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a red rose grew up out of ice frozen ground

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Pansy wakes on Saturday morning to an empty dorm and a pounding head. 

She groans and rubs her eyes as she tries to remember anything that had happened last night, but the simple motion is enough to make her head throb harder and her stomach roll dangerously. 

Merlin, had she been poisoned?

After a few moments of lying completely still, Pansy’s stomach settles and she manages to slowly turn her head toward her bedside table to see an empty bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky. It’s the emergency bottle Daphne keeps hidden in her trunk for everything from catastrophic breakups to last-minute parties, and Pansy could swear the last time she saw it, it had contained a fairly significant amount of alcohol. But now it’s bone-dry and Pansy feels as if she might die if she moves. 

So not poisoned, then. Just spectacularly hung-over. 

With a low moan, Pansy slowly turns her head back from the bottle and thinks back to the night before, trying to remember what had led to this moment. The pain in her head makes it almost impossible to focus on anything, but eventually, she pulls together a foggy memory. 

She had come back to the Slytherin common room after her late night in the library with Hermione. The room had been completely empty and she had flicked her wand at her dormitory to open the door just slightly. Then, she had flicked her wand again. 

Pansy groans and rubs her fists against her eyes. Why did she have to flick her wand again?

The memory unfurls slowly behind Pansy’s closed lids.

“Accio Ogden’s,” Pansy said as she slumped down onto the couch. She pulled off her tie, kicked off her shoes, and ran a hand through her hair as she waited for the bottle to appear. After a moment, it sailed through the door and plopped down gently beside her on the couch. With a quick flick of her wrist, she closed the door to her dormitory again, watching to be sure it shut completely.

She didn’t want anyone wrecking her pity party.  

Pansy reached for the bottle, twisted off the top, and tossed it beside her on the couch. There was a split-second hesitation where she thought about being responsible and pouring a sensible amount of liquor into a glass, but then she heard Hermione’s voice echo in her head. 

“I don’t want you to think I’ve thought of you in that way. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea.”

Pansy snorted a bit and lifted the bottle. Sod the glass. Sod responsibility. All she wanted to do was forget what had just happened. 

The whiskey stung on the way down and Pansy grimaced for a moment before lifting the bottle to take another long swig. She wanted to feel the burn all the way down to her core. She wanted it to incinerate any residual feelings that were still lingering for a certain witch in its wake. She wanted it to numb the sharp edges of what had almost occurred between the dusty shelves and to make her forget Hermione’s tempting lips, her intoxicating warmth, and her dark, heavy-lidded gaze. 

Pansy scowled at the memory and lifted the bottle again, chasing the liquor with the ghost of Hermione’s breath against her lips. 

There was a familiar twinge between her legs when she remembered just how close Hermione had been, and Pansy lifted a hand to rub furiously at her lips, as if she was trying to erase any remnants of the other girl. She glared at the bottle, wondering how long it would take before the events of this night faded into oblivion. Ogden’s worked fast (one of the perks of magical liquor), so it should be soon. Merlin, she hoped it was soon. She wasn’t sure how long she could stand all the emotions currently twisting about in her mind.

There was embarrassment, of course. To be told that she wasn’t Hermione’s type stung worse than any of the countless insults the other witch had hurled her way over the years. It had left her feeling awkward and shamefaced and…

…Confused, if she was being honest. Because Pansy’s been around enough people who have found her attractive to recognize the tell-tale signs—the dilated eyes, the flushed skin, the rapid rise and fall of the chest, the subtle attempts to get closer. And Hermione wasn’t just giving her one or two signs—she was giving her every sign in the fucking book. Based on that alone, Pansy would have bet every Galleon she owned that Hermione was attracted to her. More than attracted, even—that she wanted her. So to be told it was just an unexpected byproduct of the moment had thrown Pansy off completely. She had never misread a situation so badly in her life and it left her feeling entirely bewildered. 

Bewildered, sad, and curiously empty. Hearing Hermione admit to simply getting swept up in the moment had done something strange to Pansy’s body. It was as if everything inside of her had shut down, all at once. Whatever feelings had been ricocheting wildly throughout her body froze at the words, and she had felt almost…bereft. 

Pansy took another swig and managed to scoff at herself. It was ridiculous to feel such a loss at something that had never been hers in the first place. But after Hermione’s tentative confession in the library on Monday, Pansy had felt that stupid little ember of hope glowing brighter than it ever had before. It had lit up her heart and shined a light on all of her most secret dreams, revealing things that she herself hadn’t even realized she wanted with startling clarity. And what’s more, they were all things that had started to feel attainable. Because frankly, Hermione’s sexuality had been the biggest stumbling block between the two of them one day having a real relationship. So when that stumbling block had been kicked aside, Pansy hadn’t been able to think of a single reason why they couldn’t one day be together. She had practically floated back to her common room that night and had spent the next few days being obnoxiously cheerful to anyone who crossed her path. Because there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that she and Hermione were going to be together. Really, actually together. 

And then…

“You’re not my type.” 

Pansy lifted the bottle once more and glowered into its rapidly lowering depths, thinking about the one stumbling block she hadn’t thought to factor in. And she should have—it was stupid of her to assume that Hermione would find her attractive. Stupid and utterly naive. 

Though perhaps if Pansy had actually let the kiss happen, things would be different. 

Which was another thing: Pansy was angry at herself for suddenly deciding to be noble. Of all the bloody moments to listen to her conscious and tell the truth, why had she picked that one? Why the fuck had she taken a step back? She had been a second away from finally feeling Hermione’s lips against her own. One heartbeat was all that had separated her from claiming everything she wanted, from giving into the heady desire thrumming through her body, and instead, she had decided to become some sort of beacon of virtue? 

Pansy’s grip tightened around the bottle in frustration as she lifted it to take another long swig. The alcohol burned her throat, but it wasn’t nearly enough to distract her from the anger burning in her heart at her own stupid, newfound code of chivalry. Because what if that was her one and only chance at kissing Hermione and she had blown it to be some sort of idiotic, Gryffindor-like moron? 

Pansy eyed her wand on the table and seriously contemplated Obliviating everything that had happened tonight from her memory. Perhaps everything that had happened since McGonagall handed out the stupid parchments in the first place.

At least the alcohol had finally started to kick in. She could feel a pleasantly warm buzzing sensation radiating throughout her body and tingling in her head, and it helped to take the edge off of her anger. 

She took another sip and tried to forget about all the stupid emotions coursing through her body. Instead, she decided to convince herself that everything was okay. That nothing really mattered. Who cared if Hermione didn’t fancy her? She didn’t. Not at all, actually. She was completely fine with it. They’d only ever be friends, and that was that.

Almost immediately, tears gathered in the corners of Pansy’s eyes. She blinked hastily and glared once more at the Ogden’s, as if it was solely responsible for Pansy’s tendency to be a weepy drunk. 

As she glared at the nearly-empty bottle, one thing became blindingly obvious—she didn’t want them to just be friends. There was no bloody way she’d be able to sit by and watch as Hermione found love with someone else, someone who was her “type.” Just the thought of Hermione turning that soft, fond smile that seemed to be reserved for Pansy toward another girl made something that felt decidedly like jealousy slither in Pansy’s gut, and she lifted the bottle for another sip. 

And anyway, who even has a bloody type? Pansy’s certainly never had one. 

She took another sip and considered. 

Perhaps she had always been a bit partial toward brunettes, but that didn’t mean she had a type. 

Another sip.

And yes, maybe she found intelligence to be a complete turn-on, but again, that wasn’t necessarily her type. 

Another sip.

And fine, as of late she had found herself thinking that hazel was really the only worthwhile eye color out there.

She frowned as she stared into the bottle again, watching as the dregs slowly settled. Fine. So she had a bloody type. But if Hermione wasn’t interested in her, then that was fine. There were other girls who would fulfill Pansy’s type. She took another small sip as she thought about the loads of other brainy brunettes in the world who snorted when they laughed. The scads of other women who would cover their flushed faces with both hands when they were embarrassed, or tuck their hair behind their ears when they were nervous. 

Pansy took another sip and winced as doubt began to settle in her stomach.

Surely, there will be other hazel eyed girls who will look at Pansy with a particular glimmer in their eyes, as if she’s something special, something to be treasured?

Another sip. More doubt.

Surely there will be at least one other girl who will make Pansy feel so completely, overwhelmingly, madly in love that she’ll hardly even recognize herself anymore?

Another sip.

Surely it wouldn’t just be Hermione?

Pansy drained the bottle. 

Slowly, she rolled it between her hands and let herself think about Hermione, and as Pansy let her perfect face swim into her mind, she realized with a sinking sensation that yes, it would always and forever just be Hermione. 

Because honestly, how could there be anyone else? How could there be another brilliant, beautiful, fiercely strong, ferociously clever witch who understood Pansy inside and out? How could there be someone she could trust to take care of her heart in the same way she trusted Hermione?

How could she even begin to contemplate the idea of bringing anyone else to Paris?

Pansy blinked furiously as her vision clouded over at the thought, but before she could manage to control her emotions, a tiny, pathetic sob escaped her throat. 

“It’s only her,” she said to herself, dimly noticing the small slur in her words. “It’ll only ever be her.” Absently, she lifted the bottle for another sip, but frowned in surprise when nothing came out. She lifted it to her eye and peered down the bottle neck, only to find it completely empty.

Huh. When had she finished it? 

Pansy shrugged, then leaned forward to place the bottle on the table. Almost immediately, the room started to spin. 

“Oh, fuck,” Pansy whispered as she quickly leaned back on the couch. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes, and when she opened them again after a long moment, the room had mercifully decided to stop moving. 

“Don’t you do that again,” Pansy said, pointing a threatening finger as she directed her words to the room.

She sighed and looked around her at the dark common room. Now that the bottle was empty, she knew she should stand up and go to bed. She knew the best thing would be to leave this entire mess behind her. 

But she also knew that if she stood up, she would most assuredly topple over. 

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes once more, frowning a bit as Hermione’s face immediately bloomed behind her closed lids. 

“Stupid hazel eyes,” she muttered, noticing that the slur in her words was now much more pronounced. “Who gave you the bloody right to have…to have eyes?” she said out loud, not noticing at all how ludicrous the statement was.

There was a quiet sound of a door shutting in the background, but Pansy paid it no mind. She couldn’t focus on anything else, not when the Hermione she had conjured up was smiling at her so fondly. Those maddening hazel eyes rolled, seemingly amused by Pansy’s drunken musings, and despite herself, a grin flickered to Pansy’s face. 

“Like seeing me drunk, then?” she asked.

“Not particularly, no.” 

Pansy frowned, wondering stupidly why Hermione had suddenly started speaking with Daphne’s voice. 

She managed to drag her eyes open to find Daphne, standing before her with her arms folded tightly across her chest. She was in her pajamas, her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she was looking at Pansy with irritation swimming in her bleary blue eyes. But Pansy didn’t care—the extraordinary amount of firewhisky in her system just made her irrationally overjoyed to see her best friend, and she leaned forward with a grin on her face.

“Daphne!” Pansy said with delight. Her voice was bright and far too loud for the silent common room, but she didn’t notice. “You’re here!” 

Daphne shushed her with a frown and Pansy dutifully put a finger to her own lips and shushed her back with wide eyes and a serious nod. Then, she broke into a small giggle. Daphne rolled her eyes and whispered, “you better have a bloody good reason for waking me up in the middle of the night.” 

Pansy’s eyes grew even wider with concern. “No. I woke you up?” she whispered. “But…but I’m all the way over here and you…you are there,” she said, gesturing toward Daphne with a firm nod, as if her explanation made all the sense in the world.

“Astute as ever,” Daphne said. “But I suppose you’ve forgotten where I keep that bottle of Ogden’s?” she asked, nodding her head toward the bottle and frowning slightly when she noticed that it was empty. 

Pansy stared at the bottle, then back at Daphne, then back at the bottle. “Is this a riddle?” she asked seriously, looking up at Daphne again.

Daphne rolled her eyes once more and muttered “Merlin help me,” under her breath. Then she said, “it’s not a riddle. I store the bottle in my trunk. And when someone decided to summon it, it banged its way out of said trunk and woke me up in the process.” 

“Oh. Who summoned it?” Pansy asked with interest.

Daphne shook her head in amazement and stared at Pansy incredulously, and after a long, silent moment, Pansy whispered with awe, “wait…is this a riddle?” 

“No,” Daphne said, exhaling sharply. “The only riddle is why you’re sitting in the dark on a Friday night, all on your own, and more pissed than I’ve ever seen you before.”

Pansy snorted and waved a hand. “I’m not.” She broke off and frowned. “Pissed, that is. I am in the dark,” she finished thoughtfully. Then, she patted the couch. “But sit down! We can drink together! It’s been too long since we did that, you know.” She reached for the bottle, then frowned when she noticed it was empty. She peered up at Daphne and said, “someone’s finished this one. Have you got another?” 

“No. And I’m not going to sit down in the middle of the bloody night,” Daphne whispered with frustration. “I just want to go back to bed, but I could hear you talking to yourself out here and I got worried. Merlin knows how you haven’t roused everyone by now.” 

“You were…worried?” Pansy asked, looking up at Daphne with shimmering eyes, outrageously touched by the concern. “That’s…that’s…” a tear fell down Pansy’s cheek, but she didn’t bother wiping it away. “I love you. Do you know that?” Pansy asked vehemently as she surveyed her best friend with watery eyes. “I love you so fucking much. You’re the fucking best, I…I…” She broke off with a tiny sob, too overwhelmed by her emotions to continue speaking.

Daphne looked up at the ceiling as if she was begging for patience. “I know,” she said, dropping her gaze back to Pansy. “And I love you, too,” she said, her eyes softening just a touch. “But I’d love you a lot more if you got up from that couch and came back to bed with me.” 

Pansy gave a slight hiccup and dried her tears. “Ooh,” she said, trying to wiggle her eyebrows suggestively and failing miserably. “Is that a proper…a propha…a proooo…”

“A proposition?” Daphne asked tiredly. 

Pansy snapped her fingers. “That’s the word.”

“If I say yes, will you come with me?”

“Maybe,” Pansy said slyly. “Or maybe…you’re not my type,” she said, putting a ridiculous amount of emphasis on the last three words. She snorted at her own joke, but then, without any warning, a new round of tears gathered in her eyes. She tried to blink them back, but it was no use. Her lower lip wobbled as Hermione’s voice echoed in her ears once more, and the tears spilled down her cheeks. She looked up at Daphne with despair to find her already watching Pansy with wide, concerned eyes. “Why aren’t I her type?” Pansy managed to whisper miserably. Daphne frowned, clearly unable to hear whatever Pansy had just said. But before she could ask Pansy to repeat herself, Pansy’s entire face crumpled pathetically and her body started shaking with small sobs. 

Immediately, Daphne crossed the room to sit beside Pansy. “Oh, Pans,” she murmured, pulling Pansy into a hug. She didn’t bother to ask what was wrong or try to pry out any information. Instead, she simply held her and whispered,“you’re okay. I’ve got you.” She rocked Pansy gently back and forth and continued to murmur placating words against her hair as she gently rubbed her back. 

They sat that way for a long while until eventually, Pansy’s tears stopped falling and her breath evened out again. And even then, Daphne refused to let go.

“What happened tonight?” Daphne eventually asked, her voice gentle. “It’s not like you to drink your feelings away.” 

“I—”

Pansy frowns and blinks her eyes open. The memory had stopped abruptly, as if someone had purposefully erased the rest of the conversation. But she knew she hadn’t been Obliviated—it was just the bloody Ogden’s that was responsible for the massive dark spot in her recollection. But as she thought about where the conversation had ended, she feels a cold fear trickle down her spine. 

Had she answered Daphne’s question? 

Had she inadvertently outed Hermione? 

Her stomach rolls again, but this time, it’s a mixture of both her awful hangover and the anxiety that’s suddenly racing through her body. More than anything, she hopes she hadn’t said something stupid last night. But she knows that she tends to get both ridiculously weepy and incredibly loose-lipped when she drinks, so she has a sinking suspicion that Daphne now knows more than she should.

She squeezes her eyes shut in frustration and fury and balls up her sheets in her fists. Why did she decide to drink last night? It was a stupid, weak decision, and one she regrets with every fiber of her being. 

If she had told Daphne anything about Hermione’s sexuality, she’s never drinking again. Not another sip. Not even butterbeer.

Before she can continue berating herself, there’s a soft thump on the foot of her bed. Pansy manages to open her eyes to see Felix, staring at her with anticipation. 

Right. It’s morning. She has to feed him. He needs his cat food. 

But the moment Pansy thinks about cat food, her stomach lurches uncomfortably. She closes her eyes once more and draws in long, steady breaths through her nose, in and out, in and out. Felix gives a pitiful, needy meow, and Pansy lifts a finger. “I know. I know, just…give me a minute,” she whispers. 

As she’s busy deep breathing and desperately hoping that everything in her stomach stays where it is, she hears the dormitory door creak open. She looks over to see Daphne, holding a mug and peering toward Pansy’s bed. As soon as she notices Pansy’s eyes are open, she closes the door with a bang and bustles into the room.

“Good, you’re up,” she says. Her footsteps sound like small explosions and her voice seems absurdly loud in the silent dorm. Pansy desperately reaches up to curl her pillow over her ears and a tiny, pathetic whimpers escapes her. “I was wondering when you’d emerge. Though you’ve missed breakfast,” Daphne adds, her voice growing closer as she nears her bed. 

Pansy groans at the mention of food. 

“Shame, too. It was a full English breakfast. Black pudding, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans…” Daphne says, listing off the food cheerfully. 

Pansy groans louder and puts her pillow over her face, pressing it down as hard as she can in a desperate attempt to block out Daphne’s voice. Daphne won’t be deterred, though—she simply picks the pillow off of Pansy’s face and calmly continues listing foods. “Sausages, bacon, mushrooms, toast…” 

“Daphne, I swear…” Pansy breathes between gritted teeth. Her stomach is rolling dangerously and she’s two seconds away from sprinting from her bed toward the bathroom.

“Hm? Oh! I’m sorry, am I speaking too quietly for you? Here, how’s this?” Daphne asks, raising her voice to an absurd level as she places the steaming mug down on her bedside table. “Can you hear me now? I could always use Sonorous if I’m still a bit quiet.” 

“I hate you,” Pansy says, closing her eyes and wincing at the throbbing, unyielding pain in her head.

Daphne chuckles quietly, then says, “no, you don’t.” 

Pansy feels something land on the bed beside her, then hears Daphne’s footsteps retreating. She looks to her right to see a small vial of light blue potion lying on top of her sheets, and relief seeps through her at the sight.

It’s a hangover potion. 

Thank Merlin

She sits up as quickly as she dares, uncaps the vial, and tips the peppermint flavored liquid into her mouth. The moment she swallows, she feels the effects wash over her—her headache lifts, the queasiness in her stomach vanishes, and she feels blissfully human again. 

Pansy sighs in relief, then glances toward the the foot of her bed where Daphne is kneeling down to fill Felix’s bowl. “Thank you,” she says.

Daphne hums. “For the potion or for taking care of your poor neglected cat?” she asks, stroking Felix as he purrs and rubs his face against Daphne’s hand.

Pansy rolls her eyes at the display. Felix almost never purrs when she feeds him. He usually stares at her with wounded eyes and meows mournfully, as if Pansy’s suddenly taken the wicked notion to starve him, and it’s up to him to convince her otherwise. But of course, for Daphne, he acts like a sweet little angel.

Bloody cat.

“That cat is the least neglected cat that’s ever lived,” Pansy says, watching with amusement as he sticks his entire face into the bowl and starts eating with gusto.

Daphne straightens up and looks at Pansy. “Oh? Then why did he have to beg me for food?” 

Pansy rolls her eyes. “I was going to feed him. I just needed a minute to collect myself.”

Daphne scoffs as she crosses back to her bed. “The amount you drank last night?” she asks, sitting down and folding her legs under her. “You would’ve needed more than a minute. I’ve never seen you that drunk before. Which by the way…” she stretches forward and grabs the mug on her bedside table, then hands it to Pansy. “Thought you might need a pick-me-up.”

Pansy takes it gratefully, inhaling the rich, bitter aroma of coffee. She takes a long drink then sighs. “Thank you,” she says. “For this, for the potion, for stealing my cat’s love…all of it. I owe you.” 

“Get me a new bottle of Ogden’s and we’ll call it even.” 

“I can do that. And it’ll be all yours—after last night, I’m never touching that stuff again.” 

Daphne frowns and shifts on her bed a bit, getting more comfortable. “How much do you remember? Of last night, I mean.”

Pansy slowly runs a finger over the rim of the mug, then says, “some of it. I remember being surprised to see you…and I…I remember crying,” she adds, covering her embarrassment with a hasty sip of coffee. She lowers the mug and says, “the last thing I remember is you asking me why I was upset. You wanted to know what happened.” Pansy glances up at Daphne nervously. “Did I…did I answer you?” 

“Sort of? I mean, not really,” Daphne amends quickly. “You kept saying you couldn’t tell me anything. But you also kept talking about Paris and types. Honestly, it was all a bit disjointed.”

Pansy cringes at her own actions. She’s really never going to drink again. 

She fiddles anxiously with the mug and glances at the foot of her bed as Felix hops back up, done with his food. He yawns, then curls into a ball and promptly falls asleep. She lifts her eyes from Felix and says, “but I didn’t tell you any specifics?”

Daphne shakes her head and Pansy feels the ball of tension loosen a bit in her chest. 

At the very least, she hadn’t completely outed Hermione. 

“No,” Daphne says. “No, you didn’t tell me any specifics but…” she trails off and stares at the wall behind Pansy with a small frown, as if she’s pondering something. 

Pansy feels her heart start beating faster at the look on Daphne’s face. The ball of tension tightens again as she whispers, “but…?”

Daphne sighs and when her eyes snap back to Pansy, she looks resigned. “But you didn’t have to.” 

“I…what?” Pansy asks confused. 

“Pansy, you didn’t have to say anything specific because you’re the least subtle person I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

Pansy straightens her back and draws back her shoulders, but before she can refute Daphne’s statement, she continues. “And what’s more, this is my area of expertise.”

Pansy falters for a moment before stupidly asking, “I’m your area of expertise?”

Daphne snorts in surprise. “I mean, yes, I suppose after seven years, you could be. But no.” She fixes Pansy with a no-nonsense look and says, “you may be better than me in just about every subject at this bloody school, but there’s one thing I’ll always be better at, and that’s relationships. I mean, honestly! Did you really think I wouldn’t be able to figure out what’s been going on?”

“I—”

“You think I haven’t seen the way you act after your little library dates? You think I haven’t noticed the way you two act around each other? You think I haven’t noticed the way Granger’s been staring at you for weeks now? I mean, Merlin, she’s somehow even less subtle than you are,” Daphne says, looking amused. But before Pansy can reply, Daphne says, “I may not be the cleverest witch, but I know people. I understand attraction, I understand body language, and I know what I’ve been seeing for the past few weeks.”

“I…wait.” Pansy says, trying to make sense of what Daphne’s saying. She sorts through her thoughts and opens her mouth to say something hopefully clever, but the only thing that comes out is, “she’s been staring at me?”

“Merlin’s pants,” Daphne says, rolling her eyes at the stupidly hopeful tone in Pansy’s voice. “You know, you should really be congratulated.”

“For what?” Pansy asks uncertainly.

“For managing to convince me for seven bloody years that you’re clever, when in actuality, you’re the densest bloody witch who’s ever lived.”

Pansy opens her mouth to retort, but Daphne lifts a hand. “Yes, she’s been staring at you. Have you honestly not noticed?”

“I—”

“Every bloody meal! Her eyes are on you every bloody meal! And don’t even get me started on your Potions interactions,” Daphne says, rolling her eyes.

“What about our Potions interactions?” Pansy says with a frown, immediately disregarding Daphne’s warning. 

“Are you joking?” Daphne explodes. “The two of you are constantly whispering to each other, Granger’s laughing like an idiot at every other word out of your mouth, and the way you two look at each other!”

“We don’t—”

“It’s like you’ve forgotten you’re in class! All those soft gazes and long stares…I suppose that’s, what? Your pathetically sad version of foreplay?”

“It is most certainly not—”

“I’ve never seen two people more thoroughly and disgustingly besotted with each other. It’s a wonder Weasley and Potter haven’t caught on. You should be grateful that she’s managed to befriend two people even denser than she is.”

“She’s—”

“I mean, the amount of times I’ve seen her staring at your lips alone! I just…” Daphne shakes her head bewildered, then abruptly holds up two fingers. “How many do you see?”

“What?” Pansy asks, completely taken aback. 

“How many fingers do you see?”

Pansy narrows her eyes suspiciously. “Why?”

“Because the only logical explanation for you missing all of these signs is that you’re blind as a fucking bat.”

“I’m not blind,” Pansy says hotly.

“Well, that’s a shame. I suppose you’re just stupid, then.” 

Pansy glares at Daphne. “I’m not stupid either! I just…” she sighs and places the coffee mug on her bedside table as she sorts through her feelings. Finally she says, “I had hoped there was something between us. I had, but after last night…” she shakes her head and says, “she made it abundantly clear that I was misreading the situation. That she doesn’t see me in that way and she never will.” 

Daphne snorts. “Then she’s lying.”

“She’s not.”

“She is.”

“She’s not. You weren’t there last night. You didn’t hear what she said.”

“Then tell me.”

Pansy shakes her head. “I can’t,” she says weakly. 

Daphne stares at Pansy for a moment. She looks like she wants to press the issue, but eventually, she sighs and nods with resignation. “Alright. I won’t force you to tell me anything.” Then she leans forward and says, “but Pansy…it doesn’t matter. I’ve seen everything I need to see.”

“You haven’t.”

“I have. Merlin, would you listen to me?” Daphne asks hotly. “I know when someone is interested in someone else! I’ve never been wrong before. And I know that Granger has feelings for you. Whether or not she’s at a place where she’s ready to admit that to herself, well…that I don’t know. But if she’s not, then she needs to tell that to her face, because honestly, the way she looks at you…” she trails off and shakes her head. Then she leans toward Pansy and says, “I wouldn’t promise you this if I wasn’t absolutely certain, but I am, so I will—Granger has feelings for you.”

“Daphne…” 

“And as for what happened last night…I don’t know if you admitted you have feelings for her and she took it poorly, or if you asked if she has feelings for you and she said no, or…or something else altogether. I don’t know, and you don’t have to tell me. But just keep in mind, people can lie. And people do lie. Especially when they’re scared. So whatever happened last night, just…take it with a grain of salt.”

“No, it’s…I mean, she didn’t…”

Pansy trails off with a small frown as she contemplates what Daphne’s said. It’s true—people do lie. Merlin, she herself has been lying for ages now. But she would have been able to tell if Hermione had been lying. 

Wouldn’t she?

Pansy drops her gaze down to study her sheets as she lets herself think about what had happened last night with a clear and sober head. 

She thinks about all the signs Hermione had given her. She thinks about the way Hermione’s heated gaze had lingered on her chest. She thinks about the burning desire flickering in her eyes. She thinks about how Hermione had been the one to lean forward. She thinks about that heart-stopping moment when she had tilted her head and let her eyes flutter closed. 

There was no doubt in Pansy’s mind that in that moment, Hermione had wanted her.

Then, Pansy thinks about the look on Hermione’s face when she had taken the hardest step back that she's ever had to take in her life.

There had been immediate panic in Hermione’s wide-eyed gaze and she had looked frightened. Terrified, really. It was as if she had been caught doing something wrong and needed to find a way out of the predicament. But why would she have been scared? She had already admitted her sexuality and Pansy had accepted it. And what’s more, it certainly wasn’t as if Pansy had seemed uninterested last night. If anything, she had been a very willing participant.

Surely Hermione had noticed that?

Yes. Of course she had. She’d have to be completely daft not to.

…But what if she hadn’t?

What if she thought that by taking that step back, Pansy was saying she was uncomfortable with what was happening? What if she thought the fear in Pansy’s eyes was because she was bothered by Hermione’s brazen flirtation? What if she had found herself terrified that she had been assuming too much, or that her advance had been unwanted, or worse, predatory? After all, for all she knew, Pansy was straight as an arrow. What if Hermione’s deeply rooted fear of rejection had reared its ugly head at the worst moment possible and had forced her to come up with a quick lie on the spot?

What if she said that Pansy wasn’t her type not because it was true, but simply out of fear?  

What if she was lying about everything?

Pansy stares down at her sheets, completely bewildered, then she slowly drags her gaze back to Daphne, who’s watching her with interest. 

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a face go through so many emotions in such a short time,” Daphne remarks lightly. “What was that one in the middle?” she asks with interest. “Looked a bit like constipation?”

“I…I…” Pansy trails off and shakes her head, wondering if her hypothesis was true. Had Hermione lied to salvage their friendship? 

Could they have managed to cross their wires that badly?

“Should I take your lack of coherent speech as an admission that I was right?”

“I…”

“And if I am right,” Daphne continues, completely unbothered by Pansy’s sudden inability to form words, “then I want a whole flock of cats named after me for telling you what’s been right in front of your nose for ages now.” She flicks her long, blonde hair over her shoulder and arches an eyebrow. “Honestly…how the two thickest people at this school managed to fall in love and make such a spectacular mess of it, I’ll never know. Good thing you have me to sort it all out.”

Pansy’s trying to wrap her mind around the fact that she might be Hermione’s type after all when the jab registers. She looks at Daphne with a small glare. “We’re not thick,” she says crossly. 

“Oh, please. You two would make Crabbe and Goyle look like proper casanovas. Though I suppose all things considered, it’s nice to know that there’s something Granger’s shit at,” Daphne says, idly studying her fingernails.

Pansy rolls her eyes as she reaches for the forgotten mug of coffee and reheats it with her wand. “For the record, I never said you were right. And in any event,” she continues, raising her voice over Daphne’s explosive snort of disbelief, “I think you’re oversimplifying the situation a bit.”

“Not at all. This is the easiest thing in the world—you like her, she likes you. You could have been shagging by now, but instead, you’ve made a total cock-up of it.”

Pansy splutters into the coffee at the word shagging but before she can reply, Daphne leans forward with twinkling eyes and says, “so if I’m right, which, let’s face it, I am…will all the cats be named Daphne, or will there be a Daphne One, a Daphne Two, a Daphne Three…?”

“You’re not getting a flock of cats named after you. I’m not even having a flock of cats! And again, I never said you were right.”

“You didn’t have to.” Daphne points at Pansy’s face and says, “body language, darling,” with an infuriating wink. “Your face told me everything I needed to know.” 

Pansy rolls her eyes, then lifts her middle finger. “What’s my body language telling you now?” she asks dryly.

“That you’re a boorish, uncultured arse,” Daphne says without missing a beat. 

Pansy chuckles as she puts the mug down, stands up from her bed, and begins gathering her things for the bathroom from her trunk. “And now?” she asks raising a wry eyebrow. 

“Hopefully that you’re going to have a bath,” Daphne says. “You smell atrocious.”

Pansy’s acutely aware of the alcohol smell still clinging to her clothes and seeping from her pores, so she can’t exactly disagree. Instead, she says, “when I’m done, you can pester me all you like about cats, so long as you come to the Great Hall with me. I’m starving.” She glances up from her trunk and says, “you said there was a full English breakfast today?”

“I did say that,” Daphne says brightly. “But no, there isn’t.”

Pansy frowns. “But you said—”

“I lied. I just wanted to list a load of food and make you feel miserable,” Daphne says, flopping backward against her pillows. “Had to get back at you for stealing my Ogden’s somehow.”

Pansy snorts, then stands. “I suppose that’s fair. But I’m afraid that’ll be one less cat named after you,” she says, petting Felix.

“What? Why?” Daphne sits up again, looking genuinely upset. 

“You were trying to make me feel sick? That’s cruel, Daph. And I can’t reward that kind of behavior with a cat named after you, so I suppose Daphne Three will just be a fond dream.” She drops a kiss to Felix’s head and smiles when he gently butts against her face, then starts toward the bathroom.

“You can’t take away Daphne Three!” Daphne calls after her, stung. “Not when I’ve just singlehandedly salvaged your entire bloody relationship!”

“Again, you’re presuming. But if you did, then I’m sure Daphne One and Two will thank you,” Pansy says over her shoulder with a grin. 

“Pansy Parkinson, you’re awful!” 

“But you still love me,” Pansy sing-songs. She hears Daphne grumble Merlin knows why as she closes the door and she laughs. 

She crosses to the bathtub and turns the tap, then takes a deep breath and slowly exhales as she watches the water flow into the tub. Perhaps it’s foolish, but now that she knows there’s a chance Hermione was lying, that tiny ember of hope is back, burning tenaciously within her heart. The absolute heartbreak of last night feels like a long-ago and terribly embarrassing memory, and she’s once again desperately looking forward to seeing Hermione again.

Absently, she tests the water temperature with her hand as she ponders what her next step should be and after a moment, she realizes that there’s only one thing left to do—she has to do what she intended to do last night. 

She has to be honest with Hermione. 

She’s not going to see the other witch until Monday, but that doesn’t mean she can’t start the process. All she has to do is set up an in-person meeting via her parchment. It’s something she’s been wanting to do for ages now, but she had been worried that it was all too soon. But now that it’s clear that she and Hermione are genuine friends with the potential for more, now seems as good a time as any. 

And to be honest, it feels only right to make the first contact via parchment. It’s where everything had started, after all. There had been moments in the library where she had found the confession on the tip of her tongue, but then some foolish, romantic part of her would whisper, wait, not yet, and convince her to make the reveal a genuine moment, rather than something hastily confessed over stacks of books.

Of course, there’s still a chance that Hermione won’t want to bend the rules. She might insist that they wait until the experiment ends, and in that case, Pansy will just have to put aside her fanciful little dream and tell her in person, without ceremony. But that tiny, silly, romantic part of her secretly hopes that Hermione will be easily swayed and she’ll get to have the moment she’s been waiting for.

Pansy turns off the tap and strips off her grimy clothing. She bundles everything up and tosses it into the corner of the room, hoping she remembers to cast a Cleaning Charm on the pile later. Then, she steps into the bath and groans a bit at the deliciously hot water against her skin. The heat helps her muscles start to relax, and as she settles back and closes her eyes, she lets herself imagine what life will be like with Hermione by her side. She lets herself imagine a tiny, one bedroom flat, somewhere in a cozy little corner of London, full of plants, cats, and far too many books for any two people to own. And of course, she lets herself imagine Paris. 

Each imagined glimpse into their future together leaves her almost desperate with want, and by the end of her bath, she finds herself dying to set up a meeting. She wants this future and she wants it now.

Merlin, she hopes she’s actually Hermione’s type. 

***

Saturday night finds Pansy seated in a comfortable leather armchair, tucked away in a secluded nook of the Slytherin common room. She’s bent over a sturdy antique writing desk and sporting a small frown as she gently runs her quill back and forth over her lips.

Turns out it’s surprisingly hard to find a casual way to ask if Hermione would like to meet.

She’s vanished half a dozen attempts over the past fifteen minutes, and each time she thinks she’s found something decent, the parchment censors will activate and highlight her words in red. It’s aggravating enough that Pansy’s been tempted to rip her parchment in half a few times. But instead, each time her words glow red, she takes a deep, measured breath and tries again. 

She has a good feeling about attempt number nine.

Robin,

Here’s something you might not know about me—I don’t care about house points. 

When I decided to write to you the first time, it wasn’t in some mad attempt to win the House Cup. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about that aspect of this experiment. I wrote to you simply because I wanted to know who was on the other end of my parchment. And now that I do, I must confess that it wouldn’t matter if McGonagall ended this experiment by awarding me a thousand points, or if she presented the Cup to me and me alone. All of that would be meaningless, because I’ve already won the best prize of all—I’ve met you. 

Here’s something else you might not know about me—patience is not one of my virtues. I wanted to know who you were after the very first message you sent to me. But I forced myself to wait. To enjoy the process. To tell myself that three months would pass by in the blink of an eye. Which is why every morning, I woke up, I sipped my morning tea, and I forced myself to be patient. 

But here’s the thing—I’m tired of being patient.

I don’t care about house points, Robin. I only care about you. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I can manage another day of patience.

I hope what I’m insinuating is clear. And if you don’t feel the same way, that’s fine. I’ll understand, and I’ll keep forcing myself to wait. But if you do, then…

Have you ever seen the beech tree on the banks of the Black Lake? I’ve always been fond of it. There’s a certain time in the late afternoon where the sun filters through its leaves just so and makes everything look beautifully golden. I’d imagine it’s about an hour before sundown. I wanted to spend part of tomorrow underneath that tree, but there’s the Hogsmeade trip, so…I suppose I’ll just have to wait a week.

If you’ve never sat beneath that tree, I’d recommend it. Normally, it’s fairly secluded, but sometimes if you’re lucky, you might find some decent company there. 

Twenty-one more days…?

Yours, always and forever, 
Bard ♥

Pansy re-reads her message a few times, making sure the details are vague enough. Once she feels confident that she’s finally evaded the censors, she picks up her wand, holds her breath, and taps the parchment. 

