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Standing a Chance

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Pansy knew that muggles had their own version of a hangover potion, but from what Hermione had said it didn’t seem nearly as effective. And if she were a muggle right now, she would probably still be in her bed hiding away from the light, but she wasn’t a muggle and hangover potions existed for a reason, thank Merlin. She hadn’t meant to drink quite that much while talking to Draco, but, well, even with the man she’d been friends with since childhood, admitting to something that could be seen as vulnerable wasn’t the easiest and it had taken three drinks before she even began to say anything of note. Then when it had all come out, it had been like a geyser, unable to be stopped and she’d drank more just to deal with that and then there was Draco looking at her a bit guiltily after she’d explained everything, and she had no idea what that was about and. Well. She’d overindulged on passable wine and here they were, one hangover potion down at eight in the morning on a Saturday.

She flooed into Hermione’s living room, holding a tray of baked goods from the bakery a street over from her flat that Hermione loved. She banished the ash from her person and projected her voice through the place magically because she was far, far too posh to yell of course. “I brought pastries, Granger, don’t think you’ll get out of telling me about your date while we eat them.”

There was a groan in the direction of Hermione’s bedroom and Pansy had a moment of panic over whether Hermione had brought her date home with her last night, but then shook it off. That wasn’t who Hermione was. She’d wait at least three dates before thinking of taking someone home. She’d probably just stayed out late talking to her date and wasn’t awake yet. Which. Considering Hermione was an early riser normally...she swallowed hard. She would just have to wait and see what Hermione told her, no need to panic herself now.

A few minutes later Hermione emerged, hair still sleep mussed, but dressed in a t-shirt and yoga pants, bare feet padding along the floorboards. “Morning.” She yawned widely.

Pansy felt her stupid betrayer heart melting. Now was not the time, not when Hermione had just gone on a date . If it wanted a say in things it should have realized it was an idiot over this woman sooner. It wasn’t as if Hermione had been on a date any time in the past forever. She could have had a wide avenue to waltz right in and sweep her off her feet, but no she had just kept herself in denial instead. Some days being a Slytherin and keeping things close to the vest was the worst . Not many days, mind you, but some.

“You want tea?” Hermione asked, already in the kitchen setting things up to brew.

“Last time I checked I was British.”

Hermione turned and then rolled her eyes at Pansy. “A simple yes would have sufficed. And been the polite answer. You’re always on about how you’re the highest of class and yet the snark, the snark says otherwise.”

“You are a friend and thus you’ve unlocked access to the snark.”

“And the snark before we were friends?” Hermione waved her wand and the water set to boil the muggle way. She swore it tasted better though Pansy couldn’t taste the difference. She humored her, though, and it was only a few minutes difference.

“Ah yes, that was because you weren’t high class. Anyone of the same breeding as myself wouldn’t have batted an eye at that.”

“Yes Karen,” Hermione deadpanned. 

Pansy gasped, setting down the pastries on the kitchen table so she could dramatically grip her chest. “I’m mortally wounded. I’m not a Karen.” She straightened up. “It’s too common a name.”

Hermione snorted, getting tea down from the cabinet she kept stuffed full of different tea varieties. Pansy had learned that certain teas had certain meanings, even if Hermione herself didn’t realize it. She pulled down a white tea and orange blossom mix, one that she only got out for especially good days, and that was all Pansy really needed to confirm that her date was wonderful. The pit of her stomach sank down past the floor and lingered somewhere probably on the ground floor seven stories below. Bloody hell. How was she supposed to make it through this conversation again?

“Excuse me, Lady Karen then.”

Pansy smiled, but it felt thinner than it normally was around Hermione. “Now that is more like it, Granger.” She swallowed as Hermione measured out tea for the pot. “Date, details, you owe me after helping you get dressed.”

