Title: Recipe For Disaster
Gift for: pokeystar
Pairing: Harry/Pansy with a side pairing of Draco/Hermione
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: some language
Word Count: 6333
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!

Last part :)

Chapter Three: A Second Chance To Make A First Impression

Friday Night

Harry was certain that this 'killer' casserole was a sign of the coming apocalypse—or at least a sign that tonight was going to be a sodding disaster. It didn't look or smell like anything Mrs. Weasley had made in the past, but he hoped that the taste would make up for its lack of aesthetic appeal.

He carefully poked it with a fork.

It wobbled a little, but didn't explode.

That was a surprise. And a relief.

He didn't feel like changing his shirt. Again.

Harry cast wary glances at the casserole, the salad that he'd tossed together, and the kitchen that he'd destroyed while making the Dinner of Doom. He signed and checked his watch. 6:50. Damn. Pansy was set to arrive in ten minutes and, son of a—his house was far from clean. Luckily, it only took a few spells to remove the dust, dirt, and grime from his furniture and a few minutes of stuffing his sofa to near capacity with other assorted junk to really make his house look inviting.

Too bad he still couldn't get the smell of charred vegetables the air.

Harry was spelling his toilet clean when he heard someone say, "Your house smells like burning."

Startled, he jumped and spun around. Ron was standing in his doorway. "What are you doing here? She'll be here in five minutes!" Harry pocketed his wand and shoved his best friend out of the doorway and into the sitting room. "You have to go!"

"Chill out, mate. I'll be gone soon. I just came to check in." He looked around. "Everything's hidden in the sofa?"

He grinned. "Of course."

Ron looked him up and down before he determined, "You look like a pouf."

Harry punched him in the shoulder. "Take that back!" Khakis and a black dress shirt were not pouf attire as far as he was concerned. His shirt wasn't even tucked!

Ron rubbed his shoulder. "You hit like Ginny."

"Ginny hits like a man."

"Good point." Harry could literally hear Ron's train of thought as he worked on another example. "Well, umm, you … you hit like Hermione."

"Guess you'd know all about that, huh?" he smugly retorted.

"She always goes for the head," Ron grumbled bitterly.

He laughed. "She's just trying to knock some sense into you."

"Bugger off." Ron glared and plopped down on his best mate's sofa, cringing when he heard something snap under him.

Harry flushed an abnormal shade of red. "What was that?"

"Uh-oh …." he sang.

"I don't like the sound of that."

Ron reached into the cushion and pulled out a wooden mixing spoon—then a Quidditch book that Hermione had given Harry for his birthday three years ago, then a quill, then an empty chocolate frog container, then several Galleons, then an ugly refrigerator magnet, then a—what was that?

"Ron! Stop before you mess everything back up."

He shrugged and started shoving everything back between the cushions of his sofa. "Best you don't sit on this sofa tonight, mate." Before Harry could say anything, Ron's eyes lit up, "Speaking of tonight, are you ready? Do you remember everything I taught you?"

"Err …." He'd considered everything Ron had said last night, but when it boiled down to it, Harry had no intention of—what had Ron said?—using Pansy for practice. That sounded wrong on all sorts of levels, and would likely get him hexed by two angry witches. Merlin. He just wanted to get through tonight's date, prove to Hermione that she was a terrible matchmaker, and move on with his life.

Ron smacked the palm of his hand against his forehead. "Buggering hell, you're hopeless mate." He froze then looked at Harry with a glimmer of hope. "Just tell me that you had a customary shot of Firewhisky?"

"You know I don't drink that stuff. Makes me too honest."

Ron made a face. "Good point. You should avoid it." It looked as if he was at a loss, but only for a moment. "Just … just pay attention to her body language. You'll know when you can make your move. Trust me. This is going to be easy. It's just Pansy Parkinson." He said as if she was nothing special. Harry inwardly rolled his eyes. No one was anything special to Ron, or so it seemed. "In no time, you're going to be ready for your dream witch. You'll thank me later."

For some strange reason, Harry wasn't so sure about that.

The doorbell rang.

Harry quickly shoved Ron into the Floo, blocked it, and gave his house a final once-over before opening the door. His eyes instantly widened upon seeing the witch on the other side of the door.

