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“You’ve got to be joking,” Pansy said as she stared up at the notice board, unable to believe what she was reading. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I don’t think it’s a joke,” Blaise said, his nose wrinkled.

Pansy blinked once, then twice and then a final time, scrunching up her face before cracking open one eye to reveal… to reveal the fact that McGonagall had still seen fit to bunk her in a room with Ginny Weasley.

“It’s got to be a joke.”

“I really don’t think when McGonagall announced that all returning and new seventh year students would be forming their own house that she was joking,” Blaise said. “And it could be worse—I’m sharing with Longbottom.”

“Did you try hand Longbottom’s boyfriend over to the Dark Lord?”

Blaise paused before letting out a laugh. “Yeah, okay, your situation is worse.”

“Thank you,” Pansy said, pleased with the victory even if she wasn’t pleased with the way she’d had to acquire it.

She sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear and staring at the list of roommates. She didn’t understand why McGonagall thought it was a good idea to disband the house system for both the new and old seventh years and stick them together in their own place. She said it was because they were the ones who had borne the brunt of the war, and wanted to accommodate their needs — also they were all taking their N.E.W.Ts so it would be a good way to break down animosities. They were to set an example for their younger peers.

Pansy personally thought McGonagall’s system was a good way to ensure that they all tried to kill each other. She supposed that perhaps the old professor was more bloodthirsty than she’d initially supposed.

“You can tell this list was created by a Gryffindor,” Blaise muttered.

“Or a Hufflepuff,” Pansy added.

“Or a Hufflepuff,” Blaise echoed, rolling his shoulders back and composing his face into his Blaise Zabini™ expression. “I suppose we ought to get this under way.”

Pansy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, lifting her chin and forcing her wobbly mouth into a still line. “I suppose we ought to,” she said.

Millie and the others had already gone ahead, and Draco was still talking with McGonagall in her office. Pansy was glad for Blaise at her side, his haughty expression an armour of its own, a barricade against what others may say about them — about her.

As she rounded the corner into the seventh year common room, Pansy grounded herself the way her mother had taught her to. She dug her nails into her palms, before releasing them, focusing on the flaring pain and reminding herself of who she was.

The buzz of the room stopped and Pansy felt like the world was staring at her.

It was a strange mix of people curled up on the purple sofas, a strange selection of her classmates old and new. From what she could tell, everyone was still congregated in their houses, unsure how to broach the new situation.

Pansy could relate.

The sofas were brand new, shining purple velvet with plump grey cushions atop. Throws of the same flint colour were littered around the room and Pansy had an overwhelming urge to grab one and hide under it. She missed the comforting elegance of the Slytherin common room and the memories it had held.

She’d had her first kiss with Draco there, the two of them alone in front of the flickering Slytherin fire. It had been wet and awful, but it was a memory nonetheless. She didn’t want to have to make new memories.

“Millie’s over there,” Blaise murmured, fingers brushing her wrist in a gesture that no-one else would notice.

Pansy nodded, tracking over to where Millie was sat beside Tracey Davis and a group of the other seventh years, including Daphne and her younger sister. Theo was there too, legs curled up to his chest in an extremely un-Nott-like manner — although it was quite a knot-like manner, Pansy thought wryly.

Pansy tried to keep her focus on the group of Slytherins, but she couldn’t help but notice a flash of red hair out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head to see Ginny Weasley perched on the arm of one of the sofas. She was surrounded by her golden, untouchable friends. Granger, who looked extremely lonesome without Potter and Weasley beside her, and then Longbottom and Lovegood. Lovegood, who was sat on the floor doing something that Pansy presumed was supposed to be knitting.

Ginny met her gaze, her face harsh, distaste apparent in the twist of her mouth. Pansy fought to keep her own lips from curling into a sneer.

She wasn’t here to get into fights. She was here to keep her head down and get her N.E.W.Ts.

Pansy sat down beside Millie and worked to keep her eyes from sliding over to Ginny for the rest of the evening.

Pansy made sure to slink away before Ginny left the common room to get ready for bed. She didn’t want to endure any more forced conversation than was necessary.

When she entered the small, two-bedroom room, she was struck with longing for her Slytherin dorm. Sure, it had been over crowded and there had always been far too much underwear on the floor — not to mention the constant sound of Daphne’s snoring — but it had been home.

It had been home in a way that her room in her family house would never be.

The Slytherin dorm walls held years of secrets, of gossip traded back and forth, of tears shed, and of laughter. There had been posters and stupid pictures, scribbles on the lining and makeup smears.

There hadn’t been a part of the room that hadn’t been theirs in memory and soul.

This room held nothing.

Climbing into the starchy purple sheets, Pansy stared up at the ceiling. There was no way to shut Ginny out, no curtains for Pansy to hide behind if nightmares came.

She missed her Slytherin bed. She missed her bed at home. Nothing about this bed felt comfortable.

She lay there in the dark, listening for the sounds of Ginny entering the room. When Ginny did arrive, an hour or so later, she tripped over a trunk and Pansy had to bite her lip to stop herself laughing, in case it provoked a fight. Ginny didn’t say anything to Pansy, she just muttered under her breath, headed out to the bathroom and then came back and climbed into her own bed.

They lay there in silence, the sounds of their breathing intermingling. They both knew the other was awake, but there was nothing to say.

That was a lie. There was so much to say, but nothing that was worth being said in a small dingy room.

Sorry I tried to hand your boyfriend over to The Dark Lord.”

“Oh, it’s okay, sorry I hexed you that time.”

“I forgive you, besides I owe you for the fact I relentlessly mocked you and all those you care about for having the audacity to be poor amongst other things that in hindsight weren’t the worst thing a person could be.”

“It’s okay .”

None of it was okay.

Ginny let out a sigh, and Pansy heard the rustle of her sheets.

I am sorry, for all of it ,” was what she wanted to confess, but she didn’t dare. Instead, she just scrunched up her eyes, pulled the covers over her head, and waited for sleep to come.

