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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 3 - alley_skywalker [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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In Love and War (Antonin/Pansy; PG-13) - Part 3 [Apr. 21st, 2013|09:49 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.

The summer of 1997 was a warm and mostly sunny, filled with idyllic days, the sort that one often dreams about in the gloomy, lukewarm days of early March. But for all the brightness offered by nature, Pansy felt only a fraction of that warmth and light. The war was feasting away at every bit of happiness it could find, casting it away and into shadows. It was almost harder to not know than to know, impossible to read the newspapers and find out from whispered, overheard conversations that such-and-such battle had taken place with such-and-such a result.

Lucius was back from Azkaban but the Malfoys were greatly out of favor. Draco was still in hiding and even if he was back but restricted to the Manor, Pansy could not see him for the Malfoys were not receiving. The only gatherings that took place at Malfoy Manor were those held by the Lord.

Pansy did not dare write to Draco, afraid that he may still be away and then sending an owl would not be wise. Sometimes she would close her eyes and imagine his lips against hers and the way his arms felt around her. She could not remember the last time he genuinely smiled at her and that thought was so heavy that she shrank away from it.

At the start of July, the Parkinson sitting room was full of warm, yellow sunlight which seeped through the gaps in the light, white curtains which swayed in the soft breeze. Pansy sat on the sofa with a book which she was trying to read. She turned page after page but her thoughts could not concentrate on the words she read. They strayed in various directions and she found it difficult to understand what she was reading.

A soft pop of apparition drew her out of her thoughts. Pansy looked up and instantly dropped her book to the floor with a squeal of delight. “Richard!” Her older brother stood before her in the middle of the room in a travel cloak and his trunk gripped in one hand. Pansy sprang off the couch and flung herself into his arms. Richard reached out and hugged her tightly as Pansy, giggling, buried her face into his shoulder. “Richard, it’s been forever.”

“I’ve missed you, Pans. Where are Mama and Father?”

“Somewhere in the garden, I think. Oh they’ll be so happy to see you! Why do you never come to see us, Richard. You have to tell me all about the latest fashions in Paris. Do you have a lady there? Is that why you never come?” Pansy rambled on and on. She slipped her arm through her brother’s and led him outside, leaving his trunk to sit in the middle of the room where he’d dropped it to hug her. Pansy surveyed her brother and decided that he was as handsome as ever. They looked a lot alike – they shared the same face shape, dark brown hair, though Richard’s was curlier, and large, dark eyes. He was almost a head taller than she but almost just as slim around the waist.

“Not everything at once, Pans. Besides, from what I’ve read in your letters, you have a lot more going on. A betrothal! I still cannot believe it.”

Pansy felt a shiver go down her back. That seemed liked ages ago. “You are behind, Richard. Our news are no longer so happy. We are at war.”

“I know.” He gave her a sad look and Pansy pressed herself closer into Richard’s side.

“Mama, Papa!” Pansy called once her parents came into sight. “Richard is back!” She watched their parents turn around and for a moment, Pansy thought she caught a flash of fear on her mother’s face. But then it was gone, and Michelle Parkinson smiled and embraced her son.

*

That night, feeling too restless to go to bed, Pansy wondered through the halls of the dark and silent house. She made her way down the staircase and found herself stopping outside her father’s study. Richard’s voice caught her attention and she stopped, leaning against the wall of the hallway, a shadow within the surrounding dark.

“I’m not a fighter, Father,” Richard was saying. “Never was. I’m becoming a healer for that very reason. I want to help people, not hurt them. I’ve never even…I wouldn’t know the first thing to do. I really have no desire to get involved in a war.”

“It is not your choice, Richard. You have a duty.” Edward Parkinson sounded marginally frustrated with his son. Pansy knew that their father had always wished Richard, as the heir, would be more willful, more practical more commanding. His humanitarian enthusiasm and frailness was better suited for a second son rather than the heir. She had even once heard one of their aunts say that Richard should have been the daughter and Pansy the son.

“And I have always fulfilled my duties. You summoned me, Father, and I came. But you know I cannot fight. Is your service not enough for the Dark Lord?”

“No, Richard, I am afraid it is not. You are a Pureblood heir. Even Lucius’ son was tasked and Marked. He is younger than you.”

“From what I understand Draco Malfoy has only gotten disfavor for his trouble.”

Edward sighed and Pansy could hear the sound of chair legs scraping against floorboards. She imagined her father walking across the room and putting a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “That is not the point. What would you have me do, Richard? I suppose you can turn down the offer. But it may reflect very poorly on your mother and sister, not to mention me. You could take them and leave the country, but you would have to go into hiding for a time.”

“And leave you here to the mercy of the Dark Lord?”

“What other choice is there?”

There was a long silence. Finally, Richard said resignedly, “I will do what I have to to protect you and Mama and Pansy.”

“Good. You will be summoned to the Lord in the next few days. But first, I have arranged a meeting for you with Antonin Dolohov. He is an old friend of mine and perhaps he can be of help. This is a portkey to Headquarters. You are to go now.”

“This late?”

“It’s the only time available.”

