Chapter 8 : (Daphne's Story)
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Daphne turned to her, red-eyed. “Tell you what?”
Astoria shrugged. Her eyes were light and open.
“What happened,” she replied.
So Daphne began...
“I have only fleeting memories of Pansy from before we started Hogwarts: vague images, irregular voices. When I think back, I see sharp, black hair and shrewd eyes, and a loud, piercing voice that occasionally brimmed into a yell. She was an only child, and I suppose that that burden must have weighed on her from time to time- the only heir to the Parkinson name. Her mother and father were unremarkable; they could have been anybody’s of our set. And was that so surprising? Their dresses came from the same shops, their haircuts emulated the same people. Take a roomful of upper-class witches, and tell me that they don’t all really look the same.
By that argument, Pansy and I must have resembled each other as children too, which I’m sure we did. She was always slighter than I, and her hair was slick black where mine was an insipid blonde, but it doesn’t take just build and hair for two people to look alike. You see, right from the off Pansy and I were linked. We just didn’t always know it.
I didn’t really speak with her until I was eleven, and the Hogwarts train was pulling out of the station. I knew her by name of course, and by glances out of the corner of my eye at parties where I played with Astoria whilst the adults talked. She was young for her age, even then, both in looks and nature, and I was initially surprised that she was starting Hogwarts the same year as me at all.
Mother pointed her out to me on the platform, no doubt hoping that I could strike up a friendship with the daughter of the oh-so-fashionable Parkinson family, and so I made an effort to seek her out after we’d boarded the train. I was like that in those days- anxious, eager to please. I loved our mother- of course I wanted to do as she bade, of course I was proud of the family name.
Pansy wasn’t hard to find. I saw her- that dim, pixie-like figure- crammed into a compartment with an assortment of other girls, and in order to make contact, all I had to do was wade my way in.
I remember the way she fixed me with her appraising eyes as I stood in the doorway, trying to hide my nervousness:
‘Who are you?’ she asked baldly.
‘I’m Daphne Greengrass,’ I said, ‘My mum knows your mum.’
She already knew the name. I watched triumphantly as a slow smile crept across her face. She beckoned me in and patted the space next to her, the right hand side, forcing the girl who’d been sitting there before to budge up for me. She smiled at me. I smiled back.
Greengrass comes before Parkinson in the alphabet, so when the Sorting Hat cried out its verdict as it sat complacently on Pansy’s head, it was my turn to gesture to the space next to me. That settled it. By the end of the feast we could pass for friends.
Hogwarts was a happy place in those early years. I don’t know if you remember it- you joined later than I, and by then the world was already changing, but my first years in that castle were spent in a busy bliss of learning, chatting, eating, sleeping, laughing. My friendship with Pansy grew stronger and stronger as the years passed, and, for the most part, Hogwarts was a peaceful place for us.
What didn’t I have at fourteen? I was a plenty skilful witch with an adoring family and loving friends- Pansy and I were as thick as thieves, and by that time I had begun slowly to make friends with Theodore as well. Before I became the disgrace to poor Mum that I am these days, I was her picturesque little girl- more of an idea than a person, but I didn’t understand such distinctions in those days. As for Dad... well you remember what he was like.
Dad’s existence was defined by his daughters, by you and me. The thought of him now brings a smile to my face, as I remember all the beautiful years he spent raising us, teaching us, playing with us. In a box beneath my bed, I still keep all the letters he sent me throughout my Hogwarts years, and although he is long gone now, the gifts he gave to me will last me my whole life. I loved him beyond anybody in the world.
I know how much he loved you too... I know that you must miss him like I do, miss the sweet, low sound of his voice, the smell of the shirts I hugged to get to sleep as a toddler, the abrasive feeling of his stubble against my cheek as he kissed me goodnight, always, every night...
Love can do terrible things.
I remember the Battle of Hogwarts in ice-sharp, clear-cut clarity. Eighteen years old, I was terrified, barely understanding what was happening as history played out all around me. I gathered you up with Pansy and Theo and we fled, to our house because we judged it the least likely to be attacked. Do you remember? I can still see you now, your teenage eyes shining ghostlike in the evening light, the feeling of your heartbeat against mine as I held you, praying that everything would be alright.
It was a long, long night.
I remember the five of us hovering like spectres in that cold kitchen, drinking cup after cup of weak tea and trying to lay our fears aside. Even my mother, the talkative, opinionated being that she was, was struck dumb by fear- not exactly for the husband she tolerated, but for the future she would grow old in. Pansy sat silent on the floor with a cloak falling off her shoulders, her face a mask. Come the morning, anybody could be dead.
The end of my childhood came in the early hours of the morning, when Theo thought to turn on the radio. I can still hear the reporter’s voice, jubilantly announcing that Harry Potter had won. We listened unflinchingly until she began to read out the long list of the dead.
