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Better Boots and Orange Juice

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"Ladies had gone not quite mad, not quite even that, from in vain listening for meaning in the loudening ticking of the clock…Virtue with nothing more to spend, honour saying nothing, but both present. Both, also, rising and following the listener when she left the drawingroom: she had been unaccompanied by them along no path she took. Therefore, her kind knew no choices, made no decisions—or, did they not? Everything spoke to them—the design in and out of which they drew their needles; the bird with its little claws drawn to its piteously smooth breast, dead; away in the woods the quickening strokes of the axes, then the fall of the tree; or the child upstairs crying out terrified in its sleep. No, knowledge was not to be kept from them; it sifted through to them, stole up behind them, reached them by intimations—they suspected what they refused to prove. That had been their decision…in this room they had reached the climax of their elation at showing nothing—hearing their dresses rustle, fearlessly intercepting flashes from their bracelets, rings, and from the brooches nested on their bosoms in the lace, they had looked about them at the lights, flowers, figures of gentlemen, flower-painted cups on the silver tray. Victory of society—but not followed, for the victors, by peace—for remaining waiting in here for them had been those unfinishable hours in which they could only reflect again. And though seated together, hems of their skirts touching, each one of the ladies had not ceased in herself to reflect alone; their however candid and clear looks in each others’ eyes were interchanged warnings; their conversation was a twinkling surface over their deep silence. Virtually they were never to speak at all—unless to the little bird lying big with death on the path, the child being comforted out of the nightmare without waking, the leaf plucked still quivering from the felled tree."

- Elizabeth Bowen

 

 

"What are you reading about?"

"Drawing-rooms," Pansy said, glancing through the open door of their own drawing-room to where Harry stood in the hall in her coat. "Gowns. Society."

Harry laughed. "Aren't you bored?" she asked as she laced her boots.

Pansy looked up from her book to eye them approvingly—it had taken her ages to design boots that were sturdy and useful enough for Harry to approve and yet sleek and fashionable enough not to embarrass Pansy. She'd had to get up in the middle of the night, the only time Harry ever took them off, and sneak into the kitchen and transfigure an exact copy to make sure she would be able to get the feeling of the sole and the inside just right. And then she'd had to go to Italy herself five times to meet with a crotchety shoe-maker in Milan as they worked on multiple versions until the final version of the boots was just right. Harry thought that Pansy had a very sick aunt, and the third time she'd offered to go with her. Pansy had barely been able to convince her it wasn't necessary.

When she'd first given them to Harry, she'd watched with a wry smile as Harry's face fell, and then Harry desperately tried to feign gratitude. Pansy's amusement turned into real satisfaction when Harry tried them on for the first time and realized how incredibly comfortable they were and how perfectly they fit despite the alarmingly sleek shape.

Pansy had noticed Harry slip from their bed that night and watched from the window as Harry made her way to the street. Harry set the boots on fire, poured acid on them, and stabbed them with a knife, testing to make sure they were up to her standards. After a thunderous, booming chemical reaction, Harry glanced furtively back at the house to make sure Pansy wasn't watching. Of course, Pansy was watching, smiling from the shadows. As if she would put Harry in any shoe that would allow injury. If Harry could be injured, she would find a way, and Pansy worked very hard to prevent that.

"Pansy?" Harry asked again. "Aren't you bored?" She waved her hand around vaguely as if to encompass Pansy, her book, and the entire house.

"Are you implying I should get a job?" Pansy asked, smiling as she turned the page of her muggle novel. "I thought my job was being your full-time concubine."

Harry grinned. "Well, you are excellent at that job, but that's really a nighttime gig, isn't it? Aren't you tired of just sitting around all day or having teas while I brew? I feel like when I ask what you did each day at dinner, you never seem to have an answer."

"As long as I pay my half of the apartment, I don't see that it matters," Pansy said. "And I've been here six months and have yet to be late on the rent."

Harry snorted. "You are the sole heirs to a very large fortune. I'm not concerned about you leaving me with the lease. Although I still can't believe you insisted we rent an entire townhouse. And insisted on only silk wallpaper."

Pansy looked up. "If you believe I must have a job, I suppose I consider it my role to uphold our dignity."

"Your dignity."

Pansy's eyes flashed, though Harry didn't notice. "Our dignity. You reflect on me."

"What a burden that is on you," Harry joked, shaking her head with amusement. "I'm an embarrassment."

"On the contrary," Pansy said, "being the mistress of a twenty-two-year-old who is already a world-renowned brewer is a very prestigious position, and I rather enjoy it."

Harry laughed. She thought Pansy was joking, which was one of the things that Pansy found adorable about her. "Even when I'm so scruffy?"

