Author's Note: This is my first femmeslash fic, written for Alden and Koyuuno. Thank you to Danielle (Asheara) for being a great beta. And thanks to both Xella and Zed Adams for all the support with this fic. Last but definitely not the least, thanks to all the people at .::Quills::. fanfiction contest who chose this fic as one of the two Best Romance stories for the year 2003.

Credits: The kissing scene was inspired by "Puppy Love," a story by the great F. Sionil Jose. The term "our conversation" belongs to Anne Rice in a Lestat/Nicholas moment.


Days of Serenity

By Passo

       

~~~~~

Dawn: the first dance, take my hand

~~~~~

 

They say that a woman's hair is her crowning glory.

She picked up a brush, raised her arm, and ran it through the long golden mane that reached her waist. She had let it grow, and it flourished, shining in healthy, corn-colored waves over her shoulders. It would have been a sin to cut it now.

She put the brush down, the wood clicking on the surface of her dresser, breaking the silence. Pushing the inside of her right cheek with her tongue, she leaned closer to the mirror, examining the miniscule, faintly blue veins that lay under her pale skin. She exhaled, producing a foggy shield on the mirror's surface. With a finger, she rubbed it off, revealing the rest of her face: the small, pert nose, the blush of her lips, the wide blue eyes...

She wasn't really a beauty. Her features were too ordinary for that, her nose too... cheerleader-ish. But she was more than a little attractive. Largely because of her eyebrows. They arched over her eyes, bold and well defined, marking the strength of her face. Yes, that and the hair.

She thought that her parents were quite relieved that she had turned out this way. After all, she had not exactly been a pretty little miss in her childhood. If she had not been so confident then, she might have become some teenage wallflower like a few of the more unattractive people she knew. Like Millicent Bulstrode. Poor Milly... reduced to having that goon, Vincent Crabbe, as a boyfriend when no one else would ask her out. She sighed. The pressure for teenagers.

She, herself, was never really bothered by her single status even if everyone seemed to be hooking up these days. But then, Parkinsons were never shy. Snobby, maybe, and a little too judgmental at times. But never shy.

She smiled at her reflection, patting the collar of her school uniform. She was now ready to face the world. Her world.

       

"Beauty is often profane."

"Shut up, Draco, and let me sit."

Grinning, Draco Malfoy stood and pulled the chair for her. Smiling back, chin raised, Pansy sat demurely, crossing her ankles below the table.

"What took you so long? You nearly missed breakfast. Again." He returned to his chair, raising an eyebrow as he looked at her.

"Hmm?" She forked a piece of omelet. "Oh... I just woke up a little late."

"And you may also be spending too much time primping."

"Hah! Compared to yours, my primping time could be considered negligible." She peeked at him, her lips twitching. "Try growing your hair this long and let's see if you don't spend an extra hour in the bathroom."

"Ah, yes. Quality time with my bottle of ultra-strength shampoo," he joked.

A loud laugh drifted towards their table. Almost instantly, Draco lost the good-natured look on his face. He scowled, throwing a dark glance to the source of the laughter.

"Those Gryffindors always manage to kill the nice, peaceful silence."

She raised a brow. Even without the raucous Gryffindors, the Great Hall could hardly be called silent during mealtimes with all the students gathered there. But, like most from their House, Draco did have a special hatred for that group. "Don't mind them." She patted his shoulder. "You'll lose your good looks by frowning too much."

"And end up looking like Potter."

They cracked up.

"Parkinson."

She looked up, surprised. Hermione Granger was standing a foot away. Pansy's smile disappeared. She widened her eyes slightly, meaning to ask the other girl what she wanted.

"Professor McGonagall asked to see you later." Hermione handed her a piece of parchment.

Pansy accepted it and examined the teacher's note indifferently. She took her time, knowing that she was waiting for a response. She smiled inwardly.

"I see." She looked up at the brunette, her face deceptively calm. "Playing messenger now, Granger? Are you not satisfied to be just a teacher's pet?"

Hermione flushed. "The problem with you, Parkinson, is that you try to bring people down just to make yourself feel better." She turned around angrily, rushing back to the Gryffindor table.

