Six years later—Richmond, London, December, 2003
“Please tell me you’re not getting into Quidditch.”
Pansy glances up from where she’s seated on the floor in front of the crackling fireplace to see Hermione, fresh from the shower, wearing sleep shorts and a simple white shirt and standing with her hip against the bathroom door. She rubs lotion into her hands, arching an eyebrow at Pansy as she waits for a reply.
It’s warranted skepticism, considering that Pansy is currently grinning broadly at a Quaffle that was just delivered by owl. Her thrilled face is illuminated by the warm glow of the Christmas lights strung on their tree and her body practically vibrating with excitement. But even though she’s so fucking elated she could probably float up to the ceiling, she still manages a small tsk at Hermione’s altogether absurd question.
“Please. I’d rather watch Muggle football,” Pansy says with a disdainful sniff.
“Need I remind you that the only time you’ve watched Muggle football, you set the pitch on fire?” Hermione asks as she steps back into the bathroom to finish her nighttime routine.
Pansy tilts her head back and grins at the memory of the one and only time Hermione’s father had tried to bond with the two of them over football. She had honestly tried to enjoy it, but when Hermione’s father had beamed and informed a horrified Pansy that there was still another half to go, she couldn’t stop herself from surreptitiously reaching for her wand.
To this day, both Mr. Granger and every single fan of West Ham refers to September 30, 2000 as “the day the pitch caught fire,” and it delights Pansy to no end.
“You know, some might call setting the pitch on fire a public service,” Pansy says, thinking about the way the players had scurried off the field with a broad smile.
“Others might call it a criminal offense,” Hermione calls from the bathroom.
“Semantics,” Pansy says, waving an uncaring hand toward the bathroom door.
She hears a snort from the bathroom, but before Pansy can say anything else, Hermione reappears with magically dried hair and eyes the Quaffle in Pansy’s hand once more. “So should I ask why you’re smiling at a Quaffle…?”
Pansy hums as she looks down at the ball with delight. “Because there’s no bloody way Weasley’s beating me this year.”
She tosses the ball toward Hermione who catches it with ease. As she studies it, her eyes grow wide.
“Hang on,” she says, turning it round in her hands. “Is this…?”
“Autographed by every member of the Chudley Cannons? Yes. Yes, it is,” Pansy says, a smug smile coming to her face as she thinks about just how sweet her impending victory is going to be.
Ever since she and Hermione had started dating, Pansy and Ron had been engaged in a constant competition. Because true to form, they had both decided to try and one-up each other in some ludicrous battle of chivalry, purely motivated by spite. At first, it had simply been a question of who could make an effort to greet each other first with a sickeningly sweet smile, all the while clenching their fists in their robe pockets. But as time went on, their competition grew more and more ridiculous and over-the-top. And now, their battle culminates every year in a Christmas Day showdown, with both Ron and Pansy trying to give each other the more thoughtful gift. Pansy almost always wins by a landslide, but somehow, Ron had managed to get his hands on a set of ridiculously expensive kitchen knives that Pansy had been drooling over all year and had presented them to her last Christmas with an infuriating smirk. They both knew in that moment that he had won their little competition, and Pansy had made a promise to herself then and there: she would not let Ron Weasley defeat her two years in a row.
“How on earth did you manage this?” Hermione asks, staring at the Quaffle with an impressed gleam in her eyes.
“I called in a few favors,” Pansy says, studying her fingernails. “By which I mean I called Ginny and she called in a few favors,” she adds, looking up with a smirk.
“Using his own sister against him?” Hermione asks as she crosses the room to sit beside Pansy on the floor. She drops down beside her, hands the Quaffle back to Pansy, then says, “how very devious of you.”
Pansy smirks as she places the Quaffle in a box and tucks tissue paper around it. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m not letting Weasley win Christmas two years in a row.”
“You do know you’re not supposed to win Christmas, right?” Hermione asks, laying her head down on Pansy’s shoulder and pressing close against her side.
Pansy hums and wraps her arm around Hermione, dropping a quick kiss to the top of her head. “You’re adorable when you’re wrong.”
Hermione chuckles. “And you’re lucky it’s Christmas Eve and I don’t feel like telling you for the millionth time how ridiculous this competition is.” She lifts her head from Pansy’s shoulder and fixes her with an amused look. “There’s no shame in admitting that you and Ron are actually frien—”
“I put some cider on, did you notice?” Pansy asks loudly, refusing to let Hermione finish her ridiculous and quite frankly, insulting sentence. “Thought it might be nice for our gift exchange. I mean, it is our first Christmas here, after all. Might as well make it special.”
“The lengths you’ll go to to avoid the truth,” Hermione says fondly. She cuts off Pansy’s protestations with a quick kiss, then stretches back up and heads toward the kitchen. “And speaking of losing Christmas, I hope you’re prepared to lose to me,” she says, tossing the comment over her shoulder as she heads toward the pot of cider simmering on the stovetop and filling the room with notes of cinnamon, brown sugar, and orange.
Pansy snorts as she adds a comically large bow to the top of the wrapped Quaffle. “Oh? Did you buy another set of Acromantula-themed lingerie?” she asks, grimacing slightly as she remembers a long-ago gag gift Hermione had purchased for Pansy’s twentieth birthday. The whole thing had been covered in dark brown fur and the bra had featured eight cold, black Acromantula eyes stitched into the fabric.
Hermione chuckles from the kitchen. “Knew you liked that.”
“I absolutely did not.”
“Really? Because if memory serves, you took it off of me awfully quickly…”
Pansy cranes around and fixes Hermione with an unamused stare. “Yes. Because it was horrifying.”
“Sure it was.”
“It was looking at me.”
“Whatever you need to tell yourself, love,” Hermione says as she ladles cider into two mugs with a smug smile.
Pansy rolls her eyes as she pushes Ron’s wrapped present out of the way and waits for Hermione to return. And as she waits, she becomes aware of a buzz of excitement in the pit of her stomach that seems to spread to every part of her, making her leg bounce restlessly and her hands twirl in her lap.
She really wants this Christmas to be perfect.
It’s certainly not the first one they’ve shared together, but it’s the first one they’ve shared together here, in the comfort of their own little home. They had searched far and wide for the right place, finally settling on a cozy, two-bedroom terraced house with a green front door and ivy growing up the walls, tucked away in a sleepy corner of magical Richmond. They had moved into the home four months ago and had finally managed to transfer all their assorted odds and ends over from their previous flat. And now that it finally looks like a proper home, Pansy wants to create some proper memories within its walls. She wants every single corner to have a story. She wants every single room to mean something, which is why she’s particularly excited for Hermione to open her presents tonight.
She has a few tricks up her sleeve.
They had started exchanging their more sentimental gifts to each other on Christmas Eve the year they moved in together. It’s their one night of refuge in what’s otherwise a busy and sometimes chaotic holiday season. Tomorrow, they’ll drop by Hermione’s parents’ house bright and early for a gift exchange and breakfast. After, Hermione will help her mum in the garden and Pansy will spend an hour or so sifting through Mr. Granger’s impressive record collection, searching for new music, all the while aided by his guidance and self-proclaimed “impeccable” taste. In the afternoon, they’ll stop by the Burrow and see all three thousand Weasleys. Pansy will very reluctantly pull on her hand-knit sweater from Mrs. Weasley, the one with the emerald P on the front, and she’ll grit her teeth while Ron laughs at her. She’ll wind up helping Mrs. Weasley with the cooking and at dinner, she’ll sit next to Mr. Weasley, completely content to tune out the rest of the family as she and Arthur discuss the latest in Muggle technology with voices that grow progressively louder as the wine pours become more and more liberal. And at the end of the day, Daphne will come over, commandeer the kitchen to make spiked eggnog that’s usually far too heavy on the brandy, and curl up on the couch with Pansy to watch a Muggle Christmas movie after Hermione’s gone to bed. It’s all a bit exhausting and probably will wind up doing lasting damage to her poor liver, but frankly, Pansy wouldn’t have it any other way.
They’re honestly her two favorite days of the year.
Quiet strains of Christmas music fill the air and Pansy glances over her shoulder to see Hermione fiddling with the volume knob on their CD player.
“Setting the mood for your defeat?” Pansy asks.
Hermione steps away from the CD player, crosses the room once more, and hands Pansy a mug. “Big talk for someone who hasn’t seen my new Acromantula lingerie yet.”
“Merlin’s pants,” Pansy says, curling her hands around the mug and letting the warmth seep into her fingers. “If you actually found a second set, I’m moving out.”
“You can’t move out,” Hermione says, sitting beside Pansy once again and leaning back against the couch. She blows gently on her steaming mug, then looks up at Pansy with faux-serious eyes. “I can’t afford the mortgage on this place by myself.”
“Oh? Is that the only thing I’m good for?”
Hermione’s lips curl up in a sly smile as she takes a sip of her cider. She lowers the mug and eyes Pansy with an arched brow. “You may have one or two other talents.” Before Pansy can reply, Hermione adds, “though I suppose we’ll just have to see if we can add losing graciously to the list.”
Pansy scoffs at the altogether preposterous notion. “You and I both know we won’t.” She takes a sip of her cider then sets the mug aside. “But luckily, I don’t plan on losing tonight.”
Hermione hums into her mug, then places it down beside her and fixes Pansy with a determined look. “Well, then. May the best witch win?”
“I plan on it, thank you.”
Hermione shakes her head, but the corners of her lips tug up once more in a begrudging smile. She stretches forward toward the small pile of presents wrapped beneath their tree and slides the largest one along the floor toward her. “You first,” Hermione says, settling back against the couch. “I want to see the look on your face when you realize there’s no way you’re winning tonight.”
Pansy pulls the large gift toward her, but she spares an amused glance toward Hermione out of the corner of her eye. “Didn’t you just say that Christmas isn’t about winning?”
Hermione lifts her mug once more and shrugs as she takes a sip. After a moment, she puts the mug back down and says, “I did. But someone has to keep your massive ego in check.”
“How noble of you,” Pansy says as she rips into the wrapping paper with gusto. “But whatever this is, it won’t matter. You’re absolutely not going to—”
The words die on her lips as she tears off the wrapping paper and sees what’s hiding underneath. She stares at it for a long, silent moment, then pulls her wide-eyed gaze up to meet Hermione’s. “This is…I mean, it’s…it’s…”
“Do you like it?”
“Like it?” Pansy echoes. “I…I love it,” she says, her eyes wandering back to the gift. She stutters as she tries to find the right words to convey her emotions. “It’s…it’s…”
And it is.
Well, more specifically, it’s their entire story, splashed onto a massive, immersive canvas.
Pansy drinks in the absolutely gorgeous abstract painting, full of swirling, vibrant colors that dance and shimmer on the canvas in a way that almost makes them feel alive. The left half is dark and full of furious red streaks and coarse brush strokes that seem to pulsate rage, but as Pansy’s eyes move toward the center of the canvas, the strokes grow cleaner and the red fades seamlessly into a pale, muted blue. The blues are softer, almost as if they aren’t sure whether or not they deserve to be on the canvas, and there’s something about it that makes Pansy’s chest ache. But the sensation is short lived, because out of the blues, stretching toward the right half of the canvas, are brilliant swirls of pink, creeping over every available corner and winding their way around the canvas, looking like the light of a perfect sunrise.
She looks back to Hermione and shakes her head in complete shock. “How did you get this?” she asks, her voice hushed with wonder as she gazes at the painting she had occasionally found her thoughts turning to over the years, wondering if it had ever come to be.
“Luna messaged me a few months ago,” Hermione says, running her finger over the simple, black frame housing the canvas. “She told me she finally started her series on auras. Apparently she never got around to it while she was at Hogwarts, but she always wanted to revisit the idea. I had asked her ages ago to let me know if she ever decided to work on this one…on our painting,” she says, directing a smile toward the canvas. “When she told me it was done, she asked if I’d like to see it. And once I did, I fell in love with it. I knew you’d love it, too, and I couldn’t stand the thought of it going to a gallery, so I made her an offer right then and there.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Pansy says, drinking in the painting once more. “Lovegood is…” she shakes her head, overwhelmed for the hundredth time that Luna Lovegood of all people had managed to make a massive name for herself in the art world. “She’s bloody brilliant,” Pansy finally finishes as she sweeps a finger over the frame.
They gaze in silence at the striking, bold colors of their love story, and after a moment, Pansy turns to Hermione. “Thank you,” she murmurs. “This is…I mean, it’s…” She shakes her head once more, still unable to come up with the right words. Instead, she drops her gaze down to Hermione’s upturned lips and does the only thing she can think of to properly convey her feelings.
She kisses her.
It’s a long and slow kiss that tastes of sweet cider and makes Hermione sigh against Pansy’s lips. She lifts a hand to gently cup Pansy’s jaw and the simple gesture makes Pansy’s chest expand, but the moment she pulls back, Hermione aims a cheeky grin at her and asks, “so does this mean I’ve won Christmas?”
“Oh, hardly, darling,” Pansy says with an immediate scoff. “But it does mean you’ve made this a real competition.”
Hermione shakes her head fondly as she reaches for her mug and takes another sip. As she drinks, she glances around the room with bright eyes, and as soon as she swallows, she asks, “where should we hang it?”
Pansy looks around the room, then nods toward the crackling hearth. “Over the fireplace, I think. I want it to be the first thing I see every day when I walk through the door.”
“Over the fireplace it is,” Hermione says. “Oh, and I told Luna I’d send her a picture of it once it’s in place, so don’t let me forget.” Pansy hums in agreement but before she can say anything, Hermione says, “right! Now that that’s all settled and I’ve secured my victory…” She claps her hands together expectantly and grins at Pansy. “My turn?”
Pansy smiles at the excitement radiating off of Hermione. “I’ve never seen someone so eager to lose before, but yes, it’s your turn.”
She lifts her wand and summons one of Hermione’s gifts, catching it smoothly as it sails out of their bedroom. “You’ve got two gifts to open tonight,” Pansy says as she hands the gift to Hermione, “so I think that automatically makes me the winner.”
“Quantity, not quality,” Hermione says, eagerly taking the gift and running her fingers along the wrapping paper with interest. “Is it a book?” she asks, looking up with an excited gleam in her eyes. It’s a look that only Hermione could manage to have over the prospect of someone gifting her a book, and Pansy feels a wave of love wash over her for her ridiculous, bookish witch.
She doesn’t let Hermione see just how endearing she finds her excitement, though, choosing instead to shrug as nonchalantly as she can manage. But as she watches Hermione carefully unwrap the gift, she lets a tiny, anticipatory smile sneak onto her face.
Hermione tugs the book loose from its paper and turns it around in her hands, and Pansy watches as recognition flickers in her eyes.
“The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,” Hermione says, running her finger lightly over the gold words stamped onto the green book. “Do you know, I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of this for ages now?”
“Open it,” Pansy instructs.
Hermione gives her a small, puzzled smile as she opens the cover. Her eyes skim the first page and she trails a finger down the words, pausing on the Roman numerals stamped at the very bottom. After a moment spent working out the year, she brings her gaze back up to Pansy’s, wide-eyed and amazed. “1883?” she asks.
Pansy nods. “It’s a first edition,” she says, grinning when she sees the way Hermione’s lips part in surprise. “I’ve been trying to get my hands on one for years.”
“I…I mean, it’s…” Hermione delicately turns the pages, pausing now and then to gaze at the illustrations. “I can’t believe you found this,” she finally murmurs, turning back to the very beginning of the book.
