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Hermione Granger was not a woman who overlooked things. At seventeen, she had helped end a war; at twenty-five, she had swept through a brutal political campaign to become one of the youngest-ever members of the Wizengamot. At thirty-two, it was widely believed in the halls of the Ministry that Hermione knew the answer to any question one might ask before the words were spoken.

Considering these facts, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Hermione, fresh from her morning shower, realized she was in love with the woman currently buried under blankets in her bed.

How unexpected.

For some, this epiphany would have led to sudden and passionate declarations of affection, which Hermione found highly impractical. She tucked the knowledge away in the back of her mind, where it could wait until she had time to examine it, and went about her routine.

“Pansy,” she said, “you really must get out of bed.” She leaned over and pressed a kiss to the bit of sleek black hair visible.

“Hermione Jean,” came a sleepy mumble, “I am shocked at such a suggestion. Shocked and appalled.”

“Not as shocked as your staff will be when I apparate us to the office with you in nothing but those panties.”

With a laugh, Pansy struggled out of her blanket cocoon. “Hardly conducive to a productive working environment, Miss Granger.”

The sight of Pansy walking away from her in transparent lace and velvet ribbon was almost enough to convince even Hermione to skive off for the day. Indeed, it very well may have, if not for the thoughts tickling her brain.

She ignored them while she walked Pansy to the Ministry press corps offices and their fingers brushed together in a discreet goodbye. She dismissed them while meeting with the Minister and the head of the Department for Creature Equality. They rose to the surface when Hermione received an interoffice memo bearing nothing but a scarlet lipstick kiss and a charmed whiff of distinctive perfume, but she issued her brain a stern warning and went back to work.

Only when she’d returned home and settled into her favorite chair did Hermione allow herself to acknowledge the fact that, five months into their rather undefined liaison, she’d gone and fallen for Pansy Parkinson.

Simply asking her out on a date was impossible. Pansy was, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of modern pureblood culture, but she clung to a handful of traditions, none of them predictable, the number of which changed from week to week. It was rather like traversing a minefield--impossible to anticipate and likely to explode when one stepped incorrectly.

Hermione had long since admitted to herself that the challenge was a great part of the appeal, when it came to Pansy. She kept that thought in mind as she pulled an armload of books from the shelves and began to investigate the proper way to romance a member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight.

***

“I don’t understand,” Hermione said to Draco, across the dinner table at Grimmauld Place. “It should have worked. I read Calvidge’s Courting Compendium cover to cover.”

“Hang on a minute.” Harry shook his head, nodded, and shook it again. “Let me get this straight. You’ve been... you were-”

Hermione took a fortifying sip of tea whilst suppressing the urge to sigh at the overly-familiar expression of shock on Harry’s face.

“Fucking,” Draco said mournfully from behind his hands. “Don’t ask for the details, you don’t want to know.”

Harry whipped around. “What- you knew and you didn’t tell me? We’re married, you’re supposed to tell me these things!”

“Pansy swore me to secrecy. She threatened to hex my hair off.” Draco patted around the top of his head, as if to verify that his hair was, indeed, still in place.

“Getting back to the point, boys,” Hermione said. “Yes, Pansy and I have been involved for several months now. Yes, I would like our relationship to become more formal, but instead of responding to the extremely traditional flowers I sent, she’s stopped answering my floo calls and sends my owl straight back.”

“Merlin,” Draco said, “what kind of flowers did you send? Asphodels? Biting roses?”

“They were lovely! Even the shopkeeper seemed impressed.” Hermione bit her lip as she remembered the man’s expression. “Well, awed, at any rate.”

Draco’s eyes narrowed.

“Here, I took a picture.” She passed her phone across the table.

“Oh. Oh, Granger, you didn’t.”

“Watch out,” Harry said from the side of his mouth. “Last names.”

“Shut it, Potter,” Draco said. “You’ve no idea what you’ve done, do you, Granger?”

“They’re purple! It’s her favorite color!”

“Yes, purple geraniums. And petunias. With yellow carnations, of all the blasted things.”

Harry snatched the phone away. “They’re very pretty, Hermione,” he said, always staunch in his support.

