Fandom: Harry Potter
Prompt: 80) A touch of madness is, I think, almost always necessary for constructing a destiny. -- Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987), Belgian-born French novelist. First woman elected to the forty-member L'Académie française.
Summary: "Most days, her life had few regrets." Set post-Deathly Hallows.
Author's Notes: I loved the idea of "constructing a destiny". For better or worse, JKR didn't give Pansy a tidy ending with a marriage to someone, giving her the opportunity to go in unexpected directions. Again, all my love to S. for being a great beta and fixing my atrocious typos.
i. a touch
She had not even finished unpacking when he arrived: trunks were open everywhere, paintbrushes lay tangled with long necklaces, records were strewn about wrapped in tissue, and the floor was nearly covered in scattered postcards, newspapers, and little boxes. He prodded at several things with arrogant little sniffs while she stalked into the kitchen, heels clicking, and proceeded to make him a perfect espresso in a tiny cup. The bottles of paint and canvases had to be cleared from the table to make adequate space for him.
"God, Draco, why are you even here?"
He smirked. "To invite you to my wedding, of course."
"I have an invitation." She held up the offending document, embossed and tied in ribbon.
"You didn't RSVP."
"I was in Barcelona. Besides, I haven't decided if I'm coming."
"It's tomorrow. And you have to come, Pansy. You're my best friend."
She laughed at that, a shrill, tinny noise. "I'm sure Astoria agrees with that qualification."
He ignored her. "There will be free alcohol. You could drink here, sure, but drinking alone is just pathetic. Which you undoubtedly will be if you don't come to my wedding."
She thought longingly of Barcelona; the anonymity, the twisting streets and cathedrals of the Barri Gòtic, the bottomless glasses of sangria. But of course, there was no hiding forever. When an irritable eagle owl dropped the embossed, ribbon-tied invitation on top of her morning cup of cafe amb llet, she took it as a divine signal to return home. At least for a while. Others had stayed to rebuild after the war, but leaving people was what she had always done best. Yet, she now stood here, simultaneously confronted with everything she loved and loathed about home.
She went to the wedding, as she had always known she would. After all, Draco was her best friend.
Despite their proclaimed friendship, she didn't expect to see him again. There were many things to be done, and none of them involved him. All the same, it was not at all surprising when he showed up, a few months later, and helped himself to coffee. Every time her life had direction, he had to arrive and ruin it.
"This excuse for a flat is practically uninhabitable. The wall is crumbling." As if to illustrate the point, he kicked the wall.
She scowled. "I didn't invite you. Besides, I'm fixing it. I'm not about to sell it--it's been in our family for generations, and more importantly, it's all mine."
"You have other things."
"There's nothing like having your own space, but I don't expect you to understand."
Instead of responding, he tried a new tactic. "Why don't you get a real job instead of puttering around with those paints?"
"Are you kidding?" She snorted. "I'm unhireable in London. Even a moron like you should know that."
"Well," Draco drawled. "Maybe you shouldn't have tried to sell Potter to the Dark Lord. I don't think it helped."
When she was six, she started art lessons. Her father thought she had genuine talent, her mother tolerated it because it was marginally better than climbing trees. Everyone liked when she drew landscapes and bowls of fruit. Only Draco and Theodore liked the gargoyles and dragons and attempted impressionism. When she gravitated towards modern art and rough charcoal lines, she was alone.
"You know, Pansy," Draco had said uncomfortably. "I really think the landscapes were better. You know, to show people. Who wants a canvas that's practically just lines? Even I could do that."
Though she pretended otherwise, she knew from that moment that it wasn't going to work.
"I heard Theodore proposed."
"You're nosier than Daphne. Why are shocked by that? Is it unimaginable to you that someone else would want to marry me, just because you didn't?"
"I'm not shocked by that. I'm just shocked you said no."
"Why do you care?"
"Wouldn't you be happier married to someone? Aren't you lonely?"
She slammed down her coffee cup, letting the hot liquid stain her canvas as she tried not to scream with frustration. "No. I'm about to go to Istanbul. I don't need Theodore to complicate things, don't you see? Besides, marriage hardly ever works."
