just another warning that views held by certain pureblood parties and the clumsy assumptions of children playacting as adults are not the views held by the author or even other characters, namely Regulus Black.
Pansy was absolutely thrilled. She had only been at school a month and she had already been invited to Lord Black's office for tea.
Well, the note didn't expressly say that it was for tea but they were civilized people, and the meeting had been for four o'clock on a Sunday so it went without saying.
Her mother had told her all about how absolutely dreamy the professor had been in school, and she had not been lying. He was the perfect example of a fine pureblood gentleman. It was hard to ignore him in any room he walked into, and yet he never called attention toward himself in any way. He had the type of bearing and grace that simply screamed sacred twenty eight. As someone from those circles herself she had been told in no uncertain terms that though he was older than her by twenty years he was yet unmarried and as such he was fair game.
He was after all far better than Draco and Theo were, though they were a far sight better than the...others.
Everything was to be the height of propriety of course, but it was possible that after she had grown up and graduated he might take an interest in her. That he was seeking her out already meant that his mother had been right.
She had made sure to change into a lovely set of tea robes and fixed her hair, choosing a demure diamond hair clip that wasn't too flashy; it was just tea after all. She had done her best and now she stood outside his door at the correct time. Not too early, not too late (even though a pureblood princess was never late, it was polite to respect the time specified on an invitation from a Black or Malfoy) she took one more calming breath and knocked lightly on the door.
Lord Black opened the door and smiled, "Miss Parkinson, right on time," he said warmly and she almost melted at the sound of his voice. He truly was perfect. She hadn't intended to take runes when the time came to choose electives, but now knew she had to.
"Thank you sir," she said, making sure to keep her back straight and her head tilted just so, but her confidence was completely shattered when she saw who else was in the room ahead of her, already sipping her own cup of tea.
She snapped her mouth shut, knowing it was a hideous habit to gape at people but really. "Granger, what a surprise." she said, hoping her tone was pleasant enough.
"Good afternoon Parkinson." she responded, her own lower tones perfectly calm and poised.
"Oh, you know one another. Excellent," Lord Black said with a smile and after waiting for a shaky Pansy to sit, folded himself elegantly into a blue velvet arm chair. If only every office of the faculty was so comfortable. He set about serving her tea, asking how she took it (black with a twist of lemon. She would of course prefer sugar and milk but her mother insisted) and then gazed at the two girls, taking in their stiff postures and the brooding silence between them and small frown lines appeared between his full eyebrows, "I invited you both here today to see if you would like to participate in a small, mutually beneficial exchange of information. Miss Parkinson knows much about being a young lady in our wizarding world and Miss Granger knows much about being a young lady in the muggle world, which our world has been reflecting more and more of as muggleborns take their place in society-" I'm sorry was something wrong Miss Parkinson? Not enough lemon in the tea?"
Pansy swallowed thickly, she had failed to keep her thoughts private like she'd been taught. She hastened to erect her occlumency walls but struggled in the face of his proposal. But seriously, "An exchange of information? What could this messy, buck-toothed mudblood have to teach me? I'd heard that Lord Black had a little mudblood charity running but you can't seriously think-"
"That will be quite enough Miss Parkinson," Lord Black's famous grey eyes had frosted over. Oh no; he hadn't even uttered Legilimens, Did he cast it silently? did he read it all in her mind so clearly? The handsome Professor gave her a sad, disappointed smile, "Miss Parkinson I'm afraid you said all of that out loud," he said flatly, his opinion on her behaviour clear in his icy tone. She swallowed, her eyes on her knees.
"Oh. I'm sorry," her voice was small. Her face burned and her eyes stung. She had failed. He hated her. He'd never marry her now.
"Hmn no, I'm afraid it is I that is sorry." he stood and strode to his desk, taking out a quill and writing something on his stationary before casting the blotting charm and rolling the parchment, sealing it with his own seal on his ring. "I want you to take this immediately to Professor Snape, and when he's done with you, you will set about writing Miss Granger an apology -I'm sure you know how- and think about some of the things you will miss out on learning about because of your small minded prejudice. Now, if you please," he motioned to the door. Face stinging, she rose and placed the china cup carefully on the table before taking the proffered scroll, curtsying as propriety dictated, and exited the room.
