Happy holidays, joeyjames! (Millicent/Pansy, PG-13) title: she loves me, he loves me not author:sappholococcus recipient:joeyjames rating: PG-13 length: 3,240 pairing(s): Millicent/Pansy (unrequited), very small hints of Pansy/Draco and Pansy/OMC implied summary: At Hogwarts, Pansy occupied all of Millicent’s attention. Years later, Millicent encounters her old crush – and many things have changed, but others have not changed at all. warning(s): spoilers for DH (epilogue not included). author's note: this came out much more bittersweet than actually angsty, for which I apologise. But there are copious amounts of UST, and I tried my best to incorporate the prompts secrecy, during/post war, reassessing first impressions as situations change, falling in love and angsting about it. Happy holidays, joeyjames!
The estate was enormous, even by the standards of the wizarding world's pureblood elite. It was made of imported white marble, its walls adorned with frescoes reminiscent of ancient Rome, and fresh bouquets scented the air from every corner. Every inch spoke of abundant wealth, but it was a secretive estate too - Harold Peabody was a collector of magical artefacts, and though he had bought himself the right to many of the less than legal items, it was required that he keep them under guard.
This was where Millicent worked after graduating from Hogwarts. She was either too intelligent or too Slytherin to guard the artefacts themselves - she suspected it was the latter - so her talents were reserved for protecting Peabody himself. Though she was un-Marked, her unusually large and muscular appearance instilled fear where her brainpower often didn't - a fact which had been exploited by Slytherins higher on the food chain during school, especially Pansy.
At times, she thought that Peabody respected her, at least a little. He certainly never looked at her funny, the way some men did: the kind of look that said they knew she wasn't in a relationship and never really had been. The sort of 'oh, I bet that crazy spinster would love to tumble in the sack with my sorry arse' look, which made her want to claw their eyes out. It was for this reason that Millicent disliked men.
To get them to stop looking at her, Millicent tried gaining weight. She tried putting on more muscle with extra training. It only earned her a few snide comments from the other Peabody Estate guards, mostly concerning her agility. That stopped when she sicced her cat on them.
"Now, Bulstrode," Peabody had said, clearly trying to hold back a grin. "How on earth will my guards be able to stop a real threat if they can't even stop a cat?"
"Perhaps you ought to get new guards, sir," Millicent had replied succinctly. Much to her very great surprise, he had. He even joked about testing them against the black, yellow-eyed cat that never left Millicent's side - a cat that had somehow survived past normal magical pet age, simply because she was cranky and spiteful enough - but that never happened.
Millicent decided she liked her boss.
At the time, The Incident was not really as ominous and exciting as its capitalised letters (assigned post hoc) made it seem. It was a lot of confusion, arguing with Madam Pomfrey, and sniffling - Millicent remembered the sniffling especially.
Somehow, Pansy managed to make the sniffling sound just as classy and dignified as everything else she did. Even with puffy eyes, she looked prettier than Millicent ever would, but that wasn't important.
The important thing was that Pansy had realised that the world was a dark, scary place. That even her cherished Malfoy was not invincible, and therefore she was at a greater risk than she'd ever imagined. Ironically, those days were among the most glorified and popular of Millicent's life.
"It's dangerous," Pansy had whispered to herself, as they stood outside the doors of the hospital wing. "It's very dangerous. If Draco - if they can get away with -"
She had never finished that sentence, but it wasn't the meaning of it that Millicent remembered. It marked the beginning of Pansy's paranoid phase, when she commandeered Millicent's protection for the rest of the school year. Her jobs included accompanying Pansy whenever she needed to go somewhere unsupervised by professors or where there were no crowds to provide safety in numbers, glaring viciously at Potter whenever he happened to be nearby, and doing odd tasks around the dungeons when there were only Slytherins - safe, conniving, and evil Slytherins - to protect her from.
"Make them go away, Millie," Pansy would say, in a tone vulnerable enough to make even the horrid nickname sound sweet. Millicent had never learned to resist that voice, nor the woeful curve of Pansy's spine as she curled up on her bed. All laughing and gossiping in the dormitory would instantly cease.
It was right around the time that Millicent started thinking of less-than-innocent ways to comfort her friend that she realised she was the victim of a horrible, all-consuming crush.