The ink sinks into the parchment and her words immediately turn to gold. She exhales sharply and grins down at her parchment with delight. 

She’s done it. 

She’s actually asked Hermione to meet in person. And if Hermione says yes, she’s only a few days away from revealing her identity once and for all. 

Her hand trembles a bit as she puts down her quill. She’s absurdly nervous and waiting for a reply seems akin to torture. Absently, she bounces her leg and looks up from her parchment to gaze around the common room, hoping to find some sort of distraction.

She lets her gaze linger over all of the wonderfully normal scenes around her, and all of the people who are blissfully unaware that she’s just taken a massive step toward changing her destiny.

A few chairs over from her, a very bored looking Millicent is arm wrestling Theo. He’s red in the face and looks like he’s three seconds away from combusting, but Millicent looks completely unaffected. Pansy had overheard that she’s in training for some mad arm wrestling contest to be held in the common room next Sunday, and honestly, she’d bet every Galleon she has on Millicent winning the whole thing. 

Her eyes flicker over to Tracey who’s sitting on the arm of a chair, taunting Theo and popping Every Flavour Beans into her mouth. She’s also tossing every third jellybean at the side of Theo’s head, and each time one hits, his face turns a darker shade of red. By the time Millicent finally gets bored of taunting him and slams his arm down onto the table, Theo is practically puce. He immediately demands a rematch and Pansy lets her eyes wander away before she can see if Millicent takes him up on it. 

Her gaze settles on a small group of Slytherin third-years playing Wizard’s Chess in front of the fire. They’re all completely unaware of a small, grey tabby cat nearby, watching the pieces with wide eyes and a twitching, bushy tail. It’s clearly about to pounce and scatter the pieces and Pansy grins; she’s pleased the cat will be the real winner of the game. She’s content to watch until the cat makes its game-ending move, but a movement from the hearth distracts her.

Blaise is sitting in front of the fire, whispering something in the ear of a blushing, embarrassed looking Slytherin fifth-year, and Pansy’s smile immediately fades. She recognizes the girl as Bridget Thorpe, one of the sweeter members of the Slytherin house. Pansy doesn’t know too much about her, but what she does know is all good. She knows that Bridget is always kind to the younger students and takes the time to get to know them, that she adores Felix and frequently asks Pansy if she can pet him with a shy smile, and that she’s best friends with an equally sweet Hufflepuff girl. In short, Bridget is a genuinely good person.

And Blaise? Blaise is a smug, pompous bastard who only cares about Blaise.

He leans back with a self-satisfied smirk as he trails a hand over the Bridget’s knee, and Pansy grits her teeth. 

Bridget’s too good for him, and Pansy doesn’t want her to go down the same, awful, heart-breaking road Daphne had gone down. 

Not if she has any say in it. 

Casually, Pansy slips a hand into her pocket and waits for Blaise to lean forward and whisper something else. When he does, she grips her wand, points it at him, and whispers Eructo. Blaise opens his mouth once more to whisper something, but instead, he loudly belches in Bridget’s ear. She scrambles backward quickly with wide eyes and when Blaise opens his mouth to apologize, he belches again. 

Blaise claps a hand over his mouth and turns to glare around the common room, clearly searching for the person who had jinxed him. When his eyes land on Crabbe and Goyle, cackling at his misfortune from across the room, he stands up with a face like thunder and crosses to them, leaving Bridget all on her own. But she’s not alone for long—a few Slytherin fifth year girls join her to laugh over Blaise’s misfortune, and Bridget immediately grins, not seeming to miss Blaise’s company at all.

Pansy watches the display with a smile, pleased that she’s both gotten away with her prank, saved a good person from an awful man, and will have something to amuse Daphne with later. 

After she’s had her fill of watching Blaise furiously burp at Crabbe and Goyle, she glances back toward her parchment to find a silver message waiting for her, and her breath catches. Hastily, she pulls the parchment toward her and begins to read. 

Dear Bard, 

As long as we’re trading little-known facts, here’s one about me—I always follow the rules.

Pansy feels her heart sink, but she keeps reading. 

I know what you’re thinking: “the great Robin Hood of Hogwarts is just a silly little teacher’s pet?” Sadly, it’s true—if there’s a rule to be followed, I’ll follow it. Especially when it comes to assignments. I follow instructions to a tee and what’s more, I get cross with others when they decide to flaunt directions. 

(I’m really selling myself to you, aren’t I? Still think I’m a prize?)

But now that you know what a stickler I am for the rules, let me tell you something I just learned about myself, not even five minutes ago—apparently, when it comes to you, all bets are off. 

When I read your message, I didn’t even stop to think about the rules. The only thing on my mind was how desperately glad I was that you brought this up. Because while I didn’t mind being patient at first, lately, I’ve found it almost impossible. 

I don’t care about house points either. And somehow, against all odds, I don’t care about the rules. 

I think I’d break every rule in the book when it comes to you, bard.

(If it’s not obvious by now, my answer is yes.)

You know, I think I’m fairly good at magic, but somehow, I still haven’t figured out what this spell you have over me is. 

All I know is that I seem to be powerless against it.

Yours, in anxious, unbearable anticipation, 
Robin ♥

Pansy exhales shakily as she finishes the message. It’s actually going to happen. After all this time, Hermione is going to find out who her bard is. A week from today, everything will be out in the open.

Anxiety and excitement bubble in Pansy’s stomach as she picks up her quill to reply.

Dear Robin, 

I’m afraid whatever spell I have over you pales in comparison to the one you have over me. Do you know, I’ve done nothing but think of you for weeks now? I’ll start a thought and by the time I get to the end of it, it’s turned to you. I shudder to think what some of my assignments have looked like as of late. How many essays have I turned in that start with the history of the Giant Wars, only to devolve into an ode to you by the end? Honestly, it’ll be a miracle if I manage to graduate on time. 

It feels almost surreal to say “seven days left,” but here we are. Though as excited as I am to write that, there’s a part of me that’s almost disappointed. It’s lovely to have something to look forward to, isn’t it? Nothing compares to the delicious anticipation of something you’re looking forward to drawing near. 

Perhaps I should start a countdown to Paris? 

Before Pansy can keep writing, someone falls into the armchair next to her with a huff. Pansy turns to find Daphne, already glancing down at her parchment.

“Writing your girlfriend?” Daphne asks as she shrugs off her robes. 

Pansy glares at her. “Care to announce that any louder?”

“Sure.” Daphne takes a deep breath and loudly says, “writing yo—”

Before she can finish, Pansy drops her quill and claps a hand over Daphne’s mouth. She rolls her eyes as she feels Daphne’s lips turn up against her palm in a smirk. 

“Hilarious,” Pansy says dryly. “But I wouldn’t test me if I were you,” she adds, removing her hand. 

“Oh?”

“Mm. Just look at what I did to Blaise.”

Daphne frowns, then follows Pansy’s gaze toward the corner of the common room where Blaise is still uncontrollably belching, much to the delight of everyone in earshot. Daphne’s mouth falls open and when she turns back to face Pansy, her eyes are shining. “You did that?” she asks with a grin.

“I did.”

“Why?”

Pansy shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because he hurt my best friend and I’ll never forgive him for it?” 

“Merlin…remind me to never cross you,” Daphne says, glancing back toward the scene with amusement. Then, she turns back to Pansy and her smile softens. “Thanks,” she murmurs. 

Pansy nods. “It also doesn’t help that he’s a slimy bastard.”

Daphne laughs as she leans back in her chair. “Well, we can’t all pick a perfect partner on our first go-around, now, can we?”

“First go-around? Did you forget about Draco?”

“Oh, you know what I mean. First real go-around,” Daphne says, rolling her eyes. “All that pathetic, forced fumbling with Draco didn’t count. But speaking of pathetic fumbling,” she says, glancing pointedly at Pansy’s parchment. “Please tell me you’re finally writing something interesting.”

“What do you mean?” Pansy asks with a small, confused frown. 

She thinks all of their letters have been interesting.

“I mean something dirty.” 

Pansy raises her eyes to the ceiling and shakes her head. Of course that’s what Daphne had meant. “No,” she says, picking up her quill once more. “Sorry to disappoint.”

“Pansy! It’s been ages! You mean to tell me that in all the pages and pages you’ve written, you’ve never once sent a dirty message?”

Pansy scoffs and shakes her head. “Does Hermione really seem the type to write dirty messages?” she asks, keeping her voice low.

“Oh, you’d be surprised. It’s always the ones you suspect the least.” Daphne loosens her tie and says, “you think, oh, she’d never be able to enjoy anything, not with that massive stick so far up her arse…”

Daphne.”

“But then one night, you find yourself alone in the library with her and next thing you know, Pince is banning you from the place for noise violations,” Daphne says, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. 

Pansy feels her face flame at the mention of the library and she drops her eyes to her parchment. “You’re awful,” she mutters, desperately trying to keep her thoughts from turning back to what had happened last night. “Besides, Hermione would never degrade the library in any way, shape, or form.”

“You think that now, but mark my words—it’s always the ones you’d never expect.” She crosses her legs and says, “it’s why I have a theory that Longbottom is secretly spectacular in the bedroom.” 

Longbottom?” Pansy says, raising her eyes to stare at Daphne in some vague mix of shock and disgust. 

“Mm. I bet his wand isn’t the only thing that’s eleven inches and unyielding…”

Pansy grimaces in distaste. She takes her wand out of her pocket and holds it out to Daphne. “Obliviate that sentence from my memory. Please.”

Daphne rolls her eyes and swats at Pansy’s wand, then looks at the parchment again. “So what are you writing? Something prudish and boring, I presume?”

“No, I…” Pansy trails off and bites her lip nervously, then murmurs, “we’ve made plans to meet in person,” she says. “Next Sunday.” 
 
Daphne’s eyes widen. “Next Sunday?” she repeats. “That’s…I mean, Pansy, that’s huge.” 

“I know.”

“Merlin…after all this time. Are you nervous?”

Pansy starts to shake her head slowly, but eventually it morphs into a nod and she confesses, “I’m terrified.” It’s true—she’s far more anxious than she had expected to be. But at the same time, there’s a current of optimism running through her, and she’s trying to cling to that instead of letting the overwhelming fear drown her.

“Well, don’t be. Like I said, there’s not a doubt in my mind that she has feelings for you.” 

Pansy scoffs and looks down at her parchment. “I wish I could be that sure.”

“You don’t have to be.” Daphne bends down to untie a shoe. “Remember, this is my area of expertise.”

“Mm, how could I forget your symposium on body language,” Pansy mutters, absently re-reading what she’s already written. 

“You joke, but I could give a symposium,” Daphne says, undoing the knot on her other shoe. “Anyway, just wait and see. By this time next week, you’ll have a girlfriend. I’d stake my entire reputation on it.”

“A girlfriend?” 

Daphne’s hands freeze on the laces of her shoes and Pansy’s head whips around. Draco is standing behind her chair, regarding her with carefully guarded eyes. A muscle jumps in his jaw as he glances from Pansy to Daphne and back again.

“Moving awfully fast, aren’t you?” he asks.

Pansy exhales sharply and Daphne slumps in her chair with relief.  Because of all the people to overhear the comment, Draco’s honestly the best. 

She had told him the whole truth two weeks ago and while he hadn’t been as supportive as she would have hoped, he had promised her his silence. He had also agreed to tell his parents they were back together in an attempt to throw Pansy’s father off her scent and convince him that she was a non-threat. It was clear Draco still felt guilty over the Howler and wanted to do whatever he could to make it up to her, which Pansy of course appreciates.

But he’s also been stilted and awkward with her, and she appreciates that far less. He had told her in no uncertain terms that he didn’t understand the “decisions” she was making, and he had implied more than once that she was just confused. Pansy had then told him in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t confused, that she didn’t need him to understand her “decisions,” that she was happy with who she was, and that if he had a problem with that, he could bloody well sod off. 

He had muttered an apology that day, but ever since then, all of their interactions have felt forced. Draco always seems as if he’s in a hurry to get away from her, he’s barely able to look her in the eyes most days, and whatever easy, warm rapport that used to exist between them is more or less gone.

Pansy’s not surprised—she knows that Daphne’s reaction to her sexuality had been a surprising and wonderful outlier, and she knows that Draco’s reaction is a better barometer of what the rest of the world will think about her. And perhaps even that’s being too kind. But even though she’s not surprised by his reaction and even though she thinks that all things considered, it could have gone worse, it doesn’t mean that she’s not hurt.

Pansy lifts a hand to her chest, glances around to make sure Draco is the only one who had heard Daphne’s comment, then murmurs, “Daphne’s exaggerating. I don’t have a…a girlfriend,” she whispers. She gives Daphne a small glare and whispers, “and for future reference, this is the appropriate volume to use when discussing these matters.” 

“Sorry,” Daphne murmurs, dropping her eyes and looking genuinely contrite. 

“So who is she?” Draco asks, raising an eyebrow and folding his arms over his chest. 

Pansy briefly glances at her parchment, then back at Draco. “No one you’d know,” she says, hoping she sounds vaguely believable.

“Oh? It’s a small school. Try me.”

Daphne jumps in and says, “who said she’s from here? For all you know, she could be a half-Veela from the French Riviera.”

Draco’s mouth twists into a small, unamused smirk and he shakes his head. “Right. Don’t know why I bothered asking. After all, it wouldn’t be our relationship if there weren’t dozens of secrets at play, now, would it?”

Pansy winces. “Draco…”

“No, sorry, I just…” he sighs and runs a hand through his sleek, blonde hair, mussing it a bit in the process. “You don’t have to tell me. Honestly, I don’t even care. I just wanted to tell you that I’ve had an owl from my mother. Apparently she’s heard from your mum and she said that she’s over the moon that we’re back together.” His face twists into another pained, small smile. “Anyway…hopefully that’ll keep your father off of your back for now.” 

“Thank you,” Pansy says. When Draco simply nods, Pansy takes a moment to glance toward the open chair beside Daphne with a raised eyebrow. But before she can actually ask Draco if he’d like to sit for a while, he shifts uncomfortably.

“Right. That’s all I had to say, so I’ll just…” he jerks his head toward the middle of the common room.

“Right,” Pansy echoes. She sighs quietly and adds, “thanks for letting me know.” 

Draco nods and opens his mouth as if he wants to add something. But instead, he shakes his head, then turns and quickly walks toward the couch where Tracey is forcing a very unhappy looking Theo to do a blind taste test of Bertie Bott’s. 

Pansy watches him for a moment before turning back to Daphne. 

“Sorry,” Daphne murmurs, still looking shamefaced. “I didn’t notice him. I’ll be more careful from now on, I promise.”

Pansy nods a bit stiffly. “I’d appreciate that.”

Daphne nods, then bites her lip nervously. “You’re furious with me, aren’t you?”

“I—”

“Honestly, you’re right to be. Do you know how many times my mum has told me to look before I speak?”

“Isn’t the saying look before you leap?”

“Exactly!” Daphne says. “She had to change the saying! That’s how awful I am.” She tucks her legs under her and says, “but I am sorry. You can jinx me, if you like. I’ll stand next to Blaise and burp for the rest of the night.”

Pansy chuckles. “Much as you deserve it, no. I won’t jinx you. And I’m not mad at you. I didn’t notice Draco either. No one would have. Merlin knows, he glides about like a bloody Dementor. Honestly, I’m just…I’m frustrated at him.” Pansy sighs and glances over at Draco once more, then shakes her head. “But I’m not going to grovel and plead for his presence in my life,” she says firmly. “I want us to be friends again, but if that’s not what he wants, then…” she shrugs and look back at Daphne. “Then I suppose that’s that.”

Daphne hums, then says, “I think he’ll come around. I think he’s still just hurt over the whole situation. Not that he has any right to be,” she adds quickly. 

“No, he does. It was wrong of me to wait so long to tell him the truth. But I just wish I knew how much of his reaction is residual hurt and how much of it is him thinking there’s something wrong with me.” 

“Whatever it is, you know there’s nothing wrong with you, don’t you?” Daphne asks, looking at Pansy with a small, concerned frown.

Pansy smiles. “I do. Thank you.” She sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “Anyway, I can’t focus all my time on Draco’s reaction. I have bigger things to be thinking about,” she adds, looking back to her parchment.

“That you do. You have to send a dirty message to Granger,” Daphne says, dropping her voice to a whisper this time. 

“That is absolutely not what I meant."

“Here, I’ll help…” Daphne says, ignoring Pansy. She tilts her head and stares at the floor for a moment, then she looks up with a grin. “Tell her you’ll knick a pair of earmuffs from Herbology.”

“…Why?” Pansy asks, against her better judgment.

A sly smile comes to Daphne’s face and she says, “because when you have her screaming louder than a Mandrake, you’ll need them.” 

“Merlin,” Pansy mutters, picking up her quill.

“Ooh, or no! No! Tell her you’ve stopped studying Charms!”

“Why?” Pansy asks again in a voice filled with weariness. 

“Because you don’t need to master Accio to make her come.” 

Pansy looks up from her parchment to find Daphne grinning and looking far too proud of herself. “These are your legendary pick-up lines?” Pansy asks, lifting a disbelieving brow. 

“I’ve never heard any complaints.”

Pansy snorts. “Obviously not.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means look at your face! With a face like that, you can say any ridiculous drivel you want and get away with it.” 

Daphne opens her mouth to retort, but when Pansy’s words actually sink in, she grins broadly. “Well! Aren’t you the charmer?” 

Pansy turns back to her parchment once more. “Honestly. Knick a pair of earmuffs,” she mutters as she dips her quill into her ink pot. 

Daphne laughs then says, “fine, disregard all my suggestions. Turn Operation Woo the Pants off Granger into Operation Bore the Pants off Granger for all I care.” She stands up and stretches. “While you practice your bleak and tragic Victorian courting rituals, I’m going to have a bath.” She gathers up her things but before she goes, she pauses and quietly says, “sorry again for my big mouth.” 

“It’s fine, Daph. Really,” Pansy says with a small smile. 

Daphne returns the smile, then turns and heads toward their dormitory. Pansy picks her quill back up and finishes her letter. Once it’s done, she stretches in her chair and runs her finger over her golden words. 

Only a week left. 

Seven days before she finds out if she stands any chance with the girl she’s absolutely, wildly in love with. 

Merlin, she hopes she’s Hermione’s type. 

***

Monday morning finds Pansy seated beside Hermione in Potions. It’s the first time they’ve seen each other since the incident on Friday, and if the slightly awkward good morning Hermione had muttered as she took her seat was anything to go by, it’s clear she’s still feeling a bit off over their encounter in the library.

“Have a good weekend?” Hermione asks as they wait for Snape to arrive. Her voice a bit higher than usual and there’s already a small flush on the back of her neck.

Pansy nods as she drags her gaze away from the flush and up to Hermione’s eyes. “I did. Though I let Daphne wreck a perfectly good Hogsmeade trip with a visit to Madam Puddifoot’s,” she says as lightly as she can manage. She wants to put Hermione at ease and show her that she’s not harboring any discomfort toward her. “How that saccharine place stays in business, I’ll never know.” 

Hermione seems to relax just a bit at Pansy’s tone. “I’ve heard Dumbledore’s particularly fond of it.” As she pulls out her Potions book, she adds, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was singlehandedly keeping it afloat.” 

“Ah. Stands to reason. He does lack taste, after all.”

Hermione looks toward Pansy swiftly. “No, he doesn’t,” she says. She seems to completely forget about whatever self-conscious feelings she’s been having as she gears up to defend their headmaster. 

“Please. It’s clear Gryffindor is his favorite house.”

“It…what?” Hermione asks, her brow furrowing with confusion. “No, it isn’t. He treats every house equally.” 

Pansy snorts and quirks an amused eyebrow. “Come off it. You know that’s not true.”

“It is!”

“It’s not. He gave you the House Cup first year.” 

“He did not give it to us! We earned it!”

Pansy takes a moment to appreciate the fire flashing in Hermione’s eyes, the spots of color high on her cheeks, and the rapid rise and fall of her chest.

Merlin, she’s attractive when she’s angry. 

Eventually, she manages to drag her attention back to the present conversation and says, “by breaking dozens of school rules?”

“By…” Hermione trails off with a faraway look in her eyes, as if she’s replaying the details of that night right then and there. Then shakes her head. “We didn’t break dozens of school rules,” she eventually grumbles.  

“Three students out well past curfew,” Pansy says, ticking it off on a finger. “That’s thirty points lost right there. Breaking into an off-limits area is at least fifty points, so you’re already up to eighty.”

“I—”

“I’ve even heard a rumor that you used a Full Body-Bind on Longbottom to go off on your little quest, and as the Head Girl should know, using magic against another student is an automatic fifty points.” Pansy taps a finger thoughtfully against her chin and says, “actually, refresh my memory, will you? How many points do we deduct when a student uses a curse against another student?”

Hermione flushes darker. “I—”

“Oh, that’s right! I think it’s actually a hundred points. Plus a detention.”

Yes, but—”

“And not to mention your actions potentially endangered the entire student body.”

Potentially,” Hermione says triumphantly, pointing a finger at Pansy as if the word is some kind of victory. “But the entire student body would be decimated had we not intervened. The entire Wizarding world would be decimated.” 

Pansy scoffs. “Oh, please. The Wizarding world would have been fine. The only reason it was ever in danger in the first place was because of you three.”

Hermione gapes at her in complete and utter shock. “That is not true!”

“Isn’t it?” Pansy asks lightly. “Because from what I’ve heard, Quirrell was having an awfully hard time getting the stone out of the mirror before Potter stumbled upon the scene to lend a helping hand. Very kind of him,” she adds with a smirk.

“I…how did you know that?” Hermione asks with wide eyes, clearly stunned by Pansy’s in-depth knowledge of that long-ago night.

“Weasley’s a very boastful and a very loud drunk,” Pansy says with a shrug. “Maybe you should tell him not to shout your heroics all over the castle if you want to keep them private. And anyway, my point is, you should have lost at least one-hundred and eighty points that night. Probably more. Instead, Dumbledore played favorites and gave you enough points to secure the Cup. Ergo Gryffindor is his favorite house. Ergo…poor taste.”

“He didn’t give us points!”

“Really? You think fifty points for a game of chess is reasonable?” Pansy shakes her head. “Absolutely mental. By that logic, I should have earned fifty for the perfect game of Gobstones I played second year. But you tell yourself whatever you need to in order to justify a mad system that pits students against one another.” Pansy’s aware that she’s parroting Daphne’s long-held complaint against house points, but it’s not like she disagrees. 

“I…” Hermione shakes her head, bewildered. Finally she says, “it was a good game of chess!” 

Pansy stares at Hermione for a moment. Suddenly, her lips twitch. 

Hermione notices the subtle movement and her eyes narrow. “Pansy…” 

“No, right. It was a good game of chess that absolutely deserved fifty house points. That doesn’t sound mad at all.” Pansy’s lips twitch again. She glances down at Hermione’s mouth and notices the slightest hint of a smile lurking there, and just the sight alone is enough to make Pansy break out into a full grin. 

Hermione shakes her head and after fighting against it for a moment, she finally allows her own smile to fill her face. “Oh, fine. Maybe he plays favorites. Happy now?”

“Positively ecstatic, thank you.”

Hermione rolls her eyes, then says, “but that said, it was a good game. McGonagall enchanted the board, so technically, Ron beat a professor.”

Pansy snorts. “Or maybe McGonagall’s just absolute shit at Wizard’s Chess. Honestly, if I was defeated by an eleven-year old, I’d retire. No, that’s too tame. I’d change my name, flee the country…” 

“Prodigies do exist, you know,” Hermione says, cutting Pansy off.

“If you’re seriously about to make an argument than Ronald Weasley is a prodigy in anything, I’m going to have to hex my own ears off.”

Hermione just shakes her head, but then she smiles at Pansy fondly and with far too much warmth shining in her eyes.

Pansy returns the smile and is about to let her gaze linger when she hears Daphne’s voice in her head saying something about pathetic attempts at foreplay. Quickly, she drops her gaze and leans down to get her book. When she straightens back up, she asks, “and how was your weekend?” as casually as she can manage.

“Oh. Very nice, thank you.”

“Mm. I suppose it’s difficult to beat a Hogsmeade weekend.”

Hermione hums, then slowly says, “to tell you the truth, I almost wish it hadn’t been a Hogsmeade weekend.”

“Oh? Why?”

“I…I think I could have met my parchment pal yesterday if it hadn’t been for the Hogsmeade trip.”

Pansy’s breath catches at the quiet admission and she bounces a foot restlessly, trying to decide how to reply. “Oh?” she asks, then she immediately winces. She was trying to sound only vaguely interested, but her voice came out a good two pitches higher than normal.

Luckily, Hermione doesn’t seem to notice. “We’ve made plans to meet next Sunday,” she says, absently sweeping a long finger against the stone tabletop.  

“Oh,” Pansy says again, this time making a concerted effort to keep her voice at a normal pitch. She taps a finger against her Potions book, then hesitantly says, “and are you…excited?” 

“I am. But…a bit nervous, too.”

“Stands to reason,” Pansy says, smiling a bit. At least they’re having the exact same emotions about this whole "meeting in person" thing. Then, she gives Hermione a sidelong grin and says, “after all, it could still be Goyle who shows up.”

“Unless Goyle has somehow managed to get his monthlies, I think I’m safe.”

“Oh, that’s right. It’s a woman,” Pansy says. A sneaky, mischievous idea pops into her head, and she idly traces the title of her Potions book. Snape seems to be later than usual today, so she desperately hopes she’ll have the time to pull this off. “This coming Sunday, you said?” she asks. Hermione hums in confirmation, and Pansy schools her features into something vaguely confused and somewhat surprised. “Huh.”

Hermione looks over at her. “What?”

“No, it’s…it’s nothing.”

Hermione’s eyes narrow and she folds her arms across her chest. “What’s nothing?”

“Really, I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m probably wrong.”

“About…?”

“Honestly, it’s nothing.”

“Pansy…”

Pansy theatrically wilts, then says, “I really shouldn’t tell you this. But it’s just…” she bites her lip nervously, then says, “I overheard that…that Millicent was excited about something happening this coming Sunday.” She delivers the line hesitantly, like she’s worried about upsetting Hermione.

But Hermione doesn’t seem upset at all. Instead, she simply rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “Oh, ha-ha. Very funny. If it’s not Goyle, then it must be Bulstrode. You’re hilarious,” she adds dryly.

Pansy quickly shakes her head and looks at Hermione with earnest eyes. “Really! She is excited!”

“Of course she is.”

“No, I…” Pansy twists around to Millicent’s table behind her. “Millicent,” she whispers. “Millicent.”

Millicent is resting her head on her fist as she idly spins a knife on the table in front of her, but at Pansy’s whisper, dark brown eyes flick up and she lifts an eyebrow.

“You’re excited about this Sunday, right? It’s going to be a big day for you?” Pansy asks, banking on the fact Millicent is actually looking forward to the idiotic Slytherin arm wrestling championships that are coincidentally being held this Sunday.

“Yes,” Millicent says flatly. “I’ve been waiting for it for ages.” She’s a woman of few words so mercifully, she doesn’t elaborate. Pansy grins at her, positively delighted that she’s unwittingly played her role so perfectly. She makes a mental note to treat Millicent to a whole load of those awful acid pops she seems to enjoy so much, then, she turns back to Hermione.

By some miracle, Pansy manages to keep herself from laughing out loud at the sight before her.

The other witch is still staring at Millicent with her mouth hanging open and fear dawning in her hazel eyes. Her face looks pained and drawn, and her fists are clutching tightly at her robes. After a moment, she turns to Pansy and shakes her head a bit desperately, clearly incapable of forming words at the moment.

Pansy clamps her lips together as she surveys Hermione. Perhaps she should feel guilty about putting her through this, but Merlin, is this prank worth it. And anyway, after everything is out in the open, she’ll be sure to make it up to Hermione. She’ll buy her a book or make her sticky toffee pudding or try to have an actual conversation with Weasley. 

(Maybe not that last one.)

Anyway, she will make it up to her. But for right now, she’s going to enjoy this to the fullest.

“I’m sorry,” Pansy says with a small, pained wince. “Though I suppose that does explain why I’ve seen her hunched over her parchment so often…”

Hermione’s eyes grow ridiculously wider at Pansy’s newly offered information. “No, I…no. No, I’d know if it were…I mean, it can’t be…” Her protestations fade away as she looks wildly back at Millicent. 

“I suppose she’s just more comfortable pouring her soul out over parchment. Makes sense, really. She’s always been a broody sort. I’d expect there’s loads of deep thoughts lurking about in her mind.” 

“I…”

“But you like her over parchment, right?” Pansy asks encouragingly. “So it doesn’t really matter if she’s…well…y’know,” she finishes, glancing back at Millicent. 

Millicent’s right hand is now splayed on the table. She’s holding the short, sharp knife in her left and stabbing it between the fingers of her right hand as quickly as she can with a look of deadly concentration on her deeply furrowed brow. 

Pansy turns back to Hermione, who’s now staring openly at Millicent with fear dancing in her eyes. “And look, she’s handy with a knife,” Pansy says, “so…at least you’ll always feel safe around her?”

Hermione manages to tear her eyes off of Millicent once more and she turns to Pansy. “I…I…” she shakes her head, then whispers, “do you think it’s really her?”

Pansy shrugs. “Could be. But maybe not. Loads of things happen on the weekends. Maybe she’s excited for something else.”

“Can you find out?” Hermione asks a bit desperately. 

“I’ll try, but I can’t make any promises. She’s notoriously tight-lipped, our Millie,” Pansy says, almost cheerfully.

Hermione nods, looking a bit dazed. “Right. Right,” she says, almost to herself. “Well, if it’s…if it’s Bulstrode, then…then that’s…that’ll be…”

“That’ll be…?” Pansy prompts with interest.

“Fine,” Hermione says, her voice breaking on the word. Then, she nods and bites her lower lip. Concern is still etched on her face, but she’s doing a decent job of looking resigned to the news. “It’ll be fine,” she says, this time with more conviction. “Because I know what’s in my parchment pal’s heart and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

Pansy opens her mouth to agree, but she’s distracted by a shout of pain from behind her. She glances over her shoulder to see Millicent, bleeding profusely from her index finger and glaring at the knife in her left hand. Pansy’s about to ask if she’s alright, but before she can, Millicent abruptly picks up the knife and bends it against the table until the blade breaks off. She pounds the handle with her fist a few times, then sweeps both the blade and the handle from the table in one clean motion. Pansy watches with interest as the pieces smack against the stone wall, then drop to the ground with a clatter. Millicent spares a final dark look toward the discarded knife. Then, she stands up, pops her bleeding finger into her mouth, and stalks off toward the stone basins to wash up.  

Pansy turns back to Hermione who’s been watching the display with a queasy kind of horror on her face. “That’s all that matters,” Pansy echoes, fighting against the grin that so desperately wants to break free. 

Hermione opens and closes her mouth a few times wordlessly, and Pansy has to lift a hand to cover the lower half of her face. 

Fuck, she's enjoying this.

But even though there’s a part of Pansy that wants to drag this out for the next six days, to watch Hermione gaze at Millicent with a mixture of revulsion and horror, she reluctantly decides that she’s had her fun. Because frankly, she doesn’t want Hermione to go into Sunday absolutely dreading what she might find.

After all, Pansy’s reformed.

She’s only a little bit cruel nowadays. 

She lowers her hand from her face and turns to Hermione with wide eyes. “Oh! I’ve just remembered. There’s an arm wrestling competition in the Slytherin common room this coming Sunday. I think Millicent’s entered in it,” she adds lightly.

Hermione’s head whips around to Pansy, and Pansy tries desperately to keep her lips from twitching. 

“Perhaps that’s what she’s excited for?” Pansy asks, refusing to make eye contact with Hermione. She knows her eyes are shining with glee and she can feel the corners of her mouth lifting up against her will. If she looks at Hermione, she knows she’ll burst into laughter.

“Pansy Parkinson,” Hermione hisses, her voice low and furious. “Of all the deceitful, dirty tricks…”

Pansy finally turns to face Hermione. Her hazel eyes are hard and she looks positively outraged. “You knew about that tournament, didn’t you?” Hermione asks, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“I…may have been aware of it, yes,” Pansy says diplomatically. Then, she loses the fight and grins at Hermione. “But Merlin, the look on your face!” She can’t help the laughter that shakes her shoulders as she remembers the absolute horror lingering in Hermione’s eyes. “Sorry!” she says, lifting her hands in a placating gesture when Hermione’s glare darkens. “Sorry, I…that was a bad thing to do,” she says seriously as she fights to control her face. “But look on the bright side! At least now you know that even if you don’t like the person who shows up on Sunday, it could always be worse.”

Hermione looks up at the ceiling and shakes her head. Then she sighs and says, “I suppose that’s true. But don’t think for a moment that I’m going to let you get away with this little trick,” she adds, looking back to Pansy with a raised eyebrow. “I’ll have my revenge.” 

“Ooh, revenge from a Gryffindor. I’m trembling,” Pansy says with a smirk. “What are you going to do, drown me in a tub of kittens?” 

Hermione rolls her eyes again, but this time when she looks at Pansy, it’s with those same fond eyes and that same small smile that she’s never seen given to anybody else. 

“You’re awful, do you know that?” Hermione asks, but there’s no animosity in her voice. Just exasperated fondness.  

Awful good at practical jokes? Yes. Yes, I am.”

Before Hermione can reply, though, Snape brushes past their table on his way to his desk. 

“Merlin, look who finally decided to show up,” Pansy mutters, smiling when she hears Hermione chuckle beside her.

Once Snape arrives at his desk, he doesn’t bother saying a word to anyone. He simply lifts his wand and summons a variety of ingredients, opens his book, then turns to face the class with his standard frown already in place. 

“Oh. Oh, no,” Hermione murmurs quietly beside Pansy. Pansy turns her eyes from Snape’s face to find Hermione surveying the ingredients with panicked eyes and flushed cheeks. But before she can ask what’s wrong, Snape clears his throat.

“Pearl dust, fire seeds, fairy wings, rose oil, Valerian sprigs. Who can tell me what we’re brewing today?”

Oh, no

Pansy’s quite good at potions and now that she’s looking at the ingredients spread across Snape’s desk, she recognizes them immediately.

“Amortentia,” she murmurs, a knot tightening in her stomach. 

“Correct. Well done, Miss Parkinson. Five points to Slytherin. What do you know about Amortentia?” he asks. His dark eyes stay trained on her face, and Pansy forces herself to swallow around the nervous lump in her throat before replying. 

“It’s the most powerful love potion in existence,” Pansy says. “It causes intense infatuation or obsession in the drinker.”

“Correct. Another five points to Slytherin. And what of its smell?”

Pansy bites her lip, then very hesitantly says, “the steam it gives off, it…it smells differently to each person. It takes the scent profile of whatever or…or whoever you’re attracted to,” she adds, noticing as Hermione immediately stiffens beside her. 

“Well done, Miss Parkinson. Another five points for a thorough reply.” He sits down at his desk and says, “you’ll find the instructions in your books on page five-hundred and twelve. Slytherins will collect the ingredients. Gryffindors will be behind the cauldron. If you have any questions, I suggest you read your book,” Snape says with a sneer. “If you still have questions, silently raise your hands and I shall assist you.”

Pansy glances at Hermione and murmurs, “I’ll…I’ll just gather the ingredients, shall I?”

Hermione nods back. “Right. Yes, you…you do that, and I’ll…I’ll…” she gestures at the cauldron. “I’ll be here.”

Pansy nods, then quickly slides from her stool, turns on her heel, and starts toward the ingredients cupboard. 

Of all the bloody potions to have to brew today, why did it have to be Amortentia?

As she gathers their ingredients, she tells herself it’ll be fine. So she’ll smell Hermione’s scent in her cauldron. So what? It’s not like Hermione herself will know that. And anyway, she can always lie and say it smells like oranges and rain, or some other ridiculous combination of scents. 

It’ll be fine. All she has to do is play it cool and not let on that she’s desperately in love with Hermione. 

Easy.

When she returns to their table, Hermione is reading over the steps in her Potions book. She looks up as Pansy deposits the ingredients and manages to smile. “It’s a fairly standard potion. Some of the stirring gets tricky later on, but we should be able to manage.”

Pansy nods and takes her seat again. She exhales slowly and tells herself this is just another day in Potions. Nothing strange about it. The best thing to do is to act natural. “I’d imagine the only difficult part for you will be smelling Millicent in it,” Pansy says with a small smirk as she uncaps the rose oil.

Good. A joke. That’s normal. 

Hermione seems to relax a bit at the quip and she scoffs as she lights their cauldron. “I wouldn’t even know what she smells like.”

“Blood and violence,” Pansy says as she carefully measures out three teaspoons of rose oil. Then she cocks her head thoughtfully and adds, “and strawberries.” 

Hermione scoffs as she adjusts the flame, then looks up swiftly, as if something’s just occurred to her. “Speaking of blood and violence, though,” she murmurs. “I had an owl back from my mum this morning. She said she’d find a wire today and send it as soon as possible.”

