It was on a quiet August morning that the letter from the Ministry arrived, announcing the end of their house arrest. The house elves had been quite startled by the owl’s arrival because no mail had been sent to their manor in over a year and had tied up the owl once it had passed through the wards. Once they had determined that the animal was safe, it and the letter appeared at the dining table just as Pansy was buttering her toast.
Pansy’s mother had let out a high-pitched squeak and dropped her goblet, spilling orange juice on their white table cloth. Even though a house elf immediately popped in to remove the stain, Pansy glared witheringly at her. No matter how frightened or shocked you were, you did not behave in such an undignified manner! Her mother’s behaviour truly had diminished since her father had disappeared from their daily lives. His influence did not stretch all the way from Azkaban, unfortunately.
With a pointed glance at her mother, Pansy calmly untied the letter from the owl but paused before opening it. The official Ministry sign sealed the scroll—did that mean…?
Dear Madams Parkinson,
The Ministry has searched your Manor thoroughly and has found nothing to indicate that you were anything but innocent of wrongdoing during the war. Thus, the order of house arrest has been lifted and you are free to leave the boundaries of your Manor. You are no longer under Ministry surveillance but beware: this letter is by no means permission to commit any crimes against society. Any future transgressions will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Minister of Magic
As the contents of the letter became visible Pansy grew still. She didn’t know what this meant for her— yes, the Ministry no longer had free access to her house; yes, she was free to leave the manor now; yes, she was free to do as she wished, so long as it didn’t break the new Ministry laws, but she didn’t know if she wanted to. The sudden freedom felt wrong and Pansy felt vulnerable, as though someone had crushed her protective shell.
Inside the manor she was safe, protected from the world. Outside, she was alone, no longer powerful or a part of the reigning class.
“What did it say?” Pansy felt her heart jump as she realized that her mother had left her seat and come around behind her. Her voice faint and feeling as though her heart was lodged permanently in her throat, Pansy attempted to answer her mother.
“I have—I mean, it says that we have been released from house arrest.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful news, dear! This is so exciting! I can finally visit your father—it’s been so lonely without him.”
“Yes, Mother.” Pansy watched as her mother began a running list of all the things she couldn’t wait to do and wondered if something was wrong with her—why else wouldn’t she be excited about her release from house arrest?
“This means that you can visit Draco!” For the second time that breakfast, Pansy felt herself still. Her mother knew about her feelings? Pansy felt stupid—how could she have not? She hadn’t been subtle before the war’s end; there had been no need to be. Of course her mother would have picked up on it; Pansy was expected to marry well and romantic feelings would have been an important factor while negotiating marriages between their families.
Those negotiations had been stopped, unfortunately, with the imprisonment of her father.
Pansy hadn’t thought that she was now able to visit Draco—but was he allowed visitors? This matter would require more thought; she didn’t know if she felt ready to see him. She nodded absently and her mother seemed satisfied, bustling out of the room. Pansy could hear her commanding a house elf to bring her purse to her —she was going shopping!
Still feeling a little hungry, Pansy decided to finish her breakfast before she made any other decisions. Another advantage of staying in the manor was the good cooking…
After she finished breakfast, Pansy sat on her bed for a long time, trying to make sense of her whirling thoughts. She hadn’t expected the Ministry to rescind the house arrest though logically she knew that they would have had to do that eventually if they were unable to find the necessary evidence to arrest them.
At least they had had the decency to inform them via letter—Pansy could still remember the shame she had felt when she had learned the results of her father’s trial before the Wizengamot from the front page article of the Daily Prophet. That was the day that Britain’s Wizarding society had had their reasons to hate her family confirmed by the highest branch of justice in their government. That day Pansy had been almost glad that the Ministry had forbidden any and all communication with the outer world for Pansy knew that it was only their wards that had protected her and her mother from an onslaught of hate mail.
At the moment, though, Pansy wasn’t thinking about society’s reaction. She was still trying to figure out her own.