Hermione lit up as she turned back around to Pansy, only stopping a moment before the kettle whistled, setting it aside to cool for a minute or two to the right brewing temperature. “You’ll never believe who it was that Ginny set me up with. I’m not even sure how she managed it, but…”

“If I’ll never guess it, why don’t you just tell me. Or I could start guessing Wizengamot members who were born before women got the right to vote.”

“Wizarding women or muggle?” Hermione’s eyes were horrified nonetheless.

“When did muggle women vote for the first time?” She hadn’t been aware the date was different, but it must have been based on that.

“Well I mean, technically 1918, but really more like 1928 for all women without all those bloody stupid property laws.”

“Then wizarding.” Which had been in 1876.

“I hate you. I mean it would have been horrible either way, but you know that’s worse.”

“It’s the one I meant originally, so how exactly is that worse?” She rolled her eyes at Hermione’s mouth opening to say something and cut her off. “Yes I know exactly why it’s worse in terms of years, I mean in terms of intent.”

Hermione frowned and huffed at that one, taking the time to pour the water in the tea pot now that it had had time to cool and waving the pot over to the table along with the mugs she’d set out. “I hate when you have a point,” she said finally.

Pansy sniggered. “Oh no, the know it all can’t stand when she isn’t the one in the right, who would have ever known.”

“I will kick you out of this apartment and eat all of the pastries myself.” Hermione sank down in one of the chairs and set to sorting through the pastries for her favorite, a chocolate croissant.

“I highly doubt that. After all, you’d have done that ages ago and then we wouldn’t be friends.” Pansy took her own seat. “Enough being dramatic, that’s my bit, tell me who your blind date was.”

Hermione made a satisfied noise as she pulled her pastry from the box. She set it on the plate in front of her and looked a bit giddy. “Narcissa Black.”

Pansy had to sit there for a moment, blinking. Had she heard right? And Hermione was giddy about it? Of course Lady Black had changed since the war, but Hermione was stubborn. She didn’t forgive or forget easily. Of course maybe Hermione had talked to her before since she was friends with Draco? They hadn’t discussed it, but it would make sense. That’s why she saw Lady Black as often as she did anymore. Perhaps somewhere along the way they’d let things lie and that had paved the way for this years later.

“Really?” Pansy had a hard time swallowing. “I wasn’t even aware she was into witches.” If she had been aware...Merlin, what would her teenage years been like? Narcissa Black was how she’d realized that she was gay. The woman was just absolutely perfect, poised, razor sharp wit, and a hidden intellect that was more dangerous by half than anyone around her put together nine times out of ten until it was too late. How could she not have crushed on her. Every summer she spent time at Malfoy Manor just to see her. Draco being her friend was a perk too, obviously, but no, it was really for Lady Black past second year.

“She is, most assuredly.” Hermione sighed with a bit of a dreamy edge. “She kissed me so thoroughly there’s no doubt.”

“Is she a good kisser?” The words slipped out of her mouth before she could stop them, but she had to know.

“I’m still weak thinking about it, Pansy.”

She whistled, lowly. Of course she was. Her childhood crush and her current crush had kissed and it just had to be good. Salazar’s busted left nut. The feelings coursing through her right now were vast and unexplainable, but mostly just chaotic. She felt a bit like she was choking on air.

“And…” she trailed off, frowning. “Not to put a damper on any of that, I believe you entirely, look at the woman, but, about the war?” They’d had their own talks about what a prat she’d been at school and she’d apologized. She couldn’t imagine it was different. She’d been a child. Lady Black had not. She had to make sure that Hermione wasn’t falling to hurt herself. She was her friend. Even if this hurt like salt in a wound.

Hermione reached out and took Pansy’s hand, squeezing it softly. “We settled all of that right before her trial. She apologized. She set up her foundation to help make it right. We haven’t much talked since then, but I’ve kept apprised of her goings on, as with all the former denizens of the dark side that were let off easily. She’s...she’s just as wonderful as she appears. Now at least. Have I told you about the time Harry, Ron, and I ran into her in Madame Malkin's before sixth year?”