“No, nor can I,” Pansy agrees with a smile, thinking about how ridiculously happy she had been when she had finally tracked it down and how quickly she had whipped out her Muggle credit card to pay an exorbitant sum that had made her eyes pop when she saw it on her monthly statement.
“But do you like it?” Pansy asks, very much hoping that the absurd price was worth it.
Hermione doesn’t answer. Her eyes are tracking across the page and she’s snared her lower lip between her teeth in the way she does when she’s intently focusing on something. Pansy watches for a moment as Hermione turns a page to continue reading, then she huffs out a laugh. “I suppose I’ll take that as a yes?”
Hermione looks up with surprise. “Sorry, what?”
“I asked if you liked it, but I guess the fact you were too busy reading to hear my question is all the answer I need.”
“Sorry, love,” Hermione says, shutting the book with a sheepish smile. “But honestly, you should know by now what happens when you give me a book.”
Pansy chuckles. “I suppose that’s fair. But you do like it?”
“I love it,” Hermione says, her eyes sparkling. “You know I’ve always wanted to own a first edition. I can’t think of a better one than this. It’s absolutely perfect. Thank you,” she says, leaning forward and brushing soft lips against Pansy’s.
Pansy smiles, pleased by Hermione’s reaction. She reaches up to tuck a stray lock of hair behind Hermione’s ear, then nods toward the book and says, “this is the same version my aunt had.”
Hermione looks down at the book in her lap with surprise. “It is?”
“Mm. I mean, she obviously didn’t have a first edition,” Pansy amends, “but it’s the same version she read to me from when I was little. I was going to buy one for you a few years ago, but I figured a first edition would be a bit better than a £7 copy from Waterstones.”
“It’s amazing,” Hermione says. She runs a reverent finger over the spine of the book and says, “I know it’s not exactly your standard, Christmasy fare, but maybe we could read it tonight?”
Pansy can feel her smile turn a bit mischievous at what’s still to come. “Maybe…but you haven’t seen your second present yet, and something tells me it’ll keep us very busy the rest of the night.”
Hermione immediately looks interested by the deliberate phrasing. “Oh?”
“Mm. Wait right there,” Pansy says, getting to her feet and quickly crossing to their bedroom.
Hermione calls after her, “you got me more Acromantula lingerie, didn’t you?”
Pansy tosses her middle finger up over her shoulder and grins when Hermione’s delighted laugh follows her into their bedroom.
She crosses to the closet and as quietly as she can manage, she retrieves the gift that Daphne’s been keeping for her for the past few days. With the utmost care, she lifts it and puts it into a pre-wrapped box, then gently places the lid on top. Moving slowly, she nudges open the door, slips out, and walks back toward Hermione, who’s watching her with rapt attention.
“This one is fragile, so no shaking,” Pansy warns, gently placing the box on the floor in front of Hermione and kneeling beside her.
“It’ll keep us busy the rest of the night and I’m not allowed to shake it,” Hermione says, reaching toward the box. “Why? Would it start vibrating if I tried?” she teases.
“It…might make a rumbling sound or two,” Pansy concedes, watching as Hermione scoots closer and grips the lid of the box.
“Well, then,” Hermione murmurs, removing the lid on the box. “I suppose Robin Hood and his merry adventures will just have to wait for another—”
Whatever Hermione was about to say gets caught in her throat as she stares into the box with wide eyes and a slack jaw. A few long seconds tick by before Hermione whispers “oh my god,” in a shaky voice. She brings both hands up to cover her mouth, and almost immediately, tears spring to her eyes. “Oh my god,” she repeats, shaking her head in disbelief. After a moment, Hermione tears her gaze away from the box and looks up at Pansy with wide, shining, hopeful eyes.
“Is this…I mean, is it…” she shakes her head again, then says, “can we keep it?”
Before Pansy can reply, there’s a high-pitched mew from inside the box, followed by a tiny, furry head peeking up over the edge, staring around the living room with wide, interested eyes.
Pansy reaches forward and gently scratches the top of the kitten’s head. “She’s ours,” she confirms, chuckling quietly at Hermione’s gasp of delight.
Hermione reaches into the box and scoops out the impossibly small Siamese kitten, bringing her close to her chest. “Oh my god,” she says for a third time, but this time, her tone is suspiciously watery.
“Good surprise?” Pansy asks, twisting her hands in her lap nervously. She had hoped that the kitten would be a welcome gift, as they had both agreed that after a long year spent missing their respective boys, it was probably time to have a cat in their lives once more. After all, their home was lovely, but without a feline presence, it hadn’t felt like a home. So Pansy had looked up the nearest shelter and the moment she laid eyes on the itty-bitty kitten with bright blue eyes and an overly bushy tail, she had fallen in love. She had just had to hope Hermione would feel the same.
But if the way Hermione is gazing at the kitten with adoring eyes is any indication, Pansy would say it’s a fairly safe bet she feels the same.
“The best surprise,” Hermione says, blinking away tears. She drops a kiss to the kitten’s head and it lets out a small, surprised mew. “Hello, you,” Hermione murmurs, brushing a gentle thumb against tiny ears. “Aren’t you gorgeous?”
She coos over the kitten for a while longer, then, she glances up at Pansy. “Fine,” she says in a very begrudging voice. “You’ve won Christmas.”
“Told you I would,” Pansy says with a self-satisfied smirk.
“In my defense, you didn’t play fair,” Hermione says, letting the kitten climb up her shirt to hop onto the couch behind them. She twists around to watch the newest member of their household explore, her entire face glowing with joy when the kitten lifts a tiny paw to bravely bat at a couch cushion. “I mean, how on earth am I supposed to compete with that? I could’ve had Luna paint the whole house and I still wouldn’t have won.”
Pansy chuckles and scoots closer to Hermione, wrapping her arms around her and pulling her close. “Honestly? I think we can call it a draw.”
Hermione scoffs as she leans back into the embrace. “You’re only saying that because you know you’ve won.”
“Mm, maybe. But why ruin the moment by pointing out the obvious?” Pansy asks, dropping a kiss to Hermione’s temple and watching as the kitten does a ludicrous, full body pounce onto the poor, unsuspecting cushion.
Hermione snorts at the scene, then twists around in Pansy’s hold to look at her. “Thank you,” she murmurs, raising a hand to cup Pansy’s cheek and gazing at her in a way that makes Pansy feel warmer than any mug of cider or string of Christmas lights ever could. “She’s absolutely perfect. You’re absolutely perfect.”
Hermione leans in and gives Pansy a long, languid kiss. Her arms loop around Pansy’s neck and she tugs gently at her bottom lip, and Pansy smiles in return, letting her hands push up the light fabric of Hermione’s shirt. But before her fingers can creep any higher, a very loud and very demanding meow cuts through the air.
Hermione breaks their kiss and glances over her shoulder to see the kitten, standing on the couch and staring forlornly at the ground, clearly wondering how on earth she’s to make such a daunting and perilous journey back to the floor. Hermione solves the problem for her, scooping her up with one hand, then placing her down in her lap. “Sorry, love,” she murmurs to the kitten, running a finger over its tiny back and smiling when she starts to purr under the gentle touch. “I didn’t mean to leave you up there.” She scratches underneath the kitten’s chin and says, “it must be awfully scary coming into a new home.”
But the kitten doesn't seem scared at all. She simply curls up in Hermione’s lap and closes her eyes, purring contentedly.
“I think she likes you,” Pansy says.
“Well, that’s good,” Hermione says as she continues to pet the kitten, “because I already love her.” She glances up at Pansy with interest. “What should we name her?”
Ah. And here it is.
The moment Pansy’s been dreading.
Why the fuck did she ever agree to this.
She shifts a bit uncomfortably on the floor and clears her throat. “About that,” she starts, wincing when her voice comes out strangled. “She kind of…already has a name?”
At the unexpected news, Hermione’s brows draw together in a puzzled frown. “From the shelter?” she asks, her hand pausing mid-pet on the kitten’s back. “We can change that, you know. Unless it’s a really good name, I suppose,” she adds, glancing down at the kitten and biting her lower lip in thought.
“No, it’s…it’s not from the shelter. It’s…”
Pansy trails off and stares at the kitten with guilty eyes, all while remaining very aware of Hermione’s gaze, which has flicked up to her face. She runs her hands nervously over her thighs, trying to delay the inevitable for as long as she possibly can. After a long silence, Hermione very warily says, “Pansy…what’s her name?”
Pansy drops her gaze to the ground and very, very quietly says, “it might be…Daphne.”
The only sound in the room comes from the CD player, where a Muggle singer is blissfully crooning away about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. After a long, awkward moment, Pansy risks lifting her eyes. When she sees the wide-eyed incredulity painted on Hermione’s face, she winces. “I can explain.”
“So you remember all the things Daph did to help us get together back at Hogwarts?” Pansy asks sheepishly.
“Yes,” Hermione says slowly, a small frown etched between her brows.
“And you know how sometimes, if someone is particularly helpful, they’ll jokingly ask for a firstborn child named after them?”
“Well…” Pansy trails off and glances down at the kitten with a helpless shrug.
“Oh, god…” Hermione says with dawning realization. She tilts her head toward the ceiling and shakes it in disbelief. “Pansy…why?”
“She assumed we wouldn’t be having a firstborn child,” Pansy says quickly, “so she asked for a cat named after her, and…I mean, at the time, I thought it was ludicrous. I thought there was no way you’d ever want to be with me, because…I mean—well, you know why I assumed that, you were there,” Pansy says, flustered and gesturing toward Hermione. “But anyway, I didn’t think it would ever happen so I just…I sort of…agreed?” she finishes lamely.
“But that was ages ago!” Hermione says. “Surely, she doesn’t remember a promise from…what, six, seven years ago?”
Pansy eyes Hermione without a trace of amusement. “Have you met Daph?” she asks dryly. “Trust me, she remembers.”
“Are you sure?”
“Incredibly. I wanted to keep this a surprise, so Daph's been looking after her,” Pansy says, nodding at the kitten in Hermione’s lap, “and she hasn’t missed a single opportunity to call her Daphne.”
At Daphne’s name, the kitten lifts its head and blinks open sleepy eyes to look toward Pansy, and Hermione immediately groans. “Oh my god,” she mutters, rubbing her face in frustration. “She actually responds to it?”
Pansy shrugs. “If you really don’t want to, I’m sure we can name her something else, but…Daph very bizarrely has her heart set on it, and I did make a promise…” she says, letting the sentence trail off and hang awkwardly in the air as she waits for Hermione’s verdict.
Hermione inhales slowly, glancing down at the kitten in her lap. There’s a long moment where Pansy’s sure she’s going to shake her head and say absolutely not, but to her immense surprise, Hermione eventually sighs and shakes her head. “She’s clearly already learned her name, and I don’t want you to go back on a promise,” she says, resuming her gentle pets and sounding reluctantly resigned to the idea of naming their pet after their ridiculous friend.
“Right…” Pansy says hesitantly. “So does that mean…Daphne the cat, then?”
“Oh, absolutely not,” Hermione says with a scoff. “She can call her Daphne all she wants, but we’re…we’re going to call her Daffy. Isn’t that right, Daffy?” Hermione asks, cooing fondly at the kitten, who stretches in Hermione’s lap and tucks her tiny paw over her eyes.
Pansy snorts at the unexpected nickname. “Oh, Daphne will hate that.”
“Good,” Hermione says, flashing an impish grin at Pansy. “She’s meant to. Honestly, the absolute nerve. Naming our kitten after herself,” she adds, but this time with a distinct flicker of amusement dancing in her eyes. “Absolutely incorrigible.”
Pansy smiles, relieved that Hermione had found a clever workaround to the naming conundrum. And as she watches Hermione fawn over tiny little Daffy, she finds herself wanting to commit this moment to memory. She wants to look back on this day and remember the way the colorful Christmas lights had given everything a soft, magical glow. She wants to remember the quiet music floating through the air and the crackling pops from the fireplace. She wants to remember the brightness shining in Hermione’s eyes and the love radiating off of her, so much love that Pansy can almost feel it wrapping around her, enveloping her and filling her to the brim with warmth and joy.
It’s exactly the memory she had hoped this room would have, and she wants to always remember it in perfect, crystalline detail.
Later that night, when the wrapping paper has been recycled and the Christmas lights turned off, when tiny little Daffy is fast asleep at the foot of their bed and Hermione and Pansy are wrapped around each other beneath the covers, Hermione murmurs a question against Pansy’s neck, her voice laced with sleep.
“Can I be the one to tell Daphne what we’ve nicknamed her?”
“Of course,” Pansy replies. “Just as long as I get to be there to see her face.”
Hermione hums in agreement, and Pansy gently scratches her nails against Hermione’s back. “Good Christmas, then?” she asks.
“The best Christmas,” Hermione murmurs back, her words warm against Pansy’s skin.
They’re quiet for a moment, but then Hermione raises her head from her pillow, blinks open sleepy eyes, and asks a completely unexpected question.
“Whatever did happen to the Acromantula lingerie?”
“I burned it,” Pansy mutters, remembering the eight eyed monstrosity with a dark glare toward the ceiling.
Hermione snorts, lays her head back down, and wraps her arms around Pansy a bit tighter. “Guess I know what you’re getting next Christmas Eve, then.”
“Don’t you dare,” Pansy murmurs, gently running a hand over Hermione’s back.
Hermione hums sleepily and nuzzles closer. “Can’t wait that long? Suppose I can find another set for your birthday.”
“If you do, I’ll leave you.”
“Mm, I suppose the lingerie would drive you to seek out the real thing, wouldn’t it?”
“Merlin’s tits,” Pansy grumbles, but she relents when Hermione drops a soft kiss to her neck.
“Fine. I’ll think of something else,” Hermione murmurs. “Has to be good, though. I can’t have you winning two Christmases in a row.”
“Good luck,” Pansy says with a chuckle. “I’ve been sharpening my gift giving skills on Weasley for years now. I’ve got a leg-up.”
“Sharpening them like you sharpen those knives he got you?”
Pansy huffs. “Don’t mention the knives.”
“Such a thoughtful present.”
“It’s Christmas,” Pansy grumbles. “You can’t be cruel on Christmas.”
“Then again, I suppose your best friend would give you a thoughtful present, wouldn’t he?”
“That’s it,” Pansy says, unwinding her arms from Hermione and sitting up slightly in bed. “I’m sleeping on the couch.”
Hermione chuckles and immediately pulls her back down, tangling their legs together and pulling her into a long, lingering kiss. After a moment, she pulls back and murmurs, “you can’t sleep on the couch. Daffy will think she’s joining a broken home if her mums wind up sleeping in different rooms.”
Pansy snorts quietly, then says, “well, we can’t have that now, can we?”
“So you’ll stay?”
“Mm. Just this once,” Pansy says pulling Hermione a bit closer and letting her fingers trail over the strip of bare skin on her hip where her shirt has ridden up.
“Good,” Hermione says, her voice thick with sleep. She presses one more sleepy kiss to Pansy’s lips, tucks her head into the crook of Pansy’s neck, then whispers, “happy Christmas, Pansy.”
“Happy Christmas, love.”
Four years later—Paris, France, June, 2007
Pansy’s simultaneously been excited for and terrified of this trip for months.
Every year, she and Hermione take a week to escape from their jobs, rent a small, bright apartment in a cozy corner of magical Paris, and relive their first trip together. It’s a tradition they’ve managed to keep up for the past decade and normally, Pansy loves every moment of it.
But this year is different.
Because this year, there’s an engagement ring burning a fucking hole in her pocket.
