Some things in life are simple and others are complicated. Pansy Parkinson went into her seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry a girl and ended left it a woman. That was simple. The journey she took in order to get there was far more complex.
It is not like she actually expects Harry Potter to be at the school, in plain view, but it was still strange to settle into the welcoming feat and not have Draco muttering about the boy who lived as new students are sorted. The hall looks empty and cold, with all the missing spaces, and that is not how it is supposed to be. The loud roar of students returning and talking of their summers has been silenced to a few murmurs between friends as people nervously settle into their seats. Even Pansy's own house appears to be on edge, as if Hogwarts without Dumbledore is not something that they have really prepared themselves to comprehend.
The teachers don't look happy or welcoming, because they cannot hide their own fear and apprehension of what is to come. The only smiles are twisted and gleeful on faces Pansy doesn't recognise, smiles that make her shudder and shift closer to Draco. He, of course, knows exactly who they are and as he describes who and what they are, Pansy's stomach turns in disgust. Death Eaters might carry out the Dark Lord's wishes and have a prised position in their new society but the idea that they will teach fills Pansy with dread. How can those who hand out death possibly teach about life?
This new and purified Hogwarts was meant to be the crowning achievement of her Lord's return, yet it was meant to remain a school at its heart. It should have been the best of the best, and been the beginning of the rise of a new generation that would fix the wizarding world and return things to their proper places. Instead, the tables look too large, the smiles too tight, and the fear creeps from one student to another, before Headmaster Snape rises to give his short speech.
It is not the sort of speech that fills Pansy with hope. In fact, it scares her. Her father never said that her teachers would be allowed to torture her if she was put into detention. Suddenly, Dumbledore doesn't seem so bad.
Neville Longbottom is the first in Pansy's year to be put into detention by Alecto Carrow for disputing her claims about muggles. Pansy doesn't think about it too much until her Dark Arts class in the afternoon when Longbottom is standing at the front nervously with a few other students from various houses. One terrified looking first year Slytherin who spots her perfect badge seems to silently plead for help and Pansy starts to feel physically sick when she sees the looks on some of her classmate's faces. This was not just a Dark Arts class. This was also detention.
"Today, we're going to talk about a curse I personally find very interesting," Professor Carrow begins slowly, almost whispering in excitement as if he is a child, "The cruciatus curse is the recently legalised curse that upsets a specimen's nervous system in a way that can be...unpleasant. I would think that it would be very helpful in aiding to discipline children or...others found to be unruly."
Pansy's insides turn and she grips her quill a little tighter.
"It has been noted that discipline at Hogwart's school has been disappointingly lacking in recent times and, our esteemed headmaster aims to rectify that. We are going to do that through learning today. I will demonstrate first on this young man, Neville Longbottom, and then you will come forward and learn the curse yourself. Of course, this sort of learning is always more effective if there is a test subject to hand."
He smiles and it is unnerving, all teeth and sleaze, before turning on Longbottom and he doesn't even make a sound before Pansy seems her classmate fall to the floor. He writhes against the floor, his head cracking off the wood, and it is the most horrific thing that Pansy had ever witnessed. It doesn't feel like people should deserve such a thing when it is happening right in front of her. It seems to go on forever before Carrow finally lifts the curse and turns back to the class, looking over Longbottom's still twitching body, "Volunteers?"
Far too many hands shoot up without hesitation. Pansy throws up in the fourth floor bathroom before she makes her way to Charms.
Pansy never took her prefect duties seriously before her seventh year. There was always someone else to take care of things, and really Slytherins were meant to take care of themselves. The young ones would never learn if the prefects were running around after them all the time. It was just the way things were, or at least it was before her first Dark Arts class. That night, she seeks out the first year that had served his detention in her class instead of spending it in Transfiguration trying to turn a match into a needle.
She learns his name is Edward, and that he is part of an old Welsh family that had spent the last couple of decades in France, investing in broomsticks. They had returned so that Edward might get a better education at Hogwarts, having not believed the reports about the state of the school from abroad and clearly having not been alarmed by the succession of Severus Snape as headmaster. It strikes Pansy that while the Daily Prophet had become somewhat of a joke among her peers, the impact of its failings were now hurting people and that surely cannot be right. This child is a pureblood after all, not a waste of space muggleborn like Granger or the Creeveys'. He tells her that going to school in France would never have been like this, and yet he never sheds a tear in front of her. Like a true Slytherin, after that first attempt to escape his fate he never showed any weakness.
Potions is not Pansy's best subject but she manages to brew a mild pain reliever potion to allow the poor boy to sleep. However, when she returns to the common room, she glowers at Goyle all evening for having put him in that situation and being proud of what he had done. For once, she begins to think about the students in other houses, and wonders if they will brew potions for those who had been tortured as she had. That is what it was, after all, torture. As far as Pansy had been able to find out, all Longbottom had done was contradict something Carrow had said about muggle power systems. Edward had also questioned Carrow in muggle studies and paid the price. Surely though, Pansy thought to herself, he would know more about muggles having lived among them in Paris than Carrow would living on an old estate in the country? It makes her think, makes her uncomfortable and sick with guilt because she wanted a Hogwarts like this.
