For Charlotte. Enjoy.
At first, Pansy isn't sure where to look. Dawn is breaking, and everyone—the bloodstained fighters, the children, the just-dead—is outside, looking around at the pink beginnings of a new day as if it's a miracle. In some ways, Pansy supposes, it is.
But she doesn't pause to look at the sunrise. She knows she isn't welcome, and anyway she isn't one of those soppy Hufflepuffs. Never was, never will be. Probably better to be a Slytherin, she thinks, determinedly ignoring the carnage around her. Even now, she cannot let go of her own Slytherinhood. While she has her life, they will not be able to take that away from her. She isn't exactly sure who "they" are, but she knows she had better find him before They take him away.
She doesn't question the capital letter she is already assigning Them, which is probably not a good sign. Instead, she moves inside. Bodies are laid out in the Great Hall with a terrible kind of precision. The Dark Lord is nowhere to be seen. Families stand at the edges of the rows of corpses, counting heads amongst the living and looking for familiar faces amongst the dead. Pansy moves on. She is sure he wouldn't have died on her. He had promised, back in sixth year, when he was still cocky, that he wouldn't die on her. And there is only one promise Draco Malfoy has ever broken, and it wasn't to her.
She keeps walking. Somewhere, behind a fallen pillar, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy are kissing. Pansy doesn't interrupt them. She is fairly certain they won't know Draco's whereabouts. Besides, this is probably the last chance they'll have to kiss for a while now. By the time she hits the second floor, she knows where Draco is. Somewhere, in the backstage of her mind, she calls him an idiot for not telling her about it, but it's more habit than anything else. Her frontstage mind is focused on bigger things. Like how on Earth to reach the seventh floor when the stairs keep moving like that, and what in Hell she is meant to say when she gets there.
Pansy enters the Room slowly, half-expecting a wig to fall on her head, like it had when she first came here to spy on Draco. But there is no wig. There is nothing, actually. Just embers the size of her head and more ash than her brain can process. Mountain ranges of ash, with a ceiling and walls to match. For a moment, she thinks she must have been wrong, but then she hears a sniffle and sees a flash of blonde. In an instant, she is over an ashen hillock and sliding down to meet Draco. He is sitting, head in his hands, resolutely not looking at the desiccated corpse in front of him. Pansy cannot tell who it is. Revulsion claws its way up her throat, but she just asks, "Who?"
It takes Draco a moment to gather himself enough to speak. With one last shudder, he looks up and gives her a weak smile that is painful to behold. "Vince, Pansy. That is Vince. That thing, that awful thing that almost made you be sick all over yourself, that is one of our dear- dearest—" He dissolves into tears again.
Pansy gathers him up in her arms, prudently angling him away from Vincent's remains. "Short sentences," she tells him firmly, "Start with short sentences. Else we'll never be able to say anything at all."
He nods at her and tries again. "He was my friend. And now he's dead. He counted on me to protect him. I couldn't. And now he's dead."
"Whoa, whoa there, buster," she says, ignoring the fact that she sounds like a cowboy, "It's not your fault. And you are not allowed to insinuate that it is. As you well know, you are a failure at killing people. No two ways about it."
"No, I suppose not." He says it carefully, as though it's breakable, and Pansy supposes it is. "It's probably Potter's fault. He saved my life. After Vince started the Fiendfyre in here." Pansy nods as if she knew all this and stores the fascinating new information in a special corner of her brain. Draco continues. "He didn't save Vince. Because Vince didn't fit on the broom. It's Potter's broom's fault, really."
Pansy smiles. "Stupid broom."
"Yeah, stupid broom," he echoes, a bit wistfully.
They sit like that for a while, wrapped in each other and slowly, consciously breathing in the ashes of a-thousand-and-one lost and hidden objects and one teenage boy.
After a while, Pansy becomes aware that Draco is watching her, brow furrowed. "What?" she asks, feeling the slightest bit defensive.