Scratching her violet nail across her desk in Transfiguration, Pansy wondered how they’d managed to get back to this. A group of 7+ Years gathered together in McGonagall’s classroom as if they hadn’t endured a war. As if they hadn’t all done things that no normal seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds should have done.

Draco was beside her, blond hair falling across his face, looking like a shell of the boy she had once known. She let her fingers trace the side of his arm just to ensure he knew she was there. She wouldn’t do anything more in a public setting, she didn’t want to embarrass him.

Ginny was sat at the front beside Lovegood and Parvati. Her face was grim and haggard as if, unlike Pansy, she hadn’t bothered with Brightening Charms. Ginny had been gone by the time Pansy had woken up and so had her broom.

Pansy could tell she’d been flying anyway, there was a rosy flush to her cheeks despite the exhaustion, and her hair was knotted enough that Lovegood’s fingers were getting snagged as she played with it.

“How’d you sleep?” Millie asked, jolting Pansy from her thoughts. Pansy turned to where Millie was sat behind her, cat curled up on her lap.

“Like a baby,” Pansy drawled. Millie snorted and Pansy felt a flicker of a smile at her mouth at the old inside joke.

Daphne had tried to claim she’d slept like a baby back in first year once and Millie, with her disturbing amount of younger siblings, had flipped at her that no baby sleeps well.

Pansy opened her mouth to say something more when the sound of McGonagall’s voice had her snapping it shut.

“Welcome to your first class of Transfiguration. Of course some of you returning seventh years will have already learnt what I’m about to teach you, as despite last year’s circumstances, I did my best to ensure your education remained steadfast.”

Pansy couldn’t bring herself to look at McGonagall’s face and returned to scratching at the desk, the waxy surface of the wood gathering under her nail.

“Unfortunately, I was unable to guarantee that Hogwarts remained what it has always been at heart, which is a place of learning.”

McGonagall’s voice sounded firm, only trembling a little on the word heart .

Her voice hadn’t trembled when she’d spoken to Pansy after Pansy had tried to offer Potter over to the Dark Lord. Pansy wished people would understand that she hadn’t wanted him to die. She hadn’t wanted anyone to die.

“You all bore the brunt of the War,” McGonagall continued, and Pansy could see the corner of Ginny’s lip begin to wobble. She’d lost a brother in the battle, Pansy remembered, it had been all over the papers.

Pansy had lost family of her own, but no one had cared about them.

McGonagall continued, saying that she understood that after what they had all endured it would be hard for them to return to school and adapt back into the lifestyle they had once lived, but that they should do their best, as it was all part of the healing process.

The school was here for them. There were mind-healers they could speak to if they wished. Things would get better.

“And remember,” McGonagall concluded, “if you are here and not in Azkaban, it means that the Wizengamot believed you innocent. So you should all do your best to support each other.”

Pansy could feel eyes burning into her, she could hear the whispers and the nudges.

Death Eater , they whispered about Draco, who kept his head low so no-one could see his bottom lip trembling.

Potter had spoken at Draco’s trial, he’d spoken at Narcissa’s as well, and while the wizarding world was willing to accept their Saviour’s beliefs, it didn’t mean they were happy about it.

McGonagall waited a moment too long to stop the whispers, and in that moment Pansy looked up and caught her steely old eyes. There was a flash of something across McGonagall’s face and then it was gone, leaving only her stern teaching expression.

Do you even believe your own words? ” Pansy wanted to demand, but she didn’t. She returned to scratching at her desk, not daring to look up again.

The rest of the day continued as it started, and by the time Pansy climbed into bed that night, she was exhausted. Ginny was already asleep, curled into a ball, her red hair spread across the pillow.

Pansy stared at it for a bit, before extinguishing her wand and letting the darkness swallow her up.

She dreamed of Hogwarts’ black-stained, ruined walls and the crumbled stones that remained in places. Pansy didn’t know what the place had looked like after the battle but her mind filled in the blanks. The bodies of those she had once loved strewn around, Draco burnt and bloody at her feet.

Ginny Weasley staring at her, amber eyes cold as she said, “It’s what they deserved.”

Ginny was gone when Pansy awoke with a start, her body cold as the drafty breeze caught her sweat.

She knew she ought to try to go back to sleep until her alarm went off again, but she couldn’t face the idea of more nightmares, so she lay there in silence until her wand sounded.

It was easy to fall into a routine at Hogwarts as the first few weeks passed. It was easy to walk around as if nothing had changed, with Draco and Millie at her sides. However, that was merely an illusion. Everything was different.

Draco was quieter, like what living with the Dark Lord had taken from him he’d never get back. Pansy wondered if any of them would get back what the war took from them.

Then there was the absence of Greg and Vince… Pansy wasn’t sure she’d ever stop feeling their absence. She had to remind herself in class that it was okay to fill the space beside Draco, had to remind herself to fill the space beside Draco so that he wouldn’t be alone.

She wished he’d talk to her. She didn’t think he would.

Granger looked like she felt the same, a little lost without Potter and Weasley, often turning to find a shadow beside her instead.

Ginny had lost something too. She was still unrepenting vivacious and unforgivingly beautiful, but hauntingly so now. They had had a brief moment where it had seemed the ice between them could thaw, but then Pansy had accidentally laughed at Lovegood for some ridiculous thing she’d said. She hadn’t been loud or cruel, she’d thought. However, Ginny had caught sight of it and within moments they were exchanging barbed words and Ginny’s wand was out.

Dean Thomas had broken the fight up before it could progress, and ever since Pansy and Ginny had returned to silently watching each other. Dancing around waiting for something to happen.

Pansy just wasn’t sure what they were waiting for.

“We should do something,” Millie announced one morning at breakfast as she buttered her toast. Her cat Brooke was perched beside her, looking as pissed off as ever and lapping at a small bowl of milk.

Pansy pulled a grey cat hair from her porridge and flicked it away. “Mil, I really don’t think it’s hygenic to have Brooke at the table.”

