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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 2 - alley_skywalker [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 2 [Feb. 26th, 2013|03:19 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";.
Notes: To see all parts, please follow this fic's tag.

Dear Mr. Dolohov,

I hope you can forgive me my impertinence of writing to you but I have no one else to turn to in this matter and you seemed very gallant to me when we met at the Malfoys’ ball and you are good friends with my father, Edward Parkinson, so I was hoping that you could pay me some mind and set my mind at ease.

I know that Draco has been given some very important task for the Lord and I know that he has been Marked. I understand that this is a secret mission and perhaps you cannot reveal its details to me – although, not knowing is horrible, you must understand – but I am extremely concerned about Draco. He has become more distant ever since the year started and very jumpy. He is worried about his father and the war but I know this task is weighing on him.

I’ve been told by Draco and his mother that you had helped him with advice and some training before we went back to school so I feel that you care about Draco and the success of his mission or you would not have dedicated your time to helping him. I plead with you, however, to help him as much as possible even now. Draco knows nothing of war even though he pretends to. We are all uninformed and unprepared. I, for one, sometimes feel quite helpless.

Please, tell me what to do? How can I help Draco? I would do nearly anything to help him, to help our Cause and if you could tell me what to do I would be forever grateful.

Sincerely,
Pansy Parkinson

Antonin allowed the letter to flutter down onto his lap and stared ahead at the snowstorm that was brewing outside, white snow painting the world into a colorless blur. Pansy’s letter was the letter of a child, a scared girl who was writing in sentences and phrases she had heard her mother use in the parlor. He could tell where Pansy suddenly became uncertain of her words and her thoughts – there were crossed out bits of text in those parts and her hand was visibly less steady, the parchment crinkled at the edges from the wavering of the quill.

If he closed his eyes, Antonin could see Edward’s young daughter, who had blossomed beautifully, as she had been that night at the Malfoy’s ball. There was fire in her eyes, something longing to break out from under that corset even though on the outside she could seem demure and graceful with her lacey silks and tight curls.  What in Merlin’s name was he supposed to say to her?

*~*

Dear Miss Parkinson,

Do not worry about writing to me. There is nothing untoward in that, especially since I know your father well and your fiancé’s – yes, I know – father is one of my closest friends. I wish I could be more of a comfort to you than I am afraid is possible.

Mr. Malfoy’s mission is, in fact, classified, and I cannot reveal its details to you. As far as what you can do to help him, I am really no expert. But do try to make him feel loved and believed in. Do not pry too much, as I am sure he will only be unhappy with you for it. But do not be disinterested. I know this all seems confusing but do as your heart tells you. I am sure it will not lead you wrong.

As for my part, I am, unfortunately, too far away to be much influence on or help to Mr. Malfoy. Your Head of House, Mr. Snape, would be of greater assistance, although I caution you against going to him in all situations that would not be dire. I am afraid your concerns would not be well received with him.

Have faith, Miss Parkinson. The war is upon us, but it will not last forever. You will marry, the war will end and everything will settle back into its place. Believe in us – in your family, your friends and everyone who fights for you and our future. It’s the best help you can offer.

Sincerely,
Antonin Dolohov

In the dark of the girls’ dormitory, with the only light coming from her wand, Pansy folded up the letter and tucked it away into a small wooden box where she kept the more valuable pieces of her correspondences under a locking spell. She put out the light on her wand and the owl that was sat on the windowsill hooted softly.

Daphne stirred and mumbled something in her sleep and Pansy waved in irritation at the owl. “Stupid bird, where do you think I’m going to get food for you in the middle of the night?” she hissed at it.

The owl ruffled its wings and hooted again.

Pansy sighed and felt around in her truck for the bag in which she carried Lulu’s treats. She gave the owl a morsel and sent it on its way, watching as it flew gracefully across the moon, before settling back down into bed.

