In all his years as an Auror, Harry had only ever let one criminal get away.
He knew that Pansy probably deserved to be sent to prison for one thing or another, even if it was something as simple as public indecency, but the crime she'd been accused of was not one she had committed.
All of the Death Eaters involved in the second war had been sent for Azkaban for a time, the length of their sentence depending on the crimes they'd committed while working for Riddle. When Rookwood had, in exchange for a shortened sentence, given Pansy's name up as one of the Dark Lord's emissaries, no one had questioned the evidence he'd provided. The case against her had seemed airtight. It'd seemed as though there wasn't any possibility that Pansy was innocent.
She'd been accused of Imperiusing a Ministry worker and forcing him to bring her information about Pius Thicknesse, aiding in his capture soon thereafter. Rookwood had memories about Pansy coming forward to provide the Dark Lord with this information. The proof had been in the pensieve. One merely had to take a brief dip in the abhorrent recesses of the man's mind to know that he was telling the truth.
Her motives had been similar to that of Xenophilius Lovegood when he had aided in Harry, Ron, and Hermione's capture at his home during their travels to find the last Horcruxes. She'd wanted to trade what she knew for her family's safe return. They'd been taken for refusing to partake in Riddle's war, but she'd been promised their immunity if she cooperated.
She'd been forced to watch their execution a day later. The Death Eaters had given her parents and her little sister to the count of five to run before they'd hit each of them in the back with an explosion curse. They'd seen that too in Rookwood's bloody memories.
Nevertheless, it'd seemed that Pansy had used the Imperius Curse, and using an Unforgiveable was just that – unforgiveable. It had been determined that Pansy would pay the same penance as the Death Eater's she had helped in an effort to save her family. When the Aurors had knocked down her door, however, they'd found her house empty and unused, as though no one had lived there in weeks. The closets were as empty as a tomb and the cupboards were bare. It seemed absurd, but it was almost as though she'd known they were coming. The other Aurors had entertained the notion but laughed it off before moving on to collect the next Death Eater accused.
It was almost three months later when Harry finally began to think that perhaps she had known they were coming.
He reflected on their past as he made his way through the rain-soaked streets of Paris.
It'd been three years before when he had received that first unsigned note, typewritten and hanging off of the leg of a nondescript barn owl who looked as though it had flown a long distance to reach him.
It was that note which had led him to meet this anonymous being in a secluded tavern just outside Prague under the guise of his invisibility cloak. It had asked for him to arrive alone, and it wouldn't do to be caught off guard if the person who wanted to meet with him was an unfriendly face.
Pansy hadn't looked particularly pleased to see him when he took of his cloak, but he had thought that maybe that was just how her face was. She still had the impudent nose that turned up at the end and smooth, pale skin that only made her eyes seem larger. Time had been kind to her. Where before, she'd been a little girl with a pug-like face, now she was an adult with a face that both men adored and women envied. If he had cared to guess, he'd have thought that both paid her equal amounts of attention and that she got great pleasure out of denying them all.
Her knife-like smile had caught him off guard as he sat down across from her. "You're wondering why I've asked you here when you could take me back to England in cuffs." She'd taken a drag off of her cigarette. "The answer is that I trust you."
Harry's greatest weakness had always been the lengths he was willing to go for people who trusted him. As he looked at the cunning smile, he had realized that you could take the girl out of Slytherin, but you couldn't take Slytherin out of the girl. If she had been trying to manipulate him (and in retrospect, it was clear that she had) he hadn't been able read it on her face.
By the end of their meeting, Harry had been smitten. She was unusual. She was as sharp and dangerous as a poisoned blade. She was like nothing Harry had ever known before. "You're different," he had said.
"No. You're just looking at me for the first time." And he'd realized that she was right. When they'd been in school, she'd always just been part of the backdrop in the absurd rivalry he and Malfoy had created, like two actors on a stage playing their parts. He had realized then that she was a play all her own. She was not a supporting actor in anyone else's theatre.
"Did you do it?" he had asked.
She had studied him then. "No," she'd replied simply. "You'll have your proof soon. But it won't save me."
Just before she'd stood to leave, she'd leaned over the table, her lips mere millimeters from Harry's cheek as though leaving behind a kiss rather than a whispered secret. A secret from Pansy, however, was no less intimate. "They're coming for Gregory Goyle next Tuesday at 11:23 AM at his house in Westminster. Get to him before they do."
Harry had stared at her retreating form, her heels clicking against the clay tiles in a rhythm that'd matched the staccato beat of his heart against his chest.
The next Tuesday, Gregory Goyle would have been murdered in his kitchen had the Aurors not been there to prevent it. Harry had called it an anonymous tip.
The pattern had repeated itself for months, and then years, afterward. Pansy would contact him, drag him to some far corner of the earth, and make him fall for her all over again. Then she'd leave him with nothing but a softly spoken secret. He had no idea how she knew what was going to happen, but she saved someone's life every single time they met.
The rain had turned the Paris streets into mirrors. Harry saw her slender form first in the wavy, rippled puddle between them and took the next few strides a bit quicker in order to reach her before she had to cross it. "Pansy…" he breathed into her dark hair as his arms wrapped around her slender waist.
"I don't have much time, Harry. I think I'm being followed." She pressed her lips chastely against his cheek and smiled, as though the idea of being pursued amused her. He wouldn't be surprised if she thought of it as a game. "Darren O'Hare. At his home in Suffolk this Saturday at 1:00 AM."
She turned to go, and Harry knew it might well be months before she sent for him again. "Pansy, please. Come back with me."
"You know I can't."
"Tell me how you know these things are going to happen."
She gave him that razor-sharp smile and slid her hands in the pockets of her trench. "In five seconds, that man walking down the street behind me will step in a puddle and curse. Then he'll try to light a cigarette and drop it." She watched him, thoroughly self-assured, as the man did exactly as predicted while Harry stood in front of her, amazed. "Do you know now?"
"You're a Seer." It was how she'd known all this time who was in danger. It was how she'd known that information about Pius Thicknesse.
It was how she'd known she could trust Harry.
It was also the reason why she could never go back to England. Without a reliable way to confirm that she was one, and the bad press they got on a regular basis, no one would believe it was true. They'd lock her up without a moment's thought.
Pansy took a few steps backward with a sharp look on her face that Harry thought could split a man in two. Between them was the house with the yard and the children they could never have together. But they could still have each other.
Would that be enough? It was enough for Harry, but he wasn't sure anyone or anything would ever be enough for a girl like Pansy. To Pansy, the best part of being in one place had always seemed to be looking forward to the next place. He started to wonder why she was really running. To keep herself safe? Or to keep herself from staying in one place?
"Pansy." She tilted her head to the side. "Have you Seen what happens to us?"
Her eyes were bright, burning coals as she spoke. "Yes."
She shook her head, her short black bob grazing her cheeks. "You'll just have to wait and find out for yourself, won't you?"
Harry wanted to ask her to stand still with him for a while so they could give each other more than a few stolen words and kisses every few months when she decided to call for him. He wanted to tell her that they'd find a way to make this work and that he'd never give up, not ever, so she might as well get used to having him around. But Harry didn't say anything.
Pansy gave him a cheshire cat smile before she turned around without saying goodbye and disappeared into the crowd. Next time, he thought, next time I'll tell her.
But only Pansy knew if there would be a next time. Until then, he knew that all he'd remember, and all he'd think about, was watching the one criminal who had eluded him all these years get away one more time.