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Single and Snacking in Phoenix, AZ

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I. London

Ginny flopped onto her back, letting out a long exhale as her thighs stopped trembling. Beside her, Pansy smiled, managing to look smug even with her hair a riot and her lips still shiny-messy.

“Good?” she asked.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “You know it was.”

Pansy’s grin widened. “I know.”

“It’s not very attractive to go fishing for compliments.”

“Is it really fishing, if I know that I’m right?” Pansy leaned up on her elbow and stretched to reach for her wand, discarded earlier on Ginny’s bedside table. In the process, she knocked over a pile of papers that spilled across the floor. Ginny laughed as Pansy tried to Summon them, dropping them once more before they organized themselves into a stack and landed on the bed.

“This wouldn’t be a problem if your room weren’t so cluttered,” Pansy said, sitting up to flip through the pile. Ginny ought to have been annoyed, or told Pansy to keep her nose out of Ginny’s things – it’s not like they were dating or anything, after all – but it was such a typically Pansy thing to do that she couldn’t bring herself to be mad about it.

“I’m busy,” Ginny defended.

“Too busy to answer your post on time like everyone else?” Pansy asked. She came across a piece of mail that made her pause, raising her eyebrows. “You are cordially invited to the wedding of Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood?

And that, right there, was why Ginny hadn’t been very prompt about answering her most recent batch of mail. She shut her eyes as Pansy continued to read from the invitation.

“Parenthesis – Harry and Luna are not on speaking terms with their parents, which is why they are inviting you themselves. End parentheses. Merlin, it sounds like Lovegood even in print, how does she manage that?” Pansy snorted. “A weekend of fun and connection with friends new and old, to be concluded with a ceremony on Monday morning. Sounds like more of a nightmare if you ask me.”

Ginny opened her eyes a slit. “To me too,” she admitted. “But it’s their day, I guess.”

Pansy nodded, still reading the invitation. “Why is this taking place in – Arizona? That’s in the States, right?”

Ginny sighed. “Yeah. That’s where they live – Luna’s been doing research on some magical creature that only lives in holes or something, and the largest population of them is in the Grand Canyon.”

“And Potter?”

“He’s along for the ride, I guess,” Ginny said. “It’s not like he has to work.”

Pansy hummed in agreement, turning the invitation over in her hands. “Sounds like quite the occasion,” she said. “Naked swimming at midnight on Saturday is optional but encouraged.” She laughed. “You know, there was a time when I thought you’d be the one marrying him.”

Ginny’s heart rate kicked up at that, but she didn’t let on. She knew better than to show those kinds of things in front of Pansy. “Who, Harry?”

“Yes,” Pansy said. “Seemed like you two were attached at the hip our last year of school.”

Ginny couldn’t begrudge her that recollection, much as it irked her to hear it phrased so. Ginny’s seventh year – Harry’s so-called eighth – had been a blur of party games and too much alcohol, sex in inappropriate places when their dorm rooms had already been claimed. The entire population of Hogwarts, especially the older students, had been celebrating still being alive – N.E.W.T. preparation and homework assignments came second to sneaking out to Scottish clubs and eating everything they could lay their hands on. They’d lived recklessly – at least the Gryffindors had, accompanied often by various Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Ginny hadn’t paid much attention to what the Slytherins did that year, giving them little thought except to glare as they passed each other in the corridors after class before the Slytherins hurried back down to their dungeon common room.

There’d been a time when Ginny had thought she’d be the one marrying Harry too. Part of her had been expecting him to go down on one knee at their graduation. But, no – they’d spent a whirlwind summer traveling around Europe like Muggles before Ginny’d been unceremoniously dumped while Harry continued his travels without her. It had worked out – she didn’t think she really would have been happy in the long term, being married to Harry, and if she’d been his wife she never would have realized that she was into women – but it had stung at the time.

It had more than stung at the time. She hadn’t been expecting it at all, and it stung, residually, even now. Ginny wanted to deal with the drama that would result if she skipped Harry’s wedding only slightly less than she wanted not to attend Harry’s wedding – and that was without the added complication of Luna being her friend, too.

She was shaken out of her rather morose train of thought by Pansy waving the invitation in her face.

“So, are you going to go?”

Ginny gaped. “I can’t not go.”

“Really?” Pansy tilted her head to the side. “Seems like you could not go if you really didn’t want to.”

“I’m as good as in the wedding party,” Ginny said, snatching the parchment from Pansy. “The only reason I’m not a bridesmaid is because they’re foregoing bridal parties in favor of a self-guided ceremony.” Luna had Floo’d to tell her that specifically, as if worried Ginny would be offended not to be asked.

“A self-guided ceremony?” Pansy muttered, snorting again.

“Besides, I never said I didn’t want to go.”

“Forgive me for seeing that you still hadn’t sent in your RSVP and that the invitation was in your pile of doom–” Pansy gestured to the papers still piled between them in the bed “–and assuming that something was holding you back from sending in a whole-hearted yes.”

“Well, it’s complicated,” Ginny hedged. “Besides, Arizona is a long ways away. I’d have to arrange a Portkey–”

“I’ll eat my hat if–” Pansy snatched the invitation back from Ginny, nodding. “Yes, there it is. Let Harry know your intended time and location of departure and he will arrange all the Portkeys, including grouping guests together if necessary.” She looked at Ginny, expression flat. “You’re making excuses.”

Ginny grabbed the invitation back again, gripping it so tightly that her fingers made little folds in the parchment. The creases spread out from where she held it, like fracture lines or the tributaries of a river. “So what if I am?”

Apparently Pansy had not expected Ginny to admit it so easily, because she sat back on her heels, clearly surprised. “Well, as long as you’re willing to admit it.”

“I’ve barely seen him since we broke up,” Ginny said. “I haven’t seen Luna since school. I mean, the whole situation is just so awkward – how would you feel if you got an invitation to Malfoy’s wedding, hmm?”

Pansy’s expression shuttered. “That would imply that Draco was willing to reveal his location. So, extremely surprised,” she said, voice sharp. “But we were never a real couple anyway.” Grabbing her wand, she cast a Tempus and rose from the bed. “On that note, I’m going to be late for dinner with Blaise and Greg.” She bent to get her dress, and luckily missed Ginny’s reflexive scowl at the mention of Zabini and Goyle.

“Where are you going this time?”

Pansy waved her hand. “Oh, some place on the South Bank that Blaise is supposed to review, which means he’ll insist on ordering half the menu and then want us to eat it all.” She rolled her eyes, but Ginny wasn’t fooled – soon after they’d begun their arrangement eight months ago, she’d realized that Pansy’s Thursday night dinner with the other two Slytherins was the only appointment in her datebook she kept religiously, trekking out to whatever location Blaise had chosen with the same devotion with which some attended church on Sunday.

“You complain, and yet you keep going,” Ginny said.

Pansy shrugged, sweeping her hair over one shoulder as she spelled the zip of her dress up. Ginny felt a pang as she watched Pansy’s skin be hidden, wishing she were the one pulling the zipper. “Are you free this weekend?”

“We have an early game on Sunday. I’ll be free that night.”

“Sunday night, then.” Pansy smiled, ducking in to kiss Ginny’s cheek, quick and perfunctory. “I’ll owl you.”

“Have a good dinner,” Ginny said.

Pansy waved from the bedroom doorway and then was gone.

 

 

***

“Harry told us you still haven’t RSVP’ed to the wedding,” Ron said. He spoke around a mouthful of pasta, which he almost choked on when Hermione elbowed him in the side. After a brief coughing fit and a large gulp of water, he glared at her. “Hermione!”

“We said we weren’t going to bring it up!” Hermione hissed, darting a sidelong glance at Ginny, as though she was far enough away not to hear their conversation. She wasn’t. Ron and Hermione’s flat had a library-slash-study instead of a dining room, which meant whenever she came over for dinner, they ate crammed around the too-small kitchen table. Ginny’s knees were brushing her brother’s – it wasn’t as if a whispered conversation would go unnoticed.

“I’m sitting right here,” she reminded them, feeling only slightly justified when Hermione turned to face her wearing a sheepish expression. It wasn’t like Ginny was unaware that they talked about her when she wasn’t around, but she didn’t need quite so blatant a reminder during what had otherwise been a very nice meal. “And no, I haven’t.”

“It’s in a month,” Hermione reminded her. “I mean, I know it’s Harry and Luna and they’re doing everything in the least formal way possible, but…”

“They seemed worried that you maybe weren’t coming,” Ron said. He paused. “Are you thinking of not going?”

“Of course I’m going,” Ginny said, irritated. It was like she’d said to Pansy just a few days before – she couldn’t not go. She didn’t have anything approaching an excuse for missing the wedding of two of her best friends, even if she didn’t talk to Luna much anymore and wasn’t sure she could still call Harry a best friend after their messy break-up. But she knew that if she didn’t go, it would invite a lot of drama she wasn’t interested in. She was going to go.

“I’ve just been busy,” she lied, twirling more pasta around her fork.

“Busy doing what?” Ron asked, then swore when Hermione elbowed him again. “Ow, what the fuck? It’s a valid question – it’s the off-season, and it’s not like you’re seeing anyone.”

Ginny hoped neither of them noticed her blush. They didn’t know about Pansy – no one in the family did. It would have been a complete secret to everyone, if Angelina and Cho hadn’t come over to check on Ginny after a loss and found she and Pansy...well. They were more careful about closing the Floo now.

“None of your business,” she said, frowning as she speared a piece of sausage.

“We’re not trying to pry,” Hermione said.

Ron snorted. “I am. Are you seeing someone? You blushed.”

Ginny blushed more. “I’m not.”

“You are!” Ron crowed. “Is that why you’ve been putting off RSVP’ing to the wedding?”

Hermione’s expression had gone from exasperated to intrigued. “Are you going to bring a plus one?”

Ginny opened her mouth to deny it, then closed it again. If she said no, Hermione would interrogate her more, and Ginny would be forced to admit that she was uncomfortable with the idea of Harry getting married – not something she wanted to tell his two best friends. For all that they were related to her and cared about Ginny a lot, she had the sneaking suspicion they would always put Harry above Ginny, if it ever came to that. The perfect excuse had presented itself to her spontaneously, she’d be a fool not to take it–

“I’ve been seeing someone a bit,” she said, pushing her hair off her face. It wasn’t completely a lie – she had been seeing Pansy, even if only for sex. “I was trying to decide if I wanted to ask her to the wedding.”

Hermione clapped her hands together while Ron beamed.

“Gin! That’s wonderful,” Ron said.

“You should definitely bring her to the wedding!” Hermione said.

“It would be a great opportunity for her to meet everyone.”

“And it’s a good test of your compatibility to travel together,” Hermione added.

The next words out of her mouth were going to be But I don’t think I will. She hadn’t expected that they would be so excited about the idea. Swallowing the flutter of nerves that had just erupted in her stomach, Ginny forced herself to smile.

“Maybe I will,” she lied.

 

 

***

Ginny closed her locker and turned to face Angelina.

“I have a problem.”

Angelina raised one eyebrow. “Is this going to be like the time you made me dump that fan for you? Because I’m not doing that again.”

Ginny cringed. “No.” She sighed, turning around and slumping against the locker door. “I kind of told Ron and Hermione that I was seeing someone who I might bring as my plus one to the wedding.”

Angelina stared, expression blank. “And this is a problem because…?”

“Because I was lying, and now I have to magically invent a girlfriend, or tell them that this supposedly great girlfriend can’t come to the wedding with me.”

“Why did you lie, then?”

Ginny shook her head. “I don’t know. They were giving me a hard time about not having RSVP’ed yet, and I panicked, and all of a sudden I’d come up with this whole story. I told them I hadn’t RSVP’ed yet because I wasn’t sure if I was going to ask the girl I was seeing to come or not.”

“And why haven’t you RSVP’ed yet for real?”

“Because it’s my ex’s fucking wedding!” Ginny folded her arms across her chest. “He dumped me to go find himself in America, and five years later he’s getting married – to one of my former friends, no less – and I’m still so single that I’m lying about bringing a plus-one.”

Angelina rolled her eyes. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not like you’re a spinster. It’s not like your bits are drying up from disuse. I mean, you may not have a girlfriend, but you’ve been sleeping with Parkinson for what, six months now?”

It had been eight months, but Ginny didn’t correct Angelina, not wanting to give her more fuel for her argument.

“Yeah, I’m sleeping with Parkinson, but it’s not like I’m going to ask her to be my date to Harry’s wedding, is it?” An expression of absolute glee came over Angelina’s face. Ginny frowned. “Why the fuck are you smiling like that?”

“You could ask her,” Angelina said. Ginny rolled her eyes, trying to push past Angelina towards the door, but was stopped by a hand on her arm. “No, listen! It would be easier than finding a stranger to bring, right? And more believable too, if you already have a relation– a whatever, with Parkinson.”

“Who says I want to bring a date at all?”

“Sorry, but it really sounded like you’d rather not have to go to your ex’s wedding alone,” Angelina said. “Isn’t that what you were saying? Besides, imagine the look on their faces if you brought Parkinson!” She laughed.

Ginny frowned. Angelina was like that – always saying what was on her mind even if it wasn’t the most tactful – and while normally Ginny appreciated that about her, she didn’t enjoy feeling like the butt of a joke.

“Yes, I’m sure Harry would really appreciate me bringing someone to his wedding who once tried to give him up to Voldemort.”

“He’s a big boy, he’ll live,” Angelina said. She shrugged. “I’m not saying you should bring a date, but if you do want to then Parkinson may be your best bet.”

“She probably wouldn’t even want to go,” Ginny said.

“Pay for her Portkey and say it’s the only time she’ll get to visit Phoenix,” Angelina said. “I’m certainly not planning on going back there after the wedding. It’s in the fucking desert.”

 

 

***

Ginny spent the next week debating whether or not to ask Pansy to come as her date to the wedding. Every day she told herself she had to make a decision, had to ask Pansy if she was going to so that she could RSVP – it was so rude that she hadn’t done so yet, and she felt really bad about it – but every day something distracted her and she didn’t think of it again until she was getting ready for bed and it was too late to Floo Pansy.

Then on Thursday Pansy owled in the morning, suggesting she might stop by that evening, and Ginny was still lying in bed, sex-drunk and orgasm-silly, when she heard the chime of an incoming international Floo call. Only two people would be Flooing her from outside of Britain, so – after checking that Pansy was still occupied in the shower – Ginny threw on a shirt and padded into her living room to answer the Floo.

Sure enough, it was Harry’s head in the flames, the only way she’d seen him since his Christmas visit two years before.

“I didn’t wake you, did I?” Harry asked, looking at her clothes. “I’m so bad at calculating the time difference…”

“You didn’t wake me,” Ginny said. She shifted, uncomfortable now that her legs were bare, even though she knew Harry would only be able to see her knees because the shirt was long enough to cover her thighs.

“Good,” Harry said.

There was a moment of silence, awkward, like always, and Ginny cleared her throat. “Did you have a reason for calling?”

Harry wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Yes, actually,” he said. “You, um– you still haven’t RSVP’ed to the wedding, and Luna wanted me to check – I told her you’d probably just forgotten, but she needs to know if you’re bringing a guest so she can get the right amount of flowers for the ceremony…”

That made no sense, but Ginny knew better than to question Luna’s reasons.

“I’m really sorry I haven’t done it yet,” Ginny said. “Work’s been pretty busy the last few weeks.”

