Chapter 6 : A Dozen Gillywaters
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Daphne cut herself short. Pansy had felt like Gillywaters, so Gillywaters it was.
With a sigh, she placed the last glass in front of Theo and took her place next to him. She was glad to be seated as it gave her a chance to properly look around the table, something she had been dying to do ever since the motley ensemble had walked in. Some faces she had expected, some were surprises and some, she didn’t even recognise. The two figures sitting imperiously either side of Pansy were easy to pick out- she had known them almost since childhood. But who was the thin, nervous girl with the pierced eyebrow, who glanced fearfully about the room? Who was the man in the designer suit, whose dark eyes were fixed so intently on Pansy? The faces she didn’t know scared Daphne more than the faces she did.
As she scanned the row of warlocks, her heart skipped a beat as her eyes alighted on one she recognised well. Adrian Pucey, Astoria’s ex-husband was sitting two places to the right of Pansy- a nervous, twitchy wizard in Ministry robes. His eyes flickered constantly about the room, but he seemed to be trying to avoid looking at Astoria. Immediately, Daphne looked to her sister, who was sitting very still and staring straight ahead. Someone who didn’t know Astoria well might have said she looked worried. Daphne knew that she was furious.
Pansy seemed to be observing the tension between the two of them at the same time as Daphne was. Did she know she was playing with fire? For a moment the two old friends’ eyes met until Daphne blinked deliberately and looked away.
“Lovely!” smiled Pansy. And she really did sound delighted, thought Daphne- as if she was genuinely enjoying herself. Astoria was watching her grimly, and Daphne felt apprehensive.
“Well,” began Pansy contentedly, leaning back in her chair, “It is a long time since I saw some of you! And how you’ve all grown!”
There was silence.
“Before we start, can we all take a quick little moment to thank our sweet Daphne, who’s been kind enough to let us use her dear little sweetshop, this evening?”
“It’s not a sweetshop, it’s a café,” retorted Theo heatedly, “If you really cared, you’d know that. And she didn’t let you use it; you forced yourself on this place. Now please stop procrastinating and get the hell on with whatever you’ve got to say.”
Pansy laughed a high, mirthful laugh and the woman on her left snickered. Daphne’s gaze flickered towards her, recognising Tracey Davis from her Hogwarts days.
You always wanted to be best friends with Pansy, thought Daphne spitefully, Now that I’m out the way, I suppose you’ve got your wish.
“Oh dear,” sighed Pansy, still tittering, “You two really are the cutest. But seeing as Mr Nott is so insistent.” She shot a poisonous glance at Theo, “I will get to business.”
Daphne took a steadying sip of Gillywater to calm her nerves. She wished Pansy would open the blinds and let in some goddamn light, but knew better than to suggest it.
“I’m here,” said Pansy simply, “So we can take back what’s ours.”
There was a pregnant pause. All eyes were on Pansy, and Daphne knew that she was loving it.
“Ten or so years ago,” she began, “We were cheated. In the name of defeating the Dark Lord, we were robbed of our birthrights, our authority. The power that belonged to us was taken away by a seventeen-year-old boy and his band of incompetent upstarts, and given to those blood traitors.”
There were nods of assent around the group. Out of the corner of her eye, Daphne noticed Theo rolling his eyes. Even she had to admit that the blood traitor arguments were getting old.
“...family members dead or imprisoned all in a night! Ancient houses forced to work for a living,” Pansy was saying, gesticulating angrily. There was a pause as the witch leaned forward.
“I have called this meeting, because I want revenge.”
There were sharp intakes of breath all around. Pansy’s words were toxic- Daphne knew that, and she wondered who else did.
“Think of your dead relatives!” Pansy exclaimed now, “Think of the brave warlocks wasting away in Azkaban!”
“She knows what she’s doing,” murmured Theo, leaning over towards Daphne, and Daphne knew that she was right.
Because the Pureblood families were all so interrelated, there was almost nobody sitting round the table who hadn’t lost a second cousin, or an uncle, or a sister-in-law during the fighting, and many who had lost closer relatives- like Pansy... like Daphne.
Looking up, she caught Astoria’s eye and knew that they were both thinking of their father, their beautiful, arrogant father who had been crushed by falling debris as he raced through the corridors of Hogwarts, trying to do what he thought was right. He had never been a Death Eater, preferring to spend his days running his country home in the company of his beloved daughters, but when the call to fight had come, he had recklessly leapt at what he saw as the chance to defend his home and family.
And he had never come back.
Theo was correct- Pansy knew what she was doing.
For a minute or two, the shadows of the dead flickered uncomfortably around the darkened room, but Pansy seemed keen to move the minds of the group back to the present.
“We cannot bring them back,” she said, her voice cutting through the silence, “But we can honour them in death, as our blood traitor leaders will never do...”