“Yes, Father.” Footsteps. Then the door to the study opened and a miffed Richard appeared in the slither of dim light that it created. Pansy, silent as a shadow, followed her brother to the from hall.

“Richard,” she called softly, slipping from around the cloak wrack so he could see her.

Richard gave a small jump, startled. “Pansy, you scared me. What are you doing?”

“You’re going to Headquarters. I’m coming with you.” As though to make her point clear, she reached for her travel cloak which hung closest to the wall on the wrack.

“How do you know...? Actually, don’t tell me, you’ve always had a habit of eavesdropping. Why do you want to come with me, Pans?”

“You’re going to speak with Mr. Dolohov and I’ve been looking for a chance to thank him.”

Richard looked baffled and a little concerned. “For what?”

Pansy slipped on her cloak over her dress and checked her hair in the mirror before giving it a small touchup with her wand. “It doesn’t matter. Perhaps I could have sent an owl, but I wanted to do it in person. Besides, perhaps I could put in a word for you.” It was true, Pansy felt safer to keep correspondence of her choice at home but she was withholding on sending an owl. For some inexplicable reason she wanted to speak with Antonin in person, to see him. Almost as though to reassure herself that he was real, that there was something good and kind on that side of the civilian-fighter divide, the side to which Draco had been forced to cross. But also, perhaps, to see if she would once again feel that embarrassing but pleasant tingling sensation that looking at him had given her back at Malfoy Manor.

“You won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, will you?” Richard stated more than asked, putting on his own cloak. Pansy shook her head. “Alright.” He took her arm and activated the portkey.

*

Headquarters left a daunting impression on Pansy the first time she was there, although later on she would learn to love the place more than any other, save for home perhaps. She couldn’t be certain but Pansy figured that whatever building was being used had been magically expanded for the place was huge, containing a fully equipped experimental lab with its own testing facilities, at least two training polygons, a strategy room, a situation room, several other chambers the purpose of which Pansy could not determine on sight especially with the doors closed, emergency stock room and a medical wing. At night, the place was nearly silent with only a few watchmen on sight and perhaps an officer or two going over plans. The halls – long and dark – echoed with their footsteps and Pansy could feel the magic there, circulating in the air, between the chambers. Richard looked uncomfortable but Pansy felt a mixture of awe and fear clinging to her, battling out for superiority. When she touched the handle of her wand it seemed to grow warm without her giving it any inclination. Everything about Headquarters spoke of power, of magic. Of war.

They were led by a watchman to one of the smaller chambers. “Mr. Dolohov, Richard and Pansy Parkinson are here to see you.” There were a few more undistinguishable words exchanged before the watchman ushered them in and closed the door behind them. Pansy looked around the room which looked like a study but considerably more cluttered. There were a couple of sofas, a wooden table over which parchment, quills, and file folders were scattered in a sort of orderly chaos, coherent only to the owner of the place. A fire burned in a small fireplace with numerous candles providing the rest of the light. The walls were lined with shelves on which stood books, boxes, various magical artifacts and a few potions vials.

Antonin stood at the window and had his back to them until he heard the door shut. When he turned, Pansy’s first thought was that he looked very at home here. He wore a set of simple black robes and no gloves. His hair was brushed back but some of the strands at his temples had rebelled and were curling slightly onto his forehead, a sign of a long day at work. He looked a lot like how Pansy had seen him the summer before at Malfoy Manor when he had come to take Draco to Headquarters but the atmosphere of the Manor was better suited to someone like Lucius. Pansy thought that this almost cozy, work-infused space suited Antonin better, was closer to his natural environment, if one could say that about a person.

“Mr. Parkinson, it is good that you’re here. Your father was most eager that we speak before your formal presentation to the Lord.” Antonin’s grey-blue eyes shifted to Pansy and she felt the familiar shiver run over her. The strength of that gaze was magnetic. “Miss Parkinson?  Good evening.”

Pansy curtsied, surprising even herself. Here, in non-formal circumstances, no one would have demanded it of her. But the acute feeling of girlishness that the gesture gave her was pleasant and somehow fitting. Besides, she was here to be grateful. “Mr. Dolohov. I’m here with my brother because…I wanted to thank you.”

“To thank me?” Antonin put his wand down on the desk before him, then picked it up and slid it through his fingers. It was almost like he was fidgeting with it. “For what?”

“You were very kind to me this past year with your letters. And I know you have been trying to…that you would not allow harm to come to Draco. I just thought to thank you in person.” She felt very foolish all of a sudden. Why couldn’t she have just sent an owl? The air suddenly felt too warm and too constricting. Pansy could feel herself blushing.

“I’m glad I could set your mind at ease.” He gave her a warm look and Pansy’s embarrassment seemed to vanish.

She should not have said anything else, but Pansy was speaking before she could stop herself or chose her words. “My brother is a good and dutiful man, Mr. Dolohov. But he knows nothing of war. He is getting his High Degree in Potions and studying medwizadry. He interns as a healer and wishes to make that his life. I know our Lord has summoned him but killing is really not Richard’s strong suit, I’m afraid.”

