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[personal profile] cryptaknight
Title: Turning Pages
Author/Artist: [personal profile] cryptaknight
Prompt: 38- They keep running into each other in the same bookstore: once is chance, twice is coincidence, but after that, what is it?
Pairing(s): Harry/Pansy
Word Count/Art Medium: 6400
Rating: R
Warning(s): None? EWE, I suppose.
Disclaimer:Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Hatchards is a real book shop, but I've taken tremendous liberties with it, I'm sure. Any errors in London geography are solely mine. All of Pansy's book titles are real, and some of my favourite historical romances. Thanks so much to K for her beta and her support.
Summary: "Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?"
–Henry Ward Beecher
Pansy is not the type to frequent a Muggle store, but when she sees Harry Potter doing just that, her contrariness gets the best of her.

The first time Pansy spies Harry Potter at Hatchards, it is through the lens of her camera. He doesn't see her, and probably wouldn't recognise her if he did. Her hair is in a messy bun atop her head; she's dressed comfortably in denim and an oxford shirt she'd purloined from Draco's closet ages ago. One of the few pleasures of photographing the Muggle world is that no one knows who she is, and she doesn't have to put any special effort into being Pansy Parkinson. Her finger stills for the briefest moment, then she snaps the photo as he enters the shop, giving in to the impulse to document what she is seeing, to record the ocular proof. She supposes it is not so strange that someone who lived with Muggles for half of his life should visit a Muggle store, but Potter is so intrinsically part of the magical world to her that it manages to catch her by surprise anyway.

Besides, there must be dozens of book shops in Muggle London. It is an odd sort of chance that brings both Potter and herself to the same one, on the same day, at the same time.

Realising that she is going to lose her light if she doesn't start taking her pictures soon, Pansy pushes Potter from her mind for the moment, and takes her shots. But when she is done, she puts her camera back in her satchel and strides across Piccadilly and into the store before she can talk herself out of it.

She finds Potter ensconced in a big, squashy, shapeless sort of armchair, the sort she imagines would swallow her whole should she try to sit in it. He looks perfectly comfortable, however, drinking coffee from a paper cup and leafing through a sports magazine in a leisurely fashion. He looks like he hasn't got a care in the world, when Pansy happens to know- like any witch worth her salt that reads the Daily Prophet- that he is in the middle of an investigation, along with the rest of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

It irritates her.

"What are you doing here, Potter?" she says, accosting him verbally, if not physically. She folds her arms over her chest, and looks at him in a way that demands an explanation. Pansy had never learned delicacy, for all her debutante training. The bull in the proverbial china shop, Draco had called her affectionately. She'd swatted him for it.

Potter looks up, taking her in without revealing any surprise. Auror training, Pansy supposes. She shifts the strap of her satchel and raises her eyebrows impatiently.

"I could ask the same of you," he says mildly.

"I asked you first," Pansy says intractably.

Potter returns his attention to his magazine, and for one infuriating moment, Pansy thinks he is going to ignore her. But he says, "It's a nice book store."

And Pansy supposes it is. From the outside, it had an old yet welcoming look, which was why she'd chosen to photograph it. She hadn't cared about the inside, but it is equally aged and welcoming on the interior, a maze of shelves that run floor to ceiling and are stuffed with all manner of books. It is a good place to get lost in.


"Aren't you meant to be chasing after a dark wizard? The Prophet won't stop going on about it."

"Even Aurors get breaks." Potter looks up at her again. "But I seem to have stumbled on a mystery right here." His look is decidedly pointed. "What's a pureblood princess doing in a Muggle bookshop, Parkinson?"

Pansy rolls her eyes. Princess? Not so much these days.

"I was photographing it." Potter has the nerve to look skeptical, and Pansy thinks he must be a very good Auror because she finds herself elaborating without even meaning to do so. "I'm doing a series. Muggle and magical versions of the same things. Gringotts, the Royal Bank of Scotland. Madam Malkin's, Harrods. Flourish and Blotts, this place. People seem to find it interesting."

