Pansy Parkinson sat at one end of the Slytherin table in the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. On either side of her were her two closest girl friends, Daphne Greengrass and Millicent Bulstrode, and across from them their fourth year male counterparts, Blaise Zabini, Theo Nott, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.
Theo and Daphne’s loved-up smiles across the table came as no surprise to anyone in their close-knit group – they had finally cemented their relationship the night before at the Yule Ball, held to honour the Tri-wizard Tournament champions.
They’d all originally agreed to go together as a group, no dates, all of them there just as friends. But when Theo had finally waltzed Daphne over to the obvious mistletoe that most had been avoiding all evening, Pansy couldn’t have been happier for her two friends.
For months she’d had to endure Daphne’s mooning over the quiet, studious boy, wondering if she’d done enough to catch his attention, if he’d meant what he said when he told her he liked the way she’d styled her hair that day.
That’s why Pansy had suggested they all go as a group – it was evident that neither of the two would pull themselves together in time to ask either one to go as their date.
She had dampened her own disappointment at not being able to spend the evening getting cosy with a particular Beauxbatons boy she had had her eye on, but Daphne was a good friend and if there was any way to get the two lovebirds together, Pansy would put her all into it.
She took another bite of her toast, glancing again to the doorway of the Hall in the vain hope that her best friend would appear. They had all known something was up last night when Draco had stormed off, claiming tiredness and that none were to follow him back to the dorm just then.
It had worried her more so when the four boys had arrived for breakfast without the blonde. On questioning Blaise, he had told her that apparently Draco wasn’t awake when they had dressed to leave, the curtains around his bed firmly sealed. Although Blaise’s eyes told her that he was just as concerned as herself.
Raucous laughter sounded across the room, as she turned her attention to the Gryffindor table on the far side of the room. The Weasel had obviously told some story as Potter and the rest of the boys were rolling about with tears in their eyes.
Contrary to popular belief, Pansy did not hate the group, or the house in general. It was expected of her to, an assumption made by all because of her own house, and she was more than happy to join in the laughter at a good joke at Scarhead’s expense, but she bore them no real loathing.
In fact, she had a begrudging admiration for the brains of the group, Granger. She was amazed at how the girl could hold her own in a conversation with anyone, student or teacher alike, and could command respect just by walking into a room.
Sure, she would tease the bushy-haired Gryffindor for her looks and know-it-all attitude, but honestly, she’d do anything to be able to take home ‘O’ graded O.W.L.s to her mother. And just like any straight-haired girl, Pansy longed for her own bouncing curls. Maybe a little more on the manageable side than Granger’s, but still.
And if she could bag Viktor Krum as her date to last night’s ball and have the hottest guys in school panting after her, then what girl didn’t have some level of appreciation for her?
Scanning the far table, she noticed the girl’s absence. Assuming she had probably wandered off for a romantic stroll in the snow around the lake with the Bulgarian Seeker, Pansy turned back to her breakfast.
‘Hey, Pans,’ Blaise turned away from the Quidditch-centred conversation that her friends were holding, ‘Do you fancy a walk after this?’
‘Are you kidding Blaise? It’s freezing out there. Scotland. December. Remember? I don’t do the cold.’
‘Then lets walk around inside, ok?’
She looked up, meeting his wide eyes as she suddenly processed his meaning. He wanted to talk, and Pansy was happy to bet her dress from last night that it would be about Draco.
‘Sure, let me just finish eating first though, yeah?’
As she drained her glass of pumpkin juice and brushed the crumbs of her lap, Daphne finally drew her gaze away from her boyfriend.
‘You off to pack?’
‘Nah, think we might go for a wander first.’ Pansy replied, as Blaise stretched and stood up.
‘Ok. Let me know when you’re planning on packing for the holidays though, I’ve got some stuff of yours, don’t let me forget.’
‘You think I’d let you go home with my mink cloak? Dream on Daphs.’ Pansy laughed. ‘I’ll meet you back here in a bit, though.’
‘Yep, sure, whatever.’ Daphne mumbled, her attention already firmly diverted as Theo had reached across the table to touch her fingers with his own.
‘You ready?’ Blaise asked.
‘Just about. Do you think we should take anything back for Draco?’