She’s been carrying the damn thing around with her every single day for the past three weeks, ever since she made the trek out to Hampstead to visit Hermione’s parents and secure the antique diamond ring that’s been in the Granger family for decades. Hermione had always spoken fondly of her late-granny’s ring, telling Pansy silly little tales of how she’d use it as a prop whilst playing make-believe as a child. The stories had always been told with a smile, but with a sad wistfulness flickering behind her eyes. Because even though Hermione loved the ring, there was one colossal thing standing in her way.
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t that they couldn’t marry.
Up until very recently, that had been the case, but two months ago, the Wizarding world had decided to legalize gay marriage in a case that had made Daily Prophet headlines for an entire week. Legally, there was nothing preventing them from standing in front of their friends and family and pledging to love each other till the stars turned cold.
The real problem was Pansy had told Hermione in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want to marry.
She had stated it matter of factly to a surprised Hermione over a cup of coffee, saying that even though the decision was monumental and she was of course thrilled by the turn of events, it didn’t change the way she felt—she simply wasn’t the marrying type. She had gone on to state that she was perfectly happy with the way things were between them, and she didn’t need a load of ridiculous pomp and circumstance to prove anything to anybody.
Hermione had seemed disappointed, but eventually she had agreed. After all, they already knew they loved each other, and that was what mattered.
In the two months that had followed the legal decision, Hermione hadn’t brought up marriage again, even though Pansy occasionally saw her eyeing the marriage announcements in the Prophet with a lingering melancholy.
But the thing that Hermione had conveniently managed to forget for the thousandth time was that she had fallen in love with a massive Slytherin twat.
And a Slytherin twat always has a trick up their sleeve.
The truth was that Pansy had wanted to marry Hermione for ten years now. She had dreamt about knocking on the Grangers’ front door, sitting down to tea, and asking them for the diamond ring. She had dreamt of the moment she’d propose, and everything she’d say. She had dreamt of the stunned look on Hermione’s face and the tears welling up in her beautiful eyes.
She had dreamt of all of it, and she was not about to have Hermione ruin the surprise by saying something as boring as “shall we get married, then?” while they were picking up frozen pot stickers and tinned soup in a fucking Tesco.
Her determination to have a memorable proposal is why Pansy has taken great pains to appear completely aloof. But of course, it was all an act—the day she informed Hermione that she never wanted to marry, she had simultaneously been figuring out when she could travel to Hampstead and get her hands on that bloody ring. To be honest, ever since the ruling was made two months ago, Pansy’s had nothing on her mind but this massive, nerve-wracking proposal.
And now, the day is here. She’s standing in the middle of a bright, airy kitchen in Paris, a ring in her pocket, nerves lighting up every corner of her body, and a question she’s been wanting to ask for ten years sitting on the tip of her tongue. She knows exactly how she’s going to propose, and she knows that to maintain the surprise, she’ll have to do it when Hermione least expects it.
Over breakfast seems like a perfectly logical choice.
The living room window is slightly open behind her, allowing a lovely breeze to flutter past the curtains. The scent of freshly brewed coffee from the cafe a few doors down and the quiet murmuring of a city just first waking up float toward Pansy. Normally, she’d bask in the delights of the early morning, but today is anything but normal.
Today she’s asking Hermione to marry her.
Her hand shakes as she flicks her wand toward a variety of pots and pans on the stove. She turns down the heat on a hollandaise sauce she’s been watching for her eggs florentine, then places toasted English muffins on the plates waiting to her left.
And obviously she knows Hermione is going to say yes. She’s not worried about that.
She slathers butter onto the muffins, tosses the knife into the sink, then turns to season her cooked baby spinach.
She’s just never had to propose to anyone before. And she’s come up with a speech in her head, but she knows that in the moment, she’s going to forget it and fumble like a complete arse and then what? She’ll bungle the whole thing and they’ll be left with an awful proposal story that they’ll never be able to tell. She might even bungle it so badly that Hermione won’t even want to marry her.
What if Hermione says no?
…Perhaps she shouldn’t propose today.
Anxious thoughts cloud her mind as she lifts her wand once more, but before she can summon the salt and pepper shakers, warm arms wrap around her from behind.
Pansy starts suddenly at the interruption and Hermione chuckles in her ear. “Mm, jumpy, aren’t we?” She drops a kiss to Pansy’s jaw and gently presses herself closer against Pansy’s back. “You’re up early,” she murmurs, her voice still rough and low from sleep.
“I am,” Pansy agrees, wincing when she hears how strained her voice sounds.
Hermione however doesn’t seem to notice a thing. “You know, most people sleep in when they’re on vacation,” she says, brushing her nose against a flushed cheek and pressing her lips just below Pansy’s ear.
Pansy exhales slowly, settling her nerves. She trains her face into something that looks vaguely normal and not like she’s about to have a fucking panic attack over the thought of asking the love of her life to marry her, twists around just enough, and gives Hermione a proper kiss. It’s slow and unhurried, and the taste of minty toothpaste on Hermione’s tongue helps to ground Pansy. She pulls back just a bit and says, “I’m sure most people do,” in a voice that sounds relatively normal, thank Merlin. “But breakfast won’t make itself,” she adds, turning back to direct the salt and pepper shakers to the skillet holding her spinach.
“Mm. I could’ve helped, you know,” Hermione says, letting her thumbs idly brush over the undersides of Pansy’s breasts.
Pansy snorts as she begins plating. “No, you couldn’t. Or did you forget you have a lifetime ban from all kitchens?” she asks, flicking her wand to add a layer of spinach on top of the muffins.
Hermione tsks at the rude reminder. “I haven’t forgotten,” she says, releasing her grip on Pansy and crossing to the cabinets to take out two mugs. “But I still think you overreacted.”
“You set the kitchen on fire,” Pansy says dryly, adding a perfectly poached egg to each muffin.
“Yes, but it could have happened to anyone.”
“You were making toast.”
“A notoriously tricky dish,” Hermione says, tossing a very serious look over her shoulder.
Pansy snorts as she adds the hollandaise sauce, and once the plates are fully assembled, she leans against the counter and faces Hermione. “Well, considering we don't own this place, I think it’d be wise if I did the cooking.”
Hermione rolls her eyes as she busies herself with the kettle. “One of these days, you’ll revoke that ban,” she says, running a hand through messy, sleep-mussed hair.
“I suppose I might, if we ever need to burn down our place for the insurance money,” Pansy says, grabbing their plates and heading toward the sunny breakfast nook that faces the street. She puts the plates down, pulls out her chair, and sits, then slips a hand into her pocket to nervously fidget with the ring. Surreptitiously, she glances out the window, scanning the sky for any signs of an owl. The owl post is a rather important part of her proposal, and she can’t do anything until it drops off today’s mail. But no matter how hard Pansy wills an owl into being, the view remains clear and empty—there’s only blue as far as the eye can see. On any other day, it’d be a welcome sight, but today, the cloudless, empty sky makes her tap her fingers against the table restlessly.
Pansy’s so focused on the view out the window that she doesn’t hear Hermione’s approach, and when a mug of tea appears before her, she jumps in surprise.
Hermione cocks an eyebrow at the reaction. “You really are jumpy today,” she says, running her hand along Pansy’s shoulders. “Something on your mind?” she asks, pulling out her chair and sitting down with one leg tucked casually underneath her.
Bugger, Pansy thinks. Bugger, bugger, bugger.
She’s doing the world’s worst job of acting cool and collected. Hermione hasn’t even been awake for ten minutes and she’s already caught on to Pansy’s strange, anxious body language. If she wants to keep her off the scent, she’ll have to come up with a decent excuse and come up with it fast.
Pansy shakes her head and takes a sip of her tea to buy herself some time. Once she has an excuse in mind, she lowers the mug and heaves a world-weary sigh. “Sorry, I just…I’m thinking about work.”
Hermione picks up her fork and gives Pansy a teasing smile. “Oh? Aren’t you the one always telling me to leave work behind when we’re here?”
“I know,” Pansy says with another sigh. “It’s just…we’re so close to figuring out a way to make the internet work around magic, but you know Shacklebolt. Anything to do with Muggle tech makes him nervous, and now he’s starting to push back on the entire plan.” It’s not hard for Pansy to sell her frustration, considering Shacklebolt has been pushing back, completely derailing her team’s schedule. The words come easily as she continues. “It’s been years of work for all of us and we’re finally at the finish line, but it always feels like one step forward, two steps back.”
“I’m sorry,” Hermione says, wiping her mouth with a napkin. “Kingsley does tend to get nervous when it comes to change, even when it’s obvious it’s for the best. But you got him to come round on electricity, didn’t you?” she asks encouragingly.
“Only took two years,” Pansy says dryly, remembering the absolute nightmare that had arisen from trying to convince Kingsley that the Ministry wouldn’t blow up the second he flipped a light switch.
To this day, he eyes all light switches with lingering suspicion.
“That’s true,” Hermione concedes. “But you know what they say about worthwhile things,” she adds with a twinkle in her eye.
“I do,” Pansy murmurs, placing her mug down. “But even so, it’d be nice if every once in a while they did come easily.” She takes a bite of her breakfast, nods with satisfaction, then says, “anyway, I’ll try to put it out of my mind. It’s just that I left it all with McMullin and Merlin knows, he’s about as competent at running the department as the Weasley’s are at using birth control.”
“Aren’t you the one who hired him?”
“Yes,” Pansy says around a mouthful of food. “But I only hired him because the list of people who want to work in the Department of Magical Muggle Technologies is surprisingly short.”
“Really? Even though the head of the department is absolutely gorgeous?” Hermione asks, running her foot up Pansy’s bare leg with a smirk.
“I’m as surprised as you are,” Pansy replies. “Though rumor has it, the head of the department is disgustingly besotted with the Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Is she, now?” Hermione asks playfully, her foot still trailing Pansy’s leg.
“She is,” Pansy says. She lowers her voice and adds, “apparently they regularly shag in the Deputy Head’s office.”
Hermione tsks, but there’s a smile on her face as she leans closer toward Pansy. “Not very professional of them,” she murmurs, her eyes dropping down to Pansy’s lips.
“No. But rumor has it that they once shagged in the Hogwarts library, so…y’know, questionable morals.”
Hermione’s foot stops trailing over Pansy’s leg as a rosy flush rises to her cheeks. “Pansy!” she says, a tiny frown creasing her brow when Pansy starts to laugh. “Why do you always have to bring that up,” she mutters, pushing her eggs around with an adorable pout.
“Why do I always bring up my single greatest achievement?” Pansy asks, her smile growing even wider when Hermione huffs in exasperation. “You may have managed to get all Os on your N.E.W.T.s, but I managed to shag Hermione Granger in the Hogwarts library.”
Hermione shakes her head, but there’s a small smile playing around the corners of her mouth. “I still can’t believe I let you talk me into that," she says, clearly remembering the long-ago day when they had returned to Hogwarts to help set up electricity around the school.
“I talked you into it? Funny, I seem to remember you pushing me against the shelves…”
“Only after I realized you weren’t wearing knickers!”
“And how did you realize that, exactly?” Pansy asks, leaning back in her chair with a smug look.
Hermione’s flush darkens and she opens her mouth to retort, but something catches her eye and she glances out the window. “Saved by the owl post,” she says, lifting her mug once more.
Hermione delivers the words casually, but Pansy’s entire body freezes at the mention of the post. She had momentarily forgotten about what was about to happen, too distracting by her actual work woes, but now that the moment is here, she feels like she might be sick.
Two owls flutter through the open window and Pansy puts down her fork to untie the post attached to each owl with shaking hands. She frees the Daily Prophet first and hands it across the table to Hermione, who immediately takes it and shakes it open to skim the front page headlines. Then, she turns to the owl carrying the regular post and frees a small bundle tied to its leg. Once both owls are relieved of their deliveries, they fly out the window and disappear from sight.
Pansy watches until they’re long gone, then she takes a deep, steadying breath and turns to sort through the mail. Quickly, she sifts through a few unimportant letters and the latest Witch Weekly (which she only subscribes to because she’s an excellent best friend who reads Daphne’s relationship advice column, Dear Daph, every week), until she finds the envelope she’s looking for. She runs her fingertips across the address, then glances across the table at Hermione, who’s reading the Prophet with a slightly furrowed brow.
Now or never.
“There’s a letter for you, love,” Pansy says, pleased when her voice comes out sounding relatively normal.
Hermione glances over the paper toward the envelope. “Anything important?”
“I’ve no idea,” Pansy says. She pushes the envelope across to Hermione, then stands up and collects their empty plates. “It has a Ministry return address, but I don’t recognize the name.”
Hermione frowns and puts aside the paper, then picks up the envelope and turns it over in her hands. “Brad Biron,” she reads as Pansy makes her way to the kitchen. “I don’t know anyone by that name. Do you?”
Pansy sighs a bit at the sink as she casts a quick Cleaning Charm, pleased that Hermione hasn’t immediately seen through her sneaky little anagram of their long-ago parchment names. “No. Could be someone from the Department of Art and Culture, though,” she says as she puts the plates away. “They’re always hounding me for donations.”
There’s a sound of paper being torn open behind her and Pansy turns from the sink to watch Hermione pull out the contents of the envelope. She turns it around in her hands a few times with a confused frown. “There’s nothing here,” she says. She glances toward Pansy and adds, “it’s just a blank sheet of parchment.”
Pansy does her best to sport an equally puzzled frown, even though the sight of the familiar parchment makes her heart beat faster. “That’s strange,” she says. “Try Revelio?”
Hermione reaches for her wand and points it at the parchment, but when nothing happens, she shrugs. “Nothing. Perhaps this Mr. Biron sent the wrong thing,” she says, putting the parchment aside and returning to the Prophet. “I’ll check the Ministry directory when we’re back and try to track him down. Hopefully it’s nothing urgent.”
As stealthily as she can, Pansy reaches for her wand and taps it on a second, matching parchment that she hid in the kitchen earlier in the day. Then, she crosses back to the table and glances down at Hermione’s parchment, smiling when she sees the familiar, silver ink gleaming up at her. “I think your eyesight might be starting to go, love,” she murmurs. Her heart pounds in her chest as she slips her hand into her pocket and closes her fist around the ring. “You might want to check it again.”
Hermione glances up at Pansy with a frown, then drops her gaze to the parchment.
A half-second ticks by, then hazel eyes grow impossibly wide. Hermione scrambles to pull the parchment toward her, almost knocking her mug over in the process, and Pansy has to bite back a smile at sudden show of frantic energy.
She watches as Hermione lifts the parchment, and as she reads the six, simple words written upon the old, familiar paper, her lips part in absolute shock.
Will you marry me?
Hermione blinks at the parchment a few times. “Pansy,” she whispers. “I…I…”
She looks up from the page and somehow, her eyes grow even wider. Because in the time it took Hermione to read the message, Pansy had pulled the ring out of her pocket, and she’s holding it toward Hermione with a small smile.
“Pansy…” Hermione says again, seemingly incapable of forming an actual sentence.