What Pansy doesn't say is how much she loves it. How shocked she was that does. How intoxicating the anonymity of the Muggle world can be. How much she likes earning a living, and how much she likes that she's getting to be artistic in some way. How wonderful it has been to be something unexpected, something so very un-Pansy-Parkinson.

"Ah, well. Mystery solved. That's one, at least."

Potter returns to his magazine, and Pansy can tell she's been dismissed. It's maddening. She fights the urge to take out her camera, to again capture Potter and this moment on film. She makes herself turn on her heel to go.

Despite how studiously Potter is ignoring her, Pansy can swear she feels those green eyes boring a hole into her back as she walks away. She doesn't allow herself to look back to be sure.

The second time Pansy sees Potter at Hatchards, she's taking a break herself. It's a week later, and while in London photographing the Parliament building, she'd felt the pull of this hidey-hole of a shop and since the rest of her day was free, she'd popped on over. She doesn't think it likely she'll encounter Potter again; it's not like he owns the store, and it would be a hell of a coincidence for them both to turn up at the same time again.

But it seems the universe has a sense of humour, because when she rounds the corner where romance turns into history, there he is, in that awful looking armchair, clutching his paper cup of coffee and a sports magazine, again. She must make some sort of sound of frustration, because Potter looks up sharply.

"Oh, honestly!" Pansy very nearly stomps her foot, shifting the book she holds in her hand so Potter won't be able to see the hulking man in a kilt and swooning maiden on the cover. She has terrible taste in books, she knows, and it's her dirty little secret, thank you very much. Not even any of her Slytherin friends know, though there had been a close call when Daphne nearly uncovered her stash during sixth year- which was when Pansy had disguised the books as a pile of old parchments.

"I hate to say I found this place first, but since you're so annoyed, it seems worth pointing out." Potter's mouth forms some sort of lopsided grin, the one Witch Weekly insists is rakish and charming. Pansy always tries to skim past those articles very quickly. "But it is a big enough store, for all that it's overloaded with shelves. We can probably each pretend that the other is not here, if we pick opposite corners of the store to hide in."

Feeling perverse, Pansy says, "I'm not hiding."

She pulls a history book at random from the shelf nearest her and sits decisively in the chair across from Potter. Or at least she tries to, but this chair is in just as terrible form as its partner, and she sinks into the well-used cushion, her small stature making her feet lift from the floor. She sets her mouth firmly and tucks her feet under her thighs, as if this was her intention all along. "I'm going to read… this."

It's a horribly thick book, British History: 1830 to the present. The sort of thing Potter's chum Hermione Granger probably considered a bit of light reading, but the kind of book Pansy normally wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. Potter lifts his eyebrows, looking amused, but says nothing. He just shrugs and returns that week's edition of his magazine.

Pansy gives the book a decent go, in her opinion. She gets through the first ten pages before admitting defeat. It's dry and boring and nothing she's interested in. Casting a sly look at Potter, who appears to be engrossed in his footballers and rugby players, Pansy swaps the history text for The Scotsman's Lady. Soon she is genuinely curled into the comfy chair, lost in the world of Charlotte St John and her Highland adventures, which is infinitely more interesting than the reign of William IV, king of Muggle Britain.

The sound of a clock chiming eventually pulls her from the story, and with a sigh she closes the book. She knows she should go develop her film, and probably pay for the book she has read nearly a quarter of. She stretches and somehow manages to extract herself from the chair, only then realising that Potter is still there, looking at her with an expression somewhere between curiosity and amusement.

Pansy has a dreadful feeling he knows her secret.

She ignores him, going up front to purchase the book. She knows she will probably fall asleep reading it tonight.

Potter exits the store a few steps behind her. She is still pointedly paying him no mind when he says, "See you around, then."