Draco doesn't answer immediately, and Pansy is beginning to recognize—and become resigned to—a new, more thoughtful version of her best friend. He will think before he speaks, she thinks, and his opinions will be his own. He won't be so scared any more. Instead, he will grieve. She sighs. She is reasonably certain that he is here to stay. Finally, he clears his throat and answers, still frowning slightly. "You aren't simpering. When I last saw you, you wouldn't stop simpering. Now, nothing."
Pansy doesn't have to stop and think of an answer to that one. "That was then. It was your seventeenth birthday, your house was swarming with Death Eaters, and Death Eaters rules England. Then, I had a lot of sucking up to do. Now, not so much."
"Oh. Well, you looked right stupid. I thought so all night." Pansy smiles and considers smacking him for that. He pauses, then tacks on, "Except when Nagini was there. Then I just sort of stopped thinking and started panicking."
This rare honesty from Draco shocks Pansy so much she doesn't even slap him. Instead, she looks out over the ash-mountains and grimaces. "I know I looked stupid. But that's my automatic schmooze face, and I didn't want to bother with a full-out suck-up-fest. I wanted to be with you."
He nods and tells her there is no excuse for looking that ridiculous, not ever. He asks her if she wants to become a Hufflepuff or something. That's what all these ridiculous attempts at ingratiation will lead to, he warns her, He looks perfectly serious and composed.
They break down in giggles bordering on hysterical.
And then they're quiet again, for a moment, before Pansy manages to say, "You look different, too."
"Oh?" Draco's eyebrow is raised (Pansy's backstage mind curses his ability to move his eyebrows independently). He's challenging her, if only a little bit.
She smiles. "Yeah. You look less scared. Sadder, but less scared. Still as stupid looking as ever, though."
He doesn't say anything, just ruffles her hair because he knows she hates it. She squirms and giggles, and they fall back into silence.
He's the next one to speak. Slowly, like he's trying the words on for size, he says, "Pansy? Today...well, next year will be the first anniversary of the end of the war."
She nods impatiently. "Yeah, stupid."
"So," he continues, pointedly ignoring her comment, "today is the zeroth anniversary of the war. Of its end."
"I don't think zeroth is a word."
"Neither do I. But that's beside the point."
"Yeah. Sorry." Pansy leans on his shoulder and repeats his words in her head. Today is the zeroth anniversary. She decides it has a nice ring to it. A kind of promise for the future.
The bride is very beautiful. Everyone says so. She stands, slim and blonde and virginal, at one corner of the dance floor, surrounded by friends offering congratulations, though it's been hours since the wedding and the guests are mostly gone or too drunk to move, let alone Apparate.
The bride and her friends—or what's left of them—are awkward with each other. All the friends have listened to the rumours and memorized the facts about the groom. Who, by the way, is nowhere to be found. The bride laughs away their worried queries. Her friends relax, and, farther away, so does Narcissa. After all, this kind of talent for elegant social deflection is why she chose the Greengrass girl for her son. She muses as to Draco's whereabouts briefly, but more important matters rise to the surface of her mind, and she spends the rest of the night planning out the colour scheme for her next garden party.
The groom is, in fact, on the roof. He is talking to Pansy, humming a half-remembered Celestina Warbeck tune, and charming the peacocks into silence, and, often, violet.
He is also drunk out of his mind.
Pansy is rather pleased with this turn of events. Being drunk means that Draco cannot be sad, and Draco spends far too much time being sad these days. So she hums along with Draco and imbibes yet more champagne and turns her peacocks pink. Neither of them are particularly sure with their spellwork at this point, and more than one peacock falls off the roof into the lake below with a gentle, spluttering splash. Occasionally, Draco notices one of the peacocks plunging to its doom and mutters, "Good riddance." Only Lucius was ever remotely fond of the peacocks.
They continue drinking merrily, and Pansy has lost enough of herself to forget what comes after Drunk Draco's Ridiculous Stage: Drunk Draco's Sad, Pseudo-Philosophical Stage.
"D'you know what, Pansy?"
"What?" she asks pleasantly.
"Freedom is bullshit."
"Freedom is bullshit?" Pansy's a bit confused by this, but she tries not to let Draco see.
