darkhairedgirl: ("Some days the body count will)
[personal profile] darkhairedgirl
Title: survive its harshest hour
Characters/Pairing: Justin Finch-Fletchley/Pansy Parkinson
Prompt: family history
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2280
Summary: 1998 ends with a bang. 1999 starts with her father’s face plastered over the front page of the Daily Prophet.
Author's Notes: 6/13. Title comes from the Paul Simon song “Father and Daughter.”

1998 ends with a bang: confetti and fireworks and music, bottomless glasses of champagne.

1999 starts with Astor Parkinson’s face plastered over the front page of the Daily Prophet.

Pansy has no idea that her father has been sighted in Berlin, rallying what’s left of the Zauberschutz; she’s still hungover when the news officially breaks, desperate for a Clarity Solution and blissfully unaware of anything but a dire need to brush her teeth until Aurors burst into her room at the Cauldron. It’s Proudfoot and Chang who force her into the Floo once she’s dressed, the overnight taste of champagne still bitter in her mouth as Tom tries to stop them, as they flash their badges and confiscate her wand, cart her away.

The Ministry is empty as they march her down the stairs, and all Pansy can think of is how she has never been in this part of the Auror block before; all her dealings with Savage have been in the main part of the office, or tucked away in his cubicle. The interrogation room they lead her into is cold and stark, purposefully Spartan with its plain wooden table and chairs, the grey walls, the mirror by the door someone is obviously observing them through. They offer her a paper cup of coffee that Pansy doesn’t touch, a pastry that has definitely seen better days. Nerissa Proudfoot leads the interrogation, standing back beside the mirror and asking question after question about Pansy’s mother, her extended family, her father’s business associates; Cho Chang chews her way through a pack of Drooble’s in the chair across from Pansy, scribbling down notes in sloppy, inky shorthand. Pansy slumps against the table with her arms folded on the surface, the tabletop cool where it presses against her wrists, and wishes for a draught of potion, a shot of whiskey – something, anything, to clear her head.

“Any relatives in Berlin?” Proudfoot asks for what must be the third time, circling to the opposite side of the room as she does so. “What about Munich? Chernobog? Come on, Pansy, you’ve got a big, pure family. Don’t tell me a girl like you can’t count her way through fifteen generations – bet you could do it in your sleep.”

Pansy closes her eyes, rubs at her temples. “I can’t tell you what I don’t know,” she says, voice curling up into a petulant whine: “You think I know anything about what my father’s done since May? Where he’s been? I’ve turned in every letter he sent me –”

“Turned them in late,” Chang snorts, still snapping her gum. “Gives him plenty of time to get the move on from one safehouse to the next, doesn’t it?”

“Aiding and abetting a known criminal isn’t a misdemeanor,” Proudfoot adds, coming forward so that she towers over Pansy. “For you, sweetheart, that’s a one-way ticket to Azkaban.”

Chang smirks. “Maybe you could share a cell. Get a whole block, just for the family.”

Proudfoot leans in like a friend, a confidant, kneeling down to Pansy’s level and waiting until Pansy meets her eyes. Pansy has never heard the charges against her father before, not in full, and she can feel the color draining from her face as Proudfoot ticks them off slowly on her fingers, drawing out the crimes, relishing in every flinch and cringe. She grips Pansy’s shoulder, nails digging in through the wool of her sweater, and Pansy bites down hard on her tongue. “You’re not protecting him by keeping quiet,” Proudfoot tells her, “You’re only making it worse for yourself.”

The interrogation room is soundproof by magical and architectural means, but neither one seems to be able to prevent the unexpected sound of heated arguing from bleeding through the walls. Proudfoot steps back at the sharp rise in outside noise, glancing confusedly at Chang, and Pansy turns in time to see the door burst open, the most unlikely savior in the world striding straight through it. Amaryllis Montgomery blows into the room like a gale-force wind: she throws her cloak onto the table, knocking over Chang’s ink bottle, and inserts herself between Proudfoot and Pansy like a human Shield Charm. Savage follows, old goat that he is, and tries in vain to pull Amaryllis out of the room; Justin slides in quietly behind him, seemingly invisible to everyone but Pansy in the presence of Madam Montgomery’s ongoing tirade.

