Title: Recipe For Disaster
Gift for: pokeystar
Pairing: Harry/Pansy with a side pairing of Draco/Hermione
Warnings: some language
Word Count: 1800
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of JK Rowling. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: First, I would like to say thanks to pokeystar for giving me this prompt, even if it did drive me a tad be insane…more than usual. Thanks to floorcoaster for betaing this for me, two times. You rock! Thanks to kate0404 for cracking the whip and reminding me - even when I didn't want to remember - that I had to get this done. And thanks to thebigdisaster for being my head cheerleader!
Chapter One: The Idiot's Guide To Dying
It all started with two words.
The silence in Harry's office was deafening, save for the sharp gasp he'd suddenly taken. She what? Harry choked on the mouthful of water he'd been preparing to swallow.
He immediately dropped the cup.
Excess water spewed from his mouth as he sputtered, gasping for air. Harry pathetically grabbed the corner of his desk, causing Pansy Parkinson, who was standing in front of him, to take an uneasy step backwards. Harry looked at the witch with watering eyes, burning lungs, and weakening knees. Was her look of disgust—or was that curiosity?—going to be the last thing he saw?
"You can stop choking anytime you want, Potter."
No, actually he couldn't.
She had the nerve to sigh. "You shouldn't ask questions unless you're prepared for the answers. You shouldn't be intimidated by me, either."
Intimidation? What was she talking about? Intimidation had nothing to do with it. He was choking out of panic. Harry's lungs burned as he tried to inhale, but all it did was make everything worse. Oh gods, this was it. His luck had finally run out, and he was going to die. Again. But this time, it wasn't going to be a hero's death. It was going to be one of those deaths featured on a countdown show or in a book, probably titled The Idiot's Guide to Dying.
But to be fair to his soon-to-be tarnished legacy, he'd actually planned this out, and Pansy was the one who had ruined everything. She wasn't supposed to say yes to his invitation. She was supposed to look at him for a moment, lift a sculpted eyebrow, tilt her head back, and laugh as if he'd told the most hilarious joke. Because that was just the kind of witch she was. Hermione was dreaming if she thought that they—
That was it.
A dream. This was all just a dream … or, wait, a nightmare! Sure, it was missing the general randomness, but that didn't mean anything. All he needed to do was wake up. So he punched himself in the leg as hard as he could and concluded that today was the worst day of his life.
"Sonuva—!" Harry bent over at his waist, coughing violently and clutching his leg.
Now he was in pain, not-dreaming, and choking.
"If you're going to die, Potter," Pansy calmly drawled, "I suggest you do it in that corner over there and not at my feet. That would look too suspicious."
He would've scowled, but he was too busy coughing.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," she huffed and reached into her handbag, hopefully for her wand, but he wasn't going to bet any money on that. "Didn't you pay attention in Charms?!" She paused. "Don't answer that."
As if he could.
The coughing didn't stop, but the choking certainly did. Harry gasped feverishly for air for the next few moments while Pansy waited, tapping her foot on the hardwood floor. Was that even necessary? He frowned.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The noise was driving him insane. It was as if she was rhythmically tapping her foot in an attempt to create background noise for the silence. Wonderful. He'd had enough. "Stop … tapping," Harry rasped out.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"Why?" Pansy snootily asked.
He coughed a bit more. "It's annoying … as hell."
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"I'm going … to … Incendio … your shoes."
Tap. Tap. T—
When Harry was able to not only speak clearly, but look at her without tears obscuring his vision, he suddenly wished that he was still choking to death. Merlin, he was going to have to take her to dinner? Talk to her? Look at her? Okay, looking at her wasn't the issue. Pansy was—he briefly studied her appearance. Harry couldn't lie and say that he hadn't, at the very least, looked at her. She was pretty, beautiful even, but she was also off limits.
It was funny. Harry had never paid much attention to her; there had never been any reason to. They worked on the same floor and saw one another all the time, but their interactions were limited to stiff greetings in passing. However, he had heard a lot about her, through the grapevine, of course. No one ever had anything good to say about her.
That wasn't too surprising.
She still acted like the same Pansy he'd known at Hogwarts: haughty, cold, rigid, and impervious to having her feelings hurt. But at the same time, she seemed different. It was strange. Pansy had been so brazen in school, but now, Harry had the impression that she was trying hard to blend in. Harry inwardly snorted at the idea. Someone should've told her that there was no blending when you were the witch who tried to offer Harry Potter to Voldemort.
He took a deep breath. Damn. It was going to be a long night. And how exactly had he got himself into this mess, again?