Her eyes dart over to him, and though she still says nothing to him, she gives him a sharp nod. He goes one way and she goes the other, finding an alley where she can apparate home.

Pansy can't quite say what possesses her to return to the shop exactly another week later- sheer stubbornness, perhaps; her mother always did say it would be her undoing- but when she arrives, Potter is there again. This time he has two cups of coffee, and he pushes one across the low table towards her when she perches on the edge of what she has already decided is her chair.

When Pansy raises an eyebrow questioningly, Potter says, "I didn't know what sort of coffee you liked, so I just got you a latte. The place next door does quite nice ones, but you don't seem to stop there first."

"And what if I hadn't happened to come today?" It makes her feel peevish that Potter assumed, correctly, that she would.

He shrugs. "Then I would have had to drink two, I guess."

"Hmmph." Pansy scowls at him, but she scoots the drink closer.

She's looking for that dreadful history book when Potter says, "Don't bother. I won't tell anyone you favour the bodice-rippers."

Pansy's scowl deepens, but she has to admit to herself she feels relief. She hurries to the romance shelves, pulling a few books at random based on their covers alone. When she tucks herself back into her chair, Pansy catches Potter smiling faintly at her, and she gives him a quelling glance before diving into The Sherbrooke Bride. Potter wisely refrains from further comment.

It is almost companionable, how they read near one another. Pansy finds herself appreciating the distinct lack of conversational gambits and interruptions to her reading. Also, the damned coffee really is good.

This time Potter leaves first, his break presumably over. Pansy acknowledges his departure by lifting her nearly empty paper cup, her eyes trained on the tale of a large-breasted heroine and her oafish husband and the ghost that plagues them.

The next week, Pansy arrives first, but she lets Potter bring the coffee. It's not like they have plans.

It becomes a routine. Every Wednesday, Pansy spends an hour in close proximity to Harry Potter, reading and drinking lattes. They don't talk much at all, but the experience is pleasant enough that neither of them is driven away. Pansy simply doesn't let herself think about the fact that it is the most time she's spent regularly with a man since she split with Draco in the middle of seventh year. She likes the shop, and she likes the atrocious arm chair, and she likes the coffee, and Potter is a decent enough companion. He doesn't make any odd noises as he reads, he doesn't bother her with small talk, and he doesn't judge her choice of reading material.

After several weeks of it, however, Pansy can't help herself. As they are leaving the store, she turns abruptly to Potter and says, "Is this weird, what we're doing?"

"What, having a weekly reading date?" Potter quirks his lips, and drums his fingertips against his hip, where she knows his wand is holstered. She's not worried he's about to hex her, though; it's just a tic he has.

The fact that she knows this is rather appalling, all things considered.

"It is not a date," Pansy shoots back huffily.

"You could come any other time and read alone," Potter points out.

Pansy's lips thin out. She doesn't have a good answer for this.

"Wednesdays are good for me."

Potter stifles a laugh. It's good that he does, or else he would be the one getting hexed. "Fair enough. They're good for me, too. So, I guess that means it's not weird at all. Just one of those things."

Pansy nods, glad of his answer.

"One of those things," she agrees.

Potter pushes a hand through his horrid, disheveled hair. "Alright, then. See you next week, Pansy."

It occurs to Pansy that it is the first time she has ever heard him say her first name.

"I suppose you shall." She hesitates, then adds, "Harry."

As usual, they go off in opposite directions, to apparate back to their very different lives.

The next week, Pansy decides to arrive in Piccadilly early, to take some shots of the storefronts surrounding Hatchards. Some of them are interesting in their own right, and she imagines she will be able to compose some comparison shots with shops in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. She is crouched down, adjusting her lens in preparation for a shot of a cafe that she fancies will look nice juxtaposed with Madam Puddifoot's. Unlike Hatchards, so many of the shops on Piccadilly and the other streets that shoot off from the square of Piccadilly CIrcus are terribly modern looking, jarring to her eyes and yet sleek and fascinating all the same. They stand in stark comparison to their magical brothers and sisters. The photographs will be lovely.

