Title: Stalking Harry Potter 1/4
Author's Name: Empath Apathique
Warnings: Bad language, but that's about it.
Disclaimer: JKR owns Harry, even though I certainly wouldn't mind taking him off her hands.
Beta's name: Floorcoaster the Amazing for the heavy stuff, and emm718 for making sure Pansy was cool. And, of course, to elyaeru, who kept me together with my grammar and stuff in chapters one and two.
Author's Note: This killed me. Meh.
Summary: Pansy told herself to act natural, but she couldn't quite remember how she naturally acted around Harry Potter. She certainly wasn't nice to him, but she didn't think it exactly fit to glare at him when he hadn't done anything wrong yet.
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Harry Potter bought his underwear from the second-hand robe shop.
He'd been standing in the unmentionables aisle for five minutes now, holding a four-pack of plain cotton boxer shorts in one hand and a package of colored shorts in the other, looking at the packaging and apparently debating the merits of both in his head.
To Potter's credit, the second-hand robe shop didn't carry second-hand underwear. Dozen of unopened packages of Wizards Best men's underwear were lined in long neat rows along the aisle. Each package had the same picture of a nearly naked wizard on its cover, his muscular torso and thighs exposed and his groin covered by cotton shorts. The model looked shockingly similar to Oliver Wood, and Pansy wondered if this was what he'd been doing during the war: letting people take pictures of his boy bits while everyone else fought for their lives. Or, as in the case of she and Hermione Granger, locked away for two years by Lucius Malfoy. But everyone couldn't be a hero, she supposed, and everyone certainly wasn't worthy enough of Lucius Malfoy's notice for the deranged man to actually hold them prisoner in his esteemed estate. She and Granger were simply special.
On each package, the word 'irregular' was stamped in bright red ink directly over Wood's face. Potter put two packages of colored briefs into his basket.
Merlin, she couldn't believe he was actually buyingthem.
But it was exactly like Potter to do something as simple-minded as buy irregular underwear from the second-hand robe shop. He couldn't help it; he didn't know any better. He'd lived under a set of stairs for most of his early years, and Pansy was sure that anyone who'd make a kid live under their stairs certainly wouldn't take him shopping so he'd know where to get his underwear.
Now that she thought about it, Potter's Muggle relatives had probably made him wear underwear that really was second-hand. That's why he didn't see anything wrong with buying the things from the second-hand robe shop. He probably saw it as one-step up from wearing actual second-hand underwear.
Not to mention that the Weasleys shopped here. And even though Pansy said that she would be better and learn to be more accepting of other lifestyles and all that shite Granger preached, she couldn't help the curl of her lip when she thought about the portly matriarch of the family ambling about the second-hand robe shop, picking up packages of irregular undies for her entire brood. She did it, so Potter probably thought it was okay for him to do it as well.
Pansy almost felt bad for him. No one had ever told him how incredibly wrong this was.
But Merlin, he'd probably get a rash or something from them. It couldn't possibly be healthy to have such low-quality material against his leaky hose. She told herself that it was a very good thing that she wasn't sleeping with him, or having any sort of contact with Potter's Down There. Fanny Boo was only used to the best, and Potter's thing—while immensely desirable, considering the fine piece of manmeat Potter himself was—wouldn't be getting anywhere near her if it had a rash. As if.
She made a small note that this new tidbit of information about Potter's potential rash would certainly help with her I-Don't-Like-Harry-Potter-No-I-Do-Not cause. Because who'd want to sleep with a man who had a rash? Not Pansy Parkinson, that was for sure.
It'd be item number twenty-seven on her list "Why Harry Potter—the Stupid, Stupid Man—Was Too Stupid To Get With the Gorgeous and Desirable Pansy P" (or, Why Potter SUCKS for short).
She reminded herself that she didn't want to sleep with Potter anyway, and cursed silently for the slipup.
But Potter was moving again.
Fifteen feet away, Pansy took interest in a drab orange robe on the rack next to her. She held it above her face, pretending to inspect it for its merits while subtly matching Potter's movements. The only merit the thing had was that it'd probably make for good recycling material, but Pansy kept her thoughts to herself. She made sure to maintain the fifteen-foot distance between them, halting the small steps she'd been taking forward when Potter stopped at the sock bin.
"That's a lovely robe you have there, young lady," an elderly witch commented. The woman was gray and wrinkled, and the hunch of her back looked so painful that Pansy made a mental note to herself to instruct posterity to kill her if she ever got to this point. Euthanasia was what they called it, right?
Pansy nodded politely at the woman, taking care not to draw unnecessary attention to herself. "I think it takes a certain kind of woman to pull it off correctly," she said diplomatically. The only person Pansy thought could pull off wearing the robe without looking like a commode full of vomit would have to be about ninety—just about old-hunchback's age—but she didn't say that. She was getting the hang of this not-offending-everyone-she-met-with-her-sparkling-personality thing. Granger would be proud.
The older woman chuckled to herself and leaned in close to say, "Darling, all it takes is a decent kind of woman." She smelled like twenty-year-old mothballs, and Pansy struggled not to make a face. "This is the kind of thing girls would go around in during my day. But there's been quite a decline in respectability these days, and young women will traipse around in nearly nothing now." She tsked disapprovingly.
Pansy was thankful she was wearing trousers.
The woman patted Pansy's arm kindly. "I think you'll look just fine, dear," she said. "If you ask me …" She leaned in close again—closer than she had before, "there aren't enough young women like you around anymore."
Pansy mentally gagged at the woman's odor, but she smiled and unceremoniously threw the dreadful thing in her shopping cart. She feigned interest in an old beat-up bolero further down the aisle, pushing the old woman's words and smell out of her head as she kept an eye on Boy Wonder.
Potter, she realized, was an annoyingly indecisive shopper. He was still at the sock bin, now debating whether to buy the ankle-length socks or the tube socks he had in his hands. And this was totally going to be item twenty-eight, because she could never be with anyone this obsessive. Pansy wanted to march over to him and whack him in the face with a pack, then yell at him that they were just socks and that they weren't good enough to merit such introspection. But this was supposed to be a covert operation, and shit would surely hit the fan if she marched over there and did exactly what she wanted to the simplest man in wizarding Britain.
Granger liked to argue that Potter couldn't be the simplest man in wizarding Britain—she felt Ron Weasley held the title hands down—however Pansy was fairly certain that she and Granger had two completely different perceptions of Harry Potter. Granger saw Potter as the boy he'd been—the brother she'd never had. Pansy saw Potter as a man, albeit a very stupid one.
But even though Potter was stupid, he was a very nosey man, and usually called on some distant reserves of intelligence that managed to help him discover exactly what he wanted to know.
If Potter saw her, he would undoubtedly ask her what she was doing in the second-hand robe shop, and even though Pansy was quite capable of lying straight to Harry Potter's face, he was impulsive and unpredictable, and could do one of two things. He could:
A) follow her around the shop and pester her as to what exactly she was doing with that atrocious, size eighteen, orange robe in her cart until he frustrated her to the point that she Apparated away (because Merlin knew she'd never tell him she was following him).
B) be suspicious, but choose to just let it go, all the while constantly looking over his shoulder for the remainder of his shopping trip because he suspected that she might be following him and wanted to catch her in the act. And he would suspect this. Pansy had no business in the second-hand robe shop, and whenever Pansy did anything remotely out of character around Potter, he always assumed that it had something to do with him. It just happened to be Pansy's misfortune that the sneaky bugger was always right. (Item sixteen on her list).