She wanted to know what Snape had to do with all of this, but overall something about Antonin’s letter had assured her. Perhaps it was the finality with which he stated that the war would eventually end, as though he could see that end looming ahead, quickly approaching. She would re-read that last paragraph several times again that year. She drew something from it, something that no one else could give her. At the least, it was the strength she needed as she watched Draco fall apart more and more the longer the days of that year dragged on.

*~*

“P-professor Snape.” Pansy had not meant to stumble the first word but coming face to face with her Head of House often put her off balance. There was no denying that the man was rather terrifying in the darkness of the dungeons. In the light of day in the Great Hall he was merely intimidating and in the classroom even managed to be well disposed toward his own House as there were always Gryffindors or careless Hufflepuffs to pick on. But here, in the dungeons, where the torches threw a dim light on the stone walls and a light half-breeze sometimes wafted through the halls, coming almost from the cracks it seemed, Professor Snape loomed a dark shadow, ominous and unforgiving. Pansy clutched the hilt of her wand under her robes. She knew she would not stand a chance in a real fight but she was not here to fight and holding onto her wand was comforting, the weight and texture of its hilt familiar in her hand.

“Yes, Miss Parkinson?” Snape drew out in a silky, deceptively soft tone.

Pansy drew herself up, trying to forget that Antonin had warned her about going to Snape and asking questions. He must have told her than Snape knew for a reason, otherwise why tell her at all? So she was here fishing for answers, answers she would probably not get but Pansy was not the sort of girl who would give up before she even tried. “I was hoping I could have a word with you in private, Professor.”

Snape gave her a piercing looking and, instinctively, Pansy looked as far away from his face as she could without actually turning her head or changing her body posture. “Is it not rather late for you to be wandering around, Miss Parkinson?”

“I was not wondering, Professor,” Pansy countered confidently, although confidence was not a feeling she was experiencing much of at the moment. “I was coming to see you.”

There was a moment of silence in which Pansy was starting to fear that she would be turned away. But then Snape gave a swish of his cloak and ushered her in. “Come in quickly then.”

Pansy swept past the professor and gave a curious look around before turning to face Snape once again. She had been in this office once or perhaps twice before but Pansy always found herself astonished by the number of flasks lining the walls with all sorts of ingredients and mummified – or something like that – creatures in them. Snape’s desk was part of a lab table set up and there were only two candles set on either side of the writing space. The rest of the light came from the enchanted blue, green, red and yellow backlights of the various flasks. It was painfully obvious that Snape was a potions professor and an obsessive one at that.

“What did you want, Miss Parkinson?”

“I-I wanted to speak with you abut Draco, Professor,” Pansy said, attempting to settle her nerves and make her voice sound confident and clear.

“What about Mr. Malfoy?” The blank expression on Snape’s face remained infuriatingly unchangeable.

“I’m worried about him, Professor. I know he has some secret task – but I know you know about it and perhaps even what it is – and I wanted to come to you for advice and…and…” She faltered. Snape seemed to be glaring at her as though trying to set her on fire with wandless magic. Of perhaps freeze her. Antonin was certainly right about him not being very receptive.

“Even if I knew something about a task that Mr. Malfoy has why would I reveal its details to you, Miss Parkinson?”

“I don’t want details per se. I just want…I want to help him; I want to offer…I don’t know. Support?”

“What tender sentiments.” Snape’s tone dripped in sarcasm and Pansy could not help the wave of insulted frustration that rose up in her.

“How dare—We’re betrothed—Of course I want to…” Pansy felt herself withering under Snape’s gaze but she was so certain that she was doing everything right that even those heavy, piercing eyes could not get her to back down without a fight. “He’s pushing me away. He is pushing everyone away,” she finally forced out, almost desperately.

“Perhaps it would be better then if you left Mr. Malfoy alone. Personal space can be a great thing, Miss Parkinson.” There was something unpleasant in Snape’s tone, almost as though he meant to be sarcastic without actually sounding it. “As it is, I do know about Mr. Malfoy’s task but I am not at liberty to speak of it. It should be of none of your concern anyway.”