Millicent did not deal well with crushes, especially when every other word out of Pansy's mouth was 'Draco'. When the blond prince of Slytherin got out of the hospital wing, Pansy followed doggedly at his footsteps for a day until he forced her to stop. It reminded Millicent of her cat's undying loyalty, its willingness to follow her around even when she wasn't perfect.
Which was all the time, really. She certainly wasn't worth Pansy's notice, not even after Draco had left the school entirely.
It was not so odd, then, that she was still only an observer to the glamour and drama of Pansy's life when she saw her old crush for the first time since school. Millicent's shift at the Peabody Estate was at night, when the dim light hid her bulk better, and she often arrived to find her boss in the middle of dinner or saying goodbye to his guests. On this particular night, she was surprised to find the dining room empty, but there was a soft light coming from just beyond the parlour door. When she pressed her ear against it, she heard a soft female voice mingling with Harold's deeper one, and occasionally the clink of what sounded like a wine glass.
"It's a young'un tonight," came a soft whisper out of nowhere. Millicent was only slightly startled; her world as a guard was full of unseen people who lingered in shadowy corners, beneath concealment charms, and even the occasional invisibility cloak.
"Yeah?" she asked absently, turning to look in the direction of the voice. Slowly her fellow guard appeared, a grinning face that faded and shifted with the charms still on it.
"A looker, too," Gerard said, handing over the two-way mirror. Millicent looked.
Sitting on the loveseat beside Harold Peabody, one of her slim legs crossed over the other beneath an elegant sheer black skirt, drinking red wine and leaning far too close to her boss for Millicent's comfort was none other than Pansy Parkinson.
"I'm resigning," Millicent said, slamming the door with her foot when she got back to her flat.
A disgruntled meow came from the black cat settled on the kitchen counter, and Millicent shoved the creature impatiently out of the way to set down the food she'd bought. She began unpacking: already cooked chicken, packaged salad mix that she always bought and never ended up eating, ice cream, various items from the deli, cans of soup, frozen vegetables. She shoved everything into the freezer and refrigerator, taking out a frozen pizza for her dinner and sliding it into the oven.
"I make my own food," she said angrily to the cat. It watched her with knowing yellow eyes. "I work at the place she goes for fun. She's flirting with my boss."
She stopped. "And I talk to cats," she finished, giving the counter a hefty kick. It hurt, but Millicent barely noticed. "It's hopeless. I give up."
The cat leapt off the counter and twined around her legs, purring.
"Don't do that," Millicent implored it, but she didn't have the heart to shove it away again. "Don't. Stop."
But the cat didn't listen. Finally Millicent summoned the catnip from the kitchen cupboard and threw a piece of it a few metres away. Disdainful yellow eyes looked up at her for a moment, but finally her pet gave in.
"Thank you," Millicent called after her, rubbing her forehead.
The next morning, Harold Peabody called Millicent into his study. For a moment, she feared that it had somehow got back to her boss that she was in love with his current trophy wife prospect - perhaps Gerard had seen the expression on her face and somehow known exactly what she was thinking? - but that was impossible. Nobody knew. Nobody but Millicent's cat, and she wasn't going to tell anyone.
"I'm hosting a party," was what Harold had to say. Millicent let out a small sigh of relief and nodded.
"It's before your shift, but it's going to be a big event," he continued, oblivious. "The event. Everyone who's anyone will be there, and I'll need as many of my staff as possible." He looked up at her, gesturing with his cigar. "Less subtle than usual. I want to give the appearance that I'm heavily guarded, so no one tries anything funny. Do you think you could monitor the invitation list at the door?"
A feeling of dread grew in Millicent's stomach. She'd be seen by all the purebloods in their finest, and Pansy would no doubt be among them. Millicent couldn't decide which would be worse, if she was there on Draco's arm or Harold's.
She should have said no. She should have explained, she should have resigned like she said she was going to, but in the end Millicent needed this job. She needed to be independent of her idiot father, who was probably expecting her to drink the money away - either that or spend it on her wedding - while he was in Azkaban. And in the end, she simply didn't have the courage to admit to Harold - to admit to anyone - that she was still harbouring a crush from years ago, a crush on a girl, for fear of losing his respect.
