Notes: Sorry, sorry, lots of distractions lately, haven't had as much time or inspiration for writing as I would have liked. You will notice some changes in the expected events of Harry's seventh year, the story wouldn't really work out otherwise. So instead of Luna not being at school, someone else goes missing. At first. Also, this chapter is Pansy-centric. I know, I know, but it had to happen sometime.
Death Comes to Hogwarts
A Harry Potter Fanfic by
Nate Grey (xman0123-at-aol-dot-com)
Chapter 7: Evanesco
Pansy Parkinson's worst nightmare had always been being ignored. She had worked for most of her life to avoid that fate: there was a whole corner in her family's trophy room devoted to putting her accomplishments on display. Nothing had given Pansy greater pleasure than to hear her mother boasting to the other pureblood families.
There had only been two major roadblocks to Pansy's success. The first had been her father's death, and the second, occurring only a month later, had been the birth of her brother, Cypress.
Pansy had not been close to her father, but vaguely remembered him as a tall, regal man that was constantly busy with work. As a child, she often sat on his knee while he played piano at dinner parties (but she was never allowed to touch the piano itself). His face was always a stern mask of pride and intensity, and if Pansy had ever loved him, she had certainly feared him more. He had never been cruel, and his touch was always gentle, but he simply had not been a loving man. About the best Pansy could ever hope for was to make him proud, so that he would have no reason to be disappointed in her.
Cypress had been a burden from the start. Already Pansy's mother's attention had been divided to focus on her late husband's estate, and the family's future. Another mouth to feed was the last thing she'd needed. Parkinson pride would not allow her to abandon her son, however, and Pansy found herself, for the first time in her life, largely ignored. She could have understood if her mother was in mourning or depressed, but to Pansy, placing Cypress ahead of her was an act of the worst sort of betrayal. For months, she had acted out, hoping that even negative attention might be better than none. But it only made her brother look better by comparison, and it wasn't fair to punish her mother, not really. Cypress was the one at fault, so Pansy focused all of her resentment on the source.
Any contact she had with her brother was either brief, thoroughly disappointing, or both. Pansy poured all of her effort into making Cypress aware of her strong dislike for him, and soon they both agreed to simply ignore each other. Of course, they had to play nice in front of their mother, but at any other time, they never bothered with the act. That Cypress so readily agreed to the arrangement was perhaps the first thing that Pansy actually did like about him. He was quite the little actor: in every family portrait, where he was either made to sit in Pansy's lap or cling to her side, Pansy honestly did not recongize him as the moody boy she had come to despise. They both looked like perfectly happy siblings that clearly adored each other. Sometimes, she wondered what that was like. Pansy had never seen her brother as anything other than a pest, and was not at all eager to have yet another child in the family.
Oddly enough, Pansy's feelings toward Cypress had been cooling off as of late. He had stuck to the deal as rigidly as she did, when he could have easily made her life much more difficult. Cypress had gained access to his magic at a very young age, and rapidly developed a gift for knowing things that he simply couldn't have known any other way. If he wanted to, he could have easily exposed all of Pansy's hiding spots around the house, despite never having seen any of them. Pansy had no idea how the magic worked, and neither did Cypress, but the fact was that little remained hidden from him for long. He had actually spent the last few years of birthdays and holidays in bed, having ruined all the surprises for himself days in advance. Pansy hadn't cared then, as it meant she could spend those days without seeing him at all. But it was starting to feel odd, to refer to her brother in passing and then not have anything else to say about him.
Pansy had made up her mind: the next time she was home from school, she was going to renegotiate the terms of her deal with Cypress. She was not sure how receptive he would be, but she told herself that the current situation couldn't be enough for him, either. Perhaps he might listen to her simply because she was older than him. If push came to shove, she knew far more magic than him, but the idea of forcing him made her uncomfortable. Though Pansy had used the Imperius Curse on another person, she had not liked the way it made her feel afterward. Aside from that, it was much more satisfying to manipulate people without having to resort to magical means.
Unfortunately, Pansy never got the chance to change things with Cypress. Not while she was alive, anyway.
Picking on Luna Lovegood had seemed like such a good idea at the time. Every part of the plan had just seemed to fall into place.