Beside Pansy, Draco chortled. "Good one, girl."

"Hmm..." Pansy turned back to her breakfast, pocketing the note. From across the table, Blaise gave her a thumbs up sign, probably for insulting the Mudblood. She grinned back, gracefully tilting her head.

But, really, she was no longer amused. Boredom always followed too quickly.

       

"The nerve of that vain twit!" Hermione seethed. She grabbed her spoon and banged it on the table, startling Neville who was just about to take a bite out of his muffin. "I was nice enough to go and give it to her personally and she just insists on ruining a perfectly good morning with that irritating arrogance of hers."

"You should've just sent it through owl post. Then you wouldn't have to face the bitch," Ron inserted.

"I intended to. But she was right there now! I thought it'd be more convenient to hand it over!"

"Aww... don't mind her, Herm." Harry soothed. "Those Slytherins just want to get a rise out of us. Just forget about her. She's not worth ruining your day over."

She sighed, trying to calm herself. She gave Harry a small smile. "You're right, as usual. I don't know why I'm always affected. They've been doing that for years! I should be immune to their arrogance by now."

"That's because you're too sweet under that tough shell," Ron joked, poking her side.

"Sweet?" Hermione scrunched up her nose. "You think I'm sweet!?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Don't mind her, Ron. She's fishing for more compliments."

"I am not!"

"Yes you are," Ron agreed with Harry. "You lack subtlety. You just want us to fawn over how smart you are, apart from being nice, sweet, kind-hearted..."

"Whatever, guys!" She sniffed, turning her nose up at the boys. But she was smiling. They always did know how to lift her mood.

       

"This was a very interesting essay, Miss Parkinson." Professor McGonagall said across the width of her desk. "Your theory of desire influencing the ability of Metamorphmagi is one I have never encountered before."

Pansy nodded. "As I said on the essay, Professor, I do believe that it could be a reason why non-natural-born Metamorphmagi have become so good with their craft. Their initial dissatisfaction with their own person--something they have not admitted to themselves--forms the drive for their learning. The result is that they become such good pretenders... they find solace in being somebody else without facing the music. They do it behind the rationale that it's a skill that they have mastered, this art of transfiguring themselves into someone else with ease, for professional reasons. I just thought that there might be a deeper, more personal reason behind that."

"And one that is probable, Miss Parkinson," The Transfiguration Mistress agreed. "Most Metamorphmagi in the employ of the Ministry are the ones born with natural talent, like the famous Nymphadora Tonks who has proven her ability in the past War. Only a very small number of witches and wizards have succeeded in being as good, even surpassing their skill sometimes, even when they have not been born with the ability.

"The reason why I called you here today, is that I wanted to ask your permission first." Professor McGonagall smiled. "I want to forward this work of yours to the Ministry scholars for deeper research. I do think that you have stumbled on something here. It could help us understand the workings of our magic better."

Pansy was stunned. She had no idea that her paper, which had been a flash of an idea she had gotten while combing her hair in front of a mirror, would be taken seriously by the Professor. "That... that would be an honor, Ma'am."

"I am glad you think so. Of course, this is just a theory for now. We'd need to back it up with information. This process could take years. But think, Miss Parkinson! If this does prove to be right, you could be the source of a breakthrough in Magical Psychology."

"A field I have always been interested in." Pansy grinned back. This was the best news she had heard in months!

They chatted for a few more minutes before the Professor gave her leave to return to her dormitory. Pansy left the Transfiguration Department floating. Imagine... if her theory proved to be correct, her parents would no longer laugh at her for wanting to take her Healer degree after Hogwarts. Being a Healer was not a popular profession in her family, especially one that specialized with healing the mind. But Pansy had always been fascinated with Magical Psychology. She had believed, from an early age, that there must be something distinct in each person's psyche that influenced the flow and strength of each witch and wizard's powers. The field was a young one, as compared to the Physical Laws of Magic. But it was fast becoming an established practice as more and more people found it helpful with the more mysterious branches of magic--the ones that dealt with the mind.