Pansy’s heart skips a beat at the rapid development. She won’t be seeing her father again until the end of term so she still has time to plan and prepare. But whenever she thinks about what she’s going to attempt, it makes her feel a bit sick. 

She fights past the feeling, leans past Hermione to deposit the rose oil, and says, “it’s not expensive, is it? I don’t want your mum to have to pay for my family dysfunction.”

Hermione shakes her head as she reaches for the bottle of fire seeds. “No, it shouldn’t cost much,” she says, uncapping the bottle and picking out a handful of seeds. “And even if it does, my mum won’t mind. She likes helping people.”

Pansy hums. “Ah. So she’s where you get it from, then?”

“I suppose so,” Hermione says with a smile as she crushes four fire seeds with the back of a knife. 

“Well, for now, you’ll have to pass along my gratitude. But eventually, I’ll find a way to pay her back.”

Hermione snorts as she deposits the fire seeds into the cauldron. “With what? Galleons? I’m afraid that’s just Monopoly money to her.”

“I’ve no idea what that is,” Pansy says as she skims the list of steps in her book. “But no, not with Galleons. With Muggle money.”

“Oh? And how do you plan on getting your hands on that?” 

“I’ll steal it,” Pansy says simply. But before Hermione can reply, Pansy looks up from her book, leans closer, and conspiratorially whispers, “I have it on good authority that Muggle banks have piss-poor security. Not a dragon to be seen.”

Hermione laughs in surprise as she reaches for a spoon. “I don’t know if I’m touched by the offer or horrified by the thought,” she says as she slowly stirs their potion clockwise, lifting the spoon every four stirs. 

Pansy smiles fondly at the sound of Hermione’s laugh, then she says, “but really. I don’t know how to repay you or your mum, but I will find a way.”

“You don’t have to repay either of us.”

“I do.”

“You don’t.”

“I do.” Pansy reaches for a Valerian sprig and fidgets with it. “Because if I don’t, then this whole thing is unbalanced. I can’t just take from you and give nothing in return.”

Hermione takes the spoon out of the cauldron and frowns at Pansy. “You know that’s not true, don’t you?”

Pansy snorts dryly. “Isn’t it? You’ve somehow forgiven me for being a complete bitch for years, you’ve dedicated your days and nights to help me take down my father, Merlin, you’ve even brought your mum in on it…”

“Yes but—”

“You’ve taught me to be a better person. I mean…” Pansy breaks off and flushes a bit as she stares at the Valerian sprig. “You make me want to be a better person. You challenge me. You make me think about things in new ways, and you push me in ways no one ever has before. You sharpen me, you…you…” she stares at the table and whispers, “the way you look at me…you make me feel like I’m somebody worthwhile. Like there’s more to me than the person I was. You make me feel…” Pansy trails off. The word whole is on her lips, but she catches it just in time, remembering that she had expressed the same sentiment via parchment not long ago. Finally, she looks up at Hermione. “You make me feel…things I’ve never felt before,” she whispers, letting herself be as honest as she possibly can without coming right out and saying she’s in love with the other witch.

“Pansy…” Hermione breathes, her eyes wide and full of some unfamiliar, beautiful emotion.

“So when I say I want to pay your mum back, it’s because I have to,” Pansy hurries on quickly. “I have to know that you’re getting something out of this. That I’m not just this weak, sniveling person who spent seven years hurting you, only to graduate to using you. I can’t do that. You deserve so much more than that,” Pansy whispers, low and fierce. 

Hermione puts the spoon down and looks at Pansy. “Do you really think that you haven’t given me anything?”

Pansy shrugs miserably. “Yes? I mean, aside from sleepless nights, a massive headache you didn’t need, and perhaps access to my dragon.”

“Pansy…”

“Oh, and the occasional pear drop.”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “Pansy. You’ve given me more than that.” 

Pansy gives a small, humorless snort. “Like what?”

Hermione drops her eyes and gently rocks the spoon back and forth on the table with a small frown on her face. She’s quiet for a long while, and just when Pansy’s about to tell her she doesn’t have to try and think of anything just to spare her feelings, Hermione exhales slowly. “You’ve given me strength in a time when I needed it most,” she murmurs quietly. “You’ve shown me what it’s like to display bravery, even when the easier thing would be to run and hide. You’ve given me hope, you’ve given me encouragement. You helped me accept myself,” she adds, raising fervent eyes to Pansy. “You’ve taught me to stay strong and you’ve reminded me to believe in the courage of my convictions, even in the face of adversity, you…you…” Hermione trails off and bites her lower lip as she stares down at the table, and after a long moment, she whispers, “you make me laugh.”

It’s by far the simplest admission, but the way Hermione says it makes it sound like it’s the most important thing in the world, and Pansy holds her breath as she waits for her to continue. “You make me laugh and you make me feel like I’m interesting and like you care about everything I have to say.” She raises her eyes to meet Pansy's once more, and Pansy's struck by the same, unfamiliar emotion lingering in her gaze. “You make me happy," Hermione says. "You make me so happy. And when I’m with you, it’s…it’s…” she shakes her head slowly and says, “it’s like I forget about everything else in the world.” 

The last bit of Hermione’s whispered confession hits Pansy hard, and she has to blink quickly to fight back the tell-tale moisture gathering at the corners of her eyes.

It’s not that it’s a surprise that Hermione feels this way—they’ve spent countless hours together by this point, and it’s clear that they both delight in each other’s company. But even so, Pansy had always felt like she was fighting against her other self. That no matter what she did, or no matter how close she grew to Hermione, there would always be a part of the other girl that was thinking about her bard. 

So to hear Hermione admit that her parchment pal wasn’t on her mind when they were together? It’s perhaps the best thing Hermione could have possibly said to her.

Pansy swallows past the lump in her throat, but before she can say anything in return, Hermione hurries on with a bright flush on her cheeks, clearly embarrassed by her unexpected vulnerability. “And you’ve shown me that nothing is impossible. You’ve shown me that two people who hate each other can become friends, against all the odds. That a little girl who grew up in a nightmare can fight back and flourish. You’ve shown me that a full and happy life is something I can have. And of course,” Hermione says with a small smile, “you’ve shown me that worthwhile things rarely come easily.” 

“I…I suppose that’s true,” Pansy says, hesitantly returning the smile with one of her own. 

“I know it’s true. You’ve given me so much, Pansy,” Hermione says, her voice low and adamant. “Don’t ever think that you haven’t.”

“I…thank you,” Pansy says, blinking away the tears that are still lingering in her eyes and threatening to fall at any moment. She’s unable to find words to convey what Hermione’s speech had meant to her, and she has a feeling that if she were to try, she’d end up sobbing in the middle of Potions. 

But Hermione must notice her emotional reaction, because she simply says, “of course” with overly fond eyes. Then, she squeezes Pansy’s hand one time underneath the table and lets her thumb trail over the skin of Pansy’s hand for just a moment. The simple gesture makes Pansy’s breath catch in her throat, but she somehow manages to keep herself somewhat collected under Hermione’s gaze. After a moment, the other witch releases her hand and reaches for the wooden spoon again. She resumes stirring as if nothing had happened, but there’s still a tell-tale flush spread across her cheeks. 

Pansy has an uncomfortable feeling she’s sporting a matching one.

They work in silence for a moment or two when suddenly, a devious smile flickers to Hermione's face. “You know,” she says casually, “there’s one other thing you gave me that I forgot to mention.”

“Oh?”

Hermione hums and nods. “If it hadn’t been for your encouragement, I might have strung Ron along even longer. So I suppose I have you to thank for our friendship staying intact.”

Pansy’s hand freezes over a bunch of Valerian sprigs and she looks to Hermione. There’s an infuriating smile flickering around the corners of her mouth and Pansy shakes her head at the sight. “You’re telling me that my advice is the only reason why Weasley’s still darkening your doorstep?” 

“Mm. If it weren’t for you, he might be out of my life forever.” 

“Huh.” Pansy looks down at the table and then back at Hermione. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to finish this potion on your own.”

“Why?” Hermione asks, removing the spoon from the potion once more.

“Because I need to find a Time-Turner to stop myself from ever giving you advice.”

Hermione laughs as she reaches for a shaker of pearl dust. “Oh, don’t be like that! Just admit it…you like Ron.”

Pansy tosses nine Valerian sprigs in the stone mortar in front of her and picks up the pestle, grinding the poor plant harder than necessary. “I thought we were done saying cruel things to each other,” she says.

“It’s not cruel! You like Ron and wanted him to be happy,” Hermione says, shaking the pearl dust container into the potion six times, then adjusting the flame. “That’s honestly very sweet of you.”

“If McGonagall gave a Time-Turner to a thirteen year-old, surely she’ll give one to me,” Pansy mutters.

“And what’s more, I think you and Ron could be friends.”

“I mean, I’ll be nineteen soon. I’d imagine I’m responsible enough.” 

“If you play your cards right, maybe one day Mrs. Weasley will invite you to the Burrow for Christmas.”

“Or I could just Obliviate myself. I’ve never tried a Memory Charm, but how hard could they be?”

“She’ll knit you a jumper and everything. A lovely, hand-made jumper with a green P, right on the front.”

“Best to just Obliviate everyone at Hogwarts and live the rest of my days somewhere far away from here.” 

Hermione grins broadly and adds another four shakes from the pearl dust jar, then begins stirring rapidly. “Don’t Obliviate yourself.”

“I’ve already made up my mind. There’s no stopping me.” 

“Oh? What if…” Hermione bites her lip and lowers her eyes. “What if I told you someone would miss you very much if you did?” she asks quietly, turning to look at Pansy with a surprisingly timid gaze.

Pansy puts down the pestle and stares at Hermione for a moment. Something delightfully warm spreads through her chest at the quiet question and the accompanying look, and after a moment she says, “fine. I won’t Obliviate myself.”

“Excellent!” Hermione says brightly, turning back to the cauldron. “Because Ron really would miss you.”

Pansy huffs and glowers at Hermione. “Merlin, you’re impossible.” She passes the ground Valerian sprigs to Hermione, who adds them to the cauldron while she continues to stir.

“You’re no walk in the park,” Hermione replies easily. “You made me think I was in love with Bullstrode.” 

Pansy’s hand hesitates for a moment over a small container of delicate fairy wings at the words in love. She forces herself to take a deep breath and to not react, even though her heart rate has doubled in the space of a second. Instead, she opens the container with slightly shaky hands, removes four sets of fairy wings, then picks up a knife and starts to dice them. “Yes, but Millicent is tolerable. Weasley is—”

“One of my best friends?” Hermione puts in smoothly, raising an eyebrow as if she’s daring Pansy to finish the thought.

“…One of your best friends,” Pansy repeats. She continues to dice and mutters, “and a useless fucking orangutan” to herself. Then she raises her voice and says, “anyway, you’ve managed to talk me back into it, so I’m Obliviating myself again. I hope you’re happy.”

Hermione chuckles as she removes the spoon from the potion and turns down the flame. She measures out another spoonful of rose oil and says, “you know, even though Ron would miss you…”

Merlin’s pants…”

“I think…I think I’d miss you more.”

Pansy’s hand hesitates and she glances at Hermione to find her already watching her with a small, nervous smile. There’s a pretty flush on her cheeks and her eyes are timid and unsure, like she’s worried she just admitted to something she shouldn’t have. The sight alone makes Pansy want to toss the knife down, pull Hermione toward her, and kiss her senseless. She wants to kiss her in front of the entire bloody classroom so there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind how she feels about this exasperating, beautiful witch.  She wants to tangle her hands in Hermione’s hair and catch her surprised gasp in her mouth. She wants to push their cauldron aside, climb onto the table, and wrap her legs around Hermione’s waist. She wants to stay wrapped up in her until she’s lost all track of time, until the world around her melts away and all she’s left with is the taste and touch of Hermione.

Instead, she simply murmurs, “well, then. I suppose it’s a good thing you’re stuck with me.” They’re the same words she said in the library on Friday night, and Hermione’s eyes immediately soften with recognition.

“I suppose it is.” 

There’s a good chance they’d stay staring at each other if it wasn’t for a sudden splash from their cauldron. At the sound, Hermione tears her eyes away and quickly adjusts the flame. The potion settles again and she murmurs, “caught it just in time.” She glances toward Pansy and asks, “are the fairy wings ready?”

Pansy nods and scrapes the diced fairy wings into a clean mortar, then passes it to Hermione. She deposits the spoonful of rose oil into the cauldron followed closely by the fairy wings, then watches to make sure the potion turns a very pale pink. When it does, she picks up the spoon, turns up the flame, and starts stirring counter-clockwise. 

“Everything look okay?” Pansy asks.

Hermione nods. “I think so.” She pulls the spoon out, lets the potion settle, then starts to stir clockwise. “Anyway, now that we’ve covered that you and Ron are destined to be friends, we should get back to the conversation at hand.”

“I’m choosing to ignore the first part of that statement,” Pansy says. “And as for the second part…I’m afraid I don’t remember what the conversation at hand was.” It’s true—the gentle, fond banter had taken Pansy’s mind off of whatever conversation they had been having before.

“The plan,” Hermione says. She glances around and lowers her voice. “The wire.”

“Oh. Right,” Pansy says, feeling a bit foolish for forgetting.

In her defense, Hermione was really bloody distracting. 

Hermione begins to stir a bit faster over the bubbling cauldron, and Pansy can see the beginnings of sweat beading at the other witch’s temple. “Once my mum sends it, I’ll show you how to use it. I asked my mum to owl me some Sellotape as well. We’ll need a way to attach it to you without using magic.”

“Why?” Pansy asks. 

“I’m not certain, but something tells me direct magic might interfere with the wire’s capabilities, so…best not risk casting anything on it. But once you’ve learned how to use it, you can take it with you. And as soon as you get his confession on record…”

“I’ll floo to the Ministry, straight away.” 

Hermione nods. She takes the spoon out of the potion and turns the flame down one more time before she lifts her sleeve to wipe at her shining brow. 

Their potion is starting to take on the distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen, but it’ll be another minute or two before it’s completely done. In the interim, Pansy decides to ask a question that’s been lingering in her mind for days now.

“What if…what if Robards isn’t on the up-and-up?” she whispers, watching the milky bubbles grow and pop on the surface of the potion. 

“What do you mean?”

“I mean who’s to say my father doesn’t have some sort of dirt over the Head of the Auror Office?” Pansy asks, turning her eyes toward Hermione. “I know he has a contact in the Aurors office, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went all the way to the top.” 

Pansy half expects Hermione to scoff and brush off her fear, but instead, she hesitates and seems to think over the question with a faraway gaze. After a moment, her eyes clear and she looks back to Pansy. “Don’t go to Robards. Go to Tonks.”

“I—”

“She’s trustworthy, I promise. And she’ll know the right people. I’ll send her an owl tonight to tell her to expect you sometime over the summer. She’ll help you.” 

Pansy frowns, still worried. “I just don’t know if—”

Without any warning, Hermione reaches out and lays a hand on Pansy’s thigh, effectively freezing both her train of thought and her body. The only thing Pansy’s aware of is the warmth emanating from Hermione’s hand, and the curious way she seems to be able to feel it radiating over every part of her body.

“I know you’re worried,” Hermione says, staring at Pansy. “But Tonks is brilliant and she’ll see to it that you’re safe. I’d trust her with my life. And what’s more, she’d never let anything happen to someone I care about.”

“I…you…” Pansy blinks stupidly at the last part of Hermione’s sentence. “Okay,” she finally manages to whisper. “If you think she’s safe, then okay. I trust you.”

Hermione nods and holds Pansy’s eye for a long moment. Then, her gaze falls to her hand, still planted firmly on Pansy’s thigh. Her face flames and she quickly withdraws it. “Sorry,” she says, sounding completely flustered. “Sorry, I didn’t—”

Hermione grows rigid and stops speaking so abruptly that Pansy finds herself unnerved. As she surveys the other girl, she notices a list of troubling, physical changes—Hermione’s already-red face has somehow darkened, her eyes are wide, her pupils have slightly dilated, and her nostrils are flaring.

“Hermione?” Pansy asks tentatively. “Is something…I mean, are you—”

Pansy’s thought is swiftly interrupted by the most intoxicating aroma she’s ever smelled in her life. It’s something so rich, so enticing, and so incredibly familiar that she can’t stop herself from inhaling as deeply as she possibly can to try and fill every inch of her lungs with the irresistible scent.

She can pick out notes of a wood burning fire, the scent of dark, freshly roasted coffee, and a subtle hint of something heavy and sweet that reminds her of summertime air.

But all of the other scents pale in comparison to the one that comes through the strongest…

Hermione. 

It’s the scent of her shampoo, something fresh and clean, like a springtime rain.

It’s the scent of her soap, a delightful combination of apricot and vanilla. 

It’s the scent of her skin that night in the library. It’s the scent of her breath against Pansy’s lips. It’s all the scents that have been driving Pansy insane, concentrated and drifting seductively toward her.

Somehow, she manages to look away from the spiral steam rising from their cauldron to glance over at Hermione. Hazel eyes are slightly glazed and she’s taking deep, slow breaths, as if she can’t get enough of whatever scent is currently wafting toward her. Pansy’s eyes drift down to watch the steady rise and fall of Hermione’s chest, and she feels her own cheeks grow dark at the hypnotizing sight. After a long moment, she pulls her gaze back up to find Hermione’s eyes locked on hers.

“I…” Pansy clears her throat, dimly wondering if Hermione had caught her staring.

She wonders if Hermione had liked Pansy's eyes on her.

She pushes the thought from her mind and murmurs, “do you smell anything?” Her voice is surprisingly low, and if she wasn’t so bloody mesmerized by the scent in their cauldron, she’d want to smack herself for sounding so ridiculously aroused.

Bloody Amortentia.

Hermione’s dilated eyes drop down to Pansy’s lips as she speaks, and after a long moment, she manages to nod. “Yes. Yes, I…there’s something there,” she says breathlessly, her heavy gaze still trained on Pansy’s lips. “And you?”

Pansy nods slowly. “There’s…there’s something for me, too,” she says. “Coffee and…and a wood burning fire.”

Hermione finally raises her gaze and says, “that’s…that’s good. Parchment, for me,” she says. “Parchment and freshly mown grass and…” she trails off and Pansy watches as her dark flush spreads down her neck. “And some other things,” she says, looking strangely conflicted. 

“Right. Well, that’s…I mean…I suppose that means we did it right, then?” 

“I suppose so,” Hermione murmurs. 

They stare at each other for a long, charged moment. The air around them seems heavier somehow, and when Pansy absently licks her lips, Hermione’s gaze immediately drops back down to watch the movement. Her already blown pupils seem to darken just a bit more, and Pansy inhales sharply at the sight. 

In the very back of Pansy’s mind, she knows that kissing Hermione in the middle of Potions would be an absolutely mad idea. It’s absurd and reckless and so, so stupid. But with Hermione looking at her like she’s two seconds away from devouring her, it’s hard to make herself remember exactly why it’s a mad, absurd, reckless, and stupid idea.

After what feels like ages in some sort of heady, potent stasis, Hermione shakes her head a bit and takes a deep breath, as if she’s slowly coming back to herself. With the spell temporarily broken, Pansy leans back on her stool, feeling slightly dazed. She sees Hermione clench her fists a few times from the corner of her eye before she eventually stands from her stool.

“I’ll just…” Hermione nods at the spare ingredients. She’s refusing to look at Pansy, her face is flaming, and a muscle in her jaw is jumping.

“Yes. Yes, you do that, and I’ll just… I’ll bottle, shall I?” Pansy says, gesturing feebly toward an empty bottle on their table.

Hermione nods stiffly as she quickly gathers the ingredients. Once everything is secure, she walks away from their table quickly, headed toward the ingredient cupboard. Pansy watches her go, and as she turns back toward their cauldron, she catches Daphne’s eye from across the room. She’s grinning and when she notices Pansy’s gaze is on her, she mouths something that looks suspiciously like foreplay with a salacious wink. 

Pansy glares and lifts her middle finger.

She gathers a sample of their potion and screws the cap onto the bottle, then picks up her quill to label the sample. As she does, she lets herself think about Hermione’s reaction with a small smile. 

There was no way Hermione didn’t have feelings for her. Not after what had just happened. And she’d bet good money that the other things Hermione had smelled in the Amortentia were directly related to her. 

As she places the bottle back down on the table and waits for Hermione to return, she lets her smile grow wider and the ember of hope glow brighter than it ever has before. 

Merlin. She’s definitely Hermione’s type. 

***

“When do you think was the last time Dumbledore shagged someone?”

Pansy’s fork hesitates halfway to her mouth and she stares at Daphne. “Daphne. No. It’s far too early for this.”

“You’ve never thought about it? I mean, he’s been single for ages. Unless he has something secret on the side…” Daphne tilts her head and gazes up at the teacher’s table. “Do you think he’s ever shagged any of the other professors?”

Daphne. Too. Early.” 

It’s Wednesday morning and Pansy’s still in the process of waking up. All she wants is to enjoy her tea and her breakfast in peace and quiet, but Daphne’s having none of it. 

“I could see him shagging Trelawney, honestly.”

Pansy groans. “Why would you say that? I’m picturing it now. Is that what you wanted?”

Daphne grins and lifts a wicked eyebrow. “Whatever works for you, darling.” Then she looks back to the teacher’s table and frowns thoughtfully. “Do you know, I don’t know if any of our professors are in relationships! What if none of them have shagged anyone in years?”

“I’m going to sit at a different table,” Pansy mutters into her tea.

“Oh, please do,” Daphne says, momentarily distracted from her pondering. “I’d love to see the looks on Weasley and Potter’s faces if you sat down next to Granger right now.” 

“They’d probably Flipendo me across the room.”

“You should let them. Then Granger would have to tend to your wounds and sit by your bedside.” Daphne pops a grape into her mouth and says, “that’s how my favorite romance novel starts, you know. The Fever of St. Mungo’s.”

“Wonderful,” Pansy mutters dryly, setting her mug back down.

“Mm. And if things end the same way for you that they do for broody Healer-in-Charge Oliver Cole and Trainee Healer Amelia Ashworth, then…well, I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say you’ll end up very familiar with Granger’s…anatomy,” Daphne says, pronouncing the last word in a low, risqué manner and wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. 

Pansy buries her head in her hands and groans. “Why do you choose to be this way?” 

“What way? Utterly delightful?” Daphne asks lightly as she pops another grape into her mouth. “I’m afraid that’s just the way I was born. But anyway! Back to the matter at hand—Dumbledore and Trelawney. Yes or no?”

No.”

Daphne tsks then gazes up at the teacher’s table, her eyes flicking between Dumbledore and Trelawney. “No, I suppose you’re right,” she says with disappointment. Then, her eyes land on someone else at the teacher’s table and light up once more. “But Dumbledore and Hooch…”

Against her better instincts, Pansy lifts her head and manages a scoff. “Really? Hooch?”

“Why not? I bet she’d be commanding in the bedroom, and I bet that’s just the kind of thing Dumbledore’s into.”

Somehow, Pansy manages to control her overwhelming urge to gag. Instead, she leans forward and whispers, “you don’t think that Madam Hooch and I might have something in common?”

Daphne frowns and lets her gaze linger on Madam Hooch. After a moment, she looks back to Pansy with confusion on her face. 

Pansy rolls her eyes. “You don’t think she and I might have the same aversion to…to tallywhackers?” Pansy asks, flushing a bit as she uses Daphne’s gran’s absurd word. 

Daphne’s eyes grow wide and she looks back up at Madam Hooch. “Oh,” she says. Then she looks back to Pansy. “I didn’t even consider—!” Slowly, a sly smile comes to Daphne’s face and she says, “you’ve just given me much more to think about.”

“Oh, Merlin…”

“I mean, honestly! I would’ve exhausted myself eventually, but now…there are so many more opportunities.” 

“I’m never speaking again,” Pansy mutters, reaching for her mug.

“Excellent! More time for me to speak, then. You know how much I like that. Now! What do you think about Hooch and Pomfrey?” 

Pansy’s about to reply when mercifully, she hears the beating of wings from behind her. 

Saved by the Owl Post.

She twists around in her seat to watch hundreds of owls flood into the Great Hall, but before she can scan the ceiling in an attempt to see if any of the owls are familiar, she’s distracted by the Gryffindor table. 

More specifically, a pretty, brunette witch at the Gryffindor table. 

Hermione’s shaking out the Daily Prophet and skimming the front page with a small furrow on her brow, ignoring whatever story Harry is telling beside her. She lifts her mug and absently drinks from it as the frown on her face grows more pronounced at whatever she’s reading. Pansy finds the little furrow utterly charming, and before she knows it, she’s conjuring a terribly domestic scene in her mind. 

Hermione, in her pajamas, reading the Prophet on the couch with a cat or two for company while Pansy makes tea. 

Pansy placing the steaming mugs down on the coffee table, listening to Hermione rant about some article or another.

Pansy finally losing her patience, plucking the paper from Hermione’s hands, and tossing it aside.

A surprised look and an immediate objection lingering on Hermione’s lips. Pansy leaning down to swiftly kiss the objection away before she can vocalize it. Hermione huffing at first, but eventually, smiling into the kiss. 

An amused and exasperated murmur of “I was reading that, you know,” against Pansy’s lips. A replied murmur of “and now you’re not.” 

Hermione chuckling as she tugs Pansy down on top of her, all thoughts of the Prophet forgotten. Another kiss, this one longer, deeper, full of promise. A tongue slipping into Pansy’s mouth. The taste of toothpaste. Hands slowly pushing up the fabric of Hermione’s shirt. Long legs spreading slightly, allowing Pansy just enough space to bracket one of Hermione’s thighs with her knees. Cool fingers skimming bare skin. A thumb trailing over the soft slope of Hermione’s breast, lingering to swipe across an already-stiffened peak. Hermione’s back gently arching off the couch as her hands desperately find purchase in jet black hair. Pansy finally breaking their kiss to let her teeth slowly graze down the side of Hermione’s neck. The painful-pleasure of fingers tightening in her hair. Pansy pushing closer to suck on Hermione’s rapidly thrumming pulse point. A soft gasp that quickly turns to a moan when Pansy presses a thigh firmly against Hermione’s—

“It’s like you’re not even trying.”

Pansy startles and turns away from Hermione, who’s still reading the Prophet, to face Daphne. “What?” she asks a bit breathlessly, rubbing at her face and hoping she isn’t as red as she feels.

“Honestly, if she’s not staring at you, you’re staring at her. How you’ve never managed to coordinate your staring is beyond me, but like I said…the two thickest witches in the whole school,” Daphne finishes with a shrug as she takes a bite of toast.

Pansy rolls her eyes and opens her mouth to reply, but pauses when she notices an envelope lying just to the side of her breakfast plate. 

“When did this get here?” Pansy asks, picking it up and turning it over with a frown.

“Oh, I don’t know…sometime between the owls flying in and you undressing Granger with your eyes?”   

Pansy glares at her. “I wasn’t…” she trails off as she remembers the context of her daydream. “I mean…I…” she shakes her head and glowers at a smirking Daphne. “One of these mornings, I’m casting Silencio on you,” Pansy says darkly. Then, she drops her gaze back down to the envelope. 

“Expecting something?” Daphne asks.

“No. At least, I don’t think so,” she says as she studies her own name on the front of the envelope. It’s in her mum’s elegant handwriting, but she can’t think of the last time her mum had sent her a letter at Hogwarts. To be honest, she’s not sure if her mum has ever sent her a letter. 

She flips the envelope over and tears it open, pulling out one sheet of parchment. 

Pansy, 

It’s with a heavy heart that I must inform you of your grandfather’s passing. He died peacefully yesterday morning with your father by his side. I’m told he asked about you. I hope this provides you with some measure of comfort.

The funeral will be held Saturday at two o’clock. Your attendance is, of course, required, and we’ll expect you no later than Friday morning. Your professors have been informed of your absence, and you’re to return to Hogwarts on Sunday morning. 

Do make an effort to floo in for breakfast. 

Love,
Your Mother

There’s a postscript, hastily scribbled, as if it was a last minute addition.

P.S. I hope you’re well.

She looks up from the letter to find Daphne’s curious eyes on her. 

“Well?”

“My grandfather died,” Pansy says.

“Oh,” Daphne murmurs. She puts down her toast to give Pansy her full attention. “I’m sorry. Were you close?” 

Pansy shakes her head. “No, not at all. I only met him a few times and he was…” like my father, Pansy thinks. “He was severe,” she says carefully. 

Daphne nods. “Your father’s father, I take it?” 

“Mm.” Pansy folds the letter again and puts it back into the envelope. “They want me home for the funeral.”

“When?”

“This Saturday.”

“Oh,” Daphne says, looking surprised. “That’s soon.”

“It is,” Pansy says, frowning down at the table as something occurs to her. 

If Hermione’s mum owls the wire in the next three days, she could put the plan in motion sooner than expected. She could catch her father completely off-guard, extract a confession, floo to the Ministry, and once everything was over and done with, she could escape back to Hogwarts. 

She could take him down. She could take him down now.

It’s honestly a bit unsettling to Pansy to think about just how much she wants to take him down. A few months ago, all she wanted was to fly under the radar. To do what Slytherins do best and ensure both her safety and the safety of her loved ones above all else. But now, there’s this strange, burning desire, deep inside of her that’s been growing steadily as the days pass. It keeps her up at night, telling her to be brave, to fight back, to do what’s right, even if it’s scary.

(She has a sneaking suspicion a certain lionhearted Gryffindor has rubbed off on her.)

It’s honestly completely unlike her, but the stronger the desire gets, the more certain she is that some things are worth risking everything for. 

This is one of those things.

“Pansy? Are you alright?”

Pansy looks up to find Daphne’s eyes on her. She looks concerned, so Pansy quickly nods. “I’m fine. I’m fine, I just…”

“You’re worried about seeing him, aren’t you?”

“I…yes,” Pansy says slowly, gently fidgeting with the envelope. “I am. But if the plan works…if this wire can actually catch him, then—”

“Hang on,” Daphne says quickly. “You’re not going to try and catch him now, are you?”

“I mean…why not?” Pansy asks, feeling her pulse pick up at the thought. “What’s the point in waiting around for summer holiday?”

“Yes, but—”

“If I do it now, I’d catch him off-guard. He won’t expect me to be on the offensive, not when he’s given me a few days notice. And I wouldn’t have to stick around afterwards. I could come back here while the dust settles.”

“I suppose so, but…” Daphne runs a hand through her hair and shakes her head. “I don’t know. I don’t think you should.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want your mad father to hurt you?” 

Pansy shakes her head. “He won’t. He’ll have no idea.”

“You don’t know that. And even if you’re right, it’s still too dangerous.” 

“It’ll be dangerous whether I do it now or wait for summer.” 

“But—”

“And frankly, I’m driving myself mad thinking about the what-ifs. I don’t want to spend all of summer holiday in fear.” Pansy sets her jaw as conviction settles into her body. “I know it’s scary, but I just…I think this is the right time to strike.” 

“How can you think that? We don’t even know if this bloody Muggle thing works,” Daphne says. Anxiety is shining in her eyes and there’s a pleading note in her voice. “You can’t put your faith in a device you know nothing about!”

“Hermione said—”

“No,” Daphne says, cutting her off quickly. “Granger isn’t going to be the one using this bloody thing. You are. You’re the one who could get hurt. You’re the one who could wind up…” She trails off and shakes her head, looking at Pansy with desperate eyes. 

Pansy nods slowly. “I could,” she agrees. “But I’m running that risk either way.”

“You’re not.”

“I am. Every second he spends without facing repercussions is a second I’m in danger.”

Pansy—

“And I’m tired of it. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I thought I could pretend to be the same person I always was if it meant staying safe, but I just…I can’t do that. I can’t turn my back on what I know is right. I can’t be a part of Hermione’s life while pretending to support pure-blood supremacy. And I can’t let him get away with what he did.”

“And you won’t, but—”

“Daphne,” Pansy interrupts gently. “I know you’re scared. I am, too. But I’ve spent my entire life doing what’s easier instead of what’s right,” she says, flushing as a hint of shame creeps into her tone. “And that’s led to so many regrets. So many awful things I wish I could take back,” she adds, her mind flickering briefly to hazel eyes. “But even though I can’t change the past, I can change the future,” she says firmly. “So as much as I don’t want to risk my neck, I think I have to. I think it’s time I try and be brave. Someone needs to stop him, and it might as well be me.” Pansy can see Daphne gearing up to argue again, so she quickly adds, “and anyway, maybe it won't even come in time. Maybe we’re creating a load of drama for nothing.”

“Yes, but—”

“And aren’t you the one who wanted me to take him down?” Pansy asks, raising a challenging eyebrow. “I’m just following your directions.”

“I know, and I want you take him down, too. Of course I do, but I just…” Daphne exhales shakily and whispers, “I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Pansy’s eyes soften as she looks at Daphne. “I’ll be careful. I promise. If anything looks dangerous, I won’t do it.” Then, she cocks her head and says, “and anyway, do you honestly think I’ll ever leave you on your own? Merlin knows, with your personality, you’ll never make another friend in your life. I mean, who else would willingly put up with all your shit? I have to stick around. I’m all you’ve got,” Pansy says, flashing Daphne a fond smile.

Daphne snorts weakly. “I’m holding you to that,” she says, her eyes suspiciously misty. She sniffs a bit, then whispers, “you are all I’ve got, you know.”

Pansy frowns uncertainly, taken aback by the emotion in Daphne’s voice. “Daph…I was only joking,” she says, concern coloring her tone.

“I know you were, but…my parents are shit,” Daphne says with a small, resigned shrug. “My sister and I have never exactly seen eye-to-eye. Everyone else at this school drives me up the wall, and I just…I suppose at the end of the day, it’s true. You’re my family.” She fixes Pansy with a surprisingly earnest look and says, “and you’re kind of my favorite person in the world.”

Pansy feels her heart swell at the simply delivered truth, and she’s hit with a potent, overwhelming wave of love for her best friend. “Daphne…” she murmurs, blinking hastily, trying to keep hot tears at bay.

“So if you go and get yourself killed, I’m never forgiving you.”

Pansy gives a surprised laugh at how vehemently Daphne delivers her threat, then she nods and reaches across the table to grab her hand. “You’re kind of my favorite person in the world, too,” she says, her voice surprisingly thick. “And I promise you, I won’t get myself killed. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

Daphne squeezes Pansy’s hand and after a long moment, she lets it go to rub at her eyes. “Merlin, how utterly maudlin,” she says with a watery scoff. “See, this is why I just want to discuss who Dumbledore’s shagging. I leave you in charge of conversation one time and we end up pathetic, weepy messes.” Then, Daphne exhales sharply, straightens her shoulders, and says, “fine. As long as you promise you’ll be safe, then fine. You can do your mad plan. But you have to promise me you’ll be safe,” she adds, her blue eyes boring into Pansy.

“I promise. And anyway, like I said, the bloody thing might not even come in time, so we might just be borrowing trouble.” 

Daphne nods as she reaches for her long-forgotten toast. “I suppose so,” she says. “But I might make you take an Unbreakable Vow with me, just to be safe.” 

“You’re going to try and keep me safe by making me take a vow that might kill me? Seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it?”

“It’ll only kill you if you break it,” Daphne says. She wipes her mouth with a napkin, then says, “you know, on second thought, we won’t need the vow. Because if you break your promise and get yourself killed, I’ll just murder you myself.”

Pansy nods. “Completely reasonable.”

“I think so.”

Pansy spares her a smile, then she looks back down at the letter and takes a deep breath. Now that the prospect of bringing her father down is actually at hand, she feels…

Scared, yes. But more than that, she feels resolved to it. She wants to do the right thing. She wants to stop him from committing any more evil, unconscionable acts. She wants to keep both herself and the people she loves safe. She wants to finally get justice for her aunt. 

She wants to take him down. 

She really hopes they’re not just borrowing trouble. 

***

They’re not borrowing trouble. 

The wire is delivered Thursday morning and by Thursday night, post-patrols, Pansy and Hermione are staring at it in the silence of the library. 

“Merlin,” Pansy whispers, gazing at the strange, black device sitting on the table. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Hermione nods and glances at Pansy with worry in her eyes. “If you’ve changed your mind, I’ll understand,” she says hesitantly.

Pansy raises an eyebrow. “Oh? What happened to evil cowards shouldn’t prosper? Don’t let him win?” 

“I still believe that, I just…now it’s…it’s real,” Hermione says, looking back to the wire. “Now it’s real and now that I know you could get hurt, I…”

“I have to do this,” Pansy says quietly.

“You do,” Hermione says. “I know you do, I just…if you had told me a few months ago that I’d be terrified for your wellbeing, I’d have thought you were absolutely mad.”

“And now?” Pansy asks, tearing her eyes away from the Muggle technology.

“And now…I’m not sure I’ll think about anything else until you’re back,” Hermione murmurs. She gives a small laugh and says, “I’m not sure I’ll even be able to breathe until you’re back.”

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” Pansy asks, looking at Hermione with too-soft eyes. “So I suppose I’ll just have to hurry back. To you,” she adds quietly.

