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Muggle gambling. Of all the ways her father could have lost their fortunes, why did it have to be connected to them? Why couldn’t it be something great like a donation to You-Know-Who’s cause? But this was not ordinary muggle gambling, this was muggle gambling run by wizards; a far more dangerous and illegal activity.

With ordinary muggle gambling you had ordinary people coming after you to collect debts. But with it run by wizards there was no ‘hit man,’ there was simply a signature.

A signature on a contract that stated you would pay back what you owed in full by any means necessary. And they meant that, there was no hiding from the legality of that contract. While the going’s on might be illegal to the ministry, the contracts were binding. It was the ministry’s little oversight to keep things in check. As if keeping the bitter finale legal would somehow deter people from playing.

And, of course, her father had promised them everything but his next born child. They lost their money, their house, and almost all of their possessions. But worst of all, they lost their good name.

Granted it wasn’t good in the ‘righteous’ sort of way, but anything in their ‘society’ linked with that kind of activity was tainted. Tainted to the point of being shunned but still kept around so they could humiliate you again and again.

Something Pansy hated her father for because she still had two years of school left. How could he do this to them? Her mother had had barely enough money in her own name to buy her new school supplies. She only hoped that no one at school had heard, that their parents hadn’t somehow found out their secret, and she wanted to keep it that way.

As she sat in her second class of the year she wondered how many kids in Slytherin, her house, had parents who might have found out and were waiting for the right moment to use it against them. Surely by now someone must have discovered the truth and told the others, a thought that terrified Pansy on multiple levels. But it wasn’t like anything was sacred to them. They would even call each other mudbloods when they knew it wasn’t true just to insult each other.

That’s just the way things were, the way power worked. Her world was dangerous and petty and lurid, but it was high class. It was the best. She was a Slytherin, she was expected to be rich and powerful and influential. But now she had lost all those things, now she was nothing. All because of her stupid father.

Yet, after several more weeks, everything seemed like it might be ok. No one at school had said anything and she hadn’t heard any rumors. Plus her mother and her grandparents were getting all the debt settled so that she might actually have a home to go to at the end of the year.

A small muggle apartment was like living in a dumpster to her, but it was better than asking any of the other families for help. The shame that would come with it would be unbearable. So for now she did the best she could to help. She asked all her friends for money for Christmas, saying she was saving for some new something-err-other, and sent her mother anything she made from her side project of doing homework for cash.

It wasn’t something she normally did, but now was not a time to be haughty. She needed to stay away from the other Slytherins, from their conversations. As much as she couldn’t tell them the truth, she couldn’t be caught lying to them either. Insult to injury that would only amount to them not speaking to her at all. No putdowns, no jokes, not even a rude remark. Just simple, damning isolation. She would rather suffer under the torture curse before she let that happen.

Fate is a cruel mistress though and Pansy wasn’t even dating her. Her father’s misfortune had not gone entirely hidden and now Fate’s advanced guard was staring at her from across the room. Rita Skeeter was not here to talk about the dress her mother had worn to the Malfoy’s spring ball. She was here to destroy her family and act chipper while doing it.

“Please, I’m begging you! Just leave my family’s name out of the story!” Pansy knew she would publish the story regardless of what she said, but she pleaded for her to change that one detail. One detail that her very existence teetered on.

“My dear that would be covering up the facts. I couldn’t possibly do that to my readers,” sweet like a bee sting, her words were the trigger to Pansy’s humiliation.

Nothing could stop it now, not even several letters to the editor of the Daily Prophet. How had she found out anyway? While the contract was legal and they had taken everything, they always did it in private. They may be ruthless, evil pureblood sharks, but they at least let you keep your respect. If you let someone find out what happened, the humiliation was your own fault.

Mostly this was to keep people from revealing any information about the ‘going’s on’ in their establishment, sort of a ‘we’ll let you keep your dignity if you keep your mouth shut’ thing. But once that dignity was lost, anyone who mentioned a word about what happened to anyone was always found dead the next day in a gutter. So not only did they have to lose their dignity with having all their wealth gone, they had to think up a good reason on why it was gone. Something that usually caused even more degradation and often led to suicide.

But her father was strong. Strong enough to take the blame and have a completely personal and humiliating story to blame. He would lose his wealth, his daughter, and his wife but everything would be ok.

Now Rita Skeeter would destroy that, she would be the cause of death for her whole family. Once the higher ups saw her father’s name in the Daily Prophet, they would think he had talked and he would be ‘taken care of.’ And anyone he had links with would have to be dealt with, meaning her mother would be tortured for no reason other than loving a stupid man.

Pansy cried. She was sitting at the Slytherin table for breakfast but now she no longer cared. The Daily Prophet had just landed in front of her. The Daily Prophet with the blazing headline ‘Muggle Gambling claims Parkinson Wealth by Rita Skeeter.’ Draco, at her side, read the headline and grabbed for the paper.

Laughter filled her ears as her hair stuck to her cheeks, wet from her tears. Pansy hid her face with her hair as she hung her head, the insults and ruthless taunts were coming at her from all directions. That is, all but one. Draco sat silently reading the article and then folded it neatly when he was finished.

There was no snide comment, no hurtful remarks; he simply stood up and walked away from her. He moved from his seat next to her at the head of the table to the middle, next to a girl Pansy had never really liked. The girl sneered at her and smiled at Draco. Pansy just cried.

It was a trick she got good at over the next few hours, crying so much that her eyes nearly bled from the continued attempts. But there was nothing to keep her going now, nothing but the memories.

She had hidden herself in one of the corners of the library, near the section on muggle government. No one would bother her there, she could decay in peace. No one, of course, except one boy.

“Pansy?” he spoke her name as if he really cared, stupid Hufflepuff.

“Go away Justin, you’re not welcome here,” she said rudely and turned closer to the place where the two walls met.

“Seems to me this is a public section,” he said calmly and kneeled in front of her.

“Fine be a jerk,” she scowled and got up to leave, almost knocking him over.

“Pansy wait,” he had hold of her arm. How dare he hold her arm! “I didn’t mean to upset you but I think I might be able to help.”

“Help? Help! My Family is surely dead by now thanks to that bitch Rita Skeeter and I am completely forgotten! What more could you possibly do to make my day more peachy?” She was vicious, spitting her words at him as if he was just another Draco. Just another man who had let her down.

But he still held her arm. “My aunt lost everything because of her gambling problem, even tried to take my family down with her. It was hell I know, but nothing is going to let me sit back and watch it happen to you. Come on.”

And he put his arm around her. Without hesitation and without effort, and Pansy gave in completely. He became her prince, her knight, as he shielded her from all the comments of passing students as they walked to a destination she did not know.

But it was alright.

She was expecting him to take her back to the Slytherins, back to be spurned. Sort of an anti-prince to be sure, but it would be okay to dream while it lasted. Not like she had any hope left in her anyway. Yet as each comment grazed her ears, his grip on her shoulder tightened and her head leaned more into his shoulder.

When they finally did stop, Pansy almost jumped at the scary gargoyle statue that faced her; it was the Headmaster’s office. And he was waiting for them; apparently this was all preplanned by Justin.

He had seen the paper, knew what would happen, and asked the Headmaster for help. Then he had gone to find her. He had gone to find her.

"Your parents have been found alive and well. I have seen to it that they be placed in hiding for their protection. We will sort this mess out Miss Parkinson don’t worry. I have spoken to your father and he has assured me of the true nature of your losses.” True nature? Her father had told his lie to Dumbledore and he had accepted it? This was not a dream, her prince was real.

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