She suddenly had a funny thought. Why! If she did become a Psy-Healer, she might even have the former Professor Lockhart as a patient!

       

Hermione Granger turned the corner expecting to find an empty hallway. This section of the castle near the Transfiguration Department was not one that was visited by a lot of students. The ones who left the teacher's offices had to go the opposite direction to get back to the main hallways. This particular one was a path to the older part of Hogwarts where Filch must be keeping the old, run-down school equipment.

But she loved coming to the smaller, empty classrooms. It was nice imagining how the first founders must have taught their handful of students in these rooms--before the cobwebs, dust, and mildew had settled. There was a scent of ancient history in the place, one that counted millennia, as opposed to the centuries-old rooms of the main school.

It was a nice place to read and be alone, if one opened the glass-cracked windows to let the stuffy air out.

She turned the corner, putting the book under the other arm... and immediately spied the blonde head of Pansy Parkinson.

Startled, Hermione stopped. Pansy had her back to her, and she seemed to be walking towards Hermione's favorite haunt. Puzzled, the Gryffindor followed the other girl. She had no idea what Pansy was doing here but she meant to find out in a little while. She kept Pansy in sight, her footsteps silent over the stone floors.

Pansy stopped in front of an open doorway. She stood under the entry arch, thinking, before finally stepping inside. Curious, Hermione stopped beside the entrance. Should she follow her in? There really was no reason for her to do that. This rooms were not hers to keep to herself. But the knowledge that Pansy Parkinson frequented her hiding place--one that she had thought to be secure--rankled her a bit. Besides, she wanted to know what a Slytherin could be doing inside a place like this.

Hesitantly, she entered the room. It was very dim, the colors of the sunset barely shining through the murky windows. The dust diffused the light, throwing faint, erratic rays all over the room. Pansy sat by the window ledge, watching her.

"You followed me."

"I was about to come here," she countered. Hermione stepped closer, pulling herself deeper into the gloom. "What are you doing here?"

"I don't have to answer to you." She cocked her head, blonde hair sweeping over the windowpane. For some reason, this bothered Hermione. She had always secretly envied Pansy's hair, gifted as she was with her own mousy tresses. And, as much as she disliked the girl, she didn't want to see her wondrous hair defiled. The sun sank lower, throwing them in near-darkness.

"But I will, anyway," Pansy continued Hermione met the mocking blue eyes. "I'm here because I knew that you'd be here."

Hermione was quite surprised. She did not expect that statement. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"I don't really know exactly." Pansy stood. "I just do whatever I feel like doing."

She walked to Hermione, slowly, until they were face to face. She stopped, inches from the other girl. They stood like that for a while, silently challenging each other to speak.

But the quiet was a kind that was hard to break. Hermione felt strangely serene, as if she were floating somewhere, away from Hogwarts. Face to face with a woman who she regarded not as an enemy, but more of an adversary.

Night descended, surrounding them. The air smelled of time, and of something infinitely older.

"I have to go," Pansy whispered. The arrogant smile had disappeared some time ago. It might have been minutes before, but it felt like days to Hermione.

Hermione shook her head, frowning slightly. She felt exactly like the way she did every morning, during the few seconds of confusion when one is torn with the transition between dreams and reality. "I have to go, too."

Pansy stepped back. "You're welcome to go first." The cool, distant tone was back.

Disoriented, Hermione turned her back and walked to the exit. But just before she disappeared into the hall, she stopped for a moment to face Pansy once more.

"Don't stand too close to the window."

"Huh?" Puzzled blue eyes. Becoming.

"Your hair... it might get dusty." Flushing, she fled away from the room.

Bewildered, Pansy touched a lock of hair. She looked down at it, staring at the yellow that was fast turning gray in the coming darkness. She ran her fingers through it, dazed.

She didn't want it dusty.

It was oddly comforting to know that someone cared.

 

~~~~~

Noon: stop; let us talk for a while

~~~~~

 

 

"You've not been yourself lately."

"Lately?"

"The last few days or so." Draco chucked her chin. "You've been rather pensive."

"I'm always pensive."

"Not like this."