“Pansy!” Richard hissed beside her in indignation. From the corner of her eye, Pansy could see his ears turning red.

Antonin, however, was smiling faintly, as though mildly amused. “Killing is no one’s strong suit, Miss Parkinson. Especially since I am certain your brother is a decent person. Healer, you say. We need medics as much as we need fighters.”

“Go home, Pans. It’s late,” Richard said in a voice that broached no argument. Antonin called in a watchman and instructed him to take Pansy to the edge of the security perimeter from where she could apparate home. She went without protest, wishing Antonin and Richard a good night. She would go home and try to go to sleep. Instead she would lie awake for a long time, staring up at the ceiling and recalling the weight of Antonin’s eyes on her and the shivers those eyes sent down her back.

Once Pansy had been ushered out, Antonin turned to Richard. “Your sister is…eager,” he commented lightly. It was easier to not fidget with the girl gone. Pansy emanated so much restless energy that it was difficult to be still in her presence.

“She is sometimes overeager, sir. I would not see harm come to her.” A spark of hardness flashed across Richard’s eyes and Antonin could have laughed. Did he really think that there was a chance of something inappropriate in his correspondence with Pansy?

“No one would dare put a young lady such as your sister in the way of danger,” Antonin reassured him. “As for you, Mr. Parkinson, your services have been requested by the Lord himself.”

“My sister is right. I have no desire to fight,” Richard admitted, trying to not look away. “I cannot say I am proud of it.”

Antonin considered Richard carefully for a moment. Brother and sister looked so much alike that Antonin could clearly make Pansy out in the young man’s features although the expression he wore in that moment would have been far too subdued for Pansy. “Perhaps, you can serve as a healer, as I told your sister. But not until you have proved yourself loyal by going on a mission.”

Richard nodded in understanding. “Yes, sir.”

“Is your wandwork good?” A brisk note appeared in Antonin’s tone as they turned to business. “You can join the training sessions starting tomorrow.”

*~*

Ironically, Pansy wanted to know all the things her brother did not care for. She wanted to know how to build strong protective and invisibility charms for ambushes, she wanted to know battle curses, she wanted to improve her reaction time on draw, she wanted to know how to fly formation and what the difference was between a civilian broom and a fighter’s broom. Richard was bored by all these things and he did not like the idea of going on missions where he would have to do Merlin knows what harm to protect himself and those with him.

For all her curiosity, however, Pansy might have never gotten the courage to plead with Antonin for a place among the fighters had it not been for a disaster and a close call. The disaster was Richard’s first mission. The idea was to get Potter while the Order was in the process of transferring him from one secured location to the next. It failed, although Moody was killed – a fact that was celebrated rather loudly at Headquarters despite the overall failure. The disaster, for Pansy, however, was the state in which Richard came home. He was shaky and pale, his hair a mess and his cloak falling off one shoulder. He went to the sitting room and collapsed there, clapping for the house elf to serve brandy. “I’m not a military person,” Richard mumbled to her when Pansy snuggled up to him on the sofa. “I saw this kid get his ear torn off. I’m not squeamish of blood but I’m utterly useless up there in the air. I could tell Mr. Dolohov was not happy even though I tried. I’m a failure, Pans, I’m sorry.”

She shook her head at him. “You just should have been the daughter,” she told him, then frowned at the sound those words made. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

Richard laughed hoarsely. “No, you’re right, I should have been.” Richard drank his brandy, waiting for the alcohol to relax his muscle and relive at least some of the tension and Pansy sat quietly beside him, thinking.

The close call was the scare that the Greengrasses got. Ministry officials showed up in the middle of the night without warrants and demanded to conduct a search. When they were turned away, they came back with Aurors in a couple of hours. As it happened, the Greengrasses had only one son, a boy of eleven, due to go to Hogwarts in the fall. Their father, although certainly involved in the war effort on the side of the Lord, kept all his work at Headquarters and had managed to keep up the appearance of an upstanding citizen since the First War. The Ministry officials went away empty-handed.

It was the way the Ministry had the nerve to bust in practically warrantless. It was the fact that the search was conducted at night – a stress tactic. It was the fact that the Greengrasses had done nothing to warrant suspicion other than being Purebloods. These were the things that infuriated Pansy the most and with every day that passed, she felt a deeper and deeper burning hatred for Potter and his lot.

Not to mention the smaller things. Headlines in the Prophet about proposed bills that would allow dangerous creatures, such as werewolves, to attend Hogwarts along with other students or a mandate for a wizard-Muggle heritage celebration week or something else foolish of the sort. New and harsher additions to the Statutes. Pro-Mudblood propaganda from the Ministry. Faces of acquaintances and her parents’ friends on Wanted posters. Discussions in the Ministry on whether or not there should be a harsh punishment for families which were found to have bought their pre-Hogwarts-aged children wands, a punishment which would target Pureblood families in which it was custom to buy children their first wand once they turned seven, granted that this was done behind the Ministry’s back and semi-legal, but the bureaucrats had always turned a blind eye before for a reason. And always, always, the constant tension that hung over everyone and everything.