“I suppose I should do this the right way,” Pansy says, lowering herself to one knee. She looks up at Hermione and bites her lip for a moment, gathering her thoughts as she takes in the absolutely shell-shocked look still present on Hermione’s face. After a moment, she gives a slow, measured exhale and says, “I’ve been dreaming about this moment for years now. I’ve wanted to marry you since…well,” Pansy breaks off and shakes her head with a tiny smile. “If I’m being honest, I think my heart’s been set on it since before I even knew who you were,” she says nodding toward the parchment. “Because even then, even when you were just a name on a page, you made me feel like no one ever had before. You made me laugh. You changed the way I thought about things. You made me feel safe and heard and whole and—and like a lovesick fool,” she says with a small laugh. “And that was only over parchment. Once I actually knew who you were, there was no hope for me. Because you are the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met,” she says, her smile turning soft when she sees the tears shining in Hermione’s eyes. “And I promised you ages ago that I would spend every day trying to make you happy. That I would do everything in my power to make you feel beautiful and cherished and loved. And now—if you’ll let me—I want to give you a lifetime of those things. I want to spend every single day I’m given by your side, because I love everything about you. Including your stupid Acromantula jokes,” Pansy admits with a wry shake of her head. “You are everything to me,” she says. “And Merlin knows I’ve waited long enough to ask you this, so here it is—Hermione Granger…will you marry me?”
Hermione’s smile is wide and brilliant, and as she blinks away tears, she gives a vigorous nod. “Yes,” she says, sliding out of her chair to kneel before Pansy and taking her face in her hands. “God, yes.”
Pansy can’t help the laugh that spills out of her at Hermione’s confirmation, delighted and carefree. She pulls Hermione close and kisses her, letting her hand cup Hermione’s jaw and her thumb brush away residual tears. Pansy can feel Hermione’s smile against her lips as they kiss, and her own smile grows impossibly wider at the sheer delight radiating off of Hermione. After a long moment in which they’re essentially just grinning against each other, she pulls back just enough to tilt her forehead against Hermione’s, and she lifts the ring.
Hermione nods, and Pansy reaches down to take her hand. She slides the ring onto her finger, then laces their fingers together as she gazes down at the sparkling diamond. Gently, she raises Hermione’s hand and brushes her lips against her knuckles. “I love you so fucking much.”
Hermione laughs at the unexpected language, but she replies, “I love you, too,” with soft eyes and a gentle touch. She leans forward and kisses Pansy one more time, then pulls back and says, “so all that stuff about not being the marrying type…?”
“Complete rubbish,” Pansy says. “I’ve been planning this for ages now. Which is why I couldn’t have you mucking up the surprise by just assuming we’d get married.”
“God, you’re such a romantic,” Hermione says fondly, her smile widening when Pansy rolls her eyes at the old accusation.
“Or just someone who’s very fond of surprises.”
“Mm. Whatever you need to tell yourself,” Hermione says. “But speaking of being a hopeless romantic…” She reaches behind her and grabs the parchment, pulling it off the table and to her lap. “Is this…?”
Pansy nods. “It’s the same one we used at Hogwarts.”
“How? I mean, have you had it all these years?” Hermione asks, turning the paper over gently and running a fingertip along its surface as she gazes at it with amazed eyes.
“No. I…” Pansy sucks on her lower lip for a moment, then exhales sharply. “I may have owled McGonagall and asked for her help,” she admits, feeling heat rise to her cheeks at the fact she had once again needed McGonagall’s assistance to see her plans through.
McGonagall had been quick to reply to Pansy’s owl, sending the parchments along with a note that had made her smile despite herself.
Dear Ms. Parkinson, the note had read.
I was delighted to hear from you, and I hope this letter finds you well.
Enclosed, you’ll find the requested parchments. I’ve taken the liberty of casting the connection charms for you. They’ll work just as they did during your seventh year, and I hope they’re able to bring you just as much happiness now as they did back then.
Please give my best to Ms. Granger, and I do hope you’ll spare a thought for me when it comes time to send out your wedding invitations.
P.S. I must admit, I was skeptical, but it’s certainly easier to grade essays by electric light than it is by candlelight. The Department of Magical Muggle Technologies is lucky to have you.
Pansy had been thrilled to receive the parchments, delighted by the complimentary postscript and acknowledgment that her hard work had actually paid off, but mostly, she was fucking ecstatic that McGonagall hadn’t made any mention of tending to personal problems in her note.
Hermione glances up from the parchment and shakes her head with a smile. “Of course you owled McGonagall. God, the amount of favors we owe her…”
“Could always name a cat after her. Daffy could use a friend.”
“Daffy and Minnie?” Hermione asks. “I like the sound of that.”
“Well, before we run out and get a second cat, she actually did ask to be invited to the wedding, so perhaps that’s thanks enough.”
“She’ll be the first invite,” Hermione says. She twists around to put the parchment back on the table, then turns back to Pansy. “So…McGonagall knows. Anyone else?”
It’s a given, as Daphne still know every decision Pansy makes. Sometimes, she knows them before Pansy’s even decided to make them. When Pansy had showed up at Daphne’s door the day after she procured the ring, Daphne had simply said I already picked out my maid of honor dress, so you’ll have to plan your color scheme around it.
Pansy hadn’t even told her she was going to propose, Daphne had simply known.
“But other than Daphne, no,” Pansy says. Then she glances at the ring on Hermione’s hand and quickly amends herself. “Oh, and your parents, of course. I didn’t just steal the ring. Though considering I somehow agreed to watch a football match with your father, maybe I should have,” she adds in a quiet grumble.
Perhaps she’ll set the pitch on fire again.
Hermione’s too busy gazing at the ring to hear Pansy’s aside. Instead, she trails a finger over the surface of the beautiful, old diamond and murmurs in a reverent voice, “I can’t believe you got my granny’s ring. I’ve dreamt of wearing this ring my entire life, and you got it for me.”
“I did,” Pansy says. “Oh, and by the way, your mum wants us over for dinner when we’re back so she can see it on you. She was already in full wedding planning mode when I left.”
“I’ll call her later today,” Hermione says. “I need to be sure she knows not to invite any of her Muggle friends. God knows she’s probably invited half of her book club already. We’ll have to plan a separate event…”
“You can call her now, if you like.”
“Now?” Hermione asks, glancing up at Pansy. “Oh, no.”
“No,” she says, scooting closer with intent and a secret smile, until her knees press up against Pansy’s. “No, all the plans can wait.”
“Mm,” Hermione murmurs, biting her lip in a way that pulls Pansy’s eyes to it and makes her want to draw it between her teeth. “There will be time for all of that later. Right now, I’d like to spend time with my fiancée.”
“Oh?” Pansy asks, a small thrill running through her at the word. She raises an eyebrow and drops her hands to Hermione’s thighs, running teasing fingertips over the bare skin before her. “What’d you have in mind?”
“One or two things,” Hermione murmurs, bumping their noses together as she slides cool hands underneath Pansy’s shirt to skim up her sides.
“I see,” Pansy says, tilting her head just a bit as Hermione trails her lips along her jawline, making her pulse pick up and a delicious tingle run through her body. When Hermione moves her mouth to worry a sensitive spot just below her jaw, she sighs in pleasure. “And is there any chance I’d be overdressed for these mysterious things you have in mind?”
“Maybe just a little.”
She lets her teeth graze over Pansy’s neck while her deft hands move up to cup Pansy’s breasts. Thumbs sweep over rapidly stiffening nipples, and Pansy shakily exhales and presses closer into Hermione’s touch.
“And what do you think we should—” Pansy’s breath hitches and her mind goes blank as Hermione sucks hard against her pulse point. After a moment, she collects herself. “What do you think we should do about that?” she asks, keenly aware of how low her voice is and how much arousal is laced through her words.
Lips curl up against Pansy’s neck, and the warm, sure hands on her breasts slip out from under her shirt. But before Pansy can miss the sensation, Hermione’s gripping the fabric of her shirt and tugging it up and over her head, leaving her completely bare from the waist up.
Hermione’s gaze skims from Pansy’s chest up to her eyes. “Better,” she murmurs.
Pansy takes a moment, skimming her knuckles against Hermione’s sides while she appreciates the flush on her cheeks, the gleam in her eyes, the pure want in her gaze. But before she can tug off Hermione’s shirt, before she can even think about undressing her, she’s pressing forward, capturing Pansy’s lips in a slow, tantalizing kiss that she can feel everywhere. Strong arms wind around her back as Pansy licks into Hermione’s mouth, her body already growing desperate with need. Every touch and every sound makes Pansy crave more from Hermione, crave her panting against her and moaning her name, crave her skilled fingers and her warm mouth, crave something, anything that will help the persistent ache between her legs.
But as always, her clever witch is one step ahead.
Hermione roughly yanks Pansy toward her, settling her over her taut thigh without ever breaking their increasingly desperate kisses.
“Fuck,” Pansy pants into Hermione’s mouth, grinding her hips forward with a slow, deliberate purpose and pressing closer so her aching nipples can rub against the fabric of Hermione’s shirt. Wildfire licks through her body, settling lower and lower until Pansy’s thoughts are singularly focused on Hermione—the way she moves back just enough to let her hand skim lightly up Pansy's chest, the way her teeth nip against her lower lip, the way the little gasps of pleasure from the very back of her throat drive Pansy wild.
Hermione abandons Pansy’s mouth to bite at her neck, and Pansy chokes down a loud whimper. Because somehow, even through her rapidly mounting arousal, she’s trying to stay mindful of the still-open window beside them. But as Hermione’s hand grows bolder between them, cupping and stroking, she feels her control waver, and when a particular sharp pinch make her hips buck up against her will, she loses the battle and releases a low, throaty groan. Hermione pauses her attentions to Pansy’s neck and pulls back at the noise, aiming a familiar, cocky smile at her that for some reason, Pansy has always found to be devastatingly attractive.
“We should probably slow things down,” Hermione says. But her chest is rising and falling rapidly, her pupils are blown, and the hand working at Pansy’s breast shows absolutely no intention of slowing down.
“What?” Pansy manages, arching her back and closing her eyes against the sensation. “Why?”
“Because I can’t sleep with beautiful women on holiday anymore,” Hermione says, looking up at Pansy through her lashes and smirking. “Not when I have a fiancée.”
The word alone is enough to make Pansy surge forward and kiss Hermione, who eagerly meets her tongue, stroke for stroke. The familiar need coiling deep inside of Pansy is more present than ever, pushing her to grind down against the thigh between her legs with more purpose.
Sensing her desperation, Hermione pulls away from her lips. “I suppose I can make an exception,” she says, slowly sliding her thigh out from under Pansy and steadfastly ignoring her whimper of discontent. She pushes Pansy back until she’s lying on the floor, then trails her mouth over Pansy’s neck once more, nipping and sucking until her toes curl and her breath comes in fast, hot pants. But even though she can feel her control quickly slipping away as Hermione slowly, tortuously, wonderfully dismantles her, even though her breath catches in her throat as Hermione hovers over her with blinding desire in her heavy-lidded eyes, even though her legs spread involuntarily in anticipation of what’s still to come, she still tries to be somewhat rational.
After all, she’s not a teenager. She can control herself.
“Hermione,” she starts in a rough voice, “maybe we…maybe we shouldn’t do this right by the window? I mean, we have a perfectly good bedro—oh.”
Pansy forgets whatever she was going to say the moment Hermione draws a nipple into her mouth, laving at it in a way that’s so fucking erotic, Pansy feels like electricity is crackling through her veins, burning her from the inside out. She tilts her head back and emits a deep, slow groan, twisting her hands in wavy, brown hair as Hermione continues to pay very thorough attention to one breast, then the other, dragging her teeth over peaks and nipping at full flesh.
Once she has Pansy squirming beneath her, she starts to kiss lower, pressing lips to the soft skin of Pansy's stomach, licking a burning trail below her belly button, and sucking hard against her hip, which jerks up under the attention. She takes her time, lavishing every inch of bare skin before her with attention, smoothing her hands over Pansy’s thighs and letting her lips follow in their wake. Pansy’s practically beside herself with build-up by the time Hermione’s hands finally grip at her sleep shorts, and she wastes no time tugging them down around Pansy’s ankles, nipping the inside of her thighs as she does. Once she’s tossed the shorts aside, she moves back up and ghosts her lips against Pansy’s, all the while lightly skimming her fingertips along the sides of Pansy’s knickers. The touch is frustratingly gentle and no where near what Pansy wants right now.
What she wants is Hermione to fuck her into the floor.
“Hermione…” she groans out in a low, strained voice.
“Hm?” Hermione asks, letting her fingers trail slowly over the slick, wet patch soaking through the front of Pansy’s knickers. “Something on your mind?” She pushes her index finger just under the edge of the fabric and murmurs, “still worried about the window?”
Pansy presses up against Hermione’s hand. “Fuck the window,” she says, desperately trying to get closer to Hermione’s completely maddening fingers.
Hermione increases the pressure right over the dampest spot on Pansy’s knickers, chuckling at the sound it draws from Pansy. “And here I thought you’d want me to fuck you first.”
Even though Pansy’s so fucking turned on, she still manages to let out a scoff at the ridiculous comment and at the sound, Hermione’s smoldering eyes find hers, intense, yet still teasing. She smiles and presses a kiss to Pansy’s collarbone. “Don’t worry. I’m sure the window can wait its turn,” she murmurs, scraping her teeth against sensitive skin and drawing a high whine from Pansy, all as she continues to trace one fingertip slowly over the front of decidedly drenched knickers.
Pansy’s brow creases in anguished frustration at the light, steady movement skimming over her, driving her completely out of her mind. She wants to say something, wants to tell Hermione to stop teasing her, but instead, all she’s able to do is groan and buck her hips up, trying to spur Hermione into action.
It doesn’t work—Hermione simply chuckles again and continues to run one finger in a lazy pattern, tracing over the same spot over and over and over, as if they have all the time in the world.
It isn’t until the eighth or ninth go-around that Pansy’s eyes fly open and she huffs in complete exasperation. “Really?” she asks, the smallest amount of the lust clearing from her mind.
A massive grin settles on Hermione’s face and Pansy simultaneously hates and loves just how pleased she looks by her own actions. “Took you long enough,” Hermione says as her fingertip finally stops tracing the rune for Acromantula along the front of Pansy’s knickers.
“I can’t believe you.”
“What? You know I like to brush up on my runes every once in a while,” Hermione says with shining eyes. “And besides, you put it in the proposal,” she adds as she leans back to scrape her hair back into a ponytail with the tie around her wrist. “How could I not?”
“Merlin’s pants. You’re impossible,” Pansy says, watching as Hermione finishes securing her hair. “And you’ve ruined the mood, so go ahead, fuck the window first for all I care,” she adds, tossing a careless hand toward the fluttering curtains.
Hermione chuckles as she runs her hands up smooth, pale thighs, nudging Pansy’s legs further apart. “So upset with me for knowing what turns you on,” she says, tugging Pansy’s completely ruined knickers down around her ankles and ignoring her quiet huff. “I’m sure the window would be more appreciative.” She frees the scrap of fabric and tosses it in the direction of the shorts, then turns her dark gaze back to Pansy’s spread legs. “But now that you’re properly dressed, it’d be a shame to stop,” she murmurs, running her tongue along her lower lip before tilting her head to graze her teeth against the sensitive skin of Pansy’s upper thigh.
The fire is immediately back, blazing low in Pansy’s stomach, but she still finds the strength to issue a warning. “I swear to Merlin, if you use your tongue to write Acromantula…”
Hermione laughs as she settles between Pansy’s legs. “Well, now that you’ve spoiled the surprise, I won’t,” she says, easily positioning slim calves over her shoulders. She takes a moment to gaze at Pansy, breathing out in wonder. “God…you’re so wet,” she murmurs, sending a fresh wave of desire flooding through Pansy. “How are you always so ready for me?”
Pansy wants to reply, wants to say something to make hazel eyes grow even darker, but at the first touch of Hermione’s tongue against her, any part of her brain that might have still been functioning firmly switches off and all she can do is let out a high, desperate whimper.