Silence.

Pansy sighed. "Draco?"

"Yes?"

"Have you ever wanted to be someone else?"

"Now that's a question." He stopped writing, touching the tip of the quill to his temple. "I suppose. But then, everyone wants that."

"Really?" She put her elbows on the desk, resting her cheek on one arm. "I was just wondering... But don't you think that for some people, this desire is greater than normal?"

"Maybe. The real losers live their lives wanting to be someone else." His brow furrowed. "Why do you ask?"

"It's just a thought."

The silence stretched for a few more minutes. They didn't speak, and the only sound heard was the scratch of Draco's quill against the parchment.

"But, Draco..."

"Yes, Pansy?" He sighed dramatically. He should've been used to her moods by now. But he liked these moods. He liked the way she thought, and their ensuing conversations were often interesting ones.

"Do you think that actually knowing that person better would make one stop wanting to be that person? Because when that happens, he or she would actually see that that person is as normal and as flawed as he or she is."

"Hmm... Maybe. It could work." His lips curled. "You've thought this all out."

She grinned. "There's often nothing to do after dinner."

"The question is... is this leading to something else?" He glanced at her, raising a brow.

"What do you mean?"

"You can't fool me. You won't invest this much energy on something random and unimportant. Who is this person you want to be?"

"What?!" She sat up straight. "There's no one! It's just a hypothetical question. I was thinking of the Metamorphmagi theory I cooked up some weeks ago."

"Yes. I know that you want to be a Psy-Healer. I also know that this topic ultimately fascinates you. But I also think that there's something you're hiding." He had stopped writing his homework and was now staring at her in amusement. "Tell me, Pansy, who do you want to get to know better?"

"You do realize that this might be a projection of emotions." She poked his arm. "You're reading too much into my innocent questions. Maybe it's really you who's hiding something. Your inner denial is just transferring these thoughts to my person. Tell me, Draco, who do you want to be?"

He threw his hands up. "Oh I give up! You always manage to invert everything I say," he accused, but he was smiling.

"That's why you guys love me." She smiled beatifically.

       

"My nose is too big."

Ron looked up from Quidditch Weekly. Hermione was sitting on a couch opposite him with a hand mirror. He had been a little mystified about it since he had seen her bring it out of her bag a few minutes ago but he had decided not to ask anything. However, right now seemed to be a good time to comment.

"No it's not."

"Yes it is." She twisted her face, stretching her mouth wide to look at her teeth. "And I think I made my teeth too small when I shrunk them back in Fourth Year. Now they look so... small. And my skin's splotchy."

He sighed. "What's the matter?"

"My face is the matter."

"There's nothing wrong with your face." He shut the magazine. "You look fine."

"I don't," she grumbled. "My hair's too big. And I can't afford a daily ration of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion just to make it look passable so I'm forced to live with this bushy mess."

"You're rather irritably vain today. Is it the time of the month?" Ron asked delicately.

"Oh, shut it, Ron!" Hermione snapped. "Every time a girl has a problem you men always assume it's because of the curse."

"Well I know that you're being very unusual today. Have I done anything to upset you?" He stood and sat by her side, taking her hand in his.

"No, you didn't do anything," she said, resigned. Immediately, she felt guilty over her outburst. Ron did not deserve to be a sounding board for her moods. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten angry. I don't know what came over me."

He smiled gently. "That's okay. It's the stress. You've been working too hard."

"You know that exams are not far off. I need to work hard. We all do."

"And you've been doing wonderfully, as usual." He chuckled. "I don't know how you manage to get all those high marks with everything you do. And during the war, you still managed to pass everything. How do you do it?"

"Maybe I'm not human," she teased.

"Hmm... that's why I love you."

       

"Good morning."

Hermione looked up from her reading to find Pansy standing at the doorway. Instantly, she felt a little disoriented. She had never been greeted a good morning by her.

"I suppose you knew that I'd be here."

"No. I took a chance that you might." She grinned. White teeth flashed. The Slytherin girl walked towards her, the smile never leaving her face. Hermione followed her movements suspiciously.