*~*

Antonin sat listening as Pansy explained her desires to joint the fighting squads. He leaned back in the tall-backed chair behind his desk with an impenetrable look on his face, twirling a quill absent-mindedly in one hand. She had worn long robes which would make it less painfully obvious that she wore a dress under them and her short hair hung lose, neatly combed straight but without any of the curls that her mother loved so much. After Pansy finished speaking, Antonin looked at her for a long moment, as though measuring her up, trying to deduce something from her expression. His own face did not reveal anything but thoughtfulness.

“You wish to fight in your brother’s stead then?” he asked finally.

Pansy opened her mouth but stopped herself, chose her words and then continued. “If it is possible. Richard lives in a world of his own – fighting isn’t part of that world. But regardless, I would like to fight. If we are at war – and we most certainly are – I would like to be part of it and not just sit on the side and wonder at who will come out on top.”

“Your father won’t allow it.”

“I think he will. Either way, my father is my problem, Mr. Dolohov.” Instantly, Pansy felt herself blushing. “Forgive me, I did not mean to be rude.”

A smirk tugged at the corners of Antonin’s mouth. “No, you are right. Your father is your concern, Miss Parkinson. And yet, I would not like for Edward to challenge me for endangering his daughter.”

“I am of age, Mr. Dolohov. I may do as I please at least in this regard. My father has not explicitly forbade me to be at Headquarters or to train or to fight.” Pansy could feel her heart beating against her ribs. She could hear it in her ears and it felt like blood was being pumped up into her temples at immeasurable speed. Going for a last, desperate move, Pansy  decided to play the woman. Somewhat. “At the very least, allow me to train so that I may protect myself. You know about the Greengrass raid. What if something more violent happens to my family? What if…” She froze. Something had changed, had slipped in Antonin’s gaze. He stood suddenly and went to the window, turning his back to her. She could tell that something about her words had made him tense, made him lose some of that impenetrable nerve.

“I suppose…some knowledge of Battle Arts won’t do you any harm, Miss Parkinson. But not now. We have a large mission ahead of us and it is taking up all my time. After. After we have won, we shall see.” He turned back to face her. Something was different about his eyes, they seemed to burn and a turbulent storm was brewing there. It sent a familiar shiver down Pansy’s spine and she could no longer look away or lower her gaze. “Will that suit you?”

“When is this mission?”

“End of the month.”

“I can wait a couple of weeks.” She curtsied. “Good day, Mr. Dolohov.”

*

Once the door shut behind Pansy, Antonin dropped back into his chair and put his face in both hands. He should not have given in to her, should not have agreed to teach her battle magic. Not even because she was a girl – she wouldn’t be the first one – and not because Edward would kill him – Michelle might though, but she’ll get over it – but because he did not quite trust himself. No, he certainly did not have any lewd thoughts about the daughter of one of his friends, that was absurd. But sometimes, when she spoke, when she moved, when she argued, Pansy reminded him so strongly of a young Bella that it was almost painful for him to look at the girl.

Yet, he had given her his word that after they took down the Ministry, he would give her some lessons. Well, no one could blame him for teaching the girl how to summon a Patronus or how to put up multiple shields or how to properly draw her wand. In fact, it was the right thing to do, especially as the girl was far more eager than her poor brother.

Either way, he would worry about that later. For now, there was the Ministry coup to think of.

*~*

Pansy stood looking up into the night sky, her heart pounding away as she watched for incoming brooms or other shadows moving toward Headquarters. The fighters were staging the Ministry coup today and she wished with all her heart that she could have been one of them. There were plenty of people at the Ministry she did not think highly of. She also knew that Antonin would be in the detachment that left the Ministry after it had been secured and would be attempting to find and bring Harry Potter to the Lord.

Most of this she knew from Richard. The rest, from Antonin who had given permission for her to stay at Headquarters and help in the medwing to brew potions and make other preparation for when the fighters came back – they were expecting casualties. Potions were not really Pansy’s thing – she was much better at spellswork – but she was grateful for the chance to stay. She’d watched the squads take off and everything inside her flipped at the show of power that they created: five v-shaped squads, all containing at least ten flyers, they rose silently into the air with only faint swishing noises from their broom tails and robes. Antonin had had his hood thrown back until the very last moment and Pansy watched his face, entranced by the calm confidence there. He spoke his orders without having to shout or use magic, his voice seemed to carry and cut through the air. For the next several hours, as she helped Mulciber and the others brew healing potions, it was that image of Antonin on his broom with his hair tied up and his hood down, focused on the task at hand, that kept running through her mind.

He was attractive, it was hard to deny that and she, after all, was a young woman.

Suddenly, shapes appeared in the sky and at the far edge of the security perimeter. They seemed to all be coming in at once, moving forward in a great black mass. “They’re back!” Pansy shouted and lifted her skirts so she could run forward to greet the returning flyers.

Richard, who was relieved of mission duty by Antonin’s efforts, came running along with Mulciber. “Start counting,” someone said behind her and Pansy felt her head spin as she tried to keep track of all the people coming in.