But it is my concern! Pansy thought. She longed to shout it but angering Snape would not get her anything of what she wanted. “Well, if you know of his task…would you not help Draco, Professor?”

“This is none of your business, Miss Parkinson and I strongly suggest that you stop your prying.” An icy edge appeared in Snape’s voice and Pansy took an instinctive step back. She felt emotionally and mentally worn down and the slow hysteric was growing deep inside her, gradually bubbling up to the surface.

“Please, Professor, you may be Draco’s only hope! Mr. Dolohov wouldn’t have mentioned you in his letter if you could not be of help in this case!” Pansy blurted out. She took another step toward the door.

“Mr. Dolohov?” There was genuine surprise in Snape’s voice. It was well masked but Pansy still noticed it, a small upward slip of a note in his tone. He must have assumed all of her information was from Draco himself. So then, Draco and Snape must have spoken before about Draco’s task. That did not mean that Snape was helping him but maybe he was trying.

“Yes. I wrote to him and he wrote back. A very kind letter. He mentioned that you would be of greater help here to Draco than he could be, seeing as how he’s so far away.”

A deep shadow settled over Snape’s face and he seemed to consider something for several moments before saying sharply, “Stop prying, Miss Parkinson, it will not bring any good. If you lead a correspondence with Dolohov don’t tell anyone about it. Or don’t have one at all, that is even better. Now off to the common room with you.”

Pansy, unwilling to meet Snape’s eyes, had no more protests or any more strength to hold a further contest of her will against his patience. “Good night, Professor,” she said briskly and swept from the room, trying to hold her head up as her mother had taught her to always do instead of just scampering away like some frightened Hufflepuff who had just been told off.

She hadn’t exactly expected for her visit to be very productive but she had not expected to be even more worried after she left Snape’s office. Why did he not want her to know anything about Draco’s mission or to help him, or to write to Mr. Dolohov? There was something ominous in the air and it wasn’t just the far off war. It felt like the war was coming closer. Coming here. Coming to swallow her whole.

*~*

“You went to talk to Snape about me?”

“Shhh. Draco, this is the library,” Pansy hissed back at him, slamming shut the large tome she was holding. “I don’t fancy Madam Pince coming to tell us off.”

Draco lowered his voice but pushed her further down the isle until they were in a corner with bookshelves on three sides of them and no one in sight. “You went to see Snape about me,” he repeated. This time it was a statement not a question.

“I’m surprised he told you about it,” Pansy snipped back, feeling irritated. What business was it of his? He wasn’t telling her anything about what he was doing, why he was so edgy lately or anything at all, for that matter.

“Well he did, but that’s not the point. Why did you go? Did you think he would actually tell you anything?”

“I don’t know why I went. I was worried about you. You never talk to me anymore Draco. You disappear all silent and mysterious sometimes during the night and you’re never happy when you come back and you never—“ it sounded silly to say but, well, they were betrothed, she had a right, damn it. “You never have any time to be with me anymore.”

“And you thought going to Snape would fix that?” She couldn’t tell if Draco sounded dumbfounded or angry anymore.

“No. Well, I don’t know what I thought. I’m doing what I can, alright, Draco? You’ve left me in the dark and you know how much I hate that.”

He looked at her hard for a few minutes, then backed away a step as though forcing himself to not do something rash. Like hit me, Pansy thought. “Stop prying, Pansy. Alright? Just stop. You’re not helping me and you’re only causing trouble for everyone involved. I’m sorry if I haven’t been paying you enough attention but I have more important things to worry about than you right now.”

That stung. It stung hard enough for Pansy to open her mouth but not utter a single word. She almost dropped the book she was holding. Really, she wanted to throw the heavy thing at him, but instead she merely turned away from him and slid the large tome onto a shelf, not bothering to put it back where she’d gotten it. Her thoughts were too mixed up for that at the moment. “I understand,” she said flatly. “Are you going home for Christmas.”