She heard him apologising to the mudblood brat before the door was firmly closed and she was left to go seek out her surly Head of House.
The cool of the lower levels soothed her hot cheeks but the tears refused to be stemmed as she made her way down to the dungeons. She found her Head's office entrance and knocked on the door timidly.
Professor Snape called for her to enter, and as she did as she was bid, she realised her hands were shaking. He didn't look up from the paper he was marking, only telling her to sit in a chair that was as stiff and uncomfortable as Lord Black's had been luxurious.
Eventually he finished whatever he was writing and looked up, placing his quill down on the desk, "And what has you in such a state Miss Parkinson?" The burn in her cheeks intensified as she offered him the scroll, not trusting her voice not to shake.
He took it, not remarking on her silence, and his expression held a small amused smile for the scantest second before it was gone, replaced by his famous occluded mask, "Care to explain yourself, Miss Parkinson?" he asked and she swallowed again and shook her head. "Right," He rose, motioning for her to do the same, and moved toward a door that was all but hidden in the shadow of a shelf. She followed him into the Slytherin common room, and the general relaxed air in the room stilled as people noticed the tall and thin form of their Head in the doorway.
Alexandra Warrington was the one to speak, "May I help you, Professor Snape sir?" she asked. Pansy envied her clear, strong voice in the face of such an intimidating presence.
The professor nodded, "Make sure everyone is here and accounted for if you would Miss Warrington. Miss Parkinson, sit," he said, and directed her to a carved wooden footrest nearest to where he stood, practically at his feet. She channelled all of her poise and grace as the pureblood princess she was and sat where he indicated, her knees together and to the side, ignoring all of the eyes that had crept to her, for all Slytherins didn't stare.
In the older students there was an air of resigned knowing, along with weighty feeling of 'better you than me'.
When he felt that all were present and he had everyone's attention Snape began. "It seems that among us there are those who feel as though they have no need of further education, despite their current residence here in a school.
"They are already perfect, wholly formed little witches and wizards in no need of guidance or correction.
"Perhaps they think that because they have the correct parents that they have nothing to learn, that they naturally hold the knowledge of Merlin himself and are able to simply exist without absorbing an ounce more knowledge in their entire lifetime?
"Or is it their status that determines their lackadaisical attitude? They hold a fixed place in society that cannot be budged or moved no matter what happens around them; a seat on the wizengamot, so that they dictate their wishes on this world and nothing can dictate to them?
"So then;" he flicked his eyes down to Pansy, who was frozen in place by this lazy glance, "Do you already know every line and nuance of the law? Can you tell me, Miss Parkinson, will you be the one writing every word of the bills you will wish to pass? Will you be looking up every source in research? Flicking through fifty tomes in order to get even one sentence correct lest it be rejected by a panel of your peers? Will you be the one tending to every cauldron in your father's business or counting every coin? Who, Miss Parkinson is to be working on the farms for those ingredients or picking the fruit of such labor? Does young Mr Nott plan to be picking every grape so that his staff of elves can make his wine? Pruning every vine? Charming every crop during the frosts and personally chasing off every creature that comes to steal away the crop? Or will Miss Greengrass be personally feeding and raising the dragons and other creatures on all of the farms in all seven countries her family owns land in?
"We live in a thriving and rich society. It is diverse, and despite rather dire recent circumstances it is alive. We were at war so little time ago and then a time before that and then a time before that, but we are still here. We have survived these wars, but we have not made it through unscathed or unchanged. And, without an influx of new bodies, we would have no one left to make laws for.
"Every single student in this school has been chosen for their potential. Every student here has a future and a place in our society. Every single one.
"So then what will happen if you make enemies of a percentage of that society? Is your talent for divination so strong? Is there somehow a link to the Mckinnons in your past that has you telling the future to that degree of certainty? How do you know at the age of eleven what role they will all take up in our world?