And so Millicent found herself agreeing. "Good," Harold said, pleased. He offered her a cigar, but she shook her head. "I'm getting nicer uniforms made for those who'll be visible, so you'll need to get fitted again - and the day of the party I expect you to show up at four, alright? You'll be paid extra for the time."
In the end, Millicent hoped, the money would be worth it.
One of Pansy's favourite things to do was hold court in the Slytherin Common Room. She looked remarkably at home there for a prim, polished heiress, which was probably the reason why she was so respected amongst their classmates.
Seventh year, she did this even more often - or perhaps Millicent just attended them more often. She had to compensate for Draco's absence somehow, Millicent thought wryly, and felt even worse. She dressed even more like a boy than usual that year, and renamed her cat Claws when Pansy took a liking to it.
Still, in private, she called it Pansy. But never very often, and never in a loud voice, for fear that someone might hear.
"She's very pretty," Pansy said, petting the cat. Claws was purring happily in her lap, much more friendly than usual; it seemed she liked her namesake. "Aren't you a pretty kitty, yes you are."
Millicent sent a half-hearted glare in her cat's direction. She could not exactly blame the thing for liking Pansy better than her, not when she would kill to have Pansy pet her like that and call her beautiful.
"Such long claws," Pansy cooed, lifting one of the cat's paws. "But you wouldn't hurt me, would you?"
The cat hummed agreement in the back of her throat. But just then the wall slid open, filling the room with sudden chatter as Tracey and Daphne entered. Immediately, Pansy scooped the cat out of her lap and placed her on the floor, getting up to meet her friends.
When Claws skulked back over to Millicent and curled up sulkily at her feet, Millicent laughed at her. "Now you know how I feel."
It seemed to Millicent that the whole of the wizarding elite had turned out for the party. Pansy had not arrived yet, which made Millicent feel better and worse at the same time, slightly sick with anticipation. She could not quite imagine that Pansy would miss an event like this - she had probably been flirting with Peabody that night specifically to be invited - and she thought she might even be disappointed if Pansy didn't show.
She felt weird in her outfit, a sort of women's suit that emphasized her broad shoulders and muscled limbs. It also emphasized the pooch of her stomach that, had Millicent known earlier that she'd have to wear something like this, she still wouldn't have tried to get rid of.
Harold's sister, who was here for the event, had slicked Millicent's hair back into a tight bun. "To emphasize your strong jaw," she'd said, smiling. Millicent supposed she did look a little bit better this way.
It got monotonous very quickly. A line formed out the door and into the brisk night, down a path lined with fairy lights. All Millicent could hear was the rustle of skirts, laughter, and the soft notes of music from inside.
Then, without warning, Pansy was standing in front of her. Millicent almost didn't recognise her; she'd been expecting pink and frills like at the Yule Ball, but here she was in a very light blue, taffeta and small white embroidered beads. Draco, beside her, looked incredibly bored.
"Millie?" Pansy asked in surprise, and Millicent suddenly remembered that she was supposed to be checking whether they were on the list. Not that there was any point in doing so; she was sure the two of them were there.
Swallowing, Millicent pretended to look at her list. There were so many things she could say or do right now, but she had no courage. "Come in," she said finally.
"Thank you," Pansy said. She touched Millicent's arm, and gave her a seemingly genuine smile that nearly made Millicent's heart stop. "You'll come and talk to me if you get a break, won't you?"
All Millicent could do was nod. Her eyes flicked briefly to Draco, and thought she caught him looking at some bloke's arse. She could have laughed at the irony.
He looked up at Millicent when Pansy gave him a sharp jab with her elbow, and Pansy rolled her eyes. “Ignore him. He’s between boyfriends, he’s like a dog in heat.”
Draco smirked, and Millicent nearly choked on her own tongue.
Graduation was not at all what Millicent expected. She didn’t know exactly what sort of ceremony she expected, but it certainly wasn’t this. There was no semblance of celebration, they were simply being ushered out as quickly as possible. From the way everyone was acting, Millicent half expected the entire castle to come crashing down around their ears.
Pansy stuck close to Millicent’s side, arms wrapped around herself. Millicent thought about putting an arm around her, but she didn’t dare.
“I did everything wrong, didn’t I?” she asked later, when they were safe.
“Um,” was all Millicent could find in the way of an answer, but Pansy wasn’t paying attention.