“No, I need to stay here. It will be easier to think with everyone gone and away.”

Pansy turned and looked up at him mournfully. “Alright. Good luck. Don’t hurt yourself with all that thinking.” She tried to smirk at him as she used to but the expression didn’t quite form.

Pansy left for Christmas with most of the student body. She spent the holidays waiting for an owl. One finally came on Christmas morning. Attached to it was a quick note reading: Happy Christmas, Pansy. –Draco.  She stared at it in disappointment, then gathered her wits and wrote back a simple, short letter, which she hoped did not come off as too cold. As she watched Draco’s owl make its way back to Hogwarts with her letter, she imagined Draco sitting in proud solitude in the middle of the Slytherin common room. He was miles away now – not just physically but also emotionally and Pansy didn’t think she could fix it.

When she retuned to school, things did not change. Sometimes it felt to Pansy like the Dark Mark had done something to Draco because ever since he got it he started drifting further and further away from her.
     
*~*

Pansy’s eyes were raw from unshed tears. She could feel herself trembling, the tension that had been building up over the last few months releasing itself in a silent hysteric that she could hardly contain. She had watched Draco struggle silently with whatever demons fed on him and felt utterly helpless to do anything to help him. With every day he grew more silent and distant. She tried to comfort him, sometimes with words, sometimes with kisses, but nothing she did seemed to make a significant difference. Draco’s nervousness and despair translated to her and she feared for his sanity as well as her own.

She found him in a dark, deserted hallway where all was silent other than a steady dripping sound from some hidden leak. Draco stood against the wall with his shirt buttons undone and his head thrown back. His eyes were closed and his hands clenched and unclenched in the folds of his waistcoat.

“Draco?” Pansy approached him cautiously like one would approach a wild animal. Lately Draco had been unpredictable and she could never be sure when a misstep could cost her a hex in the chest or face. “Please talk to me.” She could feel the soreness and dryness in her eyes, the raw stinging behind her eyelids. She could almost feel her pupils dilating as her eyes struggled to adjust to the dark.

“I’ve got nothing to tell you,” Draco forced out, his breathing coming in short intakes of air which he let out with force. “I told you, Pansy, this is something I have to do. It’s my mission, my glory, my—“

“I don’t care about the damned glory!” Pansy snapped in frustration. “Ever since school began you’ve grown more and more morose and neurotic. I don’t care about the glory, Draco. I care about your safety and your sanity.”

Draco’s head snapped into a more upright position and he turned to glare at her. In the darkness, it was hard to distinguish his expression but Pansy could feel his eyes burning into her. “All you’ve done is worry. I don’t know who’s more worried you or I? Do you think I can’t handle it?”

“No, that is not what I—“

“Just because the others are so effected by us being out of favor I thought my own bride—“

“Draco!”

“—would have some faith!” His words were spiteful and Pansy knew they came out of anger not at her but at whatever it was he couldn’t get done. That didn’t make them any less hurtful.

“I have faith enough,” Pansy snapped, iciness slipping into her tone. “I just want to help.” The ice melted as quickly as it came and she felt herself ready to cry again. “Please, Draco.” She reached for him but he slapped her hand away,

“Don’t touch me!”

She backed away, confused and hurt. “Why won’t you let me help? Why do you hate me for even worrying?” she asked a little bitterly.

“I don’t hate you, Pansy. But I’ll be fine on my own. I don’t need you or Snape or anyone! Now grow up and stop worrying. This is a war, you know. Bad things happen. Merlin, girls don’t have the stomach for anything.” He shoved past her and disappeared around a sharp corner.

Needles pricked away at Pansy’s eyes making it hard to see and think. She pushed the heels of her hands against her eyes and rubbed, trying to make the tears go away. It wasn’t fair. He had no right to speak to her like that and perhaps if he just stopped pushing everyone away maybe it would be easier.