“That’s alright! It’s just– you’re the only one we hadn’t heard from, so we wanted to make sure…” Harry trailed off.

Ginny’s stomach twisted with guilt. She was being a bad friend, and there was no excuse for that – not when she and Harry had been friends for so long before they dated and sworn to stay friends after. Not when Luna had been the one person who always listened to Ginny, and had even owled Ginny to make sure Ginny was alright with it when she and Harry started seeing each other. Ginny hadn’t expected them to get married when she gave her blessing, of course, but that wasn’t Luna’s fault.

She should be happy for them. She was. She was.

“Of course I’m coming,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

Harry grinned, his relief obvious. “That’s great! That’s great, Gin. Oh, Luna’s going to be so excited to see you – I am too,” he assured her.

Ginny couldn’t help but smile back. Harry’s smiles had always been infectious. “I’m excited to see you both, too.”

“And will you be bringing a date?” Harry asked. “It doesn’t matter, either way; it’s for the flowers…”

Ginny hadn’t asked Pansy about it yet – they were on each other the second Pansy came through the Floo, no time for talking before Ginny was dragging Pansy into the bedroom. She ought to have taken that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to happen. She was opening her mouth to say no, she’d be attending alone, but somehow instead what came out was–

“Yes!”

Harry blinked, surprise obvious. “Really? I mean– that’s great, Gin! I just didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”

Ginny’s heart was in her throat. “It’s new,” she said, butterflies coming to life in her stomach. “But, I mean, it’s serious. It’s not like I’m bringing a fling to your wedding!”

Harry laughed, the sound a little distorted through the international Floo connection. “I know,” he said. “So, what’s her name?”

In for a Knut, in for a Galleon, Ginny thought.

“It’s actually Pansy.” She looked down, not wanting to see Harry’s reaction. “Pansy Parkinson? From school?”

Harry sounded a little strangled. “Parkinson?”

Ginny lifted her chin. “Yes. I’m bringing Pansy Parkinson as my plus-one to your wedding.”

“Look, Ginny, I didn’t–” Harry swiveled his head to the side – someone on his end of the connection must have been talking to him – then turned back to Ginny with a sigh. “Sorry, I’ve got to go, Luna thinks one of the Thestrals is going into labor. I’ll let her know you’re both coming. Can you owl me about the Portkey reservations?” Before Ginny could reply, Harry stood, and the flames returned to orange.

Ginny stared at the embers in her fireplace, her knees cold on the hardwood floor, as her brain finished catching up with her mouth. She’d told Harry – she’d told Harry that–

A delicate cough came from behind her. Ginny turned, startled, to find Pansy in the doorway, arms crossed as she watched Ginny speculatively. She was wearing a robe that had been a gift from Fleur, which had hung in the back of Ginny’s closet gathering dust until Pansy unearthed it and claimed it. She smiled, head tilted to the side, as she spoke. “You’re bringing me as your plus one to Potter’s wedding?”

Ginny’s face burned. “Um.” She coughed. “I meant to ask you about it first?”

“Before you told Potter, you mean?” Pansy’s voice danced with barely concealed amusement. Ginny wanted to hide.

“Yes?” She scrubbed her hand across her face, then pushed herself onto her feet. If they were going to have this conversation, at least she didn’t have to be sitting on the ground. “It’s kind of a long story. Can we…?” She gestured toward the couch.

Pansy didn’t take the bait. “Can you summarise it for me?”

Ginny sighed. “Last week, Ron and Hermione were asking me why I hadn’t RSVP’ed yet, and I told them it was because I was seeing someone and didn’t know if I wanted to ask her to come with me.” Pansy’s expression was shuttered, and Ginny’s stomach twisted with nerves again. “I panicked and lied, and I shouldn’t have, but then when I was talking about it with Angelina, she pointed out that I could ask you to come, and I’ve been meaning to all week...I wasn’t expecting Harry to call just now, and I panicked. Again.” She cleared her throat, coming closer to Pansy and meeting her eyes. “You don’t have to come with me, obviously.”

Pansy cocked her head to the side. “What’s in it for me if I do?”

Ginny had to stifle a laugh as she remembered her conversation with Angelina. “A free trip to Phoenix?” She offered, reaching out to rest her hand on Pansy’s waist. “My undying gratitude?”

Pansy ran a hand through Ginny’s hair, curling her fingers in a way that tugged at the roots. Her expression still seemed a little off, but Ginny figured that was only natural for such an odd conversation. If she’d walked in on Pansy Floo’ing someone like Draco Malfoy, already announcing she was bringing Ginny to his wedding, Ginny would look a little shell-shocked too.

“Your undying gratitude, huh?” Pansy said.

Ginny nodded. “And I could bake you something?”

At that Pansy laughed, proper and rare – head tipping back as she guffawed, her hand dropping from Ginny’s hair to press against her chest. “Please don’t,” she said as she caught her breath. “I’ll only go with you if you promise to never, ever try to bake for me again.” Pansy winced, obviously remembering the time she had wandered into the kitchen for a post-sex snack and found a batch of muffins Ginny had made for Cho’s birthday. She had insisted Ginny bin them, recommending her a bakery near the stadium that would do a custom cake instead.

Ginny leaned in and caught Pansy’s lips with hers. Her mouth tasted minty-fresh, and Ginny was ready to get back in bed and taste other parts of her.

“That’s a promise I can keep,” she said. Her heart beat louder when, once again, Pansy laughed.

 

 

***

Ginny guided her broom down to the ground, and a second later Angelina landed in front of her, blocking her path towards the locker rooms on the far end of the pitch. She dismounted and fell into step beside Ginny, speaking without preamble.

“George told me something interesting last night.”

Ginny’s throat tightened. She had a feeling she knew where this was going. “Did he?”

“Mmm-hmm.” Angelina’s grin, when Ginny darted a glance at her, could only be described as shit-eating. “About a certain date you’re bringing to a certain Saviour’s wedding?”

“You’re the one who suggested it!”

“I didn’t think you were actually going to do it,” Angelina said, like that was obvious. “George about lost his shit when Ron told him, by the way, so you’re never allowed to tell him it was my idea.”

“I wasn’t really planning on asking her,” Ginny admitted. “It just kind of...happened.”

“I think that’s exactly what you said about how you and Parkinson started too,” Angelina teased.

Ginny huffed. “I mean, you’re right – it’s easier than finding someone new. We already know each other and all that. I’m surprised she agreed, honestly, but I’m not complaining.”

Angelina raised her eyebrows. “That should make for an interesting rehearsal dinner,” she quipped.

“You’re the one who put this idea in my head, and now you think it’s a bad idea? Is that it?” Ginny’s heart hammered in her chest; she hadn’t realized quite how much she was counting on Angelina as one person she wouldn’t be deceiving.

“Not a bad idea, but...I mean, it’s Parkinson, Gin. Can you really trust her?”

“Trust her?” Ginny asked blankly.

“This is Harry’s wedding, and you know he...I mean, none of us have been on good terms with the Slytherins since the war.” Angelina frowned. “I imagine George isn’t the only one who will have something less than savory to say about her.”

“Pansy’s not the same person she was in school,” Ginny said, angry. They were almost to the locker room doors, and she slowed, not wanting to bring this argument inside where the others could hear it. “None of us are.”

Angelina exhaled, looking conflicted. “Look, Ginny. I know I suggested it and I know you’ve been seeing Parkinson for a while, but just...be careful, okay? I mean, this isn’t just spending the night. It’ll be three days of pretending to be in love with her.”

“Do you think I can’t handle that?” Ginny asked.

“No,” Angelina said. “No.”

“What is it?”

She shook her head. “Never mind. Just...be careful, okay?”

Ginny gave a hesitant smile. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

 

***

Pansy should have only been gone a few minutes, Ginny reflected as she stretched her arms above her head. When she’d raised her head from between Ginny’s thighs and announced that they needed a snack, Ginny’s brain had still been recovering from her orgasm; now she was fully aware of her sticky, satisfied state, and of the fact that Pansy had been taking too long in the kitchen. She rolled out of the bed, ducking down to pick up and pull on the shirt she’d been wearing when she arrived – it was already sweaty from Quidditch practice, so at least she wasn’t making it worse – and made her way out of the bedroom.

Ginny hadn’t spent much time in Pansy’s flat – they usually ended up at Ginny’s place, and the times she was at Pansy’s she’d been mostly in the bedroom – but every time, she was struck by how perfect the space was for Pansy. Ginny often felt like her flat was an amalgamation of the things she wanted to be and the things she actually was – the island in the kitchen and the canister of spatulas suggested she actually cooked, while the travel mugs and box of granola gars sitting on said island revealed that she was always running late and on the go. There were plenty of things in her flat that someone else had arranged and Ginny’d never fixed because she didn’t have time and it was good enough as it was – like the towels and sheets in the linen cupboard, organised by Molly to follow her own private system, enforced with spellwork, which Ginny had never bothered to learn in the nineteen years she’d lived at the Burrow. Every few months, Ginny would get frustrated and motivated to do a bout of cleaning, but she never got far – half the living room, the loo – before she gave up and settled again.

In contrast, everything about Pansy’s flat looked like it had been selected – created, even – specifically for the purpose it served. It would have been impossible to ignore how lovingly Pansy had cultivated a space that was exactly what she needed. Beside the front door there were exactly three hooks – coat, purse, umbrella – and a shoe rack that held six pairs, five of Pansy’s with one spot for visitors. The books in the living room were arranged to be easily accessible: textbooks from Hogwarts that Pansy never used but didn’t want to get rid of on the bottom shelf, while her favorite short story anthologies rested at eye level. Pansy’s kitchen counter housed two matching coffee mugs, a canister of coffee, and a French press, because she didn’t cook and didn’t feel the need to posture about it.

That was where Ginny found her, bending over to look into the refrigerator. She was wearing a dressing gown that was short when she was standing; bent as she was, it revealed the bottom half of her arse, and Ginny wanted to touch it. She dragged her mind away from that thought and cleared her throat to announce her presence.

Pansy turned to see her and grinned. “You could have stayed in bed.”

“You were taking too long,” Ginny said, flushing at how flirtatious that had sounded. “I just wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.”

“Sorry, I got distracted.” As she hip-checked the fridge door shut, Pansy smiled in a way that she only really did after sex – Ginny imagined because Pansy was feeling more relaxed; that was certainly how Ginny felt, anyway. “Remembered something I needed to pack and had to grab it before I forgot.” She nodded to the kitchen table – small, two mismatched chairs, only one of which was comfortable to sit at, because Pansy usually ate alone – and Ginny followed her gaze to see several bottles of...olive oil?

“You’re already packing?” she said, taking a few steps closer to examine the bottles. She’d been right, they were olive oils, all fancy and infused – rosemary, italian herbs, spicy red chilies. “What are these?”

“Of course I’m already packing. We leave in a few days,” Pansy said, looking at Ginny with confusion. “And it seems like we’re going to be doing a lot; I need to make sure I have appropriate clothes for all the different activities.”

Needing to pack more because of how jam-packed Luna and Harry had scheduled the weekend had not even occurred to Ginny, perhaps because she had not yet started packing, expecting that she would do it the night before their Portkey like she always did.

“And the oils are a wedding gift,” Pansy continued.

Ginny frowned. “You don’t have to get them anything. I mean, I did, and they’ll assume it was from you too.”

“I figured you probably had, but I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, if I’m supposed to be playing the perfect girlfriend.” She winked playfully at Ginny but her expression quickly fell to one of concern. “Do you think they’ll like it?”

“What?”

“The olive oil set,” Pansy repeated. “Do you think they’ll like it?”

“I’m sure,” Ginny said. Knowing Luna, at least half of them wouldn’t be used for cooking, but she didn’t want to tell Pansy that. “It looks really nice.”

Pansy smiled, expression grateful. “Blaise helped me pick it out,” she admitted. “He’s better at this sort of thing.”

“I thought proper wedding presents were the sort of thing that they covered in your How To Be A Fancy Pureblood classes,” Ginny said, joking but half-hoping Pansy would take the bait. She was feeling off-kilter that Pansy seemed to be taking this wedding trip more seriously than Ginny was, like that probably made her a bad friend. She almost wanted to fight with Pansy – not a fight fight, but one of the snarky, snooty arguments about nothing in particular that had peppered the first months of their arrangement. But come to think of it, they hadn’t had a fight like that in a while…

And now, too, Pansy smiled but didn’t take the bait. “I guess Blaise was paying more attention in our How To Be A Fancy Pureblood lessons than I was, then,” she said, laughter hiding behind the words. “In any case, what were you going to get them that I would be included on?”

Ginny colored a bit. “Um, an end table made of vintage reclaimed Nimbus wood?”

At that, Pansy did laugh, the real one where she kind of snorted, not the practiced laugh Ginny’d heard her use in public. “I don’t think they’d really believe that was coming from me as well anyway,” she said. “Probably for the best I bring my own present.”

She had a point. As far as Ginny knew, the last time Pansy had been on a broom had been her first-year flying lessons. She followed Quidditch – at least, she always seemed to know how the Harpies were doing – but she certainly wasn’t a fanatic about it like Ginny, most of Ginny’s family, or Harry and Luna.

Ginny hummed her agreement as she came closer, wrapping her arms around Pansy’s waist. Pansy made a little noise of surprise and dropped her hands to cover Ginny’s, but happily tilted her neck to the side when Ginny began kissing behind her ear.

“I thought you wanted a snack.”

“I’m not so hungry anymore,” Ginny said, nipping Pansy’s collarbone. “At least, not for that.”

Oh,” Pansy said, voice breathy and soft, as Ginny slipped a hand past the hem of her dressing gown – she certainly wasn’t complaining about the short length now – and found her already, or still, wet; Ginny really wasn’t certain.

“Do you want me to?” she whispered. Though they’d been joking a few moments before, now the quiet felt necessary, from the moment Pansy had gone lax in her arms.

“Do I want you to do what?”

“Go down on you in your kitchen.”

“Oh,” Pansy gasped again. “Yes, please.”

Ginny spun her to lean against the counter and dropped to her knees, loosening the tie of Pansy’s dressing gown in the process. Pansy’s hand came to rest on the crown of Ginny’s head as she pushed the fabric back, caressing Pansy’s hips in the process. She smiled to herself when Pansy shivered, and ran her nose along the inside of Pansy’s thigh, inhaling deeply. She’d heard blokes in Quidditch locker rooms lamenting that they couldn’t tell when their girlfriends were aroused, as they didn’t have so obvious a tell as their dicks getting hard: she’d suspected even then that the real issue was those blokes not knowing how to stimulate their girlfriends’ arousal. She raised one finger to trail between Pansy’s labia, looking up when Pancy cursed at her.

“Fuck, Ginny, don’t tease,” Pansy huffed, canting her hips forward a bit. Her cheeks were already flushed, her bangs clinging to her sweaty forehead.

“Who said I’m teasing?”

“You said you were going to go down on me–uhh.” Pansy moaned, grasping for purchase along the edge of the countertop as Ginny leaned in and licked. Pansy trembled as Ginny laved her clit, and Ginny hummed as she brought her other hand down and under to slip two fingers inside. Pansy was still wet and relaxed from their earlier sex and she jolted gratifyingly when Ginny entered her.