Millie ignored her. “What does everyone think?”

“What’re you thinking?” Daphne asked through a mouthful of beans.

“I’m thinking I need a drink,” Millie said, reaching over and feeding Brooke a crust.

Pansy rolled her eyes and reached over for the honey. “As in Hogsmeade drink or,” she grinned at them all, “a drink drink.”

Drink drink obviously,” Millie said. “I’m not talking a couple of Butterbeers.”

“Thank Merlin,” Daphne said, running her thumb through the tomato sauce and licking it off. “I’ve always said Butterbeer is foul.”

“You’re foul,” Pansy said.

“Says you,” Daphne said, “I’m not the one who puts bird food in my porridge.”

“They’re seeds,” Pansy huffed, stabbing her porridge viciously and glaring at Daphne. “They keep you full for longer.”

Daphne shrugged and cut into her sausage. “Bully for you.”

“Anyway,” Millie interrupted, “so what do you say to getting some Goblin Vodka and having a little fun?”

“Did you say Goblin Vodka?” Tracey asked, sliding onto the bench beside Daphne, Theo behind her.

“Where are Draco and Blaise?” Pansy demanded.

Theo shrugged and reached over for a patisserie.

“Yes I did say Goblin Vodka,” Millie said, shuffling up as a load of Hufflepuffs joined them at the 7+ table. “I think it would be fun to do something this weekend. We’re all legal basically.”

“They’re not,” Tracey said, gesturing her head to where Luna and Ginny had entered, their heads bent low together. Luna’s hair was pinned up in an odd arrangement and interspersed with flowers and leaves that left her looking even more like she’d been dragged backward through a hedge. Ginny’s cheeks were flushed that same red that they always were after flying.

Ginny glanced up in time to catch Pansy staring and Pansy held her gaze before breaking it and turning back to her friends. She smiled as if her heart wasn’t pounding in her chest at the simple rebellion of meeting Ginny’s eyes. “I think they’ll be up for it.”

Theo scoffed, but the sound was muted against the din of the dining hall. “Been bonding with your roomie, have you?”

“Don’t act as if you and Boot aren’t having nerdy love-ins,” Daphne said. Theo scowled at her.

“What makes you think they’ll be up for it?” Millie said, feeding Brooke again.

Pansy cast a glance over at where Ginny had joined a clump of seventh years. Pansy still didn’t know their names. She turned back to Millie, who was staring at her with narrowed eyes. Pansy tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and returned to her porridge. “Just a feeling.”

Reclining in a beanbag with Draco curled up beside her and Tracey perched below on the floor, Pansy felt rather like she was on top of the world. However, the sensation could have something to do with the orange and vodka she was currently nursing.

She wasn’t entirely sure how they had managed to pull it off, but she was going to put it down to Slytherin ambition, cunning, and love of getting absolutely sloshed.

They’d managed to get nearly all of the 7+ years involved in their Friday night plan, and even Granger had been persuaded to skip the library for the night. She was currently squished between Longbottom and Thomas on the sofa, her hair large and loose and a smile on her face that Pansy hadn’t seen in a while.

Pansy flicked her eyes away when Granger looked over. There was an apology on her lips, but this was neither the time or the place to give it.

There were many apologies forming on her lips as people slowly began to thaw to her.

I’m sorry I bullied you relentlessly because I honestly believed the worst thing a person could be was poor, ugly, or related to Muggles just didn’t seem to do it all justice.

Pansy took another sip of her drink and smiled as Blaise dropped down beside them on the beanbag, causing Draco to nearly fly up in the air.

“Move up,” Blaise said. “I don’t want your abnormally pointy elbows piercing my skin.”

“Oh fuck off,” Draco muttered but a smile played on his lips.

“You have lovely elbows,” Pansy said, laughing as Draco flipped her off. He shuffled about so his head was in her lap and his weirdly long legs were sprawled across Blaise, who rolled his eyes but didn’t complain. Neither of them had seen Draco this relaxed in months.

Perhaps they all ought to start drinking more. Pansy vetoed that thought when she realised how alcoholic that sounded.

“We should play a game,” Harper declared from where he was perched on a seat, a pretty Gryffindor beside him. Pansy was pretty sure her name was Romilda. McGonagall had spouted a load of shit about not seeing each other as their houses anymore, but it was hard not to. Seven years as a Slytherin wasn’t erased by wearing a purple tie.

“What are you, twelve?” Freddie, another year below Slytherin sneered.

“I like drinking games,” Romilda piped up.

Pansy tuned out the squabbling and turned to where Millie was sat with her own vodka mix, gazing at the ragtag group of 7+ years. Millie had become something of a leader in the last few weeks, her stoic presence willing even the most unruly student to listen to her.

Pansy may have been the Prefect once, but it was Millie who was in control now.

“Shall we?” Pansy asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Millie shrugged, the corner of her mouth curling into a smile. “I don’t see why not,” she said, turning back to the 7+ years and heaving herself out of her seat. One by one the group fell silent and turned to Millie.

Pansy didn’t watch Millie, she watched Ginny’s group in the corner for cues of how they would react to Millie’s control of the night. It would be unfair for them to try take it from Millie when she had organised it, after all.

“If everyone who fancies playing a drinking game gathers into the centre, then those who aren’t feeling it can shuffle back and either do their own thing or watch.” Millie looked around. “Does that work for everyone?”

There was a chorus of yeah and sure as everyone settled themself into their new place.

Pansy chewed on her nail, watching as Ginny stayed where she was, Granger shuffled back but not too much. Running her other hand through Draco’s hair, Pansy glanced down at him in question. He was chewing his lip, frowning at the circle of people and after a moment’s thought pulled himself up and wandered over to a spare chair in the corner. Pansy watched him go and was about to follow him when she felt Blaise’s hand squeeze her thigh.

“Leave him be,” Blaise said softly.

“But—” Pansy started, but Blaise shook his head, cutting her off.

“Just have fun, Pans. He’s not a baby.”