Many of the students were still discussing Harry Potter's infamous breach of the Ministry of Magic, and anyone known to have accompanied him practically became a school legend overnight. As only Gryffindor and Ravenclaw were represented, such fame made Slytherin and Hufflepuff seem rather tame by comparison. Pansy was not completely opposed to inter-house cooperation, but the only one she had ever considered partnering with was Ravenclaw. It was the only house reputed to have Slytherin-level intelligence, and even better, they made for the best sleeper agents, because they did not have Slytherin's reputation. Hufflepuffs tended to be too soft, and aside from that, they were increasingly wary of Slytherin after the loss of their hero Diggory.
Luna was the easiest target by far: not only was she the least liked of those that had gone with Potter, she had already earned herself a small but devoted group of Ravenclaws that delighted in attempting to make her like miserable. It had been easy enough for Pansy to get in good with them: a few empty promises here, a few tweaks to their plans there, and they welcomed her and Millicent aboard with little hesitation.
Every plan needed a certain application of force: Draco had Crabbe and Goyle, while Pansy had Millicent. They were not friends, not really. It was just that Pansy had learned the hidden location of the Hogwarts kitchen in her first year, and saw fit to share it with Millicent. As a result, she'd earned herself a lifelong bodyguard. All Pansy had needed to do was point out that Luna was one of Potter's friends, and Millicent had been all too eager to participate.
It had all been perfect: the Ravenclaws gave Pansy and Millicent access to Luna's dorm room, and from there, Pansy took charge. Though it was not necessary to Stun Luna, and her struggling would have increased her suffering once the actual branding began, Pansy had done it, anyway. She hadn't wanted to risk Luna getting a lucky spell off during the process. The Ravenclaws were supposed to be watching for things like that, but as Pansy was simply using them, she didn't want to place too much trust in them.
Even when Potter and Granger had interrupted, Pansy had still thought there might be a chance for things to work out to her advantage. True, they were more likely to aim for Slytherins first, and even if they did, there was no way both of them could disarm seven people at once. But she hadn't counted on Potter's rage overwhelming him the way it had, or for him striking to kill even once, much less twice. Pansy had only known terror as he turned his furious gaze on her. The look in his eyes was one of deepest loathing and a complete lack of mercy. She would come to think of them as killer's eyes afterwards, because she suspected Potter had never looked like that before. People with looks like that weren't heroes, didn't have friends, and wouldn't have been thought of as Dumbledore's favorite.
The final thought on Pansy's mind as she died was: Did I drive him to this?
Unlike most newly dead ghosts, Pansy was very much aware of her situation. She had been introduced to family ghosts at a very young age, and they had given her some idea of what to expect when she died.
The first task on her list was to select a place of power: somewhere she could return to in order to rest and think, that was unlikely to be disturbed. She quickly decided on the right third floor corridor, where Fluffy the giant, three-headed dog had once lived. The room was no longer in use nor forbidden to students, but Pansy was sure that a few well-placed cobwebs and rattling chains would be enough to scare off most people. Normally, this would not have been a challenge, except for one tiny detail: the magic of the living did not work so well when one was dead. Worse, Pansy no longer had her wand, and wandless magic had always been challenging for her. It was clear to her that she was going to need some help.
That in itself was another problem: nearly every other ghost she approached avoided her, even Nearly Headless Nick, who was known to drone on and on to anyone who would listen. The only exception was the Bloody Baron, and he had not spoken to Pansy in all the time she'd known him, so she saw no reason to strike up a conversation now. After an entire day of ghosts fleeing the very sight of her, Pansy was finally reduced to begging. She managed to corner Ravenclaw's Grey Lady early the next morning in the Astronomy Tower, and swore that she would do anything for some assistance.
For a long moment, the older ghost said nothing, and Pansy was sure that she still held a grudge over what had been done to Luna Lovegood.
The Grey Lady surprised her, however, by simply saying, "We do not avoid you because of your crime. Some of us have done far worse, and have paid for our sins accordingly. We avoid you only because you are new and uncertain. No one can be sure where your loyalties lie. Once you have made your choice known, help may or may not be given to you."
This left Pansy stumped: how was she supposed to claim a side if the ghosts wouldn't talk to her? It was only after she overheard Cypress and Harry Potter talking that she found the answer. She would have to make a connection to someone still among the living.
