darkhairedgirl: (not your year)
[personal profile] darkhairedgirl
Title: Yesterday's Papers
Pairing: Justin/Pansy
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1000
Summary: "'Ogden's,' he says, 'Straight. And leave the bottle.'"
Author's Notes: Second in a series of thirteen prompts from the tables at [livejournal.com profile] rarepair_shorts. Title comes from the Rolling Stones song of the same name.

It's a cool September evening when Justin Finch-Fletchley storms into the Leaky, slamming the door behind him so hard that Pansy's head snaps up at the noise. He strides over to the bar and pulls out the stool nearest her with such force that he actually knocks it backwards; Pansy closes the till she's been counting as he rights his chair, grumbling and scowling as he takes a seat and drops an armful of crumpled magazines on the counter.

"Ogden's," he orders, "Straight. And leave the bottle."

Pansy smooths out her skirt and complies, glancing at him over her shoulder as she grabs a clean glass from the space near the sink, a dusty bottle from the bottom shelf. Justin doesn't acknowledge her presence as she pours, just stares straight ahead at the mirrored wall behind her with a shuttered-off look as he immediately drains the glass she'd set in front of him. His hands are shaking as he grips the by the neck to fill it again and Pansy eyes him curiously, worriedly. This isn't the Justin who comes into a noisy pub to study; this isn't the handsome, joking young man who's spent the past two months leaving Pansy decent tips and teasing Hannah over drinks long after the pub's officially closed for the night. He is anxious and angry, overflowing with the feeling, and Pansy leans against the bar, asking without thinking, "So who spit in your cauldron?"

She's trying to be friendly, aloof. He blinks at her. "What did you say?" He's defensive, demanding. "What did you say to me?"

"Nothing, honest." Justin is setting his shoulders, squaring them like he's preparing for an argument, but Pansy doesn't shrink back. "You're just - you're not usually like this. Did something happen at the Ministry?"

Justin only stares at her in response, and within seconds all the fire he'd been building up seems to burn out; he deflates, slumping forward against the bar, threading his fingers through his hair, and for the first time Pansy actually looks at the papers he'd been carrying. There's about twenty copies of the same issue of Witch Weekly, all bearing the same less-than-clever title "Cheating Clearwater: Britain's Golden Girl Caught In The Act!" Unsurprisingly, Rita Skeeter's name is the one gracing the byline. The cover picture is grainy, taken from a distance, but the couple embracing in a building's entry alcove is unmistakably Justin and Penelope Clearwater. He must have bought the whole stack off the newsvendor outside the Apothecary.

Justin scrubs a hand over his face and doesn't look at her. "You know about Penelope, right?" he asks, voice low, and Pansy nods because who doesn't, these days? She read the papers, she knows the story. "She and I - we, we got close. Back then. And you don't even - they don't - they've got no idea -"

He breaks off and takes a long drink from his glass. Pansy refills it without being asked.

"It's disgusting," he says, pushing the topmost copy of Witch Weekly toward her with obvious contempt. "She's getting married, and all they can talk about is whether or not I'm going to wreck the wedding."

There's a moment where Justin looks like he's about to say something else, but then seems to think the better of it and focuses his attention on finishing the contents of his glass. He's drunk so much in such a short time Pansy's a little surprised he hasn't fallen off is barstool, and when he moves again for the bottle she slides it out of his reach, ignoring the reproachful look he gives her for his trouble.

"Listen," she says, "I know you're a Hufflepuff, and raking up trouble with others is terribly out of your comfort zone, but if it's bothering you this much, you need to sue the pants off these people. Slander - or libel, whatever, defamation of character's a big thing, nowadays, and Rita Skeeter's going after everyone she can now that Hermione Granger's officially taken the 'Golden Trio' off the table."

He looks again like he wants to say something to her, but only stares down at the pile of magazines at his elbow.

"But what do I know? I'm just the hired help. And anyway," she admits, "It's not like you're the only one she's gone after," and Justin looks up at that, surprised. She's not - Pansy fought for Potter in the end and submitted to everything the Ministry asked of her after her family fled the country, but she still finds Traitor scratched into the wood of her door some mornings, still gets death glares from customers as she takes their orders. This is the reason she barely leaves the Alley, this is the reason she's got anti-theft charms on all of her belongings and three different locks on the door.

"You? But I thought -"

"That was ages ago. Used up all my usefulness at fourteen." She gives him a wry smile. "Turns out I made a much better subject than I ever did a source."

He has no answer to that, and she doesn't expect him to. Silence pools between them as she sets the Ogden's back behind the bar, and Pansy waves his hands away as he reaches for his wallet. "This one's on me," she tells him, and he nods at her, understanding. "Don't get used to it," she adds, and he laughs.

A week later, she's bored and buying a copy of Amortentia when she sees it: stacked amongst the glossy copies of International Quidditch and Kneazle Fancy, Witch Weekly is wrapped up and sealed by a thirteen-page retraction, hiding the cover and binding the pages shut until the purchaser reads it entirely. The newsvendor grumbles at her when he sees what she's looking at, passing over her change and muttering about how "spells like that are bad for business," but all she can think of is how Justin must have listened to her. He listened to her.

Pansy hides her laugh behind her hand.


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