Ginny knew that the fastest way to make Pansy come was a few fingers teasing her inside and unrelenting pressure on her clit. Normally she tried to tease, to draw it out, see what response she could get from one or the other, wait until Pansy was truly desperate before she pulled out all the stops. Ginny liked to watch Pansy get more and more worked up, liked the way she looked when she was too aroused to really be angry, when she lost herself enough to boss Ginny around a bit, or hold her head just so, in the way that felt just right. That was what she’d done earlier, in Pansy’s bed, but Pansy was always less sensitive after having come already, and the tiled kitchen floor was uncomfortable against Ginny’s knees; she wanted Pansy shuddering against her mouth.

She twisted her fingers, enjoying the clench of Pansy’s internal muscles, as she slid her other hand between her own legs. Ginny knew how to make herself come quickly too, and that’s what she did, gathering wetness and rubbing it over her own clit as she switched to sucking on Pansy’s.

Pansy was gasping now, her breath coming loud and harsh, one hand curled into Ginny’s hair. Ginny glanced up to see Pansy arching back over the counter, the line of her neck tense and graceful, and Ginny couldn’t see Pansy’s expression but had a feeling she was close–

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Pansy chanted, suddenly convulsing over Ginny, the hand in her hair pulling tighter as she orgasmed. “Merlin, oh–” Pansy clasped her free hand over her mouth, muffling her sounds as she twitched through the final throes of pleasure. Ginny wished she wouldn’t do that – she liked to hear Pansy’s noises, liked the proof of her effect on her lover. If she had a free hand, she might have tried to pull Pansy’s arm away, but as it was both of hers were occupied – Ginny leaned her forehead against Pansy’s thigh, gripping it for balance with messy fingers, as she rubbed at her own clit harder, right there, right there, until she was cresting her own wave of pleasure with an embarrassingly high-pitched cry.

Pansy gave a breathless laugh. “I would have returned the favor.”

Ginny grinned up at her, enjoying the way Pansy’s eyes darkened when she saw her. She knew the picture she made: lips red and swollen, hair messy from Pansy’s fingers, Pansy’s slick on her face from her nose to her chin. “Couldn’t wait,” she teased, running her hand down the front of Pansy’s thigh. “You taste too good.”

Pansy laughed more genuinely at that, reaching down to haul Ginny to her feet.

“Think you can go again?” she asked. “I still haven’t gotten to taste you today.”

Ginny was surprised – they’d already had sex twice, which was once more than they usually did during these rendezvous – but not surprised enough to refuse.

“I guess we’ll find out,” she said, waggling her eyebrows, and let Pansy lead her down the hallway to her bedroom.

 

II. Phoenix

“I’ve never been to America,” Pansy said. The silence that followed her words was notable. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Is Phoenix nice?”

Ron shrugged, not quite meeting Pansy’s eyes. “It’s nice.”

“It’s really hot,” Hermione added. That would explain the shorts both she and Ron were wearing, which Ginny and Pansy had laughed at when they first saw them approaching their meeting spot.

Pansy glanced sideways at Ginny and then down at the ground. Ginny suppressed a sigh. She’d hoped that her brother and sister-in-law would have made a bit more of an effort to get along with Pansy, thinking, as they did, that she was Ginny’s girlfriend, but she’d forgotten how deep the Gryffindor-Slytherin rivalry still ran for them. Or perhaps they were still mad about Pansy’s actions during the Battle, which... weren’t great, Ginny could admit. But back when she and Harry were still dating, Pansy had written him a letter to apologise, explaining that her actions had been driven by fear, and Harry hadn’t seemed bothered when he heard exactly who Ginny was bringing as her date – well, not as bothered as Ron and Hermione.

Their elation that they’d get to meet Ginny’s secret girlfriend had taken an absolute nose dive as soon as she’d spoken Pansy’s name. When they’d asked how long Ginny had been seeing her, and she unthinkingly told them the truth – almost nine months – they’d blanched. Question after question about how and what and why didn’t we know had followed, which Ginny had struggled to answer. She couldn’t tell them what had really happened, which was that she’d run into Pansy at a wizarding pub and a Muggle club in the same night, and after an extremely satisfying snogging session in the loo they’d decided a physical relationship would be mutually beneficial: guaranteed regular sex with no chance of running into other witches, a necessity for both of them in the still-publicly-homophobic wizarding world.

That’s all it had been – convenient fucks at one of their flats – until the past few weeks. Ginny thought they’d spent more time talking the last fortnight then the last six months combined, but it was important – coordinating travel plans and coming up with a believable backstory of their relationship, which Ginny realized was necessary after Hermione and Ron’s interrogation.

“The venue looks beautiful,” Ginny said, breaking another awkward silence. “I heard their collection of magical succulents is the second largest in the country.” She tried to be subtle as she glared at her friends, although she suspected Pansy was more likely to notice than Ron or Hermione.

Luckily, Hermione could always be trusted to respond to a factual error. “It’s actually the largest in the United States,” she said, “but not in North America – there’s a larger collection in Mexico City.” Ginny nodded, shooting a reassuring smile towards Pansy as Hermione pulled out the itinerary that had been included with their Portkey instructions. “I’m looking forward to the Saturday morning tour,” she said. “We should sign up to do that when we get there, Ron.”

“Doesn’t that conflict with the ATV tour?”

Hermione wrinkled her nose. “You want to do that?”

Ron laughed. “Obviously! You know I’m a great driver.”

“You really aren’t,” Ginny said, laughing as her brother spluttered indignantly.

He was interrupted from replying by the chiming of Hermione’s wand.

“Okay, one minute!” She said, pulling their assigned Portkey – an empty water bottle – out of her purse. Pansy’s arm brushed against Ginny’s as she leaned in to touch it, and Ginny suppressed a shiver.

At least this trip with her fake girlfriend would probably result in some real sex, she thought, as Hermione counted down from ten and a hook behind her navel pulled her away.

 

 

***

“Ginny! Hermione! Ron!” Luna waved from across the lobby, her grin luminescent. The yelling wasn’t entirely necessary – they were the only ones in the room, since Harry and Luna had rented out the entire hotel and their Portkey had been one of the first to arrive. Still, she hurried towards them, pulling Hermione and Ron into a joint hug before embracing Ginny, then holding out a hand to Pansy.

“And Pansy! We’re so happy you could join Ginny,” Luna said. Ginny smothered a laugh at Pansy’s shocked expression as Luna hugged her too.

“You’re welcome?” Pansy said, voice muffled.

Luna laughed as she drew back. “Let’s get you all checked in,” she said, drifting towards the front desk. “Dinner won’t be for another few hours, but there are snacks in your room if you’re hungry. In your bathrooms, you’ll also find a tea I made that will help you adjust to the time difference. Oh!” She turned back around abruptly, grabbing Ron’s free hand in both of hers, and looked between him and Hermione beseechingly. “Harry’s very sorry he couldn’t meet you himself, but he had to finish a surprise for me.” Her grin was infectious. “I don’t know what he’s doing! But he’ll be here for dinner.”

“Of course,” Hermione said.

Beside her, Pansy shifted, and Ginny darted a glance at her, worried Pansy might be making fun of her friend, but she was just moving her overnight bag from one hand to the other. She gave Ginny a questioning look when their eyes met.

Ginny shook her head, looking back to Luna.

The front desk attendant had appeared from thin air to hand Luna two pamphlets, which she passed to Ginny and Hermione. “Two keys each,” she said, “and a map of the hotel. Both your rooms are on the third floor?” She looked back to the attendant for confirmation. “Yes, the third floor. Let me show you to the lift!”

Ginny hadn’t been in many Muggle hotels, but she had always felt claustrophobic in their lifts, which seemed hardly large enough for two people, let alone their luggage. The lifts in this hotel were in a bank, with three to choose from, and when they got inside were more spacious than any Ginny had seen. The walls were mirrored, making the space seem to extend further than it did, but it wasn’t just an illusion – there was room for all five of them to stand comfortably, and they probably could have squeezed another five people in there with them.

“This hotel is gorgeous,” Pansy said. “Is it wizarding or Muggle?”

Ginny noticed Hermione stand up a bit straighter, but Luna just smiled. “It’s Muggle – or no-Maj, as they say here. Phoenix doesn’t have a big enough population to justify a wizarding hotel of this size. But the manager is a friend of a friend, and we’re paying them quite a lot of money to turn a blind eye to any strange things that might happen this weekend.”

Ron laughed. “Does that blind eye extend far enough to cover Wheezes fireworks?”

Luna looked delighted. “Oh, do you think George might bring some?”

Ginny, who, like Ron, knew that George had already designed a trailing rocket that spelled out Congratulations Harry and Luna, hid her smile behind her hand. Before anyone could spill the secret, the lift stopped and the doors opened on their floor. Luna pointed them in the correct direction before she took the lift back down to greet the next arrivals, and the four of them were left alone in the dimly lit hallway.

Their rooms were across from each other, but luckily didn’t share a wall, and after agreeing to meet in the lobby before dinner, they split into their own rooms and Ginny and Pansy were finally alone.

Pansy took in the room, her expression evaluating. “This place is nice,” she said, dropping her bag on one of the two armchairs before heading towards the bathroom. “I forgot that Lovegood was really like that.”

“Like what?” Ginny asked, a prickle of nervousness.

Pansy re-appeared holding a jar of dried herbs and a bright pink mug.

“You know,” Pansy said. When Ginny didn’t respond, she sighed. “There’s a reason we used to call her Loony Lovegood, isn’t there? I thought I had exaggerated it in my memories, but she really hasn’t changed much.”

“If you’re trying to defend having made fun of her–”

“Oh, no! I’m not,” Pansy said. “We’ve already established that I was an unmitigated bitch in school.” She sat in the remaining armchair, leaning forward to place jar and mug on the coffee table. Rolling her eyes, Ginny moved Pansy’s bag to the floor so she could sit too.

“What’s that?” Ginny pointed to the jar.

“It’s the tea Luna left us,” Pansy said. She read the label. “Two spoonfuls in hot water, steeped for twelve minutes. Would you like some?”

“That time difference cure?” Ginny asked. “You’re actually going to drink that?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Do you think it will work?”

Pansy shrugged. “Maybe not, but it probably won’t kill me either,” she said. “Unless you’d rather I sleep through dinner later?”

Ginny had to admit that Pansy made a good point. It had been almost dark when they’d left England, and now it was just after noon. That didn’t mean she wanted to try Luna’s tea, though.

“I was just planning on taking a nap,” Ginny admitted. She bit her lip. “You could always join me?”

Pansy looked up from where she’d been measuring out tea, her expression playful. “Why do I feel like you’re asking me to do more than sleep with you?”

“Maybe I am asking you to sleep with me.”

“That was terrible,” Pansy said. But when Ginny reached out a hand, she let herself be pulled up from the chair and over to the bed. “I still want to finish my tea,” Pansy reminded her, as Ginny dragged her down onto the bed.

In the end, Pansy’s tea was forgotten.

 

 

***

“You make me look underdressed,” Ginny complained.

In their owl with the weekend itinerary, Harry and Luna had described the restaurant they’d be dining at for their pre-rehearsal dinner – really just an excuse for a small group of their close friends to have some time together before the rest of the guests arrived – as casual. In deference to the heat, Ginny had traded the jeans she’d been wearing when they arrived for a simple sundress, basically an elongated vest, that was made of a soft, striped knit. She’d Transfigured the fancy sandals she’d brought for the ceremony into flip-flops – and not done it very well, they were still too sparkly – and put her hair up in a ponytail.

“You look great,” Pansy said.

You look great,” Ginny corrected. Pansy wore a crisp white shirt with pearl buttons up the front, tucked into a red skirt that toed the line of mini. Her bob was as sleek as ever, and her strappy sandals displayed toenails that were varnished to match her skirt. “I’m embarrassed to be seen next to you.” Ginny plucked at the front of her dress and the fabric reluctantly eased back into place. She frowned.

“I thought this was why you brought me,” Pansy said, holding out her arms and gesturing down at her body. “To look hot and make your ex jealous?”

Ginny flushed. “I’m not trying to make Harry jealous.

Pansy waved her comment away. “To make everyone see that you’re doing better than him, then.” She posed with her hands on her hips, a smile playing over her lips. “Am I hotter than Potter?”

“You know you are,” Ginny said. She crossed the room so she could curl a hand around the back of Pansy’s neck, pulling their foreheads together. “You’re going to be the hottest person at this dinner by far.”

“And I’ll be on your arm,” Pansy said.

Ginny kissed her. She wasn’t in the habit of kissing Pansy at times that weren’t leading to sex, so perhaps she couldn’t be blamed for the heat that rose so quickly between them. Before she knew it, she was twisting her fingers into Pansy’s hair while Pansy’s hands crept down the back of her dress. It was only when Pansy tried to push her towards the bed and Ginny almost tripped over her suitcase that they were pulled out of the moment.

“We’re meeting Ron and Hermione downstairs,” Ginny said with regret.

Pansy pulled a face.

“What?”

“This dinner is going to be teeming with Gryffindors, isn’t it?”

Ginny frowned. “Hey!”

“I haven’t been alone in a room with so many Gryffindors since school,” Pansy said.

“It’s not as if it’s going to be only Gryffindors. Luna was in Ravenclaw, you know.”

“But a lot of Gryffindors.”

“A lot of Gryffindors, yes.”

Pansy had a funny, calculating expression.

Ginny sighed. “We can’t be late to the pre-rehearsal dinner,” she said.

“Fine, but you owe me one,” Pansy said with a wink.

 

 

***

Ginny was surprised by how nice it was to have Pansy sitting beside her at dinner. Conversation was slightly stilted, her friends obviously not sure how to talk to Pansy and perhaps distrustful of her presence at all, but the slight insulation from the inundation of questions and comments that was typical for a gathering with any number of Weasleys present was worth it. And after the appetizers, when Hermione had taken including Pansy in the conversation as a personal challenge and started peppering her with questions about her work, it was still worth it for the comfort of Pansy’s knee resting against hers under the table, of knowing that there was someone in the room who was on her side with no ties to anyone else getting in the way.

“So how many new spell patents do you typically get in a week?” Hermione asked. The same bite of cake had been waiting on the end of her fork for several minutes, her attention completely taken up by her conversation with Pansy. Ginny met her brother’s eyes and glanced at the fork; the suppressed smile on his face told her that he, too, was amused at Hermione’s disregard for food in the face of knowledge.

“Oh, maybe twenty,” Pansy said.

Hermione’s eyebrows shot up. “Really.

“But most of those won’t be viable,” Pansy continued. “There are a lot of variations for spells that people just don’t know about, so when they come up with it, they think they’re the first ones ever to do so, but in fact it’s already in our records. Or there’s a common but relatively new spell that they look up in an anthology and see isn’t listed, so they want to be the ones to submit the application, not realising that if it’s come into common usage we will have added it ourselves anyway.”

“Fascinating,” Hermione breathed. A piece of cake fell off her fork, fluttering back down to her plate, and Ginny muffled a snort.

“People tend to think there’s a lot more glory in codifying a new spell,” Pansy explained. “But we don’t pay them or anything like that.”

“Of course, why would you?” Hermione said. “Your job is record-keeping of information that already exists. You’re not encouraging the creation of this new information.”

“Exactly!” Pansy said, leaning forward in her seat. Ginny couldn’t help the flush of warmth that spread through her chest at the eager expression on her face, so unlike how she usually tried to look as distant as possible. “That’s what people don’t understand.”

Hermione’s next question was interrupted by the sound of cascading bells from the next table. When everyone had quieted, Luna cancelled the spell and smiled at them.

“Sorry to interrupt your conversations,” she said. “We’ll let you get back to your desserts in a moment. Harry and I just wanted to thank you all for making the trip to be here with us for our celebration.”