She wasn’t ready; she felt unprepared to face Wizarding society. She knew that it would be very different from the one she had lived in before her confinement to her manor. On the other hand, this was her chance to see Draco, after months of separation. This was her chance to confess her feelings, for him to confess his. It was the perfect moment—what if she messed it up?
“You’re acting like an airhead. You’re finally given the chance to leave your manor after how long and instead you’re lying on your bed, like you’ve done for the past fifteen months.” Pansy was roughly torn out of her thoughts by her reflection, who was staring at her with a look of disgust. “It doesn’t matter if you go to see Draco today or not, but for the love of Merlin, you must get out of the manor today. If you don’t show your face, you’ll be painted as a coward.”
Pansy wanted to object that perhaps the public wasn’t aware of her freedom yet but her reflection overrode her. “Are you actually the kind of person who could be so influenced by the public’s opinion? Have you changed so much within the past year? The girl I saw in the mirror each day at Hogwarts would have taken the hippogriff by the feathers without flinching. Are you too weak now? Too scared?”
“It’s not them that I’m worried about. I just don’t feel…” But Pansy wasn’t quite sure what she felt. “I don’t feel ready.”
“No one ever truly believes that they are—you just have to keep on going. Pansy, I can honestly tell you that there is no better opportunity to regain your place in society. If you don’t go today, I don’t know if you ever will. You’ll probably keep convincing yourself that ‘You don’t feel ready’ or that ‘It’s not a good time’. It’s never a good time—you’ll just have to make the best of it.”
Pansy studied her reflection, looking for signs of deception. Unable to find any, she glanced towards her wardrobe where the large box filled with her letters to Draco was stored. “I suppose… And I could always use some new robes…”
At least the manor would only be an apparation away if things went sour.
The sun was brighter than it ever was inside the manor, having been filtered through old, thick windows and past protective wards. The air was thick with warmth and humidity and Pansy cast a cooling charm on herself. The charm didn’t roll off her tongue and Pansy struggled to remember it for it had been so long since she had had cause to use it. The temperature of the manor was monitored and changed daily to ensure that it was comfortable and at Hogwarts the only problem had been with the coldness inside the stone walls—the fire had only ever raised the temperature to tolerable levels. She had only ever had to use the charm during the summers when she was outside, a place she hadn’t been able to visit in over a year.
Pansy smiled briefly as she remembered Draco’s constant complaints during the heart of the winter—he hated to wear layers of clothing as he said it made him appear bulky and it was unflattering. Unfortunately his complaints had never resulted in a remarkable improvement in the castle’s temperature and they had had to continue to suffer the cold.
About halfway down the path that led to the gate that separated her family from the rest of the world Pansy remembered that she could have used the floo. Cursing, Pansy turned around to return to the manor (after all, floo was an easier method of reaching Diagon Alley) before deciding the return trip wasn’t worth the effort and continuing down the gravelly path.
Her shoe caught a pebble and sent it skittering down the path ahead of her. Pansy grimaced and stooped to inspect her shoe for damage. Luckily for the house elves its condition was still as pristine as when she had stepped out of the house just twenty minutes before.
Though her yard had never before seemed so large, Pansy eventually reached the gate where the anti-apparition wards would end. Her hand, however, didn’t immediately reach to unlock the gate. If she opened the gate and stepped through, she would once again be entering the swirling mass that was Wizarding society. This time, though, she would not have the protection of her status. She would be, to everyone else, a commoner, just like them.
She would be one of them.
The gate had never seemed so forbidding before, nor had the rolling green meadows just beyond it seemed so sinister. Were there reporters hidden in the grass, just waiting to pounce and feed on her humiliation?
But she steeled herself and walked through the gates, knowing that if her father was in her place he wouldn’t have hesitated at all. He would have been out there as soon as he was able, repairing their station in society. He would have been a one-man force. However, he wasn’t available to fulfill that role, locked away in Azkaban as he was. The least she could do for him was purchase new robes.
Certain in her thoughts, Pansy pictured the Diagon Alley of her youth and apparated.
