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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 1 - alley_skywalker [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 1 [Feb. 17th, 2013|10:01 pm]
alley_skywalker
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Title: In Love and War
Author: alley_skywalker
Paring: Antonin/Pansy, Draco/Pansy, others in background
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Pansy Parkinson has just come out into society and is betrothed to Draco
Malfoy. Antonin Dolohov is once again at the head of the Battle Forces
of the Lord's Organization. They are an unlikely and an impossible
couple but with the Second Wizarding War turning the world upside down,
there is no such word as "never";.

In Love and War cover

It took several weeks for the papers to pass back into Antonin’s hands after the Azkaban breakout. The first week, he was simply in no state to manage any affairs, however rest, good food and fresh air, as well as a cocktail of potions, brought him and the others into shape.

They had been put up at Malfoy Manor, which had been appointed the status of Headquarters until a new location could be found. Recovered documents and resurrected achieves were brought straight into Lucius’ study, conferences were held in the Malfoy formal dinning room, utilizing the fireplace there. Death Eaters, either freed or returning from abroad who did not feel safe yet to go back to their own estates, where put up in the guest rooms. Antonin, as soon as he was allowed by their healers, spent an afternoon along with several of the others putting up an extra security perimeter, although Lucius insisted that the blood wards would be enough.

“You will be thankful for the protection if it comes to it,” Antonin had told his friend grimly, trying to ignore Lucius’ hovering presence behind him. “We will try to find another place for Headquarters and then you can have your privacy back.” Antonin couldn’t help the slip of a teasing smile onto his expression. He knew that if Lucius hated anything about the situation it was the fact that suddenly a couple dozen people had access to his wards.

“It is not you I’m worried about, Tony. You’re welcome to stay for as long as you please,” Lucius answered in his usual dry drawl, so familiar that Antonin felt his heart swell with the realization of how badly he had missed this part of freedom – his friends.

He was amazed at how many of them had actually made it through. Lucius, Augustus Rookwood, Edward Parkinson, Theodore Mulciber… Bella. Antonin had to admit that even Rodolphus’ survival was a pleasant surprise, despite their constant enmity.

There had been losses, too, of course. Heavy, daunting losses that were hard to think about, even harder to actually face. Andre Rosier had not made it through. Igor was being hunted and would be killed by their own for his treachery and Antonin could not decide what hurt more – Igor’s impending death or his betrayal. Bellatrix, who had made it through, was not the woman he had once known. Azkaban had changed her, snapped something within her mind. She was so fragile now, constantly on the verge of madness. Her legendary temper now dissolved into fits of rage and hysterics. What had once been fascination with their Lord and a significant handful of gratitude for what he had once done for her and Antonin was now unconditional adoration which was nearly disturbing in the forms it took.

But even harder than that, perhaps, was knowing he had lost nearly all the boys he had personally trained. Antonin’s Young Guard, his own highly-trained squad, the brightest heirs of that First War, the boys he had worked with for several years had not survived the war. Only four were left: Snape, Avery, Rabastan Lestrange and one of the Tallis twins.

Jack Avery had escaped Azkaban and now had a wife and a son. Fear and loss had left their imprint on the boy. A good deal of his thick, red hair was gone, his eyes were shifty and without their previous youthful spark. Antonin remembered Jack as the loud one, the boy who laughed and shouted at the most inappropriate times. Now, he mostly tried to stay unnoticed. And with Evan gone, whatever had bound Avery to Snape had evaporated as the two rarely spoke.

Snape had always been a boy with an attitude and a sharp tongue. But now there was an air of condescension and hostility to him that made Antonin nervous. Something had always been off about Snape but there had never been time to look into it. Now, Antonin feared, he would have as little time as ever but the matter was no less pressing, especially given just how much faith their Lord was suddenly putting into the man.

The first night that Lucius handed the papers over to Antonin in his study, Dolohov first meant to count his losses and put the past to rest. He opened up the files of the Young Guard and looked through the papers, a peace of parchment for each of the boys. All but four had dates of death written on them, the first two, in Antonin bold hand, the rest were drawn out carefully in Lucius’ neat, ornate cursive.

Bonfante, Anatole July 1979
Black, Regulus December 1979
Mulciber, Ashley November 1981
Rosier, Evan November 1981
Wilkes, Angelus November 1981
Tallis, Alexander December 1981
Crouch, Barty June 1995

“Barty?” Antonin looked up at Lucius who sat in the armchair opposite him. “Only last year? How?”