Harry smiled at her, then out at the assembled guests. “We know Phoenix is a long way to travel, even for wizards, and the weather isn’t what you’re used to – that big yellow ball in the sky is the sun!” He joked. “But it means so much to us that you all are here.”

“It wouldn’t have been a proper celebration without every single one of you,” Luna said, looking around the room. Ginny could have sworn their eyes met, and she felt guilty, shameful, about how long it had taken her to decide to attend. She couldn’t force herself not to care about what had happened with Harry, but she wished it hadn’t had such an impact on her friendship with Luna, or with him. “I’m so happy you all are here for when I get to marry the kindest man I’ve ever met.” Luna reached up to put a hand on Harry’s cheek with a casual familiarity that twisted Ginny’s heart – jealousy, again, not for Harry specifically, but for the desire to have someone.

He held her hand there, the moment of quiet intimacy stretching between them, the rest of the room held in it’s thrall. “I can’t wait, Luna,” Harry said. “I didn’t know what love was until I met you.”

The spike of envy in Ginny’s gut curdled. She remembered lying next to Harry in a narrow hostel bed in Berlin, exchanging kisses and love confessions, and felt sick. Dimly she was aware of Pansy’s hand on her thigh, squeezing, trying to comfort, but–

The interruption was done; the dinner resumed. The sounds of conversation and clinking silverware filled the room again. Nothing made its way into comprehension as Ginny excused herself and stood, squeezing Pansy’s shoulder to keep her in her chair when she made as if to follow. Good, that looked appropriately couple-y, Ginny thought as she made for the patio doors on the far side of the room. A breath of fresh air, that’s all she needed – that must be why it was called a breather, she thought, and laughed to herself. It was at this moment that Harry intercepted her, grabbing her elbow and spinning her to face him.

“Ginny! You made it!”

Harry looked flushed and happy in the way that only Harry could; the way where Ginny couldn’t even be upset that his joy was so exuberant when hers was nonexistent, because Merlin knew he deserved to be that happy.

“Sorry I didn’t get to greet you when you arrived,” he continued. “Your Portkey was alright?”

He seemed to think she’d been heading for the bar, and was continuing the path; Ginny followed along.

“It was fine, yes. Thank you for arranging it.”

“You and Parkinson liking your room?” Harry grimaced. “Sorry– Pansy. I should call her Pansy now that you’re together.”

Ginny inclined her head. “The room is great. The hotel, the restaurant – I had no idea there were so many wizarding establishments in Phoenix.”

“They aren’t centralised like in London, but you can find them if you know where to look,” Harry said. He leaned against the bar, gesturing to the bartender for a refill. “You seem happy with Par– Pansy.”

Ginny couldn’t tell what Harry was trying to say. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was watching Luna on the other side of the room, and as Ginny turned to follow his gaze she saw that Pansy was sitting with her, laughing as Luna gesticulated wildly, her signature storytelling style.

Ginny swallowed the lump in her throat that reminded her she was lying. “I am.”

Harry smiled at her. “She’s obviously crazy about you.”

Ginny shifted, a bit uncomfortable. Even though it had been what she wanted, she wasn’t sure how she felt about Pansy putting on such a convincing performance. “We’re happy.”

“I’m glad,” Harry said. His face grew serious. “I mean it. I want you to be happy, Gin, even if you weren’t with me. I’m glad you found someone who could make you happy.” He gave a little laugh. “And someone who’s the right gender.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ginny asked, crossing her arms across her chest. She felt chilled, all of a sudden, despite the heat outside and the humidity of too many bodies in the room.

She could see Harry suppressing a sigh.

“I just mean, Gin...don’t you think that had something to do with why we didn’t work out?”

Ginny’s throat was tight. “I thought we didn’t work out because of how you dumped me.”

“Ginny–”

“No.” She held up a hand. “You don’t get to blame me being bi for us not working out, Harry. I was in love with you!”

Harry looked sad. “I didn’t mean– You know we never would have worked out long term, Ginny!”

“I was ready to marry you, Harry! I thought you were going to propose, I thought – that’s where we were headed.” She dragged in a breath, feeling shaky and off-kilter. “I loved you, even if you ‘didn’t know what love was yet.’”

Harry looked confused, and then ashamed, as he realised what she was saying. He glanced back at Luna, then to Ginny again.

“I didn’t– I wasn’t trying to–” He sighed, frustration evident. “Us getting married would have been a terrible idea, and you know it, Ginny.”

“Do I know that?” She snarked. “It’s not like you gave me any choice in the matter. ”

They stared at each other in a stalemate. Anger was licking at Ginny’s ribs, and she wanted Harry to take the bait – wanted to snap and fight, wanted an outlet for these feelings.

She watched as Harry backed down, calmed down, took a deep breath and shook his head. He sighed. “I don’t want to fight, Ginny.”

“Too bad.”

Ginny turned and left. At the far end of the room, a wall of windows overlooked an empty patio, unused furniture stacked at the far side of the slate flooring. She slipped out one of the glass doors, crossing her arms over her chest as she was buffed by the wind. Even after dark, the air was hot and dry, nothing like what she was used to. The light from inside caught the cacti planted at the corners of the patio and threw their shadows across the ground like grotesque monsters.

Maybe this whole trip had been a mistake.

Harry was right, of course. Their marriage never would have lasted.

Ginny at eighteen, straight out of surviving a war and in love for the first time, had seen it as the logical next step. When Harry had owled her to come over because they needed to have a talk, it hadn’t even occurred to her to be nervous – she’d simply assumed she’d end the night wearing an engagement ring. Harry’s decision had been the right one, even if the execution had been poor – breaking up with her after a month-long romantic vacation, when she’d never been more in love with him – but it had taken Ginny a long while to realise it. Harry acting so superior, as though he’d known something she hadn’t, as though he was predicting this future when he’d sat across from the kitchen table in Grimmauld and told her he was moving to America to find himself and no, he didn’t want her to come with him...that was what rankled.

“Ginny?”

Ginny hadn’t heard the door open, and she turned, surprised to see Pansy on the patio.

“Is everything alright?” Pansy took a few steps closer. “I saw you talking to Harry, and when I looked over again you were gone.”

“It’s fine,” Ginny said. She suspected her voice sounded off, and from the expression of concern on Pansy’s face, she was right. Pansy tilted her head to the side, face questioning, and Ginny sighed. “I wish I could talk to Harry without it turning into a rehash of our break-up.”

Pansy rested one hand, gently, on Ginny’s shoulder. “You never told me what happened there,” she said.

“We graduated, spent the summer traveling all over Europe, and we got home he dumped me.” She shrugged. “It was the right choice, but it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time.”

Pansy wrapped an arm around Ginny’s waist, leaning into her, but somehow the weight of Pansy’s body against her own felt like a support rather than a burden.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have come at all,” Ginny mused.

Pansy hmm’ed. “Do you want to get out of here?”

“And go where?”

“I saw a bar down the street from the hotel,” Pansy said. “Or we can just go back to the room. I think we’ve made enough of an appearance for tonight.” She paused. “So, do you want to leave?”

Ginny laughed. “Yes, actually, I really do.”

 

 

***

They walked back to the hotel. On the way, Ginny dragged Pansy into a 7-11 for ice cream.

“What is this place?” Pansy asked incredulously, examining the soda machine with horror.

“Luna said they’re called convenience stores,” Ginny told her.

Pansy shuddered. “Convenience. Merlin.” She came over to Ginny and leaned heavily into her side. Ginny glanced at the man behind the counter, momentarily nervous, but he wasn’t paying them any attention. “What’s taking you so long?”

“Trying to decide which one to get,” Ginny said, holding up the two flavors. Mint Chip was her favourite, but she’d never had Rocky Road.

“Get them both,” Pansy said simply.

Ginny supposed that it could be that simple. She paid with some of the money Hermione had helped her exchange before they left, a two-step process – Gringotts for pounds, and a Muggle bank for American dollars. The bills were strange and green, but conveniently marked with the amount in the corner. Ginny dropped all her change into the little bowl marked take a penny, leave a penny! and grabbed Pansy’s hand defiantly as they left the store, the plastic bag with the ice cream in it banging against her legs as they walked.

In their room, Pansy kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the bed, so Ginny followed her.

Pansy conjured them both spoons and opened both ice cream cartons. “Which one do you want to start?”

“Don’t you want to get a bowl?”

“That ruins the fun,” Pansy said.

“I’ll take the mint chip.”

Pansy took the Rocky Road, digging in immediately and grinning as she swallowed. “This is good,” she said, holding out another spoonful for Ginny.

Ginny leaned forward to take it. It was good, but not as good as the mint chip.

“Try mine,” Ginny said, feeling her face redden as Pansy made a show of licking the ice cream off the spoon seductively.

They ate in silence for a few minutes before Pansy put her ice cream down, furrowing her brow as she looked at Ginny. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

Ginny sighed, scrubbing a hand over her face. “Yes.” Pansy stared at her, expression level. Ginny sighed. “No. Maybe. I should be.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I know.” Ginny huffed. “I mean, probably no one wants to sit there and listen to their ex say that they didn’t love anyone before their current person, right? I mean, we were in love. I thought we were in love.”

Pansy nodded. “Yeah.”

“I don’t want to marry him. I didn’t want to marry him then, really. Maybe I thought I did, but I think I only thought that because it was...expected.”

“Expected?” Pansy quirked an eyebrow.

Ginny struggled to explain. “Like...that was the path you took. You met someone in school, and then you dated them, and then you got married. That’s what everyone in my family had done, more or less. I thought, I figured it out. I must be doing something right.”

“My parents were always going to pick out someone for me,” Pansy said, twisting her spoon into the ice-cream. “For a while they were talking like it was going to be Marcus Flint, so I tried to like Marcus Flint.” She sighed. “I guess I’m lucky our assets were seized after the war and I didn’t have to worry about actually coming out to them.”

Ginny laughed unexpectedly, and Pansy looked at her sharply.

“What?”

“I’m not– I’m not laughing at that. Just, you and Flint.” She pressed a hand to her mouth. “I can’t picture it.”

Reluctantly at first, Pansy began to laugh as well. “Fuck, me neither.”

“He’s such a...a dull lump of a human,” Ginny said.

Pansy put a hand to her mouth, trying to muffle her laughter, but when Ginny protested with “What? He is!” she only laughed harder.

“No, no, you’re completely right,” she said, hand on her chest as she caught her breath. “It was just such an accurate way of saying it...dull lump of a human.” She snorted, shaking her head. “Merlin, he truly is. I would have been miserable married to him.”

“And I would have been miserable married to Harry,” Ginny said glumly. When Pansy tried to argue, she shook her head, cutting her off. “No, no, it’s true. I knew it even back then. I mean, I realized pretty soon after the break-up that it had been a good thing, even if it hurt at the time, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear Harry telling me that, y’know?”

“Yeah,” Pansy said. She leaned forward to squeeze Ginny’s shoulder and ended up toppling into her a bit. Ginny wrapped an arm around Pansy’s waist to support her.

“Careful there,” Ginny said, biting back a grin.

“Whoops.” Pansy put her ice cream down and swung a leg over Ginny’s so she was straddling her lap. “Lucky I have you here to catch me.”

“That was a terrible line,” Ginny said, squeezing Pansy’s waist.

“But is it working?”

Ginny laughed. “You don’t have to have sex with me because I’m being all mopey.”

“I want to take your mind off of things,” Pansy said. “And,” she leaned in close to whisper in Ginny’s ear, “most of the time I want to have sex with you anyway, so.”

“So,” Ginny grinned up at her.

“The offer stands. If you want.”

“I do want.” Ginny inhaled as Pansy shifted above her, rising up on her knees and putting her breasts level with Ginny’s face. It was an obvious choice to unbutton her shirt, to slip her hands beneath the lacy cups of Pansy’s bra and tease her nipples, which hardened quickly under Ginny’s fingertips.

Pansy tilted Ginny’s face up and kissed her, stance splaying wider wider so she was flush with Ginny’s lap. When Ginny pinched her nipple, Pansy gasped into Ginny’s mouth, and so Ginny did it again, and again, until Pansy was squirming and her kisses were open-mouthed and messy. They kissed so long that Ginny forgot quite where they were, or what had come before, so when Pansy pushed her down onto her back and Ginny found herself laying the wrong way across the bed, her head next to a half-melted carton of Rocky Road, it was a surprise.

Above her, Pansy was reaching, groping in the covers for something – her wand, Ginny realised, as she lifted it triumphantly, and whispered the spell to Banish their clothes.

“Fuck,” Ginny gasped, arching as her entire body was suddenly exposed to the cool air. With Pansy on her lap, Ginny could feel her wetness against her stomach, matching the stickiness between her own thighs. Pansy caressed one of her breasts and Ginny arched again, pushing up towards the grip as her eyes fell shut. Pansy always knew just how to touch her, and Ginny always wanted more, her whole body gone shivery with awareness of the other person in the bed.

Pansy lifted up, and Ginny mourned the loss of warm thighs spread over her own. “I’d like to ride you,” Pansy said, but before Ginny could point out the obvious – her strap-on was back in her bedroom in London – she was shuffling above Ginny, planting one leg between Ginny’s own as she maneuvered into place. Ginny saw what she was doing, and groaned; she groaned again, louder, longer, Pansy’s name on her lips, as Pansy guided one of Ginny’s legs over her shoulder, settled down and brought them into contact.

“Pansy, oh, oh–!” Ginny cried as Pansy began to move, the slick sensation of Pansy’s vulva against her own making her tremble. The line of Pansy’s body was sinuous, all her motions exposed to Ginny’s eyes – the roll of her hips and the way it made her arse dip and rise, the bounce of her stomach and breasts as she thrust against Ginny. Ginny tried to tilt her hips up to meet her but she was weighed down by where Pansy had settled over her, by the grip Pansy had on her calf. She reached for Pansy and could only reach her thighs, helpless to do anything but watch as Pansy bit her lip and threw her head back.

“Ginny,” Pansy gasped. Her hands were hot on Ginny’s calf, her expression lax, a mask of delight. Ginny wished she could touch her, kiss her, but that would mean sacrificing the way they were rubbing together, Pansy’s slick labia dragging deliciously over Ginny’s clit, the shocks of pure pleasure that went through her whenever Pansy shifted and their clits lined up perfectly.

Ginny became aware that she was moaning, a continuous sound, desperate and wanting, only as she realised that Pansy was still panting her name. “Ginny, Ginny, Gin,” she gasped, and then she was clutching at Ginny’s leg as she came, curling in on herself through the waves. Meeting Ginny’s eyes, she reached down between them to tease Ginny’s clit, and she was so close to the edge already that just a few strokes of Pansy’s fingertips knocked her over.

After, Pansy detangled their legs, Vanished the ice cream, and tried to curl up against Ginny’s side before they both realised they were still spread width-wise across the bed. More rearranging, a few Scourgifies, and a glass of water later, they were under the covers, skin against skin, with Ginny’s arm around Pansy’s shoulders and Pansy’s flung across her waist.

Ginny had time to reflect, very briefly, that they’d never slept like this before – naked, sated from sex, curled up in the same bed – before her exhaustion from the day and the warm comfort of her surroundings got the best of her, and she fell asleep.

 

 

***

“A spa morning.” Ginny frowned as she looked down at their itinerary. “Hmph.”

