a/n: for the third round of the So You Think You Can Write? competition on HPFC. Guidelines: a reflective piece on why Pansy or Luna are the way they are. I've sort of gone about it in a roundabout way since my brain is disinclined to help me write a proper character study.
she was slightly
only worth living if somebody is living you. -— video games, lana del rey
"Do you ever wish you could get away?" she murmurs against his mouth, her foot caressing his leg in long lazy strokes, "Just run away and never come back?"
Oh God, he thinks, all of the time.
Pansy Parkinson is a restless creature. She is fickle and inconstant and always afraid. She is lovely maybe one day out of thirty when her hair falls just right to cast shadows over the ugliest angles of her face, but otherwise she cannot hope to be called pretty. She is also vengeful and petty and there are wicked things hidden in the corners of her heart.
He partners her in potions while Malfoy is away being the Golden Boy or whatever they're supposed to be calling him these days. She is distracted, tired, her gaze creeping always towards the clock as she winds a thread of dark hair around her finger, not looking at him as he bustles around preparing what is sure to be an outstanding potion.
"Did you hear," she pipes up suddenly, using that tone that he's learned means she's trying hard to convince herself that she doesn't care, "Did you hear that Dumbledore has a pensieve?"
"Yeah," he replies easily, like this is a totally normal conversation to be having, "What about it? Jealous?"
She turns her head slowly to look at him, one eyebrow drifting upwards, and he battles on regardless, "Do you like the thought of memories at finger-distance like that?"
She gazes at him steadily, almost gently, like she is waiting for him to come up with the answer to this himself. He does not, obviously, and he thinks she may be slightly disappointed. He doesn't know why he suspects it – something in the angle of her jaw, perhaps, or the twist of her lips.
Her response, when it comes, is very quiet.
"I can't imagine anything worse - can you?"
Things come back to him in bursts these days. He feels older than he should, a bit tired, a bit bored with the world and what it can offer him. He has blanked out most of his last year at Hogwarts. He is not proud of his actions there and he would like it if the rest of the world could forget them too.
He remembers other things, though. He remembers the Slytherin common room that time the Giant Squid came to look in the window; he remembers Draco Malfoy lounging carelessly, the pale curve of his body arrogant and hatefully elegant against the dark cushions of the sofa. He remembers Pansy Parkinson and the way she watched Draco, a little bit proud and a little bit sad and a little bit desperate. He remembers the way her hair fell on her pretty days, and the way she frowned when Ancient Runes perplexed her, and the way she sneered when people annoyed her.
He remembers that, in this story, she is not the girl who deserves a happy ending.
(He'd quite like to give her one anyway.)
They have known each other almost their whole lives and sometimes he thinks he might think differently of her if he didn't know the truth of her. He'd hate her, he's pretty sure. He doesn't always like her, that's for certain, but he could never hate her.
They have shared baths together at the ages of two and three and four and spilt food on each other and tugged at each other's hair and stolen toys and broken ornaments and screamed and screamed and screamed just because they could until their parents came close to tearing their hair out.
He looks at her these days, traces the whole weary weight of her with his eyes and gets flashes of a giggly nine-year-old whose father promised her whatever she wanted. It must have been hard, he thinks sometimes, it must have been hard for her to go from being one person's world to being a small ugly face in a sea of many. Pansy Parkinson was never a girl who was going to be invisible, he realises now.
They see each other often these days. At first it was because of their families and her parents' refusal to let his father be alone to wallow but now they elect to seek each other out. They pass long lazy afternoons quiet in each other's company and she teases him about his books and he teases her about her messiness and it is easy.
Easy is good. It is pleasing and calming and vastly underrated.
They do not discuss Hogwarts by unspoken consent. If their conversation veers near it they steer it away. He catches himself sometimes with sentences like remember that time Draco got attacked by that hippogriff and you went insane over him? on the very tip of his tongue and bites them back barely a second before they head out into the world and do harm. He thinks she might do something similar, gets a hint of it in her face before she turns away every now and again.
They do not go out in public much. He is the friend of Death Eaters and she is Pansy Parkinson and she tried to surrender Harry Potter to the Dark Lord. Eyes follow them quietly wherever they go—
Judge them wherever they go—
And Theo is not brave enough to deal with things like that. Some days Pansy is (but not many).