Hermione blinks a bit, seeming surprised at Pansy’s honest, earnest wording. “I…I guess you will.” Then, she runs a hand through her hair and quickly pivots their conversation. “By the way, I owled Tonks earlier today, so if things go according to plan, she’ll be expecting you.”

Pansy nods. “Thank you.”

“What time are you leaving tomorrow?”

“Nine o’clock,” Pansy says. “Think you’ll manage in Potions without me?” she adds with an impish grin.

“I’ll manage,” Hermione says, “but…I’ll miss you.”

Now it’s Pansy’s turn to blink at Hermione’s earnest words. “You will?” she asks with surprise. Hermione had joked about it earlier in the week, saying she’d miss Pansy if she were to ever Obliviate herself, but this doesn’t feel like a joke.

“I will. Quite a lot, if I’m being honest.” Hermione hastily tucks her hair behind her ears and says, “do you know, I never used to like Potions. But now…”

Pansy nods slowly as she thinks back to a long-ago letter that Hermione had sent as Robin, proudly declaring Potions to be her second least favorite course at Hogwarts. “What changed?” she asks, certain she already knows the answer.

“I don’t know. Perhaps I finally found the right partner,” Hermione murmurs, letting her warm gaze linger on Pansy for a long moment. 

And Pansy wants to savor this moment. She does. She wants to bask in the glow of Hermione’s bright, beautiful eyes. She wants to prolong it for as long as possible and remember it for the rest of her days. 

But she’s also a complete twat, so instead, she says, “wasn’t Weasley your partner? Before the switch, I mean?”

Hermione frowns a bit, clearly surprised by Pansy’s casual reply. “I…yes, he was. But…” her face clears and she rolls her eyes. “that’s not what I meant and you know it.”

“Oh? You hated Potions when you were partnered with Weasley, but you like it now that you’re partnered with me?” Pansy asks lightly, a devious smile playing on her face. “I mean, I’m no genius, but if the only thing changing is the company you kept, then perhaps it wasn’t the class you hated at all. Perhaps it was…?”

“You’re impossible,” Hermione says, reaching forward to pick up a long cord that’s trailing out of the device. “I liked working with Ron, but it’s just…” she frowns and winds the cord absently around her finger. “It’s different with you,” she says, gazing at the table, lost in thought. 

“Why?” 

“It…” Hermione shakes her head slowly. Her gaze is still on the table and she’s frowning a bit, like she’s trying to find the words to describe what she means. Finally, she sighs. “I can’t explain it. It just…is. I suppose I’m not making any sense,” she adds, glancing up at Pansy with a tiny wince.

“No. No, you’re…you’re making sense. It’s different with you, too,” Pansy says. She grips the arms of her chair tightly as she wills herself to stay somewhat collected. “You know, for a time, I was afraid that we’d end up hating each other again. I mean, with all the time we’ve been spending together. Potions, patrols…this,” Pansy says, gesturing vaguely toward the library. “I was so sure we’d eventually get sick of each other. But…” she shakes her head and looks up at Hermione. “You seem to be the only person I never get sick of. I can spend my entire day with you and when I go to sleep at night, I’m already looking forward to seeing you in the morning.” 

“Really?” Hermione whispers, her eyes wide.

“Really. And I’m sure you don’t feel the same way, but—”

“I do,” Hermione interrupts quickly. “I mean, I…I look forward to spending time with you, too. And I…I think about you,” she says, releasing the cord she's been winding around her finger. “I think about you quite a lot, actually.”

Pansy’s heart starts beating faster, and she decides to press her luck a bit. “Oh? I’m not sure your parchment pal would be pleased to hear that.”

The flush on Hermione’s neck slowly spreads to her cheeks and she exhales sharply. “No, I…you’re probably right.” Then she looks up at Pansy with concerned eyes. “I mean, not that I…not that I’m implying that I think about you like—”

“Hermione. May I ask you something?” Pansy says, cutting off the rambled excuses she’s sure are poised to fall from Hermione’s lips. 

“I…yes?” Hermione says, her eyes still wide and nervous. “Of course.” 

“Do you ever think about what could have been?”

Hermione’s brow furrows at the question. “What do you mean?” 

“Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes I find myself wondering…if I hadn’t been so completely vile to you for seven years…if we had just been friends all along…what would life be like?” She taps a finger against her arm rest as she thinks, then she says, “I wouldn’t have let anyone in Slytherin torment you, that's for bloody sure. I would’ve jinxed them for even looking at you the wrong way.”

“Oh?” Hermione asks, the concern slowly fading from her eyes. “I thought you liked to play by the rules. Avoid jinxes in the hallways, stay out of detention…all that rot.” She tilts her head and says, “what happened to the Slytherin self-preservation?”

“For you? I’d make an exception,” Pansy says, privately marveling at just how true that statement is. She’d make all sorts of exceptions for the girl sitting across from her. She’d break every rule in the book if Hermione needed her to, no questions asked.

“Threatening and chivalrous,” Hermione says with amusement. “I’d expect nothing less from my very own Slytherin knight in shining armor.” She drops her gaze to study the table again as she loses herself in thought, and after a moment, the corners of her mouth lift in a small smile. “I suppose I would’ve made waves being the only Gryffindor with a Slytherin friend. My whole house would have thought I’d lost my mind, but I wouldn’t care. I’d be too busy spending time with you.”

Pansy hums. “I’d show you all my favorite places around the castle.”

“And I’d show you all the best secret passages.”

“I’d tell you to get out of the library more often,” Pansy says with a sly grin.

“And I’d do you the favor of seriously considering your suggestion,” Hermione replies airily.

Pansy leans her head back to gaze at the ceiling, then she snorts a bit and looks back to Hermione. “I wouldn’t have dated Draco. I would’ve talked to you about it and you would have told me I was being a complete fool.”

“Maybe not in those exact words,” Hermione scoffs. “But I suppose you could have returned the favor and saved me some time and trouble with Viktor. I should never have agreed to go to the Yule Ball with him.” 

“The Yule Ball! Oh, Merlin, we would have had the best time at the Yule Ball,” Pansy says, slapping her hands down on the arms of her chair with excitement.

“Oh, no. No, it would’ve been miserable for you,” Hermione says with a small grimace. “I can’t dance. Not a step! I’m atrocious.”

Pansy scoffs automatically. “Anyone can dance.”

“I assure you, this isn’t false modesty. I genuinely can’t dance.”

“Well, then, that’s another thing we could change. I could teach you to dance.”

“I suppose if anyone could, it’d be you,” Hermione says unthinkingly.

Pansy cocks her head with immediate interest. “Why do you say that?”

Hermione’s eyes widen a bit as she seems to realize what she’s just said. “Oh, I…it’s not…” she lifts a hand and rubs at her cheek. “The Yule Ball,” she finally admits. “I…may have noticed that you were one of the only students in our year who could dance.” 

Pansy nods at the explanation. “My mother made sure I was trained, but it was all a waste—Draco stepped on my feet so many times that night, I could barely get my shoes off. And mind you, Draco’s mother made sure he was trained. He was just too embarrassed to look like he knew what he was doing so instead, he decided to trample on my feet to save his reputation.” Pansy shakes her head at the memory, then looks at Hermione with a small, devilish smile. “So…noticed me during the Yule Ball, did you?”

“I…I…no, I didn’t notice you, I just…” Hermione huffs impatiently and says, “you just…you looked like you were floating out there. I’ve never seen someone move so lightly on their feet and I just…” she trails off with a far-away glimmer in her eye, as if she’s replaying the resplendency of the Yule Ball right then and there.

“You just…wanted me to trip?” Pansy asks, completing Hermione’s unfinished thought.

“No. Well…maybe,” Hermione admits. “But if it’s any consolation, I certainly wouldn’t want you to trip now.”

“Thank you,” Pansy says. Then, she adds, “and for what it’s worth, I noticed you, too.” 

Hermione looks at Pansy, her eyes wide with surprise. “You did? Why? I can’t dance at all.”

“I never said I noticed your dancing. I said I noticed you.” 

Hermione blinks a few times, but before she can say anything, Pansy continues, “and anyway, my point still stands—anyone can dance.”

“I disagree. And you know how much I hate admitting to being incompetent at anything,” Hermione says. “But it’s the truth. There are some things you can’t learn in books and there are some people who just can’t dance.”

“Oh, I doubt that very much. In fact…” Pansy stands from her chair, walks around the table, and holds out a hand to Hermione. 

Hermione stares at the offered hand, then glances back up at Pansy’s face with a raised eyebrow. “Have you no consideration for your feet?” she asks dryly.

“They’ve been trod on before. They’ll manage,” Pansy says. “Now…Miss Granger,” she says, putting on a ridiculously posh accent and giving a low bow. “Would you do me the great honor of accepting this dance?”

Hermione rolls her eyes at Pansy’s display. “There’s no music.”

“We don’t need music.”

“I’ll feel ridiculous.”

“You won’t.”

“I will! I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Well, that’s obvious. I mean, you’re already doing an awful job.”

“What? I haven’t even done anything!” Hermione says, looking offended.

“Exactly. The first rule of dancing is to never keep your partner waiting.” 

Hermione’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “I feel like you’re making that up.” 

“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not,” Pansy says. Then, she wiggles her still outstretched fingers toward Hermione. “Care to find out what the second rule is?”

Hermione rolls her eyes once more, but pushes her chair back from the table. She glances at Pansy’s hand for a moment, then takes a deep breath and takes it. Pansy grins and tugs Hermione out of her chair, leading her toward an empty space in the library. Once she’s sure there’s enough space around them, she drops Hermione’s hand and turns to face her. 

“You know we’re supposed to be figuring out the wire,” Hermione says, giving Pansy an unamused stare. 

“And we will. But if I don’t teach you how to dance right now, it’s all I’ll be thinking about tomorrow. And I need to have my wits about me, so…” Pansy shrugs. “I’m afraid this has to happen.”

In all honesty, Pansy’s stalling. She doesn’t want this night to come to an end, and the sooner she figures out the wire, the sooner she’ll have to part ways from Hermione. And what’s more, even though she’s quite optimistic about her chances, there’s still a tiny part of her that’s worried this could be the last time she ever sees Hermione. 

She wants to leave them both with good memories, just in case.

She wants to make it count. 

Hermione sighs and crosses her arms over her chest. “Fine. But you’re going to regret this.” 

“We’ll see. Now!” Pansy says, clapping her hands together. “What do you know about the waltz? 

“It’s a dance,” Hermione says flatly.

“Nothing gets past the brightest witch of our age,” Pansy says brightly, grinning a bit when Hermione glowers at her. “It is. A ballroom dance in triple time,” she says.

“I have no idea what that means.”

“It means you feel it like this…one two three, one two three, one two three,” Pansy says, gently hitting her hand against her chest with the beat as she moves her feet in the simple box step.

Hermione watches the motion with a small frown. “I’m not going to be able to do that.”

“You know, one of the things I like most about you is your can-do attitude,” Pansy says with a smirk. Before Hermione can argue with her, Pansy says, “you’ll be able to do it. Just follow my movements.” 

Hermione’s frown deepens, but after a small hesitation, she very reluctantly starts mirroring Pansy’s motions and after a few clumsy tries, she manages to find her rhythm. Pansy grins and stops moving. “Well done! That wasn’t too hard, was it?” 

“No, I suppose not,” Hermione says as she stands still and faces Pansy. “Now can we get back to the task at hand?”

“Yes. But only after you’ve properly danced.”

“And what was it I just did?”

“You learned the ingredients to a proper dance. But you didn’t dance.”

“What on earth does that mean?” Hermione says, crossing her arms once more.

“It means what you just did was akin to lining up some potions ingredients on a table and saying you’ve brewed a potion.” Pansy shrugs. “You’ve got all the pieces, but you haven’t put them together yet.”

Hermione scoffs. “Well, it felt like proper dancing to me.”

“Merlin. That might be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“What do you mean?”

Pansy tilts her head up and studies the ceiling with a smile. “Proper dancing makes you feel like you’re flying,” she murmurs. “As if for one, breathless moment, you’ve managed to severe your ties to the earth and toss aside all your worries. It’s pure, unadulterated freedom. Like you’re floating on some invisible current and you never want to land.” She glances back down to find Hermione watching her in a sort of mesmerized way and she smirks. “Care to try?” she asks, holding her hand out once more. 

Hermione hesitates for a moment, then nods. She steps forward and takes Pansy’s hand, letting her gaze linger there for a moment. Then, she looks at Pansy. “I don’t know where to put my other hand,” she murmurs.

“My shoulder,” Pansy says, lifting said shoulder a bit to guide Hermione. She waits a moment for Hermione’s other hand to lightly flutter down to her shoulder before slowly winding her own right hand behind Hermione to rest at the small of her back. Gently, she pulls Hermione closer, and she can hear the moment the other witch’s breath catches just a bit. “Okay?” Pansy whispers as she watches Hermione’s face carefully. Hermione bites her lower lip, then nods, and Pansy exhales. “Right, then. I’ll lead,” she says. She’s glad she’s wearing heels today. With Hermione wearing flats, their heights are relatively even, so it won’t be too awkward. “We’ll start slow. Just remember the step you were doing before, okay?”

Pansy takes a step forward and Hermione takes a step back. “Good,” Pansy says. “Now your other foot.” She watches Hermione’s feet carefully as they go through the simple box step and after a few iterations, she brings her eyes up to her face. 

There’s a wrinkle of concentration between Hermione’s brows, and she has her lower lip between her teeth. “Don’t think so hard,” Pansy murmurs, drawing Hermione’s eyes to hers. “Just let yourself feel the beat. One two three, one two three, one two three…”

Hermione’s eyes stay on Pansy as she continues to count the beat aloud. After a moment, she can feel Hermione start to relax in her arms. The hand at her shoulder settles more firmly and her footsteps become more confident. “Good,” Pansy says. “I’m going to turn a bit on the next count. Just follow my lead.” 

It takes a few fumbling tries before Hermione lands the basic turn, but once she does, a brilliant grin spreads across her face. “Like that?” she asks, her eyes shining.

“Just like that,” Pansy says, turning them once more. She feels a slow smile spread on her face as she leans forward just a bit and says, “ready for the fun part?” 

“What’s the—”

Before Hermione can finish speaking, Pansy starts to slowly guide them around the room. She hears Hermione’s quiet murmur of surprise, and after a few slower rotations, Pansy picks up the pace, just a bit. Hermione is, as expected, a quick study, and she quickly adapts her steps to match Pansy. 

It only takes a few minutes before they’re whirling around the room together, lost in their own little world.

Pansy can’t take her eyes off of Hermione. She watches her face the entire time, noticing the way her eyes are sparkling and how her smile never leaves her face. Her cheeks are flushed with exertion and when she catches Pansy’s eyes, her smile grows even wider. 

She’s the most beautiful girl Pansy’s ever seen.

Pansy’s breath catches at the thought and as they twirl around the room, she feels a bit lightheaded. It’s strange—she’s danced with some of the finest partners in the Wizarding world. She’s danced with elegant, proper men in starched suit coats who lead with grace and fluidity and who have made her feel as if she’s flying across the room; she’s danced traditional folk dances with raucous boys, full of energy and mirth who make her feel dizzy with joy; she’s danced with stately older gentlemen who know how to make any girl feel like a princess. But somehow, in all her years of dance, she’s never had a partner that’s made her feel the way she does right now. Dancing with Hermione makes her feel something more than just freedom—it’s as if the entire world has faded away and all she’s aware of is the beat of her heart, the magic in the air, and Hermione, looking more radiant than Pansy’s ever seen her look before. They waltz about the room as if they’re floating on a cloud, and for a brief, fleeting moment, Pansy forgets the reason they’re here in the first place. She forgets the stress, she forgets the fear. Instead, the only thing she can think about is how this might be the most perfect moment of her life so far. How somehow, she and Hermione have managed to transform the plain, dark library into a dazzling, shimmering wonderland. How remarkably, Hermione, with her complete lack of experience, is the best dancing partner Pansy’s ever had. How for the first time, the warmth filling Pansy’s body has nothing to do with the effort she’s expending leading them around the room. And how in those precious, ephemeral seconds, she feels more alive and more in love than she would have ever believed to be possible. 

Slowly, Pansy starts to slow her steps and after a few more turns, she comes to a stop.

They stand there for a moment, their chests rapidly rising and falling, and after a second, Pansy whispers, “that’s what proper dancing feels like.”

Hermione shakes her head and looks up at Pansy with starry eyes. “You were right,” she says breathlessly. “It felt like flying.” 

Pansy nods. “And that’s what could have happened at the Yule Ball,” she says, circling back to the conversation that had started this. “If things had been different, that is,” she murmurs, completely aware that Hermione’s hand is still clasped in hers.

“If we would have been friends,” Hermione says, her eyes never leaving Pansy’s.

“Everything would have been so different,” Pansy says, absently brushing her thumb over Hermione’s knuckles. “If I hadn’t been so bloody stupid. If I had just seen how remarkable you were from the very start.”

“And maybe we wouldn’t have wasted so much time. Maybe we could have been…” Hermione trails off and looks at Pansy with eyes so full of want that it almost takes Pansy’s breath away.

“Yes. Maybe we could have,” Pansy says, her gaze turning intense at the unspoken implication in Hermione’s unfinished statement. “If only McGonagall was still in the habit of giving out Time-Turners, we could go back and try it all over again.” 

“If only,” Hermione echoes.

They stand there, still wrapped up in each other, closer than they’ve been since that night in the library. And in that moment, Pansy wants to throw caution to the wind. Because if this is potentially the last conversation she’ll ever have with Hermione, she wants something tangible to remember it by. 

She wants to kiss her.

But before she can lean in and let herself finally feel Hermione’s lips against her own, Hermione sighs and drops Pansy’s hand. “Well, there’s no use thinking about what could have been,” she whispers, disappointment lingering in her voice and something that looks like guilt flickering in her eyes. “Not when we have to think about what’s to come. And that means figuring out this thing,” she says, taking a step back and gesturing at the clunky Muggle device on the table behind them. “I fulfilled my end of the promise, so now, you have to fulfill yours.”

Pansy feels regret seeping into her body at her missed opportunity, but she masks it with a quick nod. “Fine. But once we get this over with, we’re looking for a Time-Turner.” 

Hermione gives her a soft smile as she starts back toward the table. “Deal.” 

They stop in front of the table and gaze down at the device. “So…” Pansy says hesitantly. “How does it work?” 

She glances at Hermione to find her frowning in concentration. “I read the instruction booklet it came with. It’s all fairly straightforward. And I’ve already put the batteries in and they’re fresh, so they’ll last. The hardest part is just making sure it stays hidden.”

“Right. I’m supposed to wear it on my body somewhere?” 

Hermione nods. “Yes. And I think it’d be a good idea to do a test run, just so you feel confident.” She picks up the boxy device and holds it out toward Pansy. “This is the recording device. Whatever the wire picks up will be stored on the tape in here. When you’re ready to record, just press this button,” she says, pointing to a large button on the side of the device, “and when you’re done, press it again.” She tugs at the wire that’s attached to the unit and says, “this is the microphone. It’ll pick up your conversation. You’ll tape it to your body. Be sure it’s out of sight, and be sure this end is plugged into the unit, like this,” she says, removing the wire, then snapping it back in again. “You’re wearing the right robe?”

Pansy nods. Hermione had asked her to wear one with an interior pocket. “Good,” Hermione says. “You’ll put the device into the inside pocket, run the wire under your shirt, and tape it to your body. It should be completely hidden, but we’ll need to try it out to make sure.” 

“Okay,” Pansy says. “So…how do I do that?”

“Well, you’ll have to…” 

Hermione trails off and a strange look comes into her eyes as she stares at Pansy’s jumper. Pansy waits, but when Hermione remains silent, she prompts her with a gentle, “I’ll have to…?”

Hermione’s eyes snap back to Pansy and she says, “you’ll…you’ll have to use the Sellotape to secure it to your skin.”

“Right,” Pansy says. But then, Hermione’s statement sinks in. “Oh,” she whispers. “You mean I’ll have to…” she gently fingers the bottom of her jumper and tugs at it a bit, then raises an eyebrow. Hermione swallows heavily and manages a small, stiff nod. 

She’s going to have to strip off her jumper. In front of Hermione. 

Merlin.

“Right,” Pansy repeats. “Right, so I’ll just…take it off, then?” 

“I can go somewhere else, if you’d like?” Hermione says quickly, her voice about a full pitch higher than it normally is.

“No, it’s…you don’t have to,” Pansy says. “I mean, we’ve both shared a room with other girls for years,” she says, trying to keep her tone light and easy as she finds a justification for why this shouldn’t be awkward at all. “Honestly, the amount of times I’ve seen Tracey starkers…” she shakes her head. “No shame, that one.” 

Hermione nods in quick agreement. “You’re right. Of course you’re right.” She bites her lip for a moment, then nods firmly. “I suppose I’ll just…get the Sellotape ready, shall I?”

Pansy manages a tiny smile as she shrugs off her robe and drapes it over the back of her chair. “And I’ll just…take this off,” she says, gripping the bottom of her jumper. 

Hermione’s intensely focused on the Sellotape, but at Pansy’s statement, she gives a high-pitched hum of agreement as the tips of her ears turn bright red. 

Pansy exhales slowly as she loosens her tie and pulls it off. She tosses it on top of her robe, then slowly, she grasps the bottom of her jumper. 

It’ll be fine. They’re both mature enough to handle this.

With one smooth motion, she pulls it off of her body and tosses it on top of the small pile of clothing that’s now built up on the chair. 

Quickly, she crosses her arms in front of her to try and distract from the fact she’s standing in the middle of the library in just her simple, black bra, then she awkwardly clears her throat. “Ready,” she says, her voice sounding strangely strangled. 

Hermione stares at the end of the Sellotape for a moment before she finally looks up. 

Her eyes widen just a bit as she tracks Pansy’s newly bared skin in front of her, letting her gaze skim appreciatively from Pansy’s flat stomach to the gentle, small curves of her breasts. Her eyes linger there on Pansy’s chest, her lips slightly parted and her cheeks red, and if Pansy wasn’t feeling so bloody nervous, she might be pleased by Hermione’s immediate reaction. Instead, she nods toward the Sellotape in Hermione’s hand and says, “how does that work?”

Hermione’s heavy gaze jumps from Pansy’s body up to her eyes. “How does what work?” she asks, sounding curiously breathless. 

“The…spellotape?” Pansy hazards, trying to remember what Hermione had called it. 

Hermione glances at her hand and she exhales sharply. “Oh. The Sellotape,” she says, looking a bit annoyed at herself. She takes another deep breath and forces her eyes back to Pansy. “It’s an adhesive. Think of it as the Muggle version of a Sticking Spell.” 

“Is it dangerous?” Pansy asks, eyeing it carefully. 

“No. No, not at all. It might pinch a bit when you take it off, but other than that, it’s perfectly harmless.” 

“Right. So…” Pansy trails off and looks at the device on the table, then back to Hermione. “What should I do?” 

“Pick up the wire and make sure the microphone…that’s the rounded bit on the end…make sure it’s against your stomach.” 

Pansy reaches for the wire on the table and holds it against her stomach, then looks back to Hermione. “Now what?”

“We’ll tape it in place. Be sure to use plenty of Sellotape. You wouldn’t want it to fall off halfway through your conversation.” Hermione peels a long piece of Sellotape off the roll and hands it to Pansy, but the moment it’s in Pansy’s fingers, it somehow manages to fold up on itself and stick together.

“Erm…” Pansy frowns at the tape, then back up at Hermione. “Is it meant to do that?”

“No,” Hermione says with a frown. She tears off another piece of Sellotape, passes it to Pansy, and almost immediately, it sticks to her fingers. 

Pansy shakes her hand frantically and looks at Hermione with wide eyes. “Merlin…this might be stronger than a Sticking Charm,” she says, once again deeply impressed by Muggle ingenuity. 

Hermione doesn’t seem to hear the comment, though. Instead, she looks at the Sellotape in her hand, then stares at Pansy’s smooth, pale skin for a moment. After a brief hesitation, something in her eyes sets. She gives a tiny nod and says, “keep holding it in place. I’ll tape it for you.”

“You will?” Pansy asks stupidly.

“Well, we don’t want to waste the entire roll of tape on a trial run,” Hermione says with something that sounds like carefully forced amusement. She tears off another long strip of tape, then takes a step toward Pansy. 

Pansy watches with bated breath as Hermione sinks to her knees. Her hand drifts closer to Pansy’s stomach but she pauses just before she can touch her skin and glances up. “May I?” Hermione asks nervously, her voice a bit lower than usual.

Pansy nods dumbly. Every muscle in her body tightens as Hermione lifts her other hand and gently splays it against her stomach, holding the wire in place. Carefully, she places the tape on top of the wire and smooths it over Pansy’s skin to ensure it sticks. It’s a simple motion, and one that wouldn’t bother Pansy if anyone else were to attempt it. But the moment Hermione’s warm fingers brush across the cool skin of her stomach, she inhales sharply, looks away, and clenches her teeth together to make sure no embarrassing noises slip out of her. She’s incredibly aware of a curious tingling sensation radiating across her body, and Pansy wonders for a moment if it’s a side effect of the Sellotape. She glances down to ask Hermione whether or not the Muggle tape is supposed to make her like this, only to find that the other witch is still gently running her thumb over the tape to be sure it’s secure, watching with a sort of hungry curiosity as goosebumps form on Pansy’s skin. The look itself is enough to send a sudden spark of arousal between Pansy's legs, and she hastily shifts in place to try and distract herself from it.

“There. One done,” Hermione murmurs without taking her eyes off of Pansy’s skin.

Pansy shakily exhales and manages to ask, “is it holding?”

At the question, Hermione’s eyes flicker away from the wire and back up to Pansy’s, and she has to bite her lip a bit when she sees just how much Hermione’s pupils have dilated. “So far,” Hermione says. “But I’ll use a few more pieces, just to be safe.” She takes her hands away from Pansy’s body and pulls more Sellotape from the roll. Then, she repeats the process three more times, each time letting her thumb take all the time in the world to smoothly caress the tape. By the end of the process, Pansy’s knees feel a bit weak, her knickers are suspiciously damp, and more than anything, she wants to smack sense into herself.

She’s been touched before. She’s had sex, for fuck’s sake. So there’s absolutely no reason that Hermione’s very gentle touch should be making Pansy feel like she’s two seconds away from self-imploding. 

But then again, she had felt like she might die if she didn’t kiss Hermione in the library last Friday, so clearly, something is severely wrong with her reactions. 

“There,” Hermione says, giving the final piece of tape a last swipe with her thumb. She stands and watches to make sure the wire stays in place and when it does, she gives a small, satisfied nod. “That should hold,” she says quietly, her eyes finding Pansy’s. She’s still standing close and when Pansy clears her throat a bit, her eyes immediately flicker down to watch her lips. 

“Thank you,” Pansy murmurs. She can feel the heat radiating from Hermione’s body and she wants to take as step closer to feel it more fully on her skin. She wants to gather Hermione in her arms and do something, anything to take care of the aching, heavy arousal that’s managed to snake its way through her entire being. Instead, she remains where she is while Hermione reaches behind her to pluck Pansy’s jumper off the chair. 

“Let’s see if it’s covered,” Hermione says, holding the jumper toward Pansy. 

Pansy takes it and pulls it back over her head, feeling a bit relieved to finally be covered again. Once it’s in place, Hermione hands her her robe. She puts it on, then slips the recording device into the interior pocket. As the robe flutters closed, she turns to face Hermione with her arms spread. “Well? Can you see it?”

Hermione scrutinizes her closely, looking at Pansy from every angle. She makes a full revolution around her and when she’s back where she started, she smiles. “Completely hidden,” she pronounces. “Try recording something,” she adds.

Pansy slips her hand into the robe and presses the large button on the side of the device. “What should I say?” she asks, looking to Hermione for guidance. 

“Something short. We don’t want to waste the tape.”

“Oh. Erm…” Pansy trails off. Her mind is completely blank, but she’s aware of the tape running in her pocket. She looks to Hermione and in a rush of panic, she blurts, “you look quite nice tonight.” 

Hermione raises her eyebrows and Pansy has to control the urge to close her eyes in mortification. You look quite nice tonight? What is she, eleven? 

“I think that’ll be enough,” Hermione says with amusement as she nods toward Pansy’s pocket. It’s only after Pansy’s stopped the recording that Hermione looks up at her with a small, teasing smile and says, “and you look quite nice tonight, too.” 

Pansy rolls her eyes as she takes the device out. She glances at Hermione and grumbles, “how do I make it…talk?”

The corners of Hermione’s mouth twitch up, and she steps forward to take the device from Pansy. “This button first,” she says, pointing to one emblazoned with two arrows pointing to the left.

She walks through the entire procedure with Pansy, teaching her the different buttons until she seems satisfied that Pansy can reproduce the right sequences to make the small device talk. When she finally plays back the conversation, she grins triumphantly at Hermione. But the moment she hears her own voice foolishly say you look quite nice tonight, her grin slips away and she has to fight the urge to toss the whole contraption across the room.

They run through it a few more times until Pansy’s certain she can work the device. Then, she lifts her jumper once more and slowly removes the tape. Hermione was right—each piece stings a bit as she peels it away from her skin. But when she glances up and notices Hermione’s eyes are once again trained to her stomach, she finds herself wishing her entire body was covered in Sellotape. Anything to keep those hungry, hazel eyes on her for the rest of the night. 

Once the device is turned off and packed away, Pansy turns to face Hermione. Their time in the library is quickly coming to an end, and she finds herself desperately looking for ways to extend it. And if the way Hermione is shifting back and forth on her feet is any indication, something tells her that she’s not the only one who doesn’t want this night to come to a close. 

“So…” Pansy says, sticking her hands in her pockets.

“So,” Hermione echoes. “Tomorrow at nine, then?” 

Pansy nods, and Hermione bites her lip gently. “Will you be in the Great Hall for breakfast?” she asks. “I’d like to see you before you go.”

Pansy shakes her head. “My mother wants to have breakfast together,” she says, regret in her voice. Then she tries for a reassuring smile and says, “but we don’t need some prolonged, sappy goodbye. I’ll be back before you know it.”

Worry flashes in Hermione’s eyes and she shifts a bit more on her feet. “I know. I know, but just…” her brow furrows in concern and she whispers, “if it seems dangerous, don’t do it. This plan isn’t worth you risking your life. We can always come up with another solution.”

“Can we?” Pansy asks with vague amusement. “I mean, I admire your confidence in us, but it took us ages to find this one.”

“But we found it. And we can find another, if needed. Just…promise me you’ll be careful,” Hermione says quietly. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if…if…”

The words seem to be stuck in her throat, and Pansy’s brow furrows in quiet concern. “Hermione…”

“And I know you’re capable,” Hermione says, quickly find her words once more. “I know you’re brilliant and clever and far more collected than I’ll ever be, and I’m not doubting you, I just…” she shakes her head and says, “I know how dangerous he is.” 

“He is,” Pansy agrees. A small flicker of the fear she’s been suppressing flares in her chest as she thinks about her father’s cold eyes, and she hastily tries to push it down. “He is, but he won’t see this coming. I’m sure of it.” She tries to deliver the promise with conviction in an attempt to both reassure herself and Hermione. but if the worry still lingering in the other girl’s eyes is any indication, she hasn’t been as successful as she’d like.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Hermione says. “But just be careful. I…I…” She takes a deep breath and says, “I don’t want to lose you. Not when I feel like I’ve just found you.” 

Hermione’s eyes are downcast and she looks a bit nervous, and without thinking, Pansy reaches out and takes Hermione’s hands in hers. Hermione looks up at her with surprise but before she can speak, Pansy says, “you won’t lose me. I promise you. I’ll come back to you. I have to,” she adds, thinking about their planned meeting on Sunday. 

But as she stands there with Hermione’s hands in hers and a persistent trickle of fear dripping through her body, she lets herself think about the dark, scary thing she’s been suppressing for days now—what if she doesn’t make it home? She honestly doesn’t think her father would kill her, but if the worst should come to pass, then what?

She’ll never make it to that planned Sunday meeting. She’ll never confess her secret to Hermione. She’ll never get to tell her how she feels. 

She’ll never say those simple, three words that seem to be permanently stuck in her throat every time Hermione is near.

Ridiculously, that thought strikes more fear into Pansy’s heart than any of the others, and she straightens her shoulders.

She can’t go without telling Hermione the truth. If there’s even the slightest chance of something going horribly wrong tomorrow, she needs to set the record straight. 

She needs to tell Hermione that she’s in love with her.

“Hermione. I…I need to tell you something,” she begins hesitantly.

Hazel eyes stay trained on her as Hermione waits for Pansy to keep speaking. 

“I…I should have told you this ages ago. But I didn’t because I was…” she trails off and shrugs. “I guess I was scared. And I was worried that you’d be upset,” she adds carefully as she drops Hermione’s hand and runs her own shaky fingers through her hair. “I didn’t want to make you angry with me. But if anything happens tomorrow, then I…I need to tell you.” She takes a massive breath, exhales sharply, and opens her mouth to finally reveal the truth. “I—”

“No.”

Pansy falters, her mouth still open. “No?” she asks uncertainly, a confused frown settling on her face. 

“No,” Hermione says simply. “I don’t want to hear whatever it is.”

“I…what?” Pansy says, completely baffled. “But… but you need to, you can’t just—”

“And I will. I’ll hear anything you want to tell me. Anything at all. But I’ll only hear it once you’re back.”

“What? No, Hermione, I—”

“No,” Hermione says again, her gaze intense. “Whatever it is, it can wait. Because I don’t want to spend a single second being upset with you,” she says with a strange fervor in her voice. “All I want to do while you’re gone is worry about you. I don’t want you to muck it up by telling me something that might upset me. So whatever it is…whatever you think might make me mad, you’ll just have to wait.”

Pansy shakes her head stupidly, trying to figure out how to get out of this ridiculous situation. “It might not make you mad,” she finally says. “I don’t even know why I said that, I just…”

“And anyway, if you wait to tell me, then that’s just one more good reason for you to come home.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you’ll have to come home if you have something to tell me. You wouldn’t want to keep me in suspense, would you?”

“No, but…”

“So remember that. Hold yourself to that,” Hermione murmurs, her eyes swirling with emotion. “If things look scary, just think about me. Think about me and whatever it is you need to tell me, and find the strength to make it back here.” 

Pansy shakes her head. “Hermione, I really—”

Before she can say anything more, Hermione suddenly leans forward and presses her lips to Pansy’s cheek. 

At least, Pansy thinks she was aiming for her cheek. But because she’s in the process of shaking her head, Hermione’s lips end up landing right on the corner of her mouth.

Both girls immediately freeze in place at the miscalculation, and Pansy holds her breath with unbearable anticipation as she waits for Hermione to pull back and start offering flustered excuses and apologies. But as the seconds slip by, the apologies never come. Instead, she feels Hermione’s body relax against her as she lets her lips linger, just barely brushing the right corner of Pansy’s mouth. Hesitantly, she brings up a shaky hand and gently cups Pansy’s cheek, making Pansy’s skin tingle and her heart pound. And as Hermione’s warm thumb slowly begins to swipe back and forth over Pansy’s cheekbone, lighting up her each and every nerve ending, Pansy has to remind herself to breathe.

Pansy can feel their closeness acutely, can feel the soft puffs of Hermione’s breath against her cheek and the firm press of her chest against her body, and it makes the arousal that she thought was finally behind her come roaring back with a vengeance. She bites down on her lip in an attempt to center herself and to not give into temptation before she’s said what she needs to say, but when Hermione’s fingers tentatively curl against Pansy’s cheek, Pansy's lips part to emit a soft and shaky sigh. Dimly, she wonders if Hermione had noticed the noise. She has a feeling she did; she’s so incredibly close that Pansy wouldn’t be surprised if she was able to hear the rapid pounding of her heart. 

After a few unbearably long seconds, Hermione pulls back a fraction of an inch, but keeps her hand where it is. “Tell me later,” she murmurs, her breath hot and positively maddening against Pansy’s sensitive skin. Her thumb keeps idly trailing over Pansy’s cheek and just when Pansy thinks she might explode, Hermione tilts her forehead against the side of Pansy’s face and whispers, “just promise you’ll come back.” 

Pansy can feel the tickle of Hermione’s eyelashes against her face as the other girl’s eyes flutter closed, and her breath sputters out of her inelegantly. “I’ll come back,” Pansy manages to whisper. “I’ll come back, I promise.” 

Somewhere in her mind, she’s aware that it’s a promise she shouldn’t make. But as Hermione continues to casual unravel her sanity with nothing but the gentlest of touches, she’s fairly sure she’d promise her anything in the world. Anything at all, so long as it meant keeping Hermione this close for the rest of her days.

Hermione nods and drops her hand from Pansy’s cheek. But instead of stepping away, she grabs for Pansy’s hand, dangling limply at her side. Once she finds it, she threads her fingers through Pansy’s, then gives it a long squeeze. After a moment, she presses impossibly soft lips to the same spot once more. Heat flares in Pansy's chest and something in her stomach coils tightly as Hermione lets the touch linger for a few dizzying, irresistible seconds, and Pansy's just about to turn her face to capture those maddening lips once and for when Hermione finally steps back.