“Why do you sound so unhappy?” Pansy called from the bathroom. From what Ginny could see, it looked like Pansy was leaning close to the mirror to apply her makeup. “Spa days are supposed to be relaxing.”

“Nothing with Hermione is relaxing,” Ginny called back, resisting the urge to smile. “Why are you putting on lipstick, anyway, if we’re meant to be relaxing?”

“Relaxing doesn’t mean I can’t look good,” Pansy said as she came out of the bathroom. Ginny let her eyes travel down Pansy’s body quickly and swallowed. She did look good – then again, Pansy always looked good, but today’s casual black linen sheath and the way it dipped low between Pansy’s shoulders could have driven Ginny to distraction.

She turned away, feeling flustered, wanting to hide the blush that had overtaken her face. “We’re supposed to meet them for breakfast before we got to the spa. Luna said the restaurant was just a couple of blocks away, whatever that means…”

“Why don’t we walk?” Pansy smiled. “Get some fresh air before we spend the day inside?”

That was actually...a really good suggestion. Ginny smiled back. “That’s a great idea,” she said. Ginny was used to early mornings on the Quidditch pitch, dewy grass around her ankles and mist still rising off the ground, and hadn’t been looking forward to spending all morning in the small, humid rooms of the spa.

The walk was nice, too. It was pleasantly warm but not yet blisteringly hot, and she and Pansy admired and exclaimed at the potted cacti they passed on the way, which they hadn’t been able to appreciate in the dark last night. Soon enough, they had arrived at the restaurant. It was rustic in a way that seemed more suited for the English countryside than the desert that was Arizona, with rough hewn chairs and blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, but it was cool and mostly unoccupied so Ginny had no complaints. Before the hostess could seat them, Luna called their names from across the room, waving from a corner booth.

“Ginny! Pansy! We saved you two seats.” Luna grinned, pointing at the empty chairs, as they picked their way across the room.

“Thanks, Luna,” Ginny said, sliding into her seat beside Pansy. It was a small group so far around the table – in addition to Luna, just Hermione, Angelina, and a woman Ginny hadn’t been introduced to but vaguely recognized from the previous night’s dinner.

“This is Yasmin,” Luna said immediately, “Yasmin, this is my friend Ginny and her girlfriend Pansy. I don’t know if you all were introduced last night.”

Ginny’s murmured confirmation that no, they hadn’t been, was interrupted by their waiter arriving with six glasses and a pitcher of something pink and alcoholic. As he left, Luna smiled beatifically at all of them.

“I’m so glad we were able to do this,” she said. Her expression became serious. “Getting married is exciting, but it’s also stressful! I’m glad Harry and Ron are taking charge on welcoming everyone who’s arriving this morning.” Luna turned to Hermione and they shared a smile at that, their husband and husband-to-be working together. Once upon a time, it was Ginny sharing those conspiring looks with Hermione, feeling like she had an in with the friend she never quite believed liked her for her.

Pansy’s knee knocking against her own, whether it was intentional or unintentional, dragged her away from that morose train of thought.

“Phoenix is really something,” Pansy said. “I knew we were coming to the desert but I still wasn’t expecting it to be so hot!”

Angelina laughed. “Tell me about it.”

“It’s not that bad,” Yasmin protested, then laughed when they all stared at her. “I’m from here, so I guess I’m just used to it? I can’t imagine what I’d do if it rained more than a few days a year.”

Ginny thought about how many practices she ended either vaguely damp or outright soaked from precipitation and had to swallow a snort.

“I can’t imagine it being this sunny all the time!” Pansy countered.

“It’s hard to adjust to, but it’s nice once you get over the strangeness,” Hermione offered.

“Have you been before?” Pansy asked.

“Oh, yes! Ron and I have visited Harry a few times. We came in July once, that was awful, but in November it’s still warm enough to be a holiday but not so warm that you think you’re going to die.”

“And we saw those fire salamanders when you visited in November,” Luna said. “Late autumn is their birthing season.”

Angelina shook her head. “I didn’t know there were fire salamanders in Arizona.”

“Are they the same species as in England?” Pansy asked.

Luna’s face lit up with a smile. “We don’t know!” She exclaimed. “Yasmin and I have been doing research, actually, trying to compare, but without having samples of the English species here it’s quite difficult. We’ll have to take a trip back for research at some point–”

They were interrupted again by their waiter coming to take their orders, and Ginny realised she’d been so engaged in the conversation that she hadn’t even had the chance to look at her menu. She certainly hadn’t expected her pretend girlfriend and her best friends from school to get along so well, but she definitely wasn’t complaining.

 

 

***

“I can’t believe you’re going to ride that thing,” Hermione said.

Ginny looked down at her ATV. It did, she could admit, look scary, but given that she spent most of her working hours hundreds of feet in the air, she wasn’t worried. In fact, when she’d seen this on the wedding itinerary, she’d been excited to give it a try. Now that the time had come, though, she was tired; both mentally and physically. She would have liked to take a break from socialization and stay in the room with Pansy, but Pansy had already declared that she needed to stay in and catch up on work – Ginny had immediately felt guilty for not thinking about how this trip was affecting Pansy’s job beforehand. And as the rest of her family had arrived that morning, alone time for Ginny was not in the cards: the ATV outing had become something of an extended Weasley family reunion. Ron, George, Charlie, and Bill had already decided they wanted to try it; Harry had done it before but was happy to go again; Arthur couldn’t resist the opportunity to examine new Muggle technology. From there Angelina had insisted and Fleur been cajoled into joining, Molly had decided she needed to supervise for safety reasons, Percy and Audrey had ended up following them, and Hermione and Ginny had tagged along as well, since the alternative was going mushroom foraging with Yasmin and Luna.

“I’d like to be mostly sober for the rest of this weekend,” Hermione had muttered under her breath to Ginny, who forced her laugh into a cough. Hermione had declined to get her own ATV, declaring it an experiment that she didn’t need to participate in after Harry had described it as “flying, but bumpier and scarier.”

“It can’t be really dangerous,” Ginny said, lightly kicking the huge, spiky tire. “Or Muggles wouldn’t do it all the time, would they?”

“I don’t think you should be using how often other people do it as a gauge of it’s danger level,” Hermione said, looking concerned.

Ginny shrugged. “I think it’ll still be better than the steam rooms.”

Hermione laughed. “That was pretty uncomfortable.”

It wasn’t that Ginny disliked steam rooms – they had one at the Harpies complex and she’d found it to be very therapeutic after a long day of flying. What she minded was Luna taking turns asking them would you rather questions while making intense eye contact, despite the fact that everyone was naked. What she’d also minded was being sat next to a naked Pansy when there were other people in the room and Ginny couldn’t immediately give in to the temptation to lean in and kiss her.

Ginny grabbed her helmet from where it was looped over the handlebars and put it on. Although all the ATVs had been spelled for safety, they were in a Muggle area and still needed to use Muggle protective gear. She was contemplating how to mount the thing – ridiculously large and intimidating; brooms were much simpler – and Hermione’s next words caught her off guard.

“You know, I wasn’t sure what to expect when you said you were bringing Parkinson, but she’s a lot better than I remember her being in school.”

Ginny blinked at her, surprised at the turn the conversation had taken. “Um, yes. Yes, she is.”

Admittedly, Ginny had not spent a lot of time before this trip truly talking with Pansy – their mouths were often occupied in other ways – but she wouldn’t have given Pansy access to Ginny’s home and secrets the way she had if she didn’t recognise that she was a lot more trustworthy now than when they’d been at Hogwarts.

Perhaps reading this in Ginny’s face, Hermione looked down. The ground was a dusty brown; not the rich dark soil Ginny was used to at home, but a dusty clay that spoke of its lack of moisture.

“I mean, obviously she had to be better than she was in school for you to be dating her,” Hermione said. “I knew that. I trust you. But I was still having trouble imagining what she might actually be like, I mean, it’s not like I’ve spent a lot of time with her the past few years, or any of them.”

By any of them, Ginny knew Hermione meant the Slytherins, the ones who had fought – or sympathised – with the opposite side during the war. Ginny probably knew more about them than most of her friends, she was surprised to realise. She wondered if the fact that Malfoy and Nott had fled the country – and their sentences – was something Hermione still remembered. Pansy’s face went tight and upset whenever they were mentioned.

Those aren’t Ginny’s secrets to share though. “A lot of the people she cared about abandoned her to go fight, and then abandoned her to deal with the mess when it was all over,” Ginny said simply. “I think that kind of forced her to reevaluate.”

Hermione nodded. Ginny expected to be peppered with more questions about Pansy’s history, so the next words out of her mouth were a surprise.

“She makes you happy.”

Ginny swiveled to face Hermione. “What?”

“She makes you happy. Parkinson. Pansy.” Hermione smiled, expression affectionate. “I haven’t seen you that happy in a long time.”

“I’ve been happy,” Ginny said, frowning. She didn’t like the implication that she’d spent the past several years wallowing, or something ridiculous like that.

“I haven’t seen you happy in that way in a long time,” Hermione corrected. “Happy with another person, I mean.”

Ginny had been trying to act like she and Pansy were more serious, of course, during the wedding festivities so far. And it’d been an unexpected boon to have Pansy by her side, lifting some weight from her shoulders that Ginny hadn’t known she’d been carrying. But she must have been a better actor than she realised if the change in her behavior had been so obvious that Hermione was commenting on it.

Hermione took her silence as assent. “Ron thought so too,” she said. “We were talking about it last night after dinner, but he was still skeptical about it being, you know, Par– Pansy.” Hermione smiled ruefully, as though Ginny would be offended by her slip-up. “But once he gets to talk to her like I did at breakfast this morning, I know he’ll feel better. Not that you need our approval, of course! We just like seeing you happy.”

“Right.” Ginny’s throat was dry, and it wasn’t just because of the aridity of the desert. “I– Thank you.”

Hermione looked like she was going to say something else, but her attention was grabbed by Ron calling her name. “I’ll be right there!” she shouted, turning to roll her eyes at Ginny before she Apparated away.

Ginny fiddled with her handlebars, trying to ignore the knot in her stomach that definitely wasn’t nerves about mounting her ATV. Hermione had sounded so genuine, Ginny couldn’t even bring herself to be annoyed about the fact that her friends were talking about her behind her back. A few years ago, she would have snapped and called Hermione patronising, but she knew it hadn’t been meant in that way – she was genuinely happy to see Ginny happy.

That was the part that had her insides twisted up with guilt. She hadn’t thought about the pros and cons of bringing Pansy as her girlfriend to Harry’s wedding beyond the fact that it would make the weekend more bearable and get her family off her back. What might happen in the future had not even crossed her mind – she’d assumed that when she told everyone a few months later that she and Pansy had broken up, no one would really care. It wasn’t as if any of them liked Pansy Parkinson. But now she wondered what Hermione and Ron would pity more: the inevitable break-up, or the truth that the relationship had never been real.

Shaking her head, she told herself to focus. She didn’t need to worry about that right now. She’d never ridden one of these things before, but – there were George and Angelina; one of them would definitely be down for a race.

 

 

***

Harry and Luna had rented out the restaurant – the entire restaurant, a diner dropped straight from the fifties, including the industrial kitchen – for what on their itinerary had been labeled a ‘Pre-Ceremony Family Dinner.’ It was a family dinner because everyone, everyone, would be there, and because Molly would be doing all the cooking.

Ginny thought it was sweet of Harry and Luna to indulge her mother in her desire to cook for them on the occasion of their wedding. She was glad that Luna had managed to persuade her away from making their cake – although she truly didn’t know if that had been Luna’s intention, when she started listing the runes she wanted worked into the icing – and that they had found a happy compromise. She was less glad about the fact that she’d fielded nine Floo calls about the menu in the past week, and that her refusal to help cook had led to yet another argument with her mother.

It wasn’t like Ginny couldn’t feed herself – she was a perfectly competent cook. But her simple meals were not up to Molly’s standards, and any attempt to follow instructions from her mother always lead to a fight. Better for everyone if she stayed in the dining room with the rest of the guests and didn’t get involved.

This dinner was honestly the event Ginny had been dreading the most, save the ceremony itself. With all of the wedding guests in one room, it seemed inevitable that Pansy’s presence would offend someone – Ginny half-wondered if talking only to Luna and Harry’s American friends would be the best way to survive the evening. But she’d been pleasantly surprised: they’d chatted amicably with Bill and Fleur, and then, to Ginny’s shock, with her father; Pansy had even carried most of that conversation as they’d exchanged gossip on Ministry colleagues. When it came time to sit down for dinner – traditional British fare that felt at odds with their tacky retro surroundings – Ginny ended up sitting across from Pansy, squeezed into a long booth with George, Angelina, Dean, and Seamus.

“Your mum’s outdone herself again,” Dean said, nodding to George and Ginny.

“Seriously,” Seamus said.

“You haven’t gotten to experience much Molly Weasley cooking yet, but trust me, you will,” Angelina said to Pansy. To Ginny’s ears it sounded like a joke, but she told herself she was being paranoid. Beside her, George frowned but said nothing.

The conversation moved on to questions about the shop that Ginny already knew the answers to. She zoned out a bit as George made Dean and Seamus laugh, focusing on her food – her mother’s roast potatoes were always perfectly crispy on the outside, and she’d never been able to replicate it. She only realised that the topic of conversation had shifted when, across from her, Pansy kicked her under the table.

“I’ve worked there a few years actually,” Pansy was saying, and Ginny realised she was talking about her work. “I didn’t start right after school.”

“Right,” said Seamus. “I guess you wouldn’t have been able to.”

The line of Pansy’s shoulders went up as she tensed, but her voice didn’t betray any change in emotion. “I wasn’t,” she said simply.

“At least you didn’t leave the country,” George said under his breath.

Ginny didn’t know if he’d meant the rest of them to hear, but Pansy clearly had, as she narrowed her eyes, her mouth hovering around a frown.

“I wouldn’t have done that,” she said.

“Really? I thought Slytherins were only interested in saving their own skin.”

Pansy cleared her throat. “Everyone has different values.”

“Slytherins don’t tend to value justice though, do they?” George said, raising his eyebrows.

Angelina laid a hand on his elbow. “George, leave off–”

“I don’t like what you’re implying,” Pansy said.

“Come off it, Parkinson,” Seamus cut in. “Obviously you’re not as much of a bint as you were in school, or our Ginny wouldn’t be dating you. But you can’t tell me you don’t know where Malfoy and Nott have run off to.”

“I don’t.” Pansy’s voice was like ice.

“You liar!” George said, laughing. “You don’t need to keep up the act in front of us, Parkinson. You’re among friends!”

“Can’t believe Malfoy did that,” Seamus added, shaking his head. “Weren’t you tempted to join him?”

Pansy’s face was anger-red. “No,” she snapped, standing and throwing her napkin down on the table. Her purse slapped against the vinyl on the booth as she picked it up. “If you’ll excuse me.”

It happened so fast that by the time Ginny had stood to go after Pansy she was almost at the door. In lieu of chasing her through the diner and making more of a scene, Ginny whirled to face George and Seamus.

“What the fuck was that about?”

Seamus had the grace to look somewhat ashamed. George just rolled his eyes. “Malfoy was a marked Death Eater and didn’t even stand a trial,” he said. “Do you really think she doesn’t know where he is?”

Ginny thought of the way Pansy’s face closed off whenever Draco Malfoy was mentioned. “Yes,” she said honestly. “And even if you don’t, that doesn’t give you the right to be so rude to my fr– girlfriend!”

