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A New Life Worth Exploring

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Pansy Parkinson lamented her existence. She belonged to one of the oldest and richest families in the wizarding world. When she was younger, she pictured a future with a pureblood husband who was running for Minister, and she would spend her days shopping in Paris and suntanning in Hawaii.

The war had changed everything. The name Parkinson was laughed at rather than feared, now brought down to commoner status, and as for a husband...well, that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. Pansy had come to a startling conclusion after getting plastered at the Hog's Head and waking up in Susan Bones's bed.

At least it was startling to her. Draco hadn't seemed surprised in the least. "You were always talking about the girls when we were in school, and it wasn't always about their clothes," he said.

So Pansy liked women, and that didn't really bother her in the way her friends had expected. She didn't have a period of denying her true self, and she didn't cripple herself worrying about telling her parents. No, what upset her was the fact that this made it more difficult to get her married off. Apparently the average pureblood male wanted a demure girl who would obey their every wish, in bed or otherwise. Who knew?

Without her family wealth or a husband to support her, Pansy had to take her fate into her own hands, and somehow she ended up at a muggle bookstore. It was agonizing at times, trying to help ignorant muggle patrons find books on stupid subjects Pansy couldn't begin to comprehend. Why would anyone want to know how to build a birdhouse?

But it was also nice not having to worry about running into people she knew from school. The only friends of hers that knew she worked there were Draco and his girlfriend Astoria Greengrass, and they were always visiting her. She swore them to secrecy, not wanting to risk the likes of Blaise Zabini in the vicinity of the defenseless muggles.

There was also the added bonus that she had no other coworkers to pretend to like. In her youth, she would have thrown a tantrum at the idea of having no one to do her work for her, as that was how she operated while attending Hogwarts. But with only an absentee owner whose only wish was that she didn't burn the place down to answer to, Pansy had no qualms about reshelving books and calling publishing companies on her own. Once Astoria helped her figure out how to use a telephone, that is.

Yes, Pansy had grown to adore her quiet and for the most part, magic-free, life.

And then Hermione Granger came through the door. As if having someone from school enter the bookstore wasn't bad enough, the Gryffindor war hero she had bullied endlessly as a teen had to burst in and pop the bubble that was Pansy's fragile new life.

She hadn't immediately noticed her, too engrossed in perusing the spellbook Draco had given her, apparently worried she'd get rusty otherwise. Pansy vaguely registered the fact that someone had entered the store, and only looked up when she heard a voice say, "Parkinson?" in a surprised tone.

She now cursed the fact that she was the only worker. And with Hermione just staring at her with her big brown eyes and thick brunette curls that were much more well-maintained than the last time Pansy had seen her, wow, when did that happen? she had nowhere to hide.

The dark-haired witch cleared her throat. "Yes, Granger, it's me."

"I wondered where you ran off to," Hermione said with a wry grin. "Your hair is longer. A bookstore, huh?"

This threw Pansy off a bit. She expected the other witch to laugh at what her tormentor had been reduced to, or at least make some sort of snide comment.

"It pays the bills," Pansy shrugged, touching her hair self-consciously. "And it's quiet, no nosy reporters to bother me."

Hermione nodded. "Yeah, they bother us too," she sighed, referring to the members of the DA and the Order of the Phoenix.

"Yes, but when they bother you, it's to remind you of your heroics. When they bother me and my friends, it's to remind us the rest of the wizarding world wants us in Azkaban."

The fading smile on Hermione's face made Pansy regret her bitter words. She didn't want the Gryffindor's pity.

"I don't think being a bitch is really Azkaban worthy," Hermione joked, her brown eyes sparkling.

Pansy smiled. "Even if it was, I doubt that would have stopped me." Then cleared her throat.

"Listen, Granger-"

"It's okay," Hermione interrupted, her hair swishing as she shook her head. "We were kids, I think it's safe to say we've both grown up."

Pansy nodded, feeling this warmth surging through her chest. Damn it, she had a crush on the bookworm, didn't she? Curse her lesbian hormones!

She cleared her throat. "Well, you came here for a reason, right?" Pansy slid her rolling chair over to the computer and pulled up the archives of books. "Anything specific you were looking for?"

Hermione checked the watch on her wrist. "Oh, actually, I've got to be heading back to work soon. Can I come back tomorrow morning, like 8 or so?"

"That's fine," Pansy nodded, and Hermione turned to leave. The other witch opened her spell book again, and then took a deep breath.

"I could bring coffee. There's a nice cafe down the street. If you have the time, of course."

Hermione paused, turning back to face Pansy with a tentative smile. "Yeah, I think I could swing that. I could even meet you at the cafe beforehand, if that works for you."

A grin was now forming on Pansy's face as the cogs turned in her head. "Sure, why not do breakfast while we're at it?"

Hermione's smile was wider now, and her cheeks were dusted with a faint blush. "It's a date," she said with certainty, and Pansy watched her leave the bookstore with the feeling that her life wasn't exactly what she had hoped it would be, but a life with Hermione Granger was certainly a life worth exploring.