‘The miserable sod can go fetch his own food, I’m not his house elf.’ He smiled as they turned to head out of the Hall.
‘Alright, someone’s cheerful then.’ She teased.
‘Nah, I’m just... He seems off to you too, doesn’t he?’
‘Yes. I’ve noticed too.’ Pansy’s agreed, her previous thoughts confirmed.
‘I’m worried about him.’
‘I know, I am as well.’ She sighed. ‘He won’t talk to you?’
‘Are you kidding? This is Draco Malfoy, the ice queen we all know and love. And besides, we both know what this is all about. You really think he’d ever have the guts to tell anyone? His dad would rip him to shreds.’
‘You know, I just have this weird feeling that she might be into this too.’
Blaise stopped walking, in disbelief.
‘I’m serious. Did you see the way they looked at each other when we walked in last night?’
‘Pansy, did you see the way everyone was looking at her last night? She looked incredible. Even for a mudblood.’
‘Blaise.’ She chastised.
He shrugged. ‘Whatever. But seriously, I bet even Snape was having a hard time keeping his eyes of that fine–‘
‘Blaise! Not the time for your lechery!’
‘No, this wasn’t just looking at her. This was something else. I mean, their eyes met, and... I don’t know. He got all weird anyway when we first realised she was there with Viktor.’
‘Oh Viktor!’ Blaise swooned, teasing her.
‘Oh shut up. You’re the one who was just leering over Granger.’
‘Alright, alright,’ He gave in. ‘But anyway. Even without him saying anything, we know he’s got it bad. And even if she does feel the same way about him, it’s not like she’d have any kind of support from her end, either.’
‘Hey, you think we should just lock them in a classroom and have done with it?’ He grinned.
‘Blaise, I’m all for getting Draco back to normal, but I’m not entirely sure either one would come out alive, let alone admitting their feelings for each other.’
They rounded the corner of the corridor and headed up the staircase in front of them. With no direction or destination in mind, the pair just wandered wherever their feet took them.
‘So what do you reckon was up with him last night?’ He asked.
‘I really don’t know.’ She admitted. ‘I was kind of hoping you’d have some idea.’
‘Well, I know he disappeared after Granger had that row with Weasley.’
‘Do you think he followed her?’
‘Maybe. I don’t know, whatever it was he was pretty cut up about it when he came back.’
‘I noticed.’ He paused, apparently trying to form the right words to phrase his next thought. ‘I think... I think I heard him crying last night Pans.’
‘Crying? Draco? Are you sure Greg didn’t just have stomach ache?’
‘No, I’m pretty sure it was him. It was after we all got back. His curtains were shut, we all got ready for bed so I called out goodnight to him, and there was no reply so I assumed he was asleep. I read for a bit and just as I went to turn my light out, I swear I could hear it coming from his bed.’
‘I wish we could say something to him...’
‘Like what? Hey D , heard you crying over Granger last night, wanna talk? Not too sure that’d go down well.’
‘But even if we could just let him know that we know...’
‘Pans, not a good idea. Trust me.’
‘But he might talk to me. Girls listen more, you know.’
‘Girl or not, I can promise you he will never admit to anything like this.’
The duo continued on their way, passing their Charms classroom and headed in the direction of the library.
‘Merlin, do you reckon we could just go in there and talk to her?’ Blaise asked, nodding towards the great room ahead of them.
‘Yeah, like that’ll help matters. Haven’t you noticed how any kind of communication between her and I turns into a huge cat-fight?’
Blaise laughed. ‘I don’t think any of us could fail to notice the screeching.’
‘I do not screech!’ She smacked him playfully on the arm.
The heavy doors to the library opened, as one of the Patil twins appeared. Her blue and bronze tie gave her away as the one Pansy could tolerate, having been occasionally paired with her in Herbology.
‘Padma.’ She nodded in acknowledgement.
‘Hi Pansy.’ The girl paused. ‘Hey, I know it’s a bit of a long shot, but you haven’t seen Hermione around at all, have you?’
‘Granger?’ Blaise frowned. ‘Don’t think so.’
‘Not to worry, then. Thanks anyway.’
‘Is she missing?’ Pansy couldn’t help herself.
‘Not missing exactly. We were supposed to have a last-minute study session before we leave for Christmas and she hasn’t shown up.’