A long shadow falls directly over her, human shaped, and Pansy whips her head round to give whoever it is what-for.

Her intended string of caustic insults dies before leaving her mouth, when she sees it is Harry.

"Potter," she grits out, squinting up at him.

He is very nearly in uniform, though his cloak must be stashed in the messenger bag he always has with him. The coat he wear is just old-fashioned enough to be mistaken for some sort of vintage, hipster look here among the Muggles. Pansy has always thought Auror uniforms were sharp, though she'd never say so to Potter. She settles for looking vaguely annoyed at him.

"Wotcher, Pansy." His tone is light, and her facade of irritation doesn't hold up long.

"Well," she says, straightening up from her crouched position, slightly exasperated, "I was trying to take some pictures before heading in. Is it time already?"

As if they've got something scheduled. Pansy feels foolish, but Potter is nothing if not a hero, and he rescues her from her own embarrassment.

"Nah, I'm a bit early. But I was wondering if you'd like to get coffee together, since I was about to go get ours." He juts his chin toward the shop across the street.

The word 'ours' makes Pansy frown, but she nods in spite of herself. It's really not fair that Harry always provides the coffee, after all. They wait for a break in the traffic, and make their way into the coffee shop, which is bustling because it is nearly lunch time, full of Muggle workers on their breaks. There was a time when a scene like this would have made Pansy uncomfortable, as if being surrounded by the mundane would somehow infest her with the same, but with the saviour of the magical world by her side, she's far less twitchy. When they reach the front of the queue, Pansy plunks down her money with a quelling look at Harry that makes him stuff his wallet back into his pocket and hold up his hands in mock-surrender. Then he points at a recently vacated table for two, and Pansy follows him over despite the niggle in her belly at this deviation from form.

She lifts a questioning brow even as she slides into the chair, which is still warm from its previous occupant.

"Can't ignore an opportunity when it presents itself," Potter says, answering the unspoken question.

Pansy shrugs, lifting the steaming hot white mocha to her lips. It is heavenly, sweeter than the latte Potter usually brings her, and he watches her face as though he is taking notes for next time. He probably is. Bloody Aurors.

"Skiving off the job, are you?" she asks, with a pointed look at his disheveled uniform.

"We're at a bit of a stand still. I didn't reckon an hour or two off would hurt." Potter's face is impassive as he drinks from his own cup. "We know who we're after. But we've no leads on where they are."

"Ah, drudge work that's not for the likes of you, then? You'll go in, wands blazing, and make the capture?" Pansy snorts, setting her cup down. She knows what Aurors do is important. She also finds it difficult to suppress the memory of them bursting into her home, rifling through her family's things, while the house elves cowered in the corners and her mother wailed about them possibly breaking some priceless vase or smudging one of her statuettes. But Potter hadn't been an Auror then, she reminds herself. He'd been a scared seventeen year old, too. Hesitating slightly, she says in a less biting tone, "Do you imagine an arrest is far off?"

The dark wizard the DMLE is currently chasing is a nasty piece of work. She realises Potter and his team must have been working tirelessly to catch whoever it is. She understands his need for bookshop interludes a bit better, suddenly.

Harry shakes his head. "In the next day or so, I think." He pauses. "And it's not me avoiding drudge work. I'm too recognisable. I offer to use Polyjuice or a disguise amulet, but Kingsley doesn't want me on surveillance." Shifting restlessly, he says, "I hate having nothing to do."

"Yes, well, you've had something to do since you were eleven," she quips, though her frown reasserts itself. "Being bored is probably an odd sensation."

Potter grins a tired grin, and something about the way he holds himself reminds her of Draco- like he will never be carefree, though he might be momentarily distracted at times, like there is some extra weight on him that the rest of them don't bear. She hates it on Draco and she is surprised to discover she hates it on Harry, too. They are too young to be so weary.

