A/N: for the Mirror of Erised challenge over on the HPFC, with the character Pansy Parkinson.

the way to find beauty in desperation
you keep building the lies
to make up for all that you lack
- Angel, Sarah McLachlan

All she wants is everything.

She's young and she's pureblood and she's a Slytherin princess – and she used to have the world. She had the boy and the popularity and the loyal gang of girls and the admirers and the suitors and now she has nothing (nothing).

She's an outcast, that ohsoveryugly word that carries with it shame and degradation and despair. She walks through life with her face downcast and her aura quiet, blending and being invisible.

Three years ago, if you'd exposed her deepest, most secret desires to her, she'd have seen simply her own reflection.

(When you say she was shallow, you really have no idea.)

But now she's a little older, a little wearier, and she's reached a rocky drop-off ledge from the shallow shores of her innocence into the deep ocean gorges of her wisdom.

Because when Harry Potter lived, her whole world died.

She belongs to another age, another life. One where you were married based on your connections and your parents, not your own merits. One where it didn't matter if you were ugly (ohgoddon'tcallherthat) because you had money.

They're all called back to retake seventh year, and it's a mess and it's confusing because they're in with what was the year below only now there's fourteen to her dorm rather than six and she just can't deal with all of this.

There's the whispers and the rumours and the rejection and she used to be the queen, damnit. Those idiots who mutter behind her back and point her out to their friends (-"she picked the wrong side"-) and don't know anything about anything.

She's tried everything to shed the shadow of the girl she used to be (still is) and to try to be a part of this new idyllic world that Potter and his loony companions have brought about. But she doesn't like to think about Potter, because he makes her so hopelessly angry that she can't breathe.

So she lets her hair grow out and she wears less make-up and longer skirts – but she's proud of that Slytherin tie, of the green eyes that match the tie, of the pureblood family crest that hangs on the silver chain around her neck.

Just because her side lost doesn't mean that she has to expose herself in total surrender. She'll cling to these remnants of the world that went before like her life depends upon it. Draco's given up, but he's weak – he failed. He failed and now he's trying to fit in. She's not. She doesn't want to fit in. She just wants to be invisible.

It's working, up to a point. Nobody bothers to stop to talk to her, to say hello, to even give simpering or admiring smile. She doesn't even get the derogatory smirks any more. She just gets a whole load of nothing.

And the more nothing you get, the more nothing you feel.

One night she can't bear the stifling dormitory with the murmured conversations and the talking about boys and friends and so she rises from her bed in that old green shirt of Draco's (don't judge her, it's just another relict of before) and leaves on socked feet.

She pads the corridors mindlessly, tangled hair swinging down her back as she trails pale fingertips along the rough stone walls; and there's something remarkably beautiful about the ugly little outcast.

She falls through a trap-door somewhat unexpectedly, and when she lands she doesn't even bother to check if anything is broken because surely, surely now, this must be a dream. When else does a wanderer fall though the ceiling?

Suddenly something is curling ferociously around her ankle and she screams abruptly as she tugs out her wand to light it, watching the… the thing… coil its way about her legs.

"Let me go!" she shrieks at it, struggling wildly, dreaming forgotten, and even as she sends hex after hex at it she's thinking furiously, all her Slytherin cunning utilised as she tries to figure out how to get this thing (oh Merlin it's got her waist now) to let her go.

Suddenly a Herbology lesson in another lifetime swims into memory and she's gasping out "incendio" even as the plant winds around her chest.

"Pervert plant," she mutters as the stems retreat in the face of the fierce fire she's conjured. She fights free of the beastly thing and staggers to the damp stone wall, clinging to it as though her life depends upon it as the plant writhes from the fire. She turns to face it, and there's a terribly pretty sort of insanity about her features as she steadily channels more magic into the fire until it's blazing brighter than an Avada Kedavra curse and the plant is deaddeaddead.

Her chest heaves as the fire dies, the fuel consumed as it retreats and leaves the Devil's Snare a tangled, blackened mess, her face and neck smudged with soot and her knees trembling.

Her ears catch a rustle of wings down the corridor, and even as she's acknowledged the uselessness of attempting to escape via the trap door miles above her feet are carrying her down the narrow passageway.

She emerges into the arching room with an ever-growing sense of disbelief – because this is it. This is the place she overhead Weasel describing to his younger sister – the flying keys and… yes, through the open door the corner of a giant chessboard.

The feeling of dreaming mounting, she crosses the room on silent feet in a daze, pushing through the heavy door and coming face-to-face with a lifeless, oversized pawn.

She places a tentative foot on the edge of the board, half-expecting the chessmen to leap into life – but they're as dead as real chess pieces, lying carelessly discarded to one side, another forgotten relic of the war with Voldemort.

She feels almost a kinship with them as she crosses the marble board, her socks sliding against the smooth floor, her fingers dancing along the proud curving neck of a stone horse.

And then she's through another door into an empty room containing a terrible stench, and she's running now as she passes through this one and comes into a room with a table full of dusty bottles, two discarded, others knocked on their sides, a crumpled piece of parchment littering the floor.

She doesn't even stop to look, just makes finger-tracks on the dusty table-top as she darts into the final room.

The stone chamber is wide, and almost frightening. This is a part of the school that the rest has forgotten – silent and waiting, here in the depths of Hogwarts.

There's a dusty mirror standing in the centre of the exposed space, and out of curiosity she moves over to it, spelling the dust off it quickly and easily; and then she is transfixed.

Her reflection stares back at herself, softened and doe-eyed and somehow beautiful. The girl in the reflection (because it can't be her, surely) is smiling slightly, encouragingly, and there's no shades of the past in her eyes and no sense of invisibility about her. She's proud and she's fierce and she's confident and Pansy has never wanted to be anybody more in her whole life.

She raises a finger to touch the glass wonderingly, and she pulls her eyes away from the vision in front of her to trace the words some way above her head – erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi – and then she's drawn magnetically back to the stranger in the mirror.

The other girl has a hand raised too, and Pansy feels like they should be touching fingertips but all she can feel is cold glass and oh, pleaseohplease, let her one day be like this girl.

She doesn't know how she finds her way back to her dormitory in this haze of desperation, but suddenly she's waking up in her own bed and the soles of her feet are dust-stained when she examines them and she's spinning with wanting.

She hastens back to that corridor with the trap door, but no matter how much she searches she never can find it again.

In her despair she straightens up, stitches her visibility back together again, and tries her very best to give up on the past (because it's never coming back).

A/N: please don't favourite without reviewing, thank you.