"Even then," Pansy said, looking back at her magazine with amusement. Harry waved cheerfully and made her way out the door, her perfectly cut robes swirling behind her. Pansy patted herself on the back. She had slowly replaced every single piece of clothing Harry owned with robes of higher-quality fabric and perfect tailoring. It had taken all her skill to keep the robes close enough to the originals that Harry hadn't noticed. However, anybody who mattered would indeed notice the difference. Harry looked the part of a stylish Potions Mistress to be reckoned with. Pansy wrinkled her nose, gazing at the door Harry had just walked through. "Even when I'm so scruffy?" she repeated to herself mockingly. Harry hadn't been scruffy in ages. Pansy would never condone it.

Pansy read for another fifteen minutes and then unfolded her legs and moved to her little office. At a finely carved desk, she wrote letters and settled all the household accounts. It had never occurred to Harry to wonder how it was that every single morning they had a fresh loaf of bread still warm from a Paris oven and drank orange juice squeezed from oranges that had been picked at the Parkinson estates in Valencia that very morning. To question the logistics of their life together never crossed Harry's mind—she just mentioned that she liked fresh-squeezed orange juice one morning and smiled when the next day, her juice quality had noticeably improved. "Is this a different brand?" she'd asked, scribbling in her potions notebook.

"Yes," Pansy had responded, nodding agreeably when Harry asked if they could keep buying it. It had been comically adorable the first time Harry mentioned she was going to run to the store for some chocolate and asked what type of juice they were buying and if they needed more. "Don't bother," Pansy had said, "My mother does a big bulk order. Cheaper that way."

Harry nodded. That made perfect sense.

 


 

At tea the next day, Pansy had mentioned it to her mother just on the improbable chance that Harry would think to ask. Her mother understood—she had long ago taught Pansy that it was far better to maintain the mystery of all the minor improvements a proper partner made than to attempt to explain the details to a spouse who couldn't possibly understand. "Make yourself so needed that they can't live without you," she had explained to a young Pansy. "But make sure they don't realize you're doing it."

"I'll tell her we're buying it at that Muggle place—what is it? Aldi?" Pansy's mum had said. "It's adorable how she likes to think she's saving money but doesn't bat an eye at a solid gold cauldron."

"Isn't it?" Pansy had responded, smiling fondly. "If it makes her happy…"

"Exactly," Rose had said, taking a sip of her tea. "That's the job."

 


 

Pansy woke as the light touched her eyes. She glanced over. Harry lay stiffly on her back, huffing with each breath. Pansy smiled and then carefully wiggled out of bed and headed into her boudoir. She brushed her teeth, fixed her hair, did her makeup. Leaning into the mirror, she paused and frowned. Was that a spot near her chin? She accio'd her concealer and worked on it until the spot was completely invisible. Rather handy, having a girlfriend with a side business in the cosmetics industry. Pansy finally examined herself in the mirror, changed from her flannels to a silk slip, and crept back into bed.

Harry's wand buzzed twenty minutes later, and she cuddled up to Pansy. At the second buzz, she dragged her eyes fully open and glanced up at Pansy.

"Sorry I woke you up so early," she said for the millionth time. Pansy quieted her with a kiss. Harry responded with very flattering enthusiasm before eventually pulling herself away and stumbling over to her closet. She called over her shoulder, "I will never stop being amazed at how your breath never smells in the morning."

"I'm flawless," Pansy said, watching Harry slip yank off her ratty t-shirt with undisguised appreciation. She wolf-whistled, and Harry blushed. She still did that when she felt Pansy's eyes on her.

"Dignified Pansy my arse," Harry muttered. "If only they knew what I know."

"You're the only one who truly knows me, darling," Pansy said, just slightly pushing away the sheet and pulling up her negligee so that when Harry turned around, her eyes immediately jumped to the exposed thigh.

Harry swallowed compulsively—gratifyingly—and muttered, "How am I supposed to go to work when you look like that?"

"You have to go to work, darling. How else will you pay for your kept woman?"

"I'll dream of you while I'm slaving over a cauldron on your behalf."

"No, you won't," Pansy said. Harry wouldn't be thinking of anything but her potion. Pansy didn't mind—Harry's single-minded focus on the task at hand was very beneficial to Pansy in other, more diverting contexts.

 


 

"You're up for British Brewer of the Year, Harry," Pansy said, helping Harry button up her robe. "So do try to be particularly friendly at the guild today, will you?"

"Are you telling me to schmooze?" Harry asked, grimacing.

Pansy eyed her. "Dear Goddess, no, don't do that. That one cocktail party was painful. You looked constipated the entire time. No schmoozing for you. Just say good morning, please?"

"I always say good morning to people!"

Pansy raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, Pansy," Harry said obediently after one protesting huff. "I'll say good morning to everyone I pass."

Pansy pressed herself against Harry, winding her arms around Harry's neck and kissing her deeply. When she broke away, Harry sagged against the door frame. She looked at Pansy with bright eyes. "I have an idea, Pans. How about I keep track of every person I say good morning to, and you reward me for each one?"