George narrowed his eyes and it looked like a retort was on his lips, but Ginny didn’t wait to hear it, choosing instead to turn on her heel and go in pursuit of Pansy.

She found her on a bench outside, sitting with her shoulder hunched in like she was cold even though the night was hot. Ginny sat down beside her, pressing their knees together.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

After a moment, Pansy nodded, leaning her head to rest it on Ginny’s shoulder. “I know.”

“It’s been kind of a shit few days, hasn’t it?”

Pansy laughed. “Yes, it has.”

 

 

***

Ginny squeezed her eyes shut against the too-bright sunlight and the too-loud chiming of her alarm charm. The last thing she wanted after the previous night was to sit through the 7 a.m. breakfast picnic that began their itinerary today. Her patience for dealing with her friends and family after a day and a half in such close quarters was already wearing thin, asking her to sit on the ground with them before nine was too much. Ginny wanted to sleep in, and then she wanted...pizza.

Pizza for breakfast. Maybe she could convince Pansy that that was a good idea – or at least that they should ditch the picnic for more sleeping…she dragged one eye open and was shocked to see Pansy sitting on the edge of the bed, fully dressed and looking as alert as Ginny would have been at noon.

“What the fuck?” Ginny mumbled.

“Good morning to you too,” Pansy said wryly.

Ginny dragged herself up onto her elbows. “How are you...why are you awake?”

“I was working on something.” A secretive smile played over Pansy’s lips. “For this morning.”

Ginny groaned, dropping back onto the pillows and covering her face with her hands. “Look,” she said, “I know you probably don’t want to avoid everyone after last night, so they won’t think you’re hiding or whatever, but if I have to go sit on a picnic blanket with Seamus or George right now I’m going to end up punching one of them in the face.” She peeked up at Pansy between her fingers. “Can we skip breakfast?”

Pansy grinned. “That’s what I was going to ask you,” she admitted. Ginny sighed in relief and went to roll herself back into the covers when Pansy stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “I made other plans for this morning, though,” she said. “You still have to get up.”

“No,” Ginny groaned.

“Trust me,” Pansy said, that secret smile on her face again, “you’re going to like this.”

Pansy shepherded Ginny into the shower and then presumably disappeared, because when Ginny got out of the shower Pansy was gone. Ginny had just finished dressing in the clothes Pansy had set out for her – joggers and an old Harpies shirt Ginny thought she’d lost the month before – when Pansy re-entered the room. She smiled at Ginny in an automatic way that surprised her, then handed her something wrapped in silver-sided paper.

“What’s this?” Ginny asked, turning it over in her hands.

“Breakfast. You’ll want to eat that.”

The breakfast turned out to be an egg sandwich, which Ginny ate as she followed Pansy out of their hotel, down the footpath, and then up a side street to a strange-looking shop. It was early enough to feel like they were the only two people awake in all of Phoenix. Ginny enjoyed it – it reminded her of mornings in school when she’d get up to go flying and be back before her roommates noticed she was gone.

Pansy opened the door of the shop and gestured for Ginny to go in ahead of her. Closer investigation revealed it was an antique shop, the windows full of rickety old chairs and elaborately designed clocks. Inside, the paths of open floor space left them only a few feet in which to travel. Pansy led the way to the back of the store, then through a door Ginny would have assumed was for employees only. It lead not to a cupboard, but to an entire other room, full of what Ginny now recognised as magical objects.

“The owners are retired from the American Ministry,” Pansy explained under her breath. “Muggle and magical antiques are their specialty. Hanna!” Pansy smiled and waved as an old woman with white dreadlocks piled on top of her head appeared from yet another hidden door.

“Ah, Pansy,” Hanna said, coming to them both. In her hands she held an empty soda can. “You’re just in time.”

“Thank you so much for arranging this,” Pansy said.

“Of course – any friend of Luna’s is a friend of mine!”

“Friend of Luna’s?” Ginny looked between the other two women with confusion. “Pansy, what’s going on?”

Pansy took the can from Hanna and held it out to Ginny, who reached out to take it. “You’ll see,” Pansy said, and then Ginny felt the familiar tug behind her navel as the Portkey whisked them away.

She stumbled as they landed, then jumped, grabbing for Pansy as she registered that they were suspended in mid-air, a huge drop beneath them...because they were standing on a glass platform. Ginny put a hand to her chest as her heartbeat stopped racing, and Pansy grimaced.

“Sorry, I should have warned you...I didn’t realize Hanna was going to have us landing right here.”

“Where are we?” Ginny asked. Now that she had recovered from her initial shock, the view was breathtaking. Undisturbed land rolled out around them in every direction, no human structures in sight. The ravine they stood over was cutting a deep path through the earth, revealing layers of brown, orange, and red. In the early morning sunlight, it felt magical, like they had discovered some sort of alien planet – if the heat and landscaped cacti of Phoenix had been foreign, this expanse of desert and nature was impossible. Ginny had never seen anything like it in her life.

“The Grand Canyon,” Pansy explained. “Specifically, the Skywalk above the Grand Canyon. I thought you might want to get away, and, well, when’s the next time we’re going to be here? It seemed like a shame not to see it.”

“It’s amazing,” Ginny breathed. She tore her eyes away from the horizon to look at Pansy. “Thank you for doing this.”

“That’s not all,” Pansy said. She was wearing a cross-body bag that Ginny hadn’t noticed, and now she reached into it, producing what looked like a small bundle bundle of sticks and a helmet. She tossed the sticks towards the floor, casting at them as she did, and they grew and expanded until a broom was hovering between them a few feet above the glass. It was a strange broom like none Ginny had seen before, longer, with wider bristles and what looked like narrow footholds towards the back.

Pansy tucked her wand away again, expression...sheepish? “I thought you might want to go flying,” she said. She looked nervous, an expression Ginny wasn’t used to seeing on her face. “And, well, you know I’m not a very good flier, but I would love to come with you.”

“A tandem broom,” Ginny said, realisation striking. “Of course.” Pansy was still watching her uneasily. “I’d love for you to come flying with me, Pans.”

It took them a few minutes to figure out the best way to mount the broom. Pansy cast several Disillusionment Charms to avoid detection by any early-morning hikers, and then insisted on casting extra safety charms over both of them, as well as the broom itself, even though Ginny assured her that there were plenty built in. Ginny seated herself first, balancing on the balls of her feet and getting used to the way the broom bobbed beneath her, as ready to be off the ground as she was. Pansy then situated herself behind Ginny, settling and re-settling.

After thirty seconds of stillness, Ginny snorted. “Are you ready?”

Pansy paused. “No,” she said. She grabbed Ginny’s waist, leaning in until the warmth of her chest pressed against Ginny’s back – she ought to have protested the closeness, as even this early it was already disgustingly hot, and promising to get only worse – but Ginny found she didn’t really mind. “Now I’m ready,” Pansy said, breath fanning past Ginny’s ear. Ginny tightened her grip on the front of the broom and kicked off.

At first, she directed them towards the building the Skywalk protruded from, skimming the edge of the canyon as she got used to the tandem broom – it responded more sluggishly than her Firebolt, and the balance was different with another body behind hers, but they still got good speed as they clipped along, getting further away from the building where employees were beginning to arrive. Ginny felt it as Pansy relaxed, leaning more of her weight into Ginny, switching from clutching at her waist to holding it, wrapping her arms around Ginny’s middle in a way that felt less like fear and more like an embrace.
“Are you ready for me to go down?” Ginny said, guiding the broom to a stop.

Pansy tensed behind her, arms tightening around Ginny’s waist.

“Pansy?”

“Yes, I’m ready. Just...go slow to start?”

“Of course I will,” Ginny promised.

Slowly, she edged the broom out over the canyon. Even though she’d been able to see the drop before, from a few meters inside the edge, it felt like they were much higher as soon as they were in the open air. Ginny turned to guide the broom back the way they had come, sinking slowly as they made their way through the canyon. The striations and layers in the rocks were much larger up close than they’d looked from the Skywalk.

Behind her, Pansy sighed. “It’s beautiful.”

“It really is.”

It was cooler as they got closer to the river at the bottom of the canyon, and the walls of rock above them shaded them from the harsh rays of the sun. The wind whipping past them was the only sound as they raced along, following the curve of the river, the spray as it crashed over rocks just reaching Ginny’s toes. She realised how fast she’d been going and slowed, half-turning her head to check on Pansy.

“Sorry, I’ll slow down.”

Pansy re-settled her arms around Ginny’s waist. “It’s fine,” she said. “You can go faster.”

With a squeeze of her knees, Ginny urged the tandem broom onwards. As they rounded another twist, she guided them up again, testing limits by speeding up as they crested the Earth’s surface once more. Her breath caught at the view, now fully illuminated by the bright morning sun – it looked like the first day of new creation, everything red and raw, yet at the same time the age of the land was undeniable: every rise and fall of rock spoke to the millennia of water and wind that had carved and shaped the earth.

 

Image Description: A foam art gif of Ginny and Pansy on a broom above a video of the Grand Canyon. It looks like they are flying. Pansy is sitting behind Ginny, with her hands on Ginny's waist. Art by keyflight790.

“Amazing,” Pansy breathed. She was resting her head on Ginny’s shoulder as they hovered in the middle of the canyon. Her body was lax, her fingers lightly twisted in the fabric over Ginny’s stomach, which flipped when Pansy squeezed her closer.

She shook her head, berating herself for getting distracted. “Do you want to have a little bit more fun?”

“What do you mean?”

Ginny grinned. “Hold on.”

Pansy did so automatically, but her next words were lost in the wind as Ginny tilted the front of the broom downwards and guided them into a dive. It was nowhere near as fast as she would have attempted on her own – she was cognisant of the larger bulk and slower response time of the tandem broom, and of Pansy sitting behind her – but it was still exhilarating to be falling through the air, wind rushing past her ears as the glittering water sped closer. From behind her, she heard Pansy screaming, and abruptly pulled out of the dive, guilt clawing at her throat, but as she slowed to a stop she realised they weren’t screams of fear, but laughter.

“Are you alright?” Ginny asked, craning her head to see Pansy’s face.

“Why did you stop?”

With a smile, Ginny guided them back into a dive. As they reached the surface of the water she slowed, following the curve of the river, the broom tilting to the side – as it did, Pansy reached out a hand to trail her fingers in the water, her laughter ringing like a bell in Ginny’s ear. Once Pansy was holding her again, Ginny tightened her knees around the broom and they shot up, up, past the edge of the canyon and even further, until the river was only a shimmery impression at the bottom of the canyon.

Encouraged by Pansy’s obvious delight, Ginny decided to show off a bit, swooping through the air and executing the sharpest turns she could manage on the longer broom. They followed the canyon as far as they could in either direction, pointing out interesting rock formations or layers of colour to each other as they saw them. The minimal morning mist had dissipated and the sun was high in the sky when Pansy squeezed Ginny and reached past her to point to an unoccupied bank of the river.

“Can you land there?”

Ginny did. She let Pansy dismount first, smiling but not laughing when her first few steps were wobbly. Ginny was used to spending her whole day on a broom, but even she needed to stretch out as she stepped off the broom.

Pansy cast a Tempus and frowned. “We should probably head back soon,” she said with regret. “We can’t miss the blessing ceremony. It starts at four, and I could really use lunch and a nap before then.”

“Me too,” Ginny said. She hadn’t realised she was starving until Pansy had mentioned it, and as she thought about it her stomach growled.

Pansy nodded. “We can Apparate back to the hotel; I just didn’t know how to get us here by Apparition,” she explained. Her expression turned a little nervous. “I hope you had a good time?”

Ginny couldn’t even believe Pansy was asking. A morning spent away from everyone who was stressing her out, on a broom no less, had been exactly what Ginny didn’t know she needed. She nodded, throat tight, and opened her mouth to speak, but the right words were out of reach. Instead, she cupped Pansy’s cheeks and leaned in to kiss her.

“Thank you,” she said when she pulled away. The words were whispered against Pansy’s lips, their faces too close together for Ginny’s eyes to focus and see how Pansy was reacting. “This was perfect. Thank you for arranging it.”

Pansy’s reply was to pull Ginny in for another kiss. Her lips were soft and eager, her skin and clothes warm from the sun. Her hair, when Ginny reached up to run a hand through it, felt like hot silk. Ginny shivered and held Pansy closer, not caring about the sweat that made her shirt and Pansy’s hands stick to her skin. She wanted – she wanted, with an intensity she hadn’t felt in a long time, even for Pansy. When Pansy pulled away from the kiss, one hand still massaging the back of Ginny’s neck, Ginny moaned.

“Not here,” Pansy whispered. She detangled herself from Ginny’s arms and cast a spell at the tandem broom that made it fold in on itself until it was small enough for Pansy to pick up and put in her bag. From the same bag she produced a water bottle, which she drank half of before handing to Ginny – thanks to magic, it was still cool, and Ginny pressed it to her face, the condensation welcome against her flushed cheeks.

Then Pansy took Ginny’s hand and Apparated.

They landed in a back alley beside the hotel. Pansy dragged Ginny inside, through the lobby, into the lift, where they fell into each other’s arms. They didn’t notice it had stopped moving until someone cleared his throat loudly, and they sprang apart to find Dean and Seamus watching them with amusement.

“Can we switch?” Seamus asked, his tone positively gleeful, and Ginny pushed Pansy out of the lift, ignoring the laughter from behind them as they hurried down the hall to their room. As soon as Pansy had gotten the door open, they were inside and Ginny was closing the door, pressing Pansy up against it; they kissed like that until Pansy abruptly pushed Ginny away, and she stumbled back, shocked, until she saw the hungry look in Pansy’s eyes.

“Bed,” Pansy said simply, and then they were traveling across the room, shedding clothes at random – Pansy’s bag and joggers, Ginny’s shirt and sports bra. Ginny ought to have been self-conscious, stripping in front of Pansy in the bright midday sun that streamed in through their windows, but every thought in her mind was focused on Pansy, none left for herself. As soon as they were both naked, Pansy was pulling her down onto the bed, scrambling to get closer; they rolled onto their sides and kissed, kissed, kissed for so long, and it felt so good, and when Pansy’s hand went questing between Ginny’s thighs, it was almost a surprise.

Ginny let them fall open. The positioning didn’t really work, with them on their sides; even with Pansy half on top of her, Ginny had to hold her wrist at an awkward angle in order to touch Pansy at the same time. She didn’t care. A future wrist cramp was worth it to see the look on Pansy’s face as Ginny pleasured her, to feel Pansy’s responses echoed in her own hand on Ginny – the tremble of her fingers when Ginny did something unexpected; the clever twists of retaliation when she had recovered. It was worth it to keep kissing Pansy, to feel her and taste her and have her right there, less than a breath away, as they tumbled over the precipice together.

 

 

***

It happened when Ginny excused herself to go to the loo. The venue Luna and Harry had chosen for the extended picnic and blessing ceremony was beautiful – a sprawling ranch-style house where the sitting room and kitchen opened out to a lovingly maintained garden. It wasn’t like anything Ginny had seen in England, with its artfully placed rocks and gravel paths, dazzling array of succulents, and clusters of picnic tables in both the sun and the shade. It was a perfect location, Ginny thought, until she took a wrong turn down the corridor and ended up in what seemed to be a wine cellar. After re-tracing her steps, she still had no idea where to find the bathroom.

She was wandering along a balcony corridor that overlooked the sitting room, not sure how she’d gotten there, when Luna found her.