“He was sentenced to Azkaban, then managed to get out somehow, something about his mother, I’m not certain. He, along with that rat, found our Lord and helped him gain strength. Barty was at Hogwarts impersonating Moody; he was integral to the plan to bring our Lord back to life.”

“What happened?” Antonin felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. Barty had almost made it, had served once again. He should have been rewarded, not dead.

“He overreached, tried to get to Potter himself. Well, he was discovered and taken.”

Antonin frowned, sensing that Lucius was reluctant to tell him everything. “Did he try to escape then or…” Lucius looked away and Antonin felt a sickening prick of dread. “Tell me, Lucius.”

“He got the Kiss. We…we thought it would be kinder to…finish it, so I arranged some things, pulled some strings. Avada Kedavra – no pain.”

Antonin rubbed circles into his temples and sighed. Barty had always been one of the brightest, one of those for whom Battle Magic came easily, naturally. He wasn’t the nicest boy, but there was his idiot father to thank for that. Antonin looked back down at the file in his hands. “No one had the heart to tell Will did they?”

“Dorea Mulciber told him.”

“I heard they wed.”

“Yes, faithful girl, Dorea.” Lucius smiled whimsically. “You would think that after losing both of her brothers – one to death, one to prison – she would not wish to bind herself to a man who was sentenced to life in Azkaban yet that is exactly what she did. She knew, of course, that Alexander was dead but she did not tell William anything until he was free.”

“Perhaps she held out hope that he may one day be free and this way he had more to live for, to hold on for.” Antonin had received news of his mother’s death while serving his sentence and the blow had almost done him in. He could not blame Dorea for withholding the information.

“Perhaps.” They fell silent for some time and Lucius poured them both a glass of brandy. “Our Lord is more determined to wage war than ever before,” Lucius commented, not quite meeting Antonin’s eyes. “We are, of course, expected to follow him. He has grown even more demanding, I am afraid.”

Antonin shrugged and looked into the fire.  “Have we a choice, Lucius? Do you not believe in the Cause anymore?”

“That is not what I meant,” Lucius hissed, but there was a lack of the old defiance in his voice. “It’s…harder with a family.”

A heavy silence fell over them. Antonin would not deny that it would be harder this time. Their forces had been greatly diminished, the politics were not in their favor as much as they were last time, their Lord had personal affairs on his mind and his journey to the Other Side had left him…effected. But Antonin saw no other choice nor no other purpose to his life anymore than to fight and to win. If for any reason, then to avenge all the boys and friends he had lost, all the pain that had been caused him and those close to him. “Speaking of family,” Antonin said finally, thinking that perhaps a switch of topic was in order. “Draco is – what? – fifteen now? Sixteen?”

“Nearly sixteen. He will be coming down for the Easter Ball along with some of the others’ children.”

“Will you present him?”

Lucius hesitated for a few moments, as though struggling with himself. “Yes,” he asserted quietly just when Antonin thought Lucius might ignore the question altogether. “I will.”

*~*

Pansy did not like corsets much. They squeezed the air out of her and she felt unnaturally slim and frail in their stranglehold. Nevertheless, she held her breath and steadied herself on one of the bedposts as their house elf tightened the ribbons of the corset. Over it came folds of white and forest green fabric, falling over her shoulders and breasts, sliding over her petticoats and hiding them. Pansy slipped into her small white shoes and looked at herself in the mirror critically. She wore her hair too short to put up – which grieved her parents – so her mother bid her to curl it. Pansy dismissed the elf and picked up her wand. The thick strands of her chocolate hair curled and fell into place, fixed into place by spells and small, nearly-invisible clips. She made up her face and stood to consider herself in the full-length mirror once again. It would have to do.

Pansy thought that it was ironic that her coming out ball should be the Malfoy Easter Ball. Not that she minded greatly but there seemed to be a slight in it somewhere. “Times are tough now, dear,” her father had explained calmly over tea the night before. “There is a storm coming and we would not want to wait until summer, which is what it would certainly take for you to have your own ball. Besides, there may not be time come summer.”

Pansy was not stupid. She understood very well what her father meant. With the return of the Dark Lord there was sure to be a war. Her father had served the Dark Lord in the past war and he would serve the man again. She saw that this troubled her parents but Pansy felt no fear, despite the darkening atmosphere. If anything, she felt a dizzy, giddy sort of excitement at the events unfolding around her and only wished she could be party to them in more ways than wearing a pretty dress to a ball.

Pansy made her way down the large staircase. Most of the candles were out as her parents were most likely ready to leave. She slowed her steps for the sake of not being criticized on entering the sitting room where her parents awaited. “Mama, Father, I am ready.” Pansy folder her hands before her and looked expectantly at her parents.

