Death brings out something new in Pansy.
Warning: HBP spoilers.
A/N: Much love for my beta, Sonya. This was inspired by Six Feet Under/, but only in that /Six Feet Under deals with death better than basically anything ever, and it inspired me to work with the subject. So, I'm calling this my tribute-that-actually-has-nothing-to-do-with-the-show to Six Feet Under. Feedback, including/especially con-crit is welcomed and loved.
It was dark when we pushed outside. Dark and loud like a nightmare, with screaming and whispered hints of evil. For us, for Slytherins-for some Slytherins, for the ones I thought mattered-it was a smug darkness. It was our nightmare to create and control. It was our parents, our friends, people from our world that instilled nameless fear on other students' faces.
Blaise was next to me as we walked through the crowd, his hand hovering behind my back like I was his show dog. He would never have been so bold if Draco was there, but now Draco had gone onto something more significant, more bold and glorious and dangerous than we dared aspire to. We could only bask in his reflected glory, but Blaise was determined to get the most of that. He would walk in front and strut the most and try to absorb all the rays for himself. Blaise had always hated being second best, though he would never admit it, because he never admitted to being second best at all.
Vincent and Gregory were pressed close behind us by the throngs of students, sniggering in my ear and trying to keep pace with Blaise's confident strides. It was normal, despite the abnormality of the night. It was just us, just friends gloating over a prank we pulled. Somewhere, outside the gates and grounds of Hogwarts, this night would mean something. There were broader implications. There was a war and this was a battle ground. We knew this, but we did not know it. The corridors we walked through, the entrance, the grass and trees we knew so well; we could not conceive of them as anything but our playground. Fighting and death were just words on a page, vague and indistinct, something that did not really happen.
People were giving us looks. I could see the suspicion in flashes through the worry. Glimpses of anger at Vincent's cocked head and Blaise's triumphant smirk. There were whispers. "Look at them," "Slytherins," "I bet they're happy." They bet right.
Our wondering was meant to be random. We had come out because this was our moment to revel, not because there was anything in particular we wanted to see or achieve. But we got caught in a tide of students that flowed slowly-so slowly I didn't realize it was happening-towards the Astronomy Tower. As we got closer, the talk around us grew more urgent. Shrieks were louder and the crowd was fused with a tangible hysteric energy.
I think I noticed the change earliest but it was Blaise, of course, who first commented on it.
"I think something's up," he said, his smirk cemented to his face. "Finally, something good."
Gregory crackled, and I do mean /crackled/, like a wrinkled step mother out of a fairy tale, right before she tries to undo the magnificent princess. I always liked fairy tales. In them, death is doled out only for the wicked, and everyone else lives on forever. I'd like that.
We pressed forward, because we thought it would be a lark. A disaster for us to laugh about, whatever it was that was making people so upset. I don't know what I imagined. I don't think anything really, just a vague image of triumph in the form of something I could handle. Something I could embrace and enjoy.
The news reached us before we could see for ourselves. "/Dumbledore is dead!/" streamed through the mass of people, radiating out from the center like waves from a skipping stone. I smiled when I heard. I smiled when I heard our Headmaster was dead. I smiled like my friends were, and I meant it. I shoved forward. I pushed people out of my way. I wanted to see.
This was success.
People gave way. No one had the energy to resist my forward plow, Blaise still by my side. We made it to the edge in no time, and there he lay. Success.
But the figure in front of me spoke of anything but triumph. It was broken. Limbs were angled all wrong, like someone had tried to assemble the body out of spare parts, but fitted them together blindly. This was not success; this was Dumbledore with a dark little trickle down the side of his mouth. It was a man I had despised and feared and admired with all my heart lying completely motionless, horribly, monstrously dead.
And that was it. No more anonymouse newspaper deaths, no more playground battles. Blaise said something haughty, and I didn't respond. There was nothing for me to say that he would want to hear. I don't believe in revelations. What happened was not a divine spark, but the realization of something I should have always known. What I felt in that moment was the truth, the only possible truth: this was wrong.