It was like seeing Mad-Eye Moody all over again. It didn't matter how many times he'd seen Moody, Harry had always stared at his eye. Always. And Hermione always smacked him in the back of his head and told him to mind his manners. Did he ever listen? No. It only made him stare more. Harry would pretend to be talking to someone or eating, but his eyes would always drift back to Moody's eye. He had to look. Had to look!

Harry was like a piece of metal drawn to a magnet.

And he was feeling eerily similar as he looked at Pansy.

Pansy …. Well, she looked … a lot different in something other than her work robes. Instead of her usually straight hair, it bounced in large curls around her face. She'd replaced the standard black robes with medium length blue robes with a black belt wrapped high around her waist. Harry immediately noticed that her eyes were actually blue—vibrant, clear, blue.

And they were right there, levelled with his, which wasn't right, since he knew Pansy was a few inches shorter than him. Harry's eyes wandered downward. She was standing on the centre of his welcome mat in heels—the ones that had the skinny heels that he had always been fascinated with. He had never dated women who could pull them off. And … his eyes started to slowly travel back up, but he didn't get far. The hem of her robes, which stopped a few inches above her knees, distracted him. She had legs.

Nice—oh Merlin no!

"Are you finished appraising me like some prize-winning horse, Potter?" Pansy finally drawled. Harry quickly made eye contact. She looked wary and put-off, but her voice was just as cool as ever. It hid anything she may have felt. "Have you determined my worth?"

"Your worth?" Harry repeated, confused. Then he shook his head. "I wasn't judging you. I was just a little surprised. You look quite—" He cleared his throat and muttered, "nice." Then he noticed the bottle of wine in her hand and quickly changed the subject. "Elf-wine?"

Pansy shrugged, though there were the remnants of a flattered smile on her face. "It's only proper."

Harry accepted the bottle, stepping aside and shutting the door behind her. "Are you hungry? I thought we could ha—"

"Your house … it smells like burning."

Harry blushed and blamed it on his old stove before he directed her to the dining room.

Six minutes later

Pansy's fork touched the tip of the mushy goo that Harry had identified as a 'casserole'. It comforted her slightly to see that her fork didn't melt.

She poked it again.

It wobbled.

The clock was ticking on the wall in his dining room. There were fifty-four minutes left of her allotted hour, and all she could hear was childhood etiquette teacher's voice telling her, "No matter how unpleasant the food looks and/or tastes, a proper pure-blood always eats every bite."

Pansy didn't know how or when, but she was going to find that witch and banish her to a deserted island for ingraining that into her head. But at the moment, there were more pressing matters at hand. First, there was Harry, who had yet to even touch his food. He was doing a rather poor job of discreetly watching her. And second, there was a plate with a distressingly chunky-looking 'casserole' in front of her that she had to eat out of politeness.

Merlin, she should've suggested opening the Elf-Wine. She needed a drink. Badly.

When Pansy poked the lump on her plate for the third time, it deflated.

Her lip quivered in fear, but she semi-bravely sectioned off a piece with her fork, closed her eyes, and daintily slid the fork into her mouth. First, Pansy decided that it would be best if tested the waters, just to make sure that it wasn't going to crack her teeth or sear off her tongue. It ended up being harmless.

Well, except for the taste.

Pansy's throat struggled to swallow, but finally the concoction made its way down, and the witch opened her eyes only to find wary green ones staring back. Oh, right, cue reaction. "Mmmm …."

"Are you being serious? It's good?"

She drank her entire glass of pumpkin juice before picking at the food with her fork. She wasn't sure if she had the strength to eat more for the sake of being proper. Pansy eyed it closer. "Should … should the meat be black like this? Is that what I smelt earlier?"

Harry leaned over and looked at what she was talking about. "There isn't any meat in the casserole. And no. My stove is old. I told you that."

"Oh." she paled. "Right. I thought that I saw something that resembled … niffler meat."

"I wouldn't feed you anything mentioned in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you don't want to eat it then—"

"No, it's fine. I'm just giving you a hard time, Potter. Yes," she coughed, "a hard time." Pansy checked the clock again. Only three minutes had passed. Three. The witch considered leaving, but knew that she would never live it down. So, she took another bite and tried hard to control her gag reflex when she bit into something hard and crunchy. "The little pieces of carrots aren't … well, they're actually pretty good."

Harry looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "There aren't carrots in there, either."

She paled further. "What is in here? Broccoli and You-Know-Who?"