“Absolutely, they’re charming,” Draco said. His tone was as dry as the Sahara. “They also represent stupidity, disagreement, and contempt. And you sent these to her office? I’m sure it was just the thing to win Pansy over.”

“No- no, they don’t. They couldn’t possibly.”

“Oh, but they could. How have you not read The Whispers of Flowers? I know that coot Calvidge mentions wizarding flower language at least once.”

Hermione blushed. “It’s out of print and I haven’t been able to track down a copy. And besides, he made it sound terribly outdated.”

Draco made a sound that could only be described as a judgemental sort of cluck.

“It is outdated, so much so that it came all the way back around seventy years ago. The only reason it hasn’t been reprinted is that all the families who might care already own at least two copies.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Regardless, you’ve done it now. She’ll be in a right snit, even if you didn’t mean to blatantly insult her.”

Hermione bit her lip.

“Do you love her?” Draco’s tone was calm and cool, but he didn’t even blink as he waited for Hermione’s answer. She remembered once again that Pansy had been his best friend since they were small.

She nodded.

“I suppose I’m forced to help you, then.”

Impulsively, Hermione jumped up from the table and threw her arms around Draco. He patted her awkwardly on the shoulder before pointing out that a scheming session of this magnitude required whiskey. Glasses were gathered, plots were hatched, and there may have been some alcohol-fuelled shouting, but, as it was the Potter-Malfoy household, none of their neighbors were particularly surprised.

***

Algernon and Prudence Parkinson had never met Hermione, being rather fond of the countryside and scandalously disinterested in politics for people of their standing. Hermione could only imagine the looks of shock that must have graced their faces when they received her owl. Some of it remained there even now, as they stood on her doorstep.

Thank Merlin she had, at least, chosen to live in a respectable part of Wizarding London.

She welcomed them in, ushering the couple to her living room’s plush leather couches. The tea tray was already set, the delicate china pot steaming under a warming charm.

“Please, do sit down. Can I offer you a drink?”

The Parkinsons murmured politely over the excellent tea, the charming room, Hermione’s lovely robes; it was a scene straight out of the Regency novels tucked away on Hermione’s bookshelf. She endured the small talk for as long as she could, but patience had never been Hermione’s strong suit.

“Mr. and Mrs. Parkinson, thank you for coming. I’m sure you’re aware of the purpose of this visit?”

Prudence and Algernon glanced at each other. Algie’s hand settled on Prudence’s knee as if to say, you handle this, dear.

“Well, Ms. Granger-”

“Oh, Hermione, please!”

“Ahh, Hermione, you must understand our surprise, but your invitation did seem to suggest a certain level of... intention.”

Hermione nodded.

“You see, Ms. Granger, Peregrine is still quite young, and in his position, well, an affair of this nature would be rather inappropriate, don’t you think?”

Peregrine Parkinson was Pansy’s much-younger brother, and a secretary on Hermione’s own staff. Her eyes grew big as she processed the Parkinsons’ assumption.

“No! No, not there’s anything wrong with Peregrine, of course, but as you said, he is rather young and...” she bit her tongue on the word ‘flibberty-gibbity.’ “I’m afraid you have rather the wrong idea, Mrs. Parkinson.”

Prudence sank back onto the couch, somewhat befuddled. “You can’t possibly mean Pansy, I’m sure, Ms. Granger?”

Hermione frowned. “I’m given to understand, madam, that homophobia is considered rather outre by even pureblood standards.”

Mrs. Parkinson fluttered a hand, distressed, at her husband, who leaned forward to pat Hermione’s hand over the table.

“It’s not that, my dear girl, not at all,” Algernon said. “But Pansy, you see... I’m afraid she’s about to announce her engagement.”

***

“To-” bam - “Cornelius” smash “Bouchard!” Hermione hurled another curse, shattering yet another mug into shards. Harry, who knew his role in this exercise, summoned a new ceramic victim in time for Hermione to whirl around and explode the thing.

“That bastard, Cornelius Bouchard,” he said, nodding. “I’ve always hated him.”