She paused for emphasis, and tiny smile playing about her mouth.
“...And we can take revenge.”
There was silence. Nobody seemed to know what to say. All Daphne could hear were her own loud heartbeats, pulsing like a metronome in her ears. She wanted to scream, and she wanted to hide, and she wanted Pansy to never have come, to have remained safe in the cosy world of her café. Why couldn’t she just let the past alone?
“I take it then that this idea meets with your approval?” asked the tall, olive-skinned man to the right of Pansy. Daphne recognised Blaise Zabini, on whom she’d harboured a secret crush when they were at school. Now, she felt only derision for him.
Across the table, Astoria sat like a statue, eyes fixed on Zabini. Daphne wished she could warn her sister to hold her tongue, to be careful of Pansy, but any attempt to communicate with her across the table would have been noticed by everyone.
A few murmurs of assent greeted Zabini’s words. He was authoritative in a way that Pansy was not, and with a shiver, Daphne realised that he was a man who people would follow. Pansy was flighty, dangerous and unpredictable, but he was solid and dependable.
He seemed to be about to speak again, but without warning, a third voice sliced through the heavy air.
“It won’t work, Pan.”
Instinctively, everyone turned to look where the words had come from. This voice was different to the others- it wasn’t simpering and spiteful like Pansy’s or arrogant and commanding like Blaise’s. The man spoke in a voice devoid of emotion, devoid of sympathy. His words were not fuelled by anger, or passion, or hatred; they were simply factual, ice cool and dangerous.
“Draco.” Pansy said his name like a curse. And now the craning heads had parted so that Daphne too could see the slim, pale figure in drab black robes sitting at on the other side of the table. He didn’t react to all the scrutiny- indeed he hardly seemed to notice it. His gaze was levelled at Pansy alone. Inspecting him closely, Daphne thought he looked ill- his skin was a pallid grey colour and he was thin as a rake, although Daphne reckoned that a large slab of milk chocolate cake- possibly two- might work wonders.
“It won’t work,” he repeated.
Pansy looked affronted.
“And how would you know?” she asked haughtily.
Draco Malfoy gave a hollow, humourless laugh.
“Because it never does,” he said. His lip curled, “You’re a good speaker Pan, but you’re a liar. And your arguments are about as hollow as Ginny Weasley’s head,” he paused, shaking his head scornfully as the company tittered nervously.
“You’re not some kind of symbol. All you want is a few cheap kicks out of baiting some old enemies, and you know it. You can throw about as many dead people’s names as you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Dark Lord’s side- our side, perhaps- killed and maimed as many of Potter’s lot, and probably did it more cheerfully.”
Everybody had their eyes now fixed on Draco and Pansy; no-one quite sure what was about to happen. Daphne, however, was watching Astoria.
Her younger sister was regarding the Malfoy boy with quizzically raised eyebrows, a ghost of a smile playing around her lips. Daphne wished suddenly for powers of Legilimency- what she would give to know what was running through Astoria’s mind at times like these! Daphne knew that Adrian’s unexpected presence had unnerved her, but the expression now on her face was- to Daphne- unreadable.
“Besides,” continued Draco in the same, flat, impassive voice, “these things never end well. What did my family get out of fighting last time? Nothing. What did you get- all you people with dead relatives- what did you get out of the war? Nothing. There is nothing to be gained for anybody out of meaningless fighting. Only an idiot, or a naive girl who doesn’t know what she’s about would want a reprisal of any of that.”
Pansy laughed again, but Daphne noticed that there was a skittish edge to her laughter this time, a note of what could almost be described as fear...
“The notorious Mr Malfoy preaching love and mercy!” she mocked, “I never thought I’d see the day!”
He looked irked and for a moment Daphne saw the glossy bully she had known at school slip out from behind the gaunt mask.
“I’m not preaching love and mercy as you so charmingly put it, Pansy,” he snapped, “I’m preaching the old Slytherin adage of save-your-own-skin. I don’t give a damn what you do to the Mudbloods-“ a few people flinched at the word, “-in fact, I reckon they deserve it. But you have no right to lead people on some kind of crusade in order to settle your own stupid scores.”
The warlocks all looked stunned. Pansy looked furious. She drew breath to retort, but was cut off by another voice, emanating from directly opposite Daphne...
Daphne’s heart sunk as heads turned fast and the unmistakably confident tones of her little sister were heard.
“Well said!” chimed in Astoria, cheerfully, “I object slightly to your choice of language, but otherwise an extremely good point.”
Draco looked at her without comprehension- a frown creasing the frail, paper-like skin of his forehead. Astoria smiled blithely at him and he stared back uncomfortably.
“I’m not joking,” he said uncertainly, “I mean every word.” His voice was beginning to rise now, “I remember the days when every one of you would have been cowed by the name of Malfoy...”