With Pansy's luck, he'd probably opt to go with the latter course of action, and because he was Harry Bloody Potter and had tore Voldemort a new one, he'd totally catch her. Because hello, he was Harry Potter.
And yeah, Pansy wanted to avoid all that if she could. She'd spent way too much time and sacrificed far too much of her dignity on this whole charade to be caught by Potter now.
So there would be no sock-slapping. She could deal with that.
Granger would say that she was growing up. Joy.
Pansy sighed. She didn't take it as a good sign that she was just okay with things nowadays. Her bratty I-get-everything-I-damn-well-please traits hadn't deserted her completely, however her sense of entitlement wasn't anywhere near what it'd been in the past. She knew the change was a product of the time she'd spent locked away in Malfoy Manor during the war, but she had thought that she would return to her old self as soon as she escaped the hell hole. She hadn't.
She was a completely different Pansy Parkinson these days, and if that wasn't bad enough, the world was completely different, too. For one thing, it wasn't nearly the mess it'd been in the past. Without there being any obscenely powerful psychotic wizards and his equally deranged followers around, it was a relatively chill place. It seemed that Pansy did not know how to function in chill places, for she often found herself floundering in this place.
She blamed Harry Potter. After all, he had been the one to kill Voldemort, i.e., The Big Fat Wanker Who Was Making the World a Mess. And even though it was great that Snake Man was dead and not making a mess anymore, someone had to be blamed for all the trouble Pansy was having, and since Potter was currently responsible for half of the things going wrong in her life, she didn't think it was unfair to blame him for this too.
Pansy glanced down at her wrist, reaching for the bracelet that was no longer there. There was a familiar sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach at the remembrance, and she cursed herself for being stupid—so stupid—for looking because the bracelet had been broken for months. But she'd always toyed with her bracelet, whether she was nervous or thoughtful or bored, and it seemed that wouldn't change, despite the fact that the bracelet was no longer there.
The diamond trinket had been a family heirloom, a glittering piece that had been given to her great-great grandmother, the famous Musidora Barkwith, from Pansy's great-great grandfather on their wedding day. Musidora had been way out of old Parkinson's league, and he'd charmed the sought-after singer from her homeland of Norway with a slew of expensive jewels. They had been passed down to Pansy when her mother had died, though Pansy was barely six at the time, and she had hardly seen the significance of the jewels beyond the fact that they were shiny. She'd realized their importance as she grew and had taken a supreme amount of pleasure in showing her girlfriends all the diamonds she had without a husband.
"Who needs a husband when I have all this?" she had said to Daphne and Tracey when she'd shown them the collection. The girls had stared, saucer-eyed, at the invaluable jewelry in their display cases. "I hardly need Draco Malfoy at all."
Daphne and Tracey had envied her, both for her jewels and her boyfriend, and Pansy had relished it. She'd loved how important being envied made her feel and had made up all kinds of stories about the jewels and the places she wore them in order to make her friends even more jealous of her. With her mother dead, there was only Pansy and her father, and a man of her father's status was far too busy running the family's shipping business and socializing with his business associates to take notice of his only child's desperate need of attention. Pansy had had her friends and herself, and she'd made do with that.
Her friends hadn't needed to know that she wasn't allowed to go any nearer to the jewelry than they were. She hadn't received full ownership of them until she'd turned seventeen and was of age, and had spent her youth admiring them from the cases just as they had.
But of all the pieces in the massive jewelry collection Musidora had amassed, Pansy still had only ever worn one of them: the bracelet.
The thing was more of a bangle, really, nearly an inch wide. It was expertly crafted, the maker creating a beautiful net-like structure of connected boxes contained within a delicately curved boarder. Diamonds were inlaid along every piece of white gold used in constructing the initial structure, with a larger diamond placed at the junctures where the boxes connected. Along the curves that bordered the piece were beautiful diamond encrusted crowns; they were created from six petal-like shapes, one on its side acting as a base and the other five fanning out at the top to create the curved points.
The bracelet was hardly the most exquisite piece in old Musidora's collection; however, it held the appeal of memory that no other had. Her mother had worn jewelry often, though the bracelet was undoubtedly her favorite. Pansy could remember kneeling by the woman's side as she sat at her vanity, the bracelet already around her wrist as she affixed massive stones to her ears. Her father would clasp a breathtaking necklace around her mother's neck, whispering words that Pansy couldn't hear into her mother's ear. Her mother would giggle, whispering something back that her father found equally amusing. The two had been completely entranced by one another, undeniably in love, and often had moments just like that: smiling and laughing with one another as if no one else existed in the world. Pansy could remember how utterly excluded she'd felt then, kneeling beside them as she watched a display she wouldn't understand until she was much, much older, and hoping for the same thing with a man of her own.
But Mummy would eventually remember her, looking down to her side and grabbing Pansy beneath her arms as she pulled the small girl into her lap. Father would leave to finish getting ready for the opera or theater or wherever they were going that night, and Mummy would let Pansy play in her makeup, applying blush to her cheeks with her fingers and streaking eyeliner across her face in a disastrous pattern in an effort to be like the beautiful woman she adored.
In time, her parents would have to leave, and her mother would sit her on the bathroom sink and gently wipe the makeup and tears from Pansy's face, telling her that she would return soon, and they could play in her makeup more in the morning. Through the cloud of tears in Pansy's eyes, the bracelet would glitter magnificently, blinding Pansy's sight to the extent that she could only see her mother's bright eyes and her mother's bright smile amidst all the sparkle. It was one of her dearest memories.
Pansy's father had gifted her with the bracelet on her thirteenth birthday. Pansy was an admittedly spoiled girl, and as such, she was accustomed to receiving extravagant gifts from her over-indulgent father. However, the bracelet trumped any present she'd ever received. Even now, seven years later, she couldn't remember receiving something that she'd cherished quite as much as she had the bracelet. She'd scarcely taken it off at all—even to bathe—and the only time the piece had left her wrist for any extended period of time had been when she'd given it to Harry Potter. She'd been incarcerated in Malfoy Manor at the time; she and Granger had been planning their escape, and Potter—and her bracelet—had been an integral part in making their plan succeed.
No one had expected it. In essence, she and Granger had been attempting what had been considered wholly impossible at the time. No one had managed a successful escape from Malfoy Manor since it'd been built; the wards placed upon it during its construction used magic so old no one knew how to deal with it anymore. Not to mention the additional wards Lucius Malfoy had applied to the place, and everyone and their Aunt Sally knew that Lucius Malfoy's wards were unbreakable.
Disregarding those wards, Lucius Malfoy implemented additional wards to guarantee the retention of his prisoners. There were wards placed upon the area in which the prisoner was confined, preventing them from leaving, and even wards placed upon the prisoner's very person. These personal wards served two purposes: they provided additional containment of the prisoner and a system that would alert Lucius in the event a prisoner ever did accomplish the impossible and managed to escape.
However, escaping Malfoy Manor was not simply a matter of breaking wards. Lucius would be alerted the moment something went amiss; the front door was seemingly miles from the dungeons; and, of course, there were five additional miles to clear before the escapee was beyond the manor's grounds and able to Apparate safely away.
Escape wasn't conceivable—not with the limited resources available to one locked away in the dungeons.
Impossible, everyone said. Lucius Malfoy had believed this unequivocally.