So they sit in his flat or hers and they both read and sometimes they curl up together on the sofa and her socked feet press into his legs and her head droops onto his shoulder and he puts an arm around her as he reads aloud and he likes the way this feels. He likes it more than is probably sensible.
They get the news on a Sunday. It's an unremarkable Sunday up until that point. Pansy has left clothes strewn all over his flat as she attempts to find an outfit for her job interview on Tuesday and Theo doesn't have the heart to tell her that it doesn't matter what she's wearing, the minute she walks through that front door and they realise who she is she'll have the lost the job before she even has a chance. Instead he tries to offer advice and compliments her a lot so she won't get stroppy and does zips up when she can't reach them.
They are not expecting the knock on the front door. Perplexed, Theo and Pansy share a look and then Theo goes over to the door as Pansy hastily pulls a jumper over her head, face emerging red and shiny from the neck hole as Theo pulls open the door to find his father and her mother on the doorstep.
"Come in," he says finally, after the silence has become unbearably awkward. He steps back to allow them in and the situation is so patently uncomfortable that it almost hurts. Their parents never seek them out like this, never visit their flats, never invade their time. Whatever they have come to say, they know it cannot be a good thing.
"We have good news," Pansy's mother ventures at last, when she is seated on the sofa Theo had been sprawled across bare minutes before, cup of tea in hand. Theo's father puts a hand on her knee and gives the two young adults an encouraging smile and Theo irrationally finds the thought, shit, you're having an affair, bursting across his mind.
The truth is worse.
"We've got marriages for you," Mr Nott bursts out, apparently unable to keep the news to himself any longer, looking as thrilled as he is able to look, "Theo, you're to marry the Greengrass girl, Daphne. And Pansy—"
"—Gregory Goyle," Mrs Parkinson breaks in, triumphant as she surveys her daughter. The meaning of that smile is clear to see. Look, daughter, I have found you a wealthy pureblood husband despite your faults, despite your mistakes, despite your looks. Look and see how wonderful I am for doing this for you. Theo sees the truth of this, to be fair, but mostly what he sees is Goyle's ugly face and meaty hands and the way he'd grab at girls and paw them like some dirty old man and that confused look whenever he had to try to work something out for himself with that tiny brain—
And, Merlin, they're giving Pansy to him—
He gets Daphne Greengrass, glorious golden Greengrass, and she gets Goyle—
On what planet is this fair—
He wants to scream and shout and deny it but he can't because they are purebloods and she is Pansy Parkinson and people don't forgive and the world moves on without them whether they like it or not.
"Okay," Pansy says quietly, startling him from his thoughts. Her voice is small, tired, resigned, "Okay. Thanks."
And then, like this is not the rest of their lives, she smiles and takes a sip of her tea and makes no protest at all.
He corners her about it the minute their parents are gone to start wedding preparations. She clearly does not want to discuss it but fuck that.
"Goyle," is all he can say, "Goyle, Pansy!"
"I know, Theo," she replies irritably, brushing away the arm he has used to trap her against the wall, to stop her running from this conflict, "He wouldn't be my first choice, but his family is good and, let's face it – I'm not exactly top of the list of desirable brides, am I?"
"You're—" Theo begins, but she cuts him off with a dour expression, voice lacklustre and disinterested.
"I'm Pansy," she tells him firmly, "I'm Pansy Parkinson and I'm ugly and my family have never been that important and I'm not even a virgin—"
"None of us are," Theo interrupts desperately, "For fuck's sake, Pansy, we're all twenty years old, you honestly think any of us are virgins any more?"
"Weasley probably is," she offers, just the hint of a smile curving the corners of her mouth, and Theo snorts with laughter before he remembers that there are more serious matters at hand.
"But—" he begins. She doesn't let him get further.
"I was fifteen when I let Draco have sex with me the first time," she reminds him, like he doesn't remember how giggly and silly she was the next morning, pretending she wanted to keep it quiet but making sure she 'whispered' about it with her girl friends loudly enough for everyone to hear and know, "And I kept doing it even though he didn't really love me."
Theo drops his arms away, pulls away from her, turns his face aside so she cannot see his expression. There is a question he has always wanted to ask, and right now it is burning such a hole in his tongue he just has to ask it—
He turns back to her and she is gazing at him steadily, and he irrationally misses that girl she used to be, with the obnoxious attitude and brash confidence and determination to make the world her playground. Then she shrugs and smiles self-deprecatingly and tells him, "He was important. Being with him made me important too. I liked being the girlfriend of the boy all the girls wanted."