A few of the young men had cuts and burns and were taken inside to take the needed potions. Most, however, were fine. Pansy was counting, not realizing she was looking for Antonin until someone behind her said his name.

“Antonin and Rowle aren’t back. They followed the Taboo lead but I think they should be back.” Pansy turned and made out Mulciber, Rookwood and Tallis standing in a tight group together in the dark.

“Maybe they ran into some trouble?”

“Against children?” Tallis sounded skeptical.

“You were younger when you started going on missions, William.”

“We were trained. Besides, this is Mr. Dolohov we’re talking about.”

Rookwood snorted. “Yea, and he’s got that oaf Rowle for a partner. He may be more harm then help if you ask me.”

“Let’s not panic, it hasn’t been that long.”  Rookwood went inside with Tallis. Mulciber saw Pansy and waved her over, putting a hand on her shoulder.

“I hope you’re not too overwhelmed, Miss Parkinson. Come, we’re needed inside. It is better then I thought it would be.”

Pansy nodded mutely and allowed Mulciber to guide her indoors.

*

Pansy spent the next few hours in a state of anxious waiting. Her hands would suddenly shake sometimes so that she almost dropped the flasks she was holding. Her mind was so far away somewhere in an unspecified destination, wherever Antonin was, that she sometimes picked up a sedative potion instead of a pain relief potion, even though they were visibly different colors, and only noticed her mistake when she double checked herself. She did not want to be worried about Antonin and she did not want to be selfish if she was worried but there was nothing she could do about the pressing, suffocating feeling of panic when she thought that he might not come back. He had promised to teach her things no one else would, he was the only one, aside from Richard, who told her in concrete terms what was gong on at Headquarters and she could not help but want to see him in his element again, to see that strong, steady flame burn in his eyes.

*

The medical ward was almost silent and mostly empty – Pansy was helping clean up – when Antonin and Rowle were brought back. A sudden uproar from the hall leading up to the medward was what alerted her. Pansy, carefully, guided an armful of empty flasks onto the shelf with her wand, then, taking in a deep breath, lifted the skirts of her dress and walked briskly to the front.

“What happened to them?” Richard’s voice.

“I don’t know, we found them when we tried to retrace their steps. It must have been at least an hour before we came. The place was all messed up, looks like there was a struggle.”

Pansy pushed past someone who was blocking her view and froze, one hand going to her mouth. Rowle and Antonin were lying side by side on examination tables. They were pale and completely still. Rowle looked like he was knocked out, Antonin’s eyes, however, were open, staring up at the ceiling. His face looked dead to her and Pansy shuddered.

Richard turned and, seeing her, reading something in her face, grabbed her by the shoulders. “You’re going home, Pansy.”

Pansy crossed her arms and stared defiantly up at her brother. “No way in hell. I’m staying right here.”

“I said you’re going home!”

“Richard, let the girl stay if she likes,” Mulciber drawled calmly behind her back and Pansy felt relieved – she would not have been able to out-argue Richard on her own. “I ran a diagnostic – they’re alright. Tony’s just petrified – Finite Incantatem – and Finn was stupefied; probably hit his head during the fall. He’ll be fine though. Miss Parkinson – lay down, Tony, I’m not done – Miss Parkinson, get me a hydration potion and a tissue repairing one. Finn might need that.”

Pansy nodded and Richard was forced to let go of her. She chanced a glance over her shoulder: Antonin was lying down as told but he was obviously conscious and antsy to get up. She felt a warm wave of relief wash over her as she walked back to the stock shelves, listening to the conversation going on behind her.

“What happened?” Antonin’s voice, confused and a little groggy.

“I should ask you that. Loras and Brutus found you in some Muggle food place.”

“What were we doing there? I just remember…I remember the Ministry and then the wedding raid – I don’t think that ended quite as much in our favor as we wanted – and then…nothing. Just…darkness and not being able to move.”

Mulciber sighed. “Hold still… I’m detecting a partial mind wipe. Whoever did it was good, not perfect but good. They were also kind about it, leaving everything else in tact.”

“Must have been someone from the Order.”

“He would not be alive or here if it had been the Order.”

Pansy took the flasks needed and headed back to the group. She reached them and held the first one out to Mulciber. He took it but mostly ignored her. “They went after Potter and co. It must have been one of them. didn’t Rookwood say that one of them – the girl, I think – was good at spells?”

“Granger,” Pansy blurted out. Antonin looked up at her questioning and she felt herself falter slightly. “Hermione Granger. She’s first in our year. She’s a snobby know-it-all Mudblood but she is good,” she admitted grudgingly.

Mulciber could not help a teasing smirk. “So you had a run in with the kids and they beat you? With a Stupefy and a Petrific—“

“If it were the kids we’d have to have been careful, Theodore. That puts quite a few limitation on the whole thing.” Antonin did not sound amused. He rubbed tiredly at his temples and drank the proffered potion. “Either way, something must have gone wrong.”

There was silence for a long moment. Finally, Brutus Greengrass said quietly. “The Lord won’t be happy, Antonin.” Something about his tone made Pansy turn to look at him. The rest of the group tensed up and she felt like they were all expecting something awful, something even worse than a battle. It made her skin crawl. She looked back at Antonin and noticed the way his shoulders and back had stiffened but there was no actual fear in his face.