Hermione takes her time as she drags her tongue through Pansy’s center, applying just enough pressure to make her hiss with approval. She strokes in firm, slow lines, clearly intent on dragging things out for as long as she dares. Pansy’s hand falls uselessly to her side, involuntarily grabbing at the fibers of the thick rug she’s lying on as lightning zips through her veins. Once she’s anchored to something, she props herself up to watch the sight before her.
There are very few things she likes better than the image of Hermione between her legs, worshipping her with fucking fervor.
As if she knows she’s being watched, Hermione looks up and meets her gaze. Lust-glazed eyes stay trained on her as Hermione continues to drag her tongue tantalizingly slowly through Pansy’s folds, making her breath catch in her throat. She watches for a long while, thinking how she’d probably be content to take in the view before her for the rest of her life, but when Hermione eventually starts to increase her speed, she lets her head fall back and her eyes slide close in absolute ecstasy.
Hermione takes her time to build up a steady rhythm, head bobbing as she licks and sucks with a singleminded focus, and Pansy’s grip on the carpet shifts from fairly tight to verging on painful. When she feels a tongue dip inside of her and Hermione’s low, sinful moan of pleasure that immediately follows, Pansy practically cuts off the circulation to her fingers.
“Fuck,” she groans, digging her heels into Hermione’s back and pressing closer. “Hermione,” she manages to gasp, completely unable to say anything else at the moment. But it’s all she needs to say. At the sound of her name, Hermione doubles down, changing her strokes from firm and broad to short and quick. It’s fucking perfection and Pansy can feel her legs starting to tremble, but as close as she already is, she’s not quite ready for things to end. Instead, she manages to wrap the hand that’s not currently fused with the rug in Hermione’s hair, directing her higher to where she desperately needs her to be.
The note is taken immediately, and a string of unintelligible curses leave her mouth as Hermione sucks Pansy’s clit between her lips and flicks her tongue against it. Something white hot and desperate courses through Pansy’s body, making her keen with pleasure as she strains impossibly closer to the hot mouth sucking against her, tightening her hold in Hermione’s hair and digging her heels in a way that’s probably painful. “Fuck, baby,” she manages, closing her eyes tightly against the torturous, perfect pressure building in her body. “Right there.”
If Hermione’s bothered by the tight grip on her hair, she doesn’t show it. She simply hums against Pansy, and the vibration around her clit makes her hips buck up and another moan escapes her parted lips. A burning heat coils tighter and tighter in Pansy’s body, spreading all the way down to her toes and sending small shockwaves throughout her system, each one pushing her closer and closer to the edge.
The moment Hermione dips two fingers inside of her, she knows she won’t be able to hold out much longer.
“Yes,” Pansy moans, her voice broken and wild as Hermione’s fingers set a steady rhythm between her legs and her mouth continues to surround her clit. “That’s fucking…that’s…yes.” She glances down and a ragged moan catches in her throat when she finds blazing eyes already trained on her with breathtaking intent, all as long fingers steadily thrust and curl into her.
It’s fucking hypnotic and the look alone is almost enough to send Pansy hurtling over the edge.
Pressure steadily builds between her legs as Hermione continues teasing, licking, and sucking against her, all the while holding eye contact that makes Pansy feel like she’s on fire. Her hips rock upwards, thrusting with a kind of wild, reckless abandonment, aching for release as she shakes helplessly on the cusp of coming. “Hermione,” she groans out, finally squeezing her eyes shut. “Fuck, I’m…baby, I’m…don’t stop,” she gasps. “Don’t stop, please don’t stop.”
And she doesn’t. Instead, Hermione moans against her, completely turned on by Pansy’s need. She ever-so-slightly increases the speed of both her mouth and fingers, and the new pressure makes Pansy swear uncontrollably. She’s only a few seconds away from breaking, from falling apart into a million pieces under Hermione’s ministrations. Her climax builds and builds and builds, making her entire body tense and complete babble fall from her lips, making her chest heave and her thighs clench and her mouth fall open in a silent scream until finally, finally her orgasm rips through her, bright lights bursting behind her eyes as her body shatters to pieces.
Pansy grinds desperately against Hermione’s still-working mouth and clenches around her fingers, intent on drawing out the white-hot waves of pleasure for as long as she possibly can, but when it finally becomes too much, she angles her hips away and tugs gently at Hermione’s hair. The mouth against her immediately vanishes, leaving her boneless and panting on the floor of their rented apartment.
It takes a while for Pansy to recover the ability to speak, but when she does, she’s only capable of one word.
“Fuck,” she whispers between deep, ragged breaths. She sits up, leaning against the wall and draping her forearm over her eyes for a moment as her heart rate starts to return to normal and the cool breeze from the open window chills the sweat on her body. “I should propose more often,” she finally manages, looking toward Hermione with a weak smile.
Hermione, who’s been waiting for Pansy to recover, gives a low, rough laugh as she climbs on top of Pansy, wiping her mouth and immediately straddling her thigh. “I won’t object to that,” she murmurs in a low voice, rolling her hips and closing her eyes against the sensation.
“We’re going to have to clean this rug, you know,” Pansy says, letting her hands rest on warm hips, feeling the way they shift against her as Hermione chases after her own pleasure.
“Not really worried about the rug right now,” Hermione says, tilting her head down to capture Pansy’s lips in a bruising, searing kiss, driven by pure desperation. Pansy can taste herself on Hermione’s tongue as they kiss, can feel how wet Hermione is through her thin sleep shorts as she grinds down against Pansy’s bare thigh, and she can’t help the small smirk that comes to her face.
Nothing turns Hermione on more than going down on Pansy.
“Oh? Then what are you worried about?” Pansy murmurs, pulling back from Hermione’s lips and slowly raking short nails against her sides.
“That you’re going to be more focused on talking than fucking me,” Hermione says, her gaze fierce.
Even though she’s still recovering, Pansy can feel the bolt that goes through her at both Hermione’s look and her words, and she grins. “And here I thought you liked me for my personality,” she says, before pressing her lips against Hermione’s neck, sucking and biting roughly against sensitive skin. Hermione whimpers and arches closer while rocking desperately against the thigh between her legs, and at the sound, Pansy nips even harder at her skin.
“Oh, no. None of that. I want to hear you,” Pansy murmurs, dragging her tongue against Hermione’s neck to soothe the bite.
“What about the window?” Hermione manages to ask, but Pansy doesn’t bother to answer. Instead she drops her hand down Hermione’s shorts and lets her fingers press and slide through slick heat. A long, low moan escapes Hermione as she lifts her hands to steady herself against Pansy’s shoulders, gripping down tightly when Pansy suddenly dips two fingers into her. “God,” she groans, bucking against Pansy’s hand as her breathing quickly turns shallow and ragged.
“Much better,” Pansy says, drawing another moan from Hermione’s lips. “Fuck, you’re so beautiful,” she murmurs, her voice tinged with reverence and awe.
Hermione moans as she rides Pansy’s fingers with her head thrown back toward the ceiling and her lips slightly parted. And as Pansy gazes at her face, taking in tightly closed eyes and cheeks still flushed with exertion, she thinks that it’s true—she’s never seen anyone more beautiful in her entire life.
But after a moment, something occurs to her. “Guess what?” Pansy asks, pulling her fingers away just far enough to make a deep furrow of frustration appear on Hermione’s brow.
“Pansy…” Hermione groans, her voice tight with need. “Don’t tease.”
Pansy takes pity on her and rubs her thumb against Hermione’s clit in small, lazy circles. She smirks at the breathy noise that escapes from Hermione lips, and murmurs, “I was just going to say…now you’re the overdressed one.”
Hermione opens her eyes and her gaze burns with desire as she grinds down against the hand still between her legs. “So undress me,” she breathes without breaking eye contact, sending a new wave of arousal through Pansy’s body.
They never manage to make it to the bedroom.
They don’t even manage to leave the apartment.
Later, when they’re lying together on the couch, thoroughly exhausted with legs tangled and hands idly skimming against bare skin, Hermione says, “Pansy?”
“Since we’re getting married, does that mean I technically own half of your dragon?”
Pansy snorts at the long-running joke. “Is that the only reason you said yes?”
“I mean, it is the foundation of our relationship,” Hermione says, dusting off another old joke as she nuzzles closer to Pansy. “A dragon and a decent shag.”
Pansy idly plays with Hermione’s hair. “I think it started out as a decent snog.”
Hermione lifts her shoulders in a tiny shrug. “I like the upgrade,” she says, pressing a lingering kiss to Pansy’s chest, just above her heart.
Pansy lifts Hermione’s hand and brushes her lips just above the engagement ring sitting on her finger.
“As do I.”
Richmond, England, July, 2007
“Do you need any help in there?”
Hermione’s voice calls from the living room into the kitchen, where Pansy is channeling her very best Mrs. Weasley and working on four different dishes at once.
“Still banned, love,” Pansy calls back, flicking her wand and sending a tray of olive-oil and balsamic coated vegetables whizzing into the oven. She waves her wand to set the timer, then checks her watch. It’s five till seven, which means their guests will be arriving any—
The doorbell rings and Hermione says, “I’ll get it.”
Pansy nods to herself and turns her attention to adding whipped double cream to her cooled Victoria sponge. As she works, she hears the muffled sounds of an excited greeting from the doorway and a small smile creeps onto her face. She’s surprisingly excited for tonight, and not just because she’s getting to try out quite a few new recipes for the first time.
She’s excited because tonight, she and Hermione are announcing their engagement to their friends.
The oven beeps and with another flick of her wand, Pansy summons a tray of piping hot spinach puffs to the counter. She waves her wand a few more times and when she’s more or less confident that everything in the kitchen is in good shape, she unties her apron, smooths down her blouse, and walks into the living room to find Neville and Hermione, already chattering away on the couch. Pansy’s pleased that Neville’s the first to arrive. It’ll give them a chance to catch up properly.
Neville’s spent the past eight years in Bolivia, working on…
…well, it’s some sort of Herbology thing, but Pansy hadn’t exactly listened when Hermione had explained it ages ago.
Yes, Pansy thinks, pleased with herself for remembering. That sounds right.
…Or did Pansy guess beetles every time and make Hermione roll her eyes in fond exasperation and mutter you never listen, do you?
Well, whatever he’s been working on, his time in South America has done him well—he’s sporting an impressive tan, a scruffy beard, and what appears to be a new haircut. His shirt sleeves are rolled up to reveal strong forearms, and somewhere along the way, he seems to have finally found a sense of style. But perhaps the most striking change Pansy notices is that he finally looks comfortable in his own skin. He’s nowhere near the clumsy, nervous boy he used to be. Now, he sits with ease on the couch, one leg crossed casually over the other as he flashes a crooked, endearing grin at something Hermione’s said. And even though Pansy’s seen him a few times since he left years ago, she’s still struck by the transformation he’s made from awkward boy into strong, confident, and altogether surprisingly attractive man.
“Why, Neville Longbottom, as I live and breathe.”
At the comment, Hermione and Neville both glance Pansy’s way as she makes her way to the couch, and an easy, broad smile fills Neville’s face. “Pansy,” he says, standing up and opening his arms. “How are you?”
Pansy accepts the embrace, wrapping her arms around Neville and squeezing him tight. “How am I?” she asks with a tsk. “How are you? Are you finally back for good?”
Neville chuckles and steps back. “I think I am.”
Pansy sinks onto the couch beside Hermione, who’s beaming at Neville. “It’s about time,” Hermione says as Neville sits back down. “I mean, I know you’ve done amazing work in Bolivia, but it’ll be lovely having you closer.”
“Though you’ll have to say goodbye to that lovely tan,” Pansy adds, nodding toward Neville’s forearms and reaching for Hermione’s wine glass to sneak a sip.
Neville glances down at his arms and shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not. I expect I’ll still go back from time to time, but as I was just telling Hermione, I’ve started looking at flats nearby, so…seems like I’ll be back for the long run.”
“Well, then, I suppose those beetles will just have to go on without you,” Pansy says, deciding to trust her gut and hazard a guess.
Neville’s brow furrows a bit and he gives her a confused smile. “Beetles?”
Pansy hears Hermione’s noisy, frustrated exhale from beside her.
Ah. So not beetles, then, Pansy thinks.
One of these days, she’ll remember.
“My mistake, I think it’s another Herbologist friend of ours who’s studying beetles. Isn’t that right, love?” Pansy asks, lifting the wine glass and eyeing Hermione over the rim.
A fond amusement flashes in Hermione’s eyes and her lips twitch just a bit as she turns back to Neville. “Something like that,” she says, but before she can continue on, Neville leans forward with interest.
“What’s their name?”
“Whose name?” Hermione asks.
“The Herbologist you know working with beetles? I’ve always been quite fascinated by the interplay between insects and plant life. I’d love to pick their brain.”
“Oh,” Hermione says, glancing toward Pansy with a small flush, clearly hoping she’ll jump in and save her. Instead, Pansy lifts the glass once more and takes a sip, her lips curling up as Hermione eyes widen just a bit in exasperation. Hermione turns back to Neville and says, “the beetle herbologist. Right. His name is…it’s…it's Paul…McCartney,” she finishes a bit weakly, and Pansy snorts quietly into her drink, deeply amused.
An oblivious Neville frowns a bit. “McCartney…I’m not sure I know him. Is he American?”
“No,” Pansy puts in helpfully, biting her lip to contain a smile as Hermione snatches the wine glass from her hands to take a long drink. “I believe he’s from Liverpool.”
“Liverpool? Really?” Neville asks.
“Mm. Loads of bright Herbologists coming out of Liverpool these days, you know.”
Hermione exhales sharply at Pansy’s comment, then turns a bright, forced smile to Neville. “Well, beetles aside—”
“And Beatles…” Pansy murmurs.
“—it really is lovely to have you back,” Hermione says, raising her voice just a bit. She leans forward and her face grows fond. “We’ve missed you so much.”
Neville’s eyes soften. “I’ve missed you, too. Both of you. And Merlin knows I’ve missed out on quite a lot, so…catch me up. What’s new with you two?”
Hermione glances at Pansy with a small smile, but before she can reply, there’s an urgent pounding at the door.
“I’ll go,” Pansy says, standing up and quickly crossing to the entry hall where the knocking is growing stronger and stronger with each subsequent rap. “Merlin’s pants, I’m coming,” she grumbles under her breath.
Pansy pulls the door open and before she can even comprehend what’s happening, a blur of red hair whips past her.
“Hi! Sorry, I’m dying for a wee,” Ginny calls over her shoulder, her eyes never straying from her course to the toilet. “Bloody baby is pressing right on my bladder. I feel like I’m about to explode. But don’t say anything about Paris until I’m back! I want to hear all about it!”
Pansy snorts as she hears the bathroom door slam shut, then she turns back to face Harry, who’s smiling sheepishly. “I told her to go before we left,” he says with a shrug, offering up a bottle of wine which Pansy takes gratefully.
She takes a quick moment to survey Harry, pleased when she finds him looking happy, if a bit tired. There are faint circles under his eyes, somewhat camouflaged by his glasses, his hair is messy, even by his standards, and he’s missed one of the buttons at the bottom of his shirt. Pansy supposes that fatigue comes with the territory when you have two young children and another on the way, but it could also come from the fact that Harry is the most sought after Auror in the entire bloody department. He had made a name for himself after graduation, and between work and his family, Pansy honestly has no idea how he manages to even breathe. But he and Ginny have carved out a wonderful life, and Pansy’s just glad that after the start he had with the Dursleys, Harry’s managed to surround himself with family, friends, and more love than he could possibly know what to do with.
