This Is The Way The World Ends

Disclaimer: Characters belong to J K Rowling. Lines in italics and the title are from the T S Eliot poem 'The Hollow Men'.
Rating: PG-13

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

She is seventeen. Seventeen and midway through her seventh year at Hogwarts, studying hard for her NEWTs and spending every moment of her time in the library. Harry and Ron tell her to lighten up, but she is focussed, driven, determined.

She takes notes, writes essays, memorises, practises, and murmurs incantations in her sleep. There's no room for anything else, and that's the way she likes it, because then she doesn't have to think about dark-haired fairy tale princesses that haunt her late at night.

And then Pansy kisses her, and everything changes.

This is the way the world ends

She has been watching Pansy for some time now. Watching and observing and noticing all the little quirks that escape most people. The way Pansy's hair is as dark as ebony and her lips are red as blood and her skin is as white as snow. She's the embodiment of Snow White, a fairy tale come to life, and no one else seems to make this connection except Hermione, who watches and observes and longs and craves and then tells herself no.

No, because Pansy is a hateful creature and she's a Slytherin and she's always been horrible to her and even though Hermione tries to make excuses for her now, thinking about low self-esteem and childish cruelty, she shouldn't forget these things, and anyway, there's never been a chance that Pansy could possibly notice Hermione the way Hermione has noticed her.

This is the way the world ends

They kiss on the corridor late at night, both in nightgowns, both wandering in the darkness. Two insomniacs. Hermione asks Pansy why she can't sleep, what's on her mind, and Pansy avoids the question. She doesn't push the subject.

They stumble to the nearest common room – Ravenclaw, as it turns out. Neutral ground, and they both secretly long to be in Ravenclaw and claim the automatic respect of one's intelligence that the house offers, rather than having to work to prove themselves. Hermione does; Pansy doesn't. That's the difference. One of many.

The Dark Mark is branded on Pansy's skin. Hermione discovers this afterwards.

She starts to wonder whether it matters. Whether Voldemort and his supporters are really as bad as everyone says they are. She's read her history; she knows about propaganda. She knows not to believe everything that she hears. She also knows that Dumbledore's supporters did their fair share of unpleasant things during the war.

Who's to say what's right and what's wrong, she asks herself as Pansy's fairy tale lips press against her own.

She hasn't even given the other side a chance, she realises as Pansy's fingers slip between her legs and her breathing quickens.

This is the way the world ends

The whispers of war have been long coming. Minor skirmishes have been going on for so long now that when the fighting really begins, when nowhere is safe and everyone is living in constant terror, no one is really surprised.

Everyone assumes that she will fight alongside Harry Potter and Ron Weasley and Dumbledore, because they never considered that she could ever do anything else.

But they don't know, they don't know that not all Death Eaters are evil, they don't know that Pansy's 'faults' can be explained and understood, they don't know about love.

Harry and Ron tell her she's crazy, that she's not seeing clearly, that sleeping with Pansy doesn't mean anything. They beg her over and over to change her mind, to join their side, to stop fighting against them.

She tells them she's changed her mind, and they almost sob with relief. She is vaguely touched by this, and wonders if she should feel guilty about lying to them.

But she knows what she has to do.

It's easier than letting them go out in a blaze of glory.

Not with a bang but a whimper.