I don't know why Dumbledore's death touched us in different ways. Back in the dungeons-don't ask me how I got back in the dungeons, I just did-Blaise played chess with Millicent. It was like nothing had changed, except sometimes Millicent would start to giggle and snort. She thought spayed limbs were funny.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I waited for somebody to start talking about it. But no one did. No one I was sitting with. Snatches of other conversations floated through the air, mournful and amused and frightened. Every Slytherin in the room had an opinion, except, apparently, my friends. Vincent and Gregory just watched the chess game, for ages and ages of silence.
Daphne came over, eventually. She stood behind behind me to take in the chess, our silence, and then sat down beside me, close enough for our knees to touch. I never could read Daphne; decipher her pursed lips, her hard stare. She sat straight backed and folded her arms stiffly over her chest.
"Blaise is going to win," she said. They were the first words I distinctly remember after the body. /Blaise is going to win/.
"Of course I am. I'm playing Millicent, after all."
I should have screamed. I should have shaken Blaise until all his smugness broke away and he could understand what I had learned. I wanted to, even saw myself doing it. I imagined dim comprehension spreading across Vincent's face as he realized he was allowed to be horrified. I thought I could break down Daphne's walls and Millicent's amusement. I was on the edge; my muscles were tight, ready for me to jump up. But I didn't. I just watched the chess game.
The days after the death were surreal. Breakfast the next morning-I think, or the day after that-stands out particularly in my mind. I felt so out of sync, the truth coursing through my veins and callous reality didn't match.
Millicent was ripping up a transfiguration essay, burning the pieces as they fluttered towards the floor.
"Good riddance," she said. "I was going to do badly on that essay, anyway. Lucky break."
"I'll say. No examinations! I think I was going fail my stupid Defense O.W.L.S again."
"We should thank Draco, if we ever see him again," Millicent continued. "That old man's death was nicely timed." She laughed hollowly, with a smile that made me squirm.
"We don't know what Draco did or didn't do," I whispered. They needed to understand that Draco couldn't have done this, because this was bad, and Draco was not. I only half believed that, though-still only half believe it. I don't know what anyone is anymore.
"Whatever. He's gone, isn't he? We've got him to thank, in part at least. And a lot to thank him for. No exams and school ending early."
I watched the last piece of essay float, burning, to the floor and did not respond.
Death divides, and death unites.
Hundreds of mourners gathered to say their goodbyes. I sat on the fringes still surrounded by cold companions. I studied my lap, not wanting to meet other's eyes. I knew what I would find, and it was not understanding. Here were strangers linked by threads of sorrow and despair. But I was implicitly outside that web. I was associated with the boy everyone knew had disappeared that night. Funerals are meant to comfort the living. But this one was not meant for me. And I showed no sorrow-I admit it, I showed no sorrow.
A song was running through the air. I've learned enough to know it was merpeople, but at the time I thought it might be my imagination. It spoke of sorrow and confusion and regret so clearly. I closed my eyes to hear better, letting it fill me so that I barley heard Blaise whisper "There goes that giant oaf."
Then a man recited Dumbledore's glory so we could bask in it one more time. I can't tell you what he looked like since I never opened my eyes. He spoke of Dumbledore's noble spirit, and Gregory scoffed. Time dragged on and it all washed over and through me. People screamed and later I heard about the flames and the tomb, the centaur's arrows. But it was all only noise to me then. The sounds of people who understood the truth, who were like me but did not know it.
Eventually chairs scraped, clothes rustled, a murmur rose around me, and someone shook my shoulder.
"Come on Pansy, time to go," Daphne hissed. I looked at her, she was shaking her head. "I can't believe you fell asleep," she said, and laughed. "You could at least pretend to respect the dead."
I shrugged, and voiced my only thought that she'd understand.
"Nobody thinks we care."