Pansy shook her head. She hadn’t, but she’d heard about it from Draco years ago so she didn’t really need to listen to the explanation. She just gripped Hermione’s hand back and listened partially as she explained that incident, and then slipped into a play by play of the date. Narcissa had been just as perfect as Hermione said, charming, funny, just the right amount of flirty, she listened when Hermione talked, offered thoughtful commentary, everything that a good date should do, she’d done it at more. And Pansy realized just how happy the two of them had been on this date. And she realized that there was no way she could open her mouth now. She...she loved both of these women for different reasons, at different stages in her life, but that didn’t lessen anything. Slytherins could be selfish, yes, but not when it came to protecting the ones they loved. So she swallowed and smiled and laughed with Hermione, letting her tea go cold and her pastries untouched. She wasn’t in the mood for sweets after all.

She lasted for an hour and a half before she excused herself, citing a lunch with a fashion designer friend in Paris that she most definitely didn’t have for another two weeks, and making her escape. Her head was still spinning to the point of aching. It almost felt like she hadn’t taken a hangover potion at all. She rubbed at her forehead as she popped into her flat, making towards her liquor cabinet. Nevermind that it was before noon, some days just called for a drink. Then she would order the most ridiculous comfort food she could think of and spend the rest of the day reading trashy romance novels and somehow, someway get her head around the fact that Narcissa and Hermione had a second date two days from now, on a Monday of all days, Hermione’s busiest day, but still she’d made time for the other woman, and that that date would likely be the first of many and she would have to be normal . She could do that. Merlin knew she’d gotten through harder things, but fuck if this didn’t somehow hurt more.

She’d just poured three fingers of whiskey into a tumbler when there was a tapping on her window. Pansy turned to see an owl perched on the windowsill, elegant with it’s white and brown spots and face that said it was far too good to be running such errands. She hadn’t seen the particular owl before, but something about the breed was familiar. Draco had had one of them once, she thought. Perhaps he’d gotten another one?

She padded over and opened the window. The owl dropped the letter in her hand with a glare and then flapped off. Well then. Pleasant owl that one was. And somehow she liked it all the more for it.

Pansy stepped back and closed the window before sliding her finger under the flap and lifting off the wax seal. She blinked and flipped the flap back down and looked at the wax. The Black family crest. Narcissa had sent her a letter. Why had Narcissa sent her a letter? They met for lunch every now and again but usually they set the date and time when they saw each other in person out at a function somewhere and they happened to come across one another. She’d never written her before. They weren’t really that close. She only wished they were.

She flipped it back open again and drew the letter out with hands that were not shaking thank you very much. Inside was definitely Narcissa’s elegant script. She’d tried to copy it as best she could when she was a girl so she knew it almost as well as her own. It took a few moments for her to actually be able to read it instead of just staring at it, almost longingly.

 

Pansy,

 

Hermione informed me that you were the one who altered her dress for our date. Given just how much I enjoyed seeing it on Miss Granger, I thought it only appropriate to invite you to tea tomorrow at three. I do so hope you can attend. It has been some time since our last meeting and I would love to catch up.

 

Sincerely, 

-N.B. 

 

Pansy set down the letter and slammed back her drink in one go. Well fuck.

 

--

 

Narcissa waved her wand, tea settings organized just so. Getting along without a house elf at first had been rather daunting right after the war, but now she took pleasure in the preparations. Something about easy, repetitive work soothed her, that, and the thrill of getting her timing just right. The floo sounded just as she laid her wand down. Right on time, as any well bred woman would be, and Pansy Parkinson was nothing if not well bred.

She swept to the foyer, Pansy dusting herself off with her wand, looking lovely in a deep plum wrap dress that hugged her figure in just the right manner and emphasized her prefect, creamy skin. It hadn’t surprised her one bit when Pansy had gone into fashion, even less when she ended up the youngest Editor in Chief of Witch Weekly. She’d always known how to get what she wanted.