It was rather unfortunate for him that, for once, his cool, calculating intellect had failed him, and he'd completely underestimated what the women in his care could do if they ever put their heads together. And even though the set up he'd ensnared them with should've prevented them from ever seeing each other, Lucius Malfoy was so secure in his knowledge of Pansy's complete and utter empty-headedness that he had allowed her to do whatever she pleased—save leave the west wing of the manor. He'd never thought that she'd wander down into the dungeons, which happened to be just a few floors beneath where she was kept. He'd never thought that she'd deign to speak to Hermione Granger, either.
Lucius Malfoy was right: Malfoy Manor was inescapable. The foolish man just so happened to give Pansy and, as a result, Hermione Granger, the means to do it.
But that was getting ahead of herself. There was far more to the story than that.
Whenever anyone talked about what happened to Pansy Parkinson the spring that she turned eighteen, they always said that she was 'kidnapped' by Lucius Malfoy. But really, that wasn't what happened at all. There was no actual 'kidnapping.' Lucius hadn't snuck into her home and stolen her from her bed under the cloak of night, or snatched her while she was out with her friends shopping in Diagon Alley. All Lucius Malfoy had done was invite Pansy for tea at Malfoy Manor the day before her birthday. There was no spiking of the tea, or use of other underhanded methods to incapacitate her. They merely had tea, during which Lucius Malfoy detailed his plan for luring his wayward son back home.
It was March, and by that point, it'd been exactly ten months since Draco had officially deserted the teachings of the Dark Lord and decided to join up with Harry Potter and his stupid friends. Draco had discovered Voldemort's true heritage through Hermione Granger and had told his father that he didn't believe anyone who was a half-blood themselves could preach pureblood supremacy and call for the purging of those from whom he'd received half his heritage. He would not follow someone with such flawed logic, and thought his father was a fool for doing so. Besides, Draco was in love with one of the people that the Dark Lord wanted to purge, and he couldn't have anyone harming a single hair on his precious little Mudblood's head.
Lucius' reaction, of course, had been epic. Details aren't necessary; the imagination will suffice.
Pansy had spent the months following Draco's betrayal deluding herself into believing that Draco would come to his senses and return to her soon enough. They'd been betrothed while they were still in nappies, and had been dating since their third year at Hogwarts. Granted, Draco had always taken to dallying with other girls to relieve himself of that tension all teenaged boys fell victim too, and by the middle of sixth year, he'd told her that they were through. But Pansy had always believed that he would come back to her. People of their standing knew the importance of honor and fulfilling one's duty to one's family, and Draco's duty clearly entailed marrying a highly well-bred, eligible girl such as herself. He'd be back, she had kept saying. A Mudblood could never make him happy.
She'd been naïve back then. It was painful to remember.
During their tea, it was apparent to Pansy where Draco got his smoothness. Lucius Malfoy could charm Augusta Longbottom out of her knickers; he had no difficulty at all in convincing Pansy to go along with his plan.
"Draco loves you, my dear," he'd said. "Oh, he loves you so much he knows not what to do with all the love he has in his heart—which is why he turned away from you sixth year, Pansy darling. The sheer power of his love scared him, and I'm saddened to say that, like a coward, he ran away from it." He'd looked contrite for emphasis.
Pansy had hung on to his every word, believing everything he said out of her need to validate the lies she'd been telling herself for the past months.
"But do not fear, Pansy, for such love could not be diminished by the passage of time, or the presence of any… distractions." His lip had curled in revulsion at the thought of Draco's involvement with the Order of the Phoenix's war effort and Hermione Granger—the biggest distraction of them all.
"What ever can I do, Mr. Malfoy?" Pansy had asked desperately. "How can I bring him back to me?"
"The Mudblood has poisoned his mind with lies, Pansy, and has made him turn away from our Lord."
Pansy had glared at her teacup. She hadn't cared one bit about which side of the war Draco was on so long as he was with her. But that Mudblood … "Oh, I wish I could get my hands on the filthy girl! I'd teach her a thing or two about touching what doesn't belong to her…"
"There, there, Pansy," he had said, patting her hand gently. "He has a duty to fulfill, and that duty includes marrying a well-bred girl such as yourself, not some filthy dalliance from his school days. However, we are lucky, my dear, that his love for you is so strong." Pansy had beamed. "We need only to remind young Draco of his overwhelming love for you, and the Mudblood's spell will be broken, and we will have our Draco back with us again."
Pansy's mouth had been agape in wonder, her eyes wide with an excited hope that she'd finally have her man again. And she'd known right then that she'd do anything Lucius would ask of her, no questions asked. "What do I have to do?" she had said. "I'll do anything, Mr. Malfoy. Tell me, what do I have to do?"
She'd played right into his hands.
Lucius' plan had been simple. In order to remind Draco of the love he'd once possessed for dear Pansy, he would send Draco a letter saying that he'd kidnapped the poor girl and would do her serious bodily harm if Draco did not come home. However, Draco was no fool, and they had to make sure the charade appeared as real as possible. Pansy would be held "prisoner" in the unused west wing of Malfoy Manor until Draco came for her. Pansy was instructed to return home after their tea and pack up all of the things she would need to be comfortable. "Comfortable" for Pansy included her entire bedroom and her two personal house-elves, but Lucius didn't mind. He had told her that she would have all the space she needed, seeing as she wasn't a real prisoner, and he would never do anything as distasteful as set up his future daughter-in-law in the dungeons. The words had brought tears to Pansy's eyes, and she'd even hugged Lucius Malfoy after he'd said them. He'd patted her head politely and had promptly removed her arms from her around him, then told her that he would expect her in the morning.
Pansy had done exactly as Lucius instructed. She'd packed while her father attended a late business meeting. She'd assumed correctly that he'd think she was in bed when he returned home. He hadn't bothered to check if she was in bed since she was twelve, and hadn't realized she was missing until the next day, the morning of her eighteenth birthday. He'd contacted the authorities immediately.
The damage had already been done. Essentially, Pansy had kidnapped herself.
The setup had been fine, for a while. She had everything she needed from home, and if she wanted something else, she needed only to tell her house-elves, and they retrieved it for her. She was allowed to send and receive mail from select Slytherin compatriots whom Lucius deemed loyal to the Dark Lord's cause. However, other than Lucius himself during their Wednesday tea, she wasn't allowed visitors.
"People don't have visitors when they're kidnapped, Pansy," Lucius had explained calmly.
He had been right, of course, so Pansy hadn't had visitors. Kidnapped people didn't write letters to their friends holidaying in Spain, or have two house-elves to wait on them hand and foot, either. It was the first time in her life that she'd ever resolved to be thankful for what she had and stop pushing for more. She'd been lonely, but she told herself that she'd be rewarded for her suffering in the future, when Draco returned to her.
Lucius had conveniently forgotten to mention the high-powered wards he'd placed on the entire west wing of the manor and, more specifically, her—the same wards she and Granger would work so diligently to disable in the two years that followed. Pansy had discovered all too painfully what would happen to her if she decided to venture out of her domain. She'd received such a powerful jolt of power that she'd been knocked unconscious for hours.
"The wards are for your safety, Pansy," Lucius had explained when she awoke. "If you leave and someone sees you, word could get back to Draco and he won't come. In addition, there's a war going on now, and as you're currently staying in my home, it's my responsibility to keep you safe."
Again, she'd put her faith in the elder Malfoy and his lies.
But the days soon turned to weeks, and still there'd been no sign that Draco even knew that Pansy had been kidnapped, let alone that he was going to rescue her. Lucius had told her to be patient during their weekly tea—that Draco was being his usual bullheaded self and needed more convincing. He'd told her that all would be well.