"What are you doing here?" One never knew with Slytherins. There must always be something sneaky underneath any sign of friendliness.

"Proving a theory," Pansy answered. She sat beside Hermione on the window ledge. Not too close, but not too far either. Just close enough to hear each other talk without crossing over any personal boundaries.

"A theory?"

"That I'll stop envying you once I get to know you better," she replied frankly.

Dark eyebrows shot to her hairline. "You envy me?"

"Yes." She smiled again. Seeing Pansy smile this much in five minutes was starting to make Hermione feel apprehensive. The blonde girl glanced at the book. "I prefer Whitman to Yeats."

"Yeats is sublime. I can't stand Whitman. Too wordy." So even Slytherins read Muggle literature. What a surprise. Hermione shut the book and stood. "I don't have time for these games. Have a good day, Pansy." She headed for the door.

"I'm not playing."

She stilled at those words. Pansy followed her, stopping just behind the Gryffindor. She placed a hand on Hermione's shoulder.

"I wasn't planning anything. I just came here to talk."

Maybe she really wasn't kidding. Hermione sighed. She supposed she should give Pansy a chance. Apart from being the occasional pompous bitch, she didn't really do anything wrong. Her lips twitched. Such minor transgressions. "At the first sign of insults I am going to leave."

"That seems fair."

Hermione turned around and plopped back on her seat. Pansy did likewise.

"Well then, Miss Parkinson, talk."

"You never mince words, do you? But then, that's what I like about you."

"You said you envied me. Now you like me. This day is getting to be stranger and stranger with every minute."

Pansy laughed, a full, tinkling laugh that sounded surprisingly pleasant to Hermione. She had never heard the girl laugh like this--with no undercurrent of conceit or sarcasm.

"You see, Miss Granger..." she started. " I suppose I should call you Hermione now. Do you mind?"

"Of course not. I call you whatever I want."

"That's interesting." It was Pansy's turn to raise a brow. "Anyway, Hermione, I'm a person with a healthy sense of self-esteem. I like myself just fine, unlike some people I know."

"Yes, that's quite evident," she agreed. "Please continue."

"And I do believe that everyone must feel the same. It's necessary for happiness. However, there is just one thing that contributes to a minor feeling of dissatisfaction with myself."

"I have a feeling that it concerns me."

"Correct." Pansy nodded. "You're smart, smarter than the majority of smart people. You're also always composed, and quite well loved by your friends. In fact, you seem to be the perfect girl: brains, a great life, a good reputation, and considerable magical talents."

"Not to mention a great boyfriend," Hermione added factually. Why did she sound so normal? This whole conversation was starting to feel unreal. Pansy Parkinson was actually enumerating her--Hermione Granger's--assets!

"I have second thoughts on Weasley but I suppose he's okay for you." Pansy shrugged. "Anyway, back to the main point... I figured that to get over the feeling of dissatisfaction, I'd have to get to know you better."

"And see if I have any flaws, is that it?" Hermione leaned closer. "You've taken an amusingly scientific approach to all this. Do you realize how funny we may sound to others who might be listening to our conversation?"

"I don't care what they think."

"Ah, so you don't." She leaned back, biting her lip. She stared at Pansy, squinting a little. "Have you ever considered, Pansy, that you might also be the object of envy?"

"Yes," the girl answered honestly. "I know that others may like to have some aspects of my life."

Hermione took a deep breath. Assuming that the other girl had been honest so far, she decided to be just as candid. "I meant my envy?"

"A two way thing... Interesting."

"Yes. Now, to kill two birds with one stone, let me tell you what I think of you. You're very pretty, and seeing you walk around makes me feel instantly dowdy. You're rich, with a very influential family. And I have no doubt that you have lived a charmed life and have not encountered the problems of normal people with more limited means. And to cap it all off, you're not exactly stupid yourself. Now, what's there to want?" She paused.

Pansy's blank expression didn't change. She listened to the straightforward praise the other girl had given without batting an eyelash. But the girl had missed out on one thing.

"I'll never be as good as you." She suddenly smiled. "It's ridiculous sometimes. You formed that laughable little organization. What was that again? SPEW?"

