It starts like this: it's her sixth year at Hogwarts and the Dark Lord is back and Pansy is scared for Draco. He's shutting himself away and refusing to talk about anything but The Dark Lord and important jobs and Harry Potter has been taking an interest in him, yeah, Pansy sees this even when Potter thinks he's being discreet. Potter cannot be discreet. It has been Potter this and Potter that since the day they set foot in this place and quite frankly Pansy is sick of it so one day when she's walking past that bloody Potter she thinks bugger this, pushing him against the wall and planting one on him before he can defend himself, to shock him, you know? Knock him off that pedestal. His lips are soft, that's the first thing she notices. The next is that he feels good against her body, hard lines and slim hips, but he pulls himself together and squawks loudly, shoving at her arms before she has a chance to shove her tongue in his mouth, giving her the full experience. She remembers hearing Cho Chang had cried when she had been with Potter but then again she'd been with Cedric Diggory the year before so anything after was bound to be a step down. All in all the kiss isn’t the worst she’s ever had, could have been improved if her partner took more of an interest but you can’t have everything.
Potter looks at her funny sometimes over the rest of the year and it really depends on her mood whether she returns the look with a glare or a wink.
Draco unravels further and Potter starts snogging Ginny Weasley everywhere. Pansy finds herself wishing desperately for summer.
Then this happens: the war changes everything for the better and for the worse. Pansy spends the year after with her mother avoiding the world in the large house Harry Potter helps them keep when he testified for them in a hearing that had had Pansy shaking for weeks before and after.
Narcissa Malfoy shows up one afternoon when Pansy and her mother are rattling around in this huge old house and falls to the floor, her body shaking with sobs that have Pansy pressing at her mouth to stop her own because she knows what this means, has been desperately hoping for it never to happen since the Dark Lord fell.
It's cruel, viciously cruel, that Draco got out of that whole mess only to be killed by a lowly Dark wizard with a need for revenge that had nothing to do with him. The funeral is family only; Pansy stands beside Blaise in the second pew and holds his hand during the eulogy that describes the Draco they know, not the one everyone else thought they did. He was funny and smart and he got caught in everything too big for him because he was stupid sometimes and desperate to prove himself and now he’s fucking dead.
Potter sends her an owl saying that he's sorry and that the piece of scum will be in Azkaban for life because he's in the Auror office now, even in her prison home she's heard that he's moving up the ranks as quickly as everyone expected, and he can do things like avenge his old enemy from school. Harry Potter is a do-gooder Gryffindor and here Pansy is agreeing with him, accepting his sympathy. She tears up the letter and throws it in the fire, turning her head away from the flames that lick around his signature.
The final pieces of the jigsaw are these: the end of Pansy's house arrest, a lot of Firewhiskey, and the sudden appearance of Harry Potter right in front of her in the pub. She thought she'd picked one out of the way enough that she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew but here he is and so is she so it only makes sense to pull him into the corners and kiss him hard. He backs away for a second, blinks, and Pansy’s easy, she can let him go and find someone else if he doesn’t want this, but then he moves back in, his hand at the base of her neck, and kisses her.
It becomes a semi-regular thing after that. "Semi-regular" initially meaning whenever they’re both drunk and in the same area -- which happens more often than you would think -- and slowly morphing into something more. Here "something more" means communication via owls, meeting when sober, and dropping the surname calling. Pansy keeps herself on the edge, knows that this could all fall apart any second and she’ll be the one who comes off worse when it does, but after a while even she starts to enjoy herself without thinking about it too much. She learns things about Harry, little things but they help her get to know him, and she tells him about the cat she used to own when she was eight and why she doesn’t mind working at the reception desk at St. Mungos. Harry gets these moods where he doesn’t talk for days and stares broodily into space, snapping loud and angry when she disturbs him, and sometimes Pansy becomes so overcome with grief for Draco that she can’t bear to look at Harry even though she knows it wasn’t his fault. They learn how to work around each other, how to get the best out of this, how to deal with it when the other doesn’t want to talk. They fight about the past and they fight about who finished the milk and whose turn it is to do the dishes and it’s the closest thing to an adult relationship Pansy thinks she’s ever going to get. At the end of the day, Pansy smiles more.
Pansy picks up the stick, glares at the empty box, and then sits it down again. She knows there are spells for this sort of thing but she opted for the Muggle way, not so much because she trusts their contraptions, but because here she reserves the right to blame it for whatever the thing tells her.
They're usually so careful, she slaps her hand against the side of the sink, the box wobbling precariously on the edge. They usually have the potion but this time, she can't even remember what happened, but this time they forgot, she forgot, and now she's sitting here in her tiny bathroom biting her lip and watching a stick give her a result she doesn't know if she wants or not.
The test in her lap has changed to two blue lines. She picks up the box and scans it for the code, her breathing loud in the empty bathroom. She knows what two blue lines mean, she's known the truth for the last two weeks, but she wants to see it in writing from this foolish little test.
She lets her head fall back against the wall with a bang. Fuck.
Harry lets himself in with his key two days later. She forgets when he got a key -- she doesn't remember being the one to bring it up, he probably offered it up as a Good Idea, one of his many. She hears the key turn in the lock -- and that's another thing. He could Apparate right into her living room like she does whenever she goes over to his but he gets some thrill of using this key -- and her heart, for lack of a better term, thumps so hard it hurts. She's been through so much more than this -- things she doesn't like to think about because they're in the past and Harry has this whole policy about how people can change -- and here's a prime example, her listening to the Boy Who Lived -- but the thought of what she has to say terrifies her more than anything else.
He's been on a mission, investigating some Dark wizard dwelling in Devon, she thinks. She doesn't like to pay attention to his job, all too aware that it's probably old family friends he's arresting from one day to the next. All she knows is that he's away a lot more than she expected him to be when this shifted from random shagging to a form of commitment.
Her job at the reception desk at St. Mungos’ doesn’t require much concentration so she has spent the last two days making lists in her head about her situation -- see, she's in the mentality that if she removes herself from it all as much as possible it'll be easier to come to a decision. Truthfully, a huge part of her wants to get rid of it as quickly as she can without telling Harry anything about it but there's something in her holding her back from that, the same something that despite all her efforts has attached itself to the thing growing inside of her. Besides, as much as some people seem to think, she's not a monster, Harry deserves to know.
Harry gets in the door, chucking the key on the table in the hall, and walks over to the couch where Pansy is sitting, determined to draw the moment out as long as possible. "Parkinson, did you miss me?"
"You ask me this every time, Potter," she replies, tilting her head back to look at him upside down. He hasn't shaved since he left, she sees. "And the answer is always no."
"Yeah but I know every time that you're lying," Harry laughs, leaning down to kiss her. He smells of dust and wine. Pansy cranes her neck to deepen the kiss. "I like seeing if you've got any better from the time before."
"I'm disheartened every time you walk through that door in one piece." Pansy used to be a good liar. She used to be good at many things. She's objectively satisfactory at other things now. "Take your coat off, I've had the heating on all afternoon." Even so, her feet are tucked under a cushion to stop them feeling like ice boxes. She grumbles and kicks when Harry walks round and dislodges them, his legs her new source of heat.
"The team were excellent, Pansy," he says, kicking off his boots to join his coat on the floor. He's so messy it's a wonder Pansy lets him in at all. He can be loud, too, his voice filling the small space Pansy calls home. The noise of the two of them talking, laughing, having sex, fighting, makes it feel lived in, alive. "Only one hiccup in the arrival -- he was expecting us, which we, uh, didn't expect, but Wallace stunned him immediately and the rest --"
It's almost comical the way Harry freezes, his mouth open, but Pansy doesn't laugh. She hadn't meant for it to come out like that. She was going to get the wine out, get him nice and relaxed, and then she was going to sit that stupid test between them and wait for him to click on, filling in the blanks himself. But when he had come in the door there that plan had fallen right out of her head and all she could think about was how he had to know right now.
"Pregnant," Harry says, because sometimes he can be so slow.
"Yes. Pregnant. Knocked up. Up the duff. Whatever tasteless phrase makes you understand," Pansy snaps. "What do you want to do about it?"
"Um. What do you want to do about it?"
"I have no fucking idea," Pansy says, letting out a long breath. She feels calmer now she's actually said the words, pushed the problem out into the world where it can be solved with the help of someone else.
Not that Harry's being much use. He's on his feet now, pacing up and down in front of Pansy, his forehead bent into a frown. Pansy's feet are cold again. He stops on an about turn and looks at Pansy. "What're the options? I mean..."
"Well there's having it or..." Not. But that option seems too hard to say out loud despite what she thought before. She doesn't know where that came from, she's always been supportive of abortions, her mother having had two herself, but now it's happening to her and it's a bigger thing all of a sudden. "What do you think?"
Harry pauses in his pacing again, turns to face her and he's smiling, he's smiling so big Pansy feels her mouth stretch to match. She never used to smile so much, before Potter. Not genuinely anyway; she was always good at the fake ones. It doesn't feel like her mouth is going to break every time anymore. "You're having a baby," he says. "We're having a baby."
When he says it like that it sounds so perfect Pansy wants to leave it at that but there's so many other factors to consider here, he needs to be logical, she knows he can do that, she's seen him. "Are we?"
"It's completely up to you, Pansy. I'm happy either way." He takes his glasses off and cleans them on the hem of his shirt. "It's a surprise but we've always been good with surprises."
"I'm a traitor," she starts, both of them watching the little glass circle get shinier and shinier. "You're the saviour of the wizarding world. No one apart from Blaise, Theo and Daphne even know we're...." She trails off, hoping the wavy gesture between them gets it across. Dating. Fucking. Something in between the two.
"You know I hate that word," Harry frowns. "You're not a traitor. You were trying to survive. You were doing the right thing. And you're the one who said about keeping it a secret."
"Harry, your unfairly fair opinion isn't the world's. People still ignore me at work if they know who I am, you know. How are they going to react when they see me walking around with a mini you."
"He might get your hair." Harry puts his glasses on and sits back down.
"I hope they do, for my sake." Harry's hair never lies flat; it's something that both irritates and endears Pansy. "No, this is ridiculous. I can't go through with this. I can't have your child."
He nods, so completely and utterly understanding it's unbelievable. "So don't. We can try again in a few years if you want."
"In a few years?" Pansy still can't get her head around that she's in some sort of relationship with Harry bloody Potter, she doesn't think too much past the next few days, and here she's getting told they're together for life. "Wait, you've thought about this?"
A shrug. A blush. "Yeah. I have. I like you, we've been through a lot, we're still here, why not think a bit further?"
"I've scared you."
"Please, I've been getting love declarations since I was fifteen. You'll need more than that to get rid of me." She wants to stick around, she realises. Swallowing hard, she reaches out and lays a hand on Harry's arm, gripping the fabric of his shirt. "Fuck it. Let's do this."
"Honestly?" There's that smile again, like she's lit up his whole world. She's seen that smile a few times now. She’s lost count. "You're sure, Pansy? This is a big deal. I'm not pressuring you."
A baby is something she’s never considered, never had any reason to, not after the war that tore apart her world from the inside out, not after the months of solitude, the community service, not even after she fell into this thing with Harry, this surprising, fun thing. She never wanted to bring a baby into the world she grew up in but maybe that world is changing.
"I know you're not,” she sighs, tips her head back onto the couch. "But I want this. I want it with you, I think. But Harry, people are going to find out about us now. It's going to blow up. You'll be annihilated when this gets out. It's all perfectly acceptable to fuck around but a baby? That changes everything."
"So it's probably going to be hard -- you're Pansy Parkinson, you can handle it. And I'm -- well, I'm Harry Potter and I'm going to support you every step of the way."
It’s not the most convincing of arguments but, "Okay."
"We're doing this."
"We're doing this?"
"Stop repeating everything I say, freak," she says, swinging at his arm. "Yeah. Let's do it."
He laughs and tugs on her arm until she shuffles over and he can pull her into his lap, the discussion pushing them into a bigger, scarier part of their lives over. She pinches the underside of his arm, laughing loudly when he swears and runs a hand down her leg, right where she's ticklish, in retaliation. It’s easy to turn her head and kiss him, biting at his lip when he smiles into the kiss. He maneuvers them so she’s lying flat on the couch and he can hover above her, mouth working at her neck. She drags him up for another kiss, falling into the familiar rhythms they’ve worked out over the years. The feeling inside of her pops and dissolves into something lighter.
"Pansy Parkinson is having a baby," Harry announces over dinner. He says it into his steak pie and then flicks his eyes over Ron and Hermione, cataloging their immediate reactions before ducking down again.
"Parkinson?" Ron asks, his mouth full. He snorts. "Great. The population is doomed. How'd you hear about that?"
Harry's eyes stay fixed on cutting his pie into perfect squares. Hermione pauses, her fork suspended in mid air as she does math that baffles her and sifts through memories that are surely deceiving her. "Oh, Harry."
"It's mine," Harry nods, finally looking up, and now she can see him properly she sees that he's delighted about this, actually -- his eyes are shining and he's beaming, the happiest Hermione thinks she's ever seen him, and it's a shame really because she still feels so out of the loop.
Ron is choking loudly on his potatoes. Harry reaches over and slaps him on the back, still smiling widely.
"Bloody hell, mate," Ron manages after the potato has been swallowed and his face is not quite as red. "How did this happen?"
Harry laughs then, still looking so happy Hermione wants to let it go and just be happy for him, but Pansy Parkinson? The Pansy who clung to Draco Malfoy's arm and bullied them for years? The Pansy who offered Harry up to Voldemort at the first chance she got?
She must have said the last part out loud because Harry frowns, his eyes flashing dark. "Harry, I just meant, well, that was the last time we saw her and now you're telling us you're having a baby with her. Do you -- do you see how it's a little confusing?"
"I'm sorry," Harry says, "I should have told you before. After everything you've done for me it was stupid to keep this from you." Ron opens his mouth to come out with something he'll probably regret so Harry carries on. "And the Voldemort thing has been discussed --"
"Discussed? You mean this isn't a one night thing that she's holding you for?"
Harry rubs the back of his neck, ducking down to his plate again. Hermione remembers now all the times he's made excuses not to meet them and the bruises on his neck he insisted were from training and -- everything is so startlingly clear now. "We've had this -- this thing for a couple of years? On and off?"
