Chapter 1 : Alive
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Pansy stared at the counter, drumming her fingers quietly. It was a slow and boring shift, because, honestly, who would go to a bookshop on a Wednesday night? At least it paid the bills …
Glancing around, Pansy saw there was only an old man, but he had been there all day. Not seeing her boss, Susan, Pansy took out the Daily Prophet from under the counter. She skimmed through the normal news, until she reached the engagement section. Pansy liked seeing who was pairing off from Hogwarts, though it was mostly from the years above her. Most were horribly predictable and dull, but there were a few surprises. Longbottom and Abbott, for one, but she had known about that from Susan. She and Susan were the only two working in the dingy shop.
Susan. She had tried insulting her a few times at Hogwarts, but that silly little Hufflepuff had never been affected. It had frustrated Pansy to no end, so she moved on to easier targets, ones that would give her the thrill she needed, because they reacted. With Susan, all that happened was the look in her eyes changed, to something Pansy couldn’t figure out. It wasn’t fear, or sadness, maybe a mixture? Whatever it was, Pansy could never figure it out.
Now, working long hours in Flourish and Blotts, Pansy received glares from everyone she vaguely remembered from Hogwarts. But still, Susan had been infuriatingly nice to her. Pansy hated it. She didn’t need pity.
Sighing, she scanned through, barely recognizing anything. Until one announcement made her heart skip a beat.
“What have I told you about reading during shifts?” Pansy heard an irritable voice question. It was her boss.
“I’m sorry,” she replied quietly, slipping the paper back under the counter. But she felt close to tears. She saw Susan’s face soften.
“Just wait until after. There’s a new book I think you’ll like. I’ll show it to you after we close up,” she whispered. Even though Pansy looked thicker than a Warrington, she spent most of her time reading. She hadn’t at Hogwarts. He’d laugh at her if he saw her reading, and probably ask if she was just looking at the pictures, because he didn’t think she was literate. But reading was now an escape for Pansy, and she often lost herself in someone else’s sad tale.
“Okay,” she whispered, glancing at Susan. Normally she’d snap and say something about finding it herself, but couldn’t bring herself to. Susan went away, though, leaving Pansy extremely confused as to why she was being nice to Susan. Why she always was.
Pansy brushed a brown strand of hair out of her eyes, and went back to taking inventory. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the announcement, or the effect Susan had on her.
“Do you want to get tea later? I know a place down the alley that has cakes. The decorating on them is beautiful,” a voice asked some time later. Pansy jumped, lost in thought. Lost in thought about everything she’d lost. She whipped around, and saw the familiar ginger standing in front of her. Why couldn’t Susan just hate her like the rest of them? It would make Pansy’s life easier.
But something was edging at Pansy. Did she really want to spend another bitter night alone with trashy novels and stale biscuits?
“Sure. After work?” Pansy replied, and saw there was a hint of surprise. But it wasn’t the jaw-dropping one she was expecting, no, it was more … pleasant. And that threw Pansy off a little.
“Yeah. That sounds good.” Then she gave Pansy a nervous smile and left. Pansy didn’t return it. And so … more inventory.
“Pansy, there’s a customer at the counter!” Susan called a few minutes later. “I’m in the store room, can you take care of him?”
“Sure,” Pansy called back wearily, putting down her quill and paper and marking her spot. She walked up to the counter, and her eyes widened in shock.
Of course this would happen to her. Of all the people in Flourish and Blotts, it had to be him?
“Oh, Pansy,” he greeted her, surprised. “I didn’t know you worked here.” Of course he wouldn’t believe she’d work in a bookshop. But it wasn’t like she had a choice. It was either here or at that horrid Weasley joke shop, which she had as much chance of being hired as Voldemort had of returning to life. She had tried other places, but none of them were looking for a lazy girl with an attitude. And so… it had come down to those two.
“Have to pay the bills somehow, Draco,” she replied icily. Her family had lost everything last year when her father had run off to France with a male model. And her mother to Belize with Rodrigo or someone of the sort. “What are you looking for?”
“A book for my fiancé,” he replied, and Pansy didn’t even bother pretending to look happy. Why would she? She had given him everything, and he had tossed her out like an old textbook.
“I saw that in the paper today. Astoria, right?” she asked, and Draco nodded, looking uneasy.“
“I think it’s called The Last Kiss?” he replied, creasing his brow.
“I think we have that. Give me a minute,” she replied, fighting to keep her tone somewhat professional. But even to her it sounded weak, almost hurt. Because as much as Pansy hated to admit it, even to herself, she couldn’t pretend she wasn’t.
Because it wasn’t enough that he was engaged to someone else; he had to rub her nose in it, too?