They stare at each other for a moment and all Pansy wants to do is step forward, grab a fistful of Hermione’s robes, and kiss her senseless. She wants to make Hermione whisper her name like it’s a prayer; she wants to see those hazel eyes glaze over with lust; she wants to find out whether or not Hermione would actually be willing to give into her desire and desecrate her sacred library. 

But even though Pansy wants all of these things more than anything in the world, she knows that she still needs to be honest. Because for some foolish, altruistic reason, she can’t kiss Hermione until she’s finally come clean. 

And Merlin, does she want to kiss Hermione.

“Hermione…” she murmurs, her voice rough and low. “I…” she exhales softly and squares her shoulders. Her brain is still foggy from Hermione’s lips being so achingly close to hers, but she tries to push past it. “I don’t want to make you angry,” she says. “Trust me, it’s the last thing I want to do, but I just…I’m sorry, but I have to tell you this.”

Hermione blinks a few times with surprise, clearly not expecting Pansy to still be on the same topic. After a moment, she shakes her head as if she’s clearing her thoughts, and the line of her jaw sets firmly. “And you will. We already went over this. You’ll tell me once you’re back.”

“No, I…it has to be now. I’m sorry, but it has to be.” 

Hermione frowns at Pansy for a few seconds, and Pansy earnestly and desperately holds her gaze. Finally, Hermione crosses her arms in front of her chest and huffs out a sigh. “Fine. Fine, if you want me to be angry at you while you’re gone, then fine. What is it?”

Pansy takes a deep breath, relieved that she’s finally managed to make Hermione agree. “Right. So…I…I…” she laughs a bit and rubs at her neck. “I probably should have figured out how to say this earlier. But I…I..." she gives an incredulous laugh and says, "I honestly don’t know where to start.”

But before she can figure it out, there’s a sound at the entrance of the library. 

Pansy whirls around to look toward the door and her eyes widen when she sees the heavy locks slowly spinning. She glances back to Hermione with a wild, anxious gaze. Who on earth is coming into the library at this time?

And couldn’t they have waited two bloody minutes?

Hermione’s face pales as she watches the movement. She turns to Pansy and urgently whispers, “you shouldn’t be here. You need to hide.”

Pansy hesitates and keeps her eyes on the locks. She’s no longer thinking about her confession. Now she’s just afraid that danger might be lurking behind the door. “But what if—”

Pansy,” Hermione pleads, glancing back to the door. They only have a few seconds before it opens. “Please?”

Pansy bites her lower lip, then nods and moves toward a nearby shelf, ducking behind it. It’s sheltered enough so she won’t be seen, but it still gives her a clear view of the doorway so she can protect Hermione, if needed. 

After a few unbearable seconds, the door opens and a tall figure steps into the library. Pansy feels her heart rate pick up—she can’t make out any facial features from this angle. It could be anybody. She grips her wand in anticipation, a Protego waiting on her lips. 

Then, the tall figure speaks.

“Miss Granger?” 

Pansy exhales sharply at the voice of a very confused Professor McGonagall. She slumps against the shelves, half relieved she won’t be doing battle tonight and half furious at McGonagall’s absolutely awful timing.

“Professor?” Hermione says, surprise in her voice.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” 

“I…I’m afraid I don’t,” Pansy hears Hermione admit. There’s a small pause wherein Pansy assumes Hermione’s checking her watch, and then she hears, “oh. Oh, I…I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it was that late.”

Pansy shakes her sleeve back and checks her own watch. 

It’s half past one in the morning. 

…Whoops.

“Mr. Filch woke me. He said he heard a noise in the library,” McGonagall says. “Normally, I’d tell you that you’re lucky I decided to investigate, but you’ll find I’m not the most pleasant person at half past one in the morning. All things considered, you may have been better off with Filch finding you.”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione says quietly.

“What on earth are you thinking? You know you’re not supposed to stay any later than midnight.” 

“I know, I just…I came here after patrols and I suppose I lost track of the time,” Hermione says, sounding ashamed. “But it won’t happen again.”

Pansy hears McGonagall sniff in displeasure. “No, I should think not. Remember, Miss Granger, your library privileges are just that—a privilege. They are not to be abused, and they can be retracted at any time.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” 

“And even a Head Girl with special privileges shouldn’t be out of bed at one in the morning. I’m afraid I’ll have to take ten points from Gryffindor.”

“That’s only fair,” Hermione murmurs. 

Personally, Pansy thinks it’s absurd that a school is penalizing someone for showing academic interest, but she manages to bite her tongue.

Pansy hears McGonagall give a quiet sigh. When she speaks again, her tone is much gentler. “Let me assure you, Miss Granger, of all my students, you’re the last one who needs to be studying until one in the morning. And whatever it is you’re working toward can wait till tomorrow. A good night’s rest is more important than you might think.”

“I know,” Hermione says. “I promise you, it won’t happen again.” 

“Good. I trust you. And I should hope that my trust isn’t misplaced. Now, then. Gather your things and I’ll lock up.” 

Pansy stiffens from behind the bookshelves. Is she about to be locked in the library all night? She doesn’t know the spell to unlock the door, and she also dimly remembers Hermione telling her something about anti-intrusion spells that take effect as soon as she locks the library for the night. If Pansy ends up sealed inside, she’ll set the spells off and get into a whole mess of trouble. Hastily, she sorts through her options, trying to decide how on earth she’s going to get out of this absurd situation.

She’s just decided to try a Disillusionment Charm to sneak past McGonagall when she hears Hermione’s voice again.

“There’s really no need for you to stay awake any longer,” Hermione says, sounding a bit anxious. “Really, you can go back to bed. I can lock up.”

“Nonsense. I’m already here. And to be frank, I don’t trust that you won’t get pulled into another book the moment I leave.” McGonagall adds the last sentence dryly, and even though Pansy’s panicking, she has to admit—it does sound like something that Hermione would wind up doing.

“Yes, but—”

“No buts, Miss Granger. Gather your things. Now,” Professor McGonagall adds, a steely note entering her voice, subtly warning Hermione to not press her luck.

Pansy hears Hermione slowly start to gather whatever is on the table, and as she peers around the bookshelf, she sees that Hermione’s already had the presence of mind to kick her bag under the table, away from McGonagall’s sharp gaze.

Once she has everything, she turns to McGonagall and hesitates. “I…I….”

“Miss Granger. When you get to be my age, you’ll find there are very few sentences that are worth listening to at one in the morning. I can promise you that yours will not be the exception.”

Pansy sees the moment Hermione’s shoulders wilt, and she holds her breath. Finally, Hermione looks back at McGonagall and says, “we can’t leave yet.”

Professor McGonagall exhales with frustration and draws herself up to her full height. “Miss Granger—”

“There’s someone else here.”

Professor McGonagall frowns at Hermione’s words, and she seems to deflate a bit as she glances around her. “Who?” she asks sharply, looking back to Hermione. 

Hermione sighs, then turns to where Pansy is watching. “You might as well come out. I don’t want you to get locked in here all night.” 

Pansy hesitates for just a moment. Then, she slowly pushes off from the bookshelves and walks toward Hermione and Professor McGonagall.

“Miss…Miss Parkinson?” McGonagall whispers, sounding completely stunned.

“I…yes?” Pansy replies weakly. She glances at Hermione, then back to McGonagall. “Hello,” she adds with a small, awkward wave.

Hermione rolls her eyes and gives Pansy a look of complete exasperation, and Pansy shrugs. She might be in a load of trouble, but she’s not about to be rude to a professor

“I would suggest,” McGonagall says slowly, “that one of you tell me exactly what’s going on. Now.” 

Hermione winces and opens her mouth, but Pansy steps in quickly. “It’s nothing bad, Professor,” she says. “I just…I’ve been having a bit of a…a personal problem and Hermione offered to help me with it.” Pansy notices as McGonagall’s eyebrow arches at the easy use of Hermione’s first name, but she pays it little mind as she hurries on. “We’ve hit a bit of a wall, so we decided to see if the library could help. And she didn’t want to let me in, but I begged,” she adds quickly. “Please don’t take any more points from her. It was all my doing.”

“I see,” McGonagall says as she carefully scrutinizes Pansy over her glasses. After a few moments, she sighs and says, “ten points from Slytherin for being out past curfew. And while I’d normally be inclined to take more points for whatever it is that’s happening here, I must confess, I’m…pleasantly surprised.”

Hermione and Pansy exchange a look. “You…are?” Hermione asks uncertainly as she nervously rubs at her arm.

“You and Miss Parkinson, working together? Without hexing each other or destroying the entire library? Yes, Miss Granger. I’m surprised.” 

“Oh,” Hermione says, glancing once more toward Pansy. “I…I mean, we’re not…” As Hermione surveys Pansy, her face grows impossibly soft and a gentle smile flickers around the corners of her mouth. “Things haven’t been like that between Pansy and I for quite a while,” she admits quietly. 

Professor McGonagall raises a brow once more as she glances between them. Her sharp eyes move to the chair where Pansy’s tie is still resting, then back to Pansy’s slightly disheveled robes, wrinkled jumper, and mussed hair. Something that looks like understanding settles in McGonagall’s eyes, and her mouth falls opens just a bit. 

“Well, then!” McGonagall says, sounding more surprised than Pansy’s ever heard her sound before. “I’m…I’m pleased to hear that. If only all students took inter-house unity to the same extent that it seems you two have. Well…perhaps not the same extent,” she amends a bit wryly. 

Pansy’s cheeks burn at the accusation and she notices how McGonagall seems to be surveying them with a strange twinkle in her eyes. “I wouldn’t want any other students flagrantly violating the rules in order to tend to…personal problems,” she finishes with a small, almost mischievous smile. 

Pansy has a sinking suspicion that she knows what that smile means, and it makes her want to melt into the floor and never reappear. But somehow, Hermione seems to be none the wiser beside her. “I’m sorry,” Hermione says again. “We really did just lose track of the time.” 

Professor McGonagall hums and murmurs something that sounds suspiciously like youth. Then, she raises her voice and says, “For the sake of inter-house unity, I’ll look the other way, just this once. But in the future, try to tend to your…personal problems outside of the library.”

Pansy’s going to transfer schools. She’s going to leave the country. Anything to never have to see the stupid glimmer in McGonagall’s eyes. 

“Of course. It won’t happen again,” Hermione says quickly. Her mouth twists a bit as if she’s contemplating something, and after a moment, she sheepishly asks, “are you taking away my library privileges?”

“No. Perhaps I should, but no, not this time. But if I find you here again after midnight, I’ll be forced to reconsider. I suggest you not put me in that position.” 

“I won’t,” Hermione says earnestly. “Thank you.”

McGonagall nods, then glances between the two of them. “Now, then. As delightfully unexpected as this conversation has been, I’d like to get back to bed.”

“Oh! Right, of course,” Hermione says sheepishly. She bends down and grabs Pansy’s bag and holds it out to her. “Here you are,” she says. “And don’t worry, everything’s in there,” she adds quietly, giving Pansy a knowing look. 

Pansy’s gaze flickers to McGonagall to see her watching at the two of them with a raised eyebrow and curious eyes.

Merlin’s pants. Now McGonagall's going to think that Hermione’s shoved Pansy's knickers in the bag.

Pansy takes her bag containing the recording device and slings it over her shoulder. “Thanks,” she says. She glances up to McGonagall and manages to murmur an embarrassed and clipped sorry before quickly heading toward the library door. 

It’s only once they’re all outside and McGonagall is locking the library that Pansy realizes she still hasn’t confessed the truth to Hermione. She turns to her quickly and whispers, “about that thing I was going to tell you…”

Hermione shakes her head. “Later,” she says. 

“No. It has to be now,” Pansy pleads. 

“I don’t want to lose any more house points.”

“I know, but—”

“Miss Parkinson, I trust you can make your way to your dormitory unaccompanied?” McGonagall asks as she turns away from the door, cutting Pansy off. “Miss Granger, I’ll walk with you.”

Pansy opens her mouth stupidly. “Yes, but I—”

“Good night, Miss Parkinson,” McGonagall says, fixing her with a stern look. 

“I—”

“Good night, Pansy,” Hermione says. She glances at McGonagall for a moment, then back to Pansy. Something sets in her gaze and before Pansy knows what’s happening, Hermione’s taken a step forward and she’s thrown her arms around her. “You can do this,” she whispers into Pansy’s ear. “I know you can.” Her arms tighten for a moment and she murmurs, “stay safe and come home to me. Okay?” 

Hermione gives Pansy one final squeeze before she lets go. She drops her hands down into Pansy’s one more time as she gazes into her eyes for a moment. A dozen different potent emotions swirl in her gaze—fear, longing, guilt, want, and something else that takes Pansy’s breath away completely. 

Something that looks a little bit like love. 

But before she can question it, Hermione squeezes her hands and murmurs, “I’ll see you soon,” then turns to face McGonagall, who’s watching the scene with wide eyes. As soon as she notices Hermione’s gaze on her though, she manages to school her face into something more neutral.

“Shall we?” McGonagall asks. 

Hermione nods. She gives Pansy one more soft, nervous smile, then turns and sets off down the hall beside McGonagall. 

Pansy watches her go, feeling a bit shell shocked by everything that’s happened in the past five minutes. Somehow, she failed to tell Hermione the truth, all while inadvertently telling McGonagall far more than she needed to know. 

She slumps against the wall and rubs her eyes with frustration. After a moment, she exhales slowly and starts down the stairs toward the dungeon, and as she walks, she thinks over the events of the night. Each memory brings a new grimace of pain or embarrassment to her face, and somehow, by the time she reaches the entrance to the Slytherin common room, she finds herself in complete agreement with Daphne—she and Hermione really might be the two thickest witches who have ever lived. 

***

Pansy floos to her home at nine on the dot. 

Her eyes are still a bit red-rimmed after her goodbye with Daphne, and she hopes she’ll be able to blame it on the soot from the fireplace.

Daphne had opted to skip Potions, instead choosing to sit on her bed and make idle chit-chat as Pansy packed her things. It had been pleasant and distracting, but it had only lasted until Pansy had finally swung her back on her shoulder and looked at Daphne with emotional, shining eyes. Daphne had given her head a quick shake and whispered don’t look at me like that before pulling her swiftly into her arms. They had let themselves linger in the overly long embrace and Pansy had found herself repeating the promise she had made to Hermione last night—I’ll come back. I promise. Daphne had simply held her tighter and murmured you bloody well better. She had threatened Pansy a few more times with an Unbreakable Vow, but after a few long minutes spent stalling the inevitable, Pansy had finally left Daphne behind to use the floo in Snape’s office. 

And now, she’s here. She’s back home. 

Hastily, she steps from the fireplace and shakes the ash from her robes. She double checks her pocket for the tenth time to be sure she’s remembered to bring floo powder for her return journey to Hogwarts (or perhaps to the Ministry, if all goes well). Once she feels the comforting lump in her left pocket, she exhales slowly. She still has an exit strategy. 

With her nerves moderately soothed, she finally manages to take in her surroundings and as she does, she feels a bolt of familiar fear enter her heart.

The Parkinsons have three fireplaces, but only one is on the Floo Network. And it just so happens to be the one in their gleaming, austere dining room. 

The room that has been the centerpiece of Pansy’s nightmares for the past decade.

Every corner seems to hold some traumatic memory of that night, and she shivers a bit as both the sights and smells of the awful place hit her all at once.  

Being forced to live in the same house where the worst night of her life had taken place had helped her compartmentalize some, but whenever she’s home, she still tries to avoid the dining room by any means necessary. But now that she’s been thrust into it, she lets her gaze linger. Her heart rate picks up as she takes in the long, dark mahogany table, and she tries to ignore the memory of a terrified little girl, shivering beneath it. Her eyes sweep over the polished, dark floorboards and she sternly refuses to think about her aunt, crawling toward her, her hand outstretched and manic horror in her broken green eyes. 

Of course, it’s of no use. The memories flood back in and Pansy can feel her chest tightening uncomfortably. A scream starts to echo in the very back of her mind and she can feel the familiar, cold sweat beading on her brow. She digs her blunt nails into her palm, but before she can let herself get completely swept into the past, her mother walks into the room. She’s clearly heard the noise from the fireplace, and once her eyes land on Pansy, she gives her a short greeting, pulls her into an uncomfortable hug, then briskly tells her to follow her to the kitchen for breakfast.

The distraction makes the scream fade away, and Pansy manages a small, relieved exhalation at her mum’s order. It’s one of the few things she and her mum seem to have in common—neither of them spend any time in the dining room.

Meals in the Parkinson household are always awkward affairs, but mercifully, her father doesn’t make an appearance. He’s sorting out last minute details for the funeral and according to her mum, won’t be back until late tonight. Pansy’s relieved she won’t have to face him immediately, but to be honest, the alternative isn’t much better. Instead of staring down her father, she finds herself fielding her mother’s stiff questions about the school year. Pansy gives fairly short replies, but they seem to be good enough for her mum. And when her mum eventually brings up how pleased she is to hear that Pansy and Draco have rekindled their relationship, Pansy even manages a tight smile.

They fall into an awkward silence after that. The only noise in the room comes from their silverware, scraping against polished, expensive china, and when a house elf appears at Pansy’s side to clear her plate, she immediately stands and tells her mum she’s a bit tired and she’d like to rest before her father gets home. 

Mercifully, her mother doesn’t put up any argument. If anything, she seems a bit relieved by the suggestion and she readily agrees. 

Pansy leaves the kitchen as quickly as she possibly can and heads for the spiral staircase. She takes the stairs two at a time and the moment she reaches the landing, she makes a beeline for her room. Once she’s inside, she closes the door behind her, slumps against it, and exhales slowly. 

Her room is just as she left it, and while there’s nothing about it that she would describe as particularly homey, just being in her own space is enough to bring a tenuous sense of peace to her already jangled nerves. After a few moments, she pulls herself together, pushes off from the door, crosses to her bed, and begins to sort through her bag. 

The first thing she does is pull out her parchment and tap her wand against an incredibly lengthy, pre-written message that’s waiting there. There was a good chance she wouldn’t be able to write to Hermione while she was here, and she hadn’t wanted the other witch to worry about the whereabouts of her bard. Once the message is sent, she tucks the parchment away, hiding it between the pages of her Charms book. Then, she pulls out the wire with a slightly shaky hand. 

There’s really no reason to put it on now. Her father isn’t even home. But as she runs her finger over the smooth, black device, she finds herself thinking that it’s always better to be prepared. 

First, she checks that it’s still in working order. She presses the button on the side, and when the tape starts whirring inside the device, she allows herself a small smile—at least the floo didn’t hurt it.

Then, she recreates everything she and Hermione had done last night. She shrugs off her robe, peels off her jumper, and lies the wire against her stomach. She makes sure the microphone is in the right place, and she uses enough Sellotape to stick herself to the wall. She even lets her thumb smooth over the tape, all the while pretending it’s Hermione’s fingers gently tracing over her skin. 

Once she’s done, she pulls her jumper back on, slips the device into the inside pocket, and slides the robe back over her shoulders. Then, she lies back on the bed and lets herself go over the plan. 

Don’t get emotional. Make him think you’re on his side. Disparage Aunt Bea. Ask straight to the point questions. 

She repeats it over and over again, letting her eyes slip closed as she snuggles a bit more into her comfortable pillow.

Don’t get emotional. Make him think you’re on his side. Disparage Aunt Bea. Ask straight to the point questions.

Don’t get emotional. Make him think you’re on his side. 

She yawns and rubs her eyes. 

Disparage Aunt Bea. Ask straight to the point questions.

Don’t get emotional. 

Hermione’s eyes flicker into Pansy’s mind and she manages a sleepy smile for a moment, but then she reminds herself of what she’s supposed to be thinking about.

Make him think you’re on his side. Disparage Aunt Bea. Ask…ask…

Pansy’s thoughts seem to slow down as she sinks deeper into her mattress. She hadn’t managed any sleep last night, too plagued by concern, fears, and what ifs, and her exhaustion is finally catching up to her. Desperately, she tries to hold onto her thought process.

Don’t get emotional. Make him think…make him think…make him…

***

When Pansy opens her eyes again, the room is much darker. She sits up and rubs her face, squinting at the gauzy blue curtains before her with confusion. For a moment, she has no idea what time it is, or even where she is. Then, the familiar sights of her room come into view and she remembers—she’s home.

And she’s here to take down her father. 

Slowly, she sits up on her bed. As she runs a hand through her hair, she checks her watch, and her eyes widen slightly. It’s a quarter till five. She’s been asleep for nearly six hours. 

She stretches her arms over her head and frowns when she notices something heavy thump against her side at the motion. 

Right. The wire. 

Slowly, she stands up. She knows she’ll have to go downstairs, but before she does, she checks her reflection in her full length mirror, casting a careful eye on her robes. Hermione was right—neither the device nor the wire are visible at all. Pansy manages a small sigh of relief. At least her father won’t notice something is amiss before she’s even opened her mouth. 

She opens her bedroom door as quietly as she can manage and stands in the doorway, listening for any signs of life from the rooms below. Everything is quiet, and Pansy frowns—it’s unusual for the house to be this quiet at this time of the day. Perhaps her father is still out. 

She starts toward the stairs, wincing a bit as one of the floorboards creaks loudly under her foot. The groan from the wood seems to echo throughout the house, and Pansy waits for a moment, completely convinced one of her parents is going to call up to her and chastise her for sleeping for such a long time. But when the house remains completely still, Pansy exhales slowly. It would seem she’s all alone. 

She walks down the stairs quickly, headed for the library. All she wants to do is steal a book and sit outside for a while until she’s eventually called in for dinner. It’s not exactly warm out, but with her robe and jumper, Pansy’s sure she’ll manage. 

The library is just past the dining room, and Pansy grits her teeth when she sees the still-open door. But she refuses to let herself step inside and get lost in awful memories again. Instead, she passes by quickly and only glances in. The last thing she needs right now is to get wrapped up in her emotions and caught in images of her aunt on the floor, her mum standing uselessly by, her father, seated at the head of the table with his hands calmly folded, her—

Pansy’s thoughts stall as she walks by the door and she comes to a stop just beyond the doorway. 

Her father seated at the table?

That wasn’t part of the memory. Which could only mean that…

“No greeting for your own father?” 

The silky, disdainful voice drifts to Pansy from the dining room, and she freezes at the sound. 

He’s here. 

And he’s waiting for her.

Pansy stands still in the hallway. Somewhere deep inside her mind, she knows she should run. Run away from her father, run away from the dining room, and run back to the safety of Hogwarts. But instead, she finds herself curiously incapable of moving a muscle. Briefly, she wonders if her father has somehow managed to petrify her from the other room. 

“Pansy,” her father lightly sing-songs from the dining room.

She takes a sharp breath at the eerie tone in her father’s voice and almost immediately, her mind jumps into action. Wild thoughts race by, each one passing by so quickly that she can barely keep up.

Why was her father home earlier than expected? Why is he in the dining room, of all rooms? Why was he waiting for her? Was he waiting for her? Where was her mum? Did he suspect her? How could he suspect her?

“Really, Pansy. It’s been almost a year. The least you can do is come in and sit down with me.”  

There’s no room for debate in his tone. Whatever is going to happen between them is going to happen now. 

Pansy takes a deep breath, clenches her jaw, and tells herself she can do this. She can face the atrocities that happened in this room if it means never letting her father hurt anyone again. 

A Parkinson never shows weakness.

She turns to enter the dining room, but at the very last minute, remembers the wire taped to her chest. Hastily, she reaches into her robe and presses the button marked with the red dot. Once she sees the tape start spinning in the device, she drops it back into her pocket, squares her shoulders, and walks into the haunted room that had plagued her memories for years.

It’s just as oppressive as it was when Pansy had stepped out of the floo hours ago, but for some reason, it feels colder now, as if there’s a Dementor lurking in some shadowy corner, feeding on her emotions. Instinctively, she pulls her robe a bit tighter and suppresses a shiver. 

In the back of her mind, she can hear the faintest ghost of a scream starting to form, but instead of letting it grow, she focuses instead of the crackling pops of the still-lit fireplace and the steady thump of her heart in her ears. The noises help to focus her attention and distract her from the scream and it fades back into the distance once more. 

Pansy swallows past the tight, painful lump in her throat and refuses to let her gaze linger on any of the familiar, awful sights of the room. Instead, she looks directly at her father. He’s seated at the head of the table, and by his appearance alone, one would never think he has just lost his own father. He looks perfectly put together—his sleek black hair is slicked back and his beard and mustache look newly trimmed. There’s not an ounce of grief lingering in his guarded brown eyes, and Pansy finds herself wondering if her eyes would look the same if her father had been the one to die. His fingertips are steepled together as he regards her, and Pansy notices his wand, lying just to the right of his hands on the polished wood. Fear rises in her stomach at the sight, but manages to pull her eyes away to meet her father’s gaze once more.

“Well? Aren’t you going to sit?” her father asks, arching a dark, heavy brow. 

Pansy thinks back over her mantra, letting it center her. Don’t get emotional. Make him think you’re on his side. Disparage Aunt Bea. Ask straight to the point questions.

She nods, crosses to a chair, pulls it out, and sits down. 

It’s the first time she’s sat down in this room in almost ten years.

“Father,” she says, her tone every bit as stiff as her body. “It’s good to see you.” 

“Is it?” he asks lightly. “I’ve been lead to believe that most fathers don’t have to beg for the company of their child.”

Pansy forces herself not to fidget. Instead, she keep her gaze trained on his cold eyes. “You took me by surprise. I thought I was here alone.” She glances around casually, but the moment her eyes land on the last spot she can remember her aunt looking vibrant and alive, she feels her throat grow tight. Quickly, she pulls her eyes away and decides the safest course of action is to let her gaze to remain on her father. “Where’d mum go?” 

“Margaret Burke dropped in. Asked your mother to tea. She wanted to wake you, but I insisted you get your rest.” 

“Thank you,” Pansy says, a bit uncertainly. 

“Mm. It only seemed right. After all, you’ve had a…a trying time lately.”

Pansy schools her features into something that looks politely puzzled. “I have?” she asks. “I wasn’t aware.” 

“Come now, Pansy. I’m your father,” he says with a casual tone but a hard stare that implied he knew she was hiding something. “You don’t have to be brave around me.”

“I’m not being brave,” Pansy says. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh? Your breakup with Draco?” her father asks. “Surely that took a toll.”

“It did. But we’re back together now,” she says, folding her arms over her chest and attempting to look unbothered. 

Don’t get emotional.

“So I heard. That must have taken quite a bit of convincing.”

Pansy shrugs. “Not really. We split up over a stupid misunderstanding,” she says, idly fidgeting with her robe. “But I suppose Draco can be persuasive when he wants to be,” she adds, trying to sound amused.

Make him think you’re on his side.

Her father smiles tightly. “I didn’t mean Draco had to convince you.”

Pansy frowns, thrown by the reply. “What do you mean?”

“I mean you’re not subtle, my dear,” her father murmurs. 

Pansy thinks back to when Daphne had said that in regards to her very obvious feelings for Hermione, and she feels something icy grip her heart.

Could her father know that she’s…?

Panic flutters into her chest as she says, “subtle about…?”

“And of course, there was the debacle with Montague and Baddock’s boys,” her father says, swiftly moving on. “I’d imagine that left you a bit shaken.”

“I—”

“It was all anyone could talk about for days. You caused quite the commotion.”

“I didn’t—”

“Tell me,” her father says, leaning forward and surveying her with dark, glinting eyes. “Is it true you saved a Mudblood girl that night?” 

Don’t get emotional.

“I…I saved a student,” Pansy says, digging her fingers into her thighs to try and stave off her flush. More than anything, she needs to keep Hermione out of her thoughts. She’s never confirmed it, but she has a suspicion her father has dabbled in the art of Legilimency. And while Pansy is certainly not an Occlumens, she’s had quite a lot of practice keeping her emotions at bay and forcing thoughts from her head. She takes a moment to make her mind as blank as she can, then she gazes cooly back at her father, waiting for his reply.

“Mm. How very noble of you.” His eyes harden almost imperceptibly, but Pansy notices the change and crosses her arms a bit tighter. “And what was this student’s name?” her father asks.

“I…” Pansy shakes her head and feels the flush darken on her cheeks. “Why does it matter?”

“It’s not every day a Parkinson comes to the assistance of a Mudblood. You must have taken quite an interest in this girl. And what kind of father would I be if I didn’t nurture my daughter’s interests?”  

Pansy uncrosses her arms and makes herself absently pick at a thread on her jumper. 

Don’t get emotional.

“I haven’t taken an interest in anybody,” she says. “I saw someone in danger, I intervened. I didn't even know who it was at the time.”

Her father hums. “That’s certainly not the story I heard.” 

“I see. And do you always take your information from disgruntled former students?” Pansy says, the faintest bit of anger lacing through her tone. 

Don’t get emotional. 

She takes a deep breath before continuing in a much cooler tone. “Of course Baddock and Montague said I knew her. They were trying to get back at me for their expulsions.”

Her father leans back in his chair and surveys her with a calculating gaze. Then, without taking his eyes off of her, he picks up his wand. 

By some miracle, Pansy manages to watch the motion without flinching. 

“Tea?” he asks, waving his wand lazily. A gleaming, silver tea set behind him levitates and floats toward the table. Once the tray has settled with a quiet clink, two teapots lift up and pour steaming hot liquid into two separate cups. The pots settle back down and Pansy’s father flicks his wand once more. One of the cups lifts up and floats toward Pansy. She watches its progress and when it finally sets down in front of her, she gazes into the dark, clear depths with trepidation. 

Pansy glances back toward her father to find him already sipping from his cup. “It’s Earl Grey,” he says. “I hope that’s okay.” 

Panic claws anew at Pansy’s throat. There’s no doubt in her mind that her cup has been laced with Veritaserum, presumably designed to make her spill whatever secrets her father thinks she’s hiding. 

She won’t let that happen.

Gently, she runs a finger around the rim, clears her tight throat, and says, “I’m afraid I’m not thirsty.”

“Oh? It’s tantamount to treason for the British to deny tea,” her father says, placing his cup down and fixing her with a strange, cold stare. 

“You seem to already think me a traitor,” Pansy says, and while she doesn't speak the words blood traitor, it’s certainly implied. “What’s another sin added to the list?”

The cold lifts from her father’s eyes immediately, replaced with a flash of something dangerous. “I’d tread lightly, my dear,” he warns. 

“Why?” Pansy asks, her temper finally getting the better of her. “Going to send me another Howler?”

“You left me no choice. What was I to think? I hear a rumor that my daughter is coming to the aid of Mudblood filth? That she took house points for simply using the word Mudblood?”

“You heard a rumor,” Pansy hisses, all thoughts of her mantra suddenly gone from her mind. “I took points because a complete fool decided to use an Unforgivable Curse against a student. Nothing more.” 

Her father regards her in silence. Then, he takes another sip of tea, puts the cup down, and sighs. “Do drink your tea, Pansy.” 

Pansy shakes her head tersely. “I won’t.”

“I’ve found that tea often makes conversations like this a more…pleasant ordeal,” he says.

“And I’ve told you I don’t want it.” 

He picks up his cup once more and regards her over the rim. “You seem to be under the impression this is a request. Let me assure you, it isn’t. You will be drinking that tea, one way or another.” He takes a sip from his cup, then adds in a strangely light tone, “after all, I went through the trouble of making it for you.”

“Then I’m afraid you’ve wasted your time.” 

His lips twitch up. “So stubborn,” he murmurs. “Just like your father.”

“I—”

“Do you know what every parent’s greatest wish is, Pansy?” 

“I…what?” Pansy asks, confused by the sudden shift in conversation. 

“It’s to see their child continue their legacy. To see their flesh and blood walk a path that makes them proud. All I wanted was for you to uphold the honor of the Parkinson family name. And I thought you would, for a time. You showed such promise. But then…that woman,” he whispers, a sneer coming to his face.

“Aunt Bea?” Pansy asks, her pulse picking up just a bit. 

“I could see the way she was corrupting you. Poisoning your mind with her radical views. You were so young and impressionable. You started to believe everything she said.” He picks up his cup once more and finishes the remaining tea. Pansy waits, her body buzzing with anticipation as she watches her father gently place the cup down. He wipes his mouth, then turns his hard eyes back to Pansy. “I couldn’t have that.” 

“So you killed her,” Pansy says. Her hands were shaking under the table, and even though she had rehearsed it and made it a part of her plan, no part of her was currently willing to disparage the person she had loved more than anyone in the world. “You killed her because she believed that Muggle-borns were people? Because she had the audacity to be a better person than you or I could ever hope to be?” she asks, sharp vitriol entering her voice. 

Her father’s eyes flash at the phrase Muggle-borns, but the rage is only visible for a moment. He quickly shutters the emotions in his gaze as he idly trails a finger over his cup. “Is that what you believe?” he murmurs. “I’m afraid you’ve got things rather twisted, my dear.”

Pansy’s heart sinks. She should have known better. Of course he wouldn’t admit to killing her aunt. It doesn’t matter that she’s wearing the bloody wire. It doesn’t matter that she’s putting herself through an absolute horrifying ordeal and sitting in the room she had vowed to never step foot in again. It doesn’t matter that for the first time in her life, Pansy had decided to do something brave, something altruistic and right. It doesn’t matter that she’s risking shattering her mind beyond repair by constantly replaying that awful night, over and over again. None of it matters. She had endangered everyone she loves and she’s about three seconds away from a complete mental breakdown and it was all for—

“I killed her because of you.” 

It takes a moment for her father’s statement to register, but when it does, Pansy opens her mouth, then closes it once more. Every single thought seems to vanish from her head, and she’s so surprised that she hasn’t even fully realized that she’s just managed to record her father’s confession. The wire is the last thing on her mind when she finally manages to ask, “what do you mean?”

“I didn’t kill her because she was a blood traitor, you foolish girl. I killed her because she was trying to make you one.”

Pansy shakes her head. “No, I…that’s not true,” she says weakly. “You killed her to protect the family name. I…I heard you—”

“You heard correctly. The Parkinson family name. The name that you are meant to uphold. You,” he says with simmering rage. “My flesh. My blood. I couldn’t have her corrupting you, so if I took her out of the equation, then…” her father shrugs. “She couldn’t continue to poison your mind if she was dead.” 

Pansy sits stock-still in her chair as a numb kind of dismay washes over her body. She can hear her heart pounding in her ears, an erratic thump thump thump, and her vision seems to be greying a bit at the edges.

Her aunt is dead…because of her

Pansy shakes her head. “No. No, that’s not…that’s not possible,” she says. She stares down at the table and thinks about desperate green eyes. She thinks about how helpless she had felt in that moment. She thinks about her father telling her aunt she had left him no choice. 

But before the despair can fully set in, Pansy finds herself thinking about how all her aunt had done, all she had ever done, was try to be a good person. She had tried to instill the right views in Pansy to ensure she never became a monster like her father. 

And her father had killed her for it. 

Her father had killed her.

Her father was the reason her aunt was dead. 

Not her.

She finally manages to look up at her father. His eyes are on her and there’s a small, cruel smirk on his face. She feels something inside of her break at the sight, and the numbness gives way to hundreds of feelings that seem to course through her body, all at once; the most prominent feelings are grief and rage. 

“You killed her…because of me?” Pansy repeats, her voice low and shaking.

“I did. At first I thought it would be enough to tell her to stay away from you. But she seemed to take it upon herself to be your…moral compass, of sorts. She made it clear that she wasn’t going to…how did she put it? Throw you to the wolves. She seemed to think there was something in you that was susceptible to her teachings,” he adds with a sneer. “That you were weak-minded and weak-willed. I disagreed. But now…” he shakes his head. “Now I’m not sure what to think.” 

Pansy feels the moment her rage overpowers her grief and she looks up at her father with fury etched in every line of her face. 

She will not be made to feel guilty over her father’s crimes. 

She’ll avenge her aunt. She’ll do it to prove that Bea’s efforts weren’t in vain. She’ll do it in her honor. 

She’ll do it if she has to die trying.

“You’re not sure what to think,” she repeats slowly, her fingertips digging into her thighs painfully. “Well, then. Let me tell you. Everything you did was for nothing. You killed her for nothing,” Pansy hisses as she leans forward in her chair. “I am your flesh. I am your blood. I am a Parkinson. And I am a blood traitor,” she says, a note of pride reverberating in her voice. 

She sees her father’s eyes darken and a dark flush slowly steal up his neck at her words, and she laughs a bit wildly. “You thought you’d silence her and that would be that?” She shakes her head and spits out, “you’re a fool. You’re a pathetic, evil, foolish coward. You made her a martyr and in the process, you ensured I’d never forget a single thing she taught me.” Her gaze falls on the teacup in front of her and without thinking, she picks it up and hurls it across the room. It smashes against the wall, but Pansy doesn’t bother to look. Instead, she grips the table with taut arms and keeps her steely gaze trained on her father. “You want to ask me questions?” she whispers, her voice low and dangerous. “Then ask me. Ask me without your tricks.”

Her father doesn’t move a muscle. He simply watches her with dark, guarded eyes. After what feels like an eternity, he exhales slowly and says, “why? Why after all this time?”