“Ginny!” Luna grabbed her and pulled her in for a hug, as though Ginny’s presence was some kind of surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“I got lost looking for the loo,” Ginny admitted.

“Oh, I’ll walk you there,” Luna said, looping their arms together. Ginny went along with her gratefully. “I’ve been meaning to get you alone all weekend, actually. What do you think of Yasmin’s sister Darya?”

Ginny struggled to put a face to the name – that would have been the woman sitting next to Yasmin at dinner the first night, wearing...purple? Ginny thought that she had been introduced – or re-introduced – when she and Pansy arrived (late) to the picnic, but she wasn’t certain.
“She seems fine?” Ginny said. Luna nodded, as though waiting for more. “Why are you asking me about her?”

“Well, she broke up with her girlfriend a few months ago, and she’s going to be in London doing a year-long residency at St Mungo’s starting in a few weeks.” Luna squeezed Ginny’s arm. “I thought I might put you two in touch, for once she gets there?”

“Of course!” Ginny said. “I’d be happy to show Darya around.”

“Wonderful!” Luna grinned. “You know, I think you two would really hit it off if you spent some time together. And you’d make such a cute couple.”

Ginny frowned, pulling her arm free of Luna’s so she could take a step back. “What do you mean, we’d make a cute couple?”

“You would,” Luna said, as though it were obvious. “If you lived here, I would have set you two up on a date already!”

Ginny swallowed against the sharp, sudden dryness in her throat. “Luna, I’m with Pansy.”

“Yes, yes,” Luna said, waving her comment away.

“So...I don’t want you to set me up with other women!”

“Right,” Luna said, nodding. Then her eyes went wide, very quickly. “Oh. Oh!” She frowned. “You’re serious.”

Ginny felt like they were speaking different languages. “Of course I’m serious…?”

“I’m sorry,” Luna said, grabbing Ginny’s hands. “I thought the thing with Pansy was pretend.”

Ginny choked on air. “Wh– what?”

“Well, you’d never mentioned her before to me or Harry,” Luna said matter-of-factly. “And Hermione and Ron, who know more about your life than we do, also hadn’t heard you were seeing her before you decided to bring her to the wedding, and they seemed surprised about it besides. I imagine that attending your ex-boyfriend’s wedding isn’t a very pleasant experience – and I’m sorry about that, Ginny, although I’m very grateful you’re here. I thought you had brought her along as a buffer, or something. And I mean – Pansy Parkinson! Very shocking to all of us.” Luna gave a little laugh, then noticed Ginny’s expression and sobered. “I jumped to conclusions – I’m sorry. I certainly didn’t mean to minimise your relationship with Pansy, or imply I didn’t take it seriously–”

“It’s fine.” Ginny held up a hand to stop Luna, forcing a smile onto her face. The assumption hurt because – well, Luna was right, wasn’t she? Pansy wasn’t really Ginny’s girlfriend. Ginny had brought her to this wedding in an attempt to save face, an attempt that felt even more foolish and immature upon the realisation that it hadn’t even worked.

Luna had known all along, which meant anyone could have suspected. Harry might have suspected, or known; Luna might have told him what she thought, and Harry would have listened, because he was kind and loyal and a good fiancé. Luna would probably go and tell him now that she’d been wrong, but it didn’t even matter, because she wasn’t wrong, she was right.

Ginny was stupid, and a fool. And the worst part was that two weeks ago, she would have jumped at the chance to be set up on a date with an attractive witch who wasn’t Pansy. She didn’t want to examine why she found the idea so offensive now.

Luna was looking very apologetic. “Ginny–”

“Can you just show me where the loo is?” Ginny folded her arms across her chest. Luna was too intuitive for her own good; this conversation needed to end now. “Please?”

She looked a little hurt, but Luna complied. “Of course,” she said, and after Ginny let herself into the loo, she sat down on the toilet and buried her face in her hands, wondering when everything had gotten so complicated.

 

 

***

Ginny was cranky after the blessing ceremony.

It was a beautiful idea – rather than a rehearsal dinner, which was unnecessary since there was no wedding party, they had spent the evening before the wedding at an outdoor picnic, which culminated in everyone writing their well wishes for the couple on parchment and coming up one at a time to throw them into the cinnamon-scented fire. Luna had woven flower crowns for herself and Harry, and they’d looked so happy in the light of the flames, barely able to take their eyes off each other when their friends approached to congratulate them.

When their friends approached in pairs.

That had been what Ginny noticed that night. At first, it had been clusters of people, their friends, her friends, moving and merging and mingling in a way that made her feel bubbly and happy. The food spread across the picnic tables was variable and delicious. People she hadn’t seen in years stopped by their picnic blanket, greeting her warmly. Pansy had left to get another drink and Ginny had wandered around, chatting with friends and family and feeling part of something.

And then the herbs Luna had prepared had been thrown into the fire. She and Harry had taken their seats, everyone had separated out to write down their hopes for them, and then they’d begun to approach.

At first she hadn’t noticed it. Her parents went up to hug them together, but of course they did – her parents had been a unit for as long as Ginny could remember. Then it was Dean and Seamus. Hannah and Neville. Ernie and that professor from Beauxbatons he’d been dating. Percy and Audrey, George and Angelina. Bill and Fleur with a sleepy Victoire. Hermione and Ron.

Ginny’s throat had gone tight. She was the only one among them who was there alone.

It was a knowledge that hovered on the periphery of her life, that so many of her friends were partnered while she was still single. Apart from casual sex with Pansy and a short lived summer romance with a witch from Greece, Ginny had been single since Harry. And it hurt to see it laid out so clearly in front of her, to see her friends parade past with their partners while she sat apart and alone. It hurt. It rankled. It throbbed under Ginny’s skin, painful and persistent, because she wanted that. She wanted the conveniences of a partner, and the comfort too. She wanted to know she was loved. She wanted to have someone to devote her own love to, without feeling foolhardy and unbalanced.

She slammed the door to the hotel room.

Pansy, taking off her earrings on the other side of the room, raised an eyebrow. “You’re certainly in a mood tonight.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ginny growled. She kicked off her shoes, feeling a short-lived burst of satisfaction when one of them thumped loudly against the wall.

“I can see that,” Pansy said lightly. Ginny spun to glare at her, but Pansy seemed unaffected, watching Ginny fume with her hands on her hips. “I think everyone at the party could see that. I’m surprised Luna didn’t kick you out for shedding bad vibes into the special fire.”

Ginny squeezed her eyes shut. “I don’t want to talk about it, Pansy.”

Pansy sighed. “We’ll just glare at each other, then,” she said. When Ginny opened her eyes again, Pansy had turned away and was stepping out of her skirt. The outfit had been smart, classic, the kind of thing that made Pansy seem untouchable. In just the shirt, her legs exposed from toe to thigh, Pansy emitted a sense of casual comfort, of familiar sensuality. Ginny wanted to cross the room and unbutton that shirt, push it back to reveal breasts and stomach and pussy. She wanted to drop to her knees and put her restless energy into action.

She also still wanted to throw something.

“You can get off your high horse,” Ginny snapped, pulling her hair out of its ponytail and shaking away the funny crimps that had formed. “It’s not your ex who’s getting married tomorrow.”

In profile, Ginny saw Pansy roll her eyes. “This again.”

Ginny spluttered. “You say that like– I’m allowed to be upset!”

“You’ve been upset since we got here!” Pansy shot back. “And I know it’s not because you’re still hung up on Potter, even though your behavior this weekend would suggest otherwise, so what the fuck is going on?”

“I don’t like being here, alright?” Ginny said. She crossed her arms across her chest, suddenly feeling defensive. “I mean, I like all my friends – I love my friends. I love Harry and Luna; I’m so happy for them. But it’s hard, seeing how everyone else has someone when I– I don’t. I feel like it’s just been rubbed in my face all weekend, how alone I am. They’re all so happy, and I don’t have anyone who cares about me like that.”

Pansy’s expression was blank, angry. Her lips were white with tension. “I can’t believe you fucking said that.”

“What?”

“I can’t believe you’re going to stand here and say that to me. Complain about being single.” Pansy looked up at the ceiling, letting out a hollow laugh. “Un-fucking-believable.”

Ginny frowned. “I’m allowed to be upset about–”

“I cannot believe you have the nerve to say no one cares about you in that way,” Pansy said, voice trembling. “I just– I just traveled with you to fucking Phoenix, Arizona, which is probably the gate of literal hell, because you didn’t want to come to this wedding alone. I’ve spent two days getting suspicious looks from everyone here and not saying anything because I wanted to be your perfect fake girlfriend.” She crossed her arms. “And you’ve spent the whole time complaining about how you’re surrounded by couples, that you’re tired of being single, that no one wants to date you, and you don’t realise that I would love to date you!”

The confession hung in the air as Ginny’s brain raced to catch up with Pansy’s words.

Her mouth fell open. “What?”

Pansy seemed to have said more than she wanted. “I didn’t mean to say that,” she said, and mashed her lips shut.

“You want to date me?”

“Why else would I have agreed to this stupid idea?”

“I–” Ginny swallowed, mouth dry. Pansy’s motivation for being her date to this wedding honestly had not occurred to her, beyond that she had asked and Pansy had said yes. She needed to say something, to acknowledge this revelation, but the words wouldn’t come, and Pansy was already shaking her head, disappointment obvious.

“I think I should go.” Pansy Summoned a pair of jeans and pulled them on. It was unfair how good she still looked, her now-rumpled white shirt hanging over the faded denim.

“You can’t leave now,” Ginny said. She knew that they needed to talk, that Pansy’s confession deserved the consideration of her time. Her mind was overwhelmed with images: Pansy in her bed in London; Pansy’s tight smile as their tour group departed; Pansy at dinner tonight, untouchable; Pansy holding brooms on the glass bridge over the canyon; Pansy right now, looking cosy and hot and delectable and homey all at once. This moment had weight to it, and Ginny didn’t want to ignore that; and besides, they’d come all this way for the wedding, and–

“The wedding is tomorrow.”

It wasn’t what Ginny’d meant to say. Pansy’s face twisted, disappointed and hurt before she yanked it back to neutral.

“I don’t particularly care,” Pansy said. Her words were picked out carefully, her voice staccato. “I’ll go see the concierge about getting another room, and a Portkey back to England in the morning. I think this,” she gestured between the two of them, “has run its course.”

“Pansy, wait–”

“I may not have much self respect left, but I have enough not to throw myself at someone who isn’t interested in the hope that they’ll change their mind. I may not be your real girlfriend, but I’m not going to be your fake girlfriend anymore either.”

Ginny watched, speechless, as Pansy gathered an armful of her belongings and swept gracefully out the room. As the door slammed behind her, Ginny sank down onto the edge of the bed, head spinning.

Pansy’s words rang in her head. I would love to date you. Ginny hadn’t thought of Pansy as being someone for dating. They flirted and they fucked. Despite all the butterflies Pansy had been giving her this weekend, she had never considered anything more.

She had a lot of thinking to do, it seemed.

 

 

***

Ginny spent the night alone in her hotel bed, tossing and turning, memories from the weekend – and before – playing out on the back of her eyelids. In hindsight she felt like an enormous prick for not noticing that Pansy fancied her. In hindsight there were a lot of signals that Ginny had missed.

She went down to breakfast, praying that no one would notice Pansy wasn’t there with the lack of formal seating and the general hubbub of people coming in and out of the room as wedding preparations began. If they did, Ginny would lie and say something urgent had come up with Pansy’s work...she would try to come up with something better. After everything, the last thing Ginny wanted to do was admit that her relationship with Pansy was fake, and that she’d managed to fuck it up and send the other woman running back to England anyway.

Ginny was picking at a plate of scrambled eggs – American breakfast was truly appalling – when Angelina slid into the seat next to her, and Ginny looked up, startled. Angelina made a show of leaning over to look past Ginny, behind her, even checking under the table. Ginny sensed where the joke was going and rolled her eyes, her voice curt. “What.”

Angelina raised her eyebrows. “I was just wondering where your darling girlfriend is,” she said, her voice syrupy sweet, and then, when Ginny glared and stabbed at her food some more, soft and concerned. “Ginny, what is it?”

“Pansy left.”

“Left?”

“Back to England,” Ginny explained. “She was going to get a Portkey this morning.”

“Why the fuck would she do that?”

Angelina looked to be gearing up for a full-scale tirade against Pansy, and while Ginny appreciated the show of support, she knew hearing it would only put her in a worse mood. “It was my fault,” she admitted, sighing. “We had a fight last night. She told me that…” Ginny swallowed, checking to see if anyone nearby was listening in. “She told me that she liked me. You know, like. Liked me. In a more-than-friends way.”

There was a moment where Angelina just stared at Ginny. She covered her mouth with her hand, but Ginny could tell she was trying to hide a smile.

“What,” Ginny said, voice ominous.

“I mean, didn’t you already know that?”

“What? No!”

“Oh,” Angelina said. She paused. “I mean, it was kind of obvious, wasn’t it?”

“I had no idea,” Ginny said honestly.

Angelina seemed tempted to argue the point further, but thought better of it. She slung an arm around Ginny’s shoulders, her voice pitched for just the two of them. “So why do you look like someone stepped on your pygmy puff?”

“Pansy left.”

“Yes, and you fought, but I’m not sure why you’re looking so upset about that when you barely wanted to bring her in the first place? Besides, the ceremony’s this afternoon; everyone already saw that you’d brought a date.”

Ginny turned to look at Angelina, expression incredulous. “Right now I’m less concerned about whether or not people saw Pansy here, and more concerned with the fact that she’s so pissed at me she fled the country, or did you forget about that part?”

“Oh,” Angelina said again. “Oh. I see.”

“What do you mean?” Ginny snapeed, glaring.

Angelina just smiled. “I’m gonna let you figure this one out for yourself, Ginny,” she said, clasping Ginny’s shoulder as she stood to go. “Hey, George!”

Ginny shook her head and returned to her sad eggs – even sadder cold, Merlin what she would give for a proper runny yolk right now – unhappily reflecting that in just a few hours, this nightmare of a weekend would be over.

 

 

***

Harry and Luna had a receiving line after the ceremony, and Ginny had the complete and total misfortune to be queued up behind two of Luna’s colleagues who were in the midst of a rousing debate on Thestral genitalia. Ginny tuned them out and was therefore surprised when Luna’s arms were suddenly around her, squeezing her tight; she was released only for Harry to hug her too. They were both radiant with happiness and had not stopped smiling the entire ceremony.

Ginny felt her grey mood was even more out of place in contrast. She forced a smile and congratulations out of her throat, but even so, Harry and Luna’s expressions fell into mirrored ones of concern. Harry put out a hand to touch her elbow.

“Ginny, are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she lied brightly, wanting the exchange to be over. It had seemed like Harry and Luna had spent quite a lot of time talking to the people ahead of her, but Ginny just wanted this to be over.

To her surprise, she got her wish. Harry and Luna exchanged a glance – one of those glances between couples that were laden with meaning, the kind Ginny had been an observer of more times than she could count but had never participated in. Luna squeezed her hands and thanked her for coming. Harry, to Ginny’s shock, took Ginny’s arm and guided her away from the dwindling line of guests to an alcove on the other side of the hall.

“Ginny,” he said seriously, “look. I know we had a bit of a tiff earlier, but I just want you to know...I really do want you to be happy. And I regret how things ended between us...I didn’t handle it as well as I could, and I should have said that to you sooner. I’m sorry.”