"Enough about all that," Potter says, and Pansy understands he is probably tired of thinking about the case at all hours. "When did you start all this?"

He gestures at the bag containing her camera, which she is keeping carefully out of the way of the Muggles bustling in and out of the shop.

She bites her lower lip. Slowly, she says, "I always liked snapping photos. I took pictures of everyone before the Yule Ball, during Quidditch matches, that sort of thing. When it became clear that I was not going to marry well, my mother decided I ought to keep busy. She kept suggesting charity work and social planning committees, and it all sounded properly dreadful. Witch Weekly had an advert looking for freelance photographers, for articles like Quidditch Players: They're Just Like Us!, you know the sort of thing. So I sent in some shots, and here I am. This is my own project, though."

Harry nods. Pansy knows she is not what he expected. She is not what she expected for herself. But she likes who she is, and her face is set stubbornly as she stares at him, waiting for him to make the kind of derisive comment she's become used to. It doesn't come.

"I've looked up some of your stuff," he says instead, and it gives her a jolt, which she covers by drinking long and deep from her white mocha. "It's good. Though I could've done without the shirtless Zacharias Smith spread." His lips quirk into a broad smile.

Pansy finds herself smiling back. "Gods, he was an arse. Full of himself, yet also salty about doing the publicity. But it was one of our best selling issues. No accounting for taste."

Potter laughs loudly. After a beat, Pansy joins him.

They never do make it over to Hatchards that day.

Over the next week, Pansy keeps her eye on the Daily Prophet, looking for any news of Potter making the arrest he had seemed sure was imminent. But the paper is strangely quiet, other than an opinion piece by Rita Skeeter intimating that the DMLE was failing at its job. She pokes at Draco, under the guise of shrewish curiosity- he works with the Wizengamot, and his job often relies upon the work of those enforcing the law- but all he will admit to is that there is something of a manhunt going on, and tells her sternly that he cannot divulge details of an ongoing investigation. It all makes Pansy feel very anxious, and then annoyed that she cares at all. They certainly hadn't found it this difficult to arrest her father, after all, but then Reginald Parkinson had only been guilty of being a Death Eater, not leaving a body count and booby-trap curses littered about the British Isles. She tells herself she's merely eager to see such a monster safely away from polite society.

Her anxieties come crashing to a head, however, the next Wednesday. She finds herself hovering outside of Hatchards, telling herself she only wanted to get there early to get the coffees, which she has, one in each hand. There's no sign of Potter, though, and she has no desire to look like she is actually waiting for him, so she goes in, perching on the edge of her favourite chair and setting the coffees on the table. She selects a book at random from the romance shelves. Three-quarters of an hour pass, but Pansy cannot even remember the name of the time-traveling heroine from the novel in her hands. Potter is still a no show. She thumbs back a few pages, and tries again to care about the poor woman's travails, but after turning ten pages, Pansy has no more grip on the plot than she did before.

There's no point. She takes the book up front to purchase, feeling guilty about how well thumbed the pages already are from her restless turning, and then rushes from the shop to her usual apparation point. She goes directly to the Ministry.

She only vaguely knows where Granger's office is- the insufferable swot does something with legislative reform, terribly boring; Pansy tuned it out the few times Draco's mentioned it- but it's discovered easily enough from a cursory glance at the directory. The Ministry is so very proud that every member of the Golden Trio works for them in some capacity. Weasley's not worth bothering with, as he'll likely be wherever Potter is. No identity of his own, that one. But Granger always knows everything. Pansy hopes that's the case right now.

"Where is he?" Pansy demands as she pushes her way past Granger's secretary, who is left sputtering in her wake.

Granger blinks up at her owlishly. Her voice is entirely too calm as she says, "I beg your pardon?"

"Potter!" Pansy hisses. "He didn't show up today."

"I'm sorry? He didn't show up where?"

