Old Friends

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The room was decorated festively with splashes of red and green along with sprigs of berries and leaves of some sort lined the walls. There was a large Christmas tree in the lobby covered in brightly colored balls and tinsel, surrounded by decorated presents for the patients. In the distance, she could hear Celestina Warbeck warbling some song about silent nights. Despite the ostentatious display of the holiday spirit, Pansy Parkinson didn’t feel particularly festive at all as she entered room 12 at St. Mungos.

“Good afternoon, Millicent,” she greeted as she shut the door to muffle the sounds of the music. Millicent looked up and smiled and, for one brief moment, Pansy thought maybe everything was okay again. Then Millie blinked and went back to the picture she was coloring.

A quick wave of her wand brought the chair beside Millicent’s bed and Pansy sat down. She was grateful to be off her feet, in all honesty. Christmas Eve had become a very busy day for her in the past five years. While others had been able to move on after the end of the war against Voldemort, she’d not had that luxury. Despite all that she’d gained in the time since Potter triumphed, the holidays always reminded her, more than any other time, of all that she had lost. People had died on both sides of the war, many were lost by the time Voldemort had fallen, but, selfishly, she doubted anyone had lost as many close friends as she had when it was all over.

Pansy had stayed neutral in the war. She had no love for Muggleborns at all, but she also hadn’t fancied the idea of ending up dead or in Azkaban should Voldemort not win. Her survival instincts had told her to keep out of political matters that she’d not thought affected her at all. It had been a difficult position to take, one she had shared with only one other in her house, and many of her friends had prevailed upon her unsuccessfully to choose one side or the other.

Zabini had also been firm about his choice to remain out of things, but it had been easier for him. He’d never been close to anyone, had a smug condescension for just about everyone, and didn’t have the need to be liked that Pansy had had since she was a child. She liked to have friends, liked having people listen to her, liked being a leader of her classmates.

It wasn’t, she’d thought at the time, as though any of this would ever affect her. The war was something she’d only heard about in whispers from Mudbloods and Gryffindors, after all. Then all of her friends had chosen sides. Draco had been the first, though his allegiance had changed at some point during the following years. He’d begun the war as a Death Eater but died a hero. Only Draco would manage to turn his name from something not even worthy of being spat upon into something people spoke in revered tones. Had he been alive, she knew he’d have been amused by it all.

Theodore and Greg had been next, surprising all of Slytherin by choosing to stand beside Potter during Dumbledore’s funeral. They’d fought on the side of the Order, later joined by Millicent and Pucey. Vince had been unable to escape his father’s hold on him, dying alongside Daphne and Higgs in the end.

By the time Voldemort was finally destroyed by Potter, she, Blaise, and Greg were the only Slytherins of their year left alive and uncursed. Theodore was in the room next door, comatose after a curse in a battle near the end. She visited him every time she came to see Millie. Pansy liked to think he knew that she visited even if he was trapped in his head or whatever it was that a coma meant. The others were buried throughout the country.

It wasn’t just Slytherins, of course, who had suffered in the war. Hufflepuff had lost a lot as had Gryffindor. Ravenclaws seemed to be more inclined to remain neutral and hadn’t suffered such casualties. She focused on herself, though, and could only think about all the people she’d known since she was a child who were now gone, either physically or mentally.

Pansy visited Millicent and Theodore a couple of times a month. It had become routine to stop by on Sunday mornings and spend an hour talking to the woman who had been her best friend and now didn’t recognize her at all. On Christmas Eve, her visits were extended to others. She had spent several hours Apparating to several cemeteries before she’d come to St. Mungos. She didn’t care if they’d died with a Dark Mark or a bare arm because they’d been her friends first, before politics had forced them to make choices when they were too young to really know what they were doing.

Flowers for Daphne, a chocolate frog for Vince, jelly beans for Higgs and sugarquills for Draco. She always took her closest friends something to leave on their graves. With the others she’d visit, it was usually just a single flower of remembrance. Conversation with Draco always followed a visit to his grave. Pansy liked to lean against the cold marble stone and tell him what had happened since her last visit. While she only visited the graves of the others on Christmas Eve, she went to see Draco more often. He’d been her friend since they were four, her first boyfriend, and she missed him.

Millicent laughed and distracted Pansy from her thoughts. Pansy looked up and saw that Millie had finished drawing her picture. She stood up from her chair and moved to sit on the bed beside Millicent. “That’s a lovely picture, Millie,” she complimented as she looked at the brightly colored flowers.

Millicent grinned and urged her to keep the picture. Pansy sighed as she watched her best friend carefully pull the piece of parchment from the rings that kept them in place. Millicent went slowly, her tongue at the corner of her mouth as she concentrated on not ripping the picture.

“I’m named after a flower,” Pansy said softly. “Do you remember that, Millicent? My name is Pansy. We’ve been friends since we were six and you hit Greg in the nose for saying I looked ugly when I wore the pink ribbon in my hair that matched my robes.”

The picture was finally removed and Pansy took it from Millicent. She didn’t expect any answer; there was never an answer. Millicent didn’t even babble or speak to herself. After she put the picture on the small table beside the hospital bed, she picked up Millicent’s hairbrush.

“I’ll put a ribbon in your hair,” she decided as she shifted on the bed. Millicent was coloring again and didn’t look up as Pansy began to brush her hair. “It will look nice and pretty for the Christmas Eve meal this evening. Maybe there will be pudding for dessert. I know how you like the pudding.”

Pansy brushed Millicent’s hair and then fastened a light blue ribbon into place. “There. All done. You look beautiful, Millie.” She stood up and put the brush down before she sat back in her chair. The next hour was spent talking about what she’d done since her last visit and various other things to occupy the silence of the room. Millie would look up and smiled occasionally but was mostly focused on her picture.

A soft knock interrupted her story about Greg’s recent visit. Pansy looked up and smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“There’s no need to apologize. I just left Mum and Dad. They wanted a nap before dinner.” Neville stepped into the room and smiled at Millicent. “Good afternoon, Millicent. That’s a pretty ribbon you’re wearing today.”

“She drew me a lovely picture,” Pansy said as she got to her feet. She handed the picture to him and then went to Millicent’s side. “I’ve got to go now, but I’ll be back soon.” She kissed Millicent’s cheek and gently stroked her hair. “Happy Christmas, Millicent.”

Strong arms moved around her waist and she sighed as she leaned back against her husband. She looked up and kissed his jaw. He smiled and squeezed her hand. “Happy Christmas, Millicent,” he said to her friend before he focused on Pansy.

Pansy took her picture from him and carefully rolled it up to add to her others. It had been a long day visiting old friends and she’d spent enough time in the past for another year. She turned and gave Neville a hug. When she pulled back, she smiled up at him. “You know, I‘m thinking this is a wonderful night to snuggle in front of the fire,“ she told him with a slightly wicked smile. “Let’s go home, Neville.”

The End