WHO: Pansy and Adrian, and an appearance by Draco WHEN: BACKDATED - Friday evening, 30 May WHAT: Dinner between former friends WHERE: Chez Armand restaurant
Collecting Pansy from her home right on time, Adrian was all charm and there was no indication as he chatted with Daphne that he was taking Pansy out for anything but a friendly dinner. However, once Pansy was with him, he tucked her hand in his arm with a firmness that made it quite clear any attempt to pull away would end badly for her and side-apparated her instead of given her the opportunity to apparate on her own.
Armand's was crowded as usual, but Adrian had booked one of the private dining areas. The diners were still visible to the crowd, but also removed and could speak privately. It was an intimate setting usually only used by couples and Adrian couldn't help feeling slightly amused by the implication. He was sure Pansy would like nothing better than to be miles away from him, but business was business, and if he could endure it then so would she.
He ordered for both of them, shooing the waiter as soon as the wine was bought and regarded the girl opposite him with a lazy smile. "So, shall we get the important part of the conversation over with?" he asked politely. Adrian knew she probably considered him a traitor, but he had warned her at the beginning that nothing would get in the way of his goal. It was hardly his fault if she let her loyalty and affection to her father blind her to the consequences of her actions.
Pansy was fuming by the time they arrived at the restaurant. It was bad enough that she was going to have to report to Adrian at Armand's, where she couldn't even enjoy the dinner, but for him to treat her like a common criminal that he was afraid would run away at the first chance was an insult.
"Yes, why don't we start with the fact that there was no need to keep a hold onto me like a dog on a leash?" she said through clenched teeth. "I already said I was going to meet you for dinner, didn't I?"
His eyebrows rose up and Adrian shrugged. "Very well," he said mildly. "Then you can try not to seem like you're seeking a way to leave as soon as possible. And looking like you're at a funeral. Otherwise the next meeting will be somewhere less pleasant and you can think up an entertaining story to explain that to your friends."
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table, still with a pleasant expression so anyone who might be observing wouldn't suspect this was anything but a happy occasion. "Personally, I'd rather not be the one doing this, but it's the deal that was arranged and of all the Aurors, it's true I'm the only one who can meet you without raising any suspicion on you that it could have anything to do with criminal activities, considering your previous dealings with the Department," Adrian smiled. "You're lucky really, that it was LeBrun in charge of your case. Had it been Robards, you probably would have seen the inside of Azkaban before your lawyer could get a word out. And once the news about what you'd done came out, few people would have blamed him."
It was a not so gentle reminder that Pansy could still find herself disgraced and in prison if she didn't cooperate.
"If you want me to look happier, that's not helping," Pansy snapped. She really, really hated this, and she especially hated the fact that this was probably the best of all her options. It made her feel trapped and helpless, and Pansy Parkinson did not like feeling trapped and helpless. The problem was, there was nothing else for her to do but play along. Adrian's warning had come through loud and clear, and she'd already known it anyway: if she didn't cooperate, she was going to find herself in Azkaban. Still, that didn't mean that she was going to take his attitude.
"Say something nice. I can't look happy when you're threatening me like that."
Satisfied she had heard the message, Adrian decided to indulge her. After all, it wasn't that he hated Pansy, he was simply disappointed that she never thought to divulge the information about the forgeries before it was too late. "Well, aside from the frown, you're looking lovely tonight. That dress suits you perfectly, but you always have had impeccable taste," he raised his glass of champagne in a toast to her appearance, perfectly sincere in his appreciation of her looks.
"Thank you," Pansy said grudgingly, though she managed to summon up a serene smile for it. Sincere joy was going to take longer to fake. She took a sip of her champagne and settled back against her seat. "Lucy agrees. She called me the other day asking for some fashion advice. I talked her out of buying one of those robes with the ridiculously short hemlines."
"Thank Merlin for that, she's far too young," there was a very protective older brother growl to Adrian's tone. He smiled then, a far warmer smile than before. "Thank you, for continuing to be her friend. She looks up to you very much and I would have regretted it if what's happened between you and I," he made a small hand movement gesturing between the two of them. "Caused problems between you and her."
"I wouldn't dream of letting it," Pansy replied. Her smile was more pleasant now, but it didn't reach her eyes. "She's a lovely girl and just needs some guidance, and I'm happy to help. You see, I honour my friendships and connections."
Adrian's eyes darkened and his smile cooled. "Indeed, but you don't always heed warnings or realise people can be placed in unavoidable situations," his fingers ran up and down the stem of his champagne glass. "However, since you've already indicated that doesn't mean anything to you, let's move away from the accusations, hm?" he was truly sick of her matyrdom.
