A/N: For the crimson challenge issued by teawithvoldie. I must include a duel and an initiation.
Thanks to midnightsangelc for her awesome beating skills. But any mistakes you see are my own, I wouldn't dare blame her.
High Maintenance Witches, or, Ron's First Date with Pansy
Ron sat safely ensconced behind the velvet barrier of his four-poster bed in Gryffindor tower. He had been sitting there for an hour. His roommates had left him alone. Ron decided they assumed he was wanking. 'Perverts,' he thought to himself. That thought was just a way to distract himself from the real problem at hand: Pansy Parkinson.
Ron and Pansy had been randomly chosen as partners in Herbology class. It was an experiment in inter-house camaraderie in the post-Voldemort era. In the beginning, he had been horrified by the idea; it was hard to let go of all that animosity – at first. Now he was trying to re-establish some of those feelings to keep himself from falling for her. Really, it was too late. Ron was definitely smitten with Pansy. He let out a sigh. It was no use. He couldn't bring himself to hate her.
It wasn't as though Ron had a problem with Pansy being a Slytherin Neither would Harry or Hermione, he figured, as they had both taken their significant others from the Slytherin pool: Draco and Snape, respectively. No, Ron was worried about what his parents would say, his mother in particular.
Ron could hear his Mum now, "Ronald! You can't make an owl change its flight pattern. Harry and Hermione don't know any better, they were raised Muggle. You on the other hand have had a fine Wizard's upbringing. And Wizards do not mix houses! Well, no self respecting Wizard worth his wand would consort with a Slytherin when he was not Sorted into that House. You were separated for a reason!"
Ron flopped back and let his head sink into his pillow. Why couldn't things just be simple?
"Ron!" called Harry, pulling Ron from his thoughts. "Are you done yet? We've all been wandering around the Common Room for an hour. It's almost time to go to Hogsmeade and we need to get ready!"
Ron was going to reply, but a hand snaked around the edge of a curtain and pulled it back. "Harry! What if I had been … I've already told you, it makes me uncomfortable…"
"Oh, stuff it Ron. Stop worrying about what everyone is going to think and just ask Pansy to go out with you … it is a Hogsmeade weekend," said Harry as he sorted through his wardrobe for the new set of robes he had purchased at Draco's request the last Hogsmeade weekend.
"How did you know? I haven't told anyone," Ron asked, with a look of surprise on his face. "Have you been using Legilimency on me? Because if you have … well, I told you about that too …."
"No, I haven't been invading your mind. But, Pansy and my boyfriend do talk … regularly … about you. Draco has ordered me to make you to take her just so he doesn't have to hear your name anymore!"
" Really?" Ron paused. This was news to him. "She's probably all ready got a date," he sulked.
"No, she's been waiting for you to ask her," said Harry, in the know-it-all tone Ron usually associated with Hermione.
"Draco," came Harry's short reply. "Now, change. I'll meet you in the Common Room in ten minutes."
Ron was pacing in front of the fire. Harry had kept him waiting for five minutes. Ron was beginning to lose his nerve! He glanced up at the stairs leading to the boy's dormitory, and saw Harry running down the stairs with a big grin on his face.
"It's fine." He started to make his way to the portrait hole, before panic took hold of him, "What do I say to her?" Ron asked.
"How about, 'Hello Pansy, fancy going to Hogsmeade with me?'" replied Harry.
"Like it's that bloody simple. Where's Hermione? Maybe I should ask her. Ron turned on his heel but was brought to a halt when Harry grabbed the back of his robes.
"It's funny how Hermione becomes a girl the second you need help," muttered Harry sarcastically. "First, Hermione and Snape have already left for Hogsmeade. Second, Hermione is not the 'average' girl, and I can guarantee that Pansy and Hermione are both very different. And, finally, your job is made so much easier by the fact that she already likes you. Just breathe and it will be fine."
"Easy for you to say. You haven't chased after a girl since Fifth year!"
"Thank Merlin for that! Now, let's go. Draco hates to be kept waiting."
Harry and Ron arrived at the Great Hall only a few minutes after Harry and Draco had agreed they'd meet. Draco was standing in front of the Great Hall and appeared to be talking to the large doors and tapping his foot impatiently. It was only when they'd reached the bottom of the stairs that Harry and Ron could see Pansy's face peeking out of the gap in the doors. She nodded to Draco and disappeared as the Gryffindors crossed the hallway. Draco turned and put on a bored face.
"It's about time you got here, Harry. All of the good chocolates are going to be gon… What's he doing here?" Draco asked, as he glared at Ron.
"Relax. He's going to take Pansy to Hogsmeade with him."