Granger's confusion is plain, and deep down Pansy knows she hasn't explained herself well, but the omnipresent anger that resides in the very pit of her bubbles to the surface, fueled by her worry.

"That doesn't matter! The point is that he hasn't shown up, and I know he's chasing down that dark wizard."

As the words tumble out, Pansy realises how foolish she's being. He's working. Of course he is. It's not like he can say, Oh, sorry, fellows, I've got to duck out of this manhunt for a bit; I've got a standing not-a-date with Pansy Parkinson at a Muggle bookstore. A tiny voice asks her, But what if he's hurt? She forces herself to take a calming breath, to smooth her hair and put on an icy expression.

"I expected him, and when he didn't turn up, I was concerned."

Granger still looks confused, but she nods slowly. Her massive hair bounces around her face with the motion. Pansy finds this terribly aggravating.

"As far as I know, he's fine," the other witch says. Granger tilts her head, looking up at Pansy thoughtfully. "Shall I give him a message?"

"No," Pansy snaps, turning to leave. Then, she stops, and turns to look at Granger sharply. "Yes. Tell him to owl me. Tell him he owes me an apology."

She doesn't wait for Granger's answer before she goes.

Knowing she's not going to get any more work done that day, and having kept her Wednesdays clear for some time now, Pansy floos home from the Ministry. She doesn't have her own connection, but her flat is in an all magic building, and the main lobby has a sizeable fireplace for the residents to use. It is one of the few luxuries she's insisted on. The lift takes her upstairs, and by the time she's unlocked the door and put away her camera and kicked off her shoes and made a cup of tea, she feels a bit more herself. She also knows that she will drive herself mad anticipating an owl from Potter if she doesn't distract herself, so she settles on her sofa with the book she'd utterly failed to read earlier.

She only checks the clock every quarter hour or so. By eight o'clock, she's halfway through her novel- it's a thick one, thank Merlin- but there's still no word from Potter. Perhaps he's just being stubborn. Perhaps he's lying unconscious at St Mungo's. Perhaps he's been felled by a Killing Curse. Grumbling at herself for caring, Pansy goes to the kitchen and pulls some leftover take-away from the refrigerator, reheating it with a quick charm before taking it back to the sofa with her. By ten o'clock, the take-out container is empty, her book has scant pages left, and she still has not gotten an owl.

Instead, she gets a knock on her door.

Pansy doesn't even check to see who it is. She just flings the door open, expecting the worst. But Harry is there, framed in the doorway, looking disheveled and tired but whole and alive. Pansy has every intention of giving him what for, to chastise him for not sending word he'd be absent today, to scold him for making her give a damn. He deserves a good lashing from the sharpest side of her tongue. But what she says is, "Do you want a cup of tea?"

And he says, "Yes," so she steps back and lets him in, pointing at the sofa, where he sits without protest. Pansy fetches the kettle and two cups, the accoutrements floating behind her and settling themselves on her coffee table. She gives Potter a good hard look, waiting for him to say something, but he's staring at her, likely doing the same. She hands him his cup and sets her mouth into a stern line.

"Did you catch him?"

"Her. And yes. Wasn't easy, though."

"Good." Pansy sips at her tea, knowing she looks just like her mother does when she disapproves heartily of something but is feeling too polite to give voice to it. Pansy rarely feels too polite to do anything, but her feelings of foolishness from her visit to Granger have returned, and she can't help feeling she made a big production over nothing. Granger must have made her sound like a madwoman, to send Harry to her doorstep rather than simply dropping a note.

Potter must be feeling the awkwardness, too, because he picks up her book, adjusting his spectacles as he looks at the cover. "Are you reading about embroidery?"

The book is called Cross Stitch. Pansy quirks her lips and shakes her head.