Pansy frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Seven years at Hogwarts and you’ve never once thought to question my teachings. So what was it? Hm? What changed?”

“Nothing changed,” Pansy says, almost lightly. “I just realized what a monster you are.”

“Oh, no. No, something had to be the catalyst. Something had to have corrupted you.” Her father leans back and steeples his hands together. “I wonder…would it have anything to do with the Mudblood girl?”

Pansy can feel the heat in her cheeks, and she knows her father has noticed when his eyes narrow. He leans forward and says, “so it does. I suspected it might.”

Pansy shakes her head swiftly. “It has nothing to do with her,” she says, a bit too vehemently to be believable. 

“Tell me her name.”

“There’s no—”

“Do not lie to me, Pansy. You will regret it.”

“I’m not—”

"Tell me her name."

"I don't—"

Enough!” Her father slams his fists down onto the table in a rare display of emotion, and Pansy jumps in her chair. “Do you honestly think I don’t know about your persuasions?” he hisses with a disgusted sneer. “I’m your father, Pansy. You are my business. More specifically, you continuing this family line is my business. But as I said, you’ve never been subtle. Not in the least.” His eyes are full of cold fury as he regards her. “I had rather hoped you’d managed to put all this nonsense aside and focus on Draco, focus on protecting your family’s name, but it would seem you’ve finally given into these…these temptations. And with a Mudblood, no less.”

Pansy shakes her head. There’s bile in the back of her throat and her heart is wildly pounding in her chest, but somehow, she still manages to keep her head free from thoughts of Hermione. “You’re wrong,” she manages, her voice weak and shaky. “I told you, I saved a student. I have no interest in her outside of her wellbeing.”

“I see. Well, then, if that’s true…if she’s just a student, then tell me—what is her name?”

Pansy forces herself to maintain eye contact and to keep her thoughts from straying. “Why? What do you want with her?”

“What do I want?” Her father echoes with amusement. He cocks his head and smiles at her, a dreadful, spine-chilling sight. “I want to see the Mudblood bitch who corrupted my daughter. And then, I want to bleed the mud from her veins.” 

All thoughts of staying collected fly from Pansy’s mind. “I’ll kill you before I let you touch her,” she whispers. The tremor from her voice is gone. Now, she just sounds positively furious. 

Her father chuckles, and a small shiver goes through Pansy. “Just a student, hm?”

“I swear, I’ll—”

“Really, Pansy, there’s no need for such theatrics. I’ll find out, one way or another. I would have known already, had Dumbledore not modified Baddock and Montague's memories to protect her,” he says, his gaze narrowing. 

Pansy frowns, taken aback by the information. “Then how do you know that I—”

“Goyle’s boy overheard the tail end of the conversation that night. He heard Baddock complaining about Parkinson taking points away to save a Mudblood. I told Goyle his son was mistaken. That my daughter would never do such a thing.” Her father absently pushes up his sleeves and sighs. “You know how much I hate to be wrong.”

Somehow, Pansy manages a smile. “I’m sorry,” she says, though nothing in her tone is even remotely apologetic. “I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you to know you’ve raised a blood traitor. But you have. And what’s more, I’d do it again. I’d do anything in the world for her,” she says, pleased when her voice doesn’t waver.  

“Including kill your own father?”

Her father regards her calmly and Pansy can feel the air around them crackling with some sort of dark, sinister anticipation. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembers the promise she had made to both Daphne and Hermione—if things look dangerous, retreat. But sitting in the room that’s haunted her nightmares for years, facing the man who had torn her life apart without so much as breaking a sweat, she knows that she’s about to break that promise. She can’t retreat. Not now. Not when the lives of people she loves hang in the balance. Not when she can finally help Beatrice. 

Her father’s question lingers in the air, and after a long moment, Pansy whispers, “if necessary.”

Her father raises his eyebrows at her reply. “I respect your honesty,” he says. Then, he tilts his head and an unnatural smile flickers to his face. “But I’m afraid, my dear, you won’t get the chance.”

Before she can blink, her father has reached for his wand. He throws out his arm but before he can cast a spell, Pansy’s reflexes kick in. She manages to duck down under the table as a jet of red light soars above her. Her heart pounds as she grabs for her wand in her pocket and she closes a sweaty fist around it. Hastily, she pulls it out and thinks about casting a Disillusionment Charm on herself. It’s a weak bit of defense, but it’ll at least give her some sort of coverage as she tries to make her way to the floo. At the last minute, she decides against it. 

She needs to protect the wire.

Quickly, she crawls toward the other end of the table, nearing the still-crackling fireplace. But before she can get very far, her father stoops down to look for her.

“Well, well. Isn’t this familiar?” he asks, his eyes landing on her form. “Hiding under the table again. But this time, there’s no one here to save you,” he murmurs. 

Before her father can cast a spell, Pansy casts a Shield Charm behind her, rolls out from under the table, and quickly gets to her feet. Once she’s standing, she doesn’t bother thinking about the Disillusionment Charm again.

Let him see her. 

“I always knew you idolized Beatrice, but I never thought you’d take it to this extent,” her father says cooly as he sends another curse sailing toward her. “I have to hand it to you, though. Dying in the same way is almost poetic.”

“I don’t plan on dying today,” Pansy snarls as she fires a Flipendo toward him. 

He easily blocks it and says, “and I didn’t plan on burying my father and my daughter in the same week. Life is full of surprises.” 

He flicks his wrist and sends a Cruciatus Curse toward her. 

Pansy drops once more, and the spell sails over her head. She knows she can’t get hit—she can’t risk losing her father’s confession. From her vantage point on the floor, she fires a quick Stinging Hex toward her father’s legs. He lazily flicks it away and scoffs. 

“A Stinging Hex? What are they teaching you? If I paid for your tuition, I’d demand a refund.” 

Pansy grits her teeth as she edges backward on her hands and knees, closer to the fireplace. It’s clear that he’s not even trying. He’s just playing with her, like a cat with a mouse. But that’s fine with her. All she needs to do is survive long enough to make it to the floo.

When he raises his wand again, Pansy casts another Protego. “Two Shield Charms,” her father says with amusement. “At least I know I won't be depriving the world of a fine dueler.”

Pansy flushes. It’s true—she’s not the most adept dueler. Ever since that long ago night, any type of offensive spells have made her a bit queasy. But if there’s one thing she knows she’s capable of, it’s defensive spells.

She takes a deep breath and refuses to let herself lose control. Instead, she straightens her shoulders and trains her eyes on her father’s wand. The moment she sees it twitch, she readies herself to deflect the spell. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s another Cruciatus Curse. 

“Two Cruciatus Cruses,” Pansy says, flicking the spell away as she mimics her father’s derision from earlier. “And here I thought you knew more than one spell.” 

And that’s another thing she’s good at—verbal mockery. She’s certainly had enough practice over the years, so perhaps between her excellent defenses and her sharp tongue, she’ll be able to escape this room and make it to the Ministry. If she can wear down his stamina and push him toward anger, she might stand a chance.

She just has to persevere.

His eyes flash a bit at the barb and Pansy clocks the moment he adjusts his stance. He tilts his body away from her, drops his hand to his hip, and flicks his wrist in an intricate, circular pattern. 

It’s all done in the space of a few seconds, but Pansy is prepared. The moment her father cries Diffendo, she idly steps to the side and evades the jet of vivid, orange light.

“I thought I’d be needing my wand for this,” she says, raising a mocking eyebrow. “Tell me, is this why Lucius has always been Voldemort’s favorite? Because you can’t even land a simple spell?”

Her father’s eyes grow wide at her casual use of the name, and even though it had made her uncomfortable (old habits, and all), she still feels a small victory race through her. “What’s the matter?” she taunts. “Scared of a name?”

She takes advantage of her father’s momentary shock and sends a quick Stupefy toward him. He blocks it and narrows her eyes. “You dare speak the Dark Lord’s name?” he hisses.

Pansy shrugs as she quickly evades a stream of pale blue light from her father’s wand. “One of us ought to try and get his attention. Y’know, since it’ll clearly never be you.” 

Her father’s body is taut with rage and there’s a vein standing out on his forehead. “You will pay for such insubordination.”

Pansy laughs wildly as she blocks the red light of another Crucio, sending it hurtling into an antique vase sitting on the mantelpiece. “You know he’s not here, right? He can’t actually hear this blatant arse-kissing?” She flicks her wand and sends a Langlock sailing toward her father. “I forgot, does he even have ears? I mean, we all know he blew his nose to shit, but surely he’s left something.” She sends a quick Relashio at him, then tilts her head in thought. “Come to think of it, does he even have an arse left to kiss?” Pure adrenaline propels her out of the way of a jet of angry black light, then she says, “oh, of course he does! Silly me. He is one massive arsehole, after all.”

Her father practically roars in rage as he fires off three Crucios in a row. Pansy lifts her wand and lazily blocks each and every single one. “Ah, you almost had me!” she says with something like glee in her tone. “I almost thought you knew more than just the one spell, but back to your favorite, I see. Don’t worry, I know spells are tricky. Maybe if you ask nicely, Lucius will help you.” 

Her father’s eyes are glittering with rage as he continues to send spells at her, and each one, Pansy manages to block. 

Neither father nor daughter are athletic duelers—they’ve barely moved the entire time, preferring a stationary method to the more physical one some showier types seem to prefer. But even with the lack of movement, she can see that her father is starting to slow, and it brings a small smile to her face.

Persevere

Pansy sends another Flipendo toward him and though he manages to dodge it, his reaction is slower. “What’s the matter?” Pansy says. “Getting tired? We could take a break if you like. Sit down for dinner, chat about old times, pick this up afterward?” 

A curse sails over her head and explodes behind her, chipping off part of the fireplace. A fine shard of stone rips away and tears itself across Pansy’s cheek, and she can feel blood start to run down her face. 

She refuses to even acknowledge it. 

Merlin, fine. There’s no need to get angry. You know, if you wanted to remodel, there are less violent ways to go about it.” 

Silencio!” her father says, flicking his wrist in agitation.

Pansy ducks blocks the spell and laughs. “And here I thought you were enjoying our little father daughter chat.”

Before she can say anything else, she sees her father’s wand start moving in a very familiar pattern. He’s about to cast Expelliarmus, but curiously, he’s making no move to say it. 

Non-verbal magic, then. 

Pansy straightens her back and the moment she sees his wand complete the pattern, she draws her own wand down in front of her in a sharp, vertical line. Immediately, a powerful Shield Charm explodes from her wand, trapping the attempted Expelliarmus in its wake. 

Her father’s eyes widen as he takes in the massive charm before him. His wand droops a bit and his mouth opens, then closes as he glances back to her, clearly stunned by her display of non-verbal magic. 

It’s the opening Pansy needs. 

She aims her wand toward the hideous crystal chandelier in the middle of the room, the one her father just happens to be standing under, and cries “Bombarda!”

Time seems to still for a moment. Her father’s eyes grow even wider as he looks up to follow Pansy’s gaze, and when he realizes what’s about to happen, he looks back to her with a stupidly stunned look plastered on his slack-jawed face.

The spell hits the chandelier and in the space it takes Pansy to draw a single breath, it comes crashing down on top of her father, trapping him under the rubble. 

She’s done it. 

She’s actually done it. All that’s left to do is get to the Ministry. 

Quickly, she reaches into her pocket, grabs a handful of floo powder, then spins around to face the fireplace. But before she can toss the powder into the flames, she hears her father’s voice from behind her. 

“Well…done…” 

She glances over her shoulder and her eyes widen with surprise. Somehow, he’s managed to stand up from the rubble. Dust from the chandelier coats his suit, his hair is out of place, and there’s a steady stream of blood trickling from a gash on his forehead, matching the abrasion on her cheek. She tears her eyes away from him as she look around frantically for his wand, and eventually, she spies it lying to his left, split into two clean, useless pieces. 

She’s safe for now.

“That was an impressive display of magic.”

Pansy lifts a sleeve and finally wipes at the blood on her cheek, all the while keeping her wand trained on him. “And it’s the last you’ll ever see. I doubt recreational duels happen often in Azkaban.”

Her father gives a weak chuckle, but Pansy notices when his smile turns to a small grimace of pain. “You think you’ll send me to Azkaban?”

“I don’t think. I know.”

“Oh? How?”

“I have all that I need to prove your guilt.”

“Even should that happen to be true, once you disappear into that floo…once you arrive at the Ministry and send those pathetic lapdogs here, do you think I’ll still be waiting?”

Pansy hesitates, then shakes her head swiftly. “It doesn’t matter. They’ll find you.” 

“Perhaps they will. But do you think they’ll find me before I find her?”

“Who?” Pansy asks with a frown.

“Your Mudblood.” 

Pansy can feel her gaze harden at the mention of Hermione. “You don’t know who she is. You’ll never find her. And even if you do, I won’t let you do anything to her.” 

Her father manages another weak chuckle. “Of course. You’ll kill me first.”

“I will.” 

He surveys her for a moment, then smiles. “Then do it.”

Pansy’s frown deepens and she shakes her head. “What? No, I’m not going to…” she straightens her back once more. “I’m going to the Ministry. They’ll deal with you.”

“And when you get back, I’ll be gone. Even if you cast a Full-Body Bind on me, by the time it takes you to go to Ministry and back, I’ll have a house-elf Apparate me away from here. And once I do, I’ll spend the rest of my life hunting you down. You and your Mudblood bitch. Neither of you will ever know safety again. Unless…you kill me.” 

Pansy feels something cold trickle down her spine at his words. It’s true—if he manages to evade capture, if he manages to continue living and breathing, then there’s no doubt in Pansy’s mind that he’ll continue to track her and everyone she loves, picking them off, one by one. 

But she won’t let that happen. She’ll stun him. She’ll levitate him into the floo and deliver him to the Ministry herself if necessary. 

Pansy’s grip tightens around her wand and she changes her stance in preparation to Stupefy him. Her father must notice, because he shakes his head and says, “come now, Pansy, no more stalling. You said you could do it if necessary.” He spreads his arm and gives a horrible laugh. “Well, the moment is upon us, dear girl! It’s here! Either you kill me now, or I kill everyone in your life. Starting with that that insufferable Greengrass girl.” 

Pansy freezes at the threat against Daphne and all thoughts of stunning him briefly vanish from her mind. A smile flickers to her father’s face as he continues. “I’ll start with her. It won’t be hard to find her, and once I do, I’ll draw it out. I’ll make her suffer in a way that will make Beatrice’s fate look pleasant. I’ll break and re-break every bone in her body. I’ll burn her flesh until it bubbles. I’ll pry her nails from her hands, one by one. I’ll do whatever it takes until she tells me the name of your little Mudblood whore, and once she does, I’ll kill her. And then,” he whispers, his voice chilling Pansy to the bone, “then I’ll move onto the real prize. Perhaps I’ll even take the time before I kill her to see what it is about this Mudblood that’s so…alluring to you,” he finishes with an horrendous, lewd smile.

Pansy stares at her father in numb horror. The casually delivered threat makes her breath stick in her throat and she’s dimly aware of a high-pitched ringing filling her ears. Frantically, her eyes flick back and forth, trying to land on something that won’t exacerbate her sky-high anxiety, but eventually, they drop down to her father’s collar where she notices pinpricks of blood staining the pristine white a deep, dark, scarlet red. She stares at the spots, overwhelming dread filling every space inside of her, and she remembers another, long ago night when he had come to her with bloodstains on his collar. Her legs buckle beneath her and somewhere in the back of her mind, a distant scream echoes. 

No. Not now. 

Pansy gives her head a small shake to try and clear her thoughts, to fight off the nightmare that’s plagued her at every turn for years, but it’s of no use. Being in the same room makes the memory come on so strongly, she can barely breathe, and whatever combination of willpower and adrenaline she had been relying on to keep the recollection at bay evaporates in an instant. The scream is growing louder, overpowering the high-pitched ringing, and Pansy lifts her hands desperately to her ears, trying to block out the very familiar noise. 

Her vision starts to tunnel and both her father and the room around her slowly melt away.

“I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but you’ve left me no choice,” her father said, raising his voice to be heard over her aunt’s harsh breathing and moans of pain. “Really, Beatrice…did you think we’d just stand by and let it happen?” 

Underneath the table, Pansy curled in on herself, her long-forgotten doll lying useless by her side. She was trembling madly, so much so that she was surprised her father couldn’t hear her bones vibrating against the wooden floor. 

She didn’t know what was happening—all she knew was it was really, really bad. 

The moment she had heard the first scream, Pansy had squeezed her eyes shut and clapped her hands over her ears, desperate to block out whatever horrors were being inflicted on her aunt. Everything had seemed to fade away except for that horrible, bloodcurdling scream. But now that the room was quiet again, Pansy was slowly becoming aware of other sensations—the ragged and swollen flesh on the insides of her mouth, where she had bit down to keep her own scream from joining her aunt’s; the metallic taste of blood lingering on her tongue that she desperately wished she could wash away; the pain in her fists from clenching them tightly enough to cut off circulation.

But Pansy didn’t care about any of the things she was feeling. She would go through anything in the world if it meant keeping her aunt safe. She’d let herself be tortured, no questions asked. All she wanted was to wash the entire night away. To wake up in the morning to find that this was all some horrid nightmare.

There was a series of thuds from above her and more long, pained groans as a polished shoe connected with Beatrice’s ribcage over and over. Pansy clenched her fists once more, digging her nails into her palms as she repeated three words over and over again. 

She’ll be okay. 

She chanted it in her head like a mantra, willing it to be true. 

She’ll be okay, she’ll be okay, she’ll be okay, she’ll—

“You stupid, foolish woman,” Pansy’s father murmured, almost gently. The strange, soothing tone in his voice made Pansy stop her recitation. 

The room was completely silent, save for her aunt’s gasps of pain.

Hesitantly, she cracked open her eyes. 

Perhaps she had thought her mantra hard enough. Perhaps her father had taught her aunt whatever lesson she needed to learn. Perhaps it was all over. Perhaps—

“Crucio.” 

Another horrific scream filled the air, this one somehow worse than the first. Pansy smashed her hands against her ears again, curled into herself even tighter, and rocked underneath the table. “No, no, no, no,” Pansy whispered, but her voice went unnoticed. Tears rolled down her face as she silently sobbed against the gleaming floor, shaking her head back and forth wildly. “Make it stop,” she whispered, pleading with no one in particular. “Please make it stop.”

She stayed curled in a ball until the screams stopped once more. In the silence, Pansy immediately started to repeat her mantra once more. 

She’ll be okay. She’ll be okay. 

But it didn’t work. No matter how many times she said it, it didn’t make her father stop, and eventually, she lost track of how many Cruciatus Curses were cast above her head. 

After what felt like ages, silence filled the dining room once more, but unlike the previous times, it seemed to linger. Pansy could still hear her aunt’s breathing, nothing more than a hollow wheeze, but at least it meant she was still alive.

Maybe it was finally done.

Pansy decided to be brave and open her eyes once more. But this time when did, her aunt was there, crawling toward her.

Except it wasn’t her aunt anymore. 

She was a monster.

Rivulets of blood were trickling from her purplish-black, bruised face, dripping thick, sticky drops onto the floorboards below. Her neck and cheeks were crisscrossed with deep gashes, presumably from where her fingernails had torn into flesh in a desperate attempt to make the pain stop. Wide green eyes were trained on Pansy, and Pansy shuddered uncontrollably when she noticed how the burst blood vessels polluted the whites of her aunt’s eyes, staining them with angry blotches of red. But even though the eyes were something out of a grotesque horror novel, Pansy forced herself to look. She knew if she looked hard enough, she’d be able to find her aunt, lurking beneath the pain and horror. 

And she did look. She looked as hard as she could, but it didn’t matter. Because somehow, whatever warmth and love that had always been present in that familiar gaze—that gaze that had always made Pansy feel like the sun was shining on her—had been completely extinguished. In its place was a kind of glassy-eyed madness that made a scream claw its way up the back of Pansy’s throat and an unbearable chill settle into her bones.

Somehow, she managed to drop the awful, empty gaze and turn her eyes elsewhere. 

Pansy tried to focus instead on her aunt’s lips, trying to read what she was mouthing to her. But even though the lips kept opening and closing, she never managed a sound. The only thing that came out was an eerie, rattling wheeze. Something pink and foamy was bubbling at her mouth, and as it foamed over and dribbled onto her blood-soaked shirt, Pansy felt a wave of nausea roll over her. She pulled her eyes away and looked toward the hands that were slowly pulling her along the floorboards. The nails looked ragged and worn, and Pansy could see a few that looked split in two. The same purplish-black bruising that had covered her face was blooming all over her hands, and though the rest of her skin was covered by clothing, Pansy had a feeling her aunt’s entire body matched the color. 

She was growing closer and closer, her arm stretched out in desperation, and Pansy felt paralyzed. She wanted to help her aunt, but she didn’t know how. What could she possibly do? How could she stop her father? How could—

“Pansy?” 

Her mum’s shocked voice cut into her thoughts, but she didn’t look up. She couldn’t take her eyes off of her aunt. Not now. Not when she had to help her.

“Pansy.”

If she could just figure out what to do. How to help. 

“Pansy.”

She could make it better. She could fix her. She could fix this.

“Pansy.”

Pansy’s father’s voice cuts through the memory. 

Almost immediately, the sights and sounds of the present moment come roaring back to life, and Pansy manages a choking, startled gasp. Her heart is pounding in her chest, her body is drenched in a cold sweat, and the hard, unforgiving floor presses uncomfortably into her knees. 

How did she end up on the floor? 

She must have collapsed at some point during the memory. Dimly, she’s aware of the pain in her palms where her fingernails have dug into her skin, but the pain doesn’t help to focus her thoughts. Now that she’s back in the present, her mind is spiraling out of control.

How had this gone so awry? How had they managed to get to this place? All she had to do was stay calm, avoid detection, and get to the Ministry. But now, everyone she loves is in danger. Now, the two people she loves most in the world are going to face the same fate as Beatrice.

She thinks about Daphne and Hermione desperately. There’s a sharp pain on Pansy’s neck and some part of her realizes that she’s moved her nails up to claw at the skin there wildly. When she feels sticky blood against her fingers, she doesn’t stop clawing. Her whole body is trembling now, just like it did that night, and she can’t seem to make herself stop.

“My, my. Where did you go, my girl?” 

Somehow, she manages to meet her father’s coldly amused gaze. And even though her body feels like she’s just been through some sort of unspeakable trauma, in that moment, as she looks at the vile, evil man before her, one thought forms in her mind with startling clarity: she has to kill him.

She has to kill him. If it means keeping Hermione safe, then she’ll kill him. She’ll do anything in the world to keep Hermione safe. She’d kill for her, she’d die for her, she’d—

“Hermione? Is that her name?” 

Somehow, her father’s quiet question manages to infiltrate her thoughts like a knife. Everything in her brain comes to an abrupt halt as her hands fall limply from her neck to her side, and she stares up at him with wide eyes. “I…I didn’t…how…”

“You’re quite good at hiding your thoughts, my dear. I suppose a lifetime of repression prepared you well. But you left your mind open. Didn’t you feel me?” 

Pansy shakes her head numbly. She hadn’t felt her father infiltrate her thoughts at all. Both her mind and body were still thoroughly shell-shocked from the memory she had been forced to relive, and at the time, she had been using what little mental energy she had left on thoughts of Hermione. Of how she was going to save her.

How is she going to save her?

Her body feels like it’s underwater. Every inch of her feels exhausted, and all she wants to do is lie down on the floor and close her eyes for the next two years . 

But she can’t. She still has a job to do. She has to fight through the pain. She has act now. She has to stun him and get him into the floo. Then, she’ll leave it up to the—

“Well, if you’re not going to kill me, then I’m afraid we’re just wasting time.” 

Pansy looks up at her father to find his fingers moving in an intricate pattern. Before she can even consider what’s happening, she feels the familiar tug of an Expelliarmus, and her wand flies from her hand. Her father catches it easily and twirls it between his fingers. “Your nonverbal magic was impressive. Perhaps one day, you would have graduated to wandless magic. You did have such promise…” he murmurs as he gazes at her. 

Then, he points her own wand at her forehead.

As Pansy stares up at it, she feels the walls closing in around her once more. Her heart is thundering in her chest and she can hear her own ragged breathing in her ears. Slowly, she drags her gaze up to her father’s eyes to find him watching her with a grim kind of finality, and in that moment, she knows what’s about to happen.

She’s going to die. 

She’s going to die right here, at the hands of her own father. She doesn’t know enough wandless magic to protect herself and even if she did, her body is in no condition to be fighting.

She’s going to die.

And yet somehow, that’s the last thing she’s worried about. 

In that moment, with her life hanging in the balance, the only thing that comes to her mind is Hermione.

With the last scrap of energy she has, she whispers, “don’t hurt her.”

Her father laughs, a low, disbelieving sound, and the vein in his forehead throbs. “You would waste your last words on her?”

“She hasn’t done anything,” Pansy says, her voice rough. “You’ve got what you wanted. You’re going to kill me. No one will know I’m a blood traitor. Isn’t that enough?”

“I didn’t want to kill you. This is only happening because of that girl. And she needs to be put in her place.” His wand arm grows taut. “I’ll be more than happy to be the one to do it.” 

“Why? Why punish her for my faults? She didn’t do anything.”

“She corrupted you,” her father says.

“She didn’t.” Pansy manages to drag herself up to lean against the fireplace behind her. “She doesn’t even know how I feel,” she whispers as tears come to her eyes. “She’s done nothing wrong, and if you…if you ever loved me,” she whispers, her eyes boring into her father’s, “then you’ll respect my last wish. You’ll leave her alone.”

Her father surveys her stoically for a moment, his arm still rigid, but the rest of his posture purposefully indifferent. Then, a cruel smile flickers to his face as he idly flicks his gaze over her. “I suppose it’s good thing that I never loved you, then, isn’t it?”

Pansy sees his grip tighten on her wand. She sees his posture change and the hatred build in his eyes. She sees the bitter smile fade into pure, blinding rage. She sees the moment her father transforms into the monster he is. 

She sees his arm draw back. She sees his mouth open. She sees his lips form two words.

She sees the ball of brilliant, green light gather at the tip of her wand. 

She sees the moment he throws his arm forward. 

She sees the jet of green explode from her wand. 

She sees flashes of her life, disconnected and hazy.

She sees Draco, wrapping her up in a warm, tight embrace. She sees Daphne, grasping her hands with shimmering eyes, begging her to be safe. She sees Felix, waking her in the morning with gentle head butts and deep, rumbly purrs. 

She sees Hermione.

She sees Hermione’s warm, fond gaze. She sees her soft smile. She sees the girl she is now and the woman she’ll become. She sees the whole beautiful, brilliant life they could have had together, stretched out in front of her. She sees dancing under a sky full of stars and long summer days spent exploring the streets of Paris. She sees dark winter nights, spent wrapped up under one blanket in front of the fire. She sees lazy mornings spent lounging in bed, trading long kisses and snarky quips. She sees all the beautiful, simple things that make up a lifetime. She sees happiness and accomplishments and love, so much love it almost makes her want to weep. 

She sees the Killing Curse rushing toward her in slow motion. 

She sees nothing more than green.

Her eyes slam closed. 

She doesn’t see anymore. 

***

Pansy had given some thought to what happened after death. It’s part of being human, after all. She had heard all of the arguments and weighed them all equally. She had even politely entertained the absurd Muggle concepts of heaven and hell when a Slytherin half-blood had regaled her with them during a drunken party during fourth year. But no matter what she researched, nothing swayed her from her own, personal belief—at the end of the day, when you’re dead, you’re dead. Whatever bits and bobs that had miraculously come together to make you up would eventually disintegrate into the vast, void of nothingness that stretched out for all of eternity, and that would be that.

So it’s quite a surprise to see just how wrong she is. 

Her eyes are still firmly closed, but she can already tell that death is far louder than she expected it to be. Though it’s loud in a strange, muffled, muted way. Like every sound has been distorted and warped. 

It’s also strangely physical. 

Pansy had thought that on the off-chance that there was something after death, it would be some sort of perfect, blissful peace. All her physical ailments would be gone and her mind would be at ease.

That’s not the case at all. 

Her cheek is throbbing, her neck is in agony, her body feels as if she’s just been hit by the Hogwarts Express, and her mind feels like it’s filled with heavy, soaked cotton balls. 

Hesitantly, she cracks an eye open to see what kind of bizarre, uncomfortable afterlife she’s found herself in and when she does, she’s rewarded with a view of the Parkinson’s dining room. 

Great. So Muggle hell, then. 

But as her eyes focus, she frowns. 

Why on earth would there be a massive Shield Charm in Muggle hell?

And why would there be the remnants of angry, green light crackling in the blue web of the Shield Charm?

Pansy blinks a few times. 

Huh. So not dead, then. 

She squints to try and see through the charm, attempting to figure out who had come to her aid. She can make out her father’s tall, lithe figure, but she can only see him in profile. He’s staring with furious betrayal at someone just over his left shoulder. Pansy squints a little harder to see through the vaguely opaque charm to see who’s bearing the brunt of her father’s wrath and as the Shield Charm starts to fade away, she gets a clearer look.

It’s her mum. 

And she looks furious.

Her wand is stretched out in front of her and before Pansy can even blink, her mum shoots a hex at her father, and he’s forced to throw himself sideways to avoid it. 

Pansy takes a long, shocked moment to watch her mum weave around the room with grace, and after a while, she realizes that her mum’s mouth is moving, and she’s gesturing toward the fireplace.

Suddenly, the noise of the room comes roaring back and Pansy can make out what her mum is yelling.

“Go, Pansy! Now!” 

Her mum hits her father with a quickly cast Diffendo and a spurt of blood erupts from his arm. He roars in frustration. It’s clear he’s not moving as well as he normally does, and Pansy realizes that his encounter with the chandelier had left its mark.

“You would help her?” her father bellows. He shoots a curse at her mum, but his movements are jerky and full of fury, and the spell misses wildly. “She’s a blood traitor!”

“She’s my daughter!” her mum screams back, flicking her wand to deflect another spell. “And you will not kill two members of my family in this room!” She casts another Protego, then turns to Pansy again. “Now, Pansy!” she screams, almost wildly.

Pansy glances toward her father and sees the moment that he starts to turn back to her. His eyes are black with fury and he looks completely unhinged, and Pansy feels fear grip her tight around the throat. 

Pansy!” 

Her mother’s well-timed scream kick-starts her mind. Without really knowing what she’s doing, she staggers up from the floor, reaches into her pocket, grabs the floo powder, and tosses it wildly into the fireplace behind her. Red flames immediately double in size and turn to green and somehow, Pansy finds the strength to throw herself into the fire. 

“Ministry of Magic,” Pansy says, speaking as clearly as she can manage as the heat and ash start to swirl around her. Her head is swimming as she tucks her elbows in, and just before the flames can take her away from the horrors unfolding before her, she catches her father’s gaze. 

There’s murder in his eyes and even with the heat of the fireplace rushing against her ears, she can still hear the Avada Kedavra as it leaves his lips with perfect clarity. There’s a blinding, guttural rage behind the words, and instinctively, Pansy braces for impact. 

The impact never comes. The last thing she sees before the floo rescues her is her second Killing Curse, hurtling toward her.

The next thing she knows, she’s practically falling out of the fireplace at the Ministry of Magic. 

Normally, she’d take a moment to get her bearings. To figure out how to go about this rationally and calmly, to remember the way Hermione had described Tonks (tall, heart shaped face, fair skin, dark eyes, most likely sporting pink hair), to try and piece back together the shattered and fractured pieces of her mind, to rejoice in the fact that she’s alive.

But she doesn’t have a moment. Not when her mother is fighting against a monster. And not when that monster has made it his mission to kill the witch Pansy loves. 

She staggers forward, making her way toward the Ministry’s security stand. There’s some part of her that’s aware of hushed whispers as she walks by, but she can’t find it in herself to mind. She's running on nothing more than pure adrenaline right now and the fact she’s even managing to move is astounding. And anyway, she’s sure the whispers are warranted—there’s still blood flowing down her cheek, her robes are soaked with sweat, and she’s sure she looks like a complete and utter mess. 

When she gets to the security stand, she marches directly up to a bespectacled man in peacock-blue robes. His eyes are cast down as he fiddles with an old, dodgy looking Probity Probe, and he doesn’t look up, not even when Pansy leans her full body weight against his podium in a desperate attempt to keep herself upright. 

“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic, please state your name and hand over your wand,” he says, boredom dripping in his nasally tone.

“Pansy Parkinson. And…I don’t have a wand.” 

Dull brown eyes flicker up to her, and to his credit, he doesn’t even blink at her appearance. He simply sweeps his gaze over her, then gives a long, weary sigh. “No wand, no entry.” 

Pansy blinks for a moment, then shakes her head. “No, I…I need to get in. I need to speak to Nymphadora Tonks.”

“Do you have an appointment?” 

“No, but she’ll be expecting me.”

“Right. Well, I’m afraid you’ll need an appointment. And a wand,” he adds quietly. 

“I don’t have a bloody wand,” Pansy says, irritation creeping into her tone. 

“So come back when you do.”

“My father has my wand and he’s currently using it to try to kill my mother,” Pansy says, raising her voice. It’s not on purpose—she doesn’t want to make a scene, but after the encounter she’s just barely survived, she’s about three seconds away from falling to the ground and screaming for the next ten years. Though if this pathetic excuse for a watchwizard doesn’t let her in soon, she might shelf the screaming and just throttle him instead. “I need someone to send Aurors to my house right now. I need you to capture him.”

“Pansy Parkinson, you said?” the watchwizard drawls, idly twisting his mustache between his index finger and his thumb. 

Pansy gives a stiff nod and clenches her fists. 

“Right. Well, I can alert the Auror Department and they can send somebody down to talk to you. You can take a seat over there, and—”

“No! No,” Pansy says. She’s not going to risk any more lives because of some bureaucratic bullshit. “I need to see Tonks now. Do you understand that? Now!” 

“Miss Parkinson, please don’t raise your voice to me,” the man says, looking toward the ceiling as if he’s begging for patience. “I told you, you’ll speak to someone from the Auror Department if you just—”

“Not someone, you daft fool!” Pansy cries. She’s sure there are eyes on her now. She can almost feel the interested gazes burning into her back, but she doesn’t care. She needs this mustachioed, glasses-wearing twit to let her by so she can save her mum and save Hermione. “Don’t you understand? He’s going to kill her! I need to speak to Tonks! I need to speak to her right fucking now!”

“Miss Parkinson, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Pansy laughs wildly and the man actually shrinks back a bit into his seat, his grip around the Probity Probe tightening. But she barely notices his discomfort. All the fear, anxiety, and trauma of the day make something splinter in Pansy’s mind, and before she knows it, she’s yelling at him. “Are you fucking deaf? He’s going to kill my mother! He’s going to fucking kill her and then he’s going to kill Hermione!” An actual scream tears its way from her raw throat and she thrusts her hands through her hair in frustration. Familiar panic claws at her throat, and if she wasn’t so close to completely shattering in such a way that she’d never fully recover, she might notice a man in the corner of her vision stiffen at her words. “If something happens to Hermione because of you, I swear to Merlin I’ll fucking…I’ll…” 

Whatever threat she wants to say doesn’t make it out. Instead, a sob bursts its way out of her throat and she practically crumples over the podium. 

She’s so fucking close and she’s going to fail because of some pompous, over-important nobody. 

Another sob wracks her body. She knows she’s wasting time and she should be vaulting past him, sprinting toward the Auror Department with whatever strength she has left, but she’s so tired. 

But Hermione is in danger.

Her hands tighten around the podium at the thought, and she readies herself to make a mad-dash past the man holding her hostage. Just as she’s about to lift her head and risk her neck breaking into the Ministry of Magic, of all places, she becomes aware of someone at her side. 

Of course. They’ve sent security to remove me. 

Maybe whoever this is will listen to her, she manages to think weakly.

Or maybe they’ll just close firm hands around her biceps and drag her back into the floo.

But instead of being manhandled, a serious, urgent voice says, “did you say Hermione is in danger?”

Slowly, Pansy lifts her head.

Standing beside her is a tall, red-haired man, surveying her with concern shimmering in his blue eyes. He’s slightly balding, there are laugh lines around his mouth and fine wrinkles surrounding his concerned eyes, and his stomach certainly protrudes more than some of the other members of his family, but there’s no doubt in Pansy’s mind—this is a Weasley. Arthur Weasley, if she remembers her Sacred Twenty-Eight correctly. 

“Hermione Granger?” he confirms, a deep furrow coming to his brow.

In any other situation, Pansy might find it completely ludicrous that after all her Weasley-related disdain, one of them would turn out to be her savior. 

But her mind is barely functioning, so instead, she nods. “My father is going to try and kill her,” she whispers. “My mum is holding him off right now, but he’s…he’s strong,” she says, wincing when her voice cracks. “And I’m supposed to talk to Tonks, but I can’t get through. My father has my wand and he won’t let me by,” she finishes, gesturing at the watchwizard.