Lucius had promised her weekly access to the extensive Malfoy Library, and suggested that Pansy take to improving her mind to occupy her time. Pick up an instructional manual or two, he'd said. Learn an instrument.
Pansy hadn't appreciated the insinuation that her mind needed improving, or that she needed to learn something more that whatever she'd picked up at Hogwarts. What did Lucius Malfoy know about her or what was in her head, anyway? But she'd figured that giving her future father-in-law a piece of her mind wouldn't ensure cordial relations between she and the elder Malfoy once she and Draco were married.
It said something about her complete and utter naiveté that who exactly Lucius Malfoy was hadn't factored in to this decision at all. She had known he was a Death Eater, and that he hurt people. She'd heard the noises from the dungeons, the screams, every night. When she'd asked him about them, he'd told her not worry; he was merely questioning the Order scum who'd murdered Gregory Goyle, he'd said, and promised her that he'd try to conduct his interrogations more quietly from now on. Pansy hadn't known that Greg was dead, and she wondered who on earth would do such a thing to the boy. She hadn't known that he'd died trying to kidnap Hermione Granger.
So Pansy had gone to the library. She'd taken out the instructional manuals as Lucius had suggested; she'd learned to knit, to make soap.
It was too bad for Lucius that patience had never been one of Pansy's strong suits. By the time four months had passed, Pansy had become thoroughly fed up with waiting and knitting hats and making soap, and had taken to finding other means of distraction. Namely, wandering through the west wing. But there really wasn't much to see in the unused wing other than stuffy rooms filled with ancient Malfoy family heirlooms and other boring things of that nature. She knew the place like the back of her hand after two weeks, and took to going where she absolutely knew she shouldn't go: the dungeons.
Pansy hadn't heard the screams since she'd mentioned them to Lucius, and she'd wondered if he'd been telling the truth about conducting his questioning more quietly, or if there was no longer a person to question at all. There had only been one way to find out. Her self-preservation instincts told her that it would be far safer if she stayed away from the dark basement—Lucius may have let her do whatever she pleased, but she didn't think he'd be too happy to find out she was playing with his prisoners. But she supposed she had a bit of Gryffindor in her as well, because she hadn't been scared at all. Definitely some Gryffindor. Only those wankers would be so stupid.
The completely ironic part of it all was that it was the bit of Gryffindor in her that had led her to find her very own Gryffindor. Hermione Granger was the sole person locked in the dungeons. The screams had been hers.
A shrill laugh interrupted Pansy's thoughts, and she looked up to find Potter at the checkout counter, talking to a teenaged sales clerk. She wore a large bright yellow pin that said, 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' She was pretty, Pansy supposed, in a homey kind of way. Her hair was long and dark, and she flushed prettily and gave that horrible laugh whenever Potter smiled. Pansy couldn't hear what they were saying, but they appeared to be chatting amiably as Margaret rang up Potter's irregular underwear.
Potter looked confused when 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' rang up the socks. He held up a package of socks, then pointed to the price on the bin and then back at the socks in his hand. Pansy rolled her eyes. This was exactly what she meant about him being simple. She didn't know if it was a man thing or a Potter thing, but she had never met anyone so utterly hopeless in her entire life. He had absolutely no reason to be concerned with something as trivial as the price of socks. Everyone knew that his parents had left him quite a bit when they died, and word had it that the Ministry had rewarded Potter very handsomely for kicking Voldemort's teeth in. He had more than enough money to pay for a stupid pair of ankle socks from the second-hand robe shop, no arguing with 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' necessary.
The talk appeared to be getting a little heated, with more frequent finger-pointing and slightly raised voices, and Pansy rolled her eyes. She could just barely hear Potter, the low timbre of his voice managing to bring a smile to her lips even though she thought he was being completely ridiculous. She hadn't seen him in three whole months, since the night he and his lot received their shiny Order of Merlin's. Granger had received one as well. Pansy had not.
She wasn't jealous or anything. Okay, maybe she was, but she didn't have the same need to have everyone look at her to validate her existence as she had in the past. She was a big girl now, and she could recognize blatant prejudice where she saw it and rise above it, because she didn't need an ugly medal to tell her she was bad arse anyway.
Ministry officials had said Granger's award was for the contributions she'd made to the war effort before she was captured by Lucius Malfoy. Her patriotic acts were impossible to count, they'd said. Apparently, they were impossible to mention too; in comparison to everyone else, no specific reason had been announced when Granger was called to receive her award.
Pansy absolutely was not jealous.
Granger thought the Ministry reasoned that they couldn't give Potter and Weasley an award without giving her one, too. They were Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Their names always went together, and apparently the world thought they had to receive their awards together, too. Granger had been of the mind not to accept the award at all, until Pansy had mentioned that both of them deserved at least some kind of acknowledgment for being the only people who had managed to escape from Malfoy Manor since bloody ever. Granger had agreed, and she'd sent half of her medal in the mail to Pansy a few days later.
Pansy smiled at the memory. This thing she had with Hermione Granger—friendship, or whatever it was—was the only good thing that had come out of her stay at Malfoy Manor.
Granger had called it fate. Kismet and all that. Because really, what were the chances that a girl as diehard Slytherin to the core as Pansy Musidora Parkinson would have even a smidgen of Gryffindor folly somewhere inside of her? And that she'd actually be placed into some godforsaken situation that would let that problematic little quirk express itself?
The chances were as likely as Vince Crabbe putting together an eloquent sentence of evincing application of knowledge.
It wasn't supposed to happen. It was ridiculous and improbable and all the more reason why it had to be the work of some higher force.
She'd been a fright when Pansy first saw her, thin and dirty with a stench akin to that of a stable. Pansy hadn't recognized her at first, and after five minutes of calling hey yous into the cell and not receiving any response, she'd thought the girl had gone over the deep end and wouldn't be coming back any time soon. Which would be absolutely no fun for Pansy, and did nothing to excite her day. Pansy had turned to leave when she'd realized that the quiet hum she'd been hearing since she'd been in front of her cell had been the girl's voice.
She'd been murmuring to herself, quietly, quickly, and when Pansy had actually stopped to listen, she could make out her words: Mugworth's third principle of the magical properties of the number seven, word for word. It was sixth year Arithmancy. Pansy had taken Arithmancy with Granger since fifth year, and she could never forget that voice, eagerly answering Professor Vector's questions before anyone else had a chance to respond.
"Granger?" she'd exclaimed, shocked and confused and on some level, completely ecstatic that she had discovered something.
Her murmuring had stopped abruptly and, very stiffly, Granger turned her head to stare at Pansy through the metal bars of her cell. Pansy had been taken aback by the utterly empty look to her eyes. "It's you, isn't it?" she'd whispered. "It's you."
Pansy had begun to rattle on about the implications of her presence in the dungeons, chattering endlessly to the otherwise completely unresponsive girl. She'd gone on for a full half-hour, when Granger had turned away from her to stare back up at the ceiling.
"Are you quite finished?" she'd said, her voice sounding eerily neutral.
Her voice had surprised Pansy as well, and she'd found herself not knowing what to say.
"Go away," Granger had said.