The waiter arrived with their meals then and Adrian remained silent until the man had left. "So, do you have any news that would make my superiors gleeful?"
"I didn't realise it would be a problem," Pansy said through gritted teeth. She'd stopped smiling again, although she did manage a tight one for the waiter. Once he was gone, she finished off her glass of champagne before replying. "I made contact with some of Daddy's old suppliers. Only Mitford's taken the bait so far, but I think he's legit."
Adrian nodded, committing her words to memory. "Good, that'll satisfy them for now."
He leaned forward again, appearing to be an attentive date. "Pansy, believe it or not, I don't want to see you in Azkaban. I don't think you had any knowledge of what the items being imported would be used for, and you shouldn't be punished for that. However, you're intelligent and I'm sure you know there are those who would use you as a scrapegoat for political gain if given the opportunity. I'll do my best to make sure that doesn't happen, and LeBrun is a fair man too, he won't throw you to the wolves out of hand. But I advise you to be prepared in case something worse than this does happen. For your mother's sake if anything else," he settled back in his chair. "And that is the advice of a friend who doesn't want to see your life ruined."
"It's all fine for you to say that you don't want to see my life ruined, but it already is, isn't it," Pansy said with quiet intensity. The bitter dislike with which she'd addressed him had faded with his speech, leaving only the grave knowledge of what she was up against now. "It doesn't matter what I do now; if I don't help you out, I'll go to prison and my family reputation will be in tatters. If I do, I could get myself killed by the people you're using me as bait to catch. Whatever I do, my life has already been ruined. How am I supposed to prepare for something worse, Adrian? I already know how bad it can get. How do I prepare for that?"
"First, I need you to answer me one question honestly," Adrian said after a short pause. He looked intently at Pansy, no judgment in his eyes, just the need for her to be honest with him now. If she was, then he would do all he could to help her, because he firmly believed that an innocent shouldn't be used as a scapegoat. "If you had known what those items were being imported for, would you have refused to forge those signatures?"
Pansy opened her mouth, then hesitated. Honestly? It was a much less simple question than Adrian might have thought. Pansy certainly had no desire to kill innocents, and certainly not in that method, but her father had been involved with dangerous people. If he'd had to get those shipments in to keep himself and their family safe, Pansy would not have hesitated to forge those signatures even if it did mean the death of innocents. Her family was much more important to her than faceless, nameless numbers. But if there had been a choice...
"I never wanted anyone to die the way they did, Muggle or not," she finally replied. "If it wouldn't have hurt my family, then no, I wouldn't have forged those signatures."
Adrian didn't think it was a simple question at all and if she had blithely replied she wouldn't have signed, Adrian wouldn't have believed her. He nodded, satisfied with her response. Choices were few and far between in those days and even he'd had to do some things he disliked then. "I believe you," he assured her. "And you're not as helpless as you think you are, Pansy. You do have an option to save your reputation if it came down to it. I know you loved your father and don't want to discredit him, but he's dead and nothing can hurt him now, so you should entertain the option of using him to off-set any accusations. I'm not saying you need to be as drastic as Malfoy, but all you have to say, to the right ears, is that your father coerced you. And remember, coercion isn't necessarily violent, it can be through love, but if you don't specify then the public will make up their own minds, and you're more likely to gain sympathy."
"As for the danger to your life..." he reached into his pocket and brought out a small box which he opened to reveal what seemed to be a fashionable bracelet. "It's not the intent for you to get into a situation where you will be killed, but LeBrun and I are aware you're making contact with some dangerous individuals. This looks like a bracelet but if you tap the emerald twice it will send an alert that you're in danger and help will come. If you think you need back up then ask, you'll get it," Adrian held out the bracelet to her. "I'm not your enemy."
Pansy reached out to accept the bracelet and turned it over in her hands to examine it. It wasn't her usual style, but it wasn't as ugly as it could have been. She supposed she could make it work with some of her outfits; she'd have to whether she wanted or not. "I want to tell Draco about this."
It was only an off chance that landed Draco at Chez Armand when Pansy was there. She had told him she had plans for the evening - something unavoidable - so when the dinner invitation from the French Quidditch clothing company came, Draco decided it was an opportunity not to be missed. He has an opportunity not only to make more money, but have his noteriaty returned to him.
Just as he was settling into his seat, Draco happened to glance across the room toward the more secluded seating area. His grey eyes immediately widened in surprise and then narrowed in distaste. What the fuck was Pansy doing here and with Adrian of all people? And it was clearly far more than business considering how closely they were sitting to one another. Determined not to make a scene, at the moment, Draco merely sat and glared at the couple, willing Pansy to see him.