The elder Weasley’s shoulders set, and he turns to the watchwizard with a glare. “Send Tonks, Gore, Savage, and Williamson down immediately. Then send notice to Dumbledore at Hogwarts. Make sure Hermione Granger is accounted for and tell them to keep her protected until they hear otherwise. But be sure not to worry her. Understood?” 

The watchwizard nods in alarm at the anger in Arthur’s voice and scrambles to send word. As he does, Arthur’s glare turns positively lethal and he says, “and next time a girl shows up in obvious distress, for Merlin’s sake, help her, Eric.” Then, he turns back to Pansy with softer eyes and says, “I’m afraid I missed your name, dear.”

The way he says dear is different from the way her father says it—it’s warmer, full of concern and compassion and none of the cruel contempt that she’s used to associating with the term. But even though the uses couldn’t be more different, the word still makes her cringe. “Pansy,” she finally says, leaving off her surname. She has a feeling it’s wise—chances are, this Weasley has heard all about her from his son, and nothing good, at that. 

“Pansy. Are you alright?” he asks, gripping her arms firmly. His concerned gaze sweeps over the still-bleeding gash on her cheek before landing back on her eyes. 

“I will be. Once I know Hermione is safe,” Pansy whispers. 

Arthur squeezes her arms and says, “if you’re a friend of Hermione’s, then you should know better than anyone how strong she is. She can take care of herself, our Hermione.” 

Pansy knows he’s trying to comfort her, but it doesn’t work. Nothing will work until she sees Hermione is safe with her own eyes, and until she hears that her father has been sent to Azkaban. Until then, she feels like she’s sleepwalking through a waking nightmare.

There’s a bustle of commotion near the lifts behind the security stand, and the next thing Pansy knows, four people are rushing toward her, led by a tall, thin woman with shockingly bright, shoulder-length pink hair. She practically skids to a stop in front of Pansy. “Pansy?” she asks, panting a bit as she skims Pansy’s injuries with clever, dark eyes. 

Pansy manages to nod. Tonks says, “Hermione told me to expect you. Are you hurt?” 

“No. No, but my father…” she starts again.

Mercifully, Arthur must notice how exhausted she is, because he steps in quickly. “Her father is trying to hurt her mother. From what I can gather, she’s holding him off for now, but if she fails, he’s going to go after a student at Hogwarts.” 

Tonks nods and immediately turns to face the other Aurors. “You three need to floo to the Parkinson Manor immediately,” she says. Pansy notices when all of the Aurors and Arthur’s eyes widen with surprise, and she shifts uncomfortably. But Tonks doesn’t hesitate. Her mouth sets and she grimly says, “I don’t need to tell and of you how dangerous Parkinson is. Stay alert and if possible, bring him in alive. If he’s gone by the time you show up, go immediately to Hogwarts and find a Gryffindor by the name of Hermione Granger. Arthur and I will take Pansy and find Robards. We’ll get her statement while we wait.”

The group all nod at Tonk’s instructions and without a word, the three men turn and run off toward the floo. Pansy watches until they step into the towering green flames and disappear from sight. A gentle hand settles on her shoulder and she immediately cringes away from it. 

“Sorry. Sorry, I didn’t know if…” Tonks sighs and says, “I’m glad you’re alright. Hermione’s letter was…well, let’s just say it’s clear she cares about you. Though why you two didn’t just come straight to the Ministry, I’ll never understand.”

“My father has contacts here. Connections. Even in the Auror Department,” she adds, noticing when Tonks’s eyes narrow in concern. “He’d never be convicted without the proper evidence.”

“And you have it? The proper evidence, I mean?” Arthur says, raising an interested eyebrow. 

Pansy exhales shakily, relieved that Arthur doesn’t seem to be holding her surname against her. With a shaking hand, she reaches into her interior robe pocket and pulls out the Muggle technology. The tape is still running, and she breathes a small sigh of relief. At least the floo journey hadn’t wrecked it. 

Arthur’s eyes immediately grow wide and he takes an eager step forward, then hesitates and shoves his hands in his pockets. “That’s a Muggle device, isn’t it?” he asks, looking absolutely desperate to examine it for himself as he rocks back and forth on his feet. “Some sort of audio recorder?” 

Pansy nods. “It is. And it has my father’s full confession on it.” 

“Well, then,” Tonks says, looking suitably impressed. “Let’s hear it.”

***

It takes absolute ages to get through Pansy’s statement. 

There are at least six Aurors in the room at all times including Head Auror Robards, and Pansy eyes all of them with distrust (except Tonks, of course, who stays firmly by her side the entire time). 

Tonks had provided Pansy with a Wideye Potion the moment she sat down, and while she’s still feeling completely numb, at least the lack of exhaustion had helped her get through the entire story. 

And she tells them everything—she tells them about watching her aunt’s murder, she tells them about her father’s attempt on her own life, she tells them about how he had promised to kill Hermione. 

Tonks and Arthur (who had insisted on staying, saying that tinkering with Muggle things could wait for a day) both look absolutely furious when she whispers what her father had planned to do to Hermione, and she squeezes her hands as tightly as she can, hoping that it’s not too late. 

After what feels like hours, there’s a sharp rap on the door and Pansy freezes, mid-sentence. The door opens to reveal one of the Aurors who had been sent to her home, and she waits with her heart in her throat to hear his report.

“We got him,” he says with a grin. “He’s stunned now and in a holding cell until further notice.” 

Hot, potent relief fills Pansy’s body, but all she manages is a kind of pitiful whimper. She hears Head Auror Robards congratulating the man in the doorway on a job well done, and just as the tall, fair-haired Auror is about to duck back out of the room, Pansy clears her throat. He pauses at the sound and waits, his eyes on Pansy. 

“My mum?” she whispers.

“She’s alive. She’s been transported to St. Mungo’s. He did a number on her, but she’ll be okay.” 

Pansy feels like she might pass out. A warm hand lands on her knee and gives it a squeeze, and she lifts her eyes to find Tonks gazing at her. “You did it,” she whispers intensely. “He won’t hurt anyone. Not anymore. Not ever.”

Pansy just manages to nod and blink away tears.

She's safe. They're all safe.

It's going to be okay.

After the Auror leaves, she continues giving her statement. By the time she’s done, her voice is shot and she can feel the Wideye Potion beginning to wear off. 

Pansy looks up to find Robards regarding her with grim, but compassionate eyes, and she feels some of the fear lift from her heart. Perhaps he’s on their side after all. “I’m sorry you had to experience all of that, Miss Parkinson. But it takes great courage to stand up to those we’re closest to. It’s a kind of courage I don’t see often. As a matter of fact, I only see it in the people I tend to work with. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, I’d be lucky enough to work beside you.” He leans back in his chair and seems to ponder for a moment, then he turns back to Pansy. “Your testimony and your mum’s should be more than enough, but you said you had proof? I’d love to hear it. It’ll make your father’s eventual trial much easier.”

Pansy nods and pulls out the recording device. From across the table, Arthur straightens up and eyes it with anticipation. The rest of the room looks more suspicious. 

“What is that?” Robards asks, eyeing the device with interest.

“Muggle technology,” Pansy replies. “It records audio. I recorded his entire confession. Everything I told you is on this tape.” 

Without waiting for Robards to say anything, she presses the button to make the device talk. Immediately, her father’s voice issues forth from the device.

“Well? Aren’t you going to sit?”

Pansy grips her leg and as the conversation plays out, her grip tightens to the point of pain.

She’s forced to sit there and relive the entire ordeal, and the second time she hears her father threaten to kill Daphne and Hermione in the same breath, she feels her vision start to tunnel again. But before it can, she’s aware of Tonks’s hand, firmly covering hers. With effort, Pansy manages to find Tonks’ eyes, warm and steady on her own. “Breathe,” she whispers. “You’re okay. She’s safe. They’re both safe. No one can hurt them.” 

Pansy nods as she tries to match her breathing to Tonks’, and mercifully, her vision starts to focus again. 

They listen to the entire tape, all the way until Pansy had remembered to click it off in the Ministry’s Atrium, and once it’s done, the room sits in stunned silence. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Arthur is the first to speak.

“Brilliant what Muggles can do nowadays, isn't it? The ingenuity! I mean, the ways they’ve had to adapt to solve problems without magic, it’s truly—” 

“Arthur,” Robards says gently. “Perhaps now is not the time.” 

Arthur immediately turns bright red and nods. He catches Pansy’s eye and says, “sorry. Though that was clever thinking on your part. Using Muggle technology.”

Pansy shakes her head. “It was Hermione’s idea,” she murmurs. And while Pansy may be numb and tired, she doesn’t miss the way Arthur’s eyes soften for a moment. 

“Fiendishly clever, our Hermione is,” he says. “I’d say you’re lucky to have her, but from everything I just heard, it would appear you’re lucky to have each other.” 

Pansy manages a small nod as she hastily blinks away the film of tears in her vision. Because even though she’s been through the wringer tonight, she doesn’t want to sit here crying in front of some of the Wizarding world’s top Aurors. 

The rest of the night passes in a blur of questions and testimony and before she knows it, she’s back in the Ministry’s Atrium with Tonks by her side. 

“We’ll probably need you back later, and I expect you’ll have to testify at your father’s trial,” she says as they walk toward the floo. “But don’t worry, that won’t be for a while. And until then, he’ll be held in Azkaban.”

“Good. That’s good,” Pansy nods. She stops before the fireplace and hesitates a bit. “I just…he’s dangerous,” she says. “And if he gets out, or if someone on the inside helps him…”

Tonks shakes her head. “I know every Auror that was in that room today and I’d trust any of them with my life,” she says seriously. “But we’ll certainly look into the rest of the department, just in case.”

Pansy nods again, then Tonks says, “and if it helps, I was in the room with your father when they modified his memory.”

Pansy raises her eyes to Tonks with surprise. “I didn’t know they could do that.”

“Oh, yeah. It’s a fairly common practice in cases like this. Keeps any potential victims safe from retribution.”

“So Hermione…?”

“For all your father knows, Hermione Granger is the name of someone’s pet squirrel.” 

Pansy manages a small laugh at that and Tonks grins at her, clearly pleased to have lightened some of the burden on Pansy’s shoulders. But then, something occurs to Pansy and she looks to Tonks quickly. “What you heard on the tape…I mean, what he implied about…about…”

Tonks lifts a hand. “None of my business. Plus, I’m sworn to secrecy, anyway. Can’t reveal a thing I hear in that room to anyone. But…can I be honest with you?” she asks a bit nervously, shifting on her feet.

Pansy nods slowly, and Tonks says, “what do you know about my parents?” 

Pansy frowns as she tries to remember what she was taught about the Sacred Twenty-Eight and those unmentionables who had strayed from the path. “Your mum is Andromeda Black. She was ostracized when she married a Muggle man. A Tonks, I’d assume. And…” she trails off, then shrugs. “I’m afraid that’s all I really know.” 

“It’s all you need to know,” Tonks says. Then, she leans forward and whispers, “sometimes, Pansy, two people can find each other under the most extraordinary of circumstances. And even if they come from completely different worlds…even if one has a Muggle background and the other is…oh, I don’t know…a pure-blood,” Tonks says, grinning when Pansy shifts uncomfortably, “if it’s right, it’ll work itself out eventually. Even if all the odds are stacked against it. I’m living proof of that.”

“Yes, but—”

“And Arthur was right, you know. Hermione is lucky to have you. It’s not every day a self-preserving Slytherin will go out on a limb for someone else. I mean, threatening to kill him?” Tonks gives a low, impressed whistle and surveys Pansy with so much admiration in her eyes, it makes Pansy flush uncomfortably. “That’s something else.”

“I—”

“Though of course, my official position as an Auror is…y’know, murder is wrong,” Tonks says, putting the words in quotation marks and lowering her voice to sound like a gruff, stuffy old man. “But my official position as someone who cares about Hermione is…bloody good for you,” she says, lightly punching Pansy on the shoulder.

“I—”

“And honestly, if the letter she sent me about you is any indication, well…I’d say you’re in a good space. Anyway, just try not to cock it up,” Tonks adds with a wink. “And don’t worry, I won’t say anything to Hermione. But I will check in with you when you’re back at Hogwarts, just to be sure you're holding up okay.” She breaks off as a low chime echoes throughout the Atrium, announcing the changing of the hour. “Merlin, it’s late. I was supposed to go home three hours ago,” Tonks says with a small chuckle as she glances back at the massive grandfather clock in the corner of the Atrium. She turns to Pansy and says, “I’d expect you’re exhausted, but if you still want to see your mum before you get back to Hogwarts, I’d go now. Visiting hours at St. Mungo’s are almost over.” 

Pansy nods, a bit shell shocked by the rapid-fire pace of Tonks’ speech. “Right. Right, I should—”

“Oh, bloody hell! I almost forgot!” Tonks interrupts, smacking her forehead with a small groan.

She lifts her wand and points it toward one of the security stands. Pansy watches as her own bag flies toward her, and once it’s close enough, she catches it. “Gore recovered your things. Everything should be there.”

“Thank you,” Pansy says. She glances at the bag and hesitantly says, “and my wand?”

“In the bag. But that said…if you want a different one, I’m sure no one would blame you,” Tonks says gently. 

Pansy thinks about staring at her own wand, thinks about the Killing Curse coming toward her and she shivers slightly. “I might just do that,” she murmurs.

“Smart girl. I’d do the same.”

Pansy’s not sure if she’s just being nice, but it helps her to hear that. She spares a smile for Tonks, then turns to face the floo once more. But before she can reach for the powder, she takes a deep breath and says, “thank you. For helping me. And for…for everything. I’m afraid I don’t know how to pay you back,” she adds with embarrassment. It certainly seems that Pansy owes a lot of favors nowadays. 

“Just keep Hermione safe and we’ll call it even. I trust you can do that,” Tonks says with another wink. “But as interesting as I am, I’m sure you’re sick of me. So go on, then. You'll hear from me soon enough. For now, you’ve got someone else waiting for you,” she says, nodding toward the floo. 

Pansy nods. She gives Tonks one last grateful smile, and as she steps into the fireplace, she knows that of all the favors she’ll eventually end up owing to all the many amazing people in her life, keeping Hermione safe will be the easiest by far. 

***

As Pansy sits alone in Snape’s office, she’s absolutely positive that she’s never been more tired in her entire life. She can feel the exhaustion in her bones and frankly, after her visit to St. Mungo’s, it’s a miracle she’s even upright in the high-backed, uncomfortable chair. 

Her talk with her mother had been…illuminating, to say the least. 

She had learned that her mum had no idea that her father planned on killing Beatrice that night. She told Pansy that she had stood there, paralyzed by shock and fear, unable to lift a hand to do anything. All she had been able to do was watch with numb eyes as her little sister cried out in agony, begging for help. It wasn’t until she had realized that Pansy was in the room that she had been snapped out of whatever awful trance she was in and startled into motion. When Pansy had demanded to know how her mum had even let it get to that point, how she had let her own sister walk into that room, she had simply dropped her gaze and murmured, “I don’t know.”

It hadn’t been good enough, so Pansy had demanded more answers.

“Why didn’t you leave before, then? Anytime before it happened. Before I was even born! Why didn’t you just leave?”

Pansy’s mum had raised her tired gaze and said, “because sometimes, the fear of leaving is stronger than the fear of staying. Your father was always worried about appearances. He wouldn’t have taken kindly to his wife leaving him.” She had delivered the last part of her sentence with a tight jaw and fear flashing in her green eyes, and Pansy was smart enough to read between the lines—her father would have killed her if she ever tried to escape.

That knowledge alone helped thaw some of the ice in Pansy’s heart, but she still could barely look her mum in the eyes. Before she left, though, her mum told her that even though she had a hard time showing it, she did love her. “Deeply. Just…in my own way,” she had added stiffly. She had told Pansy that she had always been the only thing that had ever made her even consider leaving her father. And when she had come home and witnessed what he was about to do, she had snapped. 

Then, she had asked if Pansy could ever consider forgiving her. 

Pansy had told her she’d have to think about it and her mum had nodded curtly. “I understand. Take all the time you need,” she had said. But when Pansy had finally turned to leave, she had hesitated, then turned back and dropped a stiff, awkward kiss to her mum’s cheek and murmured thank you before immediately rushing from the room.

The conversation had sapped the last bit of energy in Pansy’s body, and the second she had stumbled out of the floo, all she had wanted was to fall into bed.

But of course, fate had other plans.

Instead of beautiful, blessed silence, she had been greeted by a concerned looking McGonagall and Dumbledore, and a slightly less concerned looking Snape. They had clearly heard the gist of what had happened tonight, and Pansy had gritted her teeth for the lecture she was sure to come. 

But instead of a thorough chastising, they had simply asked her if she was okay. They wanted to know if she would be alright on her own, or if she’d like to spend the night in the Hospital Wing. When Pansy had assured them that all she wanted was her own bed, they had accepted it without any fuss. They told her that she would always be safe at Hogwarts and if there was anything she needed, she could always come to them. All things considered, it had been rather nice, even if McGonagall had fixed her with an intense stare and said, “though perhaps the next time you decide to rush into battle, you’ll come to a professor first.” 

Pansy had nodded weakly, too tired to defend her actions. And frankly, the thought of having to prolong the conversation with her professors had been enough to make her want to curl up at Snape’s feet and sleep for decades. But McGonagall had seemed to notice her rapidly flagging energy, and she didn’t make any more conversation than was strictly necessary. Instead, she simply awarded eighty points to Slytherin for “astounding bravery in the face of extreme danger.” Pansy had opened her mouth stupidly, but Dumbledore had held up a hand and calmly said, “They’re well-earned points, Miss Parkinson.”

When the conversation had come to an end, Pansy had thought she’d be released to finally, finally fall into her own bed, but before she could stand up, McGonagall said, “I’m sure you’d like to get to sleep, but I’m afraid there’s one more person you still need to answer to.”

And that’s how Pansy finds herself all alone in Snape’s office. 

As she waits for whoever this mysterious person is, her head droops onto her chest and her eyelids slowly slide closed. The gentle tick tick tick of the large clock behind Snape’s desk is lulling her to slumber, and while she’d normally never be able to sleep in this awful leather chair or this horribly cold room, right now, it feels like the most comfortable place in the world.

She’s almost asleep when she hears a door creak behind her and a sharp inhalation. 

Pansy.”

The familiar voice immediately wakes Pansy up. She turns around quickly to see Hermione, staring at her from the doorway with wide, emotional eyes.

Before Pansy can open her mouth, Hermione flies across the room and flings herself at Pansy. Warm arms clutch at her tightly and Pansy can feel the gentle tremble going through the other girl’s body. Without releasing her, Hermione slides down onto her knees and Pansy leans forward in the chair to maintain contact, but the angle quickly becomes awkward. Rather than release her, though, Pansy simply slides out of the chair and joins Hermione on the floor. Once they’re both on the ground together, they’re able to cling to each other even closer. Somehow, Pansy’s head lands against Hermione’s chest, allowing her to hear the rapid thumping of her heartbeat. And as she listens to the strong, pounding beat, the tears that she’s been holding at bay for hours and hours start to fall. Because for the first time all night, she has the proof she’s looking for—Hermione is safe. Hermione is safe, and warm, and in her arms, and so, so beautifully alive. Nothing is going to happen to her. She’s safe

Before long, the repressed sobs are shaking Pansy’s body and tears are falling fast onto Hermione’s soft jumper.

“You’re okay. You’re okay,” Hermione whispers into her hair, holding her close as Pansy continues to tremble. “You’re okay. You came back to me.” The hand that’s wrapped around Pansy’s back tightens and she whispers, “you came back to me.”

Pansy nods against her shoulder and shivers as she feels the fingers of Hermione’s other hand lightly trailing through her hair. She keeps whispering soft, reassuring words and as the seconds tick past, Pansy can feel her breathing slowly begin to regulate. It takes another few minutes for the tears to finally stop but once they do, neither girl makes any move to pull away. They simply remain on the floor, completely wrapped up in each other. 

Pansy’s not sure how long they stay that way, twisted around each other, seeking the constant, physical reassurance that they’re both here and they’re both okay. And while it’s obvious that neither girl wants to be responsible for ending the contact they’ve both clearly been desperate for, after a moment, Hermione draws back. 

She doesn’t go very far though. She takes in Pansy’s features with a soft sort of hunger as she raises her fingertips to lightly trail them over Pansy’s cheeks. “You’re safe,” she whispers, her fingertips continuing to gently stroke Pansy’s face, trailing over her cheekbones and sweeping down to her jawline. “I didn’t know…nobody told me anything for ages, and I just…” Hermione shakes her head and drops her hands. They land on Pansy’s knees and Hermione gently grips them as tears well up in her hazel eyes. “I was so worried. I thought you were…I thought that I’d never get to tell you…”

Hermione trails off and this time, Pansy is the one to lift her hands. She gently swipes away a stray tear with her thumb as it trickles down Hermione’s cheek. “I’m sorry,” she murmurs, gently cupping Hermione’s cheek. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

A watery laugh comes from Hermione. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been so frightened in my life. When McGonagall pulled me out of the Great Hall, I thought…” she trails off and shakes her head as more tears start to fall. 

“I’m sorry,” Pansy whispers again. She hesitates for just a moment before she drops her arm down and takes Hermione’s hand in her own. “But I’m here. You’re here. And he’s never going to hurt anyone again.”

“Thank god,” Hermione whispers, reaching blindly for Pansy’s other hand. She closes her eyes as she squeezes it and whispers, almost to herself, “you came back.”

“I did,” Pansy says. “It’ll take a lot more than two Killing Curses to keep me from you.”

She means it as something sweet and maybe even a bit flirty, but perhaps she’s too tired to be doing any flirting. Because the moment the words are out of her mouth, Hermione’s eyes fly open and she looks at her wildly. “Two Killing Curses?” she asks, her voice high and threaded with panic. 

“Oh. I…yes?” Pansy releases Hermione’s hands and rubs her neck uncomfortably, wincing slightly at the still raw, recently-healed flesh there. “I assumed McGonagall told you about…everything?” 

Hermione shakes her head frantically. Immediately, she starts to scrutinize Pansy’s entire body, looking for any sign of injuries. “No, she…she told me you were safe, but…” she lifts a hand and gently runs her knuckles along Pansy’s neck, her eyes filling with a potent mixture of concern and fury. “Did he do this?”

“No, actually. That was…that was me,” she admits, remembering the way she had clawed at her neck a bit sheepishly. “I suppose I should tell you what happened, then?” 

Hermione nods, then waits patiently with her eyes trained on Pansy’s face. 

And that’s how for the third time that night, Pansy ends up reliving the events that had happened in the dining room. But unlike the mostly stoic audience of Aurors at the Ministry, Hermione’s face is ablaze with emotion the entire time. When Pansy tells her of her father waiting for her in the dining room, fear creeps into her eyes. When she quietly admits her father had told her that her grandmother (a change she just barely remembers to make) was dead because of her, the fear is immediately replaced by fury, and indignant protestations fall from her lips. It’s only after Hermione’s thoroughly satisfied that Pansy doesn’t believe her father’s words for a moment that she lets her continue her story.

When she does, she tells Hermione about the duel. She lets her in on her secret weapon—defensive spells and mockery, and something fond, amused, and exasperated flickers into Hermione’s gaze when she manages to recall the line about Voldemort being an arsehole. And when she tells her about sending the chandelier careening on top of her father, there’s definite pride glowing on Hermione’s impressed face.

But then comes the harder part. Her father telling her to kill him. Pansy’s hesitations. His promises to kill everyone she loved. 

Her complete spiral that led to her reliving her most painful memory in shatteringly vivid detail. 

Hermione doesn’t try to interrupt. She simply finds Pansy’s hands once more and holds on tight, giving Pansy the anchor she needs to keep speaking. And when she tells Hermione that her father had made it his mission to find the Muggle-born she had saved that long-ago night in some misguided attempt to hurt the person he blamed for “corrupting” his daughter, understanding dawns on Hermione’s face. 

“I had wondered,” she murmurs. “I wondered why he knew who I was. How he knew to target me.”

“I didn’t tell him your name,” Pansy promises vehemently. “I swear. He used Legilimency on me and I wasn’t quick enough to shut him out. I didn’t even feel him. My thoughts were…all over the place,” she admits. “I think I was still partly in that nightmare. Reliving that night. He took advantage of me when I was barely holding it together. I’m so sorry,” she whispers. 

“Don’t apologize,” Hermione says fiercely. “You did nothing wrong.”

“I was weak,” Pansy says, her voice raising as frustration fills her chest. “I showed weakness and you could have died because of it.” Tears spring to her eyes again as she realizes just how true the statement is—Hermione could have died tonight, and it all would have been Pansy’s fault. She would have been responsible for killing the woman she loves. “You could have died,” she repeats, quieter this time, a tear falling down her cheek. She lets go of Hermione’s hand to brush it away as self-loathing settles into her chest like a heavy stone. 

“But I didn’t. I’m right here,” Hermione says gently. “And you were not weak. You might just be the strongest person I know, Pansy Parkinson,” Hermione murmurs as she runs a hand down Pansy’s forearm. She tangles their hands together once more and says, “I knew the risks going into this, so whatever it is you’re thinking, stop.”

“Yes, but—”

“No. I knew what could happen, and I wanted to do it anyway. And I would have, remember?” Hermione adds, quirking an eyebrow. “I would have tried to bring him to justice, with or without you. So stop beating yourself up over it. I know it was scary and I know you’re tempted to blame yourself, but what happened tonight wasn’t your fault—it was his.”

“I almost got you killed.”

“You did not. You are not responsible for your father’s actions. You couldn’t have known.” 

“But I should have—”

“And anyway, it’s not the first time I’ve almost been killed and it most certainly won’t be the last,” Hermione adds with an almost careless shrug.

Pansy looks up with alarm. “It better be the last,” she says. Then, her shoulders slump again and she says, “I just…I know you’re acting like it’s all fine, but it isn’t. What happened tonight, I…” she trails off, unable to complete the sentence. Finally, she sighs and says, “if you’re upset with me, I’ll understand. Because I’m upset with me. And I’ll never forgive myself.”

“Pansy, I’m not upset with you at all,” Hermione says vehemently. “I’m upset that you were forced into this situation and I’m furious at your father. Furious doesn’t even begin to describe it. But I’m proud of you. I’m so proud of you. Because you did the right thing. The heroic thing. The Gryffindor thing,” she adds with a small grin as she nudges Pansy with her shoulder.

Pansy snorts weakly and mutters, “piss off.”

“Never,” Hermione says. Then, her grin morphs into something more serious, and she says, “but I promise, I’m not upset. Not at all. How could I be, when I would have done exactly what you did? I don’t know if you know this, but rushing headfirst into danger is kind of my thing.”

Pansy manages a smile. “We’re going to have to compromise, you know.”

Hermione frowns. “About…?”

“If I’m out there doing mad, foolhardy Gryffindor things, you’re going to have to take on a bit of Slytherin self-preservation. It’s only fair.”

Hermione’s frown evaporates and she smiles. “I’ll consider it. But no promises.” Then she says, “and anyway, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d still help you in a heartbeat. Okay? So stop feeling guilty. The risk was worth it to me. And it all ended up okay.”

Pansy sighs, but somehow, she feels marginally comforted by Hermione’s emphatic words. Before she can reply, though, Hermione says, “and anyway, you were in an awful, impossible situation. He would’ve plucked the name out of my head, too.”

Pansy shakes her head. “Maybe, but you wouldn’t have let yourself get disarmed immediately after,” she mutters. 

Hermione seems surprised by the new piece of information. “I thought his wand was broken?” 

“It was.”

“Oh. Wandless magic?” Hermione asks. When Pansy nods in affirmation, she hums, then says, “I wouldn’t have expected it. And certainly not if I was standing in that room again. With all those emotions and awful memories? And if he had just infiltrated my thoughts and threatened someone that I cared about? No, I never would have stood a chance. So there, we would’ve found ourselves in the exact same position. And unless you think I’m weak, you’ll have to stop berating yourself.”

Pansy’s eyes drop down to where their hands are still clasped together. “Easier said than done,” she murmurs.

“I know. But just…try. Try to forgive yourself,” Hermione says gently. “You were fighting a monster. And at the end of the day, I’m still here. You’re still here. He didn’t win. And now, he’s going to pay. Okay?” She idly rubs a thumb against Pansy’s hand as she waits for Pansy to acknowledge her statement. But Pansy’s too focused on the gentle tingling sensation that seems to amplify every time Hermione’s thumb makes a new revolution.

“Pansy?”

“Hm?” Pansy says, pulling her eyes away from Hermione’s stupidly mesmerizing thumb.

“I said he didn’t win,” she repeats softly. “We’re both still here.”

“Oh. Yes. Yes, you’re right,” Pansy says. “And I’ll try. To forgive myself, I mean.”

“Good,” Hermione murmurs. 

Pansy takes a deep breath and continues with the rest of her story. Hermione reacts to every detail as expected (Pansy’s relatively sure she actually manages to cut off the circulation in her hand for a moment when she recounts both Killing Curses), and when she finally gets to the very end of her incredibly long tale, she slumps forward a bit, almost as if she’s unable to hold her body upright for a moment longer. 

If she was exhausted before, she’s dead-tired now. 

Hermione’s silent for such a long time that Pansy can feel herself starting to drift off to sleep again against her will. Without really thinking about it, she leans forward toward Hermione, who immediately shifts to pull her into a comfortable embrace. As one of Hermione’s arms absently winds around her, Pansy lets her hand come to a rest on the other girl’s knee and she tucks her head into the crook of her neck. Once she’s settled in place against Hermione’s side, she inhales deeply, letting the familiar scent of vanilla and apricot soothe her frayed nerves.

Just as Pansy’s beginning to fall asleep, she hears Hermione say, “McGonagall only gave you eighty points for all of that?”

The pure, righteous anger in Hermione’s voice wakes Pansy once more and she tilts her head up just enough to catch the disbelieving hazel eyes above her. “Ridiculous, isn’t it?” Pansy murmurs. “After all, the house points were the entire reason I went through with the bloody plan.” 

“No, I know that’s not the point, and there are much bigger things to talk about, and obviously, I want to make sure that you’re okay. That’s the most important thing, but I just…” Hermione shakes her head. “They should have made you an Auror right on the spot and she only gives you eighty points?”

“Mm. You’re Head Girl,” Pansy says sleepily against Hermione’s neck. For the first time all day, she finally feels safe and content, and it’s quickly lulling her toward unconsciousness. “Give me points.”

“I would if I could. But I can’t give points to a prefect,” Hermione says, gently running a hand through Pansy’s hair once more. Pansy murmurs in pleasure at the sensation and lets herself snuggle in just a bit closer to Hermione’s side, smiling when she feels Hermione’s arm tighten around her.

Merlin, at this rate, she’s going to fall asleep in two seconds.

“Pansy?” she hears Hermione say hesitantly. “You…you are going to be okay, aren’t you? I mean, obviously, you might not be for a while, and that’s fine. You have to take all the time you need, and I’ll be here for whatever you need. Really, name it, and I’ll be there, but I just want to make sure that—”

“Hermione?”

“Yes?” Hermione says quickly, cutting off her ramble abruptly at the sound of Pansy’s voice. 

“The only thing I need from you right now is to be here.”

She hears Hermione exhale slowly. “Well, then, that’s easy, isn’t it? Because I didn’t plan on being anywhere else.” 

“Good,” Pansy murmurs. “And I’ll be alright,” she adds as an afterthought as she slowly traces a mindless pattern against Hermione’s knee. “Maybe not right now. Probably not for a while, really, but…eventually. I think I’ll need some time to sort through everything. And maybe some help to…to process it all,” Pansy admits quietly. “But I…I don’t think I can talk about it anymore tonight. If that’s alright by you, I mean. I know I should, but I just…I can’t. Not right now.”

She feels Hermione’s nod. “Of course that’s alright. No more discussion. There’s always tomorrow.” She continues to run her hand softly through Pansy’s hair and Pansy takes a moment to think about what she’s just said.

There is tomorrow. There’s a whole beautiful, wonderful world of tomorrows, stretched out before them. They’ve got a whole lifetime to look forward to—a lifetime full of laughter and love and kisses and fights and laundry and dishes and so many tiny, beautiful things, it makes Pansy’s chest ache. They have a whole lifetime, just waiting for them to take the first tentative step toward it. 

“Can I ask you a question?” Hermione murmurs quietly, distracting Pansy from her thoughts.

“Is it whether or not Snape will mind us sleeping in his office?” Pansy asks drowsily. 

Hermione chuckles. “No. I think he’ll be delighted, actually. He seems to be the type of person who would love an impromptu sleepover.” 

Pansy hums. “Fine. He can stay. But he has to find his own person to snuggle with,” she adds, lifting the arm that’s been resting on Hermione’s knee and wrapping it around her waist instead, letting her fingers trace back and forth over her hip. “I’m afraid you’re taken.” 

Pansy’s too exhausted to really register anything she’s saying. Whatever filter she would normally have is completely gone, lost somewhere between a gleaming, stark dining room and an antiseptic room in St. Mungo’s. What she does register however, is how the hand that’s running through her hair stills momentarily at her words. “I…I suppose I am taken,” Hermione says in a quiet, almost regretful voice from above her. “But no, that wasn’t my question,” she adds, her tone shifting back to something more neutral as her hand resumes stroking Pansy’s hair. 

“Well, I’m quite good at answering questions. I had a lot of…a lot of…” Pansy yawns widely, then manages to finish, “a lot of practice at the Ministry.”

“Oh?” Hermione asks, her voice warm and amused.

“Mhm. Do your worst.”

“Right, then. Prepare yourself,” Hermione teases. “What was it you were going to tell me before you left?” 

Pansy tries to think about what Hermione’s referring to as she burrows her face a bit deeper into Hermione’s neck and gently grips at her hip. Her skin is so soft and she smells so bloody good. And she’s so warm. Merlin, how is she so warm? 

“Pansy?” Hermione asks, sounding breathless above her.

“Hm?” Pansy hums, her lips directly against Hermione’s neck.

“Before you left. You were…” Hermione’s breath hitches sharply as Pansy inhales deeply against her pulse point, drinking in her scent. “You were going to…to tell me something. What was it?”

Right. Hermione had asked a question. She scrunches her already-closed eyes up tightly as she tries to think back, but her short-term memory seems to have been reduced to nothing more than a soft, fuzzy blur. “I don’t know. Was it something good?” she finally manages to murmur.

“I’m not sure,” Hermione says gently. “I haven’t heard it yet.” 

“Oh.” Pansy wants to say more, but talking seems inordinately difficult right now. So instead, she falls silent, all the while hoping Hermione won’t mind her lack of participation. But the other witch doesn’t seem to care; she seems more than content to let the comfortable silence linger between them as she continues to idly play with Pansy’s hair.

“Feels good,” Pansy manages to murmur in a sleep-thick voice. 

“Good,” Hermione whispers back. 

“Don’t want to move.”

“You don’t have to. I'm not going anywhere. Just rest.”

Pansy hums at the reply. She’s dimly aware of the lingering press of soft lips against her temple, and even though the room around them is still cold, the gentle touch makes Pansy feel unbelievably warm.

They stay wrapped up in each other as the minutes tick by, and Pansy’s almost asleep when she hears a gentle tap on Snape’s door, followed by a creaking sound. 

“Miss Granger? Miss Parkinson?” 

There’s a soft voice at the door, but Pansy’s far too sleepy to turn around and face whoever it is. Instead, she decides to pull Hermione even closer in some kind of misguided attempt to make the unwanted intruder realize they're trespassing and leave. 

“Professor,” Hermione says, sounding somewhat embarrassed. Her arm tightens around Pansy, but she doesn’t pull away. “Sorry, I…I didn’t…I mean, we shouldn’t have…”

“Calm down, Miss Granger, I didn’t come here to chastise you.” 

Pansy finally manages to place the soft Scottish accent. “Is that McGonagall?” she mumbles, her lips brushing against Hermione’s neck once more. Hermione involuntarily shivers against her as Pansy says, “tell her she can come to our sleepover too, but she can’t snuggle with you, either.”

The skin Pansy’s resting against heats up, and she rubs her face against it. So warm

“I wanted to give you two time to talk, but I’m afraid you can’t stay the night in Professor Snape’s office. And what’s more, it looks like Miss Parkinson is in desperate need of a good night’s rest.” 

“Of course. Of course, I’m sorry, I’ll just…” Hermione shifts gently, then whispers, “Pansy? Pansy, love, you’ve got to wake up now.” 

It's perhaps a testament to how far gone Pansy is that she doesn't even register the term of endearment as it slips from Hermione's lips.

“I’m awake,” Pansy says a bit stupidly, but she doesn’t bother moving at all.

“Of course you are,” Hermione says, a soft, teasing note in her voice. Carefully, she unwinds her arm from around Pansy and uses it to lightly press against her, urging her to stand up. “Come on. Up you get.” 

With a deep groan and plenty of help from Hermione, Pansy manages to haul herself to her feet. Once she’s standing, she sways on the spot, and immediately, Hermione reaches out to steady her, placing one hand on her arm and the other at the small of her back. Slowly, Pansy drags her eyes open to find McGonagall watching them with a knowing smile. “Hello, Professor,” Pansy says through a yawn. 