Though Draco was her first choice, Pansy was hurt, but not exactly surprised, to find that the feeling wasn't mutual. Draco did not seem to be dwelling on her death at all. It was both possible and probable that he was merely masking his pain, but Pansy still expected to see some outward sign that he missed her. Since there was none, she decided not to show herself to him, though it was almost a certainty that the news of her becoming a ghost would reach him eventually.
With Draco out of the running, Pansy did not consider any other Slytherin as her living contact. Millicent was perhaps the only one Pansy would have felt safe calling a friend, and had done so in the past without any negative consequences. But Millicent was dead now, which meant that Pansy would have to find a living ally in another House. It would almost have to be a Ravenclaw, and the few Pansy had been really familiar with were dead, too. Really, the more she thought about it, the more obvious it became that there was only one living Ravenclaw who, despite everything Pansy had done to her, did not possess a hateful bone in her body. Pansy hated the idea of depending on her, but she was running out of options. If she really intended to stay at Hogwarts, she was going to need the help of Luna Lovegood.
Luna was terribly easy to find: she was spending a great deal of time in the less commonly used bathrooms. Pansy mistakenly assumed she was avoiding being teased. It was rather sobering to find out that Luna was instead cleaning the scars on her arms, which had begun to bleed at irregular intervals throughout the day. Pansy just happened to float through the wall and interrupt one of these cleanings, and was at a loss for words as she and Luna stared at each other in silence.
"Um, hello," Luna said at last, blinking slowly as she held her wet arm over the sink. "Did you need to use the bathroom?"
"Why would a ghost need to use the bathroom?" Pansy asked at once, frowning.
"You know. Haunting. Moping. Clanking around. That sort of thing." Luna did not seem at all disturbed by the fact that she was addressing the ghost of a girl that had tortured her. Oddly enough, Pansy had been counting on that, so things were proceeding more or less the way she'd hoped.
"Well, I don't need the bathroom. I wanted to talk to you, actually."
Luna smiled in a way that was both pitying and incredibly disarming, which made Pansy feel distinctly uncomfortable. "You need a living contact, right?"
Pansy gaped at her. "How did you know?"
"You're not my first ghost. Which is actually a good thing, for you. Just a minute, please." Luna turned away and leaned over sink, placing her mouth near the end of the faucet. "Myrtle, dear, could you come out? I think we're going to need an expert opinion."
Pansy scowled as one of her least favorite ghosts suddenly zipped out of the faucet, hovering slightly behind Luna. In all honesty, the only way Pansy could like Moaning Myrtle less was if she were also covered in silver bloodstains, the way the Bloody Baron was.
"What's she doing in my bathroom?" Myrtle muttered, frowning at Pansy. "Is she bullying you again, Luna?"
"No, nothing like that," Luna assured Myrtle. "Actually, I think she could use your help. She is new to being a ghost, after all."
"Why would I want to help her?" Myrtle sneered. "She's just the kind of girl that would have picked on me when I was alive! I know for a fact she's done it since I've died!"
"Can't you do it as a favor to me?" Luna pleaded. "Anyway, I'm pretty sure her death was nothing short of spectacular."
"Really?" Myrtle asked, sounding extremely interested. She floated closer to Pansy, peering eagerly into her face. "Was it dreadful? Lots of pain involved?"
"I suppose," Pansy muttered, feeling very uncomfortable with Myrtle's interest and proximity. "Harry Potter killed me. Practically sliced me in half."
"Oh, how positively awful!" Myrtle gasped, though she looked quite impressed. "Poor dear, that earns you a toilet. You can haunt whichever one you like!"
"I've already got a spot picked out," Pansy replied uneasily. "Listen, you don't know any ghostly magic, do you?"
"Don't be silly, there's no such thing!" Myrtle said far too quickly.
"But I thought-"
"No such thing!" Myrtle repeated firmly, and definitely with the look of someone hiding something.
Pansy glared at her. "Fine! Be that way! I hope you get stuck in your stupid toilet!" As she turned away, the glimpse Pansy caught of Myrtle's face, frozen in shock and hurt, was rather satisfying. The disappointed expression on Luna's face, however, made Pansy feel something else entirely.
Pansy was quickly reminded of why she'd sought out Luna in the first place: there simply were no other options.