"You're not very funny," he said, but counteracted his words with a low chuckle. "Maybe I could try and make something else."

Make? Oh no, no. Pansy spared the clock another glance. Another minute down—fifty more to go. She could do this. She just needed a diversion. And—a-ha! The salad. It looked somewhat normal. "I'm not much of a casserole person, so I think I'll try the salad."

Her belief that Harry Potter couldn't possibly screw up a salad was a tad bit premature.

Too bad she found that out after the first bite.

She didn't want to know what exactly was in her mouth, but she chewed carefully and swallowed the entire mouthful before attempting to smile. "Did you put cauliflower in there?"

"I hate cauliflower." Harry sulked.

"Just checking, but at least I knew it wasn't in there. That's good, right? Is this a crouton?" Pansy held up her fork and examined its contents from all angles.

"That's it!" Harry declared as he grabbed the fork from her hand. He quickly gathered their plates while she just sat there, watching as justice was carried out on the casserole. The rubbish bin was the perfect new home for his food. "I'm ordering take-away. I should've done that before, but no, I promised to cook, and despite this disaster, I didn't want to go back on my word."

The sound of silverware and plates clanking was all she heard next, and if Harry realised he actually threw his decent china into the garbage, he didn't—

"I probably wouldn't be able to get the smell off of them anyway. Or the casserole."

To keep from laughing, Pansy distracted herself by touching the petal of the flower that served as their centrepiece. It was fake, and that wasn't a surprise. Harry Potter didn't seem like the type that would keep live flowers in his home. She looked at him … only to find that he was looking at her as if she'd sprouted antlers. Again. And for the first time, Pansy allowed herself to show the anxiety that she'd been feeling since she'd walked into his home. She had forty-four minutes left. "I—this is going terribly, isn't it?"

Harry snorted. "Understatement of the bloody decade. I'm actually surprised that you're still here."

Pansy almost snorted, but didn't. Instead, she did something that she was good at: making the best of a bad situation. The story of her life. "Maybe I wasn't as hungry as I thought. Maybe we could just open the Elf-wine, relax in your sitting room, and, I don't know, talk maybe." It wasn't the best idea in the world because she doubted that they had anything to talk about, but she had a bet to win.

He turned to her, looking quizzical. "Talk?"

"Don't forget the drinking part." Because Merlin, she needed one. A large one.

After giving it a moment's thought, Harry reluctantly agreed, and Pansy couldn't figure out why he was so bloody reluctant to have a drink with her. Or why he'd gone a bit pale. "It's just cheap Elf-wine, Potter. Relax." She stood up and breezed past him. "I'll just go in the kitchen and—"

Harry launched in front of her, yelling, "Don't go in there!" as he threw his body in front of hers. Pansy wasn't sure what startled her more: the panic in his voice or the fact that he'd used his entire body to box her out, but she screamed all the same. Harry did manage to effectively stop her from walking into the kitchen, but he couldn't quite stop her from seeing it.

Pansy's mouth fell open.

His kitchen looked—Merlin, she couldn't breathe! It looked like someone had dropped a rotten food bomb on it. It was an absolute nightmare! And the smell! Gods, it was horrid! He must've had a spell up to contain the stench. Pansy's face was nearly white as she looked around.

There was a half-eaten sandwich on the table, which wasn't bad, but there was something next to it that reminded her of the evil casserole and it just made her stomach lurch. The countertops were covered with dishes, pots, pans, towels, silverware—everything known to man. And the stove. It looked like someone had thrown a pot of stew on it, turned on all the burners, and left it.

The horrible thing was that all Pansy could do was stand there, stare, and wonder what in the hell Harry had put in her food … and how long she had to get to St. Mungo's before she dropped dead.


She at least wanted to finish the hour in her new outfit.

Pansy backed out of the doorway and looked at a bright red Harry, who immediately started babbling like a three-month-old baby that had just discovered it could make noise. "I, uhh, erm, well, I—I'm a messy cook?" he tried.

She didn't move or speak for exactly thirty-seven seconds. Then, she said the first thing that came to mind, "I'll … be in the sitting room … err … sitting." And then she walked—no, ran—into the other room and sat on the loveseat.


The witch paled in mortification. What was that?

The battle was on. Curiosity verses Common Sense. To reach in or not. To live or die. It was a close one, but common sense won out. Instead of reaching into the cushions, Pansy checked her watch and listened to Harry open and close cabinets for the next three minutes.