Adrian frowned slightly at Pansy's request. He couldn't imagine that Malfoy wouldn't try to interfere and that could throw the delicate operation off kilter. "I'll check with LeBrun, but I doubt that request will be approved, not at this stage anyway. You know what Draco is like, he won't be able to resist poking his nose in. If you want to tell him about the forgeries then that might be all right, but your mission... the less people know, the safer it is for you. However, I will check and let you know."
Pansy nodded, already thinking about what she could tell Draco. She didn't want him to know about this disgrace; she didn't know how he was going to react, and the last thing she wanted was to lose him because of it.
Just as she was thinking of that, however, she happened to glance up -- and saw the very person she'd been thinking of. "Draco's here," she hissed, and immediately schooled her expression into one of surprised delight.
Deciding that he needed to say something, Draco slowly stood and made his way through the room. By now everyone had spotted him as well and immediately their gaze, as subtly as possible, started to follow him. His face was carefully schooled in a mask of blandness - showing no emotion whatsoever. For those who knew him, one knew that the Malfoy mask of icy death had descended and that he was carefully shielding himself from all emotion in play.
Reaching the private room, Draco entered without begging admittance and stood so that he was beside the table. His gaze touched Pucey's face and then flinched away, snubbing the other man - without even a hint of subtlty. Those grey eyes, icy and unfathomable, graced Pansy. "My my, isn't this cozy," he purred, that anger clearly simmering below the surface. "I had no idea you required such.... liberties, Pansy. If I had known, I would have made arrangements for your paramour in our agreement as well. Next time I won't be so hasty." The snarl of anger crept up once more, blatantly tinging the edge of his words. Nodding to Adrian, Draco managed to snap out, "Pucey," somewhat civally before turning on his heel to leave - through with the pair of them and determined to leave Pansy behind.
This sort of reaction was precisely why Adrian felt uneasy about Pansy letting Draco in on the secret. "Paramour?" he said in a amused tone that Draco could hear quite clearly. "Don't be ridiculous, Malfoy. Pansy and I aren't anything of the sort and if it wouldn't distress her to see you hurt, I would call you out for implying she was unfaithful," Adrian leaned back in his chair, relaxed and not at all flustered, certainly not the picture of a lover caught out. "It's not a crime for friends to have dinner, and since I am Pansy's contact for matters regarding the situation surrounding her family home, I felt this was a pleasanter place to discuss such matters than the Auror office," not by a bat of his eyelids or a shift in his expression did Adrian reveal he spoke anything less than the truth.
"Draco!" Pansy was shocked by his summary dismissal. True, it probably did look bad from an outside perspective, but he hadn't even given her a chance to explain herself. Perhaps she shouldn't be telling him about what she was up to after all. "Adrian and I were just having dinner." She quickly slipped the bracelet Adrian had given her into her handbag. There would be no excuse for her to be accepting something like that on a business dinner, after all.
"Just having dinner at Chez Armand in a private dining room?" Draco said, still sneering in anger as he stopped and glanced back between the pair. They had clearly been prepared to be caught as far as Draco was concerned and he was definitely being less than rational about the whole situation though the sensible part of his brain knew that what Adrian said was clearly true. There was little he liked about being caught out. "If what you say is true, Pucey, then perhaps you could explain why Pansy conveniently neglected to inform me of such a meeting."
Adrian snorted with amusement, clearly not the least put out by Draco's sneering. If anything he sounded bored, as if speaking with an over emotional child. "What, she has to detail every aspect of her life and which friends she's meeting with? I never knew you were that medieval! As for the private dining area, that was out of courtesy to ensure no one overheard the details since I am aware the subject is a painful one," he shrugged. "Anyway, don't know why you're asking me, how am I suppose to know what she's thinking? Although I'd hazard a guess it's because she didn't think our meeting was important enough to mention, after all she's constantly nagging me about the damn house," he chuckled and glanced Pansy's way. "I'm terribly wounded you think so little of my friendship, Pansy."
"Darling, don't pout," Pansy said, reaching out to take Draco's hand. She really hated the way that both of them were behaving at the moment, but she could hardly yell at either of them without giving up the game. "I just didn't think it important enough. I don't have to tell you everything that I plan to do, do I?"
"Clearly you two need to talk," Adrian said, getting up after a moment's pause. He had all the information he needed from Pansy and therefore there was no longer any point in continuing the farce. "I'll settle the bill for dinner, feel free to use the table as long as you please. Good night Pansy, I hope everything works out and I'm sorry I couldn't give you better news about your house. Malfoy, try not to mess up, hm?"
He shook his head and walked away before either of them could stop him.