“Hello again, Miss Parkinson. I believe it’s time we get you to bed.”

“Okay,” Pansy says agreeably. With more assistance from Hermione, she somehow manages to exit Snape’s office. Her mind is almost completely shut down, but as she walks toward the Dungeons, propped up between Hermione—who keeps a comforting hand at her back the entire time—and Professor McGonagall, she remembers there’s something important she needs to tell the Head of House. She closes her eyes as she desperately tries to make her swirling, blurry thoughts focus, but nothing comes to her.

What was it? What was it? 

Closing her eyes proves to be a mistake though, because she immediately finds herself thrust into some hazy, dream land, halfway between sleep and wake. Images flicker behind her closed lids for a while, some good, some awful, and it’s only when she feels Hermione coming to a stop beside her that she manages to open her eyes and look up. They’re in front of the Slytherin common room. 

“Oh. I live here,” Pansy supplies helpfully. “Are you going to come in?” she asks, turning to Hermione with hope in her eyes.

Hermione flushes and glances up at McGonagall with concern. “No, I…I can’t. I’m afraid I have to go back to the Gryffindor common room.” The moment she sees Pansy’s face fall with disappointment, she quickly says, “but I’ll see you very soon.”

“Yes, you will,” Pansy says as a grin quickly replaces whatever disappointment had been shining on her face moments before.

Hermione smiles at her fondly before stepping forward to gather Pansy in her arms once more. “Sleep well, Pansy,” she murmurs into her ear in a voice thick with emotion. “I’m so proud of you. You’re amazing. Absolutely amazing. Never forget that.” 

Lips quickly brush against Pansy’s cheek, then Hermione steps back and gives McGonagall a nervous, embarrassed smile. “Good night, professor,” she says.

“Good night, Miss Granger.”

Pansy lifts her fingers to her cheek and runs them lightly over the spot where Hermione’s lips had been. She watches as Hermione walks down the hallway, and she doesn’t take her gaze off of her until she’s climbing the stairs out of the dungeons. Then, she turns back to McGonagall to find her watching her with that same, small smile.

“I trust you can make it to your bed?” 

Pansy shrugs. “Probably not, but that’s what the couch is for.” 

“Well, do try your best,” McGonagall says dryly. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small vial filled with purple liquid. Some part of Pansy’s barely-working brain dimly recognizes it as a Dreamless Sleep Potion, and she reaches for it. “Take this before you sleep,” McGonagall says. “If you need more over the coming days, you may ask Madam Pomfrey.” 

Pansy nods, but before she can say anything, McGonagall says, “and Miss Parkinson? Thank you for keeping Hermione safe. She’s very lucky to have someone willing to fight so valiantly for her.” She delivers the words calmly, but there’s a glint of emotion in her eyes, and even though Pansy can barely remember her own name right now, she still recognizes it as gratitude. Gratitude and perhaps a bit of genuine tenderness. But before Pansy can fully comprehend what the look means, McGonagall says, “now, then. If you need anything, do come find me. Or Professor Snape,” she adds as an afterthought. “But in the meantime, good night, Miss Parkinson. Sleep well. And…and bloody well done.” 

McGonagall doesn’t wait for Pansy to reply before turning away and striding down the hallway, but it’s not like Pansy would have said anything. She’s too startled by both the language and emotion on display from her normally stoic professor, and as she watches her go, she feels a tinge of newfound respect for the woman. 

Maybe Gryffindors aren’t all bad after all. 

Once McGonagall is out of sight, Pansy somehow finds it within her to focus her thoughts long enough to remember the Slytherin password.

“Venomous Tentacula,” she finally murmurs, leaning against the wall as she waits for it to open and let her in. 

As soon as she’s in, she beats all the staggering odds against her and makes it all the way into her room. Daphne is already asleep, and Pansy takes a moment to watch her with soft eyes and a stupidly wide smile. She’s sure that tomorrow, Daphne will be positively furious that Pansy didn’t wake her and regale her with the entire story immediately, but the thought of retelling the story for a fourth time makes Pansy want to laugh hysterically. So for now, she’s simply happy to watch her best friend sleep in peace, content with the knowledge that she’s safe.

Eventually, she pops open the vial McGonagall had given her and downs the potion, wincing at the slightly bitter aftertaste. Then, she peels off her bloodstained clothing and casts a few charms to clean herself up. She desperately wants a bath, but she has a feeling if she tries, she’d drown. 

Once she feels like a human again, she pulls on her pajamas and falls into bed.

It takes about five seconds total before she’s asleep, but in her very last moment of consciousness, Pansy remembers what she wanted to tell McGonagall.

She had wanted to reassure her that her knickers weren’t in the bag Hermione gave her Thursday night. 

Oh, well, Pansy thinks easily. 

She’ll tell her tomorrow.

***

Pansy spends all of Saturday recovering from her ordeal. 

She leaves her bed only once for dinner, and even then, she’s thoroughly exhausted by the time she manages to drag herself back to her room. 

Daphne stays by her side every minute. Pansy had told her the entire story first thing in the morning, and Daphne had listened with alternating fury and horror blazing in her eyes. They had each shed their fair amount of tears over the course of the tale, and after Daphne had finished tightly hugging Pansy, she dried her eyes and said, “I hope you realize I’m never letting you do anything without my supervision again.” She had paused, then said, “which of course means I’ll eventually have to bear witness to you and Granger shagging, so I’d suggest you develop a taste for exhibitionism, and you develop it quickly.”

Pansy had simply rolled her eyes fondly and pulled Daphne in for another hug, taking care to pour everything she felt for her mad, ridiculous best friend into the embrace. 

When Pansy wakes on Sunday morning, she feels more or less refreshed. She had ended up taking McGonagall’s suggestion and asked Madam Pomfrey for another Dreamless Sleep potion. She didn’t want to risk what horrors her subconscious might cook up in the dead of the night, and she also knew she’d have to be at her best for what might just be the most important day of her life.

Today, Robin was going to meet her bard. 

Daphne thinks she’s absolutely mad.

“It’s been less than two days!” Daphne says with exasperation as they finish their late lunch in the Great Hall. “I’ve taken longer than that to recover from a bad hangnail. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

Pansy takes a sip of her water and shrugs. “I don’t know,” she says honestly.

It’s not like she disagrees with Daphne. She knows it’s a bit mad to pick up and move on as if nothing had happened. She knows that she’s actively repressing almost every minute of that night and for all intents and purposes, she’s probably not in the right headspace to do anything at all, much less finally try and start a real relationship with Hermione. And she also knows that even if things do work out in the way she’d very much like them to, the odds of her being a stable partner right now are slim to none. After all, who would want someone who can’t even sleep through the night without the aid of a potion?

But she also knows that going one more day without telling Hermione the truth would be unbearable. She knows that she wants Hermione to have all the information, and to leave the decision of whether or not their relationship should evolve into something more in the other witch’s capable hands. She knows that a pleasant distraction is something she could use right about now, and she knows that even though she has to process the trauma she’s been through, she also can’t let it hold her back from living her life. 

So yes, ideally, she’d like to have more time in between these two monumental life changes. But more than that, she’d like to have more time with Hermione. Specifically, more time being something more than a friend to her before the school year ends. 

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” Pansy repeats, “but I know that I want it to happen today. I can’t stand the waiting anymore.”

Daphne reaches across to Pansy’s plate and steals her fifth chip of the day, hastily withdrawing her hand when Pansy swats at it. “I suppose that’s fair,” Daphne says, popping the chip in her mouth.

“If you wanted chips, why didn’t you get them?” Pansy grumbles, lifting her bacon butty for another bite. 

“Because I knew you’d get them,” Daphne says calmly.

“I see. And what’s mine is yours?” Pansy asks, quirking an eyebrow as she remembers Daphne’s ludicrous turn of phrase from their Hogsmeade trip weeks ago. Daphne hums in confirmation and Pansy rolls her eyes. “Why is it that ridiculous phrase only ever seems to work in your favor?”

“No one likes a pedant, darling,” Daphne says. She reaches for another chip and Pansy exhales sharply, then pushes the plate across the table so it’s halfway between them. 

“Better?”

“Much.” Daphne nibbles on one end of her pilfered chip while she gazes thoughtfully toward the Gryffindor table. Then she says, “do you think Granger’s figured it out?”

“Figured what out?”

“That she’s been talking to you? I mean…she has to have some idea, right? I know she’s remarkably daft when it comes to this sort of thing, but surely the brightest witch of the century or whatever bombastic term they’ve given her—”

“Brightest witch of our age,” Pansy puts in.

Ridiculous,” Daphne mutters before continuing her thought. “Anyway, surely the brightest witch of our age can put two and two together and realize that her parchment pal sounds remarkably like a certain snark-happy Slytherin in her life?” 

“I honestly don’t think she suspects anything,” Pansy says with a small smile. She’s quite pleased she’s managed to keep the secret this long. 

“I see.” Daphne pops the rest of the chip into her mouth, reaches for another, then says, “do you think she’ll be upset?” 

Pansy shrugs. “Maybe.” 

It’s certainly a possibility. After all, Pansy has been lying for a while now. But she had done it for good reason at the start—she had to make sure Hermione didn’t despise her. And then, she had managed to get caught up in the idea of a grand reveal which had delayed her confession perhaps a bit longer than was strictly necessary.

But all that aside, she had tried to tell Hermione the truth two different times. It’s not her fault the other witch never lets her get a word in edgewise. 

“But even if she is upset, I don’t think it’ll last,” Pansy says, nabbing a chip before Daphne can eat all of them. 

“I hope she’s mad for ages.”

“What? Why?” Pansy asks in surprise. “I thought you wanted me to woo the pants off her.”

“I did. But remember, I’m never leaving you alone again. And if I’m going to have to watch you two shag, I’d like to delay it for as long as possible.”

“Merlin’s balls,” Pansy mutters. “You’re not watching us shag.”

“That’s what I thought, too! But I take my duties as your best friend very seriously.”

“Watching me shag is not and will never be a part of your duties.” Pansy takes another bite of her sandwich, then says, “and anyway, it could all still go sideways. Maybe I’m really not her type.”

“Mm. So she just cuddled you for ages in Snape’s office, because…?”

“Because she was worried about me,” Pansy says, refusing to meet Daphne’s gaze. She can feel her cheeks heat up and she hastily picks up her glass for a sip of water. When she finally looks back to Daphne, she’s smirking.

“Whatever you need to tell yourself,” Daphne says lightly as she finishes her own sandwich. Then, she pushes her plate aside and fixes Pansy with a serious look. “But really. This is a big deal, and if you’re not up for it, I’m sure she’ll understand. After everything that happened…Merlin, I’d be taking the rest of the year off.”

“The thought did cross my mind,” Pansy says. “But considering the alternative was going back home, coming back here seemed much better.” 

“You’re not going back there,” Daphne says sharply, pointing a chip at Pansy. “I don’t care if your mum begs you. If I have things my way, you’ll never set foot in that dreadful house again. You’re staying at mine this summer until we can find a flat together.”

“Oh? Is that an order?”

“It is.”

“Well, who am I to disobey a direct order?” Pansy says with a smile. 

To be honest, she had secretly been hoping to stay the summer with Daphne, and she’s glad she won’t have to ask outright. The thought of returning to that place had been one of her biggest sources of stress all day yesterday and had almost sent her into a full panic attack multiple times, so she’s glad she has a tentative plan in place to maintain her sanity. 

She’s sure her mum will understand.

“Thank you,” Pansy murmurs. “Really.”

Daphne scoffs. “Don’t thank me for that. That’s quite literally the least I could do. I just…I want you to take care of yourself. I’m sure it’s tempting to want to make Granger happy and put your own shit aside, but you need to make sure that you’re okay, first and foremost.” 

“Spoken like a true Slytherin,” Pansy says with a small smile. 

“Well, they didn’t just put me here because I look good in green,” Daphne says with a twinkle in her eyes as she snags another chip. “Although I do look amazing in green.” 

“That you do,” Pansy says. She picks up the last bite of her sandwich and says, “and I will take care of myself. I promise. But I just…I want to do this. I’m excited to do this.”

Daphne nods and sighs. “Then I certainly hope it goes the way you want it to. What time are you meeting her?” 

Pansy swallows what’s in her mouth as she checks her watch. “In about an hour. Which means I should probably start getting ready.”

Daphne sighs. "And while you’re having your lovely, romantic moment, I’ll be watching that ridiculous arm-wrestling thing in the common room and regretting all the decisions that led me to that point,” she says, standing up and picking up her bag. “Though I put ten Galleons on Millicent, so I suppose I should be there to support her.”

“A wise investment,” Pansy says, picking up her own things and standing. “I put down twenty.”

They head to the main doors, debating the strategies of arm wrestling, and they’ve only taken a few steps outside of the Great Hall when Pansy spots Hermione, coming in from outside with Harry and Ron. 

Pansy lets herself appreciate the flush of color on Hermione’s cheeks, her slightly wild and windswept hair, and the brilliant sparkle that comes to her eyes when she laughs at something Harry says. She reaches out a hand to swat fondly at Harry’s shoulder, and Pansy thinks about how wonderful that hand had felt running through her hair on Friday.

Before Pansy can let herself replay the soft memories of Friday night for the hundredth time, though, Hermione’s gaze turns toward her. The moment she sees Pansy standing there, her eyes widen with surprise. 

“Pansy,” she says, a slow smile coming to her face. “You’re here.” 

“I am,” Pansy says. 

She hasn’t seen the other witch since Friday night, and truth be told, she wasn’t expecting to see her until their meeting in an hour. 

She’s certainly not complaining, though. She’ll take all the time with Hermione she can get. 

Normally, Pansy wouldn’t pay an ounce of attention to the two buffoons flanking Hermione, but it’s hard not to notice the way Harry and Ron both turn to stare at Hermione in complete and utter shock. They’re sporting identical, wide-eyed expressions and Ron’s mouth opens and closes a few times in disbelief. It’s almost comical, and Pansy has to bite down on her tongue to keep from smiling. 

Pansy?” Ron finally manages to splutter, sounding as if Hermione’s just started speaking in Parseltongue. “Are you…I mean…what?” 

“Eloquent as ever,” Daphne mutters beside Pansy.

Ron misses the remark. He simply shakes his head wildly, as if he’s trying to clear some kind of fog. “Since when do we call her Pansy?” he asks Harry, who gives a bewildered shrug in response. 

Ron turns back to Hermione. “Are you feeling alright? I mean, did something happen?” His eyes flick suspiciously to Pansy for a moment, then back to Hermione. “Have you been Imperiused?” he murmurs, in what Pansy thinks is supposed to be a whisper.

Pansy sees a flicker of irritation pass over Hermione’s face, but she masks it quickly. “Don’t  be ridiculous, Ron,” she says, before turning her attention back to Pansy. “I’ve been meaning to find you. I’d like to discuss something. If you’re available, that is.”

“You would?” Ron asks, his voice oddly strangled. 

“Do you have time?” Hermione asks, ignoring Ron. 

Pansy nods. “My only plan today involved watching Millicent arm wrestle, so yes. I have all the time in the world.”

“Your only plan, hm?” Daphne murmurs without moving her lips. 

Pansy somehow resists the urge to stomp on her foot.

“Well, I suppose you should be thanking me for saving you, then.” Hermione’s tone is playful, her eyes are fond, and as she smiles, she gently snags her lower lip between her teeth.

“Mm. My Gryffindor knight in shining armor,” Pansy teases right back, turning the phrase Hermione had used in the library on Thursday night back around and smiling when she sees the recognition light up Hermione’s gaze. 

Merlin’s tits,” Daphne breathes in quiet exasperation beside her.

But Pansy doesn’t pay the remark any mind. She’s too busy delighting in the way Harry and Ron’s eyes are darting back and forth from Pansy to Hermione, desperately trying to work out what the bloody hell is happening to their best friend. Ron’s face is practically scarlet, Harry’s hair is standing straight up from where he’s run an anxious hand through it a few too many times, and they both look as if they don’t recognize the girl they’ve known and loved for the past seven years.

“Well, since you’re not saving me, I’m going to go watch the first match,” Daphne says lightly. “I’ll see you there later?” she asks, giving Pansy a look.

Pansy nods and her eyes widen with surprise when Daphne swiftly pulls her into a hug. 

It’s not that they don’t hug. All things considered, they hug quite often. But they certainly don’t hug every time they part ways. As Pansy lets her arms encircle the other girl, she wonders what the cause is for the sudden show of emotions. Perhaps Daphne still feels the need to reassure herself that Pansy is okay. Perhaps she’s still worried about letting her out of her sight. Perhaps—

Body language,” Daphne whispers into Pansy’s ear. 

Pansy exhales sharply. 

Perhaps she’s just a twat. 

Daphne releases her, gives her a small wink, then heads down the stairs to the dungeons. 

Hermione turns to Harry and Ron. “Go on ahead. I’ll be up soon.”

They both stare at Hermione, clearly still in a state of shock. 

“Are you…are you sure?” Harry finally asks, reaching up to nervously fiddle with his glasses. “I mean…it’s just…it’s Parkinson,” he says, sounding a bit helpless.

Hermione rolls her eyes. “Honestly. We’re not going to duel.” She says it with exasperation, but the moment the words leave her mouth, she turns to Pansy with horrified eyes. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t think—”

Pansy waves her hand. “It’s fine.” 

And it is. Her duel with her father is certainly something she’ll need to think through later, but for right now, she just wants to focus on Hermione and whatever she wants to talk to her about. 

Hermione winces apologetically, then turns back to Harry and Ron, who both look baffled over whatever just happened. “Really, it’ll be fine,” she says lightly. “I won’t be long.”

Harry takes a long, quiet moment to survey Hermione, and Pansy notes the concerned frown that settles on his face. Finally, he nods. “Okay. But just…be careful,” he adds quietly, his eyes flickering skeptically toward Pansy for just a second, as if he expects her wand to be out and pointed at them. 

“Okay?” Ron says, seeming to break out of whatever confused daze he’s been in for the past minute. “Are you mad? It’s not okay!” He gestures toward Pansy and says, “this is Parkinson! We’re not just going to leave Hermione with—”

“Ron. Remember what we talked about?” Hermione asks in a firm voice. She raises an unamused eyebrow and crosses her arms. 

It takes a moment, but eventually, Ron slowly deflates. “Respecting your decisions,” he mumbles. He glances darkly at Pansy once more and mutters, “but I didn’t think your decisions would be completely mental.” 

“Just because you don’t understand them doesn’t mean they’re mental,” Hermione says, but she doesn’t bother to elaborate. Instead, she prods Harry and says, “Now go on, then. I’ll meet you in the common room soon.”

Harry nods and grabs Ron’s arm. “C’mon, mate. We’ll talk about it later,” he adds in a quiet voice. 

Ron stares at Pansy with scathing disdain, but he lets Harry lead him toward the stairs. 

Just before they’re completely out of earshot, Pansy says loudly, “right, then! Shall we duel to the death here, or would you rather go outside?” 

She sees Ron’s back stiffen, but Harry keeps resolutely dragging him toward the staircase. Pansy turns to Hermione with a grin to find her watching her with exasperated eyes. “Your maturity never ceases to amaze me.” 

“Oh, come on. It can’t be new to you. You’re already friends with a massive toddler,” Pansy says, gesturing toward the staircase. 

Hermione bites her lip to contain a smile, and Pansy’s eyes sparkle at the sight. “So if we aren’t dueling to the death, what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Oh. Right. About that…” 

Hermione glances over her shoulder toward the staircase, then back at Pansy with nervous eyes. There’s a new and deeply concerned furrow on her brow and her head is tilted in thought, as if she’s trying to find the right words to say. Finally, she sighs and says, “I thought it was best you heard it from me. Before the school gossips spread anything. You know how they love to talk,” she adds, her mouth setting in the angry, tired way that only someone who’s used to being the center of attention can manage. 

“What is it?” Pansy asks with concern as she surveys Hermione. She looks incredibly on edge and Pansy finds herself wanting to soothe her nerves in any way she can.

“I…I…” Hermione gives a small, nervous laugh and racks a hand through her hair. “I didn’t think it’d be this hard to tell you this,” she murmurs, almost to herself. Pansy waits patiently, and after a moment, Hermione exhales sharply and says, “I wanted to tell you that Ron and I are back together.”

Pansy's stomach plummets to the floor. 

She shakes her head slowly as she stares at Hermione, who’s watching her with anxious eyes. “I’m sorry…you…you’re what?” Pansy asks, her voice barely more than a whisper.

“I suppose,” Hermione starts carefully, “that last night put some things into perspective. Ron and I talked when I got back to the dorm and…we’ve decided to give it another go. And I know he’s not your favorite person. I know that,” Hermione says, her words coming out in an anxious rush. “But I just thought that…you know, because you and I are…well, you know,” Hermione says, gesturing between them with a blush, “maybe you could do me a favor and just…try to be nice to him?” 

Pansy shakes her head again. She feels as if someone’s hit her with a Stupefy directly after a lightning bolt strike. She’s dimly aware that her mouth is hanging open, but she can’t muster up the strength to close it. 

This has to be some kind of colossal, fucked up joke. There’s no way that Hermione and Ron are back together. The universe wouldn’t be so cruel as to put Pansy through a near-death experience twice, only for the girl she’s in love to use it as some mad justification to give it another go with Ron Weasley. 

Maybe Pansy did die. Maybe this really is Muggle hell.

“I…I…” Pansy says. She’s finally managing to make noise, but she can barely remember what question Hermione’s asked her.

“I know it’s a big ask. But I really do think you two would get along. Would you do that for me?” Hermione asks, her eyes wide and hopeful. “Would you try to get to know him for my sake?” 

Pansy would do just about anything in the world for Hermione, but even she’s not sure if she can manage the awful, unbearable task of being polite to Weasley. Especially not if it means having to watch them interact as a couple. She’d sooner snog a flobberworm than watch Ron drape his arm around Hermione’s shoulders like it belongs there. Merlin, she’d sooner shag Hagrid than watch Hermione look at Ron fucking Weasley with soft, enamored eyes and a gentle smile. 

Her stomach turns at the thought and a pained grimace comes to her face. She glances toward Hermione, who’s still waiting for an answer. 

“I…I…”

But before she can manage a full sentence, the corners of Hermione’s mouth begin to twitch. 

Pansy’s eyes immediately narrow as she spies the motion. “Hermione,” she says suspiciously. “What are you…”

Hermione bursts into laughter. 

It’s the same wonderful, magical, all-encompassing laugh that Pansy loves more than anything in the world. The one that seems to shake Hermione’s entire body and leaves her face positively radiant. The one that makes Pansy feel like fireworks are exploding somewhere deep inside of her. The one that Pansy wants to bottle so she can hear it anytime she wants. Normally, Pansy would delight in that laugh. Normally, she’d fucking bask in it.

But right now, it only makes Pansy’s glare darken.

“Oh, that was worth it. That was absolutely worth it,” Hermione says as she pushes her hair back with a broad grin. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look quite so ill,” she adds with a snicker.

“So you’re not back together with Weasley?” Pansy asks, some part of her desperately needing the verbal confirmation of what she already knows.

God, no.” 

“Then what the bloody hell was that about?” Pansy asks, her voice coming out high and incredulous. 

That…was me having my revenge,” Hermione says a bit smugly.

“Revenge? Revenge for what?” Pansy asks, completely bewildered.

“For making me think my parchment pal was Bulstrode.”

Pansy stares at Hermione for a moment as the words sink in. Hazel eyes are still shining and if the slightly self-satisfied arch of her brow is any indication, Hermione is very, very proud of herself for pulling one over on Pansy. 

“That was…” Pansy shakes her head, but despite herself, she very slowly starts to smile. “Merlin…you’re absolutely mad,” she says. 

“Well, I couldn’t let you think my revenge would be as simple as…what did you say? Drowning you in a tub of cats?” 

“Remind me never to underestimate you,” Pansy says. Her words are light though, because she knows that there’s never any danger of that actually happening. 

The day she underestimates the incredible, brilliant girl before her is the day she’s lost all power of rational thought. 

“I thought for sure you’d know I was lying.” 

Pansy shakes her head. “Not even a little bit. I actually think my heart stopped for a moment. I mean, you and Weasley…” she gives a theatrical shiver. “Honestly, that’s the scariest thing I’ve had to think about in the past few days.” 

Hermione’s eyes soften and she says, “well…it’s certainly in the top ten, I’d imagine.”

Pansy nods. But before she can let herself think about the actual traumatic memories of the past few days, Hermione gives a small sigh and says, “that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh? You didn’t just want to give me a heart attack?” Pansy asks, grateful for the distraction.

“Well, mostly that. But no, I just…I wanted to see how you were,” Hermione says. The amusement has faded from her face and now, she’s looking at Pansy nervously. “I’ve been…I’ve been thinking about you,” she says with a small flush. “And I looked for you yesterday in the Great Hall, but—”

Pansy shakes her head. “I only managed to come up for dinner. And I didn’t stay very long.”

“Right. Well, I just…I mean…how are you?” Hermione asks, shifting gently on her feet.

“Now that I know you haven’t lost your mind? Splendid.”

“Pansy…”

Pansy hears the gentle plea in Hermione’s voice, and her shoulders slump a bit as she carefully probes at her actual emotions. “I’m…I’m okay,” Pansy says slowly. “I think I’m trying to block most of it out, which probably isn’t a good choice, but I can’t really think about it. Every once in a while, I’ll feel a memory coming on, and I just…I can’t go there. Not yet, at least. So I’m just trying to distract myself.”

Hermione nods, soft and understanding, and mercifully, she doesn’t try to push Pansy into discussing anything more. Instead, she says, “right. Distractions are good. Though I have to say, arm wrestling wouldn’t be my go-to.” She lifts an amused brow and Pansy chuckles.

“Oh? Did you have a better distraction in mind? Because I could be persuaded into having other plans. If you’re free, that is.”

Hermione grins at the suggestion, but then something shifts in her eyes and she frowns. “I…I’m not,” she says, sounding genuinely disappointed. “I’m sorry, I—”

Pansy waves a hand. “It’s a beautiful Sunday. I assumed you had plans. I hope they’re good ones? Or at the very least, better than watching arm wrestling?”

Hermione hesitates for a moment, then nods. “Yes, I…I’m meeting my parchment pal today,” she says. But for some reason, she doesn’t sound quite as enthusiastic as she had last time the topic had come up.

The kernel of hope shines bright from within Pansy’s heart.

“You are?” Pansy says with fake-shock, her brow furrowing in confusion. She takes a moment to scrunch her face up in thought, but then, she looks up at Hermione with wide eyes. “That’s right. You told me during Potions. I’m so sorry, it completely slipped my mind,” she says earnestly, as any good friend would.

Hermione scoffs. “Don’t apologize. You’ve had bigger things to think about than me and my parchment pal.”

“Well…maybe,” Pansy admits. “But even still. This is a big. I mean, after all this time, you’re finally going to meet her? That’s…” she shakes her head and says, “I’m happy for you.”

“Thank you,” Hermione says, but she still sounds strangely upset. 

Pansy tilts her head. “Why, Miss Granger,” she murmurs. “Do I detect cold feet?”

“No. No, it’s not that. I can’t wait to meet her, I just…” Hermione shakes her head and absently rubs her arm as she stares at the floor. “I didn’t know that I’d…I mean, I never expected…” she quietly trails off and raises her gaze to meet Pansy’s eyes.

She lets their eye contact linger for a long moment, and Pansy’s heart rate picks up at the look in her eyes. There’s something almost devastated in Hermione’s eyes, and while Pansy would never claim to be an expert on body language like Daphne, she’d bet good money that the emotion flickering across the other girl’s face right now is longing. She holds her breath as she waits for Hermione to finish her thought, but after a long moment, she whispers, “it’s nothing,” and drops her embarrassed gaze to the floor.

“Well,” Pansy says, deciding not to pry. “I am happy for you. I really hope that whoever she is, she’s worth the wait.” She hesitates, then she quietly adds, “And I hope that whoever she is, she knows how lucky she is to be a part of your life.”

“Pansy…” Hermione whispers.

“I hope,” Pansy says, taking a step closer, “that she never takes for granted what she has in you.” Another step forward. “Whatever you two end up being to each other, I hope she spends every day remembering that the most wonderful, astonishing, brilliant witch in the world loves her.” She takes another step forward. “I hope that she’ll make you happy,” another step, “I hope she’ll make you laugh,” another step, “and I hope she’ll always make you feel beautiful. Because you are. So, so beautiful,” Pansy murmurs.

Pansy’s close enough to Hermione now that she could take her hands if she wanted to. But she doesn’t. Instead, she takes a deep breath, focuses on the way Hermione’s heavy gaze is trained on her lips, and whispers, “but more than anything, I hope that she’ll make you feel loved. Because you deserve that. More than anyone in the world, you deserve that.”

“Pansy,” Hermione whispers again, leaning her head toward Pansy, close enough that their foreheads are almost touching. A tiny, pained grimace furrows Hermione’s brow and she whispers, “I…I…” She looks up toward the ceiling and blinks a few times as she shakes her head. “I wish that I…” 

Hermione closes her eyes and after a long moment, she looks back at Pansy. “You asked me if I ever thought about what things could have been. If everything was different.”

“I remember,” Pansy says quietly, thinking back to their dance in the library. 

“And I do,” Hermione admits softly with the saddest smile Pansy’s ever seen. “I do think about it. All the time.”

“Hermione…” Pansy murmurs. 

Hermione shakes her head and takes a step back. “I should go,” she says quickly. “I mean, I need to get ready. I don’t want to be late.”

Pansy’s a bit surprised by the rapid tone change, but she takes it in stride. “No. No, I suppose that’s not a good first impression.” She takes her own step back and says, “I should go, too. I need to…watch some arm wrestling, I suppose. But really…good luck. And I meant what I said—I do hope she’s worth it.”

Merlin, does she hope she’s worth it.

Hermione manages a weak smile. “Thank you.” She lets her gaze linger on Pansy’s face, then she shakes her head a bit and says, “I should go.” 

“So you said,” Pansy says with an amused smile.

“I did. I did say that.” Hermione winces at her own blunder, then she takes another step back and says, “but we’ll talk soon.”

“Oh, very soon.” 

“Okay. Okay. So I’ll just…I’ll see you later.”

“You will.”

Hermione nods, gives Pansy a small wave, then turns and starts toward the staircase. 

Once she’s out of sight, Pansy exhales slowly, then turns to start toward the dungeons to prepare for one of the biggest moments of her life. 

Perhaps she had been a bit much, and perhaps Hermione will give her an admonishing swat on the arm for laying it on so thick, but now more than ever, she knows she was right all along—Hermione definitely has feelings for two people. 

And luckily for her, they both happen to be Pansy.

She shakes her head with a small smile as she thinks about the awful dilemma the other witch must be going through right now. 

And even though does feel a bit guilty over her deception, as she jogs down the stairs, she can’t help but think that a bit of deception is probably to be expected when falling in love with a massive Slytherin twat. 

***

The world is bathed in gold as Pansy makes her way to the Black Lake. She breathes in deeply, filling her lungs with the soft air of early summer that’s playing through the trees, and she delights in the birds trilling around her with sparkling, vibrant joy. It’s almost as if the world knows that today is a special day and decided to put on a show, just for her.

She takes a second to stop and breathe, to gaze up at the sky above and let herself fully bask in the moment she’s found herself in. 

It’s finally happening. It’s finally here.

After months and months of buildup, Robin is going to meet her bard. 

And Pansy is…

She’s a little terrified, to be honest. 

Because as much as she thinks Hermione will be glad to see her show up, there’s still a little, gnawing doubt in the back of her mind, whispering, but what if she’s not? 

But anytime that doubt tries to amplify its treacherous voice, Pansy forces herself to remember every moment she’s had with Hermione. Not as the bard, but as herself. As nothing more than Pansy Parkinson, a girl who is messy, damaged, insufferable, and stubborn. A girl who has inadvertently shown the very worst of herself to Hermione, but who has somehow found acceptance anyway. A girl who is not quite Hermione’s perfect bard, but someone she still seems to like. Perhaps even more than like. And when Pansy thinks back over all of her interactions with Hermione, those sweet, fumbling, awkward moments they’ve created together, it helps to chase the doubt from her mind. 

As she walks, she lets those moments burn bright, replaying each one and remembering the soft, tender look that seems to fill Hermione’s gaze whenever she turns it toward Pansy. And through the persistent buzz of anxiety, she feels a strange, tenuous peace settle into her body. Because how can a girl who looks at her like she’s something to be treasured—like she’s everything—how could she not want to be with her? 

Pansy takes another deep breath and tries to hold onto the peace. 

She lifts a hand to adjust her hair for what’s probably the tenth time. She had spent an inordinate amount of time in front of her mirror, checking and rechecking her face before she had finally departed the Slytherin common room. But everything had to be perfect—her eyeliner, her mascara, her dark lipstick. Daphne had even let her borrow her ludicrously expensive foundation, but she had pointed a threatening finger at her and said, “if you don’t come back here with a girlfriend, you owe me thirty-five Galleons.” 

Pansy smiles at the memory, but the smile fades as the Black Lake finally comes into view. Quickly, she smooths down her thin jumper, then she squares her shoulders and begins the final bit of her walk toward the gnarled, ancient beech tree. 

It doesn’t take very long for her to arrive, and as she slowly approaches the tree, her breath catches in her throat. 

Hermione’s already there. 

She’s sitting beneath the tree and looking expectantly toward the path that leads directly up to it, clearly waiting for her bard to come into view. But of course, Pansy hadn’t wanted to be that direct. 

After all, why start being direct now? 

Instead, she had taken the long way and approached the tree from behind. She had wanted one last, precious moment before everything was out in the open to marvel at all the things that had gone into making this possible. To think about every letter, every promise, every look, every gesture, every touch. To drink in Hermione’s beauty in the glowing, magical light of the late afternoon.

And Merlin, is she beautiful. 

Her profile seems to glow softly and the gentle rays from the sun bring out the golden tints in her hair. She’s tamed it since Pansy had last seen her in the Great Hall, but she hasn’t bothered to pin it back. It’s still flowing long and free, spilling down her back in soft, tempting waves that have Pansy’s hands itching to run through them. 

She’s also changed out of her casual clothes from earlier and into a dark grey, off-the-shoulder jumper and Muggle jeans that cling to her legs perfectly. And even though it’s not something ridiculously formal or even remotely revealing, the simple, well-fitting outfit still makes Pansy swallow hard. 

As Pansy continue to watch, Hermione anxiously tucks her hair behind her ears and captures her lower lip, biting gently on it. Pansy can just make out the tiniest hint of a crease between her brows and the rigid set to her shoulders as she gazes at the path, but even with the obvious nerves, she’s still the most radiant person Pansy’s ever seen.

She has a feeling she could spend the rest of the day just staring at her from afar, but when she notices the way Hermione’s leg is bouncing restlessly, she decides it’s time. 

It’s finally, finally time. 

With a small inhalation, Pansy draws together every last scrap of courage in her body. Then, she takes a step forward, hurtling toward the unknown. 

It only takes a few soft steps for Hermione to realize that someone is approaching her from behind. The moment she does, her leg stops bouncing and her back immediately stiffens. She doesn’t turn around, but Pansy can see the deep breath she takes, and she smiles softly. 

She’s clearly not the only one who has to gather her courage. 

She comes to a stop, and in the shade of the towering beech tree, Pansy waits anxiously for Hermione to turn around and forever alter the course of both their lives. 

Several unbearably long seconds tick by and just when Pansy’s starting to think that she might have to awkwardly clear her throat, Hermione slowly twists around to finally meet her bard. 

Later, Pansy will think about how absurd it is that after months and months of writing to each other—of dedicating countless hours to learning each other inside and out and silently promising their hearts to each other—that everything should come to a head in less than a second. 

But that’s exactly what happens.

It takes less than a second for Hermione’s eyes to find Pansy’s.

Less than a second for everything to finally be out in the open.

Less than a second to change two lives forever.

And in the space of that half-second, everything around Pansy seems to melt away. The breeze dies down, the bird songs fade, and even the golden light seems to dim at the edges. 

The only thing Pansy can see is Hermione.

The only thing Pansy can feel is the heat on her neck as Hermione’s lips part in shock and her eyes grow impossibly wide; the disbelief and pure astonishment emanating from the familiar, beautiful gaze; the way Pansy’s knees suddenly feel weak, her hands, clammy, and her mouth, dry.

The only thing Pansy can hear is the quiet gasp that seems to reverberate across the lake; the steady pounding of her own heartbeat in her ears; the slow, shaky exhalation as Hermione realizes just who it is standing before her.

They hold each other's gaze in absolute silence, Hermione, too stunned to say a word and Pansy, too nervous to think of the right thing to say. 

But at the end of the day, Pansy is Hermione’s bard. 

And a bard always finds the right words.

A small, almost shy smile finds its way to Pansy’s face. 

She takes a deep breath. 

And standing there in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun, in front of the woman who means everything to her, Pansy murmurs the only two words she could possibly say after all this time. 

“Hello, Robin.”