Pansy smirked, dragging her eyes up and down Harry's (fashionably clad) body. "What kind of reward?"

Harry's eyes were hot. "You're very creative."

"I'll consider it," Pansy responded lightly. Just before the door swung shut, she called out, "Harry?"

"Yes?"

"Don't go out for lunch today, okay? I'm going to drop off something from La Sirene after I have lunch there."

"'kay," Harry said. "Thanks." She let the door swing shut, and Pansy listened to her feet thud gracelessly down the stairs with the faintest smile.

 


 

"I'm so glad you could meet me," Pansy said, sitting across from the languid, perfectly groomed man. "Shall we get a bottle of fairy wine? My treat."

"Don't mind if I do," he said, smiling. "Always a joy to lunch with you, Miss Parkinson."

Pansy smiled. "I wanted to come here with you because I heard La Sirene has a new chef, and who better to first sample with than such a noted food critic as you?"

"Do you mind letting me order?" he said, grinning. "I've a few things on my list I want to give another taste. It's my third time."

"I assumed," Pansy said. "Please do guide me through each dish. I'm so passionate about French cuisine, and I love to linger over lunch with a true expert."

"You've come to the right man," he said, laughing. He took a slow sip of the champagne after the waiter poured it, and his eyebrows shot up. "An excellent choice, Miss Parkinson. You do know your wines."

Pansy waved a hand. "Oh no, Harry's the one who knows wines. I asked her for a recommendation." She would be an expert, at least, after Pansy finished training her.

"Miss Potter?" he asked, leaning forward. "I wouldn't have expected it. I can barely tear my wife away from a cauldron long enough to get her to eat a plate of anything." He laughs. "I could give her chicken nuggets instead of foie gras, and she'd never notice."

Pansy laughed. "I know how it is. Harry is just such a dedicated brewer. Sometimes it's like it's all she can think about."

"Passion is what matters," he said, looking at her intently. "My wife and I both believe in supporting and affirming true passion." He then proceeded to give her a seven-minute lecture on his own passion, escargot.

"How fascinating," Pansy lied, making appreciative noises after her bite. "And tell me, how is your wife? Is the Aldermaster settling into her new job?"

An hour later, they parted, Pansy with a fancily wrapped goat cheese tart in hand. She curtsied and made her way to the potions guild, where she made friendly small talk with the receptionist and six different brewers on her way to Harry's lab. One of them had thirteen children, and Pansy asked after each one by name. By the time she got to Harry's lab, she was almost vibrating with satisfaction. Pansy took so much pride in a job well done.

She slipped in without knocking, careful not to disturb Harry at her process. Harry's magic registered Pansy, and Harry shifted slightly. "One sec, Pans, I need to do one more thing before I can leave this to simmer."

Pansy watched Harry's hand as she sliced a root with unerring precision. It was very sexy, and Pansy was in an excellent mood.

Finally, Harry turned away. "Thanks for lunch, Pans," she said. "I'm not quite hungry yet, so you can leave it over there." She paused. "Did you get the goat cheese tart?"

"Of course," Pansy said, enjoying Harry's obvious joy. She was so easily pleased.

Harry grinned. "I said hello to five people today."

Pansy smiled at her approvingly, hiding her amusement at how utterly pathetic Harry's social skills were. "Wonderful job, Harry. I'm very proud."

Harry glanced at the cauldron. "That has to simmer for an hour."

"Oh my," Pansy said. "Whatever shall we do?"

Harry waved her hand, and the lock on the door clicked. Pansy loved watching Harry do wandless magic. She bit her lip, and murmured, "I think you said something about deserving a reward?"

Pansy moved forward slowly, trailing her finger along the counter as she approached. She pushed Harry against the nearest wall, kissing her. "I forgot. But I did mention that," Pansy murmured. She kissed her again and then pulled away. Harry leaned forward, but Pansy had already started to sink to her knees.

 


 

Pansy checked herself carefully in the guild ladies' room, fixing her hair. She did so love Harry's determination to reciprocate. It had been a perfect day.

 


 

"You've been living together for almost three years, my dear, and what do you have to show for it?"

"Harry's earned three honorary degrees, two guild awards, four research grants (that she didn't even know existed until I applied to them on her behalf), and Harry has flourishing correspondence with almost every luminary in the field across Europe. They think she's very witty. I don't know how she's going to live up to her correspondence if she ever actually meets any of them." She paused. "After that annoying Frenchman who invented that dental potion wouldn't stop trying to one-up her, he was revealed to have been falsifying results and was kicked out of the international potion association." Pansy smiled sharply. "That was a quite shame for him. He wasn't aware he'd been falsifying his results at all." Narcissa gazed at Pansy, and Pansy added as an afterthought, "And Harry's invented approximately a million new potions and is very happy about them."

Narcissa took a sip of her tea. "You've done an absolutely brilliant job for Miss Potter, my dear. Her career is flourishing, and her fame now extends far beyond her field."