Slytherin students were uneasy around her, Gryffindors tried to curse her, all other Ravenclaws avoided her, and Hufflepuffs appeared to be generally terrified of her.
But Pansy eventually found that the Grey Lady had been right about one thing: people had started noticing that she was always alone, and any fear of her soon faded, though in the worst possible way. Suddenly, Ravenclaws were trying to hex her, and Hufflepuffs, while not quite so resourceful, resorted to throwing things at her. Oddly enough, while this did not hurt physically, Pansy found that it did hurt emotionally, and quite a lot more than it normally would have. She had always thought ghosts were a bit over-dramatic, but if their emotions were magnified as hers seemed to be, it was no wonder why.
Though she did her best to avoid the living, she was still in a castle full of them, and it was inevitable that she'd run into them eventually.
This was how Pansy found herself being pelted with chalk by a small group of terrified Hufflepuffs. In her defense, she had not meant to frighten them, but people never reacted well when a ghost suddenly drifted through their bodies.
Without warning, and for no reason that Pansy could see, the Hufflepuffs were completely drenched by a torrent of decidedly dirty water. They wasted no time in fleeing, convinced that Pansy had cursed them, when she was just as surprised as they were. Even more so, in fact, when she noticed Moaning Myrtle peering out from an alcove, grinning gleefully at the retreating Hufflepuffs.
"You can do magic! I knew it!" Pansy shouted accusingly.
Myrtle seemed to go a shade paler momentarily, then frowned. "Well, if that's your way of thanking me, then-"
"I didn't ask for your help!"
"No, you just desperately needed it is all!"
The two ghost girls glared at each other before crossing their arms over their chests and looking away angrily. Neither spoke for several moments, until Pansy hesitantly cleared her throat.
"So, um, where did the water come from?"
"The toilets, of course," Myrtle responded at once.
Pansy wasn't sure whether to be impressed or disgusted. "You can do that?"
"I did, didn't I?" Myrtle demanded mulishly. "Not that you'd care!"
"Could you show me how you did it?"
Myrtle blinked and turned to stare at her defiantly. "Why should I?"
Out of options, Pansy was left with no other choice. "Please?" she asked in a tiny voice. She was startled to see that most of Myrtle's bad attitude faded at once. Apparently manners went a long way when almost no one would talk to you.
"Oh, fine," Myrtle sighed. "It isn't that complicated, and it's less about knowing the magic and more about really wanting it to happen than anything else, so you should be able to learn it quickly."
"Thank you," Pansy replied extremely quietly, but judging by the way Myrtle's eyebrows shot up, she'd heard just fine.
Myrtle's brand of magic was remarkably easy for Pansy to pick up: it was one part memory, three parts feeling, and one part effort. Spells were easier to use if she was already familiar with them, and meaning them was indeed the most important thing. Myrtle claimed that nearly all ghosts could still use some magic, but most either lacked the necessary willpower or motivation to do so. Pansy couldn't imagine why: she'd been desperately missing her old chestnut wand of unicorn hair, and being able to do magic at all somehow eased that ache. Myrtle's only condition for the lessons was that Pansy promised not use her magic against other ghosts. This was no problem, since none of them were the ones bothering Pansy. Once the Hogwarts students found her capable of and willing to defend herself, they mostly left her alone.
Still, Pansy lacked a human contact, and she no longer felt comfortable approaching Luna. Even if Luna had nothing against her, Pansy preferred to put her trust in someone that had no reason to betray her, or at least someone she felt more comfortable around. Excluding Luna, there were really only two people left on that list. The first was Draco, and Pansy felt as if he simply didn't care for her as much as she'd hoped. The second was her brother Cypress, who she hadn't considered only because he wasn't currently a student at Hogwarts, and probably never would be, if their mother had her way. Despite their bitter past, Cypress was the only person who might agree to be her living contact, if only because he clearly felt some obligation to avenge her death. He wouldn't like it, but he was too honorable to refuse her this last request. If nothing else, Pansy could trust him as much as she always had, which was just enough for them both to make it through the day in one piece.
The journey home was somewhat tiresome, but Pansy knew it was worth it. One of the many things a human contact would provide her with was another source of magical power to sustain herself when necessary. She had greatly misjudged the distance, however, having only traveled home from Hogwarts by train. By the time she arrived at the Parkinson estate, it was nearly four in the morning, and there was almost no chance that Cypress, or anyone else, would be awake.