"No. It's the usual. Harry-"

He interrupts her. "Because my aunt used to do that. Cross stitch. Usually awful ones with loads of flowers or butterflies-"

"Stop that." She repays the interruption in kind. "Harry Potter. You terrified me today." Pansy knows she oughtn't admit this. Who is he to her? But the words are spilling out of her mouth seemingly of their own volition. "I've come to expect you every Wednesday, and it was terribly rude of you to worry me like that. I thought you'd been killed or worse."

"Is there something worse than being killed?" Potter has the nerve to be amused, but then his face settles into a more serious expression and he looks at her with an unwavering gaze. "I'm really sorry. There wasn't time. Everything went from a complete standstill to insanity, and by the time it was all said and done, I was getting a lecture from Hermione about you blowing into her office. I didn't realise you'd worry so much."

"Hmmph. Well. I did."

Pansy can't read the expression on Potter's face, and can't bring herself to ask about it. She just sets her teacup down, hard enough that it clinks against the saucer, and gives Harry her mother's stare again.

"Alright, then." Potter takes a breath, and studies her face again. He nods once, decisively. Pansy wonders what he's decided.

"Alright, then, what?" She peers at him suspiciously.

Harry raises his hands, cups the back of her head with both of them, and fits his mouth to hers. Gratefully, Pansy reaches for him, pulling herself closer, sighing into his mouth as she kisses him. It's about damn time.

She's been waiting for this for a while. The sudden understanding thrills through her mind, and she is not certain if what she feels is lust or panic or some mix of both. She only knows she doesn't want him to stop kissing her like this, like she is the best thing he's ever tasted. She won't let him. She can be very aggressive when she wants to be; everyone's always said so. It is her hands that push the uniform coat from Harry's shoulders, and hers that undo the buttons of his shirt. But he pulls her clothes from her just as eagerly, which is incredibly gratifying. She wants him in her bed, but there's no time, the wanting is too much, and he makes her yell right there on the sofa, yell his name and unintelligible sounds and other things as well, and he yells too, so that's alright.

Later, when they are able to take their time, she has him in her bed, so that's alright, as well.

In the morning, he kisses her awake, murmuring apologies about paperwork and promises to owl later.

It is only later, when Pansy is in the shower, relishing the hot water because she is achy in the best way possible, that the events of the prior night sink in. She had gone to bed with Harry Potter. She had done a lot more than that, actually. She can still feel his teeth against her throat when she closes her eyes, standing under the steaming spray of the showerhead. She can still feel the weight of him between her thighs. But why? A sick feeling thuds down into her belly. She'd been so uncharacteristically emotional, of course. He'd likely been filled with adrenaline from making an arrest. It made sense, even if the pair of them made no sense at all. Even if they'd crossed a line they probably shouldn't have.

Harry does keep his promise to owl. Pansy tells herself that she never promised to answer him.

Her lack of response must be a relief for him, because he doesn't press the issue. Pansy tells herself she has done the right thing. He'll feel no burden of expectation from her. She has learned, in her twenty four years, not to expect things.

On Saturday night, she is on her second glass of firewhiskey when Draco comments that she seems out of sorts.

"I am not," she says, and tops up her glass again.

Draco and Theodore exchange a look. They make a striking pair, the two of them: Draco, so fair, with his icy grey eyes and white blond hair, classic and patrician; and Theodore the opposite, all jet black hair and bronzed skin stretched over high cheekbones, his angular eyes dark and fathomless. Pansy would love to photograph them, but they'll never allow it. The notion that they are no more than housemates only works if no one sees them touch one another. Pansy supposes she should be shocked by the pair of them, but she never has been. They are her best friends.

She thinks idly that she and Potter would not make such a lovely composition. They look too much alike, with their typically English pale skin and their dark hair. His eyes are prettier than hers, too, which should not be countenanced. Then she thinks it doesn't matter, anyway, because they are not a couple. She takes a deep drink from her tumbler of whiskey.

"Oh, yes, you most certainly are," Theodore says, draping an arm loosely around Pansy's shoulders. "Spill, or we'll send you packing."