And, well. That hadn't gone over well with Pansy, to say the least. She'd proceeded to rant and rave at the listless girl, telling her that she had every right to do what she very well pleased and the likes of her could do nothing to stop her. She'd called Granger this and that, trampled over her inferior heritage more times than necessary, and made ghastly accusations as to the girl's relations with her supposed best friends and the entirety of the Weasley clan. She'd stomped away afterwards, fuming, though completely sure that she'd totally trumped never-shuts-her-mouth Hermione Granger. It hadn't been until later that Pansy had realized that they hadn't had much of an argument, considering Pansy had been the only one who'd really said anything, and that hadn't sat well with her at all. There had to be a rematch, she'd told herself. She'd gone down to the dungeons the very next day, and had accosted Granger again.
By that point, Granger had moved on to reciting potion ingredients and their special properties, and had refused to acknowledge Pansy in any way. Pansy had told herself that she only went down there because Granger didn't want her to—had told her to go away—and she absolutely did not take orders from anyone, especially people who smelled like her.
It had been around then that Pansy had realized that Granger couldn't possibly argue with her, seeing as she was half-starved and looked as if she had been for months, and couldn't possibly have the energy to argue back with Pansy even if she'd wanted to. And for some godforsaken reason, she'd been struck by a pang of humanity that had decided it was a nice time to rear its ugly head, and had sent her house-elves down to the dungeons to fix the girl up. Pansy had known that nothing the two elves could do would immediately restore Granger to her normal state in the space of a day in order for Pansy to have her rematch. But seeing Granger that way had been more than a little pitiful, and Pansy hadn't been able to help how completely angry she'd been at Lucius for doing it to her. No woman deserved to be reduced to such a state by a man—lingering just at death's door; a forgotten meal probably all it would take to push her over the edge. She'd remembered suddenly that Granger was the person who'd killed Greg, and even though she'd known that she should want Granger to suffer for doing such a thing, actually seeing the suffering Lucius was inflicting upon the girl was enough to change her mind. No one deserved that.
Nursing Granger back to health had been a slow process, and Pansy had garnered an understanding of both the frailty and the strength of the human body. She hadn't quite understood how Granger had survived what she'd been through, and recognizing her strength had been the beginning of the change of Pansy's opinion about the girl.
Not that she'd told Granger this. Even while Pammy and Dimple—Pansy's house-elves—had been nursing the girl back to health, Pansy had still gone down into the dungeons to harass the girl. Looking back on it now, she wasn't proud of her behavior at all. She'd been so self-absorbed it was painful to remember. However, even when Granger had started to regain her strength, she had never responded to Pansy's hateful words. Before long, weeks had passed, and Pansy could no longer find it in her to yell at someone who was playing dead.
And then, out of the blue, she'd looked at Granger and had asked, "Why did you kill Greg?"
Pansy hadn't expected a response. She hadn't even known why she'd asked. After the silence had stretched on for as long as Pansy thought she could take, she'd stood up to leave. She'd told herself that she was done with Hermione Granger, and that the mute girl could rot down there for all Pansy cared.
"Does he know you come here?"
Pansy had been startled by the question, not expecting anything from the woman—especially not another question. "Who?"
"No," she'd answered, then said, a little uncertainly, "I don't think so." She'd remembered her original thought that Lucius wouldn't take her visits well, and for the first time, she'd begun to truly fear his reaction. "Have you… have mentioned it to him?"
"He doesn't come here anymore."
"Oh." She'd exhaled a sigh of relief, though frowned. It'd bothered her a little, that Lucius paid her so little mind. "I do what I want here," she'd told Granger. She hadn't known why she'd said it, but it'd been four weeks since she'd first found Granger. By that point, she'd talked to the bint so much it'd become natural to just say things to her. Mostly because she'd known that Granger wouldn't respond. "Everything but leave." There'd been a pause. "At least I have my own room," she'd said, familiar condescension seeping into her tone. "I'd hate to be in here with you, Granger. You reek."
"Just a bigger cage," she'd replied.
"It's not a cage," Pansy had insisted, feeling an overwhelming need to explain herself and her room. "People don't have the stuff I have in a cage. I'm not a prisoner here—not like you."
Granger, of course, hadn't responded.
"Besides, it's only temporary," she'd said quickly, still trying to explain to this girl—to get her to believe what she'd slowly begun to question. "Only until Draco comes back home. Then we'll be together and—"
"He won't come."
"He will. I just have to wait a little longer and—"
Granger had turned to her then, and Pansy could still remember the feeling of her heart dropping to her feet when she'd seen the tears in Granger's eyes. "He won't."
Their friendship began from there. They hadn't liked each other one bit, but the two of them knew, on some level, that any kind of human contact was good contact, and neither was of the mind to go completely nutters from being alone. They'd argued about everything: Hogwarts and Arithmancy and the magical properties of the number seven. They argued about Draco and sex and the liberation of house-elves, and about life and the war, and Pansy's horrid knitting. Only, they weren't always arguing. After a few weeks had passed, they'd just talk to each other. Like they were friends.
And, like a true friend, Granger had supplied Pansy with the information she'd dreaded hearing since she'd begun to suspect that Lucius wasn't being completely truthful with her. She and Granger hadn't ever talked about the reason why they were both in Malfoy Manor. Pansy had mentioned that she was only to be there until Draco came for her, though after Granger's emotional insistence that he wouldn't, Pansy hadn't brought that matter up again. But it'd started her thinking about Granger's words: if Granger—who'd spent the last year with Draco—could say with such certainty that Draco wouldn't come, then… Well. Then Pansy was smart enough to believe her.
However, Lucius had believed wholeheartedly that his son would return. He'd made sure to tell her so every week when they took tea, though with Granger's words floating around in her head, Pansy hadn't been able to find it in herself to believe him anymore. Draco had said that they were through, after all, and he openly proclaimed that he was in love with Granger. Granger had seemed sure that the man loved her and well, Pansy had started to believe her. It hurt like hell, however the pain had helped her to realize the truth behind the setup Lucius had trapped her in: Draco would never come for her. Because he'd said they were through and he was in love with Granger and he wouldn't give two fucks about some stupid entanglement stupidstupidstupid Pansy Parkinson managed to get herself into with his father.
And Lucius had known all along. He'd lied to her.
Pansy hadn't been there to entice Draco back home; it had been Granger.
She'd been left to wonder why on earth Lucius had wanted her there. But, like a brick to the face, it'd hit her so hard she'd felt like she'd been slammed into a wall.
His words from their tea so many months ago had come back to her like a bad dream:
"He has a duty to fulfill," he had said, "and that duty includes marrying a well-bred girl such as yourself, not some filthy dalliance from his school days."
And that was when Pansy understood what a complete and utter basketcase Draco's father was, because she had only been there to serve as a distraction for his son when Lucius managed to get him back home—a soft and willing and pureblooded body for him to vent his frustrations. And, later, when the war was over and Voldemort had won—because Lucius expected no different—she would help Draco fulfill his duty to his family, and become the model Malfoy bride. A breeding vessel expected to produce perfect, pedigreed boys.
Draco hadn't loved her. She'd been bombarding by that fact daily in her meetings with Granger. To realize Lucius true intentions for her had been like pouring salt on the proverbial wound.
Pansy would not have the moments with Draco that her mother had with her father all those years ago. She would not be loved. Her heart had been broken, and the next time she'd seen Lucius Malfoy, she'd demanded to be released. Pansy had no inclination to be a docile bride in a loveless marriage and had told Lucius that if that was what he was looking for, he was going to have to find someone else to play the role of damsel in distress because she wasn't doing it anymore.
