Antonin doesn't know why the girl fascinates him so much. Actually, he is rather ashamed of the feeling. She is many-many years younger than him and she is the Malfoy Bride, as the older men of the Inner Circle call her. Antonin sometimes wonders if Pansy knows she has this moniker, he also wonders if it delights her or annoys her. She seems like the sort who wouldn't like to be known as an attachment to someone else, with her own identity and name forgotten and squashed. It is not the Pureblood way for ladies, Antonin knows, but he thinks Miss Parkinson might be defiant enough to not give a damn, really, about the Pureblood way concerning women. Or anything else that may slight her.

This drives him crazy.

It sets him on fire and makes the dragging days of this useless, lost-long-ago war more bearable. Sometimes, in the evenings, when the Headquarters are empty and silent, he listens for her footsteps, even as his eyes roam over strategy maps, trying to calculate moves three steps ahead. He knows it is insane, that it is inappropriate, but Antonin can't help himself.

She asked him one night to call her Pansy and he'd obliged – willingly – but stuck a "miss" onto the front, not because he is so prudish but because it helps him remember his place and who she is and, for Merlin's sake, how old she is. If he had had a daughter, she might have been Pansy's age.

He watches her dance with the Malfoy boy, Lucius' arrogant only son who is actually not such a bad lad overall, loyal to his family and eager to fight for what is right. But Antonin still feels like he doesn't deserve a girl like Pansy. No one deserves a girl like Pansy. She is like the wind, like the rain, like the sun. Free and unpredictable.

She finds him one night during the late hours of a ball, her cheeks flushed with the wine and her hair, which she wears short, mussed and falling in her face. She swipes it away with one small, gloved hand and looks up at Antonin. "May I speak with you in private, Mr. Dolohov?" she asks.

He leads her into the hall, just out of sight of the ballroom and looks at her expectably.

"I want to fight," she says, her eyes blazing. "Draco is fighting, so are half the people I know. The better half. I should mention. I want to fight too."

Antonin stares at her, then says evenly, "Ms. Pansy, a female Death Eater is a rare thing, indeed."

"I can prove I am worthy if that is what you'd like," she says defiantly.

He looks at her, in her ball gown, elbow-length gloves, long dangling earrings, her face pretty and bright. She's feminine under all that bravado, scared, he knows. He's seen it in her eyes before. "No," he says softly. "That's not what I want." She looks confused and Antonin continues, wondering if she will hate him for saying this, but deciding that he's willing to take that if it will keep her safe. "I want you to be supportive of your fiancé. I want you to marry him and bear him an heir. You may brew potions – a witch is always welcome in the medward – if you like. But I won't have a lady fighting. Most of all, not you."

She takes it the wrong way, of course, and for a moment, Antonin thinks she will slap him. But she only curtsies, eyeing him with fiery disdain and flutters away like a rose leaf on a cool breeze. Antonin sighs and follows her back into the ballroom after a few moments of standing alone in the dark, thinking.

He'd failed to protect Bella all those years ago and now she is lost, lost deep within her own mind, her soul twisted by that which happens to those who lose.

He will not fail like that again.