With the last customer out the door, Pansy flicked her wand at the shades, drawing them down and turned the lock. She flipped the wooden sign to 'closed' and heaved a sigh. After only one, she'd decided that Hogsmeade weekends were her bane and she didn't know how she would get through a year of them. While the students spent money, they tended to take up nearly every table in the pub and most of her regular clientele stayed away. If she had known what it would be like, Pansy might have never offered to buy the Three Broomsticks from Rosmerta.
She did like the money that it brought in and she had turned the pub into a success despite it being now owned by a Parkinson.
Leaving the mess downstairs, Pansy climbed the staircase to the modest set of rooms above the pub. Her elves (paid elves, no less!) would take care of everything while she slept.
Years ago, she never would have thought that she could live a relatively pedestrian life. But with the Parkinson fortune gone, partly because of the fines the family had suffered after the war and mostly because of her father's heavy gambling debts, she'd had little choice but to find some way to survive. What had remained of her dowery, Pansy had used to purchase this business.
And slowly she had started to see the success of her investment. As well as feel a sense of accomplishment because of it.
She pushed open the door to her flat only to take a step back in surprise. Normally Pansy didn't go for the protective wards that everyone used. She trusted that people would respect her privacy and keep out of her living space. Not even Draco had the stones to just apparate into her sitting room without at least sending an owl first to ask if she was in the mood for company.
She rarely was.
However, it seemed that no such common sense or respect for one's personal space was important to the person draped across her sofa.
Of all the people that Pansy expected to kip down in her flat and, really, Father Christmas would have been a thousand times more believable, Ron Weasley had not been one of them. Yet, there he was, stretched out, his awkwardly long legs dangling off the end of the sofa like some sort of wounded flamingo. For Heaven's sake... He was snoring as well.
Pansy marched over and prodded his shoulder with her wand. "Get up."
Weasley groaned and rolled onto his back. This would have been all well and fine except for the fact that his snoring intensified. A slight pinch of guilt caught Pansy under her ribs when she saw his face in better light. Across his cheek and forehead was a pair of sizeable scrapes and cuts. She'd known that Weasley and Potter had become Aurors. Their exploits were written about in the paper constantly, but to see bumps and bruises up close, she couldn't help but wonder why he'd come here after what appeared to be some kind of altercation.
As quick as the feeling made itself known, it vanished. Weasley simply couldn't stay on her sofa.
Pansy leaned closer and prodded him again. "Weasley. Wake up. You've apparated to the wrong place."
She was about ready to pinch his nose closed so that he would have no choice to wake up when she felt a hand slide around the back of her neck. In an instant she was drawn down and Weasley's lips were pressed hard against hers. In the shock of it all, Pansy didn't think to retaliate and instead of slapping and pushing him away, she braced herself against his chest so as not to fall on top of him.
Pansy had been kissed artfully before over the years. Theodore was an amazing kisser. Or at least he had been until he discovered that he preferred the company of Ravenclaws over her. While she didn't exactly hate Terry Boot, she wasn't particularly fond of someone who took up all of her childhood friend's time and affection. Blaise had also been an expert, but Pansy knew well enough to keep the boundaries of their relationship to just kisses. She didn't need her heart broken like that.
Draco? Well, she didn't think on his kissing skill very much. Or she tried not to. That was a wound she wasn't yet ready to re-open.
This, however, was no artful kiss. This was how she expected a Gryffindor to kiss, all wild and bold and without an ounce of common sense. It had started with Weasley being half asleep, but as the kiss continued, Pansy felt herself being drawn more into it than she had expected. Her wand clattered to the floor. Heaven help her, she began to kiss him back, challenging him with not so gentle bites and thrusts of her tongue.
His mouth pulled from hers and he nipped at her neck. "Sleep on your sofa now, Rosie?" he mumbled against her skin.
Pansy heaved herself up and this time there was no hesitation. She started smacking him, bruises and bumps be damned. Weasley yelped in surprise and put up his hands for protection, trying to grab her wrists. Now he was fully awake, though she wasn't quite sure if realised that she was not Madam Rosmerta. He caught one of her flailing hands, but Pansy didn't back down. Instead she grabbed one of the decorative purple cushions and started clobbering him with it.
"Stop!" he shouted. "I yield! I give up!"
"I. Am. Not. Rosmerta!" Pansy punctuated each word with a smack of her cushion.
"I get it! I get it!" Weasley managed to get hold of her other wrist and held her back. His face contorted in a wince and he sucked in a breath, grimacing even more. His hands let go of her wrists and he pushed her back, trying to sit up, his arm wrapping around his chest.
"What on earth is wrong with you?" she demanded.
"Other than the blasting curse, cracked ribs and apparating to the nearest safe-house... which, by the by, where's Rosmerta? At least she welcomes Aurors a little less violently."