"Yeah," he says, nodding his head emphatically, "Absolute bullshit. 'Cause think about it. You're not in Azkaban like your dad, right, 'cause Harry-Fuckin'-Potter-Prat talked to Wizengamot about you, right, and he looked so goddamn good, right, and was polite as anything after the trial, right, and when you apply for Healer training, he does too, right, and even though he's still seeing that ginger bint, it's okay, right, 'cause they're not as happy as they used to be, right, and anyway, no one at work wants to kill you, right, and you even get a little bit of respect, right, and thanks to Potter and your mother, you're mostly welcomed by society, right, even if some people question your politics rudely, right, but anyway you're starting to think life is okay, right, and you even go out one night and pick up a boy, right, with dark dark hair and such a nice smile and glasses even, right, and you're doing as you like, right?" He pauses, and Pansy nods, waiting for him to go on, "But then, bam, your mother says, "Meet Astoria, she was two years behind you at Hogwarts," right, and there's this pretty, blonde seventeen-year-old girl, and Mother says, "She will be your wife, darling," and three years after your father helped brand you with a Dark Mark, two years after it stopped meaning anything, and one year after you were accepted into Healer training, all the freedom you were earning has all gone up in fucking smoke, right, and that's when you realize you never had any freedom at all. It was all just bullshit. All of it." Pansy takes a deep breath. She has never heard the word "freedom" pronounced with such scorn. Draco rocks back and forth once and draws his knees up to his chest.
"Oh." Pansy understands. At least, she thinks she does. That thirteenth champagne is making her thoughts go all fuzzy. She sidles closer to Draco.
It seems to be the right thing to do.
"So, how's married life treating you?" Pansy asks, finishing off her bite-sized ceviche.
"What, in the four days since you've last seen me? Actually, scratch that, in the four days since my wedding?" Draco says it calmly, even good-naturedly, but his voice goes all wonky on the word "wedding" in a way that worries Pansy.
She pretends she hasn't heard it and goes on. "Yes, that is exactly what I mean. The first four days of a marriage are very important. Bewitched magazine says so." She pauses for a moment and Draco cracks a smile.
"Let's see," he says, ticking the list off on his fingers, "we've had sex twice, four conversations, and twenty three fights. One right before the party, actually. She threw a teacup at my head."
Before she can stop herself, Pansy mutters, "Violent little bugger, isn't she?" Draco nods and snorts distractedly, watching his mother flirt with Kingsley Shacklebolt and eat a lemon tartlet in a manner not entirely appropriate for a recently divorced woman in her mid-fifties. Pansy decides it's a good moment to pounce. Trying to sound casual, she says, "So, what was the fight about?"
Draco answers her lightly, almost carelessly, but his voice is so taut with tension Pansy is sure it will snap. She stops herself from wincing and tries to not read too much into his answer. "Not that it's any of your business, but it was about what I should wear to the stupid garden party, of all things. I told her I'd wear a white linen suit, like I always do." He gestures to the suit he's wearing, "She wanted me to wear dress robes. Ones that match hers."
Pansy allows herself to shudder. "That is so tacky. Besides which, I cannot believe you two are already having clothing fights."
He shrugs. "What can I say? She's a seventeen-year-old silly little girl who's used to having her own way.
If they had been having this conversation three years ago, Pansy would have snorted and made fun of Draco for calling anyone else spoiled. But they're not. So she just smiles and snags a cocktail from a passing house-elf. "So, on the shagging front: are you planning on sterilizing your cock and and never going near lady parts ever again yet?"
Draco sighs and eats a miniature cheesecake pensively. "No. She's not pregnant yet. So I think I shall have to have sex with her at least once a month—that is all I can bear, darling, it really is—and we can both have affairs with the gardener or the pool boy in the meantime. Soon as she's pregnant, though: never again. Female bits are nasty."
"I should probably be insulted by that, but I'm too busy being entertained by your positively idyllic view of the future. What happens after the baby is born? Divorce? Separation? Wild affairs? Orgies?"