"Perhaps a muggleborn will be the next to invent a cure for dragon pox?" his eyes rested weightily on Draco who swallowed thickly, his eyes looking down to hide the pain Pansy knew was triggered at the mention of the disease that took his grandfather from him,"Perhaps a muggleborn will be the one with the knowledge to aid you in a complicated pregnancy or birth and save your heir.
"Perhaps a muggleborn will be the one to defend you in court, or file your Will, or catch the error that will save you millions….Perhaps a blood-traitor will catch a curse before it kills you…Perhaps a half-blood will be your children's Head of House…" he glared around the room, daring anyone to comment on his own blood status.
Everyone knew Snape had been a favoured servant of the Dark Lord and as such he had the greatest of respect from his charges. Pansy looked at her knees, unable to look him in the eye.
"Let me be clear," he said, tone dangerously quiet, "-I only say this once per year so listen well- If I hear that the word 'mudblood' has been uttered by any of you, you will be punished to the greatest extent of this half-blood's powers, which at this moment are far more potent than yours. You do not want to test my ire.
"You may have personal opinions, but that is no one else's problem but your own. We are Slytherins and we don't go about using slurs or any other crass language and other vulgarities in the halls of this illustrious establishment. Prove yourself worthy of the green on your robes; If you have a personal issue with someone, there are other ways to communicate your feelings- especially in a way that won't make them despise you for life. If it is respect you want, then you might wish to act like you are worthy of your position in this House rather than using gutter talk and acting uncouth. Am I understood?" the room stirred with movement as every student nodded their understanding.
After a small pause he continued, his baritone voice smooth and soft and absolutely terrifying, "I advise you all to take note of the muggleborn students that Lord Black hand picks for cultivation," Pansy's thoughts went back to the bushy haired Granger, sitting properly and drinking tea with faultless posture, "He is a busy man and he doesn't make a habit of wasting his time or acting for the sake of appearances. Those he chooses will end up going far and I would suggest," he glared at Pansy and she suppressed a whimper, "That you do not make an enemy out of any of them.
"On top of this -and it should go without saying, but apparently we need to be spoon fed today- many of these students earn unofficial and sometimes even formal protection of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black. Are you prepared to earn the ire of such a House? Will your parents appreciate having to apologise for your behaviour?" his tone was so ominous that Pansy had to wonder what he knew, "Miss Parkinson I believe you have an apology to write. Dismissed."
The tension in the room suddenly disappeared and there was a collective breath as their Head swept from the room.
Pansy didn't meet anyone's eyes as she hastened to her dorm and pulled her stationary out. She thought for a moment of using her worst parchment, but Professor Snape's last statement was still ringing in her ears. No. she had to do this properly. The Parkinsons were sacred twenty eight but they were in the lower rankings of that group. Her father was already going to be furious.
She had no doubt that certain parties in the Slytherin common room were already writing home. She took a deep steadying breath so that her hand wouldn't shake when she tried to write. She couldn't take back the last hour, but she would endeavour to mitigate the damage before it could become too much larger. Professor Snape was right; she could not afford to make an enemy of Lord Black or his allies, and neither could her father.
She hoped this wouldn't haunt her for too long. Dinner was bound to be horrible!
Regulus looked down at the little muggleborn he had marked out as a favourite already in the new year group. He tried not to have favourites, but some always managed to slip through anyway, and Hermione Granger had amused him and tugged on his own academic leanings from their first meeting.
She was like a sponge for information, and had a formidable memory. She was able to quote whole passages from books, which some of the professors were finding frustrating in the classroom, but once she learned how to use the stored memories in a practical sense, she would be a formidable witch. Her magic was also fresh and lively and very powerful, and Regulus often found himself relaxing after a few minutes in the child's presence, which was highly unusual for a child this age.
He had decided to take her on much more earlier than usual, thinking that they could very possibly be looking at a future Minister for Magic or a breakthrough researcher in the Department of Mysteries, the existence of which had her extremely excited. The dear girl wanted to know if Hogwarts ever had an excursion to visit. He smiled wickedly and told her he'd bring up her suggestion in the next faculty meeting. He was looking forward to seeing Minerva's appalled reaction.