"And apparently rubs up against men half her age without a second thought." Pansy grumbled, tossing her cushion back onto the foot of the sofa.
Weasley slowly heaved himself to his feet and slowly walked over to the wall. He drew out his wand and tapped it against the unpainted wood. A little door opened, a door that Pansy hadn't known existed, and inside were a few bottles. He took out the one with a faded label and popped the top. Her and Draco might not talk as much as they used to, but Pansy had spent enough time with her potion-making friend to know that unlabelled and old potions could be dangerous.
She wasn't about to have the hassle of a poisoned Auror in her sitting room. No sir.
Pansy got to her feet and hurried across to Weasley, snatching the bottle from his hand. She ignored his protest, stalked over to the kitchenette and poured its contents into the sink. "Don't be an idiot," she said. "You have no idea how old that is."
There were a few mild painkillers — muggle tablets that were easier to swallow, did wonders for her cramps, and more preferred over potions — in her bathroom, which she retrieved for him with a glass of water. "Here. These will make the pain easier to manage and then you can go."
Pansy didn't know why she was being so nice. Or at least tolerant. She certainly didn't know where this feeling of compassion for his injured status was coming from. Part of her still kind of wanted to toss him out the window and be done with it, but it was being overruled by something else. Not wanting to address this odd feeling of concern, Pansy marched over to the kitchen, turning an element of her stove on.
Tea would make things less confusing.
"Rosmerta sold me the Three Broomsticks just before the summer started." She opened a cupboard and reached for her kettle. "I was unaware that this was listed as an Auror safe-house. Weasley, I'll need you to tell me how I might go about removing that status."
"You don't," Weasley replied with a pained look on his face, lowering himself back onto the sofa. He held up his hand to stop her reply. "The Ministry of Magic has a century agreement with the Three Broomsticks. One hundred years. Rosmerta never had an issue with Aurors popping into the flat..."
"Obviously," Pansy snorted, plunking two bags of Tetley into a teapot. "Probably had to do with all the chances to snog random men younger than herself."
"Which I don't seem to recall you protesting too vigorously either," he pointed out. "In any case, the agreement is to provide a Hogsmeade safe location. It can be shifted to another room in the pub, but we can't void the agreement all together."
Pansy leaned against the counter, waiting for the kettle to boil and ignored the flush that she could feel crawling up her neck. Inside, however, she was livid. What right did the Ministry have to her building? She hadn't signed any agreement. She hadn't even known about this arrangement; Rosmerta had neglected this little piece of information. First thing on Monday she would go to London and make her dissatisfaction known.
"I don't even know why you didn't just go to Potter's. Or Granger's," she flicked off the kettle just before it started to whistle. "For that matter, why is it just you? Last I read in the paper you and Potter were a top notch team. Or am I going to find him curled up in a cupboard somewhere because that really is the last thing I need."
"Harry's out of the country," Weasley said, ignoring her jibe about Potter's childhood living space. His hand pressed against his ribs. "Separate missions this time. Mine went a bit sour. Apparating in pain can cause distraction. Distraction can cause splinching, which I don't recommend. We're encouraged to only go as far as the closest safe house.
She returned to the sofa after few minutes with two mugs of tea, both properly milked and sugared. Weasley winced as he took his and Pansy huffed, setting her own on the coffee table.
"Take off your shirt," she instructed, getting to her feet.
"Come again?" He asked, blowing on the steaming cup.
"You're injured and in pain. I'm not a healer, but if it looks like something really bad, I will call the Knight Bus myself and get you to hospital." She frowned at him when he made what sounded like a dismissive noise. "If you're more injured than you think, I'm not having you die in my sitting room, Weasley. Do you not realise how inconvenient that would be for me?"
Pansy retrieved her wand and waited.
Weasley gave her a look, but eventually set down the mug and started to undo the buttons of his uniform.
As he undressed, Pansy was actually quite surprised to discover that his abundance of freckles was not contained to merely his face. She didn't know why she'd thought they were just a facial feature, but for some reason she had. To see the sprinkle of dots travelling down over his shoulders and chest caught her off guard. As did the angry purple-black mark across his left side from his sternum to just under his armpit. She cringed.
"Is this spell damage or impact damage?" she asked, flicking her wand toward her bedroom. A small jar flew out from the darkness and landed in her outstretched hand.
"Spell exploded the wall. Wall impacted my chest."
Pansy opened the jar of bruise balm and looked at the tiny amount that remained. "This isn't going to do much to help."
"I've had worse," Weasley said, holding out his hand for the balm.
His arm was covered in scars that looked both fresh and old at the same time, as if his skin had been flayed from his body and never healed properly It had to be the reason for his earlier comment about splinching. He'd obviously had experience with it directly and not where he'd had the opportunity to have it fixed by someone from magical reversal. So this had to have happened during the war, she thought.