Pansy gazed at Draco, watching him curl up in an armchair in the corner of the room. She didn’t want to leave him sat there alone, no matter what Blaise said, but before she could stand up, Theo wandered over and perched on the footstool in front of Draco. Theo understood best at times.

“So, we’ve decided Spin the Bottle, then?” Millie said, pulling Pansy’s attention back to the game.

Bertie drained the last of the vodka from the bottle in his hand and pushed it towards Millie, who set it in the centre of the room and turned to Granger.

“Don’t suppose you’ll cast the consent charm, will you?”

Granger stared at Millie, her jaw slack. Pansy laughed because she’d never seen Granger looked so shocked in her life.


“Yeah,” Millie said, looking amused, “you can probably do it better than any of us, after a few drinks.”

Granger looked like she didn’t know what to do with the compliment, and so stood up in silence and cast the charm, a mix of red and green smoke billowing out of the bottle top when she was done. They watched the smoke waft upward before vanishing.

It reminded Pansy of the Muggle girl she’d met during the summer. She’d had an affinity for cigarettes.

“All done,” Granger said, pocketing her wand again and giving Millie what looked to be a small smile.

Millie returned it in earnest before saying, “So who wants to go first?”

A heavy silence settled over the group at the reality of what Spin the Bottle entailed.

“How do we know it works?” Harper demanded, looking a lot less sure of himself now.

Millie gestured toward the bottle. “Give it a spin.”

Harper glared at her, but unable to refuse at risk of losing face, he leant forward and gave the bottle a vicious spin.

It spun around and around, blurring in Pansy’s eyes as she half-heartedly focused on it, her attention on where another Goblin Vodka bottle was, as Draco had taken hers with him.

The bottle stopped spinning while pointing toward a stout girl that Pansy was sure had once been a Ravenclaw. Red smoke flew out of bottle and Millie declared that Harper could kiss her shoe for doubting her.

Pansy shut her eyes, drinking in the sound of laughter and the hope that it brought with it. They were all a little broken, but maybe, just maybe they’d be alright.

The game thinned out as the hour dragged by, people leaving for bed or to chat in the corner, voices low and heavy with exhaustion as they began to sober up.

Soon it was the majority of the returning seventh year’s and a few new sevenths left, including Ginny, who was currently knocking back a vodka shot that Longbottom had given her and leaning forward to spin the bottle.

Pansy turned away, waving her hands at Blaise who passed her the bottle he had been using to mix both his and Jennifer’s drinks. Pansy poured the vodka into her orange juice and brought the cup to her lips as she looked up to find the bottle pointed at her with green smoke pouring out of it.

Daphne wolf-whistled, but other than that the common room was nearly silent.

“Don’t you have a boyfriend?” Pansy spluttered, the words falling from her lips before she could stop them.

Ginny’s jaw clenched, her lips pursing. “No, I don’t.”

“Oh,” Pansy said stupidly because she couldn’t think to say anything else.

“Aren’t you dating Malfoy?” Ginny said, and Pansy had a feeling it was more to say something rather than because she actually believed it.

Blaise snorted and Pansy shoved him. “No, I’m not.”

She wasn’t sure if Draco had figured it out yet, but she’d realised back in sixth year that she identified far too much as a girl for him to ever be really interested.

“Fair enough,” Ginny said.

People were turning their heads to and fro like they were watching a Quidditch match.

“You know what green means, right?” Zacharias Smith said, causing Pansy to question why on earth he’d felt the urge to return when his presence was so clearly unwanted. She supposed that was a bit hypocritical of her, with her own reputation, though she fancied she was at least not as universally disliked as Smith.

“Yes Smith,” Ginny sighed, “shockingly, neither of us have forgotten the rules in the last minute.”

Pansy snickered, and when she caught Ginny’s eye, Ginny’s mouth flickered with the promise of the smile.

“Fuck it,” Ginny said, climbing to her feet.

Pansy stopped laughing because she knew what the green smoke meant, it meant that they both… wanted to kiss each other. However, Pansy couldn’t really believe that bright fiery Ginny Weasley could want to kiss her.

Ginny Weasley, who burnt with the force of a thousand stars.

Ginny Weasley, who had near enough led the Hogwarts rebellion last year.

Ginny Weasley, who had survived being possessed by the Dark Lord.

Ginny Weasley, who… who was striding across the circle to Pansy.

Pansy had kissed girls before. She’d kissed Isabel Flint when she was a fifth year and she and Daphne had taken comfort in each other’s arms a few times last year. Then there had been that Muggle girl from the local park she’d met in the summer. But none of them had been Ginny Weasley. None of them had involved having a chasm of silence hanging between them.

Ginny dropped to her knees in front of Pansy, not wincing at the crack. Pansy winced for her.

Pansy glanced over Ginny’s shoulder to see the green smoke erupting from the bottle. She hadn’t even realised she’d wanted this so much. She’d known she wouldn’t be adverse, but she hadn’t expected the intensity of this reaction.

She certainly hadn’t expected it from Ginny, who until a couple of minutes ago she had believed to be utterly straight and in love with Harry Potter. How had she not realised they had broken up?

“Parkinson,” Ginny murmured, her hand cupping the side of Pansy’s face.

Pansy’s mind was rambling, running over the details of the last minute at a thousand miles per hour to try and wrap itself around them, but she couldn’t make sense of it. She couldn’t—

At the touch of Ginny’s lips, her mind stopped.

Ginny’s lips were warm and slightly wet as if she’d licked them on the walk over, but Pansy thought the entire thing was absolutely marvellous, especially when the hand Ginny was using to cup her face slid back into her hair.

Should she be doing something with her hands? Pansy raised her hands, skimming them up Ginny’s freckled arms, the hairs tickling her finger tips.

The tip of Ginny’s tongue caught Pansy’s bottom lip and Pansy opened her mouth greedily to find herself chasing Ginny’s mouth as she pulled away.

Pansy stared at her, mouth still open as Ginny grinned, a hint of that fire Pansy recognised.