“Oh, have you,” Hermione snarled, destroying another mug. Bouchard was widely considered to be one of the friendliest people in the Ministry; even Hermione couldn’t hate him, although Merlin knew she’d tried. Cornelius was always smiling at Pansy, bringing her cups of tea, complimenting her shoes- as if any man not on the pull noticed a woman’s shoes. He didn’t even have the good graces to be smarmy about it, so that Hermione could legitimately despise him.

Harry slung an arm around Hermione’s shoulder. “Cheer up, Hermione. You could take Cornelius in a fight any day.”

“Wizarding or Muggle,” Draco said, rubbing his nose in well-remembered childhood trauma as he walked down the stairs. “In fact... oh, yes, that could be just the thing we need in this situation.” There was a particularly Slytherin-esque smirk on his face, the kind most usually accompanied by someone rubbing their hands in glee. “You’ll have to duel him.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Draco, we’re not in school anymore. I’m not going to duel Cornelius Bouchard for Pansy’s hand, or what have you. It’s not as if he owns her. If she wants to marry that… that… popinjay, she can.”

“Not her hand,” Draco said. “Her favor. Her honor. Her attention. The duel is a time-honored practice by which one makes the depths of one’s affection known. My grandmother refused to marry my grandfather until he’d fought three other suitors.”

“You know, Hermione, Draco has a point,” Harry said thoughtfully.

“Oh, Harry, not you, too.”

“It’s kind of romantic,” Harry muttered.

“And exceptionally traditional,” Draco pointed out. “He’s been sniffing around Pansy for months, you know.”

Duelling him was sounding better and better, honestly. Hermione’s expression- all narrow eyes and clenched jaw- was fierce enough to cause both Harry and Draco to draw back a bit.

“I want it on record that such an idea is completely ludicrous, and I am engaging in it only under duress.” She turned to Draco. “I assume there’s a proper procedure to this as well?”

She had to give him credit, Hermione admitted to herself after she’d returned home. Draco’s quills were charmed to write far more elegantly than any of hers. She supposed that a somewhat florid amount of flourishes was necessary when challenging someone to a duel for a woman’s favor.

A tap of her wand sealed the scroll with the (traditional) blood-red wax signifying an affair of honor. “Don’t bother to wait for a response,” Hermione told her owl, Persephone. “I’ve no idea how long it will take him to reply.”

She expected it to be quite some time, actually. She didn’t exactly enjoy playing on her reputation, but she was who she was, and few people were willing to take on one of the trio that defeated Voldemort.

This fact made it all the more surprising when Persephone returned shortly, bearing not only a response, but an acceptance.

Hermione’s hand twitched towards her wand. Well. If he was going to be like that about it.

Stalking to the fireplace, she pitched in a hand of floo powder. “18 Dublinshire Court!”

A strong-boned, freckled face swirled into being amongst the green flames. “Hermione!” He took a closer look, peering out of the floo. “There’s a face that doesn’t bring good news, eh?”

“Ron. I need you to be my second.”

“What, like, in a duel?”

“Precisely like a duel, Ronald, honestly.”

His eyebrows were up by his hairline. “I’m coming through, ‘Mione.”

She stepped back, summoning tea while he popped through the grate and clambered out of her rather small fireplace.

Saluting her with his mug, Ron took a hefty swig of tea before setting it down with a determined expression.

“This is about that bint Pansy, isn’t it? What’s she done now?”

“Oh, you know.” Her knuckles were white around the handle of the mug. “Nothing, except for throw me over and get herself engaged to Cornelius Bouchard, of all people.”

He whistled. “Blimey. You sure know how to pick ‘em, Hermione.”

“Yes, well,” she said, rolling her eyes, “I did date you, after all.”

“Admit it, I ruined you for anyone else.” He blew a kiss over the top of his mug, and Hermione couldn’t help but laugh.

“Clearly. I’m sure your wife sits at home in fear of the day I come to my senses.” Which was rubbish, of course; Annika Torres-Weasley was a brutal Beater for the Holyhead Harpies, adored Hermione, and didn’t seem to be afraid of anything. She was the perfect match for Ron, and Hermione took a smug sip of her tea, congratulating herself once more for introducing them.