Pansy preened under Narcissa's approval. Narcissa's gaze sharpened. "But what do you have to show for it?" Pansy paused, her perfectly arched brows furrowing. Narcissa shook her head slowly. "Miss Potter's victories are not truly your victory—you can't truly use them to supplement your rule in society—until your partnership is…official."

Pansy's hand tensed on her teacup. "She doesn't think about anything but potions. I've been hinting. Not even hinting. I've been outright, and I don't think she understands."

"Give me an example."

"I told her I had to get every single one of my rings cleaned. At the same time. And I complained vociferously about how I had none to wear." She huffed. "I even staged a robbery! Now all my rings are in my bedroom at Parkinson Manor, and I can't wear them without revealing the lie. It's incredibly annoying. What kind of a thief only steals rings?" She frowned. "And then, do you know what she did? She went to her little thief friends to ask if any of them knew who could have robbed her to try and get my rings back from her underground buddies. And then I ran into Lionel Hurst in Diagon, and he told me he'd heard that every single one of my rings was missing. You should have seen his smirk. I was fuming."

Narcissa's lip quirked. "That is rather funny."

"For him. And for you," Pansy said, almost snarling.

"You could propose," Narcissa said idly.

"No," Pansy insisted. "That's not my job. I should be wooed. She should be buying me jewels and perfumes and bringing me flowers, and taking me to stroll in the park and on vacations to Paris. Harry loves me—Goddess, I know she loves me—but she doesn't seem to realize that it means she has to do anything about it." Pansy hissed. "I want her to get down on her fucking knee and beg me to marry her, but at this point, I've got to drag her to the aisle some way or another. It's been years of effort. I'm almost an old maid." Pansy shook her head. "Aldon's French cousins are all married, and they are younger than me, and they were insufferable at the Rosier garden party. And Harry was off at the food table eating cake! And then she ate too much cake and had a stomach ache and was terribly unhappy, and I couldn't even fix it!"

"There's such a thing as a sunk cost," Narcissa pointed out. "You're still young and still beautiful."

Pansy started as if struck. "Absolutely not."

"I know you think you love her, but…"

"No."

Narcissa nodded. "I expected that, but I had to put all the options on the table. Is there anybody else, perhaps, that she's stuck on?"

"No. Aldon is married, that Lestrange kid is back in Eastern Europe, and…well, you know that Draco moved on years ago. That Hurst boy is with someone else finally. I was on the verge of having him assassinated, but he seems like the kind of person who is very hard to kill."

"Odd, that. I've noticed it too on the rare interaction, and his father doesn't seem the slightest bit dangerous." Narcissa shook her head. "That whole family is a bit odd, but if he's no longer a threat, we can put him out of mind."

"She loves me," Pansy said. "I know she does. And she needs me. So why won't she marry me?"

Narcissa looked at her. "Because you're always there. You're just a part of the background of her life, now, like the sun and the earth beneath her feet. It wouldn't even occur to her that marrying you is something she should do, or something she wants to do."

"So what do I do?"

"You leave."

"I already said I won't—"

"Not forever," Narcissa said, huffing and looking at Pansy as if she was dim. "Make her think you're leaving forever and wait for things to fall apart. She'll come knocking at your door. When she finally looks up from her cauldron, she'll beg."

"You think so? What if she just gives up and decides to be alone instead? It's not like she hasn't considered that route extensively."

Narcissa reached over and held Pansy's hand. "It's harsh, but the truth is that if she doesn't come after you, she simply isn't committed enough for you to marry her at all."

Pansy's teacup exploded into shards. Narcissa leaped back, and Pansy stared at the cup with wide eyes. "Accidental magic," she said, exhaling. "I haven't done that since I was what, six?"

Narcissa pinched the bridge of her nose. "We'll go away together. Leave the country. If you just try to move out, with nothing and nobody to keep you firm, you'll go back in two days. You won't be able to help it."

"I don't think she knows how to feed herself," Pansy said, biting her lip. "She'll be hungry!"

"Yes," Narcissa decided, eyeing Pansy. "You and I are going on a Grand Tour. And we'll start in Japan." Narcissa paused. "Or maybe Siberia. I've heard it's lovely this time of year.

 


 

Harry came home from work early and knocked on the door frame of Pansy's boudoir. Pansy jumped, her head whipping up, and she tensed. Harry wasn't supposed to be home. Pansy was supposed to be all packed, and ready, and calm, and sitting at the table when Harry returned, not kneeling on the floor desperately looking for her matching lace glove. This wasn't how it was supposed to be.

"Where are you going?" Harry asked, peeling a Valencia orange. The scent reached Pansy's nose, and it made her sick.

"Japan."

"Oh," Harry said, surprised. "Why?"

"I've never been."

Harry snorted. "That can't be all. You never do anything without a clear reason."