“Ah, Pansy. You look lovely,” Edward Parkinson said, coming up to his daughter and giving her a kiss on the temple. “Stunning.”

“I look like a doll, Papa,” Pansy protested. “How am I expected to dance when this damned corset it so tight?”

Michelle Parkinson took in a sharp breath. “Language, dear.”

“Come.” Edward waved for his daughter and wife to stand with him. They took the portkey and were soon swirling through space, landing in the hall of Malfoy Manor a few moments later.

Pansy looked around the dimly lit chamber with its engraved statues and tall, muted-glass windows which stretched up to the ceiling. Music carried to them from the ballroom and its cheerful sounds seemed to contrast strangely with the dark emerald marble and the overbearing atmosphere of the hallway. Pansy thought it strange as she had never felt darkness in Malfoy Manor. It was not the brightest house by any means but there was never such a crushing feeling of something intrusive and watchful.

Pansy followed her parents and soon found herself in the Malfoy ballroom. Here, she found, she could breathe easier. Hundreds of candles along the walls and on large, diamond chandeliers lit the expansive chamber and everything seemed to shine, glow and glitter. The music bubbled and swelled, the trills of a quadrille skipping on the air. Pansy found that she was smiling despite herself as they approached Narcissa to say their hellos.

Pansy scanned the room for Draco, searching him out at the table with the wine and among the dancing couples but he was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Lucius Malfoy at his wife’s side. This puzzled Pansy and she wondered if Lucius and Draco had some sort of business to attend to that would hinder them from coming to the ball. The idea made Pansy feel hot and angry on the inside. That her beau would miss her coming out ball felt like a slap in the face.

Narcissa must have guessed Pansy’s thoughts by her slight agitation and hurried to reassure her. “My husband and son are discussing some matter of importance. They shall be here shortly.” Narcissa gave Pansy a somewhat knowing look which made her stomach flip. Could that mean that they were discussing her? Pansy mentally shrugged it off and, excusing herself, went to find her friends.

Pansy found Millicent first who, as usual, was playing the role of the dutiful wallflower. Pansy wondered if Millicent could even fit into a corset but she supposed corsets had to be made for all sizes and the suggestive way in which Millie’s plentiful breasts peeked out of the top of her plum-colored gown gave Pansy the impression that there had to be at least some form of a corset there. Millie liked the elbow-length gloves and she usually wore black ones in hopes that they would make her dimpled elbows and plump wrists look thinner. The gloves matched her ridiculous feathered, black hair comb which she had stuck into her bun and it perched on the top of her head like some sort of limp bird. Millie’s cheeks were bright red – whether from rouge or wine it was hard to tell – and they stuck out as the most noticeable part of her face, which was a pity, really, as Millie had very nice, beetle-black eyes. To her credit, Millicent did seem very capable of bearing children, many of them.

“Hello, Millie. Is Daphne dancing?” Pansy asked, taking a drink and a cake for herself.

“With Theo Nott,” Millicent confirmed. “I think he fancies her.”

Pansy gave a soft but very un-lady like snort into her glass. “Theodore would, wouldn’t he? They’d match each other well, though.” Daphne was the elder Greengrass daughter and the less lovely one; Astoria had eclipsed her long before any of the boys their age were old enough to notice. But Astoria was not out in society yet, therefore she was not here and Daphne could enjoy her last year or so of unlimited male attention before all of it migrated to Astoria.

“I haven’t seen Draco,” Millicent commented and Pansy could swear she heard a note of triumph in the other girl’s voice.

Pansy smiled smugly not taking her eyes off the dancers. “Mrs. Malfoy said he and his father should be down shortly. They are discussing affairs of importance.”

“Oh.” Millicent’s obviously deflated tone was nearly laughable.

“Look, Millie.” Pansy nodded in the direction of Crabbe and Goyle who stood a few feet away, admiring the desserts and obviously trying hard to restrain their appetites. “Perhaps Gregory of Vincent will ask you to dance.”

“I think Vince is sweet, Pansy,” Millicent said defensively. “Don’t be so cruel.”

Pansy made a small face, remembering how she had been obliged to dance with Crabbe once and he had stepped on her toes repeatedly. To Gregory’s credit, he could at least dance without nearly sending his partner to a healer. “Blaise is here?” Pansy asked, her eyes widening slightly when she spotted the dark skinned boy heading in their direction.

“Apparently,” Millicent replied dryly.

“Blaise, I didn’t think you would grace us with your presence,” Pansy drew out as Blasie came up to them.