This is enough for Ron. He stands up and moves over to the window, nodding fiercely at nothing in particular and muttering under his breath. Harry chews on his lip, looking somewhere between ashamed and delighted.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione says again because it fits all moods here. "But why didn't you tell us? You know we would have been fine with it?"
"Would you, though? Hermione, you're great and I love you, but do you honestly think you would be happy if I told you I loved Pansy Parkinson? It must sound disgusting to you but I was protecting her by telling no one."
Hermione watches as Ron continues to pace across the room, looking somewhat like his world has just come crashing down around him. Maybe she's in shock and she'll get to the anger or disappointment or whatever else later but mostly she's thinking of what Harry started with, what's making him glow like she's never seen him. She reaches over the table to place her hand on top of his. "You're going to have a baby, Harry."
"I know," he says like it still hasn't completely sunk in. She wonders how Pansy reacted. Did she announce it in a cool, detached voice and then walk away or did she jump into his arms and kiss it into his mouth, both of them spinning around the living room. "It's insane."
"It might take some getting used to," Hermione says delicately. "But I'm happy for you, Harry. We both are."
Ron kicks the leg of the table and mumbles something about Slytherin because that's what it all comes down to with him but later, when everything’s sunk in, Hermione catches him taking Harry to the side, his head low, and say something to Harry, his hand reassuring on his shoulder.
Whatever it is it makes Harry smile, happy.
“Pregnant?” Theo repeats. “Fuck, Pansy, what are you going to do?”
“I’m keeping it,” she says coolly. “If that’s alright with you.”
“What?” Theo frowns, pauses, then groans. “No, I don’t mean anything by that. I’m not judging. I was just shocked, that’s all. I always kinda thought this thing with Harry was casual.”
“So did I,” Pansy agrees, breaking a piece of garlic bread in half. “But it’s not so much anymore. It hasn’t been for a while actually and I’m realising that I’m glad about that.”
“Have you told Blaise and Daphne?”
Pansy sighs. “Yes. They reacted similarly. Theo, you like Harry, don’t you?”
“Sure,” he shrugs. “You know how I was at school. I was neutral. Switzerland. Of course I would take you and Draco’s side till I died but I could always see his side of things, why he was doing what he was. Now? Well, he laughs at my jokes and treats you right. What else am I looking for?”
“He’s the whole package,” Pansy says with a small smile, eyes down.
“Hey, Pans,” Theo says gently, reaching over the table to tilt her chin up. “You are too. More than.”
“I can’t believe I’m having a fucking baby, Theo.” She blinks away the tears in her eyes, fiddling with the napkin on her lap. “I can’t believe we made it to twenty three. It hardly feels any time at all since school. I miss Draco,” she spits out, like a child wanting what it can’t have.
“We all do,” Theo replies. A minute passes. “I have no idea what his reaction to you and Harry would be but I do know it would have been hilarious and I’m sorry we will never get to see that.”
Her laugh is watery but it’s a laugh nonetheless.
“And, Pansy. Congratulations.”
Sunday lunch at the Burrow the next week is... strained, to say the least.
Mrs Weasley makes a series of confused, unhappy noises, ranging from a gasp to a muttered word which sounds unlike anything else Hermione has ever heard her say.
“Honestly, I think Mum’s just upset she hasn’t had the chance to raise her through her formative years like the rest of us,” Ginny says to Harry as she moves past him into the living room. Hermione watches the following exchange with wary eyes, waiting for something to go wrong, but Ginny smiles, congratulates him, and moves on. “Let me know if Ron’s being a prat,” she says over her shoulder, her hair caught on her sleeve, the red bright against the green. “Little sisters have all the weapons they need to bring down their brothers.”
“That went well,” Hermione says, joining Harry in the garden a few minutes later. She had passed George on the way through who had raised an eyebrow at her, asking the question everyone’s been thinking: are you sure Harry hasn’t been drugged? Yeah. She’s sure.
“Could’ve gone worse, I suppose,” he says, sinking onto the stone steps by the chickens. “They could’ve kicked me out.”
“I think we’ve been here long enough to see that that’s never going to be option,” she tells him, sure she’s stating the obvious here. "So you're not going to marry Ginny -- I think Mrs Weasley will get over it."
"Wouldn't be so sure, mate," Ron says, joining them on Harry's other side. "She doesn't know Parkinson, see, all she knows is that she wanted to sell you out to You Know Who which is kind of the part we're all stuck on, if I'm being honest."
"D'you think she would let me bring Pansy over next week?"
"I don't think Pansy would let you do that," Hermione says, knocking her knee against Harry's to show that she's not being mean, not really.
"Mum's just worried about you," Ron says, confident. "She'll come around."
"You know I'll still want her to be this kid's grandmother if she'll let me."
"I would lead with that."
Hermione tips her head back, her arms stretched behind her to support her weight, and squints into the weak sun. Spring is almost here. Everything’s changing.
“I hate you, Potter. I fucking hate you.”
“I know you do,” Harry says, voice annoyingly soothing in her ear. She doesn’t want to be soothed by him; not when it was him that got her into this state. Pansy summons all the energy she possesses and lifts her head from the edge of the toilet. “D’you think you’re done?”
“You’re done,” she breathes before coughing, launching into another spectacular fountain of puke. She doesn’t remember eating half of the things she’s seeing -- when would she ever have sweetcorn? She spits out the chunks in her mouth, the taste wanting her to throw up all over again. This is the third week of this ordeal and she doesn’t plan on ever getting used to it.
Pansy nods weakly, shoving strands of hair back off of her face. She leans back into Harry, closing her eyes and blindly taking the glass he’s summoned. “Thanks.”
He rests his head on hers. “You alright?”
“Give me a minute.” The room’s spinning slowly, so slow it’s almost calming. Almost. The glass tips over onto the floor when she forces herself to bend over the toilet bowl again. “When I said I would have this kid I forgot this would be included,” she says once she thinks she can talk without any of her last three meals coming out of her mouth.
“It’ll be over soon,” Harry says, and when Pansy turns to him she catches the worry on his face.
“Should it be this violent?” she asks. “Every fucking morning I’m ejecting everything I’ve eaten in the last day and a half.”
“We’ll owl Healer Jackson; maybe she can give you a potion.”
“I might go see her during my lunch hour -- she owes me for telling her about her husband’s affair.”
“How did that help her?”
“She’s not with the cheating bastard anymore,” she says, sure the reasoning had been obvious. “And she came out the divorce with most of their stuff.”
“You know you don’t need all this; she’s our Healer, it’s her job to help us.”
Pansy frowns at this. “I know that. It’s my Slytherin roots -- my family always taught me to make connections to get what I want. And when the system turns its back on you you have to make it work for you in ways that aren’t entirely legal.”
Harry kisses her temple, pushing her hair to the side and kissing her cheek. “Well, maybe we could do this without threatening anyone.”
“How many rules did you break at Hogwarts again?”
A tired laugh falls from Pansy. She’s so tired she could sleep for three days. Maybe she should owl in sick. “Fine. I’ll owl Jackson and ask very nicely for something to stop this.”
“You want me to drop by on my lunch break?”
“Nah, no point. I’ll be fine in a minute.” She shifts away from Harry so she can sit up on her own. A couple of deep breaths and she’s feeling almost herself again. It’s a shitty start to her day but at least it passes fairly quickly. Mostly. She has the urge to hurl whenever one of the women on the desk brings out their treacle tarts at lunchtime. Harry hasn’t been allowed to have any for the last fortnight and he’s been bitchy about it. “Make me some toast?”
His hand presses tight on her shoulder momentarily before he gets to his feet. “I’m not a house elf.”
“No? You’ve got the looks for it.” She gasps out a laugh when he presses at her back with his bare foot. “Kidding. You know those Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile Awards don’t lie.”
“I think you’re jealous, Parkinson,” he says when he comes back, toast in hand. They should probably get up from the bathroom floor but there are no doxies or rats and honestly, that’s all Pansy cares about. She’s exhausted. “Want me to owl them? Tell them you’re not comfortable with them using my face for their magazine?”
“Yeah and tell them opening their magazine to see your ugly mug has been putting patients off their lunch.”
“Now I know you’re lying,” Harry says, folding a slice of toast and pushing it into his mouth in one go. “You don’t care if the patients eat or not.”
“Are you accusing me of not doing my job properly?”
“Last year when I fell and broke my wrist you stood and laughed at me,” he says petulantly.
“You were pissed,” Pansy laughs, “and anyway I fixed you in ten minutes.”
“Probably shouldn’t have done that when you were pissed too.”
“Your arm hasn’t fallen off, has it?” She picks up his arm, fingers tracing the scar on the back of his hand. Of all his scars this is the one that makes her feel sick to her stomach. She covers it with her hand and squeezes, making a show of examining his wrist. “I did a bloody good job. Maybe after I have this kid I’ll become a Healer.”
“Yeah? Why don’t you?”
“Nah,” she shakes her head. “I was thinking journalism, actually.”
“Always had a giant gob,” he says, yelping when she pushes him against the radiator. “What made you decide that?”
“I do have a giant gob,” she says. “And I can write. Why not put my skills to good use instead of wasting them behind that reception desk?”
“You could fix all your Witch Weekly articles about me.”
“Darling, I would never be caught dead writing for that rag. You watch. I’m gonna climb right to the top.”
Harry Apparates into the living room a few weeks after the announcement making Ron jump and fall back into the ladders.
"Like the curtains, Ron," Harry says, falling onto the couch beside Hermione.
"Fuck off, Harry."
"How's work, Hermione?"
She pushes a large book about fae laws off her lap. She had a meeting with a representative this morning about laws being lifted from their dwellings. She loves her job. "Tiring," she tells Harry now. "You?"
He shrugs. "Same as usual." He looks young here, his glasses dangling from one hand and his tie undone. He's having a baby, she remembers suddenly. The first of them to make that jump into a very tangible sense of adulthood. Hermione has a house and a partner and a job but she still has that feeling at the back of her throat that they’re barely out of school, out of a war, and that everything could go back to how it was before. She knows it’s stupid and irrational, that they’re perfectly safe, Voldemort is gone and his followers are all locked up or dead, but it’s hard to shake that feeling sometimes. Some nights she wakes up in bed, paralysed by the phantom feel of Bellatrix’s knife at her neck, the slick of blood when she presses too hard. She doesn’t wake Ron up when this happens, Merlin knows he needs all the sleep he can get himself, but eventually she relaxes enough to roll closer to him, to throw an arm over his stomach, to anchor herself.
"Bloody --" Ron disappears behind the couch in a tangle of material, pulling Hermione back to the conversation at hand.
Hermione nudges Harry to stop him laughing. "He's struggling with the no magic, don't tease him."
"Why no magic? Surely you know how to put up a pair of curtains."
"Hermione thinks a home should be built without magic," Ron appears from behind the couch to contribute.
"All I said was that it provides job satisfaction when you've completed the task without a spell. Of course, if you're having trouble, Ron, then by all means --"
"No. No trouble. Fancy a beer, Harry? Been due a break for a while."
Hermione nods in agreement, getting up to go and pour herself a glass of wine. It's exhausting watching Ron try and prove a point.
But Harry waves off the offer, his face contorting into that sheepish smile that puts Hermione on stand-by. "Oh, no, I can see you're busy, I'll leave you to it. I only dropped by to pass on an invitation, anyway."
"An invitation to where?" Ron's hand is on her shoulder now, his thumb soft on her neck.
"Pansy wants to get to know you both better, make amends if they can be made. Look," he adds when the hand on Hermione's shoulder tightens and Ron's drawn in a breath, "she knows how important you are to me and she's really important to me too, so it would be a big favour on your end."
"Are you guilt tripping us, Harry? Do you remember how she used to treat us? Swanning around with Malfoy like they owned the place because their families were Death Eaters. Remember that time she made Hermione cry because she made fun of her teeth? Because I do."
Harry chews on his bottom lip. Hermione can almost see him torn down the middle, here, but he's right, they should at least try and put their past behind them. If he says Pansy Parkinson has changed then maybe she has. "We'll be there, Harry. It was... nice of Pansy to suggest it."
Ron makes a noise of disagreement but Hermione stands her ground. If Harry has found someone then they should get to know them, no matter who it is. “Both of us will be there.”
"She's trying," Harry nods as he backs towards the fireplace, his hand coming up to card through his hair, a habit he’s never been able to shake. "Thanks. Really. I'll owl you the details. I'm glad we can all sit down and talk."
"You told them what?"
Harry tugs her in by her sleeve and kisses her, his hand at the base of her neck. Her head hurts -- this soothes it slightly.
"I told them you wanted to meet up for a chat because you know how important they are to me."
"You're emotionally manipulating me," Pansy says, leaning into his chest. His fingers are pressing gently at the base of her skull and she groans into his jacket. "I'm being physically manipulated, too. Merlin."
Harry laughs, tilting her head up to kiss her again. "I love you, have I told you that before?"
"Hmm." Pansy frowns, pretends to think. He's said it maybe a total of five times over the past three years. She's said it twice, maximum. It's not that she doesn't. It's just -- well, it's a lot of things, complicated childhoods being the tip of the iceberg. The last time he told her he loved her was nine months ago when he was drunk and she was being a bitch. "I vaguely recall those words coming from your lips. Perhaps you were talking to Granger at the time."
"Are you jealous, is that it?" Harry laughs again. He laughs so much. Sometimes it's hard to associate him with the same scrawny do-good hero from school. She wonders what differences he sees in her. "I love you in an entirely different way from Hermione."
Pansy turns and walks through to the kitchen, pulling him along by her fingertips. "Watch. That's twice you've said it in as many minutes. I'm beginning to believe it."
She already believes it. She's known it since the night he told her about everything he did at Hogwarts, about the Dark Lord's broken soul, and all the shit Draco had to go through. His voice had cracked at some parts and she had reached out without thinking about it twice, entwining her fingers with his. She knows he's known about her since then, too. It goes both ways, the comforting, for damaged people like them.
"Say you'll come and meet them with me," Harry says. "They're my best friends and I've kept this -- you -- from them for ages. They're -- wary," he decides.
"I'm hormonal," Pansy warns. "I have heartburn most of the time, and I haven't seen your two sidekicks since school but I imagine they're still as irritating. I can't promise I'll be nice, that's all I'm saying."
"You're nice to me," Harry says, and somehow misses the entire point.