He steps forward to give her a hug and she slings one arm around his back, cradling the bottle in her other.
“How was Paris?” Harry asks, stepping back and into the house as Pansy shuts the door behind them.
“Oh, no. Didn’t you hear your wife? I’m not going against Ginny’s direct orders.”
“She told us not to talk about it, and I know better than to cross her.”
“I know, but—”
“You’ll just have to wait,” Pansy says.
Harry heaves a long-suffering sigh. “Why is it that every single person in my life is more intimidated by Ginny than me? I mean, I’m an Auror.”
Pansy scoffs. “Have you met her?” she asks dryly, leading the way back to the living room.
She hears Harry draw a breath to reply, then he lets it out slowly. “Fair point.”
They enter the living room and immediately, Neville stands to greet them.
Harry stops short and a wide, surprised smile fills his face. “Neville?” he asks with a happy, boyish grin. “I didn’t know you were back!”
Neville makes his way over to Harry, pulling him into an embrace and clapping him on the back. “I wanted to tell you, but these two thought it’d make a nice surprise,” he says, nodding toward Pansy and Hermione.
“When did you get back?” Harry asks.
Pansy leaves the two men to catch up, heading back to the couch and Hermione. She drops the wine bottle off on the table, and Hermione tears her gaze away from Neville and Harry to eye it with interest.
“Where’d that come from?”
“Harry,” Pansy replies dropping down beside Hermione and draping an arm around her shoulders. “Probably an apology for his wife commandeering our loo all night.”
“Harry!” Hermione calls out a bit crossly, pulling his attention from Neville. “We’ve told you a million times, you don’t need to bring anything!”
“And I’ve told you a million times I don’t care,” Harry says, shrugging off his coat and tossing it over a chair. “Besides, Ginny said all the wine bottles in the house are taunting her. You’re doing us a favor by taking this one off our hands.”
“He’s right,” comes Ginny’s voice. She rounds the corner and says, “the longer this one stays in here, the more I’m tempted to down an entire bottle.” She stops in front of Neville and says, “sorry for blasting past you earlier, but it was either stop and say hi, or wee all over the living room.”
Neville laughs and pulls Ginny into an embrace. “Probably the right choice, then.” He releases her and sweeps his eyes over her very pregnant stomach. “Look at you,” he marvels.
Ginny snorts and drops into a nearby chair, a look of relief passing over her face as her hands settle on her large belly. “Hard to see anything else when I’m in a room. I swear, I didn’t get this big with James or Albus.”
“Maybe there’s two in there,” Hermione says.
A dark shadow passes over Ginny’s face. “Don’t even joke about that,” she grumbles. She shifts a bit in an attempt to get comfortable, then turns back to Neville. “So, how long are you back this time?”
“I’m back for good.”
“Are you?” Harry asks, his voice rising with delight.
“I am. After all, I already missed James and Albus’s births. I’m not missing this one.”
Hermione makes a fond cooing sound beside her, but Pansy snorts. “You know you can’t actually be in the delivery room with them, right?” she asks dryly, before jumping when Hermione swats at her. “What?” she asks, turning to Hermione. “He can’t.”
Hermione rolls her eyes then turns to Ginny. “Speaking of the delivery…how much longer now?” she asks, nodding at Ginny’s stomach.
“Oh, too fucking long,” Ginny groans. “At this rate, I don’t think I’m going to play any of the season. And our offense is absolute shit this year, so I’ve half a mind to Diffindo myself and pull her out,” she adds, glaring down at her stomach. “At least then I wouldn’t have to wee every two minutes. Trust me, anyone who tells you they love being pregnant is a lying cow. I hate being pregnant.”
Pansy opens her mouth to make one of her all-time favorite quips about Weasleys and their ineptitude with birth control, but as if she can read her mind, Hermione drops a hand to her thigh and gives her a warning squeeze, effectively cutting her off at the pass. “Well, we can’t wait to meet her.”
“Can’t we?” Pansy murmurs out of the corner of her mouth, wincing a bit when Hermione’s grip tightens.
Pansy huffs and settles back against the couch. It’s not her fault she doesn’t particularly like babies, and frankly, she’s been an absolute saint for acting interested in Albus and James for the past few years. At least James is finally getting to an interesting age, though. He’s old enough now that he’s started mimicking words and in the past month alone, Pansy’s taught him how to say wanker, prick, tosser, and balls.
She’s absolutely thrilled by the turn of events.
(Hermione pretends to be mortified, but Pansy’s seen the corners of her mouth twitch when tiny little James gleefully points at the telly and calls the Muggle newscasters wankers.)
But for right now, she’s saved the trouble of having to listen to anymore talk about babies by a knock at the door. “I’ll go,” she says again, grateful for the escape.
As she nears the door, she can hear the muffled voices of a man and a woman, and she frowns a bit. Aside from Ginny and Harry, everyone else was coming uncoupled. Perhaps Ron had decided to bring the girl he’s been seeing?
She pulls open the door to reveal Daphne and Ron in the middle of some kind of heated debate. The moment they realize the door is open, they both turn to Pansy, Ron with a pained grimace and Daphne with determination.
“Settle something for me,” Daphne says immediately.
“Hello, Pansy,” Pansy says, crossing her arms and leaning against the door frame. “How was your trip, Pansy? Oh, it was lovely, thanks for asking.”
Daphne waves a hand and bustles past her, leaving Ron to trudge in after, hands buried deep in his trouser pockets. “I’ll hear all about your trip later, but this is important—I need you to smell Weasley.”
Pansy closes the door a bit harder than she means to. “What?”
“Smell him,” Daphne says, gazing expectantly at Pansy, as if this is a perfectly normal request.
Pansy’s eyes flick to Ron, then back to Daphne. “I’d really rather not.”
“Oh, don’t be a spoilsport. Just a quick sniff.”
“Just do it,” Ron grumbles from beside Pansy. “You know she won’t stop until you do.” He speaks with the weary cadence of a man who’s too used to dealing with Daphne’s antics, and he bends down just slightly toward Pansy who clenches her jaw, leans forward, and takes a brief sniff.
A spicy, woodsy cologne wafts toward her. It’s a fine scent. Nice enough, not overwhelming. Honestly, it’s…a bit familiar…
Pansy leans back with a small frown. She knows she’s smelled this before, but she can’t quite place it. She glances back toward Daphne to find bright blue eyes trained on her. “Well?” Daphne asks.
“It’s vaguely familiar, but I don’t—”
Daphne cuts her off. “Gilderoy. Lockhart.”
Pansy’s mouth parts in surprise, and without being asked, she leans back in and takes another sniff, this one a bit deeper. “Oh, Merlin,” she says with a laugh, catching Daphne’s delighted eyes. “It is. Why on earth do you smell like Lockhart?” Pansy asks, turning to face Ron again.
The tips of Ron’s ears turn pink. “I don’t.”
“He does! It’s like he’s right here in the room with us, isn’t it?” Daphne asks.
“I feel like I’m a second year again. He used to bathe in this stuff,” Pansy adds, waving a hand toward Ron, who rubs his neck uncomfortably.
“Apparently, the girl he’s been seeing gave it to him as a gift, which…” Daphne pulls a face and says, “bad luck to get stuck with a Gilderoy Lockhart fan. Next thing you know, she’ll have Weasley dressed in all those ridiculously showy robes he used to wear, traipsing across the Amazon to spend a decade with dung beetles, or whatever ludicrous thing his books were about.”
“She’s not a Gilderoy Lockhart fan. She’s just…she’s…”
Pansy shakes her head and regards Ron, who’s now pink all over and shifting slightly on his feet. There’s a slight furrow to his brow and his eyes are far away, as if he’s pondering whether or not he’s completely misread the situation, and Pansy has to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
It’s not that she likes seeing Ron in a state of distress. It’s just that…
…Okay, fine, she likes it. But there’s nothing mean spirited behind it. Over the years, she’s more or less grown to tolerate Ron, as one might tolerate the smell of a sour milk, or the sound of a shrieking baby.
(And fine, maybe there’s the smallest chance that Pansy actually doesn’t mind Ron. Maybe there’s even a chance that she sometimes sort of enjoys his presence and finds herself laughing at his surprisingly clever jokes. But she’ll never admit to it.)
Ron runs a hand through his wavy hair, which he’s recently let grow out, and bites at his lip anxiously. “I mean, she’s probably not a Lockhart fan, right?”
“No, definitely not,” Daphne says cheerfully. “And on a completely unrelated note, did she tell you she likes your hair like that?”
Ron nods and lifts a hand to tug on the bottom of his hair, but before he can, he abruptly freezes. “Hang on…you don’t think it’s because…”
“Oh, no, no,” Daphne says with gleaming eyes. “She just bought you Lockhart’s cologne and happens to like that you’ve styled your hair like his. That’s perfectly normal.”
Ron wilts a bit, and he looks so pathetically dejected that Pansy takes pity on him and lamely says, “if it makes you feel any better, I made spinach puffs?”
Surprisingly enough, it seems to do the trick.
Ron turns to Pansy with hope in his eyes. “You did?”
“Just out of the oven,” Pansy confirms.
He visibly perks up. “Oh, you’re brilliant,” he says with a grin, clapping Pansy on the shoulder. “I’ll just pop in and take a look, shall I?” he adds, all thoughts of his girlfriend pushed from his mind.
“You could do that. Or you could say hello to our special guest…” Pansy adds mysteriously, figuring Ron will probably want to say hello to Neville more than he wants spinach puffs.
…Though honestly, she wouldn’t put money on it. It’s probably neck-and-neck.
But Ron seems to momentarily forget about the spinach puffs. “Special guest?” he repeats with interest.
“Mm. In the living room,” Pansy says.
He hesitates just for a moment, then sighs. “I suppose the spinach puffs will keep.” He flashes a smile at Pansy and adds, “glad to have you back from Paris, though. I’ve missed your cooking.”
Pansy rolls her eyes. “Just my cooking? Not my charm, my wit, my intellect?”
Ron’s brows pull together in mock-confusion. “Did you have any of those things before you left?”
He dodges quickly as Pansy reaches out to swat at him. “Oh, piss off, Lockhart,” she says, but she can’t help the fondness that sneaks into her tone. “I don’t know why we even invited you.”
“Probably something to do with my charm, wit, and intellect,” Ron says with a wink, dodging yet another swipe from Pansy as he hurries toward the living room.
Pansy watches him go and once he’s out of sight, she turns to Daphne and shakes her head. “He really does smell like him.”
“Uncanny, isn’t it?” Daphne says, surveying Pansy with shining eyes. “But enough about Weasley. How are you? How was Paris?” she asks, raising an eyebrow and cocking her head. “Did you…?”
The corners of Pansy’s lips twitch up. “Take in the sights and sounds? Drink too much wine? Eat enough butter for the entire year?” she asks, nonchalantly studying her nails.
“Oh, don’t be obtuse, you absolute cow,” Daphne huffs. “You know what I’m asking.”
“Oh,” Pansy says, glancing up with overly wide, innocent eyes. “Were you asking if I got engaged?” She cracks a grin and says, “I did that, too.”
Daphne immediately emits a high-pitched squeal and throws her arms around Pansy, squeezing her within an inch of her life. “I can’t believe you did it!” she says, her voice delighted.
Pansy releases her after a moment and steps back. “Of course I did it. I told you I would.”
“Yes, well…no offense, but your word means next to nothing.”
Pansy’s lips part in surprise. “Excuse me! How on earth is that “no offense?’” she asks, putting the words in air quotes.
Daphne simply waves a hand and says, “remember, darling, I was there for the start of your relationship. I know firsthand just how capable you are of making a mess out of any situation.”
Pansy opens her mouth to rebut, but then thinks back to the long, drawn-out start to her relationship and momentarily hesitates.
…Perhaps Daphne has a point.
Daphne smirks victoriously at the lack of rebuttal. “You know, some people might find being right constantly tiring,” she says, adopting a lofty tone as she tosses her blonde hair with a practiced casualness over her shoulder. “Luckily for both of us, I’ve got a strong constitution.”
Pansy rolls her eyes and leans against the wall, crossing her arms and surveying her ridiculous best friend.
Daphne was always put together during their time at Hogwarts, but over the years, she’s somehow managed to exude even more poise and power than she used to. It probably helps that she’s one of the most popular columnists at Witch Weekly and has her finger on the pulse of all things fashion and culture, but it also helps that Daphne’s never once lost her sense of self, her innate confidence, and her annoyingly perfect style. But even as she’s ascended the ranks in her professional life, through it all, she’s remained the fiercely loyal, devastatingly clever girl she was all those years ago, and is still the only family Pansy’s ever needed.
“We made a mess of it,” Pansy acknowledges, “but that was ten years ago. Surely, your faith in me has improved in ten years?”
Daphne shrugs. “Ten years, two-hundred…it doesn’t matter. I’ve still never seen two people be as extraordinarily stupid as you two were.”
“Do you know, I use you as an example of what not to do at the beginning of a relationship in my columns?”
“I’ve noticed,” Pansy grumbles, thinking back to the hundreds of times she’s seen Daphne reference her relationship as a cautionary tale in Witch Weekly. She always refers to Pansy as Pea-brained Poppy and Pansy hates it.
“If it’s any consolation,” Daphne continues, “I also use you as a success story. Sort of a, if these two thick idiots can manage to make it work, anyone can type of thing,” she says brightly. “It really works wonders. People are genuinely inspired by your incompetence. Actually, I just had one girl write in for advice and I said—”
“Daphne,” Pansy says, shaking her head in exasperation.
Daphne stops mid-sentence. “What?”
“I’ve just told you I’m engaged!”
“Oh.” Daphne’s shoulders relax and her eyes soften just a bit. “So you are.”
Pansy can’t help the grin that comes to her face. “I mean…I’m engaged,” she repeats with a small, disbelieving laugh.
“You and Hermione Granger. I…” Daphne trails off for a moment, then her face turns unexpectedly earnest. In a quieter voice, she says, “you know, I might give you a hard time, but you two really are the best couple I know.”
Pansy scoffs. “You don’t have to say that, you know.”
“Trust me, I’m not. Honestly, it’s revolting how happy you two are after all these years. And you know I think marriage is a ridiculous and archaic institution that should be done away with, but you two…you two almost make me see the value in it.”
“Thank you,” Pansy murmurs.
Daphne reaches for her hand and gives it a quick squeeze. “I’m so happy for you, Pans.” She holds her gaze for a long moment and then without any warning, she drops Pansy’s hand, looks around with expectant eyes, and says, “now, then! Since we’ve got that out of the way…where’s Daphne?”
Pansy rolls her eyes as she starts for the living room. “Daffy is taking a nap on our bed.”
“No, you can’t wake her up.”
Daphne tsks. “You’re no fun.” She follows Pansy around the corner and says, “so who’s this special guest you were—”
Before she can finish her thought, she comes to an abrupt stop, staring into the living room with wide eyes. Pansy follows her gaze directly to Neville, who’s regaling the rest of the group with a story, his eyes shining and his smile warm and bright.
“Merlin,” Daphne murmurs. Her voice low and appreciative, and she cocks an interested eyebrow. “Who is that?”
Pansy stares at the side of her face in stunned silence for a moment before realizing a crucial fact: Daphne hasn’t seen Neville since Hogwarts. For all she knows, Neville Longbottom is still a gangly, awkward boy with a bad haircut and overly large robes. The Neville that Daphne remembers is someone she’d probably never speak to. But if the way Daphne is staring at Neville right now is any indication, she certainly likes the change.