Would he hurry up with that wine already?

Pansy took a breath to calm herself down. The next thirty-seven minutes were going to get better … she hoped. And, really, it wasn't like a wizard to keep a clean kitchen, anyway. Right? She really couldn't judge him for that. Right? Right. She took a deep, cleansing breath. Oh sweet rationality. It always made calmed her down whenever she started to panic. The witch managed to pull herself together just enough to force the grimace from her face and cross her legs properly.

She had perfect timing because, seconds later, Harry came into the sitting room with the bottle of Elf-wine in one hand and two cups—not wine glasses, cups, in the other. It was completely undignified, but—

"I don't own proper wine glasses." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I know you're—"

"You know I'm what?" she quirked a brow. "I know you're not about to say what I think you're going to say, are you?" Pansy lowered her voice just a fraction and shook her head. "Wow, Potter, you really don't know the first thing about me, do you? My family was never rich like the Malfoys, nor were we poor like the Weasleys. We were right in the middle."

Well, they were until after they found out that her parents, who had died at the hands of Death Eaters a few days before the war ended, had donated their entire savings to the wrong cause. And that act had cost Pansy everything. The Ministry had confiscated nearly everything left to pay for war reparations. Pansy couldn't lie and say that her life had been easy since. She'd started life after the war with very little money, no prospects, no family, one friend, and no job. And even nine years later, she still made just enough to pay all of her bills.

The witch looked at her date, and she wasn't surprised by the fact that he looked strangely uncomfortable.

"Something to say, Potter?"

He shook his head before putting down the cups and opening the wine.

Like a polite gentleman, he poured hers first.

Thank Merlin.

Pansy was sure that her parents, who had probably started rolling over in their grave the moment she had agreed to have dinner with Harry Potter, were ready to come out of their aforementioned graves when Pansy accepted the cup from him. The wine was cheap, but sweet, and he was pouring her another cup before he could finish his first.

This wasn't going to end well and there were thirty-five left.

Thirty-four minutes later

Surprisingly enough, a tipsy Pansy was a mildly talkative Pansy, but it contrasted nicely with his way of staying deathly silent to avoid doing or saying something completely idiotic.

Another surprising thing: she had told seven jokes.


Who knew Pansy Parkinson had a sense of humour? Granted, her jokes were somewhat stiff and not well executed, but it was shocking to see her show more human qualities without pomposity. She seemed more real now than she had in the six years that she'd worked in the department.

And he—well, he was intrigued.

There was obviously more to her than Harry had ever bothered to consider. And realising that made him feel … weird. There was an odd sort of tightening sensation in the pit of his stomach. And maybe it was the alcohol, but he wanted to know more about her. He wanted to have an actual conversation with her, just to see what she would say or reveal, if anything. However, when she looked at her watch, grinned, and declared that she needed to leave, Harry found himself a bit disappointed.

"But it's the weekend." It was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

Pansy blinked, and he swore he saw something that looked like disbelief. "Very nice observation, Potter, but not all of us get to laze about on the weekend. I actually work from seven to two on Saturdays. It's the only time I have to get my actual work done without any interruptions. Plus, I get overtime pay, which will probably pay for this outfit," she looked down, "or maybe half of it."

"Oh," he ran a hand through his messy hair and muttered, "okay."

The witch paused, looked at him, and then up at the ceiling before declaring, "Damn meddling twit."

"You must be talking about Hermione."

"I am. She has this ridiculously absurd idea that you and I would be good for each other. And I only had to—" she paused, shaking her head. "Don't worry about it. Forget I ever said that."

Good for each other? What? Harry wasn't too sure about that. He was just intrigued. "I will … if you stay."

"Trying to blackmail me, Potter?"

"I only asked you to stay a little longer."

"Why?" she questioned sceptically.

"I'm hoping to figure that out." Harry replied.

Pansy frowned. "I'm going to regret this. I know it."

She was worrying about regretting this? Good. So was he. "No faith?" Harry taunted with a smirk.

"Faith is for idiots … and Gryffindors."

It was another joke. Harry could tell because there was a smirk on her face. And this time, his laugh was sincere. She smiled a bit, and that was nice, too. He'd never seen her smile. However, before he could say anything in response, Pansy sat back on the sofa. There was a soft noise that made both their cheeks colour slightly. Maybe he should clean out his sofa.