Not only was Cypress awake, however, he seemed to be waiting for her. Pansy could think of no other reason why he would be up so late, propped up against his pillow, staring expectantly at the very same wall of his bedroom that she chose to float through.
"You finally came to visit, sis," he murmured, glancing at the clock on the wall. "I was starting to think I'd fall asleep waiting."
"You know why I'm here, then?" Pansy asked, keeping her distance.
"Not for certain, but I can guess." Cypress drummed his fingers on a thick book resting in his lap. "I've been reviewing father's old ghost guide. From what I can tell, there are only two reasons for you to be here. Either you're here to curse me, or you want my help. Cursing me wouldn't accomplish much, since I'm underage and have no wand, and I'm guessing you're short on allies as it is, so you can't afford to harm me. I'll make this simple: I will help you, after we discuss a few things. Have a seat."
Pansy blinked and slowly settled herself at the foot of her brother's bed. She had figured that Cypress would be wary and fearful of her, but instead he seemed to have complete control over the meeting.
He smiled for the first time, though it was really more of a smirk. "Relax, sis. You can come closer. I doubt you're much colder now than you were before."
Frowning, Pansy moved closer. She couldn't decide if Cypress was aware of the fact that she was extra sensitive now, or if he just thought they would exchange barbs as they always had. When she didn't respond, he moved on.
"Don't worry. I promise I'll help you. But that comes later. We need to talk about how you died."
"Do we have to? You know how-"
"I saw it," Cypress interrupted. "In my head. I saw you die. Probably while it was actually happening."
"Oh," Pansy said quietly. She imagined that had to be fairly disturbing, and wasn't sure what to say. She wouldn't want to watch him die.
"It made me angry. But not for the reasons you might think."
Pansy knew what he would say before he could say it. She didn't want to hear it, but knew Cypress wouldn't help her until she had.
"Of all the ways you could die, you choose to piss off Harry Potter, a practical godsend to the magical world, to the point where he feels that killing you is acceptable and righteous." Cypress paused to take a deep breath. "I was never more ashamed to be your brother."
What remained of Pansy's mouth went dry. Was he really going to make her listen to this?
"You know what the worst part is? He was absolutely right to kill you. You and your so-called friends, you were the evil ones. Do you know how it made me feel, to side with your murderer? Do you know what it still does to me?"
"You hate me," Pansy whispered.
He sighed and shook his head. "You would think that, wouldn't you? If I really hated you, sis, I wouldn't bother trying to teach you a lesson. If I hated you, I would have made you beg for my help. If I hated you, this would be so much easier on me, because I wouldn't care what happened to your soul." Cypress turned his back on her, tucking the book under his pillow. "But I do care, and I do love you, you stupid, selfish girl. You're still my big sister, and you don't deserve my help, but you don't have to earn it. I'm giving it freely. But only if you give me your word that you'll never give me reason to feel the way I felt the day you died. I really will abandon you to your fate if that happens."
Pansy stared at him in shock. "But if you do love me, then that means you lied to Harry Potter. Why?"
"I wasn't sure if he was going to be my enemy, and even if he wasn't, I didn't want him to waste time feeling sorry for me. He has far more important matters to worry about, and so do we." Cypress faced her again and stretched out his hand, revealing a deep, fresh cut across his palm. "I, Cypress Randall Parkinson, do give freely of my magic, body, and soul to you."
Pansy reached out with a trembling hand, grasping his as best she could. "I, Pansy Elizabeth Parkinson, do accept your gift, as well as all terms and conditions that accompany it."
The wound in his hand glowed bright red before turning a ghastly black. It was eerily reminiscent of the scars that Pansy knew Luna still bore.
"Doesn't hurt," Cypress murmured, flexing his hand. "I thought it would hurt, or at least feel weird."
"Haven't I hurt you enough, Cypress?" Pansy asked softly.
He frowned at her and lowered his hand. "Don't do that, sis. I said you didn't have to earn this, and I meant it. If I'm not going to make you feel guilty, then you're not allowed to, either."