After that, everything was different.
The names appeared in the middle of an unending list- three tiny blips on the road from casualty to casualty. Ralph and Lucretia Parkinson, and then a few minutes later, Augustus Greengrass. No one could have guessed their effect.
First comes disbelief. You shake your head. You object loudly. You say the word ‘no’ a lot of times, and you don’t cry because you are not sad yet. You will not be sad for a long time.
After that comes realisation, appearing out of nowhere and hitting you like a tidal wave. This is the part where you start crying, where all you can feel is the aching gap where there was once a living, beating heart in you. This is the part where you forget to eat and drink and talk, the part where waking up becomes painful and falling asleep impossible, the part where every day is another sick joke fate has decided to pull on you and breathing, blinking because painstaking tasks.
Then comes the anger.
I know it was different for you. You dealt with it in an infinitely more sensible and adequate way- the anger never came for you like it did for me. You grieved deeply and quietly.
I lost control.
Pansy and I grew up faster than I would have believed possible. Declining to re-enter Hogwarts to repeat our final year, we made trouble at home instead, hanging around my place, or her parents’ old place or walking aimlessly through the streets of the infernally small towns we lived in, cursing our lot. More than once we were caught breaching the peace by minor law enforcers. Pansy liked to talk big- by then she was already spreading whispers of the revenge we would wreak on the people she was starting to refer to as our enemies. Where my grief leaked out into uncontrolled bouts of anger, hers took a more scheming turn. There were certainly enough of us- Blaise, Marcus, Tracey... Sixth months ago, I would have told her to snap out of it, but that year I was past caring. I got a job and lost it; I got a boyfriend and dumped him. I spent long hours alone in my bedroom feeling lonely and not-crying.
Theo seemed to be the only one who cared. I’m not blaming you of course- you’d gone back off to Hogwarts and rightly so- I wish I’d had the wisdom to join you. It’s Mum I resent. She was the one who should have been looking out for her elder daughter instead of madly scrambling for a position in the new structure of society. Thus it fell to Theo to try and make me see sense.
I can still see the pleading note in those dark, dark eyes, as he tried to reason with me. He was home from Hogwarts for the Christmas holidays, and the two of us spent a precious few days together, laughing and chatting almost like the old times. It was a bliss I had forgotten, and by the end of the time he spent with me, I had promised him that I would stop meeting with Pansy. There was nothing to be gained from revenge, we agreed, and Pansy was going nowhere worth following.
I found a simple job in the canteen of the Ministry of Magic. It was a good job, although the pay was low, and I loved the hours I spent in the stuffy kitchen, working small magics over raw ingredients. My wages paid the rent for a small flat on the edge of the town, meaning I could finally move out of my mother’s house and things slowly began to look up: I had a home, I was earning money, and I’d stopped causing trouble with Pansy. Foolishly, I believed she’d left my life for good.
I was wrong.
Pansy turned up on my front doorstep sixth months later, drunk, distracted and angry. She didn’t look good: her hair was greasy and her nails ragged, although her clothes were as tastefully expensive as ever. I was doing well for myself, she sneered, casting those judgmental eyes of hers around the room. I asked her to go. I had made a promise to Theo and intended to honour it. She would go, she promised, right away. There was just one thing she needed from me.
I’m sure you have moments like this too: moments in your life which you can look back on, pointing the finger and saying yes: that’s where is started. That is why I am where I am today. Can you picture the scene? It was late at night and I was shivering in my thin pyjamas. Pansy was loud-mouthed and violent and I was terrified of a scene, ironically terrified of causing trouble. It seemed so easy to give into her at the time, and it wasn’t even until the morning that I began to wonder if I hadn’t done something terrible. By that time, of course, it was too late. The key to both our fates was in Pansy’s far-from-capable hands: one of my access tokens to the Ministry of Magic.
For two whole days after that horrible night, nothing happened. I ate, slept and went to work. I remember writing to you- you’d just got together with Adrian, and I was congratulating you. It was as if I’d never made that terrible snap decision, until the third day, when three muscle-bound Aurors arrived on my doorstep and politely informed me that I was under arrest on suspicion of assault.
The world changed again after that. I was escorted to the Ministry, where my dumb feeling of terrified incomprehension was began to solidify into realisation. The night before, I was informed, a gang had obtained illicit entry to the Ministry of Magic. They had forced their way onto the highest floor and put the Minister for Magic, an Auror, and two other Ministry personnel into St Mungo’s where their condition was still precarious. The racketeers had escaped, but when the records were examined in the morning, only one member of staff had used their access token at a time when they had no reason to be in the building. Me.