Lucius had continued to sip his tea straight through Pansy's self-righteous rant, then, calmly, had placed his teacup on the table, stood, and then slapped Pansy so hard across the face that she'd fallen right out of her seat. Her mouth had filled with blood, and she'd stared up fearfully at the demon Lucius had suddenly transformed into, standing over her and shouting that she'd do as he said and for however long he wanted her to, or she'd find herself at the wrong end of a wand. And then he'd become calm again, helping Pansy back up to her seat and handing her his handkerchief before sitting down and finishing his tea.
And yeah, she'd been scared. More frightened than she'd ever been in her life, actually. Because she was locked in an inescapable mansion by Lucius Malfoy—one of the most dangerous Death Eaters Voldemort employed—and Draco wasn't coming. And it wasn't even because he didn't love her; he loved Granger and he wasn't coming for her, either. He wasn't coming because he couldn't—because he'd grown up in the manor and knew first hand that it couldn't be done. There was no way to get in and get out and manage to survive.
Pansy and Granger were on their own. They'd begun planning their escape the very next day.
It was funny, almost, how quickly the tides had changed, how Pansy had suddenly found herself allying with the person she'd once thought she'd despise for all eternity for stealing Draco away. To be fair, Pansy hadn't exactly been Granger's favorite person at that time, either, but Pansy's daily forays down into the dungeons had made the two of them a bit more tolerant of each other than they'd been in the past. Besides, they'd both wanted to escape, and they'd known that they needed each other's help to do so. Granger was smart and Pansy was cunning, and Lucius Malfoy had been stupid enough to slap her around then let things go back to the way they'd been in the past. Because sure, Malfoy Manor was inescapable, but Lucius happened to have the Hermione Granger in his dungeons, and if anyone could figure out how to disable the wards, she could. She'd merely needed the resources to do so, and Pansy's access to the library—courtesy of the arsehole himself—provided the woman with said resources rather easily. While Granger had busied herself researching how to break the wards using books Pansy had smuggled from the library, Pansy carried out all sorts of risky and potentially life-threatening tasks to aid in the process. They couldn't have done it without each other. More importantly, they couldn't have done it without Potter.
He was always saving people. That was why everyone loved him, she supposed, because he was so gosh darn helpful. He'd done a lot for the wizarding world, and the wizarding world adored him for it. Pansy was thankful for what he'd done for her as well, however she wasn't exactly going to throw herself at his feet and just give herself to him for what he'd done. She'd never throw herself down for Harry Potter unless there would be a bed involved. And even though she woke up every morning and told herself no, I don't want him anymore, she was woman enough to admit that it was a lie because she clearly did. But she had to lie to herself. If she didn't, she'd go on with her day constantly thinking about how much she wanted his sexy body, and since she wasn't getting that sexy body, it was best to tell herself that she didn't want it. Even though she did. But told herself she didn't.
Yes, she confused herself too.
But everyone wanted to get into Potter's pants, so she wasn't too different from the female masses in that respect. However, Pansy thought that she'd gotten far closer to actually achieving this goal than all of the rest of the Potter worshippers in the world. After all, she and Potter had actually kissed, during which time Pansy had thoroughly molested his arse—which was, in her opinion, the juiciest arse in all of Britain—and had spent the steamiest five minutes of snogging in her life with him. She doubted anyone else could boast that.
Except maybe Ginny Weasley, but Pansy didn't like to think about Ginny Weasley. At all. Besides, she was nothing but Potter's slag anyway. Or his girlfriend. Whatever.
Since the war, Potter had the world at his feet—literally. Everything was done to make sure Harry Potter was comfortable and happy and having the bloody time of his bloody life. It was serious. Dogs even stopped pissing when he was around. Everyone did what they could for him—and completely planted their faces to his arse in holy worship. It was probably why 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' looked so nervous now. Harry Potter was not pleased.
The problem? Well, apparently, the ankle socks had somehow been mixed in with the tube socks, and they weren't the same price. They were only a few Sickles more but Potter—the stupidly frugal man he was—wasn't too happy about it, and the poor girl looked on the verge on tears as a result.
"I'm very, very sorry, Mr. Potter," Pansy mimicked, making her voice more high-pitched and whiny than it usually was as she made up dialogue for the exchange she couldn't quite hear. She knew most people were more in awe of Harry Potter than she was, but she didn't think that Potter's upset warranted the wide-eyed desperate look 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' had.
"The socks are two different prices, Mr. Potter. The ankle socks are three Sickles more. I'm sorry, Mr. Potter, but I can lose my job if sell them for the same price." There was a pause in the conversation. 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' looked down at the counter, and Pansy would swear she was blushing. She appeared to be saying something, and Pansy wondered what was so embarrassing to say that she was staring down at the counter blushing. Maybe she was offering Potter her virginity in return for him paying the three extra Sickles and she keeping her job. Taking one for the home team and all that. "Oh, Mr. Potter," Pansy said, "I would gladly give you my virginity instead, if you'd like."
Potter looked pacified and Pansy gagged. 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' was all giggles and smiles then, and Pansy wondered if Potter always had young virgins throwing themselves at him. He was an upright kind of guy, she supposed, but he had to be getting some from somewhere. He was a guy, after all, and no matter how upright the guy, in the end, didn't they all want to get a piece of the pie?
At least, all normalmen wanted a piece of it. But Pansy would be the first to jump up and proclaim to the high heavens that Harry James Potter was certainly not normal. He wasn't even close to normal. He wasn't even a mile away from it. Harry Potter was a weirdo, and that certainly had to say something in terms of his masculine proclivities towards the fairer sex. He wasn't the type to chase after skirts and use his hero status to charm Hogwarts girls right out of their knickers. But what did Pansy really know Harry Potter anyway, beyond Hogwarts and the Ministry's propaganda and the letters they'd send back and forth to each other when she was holed up in Malfoy Manor? She didn't know anything about him. Heck, they hardly got along half the time, and now she could totally understand why, considering Potter bought his underwear from the second-hand robe shop and she most certainly did not.
But then there was that annoying voice in her head, telling her that she knew quite a bit about Harry Potter and the kind of man he was, and that those letters counted for a helluva lot more than she liked to admit.
No, Potter wasn't the type of guy to use his butt-kicking status to get a free ride on some girl's choo choo train. And she really would've believed it too, had Potter not been smiling up at 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' as he scribbled something on a piece of paper. 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' bounced excitedly on her toes, her face flushed and happy, and Pansy's hands gripped the handle of the shopping cart so tightly her knuckles went white.
Potter said something and 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' laughed, and Pansy could just imagine the conversation they were having.
"Thank you, dear Margaret," she mocked, lowering her voice to a tone that didn't resemble Potter's at all. "I don't mind paying the extra three Sickles if I get to defile your maidenly honor instead." Margaret giggled again, and Pansy could just imagine Potter giving her his 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look. Pansy didn't knowif Potter had an 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look, but that didn't matter. He was giving it to 'Hi, I'm Margaret!', and 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' was giggling again, and Pansy was totally flipping out.
She started to approach the counter, eyes narrowed as she attempted to sneak up on Potter so she could run over the backs of his ankles. Ankles that wouldn't be covered by the stupid socks he'd just paid three sodding extra Sickles for but oh, that didn't matter, because he was inviting 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' the Hogwarts Whore, over to his place for some fun and she just couldn't wait to ram the hell out of the dirty wanker's ankles. How dare he fool around with this child when there were so many women—namely her—who were going out of their minds because they couldn't have him because he was dating Ginny I-Have-Hair-As-Red-As-Period-Blood Weasley.