"That is music to my ears," said Draco, as a grin crossed his face. "She's in there, Weasel. Don't you dare muck this up. It'll be my shoulder she'll cry on and my robes are too elegant to be used as a handkerchief!" Draco gave Ron one final glare, and then turned to Harry. "Come on love, … the chocolate!"
Harry nudged Ron toward the doors, before leaving with Draco for Hogsmeade.
Ron watched his friend walk away. He was alone. He was alone and he was about to ask a girl out. A girl that he thought was beautiful and funny. A girl who made his palms sweat, his heart race, and his stomach want to vomit from nerves. Hermione had told him that was a good thing, love at its finest. At this point Ron was willing to take love at it worst if it meant he wouldn't throw up in the middle of the Great Hall.
"Just remember to breathe," repeated Ron as he pushed open the doors to the Great Hall. Pansy was sitting at the end of the Slytherin table, with her chin resting on her hand. She was staring at the door. Ron noticed a smirk on her face before she turned away from him. He made his way to her. Half way there he turned around and took two steps toward the door, then changed his mind again. "You're a bloody Gryffindor! You're supposed to be courageous!" he whispered to himself.
Before he knew it, Ron was standing in front of Pansy. He cleared his throat to get her attention.
Pansy turned and glared at him. "Did you want something?" she asked, in an unfriendly tone.
Ron gave her an odd look. "Well, you see, it's Saturday, on a Hogsmeade weekend …"
"I know what day it is, Ronald," she replied, curtly.
Ron blushed. "Oh. Well, of course you would. Erm, I was going to go … to Hogsmeade … and I was wondering if you … might … want to come with me," he spit out. He was prepared for her to say 'no' and then run after Harry and Draco and hex them eight ways from Sunday for setting him up.
"Sure," replied Pansy. She started to pull on her cloak.
"Oh, I see. I didn't think you'd want to. I'll just go …"
"Ronald. I said I would go."
Ron smiled. "Really?"
"Do you have a hearing problem or something? I said I would go, now let's go before we miss out on the good shopping," she said beginning to walk past him.
Ron quickly followed after her. Pansy stopped at the door and waited. Ron thought for a second she had changed her mind. So, he stood behind her and waited for her to make her move.
After two minutes, Pansy turned to him, "Well, are we going to stand here all day or are you going to open the door for me?"
Ron blushed as he mentally scolded himself for forgetting his manners. He'd spent too much time around Hermione. He'd only been told every day for their first two years not to hold doors open for her – he'd been conditioned. "Right, sorry. Where would you like to go first?"
"Any place but Madame Puddifoot's is fine."
That had been Ron's planned destination. He was grateful he hadn't taken her there. There was no telling how she would react. "Right," Ron sounded very unsure of himself.
"You know, I need to go to Gladrags. You don't mind do you?" It was more of a command than a question.
"N…no," he stammered. That was a lie. He hated clothes shopping.
"Good. It won't take long. I need new dress robes for the Valentine's Party Slytherin is having. You're coming. I'll even buy you new robes so you don't feel left out."
"No, I can buy my own robes." That was the truth. Fred and George had been doing well with their joke shop, and Ron had been handling the orders coming from Hogwarts. They gave him a commission. For once in his life, Ron had more than two knuts to rub together. All that money was burning a hole in his pocket. He had planned on a visit to Honeydukes – but dress robes might be nice.
"We'll see," she cooed in a tone usually reserved for petulant children. "Let's go. All the good robes will be gone."
Ron and Pansy had an awkward walk to Hogsmeade. It was filled with idle chatter about classes coupled with long pauses in between the small talk. Ron was afraid to say something to make Pansy upset, which he had learned was a fairly simple thing to do. They finally arrived at Gladrags Wizardwear. This time, Ron jumped in front of Pansy and held the door open for her. She rewarded him with a smile.
Upon entering the store, Ron was surprised to see Hermione and Snape in the shop. It was weird to think of Hermione and Snape as a couple, let alone doing something as normal as shopping together. It was difficult for him to believe Dumbledore had approved of the match. There was some lecture to both Harry and himself about age being a state of mind, it being her seventh year, rewards after a life of suffering, not to mention the fact that Hermione wasn't one to take 'no' for an answer. They were told that they had better just accept it and move on. While Harry had been slightly more accepting than he had, in light of his new … acquaintance … with Pansy, Ron thought it might be best to make an effort.
Hermione called to Ron before he had a chance. "Oh, hello, Ron. I didn't think you would ever come in here."
"I didn't think you would ever come in here, either. You're the one always lecturing Harry and Draco about Transfiguration and how it saves money on clothes."