Draco sniffs. "You sound far too hopeful about the orgies."
She smiles brightly back at him. "Of course, darling. You see, I am hoping for an invitation to an orgy. It would be ever so much fun," Pansy bats her eyelashes at him. He looks vaguely revolted. Dropping the act, she continues in a business-like tone, "But seriously, what happens after the baby is born?"
"Well, the most sensible course of action would obviously be to immediately divorce her and ship her off to France or Italy or something, but I am afraid Mother dearest would veto that without a moment of hesitation. Not to mention the somewhat worrying fact that—despite my abject horror towards her and my temper, which rivals hers—Astoria seems quite keen on me." Sombrely, Draco commandeers a tray of egg rolls and passes it wordlessly to Pansy.
She accepts it gratefully and attempts to console Draco. "Of course she does. You're her husband, and you're good-looking. But you shouldn't worry on that front. She'll soon lose interest in you." Draco is looking vaguely indignant at this, and she hurries on, "No, dear, what I mean is that she's hardly ready to settle down and you're gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide." He looks consoled enough for her to move on. "All this means, though, is that your mother is the only real
obstacle to speak of."
"Yes, but that's still a rather hopeless front."
"Why?" Pansy knows she sounds petulant, but she doesn't care. "She knows you're gay, and she knows Astoria alternately bores and horrifies you. So why?"
He let out a short, sharp breath. "Divorce wouldn't look good, Pansy. It's not like with my parents. When my mother divorced my father, it was seen as symbolically cutting ties with my father's insane, bigoted values. Me divorcing a nice girl from a good family to come out as gay would hardly have the same effect. Besides, the Malfoy name is still so precarious. We need every scrap of good publicity we can get. Honestly, I agree with her. I'm unhappy about it, but I believe I am stuck with Astoria for a good long while now."
"Hello, love. What are you two giggling about?" Astoria—Pansy forced herself to tack on Draco's wife in her head—had sneaked up behind Draco and wrapped an arm tight around his waist. She gazes up at him with a soppy, possessive look.
Draco sighs and slides a reluctant arm around her. "Nothing much, angel." Astoria's smile grows wider. "Only a bit of gossip I'd missed."
"Really? Anything interesting?" She directs her questions towards Draco, and Pansy takes the opportunity to look her over. She is pretty, in a blonde, blue-eyed, artless sort of way. Pretty and blonde and good at polite social things and absolutely ridiculous looking in that ugly pink ruffled robe.
Interrupting Draco's explanation of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement's wife's new earrings, Pansy stands on tiptoe to whisper in Draco's ear, "Your robes matched hers?"
Cracking a smile, he whispers back, "Not quite, but very nearly."
"Unbelievable. She expected you to wear that and tell the world you're straight?"
As Draco is about to reply, Astoria rounds on Pansy and says in her bright, brittle voice, "I'm sorry, Pansy, but I really must borrow my husband for a few moments. There are about to be some toasts." There is perhaps too much emphasis on the word "husband", but Astoria is already pulling Draco away, and Pansy stands there, just a bit of shock and confusion swirling through her.
Soon these feelings resolve themselves into something neater, if equally unsatisfying. Pansy sits down and eats the last egg roll. She has become too used to resignation, she thinks. Ah, well. She can still amuse herself by Vanishing Astoria's champagne glass every time the fool girl sets it down. She gets a new one each time, but it's no use. Pansy is poised and ready to strike. Astoria becomes increasingly cross as the toasts progress. Pansy knows it's petty, but she can't help herself. After all, she is a Slytherin.
Besides which, Astoria, wife or no, has no right to take Draco away from her today. Not today.
She waits. There's a toast or two Pansy could make, but she doesn't bother.
Instead, she waits until Kingsley Shacklebolt (her backstage mind surreptitiously checks him out) congratulates Astoria on her nuptials and makes polite small talk (something about Lorcan D'eath finally getting out of Azkaban). Then Pansy steals Draco away. Together, they walk out of the massive white marquee Narcissa has set up for the occasion and toward the lake at the edge of the eastern gardens. The lake spreads out from the back corner of the Manor, stretching right to the edge of the woods that fringe the property.