‘Study session? It’s the day after the ball!’ Blaise snorted, as Padma shot him a look.
‘Oh. Didn’t she leave the ball early last night?’
‘I take it no one missed the fight between her and Ron then.’
‘It was pretty hard not to.’ Pansy rolled her eyes. ‘Anyway, don’t think I saw her at breakfast, but you know, we are on the other side of the hall, so...’
Padma nodded. ‘Well, I'm going to head over there and see if she's turned up yet. Oh hey Parvs, Lavender.’ She greeted the two Gryffindors as they approached.
‘Hey Pad. Parkinson, Zabini.’ Her twin sneered, as the Brown girl held her nose in the air, refusing to admit their presence. These were two gossiping Gryffindors that Pansy genuinely wouldn't waste her time on.
‘Listen, you didn’t see Hermione this morning, did you?’
The pair’s eyes lit up at the prospect of passing on scandal.
‘We did.’ Lavender rushed, unable to resist. ‘She was still in bed and refused to get out even when Ginny Weasley came to get her for breakfast.’
‘And,’ Parvati continued, ‘She came in crying last night.’
‘Well, she did have that fight with Ron.’ Padma countered.
‘Yes, well that’s what we thought too.’ Her sister continued.
‘But we asked her what that was all about, and she couldn’t care less about Ron. She was all upset about something else, and we tried pushing her but she wouldn’t tell us anything.’
‘Hardly a surprise.’ Blaise muttered in Pansy’s ear, trying to move her along, but Pansy stood firm, determined to pick up any hints.
‘So, we stayed up for a bit, just chatting and stuff, you know, but Hermione went straight to bed and shut her curtains.’
Padma rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, definitely sounds suspicious.’
‘Wait, it gets better!’ Lavender’s hands flew up in eagerness.
‘After we’d fallen asleep, I woke up and went to get a drink of water.’ Parvati continued, her excitement showing. ‘And I heard her crying again, so I pulled her curtain open, just to see if there was anything I could do. And she was really upset, so I gave her a hug and asked if she wanted to talk, but she said no.’
‘At first. And then she sniffed and started mumbling about some boy. So I told her that Ron wasn’t so bad really, and he was just being a jerk last night, but she stopped me and told me it wasn’t about Ron. So I asked her if it was Viktor, and she said that he’s nice and everything, but he’s a bit thick.’
‘Not like that though!’ Lavender giggled, clearly amused at the innuendo.
‘Anyway, she started talking about this mysterious boy. She wouldn’t tell me his name, or even if he went to Hogwarts or one of the other schools, but she just kept on crying! She was so upset, and then she pulled this bracelet out from under her pillow and told me he tried to give it to her last night. It’s so pretty! It’s got like diamonds and emeralds and rubies on it, so whoever gave it to her must really like her.’
‘And be really rich!’
‘That too. And then she said that she really really likes him, but that’s all I could get out of her before she started sobbing and rolled over.’
‘So why was she so upset?’ Padma asked, as Pansy silently thanked Merlin’s saggy underpants that the girl was bright enough to raise the questions she’d never get an answer to.
‘Well, it sounds to me like she likes this boy too, but, get this, they can’t be together!’
‘It’s like some tragic love-story!’ Lavender crowed, her hand to her heart.
‘Poor Hermione.’ Padma sighed.
Pansy turned to Blaise, just to see if there was anything I could do
‘Well, now that I’m just about bored to death, we’ll be leaving.’ Blaise excused them.
‘Bye Pansy. Blaise.’ Padma called.
Pansy cast a smile in her direction as the two Slytherins turned back along the corridor, questions flying in their wake as Parvati and Lavender queried the Ravenclaw about her association.
‘Well that explains why Draco was poring over that owl-order catalogue the other day.’ Pansy verified.
‘I thought he had to get something for his mum’s birthday?’
‘Blaise, you know as well as I do that Narcissa’s birthday is in August. We went to her massive ball last summer.’
‘Oh, right. Still doesn’t mean he was getting Granger something.’
‘Oh pay attention! Rubies and emeralds? Come on, Blaise!’
‘I just don’t get it.’
‘It’s no wonder you weren’t sorted into Ravenclaw, Zabini, honestly.’
‘Hey! Quit insulting me and start explaining.’