“Good evening to you too,” Blaise said back, that infuriating condescending look brushing over Pansy and ignoring Millicent altogether. “Why are you so surprised? In fact I should be the one surprised, or was I not invited to your debutante ball?”

Pansy pursed her lips and suddenly wished that she had a fan with which she could swat at Blaise to her heart’s content. “This is my coming out ball,” she said, rolling her shoulders slightly and standing just a tad taller. “I am surprised because I would not say that you are…impressed by current events.”

“Be that as it may, it is no reason to miss a ball. Besides, I have a new dress robe which yearned for an outing worthy of it.”

Pansy sipped wordlessly at her wine, thinking that Blaise Zabini had to be the biggest prick she had ever known.

“A waltz, perhaps?” Blaise offered her his hand and Pansy gaped at him. He seriously could not think that after that near-insult she would dance with him. Still, she found herself curtsying and taking his hand in assent. It would have been terribly rude to decline.

*

By the time Pansy felt persistent eyes watching her, she had danced not just with Blaise but several other boys as well. Some of her curls had begun to loosen slightly and she made a mental note to take a moment in private to fix them.

She looked around to see who was watching her. It was Lucius Malfoy in his expensive, perfectly tailored green and black dress robes. He and Draco looked so much alike that it was rather remarkable and Pansy felt an inappropriate flutter in her stomach from that steady, steely gaze. Behind Lucius, she could see Narcissa leading her parents down a hallway, away from the ballroom and into a more private area of the house. Lucius gestured for Pansy to come over and she crossed the floor to him, trying to walk “like a lady” – as her mother would say – instead of running out of impatience to find out what was happening. “Good evening, Mr. Malfoy,” Pansy said, hoping she did not sound too breathless.

“Come, child,” Lucius said in a low, approving purr. “There is good news.”

Pansy followed Lucius out of the ballroom and down the hall. Her heart began to beat so fast that she found herself catching her breath a little. If this was really what she thought it was then perhaps Draco had finally given his father her name and perhaps there would even be an early engagement. Pansy knew she was getting ahead of herself and it wasn’t that she couldn’t wait to get married and have lots of children but she knew that it was Draco she wanted and this would mean that he truly wanted her too and that what they had was not just a schoolyard tryst.

Lucius opened the door to his study and let Pansy go in first before following and closing the door with a flick of his wand. The room seemed very dim compared to the ballroom and Pansy had to blink several times before her eyes adjusted completely. Draco stood on one side of the room with his mother and Pansy’s parents stood on the other. The fireplace crackled and sparked, giving the room a comfortable, homey glow. Pansy did not think she had ever been inside Lucius’ study before. He had a large oak desk behind which stood a high-backed chair with a serpent engraved on it and comfortable-looking, leather armchairs. The study floor was covered with lush dark green carpets which matched some of the decorative ones hung on the walls. One wall contained a large bookshelf packed with books the smell of which tinged the air just slightly. On one of the shelves which did not have as many books stood an iron vase which looked ancient to Pansy. It was decorated with emeralds and silver letting which spelled out Latin words. The desk was neatly arranged with a candle, a couple of tidy stacks of papers, an ink-well and a wrack of different sized and shaped quills and the Malfoy seal.

Lucius went to join Draco and Narcissa on one side and Pansy went to stand between her parents. She looked up into her father’s face and he nodded at her encouragingly. Apparently, they had already been briefly informed as to what was going on although Pansy thought that she did not need to be told to figure it out but her pounding heart did not allow her to jump to conclusions or meet Draco’s eyes even though he was looking intently at her.

“My son has now given me the name of the girl he wishes to court with the intention of marriage,” Lucius began in a quiet but strong and reverberating voice. Pansy finally found it in herself to look at Draco and he smiled at her. “Draco wishes to court you, Miss Parkinson, as my wife has no doubt informed your parents on the way here. Would you be receptive of such a courtship?”

“Yes,” Pansy said, a little breathlessly. “I would be very receptive, Mr. Malfoy.” She could hardly stop herself from beaming.

“And you would like to be Draco’s bride?”

“Yes.” Did he not just ask her that very thing?

“Edward, you and I have already discussed this matter earlier.” Edward Parkinson nodded to acknowledge that he had given consent to this union. “Typically there would be a courting period,” Lucius continued. “However, in light of recent events and the…not quite definite future, I would propose that we have an engagement as soon as possible. Admittedly, the waiting period before both Draco and Pansy come of age would be nearly a year, I am sure there is no rush.”