She remembered how angry she had been with Harry just a few nights ago, the way the old hurt had come alive again, stinging in her chest, and shook her head. Now all she could focus on was the twist of worry in her gut over Pansy’s words.

“I know, Harry,” she said. “There’s no hard feelings, really.”

“Good,” Harry said, relief obvious. “And, I also wanted to say...Hermione and Ron and I were talking, and– we all want you to know that we support your relationship with Pansy one hundred percent.”

Ginny felt a little speechless. “What?”

“Well, I thought maybe they had known, and you hadn’t told me because...well, it’s an awkward situation. But then I found out that you hadn’t told them until recently either. And obviously it doesn’t matter what we think of your girlfriend – you don’t need our approval – but we were worried that maybe you hadn’t told us because you were worried we might judge you, and, well. We’re not. Pansy may not have been…” He looked to be struggling to get the words out. “Not the greatest, in the past, but I trust that if you’re with her, she must have changed for the better.”

“Thank you,” Ginny said. “But that’s all moot anyway. I don’t think we’re going to be together much longer anyway. I– She left.”

“She left?” Harry’s brow furrowed in concern.

“Yeah. We had a fight and– she went back to England.”

I would love to date you!

A fight wasn’t the right description, but Ginny wasn’t willing to unravel the whole story.

Harry frowned. “So why aren’t you going back to work things out?”

“What do you mean?”

“One fight isn’t the end of a relationship. You can apologise, or she can apologise – you just need to talk about it when you aren’t angry.”

Ginny opened her mouth to argue, to explain that it wasn’t so simple – Pansy was upset because Ginny didn’t want to date her, there was nothing for which Ginny could apologise in that – and then abruptly shut it. Pansy was upset because Ginny didn’t want to date her, and Ginny had spent the last twelve hours with her stomach twisted in knots at the thought that she might never see Pansy again. The solution was right in front of her eyes, and she felt incredibly stupid.

“Right,” Ginny said.

Did Ginny want to date Pansy? She thought of the taste of Pansy’s lips, and the smell of her skin. She thought of Pansy’s sharp words and the way she never backed down. She thought of the way Pansy had held her hips as they flew, the screams of laughter she’d heard behind her, the smile on Pansy’s face when they landed.

She wanted to try. If Pansy would still have her, that was.

“I need to go,” Ginny said abruptly, looking up at Harry. “I need a Portkey back to England. I need to get my stuff. Sorry I’m leaving your wedding early,” she added belatedly, but Harry didn’t look upset.

He grinned as he spoke. “I’ll send an owl to the Phoenix Ministry outpost,” he said. “They’ll have one waiting for you when you get there.”

“Thanks,” Ginny said, and Apparated back to her hotel room.

 

III. London

Ginny’s first impression of Pansy’s flat (after the Portkey to England, the Floo trip from the Ministry to her flat, and Apparating from her flat to Pansy’s) was that she’d never seen it so messy before. In contrast to how orderly her flat usually was, the dirty plate and cup on the coffee table, the pile of towels and sheets on the arm chair, and the small mountain of shoes beneath the coat rack were a shock. Pansy, too, was messier than Ginny had expected; even after spending the weekend sharing a hotel room, seeing her in those matching joggers and sweater seemed like a new level of intimacy. Pansy shifted uncomfortably, folding her arms and curling her toes. Her feet were bare, her nails varnished mint green. Ginny realised she was staring and looked up to see her face.

“What do you want, Ginny?” Pansy asked. She sounded tired, like Ginny felt. It had been barely noon when Ginny left Phoenix, but in London, now, it was almost ten; the darkness felt even more oppressive after the aggressive sunshine of Arizona.

“I wanted to talk,” Ginny said. The motivation that had been licking at her heels in Phoenix seemed to be failing her now.

Pansy sighed. “Talk about what?”

“About what you said,” Ginny said insistently. “You said you wanted to...to date me.”

Pansy rolled her eyes. “And?”

“Maybe I want to date you too!” Ginny burst out.

“You don’t,” Pansy said. “You’re only thinking about it because I said it first. I don’t want you to go out with me out of pity or something like that.”

“It’s not pity–”

“Really? Tell me honestly, had the thought of us being an actual couple crossed your mind once before I told you how I felt?”

Ginny opened her mouth. Shut it. Decided to answer honestly. “No, it hadn’t,” she admitted. “It hadn’t occurred to me that we could date. But I was so grateful that you decided to come to the wedding with me,” she continued, “and I knew I had someone who was always on my side. When you took me flying, I thought it was the most thoughtful thing anyone had done for me in a long time. I knew you were beautiful,” Ginny said, as Pansy sucked in a breath. “So beautiful that I didn’t want to look at anyone else.”

Pansy said nothing. Ginny could sense her resistance, the argument she was forming, and barrelled on anyway. “I’m not asking you to marry me,” she said, flushing at the implications. “I’m not promising it’s going to work out. But I want to give it a try, I mean– take you on a proper date. Wouldn’t you want to go on a proper date with me, Pansy?”

“A date that isn’t to your ex’s rehearsal dinner?” Pansy asked wryly.

Ginny allowed herself to smile. “Yes,” she said. “Please.”

Pansy’s face fell. “I want to,” she said. “But we have more issues than you not realising that I fancied you. We fought on opposite sides of a war. Your friends all hate me. My friends haven’t even met you. You don’t know anything about my life now, not really, because we’ve spent the past nine months fucking instead of talking–”

Ginny grabbed her hands, squeezing them. “One thing at a time, Pans. Don’t decide we aren’t going to work before things even start–”

“It’s a long list, Ginny!”

“And we can work through it!” Ginny said. “Right now, if you want – Merlin knows I’m not going to be falling asleep anytime soon.”

Pansy sighed. “Me neither. I still feel like it’s mid-afternoon.”

Ginny’s stomach grumbled, and she clutched at it self-consciously. “Me too,” she said. “And I didn’t eat lunch.”

 

 

***

Pansy had ordered delivery from the one place near her flat that was still open and would bring the food to the door, which was how they ended up eating greasy pizza from the box in the middle of Pansy’s duvet. She had ordered chips, too, and they’d come with little packets of sauce that Pansy squirted onto a paper plate for Ginny to sample. Ginny had told her all about the wedding, and her conversation with Harry afterwards, and Pansy’s shoulders had softened and she’d stretched out one leg so her toes were brushing the inside of Ginny’s knee, which Ginny took to mean she was forgiven. She rested her hand on Pansy’s ankle, smiling when Pansy blushed – at that, of all things, after everything they’d done – and then she broached the topic she’d been wanting to open for a while.

“You know all of my history,” Ginny said, dropping her crust back into the box. “All about the mess my love life has been, I mean, and now you’ve met my whole family. But I still don’t know much of anything about you.”

Pansy frowned at her. “I don’t think that’s true.”

“I know you now,” Ginny allowed. “But I don’t know about your history. What made you the Pansy you are today.” She grinned, then schooled her face into a more serious expression. “Pansy, aren’t you ever going to tell me about what happened with Malfoy?”

Pansy sighed. “I guess I should, huh?”

“You don’t have to,” Ginny was quick to say. “But I’m happy to listen if you do want to.”

Pansy shrugged. “I don’t know that there’s much to the story, really,” she said. “You know who I was friends with, what I did during the war. My parents had been talking to the Malfoys about a match between Draco and myself since we were small, although he wasn’t their top choice once we got older. Then they became more interested in Flint.” She shook her head, annoyance on her face. “But I thought Draco and I were friends in spite of that – best friends, who might one day get married. It was a situation I was happy with.” She shrugged. “You were there, you know how terrible that year was at Hogwarts. I watched Draco get more and more stressed, til I thought he would break under the pressure. I wanted to protect him, because I cared about him as a friend and because I cared about our future. It was selfish of me...I realise that now. But I thought ensuring You-Know-Who won would do that.”

“It wouldn’t have,” Ginny said, not because she thought Pansy didn’t agree, but because it seemed important to acknowledge.

“I know that,” Pansy said. “I know that now. Anyway, after the dust settled I was hauled in to Ministry holding and put on trial for treasonous speech. And do you know what? I spent the whole time worrying, not about myself and what would happen to me, but about what would happen to Draco. He’d actually taken the Mark; he’d worked directly for You-Know-Who. I knew he’d be facing Azkaban, and I was so scared for him. So my trial date comes, I am – thank Merlin – not convicted, I’m released, and only then do I find out that Draco scarpered. Left the fucking country with Theo to spend their days lounging on a beach somewhere the Ministry couldn’t find them, while Greg was sentenced to a year in Azkaban, a year Blaise and I spent sharing a studio flat because it was all we could afford after our family’s fortunes were seized!”

Pansy had worked herself up quite a bit, and seemed suddenly to realise her volume, because she put her face in her hands and shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

Leaning forward, Ginny squeezed her shoulder. “Don’t be. It’s understandable to be upset.”

“I didn’t mean to yell.”

“It’s really alright.” Ginny smiled.

Pansy met her eyes gratefully, then shook her head, looking down at the duvet. “I thought those were the important things. Family and friends, I mean. I justified what I was doing, what I was supporting, because I was doing it to protect them – to protect my parents, yes, but more than that to protect Draco. I thought he was my best friend. And then to find out that he’d avoided punishment by leaving – without taking me with him, or even telling me where he was going to go – it stung. It hurt. I realised that I couldn’t do things just because someone else wanted me to anymore, because I couldn’t rely that they’d do the same for me if I needed it. I had to make my own decisions, put my own interests first. Only trust people who’d proved they were worth it.”

“I’m sorry they did that to you, Pansy,” Ginny said. That was a conflict Ginny herself had never faced – she may have disagreed with her mother about things like appropriate skirt length or how she should get her hair cut, but she’d never had reason to doubt that her parents were doing the right thing in the war. She’d never had to make a choice between doing what was good and siding with her family, except for Percy, which had hurt her mother but seemed more distant to Ginny, being so much younger than he was and never particularly close. She’d lost people in the war, lost them permanently, but she knew none of them had chosen to leave her. She’d never had reason to doubt that any of them cared.

Pansy shrugged one shoulder. “It’s alright. It’s a little thing, really, in the face of everything that happened, and if I’d known better it wouldn’t have happened at all. And there are people who I trust now, people I know will always take my side.” She met Ginny’s gaze, a shy smile on her list. “Greg. Blaise. And now you.”

The fact of Pansy’s trust was a tender, vulnerable thing between them. Ginny could do nothing else but push the pizza box out of the way and lean in to kiss her.

 

 

***

“I survived a whole weekend of Gryffindors,” Pansy said dryly. “You should be able to manage one dinner with three former Slytherins.”

“Luna is a Ravenclaw; I don’t know how many times I have to remind you,” Ginny argued distractedly.

“Your entire family of Gryffindors was there, along with Harry, and Angelina– I’m not having this argument with you again,” Pansy said with a frown. “My point is you’re overreacting. It’s just Blaise and Greg.”

“It’s just Blaise and Greg to you because they’re your friends. I haven’t seen them since school.”

“Ginny.” Pansy frowned, and Ginny felt a frisson of guilt. “You said you would do this for me.”

“I will. I am!” In the time they’d spent hashing out the particulars of their relationship, one of Pansy’s main concerns had been the incompatibility of their lives outside of each other. To prove she was serious about making this work, and that she didn’t see that obstacle as insurmountable, Ginny had offered to bring Pansy the next time she went to Ron and Hermione’s for dinner – and to spend more time with Pansy’s friends.

“I’m sorry,” Ginny said, reaching out to take Pansy’s hands in hers and, when she didn’t draw away, quickly kissing her. “It was a joke and I took it too far. I’m happy to be meeting Blaise and Greg properly.” Their first names still felt weird in her mouth, but so had Pansy’s at one point. She would get used to it.

“Alright,” Pansy relented. “We’d better get going, then; I don’t want to be late.”

The restaurant they Apparated to was in the suburbs of London, in deference to Greg’s dislike of city noise, and Muggle, in deference to Ginny’s desire not to be hounded by reporters.

Pansy’s friends were already waiting when they arrived. To Ginny, they looked familiar-but-different, like the way that you thought a teenager looked fully grown only if you were not yet an adult yourself. Zabini held himself with the same confidence he always had, but was noticeably less tense, and somehow even taller than Ginny remembered; Goyle was wearing a suit and didn’t look like he was in pain; he even smiled when they approached, in happiness, another thing Ginny didn’t think she’d ever seen.

“Pansy!” Goyle stood and embraced Pansy quickly around the shoulders, then reached out a hand to Ginny. “And Ginny. Glad you could make it.”

Blaise was sharing a look with Pansy that Ginny couldn’t read – eyebrows raised and expression sly – but he too smiled at her and held out his hand. “Ginevra.”

Beside her, Pansy tsk’ed. “Behave.”

Ginny turned back to look at Blaise, but his expression was a picture of innocence, and Pansy was urging her to sit, so she did.

The meal was pleasant, far more so than Ginny had anticipated. Pansy, Blaise, and Greg spoke with the familiarity of old friends, but made sure to include Ginny as well, asking her plenty of questions about everything from her work to her opinions on the current wizarding government – a topic she was surprised didn’t turn sour.

She was having a good enough time that when Pansy excused herself to go to the loo, Ginny wasn’t even worried about being left alone with Goyle and Zabini – although perhaps she should have been, she reflected, when she turned back to the table and they were both staring at her.

After several interminable seconds, Blaise moved his sharp gaze from Ginny to Greg, coughing, then nodding at her none-too-subtly. Greg clenched his hand into a fist on the table.

“Listen, Ginny,” he said, voice low. “We know that you and Pansy have been seeing each other for a while.” Ginny hid her surprise; she wondered if Pansy knew that they knew.

“And we know that her feelings for you hadn’t been exactly returned until recently,” Blaise cut in, words sharp.

Greg nodded. “Right. And we want to make sure– that you’re not going to hurt her.” His expression reminded Ginny of the one he used to wear in school, bullying younger students at Malfoy’s shoulder; it intimidated her more now than it ever had then.

Blaise leaned in to speak. “Pansy may seem very prideful, very Slytherin to you,” he said, “but she’s been hurt in the past. We want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“It won’t,” Ginny said. When they both continued to stare at her, expressions suspicious, she went on. “I promise! I have no intention of hurting her. I know I may have unintentionally in the past, and I’ve apologised to her for that. I want to– we want to try. To make this work.”

Ginny’s heart was in her throat, but Blaise had sat back in his chair, arms folded and a pensive expression on his face. Greg was nodding, also looking thoughtful.

“Very well,” Blaise said, managing to sound relieved and dismissive at once. “You seem sincere, at least.”

“Pansy deserves the best,” Greg rumbled.

Ginny inclined her head in agreement. “I know.”

It looked like Blaise was going to say something else, but then Pansy’s hand fell on her shoulders and Ginny looked up to see her staring, head tilted, at Blaise.

“Are you trying to be intimidating?” Pansy asked, looking between the two men.

Greg colored very quickly, as though embarrassed, while Blaise spluttered with indignation, although whether it was because Pansy was correct, or because she’d said it like she doubted they could be, Ginny wasn’t sure.

“They’re just looking out for you,” Ginny reassured her, grabbing her hand under the table as Pansy sat down. She squeezed it and Pansy turned to her. Ginny smiled, showing her that there were no hard feelings.

Pansy returned the squeeze. “Alright,” she relented. She turned back to Blaise, asking him something about the shopkeeper he was currently working with, and she didn’t let go of Ginny’s hand for the rest of the dinner.