"It's not ridiculous-" she intervened.

"Maybe not," Pansy cut in. "But still, it's rather... unique. But I suppose that what's distinctive is your loyalty. Maybe it's connected to the innate goodness you Gryffindors are reputed to have."

"We all have our merits." Hermione tapped on the book with a fingernail. "But all the same, we all have our flaws."

"Yes, I suppose we do."

The last statement ended in a sigh, and for a few moments, both girls sat looking at each other, almost smiling.

"That must have been the weirdest conversation I've had in years," Hermione said, breaking the silence.

"You don't hang around with me too often," Pansy joked.

"Was your experiment successful?"

"I'd say it was." She stood and held out her hand. "It was surprisingly good chatting with you, Hermione Granger."

Hermione took the offered hand solemnly and shook it, not breaking their eye contact. "I wonder if we could be this normal with other people around?"

"Maybe not." Pansy lifted her chin, but there was nothing arrogant about her now. "I hardly have anyone like you to talk to. I mean, there are the guys, but men are different."

"So they are." Hermione released her hand. She never had a close female friend, and she had never spoken like this with anyone before. "You're welcome to stop by here anytime."

"I'll remember that." And with those words, Pansy walked out if the room.

Hermione sat there, alone, feeling a little dizzy. Did that whole unnatural situation happen? Did she really 'chat' with Pansy Parkinson? The Slytherin Pansy she had disliked during her whole stay in Hogwarts?

She raised her eyes and looked at the sky. It was May, and it was raining. And Pansy and her actually had a civil conversation. In fact, they had been almost friendly.

The droplets fell on the glass, inches from her face. It was a day for strange happenings, and funny beginnings.

Smiling, she opened her book and continued reading where she left off.

 

~~~~~

Twilight: dated poetry, will you stay?

~~~~~

 

 

Hermione tucked her wand into her pocket and surveyed her surroundings. The cleaning spell actually worked. She mentally thanked Gilderoy Lockhart for writing that book on household things and pests. Patting the cushion she had brought, she leaned comfortably on the window seat. It would be more pleasant now that she no longer had to worry about dust on her clothes.

Exams were over for the seventh years, and now, their batch was just enjoying a nice relaxing week before they finally left Hogwarts for good. And Hermione opted to spend most of her idle afternoon--when Harry and Ron were often busy with the boys--reading in her isolated coop. Or, as she raised her eyes to the doorway, her formerly isolated coop.

"Nothing to do today?"

"Absolutely none. Everyone's asleep. Potions finals just ended yesterday, you know." Pansy sat on the seat beside her.

"I should be catching up on lost sleep, too." Hermione looked out of the window wistfully. "But the day seemed too good to waste in bed."

"Yeah..."

They both looked outside. At some distance away, they could see their fellow students enjoying the Saturday afternoon with an informal game of Quidditch on the pitch. Their tiny figures flew around with their brooms, their cheers unheard by the two women. They were too far to hear anything other than what they had to say to each other.

"I'm going to get my degree as a Psy-Healer after Hogwarts. I've already applied, and they accepted me."

"I'm happy for you. I'm still unsure about my own plans."

"You'll figure it out. I'm excited about University, but... I'm going to miss this place," Pansy murmured.

"Me too. Hogwarts has been my home for seven years." Hermione turned away from the scene and smiled at her. "It would be hard to leave."

Pansy twirled a lock of golden hair around her fingers. The soft strands curled around her pale skin, catching the light like silky threads. She looked down, suddenly abashed.

"I didn't mean just the school. Of course I'm going to miss it. But I also meant you... You in this room." Blue eyes met brown, unusually clear. "You and our conversation."

       

What does one answer to a confession? For, surely, it had been exactly that. During the few weeks that they had gotten to know each other better, meeting by chance in sunny afternoons in this forgotten room in a forgotten corner of the school, they had found companionship. But perhaps it was more than that. Their minds had met, dueled occasionally, but often found an amicable point of compromise.

Their meetings were never pre-arranged, for their relationship never traveled beyond the confines of these dusty walls. They just wandered into this room during times of need, and, as luck would have it (or was it fate?), the other was often present to offer some company.