"I'll stay," Pansy finally said. "For reasons I do not know."

"Well, we could talk more," Harry suggested as he stood up from his seat on the other sofa. "I could make coffee."

"I don't drink coffee. Or tea, for the matter. Water, from a clean glass, will work just fine."

Harry ignored her sly remark and left, returning minutes later with water for her and coffee for himself. That time, Harry sat next to her. Or he tried. His arse was millimetres from connecting with the cushion of the sofa when she said, "I'm convinced that there's something living in your sofa."

"It's just stuff." He finished plopping down. Snap! Crackle! Pop!

"Stuff, eh?"

He swore that she was stifling her chuckle, but he wasn't too certain because the moment he glared at her, Pansy averted her eyes and brought her cup to her lips. Harry blushed. "Yes."

"That's actually good to know." There was a pause where she actually shifted away from him. "I might've broken something. I wasn't going to tell you, but since you don't care, I thought I should let you know." She crossed her legs, again. "Maybe—it's warm in here. Do you have a deck or something?"

"You'll have to go through the Kitchen of Doom to get there, but—"

"I'll close my eyes. And nose."

She did, using one hand to cover her eyes and the other to pinch her nose. It made for a ridiculous sight, but he led her through the kitchen and outside holding on to her elbow. Harry turned to shut the door behind them, and when he turned back, she was leaning on the railing, looking up at the sky and drinking her water. He joined her, and for what felt like hours, he looked up, too.

The sky was dotted with stars, but the clouds had made it nearly impossible to pick out constellations—not that he knew many to begin with. But there was something else that had caught his attention, and it seemed to catch Pansy's too. It was the treetops in the nearby forest. They seemed to be swaying, rustling in a light breeze that neither of them felt.

"My house doesn't have a deck. I wanted a place with one, but couldn't afford it. It's nice … like being outdoors at home." Her tone was wistful and oddly soft. Harry was afraid to speak at first because he was certain that he would do something to ruin it. But she sipped on her water and asked, "Don't you think so?"

"Erm, I've never been out here …."

"I guess when you have it, it's easier to not appreciate it. I know that one all too well."

"What are you talking about?"

"Material things."

"You know …." Harry knew his voice sounded odd. He knew he was about to blurt out something that he didn't want to say, but couldn't stop himself. "It—well, it wasn't fair what happened to you."

"Life is never fair." Pansy sipped on her water.

"You shouldn't have had to pay for your parents' choices." He drank a few sips of his coffee, but instead of falling silent, he just kept on going and going. And oddly enough, his curiosity about the witch standing next to him wasn't ebbing. In fact, it was getting stronger.

He wanted to know more.

"People pay for the sins of their parents all the time. You know that, Potter. Besides, I had other sins that I had to atone for."

He knew what she was referring to, but it felt silly to talk about something that had happened over nine years before. Nine years. That was nearly a decade ago. In a month it would be a decade. Sure, what she'd done—or tried to do—was wrong, but it was over, done, and forgotten. No, that wasn't true. It may have been over and done, but it most certainly had not been forgotten. Pansy was still paying for that mistake. Everyone still shunned and judged her, but she had taken it all in stride.

And he felt ashamed because they'd fought the war to rid the world of one prejudice and replaced it with another. No, he hadn't actively participated in it, but he'd done something worse. He'd ignored it, and her—or maybe he'd been too busy to notice. It was a shame that it had taken him nearly ten years, a horrid dinner, half a bottle of Elf-wine, and seven bad jokes for him to get to this point in his thinking. And Harry just felt—

"You know," she interrupted his thoughts. "I don't need your pity. I don't want it."

"I don't pity you. I empathise. That's different."

"Oh." Pansy finished her glass of water. "Well, can we change the subject? I don't particularly enjoy it when people try to pry."

"Is that what I'm doing? Prying?" Harry took her glass and put it on a little table next to him. "Because last I checked, we were just having a conversation."

She looked at him with slightly narrowed eyes. "I should go." Her voice had gone back to normal.

"Why?" Pansy moved away from the railing without answering his question, but Harry caught her by the arm. For just a fraction of a moment, she looked startled. He didn't like that so he released her arm. "I thought we were talking."

