at the end of the day, she could observe with relief how calmly and matter-of-factly the others accepted her presence. And so she stayed.
“You were brilliant today. That mop-haired skank of a girl really must be shown her place.” She soothed him, just on cue.
“I always found the Mudblood to look much better when she’s angry, her face all screwed up like that,” Blaise Zabini mused from the adjacent couch as he took another sip of firewhiskey. His dark eyes briefly glistened with a secretive, layered meaning.
Pansy giggled. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she traveled back to a grey afternoon when she was nine years old. Sling-shot in one hand and the hem of her long robes in the other, she retraced her path towards the fence of the Malfoy mansion, dodging flower-beds and glancing back towards the group of unsuspecting adults. That day, for the first time, the boys had paused and waited for her to catch up. Their acceptance had filled her with a sense of confidence that she, since that day, could not stop trying to recreate.
The night stretched on and the Slytherin Common Room emptied gradually.
“You two coming?” Blaise yawned, unfolding his long legs and straightening up.
“In a bit,” Draco replied, lounging comfortably on the couch while his hand made its way to the back of Pansy’s neck.
Blaise grinned and placed the bottle of firewhiskey on the table with a meaningful flourish before heading to the boys’ dorm.
Pansy placed her feet on the coffee table and took a generous sip. The alcohol burned her throat and grounded her to the couch.
When Draco leaned in abruptly and kissed her, it came as a surprise. But her mind was quick to edit in the corrections. As she let him push her back onto the couch, they fell entangled, enveloped in soft lighting. A gentle violin melody followed her all the way, growing louder and more encouraging.
The definition of the word bad covers a broad scope of meanings. When Pansy was younger, it had meant something simple, a compact formula of rebellion. She had dedicated herself to reproducing that self-confident, privileged smirk. She had made sure to pick the right enemies and to pass all the trials until, finally, she was bad enough to be one of the boys.
She had yet to discover the new set of rules that awaited her.
“Take it off,” he commanded, eyes flickering over her robes.
And she did.
He kept his head down and didn’t make eye-contact the entire time. Pansy strained against the pain and waited for it to pass, hoping, just like the first time when he had leaned his head on her shoulder, that he would stay if she just remained completely still.
She stared at a fragile new cobweb that had formed on a chandelier on the high ceiling, concentrating on how it once in a while caught a flicker of green light from the fireplace below. Towards the end, as he removed a strand of hair from her face, she convinced herself that it was an exceptionally caring, gentle touch.
After he left, she remained motionless for a while and waited for the pieces to fall back into place. Slowly, the soundtrack stopped jumping and offered her a few flowing tones of reassurance. With some effort, the idea slid over the memory and replaced reality yet again.
For a few more years, Pansy would fight her war.