Pansy musters up as much casualness as she can and asks, “why? You think he’s nice looking?”
“Nice looking?” Daphne scoffs. “He’s gorgeous. Where have you been hiding him? Is he a work friend? Is he here with someone?” She eyes Pansy with concern. “Please tell me he’s not here with someone.”
“No, he’s not here with anyone.”
Daphne breathes a small sigh of relief as she turns her gaze back to Neville. “Thank goodness,” she says. “Because I’m going to climb that man like a fucking tree tonight.”
Pansy chokes on her own saliva at the completely unexpected phrasing, but Daphne simply gives her a firm pat on the back, then starts into the room with her shoulders back and her head held high, the absolute picture of poise and grace.
Pansy helpless pounds her fist against her chest in an attempt to stop coughing, watching as Hermione stands to greet Daphne and pulls her into a hug. Daphne says something to Harry and Ginny, and they both laugh, but then, she turns her intent blue eyes toward Neville. By this point though, Pansy’s more or less collected herself, so she quickly makes her way to the couch where Daphne’s perched herself on the side closest to Neville. She turns to him with an arched brow and in a purposefully lowered voice, she murmurs, “I don’t believe we’ve—”
But before she can complete the thought, Pansy practically dives onto the couch, ignores Hermione’s muffled sound of surprise, and says, “Sorry, Neville, but I meant to ask this earlier.” She stresses his name just a bit as her eyes flick to Daphne, then back to Neville. “I was just wondering…I…I…” she looks at him desperately, trying to find a reason for her interruption. Finally, her eyes land on his wrist, and she weakly gestures to it. “Where did you get that lovely watch?”
Neville glances down at it and smiles, then opens his mouth to reply, but Pansy doesn’t really hear him. Instead, she’s too focused on the way Daphne has completely stiffened beside her. She chances a glance to her left to see that Daphne’s eyes have grown ridiculously wide, as if she’s just seen the ghost of Salazar Slytherin himself dancing a merry jig in a nightgown. Her lips are parted in shock, and there’s a slow flush spreading on her cheeks.
Pansy bites her lower lip to keep her smile in check. She’s seen Daphne struck dumb on very, very few occasions, and even though she’s pleased she managed to stop Daphne before she completely put her foot in her mouth and introduced herself to someone she literally grew up with, she’s not going to lie—she’s really fucking enjoying this.
After all, Pansy’s had to put up with enough teasing over the years about her massive crush on a certain Gryffindor. It’s only fair that she get to turn the tables for once in her life.
“If you’re interested, I can introduce you?”
Pansy blinks and turns back from Daphne’s still stunned face to Neville, who’s looking at her, clearly waiting for a reply.
Fuck. What had she said to Neville again?
To buy herself time, she lifts her drink for a sip, then glances at Hermione to her right with a look that she hopes conveys that she had completely checked out of the conversation and desperately needs assistance.
Perhaps it’s a testament to their ten years together, but Hermione seems to understand perfectly. She sighs, places her hand on Pansy’s thigh, and says, “well, if you don’t want the introduction, love, then I’ll take it. There are so few magical watchmakers left in London. It’d be wonderful to meet one. And especially one who does such fine work.”
Oh. Right. The watch.
Pansy places her drink back down and says, “well, we can work out specifics later. But I’m afraid I interrupted you earlier, Daph. Were you going to say something?”
Daphne’s still sporting a slight flush, but she’s no stranger to taking control of a situation, so she simply gives a small smile to Neville and says, “only that I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen you. It’s been absolute ages.”
Neville nods. “It has. Since Hogwarts, I think?”
Ginny scoffs from across the room. “No. It can’t have been that long. Surely, you’d have run into each other here?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Daphne says. “And believe me, I’d have remembered,” she adds, just loud enough for only Pansy and Neville to hear. Pansy immediately wrinkles her nose in distaste, but Neville lifts an eyebrow at the remark and surprisingly doesn’t break her gaze, simply regarding her with a small smile and interested eyes.
“What about the Christmas party here? What was that, two, three years ago?” Harry asks. “Neville, you were at that, weren’t you?”
“I was,” Neville says, finally glancing away from Daphne with a small, almost imperceptible flush to reply to Harry.
“But I wasn’t,” Daphne puts in. “I was…otherwise occupied,” she finishes, tossing a small, apologetic wince towards Pansy, who feels something in her stomach sink just a bit at the reminder.
Pansy gives a tight smile and reaches for her drink once again. Hermione’s warm fingers soothingly caress her thigh, and in an effort to show her that she’s fine, Pansy takes her hand and laces their fingers together, giving a gentle squeeze.
She takes a sip, tuning out of the conversation once more as she remembers where Daphne had been the year of their Christmas party.
She had been attending Draco and Astoria’s wedding.
The wedding Pansy hadn’t been invited to.
The loss of her friendship with Draco still stings, even after all these years.
And the worst part is, it’s not like they had some sort of big, angry blow-up at each other. At least then, Pansy would have been able to stew in her anger and feel justified over never seeing him again. But instead, things between them had just slowly fallen off. They had gone into the summer after seventh year in a strange place, with Draco still feeling hurt, confused, and angry, and Pansy feeling completely unsure as to whether or not she should tell him about Hermione. And without Hogwarts to force them together, it was clear neither of them knew how to reach out. But instead of fixing it, they instead completely stopped interacting. It had been painful and awful, but Pansy had assumed it was what Draco wanted, and he had made no move to reach out to her. It had taken years with no communication whatsoever for Pansy to finally come to terms with the knowledge that her friendship with Draco was probably a thing of the past.
And even though Pansy knew it and was under no illusions to the contrary, there had still been a small, foolish part of her that had wondered, hoped even, that she would get an invitation to the wedding. When she hadn’t, she had told herself that it was expected and she shouldn’t be disappointed.
But of course, hope is a silly, stupid thing, and there’s still a part of her that’s considering sending Draco an invitation to her wedding.
Just in case.
“Are you alright?” Hermione murmurs beside her, pulling her back to the present moment. Everyone else is laughing at some long-ago Hogwarts memory Ginny is recounting, but Hermione’s eyes are on her and her brow is creased in concern.
Pansy nods. “Fine,” she whispers back, not wanting to pull the attention in the room toward her. She can always discuss it with Hermione later, but for right now, she doesn’t want to think about how things had ended with Draco. So she shelves her emotions and leans into Hermione’s side, putting her lips against her ear and whispering something far safer and far more interesting. “Daphne wants to shag Neville,” she says as quietly as she can manage. She feels Hermione stiffen and she pulls back to see hazel eyes wide with surprise. Pansy grins and nods, and Hermione glances over her shoulder, her gaze flicking between Daphne and Neville for a moment. After a moment, she looks back to Pansy with a serious set to her mouth but a suspicious twinkle in her eye says, “well, then. I suppose she’ll finally get her answer to the tallywhacker question.”
Pansy snorts in surprise, but before she can chastise Hermione for forcing her to think about Neville’s tallywhacker, Ginny turns to her with an eager look on her face.
“Right, then. Enough reminiscing about Hogwarts. I want to hear all about Paris,” Ginny says, shifting in the chair in a futile attempt to get comfortable. “It’s been ages since we’ve been somewhere nice,” she says, glancing at Harry who nods. “I need to live vicariously through the two of you, so tell me everything.”
Pansy and Hermione exchange a small smile, and Hermione surreptitiously dips her hand into her pocket where she’s been keeping the engagement ring hidden for the time being.“I’m not sure that there’s much to tell,” she starts, catching Pansy’s eye again and giving her a goofy, excited grin. “I mean, we’ve been so many times, it’s just the same old things…”
Pansy nods. “Walking by the Seine…”
“Dinner at La Table de Joséphine…”
“Going to the Louvre…”
Hermione slyly removes her hand from her pocket, revealing the diamond ring now sitting on her finger.
There’s a moment of shocked silence before an immediate hubbub fills the room.
“About bloody time!”
“Let’s see the ring!”
Ginny is loudest of all.
“What?” she yelps. She tries to get out of the chair, but immediately falls back into it. “Oh, bloody fucking…” Before she can turn around and hex the chair to smithereens in a blind, pregnancy-induced fury, Harry grabs her arm and pulls her upright. Once she’s standing, Ginny wastes no time in pouncing on Hermione’s hand, grabbing at it eagerly.
“You’re engaged?” Ginny asks, studying the ring with wide eyes.
“Congratulations,” Harry puts in, his face shining with delight.
Ron turns to regard Pansy with serious eyes. “You’re sure you want to get stuck with this one?” he asks, nodding at Hermione and grinning when she rolls her eyes.
It’s a silly question, of course, but Pansy still replies. “Never been more sure of anything in my life,” she murmurs, gazing at Hermione as if she’s the only person in the room.
“Good to see that getting engaged hasn’t changed how absolutely revolting you two are,” Daphne teases. “Oh, and so you know, I’ve found a new maid of honor dress, so we’ll have to change the color scheme again.”
Pansy scoffs, but before she can reply, Neville clears his throat. “Congratulations, you two,” he says with a warm smile, lifting his drink in a toast.
“Thank you,” Hermione says.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, but how are you engaged?” Ginny asks, drawing Hermione’s attention back to her wide, brown eyes. “I mean, congratulations, obviously, but last I heard, you didn’t want to get married,” she adds, swinging her gaze to Pansy, who lifts her shoulders in a small shrug.
“What? Why?” Ginny asks.
Pansy fidgets a bit, and when she doesn’t reply, Hermione rubs her thigh and jumps in. “Because she’s a massive romantic and had it all planned out for weeks and didn’t want me ruining her proposal by assuming we’d get married.”
As Ginny awws in delight, Pansy’s mouth falls open and she looks to Hermione with wounded eyes. “I am not a massive—”
“How’d she propose?” Harry asks with interest, cutting Pansy off and leaving her to fold her arms and slump back against the couch, grumbling at the absolute injustice of being called a romantic in front of everyone.
“She owled McGonagall for our charmed parchments and wrote the question on them,” Hermione says.
“Hang on. The same parchments you used at Hogwarts?” Ginny asks, sounding stunned. “The parchment pal experiment parchments?”
Hermione nods and Ron whistles, low and impressed. “Blimey…that is romantic,” he puts in.
Pansy rolls her eyes and reaches for her drink. “Anyway,” she says, determined to stop this line of questioning in its tracks. “It doesn’t matter how I proposed. What matters is we’re engaged. And for some reason, we’re inviting all you tossers to the wedding.”
“Quite right,” Daphne says, breezily bypassing Pansy’s insult. “And that the color scheme of the wedding will be mauve and green.” She takes a sip of her own drink, then notices Hermione’s incredulous eyes on her. “What?” she asks. “It’s a good color scheme.”
“Naming our cat after you wasn’t enough?” Hermione asks with amusement coloring her tone. “Now we have to plan our wedding around you?”
“Darling, if it weren’t for me, there wouldn’t be a wedding,” Daphne says, primly crossing her legs.
“Oi! I helped,” Ginny puts in as she makes her way back to her chair and falls heavily into it with a small wince. “Shouldn’t that give me a say in the color scheme?”
“You did help,” Daphne says. “But not to color scheme levels. Perhaps…flower arrangements?”
Ginny hesitates for a moment, then nods. “I can live with that.”
“Out of curiosity, will Hermione and I be getting any say in our wedding?” Pansy asks, arching an eyebrow.
“None whatsoever,” Daphne says without missing a beat. Then she frowns and says, “well, I suppose you’ll have to actually be there for it, so you can decide on the date.”
“How generous of you,” Pansy says dryly.
“Have you discussed a date?” Ron asks.
“Yes, actually, we—” Pansy glances over at Ron to find him holding a plateful of spinach puffs that’s she’s certain he wasn’t holding a few minutes ago. She lifts her eyes to him in amazement. “Did you just sneak into the kitchen for those?”
Ron pauses, a spinach puff halfway to his mouth. “Er—maybe?”
“After we announced our engagement?”
“No,” Ron says quickly. “Only after Daphne started talking about color schemes,” he adds sheepishly. “I heard all the important bits before that. And I went fast!”
“Well, I suppose I should be flattered,” Pansy says with a small smile and a shake of her head. “But as to your question, yes, we’ve started discussing dates.”
“And?” Harry asks. “Will it be this year?”
“No,” Hermione says. “We were thinking February, actually.”
Before anyone else can react, Daphne makes a spluttering, strangled noise into her drink and whips her head toward Hermione in horror. “February?” she asks, completely aghast. “Why on earth would you pick February? Merlin, I leave one decision to you and you immediately ruin it.” She slams her drink down, straightens her back, and says, “I take it back. You don’t get to pick the date anymore.”
Pansy rolls her eyes at Daphne’s antics. “We’re picking February because that’s when the parchment pal experiment started. We thought it’d be a sort of…I dunno, a full-circle thing if we got married in the same month we started talking to each other,” she says, absently taking Hermione’s hand in hers and running her thumb against soft skin.
“That’s sweet,” Harry says.
“That’s absurd,” Daphne groans. “February,” she adds with a dark glare, like she’s furious at the month for even having the audacity to exist. “Why couldn’t the bloody experiment have started in June?” She heaves an impossibly heavy sigh and says, “well, now I’ll need a new dress. And a new color scheme,” she adds crossly.
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something,” Pansy says.
“I’m sure I won’t,” Daphne grumbles. “Unless I wear a bloody parka to your ridiculous, arctic wedding.”
“If anyone could pull off a parka at a wedding, it’d be you,” Pansy says charitably.
Daphne’s eyes narrow and she opens her mouth to reply, but when Neville gives a quiet hum of agreement at Pansy’s statement, she turns toward him instead. “And what about you?” Daphne asks, seeming content to put the February debate on hold for the time being. “Will you be in town for the wedding? Going to risk frostbite with the rest of us?”
He nods. “I’m back for good.”
“Mm, lucky us,” Daphne hums, a flirtatious edge to her voice.
“Yes, actually, it is lucky you’re back! You know, Daphne’s had something she’s been wanting to ask you about for ages,” Pansy says, grinning broadly when Daphne’s head whips around to her. She narrows her eyes in a silent, tallywhacker-induced warning, and Pansy gives her the sweetest smile she can manage. “Our Daphne is surprisingly interested in Herbology. And if memory serves,” she adds thoughtfully, “she spent quite a bit of time in the greenhouses back at Hogwarts.”
“Did you?” Neville asks. “I don’t recall seeing you there.”
Daphne gives Pansy a murderous glare, then turns back to Neville with a smile. “We must’ve just missed each other.”
Ginny scoffs from her chair. “Isn’t that where you used to go to shag—”
“Anyway,” Hermione says loudly, cutting Ginny off. “It will be lovely to have you at the wedding, Neville. And there will be plenty of time to discuss color schemes and flower arrangements and—”
“And to talk you out of a fucking February wedding…” Daphne mutters beside Pansy before expertly dodging her elbow.
“Well, for what it’s worth,” Ginny says, “I don’t care when or where you have the wedding. You could have it on top of Mount Everest, for all I care. So long as it’s after this bloody baby is out and I can drink as much as I please, I’ll be happy.”
“We’ll have an open bar waiting at the summit, just for you,” Hermione promises.
Ginny grins, but before she can say anything else, there’s a ding from the kitchen. Pansy sighs, releases Hermione’s hand, and stretches up off the couch. “Duty calls.”
“I’ll give you a hand,” Hermione says, standing as well.