Well. Almost. The war years had been rather hard on them all in one form or another, but the woman had recovered most admirably, better than even she herself had. If she hadn’t had Draco to keep going for, to grow and change to make a life with, who knew what would have happened to her. She certainly wouldn’t be standing in her foyer with this woman after a date with Hermione Granger that had gone better than she could have ever hoped. Her heart was skipping in her chest just thinking about tomorrow. There had just been something about the woman that had clicked in a way that she had experienced only a handful of times before. Ironically she got along with Pansy in the same manner, but very different contexts. It only seemed fitting that she had helped Hermione look so lovely two days prior.

“Good afternoon Pansy, how has your Sunday gone so far?” She asked by way of greeting. There was no need to be so terribly formal when she’d known the woman for most of her life and she’d stayed over almost every summer after Draco had started attending Hogwarts. 

Pansy’s smile was wide as it was normally on seeing her, but there was a tightness at the corner of her eyes. Narcissa hadn’t gotten through the war without being hyper aware of any and all body language and micro-expressions. Something was bothering her, but not something she wanted Narcissa to know. The urge to open herself up just a bit and figure it out, as a good Slytherin was wont to do, pulled at her, but she refused. Pansy had earned her peace and privacy ten times over. She wouldn’t pry, but she would lend an open ear if Pansy wished to speak.

“It’s been productive, actually. I found myself a bit restless, so I sunk the energy into a few new sketches.”

Narcissa’s eyes widened slightly. “Have you given it more thought then?” She’d asked Pansy on several occasions if she’d ever thought of launching her own fashion line, but she’d been happy with her Editor in Chief position, and Narcissa respected that, despite certainly being ready to invest in an atelier with Pansy’s name on it if she said the word.

Pansy drew a tiny leather-bound notebook out of her pocket and enlarged it. She handed to Narcissa, shifting just slightly on her feet after she took it, belying the bit of nervousness she felt, even if the rest of her stance was confident. 

“Yes and no. I have what amounts to around two years of lines in there for every season and a few pieces besides. All classics and timeless so there would really be no issue with keeping things back. Things in the now have their place and ultimately push things forward and I do appreciate them, but they aren’t what drive my personal creativity.”

Narcissa flipped open the notebook and started to leaf through slowly. They were all stunning as normal. In fact. She stopped on a dress colored in an icy blue that she knew was the same shade as her eyes, cut as an evening gown flowing down to the floor elegantly, with a gauzy cape around the shoulders. That was a dress she’d love to wear at the next gala she had to attend. It would stop everyone in the room. And it didn’t hurt that the cleavage cutout would hold Hermione’s attention. She’d be almost eye level with it. A perk indeed.

She tapped the page. “I’d love to wear this personally.”

Pansy’s brain usually was silent enough to her if she didn’t go looking. As with all pureblood children she was taught at least the basics of occlumency, nothing that stopped Narcissa, of course, but enough that she hardly ever heard the woman unless she was experiencing very extreme emotions. She didn’t so much hear anything intelligible now as feel what amounted to a shock across her skin and then a hint of something warmer, embarrassment perhaps? But why? It was a lovely dress.

“Fitting, I suppose, since I designed it for you actually,” Pansy said finally, voice steady, like nothing had ever happened, and for anyone but Narcissa, no one would think any different.

They stared at each other for a moment, Narcissa putting a smile into her eyes to let the younger woman know she was more than fine with that, found it flattering even. Pansy looked away first and cleared her throat.