“I have to get to work,” she sighs, rocking onto her tiptoes to kiss him quickly, moaning when his fingers knead the base of her skull, right where the pain is worst. She should probably pick up a Potion at work before her shift starts but, she pulls away to check her watch, if she doesn’t leave now she won’t have time. “What do you want to do for dinner?”
“There’s bacon in the fridge,” Harry says, leaning back to pull open the fridge door, checking the bacon is still there. “I could make macaroni cheese.”
“Try not to set anything on fire this time -- my neighbours are very suspicious of my lifestyle as it is.”
“Mrs Hodge loves me,” he argues, not disputing the fire warning. “She said the cookies I made were the nicest she’d ever had.”
She remembers. He had gloated for weeks, ignoring Pansy every time she pointed out he’d used magic and therefore his skill didn’t count for anything. Mrs Hodge had patted his cheek and told Pansy she was very lucky to have a nice man like him, and a policeman too, very respectable. Pansy had gritted her teeth and smiled back, assuring her that he was, pinching Harry's arm when he had laughed and thrown his arm around her shoulders. Every time Pansy passes her in the corridor Mrs Hodge winks at her. She shudders.
“I’ll see you later.”
He tosses her her coat. “You’ll meet Ron and Hermione?”
“I’ll think about it,” she says over her shoulder, blowing him a kiss when he frowns, closing the door still laughing.
And then almost screams when she turns to find Mrs Hodge an inch from her face. “Ah, laughter keeps the love alive, doesn’t it, dear? I remember Bert, now he was my second husband, a charming man, but it was hard for him to find the humour in things, you know, and let me tell you --”
“Sorry, Mrs Hodge, but I’m late for work,” she says through her teeth.
“Tell your man I was asking for him,” she calls after Pansy as she walks down the corridor. “Such a lovely young man.”
So she’s been told.
Ron and Hermione are first there. They find a booth at the back and slide into one side. Ron orders them drinks, snorting when Hermione suggests he order for the others.
"'Mione, she probably drinks bloody rat poison. I don't know if they have it here, it looks like a classy place -- ow!"
"Shh. They're here." She watches Harry come through the door first, his eyes scanning the pub, a nod of acknowledgement coming Hermione's way when he sees her, before he turns back and pulls Pansy Parkinson in by the hand. Hermione can't see her from here, she must be a head and a half shorter than everyone else, shorter than Hermione remembers, but she sees the way Harry listens to what she's saying and the laugh he does. "Be nice," she warns Ron, ignoring the expletive she gets in return.
They watch Harry get closer and closer until he's right beside their table and oh. There's Pansy Parkinson. She looks different from the last time Hermione saw her, that time she tried to pass Harry over to Voldemort. Her hair is longer, lighter. Perhaps it would have made her face look softer, more approachable, if it hadn't been for the piercing gaze that sweeps over the two of them giving her away. She takes off her jacket and here Hermione is expecting to see a bump, evidence that this isn't something made up, but of course, it's too early, and all she sees is the black of Pansy's top on her flat stomach. Harry pulls back her chair with a hand on the small of her back making Hermione blink and look at them, labelling them a couple for the first time and realising it's not as unnatural looking as she believed it to be. There's an easiness to the whole thing that puts Hermione off-balance.
"You been here long?"
"A couple of minutes," Hermione waves her hand vaguely. "Hello, Pansy."
Pansy Parkinson nods. "Hermione. Ronald."
"It's Ron," he says through gritted teeth, looking at some point above Pansy Parkinson's head.
“I don’t know how formal this is supposed to be,” Pansy says, wriggling in her seat to find a more comfortable position.
“It’s just a drink, Pansy,” Harry says.
“Mm. I can’t even have one of them.”
“We didn’t order anything for you,” Hermione says, looking at Harry apologetically. Pansy might not be as cutting as before but that doesn’t mean she’s confident talking to her face to face yet. “Want me to...?”
“No it’s fine, I’ll go in a minute,” Harry smiles, turning to Ron and telling him about the deal that occurred in the Auror offices last week that Harry thinks is sort of shady but he doesn’t know how to say anything about it.
Pansy rests her arm against his, looks around at the bar, her lip curled in premature disgust. It’s a nice place, big without being massively so, with a lot of glass and mirrors around the walls. The food’s really great too. Hermione gets the mozzarella and chicken panini every time she comes here; she should really branch out but she loves it too much.
She turns to Pansy, struggles to find something to say that won’t result in a fight. "You look...um."
"Glowing's the word you're looking for, Harry tells me."
Hermione doesn't know if it's the civil sentence or the mention of Harry that throws her more. She nods, agreeing, because that's all she can think to do.
“Have you told your family about the baby?” Hermione asks.
"My mother lives in France," Pansy says, her tone detached.
“Do you see her often?"
"I send her a card at Christmas."
"Oh." Hopefully she covers her shock well, she's never been good at that. "So, where do you work?"
Pansy eyes her. Hermione forces herself not to break eye contact. "I'm a receptionist at St. Mungos. Floor Four."
"Spell Damage," Ron says, mostly to the ceiling.
Hermione glances at Harry who is watching the two of them warily like he's expecting the fragile glass to shatter around them.
"Harry says you work at the Ministry, Gra -- Hermione," Pansy says, making Hermione look back at her with surprise.
"Eh, yes. Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
"What about you, Weasley?" The revert back to surname doesn't go unnoticed by Harry whose hand moves slightly under the table. Pansy rolls her eyes but doesn't correct herself.
"Ron's working with George at the shop at the moment," Hermione says, silencing Ron with a sharp look. "Have you ever been?"
Pansy shrugs. "I haven't been to Diagon Alley in years. I prefer Knockturn, really. I'm kidding," she adds when Hermione opens her mouth.
"It takes some practice to work out when Pansy's telling a joke," Harry says.
Hermione can't... she can't work out their relationship. They seem comfortable with each other, their elbows are touching and Harry's hand is on Pansy’s knee, and there's something when they look at each other. No, she doesn't get it at all. When Harry stands to get the next round Pansy touches his arm and asks him to "get her a Gillywater, darling" and Harry nods, his hand brushing across the top of her head, the term of supposed endearment going unnoticed, as though it's used regularly. Hermione wonders what he calls her in return.
When he's gone Pansy fixes her hair with a sigh, pulling down the strands Harry ruffled. She looks at Hermione and Ron and then looks again. "I've never liked Gillywater but I've been craving it so much recently --"
"What do you have over him?" Ron leans over the table. Pansy doesn't move back, of course she doesn't.
Pansy blinks, and then smiles like this has been exactly what she's been expecting. "What are you implying, Weasley?"
"Harry would never willingly stay with you."
"Maybe you don't know your best friend as much as you think." Pansy sucks on her straw, draining the dregs of her glass. "We're in love," she says, in that flat tone she hasn't varied from since she got here.
"You sound thrilled about that," Hermione says, eyeing her then craning her neck to see where Harry is. It's two against one here, if it comes down to that, but Hermione still feels uneasy. She doesn’t think Harry would appreciate his best friends hexing his -- is she his girlfriend? She can’t bring herself to attach that to Pansy Parkinson.
"I'm being realistic."
"What do you mean by that?" Ron demands, leaning forward again, his mouth bent into a frown. Hermione would quite like to know, too.
"It means I'm not telling you anything. I'm here because Harry asked me, because he said you were important to him.” She sighs, turning to look for Harry just as Hermione did. She catches his eye, waggling her fingers, and when he smiles she mirrors him. Turning back to the table she glares, the switch seamless. Hermione is almost impressed. “I said I would be nice but you’re making it fucking hard.”
Ron tries one more time. “If you’re messing him around I’ll --”
“You’ll what, Weasley? Curse a pregnant woman? Charming.”
Harry comes back at that moment; Hermione turns the restraining grip on Ron’s arm into a loving pat. Harry frowns, he’s always been more observant than she gives him credit for. “Who’s cursing who?”
“No one, darling,” Pansy says, sliding her hand into his and pulling him down beside her. “Weasley -- Ron, sorry -- was reminding me of the time we were studying unicorns at Care of Magical Creatures."
“You were?” Harry narrows his eyes at Ron who glances at Hermione then nods. "Why?"
Ron doesn't hide the panic in his eyes this time when he turns to Hermione. She comes to his rescue with the flimsiest lie. "Pansy was saying how much she missed that class."
"You hated Care of Magical Creatures," Harry says just as Pansy rolls her eyes and says with a sigh, "Well I couldn't show that I enjoyed it, could I? It was such a Gryffindor subject. It was Goyle's favourite," she throws out.
"No way," Ron replies, a hint of a grin starting. "Did he not crush his Bowtruckle?"
"Most people did," Harry points out. Hermione laughs, the sound dissolving the tension slightly. "Those Blast-Ended Skrewts almost killed me."
"Yeah. Goyle wanted to keep one in the dormitory." Hermione thinks Pansy is smiling around her straw but she's not sure. "Draco told him no but he never really gave it up."
The mention of Draco Malfoy brings a stillness to the group but they take Pansy’s cue and move past it. They didn’t have a good relationship, there’s no sugarcoating it, but from what Harry’s said, the changes he tried to make when he realised he was in too deep tells them that he wasn’t so sure of Voldemort after all. She wasn’t upset when she heard of his death but she realises his attempts at redemption were stolen from him too soon.
To Hermione's surprise, Pansy, after a silent conversation with Harry that makes Hermione all the more curious about the nature of their relationship, is the one to bring up the hard bits of the past that reminds them it wasn't all unicorns and Quidditch. "I'm not going to apologise for what I said or did to you during Hogwarts --" Harry opens his mouth at that then shuts it again when Pansy continues. "But I'm not like that anymore. I'm not the person I was back then and so I hope, for Harry's sake if no one else's, that we can be civil."
It's such a turnaround from five minutes ago that Hermione's flustered into saying, "Yes, okay," before she can really think about it. She gets a hard press on her toes for that from her left but really, neither she nor Ron had been expecting that and it sounds like it's the best they're going to get. "For Harry's sake."
"You're good people and I love you all," Harry says, "and I really think you could get along without having to think about me. Pansy's right, she's not who she was, she's changed, and even if she hadn't, I love her and she's important to me."
"We had none of this with my friends, I'll have you know," Pansy mutters, draining her glass.
Ron blanches. "You're friends with Slytherins now? Who?"
"Theo's alright, Ron, and Blaise doesn't care about the blood system at all."
"Blaise doesn't care about anything that isn't to do with Blaise," Pansy adds.
"And Daphne bought the baby shoes the other day," Harry continues, sounding perfectly at ease with his new friendships. It's enough for Hermione to feel an unwarranted burst of jealousy. After all, they've obviously been more accepting of this relationship than she and Ron. "You'd like her, Hermione. She has a lot of opinions about the Ministry.”
Daphne Greengrass. Hermione doesn’t remember much of her aside from being one of Pansy’s circle, clawing into anyone and everyone. But Harry is right -- people change. Maybe Hermione would like Daphne. “I’d like to hear them,” she says, tipping her head towards Harry with a small smile. “The Ministry needs all the criticism we can find to lead to the change it requires.”
“Let me know when the corruption ends,” Pansy drawls, rolling her eyes. “That place is never going to do us any good and you know it. You’re fighting a losing battle.”
“At least she’s fighting,” Ron cuts in. “What was it you said you do? St. Mungos benefits from the Ministry just as much --”
“I never said it shouldn’t be done, Weasley. This fucked up system led to two wars -- no, don’t say it was down to the Dark Lord alone, you know fine well Fudge practically handed over the reins -- and I welcome any improvement but it’s going to be a lot harder than signing a few petitions and hoping your friend Shacklebolt is enough to turn it over.”
Pansy says all this in a hissed whisper, leaning across the table and glaring at Ron. Harry finishes his drink in one go, avoiding Hermione’s eye and ducking his head to say something low in Pansy’s ear. This is something that’s been said before, Hermione knows. She can see that Harry agrees with Pansy, that the Ministry is much more at fault than anyone is saying, but it’s dangerous, it’s so risky when Hermione and Harry both work so high up to address anything out of turn. Those who have continued to work at the Ministry from Fudge’s time see them as war heroes; it’s not their place to talk about politics. Hermione twists her straw around her finger and watches the ceiling as Pansy and Harry continue their discussion.
“This took a surprising turn, eh?” Ron says. “Parkinson agreeing with something we’re saying -- did you see it coming, ‘Mione?”
Hermione makes a noise of agreement, but they should have seen it coming, should have guessed it at least, because Harry and Pansy are having a baby together, they’re involved, and if it has been going on for this long they had to have come together over ideas, of how they would see the world shaped by their two vastly different experiences. The fact that Pansy finds faults in the Ministry wasn’t something Hermione would have guessed but it should have been.
“So, this has been fun,” Pansy says after a minute, palms flat on the table. Hermione glances at Harry who nods and says, “We’re sorry for cutting this short but we have an appointment with a Healer tomorrow so we really should be going.”
“We didn’t kill each other,” Ron says, holding out a hand to Pansy who takes it with a smirk in Harry’s direction.
“Not quite,” she replies. “Maybe next time.”
Hermione and Ron watch Pansy lead Harry across to the door, her hand on his wrist. He holds open the door for her and just before it swings shut they catch him duck down and kiss her quick.
Ron finishes his Butterbeer, the glass thunking against the table. “She might be a bitch but if she’s on our side now then I don’t have any reason to be against her.”
“We don’t have sides any more,” she reminds him, reminds herself. It’s been five years since the war and things are building back up from the ashes but there’s still so much to do, so many people to form alliances with, memories to cover and hide. It’s been five years and Hermione has to remind herself every week that their lives aren’t in direct threat anymore and that everyone’s in that grey area between good and evil.
“Another round?” Ron says, yawning. “Think we deserve it.”
"Witch Weekly are concerned about your mystery woman," Pansy says, chucking a bag of chocolate frogs at Harry as she locks the door behind her. "You've been seen with her frequently and no one knows her name."
"Good thing it's none of their business then, isn't it?" He rips the packet open, not looking at the card before he eats the frog in two bites. "Why are you reading Witch Weekly?"
"Those old hags at the desk bring them in."
"And sometimes there's nothing to bloody do but read gossip drivel about you."
"Hey the drivel's about you too," Harry nudges her when she sits down beside him. "Witch Weekly’s a load of dragon’s dung -- don’t listen to them.”
“I wasn’t taking it to heart or anything,” Pansy says, swiping the next frog from Harry’s hand. “But Samantha kept staring at me all morning after she read the article. I don’t like her knowing things she shouldn’t.”