They discussed everything. From life, food, and traveling, to even the Dark Arts, and the meaning of the Dark Lord's death to both of them. Hermione had been a bit surprised to discover Pansy's view of the War. Initially, she had believed in the Dark Lord, fully supporting his claims that the wizarding world should be populated with Purebloods. Sheltered as she was during her childhood, her experience with human relationships was limited to the company of her family's crowd: the set of rich, Pureblood wizard families with their long lines of Dark ancestors and their collective disdain over those they considered inferior.

But, even with her background, Pansy was also a person with her own mind. After spending her childhood years championing their cause, as the Dark Lord called it, the onset of the war and arriving maturity had led to a re-evaluation of her priorities. She had realized the difference between cruelty and fighting for what was right. That was why she opted to stay in Hogwarts during the war, in the company of students similarly locked in immoveable situations--not able to do the right thing in concern for their families.

"I loathed those days. I loathed myself," she had told Hermione. "I had no guts to take a stand. I remained safely neutral, like a coward. Unlike you. You were right there, fighting for what you believed in."

"I was not confined by the same chains you had," she could only reply. What was more to say? The war was over.

       

"The way we talk," Hermione mused. "I sometimes wish we had started it earlier. But then, maybe we started just in time. Not too late, for we met before school ended. But not too early either, when we were too young to settle between our differences."

"You have a point." Pansy dug into her pocket and pulled out a toffee. She unwrapped it from its cover and popped the confection into her mouth. "Want some? My mother made it."

"I wouldn't say no."

"Hold on a second..." She searched her pockets and produced nothing. Pansy swore softly. "Damn, I must have forgotten to bring extras."

"Oh, don't mind it. You can always give me some later on," Hermione said.

Pansy sucked on the sweet thoughtfully. "Hey, wait! Here..."

She leaned closer. Hermione sat, unmoving, as Pansy moved closer, until she could feel the girl's hot breath on her cheek, the touch of her hand on the soft skin behind her neck.

"Open your mouth," she ordered. And Hermione could only follow; struck helpless by a feeling she could not understand.

Their lips met, breath against breath. Heat against heat. Pansy's tongue pushed the candy into her mouth, grazing her teeth. It touched her own tongue, and Hermione could taste the saccharine essence. More than the toffee, she tasted Pansy.

They parted, panting softly, their cheeks flushed. Pansy's mouth was now empty. But she didn't miss the candy. No, she suddenly wanted something more.

"How does it taste?" she whispered. They were still close, faces inches apart. She did not let go of Hermione, and found that she had no desire to do so.

"Better than I expected," was the reply.

Pansy stilled. What had she meant? Deciding not to think, she flicked her eyes back up and stared into Hermione's. They were startlingly honest, and they told her only one thing: that she wanted.

It was now her turn to follow. Pansy bent, touching Hermione's lips with her own. They didn't know who moved first, or who embraced whom... but, in a moment, they were in each other's arms, lying on the floor, kissing with a passion that they had not known existed.

Pansy lay back, her hair resting on the stone in long, golden sheaths. She was staring at the ceiling, at the intricate patterns of the cobwebs that had lined it through the centuries. They were all connected, somehow, and she knew that if she'd have to pull a single thread out, the whole web might collapse from its place.

With that thought, she held on tightly to the girl in her arms.

       

"Ron?"

He turned from his friends, smiling at the sight of Hermione. She was always wonderful to him, and she was one he admired more than any other woman. Except maybe his mother.

"Yes?" He stood from the couch, excusing himself from the boys' colorful talk.

"We need to talk." She smiled slightly as he took her hand, his larger hand completely covering hers. He led her from the common room, directly to his dorm room where she'd have no trouble entering. It was empty now, as its occupants were all in the common room, enjoying the early evening with their Housemates.

He gently led her to his bed where they sat, side by side. He looked at her earnestly, his eyes questioning. What were they going to talk about?