"Unfortunately, Severus does not believe in 'foolish wand waving', so we're shopping for him."
"Oh, is that why he has that set of green witch's robes draped over his arm?"
Hermione blushed. "I can't control how he chooses to spend his money."
"Ronald!" called Pansy. "I've found the nicest set of robes for you. They're silk and fantastic."
"Is that Pansy?"
"Yes." Ron couldn't help but to grin. He hadn't been this happy since he had been allowed to quit taking NEWT-Level potions with Snape.
"Good for you – you'd better go. Slytherins hate to be kept waiting," she winked at her friend and returned to the glowering Potion master's side.
Ron nodded and made his way back to Pansy. He found her with a sales-witch, who was holding a pile of robes. "This is your new wardrobe. I can't date someone who dresses like," she looked at him distastefully, "that."
Ron was going to argue, but swallowed his tongue. "Pansy, I can't afford all of these," he whispered, blushing slightly.
"I know. Don't worry. I can. And remember if you dump me then you have to pay me back with interest!"
'When the bloody hell did I ask her to be my girlfriend. Since when does a shopping trip equal a marriage proposal? She knows what she wants, that's for sure,' he said to himself.
"I'll take your silence as agreement. Now, you sit there," she pointed to a chair, "while I try these robes on." Pansy pulled back the curtain to the changing room and revealed a room full of robes.
Ron's eyes grew wide. He reasoned he had better make himself comfortable. He realized the phrase 'not very long' meant at least three quarters of the day.
Two hours later Ron was still sitting in 'his' chair, while Pansy made her final selections. He had figured out that meant trying on twenty outfits she had already tried on, to make sure that she didn't look fat.
The curtain swished open and Ron looked up. Pansy had decided to try on a black robe, which she had modeled to him in six other colors. He had already told her she looked stunning – after all he had seen the same robe six times. How many times did she need to hear it? Honestly, he couldn't tell the difference between one robe and the next, but he was making an effort to stay on his best behavior. Next came the inevitable question, "Do I look fat in this, Ronald?"
Ron sighed. "If I say yes, can we leave faster?"
"Just answer the question," she snapped.
"No, you do not look fat in that," he was surprised at how mechanical the reply sounded. He wondered if she would notice and take him to task over it.
"Good." He breathed a sigh of relief at her response. He had kept her content.
"Can we go now?" he asked, his voice lined with a little more whine than he had intended.
"Do I look ready to go, Ronald?" she asked, giving him a death glare.
"No," his voice was barely a whisper. He was embarrassed over his own behavior.
Pansy nodded her head and returned to the changing room. Twenty minutes later she emerged with six robes she hadn't even bothered to try on, and announced she was ready to leave. She arranged to have the purchases Flooed to Hogwarts.
"Come on Ron. I made lunch plans for us. We're to meet Draco and …" Pansy began.
"But …" he began to protest. Draco was not part of his 'first date plan'. The only thing that could happen and be called worse than lunch with Draco was his Mum showing up to spit clean mustard from his face in the middle of the Three Broomsticks.
Pansy glared at him.
"Right. Where are we going, then?" He hated how he sounded so small when he talked to her.
"The Three Broomsticks," she replied as she signed the sales slip.
Calling lunch a disaster was generous. First, Ron been forced to sit between Draco and Snape. No one had informed Ron that he was going to be forced to dine with the Greasy Git, in addition to the Ferret, and he was not pleased. He tried to protest and say that all of the Slytherins should sit on the same side of the table, but Pansy glared and pursed her lips together and he found himself taking his seat.
A voice inside his head reasoned, 'It's only lunch, you can hex him at the next Prefects meeting.' That made Ron smile, however, that happiness was short lived.
Drinks were ordered with no problem. Neither Draco nor Snape said a word – to anyone.
Pansy kept giving Ron glances. He would just smile and nod in response. A more relationship savvy individual would have realized the glances were silent commands to begin conversation. Neither Harry nor Hermione were able to silently communicate (by way of not so subtle thump to the side of the head) to Ron just what it was he was supposed to do. They were busy.
Ron took a look around at the people sitting at the table – he needed help. He first turned to Harry, who was giving Draco 'the look'. Then he turned to Hermione. She was leaning over and whispering something in Snape's ear. When he saw the scowl appear on Snape's face, he knew whatever it was Hermione had said wasn't good. Ron looked back to Pansy, reluctantly accepting the fact that he would have to deal with her on his own. She was still glaring at him. Now she cleared her throat and took a sip of water, then resumed intense glaring.
"What?" asked Ron, in his usual clueless manner.
"Obviously, manners and commonsense were not bestowed upon this weasel," drawled Draco.