“Not even an Advocate!” Amaryllis shouts, disgust etched into every line on her face as she squares off on each Auror in turn. “What kind of bloody imbeciles are they letting into the Academy, these days? Have you even read this girl her rights? Is she under arrest?”

No, Madam.” Auror Proudfoot rolls her eyes; Chang is trying, and failing, to mop up her ink. “And as I’m sure Auror Savage has already told you, Miss Parkinson is free to leave here at any –”

Amaryllis laughs at that. “Free to leave at any time, is she? You’ve given her no option for legal aid, barred her from making any Floo calls, and have refused all explanations as to why she’s even here! As far as I can tell, there is no information this girl can give you that wouldn’t immediately be thrown out of court by a two-knut Knockturn Alley shyster if this was ever brought before a judge!”

Amaryllis grabs the back of Pansy’s chair and yanks it backwards, the legs scraping loud over the floor as she glares at the Aurors across the table. “Pansy, get your coat. We’re leaving.” Pansy doesn’t move; she can only gape stupidly at her aunt, watching with wide eyes as Justin takes down Pansy’s jacket from the hook, as Amaryllis whirls back on Savage: “And as for you, you should be ashamed of yourself – just wait until I take this to Robards, and to Shacklebolt –”

Justin hands Pansy her coat as she rises and maneuvers her out the door. He keeps his hand at the small of her back as he leads her down through the Auror block and out toward the lifts; she can still hear Amaryllis arguing in the distance, things like libel and rights violation and countersuit floating back to them as the elevator doors open, and Justin shuffles her inside. They ride up to the atrium in silence and the hall is empty when the doors open – no guards, no Ministry employees, the only movement coming from a few janitor-less pushbrooms sweeping away dust in the far corners. Pansy is dizzy as she sinks to the stone bench around the Fountain of Magical Brethren, the water flat and silent behind her as she tries to regain her bearings, stop this sudden, aching vertigo. She feels like she’s lived a lifetime since the Aurors brought her in; it’s impossible to believe that it’s only ten past noon.

“How… how did you even –?” she starts, and Justin sits down beside her.

“Hannah called me,” he says offhandedly, like this is something he does every day. “She told me they came for you with no warning, no warrant, nothing. I called Madam Montgomery right after – she isn’t too happy with me, but she still met me here.”

Pansy stares at him blankly, her mind still racing; she’s having a hard time reconciling the man who raised her with the dastardly mastermind the Aurors want him to be – her father is soft and well-educated, patient with his son and indulgent of his only daughter. He collects bibles, for Merlin’s sake, old bloody manuscripts, not torture implements or antique poisons. She keeps tripping over words like conspiracy and terrorism, obstruction and manslaughter and espionage; she feels faint, the room starting to spin around her so abruptly that she feels sick. Pansy falls forward, elbows braced on her knees and her head in her hands, fingers threading through her hair; everything is happening so fast, weeks and months of nothing speeding up and slamming together to fill the first minutes of a clean new year with more trouble than she’s ever had in her life. Her breath catches hard in her chest and she hiccups through it, Justin’s knee bumping against hers as he leans into her space, tells her over and over again, “Hey, Pansy, c’mon – breathe.”

“I’m sorry this is so hard for you,” Justin says to her, honest, meaning it, and Pansy suddenly hates that startling flash of Hufflepuff goodness in him; hates him for showing compassion for her, miserable Slytherin bitch that she is, a woman who can’t help but feel love for the man who kissed the scrapes on her elbows and read her Babbity Rabbity every night for a year. The Death Eaters deserve what they get, deserve every inch of it, she knows they do, but she doesn’t think of the Death Eater when she thinks of Astor Parkinson; right now he is still her father – right now, he is still her dad.