“Not too bad,” Ginny shrugged, standing up, the muscles in her legs flexing.

Blaise clapped Pansy on the back and she composed her features into a nonchalant expression, picking up the bottle of vodka and tipping it toward Ginny in cheers. “Not so bad yourself.”

The bottle was directed to Lovegood, who spun it and put on a very convincing show of kissing Thomas’s hand instead of Felicity.

The game ended not too long after, all of their limbs tired and heavy as they pulled themselves up and wandered back to their dorms.

“I can’t believe none of the teachers heard us,” Longbottom slurred.

Blaise laughed, clapping his roommate on the back. “You Gryffindors need to learn a thing or two from us Slytherins.”

Longbottom laughed and maybe it was the amount of vodka he’d consumed but it sounded genuine when he said, “Well that’s something I never thought I’d hear.”

Pansy was pulling her pyjamas on when Ginny came in, whispering goodbyes to Lovegood and Thomas.

They didn’t say anything as they climbed into bed and turned the light out and Pansy wondered if it would all be for nothing.

Hey, you kissed me and I know it was part of a game but are we really going to pretend nothing happened?

I liked it, I really liked it, and I know we’re not even friends but—

“Are you going to Hogsmeade Sunday?” Ginny’s voice came through the darkness to ruin Pansy’s self-pitying monologue.

Pansy paused, tugging the duvet up to her chin. “Yeah.” Silence. “You?”


Pansy found herself smiling as she stared at the ceiling, unable to stop the curve of her lips at the promise of Ginny’s question.

“Night, Parkinson,” Ginny said and Pansy listened to the rustle of her duvet as she got comfortable.

“Night, Weasley.”

“I would have much rather stayed at Hogwarts,” Millie grumbled as they trudged through the fresh November snow. One of Pansy’s favourite things about Hogwarts was the snow, it reminded her of their chalet in the Alps where she had spent so many Yules as a child.

Millie didn’t feel the same and was kicking the snow as if it had personally offended her — which it possibly had.

“That’s because you’re miserable,” Pansy said. “It’s nice to get out the school.”

“It’s nice to be able to feel my toes.”

“Are you a witch or just a very convincing con-artist?” Pansy said, pulling her wand from her fur-lined cloak and casting a heating charm Millie’s way.

Daphne had flat out refused to accompany them, and Tracey and Theo had insisted on going to the library. So in the end it had been her and Millie, and Draco and Blaise who were walking in front, arguing about the latest Quidditch results.

Draco hadn’t wanted to come, but Blaise had insisted, and Blaise was particularly good at not taking no for an answer. It was good for Draco to get out; she could see the flush of his pale skin from her and the smile Blaise was dragging out of him.

Ginny had already left by the time Pansy had stopped faffing about, walking off with Lovegood, Thomas, Longbottom, and Granger, the lot of them smiling in a way that Pansy hadn’t expected.

“So what do you ladies fancy doing?”

“I want to get some sweets,” Pansy said.

“I want a fucking drink before my tits freeze off,” Millie huffed, wrapping her arms around her body. Pansy rolled her eyes as if she hadn’t just cast a perfectly good warming charm.

Blaise laughed, the sound carrying on the breeze. “And what a travesty that would be.”

“It would be utterly heartbreaking to rob the world of such fine tits,” Pansy said.

“I’ve always said so,” Millie shrugged.

Draco snorted. “Full of yourself.”

“Just stating the facts,” Millie grinned, striding forward and linking his arm. “No one is immune to the power of my boobs.”

Draco shook his head, a smile curling at his mouth. His cheeks and nose were tinged red from the cold and Pansy skipped over and linked his other arm. He smiled down at her before turning back to Millie. “They are magnificent.”

“I hope you know I’m not joining in this little hand holding thing you’ve all got going on,” Blaise called from in front of them.

“Keep pretending you’ve a heart of ice, Zabini,” Pansy shouted back, “We see right through you!”

Blaise flipped her off, and they were all laughing as snow started to fall from the sky again. Pansy tipped her head back and let the flakes catch on her skin, burning cold before melting and dripping. She wasn’t worried about her makeup, she’d perfected the staying charms years ago. All she cared about in the moment was how alive they all were, all she cared about was the fact they’d made it through.

They walked past the Three Broomsticks as always, because Draco didn’t feel comfortable in there after what had happened in sixth year. He’d written Rosmerta an apology but Pansy understood the feeling of it not being enough.

The Hog’s Head wasn’t so bad, anyway. It was a little dirty but nothing that a nifty cleaning charm couldn’t fix. They wouldn’t be stared at there as well. While the other 7+ years may have accepted them, it didn’t mean the rest of the school had. Pansy had a nasty bruise on her knee from where a sixth year had hexed her when she was walking up the stairs the other day. She hadn’t been able to heal it properly.

Draco got the worst of it though, and there was only so much they could do for him. He refused to take it to McGonagall and Pansy wasn’t going to betray his trust.

Millie pushed the door open, snickering as a snow drift nearly fell on Blaise’s head. The Hog’s Head looked as it always did, dirty with far too much goat hair on the floor, a strange group of customers dotted about. However, there was one thing that looked utterly out of place: the shiny group of Gryffindors gathered in the corner, with Harry Potter sat pride of seat.

“Fuck,” Blaise murmured and Pansy could only nod in agreement.

“Let’s just get out of here,” Draco muttered, turning to leave, and Pansy was more than happy to comply. She had absolutely no interest in being reunited with Potter and Weasley after the way she’d left it.

“No way,” Millie hissed, reaching out and clutching Draco’s robes, stopping him short. “We’ve already been shamed out of one bar, I’m not being shamed out of another one.”

“Millie,” Pansy murmured, digging her nails into her palms. Finnegan had caught sight of them first, his face twisting with recognition as he leaned forward to bump Thomas. Pansy watched the chain of whispers until it reached Potter, who was sat in the centre of his friends, perfectly opposite Pansy and her friends.