“Anyway, I do have a great amount of designs, and I do like the idea of a fashion line with my name on it, but I did intern at a few magical houses, the minutia…” She trailed off and tilted her head. “You would think running a fashion and lifestyle magazine and a fashion line would have considerable overlap in the business portions, and they do it part, but what they don’t overlap on, is what I find tedious. Yet if I put my name on a company I would want it to be how I wanted it, no questions asked. I couldn’t exactly do that if I wasn’t firmly in control. So my dilemma remains. Perhaps if someone trusted was at the helm running the day to day while I still continued my current day job and provided the designs, it would work, but, well, you know what it’s like to trust as a Slytherin.” She laughed softly.

Narcissa thought over this problem for a few moments, still looking over designs. Eventually she pulled herself back and gestured towards the sitting room. “Perhaps we should sit for tea while I ruminate on this. I have a few ideas tickling at the back of my mind, but they need to settle before I know where I’m going.”

Pansy nodded. She knew what Narcissa was like and unlike a great many people was comfortable in silence and allowed her time to think. She could be quick on her feet, of course, but when she was allowed the time to plot out all possibilities, that is when she really shone.

They served themselves tea and sandwiches as Narcissa looked through the last of the designs. She’d know the woman was skilled, truly, but looking through all of her sketches it truly would be a shame if she didn’t get her chance to bring these collections to the world just because some of the business aspects of running a House weren’t to her liking. She could see her lines being very big hits not only here but on the continent as well. But what to do.

She shut the notebook gently and passed it back to Pansy who shrunk it and put it back into her pocket with careful hands. The sketchbook meant a lot to her clearly and it made Narcissa smile softly. To build trust was a tricky thing, but usually bred by close contact. Everyone in Pansy’s life that she would place the desired level of trust to help her run a company was not in fashion or business. Narcissa herself had the skills, of course, but most of her time was eaten up with her foundation otherwise she wouldn’t hesitate to offer. No, this required building another relationship with a person in the industry, someone who would handle Pansy’s sketchbook with the same reverence. 

“Tell me, do you have any openings for people who would work directly under you at your magazine?”

Pansy frowned then nodded slowly. “Mauritza is retiring next year to go tour the world and lie on a beach and seduce men, as she’s said to me many times. She’s my art director and I was her assistant before I moved a few spaces up the ladder. The only reason I’m in this job now because she didn’t want it. I’ve been thinking who to replace her with, but it’s not really obvious internally who to promote. Her current assistant is a moron, but he suits her needs so I let him be.”

“Find someone qualified externally, perhaps a bit over qualified. Say that if they work with you for the next…” She trailed off thinking of a good time frame, “two years and your business relationship works out and you trust them and their decisions, they’ll help you launch your house, have day to day control, and design input. They can build it into a multinational brand, be one of the big faces, big names. I think someone in the industry should bite on that, especially with your reputation. And if you show them your designs. They truly are quite something.”

Pansy thought it over a moment before nodding. “I think that might work out. I have a few ideas of who to ask already, actually, now that you put it that way, not people I know well, but ones I think getting to know would be fruitful. And two years would be enough to test them out on the decisions in the areas I rather hate to make sure they’re competent.” She looked to Narcissa and smiled. “I really appreciate your advice. I always do.”

“Of course. Your talents deserve to be shown to the world. You really are extraordinary, Pansy. I’ve always thought so. You have this way of bringing out people’s best qualities. I certainly noticed with Hermione on Friday night. The dress you altered for her quickly was a work of art in and of itself and that took you all of what? Two minutes?”

There was an absolutely cacophony of mental sound, like Pansy’s shields had crashed down, and for a handful of moments, they were . She could hear everything and wasn’t quick enough to be able to shut it out. With the flood coming at her, it was hard to add extra protection to her mind, and as sorry as she was, she couldn’t help but invade Pansy’s privacy. It was either that, or have a short term mental break from being overwhelmed. 