Oh, she'd hit him so hard he'd bleed.
"I write pretty small," Potter was saying.
"It's fine," 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' giggled.
Barely ten feet away, Pansy slowed the cart, her knuckles blossoming with red as blood reflowed back into her hands.
"Well, there you are."
"Oh, thank you so much, Mr. Potter!" she squealed. "My little brother will be so happy!"
Pansy felt her stomach drop, and she cursed aloud for being stupid. Of course Potter wasn't giving 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' the extension to his private Floo line. He was an upright kind of guy, remember? He was writing an autograph for her little brother.
Pansy wanted to slap herself. She settled for cursing quite colorfully under her breath instead. There was a small noise to her left, and Pansy turned to find the same old woman from before looking at her, an astounded expression on her face. Pansy had the decency to blush.
"My word," she said loudly. "Of all the foul things I've ever heard coming from a lady's lips—"
"This would look great on you," Pansy said suddenly, taking the orange horror out of her cart and handing it to the woman. The woman took it, holding it limply in her hand as she continued to stare at Pansy as if she had never seen anyone so strange.
Their exchange hadn't escaped the notice of the pair at the counter, and Pansy found herself very flustered when Potter turned his 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look on her. Only, it wasn't his 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look. He was just looking at her, green eyes wide and quite clearly saying, "What's a place like you doing in a girl like this?" Which would be fine, you know, if they were in a seedy bar somewhere and she was tipsy and he was drunk and there was a possibility of them getting out of there and doing the horizontal hula in her bed.
But Potter didn't say that. He said, "Hey."
Pansy told herself to act natural, but she couldn't quite remember how she naturally acted around Harry Potter. She certainly wasn't nice to him, but she didn't think it exactly fit to glare at him when he hadn't done anything wrong yet. Granted, it wasn't uncommon for her to tell him that the fact that he'd been born was enough to piss her off, but she was over that, right? Grown up and all that. To her horror, she ended up in this place half between a smile and a frown, something that probably made her look as if she was physical deformed. She cursed herself to the pits of hell. She raised her hand in greeting and said, "Hey."
Oh, she was so smooth.
Potter nodded at 'Hi, I'm Margaret!' the Autograph Girl, and Pansy counted it as a personal triumph against the Hogwarts Trollop that Potter had dismissed her to focus his attention solely on Pansy. He picked up his bag and headed towards her, and Pansy felt her heart do the ba ba dum dum dance in her chest all over again. And suddenly she didn't even care that he'd been focusing his attention on Margaret, because she remembered what it felt like to have it completely on her and the havoc it wrought on her entire well-being, and goddamnit, she hated Harry Potter.
"What are you doing here, Pansy?" he said.
Pansy found herself glaring at him a bit now, and this felt more natural to her than anything else had. She suddenly remembered why she was always so angry with Potter—beyond his obvious lack of a personality and his ability to piss her off with his mind-boggling simplicity. It was his knack for making her heart want to jump right out of her chest, and that totally would not be a good thing, considering she needed that thing to live and it had no business beating on the floor at Potter's feet. Meh. Stupid man.
"Good grief, Potter," she said coolly, "give a girl a break. What do you think I'm doing here? The same thing you're doing—shopping."
The two of them looked down in her cart at the exact same time, and Pansy colored a bit when she realized that the orange monstrosity was gone and she hadn't picked anything else up and put in there to help with her cover. The only thing in the cart was an empty box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. The second-hand robe shop sold many things, but clearly not that.
Potter looked at her expectantly. He'd caught her in a lie and they both knew it.
Pansy shrugged, hoping that she looked more nonchalant than she felt. He'd caught her. Damnit.
The plan was to be cool, calm, and collected if anything like this happened, but she hadn't seen him in three months and he was staring down at her like he cared about her life and the reason why she was lying to him about being in the second-hand robe shop, and she found herself latching her claws into her nonexistent cool, lest she begin to completely freak out right in front of his face.
She took a deep breath, and told herself to chill the eff out before she completely blew it. Potter wasn't on to her yet, and she wanted to keep it that way. Acting like a ninny would not help the situation.
She picked up a jumper off a nearby rack, holding it in front of her just as she had the orange robe. "I'm shopping," she repeated.
"S-h-o-p-p-i-n-g," she sing-songed. "Shopping." The jumper blocked Potter from her sight, and she scrunched up her face in horror that she was touching something so old and smelly.
"My father would love this," she said. The only thing her father would love to do with the hideous thing was burn it. Repeatedly. It looked like one of Molly Weasley's early works. Pansy gagged. "It'll be a just-because present, I think. Just-because I love him."
Potter grabbed her wrist before she could continue, lowering the jumper so he could see her face. Pansy's heart began dancing the cha-cha in her chest, and she wondered if he could feel it against his fingers, if he knew what he did to her. When was the last time he'd touched her? Merlin, she couldn't remember. All she could think was that he was touching her right now and nothing else mattered, because she was going to find a way to get time to stop so he'd be touching her forever.
"You cut your hair," he said, releasing her wrist. The spell was broken. There was no more stopping time. There was her and there was him and her heartbeat went back to something resembling normal, and Pansy was filled with a familiar overwhelming urge to beat Potter's head in for ruining a moment he probably hadn't even known was happening.
And no shit she'd cut her hair. She'd gotten it done months ago. It'd been in the same cute little bob the last time she saw him, when he'd received his Order of Merlin, First Class. Only, he'd had Ginny Weasley on his side like a bad rash then, and probably hadn't been able to see beyond to blinding red thing on the chit's head, let alone Pansy's chic new style. They hadn't talked that day, and it slowly dawned on Pansy that just because she'd seen Potter, didn't necessarily mean that he'd seen her. There had been a lot of people at the ceremony, and the only reason Pansy had seen Potter beyond his time on stage had been because she'd actively sought him out. She was nearly positive that he hadn't extended her the same courtesy. After all, he hadn't noticed her hair.
Besides, it wasn't like they were friends. They were something, but it certainly wasn't friends. Neverfriends. She thought he was stupid and he thought she was a shrew. Their hatred was mutual. Only, Pansy hardly hated Potter, and Potter was too much a pile of mush to hate anyone.
Maybe they were friends. Kind of.
"You're late," Pansy said. "This haircut is old."
Potter shrugged. "I haven't seen you in awhile."
Pansy rolled her eyes. This was what she meant about his birth being enough to irritate her. "Do you make a point of stating the obvious?" She'd be so much happier if simple men with the ability to irritate her to the extent that Potter could didn't exist.
He smiled, faintly. "I see that you're still the charming girl I remember."
"Piss off, Potter," she said, turning back to the jumper. "I'm busy."
She stared at him. "You're stupid," she said finally.
Potter rolled his eyes. "Pansy, please. Grow up."
"As if you can talk, Potty."
Yeah, she was immature and goaded him purposely, but he was stupid and made her angry; they were even.
He looked at her, seriously. "What are you doing here, Pansy?"
"What does it look like I'm doing, Potter?" she said, holding up the jumper. "I'm shopping. I just said I was shopping. What do I have to do to make you believe that I'm shopping?" She was waving the jumper around frantically now, and she was sure everyone in the shop probably thought she was mad. And she was reminded of yet another reason why she hated Harry Potter: he always made it appear as if she was the insane one, when really he made her that way. If he didn't breathe in her plane of existence, she'd be fine.