Oh, he was going to break down her wards, distract her husband, and murder her for this.
It was Hermione who had reminded him that he was twenty-eight years old, attractive, successful, and not getting any younger. She also told him that the longer he waited to move on after Ginny's marriage to Dean Thomas, the more he looked like he was still pining after her—which was most certainly not the case. And she was even the one who'd suggested that he ask out Pansy Parkinson because he had a tendency to date 'safe' witches, and Pansy was anything but.
Date outside of his comfort zone? Hermione had lost all her marbles the day she married the ferret—ahem, Malfoy.
Harry smacked his forehead, again.
"Maybe I should recant my acceptance. You look like you're having some sort of hero mental breakdown."
"A what?" A hero mental breakdown? He wished. "No …." he mumbled, looking around his office only because he didn't dare look at her. Harry adjusted his glasses and ran his hand through his messy hair. "I'm fine."
"Right." She looked unconvinced, and he was trying to find the right words that would convince her of his sanity. However, when Pansy tapped her foot again, Harry abandoned that thought and glared at her with such ferocity that she didn't continue. "Look, I don't have all day, Potter. I'm sure that you have someone to save, and I have memos flying over my desk and angry people to deal with."
Harry would argue that Pansy Parkinson had the most thankless job in the Ministry. Others would say that the Janitorial staff had it worse, but at least they had a day where people appreciated them. She was the errand witch for every sub-department within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Whenever he saw her, Pansy was always disturbingly busy, always on her feet, and someone was always angry at her.
It was a wonder she hadn't hexed—no, killed—anyone.
He blinked. "When what?"
She stared at him as if he were daft. "Did someone Obliviate you while you were choking to death? Our date!"
Harry hoped no one had heard her outburst. The news would be in the gossip rags by the end of the work day, and no one would let him hear the end of it. He did not need that.
Pansy snapped her fingers to get his attention. "Earth to Potter, when would you like to have dinner?"
The sooner, the better. "Tomorrow?"
"Is that a question or a statement?"
"A little bit of both, actually."
Harry ran a hand through his hair again and noticed the slight smirk on Pansy's face. Was she mocking him? The accusation was forming on his lips when she coolly informed him, "I'm free tomorrow night." She was doing something with her hands, but stopped. "Don't you live in Ottery St. Catchpole?"
She wasn't supposed to know that. "Yes, but how did you—"
Pansy's cheeks coloured slightly, which shocked him into silence. "Granger mentioned that you'd moved there last year to get away from the media." She locked her hands behind her back. It looked like she was trying to relax, but it make her look incredibly stiff. "Don't worry about me telling anyone." Pansy's eyes scoured his messy desk before meeting his. "First, it's none my business. Second, why would anyone believe me? You may not treat me like everyone else does, but we're not friends. The only thing we have in common is Granger."
People hated her, and she talked about it as if she were discussing the chances of rain. Toneless. It didn't make sense, but Harry supposed it had something to do with her enormous pride. It still made him feel strangely uncomfortable. "Right, erm, I do live there. Less than a quarter of a mile outside of town."
"I rent a house on the same street as the bakery. I just moved in a few weeks ago, so I'm not familiar with the restaurants in the area yet, but—"
"No restaurant!" Harry blurted out. Pansy's eyes started to narrow in confusion, but he cleared his throat. "I, uhh." He very well couldn't tell her that he didn't want news of this date to get out without her hexing him into next Tuesday. "I'm going to, erm, make dinner … myself. At my house." The internal cringe persisted. It had to be some sort of record for—wait a second. Did he just—oh buggering hell. He'd just volunteered to cook! At his house, no less. What in the hell was he thinking?! Harry couldn't possibly prepare an entire dinner; he could barely make toast!
Wait, toast? He didn't own a toaster.
He didn't even own cooking … stuff!
If Pansy was secretly impressed, she never showed it. She did, however, stare at him critically for a few moments. "Cook, eh? This should be … interesting. I didn't know you could cook, Potter."
"I didn't know either," he muttered, averting his eyes.
"What was that?"
"Oh, nothing … seven o'clock?"
"I'll have change the Floo so that—"
"Oh, I haven't had my Floo connected. I'll just Apparate. What's your address?"
After scribbling it down on a piece of parchment and handing it to her, Harry thought that he saw the corners of her mouth start to turn upward when she pocketed it, but he wasn't sure. "Well, Potter, if there's nothing else you wanted, I suppose I'll see you tomorrow." She turned and left, closing the door behind her with an audible click.
Harry stared at his office door for a long time after Pansy left.
He was going to kill Hermione.