~*~

St. Mungo's Hospital

I squared my shoulders, turned on a heel and resumed my pacing. I tuned out all the noise that was bombarding me from every direction. The anxious chattering voices of the Healers, the constant bickering between Potter and Weasley. I kept on avoiding Bone's attempts to shove a cup of tea down my throat.

I could do nothing but pace and worry, worry and pace.

"Oy, Flint she's going to be fine." Potter was looking uncomfortable in the chair, running a hand through his wild black hair. He really needed to get it trimmed.

"How do you know that, Potter?" I inquired snappishly. The girl whom I loved more than anything in the world was laying unconscious in a hospital bed because of me.

"Flint, look at me. Flint!"

I felt Robards strong hands clamp down firmly on my shoulders, spinning me so that I was facing him. Harry, Ron, and Susan were watching us from the corners of their eyes. I could feel the gazes locked firmly onto me.

I shook slightly, and my voice came out in a squeak. My eyes were wet. Dammit, I was going to cry…

"Auror Flint," Robards said firmly. "Auror Parkinson knew the risks flanking those ruddy bastards outside the encampment. There was nothing you could have done."

"I could have sir," I said weakly, eyes dropping to the floor. "Aurors Bones, Weasley and I had secured the right hall, and Auror Potter and Auror Pavarati were taking the north quarter. I knew Auror Bones and Auror Weasley had our position covered, I should have been the one too-"

"Marcus. Bloody hell mate, you're gonna make yourself grey with all that worrying." Ron looked up from making a move on the hosptial's chess set. I couldn't make myself look at Ron, or anyone else for that matter.

"Weasley's right. Those bastards came so fast, no one knew what was going to happen." Robards was talking louder.

"I know that." I whispered woodenly through dry lips. "But I still feel so bad about it."

The doors of the ward opened, and a Senior Healer Anthony emerged, wiping his hands on his robes. I looked up, horror or grief must have been written all over my face because the older wizard immediately smiled, and clasp my shoulder tightly.

" We managed to stop the bleeding and administer some blood replenishing potions. We were also able to get her to take some skele-gro for her ribs and leg. There's some minor nerve damage since she took a round with the crutacious curse, but it's nothing a few potions three times daily can't fix. A small hairline fracture, but it can be remedied soon enough."

"So, she's gonna be ok then, right?" Harry looked up from staring gloomily into his tea. As co-leader of the squad, he took every injury to one of his people doubly hard. Ron and Susan also shared earnest looks at the Healer.

"Give her a week's rest, and Auror Parkinson will be good as new."

There were audible sighs of relief. Robards, stiff and cankerous as he was looked happy. I tentatively reached out, grasping his sleeve.

"Is she… can I…?" I wanted to frame the words carefully.

"You can go up to see her, dear boy. She's resting, so please be as quiet as possible."

I nodded my thanks, wiped my moist eyes with the back of my hand, and nearly ran up the stairs to her room.

~*~

Healer Anthony lied. Pansy looked bloody awful.

Upon stepping into the room, I was positive she was dead. Her hands were clasp over her chest, and her face had this serene, but deathlike pallor about it. She was pale, and the large hospital bed seemed to swallow her fragile body. Her hair was fanned out against the pillow, limp and listless. The bandages were wrapped tightly against her chest, and her broken leg was propped up with three pillows, a stabilizing charm holding it together. Various potion bottles were on her bedside table, and an uncorked bottle of skele-grow. A glass of water within her reach, and some purple tablets I assumed was another medication for the pain. In the background, the wireless blared on about some trivial squabble between Russian and French goblins and the foreign branches of Gringotts.

In the past, I had taken a slight interest in politics. Not anymore. I only cared for the woman laying in that bed, suffering.

All because of me.

Guilt is an extremely fickle thing. It lays dormant in side of your soul, and every once in while it reaches up and tears your insides out, scratching and clawing at you until you're left whimpering and bloody. A total and complete wreck. I put my wand on the table, pulling up a chair, and dropping heavily into it. With Pansy on the road to recovery, the heaviness in my heart was soothed only slightly. There'd be an onrush of well wishers from the office, Potter, Weasley, and Bones amongst others. Her irritable father, and half-wit mother would fuss and coo over her until she'd hex them into the dark ages.

Draco. Damn him.

He'd show up. The twitchy little ferret- her once upon a time lover, would show up. He'd blame me, and for once I had no way of defending myself. He'd loved her once.

Once. That was past.

I loved her now.

Love for me, is never an easy thing to admit. To admit that, in my family would mean your weak, and for a man, unsuitable for the family wealth and honor. I placed a hand over my eyes, squeezing them tightly shut. The stress from the day was making my headache into a raging boil. I grit my teeth against the gnawing pain. I was prone for these headaches, it ran in my family. I exhaled slowly, slowly reaching over, and kissing Pansy softly on the lips.

She moaned and stirred weakly. I stopped in mid-kiss, holding my breath. Her eyes fluttered once, and then she fell silent.

"I love you… Pansy Parkinson."

The words caught in my throat like Hagrid's fist. With three short and simple words, I had suddenly cut myself loose from everything that was expected of me. I felt free. The first was when I choose my career and what I wanted to do with my life instead of the path that was predetermined for me.

Hmm. Must be the troll blood in me.

Now, I had saved myself again by confessing the feelings that had been growing in my heart for some time, and I loved it.

I loved her. I could admit it to myself with such frank honesty that it surprised me. I leaned over her again, kissing her gently on the mouth.