It had of course been Miss Granger's reaction to meeting her first goblins that had endeared her to him originally. She had been sincerely excited to meet a being so wholly alien to her, and yet treated them with the respect befitting any other adult. She'd been thrilled to open her own account and meet her own account manager, who Regulus made sure was someone of the right caliber for a witch of her potential.
He had of course slipped a few extra galleons on top of her deposit (her birthday money, given to her early due to her move to Scotland before it occurred), happy to invest in this child from the onset. She would be going far and he intended to watch her rise.
It was, however, her reaction to the plight of house elves had sealed her in Regulus' affections. He'd introduced her to Kreature soon after school had begun, and had been heartened by her respect of him and her interest in house elf culture. They of course hadn't been in the Magical Beasts and Beings Almanac he'd advised for her, there weren't in fact any books on the subject of house elves, but bless her heart, the girl had asked Regulus when he'd be publishing his own. He'd been shocked into a blush!
They'd ended up speaking about the nature of house elf bondage, and she'd been wrapped up in offended sensibilities and determined bluster and he'd barely been able to stop her from charging the kitchens and handing all the elves knitted hats.
Instead they'd planned to take tea in said kitchens another day, and she could get to know some elves, and eventually learn their opinions on things. Regulus had cautioned her to play a long game; she'd be better situated once she'd graduated to help him make changes. She'd solidly agreed, unknowingly making a soft vow to help him change things for house elves. He'd been quite touched. Magic knew the heart after all.
Which all went to explain the personal nature of the offence that he had taken to the insult Miss Parkinson had made to his new favourite. He understood from her mother that Hermione had already been faced with a certain amount of prejudice even at her early age from the colour of her skin (much as Severus found with his Jewish ancestry in the muggle world, as he understood it), and it grieved Regulus that he had once been a perpetrator of the very same prejudice that Miss Parkinson had just displayed so tactlessly. Even so he didn't think he'd ever seen the kind of grace the young lady had exhibited while she was being insulted and afterwards.
He suspected her mother, the lovely Helen Granger, a beautiful and brilliant muggle he had truly felt privileged to meet had been the one to teach her such grace. When he had apologised for his failure of a meeting Hermione had quietly said, "Many people in this life will try to feed you poison Professor Black, but that doesn't mean you have to drink it," Her voice had quaked a little, showing that she truly had been hurt by Parkinson's vile words, and it affected him greatly.
He hadn't been able to stop thinking about her words since.
He and Kreature both still suffered the aftereffects from the horrific Potion of Despair that had stood between them and the horcrux in the Dark Lord's cave, but that wasn't what the little girl meant. How often had Regulus willingly 'drunk poison' in order to smooth the way and make things easier for his parents? And then even worse, the Dark Lord? Long after little Hermione had left his office he had sat, staring at his cold tea, even after the sun had gone down he still pondered why on earth had he had ever wanted to make things easier with the Dark Lord Voldemort? How had he thought that was the safest course of action? how many had suffered because of his actions -and even greater still, his inactions?
He had spent a great many years atoning for this, but he once again vowed to redouble his efforts to make changes where he could in his world.
I just want to further note that Regulus' understanding of racial tensions (the plight of Black and Jewish muggles being the same when both situations are complex and different and don't benefit from broad sweeping one liners or throwaway comparisons) and his own ideas on various aggressions and bigoted views from his privileged position are still very much under construction for him, just as they are for me. He's trying but I know from personal experience unlearning oppressive behaviours and understanding oppression from a point of privilege has so many layers and the work is never done.
I used to be and still am often blown away by the sheer grace my friends who are minorities have in the face of blatant racism that they deal with at all times, but I've since learned that they often have to be, or they get punched. I'm gay, fat, and disabled but I still don't see a fraction of what others see, and it's so brutal. Its so tragic and unfair but it's true.
I'm also pretty sure the line about drinking poison is a quote that was swimming around in my faulty memory brain but I have no idea where I heard or read it, sorry.