“I want a drink,” Millie said, holding her head up.

Potter’s brow furrowed and he turned to Ginny, the two of them speaking intimately. He looked healthier than when Pansy had last seen him, his hair wasn’t so long and he didn’t look so gaunt. Auror Training was obviously agreeing with him.

“I can’t,” Draco whispered, staring emploringly at Millie. Pansy doubted he’d seen Potter since he’d spoken at Draco’s trial.

Millie’s face softened. “You can’t live your whole life hiding from your mistakes, love.”

“Weaslette, ten o’clock,” Blaise murmured, and they closed ranks around Draco instinctively.

Pansy tilted her chin up, trying to resist the urge to run at the sight of Ginny and Potter walking towards them. They looked every inch the Golden Couple, Pansy thought bitterly.

“Hey Malfoy,” Potter said, pressing his lips together in a thin smile.

“Potter,” Draco said slowly, as if it were a trap.

Ginny cleared her throat and caught Pansy’s eye, giving her a small smile. “So, you want to join us for a drink?”

“Us?” Pansy said.

Ginny’s eyebrows shot up and she laughed. “Yeah, you.”

“Oh,” Pansy glanced at her friends before shrugging, “I guess we have nothing better to do.”

“I’m flattered,” Ginny said. “You guys can take the first round yeah?”

“So, you’re using us for our money?” Pansy said.

Ginny laughed again and Pansy smiled at the sound. “I never said that.”

“You implied it,” Pansy said, pulling her purse from her cloak. “So what do you all want?”

“Well I’m not a student anymore so I’ll have anything that’s stronger than Butterbeer,” Potter said. Pansy swallowed, catching his eyes.

I’m sorry .

He gave her a small smile and for the first time Pansy understood why the wizarding world had fallen at his feet. He was rather marvellous.

“Stronger than Butterbeer works for me,” Pansy said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She turned back to Ginny and raised her eyebrows in question.

“Stronger than Butterbeer sounds perfect.”

“Aren’t you still technically a minor?” Potter said.

Ginny gave him a firm look. “Shouldn’t you know that, Mr Big Bad Auror.”

Potter scoffed and shoved her fondly.

Pansy wrinkled her nose and interjected, “I’ve yet to see something as small as the rules stop Weasley from getting what she wanted.”

Ginny’s face lit up as she let out a bark of shocked laughter. Pansy wasn’t sure where the words had come from, but she was pretty sure it was the part of her that had wanted Ginny’s attention on her.

“Fair play,” Potter said, running a hand through his dark hair and shooting a look at Draco, who was intensely staring at the floor.

“So drinks?” Pansy said, “Weasley, you going to give me a hand?”

Ginny hesitated for a moment, sharing a look with Potter that had bitterness snaking through Pansy’s blood. Then Ginny shrugged and stepped closer to her — she smelled like cinnamon, Pansy noted. “Yeah, let’s get ourselves some drinks.”

“Thank Merlin,” Millie drawled.

Despite the history between them and years of antagonism, it turned out that Potter’s lot were alright. They were certainly alright when plied with alcohol.

A small part of Pansy hoped one day they’d be able to all sit around and chat like they were doing now, but sober. Like friends.

Friends, her tipsy brain rolled the word over and over as she sat on the bench, pressed up against Ginny. Friends. It seemed so bizarre to imagine being friends with all the Gryffindors, like the sort of thing that would predict the end of the world. However, the world had already ended and been reborn with the war, so she supposed it wasn’t so bizarre after all.

They were fun. Weasley was as loud as she remembered, but funnier as well. He was the most prickly of all those at the table, but after a few drinks he was making sweeping hand gestures as he debated with Blaise, a grin on his face as he sat with an arm around Granger.

Pansy had always presumed it would be Potter that Granger went for. She liked that Granger had surprised her.

They’d all surprised her.

Especially Potter, as he sat nursing his drink, teasing conversation out of Draco, Lovegood at his side.

“Who’d have thought?” Ginny mused as if she could read Pansy’s mind.

Pansy turned to her — they were really rather close together —  and noted that if she squinted she could see each individual freckle splattered across Ginny’s face. There was a particularly intense cluster under her left eye.

Pansy wanted to count each and every one of Ginny’s freckles, tracing her fingers across the constellations she found there. Ginny’s body, she imagined, would look like the night sky.

“Who’d have thought,” Pansy said, her eyes catching on a paper thin scar above Ginny’s top lip.

When she met Ginny’s eyes again, they were glowing amber and warm in the Hog’s Head’s dim lights and their one silly little kiss last night hung between them.

“Want to go check out Honeydukes?” Ginny asked, and Pansy felt powerless to do anything but nod.

It felt forbidden, the two of them venturing off together while the rest of their respective friends remained behind.

Ginny’s hand brushed Pansy’s as together they slid out of the booth, making their excuses.

“Ooooh I’d kill for some Honeydukes to get me through Robard’s Death Camp,” Weasley mused.

Pansy bit her lip to stop herself smirking as Ginny sent Granger an emploring look. Granger smiled fondly back, before diverting Weasley’s attention.

“They look happy together,” Pansy said because it was truthful, and Ginny seemed like someone who would value the truth.

Ginny gave her a strange look but smiled. “Yeah, they are happy.”

“I thought they were going to murder each other sixth year.”

“You noticed that?”

Pansy laughed. “I have eyes.”

“Fair enough,” Ginny said as they stepped out into the snow. Pansy relished the crunch underneath her boots. “George was sure Hermione would have killed him by now, but she hasn’t yet.”

There was a sadness in Ginny’s face when she spoke of her brother and Pansy wasn’t sure how to soothe it away. She’d never been soft, she’d never been the one to know what to say in these situations. She did her best with the people she loved, but often found herself falling flat around others, her empathies half hearted.

“I love the snow,” Pansy said because she wanted to say something.

Ginny tipped her face up to the sky like Pansy had done earlier, flakes catching in her light lashes. “I’m more a summer girl myself.”