Pansy turns her eyes to Draco, but he's no help. He grins sharkishly and leans forward. "Yes, darling, spill. As Theo says."

"You are a bad influence on him," she mutters darkly to Theodore, but she bites her lower lip and sets her glass down. "Since I've no desire to go home yet…" She shrugs and extracts herself from Theo's long arm. Shifting in her seat, she smirks at the pair of them. "I shagged Harry Potter."

At least her bald announcement has the desired effect. Draco nearly chokes on his Ogden's, and Theodore loses the careless posture and sits up straight.

"How?" Draco manages, once he's caught his breath.

Pansy fixes him with a withering look. "Golly, Draco, I know it's been a while since you've been with a lady, but I should think you'd remember the basics."

"Tcha, you know that's not what he means," Theodore says, his voice reproving but his eyes twinkling mirthfully. Leave it to him to be entertained by the messy situation.

So Pansy finds herself telling them the whole pathetic story. She thinks she sounds even worse in hindsight, hearing it all at once. Going there every Wednesday, hoping to see Potter. Letting him know about her awful taste in reading material. Letting him buy her coffee. Panicking because he didn't show one time, just one time, and storming the Ministry like a lunatic. Shagging him silly in her relief that he was unharmed. She starts telling the story like it's been a bit of a lark, but by the time she is done, Draco is holding her hand and Theo is looking at her sympathetically.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Draco asks, his gaze going over her head to meet Theodore's eyes.

"Yes. It's obvious, really."

"I hate when you two do that," Pansy snaps, turning to glare at each of them in turn. "What is it you think is so obvious?"

"You've fallen for him. Obviously," Theo repeats.

Pansy pulls her hand forcibly from Draco's and stands, crossing her arms over her chest. Her voice is chilly. "Excuse me?"

To her horror, Draco laughs. "Oh, come on, Pansy! You're the one always reading those torrid romances. You really don't see it? The meet-cute, the underlying sexual tension, the gradual realisation you've got things in common, the contrived argument, and the passionate love-making that follows… it all fits. Even the fact that you're running scared right now."

"My life is not a romance novel! And you make it sound disgusting. Love-making. Honestly!" She fights the urge to stomp her foot like she would have when they were children.

"Well. It is Potter," says Theodore. "So it's a bit disgusting. But such is life. The heart has a mind of its own sometimes." He favours Draco with an affectionate glance.

"He's not disgusting," Pansy says, exasperated. "Anyway. I am not scared. I'm realistic. This is not a work of fiction. This is the real world, where Harry Potter and Pansy Parkinson have nothing in common but a book shop they like to frequent, and the shagging was just a… a thing. One of those things."

But her words are an echo of Harry's from a few weeks before, and the wind abruptly leaves her sails. What if the boys are right? Is she in love with him?

"Oh, god." She sinks back onto the settee, feeling vaguely sick to her stomach. Too much firewhiskey, perhaps. Her voice is thick when she says, "It doesn't matter. He's given up already. Or he regrets being with me. I haven't heard from him since the day afterward."

"Aw, Pansy." Theodore drapes his arm around her again. "He's probably terrified of you."

Her eyes dart upward. Draco is nodding in enthusiastic agreement. She swats his knee.

"He's a bloody Auror. He defeated the Dark Lord. I'm just Pansy."

"Exactly," says Draco.

Pansy tries not to let her apprehension show, when she stands in front of Hatchards the following Wednesday. She whispers to herself that he will probably not be there. She takes a deep breath and puts her chin up and she strides through the doors. She looks more confident than she feels, as she makes her way purposefully to the usual corner.

There is a coffee on the table. Next to it is a stack of books with god awful covers. And in his squashy chair, Harry lounges as if he never doubted Pansy would show.

Pansy picks up her coffee, and a book from the pile.

"Budge over," she says.

Harry's eyes are warm when he looks up at her, and he makes room for her on the oversized chair.

She curls against him, and together they turn pages in companionable silence.
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