Pansy wandered through the halls in the general direction of the common room. Her tie felt like it was suffocating her so she loosened it. She thought of all the rumors that were going around, how worried her mother sounded even in her letters, how she could never reach Draco anymore, how her brother was being recalled from his studies in Paris to come and fight. She’d heard rumors of the first battles and though they seemed so far away there was always a reminder of just how close the reality actually was. The reminders usually came with the morning post when one of her housemates would let out a soft gasp and quickly leave the hall after receiving a letter. Then there would be rumors of a death or someone’s relative ending up in St. Mungo’s.

Pansy stopped at a window and looked outside over the Hogwarts grounds. It was nearly curfew and people were returning from their walks and outdoor activities in pairs or groups. The snow no longer fell and the sky seemed darker, no longer lit up by the reflection of the Hogwarts lights. Among the returning students Pansy spotted the “golden trio” of Gryffindor – Potter, Weasley and Granger. They had their heads together and then the Granger girl laughed and the others joined her. Pansy felt a sharp stab of hatred toward all three. She could not even say who she hated more – the Mudblood or Potter. All of this was because of them and people like them and yet they somehow had the audacity to be happy.

Pansy twisted one hand in the folds of her robes and the other found the hilt of her wand. She took several steadying breaths and turned away from the window. She knew she was on the right side of these barricades and she knew that victory was rightfully theirs’ but she also was certain of a very Slytherin truth: few things in life were fair, if any at all.  

*~*

Draco’s expression had goodbye written all over it. In the moonlight that fell through the large, ornate windows he looked even more fair than in sunlight. Draco looked like a ghost and a small, superstitious part of Pansy was frightened by the comparison. She drew her robes tighter around herself and looked up at him questioningly. “Why here? If Filch were to find us….It’s almost past curfew.”

“I didn’t want to do this in the common room.” Draco was only wearing his shirt and tie. The crisp, white fabric glowed an ethereal blue. He took a step toward her and touched her cheek with the back of his hand. Pansy leaned into the touch, feeling a long-gone warmth fill her.

‘Do what?” she asked in nearly a whisper, meeting his eyes.

“I want to…I want to tell you that I’m sorry for…everything. I also wanted to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye?” Panic rose up in her and Pansy threw herself forward but Draco caught her wrists and held tight. He pulled her closer and kissed her hard, the way he hadn’t kissed her since… Since September, probably.

“Not forever. I don’t think forever. Just. For now. Remember the thing I have to do?”

Pansy nodded mutely, sill looking up at him with wide eyes. How could she forget?

“I’m almost done.” A note of hysteria slipped into Draco’s voice. “It’s almost over and if everything goes the way it should, all will be well again. I hope.”

“I hope so too,” she breathed, her voice barely audible. “But why goodbye? Where are you going? When will you be back?”

Draco leaned his forehead against hers and smirked. “Shut up for a moment, Parkinson.” He kissed her again, winding his arms around her waist. She held onto him as tightly as she could. When he stopped kissing her, she buried her face into the crook of his neck. They stood like that for a long time, then Draco took a step back and released her. The loss of contact left Pansy feeling cold and alone once again. “I have to go. Go back to the common room, alright?”

“I suppose you can’t tell me where you’re going.”

“No.”

Pansy sighed and nodded. “Alright.” She gave him one last, long look, then turned on her heal and ran until she reached the dungeons.

*~*

“Pansy! Pansy, wake up!”

Pansy forced her eyes open as someone shook her awake. Her eyes met another pair of dark orbs in the gloom. Daphne. Pansy pushed her friend’s hands away and sat up. Hair fell over her forehead and eyes and she swiped at it impatiently. “What?”

“Something’s happening! There’s…I think there’s fighting.” Daphne looked completely shell shocked and her eyes were wide, the pupils dilated even in the dark.