“I can imagine that.”

Ginny cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

Pansy sucked her bottom lip into her mouth and released it before speaking. “You’re very bright and warm, I just think you’d suit the summer more.”

You remind me of the sun and I’m scared that I’ll fly too close and burn up.

“Fair enough,” Ginny said again, giving Pansy a contemplative look. “You strike me as a winter girl.”

“Cold and bitchy?”

Ginny shook her head. “No, I used to think that but not any more.”

“Then why do I strike you as winter girl?”

“Just a gut feeling.”

The snow was falling harder around them, filling in the prints they had left.

“How Gryffindor,” Pansy said.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Pansy smiled. “I used to think it was.”

“What changed?”

“Me, I guess.”

Ginny’s smile set Pansy’s heart on fire.

Things changed after that day, as if the Gryffindors’ seal of approval worked to lift their pariah status. Pansy wanted to resent them for it, but she wasn’t going to complain. Overall, if people stopped cursing her and her friends she was cool with that.

Milie started hanging out with Lovegood, the two of them bonding over a love of animals. Millie was good with her because despite her rough tongue she had patience by the barrel and was willing to listen.

Daphne and Thomas bonded over art; Theo, Tracey, and Granger over academia; Blaise and Longbottom over weird plants. The strangest one was Draco and Potter. Something had slipped in the balance of the universe, it seemed, as now they were writing to each other more and more frequently. Pansy didn’t say anything as she watched the tender way Draco opened the letters, tracing his fingers over Potter’s messy scrawl. Draco would speak to her when he was ready; he always did.

Pansy and Ginny started spending more time together, like their walk at Hogsmeade had broken the spell hanging over their heads. They laughed in their room now, sat on each other’s beds as they helped to paint each other’s nails (Ginny was awful), and read out dramatic tales from Witch Weekly (Pansy did the best voices). Pansy taught Ginny the best hair removal charms and Ginny rolled her eyes and said it wasn’t for her. That, of course, didn’t stop her rubbing Pansy’s legs and oohing and ahhing at the smoothness.

They traded secrets back and forth as easily as they shared the baked goods Molly Weasley sent. Small ones at first, ones that rolled off the tongue without friction, but as the weeks passed they became bigger, they caught in Pansy’s throat as Ginny coaxed them out and wiped her tears away, the flesh of her thumb calloused from Quidditch.

When Ginny confessed how much she missed Quidditch matches, Pansy took it upon herself to organise some inter-7+ matches. She excluded herself from the matches due to not being willing to humiliate herself, but she loved watching Ginny fly.

Ginny was born for it. Ginny flying made her look clumsy on land, the natural grace she navigated life with childish in comparison, as if her broom was a missing limb.

“I want to fly professionally,” Ginny confessed one day after they’d collapsed on their beds, chests heaving from the intensive dance routine they’d just created.

“I gathered,” Pansy said.

“What makes you say that?” Ginny asked, turning her head to Pansy, her cheeks red from an hour of Pansy’s tutoring. Ginny may have been the flyer of the two but Pansy was the one who had been forced to attend dance lessons up until her first run of seventh year.

“It seems ridiculous that you want to do anything else,” Pansy said, having to stare at the ceiling when Ginny’s eyes crinkled at her response.

“What about you?”

“Oh, I hate flying.”

Ginny laughed. “That’s not what I meant, but I can teach you if you want?”

Pansy paused. “Teach me to fly?”

“Yeah,” Ginny said.

Pansy looked back at her, unable to look away for long. She didn’t want to go home for Christmas. She knew it was awful and selfish of her to want to abandon her family, but she did. She didn’t want to return home and listen to talk of marriage and balls as the Parkinsons tried to pretend nothing had changed. Draco and Theo were no longer eligible bachelors because of the marks against their public names, so she was going to be set up with someone awful.

Pansy didn’t want that, she wanted Ginny. She wanted to stay here with Ginny over Christmas and exchange presents on Christmas day. She wanted them to drink too much mulled wine and she wanted them to kiss under mistletoe.

Since their drunken kiss during Spin the Bottle, nothing else had occured. Pansy always got the sense they were teetering on the edge of something, both of them unable to take the plunge.

They were friends now, but Pansy had always been greedy. She wanted more .

“My mother always said flying wasn’t ‘lady-like’,” Pansy said.

“Then I’m definitely teaching you to fly,” Ginny said. “No further debate.”

“Like fuck you are,” Pansy sniffed even though they both knew she meant okay .

“I literally regret every decision to ever lead me to this moment,” Pansy complained when Ginny woke her up at the arse crack of dawn for a flying lesson.

“No you don’t,” Ginny sung, broom over her shoulder as they wandered through the castle. It was utterly silent.

Pansy gave Draco’s broom she was just about refraining from dragging along the ground a bitter look. “Oh, but I do.”

“Early bird catches the worm,” Ginny said, her hair still woven into the plaits Pansy had put it in last night.

“I don’t want a worm, I want my bed,” Pansy sighed, rubbing her hand across her mouth to stop herself yawning.

Ginny turned to her as they stepped out the main doors into the castle grounds. “Just trust me.”

Pansy nodded before her eyes caught on the sun peeking over the clouds, slowly filling the sky with its light. Pansy couldn’t think of the last time she’d seen a sunrise.

The sun beamed down, its orange light catching on the snow as it tinted the sky pink. Pansy held out her gloved hand and let it bathe in the sun’s light.

“I know,” Ginny said, “when I start to think that things are hopeless I just remember this. I think of the fact that every day the sun is going to rise and that means every day is a chance for something good.”

Pansy’s breath caught as she turned to Ginny, whose red hair gleamed in the light, her eyes like liquid sunlight. “You’re rather incredible, you know,” she said before she could help herself.

Ginny took Pansy’s hand, entwining their fingers. Ginny’s gloves were woollen and frayed, a hole in the right thumb. Pansy had a pair of proper Quidditch gloves upstairs wrapped in a box under her bed. She’d give them to Ginny on the last day of term.