Justin’s hand is warm where it rests on her back, right between her shoulder blades, and she thinks of how different things were just last night: celebrating with the rest of the guests at Hannah’s New Year’s Eve party, listening to the midnight countdown on the wireless and helping pass champagne around the room. She’d wound up at Justin’s side right as the chanting in the room hit ten seconds; their fingers brushed as she handed him a glass and when their eyes met, there was a heartbeat at six seconds where Pansy thought about kissing him – thought about just lifting herself up onto her tiptoes and pressing her lips to his – but Susan Bones grabbed hold of Justin’s elbow at four seconds and pulled him away before Pansy could even move. Her mother used to say that what you did on New Year’s Eve, you carried with you all year long, and Pansy is suddenly terrified that it might be true. She has no family left, she has so few friends; she doesn’t want to enter this year with an empty heart.

“Thank you,” she says, unable to get out anything else, and when she lifts her head to look at him there’s an unreadable expression on Justin’s face. He looks like he wants to say something else, but before either of them can speak Amaryllis Montgomery sweeps out of the elevators, striding purposefully across the marble floor in their direction with an exasperated, “There you are!”

Justin backs off quickly at Madam Montgomery’s approach, leaving a solid five inches of space between his knee and Pansy’s. Amaryllis doesn’t notice: “I went through half the Auror Office before I realized you must’ve gone upstairs,” she says to Justin, and then turns to Pansy. “At least it gave me time to fill out the release form on your wand.”

She offers the wand back handle-first and Pansy thanks her as she takes it, the cypress warm and familiar against her palm. Amaryllis holds her grip on the end for a moment longer than she should, aunt and niece locking eyes over the length of the wand; this is the longest conversation they’ve had in almost two decades, and look what it took for them to get there. Pansy attempts a smile and fails, ducking her head as she tucks her wand away, and Amaryllis simply moves past it, thanking Justin for alerting her to Pansy’s situation.

“Have other things like this happened?” she asks, and the way she narrows her eyes at Pansy’s nod, in that moment it’s far too easy to see the similarities in the hard set of her jaw, the familiar line of the Parkinson nose that matches Pansy’s, her father’s. “Write me next week,” she says, “Send an owl to my office once the holiday’s over. Let’s see if we can get the Aurors out of your business, shall we?”

She holds out her hand to Justin, who rises to shake it, and there’s an awkward pause as Pansy stands, reaching out tentatively in her own overly-polite goodbye. She feels like she should curtsy. Amaryllis nods at them both before she leaves, making her exit through one of the nearby fireplaces in a swirl of green flames and glowing embers, leaving them alone at the silent fountain.

“I better get back to the Leaky,” Pansy eventually says to him. “Hannah must think I’ve died, after all this mess.”

There’s a momentary flash of what might be disappointment in Justin’s eyes, but it disappears so quickly Pansy wonders if she imagined it. “Probably for the best,” Justin agrees, winding his scarf around his neck. “Can’t have that, can we? After all, good help is so hard to find these days.”

Pansy breathes out a short laugh as they both walk toward the Visitor’s Entrance, fastening up the buttons on her coat as she moves. Justin holds open the door for her on the false telephone box, punching in the lift code over her shoulder once he squeezes in behind her. Pansy holds her breath, uncomfortably aware of all the places Justin’s body presses against hers in the narrow space; their faces are level in the glass panels as they rise back up to the street, their shared reflection translucent as a ghost. It’s cold outside the Ministry, snow falling lightly onto the alley they resurface into, and Pansy pauses once they reach the empty street, unsure of how to thank him – unsure of how to say goodbye.

She doesn’t have to: “Let me walk you back,” Justin says, nodding towards the road, and they both know it’s only a fifteen-minute walk from here to the doors of the Leaky Cauldron.

Pansy smiles. She lets him.

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