Harry hums, chewing. “Would it be the worst thing if everyone found out? This isn't something to be ashamed of."
"Give me your glasses," Pansy says, reaching for them.
"I want to see this rose-tinted world as you do."
“Oh, shut up.” Harry drops them on her face anyway. She settles them on her nose, tilting her head back so they don’t slide off. Turning to face him she finds a blur in his place and when she extends her hand he catches it, tangling their fingers together. “Come on, if anyone gives you any hassle I’ll Stun them, how’s that for an insurance plan?”
“It sounds as rash and dangerous as everything you do, Potter. Okay, fine, I’m in. I’m not saying I’m going to march into work and announce I’ve got the Chosen One’s spawn growing inside me but if there’s speculation about us I won’t deny it.”
She wonders if this is backwards; her being the one so wary about going public and Harry, the more famous of the two, being so comfortable with it, but then she considers the risks of people connecting the two of them, how the fallout will be so much worse for her. She folds her hands in her lap, glances up at Harry to catch him looking right back at her, one side of his mouth quirked up into a smile.
“What are you smiling about?”
“I remember in school you told Rita Skeeter that Hermione was dating me like it was the worst thing in the whole world.” He shifts until he’s hovering above Pansy, his eyes squinting a little to see her without his glasses. Kissing her neck, the next words are muffled against her skin. “You know what I think? I think you were jealous. I think you were a bitch to me because you were jealous.”
“Harry,” she says, her voice that side of patronising she does so well, “darling, there’s no reason at all for me being a bitch. That’s just the way I am. Nothing to do with you.”
Harry bites at her collarbone, too gentle to leave a mark, his tongue licking over it to soothe the sting. “Yeah, well, I always found you kind of hot.”
Her hand finds his hair, guides him down her body, hitching her skirt up with her other hand. He mouths at the inside of her thigh, pressing soft kisses along her skin to the edge of her underwear. Impatient, Pansy yanks her knickers down to her knees, allowing Harry to pull them the rest of the way off. She slumps against the cushions and inhales sharply when Harry licks a line along her folds, his tongue flat and quick. He repeats this once, twice, three times, spreading her open with his fingers to nip at her clit.
She arches her back, wincing at the twinge that comes with that, pushes Harry's head back down when he looks up in concern. He huffs a laugh, the breath hitting her clit at the right angle for her to hiss, her hand scrabbling for his hair, and tugging when he slides a finger in, curling it and then pulling it out too quickly before he adds another. As he moves them in and out he sucks a kiss onto her inner thigh, working over the skin a few times until she feels it tingle, sure there will be a bruise there soon.
“You’re good at this,” she says, her eyes closed and her head back against the cushions. Right here, the gentle pressure of Harry’s fingers fucking her, the presence of him between her legs, it feels so fucking good she would swap most of her possessions for this moment to continue forever. She bends her knee, catching Harry’s shoulder to pull him closer. “Yes,” she breathes when he works at her clit with his tongue, sliding down to lick into her when he pulls his fingers out. “So fucking good.”
The pace is slow, Harry knowing exactly how to draw it out until Pansy is swearing and panting, begging him to fuck her harder until she comes with a whimper, and at five months pregnant her hormones have been all over the place which means that even with Harry’s fingers moving tortuously slow, his tongue barely touching her when he ducks down to mouth at her, it doesn’t take long at all until Pansy is rolling her hips towards him, her hand joining his to circle her clit, drawing moans from her as she falls over the edge, the hand in his hair tightening as her breath gets caught in her throat.
She takes a breath, smiles lazily, and sighs, tipping her head into the back of the couch. Her limbs feel deliciously heavy, like she’s just run a mile or ten. Harry’s head rests on her thigh, his hand curled around her wrist where it dangles across her stomach. Soon she’ll need to get up and so will he; they’ll need to sort out dinner and argue over whose turn it is to control the radio. He’ll hide the book she’s been reading when she wins and she’ll turn all his work cloaks bright yellow just because and then they’ll crawl into bed and talk about how scared they are about bringing a baby into their lives until they fall asleep.
While Harry and Pansy are stretched out on Pansy’s couch, sleepy and content after sex, across London Hermione sits behind her desk in her office on the second floor and researches the inner workings of the Ministry as far back as records date. She scribbles down plans and propositions for small changes that could improve the overall running of the government. When she digs into the Muggle system she draws similarities, highlighting the areas where these similarities work for both societies and where the magical world needs to differ -- there’s no Cabinet here; all major decisions are made by the Minister with no real input from the heads of other departments. Also, there are no parties, everyone shares the same view even if everyone doesn’t, and there’s no electorate, instead the next Minister is chosen for his or her skill which okay, is important, but Hermione is almost positive Fudge wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did had the public had a real say in appointing his role. The lack of democracy is something that has never been addressed with people sticking to what they know.
And that’s just the structure of the Ministry without wading into the neck high problems with the judicial system, the broken system of prejudice and fear that put Sirius in Azkaban without so much as a trial. The system that employed and accepted donations from Death Eaters after they pleaded Imperius.
It needs to change.
Hermione pulls another heavy tombe towards her, takes a large gulp of her coffee, and finds more problems, more loopholes that need stitching up. The Ministry doesn’t know it yet but Hermione’s going to pull everything apart and rebuild it just as soon as she’s found a way.
Pansy is almost asleep when Harry whispers, “Are we mental?”
“Pansy, seriously, we can’t be parents, can we? I couldn’t even look after the mimbulus mimbletonia Neville sent me.”
Pansy yawns. Her feet are too warm. She shifts out from under the duvet, rolling further away when Harry reaches for her. He’s running like a bloody cauldron. “Harry, it’s fuck o’clock in the morning. Go to sleep.”
“But, Pansy.” His hand curves her shoulder, pleading, and she turns over with a groan. “Are we making a mistake?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s entirely possibly this is the worst thing I’ve ever done but listen --” she cups his face, blinking through the dark. “It’s also the best thing that’s happened to me. I love you. I don’t have any other arguments so that’s just going to have to be enough.”
He tugs her closer against him, still so so warm but bearably so. He curves his arm around her so they’re pressed together all the way down. “It is,” he says after a while. “It’s more than enough.”
“I can’t believe how soppy you can be,” she murmurs into his arm. “You’re an embarrassment.”
“Don’t care,” he whispers back. “You love me.”
It takes another thirty minutes before Pansy can fall asleep, her mind full of all the things that could go wrong. She turns so her face is pressed against Harry’s chest, his skin millimetres from her lips, and focuses instead on the good things, like that one time a couple of years ago when they had cleared out the house she used to live in with her mother and father. She had tried to hide the worst of it from him because she’s not exactly ashamed of her family’s doings but she’s not proud either but he had helped her sort everything out, not saying a word about the Dark objects scattered around the mansion like worthless junk. At the end of the day they had huddled in the empty drawing room with a fire Pansy had conjured dancing in a jar between them and had eaten toasties made with out of date cheese. It had been an emotional weekend, saying goodbye to that part of her, but it had been fun too, showing Harry the things she had grown up with, not all of it illegal. It had been one of those times that had made her really think they were something.
Now she runs a hand over the soft curve of her belly, the life growing inside of her that is half Harry and half Pansy, half good half bad, and thinks that everything might just work out.
She can be cautiously optimistic sometimes.
“How’s a takeaway sound for dinner?” Ron shouts through from the kitchen. There’s a slamming of doors, twice, and then he calls through again, “because there’s nothing in the house.”
Hermione rolls her quill in her left hand, shaking out her right. These goblin laws are tough to negotiate but she’s certain the outcomes will make it all worth it. “Not Chinese -- we had that on Monday.”
She gets up and walks through to the kitchen instead of shouting for the entire conversation. “Indian suits me. What was that thing I had last time? The curry?”
“Was it not just a korma? That’s what you always have,” Ron says, dropping his arm around her shoulders.
“Well, maybe this time I’ll get something different,” she replies, leaning up to kiss his cheek before pulling the menu from his hands and looking over the lists.
"Why don't I get a korma and if you don't like whatever you get you can have mine -- shit! Harry, what're you doing here?"
Harry gets up from the hearth, dusting himself off. "Had to get out of there," he says, patting his pocket for his wand and nodding when he's sure it's there.
"What happened, Harry?"
"Fight with Pansy," he says, and then throws himself into a seat at the kitchen table. "You got anything to drink?"
"Pumpkin juice or something stronger?" Ron asks, opening the fridge.
"Pumpkin juice," Hermione answers for him. She's tired and hungry and she wants Harry to get back home and sort this out with Pansy without the two of them getting drunk. "What was the fight about?"
"No idea," he says, pushing out a breath and dropping his head to his hands. "Just started shouting."
Ron looks to Hermione frantically. Ron's a great friend but he's never been the most tactful and since the news broke about Pansy he's been treading lightly. Hermione gestures for him to say something, anything. “Look, I haven’t been the most supportive about all of this, and I’m sorry,” Ron says. “It was a shock, you know I always kinda thought you and Ginny would be it, and it was Pansy Parkinson --”
“I get it, Ron,” Harry interrupts, raising his head. “It was understandable. I should have told you earlier.”
“Yeah, maybe, but then I should have trusted you when you said she was different, and I can see it. Sure she’s still a bitch but she agrees with the Ministry and she’s got some good jokes and she makes you happy, and, mate, that’s what matters.”
“Thanks, Ron. I appreciate it. Fat load of good it’s doing me just now, though."
“And you have no idea what you did?”
Harry winces. Hermione’s always been able to spot his lying from a mile away, even if she chooses to pretend not to sometimes. “What happened, Harry?”
“We were talking about names and she mentioned Draco and I, well, I think I reacted appropriately.”
“You’re not naming your kid after Malfoy, are you?” Ron asks, no hiding the disgust at this thought.
And while Hermione agrees it’s not a name she would choose she can see where Pansy is coming from. “He was Pansy’s best friend. She must have seen a different side of him.”
Ron snorts derisively. “I mean, no offence, Harry, but Pansy wasn’t the nicest person at Hogwarts. I doubt Malfoy was any different around her."
Harry leans forward on, drops his head into his hands. "We haven't fought all week," he says, muffled into his hands. "And when we have it's just been over stupid stuff like who cleaned up last. I never know what the fuck to say when she talks about Malfoy."
"The best thing to do is talk to her," Hermione says gently.
"That's your answer for everything, Hermione," Harry snaps. "Have you ever spoken to Pansy?"
"Harry, you can't compare our relationships with Pansy. We've been civil recently and I really am glad of that but I'm sure if you bring it up again, explain your feelings, she might be willing to compromise."
Harry looks set to argue but then he shuts down, leaning back in his chair. "Maybe you're right," he says grudgingly. "I'm fully expecting her to hex me as soon as I go back but maybe I can get in first with a Silencing Charm until I can say my bit."
"Why don't you put a Silencing Charm on her all the time?" Ron sniggers.
"Oi. Watch it."
"Alright alright I'm sorry. She called me Ron last week, did you hear her?"
"Do you think things are going okay? She really has changed."
Last week at Harry's Pansy had made a hissed remark about scrawny ginger kids and how Harry will never be a Weasley as she passed Hermione her tea but Harry looks so earnest here that Hermione nods and says yes, she's almost enjoyed getting to know her better.
They receive an owl later that evening. Made up, leaving the name till nearer the time, thanks.
“I don’t even want to think about what making up means,” Ron says, his nose wrinkling when Hermione reads out Harry’s note. “To me, this baby was conceived by a non-contact spell and that’s it.”
“A non-contact spell? Sounds interesting,” Hermione muses, tapping her finger against her cheek. She waits a beat and then Ron is pulling her to him and kissing her, his hands lifting her on to his lap. Yeah. Non-contact, Merlin’s arse.
"Should I ask you to marry me?"
"I don't know. Should you?" Pansy replies, bored. She feels so big even though the Healer tells her she’s exactly the right size she should be at this stage. She's six months now; she needs new clothes.
"Could you handle it? Being married to me?"
"Legally bound to you? I've suffered so much worse," she says, tilting her head to watch Harry flip through the takeaway menus. She has a drawer for them now. She used to go out to eat all the time, that was how she was brought up, and now she's spending most nights in. She's twenty two; this is the prime of her life.
"Chinese or Mexican?"
"Neither. Let's go out."
She can feel Harry's eyes on her, wonders if his mind is still caught up in marriage but all he asks is, "Yeah? Where to?"
They don't go out much because Harry is a bloody interest to the public, as if they don't have more to worry about than who their old Savior is seen with, but Pansy is fed up and pregnant; she wants to be somewhere with her boyfriend that isn’t the four walls here or the four walls at his.
“The Italian near Piccadilly?”
Harry turns to look at her, smirks. “Muggle London? Sure, okay.”
“They’re good at business,” she says, waving a hand until he comes over to pull her up. She sways into his space, smiling at the crookedness of his glasses and the beard he’s been attempting that isn’t working out how he wants. When she kisses him it scrapes at her cheek and it feels so good half of her doesn’t want him to give in and shave it off. “Let me go. I need to get dressed.”
She puts on a green dress that is getting a little too tight on her and applies her darkest red lipstick, puckering up in the mirror. When she walks back into the living room Harry is eating an apple, his suit jacket thrown over the back of the couch, and when he sees her he stares open-mouthed for a long moment before he whistles. She rolls her eyes but steps up to kiss him, smudging her lipstick on his mouth.
“Are you coming?” she has to ask when Harry takes his time finishing his apple, missing his mouth every second bite as he stares at her, eyes falling down to her legs and staying there. It’s an ego-boost if nothing else. “Harry, we’ll be late.”
They walk down to the alley behind their building and twist in the air, hands clasped, appearing just off the busiest part of Piccadilly Circus. Harry keeps his hand tight with hers as they wind through the mobbed streets, the buzz of Friday night celebrations infectious.
“Hermione’s got a meeting with Kingsley next week,” Harry says once they're seated in a quiet booth towards the back of the small restaurant.
“To discuss her changes I’m assuming.”
“It’s a start, Pansy.”
“There’s a long way to go,” she counters but she agrees. This is a start. “Shacklebolt’s one of your lot, isn’t he? I heard he was part of Dumbledore’s inner circle.”
Harry avoids her gaze, the way he is wont to do when Dumbledore is mentioned, never quite over everything that happened with him. “Something like that, yeah.”