“A duel, though, Hermione? What happened to women’s liberation and shaking ourselves free of the shackles of meaningless tradition?”

“It’s still true. I’m the first to admit that this is a ridiculously foolish, antiquated, and patriarchal display, but… Some people find it not-so-meaningless, after all.”

Ron snorted. “You say some people, but what I’m hearing is Pansy Parkinson. Are you sure about this? You know I’d never question your judgement, but to be honest, I’m starting to question it here.”

“I- I love her, Ron. Even though she’s flighty and has more shoes than I’ve books and routinely wears outfits that cost more than my rent. If I have to go through this farce to prove it, well.”

 

“Hermione,” Ron said, voice solemn, “I love you. You know I love you, but I have also seen you arse-over-teakettle drunk, hormonal, and hungry. In your heart of hearts, you fucking love to hex people.”

Hermione’s answering grin, wide and fierce and dangerous, was the same smile that had seen them through dark times during the War. “Why, Ron, what a thing to say.”

***

The weather on the morning of the duel was unimpressive. Hermione found it a little unfair; shouldn’t these sorts of things be happening on bright, clear days or stormy, windswept ones? Instead, they met under an ambiguous sky, in a small park near the wizarding part of Brixton.

Or, Hermione and Ron met, at any rate, which is to say that it was forty-five minutes past the appointed time and neither Cornelius- nor his unnamed second- had arrived.

Having walked around, peered at the grass, and made note of anything that might affect the duel, Ron finally said, “Sure you’ve got the right day, ‘Mione?”

She brandished the signed scroll in his direction. In large, sparkling gold letters, it stated: Mulberry Park, 2:00pm, November the 2nd.

As if she would have gotten it wrong.

Ron poked her in the arm. “Don’t give me that face. It’s just that I’d assumed you’d have kicked his arse up and down the field by now, and I promised Annika I’d take Henry out for the afternoon. Hey! If good ol’ Cornelius doesn’t show up, you should come to Fortescue’s with us.”

“This is a magically binding contract, Ronald. We will be dueling, one way or the other, if I have to get on a broom and fly to his house myself! Besides, these dueling robes cost me seventy-five galleons, and I’d rather not have your son spill ice cream on them before I have a chance to intimidate Cornelius.”

“As if you couldn’t spell them clean in two seconds,” Ron said, laughing.

“Yes, but I would still know.”

They were nearly at the park gates when the crack of apparition yanked their attention back. Cornelius Bouchard hurried toward them. He was short, his robes a little dingy, and Hermione wondered pettily what Pansy saw in him. Height wasn’t everything, of course, but Pansy regularly wore four-inch spike heels. She must tower over the man like a cedar tree over a particularly scrubby bush.

“Dear me,” Cornelius Bouchard said, waving, “do forgive my tardiness. A bit detained, I’m afraid; Pansy kept distracting me.” He coughed delicately, leaving no doubt as to what he was implying.

Ron clapped a hand to Hermione’s shoulder as she went for her wand. “Better late than never,” he said. “Where’s your second, Bouchard?”

“Oh, he’ll be along any moment, I’m sure.” He snapped his fingers, and as if on cue, a tall, thin man appeared next to him with a crack. Cornelius threw a chummy arm over Peregrine Parkinson’s shoulders.

“Peregrine?” Hermione’s mouth dropped. “Really?”

He met her eyes with a somewhat sickly smile. She was his boss, after all.

“I couldn’t do better than my soon-to-be brother-in-law, now, could I,” said Cornelius.

“I suppose not,” Hermione said through gritted teeth, vowing that Peregrine would be fetching coffee for the entire office every morning for the foreseeable future. “Shall we begin, then?”

They shook hands, Cornelius’ grasp firm, if somewhat clammy, and stepped onto the dueling mat that Ron had conjured. At the center, they bowed with wands raised, and Peregrine gave the count as each duelist paced towards the end of the mat.

“Ten,” Peregrine shouted as his wand threw golden sparkles into the air.