“The name of Malfoy doesn’t come into it,” said Astoria firmly, “I agree with what you said. That’s all.”
“But that’s exactly my point!” pressed Blaise, ignoring Astoria, “These people take the names of our houses and diminish them- muddy them with blame, with petty crimes!”
“And what are you but petty criminals?” shot back Astoria.
“We are anything but petty criminals!” cried Blaise disgustedly, “We are taking back what’s rightfully ours! We ask for nothing that was not taken from us in the first place!”
“Oh, spare us,” spat the Malfoy boy. He was responding to Blaise but he was looking at Pansy and for the first time emotion coloured his words- he sounded angry.
“I’ve got no time or inclination to listen to your pathetic self-justification,” he continued, “You’re both fools, and I suspect if eight years in Azkaban didn’t work any wonders for you, nothing will.”
“He’s right,” said Astoria clearly, “Their way of doings things only brings you down. God, half of you spent years in Azkaban because of it!”
It seemed that they had touched a nerve with their mention of Azkaban, because Blaise got to his feet angrily.
“Now see here-“ he began, but Pansy grabbed his arm (rather familiarly) and hauled him back into his chair, hissing something inaudible into his ear.
Daphne was staring at her sister in amazement. She had spent her whole life dealing with Astoria’s big mouth, whether it was dragging her out of trouble, or simply putting up with her caustic remarks. However, she would never have credited Astoria with the courage to go up against Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini. She would never have anticipated the steely glint in her eye, the steadiness of her hands on the table. Daphne had always seen Astoria’s stubbornness as an irritating defect- and those were the words she would have used: stubborn, obstinate. Somehow, they didn’t seem to tally with what she saw now, for which the only word she could really find was... strong.
“Yes, that’s right Pansy, hold the dumb muscle back,” she said cheerily, ignoring the furious and astonished stares she was getting.
“You mean Greengrass,” she snapped back to Pansy, “Now if you don’t mind, I’m off. I think I’ve made my feelings clear on this subject, and I hope for your sakes that you’re not thick enough to listen to these loonies.”
With the utmost dignity, she pushed her chair back and stood up. Her bag was hung over the back of her chair and she swung it over her shoulder and began to make her way boldly towards the door. Most eyes were still following her: in the quiet room, her footsteps sounded eerily loud.
However, as she reached the door, a thought seemed to cross her mind. She turned unexpectedly on her heel, and fixed Draco Malfoy with the kind of gaze that made Daphne quail.
“You coming then?” she asked abruptly.
Confusion creased his pale brow. Daphne frowned intently at Astoria. What do you think you’re doing? she wanted to shriek, but remained weakly silent. Astoria was regarding the boy with challenging eyes and a comic twist to her mouth.
“Coming where?” he asked crisply.
“I don’t know. Anywhere. Out of here. Where you like to go?”
“Well- I- that is to say-“
Daphne had never seen Draco Malfoy lost for words, and the sight would not have been unenjoyable had the circumstances been different.
“Surely you’re not going to stay here?”
For a few moments, the pale youth seemed to wrestle with himself. Then, he stood up deliberately.
“Alright then,” he said.
There was nothing special about those words, nothing particularly brave, or grand. But Daphne shivered as she heard them. They were words that spoke of possibilities, of opportunities. Alright then... Daphne wondered how far those words could lead a person.
Draco Malfoy walked purposefully across the café floor. His boots made loud sounds on the wooden floorboards and he was watched intently by every occupant of the central table. Astoria offered him her arm when he reached her, and with as much dignity as he could muster, he took it.
With a face like thunder, Astoria walked out of the Pink Hippogriff Café. She didn’t look back.
“Are you finished?” asked Daphne pleasantly. Astoria’s defiance had given her a pleasant sense of courage. She knew it wouldn’t last. She knew that later she’d be reduced to her usual cowardly self, but for now, her veins seemed to course with uncharacteristic bravery.
Pansy smiled viciously.
“Oh, I think we are!” she hissed. Getting to her feet, she gazed menacingly out at her audience.
“You’ve heard what we’ve got to say,” she said briskly, “You know we’re in the right. If you’re with us, send me an owl. If you’re not..“
She looked about, at Theo and at a couple of other wizards who had shown signs of dissent during her speech. Finally her gaze came to rest on Daphne, and Daphne knew that failing Pansy this time would be unforgivable.
“If you’re not with us,” she continued, in a much lower voice, “Then that’s fine. Just remember...”
The two women’s eyes met, grey to brown. Pansy smiled and Daphne shivered.
“...there’ll be hell to pay.”
A/N: Hello lovely readers! I hope you enjoyed this chapter :) What did you think of Pansy and Blaise? Or Astoria and Draco? If you feel like putting a few lines in the review box, it would really make my day!
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