"Not all of them wanted him," Theo cuts her off, because yes this is all about her but that does hurt his pride just a little bit, "None of the Gryffindors, I'm sure, or—"
"Oh, please," Pansy says with a roll of her eyes, "Those sluts might have stood on their pedestals and preached hatred but I caught him once with Lavender Brown – with with her, I mean – and she acted all saintly but she wanted him just like the rest. The only ones who didn't were the mudblood Granger, probably, and maybe Daphne Greengrass."
Theo is vaguely proud that the girl who didn't want Malfoy is going to be his, but this is not the moment for his pride or other girls.
"He liked you, Pansy, I'm sure of it—"
"No, he didn't," she retorts mildly, and she looks so unconcerned by this it breaks his heart, "He tolerated me because I worshipped him, and he liked to be adored. It's a weakness of his."
Theo feels his lips twisting upwards, wishes he didn't so genuinely mean the words that come out of his mouth next, "It's a weakness of all of us."
She chuckles softly, with little humour, and leaves him to go over to the bedroom to change, "Yes, I suppose it is."
His marriage to Daphne Greengrass is set for six months time and they are formally 'introduced' by their parents even though they've known each other since first year and Theo has seen her in her underwear four times before and as their parents recite litanies about how their union will bring honour to houses Nott and Greengrass, Daphne catches his eye with that wicked little sparkle at the back of hers and makes a face and Theo has to hide his snort of laughter by feigning a coughing fit.
He thinks that being married to Daphne Greengrass will be no hardship at all.
He kisses Pansy despite this. He thinks he owes it to them both to try it, maybe. They are on the sofa in her flat this time and she is sitting facing him and they are playing a game of slapsies and she is flushing and giggling in that rare unself-conscious way and for once there is nothing contrived about her actions and she meets his eyes, suddenly, as her fingers rap sharply against his knuckles.
He moves his hands from hers without warning and slides them against her cheeks, palms rough against the fair skin there, and into the soft silken waves of her hair, and then when she's halfway to breaking his name in two impatiently (-"Thee–oh!"-) he moves his mouth to hers and silences her.
"Oh Merlin," she mutters when he pulls back, but then her hands are scrabbling at his shoulders and she's moving closer, pressing into his personal space more urgently, her feet twisting against his legs as she kisses him, practically in his lap, her mouth desperate and wanton and bruising.
He regrets it a bit later, but not that much.
"We're not going to be anything," she says firmly when they are finished, lying naked on her sofa together with their clothes discarded all about them, "We are going to stay friends, got it? You are going to marry Daphne and I am going to marry Gregory—"
(oh God, that name on her lips like that, no)
"—and this never happened."
"I liked it though," he tells her, mostly because it's true but also a little bit because he does have some shred of honour and he doesn't want her thinking he slept with her just because he felt sorry for her or something, "I want—"
"Don't you dare," she interrupts quietly, and she clambers off him and gathers her clothes up and disappears into her bedroom and doesn't come out for an hour.
Theo lies and stares up at the ceiling and he thinks that Pansy's problem is that she needs to be loved too badly, needs to be wanted and worshipped all of the time, more than most people. Her father gave her that growing up but her mother never did (her mother was ashamed of the ugly daughter she'd made, some treacherous voice inside him whispers, telling truths so coarsely) and at school she was nearly a nothing. She was scared, he thinks as he rolls to his feet, bending for his trousers, she was scared of being a nobody so she made herself a somebody, and look where it's got her now.
We should never have come to this, he thinks to himself as he tugs on his boxers and his trousers and then fumbles with the buttons of his shirt, We were young and immortal and magnificent once.
He leaves without saying goodbye.
Now we are old at twenty. We are old and afraid and guilty. We are tired and lonely and desperate. We could have been so much, and we are this instead.
They don't talk again until his wedding. And then he meets her eye in the crowd as he waits at the top of the aisle. She gives him a small smile, her hand in her husband's, and he smiles back and decides that there are worse things to be than old and afraid and tired. Old is still alive, tired can be put to rights with a few good nights' sleep, and afraid — why, we run on fear and the monsters in our hearts.
Yes, he thinks, as Daphne appears in the doorway of the hall, radiant and delirious with happiness, there are worse things in the world than this.