“Nothing can be done about that. You’ll brew the potions, Theodore?”

“I can help,” Pansy piped up. She wanted to be involved and she also felt a strong desire to stay here where she could have easy access to Antonin and news about him. If the Lord was going to punish their failure to secure Potter, she wanted to be around to offer comfort afterwards. She told herself that it was out of gratitude for his friendship toward her but, if she were to be honest, it was something else, something inside her that was purely feminine, something she could not describe but that feeling caused the bottom of her stomach to melt away and incited a desire in her to reach out and touch Antonin’s arm. Instead, she simply looked up pleadingly at Mulciber.

The men all shared looks and Mulciber shook his head. “That won’t be needed, they’re special potions and we’ve got people to do them.” He seemed to be brushing her off but Pansy felt it would be rude and childish to argue. Childish was the last thing she wanted to seem in front of Antonin. Besides, all of her energy seemed to be focused on one feeling in that moment, one thought that grew and filled her up to the brim. She had felt it before but never so strongly as now. Somewhere the line had been crossed and now Pansy was certain of one thing: she hated Harry Potter and his posse. Potter – that self important brat who thought he new everything even though he’d grown up a stranger to the wizarding world. Potter, who thought himself so Merlin damn important because he’d gotten lucky once, because people, in their infinite idiocy, flocked around him. Potter who thought himself better than everyone else because he was Dumbledore’s pet, because he was so fond of Mudbloods, and could speak with snakes. Albeit the latter was rather fascinating but that was beside the point. Potter, who was the epitome of everything distasteful in Gryffindor House and its members.

“How did Miss Parkinson do for her first time on duty?” Antonin asked, throwing Pansy a small, conspiring glance.

“Well for her first time,” Mulciber said noncommittally, walking around the examination table Antonin was sitting on to see what he needed to do with Rowle. “He got his mind wiped too,” Mulciber commented but Antonin was no longer paying attention to him. Instead, he was completely focused on Pansy.

“Miss Parkinson, it is late and you should go home. I will owl you the day after tomorrow, most likely, about when you should come in for your training.”

“Yes, of course.” Pansy smiled softly, happy that he remembered and that he thought it important enough to mention at such a moment.

“You’re going to teach my sister Battle Magic?” Richard asked behind her, sounding baffled and a little agitated.

Antonin fixed Richard with a heavy look. “Yes, seeing as how you, Richard, would prefer not to fight.”

Richard made a sound as though to protest but Antonin’s pointed look made him clam up without utterly a word. Pansy gave Antonin a small, thankful smile. “Goodnight, Mr. Dolohov,” she said, the edges of her voice going soft from whatever uninvited feeling was roiling around inside her chest, before apparating.   

*~*

Antonin owled Pansy the day after his report to the Lord. It had not been a pleasant evening and Antonin still felt sore even as he penned the note to Pansy. Rowle had gotten most of it though and Mulciber was keeping him down for the day. Antonin had to admit that Pansy’s dedication and enthusiasm were infectious and they pulled at something nostalgic within him. She reminded him of the boys he had taught during the First War, the Pureblood heirs who saw themselves as heroes and felt that they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Pansy, while perhaps not quite so idealistic, had an incredible amount of faith in the people she thought worthwhile. She believed in Draco and her brother and her parents because she loved them and she believed in the Lord because he promised her that the people closest to her would live in a world where they held their rightful place. She saw herself as she should, as a Pureblood who deserved far more rights in the magical community than the invading Mudbloods with their Muggle ideals. Pansy believed in magic and in the beauty and power of magic.

Sometimes, Antonin wondered if she believed in him.

Pansy portkey-ed into the training polygon with surprising promptness and stood waiting to be acknowledged. Antonin could feel her presence behind him and tried to put himself in the same state of mind he used with his other fighters. She was incredibly distracting, however, just by being and it took him a minute to settle into a completely focused state of mind. “Miss Parkinson, good afternoon.” He turned around to face her just as she curtsied.

Pansy was wearing dark robes which were pinned shut by a silver clip with the Parkinson crest on it. Unlike regular ladies’ robes, which were usually slim and hugged the hips and the breasts, Pansy’s were wider and somewhat shorter than regular robes, allowing for free movement. She had obviously taken care to dress appropriately. “You should take the robes off,” Antonin told her, taking out his wand. “It will be easier that way for now and easier for me to track your movements. Then, show me your wand hold.”

Pansy slipped off her robes and tossed them aside. Under, she wore a loose blouse and trousers which she’d tucked into slim boots. Pansy blushed, fumbling her wand slightly as she took it out. “I thought it would be better like this than a skirt…”

Antonin smirked and nodded approvingly. The amount of practicality in the girl was charming. “You thought correctly. Now, your wand hold.” Antonin walked to Pansy’s side as she held out her wand in a prepared position. She had a firm grip, almost like a boy, but her hand was smaller and thinner and it seemed like she was stretching to make the same position of hand on wand as her brother. “Your hand is too tense. You’re not a man, Miss Parkinson. Your hand won’t fit the same way. You would do better allowing your hand to be flatter on the wand, allow your fingers to fit it more tightly, like a glove.” Antonin reached out and fixed her hold. Her skin was soft under his touch. “Try it now.”