“So he should be open to reform, shouldn’t he? Already he’s got rid of the Dementors at Azkaban which is more than any of his predecessors did.”
The waitress comes over then to take their order which halts their conversation. This may be a secluded Muggle scene but you can never be too careful with your surroundings and who’s listening in. It’s not always Dark wizards that are the most dangerous -- half the time it’s a journalist looking for a scoop.
“Kingsley’s definitely an improvement,” Harry agrees. He pushes the basket of bread sticks towards Pansy who takes one and snaps it in half, offering the smaller piece to Harry. “But you’re right, to make any real difference he’s going to have to implement a lot of changes.”
“Maybe by the time this kid reaches Hogwarts things will be perfect.”
Harry runs a hand through his hair. “They’re never going to be perfect,” and then he laughs. “Hogwarts. I hadn’t even thought that far ahead.”
“Yeah, they grow up to be real humans eventually,” Pansy says dryly.
“Think they’ll play Quidditch?”
“Like you won’t get them a broom for their first birthday,” she grins, her hand reaching out for his across the table. “They’ll be flying before they can walk.”
“And then there’s the whole issue about what team they’ll support -- the Cannons are the obvious choice --”
“You’re not brainwashing this baby into supporting your pathetic team with their hideous robes. I’m not allowing it.”
“Oh, well, if you’re not allowing it,” he sighs, all mock-sadness. “The same rules go for the Kestrels.”
“The Kestrels are a respectable team and a worthy choice. I’m their mother. I know what’s best for them.”
Harry laughs. “Are you going to use that for every argument?”
She blinks innocently. “Harry, it’s as if you don’t know me at all.”
Their food comes soon after. Harry gets the burger while Pansy gets the spaghetti but she ends up stealing half of his, pulling out the eating for two card. They both get rich chocolate mousse for dessert and sit there for a while after they’re done, sipping their Cokes and watching the people around them, guessing their stories. Harry always goes for the happier tales of anniversaries and reunions while Pansy takes the divorces and whispered fights.
It’s not the first time she and Harry have been out together of course, but it’s the first time since she’s really began to show and it’s the first time since they’ve decided they’re okay with people knowing who they are and what they’re doing. She feels a little exposed, even in this little secretive restaurant, but she’s having fun.
After dinner they run into Blaise and Theo when they take a long detour through Diagon Alley and end up going back to theirs, flooing Daphne there to tell her to come over.
"Never thought I would see the two of you in public together," Blaise says, handing round drinks. Pansy's is a Gillywater again; once this baby’s out of her she's never touching the stuff again. “Is this an official thing now? Can I owl the Prophet?”
“Don’t tell me you still read that, Blaise?”
“It’s under better leadership now, Harry. They’re back to reporting on the lives of the elite -- my type of reading. The politics and corruption were so boring.”
“I agree,” Theo says, flopping onto the armchair, his drink splashing onto the arm. “Give me who Harry Potter’s dating over the Dark Lord’s latest conquest any day.”
Harry shakes his head but he’s laughing a little. “That makes it sound like Voldemort was dating someone too.”
“Who knows what kind of fucked up stuff he was into,” Pansy says, and then changes the subject because this is too shaky still. “Anyway, we’re not shouting it from the rooftops but we figured that it’s our lives and if people can’t handle that -- fuck ‘em.”
“Spoken like a true Slytherin,” Daphne says, clapping her hands together once. “But next time really give them something to write about -- snog on the steps of Gringotts, send memos to everyone in the Ministry, make it unavoidable.”
“That’s the opposite of what we’re doing,” Harry says. “I’m interested in the Gringotts snog, though, not bad, Daphne -- ow, I was kidding, Pansy.”
“I’m not convinced,” she says, leaning on his shoulder. “You know what, all I care about is what the people in this room think and that’s it. The rest of the country can go fuck themselves.”
“Maybe I’ll step out with Oliver Wood,” Blaise says, his mouth bending into a smirk. “Let’s all involve ourselves in a scandal, show them we haven’t lost the old charm.”
Theo says something in agreement while Daphne tries to think up something for herself. Pansy leans further into Harry, his arm warm against hers.
“Did you have a good night?”
“It was adequate,” she says, pressing her lips to the inside of his arm and leaving a slash of red lipstick behind. “You think it’ll be in the Prophet tomorrow?”
“I think the papers should have more things to think about than who I’m dating.”
“Says the man who was so up for public displays in the middle of Diagon Alley.”
“The public wants what it wants,” Harry sighs, his grin sharp and real. “Who am I to deny?”
“Ugh you’re such a loser,” Pansy says, wriggling free. She’s reaching the stage where she feels more unbalanced than not and she is not happy about it. She leans down and kisses him, flipping off Blaise when he whistles, and then crosses the room to the couch where Daphne is perched on the back, her feet dangling on the cushions.
"How are you feeling?” she asks. “Besides the lack of alcohol. Is it as bad as they say?"
"I wouldn't bother, Daphne," Pansy says, dropping her head onto her hand. "My back’s aching, I know I won’t be able to see my ankles any day now, and fuck, I’m so horny all the fucking time, and you wouldn’t think that was a bad thing but try sitting behind a desk surrounded by old hags who haven’t had a good shag in years, miles away from your boyfriend while you feel like you’re on fire and you’ll see what I mean.”
"You're glowing," Daphne says, ignoring everything Pansy has just said and laughing delightedly. "You look really happy, Pans. Are you?"
"Happy?" That feels like a different question altogether. "Yeah. I am."
Pansy turns to look at him. He’s stretched out on the couch, a butterbeer in his hand, talking with Theo. He’s been so busy with work lately, always so concerned about spending too much time in the office, but when he’s at home he tries so hard. They’ve started talking about cots and bottles and where they’re going to end up; there’s no point keeping two flats when they spend so much time at one or the other. When Pansy brings up maybe possibly living with him in his flat just off Diagon Alley Harry gets this look on his face like he can’t believe all of this is happening but he’s happy with it, over the moon, actually. She imagines she has the exact same look plastered all over her own face. Merlin. Listen to them. She shakes her head, looking away from him, back to Daphne. “You know what he’s like -- he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”
“Really? I’ve always found him hard to read.”
“Maybe I know him better than you,” and she thinks she must know him better than quite a lot of people and isn’t that a startling thought.
“You think you’ll move in with him?”
“It’ll be easier, definitely. It’ll just be weird leaving my place. I’ve been there ever since I moved out of the manor.”
“Can’t he move to yours? You’ve got the room.”
“His is closer to work, for both of us, and maybe he’ll let me do it up, turn it into something that isn’t such an eyesore. You’ve seen it, Daph, who thinks red goes with blue? On a wall?”
“He does need glasses,” Daphne points out. “Maybe he decorated without them.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Pansy says, and then she laughs, because she finds everything about this man so fucking endearing.
“Have you thought of names yet?”
“Not really. We keep arguing about it and never get anywhere. Maybe when it gets here we’ll know.”
Pansy shoves at Daphne’s knee, lets her hand rest there. “You know who I mean. The kid, the egg, the Chosen One -- those better?”
Daphne’s smiling, her eyes soft, like she knows how much all of this means to Pansy, and in turn how much it means to her, that they’re getting this chance to make a life, to have a life, after everything they’ve all been through. “I would be extremely flattered if you wanted to call them Daphne.”
“And have them grow up to be like you?” Pansy scoffs, her hand tightening on her leg. “Never.”
When they get home -- home, to Harry’s -- Pansy leads Harry through to the bedroom, pushing him onto the bed, and climbing on top of him. She kisses him hard and fast, needing to be close to him right now. Harry holds her waist, leans up to follow the kiss, and she gives herself over to the way her head spins when Harry kisses her collarbone, down to her chest, always leaving the control in her hands.
She fumbles for the hem of her dress and wriggles until she gets it over her head, snapping off her bra and throwing them both on to the floor. Harry reaches for her breast, holding one in his hand as he licks the nipple of the other, his tongue swirling around before he nips at it gently. Heightened sensitivity in these areas is a side effect of pregnancy Pansy has had no complaints about. She shifts to rest her forearms on his chest to allow him better access, mouthing at his skin when he repeats it again and then on her other nipple.
“Get your clothes off, Potter,” she mumbles.
“In a minute.” His tongue dips into the valley between her breasts, teeth scraping against her skin.
Pansy groans, leaning back and pulling Harry up with her so she can maneuver his shirt off over his head, a button or two pinging off with her impatience. “Take off your trousers, Harry, for fuck’s sake.”
She feels his laugh against her torso and then she feels his arm around her waist, holding her to him as he manages to pull his trousers down his legs and then kick them off, the soft thuds of his socks following them. She kisses him, her hands cupping his face to keep him there, and then she’s pushing her underwear down and gesturing for Harry to do the same.
When she rocks her hips against him he groans, low and deep, and Pansy feels herself slipping and slipping, the happiness bubbling all around her until she can hardly breathe. She tips her head back to take a breath, a laugh falling out of her mouth when Harry’s fingers skate along her back, right where a shiver runs along her skin, and when she reaches for him, guides him into her, she shuts her eyes and remembers what she told Daphne, about knowing him better than anyone else.
HARRY POTTER’S SECRET CHILD
POTTER SHACKS UP WITH SLYTHERIN
THE BOY WHO LOVED A TRAITOR
BABY ON THE WAY FOR CHOSEN ONE - HAS HE SETTLED AT LAST?
Hermione takes a sip of her drink nervously and then takes another couple in quick succession. Her eyes dart around the room, searching for a familiar face. The room is large and airy, with dark walls and a giant fireplace. There are no snake decorations and she takes a moment to chastise herself for assuming there would be any at all. It’s not as though she and Ron have stuffed griffins sitting around their living room. Spotting an interesting painting in the corner she makes her way over, politely dodging an oncoming waiter with a tray of oysters, and exchanging a small smile with Daphne across the room. Harry was right. Daphne’s okay. Her position in the Department of International Relations deals with similar things to Hermione in Law Enforcement so they’ve had a lot to discuss.
The painting is even more stunning close-up. It depicts a dark lake with a woman reclining on a rock just off-centre but although the subject matter isn’t anything original the colours used make it an incredible sight. The water is made up of angry reds and calming blues, blending together to create incredible deep purples and pinks.
She's leaning in to examine the texture of the paint more closely when she smells expensive aftershave and the sharp tang of Firewhiskey nearby.
“Hello, Blaise,” she replies cautiously, turning to face him.
“Yes, thank you,” is the best thing to say, if not entirely true. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“Where’s your other half?” he asks, leaning to peer around her as if Ron might be cowering by her knees. “I invited Weasley too.”
“He has to work but he said he’ll try and come along later.” That’s a lie too. With the anniversary of the Battle so close, with the anniversary of Fred’s death so close, George has had trouble coping, sleeping, eating. Ron’s with him at the moment. He and Ginny are the best with him when he’s like this, if only because they’re the ones that remind him so much of Fred. Sometimes that helps. Anyway, when Harry had told them that Blaise Zabini had invited them to his birthday party Ron had called Blaise a number of names Hermione doesn’t feel like repeating.
“Harry says you’re interested in reforming the government. Pansy and I have been talking about this for years; we’ve come up with a few ideas we think you’d be interested in hearing.”
“Maybe you should talk to one of your connections within the Ministry instead of me,” Hermione says, her smile a Pansy-level of saccharine. “From the reports I read your mother is one of the few benefactors who remained unaffected by the war. I’m sure she could pull a few strings to get your ideas in.”
The smile Blaise gives her is sharp but not cruel. “If that will change anything maybe I should. Sometimes, Granger, you have to use your connections if you want to get anywhere. This isn’t Hogwarts -- Dumbledore isn’t there to pull his favourites to the top. Okay, the Ministry is better run under Shacklebolt than it was under Fudge or even war hero Scrimgeour but it’s far from a democracy. You need to get your foot in the door first before you can start changing the rules.”
“What you’re suggesting is an undemocratic method to achieve democracy,” Hermione says shrewdly. “I want to do this the right way otherwise it’ll all collapse again in twenty years.”
Blaise holds his hands up in mock-surrender. “Harry agreed with me when I told him all this,” he says, like this will sway Hermione’s thoughts. She takes a sip of her drink. “He’s all for taking advantage of his hero status if it means making a difference.”
“Harry and I haven’t always seen eye to eye on everything,” Hermione tells him. Of course they always support each other but she remembers times from school, from the time in the tent, when he would look at her as though pleading her to please stop questioning what he wanted to do and just go along with it. She remembers Godric’s Hollow when she had wanted to go there for entirely different reasons than Harry; how guilty they both felt when the visit almost destroyed them. “Our methods aren’t exactly the same.”
“You can’t talk and talk about making a difference and not do a thing about it,” Blaise says, voice fierce. “You’re right; we need a stronger Ministry if we’re to avoid what happened twice before, but Hermione, we need to start doing something about it.”
“Kingsley Shacklebolt has seen my proposals but there are a few high up corrupt officials who have managed to cling on to their positions and he needs to get rid of them before he’s going to make any huge decisions. It’s going to happen,” she says, and she knows it’s not just Blaise she’s trying to convince.
“They’re happy,” Blaise says, following her gaze to where Harry and Pansy are standing across the room. Since the news about their relationship broke they’ve been a lot more relaxed when around other people. They’re not holding hands or even standing particularly close to each other but there’s an ease to Harry’s shoulders, the set of Pansy’s jaw not so tense, and Hermione can see that Blaise is right. “Pansy says you didn’t take the news so well.”
“It was a shock,” she says sharply. “How long had you known?”
“That they were together?” Blaise smirks. “Three years? Give or take. Why? Did Harry not tell you anything?”
“He was worried what we would think,” and it’s a touch defensive but it’s the truth. “I would have thought Pansy would have felt the same about you finding out about Harry.”
“It was always Draco that had the big problem with him. Pansy, too, to an extent, but hers was mostly superficial. Daphne, Theo and I stayed out of it, concentrated on our schoolwork, I’m sure you can understand that, Granger.”
“Call me Hermione,” she insists. “I never realised how badly Slytherins were treated. I put you all in the same group,” she admits, cheeks flaming at the confession.
“Everyone did. But fuck that system, eh? How much difference does it make in the world if one person’s a Hufflepuff and the next is a Slytherin. I bet a Ravenclaw could just as easily become a Death Eater as a Slytherin.”
He says this so candidly it startles Hermione. “Well,” she manages, coughs a little, “that’s something we’ll never have to worry about.”