It was a suggestion at best, and normally Pansy would have just ignored it. But without warning, something so much like pain pulsed through her ghostly form that Pansy almost cried out. Then she noticed the pained look in her brother's piercing blue eyes, and quickly realized that there was more to this contract than she'd ever imagined. "Cypress?" she whispered. "What did you do?"
"Shared pain," he replied. "When one of us hurts, we both do. So no more punishing yourself, or we both suffer."
"No! I didn't want this!"
"Too bad!" Cypress snapped, startling her. "I told you, didn't I? We're doing this on my terms! Maybe if you can actually see that what you do impacts those closest to you, you'll realize the impact you have on everyone that you hurt!"
"Y-You tricked me!" Pansy cried. "I never would have agreed to this if I'd known!"
"Obviously. Why do you think I didn't tell you?" He laughed bitterly. "I've been studying up on this. I can't control you, not really. That's way too advanced for someone that doesn't even have a wand yet. But you'd be surprised what I can still do, thanks to our shared blood, and now our new bond." He made a fist and shouted, "Appareo!"
Pansy gaped as a thick, blood-red chain appeared out of thin air, connecting the wrists they'd made the contract with. Instead of being attached to any kind of cuff, however, the chain seemed to sink directly into their skin. "Why, Cypress? Why would you do this?"
"Because I care about what becomes of your soul, and this is my only chance to save you. Besides, now I can force you to spend time with me if I want."
She wanted to tell him that she'd actually been looking forward to that, but wasn't sure he'd believe her. "So we're going to Durmstrang?" Pansy asked.
"Of course not," Cypress replied at once, as if it should have been obvious.
"It's what mother wants," she reminded him.
"She isn't about to refuse the only child she has left. I'm going to Hogwarts."
Cypress rolled his eyes. "I can't fix your mistakes if I'm at another school. Anyway, I want to go to Hogwarts. Ignoring the fact that you died there, it's a very good school of magic."
"And this has nothing to do with the fact that Harry Potter is there?"
"I already told you, sis. We aren't going to worry about him until we have to. I'll have my hands full just dealing with you, as usual."
Pansy spent the rest of the term at home with Cypress. Though he made it clear that she could return to Hogwarts whenever she wanted, neither of them really wanted to be separated. Pansy had found that her brother was interested in a large variety of subjects, and was really quite brilliant for someone that hadn't started at Hogwarts yet. If she had stopped to think about it, he would have reminded her a great deal of Hermione Granger, except that Pansy actually liked Cypress now.
Their mother was less than pleased, especially when she learned that Cypress still intended to attend Hogwarts. But after being assured that Pansy would be with him (they thought it best not to tell her about their new bond), they were finally given their mother's blessing, however reluctantly. If it bothered her that Pansy was a ghost, she hid it quite well. Neither Pansy nor Cypress were surprised by this: it had become a family custom to have tea with their late father's ghost (or at least to have tea while he watched) whenever they were all at home. Their old house-elf, Lucky, was blind in one eye, but had perfect vision in the other, which resulted in the odd fact that he could see ghosts, but had no idea that they were dead in the first place. This actually made Pansy feel better, because being treated as if she were still alive was comforting. She had never imagined that hearing Lucky hoarsely croak, "Anything else, Mistress Pansy?" would make her feel so good, and she might have kissed him, if not for the long, white hairs that insisted on growing out of his wrinkled forehead.
Far before Pansy was ready, Cypress had gotten his Hogwarts letter, and by the following week, all his books and school supplies had been shipped (Pansy had always regretted that her family rarely shopped in person). They had agreed beforehand that it would be a bad idea for Pansy to accompany Cypress on the Hogwarts Express: the other first years would be nervous enough without a ghost in their midst, and she didn't want to taint her brother's reputation any more than she already had. After a very awkward goodbye (Cypress insisted on a hug, and Pansy came away from it feeling as if she'd just committed incest on an entirely new level), Pansy left home, only to find the Grey Lady waiting patiently outside.
Before Pansy could even begin to ask why she was there, the Grey Lady nodded stiffly and said, "I acknowledge you." Then she turned and floated away without another word.