“He would have known what to do,” she said, wiping absently at her eyes. “I’ve always been useless at war and fighting, you know that.”
Millicent did know, better than anyone. “Yeah,” she said, adding loyally: “But there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“What if I messed it all up?” Pansy asked her. Her tone sounded desperate, and there was a dangerous glimmer of tears hovering near her lashes. “What if… somehow… we got out of all this alive, and they hate us because of me…”
Reassurance was not something Millicent was particularly good at, but she tried anyway. “All you did was point. They can’t hold that against you.”
“We can’t know what’s going on, anyway,” Pansy said, wrapping her arms around her knees. “Maybe he—they’ll win. Maybe they’ll win, he’ll come back, and…everything will be alright.”
But when the war was over, nobody had won.
Millicent downed four glasses of champagne before daring to make her way over to Pansy. The alcohol would not affect her much, but she hoped that some of the bubbly would somehow make her cheerful, anyway.
“It’s horrible, you know,” Pansy was saying to an incredibly bored looking gentleman. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to her at all, and his eyes kept wandering. Millicent wondered if Pansy purposefully hung around this sort of person simply to make her feel particularly murderous. “The way they treat us. We’re terribly marginalised, don’t you think?”
“Mmhm,” the man hummed noncommittally. Noticing Millicent, Pansy rolled her eyes.
“There you are, Millie,” she said brightly. “I’ve been looking for you all over. Frederick, darling, you don’t mind if I go and have a quickie with my girlfriend, do you?”
Millicent felt her cheeks colouring, but was unable to do anything about it. Frederick merely nodded.
Taking Millicent’s arm, Pansy made a face and led her away. “He’s an absolute bore,” she said huffily. “I can’t stand him, I don’t know why he always tries to talk to me. It’s so obvious he doesn’t even like women.”
“Is Draco…?” Millicent managed to say, feeling that she should be contributing something to the conversation.
“Hmm?” Pansy asked. “Oh. Well, yes. Didn’t you know?”
All Millicent could do was shake her head. Much to her surprise, Pansy smiled a little bit wistfully. “As if the world needed one more reason to dislike him, you know?” She bit her lip. “I admire him, though. He’s not afraid of being honest about it.”
Millicent sent the effeminate blond a glare across the room. Even gay, he held more sway over Pansy than Millicent ever could.
When she arrived at work the next night, Harold handed her a copy of that morning’s Daily Prophet. Millicent never bothered with newspapers, but he seemed so excited about it that she skimmed the article politely.
Then she read it again.
Yesterday’s fundraiser, organised by the up-and-coming activist Pansy Parkinson and hosted by the eccentric and well-loved Harold Peabody, was a huge success, it read. ”I plan to hold many of these in the near future,” Ms. Parkinson said. “It is a new world, and time for everyone to contribute towards making it a better place.”
The pet cause this time was a non-profit organisation founded by Mr. Peabody himself, giving support to a little recognised demographic in the wizarding community: those with alternative sexual lifestyles.
“What?” she said, looking up at Harold, but he just grinned at her and gestured for her to read on. She looked at the paper, back at him, and then returned to reading.
The six thousand Galleons raised through ticket sales and an auction of a few less dangerous items in Mr. Peabody’s collection will be going towards research on the potion to cure a magical version of HIV, a virus afflicting Muggles and wizards worldwide.
“That’s incredible,” Millicent said, starting to smile. “You—“
Harold smiled. “My dear girl, I thought you of all people would have guessed.” He gestured to the paper again. “Go on, read about your friend.”
Millicent blinked. He knew. How had he known? There was a tiny, secretive smile on Harold’s face, and she wondered briefly if she’d severely underestimated him.
Ms. Parkinson announced that the next fundraiser will be her own wedding to childhood friend, one-time lover, and now best friend Draco Malfoy. It will be hosted at Malfoy Manor, all good Samaritans of wizarding society are invited to attend.
Against her will, Millicent’s shoulders slumped. Harold gave her a warm pat on the shoulder, looking sympathetic.
“She’s marrying one of us,” he said softly. “There’s still hope for you.”
No, Millicent thought, she’ll always love him more. There’s no hope.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, offering him the paper. “I can’t do this anymore.”
She walked out of the estate, and didn’t look back.