“Salazar help me--I can’t take it anymore I should just move to Siberia and never--she’s right Hermione looked so hot--she believes in me!--want to kiss her right now--want to know if she’s as good as Hermione says--wonder if Hermione is as good--Merlin why did I fall for her--why did I fall for them both?--Morgana if she only knew I imagined eating her out in that dress--how am I going to stand it--only two days and I’m falling apart--feel out of control--bloody Slytherin I can do it--deep breath, sip your tea, nothing’s wrong--everything’s wrong--why the two of them out of everyone?--why?--ouch--don’t react--keep on your mask--ouch!--am I having a heart attack?--dramatic, you’re fine--vacation after this--calm down--be fine--ouch.”

And Narcissa felt the pain herself and knew it for what it was. Heartache. She stilled the urge to rub her own chest before the images dragged her under. She saw a glimpse of herself, younger, colder, elegant and made up to a T, but the edges were softened by the viewer, awe in every angle. Another of her a bit older, drawn, perhaps right before the war, and the feeling of wanting to protect herself enveloped her. Another later, during her changes, growing, learning, and the proud feeling flooding through her. A few months before, at lunch, laughing, and a squeezing heart of someone who knew someone they couldn’t have. And then Hermione was in front of her, a first year, being teased until she cried and the overwhelming sense of guilt. Later, bedraggled and soot smudged in the ruins of the castle and hate and nervousness at the change coming. At the Ministry, cheeks filled out again, smiling, a frail scrap of an expression, and remorse and hope and an extended hand in peace. The first genuine laugh painting Hermione’s face and the joy and satisfaction that put it there. Two years ago, seeing Hermione on her couch relaxing in sweats with her cat and a book and the fondness that almost stumbled into realization before pulling back. And then two days ago when the realization had hit, seeing Hermione in the dress Narcissa loved, and the bitter disappointment of being too late.

She blinked, finally able to stem the tide and shield herself as Pansy herself started to get a grip on her emotions. She took a sip of her tea, hands steady as if nothing had happened, but it most assuredly had. She looked over the woman in front of her, considering. Pansy Parkinson was in love with her and Hermione. There was certainly no denying that, not after everything she’d seen. Deeply in love, deeply enough that she was trying to let them be happy, to never let either of them know, to still be their friend instead of opening her mouth. When people thought that Slytherins were selfish, they were right in some instances, but they always forgot this, that a true Slytherin would put everything on the line for their chosen few. She certainly had in that forest at the Battle of Hogwarts.

She sat back, considering. If it had been Pansy in danger, would she have done the same? She didn’t even have to think about it, the answer was yes. Well then. Didn’t that put things into perspective. This woman was as important to her as her son, and despite the fact that she was Draco’s friend, maternal was certainly not how she felt about her. She’d always viewed her as a friend and equal past her graduation, more now that she was a powerful woman in her own right. Now the question was what to do about this.

“Narcissa?” Pansy asked, sensing something had gone awry, though her face had just the slightest bit of confusion on it. She didn’t know what happened. She’d informed the woman years ago that she was a natural legilimens, but she never really told anyone just how powerful she was. Perhaps she thought she’d only gotten just the barest of glimpses.

“Yes, darling?” There were certainly things she needed to look into, primarily if Hermione had any inclination towards her friend, but perhaps there was potential here. What a powerful group they would make. Narcissa bit the inside of her lip, feeling excitement flow through her at the thought of a plot.

Pansy’s eyes narrowed. She’d never called her darling before, she was certain of it. It’d been a conscious choice to use it now. She wanted to see if the woman would catch it, and catch it she had. She could see the moment she realized that Narcissa had gotten more than a glimpse and now wasn’t rejecting her outright or acting as if nothing had happened. Oh no, it was subtle of course, but Slytherin games usually were. The wheels behind her eyes started turning and Narcissa thought that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t even have to make a scheme of her own. Pansy was motivated after all.

“Since I designed a dress for Hermione, I think it’s only fair that I make you something for tomorrow,” Pansy finally said after a moment’s thought, a bit of a smirk just edging up her lips.

Oh yes, she was motivated indeed . “I think that’s a wonderful idea, darling, very, very wonderful.”