Blaise tips his glass towards her. “Merlin was a Slytherin, you know.”
“No,” she admits. “I didn’t know that.” She wonders if that’s an argument he pulls up whenever he faces criticism for being a Slytherin. She wonders how many people are surprised. “You should get back to your guests,” she says, looking around the room. Harry is talking to someone from his department, his hands gesticulating wildly as the discussion heats up, and over by the drinks table is Oliver Wood, one of the last people Hermione would have expected to see at Blaise’s birthday party. He’s talking with Marcus Flint and someone Hermione doesn’t recognise. She refrains from asking how Blaise knows Oliver; she doesn’t think it’s any of her business and anyway, she’s feeling a little out of depth here. “Thank you for inviting me,” she says, realising a beat too late that she’s already expressed her gratitude earlier in the conversation, but Blaise smiles and says he hopes he’ll see her later and then he’s gone, melting into the crowd.
When she goes to take another sip of her drink she realises her glass is empty. Turning to the nearest waiter she takes a glass of mead from him, smiling her thanks, and she retreats to a corner.
“Having a good night?” Pansy asks, coming over to join her.
“That’s the second time I’ve been asked that.”
“You look miserable,” Pansy says bluntly.
Which makes her feel guilty because this a birthday party for a new acquaintance, one that’s really tried to be nice to her, and she should be trying to interact with his guests instead of hiding in a corner. “I don’t really know anyone,” she admits.
“You know me,” Pansy says, and then she smiles. It’s a small smile, still a bit sharp around the edges, but it’s a gesture of friendliness. Hermione realises that she could call Pansy Parkinson a friend. “Honestly, Blaise doesn’t like half of these people any more than I do but you know he likes to make everything bigger than it has to be.”
Hermione laughs. “I noticed.”
“If you wanted to slip out of here I wouldn’t blame you,” she says, running a hand across her small bump, resting it there.
“No, I’m fine. It was good of Blaise to invite me; I should stay a bit longer.”
“You sure? I can give them excuses for you.”
“Maybe later,” Hermione says. “How has it been for you since everyone found out about you and Harry?”
Pansy shrugs. “Alright. No one really seems to care. Samantha from work didn’t believe it at first, kept asking me as if I was going to try and prove it to her, and then I hexed her and she’s been fine with it ever since.”
“You hexed her.”
“Well she wasn’t going to listen any other way, was she?” Pansy rolls her eyes. “Rita Skeeter wants to do an interview about living with the Chosen One.”
“What did you tell her?” Hermione asks, not sure what the answer will be.
“That it was none of her fucking business. You seem surprised. Did you think I would do a tell-all on Harry to get some extra money?”
And Hermione didn’t think that at all. “No, all I was thinking was that you’d said you were thinking about journalism so I thought you’d want to stay on Rita’s good side. I know you wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“I’m going to be a better journalist than her,” she says confidently. “Anyway, I don’t know what she was expecting from the interview. Harry’s a very boring flatmate.”
“He’s messy,” Hermione remembers from his part of the tent.
“So am I,” Pansy shrugs. “I’ve got no idea where all the baby stuff is going to go.”
“I could come with you to buy the things you need,” Hermione offers. “Daphne could come too.”
The smile she gets here is a little more real than the one before. “That could be fun, I suppose. Come on, Blaise won’t notice if we leave. Let’s grab Harry and get out of here. My feet are aching.”
It figures that just as she's getting used to the whole thing she gets it snatched from her.
And of course it happens in Diagon Alley while Harry's on a fucking mission somewhere miles away.
The pain grips her abdomen, coming out of nowhere and so intense she has to stop in the middle of the street and clench her fists to keep from screaming. It hits her in a wave, the aftershocks just as strong, and then another one comes, fiercer and harder than the last. She's scared, terrified, because she's been thinking recently how much she's actually looking forward to this. They're going to be terrible parents at first, she feels that is inevitable, but they'll get used to it. Come on, she's Pansy Parkinson, she can handle a tiny baby, and Harry, well, he can try.
But they're not going to get that. This feeling inside of her isn't right, a baby shouldn't be tearing at her insides three months before it’s due, it shouldn't be making her stagger over to the side of the street, deep breaths racking her body as she tries not to pass out.
Maybe it'll pass. Maybe this is just some form of hiccups that she hasn't read about in a book yet.
But they're getting worse. She can feel tears at the corners of her eyes now which is unfair, she hasn't cried in a long time, not since Draco, she isn't starting again now.
"You alright, miss?" A man with Firewhiskey breath leans down in front of her. "You're lookin’ pale."
"I'm fine," she snaps, but she's not, she's really not. She shoves the man out of the way, ignoring his shouts that he was only trying to help, and looks for the building that could maybe help her.
She can't Apparate like this, nor can she Floo, and there's no way she's getting on that foul underground system the Muggles love. In short, this is her last chance.
The shop is crowded with children free from school for the summer clambering for whatever rubbish has been made that will sell for entirely too much and cause too much mess. There's a smell of burnt eggs in the air, something that doesn't help the sensation in her stomach that is pulling her down faster and faster with each passing second. She moves between two boys who are arguing over the merits of Puking Pastilles, craning her neck to find that head she used to love to insult.
"This isn't your scene."
Pansy folds her fingers into her palm tight enough for her nails to make ridges in her skin then looks up. Fuck. It's the twin.
"No," she says, hating the highness of her voice. "It's not."
"Can I ask why you're here?"
She's surprised she was recognised at all; she never gave the other Weasleys much interest. Does he know about their new connection? The one that has stopped Harry from officially becoming a member of the ginger family. "I need your brother. Ron."
George raises an eyebrow. It is George, isn't it? Fuck. There's too damn many of them. A surge of pain passes through her again as strong as the others; her face must betray her because George's eyes widen and then he grabs her by the elbow hauling her none too gently into a quieter area at the back. "What's wrong with you?"
"Has Harry told you all about me?" It's bloody miraculous that she manages a grin at this moment. She's always been all about appearances.
George jiggles her elbow, which, shit, really doesn't help. "Tell me."
"There's something wrong," she gasps. "It doesn't feel right -- I need to get to St. Mungo's and I can't --"
Pansy Parkinson doesn't feel ashamed. She can count the times she has felt something close to it on one hand. Now, though, George Weasley who lost more than most in the war, is looking for his brother so that Pansy doesn't collapse in the middle of his store. He's doing it for Harry, she knows, but it's still her that she's saving -- the shame wells in her chest, colliding painfully with the agony lower inside of her.
"Pansy?" Merlin, if someone had told her three years ago that one day she will be glad to see Ron Weasley she would have hexed them into next week.
"Can you get Harry?"
"What - why?"
"There's something wrong with the baby. I can feel it."
His face collapses into confusion then a twisted form of concern when another wave rips through Pansy. "What do --"
"Can you take me to St. Mungo's?" She hates this. She hates everything about it. "Please."
He's touching her arm, his hand huge on her shoulder. She breathes in, then tries again. "Let's go."
Then she passes out.
Hermione reads a book about pregnancy and its complications. She reads about internal bleeding and forced positions and lack of oxygen. Her heart turns over in her throat, that compassion that has slowly been building towards Pansy surging upwards. The thought of the two of them losing their baby is too horrible to think about so instead she tries to imagine Pansy in her hospital bed, ordering the Healers to bend over backwards for her, don’t they know who she is?
The memory of Harry stalking down the ward that day is sobering. He had looked so important, so powerful, with his cloak burling around him and his mouth a straight line, but when Hermione and Ron had stood up to meet him the fear in his eyes was overwhelming. He had pleaded with the Healer to let him in to see Pansy, he didn’t care that she was asleep he just wanted to see that she was alive, and well, no one says no to Harry Potter. When he had come back out he had collapsed into the chair beside Hermione and said that everything was going to be okay, it had been so close, but Pansy and the baby are going to be fine, they’re keeping her in for a few days to monitor her but she’ll be fine, they’ll be fine, and then he had closed his eyes, his face tight, and Hermione had felt the need to look away.
Hermione finishes early one day when a goblin law passes unexpectedly and to celebrate her head of department tells them all to take a half day. Hermione makes to go straight home but remembers that promise she made to Harry weeks ago, to be a friend to Pansy, in any way she can. This past fortnight has been terrifying for Harry, she knows, and now that he’s at work and can't get away and Pansy is in a hospital bed Hermione feels it’s the least she can do to drop by for a visit.
The last time she was here was almost a year ago when Bill and Fleur’s second baby was born. Then, the maternity unit had been full of Weasleys and Delacours and everyone had been so happy. On this visit, Hermione can hear her footsteps on the shiny floor as she makes her way to the room at the end. When she had asked at the reception desk down on the ground floor about Pansy’s whereabouts she had been met with dull stares and hushed whispers that had followed her when she left. Again, she feels a twinge of sympathy towards Pansy.
“Miss Parkinson already has a visitor,” the Healer on the ward tells her. “It’s one per room so you’ll just have to come back later, I’m afraid.”
“Can I pop in quickly to say hi?” It’s probably Daphne or Blaise. “I’ll only be a minute.”
The Healer eyes her, maybe realises who she is. Hermione doesn’t agree with the way they’re handed things when they haven’t exactly gone the conventional way to reach them but at times like this she’s willing to let it work for her. “One minute.”
Hermione flashes her a grateful smile then walks quickly over to the door of Pansy’s room before her time’s up. Voices inside make her stop just outside, her hand on the jamb.
"Am I being punished?" She hears Pansy ask, her voice so small and weak. "For all of the things I did."
Harry's answer is quick, the tone of it final. "No. You're not being punished."
“What if this is a way of saying I don’t deserve this? Harry, I was hesitant at first, you were too, remember, but now, Harry, I couldn’t stand it if it all goes wrong.”
There’s a rustle and when Hermione chances a peek round the door she sees that Harry has his arms around Pansy, his cheek resting on her head. He says something then, whispers it right in her ear, and holds her tighter. It’s easy to see, here in this room, that perhaps they weren’t two people Hermione would ever guess could end up together but that doesn’t mean they can’t work. She’s seen the evidence, she’s looking at it right now, that they’re working out just fine.
“What’d you tell Shacklebolt?” Pansy murmurs, pulling back a little to look up at Harry. Hermione jerks her head back around the door quick.
“Family emergency,” Harry replies. “He passes on his well wishes.”
“Mm. Harry, you should get back. I’m fine here. Bored out of my skull but not in a life-threatening position.”
“Want me to get you anything? Hermione said she might drop in, would that be okay?”
Pansy sighs, long and drawn-out. “I suppose. I haven’t called her Granger in at least a fortnight and she hasn’t sent me any thinly-veiled threats in twice as long. I think we’re getting along. Are you proud of me?”
“Always am,” and then there’s a silence, a small laugh, and Hermione realises if she doesn’t leave right now Harry’s going to walk right into her. She steps away from the door, back towards the Healers’ office, waving goodbye to the woman through the glass just as Pansy’s door opens.
She’ll come back later.
Pansy gets out of St. Mungos two weeks later. She hated that ward even more than her place on the reception desk. A woman in the room next to her’s had spent every night coughing her lungs up and then moaning about it for the rest of the day. When Pansy gets home she collapses onto the couch, her arm dangling off the edge, and sleeps for an hour.
She wakes to the door opening, heavy footsteps on the wooden floor. “Why didn’t you tell me you were getting out, Pansy?”
“Felt like surprising you,” she says, smiling lazily. He comes over to kneel beside her, his hand flat on the round of her stomach. “Everything’s fine,” she tells him before he goes through his questions. “They gave me a shitload of vitamins to take and told me to take it easy for the next few weeks but, Harry, the baby’s going to be okay.”
He glances up at her. “You’re sure?”
“I was always crap at Divination but after that scare I’ll be following every stupid superstition there is to make sure it will be.”
Harry smiles, leans in to kiss her. Even though they did this plenty of times in St. Mungos it feels like it’s been forever since they’ve been able to take their time and really enjoy it, the edge of desperation gone. Pansy wraps her arm around Harry’s neck, pulling him closer to her. They kiss languidly, their lips sliding together, breaths heavy between them, and Pansy twists her fingers in the hair at the nape of Harry’s neck and smiles.
“Mm, gonna squash the baby,” Harry mumbles, nudging Pansy’s leg out of the way so he can fit in the space between the couch and her arm. She turns on her side so her chest presses against his. Look, she wasn’t exactly flat-chested before but her boobs are fucking huge now. “Watch, Pansy, no don’t --” and then he’s laughing, his mouth falling to her cheek, pressing wetly. He ducks to kiss her neck, resting there as Pansy fiddles with his hair. It’s softer than it looks, that’s something that has always surprised her; with the state it’s always in she’d assumed gel had been required but no, the mess is all natural.
A laugh bubbles out of her, surprising her. She burrows her face in Harry’s hair and giggles helplessly, her hands tightening to stop him lifting his head to ask what’s wrong because nothing’s wrong, nothing at all, and it’s terrifying but it feels so fucking great.
“Why’re you laughing?” Harry says, just under her ear. “Whassa joke?”
“You,” she says, fond even to her ears. “You’re ruining me, Potter,” and honestly, she’s not complaining. She’s still Pansy Parkinson, Slytherin bitch, that girl is still here inside of her, but she’s also a woman with a boyfriend and a baby on the way and the realisation that this is okay to be too hits her hard. She grabs hold of that feeling and clings on tight.
At Ginny’s first match of the season Hermione finds herself between George and Pansy. It’s not a seat she would have picked had she been given the choice, she thinks that might be over beside Mr Weasley and the jug of pumpkin juice he has sitting at his feet, but she resolves to make the most of it. It’s possible it will be more interesting to her than the sport happening a couple of hundred feet away.
“Harry told me the Kestrels are your team,” she says to Pansy.
“They always have been,” she replies, rummaging in her bag for a pair of sunglasses which she slides on to her face, her nose scrunching up when they threaten to fall off. “My uncle played for them in the eighties; he brought them the cup three years in a row.”
“Was that before or after he became a Death Eater?” George asks from Hermione’s other side. He widens his eyes innocently when Hermione whips her head around to chastise him. So he doesn’t have to like Pansy, Hermione gets that, but while they’re in public she thinks they should put on a good face. Rita Skeeter’s probably got her eyes on them at this very moment.
“Contrary to what you might think, Weasley, not everyone in my family was involved with the Dark Lord.”