Pansy's left hand clenched the glove with white knuckles, but Harry couldn't see it. "I'm going with Narcissa," she said. She stared at her suitcase and eventually just gave up on the glove and tossed it in the corner.

"Tell her I say hullo," Harry said. "Oh, and tell her I ran into Andromeda in Diagon, and she said hello too. Did I tell you about that? It was yesterday. Teddy's gotten big. We should visit them when we're free. Do we have plans next weekend?"

Pansy bit her lip, still not looking at Harry. "You have a speech about the relationship between Potions and Alchemy at the Alchemy Guild at three on Saturday and dinner afterward with the senior Masters. Do try not to upset old Ulrich. And on Sunday afternoon, you're taking Addy to a matinee at the Children's Theater. But you could stop by Andromeda's for breakfast either day."

"Okay," Harry said agreeably. "Do you mind sending her a letter asking? I would but—"

"—I have better handwriting," Pansy said, finishing Harry's words. Pansy opened her mouth to agree to do it, and then looked at her suitcase. "You'll need to send the letter. I'm heading out soon, and I won't be back by next weekend."

"You're missing the alchemy dinner?" Harry asked, surprised. She snorted. "God, I'm going to look a mess without you to pick my robes. Although who am I kidding, you'll probably have all of next week's outfits lined up in my closet like you did when you went to Paris."

"I think you can pick out your own robes at this point, Harry," Pansy said firmly. "You aren't a child."

Harry laughed. Part of Pansy wanted to scream. How was Harry so oblivious? How did she not understand? Why was she making Pansy say any of this? Harry asked, "When are you going to be back?"

"I don't know," Pansy said, carefully folding a sweater. "We haven't decided how long we will be in Japan, and then China is next, and then Thailand, and maybe we'll go to South America after that."

There was a long silence behind her. Pansy heard Harry shift. "What do you mean? Like, you're going to be gone a month? Longer than a month?"

"Yes," Pansy said. She could feel Harry's eyes on the back of her head. "That's why I'm packing. I'm going." Harry still didn't say anything, and Pansy added, "I talked to the landlord and told him we probably weren't renewing and paid my share through the end of the lease. It's only six months anyway, so don't forget to start looking in five months. Unless you want to end up homeless."

"I don't understand," Harry stated. Pansy winced. There was a tension there, a stillness, a stillness Pansy thought Harry had worked through. This was Rigel speaking now, controlled Rigel, Rigel who Harry had buried so deep inside but never really lost. Pansy didn't say anything, just shifted on her knees, pushing the suitcase so she could look at Harry. Harry was standing upright, her posture perfect, her face blank. She hadn't looked like that in a very long time. Pansy hated her suddenly, hated her lack of emotion, hated all of this. "Pansy," Harry said.

Pansy's throat burned, but she didn't let her face change. She didn't let her eyes get wet. She had trained all her life to wear this mask. For once, Harry was going to get it too. Pansy wasn't going to be weak. She was going to fucking Japan. "I'm leaving you," Pansy said.

She turned back to the suitcase. It was done. She closed it, and pulled on the zipper. She stood up, and turned to face Harry with perfect, unstilted grace.

"Why are you leaving me?" Harry asked. At her side, Harry's hand clenched and then unclenched.

"Because I'm tired of this. I'm tired of you taking me for granted." Pansy shook her head. "Or do you want me to stay here so that I can make sure all your clothes are properly hemmed and arrange your social calendar and tell you everything is going to be okay and go down on you whenever you're in a bad mood? Or a good mood, for fair measure?"

"You don't like—? "Harry stopped. "You never had to…I…"

Of course, Pansy liked. She loved going down on her, and she loved the noises Harry made. And she loved the look in her eyes and the taste of her. Pansy looked at her. "I guess I'm getting tired of being a kept woman."

"You're not—"

"Aren't I?" Pansy asked. She hated this, hated the way Harry was looking at her, looking at her like she was a victim, like Pansy was being unreasonable. "Aren't I a kept woman, Harry?"

"No!" Harry exclaimed. "You…you pay your rent."

"That's why I'm not your goddamn concubine? Let's bring back that little joke." Pansy said, bitter laughter coating the words. "Because I pay my fucking rent? I manage the fucking bills, Harry. If we're focusing on technicalities, I also pay yours."

"You said you didn't mind!" Harry exclaimed. "You said that I was busy and that you could do it! I didn't…I don't make you do anything! You do whatever you want. You read your magazines and have your teas all fucking day, and I don't say anything. How much tea can any single person drink anyway? You have tea what, four times a day?"

Pansy exhaled, forcing herself to be calm. She had done everything in her power to make it all magical, to not let Harry realize just how hard she worked to be perfect. How could Harry know? How could Harry know if she never fucking paid attention? If she never looked? "You're right, Harry. I do enjoy drinking tea and reading magazines. That is how I pass my time. And Japan is famous for its tea culture. I'm sure I'll be able to get British magazines."