Hermione whirled around, throwing up a Protego and firing off a Sponge-Knee Jinx in the next moment. Even years later, she refused to let go of the instincts that had kept her alive during the war. She, Ron, Harry, and some of the others met regularly to practice, and Hermione’s hexes were nearly as fast as Harry’s these days.

Cornelius crumpled as his legs gave way, but rolled to his back and managed to get a Trip Jinx out. Hermione jumped over the purple rope of the spell and lobbed a Confringo in his direction, smirking to herself as the hem of his robes caught fire.

Hermione’s blood was pounding now, heartbeat loud in her ears. She pictured Pansy- her Pansy- on the arm of this ridiculous man, and threw another hex with a fierce kind of glee.

Frantically casting an Aquamenti, Cornelius didn’t notice Hermione’s Calvario until the turquoise glow of it bubbled around his head. Seconds later, he shrieked as he clutched his naked scalp and strands of his hair floated down around him.

Cornelius stormed down the mat, straight into the path of Hermione’s Leg-Locker Curse. He toppled to the ground yet again, bouncing his bare head off the ground and swearing a blue streak.

“That’s it! That’s enough, I concede!”

A wave of Ron’s wand sent a circle of amber light spinning over Hermione’s head, declaring her the winner. Gracious in victory, she stepped towards Cornelius to help him up, but was beaten by Peregrine, who’d rushed to his side.

“Cornelius, love, are you alright?” He threw his arms around Cornelius and tugged him upright in a surprising show of strength.

Her blood still high and her mood buoyed by her win, Hermione was rather taken aback to look over and see Peregrine draw Cornelius close and kiss him full on the lips, with a level of passion not typically shown in a Brixton park during the middle of the afternoon.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she snapped, “but one of you had better tell me what the hell is happening right now.

***

BOOM.

The walls of Grimmauld Place shuddered as Hermione cast an over-powered knocking spell on the front door.

“Hermione, you know you’ll never hear the end of it if Harry has to come arrest you on his own doorstep.” Ron made a grab for her wand, a move she felt deeply deserved the elbowing he received in return.

BOOM.

The windows rattled in their panes.

“Mother of Zeus,” someone shouted from inside. “I’m coming.”

BOOM.

The door was yanked open. “What the bloody hell is going on out here,” Draco snapped. “I-” His voice failed as he took in Hermione’s flushed face and the restraining hand Ron had around her arm.

“Draco. Lucius. Malfoy,” Hermione bit out. “Would you mind telling me why I just wasted an afternoon dueling someone who is not only not engaged to Pansy and never has been, but is, in point of fact, rather fantastically gay and dreadfully in love with her younger brother?” Her voice climbed as she spoke, until she’d reached a worrying, shrill tone from which Harry and Ron had been known to hide.

Draco’s eyes stared a silent plea at Ron.

“Don’t look at me, mate, I’m contractually bound to be On Her Side.”

“Well, shit.”

“Indeed,” replied Hermione. She shoved her wand at Ron, in the hopes that she wouldn’t follow through on the temptation to hex both Draco and Pansy into next week. Hands thus freed, she shouldered past Draco and went straight for the drawing room bar.

She turned, shot in hand, to meet Ron and Draco’s matching expressions of mildly terrified judgement.

“Oh, shut up,” she said. “I earned this.”

Even if she hadn’t, neither of them were inclined to argue. No one argued with Hermione in high dudgeon, which was why both of them stepped right up when she poured three more shots and gestured with the bottle. Hermione’s eyes were watering at the end, which she chose to blame on Harry’s cheap tequila.

She dropped into her regular spot on the sofa and took the bottle with her, refilling their shot glasses on the way.

“Now, Draco,” she said, glaring at him. “Tell me everything.”

Three quarters of the bottle later, Hermione had almost gotten to the bottom of Pansy and Dracos plot, which consisted largely of making Hermione jealous enough to declare her affections and pull an artfully-swooning Pansy into her arms.

“This is absurd,” Hermione insisted.

“It’s tradition,” Draco said. “Came straight from The Wooing Wizard, chapter six.”

“What if it hadn’t worked?” said Ron, curious. “Not that Cornelius could ever take our Hermione, of course,” he paused to salute her with the second bottle, “but what if?”

