Chapter 1 : Ivy and the Art
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Pansy had been leaning against the ivy-tangled wall for hours, wishing it would just pull her inside its leafy curtain and hide her. She closed her plain brown eyes and breathed in heavily. It was the very last day of school before holidays. Summer was almost there and the ivy smelled like sunlight, tangy nectar and buzzing insects. Pansy placed a long tendril of ivy around her neck and shoulders. The warm, natural arm of the ivy felt like home.
Students passed by occasionally, but she stayed unnoticed where she sat in the courtyard. Her legs were splayed out in front of her; one of her shoes was untied. She didn’t care. All she wanted was for the year to be over. It was only a matter of finishing out this last day. One more stone-corridor day.
She had warned herself long ago, since nobody else took the time, that Draco was not a nice person. Not at all. There was an unforgiving malice in his pale eyes that ripped and tore at her like scissors to a butterfly. But Pansy wasn’t a butterfly—she wasn’t pretty enough. Her name meant “flower,” but she wasn’t pretty enough.
At least that was what Draco kept insisting.
He had insisted in front of the rest of Slytherin that “she was lucky to be a friend of the family’s” and that he “would hardly give her the time of day otherwise, had he not his father’s best interests in mind.” He had told her to go away; she was irritating him. And she had. She listened.
So there Pansy sat, feeling sorry for herself and unbuttoning her collar lower and lower to defy the burning heat. Or maybe she didn’t want to escape it. Let it burn, let it distort, let it simmer on her flawed features. Sweat collected in the dip of her throat. Her heavy head leaned back, hair tangling in the ivy, becoming part of it.
And then along came Seamus Finnigan.
He strolled into the courtyard, whistling, his long gait and swinging arms catching her eye. Pansy backed further into the wall, wishing the ivy would just cover her completely. Maybe she would become a statue. She knew she would never be a marble Aphrodite, a Hera—but at least that way she would never be studied closely. Hogwarts students didn’t give second glances to the history around them: the statues, the paintings.
Seamus Finnigan, however, gave a second glance over his shoulder. And he saw Pansy. He stopped.
“Go away,” she said immediately. Her legs curled away like snakes and she pulled her stockings higher, ashamed to be seen, to be studied.
“What are you doing?” he said curiously, Irish rolling off his tongue like a wave to the shoreline.
Pansy looked away.
“Are you crying?”
“No,” she said, and was surprised that when she blinked a tear fell onto her cheek, easily as a raindrop. She hadn’t even known. “I’m not,” she said again regardless.
Seamus put his hands in his pockets and shifted. “Oh,” he said in playfully disbelieving tones.
There was a long while of silence and he took a step closer. Pansy flinched and recoiled like a wild thing, ducking her head. When she looked up again he was extending a handkerchief. He had an imp-like, half smile on his boyish face. “Me mum keeps telling me to keep these at hand. Finally got to use one.”
Pansy looked at him for a long time and finally extended her hand. But instead of giving her the kerchief, Seamus reached and she had no time to pull away before he helped her to her feet. The sun-warmed ivy slipped off her shoulders. She felt bare before him.
Pansy stepped back, folding her arms. “And why are you suddenly helping me?” It didn’t come out as unfriendly as she’d hoped.
“Because you’re a girl and you’re crying, Slytherin or not.”
“Oh, that’s chivalrous,” she scoffed. “How very Gryffindor of you.”
Seamus grinned again. “I try.” Those penetrating blue eyes. Imp eyes.
Pansy flicked her own brown eyes to his hand, still holding the handkerchief, before taking it from him. She held it awkwardly, not sure of what to do, before finally dabbing at her eyes.
“You can leave now,” she muttered.
“You’re welcome.” Seamus folded his arms cockily. Did he ever stop grinning?
Pansy rolled her wet eyes. “Good,” she murmured before thrusting the handkerchief back at him. Seamus shook his head.
“Keep it. Me mum’s got plenty for me at home, trust me.”
She looked at the handkerchief in her small hands. Plain and white. Simple. The silence stretched and she shifted, wishing she hadn’t unbuttoned her shirt so low, hadn’t worn a skirt, hadn’t been seen at all.
“You know, you’re much prettier when you’re not crying,” he said as if there wasn’t a trouble in the world. Pansy nearly dropped the handkerchief.
He shrugged. “News to you?”
Pansy stared at him for a long time. His grin broke out again, and when it did the day was brighter. She at last looked away, unable to hold his gaze. And he laughed. It rose from deep inside his chest, spread its wings and lifted into the air as he leaned back. He was shouting to the gods and Pansy was staring.
Seamus looked back at her and said between heaving mirthful breaths, “Just because Malfoy’s a prat doesn’t mean all boys are, you know.”
She opened her mouth several times but no words came out. Pansy twisted the handkerchief in her hands, shifting her weight from foot to foot. At last she managed, “Thanks.” The corner of her mouth twitched.
He was always smiling. “That’s all I wanted.”
She lifted her eyes up to his. He was starting to walk away backwards, hands in his pockets, tie undone and hanging around his shoulders as always.
“All you… wanted?” she murmured.
He shrugged easily. Life was a game to Seamus. Stepping into a patch of sunlight and gleaming, he explained, “Just a smile.”
Seamus turned and walked away, his broad shoulders slowly disappearing from her view, out of the courtyard. To wherever the wind and sun carried him. Pansy looked down at the handkerchief, still knotted in her hands, then over her shoulder, at the ivy that had confined her minutes earlier.
Everything suddenly felt so fleeting… A game. She had the strange urge to smile more, to laugh the weight from her chest.
It was the last day of school. People were reckless. It was allowed.
“Finnigan—I mean, Seamus!” she called.
When she caught up to him he released another booming laugh that made her knees tremble. A strong arm was slung around her shoulder.
“Let me teach you the art of smiling,” he said.