“If there is no need to rush, I do not see the purpose of a full engagement,” Michelle Parkinson cut in. “Believe me, Lucius, I want this marriage as much as anyone; all mothers worry for the future of their daughters. However, they are just children still and I am afraid that an engagement would weigh heavily on both.”

Lucius and Narcissa exchanged glances. It seemed to Pansy that Lucius seemed especially anxious to settle the matter. “You must understand it is hard with the…war…” Narcissa seemed to choke on the word. Her pretty face scrunched up for a moment as though in pain, but then the expression was gone.  “Draco is our only son.”

Edward nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps…a betrothal? It would send the correct message but not be quite as…heavy, as my wife would put it, as an engagement. Then, perhaps some time in the summer before they go back to school we can have an official announcement and engagement ball. That will leave us plenty of time for preparation and no one will think their engagement strange. A girl in her sixth year can very well be engaged and even married.”

Pansy did not know of anyone, even in Slytherin, who was married while still at school, although she did know that many Pureblood girls would get married straight out of school and quite a few seventh-year girls were engaged. Pansy did not think she would like to get married while still at school. It would be very strange, but she would love to have a ball.

Lucius seemed to think this over. “Yes, perhaps a betrothal. We can settle everything and then make a public announcement and hold a ball at a more convenient time.” Something about the tone of Lucius’ voice made Pansy think that it was not certain when there might be such a time. “We can figure out the details perhaps tomorrow, Edward?”

“Yes.” Pansy glanced at her father who looked rather satisfied and thoughtful at the same time. She knew that these “details” most likely included her dowry and that was probably what was causing her father’s thoughtful expression.

“Come,” Narcissa said after a few more words had been exchanged. “They should be here soon and we’ve left our guest for long enough.” They filed out of Lucius’ study and Draco took Pansy’s arm once they were in the hall.

“Are you happy?” he asked her.

“I am,” she said back quietly, hoping that she wasn’t blushing too much. “You?”

Draco surveyed her with his cool, grey eyes and a smirk began to dance across his lips. “Did you really think, Parkinson, that I would give my father someone else’s name?”

Pansy rolled her eyes at him. “I can expect anything from you, Malfoy. Yet, I have always been secure in my place in your heart.” She smirked back at him and Draco’s smirk gradually morphed into a smile just as they re-entered the ballroom.

*

Pansy was standing with Draco, Theodore and Daphne when the Dark Lord arrived. A hush fell over the ballroom and the music was silenced. The candles in the large chandeliers flickered and their decorative teardrop-shaped diamonds swayed and clinked slightly against each other. The air seemed to condense and its thickness swallowed up some of the light. Pansy set aside her glass in anticipation.

“It’s him. He’s here! The Lord himself is here.” Whispers carried around the room and Pansy found herself edging forward. Draco disappeared from her side to go and stand with his parents in the middle of the chamber.

The large double doors on one side of the ballroom swung open and in came the Dark Lord, escorted by some of his most privy cabinet members – three men and one woman. Antonin Dolohov, Augustus Rookwood and Bellatrix Lestrange were on one side while Rodolphus Lestrange, Severus Snape and Theodore Mulciber were on the other. The Lord stopped in the center of the chamber and his escort stopped with him. Everyone else bowed respectfully as the chandeliers continued to flicker and click away. The Lord had once been a charming, even handsome, man, but the body he had been reborn into was not so generous. His skin was pale and had a blue-ish hue to it. His nose was retracted and his eyes were narrow and hollow, sparking an unnatural red from time to time. He had no hair and a toothy, unappealing smile which hardly resembled a smile at all. The Lord held his wand in long, slender fingers on which the bones of the joints stuck out and the nails were lengthy like those of a woman. Lord Voldemort emanated power and darkness, a sort of awe-inspiring chill which made Pansy tingle all over in fascination and dread.

“I see, Lucius, that this is quite the grand affair,” the Lord began in a hissing drawl which carried effortlessly across the ballroom. “I am glad to see so many supporters of our Cause. In fact it would seem that faith has remained strong among my followers.” The Lord’s eyes roamed over the chamber and finally landed on Draco. “So this is the Malfoy heir.”

“My Lord,” Lucius said, touching Draco’s shoulder gently. “Might I present my son, Draco. He is my only son and heir and I assure you that he has been raised in all the proper ways and would strive to be an asset to our Cause.”

“An honor, my Lord,” Draco said crisply, drawing himself up. Pansy could see that he was terribly nervous despite all of his bravado. She could not blame him for even she was nervous although it was unlikely that the Dark Lord would pay her any mind.