Weasley joins Longbottom in some sort of crusade against the teachers and Pansy can't help but admire how they deflect attention from the younger students and onto themselves. She wonders if the Carrows and Snape even know what they are doing or if they just don't care. Surely, Snape of all people would recognise Slytherin cunning, even if it was drenched in Gryffindor bravery. Yet every few days there is a message on the walls that fills the students with hope that there might be a way out of this and Pansy finds herself taking hope from them too.
Managing to stay out of trouble, Pansy slowly teaches the younger students in her house to do the same and encourages them to avoid Draco and his cronies as well. She doesn't understand the blond anymore. Everything about him has changed, become embittered and cruel, and he is no longer the man that she wanted to marry. If he is willing to torture children put under his protection at school, would he be willing to do the same to his children? Pansy has no intention of finding out.
Drifting closer to the girls in her year, Pansy changes her focus and works harder in class, studying with Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis rather than gossiping with Millicent Bulstrode. No one is looking after her at school, and she finally realises that no one will look after her when she is finished either. If she wants something out of her life, she has to achieve it herself. Buckling down, she improves her marks a little and socialises more with the rest of her house instead of the smaller group she had been part of before.
The only class that she doesn't improve in is Dark Arts where her grades fall apart spectacularly. Pansy is a cruel girl, a bully at times, and hardly approachable but she won't inflict pain on people. She won't torture pureblood children, and take pleasure from it.
It feels like every time she goes to dinner there are people hunched over themselves shivering, people moving gingerly, and new bruises on defeated faces. It doesn't feel like much of a school anymore, but Pansy is still learning lessons all the same. She learns when to talk and when to keep quiet. She learns when to act and when she just has to let things happen. She learns that this is not a world she wants to be part of and regrets so many things.
Then the Gryffindors try to take the sword, and Pansy remembers they are at war, and so there is still hope that things can change.
Lovegood disappears over the Christmas holidays, and Draco comes back changed, and with his mother's wand.
Pansy wonders if her NEWTs are really worth it.
Rumours make their way through the halls that Potter is still out there fighting and Pansy wonders if her French is good enough to get her a job in Paris somewhere. She needs to get out, and if there is to be a battle she hope she can escape first. When things are better she might return but she never wanted to be a hero.
Not even when she is made to hex Lavender Brown until the other girl can't even walk out of the classroom herself. Carrow gives her an Outstanding and she struggles to look herself in the eye until Brown can walk without limping.
Pansy exchanges letters with her mother as winter fades to spring, and they talk of possible marriage contracts and Pansy's future. Her parents don't understand her change of heart towards Draco, but declare that since the Malfoy's have lost the Dark Lord's favour it is the right decision. It makes Pansy question her parents and where their loyalties really lie. It doesn't feel like they lie with her anymore.
Getting close to Umbridge and benefiting from that had been one thing but the Dark Lord's ladder is no longer something Pansy wants to be at the top of.
She feels completely alone and isolated, caught between those who don't have a conscious about what they are witnessing and between those that want to do something about it. There is no way that Longbottom and Weasley would possibly trust her or offer her any sort of protection. She has to get herself through this war, and when the dorms are once again turned upside down for information about Potter, Pansy decides that she will do whatever it takes to get through it.
Slowly, Potter's friends start to go missing just like Lovegood, all after standing up to Snape and the Carrows but Draco doesn't think that the Dark Lord has them. They have just vanished from the Castle and Pansy wonders if they have given up. It unsettles her and Snape takes it out on the rest of the students with mass assemblies that go on forever. His voice terrifies younger students and makes the older ones question if they do know something, just to make him stop threatening them.
When Slughorn rouses them from their beds and sends them to the Great Hall, Pansy knows that this time is different. The Ravenclaws inform them that Harry Potter has returned to the school, but Pansy doesn't feel anger like her house-mates or hope like her peers. Instead she feels fear, because there is no way to know what will happen to her next. The Dark Lord demands that someone hand Potter over and there is no great army storming in behind the boy-who-lived. He looks just as scrawny has he always has and he doesn't strike her as a saviour. If he won't save her, then she will have to do it herself because she is not a child that clings to hopes and dreams anymore. She is a young woman that knows the world is cruel and that she doesn't want to die in a battle she didn't ask to be part of just because Potter hadn't waited a few more months.
Pansy doesn't want a reward, just a future.
With trembling fingers, she slowly points to Potter and takes a deep breath before she screeches, and seals the reputation that will haunt her adult life, "But he's there! Potter's there! Someone grab him!"