Pansy rubbed at her eyes, trying to get her hazy mind to comprehend the situation. This was one of the few times she wished that their common room was on one of the towers rather than in the dungeons – the lack of a good view outside was stifling. “What do you mean fighting? I can’t hear anything.”

Daphne shook her head and fell onto the end of Pansy’s bed in a heap. Now Pansy could tell that she was breathing hard. “You can’t hear it here but I was out with Theodore, we were—“ Daphne blushed and Pansy couldn’t help smirking “—anyway, we were out and then we hear crackling and booming but very far away. It sounded like curses and spells hitting…things.”

Something in Pansy’s chest constricted painfully. Draco’s words from earlier that night echoed in her head: ”I also wanted to say goodbye.” She reached her hand out and grabbed at her clothes. She found a comfortable house dress but nothing from her uniform. She froze and bit her lip. “Maybe just fireworks or some fourth years having a go at it,” she reasoned. Voices began to float up to them from the common room downstairs.

“We thought so too but then…then Theo looked outside and we saw…above one of the towers…the astronomy tower I think…we saw…”

Millicent and Circe stirred and one of them mumbled something about being quiet.

Pansy reached out and gave Daphne a nice big shake. “What did you see?” Pansy demanded.

“I don’t know, but Theo – he saw it better – he said it was green and looked like the Dark Mark.”

Pansy’s fingers closed around the soft fabric of the house dress. She threw off her nightgown and slipped into the dress without a word, then climbed out of bed and grabbed her wand. “Lumos.” In the light of her wand, Pansy managed to find her robes and shoes. She could feel Daphne watching her in confusion from the bed.

“Where are you going? Pansy?”:

“I have to find Draco.” Pansy nearly ran from the bedroom and tumbled down the stairs. The common room was already full of sixth and seventh year boys. Pansy’s eyes swept the group, searching out Draco’s bright blonde hair. Not seeing him, Pansy made a beeline for Theo. She grabbed his arm and turned him around. Theo had the same wide-eyed expression as Daphne and Pansy had a biting thought that they really were perfect for each other. “Did you see Draco? Do you know where he is?”

Theo shook his head. “I didn’t see him upstairs. Did Daphne tell you—?”

“Yes.” Pansy turned away from him and continued to look around the room. She saw Daphne coming down with Circe and a half-asleep Millicent. The boys around her were talking excitedly. Some wanted to go see what was happening, others thought that staying put would be a better idea, a couple suggested that they needed to tell Professor Snape. “Draco’s not here,” Pansy breathed out more to herself then to her friends who were all looking at her in concern. Unconsciously, Pansy ran a hand through her hair even though she was hardly thinking about her looks. “I need to find him.”

Circe grabbed her hand and held her back. “Where are you going to go? If there’s fighting, it wouldn’t be safe.”

“I don’t care,” Pansy snapped. Even if there was fighting, so be it. She wanted to fight, it was better then sitting around and waiting to be told what was going on and what would happen next. She tore her wrist from Circe’s grip and ran from the common room into the dark of the stone hallway.

Pansy was not the first one to the Great Hall. A large swarm of Hufflepuffs, Gryffindors and Ravenclaws was already present. A couple of haggard prefects were trying to get everyone to go back to their common rooms but no one was listening to them. Pieces of information fell slowly into place for Pansy – there had been a break in, a battle and…

Pansy found herself carried outside by the tidal wave of students. Professors began to crop up among them but they did not seem to care that students were out of bed, aside from perhaps Filch whom Pansy saw skulking along in the shadows at one point.

A crowd was gathering under the Astronomy tower and it took a while for Pansy to push forward. A hush was quickly falling over the group. Pansy pushed her way passed two fourth years and stood on tiptoes to see over a few heads. The sight that greeted her made Pansy freeze and stay still, swallowing up all of her worries in a single wash of disbelief.

Dumbledore lay on the ground with a stony, dead expression and Potter had fallen over his body. She could tell he was crying.