After so many years of side-along apparition, the nausea that was a common side-effect hardly bothered her and she was prepared to start her day in the Alley very soon after landing. The place she opened her eyes to was different than what she remembered and it threw her for a loop.
Though it had been over a year since the end of the war several stores were still boarded up and abandoned, their owners either dead or unable to pay the large amount of money necessary to repair it. Even those that were open looked worse for wear, as though they still hadn’t been able to shake the atmosphere of the war.
The people who wandered the streets were different as well. Pansy took note of their rushed pace—very few people were walking leisurely—and the way their eyes still scanned the shadows for danger. They looked to be very methodical, entering a store to purchase only what was on their list before leaving, sights already set on the next shop. They didn’t interact with others, like Pansy remembered from her childhood, and the Alley wasn’t as bright and cheerful as it had been in years past.
The brightest spot in the Alley was still Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes, though, and children’s laughter echoed from beyond its open doors. Still as resilient as ever, Pansy thought nastily as she passed their shop, Those who deserve to be punished always are. So happy, while my father is locked away for the rest of his life.
The Weasel and Weaslette, as Draco had affectionately called them, had adorned the pages of the Daily Prophet for months after the final battle. They had been praised and gifted with credit for the success of the “Light” side, alongside Potter and the Mudblood. They hadn’t suffered, they hadn’t died.
Pansy shifted her gaze and her thoughts towards her destination, Golden Stitches. It was a high-class robe shop that catered specifically to witches. Their fabrics were the finest in England and their tailoring skills beyond compare. No one had ever complained about a crooked stitch or a needle jab during their fitting sessions. All the pureblood ladies Pansy had met had called it their favourite store and her mother had been going there for years. She hoped that its quality hadn’t been tainted by the changes after the war.
It was as she neared the shop that she noticed the attention being paid to her. Somehow, at some point during her journey through the Alley, someone had recognized her. They knew that she was Pansy Parkinson, pureblood, with a Death Eater for a father. This normally wouldn’t have bothered her (after all, before she hadn’t had to worry about the reversal in societal status) but the interest wasn’t friendly.
She could feel eyes watching her, scrutinizing her movement for something that they could twist and sell to the papers. She had seen the articles in the Daily Prophet about the blood supremacists who had accidentally forgotten their new place in society and called the mudbloods mudbloods—their names had been immediately dragged through the mud and in the majority of the cases the poor fools had been sentenced to Azkaban. The purebloods were society’s newest favourite scapegoat.
Their gazes weren’t friendly but Pansy ignored them, confident in the knowledge that she had just as much right, if not more, to be there in the Alley alongside them. Their opinions of her didn’t matter at the moment; Pansy was sure that their opinions didn’t matter at all.
It was only when they started muttering-
-and started to hurl words at her that Pansy remembered her uncertainty.
You belong in a cell next to your father!
The world opened up in front of her, a large cruel space filled with angry and ugly strangers who hated her and all that she stood for. Pansy wished that she was back within the safety of her manor, where she was still respected, where no one dared to insult her. It was pleasant there.
Muck of society. Scraped the bottom of the barrel for her, they did.
Pansy felt her desire to visit Golden Stitches crumbling with each dirty glare, with each muttered slur. Some even dared to shove her and trip her and there was no one there who would come to her aid. They all hated her.
Ugly. Should have died.
It was the final straw when she turned the corner onto a mostly empty alley (how she sighed internally at the sight) to see that Golden Stitches had a sign on its window stating that it was closed for renovations. Looking through the glass Pansy was able to see that there was newer merchandise on the hangers and there were several needles and an arrangement of thread on the counter. Pansy was unable to glean what they were renovating but the fact remained that they were closed. The sign didn’t say when the store would reopen.
When she apparated back to her manor in defeat she was sure that she could hear the mocking laughter of the strangers in Diagon Alley.
She hadn’t truly wanted a new robe anyhow.
A/N: I'd like to thank you for reading and reviewing this far. I just wanted to let you know that I'll be very busy in the upcoming weeks and won't have as much time to write, meaning that there may be a longer time between updates.