“Phew,” George says sarcastically. “Not everyone. That’s good to know.”
Pansy’s eyes narrow, her jaw set, and before Hermione can cut in to stop her she says, “I know what it’s like to have lost people too,” and Hermione closes her mouth with a click. “I wasn’t on your side but I wasn’t on the other side either. The war affected all of us the same in the end and I would appreciate it if you didn’t continue to hold my means of survival against me.”
The referee blows her whistle, the crowd cheers wildly, and the game starts. George stares resolutely out across the pitch. “The Kestrels have been a mess this year and last,” he says, leaning across Hermione to tell Pansy.
“The Cannons have been a mess since they entered the league,” she shoots back, gesturing to the pitch where Ginny has just got the Quaffle past the Cannons’ Keeper.
“At least they’re consistent in their performance.”
Pansy laughs, a sound so unexpected to Hermione that she almost jumps in her seat. “That level of optimism would sound foolish from anyone but a Weasley. It’s admirable.”
George rolls his eyes. “You keep to your Kestrels. It’s going to be the Harpies or the Tornados taking the cup this year anyway.”
“Doesn’t stop me from gloating when your team falls to the bottom as it inevitably will.”
“Harry didn’t tell us you liked Quidditch,” he says, voice not so cold anymore, settled firmly on civil. “I’m surprised.”
“That all my interests aren’t centred around killing kittens and eating their hearts?” Pansy asks, one eyebrow arched. “Hermione hasn’t seen me eat any cats recently, have you?”
“Not recently, no,” she agrees.
“Maybe you have changed after all,” George says.
“Or maybe I’ve always been this great.”
The Holyhead Harpies win 270-90. Afterwards Ginny finds them in the stands, flushed and grinning, and hugs Hermione tightly, sweat clinging to her.
“Hermione, am I hallucinating or are George and Pansy laughing together?”
It’s the start of something, Hermione thinks.
“Where have you been?”
Harry blinks, startled. He spins to face Pansy. “Oh, I thought you were out with Daphne tonight.”
“Answer the question, Potter.”
“I ran into Ginny after work and we went for a couple of drinks. She’s not been feeling great recently, some bug that’s going around, you better watch for it, can’t have you getting ill -- and anyway, her performance is suffering for it so I was just --”
"Ginny? Weasley's sister?"
"Call him Ron, Pansy," Harry says tiredly. "I don't call Blaise ‘Zabini’, do I?"
"Oh, you're such a bigger person than me, Potter. How does it feel to be so great and good --"
"Stop that. Don't keep bringing it back to me being good and you being evil because we both know it's not like that --"
"Maybe not to you --"
"No, not to me. And not to you either. Ginny is my friend. I'm allowed to go and see her when she's ill."
"I never said you couldn't," Pansy says, turning back to the worktop. "I just said you could have said before where you were going."
"Why does it matter?" Harry asks, voice full of frustration. "I don't tell you every time I go see Ron and Hermione."
"She's your ex, Harry," Pansy says with a sigh. "It's different, okay?"
“But --” and then he stops and Pansy turns around to see him standing in the middle of their living room with his arm out and his mouth open. “I don’t get it.”
And she can see that he really doesn’t. Being friends with your ex isn’t something Harry would ever see as weird just like he’s never got why Pansy and Blaise regularly insult each other because they love each other.
“Harry, I know you don’t feel that way about her anymore and that she’s Ron’s sister and that that whole family is so close you can’t be apart from them for more than a week but all I’m saying is that you could have said before.”
“I just met her in the street!” he exclaims, his arms lifting. “How could I possibly have said?”
“Patronus,” she spits out. Maybe she’s being illogical here but she can’t back down now. “You’re great at those, aren’t you? Never actually seen you use one, though.”
“Sorry we don’t run into Dementors every day,” Harry snarls. “That’s part of what I spent half my childhood working to stop.”
“Stop being so bloody literal. You know I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No, Pansy, I didn’t, because I never know what the fuck you’re on about half the time! Do you know how hard it can be trying to say the right thing to you and not have you blow up in my face?”
And that’s the most unfair thing he’s said because -- “Yeah, Harry, I do because you’re the exact same. I can’t mention this and I can’t ask about that and all I want is to have a conversation about the war and Draco and you clam up.”
Harry’s face collapses. “Pansy, you know I can’t say the right thing about Draco. I did everything I could to put his murderer in Azkaban for life but that’s all I can do. You have my sympathy but that’s it when it comes to him, I can’t do it, and I’m sorry.”
The thing is, she can see where he’s coming from and she hates it because her best friend in the whole world was killed before he got to see the world and now she’s living with the person he hated and she can’t be stuck in the middle, she won’t. “Draco was my best friend,” she says, eyes on the ground. “And I love you, Harry, and I hate that I can never have both.”
She hears him take a step towards her. “You can have that, Pansy. It’s so hard it feels impossible but you can remember them without all the bad memories, without his death, and you can focus on your life now and hope that he would have liked it.”
Draco ever supporting this is something that breaks an ugly laugh out of Pansy’s throat. “Don’t pretend you know what he would think,” she says, moving further away from him.
“Ginny told me once --”
“Oh, yes, let’s get back to the matter at hand, when were you going to tell me you spent the evening with the Weaselette.”
Harry’s eyes narrow. His hair is getting too long in the front so it flops into his eyes. He looks like the odd member of one of those Muggle boy bands. Merlin, she’s going to need to hex him into getting a haircut. He scrubs a hand through the mess, exposing the scar underneath. “What if I had sent you a message, Pansy, and said I was meeting Ginny, what would you have said?”
Pansy tosses her hand in the air. “I don’t know, Harry. Maybe I would have said yeah that’s fine or maybe I would have used that bitchiness I’m so known for and told you you couldn’t go, I don’t want you seeing her anymore, but I guess we’ll never know.”
“You’re being hormo --”
“Don’t try and blame my emotions on this. I’m perfectly capable of thinking rationally even when I’m the size of a hippogriff.”
“Pansy, Ginny and I broke up a long time ago, way before you and I started seeing each other, and I get that you don’t like it but I’m still friends with her and I’m close with her family and that’s just the way it is.”
“I’m just saying I’m being completely fair in what I'm asking."
They’re both too fucking stubborn that even if they’re both in the wrong here, or both in the right, they’ll never back down without a surrender from the opposition. Pansy leans back against the counter, her eyes narrowed at Harry. She figures she can keep this up for a good fifteen minutes at least, forty even. If she wasn’t so pregnant she could be here all day. Draco was always labeled the dramatic one but Merlin, Pansy’s never been one to back down in an argument.
Harry holds for at least five minutes, which, honestly, knowing how he works, that’s five minutes longer than Pansy would have predicted. He rolls his eyes and flicks his wand, sparks flying out the end as the dishes behind Pansy begin to clean themselves in the sink, stacking up noisily once they’re dry. Then he takes off his coat and throws it over the chair, knocking over the pile of reports on the table. He mutters something which only makes the papers jump and scatter. Pansy averts her gaze; avoids commenting.
“Fine,” he says, once the papers are back in order and the plates are clean. “Fine. I’m not going to stop seeing Ginny, you can’t make me --”
“I never once tried to stop you seeing her. Don’t you try and make it sound like I’m controlling you.”
“Pansy,” Harry snaps. “I’m not stopping seeing her but I’ll let you know if I plan on visiting. That’s it. If I bump into her on the street I’m not going to owl you before I say hello, okay?”
“As usual, you’ve completely overreacted,” Pansy says. “But fine, that works for me.”
“I think I get where you’re coming from. Even though I know you don’t have feelings for anyone else anymore I think I would probably be wary about you spending a lot of time with an ex.”
It would be hard anyway, Pansy thinks. Given that the last person she had strong feelings for was Draco and he’s dead. It’s not like she’ll be seeing him again soon. Hopefully not. She doesn’t bring that up, though, it always takes so much out of them when they talk about Draco, and really, she needs a lie down. She’s very pregnant.
“Thank you, Harry.”
And this is how they do things. They have the huge fight, they hurl words at each other, and then they pretend like it never happened. Pansy’s the first to say that it isn’t the healthiest of ways to deal with a relationship but it works for them.
Ginny drops in to see Hermione one night after practice. “Hey, Hermione, you don’t happen to have a towel do you? It’s pouring out there.” Hermione summons one, passing it to Ginny who runs it over her hair a couple of times before pulling out her wand and finishing it off. “Thanks. Where’s Ron?”
“Helping George close up the shop,” Hermione says. “You want tea?”
“Only if you were making it anyway.”
“It takes two minutes,” Hermione says over her shoulder as she walks into the kitchen. “Biscuit?”
“Sure. My coach’ll kill me if she saw but she’s not here so who cares. Hey, ‘Mione, you coming to the match on Saturday?”
“Of course, don’t we always?”
“I always like to check,” she says, breaking her biscuit in two, dunking half of it in her tea when Hermione hands her it. “We’re playing the Kestrels, so it’s a guaranteed win, basically.”
Even after all this time Quidditch is something Hermione just can’t get her head around. She’s read a couple of books on the game, attended countless matches, but while she understands the basic gist of it she’ll never be able to understand the ins-and-outs. The matches are always a good atmosphere, though, and Ginny’s right, the Harpies do win most of their games, so it’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
“Ron mentioned something about Chudley Cannons next month.”
Ginny groans, taking a slurp of her tea. “Mm, in a fortnight. Wonder whose side he’ll be on then.”
“No doubt he’ll sulk either way.”
Ginny laughs. “How do you put up with him, Hermione?”
But for all that she says, it’s not a case of putting up with Ron, it’s something that she’s been wanting since she was sixteen and after getting through the war together, coming out the other side relatively unharmed, she’s never taken their relationship for granted. Of course it’s hard work some days, other days she thinks about Victor and what he’s up to, if he’s settled down with anyone yet, but she would never trade Ron for anyone. They fit.
Her face must give all of this away because Ginny leans against her, sighs softly. “You both look so happy.”
Hermione never knows what to say to this. “You’ll find someone too, Gin.”
And then Ginny tips her head back to smile at her. There’s something mischievous in her eyes, that fiery spark that Hermione has always been a little jealous of. “I think I already have.”
“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Hermione teases. She never really got to have this sort of friendship with Harry and Ron. It’s taken her a while but she’s adapting. She finds she really likes it. “What’s their name?”
“Clara,” she says, her chin jutting out defiantly just in case Hermione tries to challenge this.
She doesn’t. What she’s always thought is that when you enter a world of magic with magic and evil lords with parts of soul hidden away that there’s no way you could ever deny someone the right to be who they are. Someone in her office got bonded to her girlfriend a few months ago with virtually no objections; it’s something she thinks wizards might be more advanced with than Muggles.
“That’s great, Ginny. How did you meet her?”
“She’s a representative for the team. It’s a bit risky with our positions so we’re keeping it quiet for the moment but I think it’s going well. It feels like it is.”
“Maybe we’ll see her on Saturday.”
“Not if I can help it,” Ginny mutters, and when Hermione looks at her she’s blushing. “Ron’ll be a total prat.”
“If Ron says anything at all he’ll be sleeping on the couch for a week. Anyway, he’ll be supportive. You know how often he surprises you.”
They sit in silence for a few moments. Hermione debates getting up to turn the TV on but then she asks, “Ginny? How long have you known you liked girls?”
“Honestly I can’t remember -- since I was fourteen? I’m bisexual. That’s not a problem, is it?”
“No, of course not. I was just wondering.”
“It’s nice telling you,” Ginny says. She steals Hermione’s biscuit off of her knee.
“Am I the first one you told?”
“Nah, Harry’s known since we started going out. It felt so serious with him, even back then. I wanted to tell him everything.”
“Well, Harry’s a good one for secrets.” She worries that comes out more bitter sounding than it actually is.
“Mm. Pansy must be due soon? Last time I spoke to him it sounded like they weren’t far away.”
They’ve never really had this conversation, about Harry and Pansy and Harry and Ginny and how everyone feels about it, and Hermione wonders if this is the time. “Yeah, next month. Harry’s terrified.”
“I can imagine. Merlin, ‘Mione, did you ever think this would happen? Harry and I aside, I always thought you and Ron would have popped one out by now.”
Hermione inhales her tea, chokes. “No - not just yet. I’m having a career first.”
“No saying you can’t have both,” Ginny points out. “If I ever have a kid I’ll make sure I can play Quidditch for as long as I can. Then straight back on the broom after it’s out.”
“Ugh,” Hermione thinks of the logistics of that and winces. She giggles. “I don’t think Pansy will be going on a broom any time soon.”
“No,” Ginny agrees, laughing. “Thestral, maybe. A flying house. Have you been to Harry’s recently? She’s redecorated.”
“I noticed. You know, I can’t blame her. What was Harry thinking with those walls? I never asked -- red and blue? Did you allow this?”
A blush dusts Ginny’s cheeks. “When he moved in there we were more preoccupied with... other things that he was distracted by the time we got around to doing the walls.”
“I should have known,” Hermione sighs, shaking her head.
Ginny shoves at her side lightly. “A baby,” she says. “Harry’s having a baby. I’m happy for him, I really am, it’s just so weird. We’ve all been through so much and yet I still feel so young.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Hermione says. “I think this will be good for him. He’s always been so chaotic, so much has happened to him, that this might ground him. He seems really settled with Pansy.”
“We can be supportive and still say this is the most absurd couple, can’t we?”
Hermione laughs. “I think so.”
Ginny finishes her tea just as Ron comes through the door. “Hi. I’m just leaving. How’s the shop?”
“Mobbed. You ready for Saturday?” he asks.
“I always am,” Ginny says, smiling. She takes her and Hermione’s mugs into the kitchen, throws a couple of biscuits Ron’s way. “By the way, do you want to chip in for a present for Harry? Get him something interesting. I haven’t seen Zabini since school but I imagine he’s still lacking in the imagination department.”
“Suits me,” Ron yawns. “Have no bloody idea what you get a baby and I swear Pansy will turn her nose up at anything we get her.”
“This is why we’re not leaving it up to you,” Hermione says, just as Ginny adds, “He’s right, you know, she will, but we might as well try.”
“She was happy,” Ron says once Ginny’s left via the fireplace.
“Yes,” Hermione replies, leaning her head on Ron’s shoulder. “She was.”