“Is Dumbledore…?” Pansy whispered in disbelief.

“Yes,” the Ravenclaw in from of her answered. Chang, was that her name? “It’s so horrible,” the girl continued with the same tearful voice.

All around, students began to lift wands with glowing tips into the air. New students were still arriving and receiving the news. Pansy waited for an opening before slithering her way out of the crowd and sprinting back to the common room.

*

“Is everyone back?” Antonin stood at the external entrance to the med wing, squinting out into the darkness as the detachment came back.

“Gibbon isn’t back.” Amycus had an arm around his sister even though Alecto looked steady and unharmed.

“Gibbon’s dead,” Jugson informed them morosely, surveying the torn and charred sleeve of his robes.

“I think it’s my fault. My aim is shit, always has been.” Rowle put in with a guilty expression. “There was a group of students; they put up quite a fight.”

“The Order got there fast enough too,” Amycus added glumly. Alecto shrugged his arm off.

“I’m not sure how they all got word so quickly but the main thing is done.”

“Done, yes…” Antonin muttered thoughtfully, still squinting into the dark. “Then where are Severus and Draco?”

“They’ve gone Plan B.” Bella appeared at his shoulder. Her eyes were wild and her curly hair stood on end, some of it coming undone from the ribbon she’d used to put it up before the mission.

“I thought Rowle said it’s done?” Antonin waved for their group to proceed inside. They walked through the medical ward and into one of the conference rooms where the rest of the officers present where waiting anxiously for news. Antonin suddenly felt a sharp prick of regret for not having gone on this raid but rather staying behind to coordinate and keep watch on some of the other outposts in case of post-shock disturbances. So far everything was quit. Given that the Order was already aware, they were apparently not seeking immediate retaliation, or simply did not know how to go about it.

“Draco lost his nerve at the last moment. Snape had to finish the job,” Bellatrix said with a hint of distaste.

Antonin sighed. The Lord was not going to like this. He took her arm and kept her back as everyone else filed into the conference room. “We will wait for Snape before we debrief,” he informed Rowle and told him to pass it on to the rest. When they were alone in the hall, Antonin turned to Bella. “You know our Lord will not be happy.”

“As he rightfully should be. Draco proved himself weak-willed.”

“Draco is a child.” She tried to step away from him but Antonin held onto her arm. “Bella, I would ask you to put in a kind word for Draco before our Lord. He may actually bother to listen to you. He…favors you.”  It was unpleasant to say those words and Antonin felt the wave of disrespectful disgust rise up in him. Their Lord had begun to take the sort of liberties with Bella which he would not have allowed himself during the First War and it seemed that she allowed him to do so, not out of fear but out of that maniacal adoration that had developed within her since their stay in Azkaban.

Bella squinted at him and then laughed, high pitched and unnatural. “What makes you think that I have such an influence on our Lord, Antonin? Besides, I think Draco deserves punishment.”

“He is your nephew.”

“All the more reason for him to be strong. Otherwise he’ll end up like his father. He is the last bearer of the blood of the House of Black.”

“Bella. Oh, Merlin. Wake up!” Antonin gave her shoulders a shake and then leaned in and kissed her. He had not done so since her wedding day when she walked down the isle to Rodolphus because everything in the world had, for some inexplicable reason, lined up against them back then. Where was she now, his Bella? The girl he had once loved, the passionate girl full of life and desire? He could hardly glimpse her in the woman that Azkaban had made her, in the “Dark Lord’s Whore” as he knew some of the men called her, far out of ear shot of Antonin or Rodolphus – or Bella herself – but he still knew they called her that.

For a moment she let him kiss her. Then, she shoved him back and drew her wand. “Do that again and I will hex you,” she hissed at him. He simply looked at her, as though daring her to go through with that promise. For a moment, they were locked in a staring match until Bella, finally, slowly, lowered her wand and said in a small, broken voice, “Please, Tony. I can’t.” He reached, grabbing for her arm as his heart somersaulted but she shied away and ran from him into the safety of the crowded conference room.