She looked down, remembering their past. They had been friends for nearly seven years, and lovers for two years. She knew the extent of his love, and she felt no less for him. Their bond, Harry included, was one borne of trust and respect, formed with years of friendship, weathering the odds brought about by the hardships of war, and the other little nuances that life chose to throw to them.

She had always thought that she'd marry him someday, have a few red-haired children, with at least one child having her hair color. She knew that, given a chance, they would be happy. Of course, they'd fight a lot, like normal couples, but they'd always find a way to make-up, like they always did in the past. They had planned a wonderful future. And she was just about to wreck it all in one night.

She paused as she looked back. Suddenly, she discarded her arranged speech. How does one hurt such a man?

"Can I... can I sleep here tonight?" she asked softly. "Just sleep. I've had trouble sleeping lately." The lie came easily.

"Is that it?" He smiled, a bit relieved. He had thought for a moment that it might be serious.

She nodded. He helped her lie down, laying her head on his pillow. He stretched out on the bed, putting an arm around her, all the while telling her how she meant to him. They lay like that for a while, joined together, her back to him. Eventually, Ron fell asleep. But Hermione stayed awake, her eyes open in the darkness.

       

The train whistled shrilly, and Pansy grimaced at the sound. She placed a hand on the entrance, stepping up to the train. But, before she entered, she turned around, looking for something she had not seen in nearly a week: the familiar head of long brown hair. She searched the platform with her eyes, sharply looking through the groups of people gathered together in several points, saying goodbye to the camaraderie the school had given them. The sun shone unmercifully hot against the cement floor. No wonder no one could be seen sitting on the metal-backed benches.

But she was nowhere to be found. Maybe she did not want to be found.

Dejected, Pansy walked through the aisle, searching for a place to be alone. She entered an empty cabin, shutting the door behind her. Draco and Blaise might be waiting for her, but she wasn't in the mood for company. Looking out the window, she touched the green and silver striped tie she still wore. She would never have to knot this tie around her collar every morning, or ride this train three months later. Because, by then, she'd be far away from Hogwarts, starting her lessons as a Healer.

Far from her.

She felt the back of her eyes burn, the moisture gathering around it. But still, she refused to blink. Pansy Parkinson had never cried for anyone in her life, and she was not about to start now. Shutting her eyes to refuse the tears, she rested her head on her arms, willing the pain to disappear.

She was never yours to claim.

       

The journey was uneventful, and soon, they were pulling into Platform 9 , where their various families waited for their arrival. Not wanting to jostle her way out with the crowd of stampeding students, Pansy waited for the corridor to clear before she rose from her seat. She opened the door, about to walk into the aisle.

But a touch on her hand stopped her. Stunned, she stared at the long, tapered fingers that enclosed her own over the doorframe... achingly familiar fingers.

"Aren't you even going to say goodbye?"

She turned and stared into her eyes. Hermione was standing behind her, her smile lopsided, hair as brown and bushy as ever. And all Pansy wanted to do was touch it, run her hands through their soft length and never let go.

She steeled herself. "Is it goodbye?"

Hermione squinted. She tilted her head, losing the rather silly smile she wore. She released Pansy's hand and took a deep breath.

Pansy closed her eyes. Here it comes.

"I'll be spending my summer at the coast in Greece. My father's giving me the trip as a graduation gift. I'll be living in my uncle's rest house. It's right across the beach." She tucked her hair behind one ear. "I was wondering if you'd like to come."

Pansy stared at her blankly, the words refusing to penetrate through her fogged brain. What did Hermione want her to do?

"It has a library. Lots of books, anything you'd like." Hermione wouldn't meet her gaze now. "And poetry. Lots of poetry. The kind you love."

Pansy smiled and placed a hand on Hermione's shoulder. The other girl looked back hesitantly.

"Only on one condition."

Brown eyes widened in question.

"That you'd read them with me."

She grinned, relieved. "Only if it's Yeats."

They left the train, hand in hand. Suddenly, the day didn't seem so bleak anymore.

 

 

And if she flees, soon will she follow,

And if she does not take gifts, she will give,

If she does not love, she will love

Despite herself

 

~ Sappho

 

~fin~

(August 2003)


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