Pansy swished the wand through the air. “It feels steadier,” she commented. “How do I get this hold quickly on the draw though?”

Antonin almost laughed. “It is actually easier to get this hold on the drawn because the wand will slip into your hand naturally; you do not have to reposition your hand into an awkward hold.” He showed her how to drawn quickly, how to stand properly, how to keep balance better while pivoting and how to smoothly transfer from a figure that starts in the center to a figure that starts at the shoulder or with the wand tip pointed down. They practiced on stunning spells and disarming spells. Pansy was focused and all of her energy seemed to go into learning, into understanding. When she finally managed to beat Antonin to the draw, her smile was awed and overjoyed. It was infectious and Antonin found himself smiling as well.

“Practice will give you perfection,” Antonin told her as she left. Pansy’s eyes met his and Antonin felt a spark like a moth charm flit between him and her.

“I will,” she assured him. “I hope you will make time for me again soon, Mr. Dolohov.”

*~*

Antonin did make time for her. They were in an action lull for the time being. Most of the attention in that month was on the Ministry and on the new political order. Appointments, agreements, obliging baffled foreign ambassadors, restructuring of some of the departments, dealing with the half of the Ministry who were not allies. It was fortunate that the coup had gone so smoothly and almost quietly. Power shifted hands with such speed that to the ordinary citizen it may almost seem as nothing happened. The priority was to implement changes in the most non-obtrusive way so that those who only cared for politics in terms of their own private lives would not see a need for opposition.

Hogwarts was also a priority, although most High Officers agreed that leaving the school be for the time being wouldn’t be an issue. However, the Lord was insisting that the school was reformed immediately. The Carrows were assigned as teachers to teach DADA. Antonin was no teacher but he had no idea how the bumbling Amycus could teach anything. Alecto was not much better. As a girl she had been harmless if awkward. The Carrows had not been in Azkaban during the interwar period but time had worsened Alecto’s temper and her insecurities. Unmarried, with the family fortune quickly running out, she seemed constantly angry with the world. It was a shame, really, how harsh and unscrupulous she had become. Alecto did not like teaching and Antonin did not think she would be good at it. She had little talent and he had a sneaking suspicion that the students would suffer for Alecto’s own insecurities. Once again, a damned pity. Snape was appointed as Headmaster, a move which Antonin found far more logical than the Carrows’ appointment, but also far more dangerous. He did not trust Severus, always did have a slight uncertainty about the boy, even though he’d been one of those whom Antonin had trained. These days, every time Antonin thought about it, he heard Evan Rosier’s words ring in the back of his head. “I should have known Severus would…I suspected….” The words Evan had gasped, choking on rain, shortly before he died, never quite left Antonin. Whatever it was that Snape did that Evan thought he should have known could not have been good.

Yet, Hogwarts was not Antonin’s prerogative and the Lord listened to none these days. In fact, if he did listen to anyone it was Snape and although Antonin was entrusted with overseeing all of the battle operations, his doubts dealing with anything not strictly related to fighting were typically ignored. It was frustrating at times, but really Antonin was happy that he did not need to deal with the politics and that people like Umbridge were on the responsibility of people like Rodolphus Lestrange. The fact that most of the Organization’s efforts were thrown at the politics and no active underground opposition had formed yet, allowed Antonin more time to plan battle tactics, to run training sessions and, ultimately, to make time for Pansy in his schedule.

He taught her protective charms and jinxes, how to put up an anti-apparition field and how to disassemble one, how to put up elementary blood wards around any enclosed area and how to enclose an area magically. He perfected with her the spells she already knew like the disillusionment charm and a basic healing charm that Richard had taught her.

Once, Pansy had asked him if he could teach her some more serious spells, something that could be used in a duel. Antonin considered teaching her Dementia, a curse that had been one of the first in the arsenal of the Academy boys. But that reminded him of how freely Dementors got around under the new regime. “Do you know how to cast a Patronus, Miss Parkinson?”

Pansy thought about it, then slowly shook her head. “I’ve never tried. I know what you say and what a Patronus is but I’ve never cast it. Why?”

“Patronuses are very useful. Not just for repelling Dementors but also for sending messages. They are many times faster than owls and can be summoned at any time and are not hindered by physical and most magical barriers. However, for the Patronus to transfer a message it must be fully corporal. So, first, close your eyes and think of something happy. Does not matter what it is but it must be a memory – not a fantasy – and it must be as happy of a memory as you have.”

Pansy looked at him for a moment, blinking, then closed her eyes and tried to think of something happy. The Malfoy ball where she had been betrothed was a happy thought, but it made her think of how everything fell apart after. She tried to think of the first time Draco kissed her but thinking of Draco in general seemed to hurt these days, yet it was a dull, nagging pain. Draco was so much a memory that he seemed a fantasy. She dug deeper, going into her childhood. There were many happy memories there but they all seemed so trivial.