It occurred to Pansy that for another ghost to have come all this way just to see her, they must have wanted something more than saying three simple words. But the only thing that made sense at that point was to follow the Grey Lady, since they had the same destination in the first place. No words passed between them during the journey, and even when they finally reached Hogwarts, the Grey Lady floated off to Ravenclaw Tower without even a backward glance. Still, Pansy thought that her form, what there was of it, did not feel as cold as it once did, and that the castle felt more like home than it ever had before. At least, until she learned that Dumbledore was dead. Pansy had never been especially fond of him, but the fact remained that Hogwarts was forever changed without him, and Pansy had been through enough changes recently.
Pansy spent the first part of the night in Myrtle's toilet, catching up on everything she'd missed. Myrtle was all too happy to fill her in on the many changes at Hogwarts (most of them did have a rather dreadful feel, after all), and Pansy had to admit that part of her was actually happy to see Myrtle again. They talked until Myrtle heard the first years crossing the lake (her ears were unusually sensitive to any sound carried through water, and she claimed the toilets only amplified them). Myrtle chose to sulk in her toilet a bit (her exact words) while Pansy went down to meet Cypress.
She caught up to him as he and the other first years were marching into the Great Hall to be Sorted. For the first time, Pansy had no idea where to go. None of the tables seemed all that inviting anymore, partially because she'd gotten so used to hovering, but mostly because she hadn't thought of herself as a Slytherin in some time. Myrtle had constantly pointed out that the only color that should matter to Pansy now was silvery-white, and it was really starting to sink in. Pansy finally picked out a spot near the enchanted ceiling and watched from overhead.
Oddly enough, the Sorting Hat did not make an appearance. Instead, the four house hourglasses were wheeled in and positioned on the floor. A teacher that Pansy didn't recognize used his wand to draw chalk lines on the floor, one extending from each hourglass, until they all met at a central point on the floor. One by one, first years were told to stand on that point, where they would be Sorted. The first boy got a rather bad shock when he stepped up, only to have the Hufflepuff hourglass explode in a shower of yellow gems, glass, and wood. Before the pieces could hit the floor, they froze, seemed to go back in time, and restored themselves to the soon completely whole hourglass. Pansy thought it was a bit too flashy, especially since the Slytherin hourglass also released a large, serpent-shaped plume of smoke where no others did.
Soon enough, Cypress was set to step onto the point. Pansy wasn't sure where she expected him to end up, but it certainly wasn't where he did. The Ravenclaw hourglass exploded the moment his foot touched the chalk.
The entire Great Hall went silent.
Pansy immediately dropped down from the ceiling, half-expecting an attack.
Cypress glanced around the hall, looked at her, and shrugged.
Feeling silly, she followed him over to the Ravenclaw table, where only one person was clapping. It was Luna Lovegood, and Pansy could not bring herself to be surprised. If anything, she was relieved that something had gone as she'd expected. Of course Luna would be happy that the younger brother of a girl who tortured her ended up in the same house: she was Luna, after all.
Cypress squeezed in between Luna and Padma Patil, who gave him a sideways glance and a brief, forced smile before looking away. Luna immediately launched into a rather detailed explanation of how Cypress should navigate the halls the next morning (which was guaranteed to get him good and lost, but at least Luna was doing it not out of spite, but because she genuinely assumed he might prefer an extremely scenic route). Cypress nodded every so often, more than likely at the points where he guessed it would be polite, but Pansy thought he was a little too accommodating: his eyes rarely left Luna's face while she was talking, even when she paused to breathe between lectures.
Something else momentarily drew Pansy's attention away from Cypress and Luna: for no reason that she could guess, Draco suddenly stood up and slipped out of the Great Hall. Though she no longer had a physical stomach, Pansy still felt an uneasy flutter in that area as she watched him leave. She couldn't really blame him for not contacting her: her family's acceptance of ghosts was rather unusual, and the Malfoys were not known for living in the past. Still, she had expected that her death would impact Draco in some way, though she had yet to see it.
Perhaps the most notable event happened shortly after the feast. Pansy was not really paying attention by then, as her mind was still on Draco. But she noticed when a hush fell over the hall, and when she looked toward the front, she saw why.
Severus Snape was standing in front of the teachers' table, in his usual attire of solid black robes. Pansy thought this was odd: Snape loathed having to speak at the first night feasts, and had certainly never made an announcement there in all the time she'd been a student. And though Pansy had missed whatever announcement Snape had stepped up to give, she did not miss what happened next.