“I see. Good, that is good. We will need promising young men in time,” the Lord said in a thoughtful, foreboding tone. “I think it is time for the dancing to resume, however, as we are here for festivities, are we not, Lucius?”

“Yes, my Lord.”

Lord Voldemort made a dismissive gesture and retired to the wine with his escort. Edward Parkinson stepped forward in that moment and held his hand up for attention. “Please, if I may make an announcement of great importance in front of my Lord and all those present.” He turned to Pansy and signaled for her to come forward. Pansy walked gingerly to her father’s side and he took her hand, squeezing it tightly. “My daughter, Pansy, has turned sixteen and it is time for her to be out in society. I hope my daughter can forgive the lack of a true ball in her honor but we would dedicate our attention to more pressing matters. Please.” Edward led his daughter around himself in a circle and she curtsied thrice to all present and the Lord himself.

“Do you not have a son, Edward?” the Lord asked suddenly, cutting through the applause that had sounded for Pansy.

“Yes, my Lord. Richard. He is receiving his High Degree in France.”

“Perhaps your son would enjoy a break from his studies. I would see him here next time.”

“Y-yes, my Lord.” Pansy saw her parents exchange worried looks before Lucius was able to cut in.

“We shall dedicate what remains of this night to the lovely Miss Parkinson,” Lucius declared in a forcedly cheerful manner. “Especially since her family and ours would hope to soon become kin.” Instantly, murmurings broke out throughout the crowd just as the music began once more and Pansy knew that everyone had understood the implication – a betrothal had been decided upon.

The floor was cleared and the music played but no couples hurried to fill the void. It would seem that the Lord’s presence was stifling to most. Pansy tried to sneak glances at the Dark Lord without getting caught. He was an incredibly intimidating man – he did not even look much like a man – and Pansy could not imagine having to dance and laugh in front of him.

Pansy saw one of the men in the Lord’s escort detach himself from their group and walk across the empty dance floor. She did not even realize that he was coming toward her until the man was right before her. “Antonin Dolohov,” he said in way of introduction with a curt half-bow.

“Pansy Parkinson,” she replied, wondering what someone about her father’s age and from the Lord’s escort could possibly want with her.

“Would you like to dance, Miss Parkinson?” Antonin offered her his hand and Pansy could not get out more than a mute nod. She took his hand and he led her out in front of everyone and they began to dance. Pansy was certain of her steps but it still felt awful to be the only one dancing and in front of the Lord himself as well. She tried to hide her discomfort but apparently it showed because Dolohov commented quietly, “You’re blushing.”

“I’m rather… Everyone is looking at us,” she said back, trying to smile as though she did not actually care all that much.

“So let them watch. You’re pretty enough.”

Pansy blushed even more but bravely looked up into the older man’s face. He was handsome for his years with shoulder length, wavy, dark brown hair and mist-grey eyes. There was a firmness in his features and although he was rather pale – Pansy figured it had something to do with his long stay in Azkaban – there was a masculine aura around him, some primitive male charisma that shined through his pallor and lit up his face. She suddenly felt very aware of her own breasts, lips, rosy cheeks and neat curls. She felt very feminine and small in the shadow of that masculine aura. It was not a comfortable feeling, one she had never felt before even though, Pansy had to admit, she was enjoying the dance.

By the time they reached their second turn, several other couples had come out to join them and by the end of the dance the floor was full. “It was a pleasure, Miss Parkinson,” Antonin said as he led Pansy back over to the sidelines.

“I’m sure the honor is all mine, Mr. Dolohov. After all, you are one of our Lord’s most trusted as I see,” Pansy said, sounding casual but feeling a fluttery uncertain sensation inside, just under her ribs.

“I lead our Lord’s battle forces,” Antonin said with no pretence or pose to accompany the phrase. It seemed very simple for a man of such high standing. Pansy looked away from him and spotted Draco waiting for her. “Your lady, Mr. Malfoy,” Antonin said, putting Pansy’s hand into Draco’s. He gave her one last nod and left, seeming to forget about her entirely once he reached his friends.

“Did you like that?” Draco asked uncertainly.

“Are you jealous?’ Pansy shot back.

“Of old Dolohov?”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s not that old. But don’t be jealous. I’ll dance with you next.” She laughed and tugged Draco’s hand so he would go and dance the quadrille with her.

*~*

There was no engagement ball for Pansy that summer. In fact there was no Malfoy ball at all nor any of their usual summer galas out in the gardens among the hedges which the elves would decorate with glittering fairylights. In fact, the manor had become gloomy and hushed, many of the curtains drawn. All the Death Eaters that had been staying there after the Azkaban breakout had gone but there was a darker shadow which fell over the Malfoys – the shadow of disfavor.