"So you're dumping me? Because you don't like that I work and you don't? Is that the problem? Do I not make enough time for you? Is that where this 'kept woman' bullshit is coming from?"

"I live in your house, and I fuck you whenever you want, and I make sure it's all perfect, and I'm not your fucking wife." Pansy stepped forward, her hands trembling, as Harry's eyes widened in almost comical confusion. "Put a ring on it, Harry, and it's a partnership. But you know who I am. You know the world I come from. Do you know what it's like to be at a party and have every single other society person my age be married? Do you know how they look at me? They pity me, Harry. I should be ruling society, my parties should be the most desired ticket, people should be begging to be my friend! That's what I was raised for. But by their standards, I'm a failure—waiting and waiting and waiting for nothing. Do you know what it's like to have tea with my mother? All the subtle little hints she drops?"

"You want to get married?" Harry asked, gaping, like it was utterly ludicrous. Like Pansy was crazy. "But that's… that's forever. We're too young!"

"Maybe you think you are, Harry," Pansy hissed. "But in my world, I'm an old maid. A spinster. On the fucking shelf."

"Then why didn't you say something?"

"I gave you every hint in the world, Harry," Pansy said. "Every person we know is entirely aware that I've been trying to get you to propose."

"What?"

"Go ask. Any of them. Any of our friends." Pansy threw up her hands. "You didn't want to know, Harry. Because you don't think you need to marry me. Because it's more convenient to just have me here, without any real responsibility."

"Just because I don't want to get married doesn't mean I don't love you."

"Harry, love is no longer enough," Pansy said, her voice quiet. "I do love you. But I need you to commit to me, or what the fuck is the point of all of this?"

"To spend time together," Harry said, her eyebrows drawing together. "That's the point. If this is such a big deal, why didn't you fucking propose?"

Pansy shook her head slowly. "Because I do everything else. I wanted you to do one thing to show me you loved me. One thing. And don't you dare say sex is enough. That's the only time you show anything—everything else is reserved for your lab and your potions. That's what you think your life is, and for the past several years, my entire life has been you. It has been about helping you and focusing on you and doing everything you needed. You could have bought me a fucking ring and flowers. You could have wooed me."

"So what, if I give you a ring and get down on one knee, you won't leave?" Harry asked. But it wasn't a plea. It was angry. "If I do what you want, this'll be over?"

"Do you want to marry me?" Pansy asked. "Tell me honestly. Right now, do you want to marry me?"

Harry froze, her mouth working. Eventually, she muttered, "I don't know."

Pansy exhaled, closing her eyes. And then she opened them, all emotion erased. "You have enough groceries for the next week. Your schedule is on the counter. You have dinner with your parents tomorrow, and Aldon wrote. He wants to see you. I threw out that green sweater with the holes in it, so don't both looking for it. The bills are all done for this month. I had the house deep-cleaned yesterday and replaced that rug with the spill on it, though I'm sure you didn't notice the difference. The draft for your speech at the Alchemy guild is on your desk—just add all the technical bits where I left spaces. Archie and Hermione are visiting in two weeks, so don't forget to meet them at the international Floo. I'll send Loppy for the rest of my things, although I started moving out yesterday, so the vast majority is gone." She paused. "If I've forgotten something or you don't know where to find the fucking Floo powder, don't bother writing. Narcissa and I are having a ladies' retreat, and I'm not going to be responding." She paused and added, "The extra Floo power is in the hall cupboard on the top shelf."

Harry was frozen. "Pansy—"

"I'm leaving now. Goodbye," Pansy said, her face placid and her voice completely calm. She reached down, picked up her suitcase, and then grabbed her portkey off of her mirrored table. Her world spun, and she landed, sobbing, in the Parkinson Manor front hall.

 


 

"This jasmine tea is excellent," Narcissa said, gazing out over the still pond.

"It is."

"Draco wrote to me. He said you haven't been responding. I told him you were taking a break from correspondence."

Pansy nodded, her red-rimmed eyes focused on the lake.

Narcissa took another sip and then said, "He told me something else interesting. About Miss Potter. Would you like to hear or no?"

Pansy didn't move for a long moment and then murmured, "Please."

"He told me that he went over to the house and found Harry in the kitchen with fifteen different brands of orange juice. He said Harry was taste-testing all of them, and then exploding all the ones that didn't taste right. The kitchen walls were covered in juice. She was doing it wandlessly, Draco said. She didn't even realize she was exploding them until Draco got splattered and shouted at her. He said he felt awful. She started tearing up, which was apparently terrifying, and then she shouted at him and made him leave."

"Oh."

"Where did you get the orange from, darling?"

"The Parkinson Estates in Valencia."

Narcissa laughed out loud. "Oh, that's going to drive that girl insane. Nothing will taste the same."

Pansy looked up. "Should I send her—" she stopped. "No."

"Absolutely not," Narcissa said. "If she wants the orange juice badly enough, she'll come to Japan."