"Sweet Merlin," he exclaimed, covering his nose. "Get rid of that thing."
Pansy blinked, a wicked grin quirking her lips as she raised the jumper again. "You mean this?" she said innocently, raising the sweater to his face. He took a step away from her and Pansy countered it with one of her own, essentially chasing him with the smelly jumper. She had an image in her mind of putting the jumper over his face and suffocating him with its noxious fumes, and the image took Pansy to her happy place. "Isn't it nice, Potter?" she asked, continued to chase him with it. "Doesn't it smell good?"
Potter must've realized how utterly ridiculous the scene was, for he snatched the jumper from her hands and slammed the hanger back on the rack. "Be serious," he said.
"I am," she replied. "Some of us can't afford the finer things in life. You should be considerate toward those who are less fortunate than yourself, Harry Potter."
He rolled his eyes. "You'll never be less fortunate, Pansy."
She scoffed. "You won't be saying that when my father's company tanks. The company will go out of business and we'll be poor. And we'll have to rent a room in the Burrow because we can't afford anything else."
He paused for a moment. "Isn't that a little sensational?"
"Hardly." She looked down, her voice taking on a serious tone for the very first time. "You know how bad we're doing," she said quietly.
He looked contrite. "Yeah."
While she may have been embellishing the truth with the bit about the Weasleys, the whole of Britain knew that her family's shipping business was going down, and there was nothing short of a miracle that could be done to stop it. Her father had given nearly all of the company's resources to the Ministry to fund the war against the Dark Lord. While many companies had lost a lot of money funding the war, those businesses were now rebuilding and regaining the revenue they'd lost. Her family's company could not, seeing as no one would do business with Pansy's father except Malfoy International.
Wizarding Britain looked down on her and her family as Death Eater scum, regardless of what her father had done. Though her father's defection from the Dark Lord had been a secret for a long time, the Minister of Magic himself had announced Reginald Parkinson's innocence in a press conference, hoping to dispel the public cries that the whole family be thrown in Azkaban. On this note, it seemed, the public was more willing to believe whatever it wanted to believe, and Pansy's entire family was whispered about and scorned. No one took her father's actions for what they were—a fundamental change in the values he'd possessed for the majority of his life—and many thought that he should be locked up with the rest of the Death Eaters who'd been rounded up after the war. Since he wasn't, they'd implemented their own form of justice upon the family. Her father couldn't get any business, Pansy didn't receive the Order of Merlin; certain shops in Diagon Alley—namely Florean Fortescue's, Madam Malkin's, and a host of small shops and cafés—even refused her service, telling her that the didn't serve her kind.
And even though Draco's kindness managed to keep her father's company out of the red for the past few months, Malfoy International wasn't doing so hot, either. Draco Malfoy was a businessman, and as such, they both knew that he couldn't afford to make less than lucrative deals with them lest Malfoy International go under as well.
But such was the fate of the blacklisted. Pansy's father was thinking about relocating to India and setting up shop there, where no one knew who they were and they would have an equal opportunity to succeed. Pansy, however, refused to leave. England was her home, and she'd live there until she died. She wasn't going to let anything—not Voldemort, prejudice, or ignorance—push her out of her home.
It was humbling for her, to be on the other side of the ridicule and the scorn. This was the way she'd treated people, how she'd constantly pushed people down until they couldn't get back up so that they knew, without question, that they were beneath her.
She remembered Granger's words one night so many months ago, while they were forced together because of Lucius' kooky scheme.
"No good will ever come of your behavior," she'd said. "You're rude and you're nasty and you have no concern for anyone else but yourself. But just as easily as you pushed people down, they'll be able to push you down as well. All it takes is a change in the winds and just like that, you're on the ground."
And hell, she was right. But Hermione Granger was always right, so there was no surprise there.
That was neither here nor there, however, because the war was over and she was alive and even though life royally sucked when everyone was being an arse to you, Pansy had better things to worry about than the stupidity of the general population. Namely, how to shake off Harry Potter without arising suspicion, and surreptitiously begin following him again so she could figure out what it was that he was doing.
He was looking at her with a repentant expression, and Pansy could practically see the wheels turning behind his eyes, his brain concocting some kind of apology to make amends for his indiscretion. "Pansy—"
"Oh, Harry Potter, don't even bother." He looked puzzled, and Pansy grinned. "Don't worry, I won't attack you with a smelly jumper again."
He nodded slowly.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" she asked.
He looked taken aback for a moment, then opened his shopping bag to show her its contents.
The irregular underwear was on top and Pansy arched a dark eyebrow in question. "Having problems with the undies you've got at home?"
Potter opened his mouth to protest, but stopped himself. "I suppose I am," he said neutrally. "But I happened to have some free time today, and decided to take care of it."
"Ah, by going against the Gryffindor norm and buying man-pants this time around?"
He rolled his eyes. "What happened to the growing up thing you were supposed to be doing, Parkinson?"
"Apparently you're doing the growing up, Potter. You're buying big boy underwear."
"You bought irregular underwear."
"We all can't be perfect," he said.
He looked at her and nodded. "You are."
Common sense told her that he was teasing, but he was giving her his 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look again—which was less of an 'Ooo-I-think-I'm-sexy' look and more of just a look—and smiling just a bit and she kind of thought he meant it.
"Which is why I prefer women to be very, very flawed."
Pansy glared at him. Dirty wanker.
"It's hardly my fault you can't handle someone who's simply right in every respect."
"I never said it was."
He was smiling faintly now, glad to finally be off the bottom. And even though he was teasing her, Pansy couldn't find it in her to truly be upset. It'd been too long since she'd seen him look like that.
Potter looked at the clock above the register, the back at her. "What are you doing now?"
Pansy blinked. "I'm shopping," she answered. "I've said it ten times, Potter, I'm—"
"Good," he said, cutting her off, "you're free."
"Are you daft, Potter? I'm shopping. I just said I was shopping, I said before that I'm shopping—"
"Stop cutting me off, damnit. Stop asking me the same—"
"Have lunch with me?"
Pansy stopped, her heart skidding to a halt just as her words had. "What?"
Harry smiled lazily. "Lunch?"
She stared at him blankly, something in her brain flashing bright red warning signs behind her eyes. She was about to have a major meltdown. Harry Potter had just asked her out to lunch,and if that wasn't meltdown material enough, she was wearing trousers. Not to mention that her top was a complete disaster as well; you could barely tell she had breasts in the thing, let alone that they were good breasts and certainly worth Potter looking at if it was going to entice him into deciding she was the best thing since sliced bread.
He'd asked her out to lunch. Pansy could die.
"Look," he said, "I know I'm famous, and you're probably in shock from—"
Pansy shook her head, snapping out of her distraction. "Your bravado is a nightmare," she told him.
"Yeah, well, you suck at Charms."
"You suck at Charms, Potter," she said. "I received an 'O' in Charms on my OWLs and my NEWTs." She retrieved her handbag from the shopping cart and started for the door.
"Is that why you're so charming?"
Pansy laughed. "Your attempt at humor is even scarier."
Potter shrugged. "You're laughing, aren't you?"
Pansy turned to face him. "I'll tell you one thing Potter: I'll charm you right out of your problematic little knickers if you aren't careful. I'll hang them from my window as proof of my conquest."
Potter looked aghast, and Pansy couldn't tell if he was joking. "You're hardly a girl, Pansy Parkinson," he said. "You have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old schoolboy."
"Maybe," she said cryptically. She smiled. "Where are you taking me to lunch?"
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