In a way, you have to admire her- it was a sweet plan. My record didn’t speak well for me- previous minor convictions and a known affiliation with certain radical Pureblood groups... I was the perfect perpetrator. At the time, I didn’t have time to do much more than stutter my disbelief before I was marched into a cell, but since then, I’ve had plenty of time to think it over. I’ve had time to think back to my grief-stricken days of following Pansy’s lead, how terribly easy it was so hand over that little token: the key to my life, hers, and four others who at that moment lay in a hospital I had never been to.
Things moved with terrifying speed: you and Mum were informed, the details of the raid appeared in the Daily Prophet and my trial date was set.
I can’t attempt to describe my fear.
Barely able to believe what was happening, I watched the fond idea I’d had of my life disintegrate around me. Nobody believed that I was innocent and Theo- who was the only person who might have done- was so angry that I’d been arrested for hate crimes when I’d sworn that I was trying to get my life back on track that he refused even to see me. There was only one place I was headed, and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. I told everyone who would listen about Pansy, about my poor excuse for innocence, but without proof, I was politely informed that my case was hopeless.
Until the impossible happened.
I knew nothing, until a brusque member of the Wizengamot appeared at my cell door and explained that the trial date had been set back. Despite my feverish demands for more information, the portly wizard refused to tell me anything more and I was left to stew and let my imagination fester.
Hours later, a different Wizengamot member arrived, a witch this time. She came and sat in my cell with me, and patiently delivered the news: Pansy was in Ministry of Magic custody. She had been caught.
If they hadn’t caught her, who knows what would have happened? As it was, her testimony was enough to reduce the sentence I would have got, though insufficient to set me free. I hadn’t cast the spells, but without me, nobody would have been hurt. I know this. I have lived with this.
My sentence was four years in Azkaban; Pansy’s was significantly more, as were those of Blaise and Tracey who were discovered later to be her true accomplices and taken into custody. Four years in Azkaban. I thought it would like a lifetime.
But Azkaban was different after the war and the Granger Reforms that followed it- the Dementors had been banished, and the conditions of most of its inmates had been transformed. While the lower floors remained dank and frightening, the upper, airy cells in which more minor offenders like me were kept were open, light and peaceful. When the vibrant, North Sea sunsets shone through the barred windows and bathed the little rooms with their golden glow, a poet might even have called it beautiful.
That’s not to say I was happy there. After a while, the barred windows and low ceilings tend to press down on one, the guards feel watchful and suspicious, and the practical, grey robes have a deadened look. Even now, I feel it sometimes, that eerie certainty that somebody is watching, that the walls are closing in on me, that doors will lock and shutters slam and I will be left trapped...
But prison was peaceful too. There were no gangs of Pureblood kids on my doorstep, no lingering mementoes of the father I’d lost. There were long, empty days of calm and stillness, where nothing was demanded of me. I could sit in my cell, or cry, or read, or- towards the end of my sentence- take long walks around the island, staring out across the sea.
My counsellor’s name was Niamh. She had long, reddish brown hair and wore long skirts and chunky jewellery- we still write to one another sometimes. In her mid-forties, she had a plump, motherly look to her and I found myself unexpectedly warming to her, and I quickly lost count of the hours I spent in her company. She was unlike any other woman I’d known- so different to my mother, and her silly, pompous friends... and with Niamh, I was finally able to understand that they were just silly and pompous...
Niamh understood a lot of things. She understood family. She understood fear, and she understood loss, because her seven-year-old son had been killed by a Death Eater during the war. I always thought that that would have made her hate me, but it didn’t.
‘You are not a bad person, Daphne,’ she used to say to me. She used to say that a lot.
I told Niamh a lot of things- about Mum, and Dad, and you (I hope you don’t mind.) She was an easy person to talk to, and sometimes she felt like a little thread of connection between Azkaban and the outside world.
Inside those dark grey walls, I found the brightness inside of me. Inside Azkaban, I grew up.
But everything begins in a small, poky office three years and a half years into my sentence. Following ‘exemplary’ behaviour, I looked set to be a released in a few weeks. Back on the mainland for the first time in years, I was escorted back to the Ministry of Magic. The Parole Office to be precise.
I was shown through the tight doorway to see a scruffy-haired young man rummaging with a pile of papers: my case had been passed to him last minute, I was to learn, and he actually had no idea which inmates he would be dealing with that day.
It happened all at once: he pulled the relevant file free and suddenly frowned. Then he was looking up, and we recognised each other’s faces in the same moment, so that he said:
Almost at the same time as I gasped:
And I didn’t have a name for what I was feeling.”
A/N: Hello everyone! If you're still reading, you're awesome and I love you <3 I know that this chapter's a bit different from what we've had so far, but as I've never been keen on writing flashbacks, I thought this was a good way to get Daphne's story across. What did you think? I would love to hear whatever you've got to say!