"That was not a real conversation, Potter. That was awkward and nearly unpleasant. We're …." She trailed off, clasping her hands together. The only thing he could do was stare because he was having another Pansy-is-a-human-being moment, and it was still distressing. "We're just too different." She took a couple of backwards steps away from him. "We have nothing in common, except for the fact that we went to school together and, well, that incident. And I don't want to discuss that night because that's the one thing that everyone talks about. And you know what, you may not care, and I have no idea why I'm telling you this, but I'm twenty-eight and I hate that I'm defined by something I did at—"

"I'm absolutely rubbish at cooking." Harry blurted out. And when the retreating witch froze, he continued, "I didn't even own cookware until this afternoon."

Pansy stared at him, eyes wide as saucers.

"I bought three sets of pans because I had no idea which ones I would need, and it turned out I had to borrow a casserole pan from Mrs. Weasley anyway. So, now I have all these pans, and I don't have the foggiest clue what they're for."

One corner of her mouth twitched.

Emboldened, Harry continued. "And now, I have to explain to Mrs. Weasley why her silver casserole pan is not only black, but impervious to magic."

Both corners of her mouth twitched that time.

"And instead of helping me cook, Ron spent the entire afternoon eating everything in sight and trying to give me pointers on how to seduce you, which was bloody awkward because I wouldn't trust his opinion on dating anyhow."

Pansy looked away so he wouldn't see her smile, but it was too late.

Harry was on a roll. "I mean, have you seen the witches he's dated? Outside of Hermione, they've all been … well, let's just say that I'm surprised that they can walk and chew gum without slamming into something."

And, with that, Pansy finally broke down and laughed.

Harry stopped and watched. Her laugh was strange and a bit garbled, but that wasn't what he really noticed. It was the way her shoulders shook and the relaxed look on her fact that had ultimately caught his attention. Suddenly, Harry was experiencing another Mad-Eye Moody moment, and he was incapable of noticing anything else.

When she calmed down moments later, she opened her eyes. They were glistening with tears and something that he identified as disbelief. "That actually felt pretty good. I haven't laughed like that in years."

"Why not?"

Pansy shrugged and unconsciously rejoined him at the railing. "Nothing to laugh about, I suppose." The town's clock tower started its hourly chime. It was nine o'clock. After the last one, she leaned over and said, "I actually knew you couldn't cook, even before Granger told me."

Harry paled. "You did? But why did you—" Say yes? Show up? Try the casserole and the salad?

"Isn't it obvious?"

Yes, it was. He shook his head in realisation. "Hermione."

She nodded. "I'd already agreed to come, but wasn't expecting much. Granger told me that if I stayed for an hour and still had a horrid time, she would stop bothering me about my dating life. So, yes, I came with a bit of an agenda, I came to prove a point, but … it's been two hours and I'm still here …" she trailed off and looked at her hands that were resting on the railing. "I still don't really know why, but here I am, taking a stupid chance …." Pansy froze, made a face, and then tried to diminish the value of her words. "It's not like I had any other prospects."

He wasn't sure what to think. They both had come with a plan; both had set out to quiet one meddling witch. Harry couldn't fault her for that, not when he'd done the same himself. But it had been two hours … and neither of them had run out screaming from boredom or awkwardness. It wasn't what he'd planned or expected, but it had happened, and it had to mean something. The fact that they'd managed to make the best of a horrible date had to mean something as well. Right?

It made Harry wonder about what could happen under different—and better—circumstances.

But wait—"No other prospects?" Harry avoided gossip magazines at all costs, but now he was confused. Pansy had no other prospects? From the impression that Ron had given … well, that just didn't seem to fit. "I'm sure you have loads of wizards—"

"Stop. I know what people say about me, Potter, but none of that is true. Those magazines, all they do is spew rubbish. I shouldn't have to tell you that."

Harry blushed. Actually, she did have to tell him that, because he may not have cared, but he'd heard the rumours floating around in the Ministry. If none of that was true … then what was? And who was she, really? Because, now more than ever, Harry didn't know. Pansy wasn't a stone-faced wench with a horrible attitude; he'd seen her smile, laugh, and make jokes. Sure, she was tough as nails, but he got the impression that she had to be that way. It was part of who she was as a person. And she wasn't as experienced as Ron had let on because she was just as awkward as him. She stiffened every time his arm brushed against hers and she never knew what to do with her hands.

"Stop staring, Potter, it's rude … and disturbing."

And just like that, it was over.

Harry actually recoiled for a moment. "Sorry. I was thinking about something."

