How Wizards Do Money: Pansy Parkinson
Pansy always walks quickly, her shoes calibrated to both catch the eye and propel her forward. If you weren’t looking at her shoes, you were looking at her bag, her robes, her hair. Pansy used to watch to see if people were watching her. Now she just assumes it.
She works in wizard fashion. Not the sad-sack robes they sell at Madame Malkin’s, but her own store, with Pansy’s written over the door in purple letters. The apostrophe is a flower. Sometimes it is a snake. She’s rigged it to change, depending on which young girl is looking at it. She knows, instinctively, what each of her customers fears.
The limp-haired little wizard, trailing after her mother before starting her second year at Hogwarts? That girl’s afraid that she’ll get bullied at school, and she’s probably right to fear it. What she needs is clothes that will ensure she never stands out, never catches anyone’s eye. Pansy goes into the back and pulls out a tan dress with nary a ruffle or scallop to be seen. “I have it in this color, or maybe a pale pink?” she says.
Later Pansy sees her apostrophe explode with flowers and butterflies as a clique of third years burst in. She seizes them up instantly: the ringleader, the second in command, the hangers-on. The girl who is clearly in charge fears her parents. Pansy can’t do anything about that. One of the hangers on is afraid that she likes girls, and Pansy is insulted that any little kid is still afraid of this, but she tosses the young witch a pair of boy-cut jeans anyway. Best to start ’em with the obvious signifiers and let them figure it out for themselves at school.
The second in command is a truly nasty type, trying to suck all of the attention away from the group and direct it towards her. She calls another witch a “mud-blood”—is that even still an insult?—and Pansy quickly whispers a charm into the witch’s new shoes. The meaner she is, the more they’ll pinch her feet. She might figure it out on her own, or she might come back to the store to return them, but Pansy knows the soonest this kid is coming back to Diagon Alley will be the Christmas holidays, and that’s months of toe-pinching days away.
When the snake girls come in, all angular bangs and shifting eyes, Pansy knows that they fear being just like everyone else. They come alone or in pairs, sometimes dragging a hopelessly confused parent behind them, and Pansy sells them black and leather and velvet and torn stockings and all of the accoutrements that still say “I refuse what the world expects of me,” even after three generations of women grew up wearing them.
This year the snake girls are painting designs onto their skin with deep blue ink, not tattoos but something different, changeable and washable. Pansy finds out where they buy it and starts stocking it on her shelves. She even carries a few pink bottles, for the girls that want to be cool but not different, nothing that would make their teachers look down angrily at them.
“How do you do so well?” George Weasley once asked her, trying to bond with his fellow business owner.
“I know what girls want,” Pansy said. But she didn’t tell the truth, because she didn’t like George all that much. (She didn’t like people all that much, honestly, and relished her hard-earned solitude.) The truth was that she hadn’t changed. She could still pick out a bed-wetter at 10 paces. She still knew which girls slept with stuffed toys, and which ones were begging their parents for a push-up bra, and which ones hated their pimples, and which ones hated their best friends.
The old Pansy would have snuck up behind them, whispered “I know what she’s been saying about you,” stolen the teddies and pointed at the stained sheets. The old Pansy would have taken their fears and put them on display.
Now she simply looks them in the eye and takes their money. And her business continues to grow.
Previously: Dean Thomas