"Don't look so upset, Parkinson," Weasley said with an amused expression as he scooped out a bit of the balm with his finger. He daubed it onto his chest before rubbing it in. The purple-black mark started to fade a little, though not as fast as it should have. "Someone might think you cared."
"Well, I don't." She scoffed, scowling at him. "I just don't want to deal with the Ministry if I have to call them because I have an injured Auror of your standing in my sitting room."
Sucking in a pained breath, Weasley leaned forward and set the empty jar next to his mug. "I'm not going to keel over from a couple of bumps to the chest." He looked at her. "Give me an hour or so, I'll fire-call Hermione to come get me."
Pansy glanced at the clock. If she were in Granger's shoes there would be no amount of grovelling Weasley could do in order to make up for a fire call at half-past one in the morning. Part of her thought it might actually be amusing to see just how irritated Granger could get, but the other half of her didn't really want to be subjected to all of that. With a frustrated noise, Pansy got to her feet went over to a low bench by the window. She lifted the seat and pulled out a spare blanket and pillow from the storage beneath it.
"If the Three Broomsticks has an agreement with the Ministry, then I will ... cooperate and honour said agreement." She set down the blanket and pillow. "You can call Granger in the morning."
She didn't wait for him to respond before she turned on her heel and retreated to her bedroom. Later, when she was curled up under a thick quilt, Pansy wondered if she'd done the right thing in telling Weasley to stay. She briefly debated getting back up and marching out to tell him she'd changed her mind, but ultimately decided against it. She didn't need the papers talking about how cold-hearted the new owner of the Three Broomsticks was towards wounded Aurors.
"I'll just make sure he leaves first thing tomorrow," she told herself.
"The floo powder is in the dish with the flowers if you're looking to ca--" Pansy trailed off when she stepped into the sitting room.
The blanket and pillow sat folded and stacked on the chair next to the sofa. Weasley was nowhere in sight. Dropping the throw she'd wrapped around her shoulders, Pansy strode over to where Weasley had been sleeping, a frown on her face. He hadn't even left a thank you note before he'd disappeared. The nerve!
Minutes later she had water heating on the stove and was draining the dregs of the tea from the night before out of her teapot. Perhaps if the water hadn't been running and she hadn't been grumbling under her breath about rude Gryffindors with no sense of manners when it came to guest-host relationships, she would have heard the pop behind her. It wasn't until a pink box came into view did Pansy realise she wasn't alone.
She screamed and flung the family teapot behind her.
Luckily for Weasley he was better at catching things than he had been when he was on the Gryffindor quidditch team.
"You're jumpy," he said, reaching around her and putting down the teapot.
"You left!" she accused. "No note! Not even a goodbye!"
Weasley pointed at the box to her left. "Thought I could say thanks for the spot on the sofa with a few pastries."
The box, tied with a garish red ribbon, had the loopy words 'Madam Puddifoot' written across the top. Pansy looked first at the box and then at Weasley, her mouth open. She was at a loss for words. She didn't even know how to get angry at him at this point. He was infuriating, but he'd brought her pastries and she really wanted to yell and stamp her foot, but he was still scraped up and that kept making her feel bad wanting to be so cross.
"I should get going," he said after a moment. "Should report in to the Ministry and find out how Harry's faring on his trip."
He reached around her again and popped open the lid. The delicate scent of chocolate croissants filled the air. Pansy couldn't stop herself from breathing deeply. She did so like to spoil herself with Puddifoot's baked goods. He took one of the pastries and held it in his hand. For some reason there was an amused glint in his eyes.
"What are you smiling at?" she demanded.
"Nothing," he said, taking a bite of the pastry. "I'll tell the Ministry to expect your owl with regards to the safe-house status of the pub."
Pansy crossed her arms across her chest. "There's no need. I said I would honour the agreement." She paused for a moment. "But perhaps we can work out some kind of alert system."
He nodded. "Sounds reasonable."
She didn't know what to do next. Tea was on the go, but he'd already made noise about leaving. He had his breakfast so she didn't need to offer to have the elves make him something. And he was still standing there with that damn smile on his face as if he'd just figured out something momentous or had won some great prize.
"What?" she asked again.
"It really is nothing," he said as he finished off his croissant. To her shock, he leaned down and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I just never knew you were a Cannons fan, Parkinson. Colour me surprised. We should have a drink and discuss the team sometime, eh?"
He disappeared after that, leaving Pansy with a hand pressed to her cheek, a million questions in her head and a swirl of confusion that she'd never expected to have when it came to Ron Weasley. She looked down at the Cannons shirt she was wearing as a nightshirt and covered her mouth with her fingertips.
She should have chucked him out into the night when she'd had the chance. She had a sneaking suspicion that he would never let her live this down.