Then, she landed on the perfect thing. Her very first wand. Not the wand she bought later for Hogwarts, but the wand she got for her seventh birthday. A child’s wand, generic and light, not nearly as powerful a full-grown wand but it was still a wand and when she practiced enough with it she could cast a Lumos. Pansy could clearly remember the sun shinning through the sitting room windows and her mother’s beaming face as her father put the wand in her hand and it sparked, acknowledging her magic. Richard, at that time a second year at Hogwarts, standing beside their mother in his school uniform with the green-and-silver Slytherin tie had said, “You’re a witch for sure now, Pans, a real witch!” Even thinking of it all these days later made Pansy smile. She had felt so unconquerable in that moment.

“Do you have your memory?” Antonin asked.

Pansy nodded.

“Now, keep it in your thoughts and…” He walked around behind her and took her wrist to guide her hand through the figure.

Expecto Patronum!” Pansy opened her eyes and watched a stream of white light exit her wand. It shimmered for a few moments, enveloping her, then faded.

“That’s alright. Now, do the figure yourself and say it with as much conviction as you can. You don’t have to say it loudly but put the emotion of your memory into it.”

Pansy fought with her disappointment for a moment, then took a deep breath and tried again. It took her nearly an hour but finally an almost-solid looking, shimmering, young least weasel burst out of the tip of her wand. It circled her twice before fading away. “Oh!” Pansy laughed. “I thought it would be an owl, like my familiar.”

Antonin smiled at her. A least weasel, how appropriate. “No, it doesn’t really have anything to do with your familiar. What did you think of, if I may ask?”

Pansy’s smile became slightly embarrassed. “Of my first wand. The one I got when I was seven.” As Antonin just smiled at her, Pansy shifted uncomfortably, feeling suddenly regretful for telling him. “Is that…is that silly?” she asked, a little too sharply.

Antonin shook his head. “No, why would you say that? I’d like to see the child that isn’t delighted by their first wand. But now for the hard part.”

They practiced for another hour. Making a Patronus carry a message was much harder than Pansy thought it might be. Hers could not even stay still for a moment. “Just like you,” Antonin told her, making her blush. By the end of the day, she could at least make it go where she wanted it to go and find Antonin when he stepped out of the room. “It will get better,” Antonin told her. “Patronuses are part of you but they’re also external magic as well. That’s a lot harder to control.”

Pansy slipped on her robes and brushed a strand of dark hair out of her face. She was flushed from the word they’d done and looked utterly lovely. She was like a wild rose, sweet and beautiful but free and prickly when disturbed at the same time. She was so much like a young Bella that Antonin sometimes had to catch his train of thought before it got away form him.

“Could I see your Patronus, Mr. Dolohov?”

Antonin stopped and looked at her oddly. “It’s a wolf,” he told her.

Something sparked deep in her eyes. “But could I see it? Please.”

It couldn’t do any harm. Antonin took out his wand obligingly and for a moment concentrated on the same thing he always did: Bella on the night she said she would marry him. It was fated to never come to pass but if he focused on just that moment, on how her eyes had glowed in the gloom of the Ministry hallway as a waltz carried to them from the ballroom, how her warm hands felt on his shoulders and how she breathed out her consent with reckless fire, then he could recall the way he’d felt then. That had been a feeling like no other in his life and the moment he grasped it the words came on their own. “Expecto Patronum.” The white wolf sprang forward, turned around several times, sat on all fours and waited for a moment, then sensing that it was no needed, vanished.

Pansy was looking wide-eyed at him and the spot where his Patronus had been. Her eyes moved to his face and stayed there. “What did you think of?” she asked quietly.

Antonin hesitated for a moment, then smiled sadly. “Just something from my youth. After you use a memory and the spell together often enough it becomes routine. Good day, Miss Parkinson. I will owl you.”

Pansy left with light, girlish steps and once the door closed behind her, Antonin sank onto a bench by the wall and rubbed both hands over his face. She didn’t need to know about Bella, Antonin did not want her to know. Especially her.

*~*

August waned quickly into its last days and Pansy soon found herself in Diagon Alley buying supplies for the upcoming year. She bought new robes, quills, books and potions supplies. Everyone was talking about how different the DADA textbooks were this year. The Carrows were obviously determined to give their students a deeper understanding of the Dark Arts themselves. Pansy received an owl from Draco, saying that he would see her at school. She’d sighed in relief that he was alright and wrote back. But other than that she did not experience that feeling of uncontained joy that she expected to feel. Her stomach did not flip as it use to and she did not jump around the room in excitement as she sometimes did before when Draco wrote to her after an extended lull in communication. She still cared about him with all her heart, but Pansy could not shake the feeling that something had snapped between them, fallen into the chasm that had been created. Nor did she anticipate going back to school as much as she thought she would. In fact, all of her thoughts were at Headquarters and the most acute feeling that Pansy did feel in those last summer days was the disappointment at not being able to fit in one more training session with Antonin before she left.

 
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