“Why else do you think Pansy picked Cornelius to pose as her affianced? None of our other friends would go up against Hermione, and eventually she got Peregrine to guilt Cornelius into it.”

She wasn’t sure she wanted to know, but- “Were there…other plans?”

Draco managed as much of a sneer as was possible when heavily inebriated. “Nearly an alphabet’s worth, what do you take us for? Amateurs? Plan E was a bit messy, what with the flobberworms- glad it didn’t come to that.” Draco made a face as he knocked back another shot.

They had consumed both the third bottle of tequila and the sordid details of the flobberworm plan by the time Harry arrived home from work.

“Well,” he said, propped against the drawing room doorway, “I suppose this explains the noise complaint.”

“Harry!” Hermione grinned at him and laughed to herself at the way her cheeks tingled. “Come do a shot with us!”

“Oh, yes, do,” agreed Draco. He was upside down on the couch, head hanging off the seat and legs kicked up over the back.

“And why are we doing shots, exactly?”

Hermione considered the question. She waved a hand that tried to encompass her purple velvet dueling robes, Ron’s drunken indignation, and Draco’s sneakiness.

“Do you know what she did, Harry? She lied to me. Lied! Told a falsehood. She- she- she besmirched my trust!”

“She being Pansy?”

“Do keep up, Harry, really.” Hermione shook her head at his absentmindedness. “And not only that! She subverted my own secretary! She made him her minion!”

“Hermione, love, Peregrine was her brother first,” Ron said, with the long-suffering tone of someone who’d made this particular argument four times already.

“That’s not the point! The point is that these... Slytherins... conspired against us! Against us, Harry.”

Three Gryffindor heads turned toward Draco. Braver men than he had cowered before them, although the Trio were somewhat less intimidating when one considered Hermione’s drunken hiccoughs.

“Betrayal!” Hermione shouted.

Harry patted her on the head. “Perhaps someone who isn’t Hermione could tell me what this is all about?”

“Turns out Pansy’s not engaged after all,” Ron said. He waved his empty glass for emphasis. “And then your git of a husband- no offense, Draco- teamed up with her to... honestly, I don’t even know, it’s bloody stupid.”

“You’re bloody stupid,” Draco responded. He stuck his tongue out at Ron. “It was a great plan. All my plans are great! Worked, didn’t it?”

“Sure, if your goal was to get Hermione to knock the doors off their hinges.”

Harry collapsed into a chair. “So the three of you are telling me that Draco and Pansy faked an engagement to, what, get revenge? Seriously?”

“Harry, I do adore your dimwittedness,” Draco said. “Jealousy, of course. Perfect motivator.”

Hermione punched an already-beleaguered sofa cushion.

“As if I would get jealous over Pansy Iphigenia Parkinson. Really.” She sniffed imperiously.

“‘Mione, you did get rather peeved about the whole thing,” Ron pointed out.

All at once, Hermione’s lip wobbled. “I just love her so much,” she wailed, and promptly burst into tears. “She’s so pretty. And tiny. And mean.”

“This is what comes of dating pureblood scions,” Ron said. “You should’ve followed Harry’s example.”

“Ignored all my feelings and then suddenly eloped to Cornwall?”

Ron snorted. “Nah, for that’d you’d have to convince Parkinson to marry you.”

Draco stuck his arm in the air, rolled off the couch and stumbled to his feet. “For once, Weasley, your ideas aren’t terrible.”

He grabbed hold of Hermione’s (now sadly creased) dueling robes and hauled her the two steps to the floo before Ron or Harry could object. He wrested an ostentatious silver ring from his finger, murmured over it, and then shoved the ring into Hermione’s hand. “15 Ogden Avenue,” he yelled as he pitched a handful of powder into the grate, and then unceremoniously tossed Hermione in after it.

She stumbled, shouting, through the flames, and only had a moment to take in Pansy’s shocked face before everything faded.

***

Hermione opened her eyes blearily to a blinding, too-bright room and a throbbing pain at the front of her head. Clapping her hands to her eyes revealed that not only was she hungover, but she had a hell of a goose-egg on her forehead.