He didn't see. Draco bloody Malfoy couldn't see things unless they were spelled out for him, and even then, he would remain confused. Like the petulant six year old he had once been, he ignored the part of the conversation he didn't understand and grasped on to what he knew.
"What do you mean, 'marriage hardly ever works'? My marriage is fine."
"Is it?" Her voice became caustic. "I'm sure. Have you even told Astoria where you are, right now? Does she know you're sitting in my flat? Or does she think you're at some Ministry meeting?"
She had said it only to hurt him. His face, however, showed she was right.
"I don't know what this is, but I do know what it would look like to someone else. You need to stop coming here."
v. I think,
Leaving people was what she did best. For a while, she sat on the dusty steps of the mosques of Istanbul, sketching the flying carpets as they wove through the minarets. As an apology, she sent Theodore a box of finely ground türk kahvesi, bitter and strong enough to take the varnish off furniture. It took a week of self-pity to realize that she had not made a mistake. Theodore had always been lovely, but the burden of being Mrs. Nott would have crushed her.
vi. almost always
"You're as brown as an Indian," he crowed.
"Well, your hairline is retreating faster than the French," she snapped back. Nothing had changed. Draco was still Draco, London was still dear, ugly, wet, stuffy London, like an aunt you couldn't avoid. That Hermione Chimpmunk Weasley was still trying to liberate House Elves and Daphne still wore too much perfume. Theodore was married.
"Scorpius started school this year," he remarked, helping himself to her coffee. "Where did all these paintings come from? They're quite good."
"I made them."
"Then on second thought, they're dreadful."
"You're incorrigible, Draco. You're an old man now; act like one."
"Are you sure it wouldn't have worked between us?" He had asked her that once, years ago, when she was haphazardly throwing things in a trunk for Barcelona. "Yes," she had replied brusquely. It was the only answer possible. She had planned to marry him when she was six, but growing up and a war had changed them both completely.
"It wouldn't have worked," she had said, "Because one third of the time we fight, one third of the time we're lying, and the other third we're not speaking."
He had actually been the one to formally break it off, after she had thrown a plate at him during a fight. Yet from time to time, he still needed reassurance, which made her want to scream. It had been the right thing for him, because Astoria was elegant and sensible and knew when to keep her mouth shut--qualities absent in Pansy.
It had been the right thing for her too, though she spent her days throwing paint on canvas and regrettably had a nose that turned up at the tip.
"Do you love Astoria, or are you in love with Astoria?"
"You're so strange, Pansy. Everything needs to be quantified and defined for you, these days. I suppose you're next going to ask me how much I love my wife on a scale of weak tea to Salvador Dalí. It doesn't work that way."
What she did tell him, with a small smile: "I actually can't stand Dalí." What she didn't tell him: There is a difference between loving and being in love. I am not in love with anyone. I was in love with Theodore when he gave me that original Cézanne. Things I love are a part of my life, like bitter coffee and charcoal and you. Ipso facto, I love you, but I am not in love with you.
She once saw Theodore at an art show, deep in an intellectual conversation with his wife about Cézanne. It could have been her. She once she saw Draco and Astoria walking in Diagon Alley; Astoria was breathless from cold and laughter and clung to Draco's arm. It could have been her. Perhaps she could have tried harder. Some days, she regretted it bitterly. Some days, she wondered if settling and sacrifice would have been worth it.
x. a destiny
Most days, her life had few regrets. She could choose to wake up at noon (Draco was a morning person). She could have a cat (Draco hated them) and a dog (Theodore was allergic). She could drink black coffee (Theodore liked tea). Most importantly, she could paint a canvas completely black with white in the corner and call it finished (in the end, Draco had only really cared for the landscapes).
She had Istanbul, and Barcelona, and maybe even London. She had the flat--having one's own space was the important thing--and she had enough paint. Marriage, she knew, would have brought her false stability but none of this. To be free was no small thing for a Parkinson woman, and she relished it every morning as she set out her paints and poured a perfect espresso in a tiny cup.