Pansy felt the bile rise up her throat as she got a whiff of the hospital. It was the imperceptible smell that all hospitals have and that everyone recognises. A strange mixture of sickly sweet decay and death which cleaning potions try to mask. Pansy had never been good in hospitals, not since she was a child. The smell unnerved her filling her with fear. Only the warm strong hand around hers kept her from bolting.
“Are you alright?” Neville asked gently “We don’t have to do this”
She nodded, not trusting her voice. She had to do this, properly. To hell with convention and pure-blood traditions. She had to do this for Neville and Neville’s parents. She swallowed again and nodded as they began to walk again. She would do this! She wouldn’t forgive herself if she didn’t.
Her mind flashed to a younger version of herself, struck with Scrofungulus and hospital-bound. Her neck and throat swollen and so very painful that sleeping without a sleeping-draught was impossible. She’d been surrounded by the smell and hadn’t been able to get over the distaste.
They found the stairwell and started to climb, as they passed the second floor, and then the third, she started to feel better. The smell dispursing around them. It was only the nerves now that battered her insides. She took a deep breath as they came to the door to the fourth floor.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” He asked again. Pansy looked into his eyes and saw the barely hidden hope and fear. She tried to smile her confident smile as she nodded. Neville’s lips quirked in confirmation before he pushed open the door.
They were in a long corridor with doors either side, and Pansy jumped when a face peered out of one of them. “It’s alright,” Neville said calmly as they continued towards the end. There before them was Ward 49, or as most people knew it, the Janus Thickey Ward. Neville took a deep breath before turning to her again, squeezing her hands nervously. “Sometimes they have good days and sometimes they have bad days,” Neville repeated for what felt like the twentieth time. She just nodded again as he muttered a password and pushed the door open.
Whatever she had been expecting, this hadn’t been it. Again, her mind rushed back to the isolated room where she had been isolated and terrified. She swallowed as she looked at the wide-open ward. Beds along either side, some vacant and some occupied, cluttered with personal items and knick-knacks. Pansy held Neville’s hand as they travelled towards the end beds.
A man slept on the bed to her left, his portraits waving at her from the wall surrounding his headboard, she paused and pointed, mouth wide with surprise.
“Professor Lockhart, yeah” Neville offered a grim smile.
Pansy shuddered as they began to walk again. With every step, her feet seemed to get heavier and her legs weaker.
Neville got there first and pulled the curtains around them as Pansy stepped in. The curtains darkened the small space making Pansy feel slightly more trapped.
“Mum, Dad,” Neville said, trying to catch the couple’s attention. Neville signed for her to sit on the edge of the bed. Pansy did, thankful for the seat.
A frail-looking woman sat in the armchair, eyes darting backwards and forwards as if watching for the snitch at a quidditch match. Her dressing gown loose around the chest. Her colourless hair wisped around her ears in untidy, natural curls.
In the next cubicle lay a man, hair equally as colourless. His eyes, in contrast to his wife’s, stared sightlessly into the distance, his hands twiddling and twitching of their own accord.
“Mum, Dad, this is Pansy Parkinson.” He said, sounding calm and soothing. “She wanted to meet you” Pansy sat and tried to smile however realised that they hadn’t reacted at all. It was as if Neville hadn’t spoken at all.
Neville sat opposite her on his father’s bed as he tried to talk to his parents. She turned her eyes and could see a deep pain almost smothered by years of conditioning. It hurt him to see his parents like this. She tried to imagine what her parents would be like if they were in their place and felt the tears well up in her eyes.
“I’ve asked Pansy to marry Mum,” Neville said as he looked down at his hands. “She said yes”. His Mother seemed to stop at this. She didn’t move, but her eyes stopped their frantic movements and landed on the bed next to Pansy. Pansy heard Neville’s breath hitch. “Mum?” He said as he moved to her bed, he reached out and took her hand which looked tiny and desiccated in his broad tanned hands. “She said yes Mum, I’m getting married” His mother stood up and bounced between her feet as if trying to take a step and changing her mind again.
“Your son makes me very happy, Mrs Longbottom” Pansy tried, she got no reaction but received a grateful smile from Neville.
Neville turned to see his father begin to move but all he did was roll over on the bed, his back now turned to them.
“Don’t take that personally,” Neville said quietly, “He’s not having a good day.” Pansy nodded to confirm she hadn’t.
His mother had started to hum a tune, it was nothing that she recognised, Pansy wasn’t even sure it was a song, but it was tuneful no-the-less. Alice abruptly turned to her dresser and picked up something before rocking again.
“We were thinking of a winter wedding” Neville continued as he reached his hand out to look at Pansy. He smiled lovingly as he gave her hand a warm squeeze. “with fairy lights and snow” Pansy smiled feeling excitement build up within her as she considered what it would look like.
His mother turned abruptly and handed him something. Neville sighed and smiled as he took the offered item. Pansy looked over to see a shiny sweet wrapper. She remembered him saying that his mother liked to give him the pretty ones.
Pansy smiled as she looked down at it but was surprised from her inspection but his mother holding out a wrapper to her. She looked at Neville before back at her withered hand. She held it open and felt when another wrapper was placed there.
“Thank you,” She said as she looked at it. Neville’s face had gone white and shocked as he looked at her. “What?” She asked, “I thought you said she did this?”
“She does,” Neville said quietly, a quirk coming to his lips. “to me, Mum never even gave wrappers to gran!” This news and Neville’s shock made her smile.
“I take it I have her blessing then?” Pansy smiled, feeling a weight fall from her. She had almost expected that even in their addled state, they would find a way to tell them that she wasn’t accepted. She looked down at the red foiled wrapped. She knew exactly where she would be storing this trinket, right next to her other precious jewellery in her jewellery box. She smiled and Neville and let a tear escape before pushing it away with her palm. Neville laughed and Pansy knew they were going to be alright.