‘Look, he likes her, she likes him, but they’re...’
‘Granger and Draco.’
‘Precisely. So there’s no way they’d be allowed to be honest about it. He made a really bold move by buying her expensive jewellery...’
‘Like Draco would ever be bothered by the price of something.’
‘Besides the point. He buys her jewellery, she’s already upset about the Weasel being an idiot, so probably didn’t handle the whole situation particularly well. Knowing them, they probably had a big argument, things were obviously said, and boom, Draco and Hermione, both crying in bed over each other.’
Blaise was silent for a moment, before opening his mouth to challenge Pansy’s reasoning.
‘No. I’m right on this, Blaise and you know it.’
He fell silent again, before nodding. ‘You’re quite remarkable at times, Parkinson.’
‘Tell me that more often, it’s nice to know.’ She grinned, as he slung his arm about her shoulders.
‘So what are we going to do about our sappy little friend?’
‘I don’t know, Blaise. I really don’t.’
They continued back along their previous route, passing the Great Hall to confirm their friends had returned to the house common room, before making their way down to the dungeons.
Once they’d given the password, the two entered to find Theo and Daphne curled up on one of the plush green sofas with Millicent, Crabbe and Goyle settled on the floor squawking over a game of Exploding Snap.
‘Anyone seen Malfoy?’ Blaise asked as he crashed onto the sofa next to couple.
‘Not recently.’ Theo replied, his arms curling around his new girlfriend.
‘Like either of you two would have noticed.’ Pansy teased, perching on the arm of the couch.
‘Went out. Walking. Grounds.’ Goyle grunted from his position on the large rug.
‘Informative.’ Blaise commended the large boy, before rolling his eyes and glancing up at Pansy. ‘What do you think?’
‘Ugh. You’re going to make me go out there, aren’t you?’
‘Why don’t we head back upstairs and see if we can see him out of one of the windows?’
Pansy sighed, having been quite keen on relaxing by the warm fire.
‘Fine.’ She gathered up the cardigan she had just been slipping off in the new temperature. ‘Well come on then.’
‘Off out again?’ Daphne asked, as she and Theo came up for breath.
‘Apparently so. Back to your snogging.’ Pansy retorted.
The duo eventually found themselves in a Transfiguration classroom with a clear view of a large section of the grounds, when Blaise spotted the young Malfoy’s familiar black coat and fur-lined hat traipsing along the edge of the Forest.
‘There he is. Want to go meet him out there?’ He pointed out.
‘Wait a minute...’ Pansy shushed him, staring intently at a small, evidently layered-up figure heading towards the spot Draco was loitering in.
They unknowingly both held their breath, as the two figures reacted in recognition, yet remaining a short distance apart.
‘Is that...?’ Blaise breathed.
‘I think so.’
Their foreheads pressed against the glass pane, the two Slytherins watched as the objects of their attention appeared to have some kind of conversation.
Pansy’s hand found Blaise’s as the smaller figure appeared to offer something to Draco, her arm outstretched as he vehemently shook his head, backing away from her. Hermione offered it again, more adamantly as Pansy understood she was trying to give back the bracelet.
‘No...’ She whispered, choking up as she knew what Draco would have been feeling.
They continued observing as the smaller person dropped to her knees in the snow, her head in her hands. Draco paused for a few moments before lowering himself beside her, and wrapped his arms tightly about her. Hermione stilled, before responding, her own arms curling up around his neck as she buried her head in his shoulder.
They watched as their friend bent his head to kiss the top of her curls, and gasped as they saw him raise a finger underneath her chin, tilting her face up as his lips met hers.
‘Oh, Blaise.’ Pansy murmured, on the verge of tears. Blaise pulled her close, putting his arm around her in comfort. She let out a choked laugh as they witnessed Hermione Granger throwing her arms around Draco Malfoy’s neck, knocking him to the ground in a passionate kiss.
Blaise leaned his head against his friend’s, as they both smiled, sincerely happy for their best friend.
‘I know we’re not supposed to like Gryffindors, mudbloods or the Golden Trio, but I genuinely hope those two get it on.’ Blaise announced.
Pansy laughed in agreement, sliding her arms around the waist of the boy before her, resting her head on his chest.
‘Me too, Blaise. Me too.’