“Yes,” said a biting feminine voice, “you hit your head when you fell through my floo at nine o’clock at night.”

She flinched. “Hello, Pansy.”

“Hermione.”

There was a screaming accusation on the tip of Hermione’s tongue, but her head hurt far too much to let it spill out. She patted around tentatively, with one hand still pressed over her eyes.

“If you’re looking for your wand, Harry owled to say you could pick it up from Ron later. Apparently he didn’t feel it was safe for you to have it whilst inebriated in my foyer.”

“Draco pushed me.”

“Oh, yes, Draco. His addition to Harry’s note strongly implied that we should join him and Harry in connubial bliss.”

Thank Merlin that her eyes were already closed. Her cheeks were burning as the memories trickled back.

“I imagine that’s what this is about.”

Something solid nudged at the hand still over Hermione’s face. She opened her eyes carefully only to blink at a malformed ring with an extremely loose and somewhat hideous interpretation of a pansy gracing the top.

“Oh god.”

“Mmm.” Pansy’s voice was so blase as to create an entirely new category of unflappable. She smiled the smile practiced by a thousand well-brought-up young ladies; it was very narrow, and very pretty, and it very politely told one to go screw one’s self.

It also made Hermione’s good sense wave a white flag and go back to bed.

“Perhaps it’s an engagement present. I’d offer my congratulations on your impending nuptials, but I’ve only recently heard that you are not, in fact, to become Mrs. Cornelius Bouchard after all.”

Emotions ticked over Pansy’s face like clockwork: there was the fury of her initial, scathing retort, stalled by embarrassment and a certain tired resignation. She folded herself into the chair across from Hermione, knees tucked up under her chin.

“I should’ve known Bouchey couldn’t carry it off. He and Peregrine are revoltingly fond of one another.”

“It was a rather stupid plan,” Hermione sniped.

“As if your agreeing to a duel like an 18th-century dandy was an excellent idea!”

Her knees were wobbly, but Hermione jumped to her feet regardless.

“For you, Pansy! For your... honor, and tradition, and do you know how much these robes cost?”

In her bare feet, lacking her customary towering heels, Pansy was barely a half-inch shorter than Hermione, a fact never more clear than when they were shouting in each other’s faces.

“Do you know how much it cost me to be embarrassed in front of the entirety of the Ministry press corps?”

“Since when have you cared what they think?”

Pansy’s face was white with anger. “Maybe since the most famous journalist in all of fucking Britain watched me crying at my desk because the woman I’ve loved for months sent me flowers full of slander!”

“It was an accident!”

“I know!” Pansy’s shriek rivaled Hermione’s.

They were in each other’s again, faces close, breathing hard.

“I kicked a man’s arse all over the dueling mat just to impress you! I let Draco take me shopping! I love you, you silly cow!”

They were even closer now, Pansy’s mouth an inch away from Hermione’s.

“I love you too,” Pansy whispered, and pulled Hermione into a kiss.

***

Algernon and Prudence Parkinson appeared significantly less surprised to find themselves in Hermione’s flat once again.

“Do forgive us the deception, Ms. Granger. Pansy declared that the whole thing was absolutely vital to her happiness. We know how she gets, of course, but then Peregrine agreed, and well...”

Hermione waved away Prudence’s words. “No apologies necessary, I completely understand.” And she did, now, after six months, several shouting arguments, and a not-insignificant number of snogging sessions.

“We are glad that the two of you have worked things out,” said Algernon, beaming a smile at both Hermione and his daughter, perched on the sofa together.

“Lovely to hear it, Mr. Parkinson, that makes this ever so much easier.”

Hermione held her palm out and summoned a small box into the center of it. Her robes were the leaf-green of new beginnings and fresh starts, one of the five permissible colors when proposing an engagement. Inside was a ring, chosen from the premier wizarding metalsmith of the last century- the same man who’d crafted Prudence’s engagement ring.

Carefully, Hermione knelt.

“Pansy Iphigenia Parkinson, will you do me the honor of joining your family with mine under the bonds of marriage?”

Pansy’s response, teary and comprised largely of sticking her tongue into Hermione’s mouth, was anything but traditional.