Pansy walked back into the stocks, and reached for the book. It was a horrible clichéd romance novel; one even Pansy had never bothered to read. Of course that cow would have horrible taste, even in literature. As she grabbed it, the books on top came tumbling down on top of Pansy.
“Are you okay?” Susan asked again, hauling Pansy to her feet. There was sympathy and worry in her brown eyes, but there was something else there Pansy couldn’t figure out. It was same look that had confused her at Hogwarts. Pansy just nodded, and realized the lone tear track steaming down her face. She hadn’t cried in over a year, but goddamn Draco Malfoy had to waltz in and destroy her. “If you want to cancel tonight-“ No. Pansy couldn’t be alone tonight.
“No, it’s all right. I’ll be fine,” she assured her, before starting to walk back to the front with the book. She stopped, though. Susan had been kind enough to give her a job when no one else would think of hiring her, and obviously cared somewhat about her general well-being. “Thanks, though,” she said, and Susan nodded, smiling slightly.
And so Pansy walked back to the counter, taking care to wipe away the single tear track. Luckily, she had never been one to have red eyes and a blotchy face.
“Hope she likes it,” she said, after he handed her the money. She quickly counted out the sickles, just wanting him to leave. “Here’s your change.” Then Pansy shoved the book and money into his hands, before turning to go back into the stocks.
“Pansy, wait-“ Draco started, grabbing at her arm.
“No. You think anything you say will make a difference?” she asked him, finding that she could not fight the tears any longer. “If you do, you don’t have any idea who I am. Go back to your fiancé, Draco.” And then she went back to counting books. Too bad for each book she counted, she counted a teardrop to match.
“Hey,” a soft voice said. Pansy turned around after placing the last book on the shelf. It was Susan. “I saw what happened earlier. You all right?”
“I’m fine, Susan,” she replied quietly. “Nothing happened. An old acquaintance was buying a book. That’s all.”
“Fine,” she said agreeably, but still looked skeptical. “Your shift ends in five minutes, by the way.” Pansy managed a smile at that.
“Thank Merlin. Then I don’t have to come back here ‘till tomorrow,” she said cheekily. Susan laughed.
“Nine o’ clock sharp. Oh, and here’s that book,” she said, handing it to Pansy before leaving. She smiled; she had wanted that book for ages. But of course she hadn’t told Susan that. And so she went back to inventory, and was thrilled when five minutes had finally passed.
As Pansy was grabbing her coat, Susan materialized next to her.
“We’re still on for tea, right?” she asked, smiling. Pansy nodded, returning the gesture, and they called their goodbyes to Dan as they left. “It’s just down the alley.” Pansy couldn’t believe what she was reduced to. Drinking tea with Susan Bones. It was pathetic. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to cancel.
“I guess that’s a perk to working in Diagon Alley,” Pansy replied lightly, wondering why she was being polite to Susan, and again, why she always was. She had almost never bothered with it before, not in Hogwarts, certainly. Again, her mind went to Draco.
She had been an idiot. A love crazed idiot with no brain to speak of. Or heart, for that matter.
“It’s amazing, trust me,” Susan said, snapping Pansy back to reality. “Here we are!”
It was a tiny café, complete with a striped awning. The type you could picture a couple owning. Cute and perfect. Pansy forced a smile, though, and entered after her. They chose a table in the corner by the window and sat down. Soon a waiter came and asked what they wanted.
“Just tea, please,” Pansy said, debating leaving. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
“You can’t just have tea! The cakes are too good. Two cakes please, and another tea for me,” Susan exclaimed, smiling at the waiter. He laughed, and left to retrieve their order.
For a while they exchanged normal pleasantries, and Pansy learned that she was Hannah’s maid of honor, and that she was only managing the bookshop until she had enough money to go to train as a Healer. Pansy listened as she prattled on, stirring her tea and nibbling on the cake. She had to admit, though, the cake was delicious.
Eventually, they settled into an easy discussion about books. And again, Pansy was reminded of how pathetic she was.
“I’d never have believed you were an avid reader if someone told me at Hogwarts,” Susan said lightly, smiling. There was that same glint, but Pansy chose to ignore it. She had given up on figuring it out.
“And now I work in a bookshop,” Pansy replied, hoping to avoid school.
“Are you sure you’re okay from earlier? You were pretty shaken up,” Susan asked, and Pansy looked away. She didn’t want to talk about it, especially with Susan. She didn’t care about him anymore. He was dead to her.
“Draco and I haven’t seen each other in a while, that’s all. It’s nothing,” Pansy said softly, stirring her tea.
“Somehow I doubt that. If it helps, I think he’s a bastard. You should have seen some of the things he did to …” Susan ranted, before suddenly trailing off. Pansy knew why. “You’re different now, Pansy,” she said quietly. “You’re-“
“I know I was a bitch at Hogwarts, all right?” Pansy exclaimed. She didn’t need to hear it from someone else. She didn’t need to be reminded.