"Draco!" warned Harry. "Please."
Hermione winced. Snape smirked. Pansy crossed her arms in front of her chest. Ron mumbled something under his breath, but he was saved from having to give an explanation when Rosmerta came to the table to take their lunch orders.
Though the meal had passed uneventfully, Ron's nerves were frazzled. The final straw had come when Pansy asked him to get her another drink and he rose from the table without question or argument.
Ron got up, without question or argument, to get her drink.
"Look at him, Harry. It's the first date and she's got him trained like the little lap dogs Mother keeps around," Draco uttered in a tone that bespoke his amusement.
"That is it Draco. Duel. You and me, outside, now," hissed Ron, through gritted teeth.
Draco immediately sprang from his seat, as did Harry, Hermione, and Pansy.
"Stop, right there you two," said Harry, calmly. "Hand me your wands."
Draco gave Harry a look. "No." He turned to Ron. "We're going to settle this once and for all, aren't we Ron?"
Ron nodded and made his way toward the exit. Draco threw some Galleons down on the table and began to follow.
Pansy stood in front of Ron, arms crossed foot tapping. "Just what is it that you think you are doing, Ronald?" venom dripping from her voice.
"I'm going to duel Draco, that's what I'm doing."
"My boyfriend does not have a duel in broad daylight in the middle of a crowded street! These are private issues that are to be settled privately. Do you understand, Ronald?"
"Yes. Once we get back to Hogwarts I can return him to his state of ferretness," replied Ron tucking his wand back into his robes. Ron looked Draco in the eye, "Let's go!"
Ron and Draco led the way to Hogwarts' Room of Requirement with the rest of the group following. Pansy and Harry were close behind their significant others, while Hermione was trying to convince her Slytherin that not to deducting House Points and turning a blind eye to the situation was indeed the best course of action.
"Hermione, I can do a lot of things for you, but letting a chance like this slip through my fingers is not one of them!" He paused. "Of that I am certain."
"Severus, you can consider it an initiation of sorts. You could be one of … us," she said sweetly with a hint of uncertainty in her voice. She knew that he was jealous of her friends, and treated them exponentially worse because of it. She had a suspicion that Severus wanted to join her circle of friends – even if it meant that her friends would feel comfortable enough around him that they would stop talking to her whenever he was around.
"What makes you think I want to be one of them?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow at her.
Hermione just shrugged in response and tugged on his arm.
Severus glared. She gave him her pleading look and whispered something in his ear. "Fine. I'll go down to my office. I have a stack of First year essays waiting to use up my supply of red ink and dull the nub of my new quill."
"Thank you, Severus."
"I have a feeling I am going to regret this," he said, kissing her on the forehead. "I'll see you later."
By the time Hermione made it to the Room of Requirement, the duel was in full swing. Harry and Pansy were standing off the side, nervously watching the events unfold. Hermione took note of the fact that Harry held his wand tightly in his hand, just in case anyone attempted to cast i Avada Kedavra /i .
Hermione stood quietly behind Harry offering her support. She knew how much Harry hated that Ron and Draco didn't get along. He told her he thought that having Ron and Pansy date would be a good thing … right now, she wasn't so sure. At the moment, Ron was sailing through the air due to the force of Draco's i Expeliarmus /i .
"So, Weaselby, do you admit that I am superior to you?" Draco asked, arrogantly. He was standing over Ron, who was lying flat on his back with a dazed look on his face.
"Give me my wand, Malfoy," demanded Ron as he tried to pull himself into a sitting position.
Draco held the wand out to him and then pulled it away as he reached for it. "I've heard nothing from Pansy over the past three months except how brilliant you are. Looks like she was wrong!"
"Draco!" yelled Pansy. "You take that back. He isn't awful. He was right there with Harry when he defeated Vold – You-Know-Who! He is a brave man and … once I teach him out to dress, well he'll be perfect."
Draco made a disgusted face, and handed Ron his wand back. "Fine. If you like him date him. Just don't tell me anything about it. I am sick of hearing his name!"
Pansy walked past Draco as though he were invisible. Draco was rather offended and about to say so, when Harry clamped a hand over his lover's mouth. Harry gave Ron a reassuring look, and rushed Draco and Hermione out of the room. Ron and Pansy were alone.
"Are you all right, Ronald?"
"Yeah, fine. I'm sure I'll feel it much more tomorrow," he groaned as he got up. "This was a fabulous first date," he said, sarcasm dripping off of every word, while rolling his eyes.
"Well, if you and Draco would just learn to get along, none of this would have happened."
"I am sorry I ruined your day," he replied, sounding rather unapologetic.