“Only rather?” Ginny teased, but it didn’t seem humorous in the moment.

“Absolutely incredible,” Pansy amended.

Ginny stared at her, her mouth open so Pansy could see her slightly crooked front teeth — she found them endearing. Her skin was red and splotchy from the morning chill, but she looked alive. Beautifully alive.

You’re supposed to be the brave one! Pansy wanted to cry when neither of them moved. She could feel the moment teetering, seconds away from crashing down around them, leaving whatever this could have been glittering in the snow.

“Gin,” Pansy said because she couldn’t stay silent. Her inability to stay silent had always been one of her greatest faults. However, now she clung to it like a lifeline.

Ginny swallowed, her hands running up Pansy’s arms.

“I’m scared,” Ginny breathed, the words so monumental that they hung visibly in the air between them.

“Me too,” Pansy said. She’d never felt this way towards someone before and she could feel vulnerability lurking in the shadows, but when she looked at Ginny, those shadows recoiled. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being scared sometimes.”

“Neither,” Ginny said, her eyes closing, her lashes brushing her cheeks. She shook her head and opened them. “I’m so tired of being scared, Pans.”

Pansy nodded because she was too. “What are you scared of?”

“This going wrong and losing whatever we’ve built.”

“I think I’m scared of everything.”

Pansy felt like she had reached into her chest and pulled her heart out to hand to Ginny, raw and dripping on the fresh snow. She had never done anything like this before. Fucking Gryffindors.

“Perhaps we should wait.”

Pansy’s heart clenched in her hands.

“Perhaps we should.”

Ginny nodded, taking a step back and then a step forward, shaking her head. “I don’t want to wait.”

“Oh thank Merlin,” Pansy breathed, her words getting lost in the press of Ginny’s lips. Ginny’s lips were chapped from the cold and Pansy made a mental note to get her some decent lip salve, before she stopped thinking coherently.

She could taste the mint of Ginny’s tooth paste as Ginny’s mouth opened to her. It was more questioning than it had been when they’d been drunk, more bruisingly honest as Pansy brought her hands up around Ginny’s neck. She wanted to knot her hands in Ginny’s hair and she was going to do that the next time they kissed, she was going to ensure she wasn’t wearing gloves.

Ginny’s hands rested on the swell of Pansy’s waist, pulling her closer. Every hard muscular angle of Ginny’s body against the curves of Pansy’s own.

They shouldn’t fit. No-one would think they made logical sense, but they did as Pansy’s tongue swiped Ginny’s bottom lip, slipping in as they kissed. They became one in the moment as the sun rose above them.

When they finally pulled back, lips slick, they grinned before giggling.

“We’re not going to have time to fly if we don’t hurry up,” Ginny laughed, smoothing Pansy’s hair with her hand.

Pansy shrugged, not willing to let go of Ginny. “We’ll make time for it,” she promised, leaning in and claiming Ginny’s mouth again. Ginny laughed and Pansy drank the sound in, the way it vibrated against her lips, the curve of Ginny’s mouth with her own. “There’s no need to rush.”

“I suppose I can get on board with that,” Ginny murmured.

And Pansy just about managed to get out a “Good” before they started kissing in earnest again. Slow and steadily exploring each other’s mouths as they forgot the real world and its obsession with time, and stole this moment for themselves.

Pansy leaned her head on Ginny’s shoulder and watched the Scottish hills fade away as the Hogwarts Express flew along the rails.

“I’m going to miss it,” she sighed.

“Sappy,” Ginny teased, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “We’ll be back soon enough.”

“And then you’ll all actually have to start thinking about exams,” Granger said. It was uncomfortable with the amount of them they had tried to squish into one cabin, but Pansy wasn’t complaining about being nearly entirely on Ginny’s lap.

“When you’re this good looking, you don’t need exams,” Blaise said, elbowing Draco to jolt him out of the daze he’d been in. “Right?”

“What?” Draco said, gazing around, eyes wide.

“For fuck’s sake, are you off in Potter-land again?” Blaise groaned. “I really thought we’d left this behind in fifth year.”

“Draco will never leave Potter-land,” Millie said, and they all laughed.

“Oh fuck off,” Draco huffed, crossing his arms and scowling out the window. Or trying to scowl, anyway, the corner of his mouth was far too turned up for him to truly look miserable. Pansy knew Potter had asked Draco to meet over the holidays and Draco had agreed.

She nudged Draco’s foot with her own to tell him she was always here and waiting when he was ready. He didn’t smile but he nudged her back.

The conversation moved on to Christmas plans and Granger’s detailed revision schedule she’d written out for them all. Pansy doubted anyone but Theo and Tracey would be interested.

“What are your plans for the holidays?” Ginny asked, her voice low in Pansy’s ear.

“Avoid my parents, get drunk, and see you,” Pansy said, inspecting their entwined hands in her lap. Her purple nails were starting to chip and Ginny’s festive green and red nails were just awfully done.

“Avoiding family and getting drunk is not part of the Yule spirit.”

“It is in the Parkinson household,” Pansy shrugged, “but I don’t mind as long as I get to see you.”

Ginny grinned. “You’re ridiculous.”

“I’m charming and sweet.”

“That too,” Ginny laughed.

“You’re both intolerable, is what you are,” Daphne sighed from where she was sat on the floor, legs draped over Longbottom. Pansy wasn’t sure they’d be able to fit more people in here if they’d tried, and they’d secured one of the largest compartments.

“That too,” Ginny smirked, planting a loud kiss on Pansy’s cheek.

“I can feel my breakfast coming back up,” Millie sneered. Pansy stuck her tongue out back.

“Let them be,” Lovegood scolded. “They’re falling in love.”

Blaise pretended to vomit and they all laughed, the warmth of the sound surrounding Pansy and filling her up.

She nestled closer to Ginny, listening to the sound of her heart beat and feeling it vibrating through her like one word on repeat. Hope. Hope. Hope.