“I wasn’t going to say that. I was going to say you’re too good for Draco now,” she said calmly. If it was anyone else, she would have sneered and shot something back at them, probably about how pathetic and worthless they were. But with Susan, she couldn’t. Pansy had no idea why she couldn’t, she had to so many others, but it was different with Susan.
She wouldn’t get a reaction. And that was when Pansy’s temper snapped.
“No I’m not. And stop pretending you know a damn thing about me. Believe me, Susan, you don’t. I’ll see you at work.” And then Pansy ran out after slamming a few sickles onto the table, the tears streaming down her face once again. This time, though, they were angry tears.
She wasn’t a good person. She’d found thrill in cutting people down, in making them cry. It was one of the best rushes she’d found, even when she’d realized how horrible she’d been. But she didn’t care … and Draco hadn’t either. He’d join in. So she couldn’t even blame Draco for being such a bitch. But she’d done so much else for him.
She’d pretended to give a damn and simper over him every time he ‘injured’ himself, and had pretended to be the dumbest bint alive just so he wouldn’t compare her Hermione Granger. Pansy pretended to agree with every goddamn thing he said, and put up with his slurs against anyone and everyone he had deemed wasn’t good enough.
And it still wasn’t enough. He’d yell and they’d fight, and then Pansy would go and cut someone else down, relishing the thrill and power. Make another enemy. An endless cycle. But she’d always go crawling back to him in the end.
And he’d left her. After the war, he’d suddenly became Mr. Moral Compass, and couldn’t bear to even look at the bitch who’d made Hufflepuffs cry. He’d dropped her faster than a toxic potion, saying bullshit about turning his life around and how Pansy was always a cold-hearted, sadistic bitch, and always would be. She had tried to pretend, but apparently he had seen right through it.
As she walked down the last alley, (she never went in through the front of the Leaky Cauldron) she stopped and leant against the wall. There, she broke down again. This time for real.
Draco lived in a mansion, while Pansy lived above a pub and worked in a bookshop. She had no future; Draco worked in the Ministry. Draco was about to be married, and Pansy was alone.
“Pansy? Is that you?” she heard a voice say, and picked her head up. She had sunk down into a crouch against the wall.
“What the hell do you want?” Pansy replied. She didn’t want to see Susan. She just wanted everyone to leave her the hell alone.
“I just came to say sorry. Are you all right?” Pansy was really starting to get sick of that question.
“No, I’m not,” she replied harshly. Susan took an involuntary step back. “Sorry.” Why was Pansy apologizing? She’d never apologized before. Not to anyone but Draco. But it was Susan, so of course everything Pansy had done to everyone else didn’t affect or apply to her.
“What the hell happened to you?” Susan asked incredulously, offering Pansy a hand. Probably surprised she had enough of a heart to cry. Pansy took it, and suddenly they were nose to nose.
“It’s nothing,” she dismissed, and was becoming increasingly uneasy about the lack of distance between her and Susan. The same glint was there, and Pansy worried she finally knew what it meant.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.” Susan’s face was inches from hers. “I meant what I said before. You’re different now than you were before, and he doesn’t nearly deserve you. I’ve noticed that for a while, actually.” And then Susan’s lips were on her. They were different from anything Pansy had ever felt, with Draco or anyone else. They were sweeter, more tender, and gentler. But yet it was like fireworks, and Pansy felt more excited than she ever had in her life. The insults where nothing compared to this thrill, this kiss.
But it was Susan.
“No. I’m not … I’m not …” Pansy stuttered, pulling away. Susan’s face fell.
“I’m sorry,” she said, but Pansy had reached the breaking point. She didn’t care if it was Susan anymore. She was done.
“What the hell was that?” Pansy started, before getting into her stride. “You think you can just kiss me, you stupid little bitch? I’m not the one who needs help, it’s you!” But, Pansy couldn’t deny that something had felt right. None of Pansy’s rules had ever applied to Susan. She couldn’t cut her down, or even snap at her without feeling bad. Susan was different, even from Draco. She was pure sweetness with an edge of fire … not bitter and fierce like him.
And the feeling as their lips touched … the faint scent of the pastry still lingering on Susan’s breaths, adding to the sugary sweet thrill. It was amazing. Perfect, even.
“I’m-“ Susan started to apologize, but Pansy swept a piece of ginger hair out of her face. She knew exactly what she wanted.
“Screw it. I have nothing else to lose.” And then Pansy kissed her.
And, Merlin, Pansy felt more alive than she had since the war. It was thousands of times better than the thrill she had gotten off tearing everyone else down, and even better than the first kiss. It was fireworks.
It was pure excitement. And Pansy was so, so, alive.