Pansy idly notices that there are no peacock corpses in the lake and wonders if they can swim or if the house-elves simply cleared them away. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she hopes it's the former. Draco doesn't say anything until they are tight one the shore of the lake, and then he says looking somehow both severe and weary, "That was...really fucking immature, Pansy. You can't do that. She's a...well, she's a bit of a twat, but she's still my wife and, and..." He trails off, and his face softens. "Pansy, you can't. At least, not in public. We'll torment her privately, I promise. But in public, you just...can't."
She smiles at his halting little speech and the indignation and little-boy-ridiculousness that has somehow slid back onto his face. "All right, all right, I won't. And I know you have to play husband wit her in public, but..." She stops, pulls out a cigarette, lights up. Letting out a lungful of smoke, she tries again. "You know something mad? Sixteen years ago, on this exact day, Narcissa Malfoy had a garden party."
Draco looks at her fondly. Softly, he says, "My third birthday. Course, my birthday is on the fifth, but it was a Sunday, and Mother," Pansy joins in to finish the sentence, "said that birthdays should always be celebrated on Sundays." Draco looks a bit wistful.
Pansy tries a grin for him. "But, anyway, that, deary, that was the day we met."
Draco's eyes refocus, and he smiles back at her. "You were wearing these white patent leather boots, with little high heels."
"You tried to make me give them to you, you little brat!"
"It wasn't my fault! Mother never let me wear her clothes, and there you were, with girl clothes that were exactly my size."
"Fair enough. And I did let you wear them, for a bit. And my petticoat—Merlin, I can't believe I wore a petticoat. And it was all lacy and shit. But anyway then we went careening into your birthday cake."
"Fifteen layers of lemon cake and strawberry icing! Enough fun for the whole family and a house-elf in the bargain!"
"We couldn't get the icing out of our hair for weeks!"
"But by then, of course, we were thick as thieves, remember?" Draco's eyes are twinkling in a distinctly non-Slytherin-like manner, and he's laughing.
Pansy has never been more in love with him than at this very moment.
Pansy's lost sight of them again. She squeezes Scorpius' hand and draws him closer to her. He squeezes back. Crossly, she decides that she hates Wizarding Britain. All of it. Twice. She tries and fails to smile at Scorpius. "Don't worry, dear."
Smiling brightly back at her, he says, "I'm not, Pansy."
She ignores him and tries to force her way through a gaggle of second years. Half of them look distinctly cowed by her presence. The other half sniggers. She ignores that, too. Finally, she manages to sidle her way next to Draco. With mock-solemnity, she hands Scorpius over to him. "I present you your offspring, fully intact, if a bit chocolate-smeared."
Astoria immediately tugs Scorpius over to her and whips out a handkerchief to clean his face. She doesn't speak to Pansy at all any more, not since that fateful Christmas Eve when Astoria was big with child and Pansy had called her a whale. Or maybe it had been a planet.
Draco leans over, "Thanks for taking him for ice cream. I think Astoria would have exploded if she hadn't been able to shout at me right then."
"Pity I did, then. Exploding Astoria—that'd be marvellous fun." Pansy mutters back.
Draco swats at her arm. "Hush, you. Though actually, she came quite close to exploding this time. She went about fourteen shades of red." He sounds much more gleeful about this than he should.
"What's got her wand in a twist now?"
"She thinks I'm having an affair with my assistant. The trainee."
"What, Reginald? Reginald Barker? So-ginger-he-could-be-a-Weasley Reginald Barker?"
"That's the one."
"But—that's ridiculous. As if you'd ever go for a ginger."
"I know, I know." He pauses, as though unsure how to phrase the next bit. "Also, she wants more children, more money, and a divorce. In that order."
Pansy nods, temporarily incapable of speech.
Draco clears his throat and offers her a small, embarrassed smile. Pansy smiles back. It's easier to pretend with Draco. It's easier to know when they need to pretend.