Antonin stood for several minutes, alone in the dark, allowing his heart rate to settle as he forced himself to forget that look and that voice. She was gone, he knew that, he’d accepted it. Catching a glimpse of the old Bella was a gift but only that. She was gone. 

*

News came trickling into the Slytherin common room through the night: a Death Eater break in, Dumbledore dead, struck down by Professor Snape who had fled. If Potter was to be believed, Draco had been on the tower as well and had organized the break in. It would seem that Draco had fled but no one had had word from him and no one knew where he was.

By dawn, Pansy could not longer stand the crowded common room, full of its gossip and speculation. She made her way out into the fresh, cool morning air and trudged through the dew-wet grass up to the lake. The sky had brightened and a long stripe of bright yellow had appeared above the tree line of the Forbidden Forest. Pansy settled under one of the large oak trees that grew by the lake and stared over its dark surface which was
 gradually lightening from black to a deep plum as the sun continued to rise.

Draco’s face kept floating up before her eyes and she could so clearly see his pointed chin, well-defined cheek bones and grey eyes, so like the morning mist that covered the Hogwarts grounds, that Pansy felt as though all she needed to do was reach out a hand and she could touch him. But every time the visage faded away into nothing as soon as she moved or blinked. Her hands and legs were cold but she barely felt the nipping chill of the morning. She could not imagine what would happen to Draco now, where he would go, where he was now. She knew that Draco must have been under orders to not reveal anything about his assignment but she still felt slighted in that he had not even trusted her enough to allow her to participate in generic, unrevealing ways. She felt like he had chosen to fight this war without her and that he had no concern for how she felt now, alone and without him, worried about him. Pansy wondered if he would send an owl.

An owl did find her, half an hour before breakfast when Pansy was thinking about returning to the common room to change. It was not Draco’s owl but Antonin’s – she recognized the rather unique pattern on her wings and the slight dent in her beak. Pansy spelled away the strings that bound the letter to the owl’s foot, not trusting her fingers to undo the tight knots, and ripped open the envelope.

Miss Parkinson,

I am sure that you already know what has happened at Hogwarts during the night. If you do not know, you surely will know soon enough. I would have written to you earlier aside from two reasons: Headquarters has been hectic for the past few hours – I have been in meetings all night – and a banal fear that if you were not woken in the night by these events, that my overeager owl might disturb you.

You must be worried about Mr. Malfoy, so I hurry to inform you that he is safe, unharmed and under our protection. Severus Snape is with him as well. Draco will have some difficult times ahead of him – our Lord will not be happy that Draco was no able to bring his mission to completion – but I assure you that his safety is unquestioned and I have confirmed the arrangements for that personally. 

Miss Parkinson, I urge you to not attempt to contact Mr. Malfoy for now. This is for his own safety as well as your own. In fact, I suggest that you burn this letter and remain extremely careful in the correspondence you keep at least while you finish your year at school.

Sincerely,
Antonin Dolohov

Pansy let out a long breath as she finished reading the letter. The owl hooted at her and Pansy waved to show that she would not be sending back a letter. The large bird spread its wings and soared into the sky hooting as she went.

Pansy held the letter close to her chest and tilted her head up, looking up at the sky which had brightened completely and welcomed a watery, morning sun onto its canvas. Pansy could not understand what was unsuccessful about Draco’s mission – the Death Eaters breached Hogwarts, Dumbledore was dead, what else could their Lord want? But the important thing was that he was safe and well. As she wondered back up to the castle to change and clean up for breakfast, Pansy thought, warmly, that it was kind of Mr. Dolohov to write to her and reassure her. She doubted that most people would do the same, especially someone so high up in the ranks of the Dark Lord. Pansy thought of writing him a note but did not want to seem careless so she decided to wait and thank Antonin in person once she was back home for summer holiday.
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