"Well, if you would like me to leave you to your thoughts—"

"You, actually," his words were halfway mumbled. "I was thinking about you." It sounded more romantic than the situation called for, but there was really nothing he could do about it. The words were out, and even that awkward post-statement pause had passed.

Pansy was ashen and frozen. "I, well, I'm—" she rubbed her hands together as if she were trying to warm them. "Why?"

That wasn't a hard question, but what could he say? He couldn't tell her that he was confused, interested, and even perplexed by her. He couldn't tell her that he had no idea who she was, or that he wanted to find out. He couldn't say too much of anything, so he didn't. Instead, he finished his now cold coffee, awkwardly shrugged, and took to looking at the still swaying treetops.

"It's getting late. I really should go."

"I can Apparate—"

"I'm actually going to walk."

He stood up straight. "Well, I can walk you home."

"That's not necessary. I don't live that far, and—" Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "And I'll hex you if your next sentence includes the words hooligans, protection, and dangerous. I can take care of myself, thank you very much."

He abandoned his previous thought. "I … just let me walk you home."

She reluctantly agreed.

Ten minutes later

Harry's hand accidentally brushed against hers exactly three times during the ten minute walk back to her house, and each time Pansy stiffened, but said nothing.

For a moment, he thought about taking her hand, just to see how she would react, but didn't. It probably would spoil what had been an oddly decent evening, despite the food, the noisy sofa, and the near-argument on the deck. Harry stole a look from the corner of his eyes. Pansy was just as stiff as ever as she walked in a near-perfect straight line with her eyes focused straight ahead and her hands balled up at her sides.

Pansy's hands never uncurled, not even when they finally stopped in front of her house.

"Well, here we are, and you didn't even have to flex your hero muscle."

He laughed, again, and it was still surprisingly sincere.

But soon enough, he realised just why he shouldn't have walked her home. Because now they were stuck in one of those awkward goodbyes where they both were waiting for the other to take initiative, but neither wanted to seem presumptuous. Pansy stared at the wand in her hand, and Harry rubbed the back of his neck nearly raw.

Finally, someone spoke up.

"So," Pansy began, "I think this is the point where I thank you for walking me home and say goodnight." She looked down at her shoes. "It's been … not bad." Her eyes met his. "Interesting, even. I'll have to tell Granger that—"

He kissed her.

It was irrational and impulsive and stupid and likely to get him turned into a magical creature, but he did it anyway. And … and she didn't turn him into a flobberworm. Or a Horklump. She actually kissed him back. Harry had expected her kiss to be rigid, but instead it was surprisingly tender and a bit inexperienced. Harry brought his hand to her neck and was surprised when Pansy leaned into him. He could feel her pulse, and it comforted him to know that hers was racing … just like his.

But just when he decided that he liked kissing her, just when he decided that Ron was a sodding idiot for even trying to make him consider using her as practice, and just when he mentally took Hermione's name off of his black list, the kiss was over.

Pansy's cheeks had noticeably coloured.

He straightened his glasses. "We … we should do this again."

"No offence, Potter, but I'd rather not subject my stomach to any more of your cooking."

Harry shook his head. "No, I mean, we should go out. On a real date, in public, with edible food." When she cocked a brow, he shrugged and admitted bashfully, "I-I didn't do things right. I didn't take you seriously, I didn't think this would even be a decent date, I didn't—well it doesn't matter what else I didn't do because I'd like to, I don't know, try again. Give this a real chance."

Pansy looked uncertain, but oddly hopeful. "With me?"

He smiled and nodded. "Yes, with you."

She folded her arms across her chest. "People are going to talk, you know."

"People always talk, but not everything they say is fact." It was a lesson that he'd been forced to re-learn tonight, but Pansy didn't look convinced. "I-I think we should get to know each other better."

The witch stared at him hard for several moments before her eyes softened ever so slightly. "You're actually serious about this." And when he nodded, she made a face. "Well, that's most … unexpected."

"It is, isn't it?" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "So, what would you say if I asked you out to dinner tomorrow night?"

Pansy paused to think.

And it began, again, with two words.

"I suppose."

The End.

And there ya have it! Had a blast writing it because it gave me a much-needed break from Broken. I was sooooo burnt out on that story, but this kinda helped me get back on track :) Again, I did know that Harry could cook. Hope you all enjoyed it!