He tries for conversation again. "So,dear, I do so wish you'd send Absinthe to Hogwarts. It'd be so good for Scorpius to have a definite friend. Maybe you could even move back here."
Pansy let out an irritated puff of air. They've been over and over this, and there's nothing left to say. So she pretends. Smiling widely at Draco, she says, "I'm so sorry, Draco, but Absinthe is so very attached to her school at Giza, and the Egyptian air has simply worked wonders for my health. No, I'm afraid I don't think I'll ever leave Egypt." She knows he can read the fear behind her words, so she adds. "But, of course, I'd be happy to come see you any time you like." And he knows she understands the long and lonely nights and the rows that leave everything twisted up and wrong and the tears that spill out even though he's meant to be a grown-up.
A draw. He sighs, and it's a sound of defeat. "Do come stay with us any time you like."
They smile at each other, and even this is terribly wrong.
Sometimes it is enough to make Pansy want to scream and run back to Egypt, where she wears white dresses and has a daughter and eats a mango for breakfast each day. Where no one knows her as anything but the beautiful, white, wealthy Englishwoman she chooses to be. But most of the time she remembers that she needs to stay sometimes.
So she does. She holds Draco's hand and tries to look as though she's not holding his hand. It's harder than it should be to stay and hold his hand and stop smiling. But Pansy is glad for that; she was always up for a challenge.
They watch the people bustling about, trying to look busier and more purposeful than they actually are. Astoria is deep in conversation with Scorpius, seemingly imparting some all-important last-minute wisdom. Pansy ignores this. She almost rolls her eyes, too. Astoria is not wise. Potter bustles by, looking as busy and purposeful as the rest of them—that is, not very. Draco nods at him. Potter nods back. Both look curt and only on the very edge of civility. Pansy frowns. Leaning into Draco, she whispers, "What gives? You work in the same department, have drinks together Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I'm fairly certain you've built a lovely little habit of tossing him off in the gents', so what gives?"
"We have rules in public. Besides, look at the Ginger Shrew." Obediently, Pansy peers over at her. She is wearing a satisfied, possessive grin. Nineteen years ago, Astoria wore that exact expression quite frequently. Pansy winces. She recognizes it as the smile of those desperately clinging to a ridiculous delusion claiming some small victory.
She clucks, shaking her head disgustedly. "He shouldn't do that to her. I don't care if it's easier to keep it a secret, but he shouldn't. He's fucking her up, and he's fucking himself up, and—worst of all—he's fucking you up. And, look. The kids are starting to notice. Look at that one. The one who looks like a tiny Potter clone. He's scared to death, anyone could see that, but he can't stop looking between you two, trying to figure it out."
It's true. Draco takes a deep breath in. He doesn't wince, but it's a close thing. Pansy watches him grasp at straws. In a drawl almost like his old one, he manages, "Sympathy for a Weasel, Pansy? Never thought I'd see the day."
"Draco, you've already broken your family. Don't destroy another." It's quiet and lady-like and the hardest thing she's ever had to say.
He swallows hard, and her eyes track his Adam's apple in the motion without meaning to. "I'll talk to him when I see him next. But. Astoria and my mother and Weasley..."
Pansy notes the lack of insult for Mrs. Potter. She takes mercy on him. "I know. Would you like some champagne?
Draco relaxes as much as he can in public. He smiles. "You're very strange, y'know that? Who else would carry champagne on their person at all time. But yes, of course. Just let me talk to Scorpius first." Without any ceremony or preamble, he leans over and whispers in his son's ear, "Study hard, write us as much as you possibly can, and always clean up your messes."
Scorpius nods and runs for the train. He's laughing, and turns back to wave at Draco.
Awkwardly, Draco waves back. His wife smiles at her son and walks briskly back towards the Apparition Point.
Pansy smiles and pulls her bottle opener out of her purse. Later, they'll go back to the Manor and charm a few peacocks purple. Eventually, Draco will have to deal with the messes he's made. She can't wait.
After all, Astoria is sure to throw quite the fit. And probably an heirloom or two.
Thank you for reading. Please review. It really makes my day.