"You didn't ruin my day. Honestly, I would never give you that much power to lord over me. What do you take me for, a Hufflepuff?" she snapped.
"No … I …" he stammered.
Pansy just laughed. "You men will never get over yourselves. You all think you are all important. Even after one date."
"Well, then I guess you won't want to see me anymore," he said, disappointed.
"What? Of course I do. Just because you got into a little duel with one of my best and oldest friends doesn't mean I am going to stop dating you. I have a lot invested … those robes were costly!" she teased.
There was an awkward silence for a moment. And then Ron got an idea.
"Leave the room for a minute … with me …," he commanded, offering his hand to Pansy.
Pansy took Ron's hand as he led her out of the room. He let go of her hand and walked in front of the door to the Room of Requirement three times. He opened the door and gestured for Pansy to go in. Ron held his breath as Pansy inspected the room. He was beginning to understand what Hermione had explained about high maintenance women, and it had only been one bloody date. 'A relationship like this could take a lot out of a bloke!' he said to himself.
"This is …" Ron waited for the explosion of discontent, but it never came. "Perfect."
"Really?" Ron was in a state of disbelief.
"Simple, but perfect."
Ron had wished for something romantic. He hadn't really given specifics. He figured if it turned out bad, he would blame the room. If it turned out good, he would take all the credit. The room had decided 'romance' meant a loveseat in front of a fireplace with a tea service set up.
"Well, I thought you would like it," he replied, haughtily. He led Pansy over to the loveseat and gestured for her to sit down. "Would you like me to pour you tea?"
"Yes. Two lumps. No milk."
Ron prepared the tea, his mind racing to come up with a topic of conversation. He hadn't really thought the plan through – and he had no idea what to say. He looked at Pansy, hoping she would start the conversation – but she remained silent.
"Did you finish your Herbology essay?" Ron asked.
"Yes. It was 15 inches … but who cares about Herbology now?" She took the tea offered to her by Ron.
"Right. The tea's nice," commented Ron.
"Hmm," she agreed, nodding and staring into the fire.
Ron could feel his heart racing in his chest. His palms were beginning to sweat. And he felt like he needed to vomit. All this made him smile; he still liked her. Ron always had a difficult time disconnecting his brain from his mouth, and this was no exception.
"Pansy, I like you. But I haven't a clue what to talk about," Ron blurted out. A horrified look crossed his face as soon as the words flew out of his mouth. That was a bit too honest for a first date.
Ron's honesty was rewarded with an inelegant snort followed by full-blown laughter.
"You think it's funny? I am so glad my embarrassment amuses someone!" Ron yelled, upset. He stood up. Pansy tugged at his arm and he sat back down.
"I just think it's …cute …that you're getting so … well, it could have been worse, my day, I mean. I could have been out with Crabbe."
"So I'm a step up from Crabbe! That does wonders for my ego," he bit out, crossing his arms over his chest and turned away from her.
"Oh shut up and look at me." She paused. "Tell me about your Mother."
Ron swallowed a lump in his throat. He was none to thrilled with the idea of discussing his mother on a date, but Pansy didn't look like she would take no as an answer.
"She's … nice," Ron stated uncomfortably.
"Nice? Plants are nice. My mother … was…" Pansy had to pause at that, she wasn't used to the fact that her mother was dead. Her family had been one of the few that had 'gracefully bowed out' of the circle of Death Eaters when it became apparent Voldemort would lose. Pansy's mother had been the victim of a stray i Avada Kedavra /i . "She was always telling me what to do, how to dress, which robes to wear, that pink was a good color on me-even though I hated it -- and she'd yell when Draco would Floo past eleven." Pansy gave a soft smile.
"Yeah, well all my Mum seems to do is tell me that I am choosing the wrong path in life while directing me down the right one," Ron complained as he moved closer to Pansy.
"And what path is the right path?"
"Anything but Auror training or Quidditch. She thinks I should work with Dad, help him out … he hasn't been the same really since the Department of Mysteries…" Ron's voice dropped.
"We've all lost something or someone because of … if Harry hadn't … then I'd be … we'd all be …" She paused. " Your Mum is right – Aurors are overrated. You'd do better at something else. I have always wanted to marry a Quidditch star or a Gringotts curse breaker."
Ron didn't like where this conversation was headed, not to mentionthat he'd had enough of being told what to do for one day. He leaned in and gave Pansy a kiss – he was even bold enough to experiment with tongue. He pulled away from her, a satisfied smirk on his face. "Who needs talk when we can do that?"
Pansy's only reply was to pull him back for another kiss, and another one after that.
Ron silently declared the date a success.