Pansy hesitates for a moment, raising an eyebrow at Hermione, who huffs in exasperation. “I won’t cook anything,” she amends. “I’ll just…carry things.”
Harry chuckles at Pansy’s continued reluctance. “Still banned, then?” he asks.
“Yes,” Hermione says, a tiny, petulant pout coming to her face that Pansy desperately wants to kiss away. “Which is ridiculous. Honestly, it was a mistake anyone could’ve made.”
“I don’t know,” Harry says. “It takes a special talent to blow up two different Pyrex dishes in the exact same way. I mean, you put it on the stove once, that’s a mistake. But to do it twice?”
Hermione’s eyes grow wide as Harry speaks and she very subtly shakes her head in an effort to get him to stop talking, but it’s too late. Pansy’s already staring at her in shock. “You blew up my Pyrex bakeware?”
“…Maybe?” Hermione says, wincing apologetically. “But I used Reparo both times,” she rushes to add, “so it’s not like it mattered!”
Pansy’s brow creases and she very quietly whispers, “but my Pyrex…” under her breath, like a sulky child.
“Hang on,” Ron says, turning to Pansy. “If you didn’t know about that, then why is she banned?”
“Because she set the oven on fire,” Daphne says, stating it as if it’s common knowledge.
“You set the oven on fire, too?” Pansy asks, her voice high with disbelief and all thoughts of her bakeware forgotten as she stares at Hermione, who at least has the decency to flush.
“Only once,” Hermione says, before defensively adding, “and anyway, it was only a small fire! And I put it out before it could spread.” She pauses, then guiltily tacks on, “…past the curtains, that is.”
Pansy shakes her head in shock. “I…I…”
As she continues to stutter, Ron chuckles. “Okay, but why did Pansy ban you?” he asks, looking to Hermione as he pops the last spinach puff on his plate into his mouth.
Pansy somehow regains her ability to speak and weakly says, “because she set the toaster on fire,” at the same time Ginny says, “is it because she almost cut her thumb off?”
Pansy turns to gape at Ginny, completely gobsmacked by yet another new piece of information. “She what?”
Ginny grins and leans forward a bit. “She—”
“She didn’t cut her thumb off, and that’s what matters,” Hermione interrupts crossly, glaring at Ginny for revealing another item on the apparently long list of kitchen mishaps that Pansy hadn’t been privy to. “Besides, it was nothing the healers at St. Mungo’s couldn’t manage.”
“You…I…” Pansy blinks stupidly. “St. Mungo’s?” she finally manages to say. “When did…I mean, how…I…” She draws in a deep breath then says, “why didn’t you tell me any of these things?”
“Because I want you to trust me to cook again,” Hermione says earnestly, looking at Pansy as if this is the most obvious thing in the world.
“Love, I don’t know if I even trust you to stand in the kitchen anymore!”
“Oh, honestly. They’re all mistakes anyone could have made,” Hermione says. She glances toward the kitchen where the oven is still beeping and says, “and I’ve already promised, I won’t touch a thing. Now come on, we don’t want your lovely dinner to burn,” she says, taking Pansy’s hand and dragging her off toward the kitchen.
Once the door swings shut behind them, muffling the conversation in the living room, Pansy drops Hermione’s hand and stares at her with arms folded across her chest. “Well?” she asks, cocking an eyebrow.
“What catastrophic event are you going to cause in here this time? Want to try your hand at blowing up the refrigerator?” Pansy asks, nodding toward it.
Hermione scoffs, then heads toward the oven to turn it off, but Pansy immediately jumps forward to catch her. She slings an arm around Hermione’s waist, pulling her toward her until her back is flush against Pansy’s front. “Oh, no you don’t,” she murmurs, scratching lightly at Hermione’s stomach. “We’re not going to risk blowing up before we’ve officially tied the knot.” She keeps one arm around Hermione’s waist and with her other, she reaches for her wand, waving it toward the oven. The door opens and Pansy’s main course, a garlic and rosemary roast pork loin, soars out and fills the air with a rich, herby scent. Pansy guides the dish down, puts her wand away, then nuzzles back against Hermione, brushing her nose against her neck. “There,” she says, tilting her head to let her lips skim Hermione’s jaw. “We all live to see another day.”
She can practically feel Hermione’s eye roll. “I could’ve done that.”
“Mm. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t believe you, darling.”
Hermione turns in Pansy’s embrace so she’s facing her. “You know, one of these days, I will prove myself in here.”
“Oh, I seem to remember you proving yourself in here many, many times,” Pansy says, tugging Hermione closer. “On the counter, on the table,” she runs her thumb against Hermione’s full lower lip, “on the floor, against the refrigerator…”
Hermione’s eyes flash and she opens her mouth to graze her teeth against Pansy’s thumb. “I’m surprised the refrigerator made it out of that encounter unscathed,” she murmurs, trailing her hands down Pansy’s sides before coming to rest on her waist.
“Unlike the coffee table,” Pansy says, tangling her hands in Hermione’s hair, lightly scratching against the nape of her neck and pulling a small shiver from the other girl.
“Which would’ve held had you actually bothered to read the assembly manual,” Hermione says, brushing her nose against Pansy’s and letting her hands skim up her back as she angles her head.
Pansy has a reply on the tip of her tongue, something about the complexities of putting together Muggle furniture, but before she can voice it, Hermione leans in and kisses it away. She gently parts Pansy’s lips, taking all the time in the world to kiss her languidly while her deft hands roam from Pansy’s waist down to her backside. Once they’ve settled over the fabric of her dress, Hermione squeezes firmly, drawing a quiet murmur of pleasure from Pansy. She follows the sound in quick succession with a needy whimper as Hermione takes Pansy’s lower lip between her teeth and bites at it. Her grip tightens around wavy, brown hair, pulling a groan from Hermione as she deepens the kiss, all while hands continue to map Pansy’s body, leaving blazing hot trails in their wake. Their lips press and part for a few more moments before Hermione pulls back a fraction of an inch, panting and flushed, and murmurs, “you know we have a dinner party waiting for us.”
Pansy cups Hermione’s cheek softly and steals another kiss. “We already told them the good news. Can’t we send them all home?” she asks, her breath ghosting against Hermione’s lips as her thumb absently sweeps against a cheekbone.
“You made dinner for seven people.”
“Plenty of leftovers for us, then,” Pansy says, peppering kisses along Hermione’s jaw.
Hermione hums in pleasure, but somehow manages to remain practical. “Pansy, we can’t send everyone home just because we want to have sex.”
“Because—” Pansy nips sharply at Hermione’s neck, and she hisses a barely concealed curse in reply. “Because that wouldn’t make us good hostesses,” she finally manages, while simultaneously angling her neck to give Pansy better access.
Pansy smiles against Hermione’s neck. Her hands trail down her sides and work their way under her top, and she skims her thumbs over the bare skin just below Hermione’s bra, noticing with pleasure that Hermione has made no move to push her away and get back to the task at hand. “Yes, but—”
“Are you two shagging in there?”
Hands immediately slide out from underneath Hermione’s shirt and Pansy groans at the sound of Daphne’s voice through the door. She buries her face in the crook of Hermione’s neck and calls back, “yes. Piss off.”
The door swings open and Daphne strides in. She glances at Hermione and Pansy, who are still more or less intertwined, and smirks. “Well, isn’t this cozy? But please, don’t stop on my account,” she adds, crossing to the wine rack. “I’m just here for a bottle of white.”
Hermione sighs, gives Pansy a quick kiss, and murmurs, “we’ll pick this up later.” She unwinds her arms from Pansy and crosses to Daphne, who’s crouched in front of their various bottles.. “Looking for anything in particular?” she asks.
Daphne shakes her head. “No,” she says absently, trailing a finger over the bottles as she goes. After a moment, she plucks a Chardonnay from the rack, reads the label, then nods. “This’ll do.”
“This’ll do?” Pansy echoes, staring at the bottle in Daphne’s hands. “Daphne, that’s a forty Galleon bottle!”
Daphne flashes a wicked grin. “It’s a celebration, isn’t it?” But before Pansy can reply, she adds, “and considering it’s a celebration, I’m going to very generously give you ten minutes to finish whatever you were doing in here before I came in. Normally, I’d give you more, but I’d guess that’s about how long you have before Weasley bursts in here to eat everything in the kitchen, so…I’d suggest you use those minutes wisely,” she finishes, wiggling her eyebrows with a knowing smirk.
Pansy rolls her eyes and leans against a counter. “And what exactly will you be doing with those ten minutes?” she asks, raising an eyebrow and glancing purposefully in the direction of the living room.
“I’m going to inquire whether or not Neville has ever worked with fruit in his career.”
Pansy and Hermione exchange a small, confused glance. “Fruit?” Pansy asks, against her better judgment.
“Mm,” Daphne hums with suspiciously sparkling eyes. “Because I have some melons I’d love for him to get his hands on.”
Hermione scoffs and Pansy grumbles, “Circe’s sake,” as she crosses to the table to begin plating her perfectly cooked pork loin. “Sometimes I genuinely can’t believe you’re qualified to give relationship advice.”
“Oh, please. That was a good one,” Daphne says, walking back to the kitchen door, cradling the bottle of wine in the crook of her arm. “But remember, Ron’s starving and Ginny won’t stop talking about children, so…try to shag quickly, for my sake?”
“We won’t be shagging in the kitchen,” Hermione says, sounding absurdly prim and proper for someone who had just shown every indication of wanting to shag in the kitchen.
“Why, is the kitchen off-limits?” Daphne asks. Before Hermione can reply, Daphne adds in an airy tone, “because I would think after the Hogwarts library, nowhere would be off-limits.”
Pansy freezes in place as Hermione immediately whirls around to face her. “You told her?”
Pansy stares helplessly at Hermione for a moment, then glances over her shoulder at Daphne, who tosses her a smile and an infuriating wink as she heads out the door. Pansy exhales sharply, then turns back to Hermione. “I may have mentioned it once or twice…”
“Unbelievable,” Hermione says. She shakes her head, but there’s amusement lingering in her gaze. “Unbelievable. You just had to tell her.”
“I mean, it is my greatest achievement,” Pansy argues. “People tend to brag about their greatest achievements.” She tilts her head toward the door in consideration. “Honestly, I’m surprised Daph hasn’t brought it up before now…”
“You know, I sincerely hope shagging me in the Hogwarts library isn’t your greatest achievement,” Hermione says, plating the spinach puffs that Ron hadn’t decimated.
“Maybe not my greatest achievement. I suppose that would be getting you to agree to marry me.”
Hermione glances up with warm eyes. “That’s not an achievement at all.”
“You have to put in work for something to be considered an achievement. But I would’ve married you ten years ago, no effort required.”
Pansy can feel the way she relaxes at the gentle words, and she pushes off from the counter to pull Hermione into her arms. “I wish you would’ve told me that ages ago…would’ve saved me the trouble of recreating the Yule Ball.”
“You mean would’ve saved McGonagall the trouble of recreating the Yule Ball.”
“Semantics. And anyway, all I’m hearing is that shagging you in the library really was my greatest achievement.”
Hermione tosses her head back and laughs. When she looks back at Pansy, her eyes are shining. She reaches up and cups Pansy’s jaw, then leans in and kisses her, slow and deep. When she pulls back, she murmurs, “I think our greatest achievement was falling in love in the first place. That took work.”
Pansy gently runs her hand down Hermione’s arm to lace their fingers together. “It certainly did. But you don’t think being the Deputy Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement might be a slightly bigger achievement?”
“No. I already told you, an achievement takes effort. Becoming the Deputy Head was nothing compared to everything we went through. I could’ve done that in my sleep.”
“Cocky, aren’t we?” Pansy says, but she certainly doesn’t disagree. After all, Hermione’s still the most brilliant person she’s ever met. But she’s always been turned on by Hermione’s confidence, so she finds herself glancing toward the door, then back to Hermione. “How many minutes do you think we have left?”
Hermione arches an eyebrow at the not-so-subtle implication as she slowly trails a finger down Pansy’s chest, leaving goosebumps in her wake. “Not enough to do everything I’d want to do, unfortunately,” she says in a low, entirely-too-seductive murmur before stealing another kiss and sinking her teeth playfully into Pansy’s lower lip. Pansy gasps in surprise against her mouth and pulls Hermione in by her hips, pressing herself close against her front.
“You’re sure about that?” Pansy asks, rolling her hips against Hermione’s and smirking at the way hazel eyes immediately darken with desire.
“Oi! Is this a dinner party or isn’t it?”
Hermione and Pansy pull back from each other and glance at the closed door leading to the living room and one very hungry, very loud Ron Weasley.
“Remind me why we invited him?” Pansy asks, turning back to Hermione and skimming her hands up and down her sides.
“Search me,” Hermione says with an easy shrug. “He’s your best friend.”
Pansy immediately groans and closes her eyes, tilting her head toward the ceiling. “Remind me why I asked you to marry me?”
“Because you love me.”
Pansy opens her eyes. “I do,” she says, feeling a familiar smile creep onto her face. It’s a smile that years ago, she would have been horrified to find she was even capable of delivering. It’s too soft and far too fond and honestly, it’s a bit disgustingly sweet, but at the same time, it makes Hermione’s eyes light up every single time. For that alone, it’s worth it.
“I love you, too,” Hermione says, gently squeezing Pansy’s hips. “And we’ll just have to pick this up tonight.”
“Tonight,” Pansy confirms, brushing her lips against Hermione’s once more before stepping back to finish plating.
Pansy doesn’t mind waiting for tonight. Because when it comes down to it, they’ll have all the time in the world to spend together. They’ll have the life that Pansy had only dared to dream about way back when, back in her Hogwarts days when Hermione loving her in any capacity had seemed like a wild, unattainable fantasy. They’ll have everything they’ve ever wanted and the world at their fingertips, because when they’re together, there’s nothing they can’t do.
And even though she’ll have to wait until tonight to show Hermione just how much she loves her, for right now, they have a room full of their favorite people, waiting to shower them with questions and stories and laughter and love, so much love, it makes Pansy’s chest feel like it might burst.
They have a house that they’ve made a home, filled with both countless memories and boundless opportunities alike.
They have a silly, beautiful cat and a wedding to plan and a vast, wonderful future to look forward to.
And no matter what life may throw their way, they have each other. To have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, and all the rest of that silly, saccharine rot that Pansy can’t wait to say to Hermione in a few months time.
Pansy has more than she could’ve have ever imagined, and she takes a moment to drink it all in. To bask in the beautiful normalcy of this incredibly improbable situation. To watch Hermione, the woman she loves, the woman she’s going to marry, puttering about the kitchen on a quiet, summer evening in the little corner of the world they’ve carved out together.
After a moment, Hermione looks up and gives her a small, quizzical smile. “Everything alright?”
“Everything’s perfect,” Pansy says. “I just…” she shakes her head and says, “not to be completely trite, but sometimes I can’t believe how lucky I am.”
Hermione gives Pansy the soft, fond smile that’s been reserved just for her for the past ten years. “I feel the same way,” she says, crossing back to her side and dropping a kiss on Pansy’s cheek. “I love you.”
“Even though I don’t actually have a dragon?”
Hermione laughs. “You know, it’s taken a while, but I think I’m finally over the disappointment.”
“Good,” Pansy says. “And I love you, too. Even if I’m risking my life by just being with you in this room.”
Hermione swats at her shoulder, and Pansy grins, then holds out her hand to Hermione. “Right, then. Ready to go back?”
Hermione takes her hand and gives it a squeeze.