"I… I don't know… if you can hear me but… I love you… I'm not just… saying that, I really love you. I'm so sorry… you're hurt… please wake up…. When you do…. I want… well…. I want you to marry me!"

I settled back down resolutely in the chair, this time taking her cold hands in mind and rubbing them gently. The only sound came from the wireless, and her sparse breathing. I felt hot tears prickle down my face.

I put my head down next to hers, my heavy eyelids betraying me as sleep overtook my body at long last.

~*~

"Geddup you git….. yer droolin' on my arm…."

I shook the remnants of sleep from my eyes, only to find Pansy staring weakly back at me. I jumped, startled and gaped at her.

"You're…. awake…… you're okay!"

"Would ya put a cork in it….? Bloody hell, woke up a few minutes ago, and already you're yapping my ears off, Flint."

"But you're okay…. " I reasoned with a tremble in my voice.

"Oy. Feels like a thousand bludgers beat the hell outta me." Pansy shifted, feeling constricted by the bandages.

"water." She croaked. I hurriedly snatched up the glass and handed it to her. I watched her drink, every mouthful of that life-restoring liquid going down her throat. She wiped her mouth, and looked at me still confused.

"Harry… Ron…Susan…?"

"Are all fine. They're waiting with Robards downstairs. Some scrapes and bruises, nothing major. You however…." I said slowly.

"Took one hell of a beating…. My damn fault… I went down that hall without backup from anyone else…. Great way for begin my career… disobeying orders, and nearly getting the shit knocked outta me." Pansy slurred, letting her eyelids fall shut.

I reached out, with trembling fingers, brushing locks of loose hair that were falling into her eyes.

"Are you ok? Do you need more pain meds?"

"Flint, they've been druggin' me since I got here, I really wanna sit up if ya don't mind."

I leapt at the chance, eagerly taking her into my arms, bunching the pillows around her so she wouldn't have to worry about the pain. In my haste, a ringbox dropped onto the floor with a soft thud. I slowly put my foot atop it, pulling it towards me when—

"What dropped on the floor?"

Damn. Even half drugged, she was still as smart as ever. I stalled, rubbing the back of my head with a short laugh.

"Just my wand, it keeps falling out of my pocket."

"You're a horrid liar, Flint. I know the sound of a wand dropping. Plus, you never let go of your wand. If it was nothing, you wouldn't be acting so weird."

Ok, so that was strike two. One more and I'm out. I saw her pout, eying me with a mixture of confusion, crossing those petite arms, and batting those gorgeous eyes of hers. That pretty look that made me go weak at the knees. I caved like a piece of soggy toast.

"Pansy Winifred Parkinson…." I laughed, seeing her nose turn up at the inkling that I knew her dreaded middle name. I bent, picking up the ring box, and cracked it open partially. "Will you marry me?"

There was nothing. No quizzical laughter. No rejection either. Her face remained blank, as if cut from stone. I saw her foxlike eyes take in the box, then me, then the box, and finally those roving eyes meet mine, and I felt my heart beating against my chest.

Well you tried. Please, let me down gently. Its ok, I understand-

"You…. Bloody…. Git….. you… waited… all… this… time… to ask me…..now you ask me!" Pansy roared, her eyes smoldering from inquisitive to murderous. "I waited ALL these months, and NOW?! It took me being in the HOSPITAL for you to finally make a COMMITTEMENT?! Ugh! Men!"

She flopped down onto the bed, painfully turning to try and face the wall, but was constricted by all the bandages. Shocked to say the least, I let the box fall onto the bed.

"B- but… Pansy…I thought… how was I supposed to know…. That you…?"

"Merlin, Flint…. Are there rocks in your head? I flirted with you for weeks! Why do you think I wanted to go on assignments with you? Hmmm?"

"Well… I was a good instructor…." I pointed out weakly.

"Well there's that, plus you had the best looking arse."

"Randy girl," I chuckled.

"Nooo, just a sneaky, driven one. Hello- slytherins are all about the ambition and drive, ya know."

I saw her reach over, fumble for the box, and shakily inspect the ring. I watched with pride as she slid it onto her finger.

"I can barely see the thing….. uhh…. This does come in a bigger size, right?"

I gaped at her, eyes bulging. That 'little' right had cost me over twenty-five thousand galleons! Over half my savings! I fumbled for a response, Pansy laughed.

"Blushin', Flint?" Pansy held her hand up to the light, obviously pleased. My over tense muscles relaxed only slightly. Her hand cupped my face, tracing my growing beard. I reflexively ran my hand over the stubble.

"Like it?" I joked.

"Chop it off or I'm not walking down the aisle with you. I'm not telling the girls I'm marrying Bigfoot over here."

"Nooo… the beard stays… I worked for months on this."

"Fine…. You can keep it at five o'clock shadow until the engagement party."

"Nooo…. Until after the wedding… then I'll cut it off." I argued back.

Pansy looked up to the sky in mock defeat.

"I give up… no use arguing with you, troll man."

"Hey, I'm your troll man now."

"Merlin help me."

She released her hold on my face. Slowly, I leaned across the bed, kissing her. Our lips met, and everything else faded. Her lips were warmer, softer. Like a gentle breeze. Mine were chapped, and dry, but I doubted either of us cared. Alone, we shared our small moment of tenderness, of the many unknown promises and new beginnings.

Our new life together with nothing to stand in our way. We were holding fast to each other in this strange and unknown future, embarking on our new careers.

Helping fix the world after a life altering war with the most gorgeous and talented witch by my side? What could be better then that?