From a door behind the teachers' table, several people suddenly filed into the room, lining up just in front of Snape. Overall, they looked like a highly undesirable lot, and as Pansy began to recognize a few of them, she knew exactly why.
Death Eaters had come to Hogwarts.
In Pansy's opinion, the appointment of several Death Eaters as teachers, and even Snape as Headmaster, had been rather anti-climatic. She'd half expected them to start hexing students at once, but they'd been strangely well-behaved, for them at least. Of course, the biggest news of the night, in her mind, was that only Slytherin was now allowed to have prefects, and several more had been appointed at once. This was a particularly strange move: no house was simply going to stop recognizing their own authority figures just because Snape was in charge. Pansy noted that despite the ruling, many Ravenclaw first years still looked to Padma Patil when they had questions, and not the scowling Slytherin prefect that had followed them up to Ravenclaw Tower. Even Pansy had been unable to resist smirking when the talking tower door had suddenly slammed in the startled Slytherin's face, locking him out in the stairwell, and simply stating, "No more Slytherin prefects in my tower tonight, thank you very much!"
Once the applause died down, Padma took over, assuring everyone that matters would improve as soon as she was able to meet with Professor Flitwick (all of the usual teachers had remained in the Great Hall after the feast). In the meantime, she walked the first years through banishing charms, just in case anyone (Slytherin prefects included) gave them a hard time, but warned them only to respond with magic for self defense. It wasn't long before one of them posed the question that Pansy had been wondering herself.
"Is it true that no one's seen Harry Potter or Hermione Granger tonight?"
Padma stiffened noticeably, glancing at Pansy. "I know I haven't seen them tonight. But I'd like to think that's only because they've got brains enough not to walk into enemy territory. Now, if there's nothing else-"
Luna loudly cleared her throat. "Actually, I have something to say. I'd like to invite you all to join my new social club, S.P.E.W.!"
It was safe to say that most of the first years already had a fairly good impression of Luna's behavior, and viewed this with obvious suspicion. The older Ravenclaws seemed both surprised and confused.
"Isn't that the nutty organization that Hermione was trying to start?" one of the girls asked among several snickers.
"What? No, of course not!" Luna replied, sounding insulted. "This is a completely different S.P.E.W.!"
"So it's not the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, then?"
"No, it's the Sorcerous Pot-heads Entrenched in Wartime!" Luna snapped.
Perhaps because several Muggle-born students already had a working definition of what a "pothead" was, this was not especially convincing.
"It's in support of Harry Potter," Cypress said at last, "and I'd like to be the first join."
Luna beamed at him. "Really? Oh, thank you, Cy!" She thrust a blank scroll into his hands, and watched eagerly as he signed his name.
Encouraged by Cypress's bravery (and more than that, his helpful explanation), several more students signed up, Padma among them.
"Are you sure that was a good idea?" Pansy asked Cypress as he headed to his new dorm. "I'm sure those Death Eaters are just looking for any excuse to hex anyone associated with Potter."
"I'm sure you're right, but if they'd go after someone like me, maybe it will show someone else that there's no loyalties among Slytherins. I don't recall any of them offering their condolences when you died."
Pansy had no answer for that, and remained silent as Cypress inspected his new bed, then opened his trunk to begin unpacking. Suddenly, he paused and reached in. "You know, sis, maybe I was wrong about Slytherins. About one of them, at least."
"What makes you say that?"
Without a word, Cypress held up something that took Pansy's breath away: a ghostly, silvery-white rose, preserved in a tiny snow-globe. Carved into the bottom of the wooden stand was a simple message: "Thinking of you. - D.M."
"He didn't forget me?" Pansy asked in shock.
Cypress grinned at her. "I'll make you a deal: I won't give you any grief about your crush, if you don't give me any about mine."
Pansy had no idea what he meant, at first. But the more she thought about it after Cypress was asleep, the more she realized that only one girl had made a major impression on Cypress that night: Luna Lovegood.
Next Chapter: Mobilicorpus
Harry and Hermione return to Hogwarts in secret, unaware that their secret passage in may prove to be Luna's way out when her Tempesta powers reach dangerous new heights.
Artistic license taken with the Parkinsons, magic concerning ghosts, ghostly magic, and indeed, ghosts in general. Also other stuff, probably. Was there already a house elf named Lucky? If so, I forgot.