Pansy did not quite understand all of this but what she did understand was enough. Lucius had been put in charge of an important mission and the mission had failed. Apparently, it should have been an easily executed assignment and the Lord was not as merciful and patient toward failure as he had once been. Lucius, along with most of the others, had been captured by the Aurors and was now serving a term in Azkaban while his solicitors hammered appeal after appeal into the Wizengamot. Bellatrix Lestrange and Antonin Dolohov had been the only two to evade the Aurors.

Pansy heard her father speaking with Rodolphus Lestrange one night and both of them sounded agitated as they spoke in quiet voices behind the closed door of Edward’s study. Fragments of their conversation reached Pansy’s ears as she stood still in the shadows of the hallway, not wanting to eavesdrop but finding it impossible to move on toward the sitting room where she had been initially headed. She could not gather much from these fragments other than that the situation was disturbingly unstable and perilous, not just for the Malfoys but for everyone.

*~*

“My Lord, I must insist that Draco Malfoy is not old enough. He is merely just turned sixteen.”

Antonin stood facing his Lord in the center of the Malfoys large dinning chamber where the Lord insisted on holding meetings, even the smaller ones, even though Antonin and the others had found and secured a different location for Headquarters. The paperwork, the training facilities, the main potions lab – generally everything – had already been relocated there but the Lord refused to hold court anywhere but Malfoy Manor unless under pressing circumstances. “I leave Strategic Headquarters in your capable hands, Antonin,” their Lord had said. “I, however, would like to visit my old, slippery friend Lucius and his home once in a while.” When Antonin had been called here today and found only Snape in the chamber along with him, Antonin had instantly suspected something of importance and of a private nature as well. Seeing Snape at these meetings was still surprising and uncomfortable for Antonin.

“Did you not put boys into battle once they turned sixteen before, Antonin?” The Dark Lord’s eyes glowed a dangerous red but Antonin was not so easily intimidated. He had known their Lord when he still went by the name Riddle to those who knew him personally and to many who did not. Riddle had recruited him back then and Antonin knew his own value well.

“Indeed, my Lord. But those boys were trained in the Academy. They had two or at least one year of constant, intense battle training. Draco has had no training at all.”

“What would you say to this, Severus?”

“I must agree with Dolohov. Draco is a child with no training and average wits about him although, he is not completely without talent, especially in certain areas.”

That’s Mr. Dolohov to you, boy, Antonin thought a little bitterly although he had few rights to the thought. Severus was well into adulthood now and their difference in age was no longer significant as well as their difference in rank it would seem.

“I am not asking him to go into battle, Antonin. You may keep him out of missions all you like. This is an assignment that would require more stealth than Battle Arts.”

“All the harder then it is, my Lord!” Antonin protested. “Certainly, Severus is far more qualified… or we could plan an attack—“

“Lucius Malfoy will learn his lesson!” the Dark Lord snapped in an unnatural hiss which made his voice sound hardly human. “I will hear no more of this! Do you understand?”

“Yes, my Lord,” Antonin acquiesced with a bow of submission. “However, Draco should not be Marked. We never marked a boy before he was of age. Not even the Young Guard.”

Voldemort spun around and pointed his wand at Antonin. “Crucio!” he hissed in annoyance. The curse was not held for more than a split second but the charge that hit Antonin in the chest was enough to make him double over and kneel. “Get up, Dolohov,” Voldemort commanded in the same irritated manner. “Say no more to me of this. It is decided.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Antonin agreed, stifling a cough. I’m sorry, Narcissa, he thought dejectedly. I tried, I did.

*~*

Pansy stood at the window of Draco’s room, her hands gripping the windowsill so tightly that her knuckles were going white from the exertion. The daylight was slowly fading as the sun lowered itself toward the horizon, stretching out the shadows, but it was still too bright to light candles. Despite the fact that she was only wearing a light, yellow summer dress and light silky robes over it she felt hot and her eyes were dry and itchy as though with hayfever. Draco stood behind her, eyes fixated on her shoulders.

“Turn around and look at me, Pansy,” he said, a pleading note slipping into his tone, a sign that he was utterly desperate to end her silence.

“I don’t want to see it,” she said stubbornly, fixing her gaze on one of the Malfoy peacocks roaming around in the gardens below.

“Why not!” Draco demanded in frustration. “Do you despise it? Do you think your family is on the wrong side? Would you rather be – or I be – a blood traitor and consort with Mudbloods?”