"Do you think she will?"

"Not yet, my dear, I'm sorry. We need to wait a bit longer for her life to fall apart completely. She's still in the angry stage, I'm sure. There are stages to this. I think it will be while, probably a few countries." Narcissa smiled. "But this is a very encouraging sign. In the meantime, there was a girl your age in the hotel lobby who was eyeing you. Perhaps a distraction?"

Pansy slept with the girl. She left when it was over and went back to her room, where she showered three times and vomited once and cried for the next four hours.

Things were better in China. By the time they got to Thailand, she had stopped crying entirely. But she didn't repeat that little experiment.

 


 

Dear Pansy,

Where are you? Your mom won't tell me.

I know you said you weren't receiving letters, but please come home. I miss you.

I decided not to give up the lease. I don't want to leave this house, but it isn't the same. I'm sorry I didn't pay enough attention to you. I get it now. Everything is awful. Nothing works without you here.

I love you.

Harry.

Pansy crumpled the letter. "She's a terrible letter writer."

Narcissa looked at it. "Progress, but nothing about marriage. Don't respond."

"What if she gives up?"

"She won't."

"Am I being cruel?"

"Maybe. But I didn't teach you to be kind, Pansy. I taught you to do what you had to do to get what you need. You can do more for her as her wife than you can as the girlfriend she barely notices. She's seeing you now. She sees the holes you used to fill.

 


 

In Cartagena, the flowers started coming. Every single day to the hotel. Bushels of them. They clashed, as if Harry had bought out the entire flower shop in her frenzy. Pansy rearranged them carefully in her room, and sat in the middle of the blooms. There was a note.

I'm not totally sure how to do this wooing thing. Draco is trying to help, but he's not sure either. But here are some flowers. I wasn't sure which ones you would like, and getting you pansies seemed lazy. Anyway, I love you.

In Lima, the flowers started coming with gifts. Jewelry, perfume, all the random shit that Pansy didn't actually need. The first necklace made her cry. The second one makes her laugh. Harry had atrocious taste.

Narcissa picked it up between two fingers, horrified. "We could melt it down and have the stones reset?"

Pansy snatched it back. "Absolutely not."

"Darling, your crush is one thing. Wearing that is another. I'll send you home if you do."

Pansy sighs. "I won't. I'm not that far gone. I'm not blind. But I'm not letting you destroy it."

"Thank Merlin," Narcissa sighed. "She doesn't want you insane."

 


 

Pansy bought a great deal of leather in Buenos Aires. She comes back to the hotel to find more flowers. There was no parchment attached. She frowned ever so slightly, and asked the maid, "Was there a note with this?"

"No, the young miss just left that. She left a verbal message with Manuel at the front desk, I think," the maid says.

Pansy froze. "It didn't come by owl?"

"Oh no," the maid said. "She was here five minutes ago."

"What did she look like?"

"Dark hair. Pale. English. Green eyes."

Pansy sat on the chaise in the room. Narcissa found her a while later, still in her day dress. "Dear, the restaurant we are going to is high cuisine. You can't wear that."

"She's here, Narcissa. In Buenos Aires."

"Ah. Are you ready?"

"What if it's not what I want?"

"Then you will decide what to do then. Regardless, you must act properly. Put on your dinner clothes and get that panicked look off your face."

Pansy nodded. Pansy Parkinson would not be flustered, no matter how many dark-haired, green-eyed, lovely, perfect people were in the city. She put on a dress and took extra care with her makeup. Not that any such people would notice any such things.

 


 

The following day she got up and walked through La Recoleta, admiring the buildings and soaking in the warmth. Eventually, she noticed she was being followed. She kept walking, looking in the store windows until she came to a café. She sat down.

Harry stopped, twenty meters away, shifting on her feet. Pansy didn't look at her, knew that Harry thought Pansy hadn't seen her. But there was a mirror with the menu written on it on the wall, and Pansy could see Harry perfectly where she stood behind Pansy's back. Harry crept closer, tension in every step.

The waiter came, and Harry froze, only a few feet behind. Pansy spoke Spanish, but Harry didn't, so she ordered in English. Two teas, one exactly the way Harry liked it. Pansy watched Harry go pale in the mirror.

Harry inched forward until she was almost at Pansy's shoulder. She lurked there as if stuck. Pansy finally said, "Don't tell me your tea order changed. I can't possibly have been gone that long."

Harry almost shuddered as if the sound of Pansy's voice had struck her. "No," she said thickly. "No, it's the same."

She stayed there, staring at the back of Pansy's head while Pansy watched her in the mirror. Pansy asked, "Aren't you going to sit down?"

"Are you sure?"

Pansy twisted in her seat. "The question is, are you sure? Because if you aren't, there's no point in you being here at all."

"Yes!" Harry's hand jumped, and she whipped out a ring box from her ever-present potions bag. She threw it at Pansy compulsively. Then she lurched forward, her hands outstretched as if trying to grab it back, and shouted, "No!"