It’s hot. It’s so fucking hot. London in these temperatures is awful at the best of the times but when you’re eight and half months pregnant it feels like hell on earth. On the roof of Harry’s building there’s a slight breeze but not enough to bring much relief.
Pansy stretches back in her chair. She adjusts her sunglasses when they slip down her nose, pushing her hair back off her forehead as she does so. “So how did you find out about this place?”
“When I first moved in I checked the whole place out, put up a few wards,” he says, like it’s completely normal to have to protect the whole area surrounding him. For him it always has been. Pansy imagines it’s hard to stop. “I’d forgotten all about it until this heatwave came -- was a good idea, wasn’t it?”
“Very. Fuck. I'm dying."
"You told me once that you aren't dramatic."
"Come on, Harry. You know I lied."
“You’ve got enough sun tan lotion on?” he asks, reaching for her arm. His palm is cool on her skin and she leans into it automatically.
“Covered in the stuff -- plus I did a charm,” she adds before he says anything. “And I think the wards can be a sort of protection.”
“Yeah maybe,” Harry agrees, peering up at the sky. From this angle Pansy can see the tan lines appearing where his glasses are sitting on his face. She’ll tell him later.
“D’you think anyone else will be able to get up here?”
“Shouldn’t,” Harry says, looking away from the cloudless sky to turn to Pansy. “Why?”
“Up to fucking me in this heat?”
“How do I turn down an offer like that?” Harry gets up off of the ground, turning in a circle to make sure no one’s appeared in the last hour they’ve been up here. When he’s satisfied no one’s broken through his bonds he helps Pansy out of her chair then lies back down, holding her hand until she has settled on top of him. Honestly, she loves being on top but she can’t wait for some variety to come back into their sex when she’s no longer carrying a human inside of her.
She cups Harry’s cheek, kissing him softly. He responds eagerly, licking into her mouth and going for the hem of her dress, his hands gentle as they move over her stomach. She feels so huge now. They make quick work of getting their clothes off, too hot and desperate to do much more than run a hand over each other before Pansy is lifting her hips and sinking down onto Harry’s cock, moaning as Harry fills her up. Yeah. This is exactly what she needed.
It’s so fucking hot. Pansy’s mouth feels several degrees too dry, there’s sweat collecting behind her knees, dripping down her forehead, but she rolls her hips, feels Harry’s cock hitting deep inside of her, and she really thinks this is the only way to pass the time in this heat. Harry surges up to kiss her sloppily, his breathing ragged, his hands slippery on her hips. He slides a hand across her belly, fingers splayed on the centre, and Pansy lifts a hand from his chest to link with her fingers with his, leaning into it when her orgasm rolls through her.
“Ugh. I can’t decide if I regret that or not,” she groans, tugging her dress back over her head. It sticks going over her boobs and when she pulls the hem down it drags across her nipple making her wince. But she feels looser, less on edge. No. She doesn’t regret it.
“Should probably go in soon,” Harry says, staring up at the sky which is slowly beginning to darken. There’s pink on the horizon, splotches of red tainting the blue, and Pansy wishes she wasn’t so pregnant so she could enjoy the hot summer.
“You’ll need to carry me in.”
“You’re so bloody demanding,” he mutters, hand tapping along her side. She catches his fingers, traps them with her own.
“Remember that next time you knock me up,” she says, waving her other hand until he gets the point and pulls her to her feet.
“You wanting more, Parkinson?” he grins. “Maybe you should make an honest man of me before the next one.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Ron bursts through the door of Hermione’s office, papers fluttering to the ground from the surrounding shelves. “Pansy’s having the baby! Harry says we’ve to go down as soon as we can.”
“Emily,” Hermione calls through to her assistant. “I’m going to be out for a few hours would you be able to file the paperwork on my desk? Thank you! Did Harry say how far along she is?”
“Nah, no details. Just told us to come see them. Heh - Pansy’ll push it out in no time.”
“Ron,” Hermione admonishes. “Labour can last for hours and hours. You know, it’s a wonder wizards haven’t found a way to make it easier -- though I suppose you can’t mess with human nature. I imagine the arrival of new life is a shaky area for experimental spells and potions.”
Ron steps back to let her into the lift. The doors close with a clang, shakily moving up the floors. “If there’s a potion that makes it any easier I bet Pansy’s found it.”
“I hope we haven’t missed it.”
Her teeth are grinding together so hard she can hear it in her head. She’s hearing a lot of shit up there and it’s distracting from the searing pain every few minutes.
“How bad are they?” Daphne asks after a contraction rips through her body, her knuckles white on the edge the bed. “Are they getting worse?”
“Let me ask you this when -- fuck --” Pansy groans, falling back on the pillows. “--when your body’s trying to push something the size of a hippogriff out of your cunt.”
Daphne presses the cup of ice chips against Pansy’s cheek, her hand smoothing over her hair. She tosses her head to get the rest of it away from her face; she should really tie it back. Before she can say anything Daphne produces a hair tie from her wrist and gathers her hair into a ponytail. “I’ll hold you to that,” she says. “Here, suck on some of these.”
The ice chips numb her tongue, the water filling in her mouth too quickly for her to swallow. Pansy pulls one out and drops it back into the cup, laughing weakly at Daphne’s grimace. “Where’s Harry?”
“Said he was getting you a drink but I'll bet five Galleons he's cursing that bitch that called you a gold-digging cow."
"Told him not to fight my battles."
"You know what he's like -- got a bloody hero complex."
"I've done good with him, haven't I, Daph?"
"You know you were doing fine on your own," she says, the way she's said it for years.
"Yeah I know but apart from all the doing it on my own he's decent enough to be with, isn't he?"
Daphne laughs, the sound soothing to Pansy's ears. She hasn't had a contraction in 20 seconds; one's going to come soon. She braces herself. "He’s lucky to have you,” Daphne says just as Pansy grabs her hand and bites her tongue.
Blood spills into her mouth. “Motherfucker.”
“You don’t have to be so quiet,” Daphne tells her. “This place is designed for screaming.”
On cue another contraction rolls over her and this time she opens her mouth and yells, panting for breath when it’s over. Daphne gently pulls her hand out of her grip, flexing to check for broken bones. Pansy would apologise but her pain is a thousand times worse so Daphne should count herself lucky she didn’t break her nose.
They run into Harry just outside the lifts on the third floor beside the doors to the maternity ward. His hair is even more of a mess than usual, the tracks where his hands have been running through it almost visible. Hermione feels a rush of love for him at the sight. This is a worry he has deserved. The fretting over a newborn baby is miles away from the panic of a classmate or a family member dying. This is something normal, happy, special, and she’s thrilled he’s getting to experience this.
Of course right now he looks half-crazed and nothing at all like a miracle is happening along the corridor. His jeans are creased, his t-shirt looks like it’s been thrown on backwards and inside-out, and his glasses are crooked. Granted, the baby’s a week early but Hermione can’t help but feel he should have been a bit more prepared to spring into action. It’s not like he hasn’t had the practice. She wonders if Pansy had time to put her make-up on and if she allowed Harry to put together her overnight bag. Merlin only knows what he would throw in there.
“Have we missed it?” Ron demands, spinning on the spot only to run into Theodore who steps back smartly, drops of coffee spilling from the cups in his hands. “What’s happening?”
“Think there’s still a while to go,” Theodore says, offering a coffee to Hermione. “There’s a couple of sugars in there -- not sure if that’s how you take it but I figure we could all use the energy.”
“Thanks.” Hermione takes the polystyrene cup, grateful. “How’s Pansy?”
“Heard her screaming a minute ago,” Theo says, nodding down the corridor. “But Daphne’s in there already -- don’t want to intrude.”
Hermione rolls her eyes. “Why are you out here, Harry, and not in there with her?”
He pushes a hand through his hair, following the tracks made previously. “This Healer called Pansy a gold-digging cow and --”
“Get in there,” Hermione says. “Go. Now.”
He disappears into the room. “Potter! Where the fuck did you go?”
Ron winces. “Yeah. I’m gonna sit down over there,” he says quietly, sinking down onto an uncomfortable looking chair across from the Healers’ station. “‘Mione, come sit with me. You don’t want to get too close to all this. I was there with Percy when Molly was born -- a bloody mess.”
Seven hours later Pansy collapses back against the crumpled pillow of the hospital bed, gasping for a breath, as they clean all the gunk off of the baby and wrap it in a little white blanket.
She opens her eyes to see Harry carefully taking the bundle from the Healer who is smiling at him like he hung the moon. Pansy’s looked at him like that before, she’s pretty sure, so she knows the woman’s dignity is somewhere near the floor. Pansy also knows that she’s looking at him something like that right now.
“Look, Pans, here’s our baby,” he whispers, crouching beside her head so the baby can peer at her. Its nose is scrunched up and its cheeks are red and angry looking. It’s so tiny Pansy feels an overwhelming rush of anxiety that should she reach out and touch it it’ll fall apart. Harry’s hand looks massive curved around its body, cradled in his arm.
“It’s a girl,” the Healer says, because when Pansy gave the final push everything went sort of hazy behind her eyes and there was a lot of focus on making sure she wasn’t dying to announce it right there and then. But now she knows. She has a daughter. “Have you thought of any names?”
They’ve tried and every time it’s ended in an argument with Pansy locking Harry out and her ranting to Blaise that Harry knows nothing. All she wanted was something to remember Draco by; she knows Harry wants the same with his family. They’ll need to find a compromise.
“Not yet,” she mumbles, sure she’s only moments away from passing out from exhaustion. She reaches for the baby, fingers clutching at Harry’s arm until he transfers her into Pansy’s arms. “She’s so light. Is that normal?”
The Healer chuckles. “7 and a half pounds is a reasonable weight; she won’t be this size for long, just you wait.”
Harry’s finger is in the way, poking into her tiny little face. Pansy opens her mouth to say something but then the baby curls her fingers around his pinky and holds on. Pansy can feel Harry’s breath on her cheek, the sharp intake of awe. She gently touches her cheek, startled at how soft her skin feels, despite being covered in blood and whatever else only minutes ago. Harry's cheek rests against her own, the two of them staring down at this thing they created, the thing that pulled their two worlds together completely and pushed them out for everyone to see. Pansy's proud of herself, she's proud of Harry, and already, at five minutes old, she's proud of this little girl in her arms.
"I'm going so fucking soft, Potter."
He kisses her, his smile so big she can't help but match him. "You've always been soft, Parkinson. I know you so well, remember."
It continues like this: Pansy, Harry, and the baby live in the little flat just off Diagon Alley for the next six months. It’s too small there, though, babies have so much crap and people keep sending them gifts, so they move into a bigger flat near King’s Cross. This one is airy and bright with windows that allow the sunlight to stream in on those rare sunny days and rain to batter against them every other. They buy a bed that they both like, the first one they buy together, and Harry insists on assembling the cot by hand, muttering something about job satisfaction and Ron when Pansy threatens to get her wand out and finish it herself. Pansy picks a pale green for the walls because she’s a Slytherin and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of house pride. She agrees to red in the living room when Harry uses the same argument. It feels like home.
After another six months Pansy goes back to work. Or rather, she interviews for a post at the Prophet and starts there three weeks later. When Harry makes noises about that paper being a load of nonsense she shushes him by placing the baby in his arms and goes off to write a report on the recent spat of plant deaths that have sprung up in Sussex. It’s not the most thrilling of jobs but Pansy’s going to work her way all the way to the top, and when she gets there she’s going to change everything. Just watch.
The Ministry is changing more and more each day. There’s going to be an election soon concerning the Minister and although it’s almost certainly going to be Shacklebolt the introduction of a more democratic system has pleased the wizarding population. Pansy thinks she’ll probably vote for him. Under his leadership the laws surrounding trials and Azkaban have tightened considerably which Pansy knows is mostly down to Hermione who has been promoted to Head of her Department. She’s still adamant it will be a long time to completely revolutionise it but they’re making progress. They’ll get there.
For the baby’s first birthday they fill the flat with their friends and the people Pansy has been grudgingly getting along with for the last year or so. While Blaise and Daphne entertain the Weasleys and Harry and Pansy’s colleagues Pansy slips into the kitchen and takes a moment to breathe. So she’s made it through a year. When she looks back on it it looks so easy but fuck, she doesn’t think she’s ever going to feel fully awake again.
“Can’t keep up?”
Pansy looks up from her glass to see George standing in the doorway, his own baby on his hip. They called him Fred. Pansy can understand the bittersweet need to remember them this way.
“Your family can be overwhelming.”
“If Harry was here he would say they’re your family too.”
“He forgets sometimes that his name isn’t Weasley,” Pansy agrees. “Luckily he has me to remind him.”
“They are, you know,” he says. “Mum hasn’t let go of her since we got here. You’re bound for life.”
Pansy sighs, sighs again when she thinks it’s not the worst thing in the world to be tied to the Weasley family.
When she follows George and rejoins the group in the living room she moves to stand beside Harry, leaning against him when he slips an arm around her waist. He bends his neck to kiss her quickly, breaking away when Victoire, Fleur and Bill’s four year old, taps at his knee. Pansy watches him chat with her, examining her toy broomstick with a solemn face before he hands it back and declares it the best broom he’s ever seen. Pansy’s betting there’ll be one in their house in the next few months.
She takes her daughter when Theo hands her over, holding her against her chest. She still has that baby smell, clean and warm and loved, and Pansy inhales deeply. “We’re doing okay, aren’t we?” she says, laughing when she gets a gurgle in return. This is nothing like what she would have planned had she been asked when she was younger how she saw her life five years from now. She doesn’t know what the alternative would be, if the Dark Lord had won or if Draco hadn’t been killed or if she and Harry hadn’t made it past a couple of weeks, she doesn’t ever want to know those lives. She’s happy with what she has.
Harry comes back over to her, Victoire busy with her younger cousins. “It’ll be time for a nap soon,” he says, checking his watch and then their daughter’s face for signs of tiredness.
“I might join her,” Pansy says, stifling a yawn in her sleeve. “Harry, your family have been here for hours, how the hell are they still here?”
“Theo’s been slipping them Firewhiskey, I think,” he mutters into her ear. “The kids all love him. I think he wants to become a babysitter.”
“The day I let Theo look after my kid will be the day you kill me because I’ve lost my mind.”
“I don’t think I could ever kill you,” he says pleasantly.
“No? I don’t suppose I could either.”
“Looks like we’re right for each other after all.”
Pansy grins, dropping a kiss on her daughter’s head. “Who would’ve thought it.”