“No!” Pansy nearly screamed the word. It came so fast from so deep inside her that she could not control her voice. She turned around and bore her eyes into his arm. “Fine. Show me.”

Draco met her eyes and without looking down rolled up his sleeve to show her the black skull-and-snake tattoo on his arm. It seemed to bulge due to the sharp contrast with Draco’s fair skin and to Pansy it seemed as threatening as the Dark Lord himself. “Merlin…” she breathed in terrified awe. Pansy stepped forward and touched her fingers to Draco’s arm. The Dark Mark felt cold and nearly alive under her fingers, like the scales of a large snake. The image of Nagini sprung into her mind and she yanked her hand away, instantly ashamed of herself when Draco winced.

He rolled the sleeves of his shirt and robes back down and sat heavily on the large four poster bed. There was a dragon carved out on its headboard and Pansy found herself studying the lines of the carving instead of meeting Draco’s eyes. “I must avenge my father,” Draco said in a hollow tone. “I must bring honor back to my family.”

“I understand,” Pansy said because she really did understand. Draco was the only one who could fight in his father’s stead and bring glory to the Malfoy name. “I’m just scared, Draco,” she admitted, sitting down beside him and taking his hand. “You have to do something and you say it’s dangerous but you won’t tell me what you have to do and now you’re Marked so it could be anything. I don’t want to lose you.”

“You’re not going to lose me,” Draco told her. “Either way.” He pulled his hand out of hers sharply and stood with a nervous jerk of his head. “There’s nothing I or anyone else can do about it.”

Pansy was about to plead with him to tell her what it was he had been assigned to do, to tell him how not knowing was killing her more that anything and everything but she was cut short by a house elf popping in and informing Draco that his mother wanted to see him.

“I should go,” Pansy said, getting up. “I’ll walk down with you and say goodbye to your mother before I go.”

*

Downstairs, Narcissa was speaking with someone in the parlor and Draco stopped just outside the half-open double doors, uncertain whether he should enter or wait for his mother to finish her conversation.

“Thank you for doing this, Antonin. I’ve really got no way of protecting him in this. I don’t… I don’t know what to do sometimes. Lucius is away and I don’t know when he will come back…” She broke off as her voice hitched and Pansy saw Draco’s face visibly darken.

“I understand, Narcissa.” Dolohov’s voice carried in a low, penetrating sound and in the dark of the hallway Pansy felt a nervous rush of excitement rise up in her for no reason that she could understand. “You know I will do what I can to prepare Draco for this but there’s only so much I can teach him that will be helpful in this task, I am afraid.”

Footsteps came in their direction and Draco stepped quickly forward into the light of the doorway. “Mother, you wished to speak with me?” He lifted his eyes cautiously to Dolohov and gave the older man a respectful nod. “Mr. Dolohov, good day.”

“Yes, Draco. I wanted to say it is time. Antonin will take you to Headquarters now.”

There were some more words exchanged but Pansy’s entire attention was focused on Dolohov. He wore a darker, simpler robe than the night he danced with her at the Easter Ball. He was less pale but his eyes seemed to sink deeper as though he was not getting enough sleep. She remembered the smell of his toilet water and the warm sensation of his arm around her waist and the way she had been hyperaware of her body. Pansy nearly blushed and tore her eyes away before Antonin would see her looking and meet her eyes.

As it was, Dolohov’s full attention was on Draco. “Come, Mr. Malfoy,” he said in a commanding but not unkind voice, holding out a portkey. Draco said his goodbyes and he and Dolohov disappeared.

“Would you stay for tea, Pansy?” Narcissa asked, clapping for her house elf.

“If you like,” Pansy agreed, making her way toward the sofa closest to the window. She liked sitting there and sometimes she and Draco would curl up on that sofa when his parents were away and tell silly spook stories with the fireplace crackling merrily in the background. “There is another Headquarters?” Pansy asked as Narcissa joined her and the elf poured their tea before disappearing with a small pop. “I thought here…?”

“Our Lord likes to hold conference here,” Narcissa said in a tone that suggested that she was not happy about this but had no intention of discussing those feelings. “However, most things are done at the other Headquarters.”

“If Draco is being taken there, does that mean he will fight? In battle?” Pansy was not certain if she thought such a thing was fascinating or frightening.

“In a way,” Narcissa replied cautiously. “Our Lord would have Draco’s assignment remain secret to all but a few.”

“Yes, of course,” Pansy agreed though she was still burning up with curiosity and worry.
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