Pansy's eyebrows shot up, and she looked at the closed box she had expertly caught with one hand. She hadn't waited this long to let Harry throw it on the neighbor's medialuna. Pansy looked at Harry. "No?"

"Give it back," Harry exclaimed.

Pansy's face hardened. "Come all this way to chicken out now? Just go, then." She turned. In one of the least controlled moments of Pansy Parkinson's life, she hurled the ring box onto the street.

A muggle car rolled along at that exact second and drove right over it.

"Oh Goddess," Harry hissed, freezing. "Oh fuck. That's the Potter family ring." She gaped. "It's five hundred years old!"

"It was five hundred years old," Pansy said, a smirk emerging. Then she glared at Harry with narrowed eyes. Pansy hadn't spent six months moping around the world to have Harry come and break her heart again when the ring had been in her hand. "Fuck the Potter family ring."

Harry glanced at the road, shifting on her feet, and then gave the heirloom up to focus on the more critical problem. "Did you want a new ring? That one's green, but you can have any color you like. But you like green!"

It was Pansy's turn to freeze. "You mean emerald," she said first. "I assume. But what—you just asked for the ring back!"

Harry through up her hands. "Because I had a plan! And it was romantic! And then you freaked me out, and I threw it at you! Which isn't romantic at all!"

"Huh," Pansy said. She thought that over. "In that case, I do want the Potter family ring. In fact, I insist on it." She examined Harry critically and then jerked her head. "You'd better go and punch that guy who just very casually stole it and is now speed-walking thataway." She waved her hand to the left. "If I have to get a shitty new ring because you bungled your proposal I'll be furious."

"Wha—" Harry turned toward the road, swore vociferously, and then sprinted down the block.

"The yellow shirt!" Pansy hollered after her. She took a big sip of her tea, and then settled back to watch the show.

Harry reached the guy, started gesturing, and he tried to push past her. When she grabbed his arm and didn't let go, he went to punch her. Pansy grinned. Harry ducked and then punched him. It devolved into an all-out fight. The other guy was pretty decent, so it took longer than Pansy would have expected for Harry to pin him and return with the ring, now thoroughly mussed and with a bruise developing on her cheek. She settled into the chair across from Pansy and glared at her as Pansy smirked back.

Harry closely examined the ring in her hand. She swore when she noticed a dent and tried to rub it out.

"Don't bother," Pansy said. "You'll need to take it to a jeweler. I'll wait for the romantic proposal, as long as it's imminent."

"Do you want me to propose now?" Harry asked hesitantly.

Pansy glared at her. "No. I want my fucking romantic proposal. When you don't look like you've been in a bar fight."

Harry nodded tensely. "Okay. Okay, yes. I'll get it fixed." She started to stand up in her chair. "I'll get it fixed right now. And you won't go anywhere? I mean, obviously do what you want, but you won't change cities? Leave me here?"

Pansy grabbed her arm. "Sit down," she commanded. "You aren't going anywhere at this exact moment. I'm going to finish my tea, and you should too. You'll need the energy. And then we are going back to the hotel."

"What?" Harry asked. It was apparently all she knew how to say these days.

"I said I didn't want you to propose while looking like you'd been in a bar fight," Pansy explained, enunciating as if she was speaking to a toddler. "But I love to watch you fight, particularly when it's in defense of my long-awaited ring. There are plenty of other things I want you to do at this moment."

"Oh. You mean—" Harry's eyes lit up. "So we…you…"

"Drink your tea," Pansy said, holding her cup delicately. "And stop acting like a bumpkin, or you'll ruin the effect that little performance inspired."

"I am sorry, Pans, for all of it," Harry said, slowly sounding out each word as if determined to put them in the right order. "I really don't know how to live without you. Not because of the house or the schedule or all the career stuff I've now learned you were doing. But because I need you."

"That was good," Pansy said, nodding. "Workshop that for the real proposal."

"Workshop it?" Harry asked, biting her lip. "What was wrong with it? What should I change?"

"I'm not editing my own proposal speech," Pansy said, waving a hand. "I'm sure you'll figure it out."

"Merlin, Pans, this is so stressful," Harry said, her head in her hands. "And I love you so much."

"I know," Pansy said, a real smile emerging into the late morning sunlight. She drained her tea and put it on the table. "Okay, let's go. Much to do today."

Harry stood up after her almost shakily, trailing her as they headed towards the hotel. In the shade of a tree, she paused, pulled Pansy to her, and kissed her. When they released each other, Pansy luxuriated for a long second in the look in Harry's eyes, then started dragging her to the hotel.

"Pansy?" Harry said, holding on to Pansy's hand tightly. "I've been wondering for the past six months, and it's been driving me up the wall…"

"Yes?"

"Where is that orange juice from?"

Pansy looked at her and winked. "I have to keep some secrets, Harry. You'll never know."