darkhairedgirl: (like magic)
[personal profile] darkhairedgirl
Title: heart’s a mess
Pairing: Justin Finch-Fletchley/Pansy Parkinson
Prompt: surprises
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2047
Summary: Pansy doesn’t know why she reaches out for Justin, only that she wants to.
Author's Notes: 7/13. Title from the song of the same name by Gotye.



There’s no romance involved when it comes to working on Valentine’s Day, but it isn’t for a lack of trying: Hannah’s decorations in the Cauldron’s main room bring to mind Hogwarts under Professor Lockhart’s influence, or Madam Puddifoot’s on that disastrous date Pansy had with one of the boys from Durmstrang. Pink and white streamers cloud over the doorways and red paper hearts wind up the rails of the staircase and Pansy ignores it all, waiting tables and taking inventory and somehow feeling better than she has in ages. Hannah teases her on their lunch break, asks after the new man who put her in such a good mood, but Pansy isn’t lying when she says there isn’t anyone; besides, Hannah’s the one who’s been getting flowers delivered all day long. Wouldn’t there be roses waiting for her if some handsome wizard caught her fancy? Wouldn’t there be chocolate and cards, dinner for two, a diamond bracelet?

“I expect only the best,” Pansy says, flicking her hair back over her shoulder, and Hannah laughs, conceding.

It’s late by the time Pansy finishes closing, and she does it alone; Tom and the rest of the kitchen staff have gone home, Hannah has cut out early to catch a late dinner elsewhere with her nameless admirer. Pansy counts the register and cleans the tables, humming along with the wireless as she stacks chairs and sets the brooms to sweeping. Upstairs the Silencing Charms have sealed off the happy couples renting rooms, but there is still the shuffle of feet against the floor, laughter and low music drifting down the stairs; Pansy ignores the lonesome feeling in her chest and turns up the radio instead, standing on her tiptoes to take down the decorations.

Glitter drifts down in flakes from the cardboard hearts hanging over the tables to catch on Pansy’s shirtsleeves, land in her hair, and Justin Finch-Fletchley is laughing at her when he walks in through the doorway on the Diagon side. She forgot to lock the back door, she realizes, but no matter: there’s no one left to reprimand her, and Justin’s welcome company. He brushes the sparkle off her shoulders and Pansy hates that the first thing she notices is just how good he looks: he’s still in his work clothes – nice trousers, a button-down shirt, a waistcoat the color of tree bark – and Justin dresses like an Advocate should, she thinks, warm colors and clean lines. He’s gotten a haircut, too, and she can see the black ink of the Azkaban tattoo at his neck where it disappears past his collar, the numbers on his wrist and forearm where he’s rolled up his sleeves. She steps away, arms full of pink and red paper, and ducks behind the bar to trash them in the bin.

“On your own tonight?” Justin loosens his tie as he follows her, stepping behind the counter. When Pansy doesn’t answer right away, he adds, “I’m in the same boat. Everyone’s out falling in love, and I’ve just been falling into a pit of paperwork at the Ministry.”

“I’m surprised they even let you out on a night like this,” she teases, “Who’d you have to bribe to let you leave before midnight?”

“Half the night guards,” Justin says solemnly, “And all the janitorial staff.”

There’s a bottle of Montaudon Brut Pansy has been eyeing all day and she reaches for it now, sidestepping Justin and happy to toss a few sickles into the till in the morning. She tucks the bottle under her arm and reaches for a pair of clean glasses, nearly tripping over him as she moves around to the front of the counter. Justin affectionately brushes her shoulder with his knuckles as she passes; he touches her with casual familiarity, but deliberately, like he means it. Pansy pops the cork and Justin is right there with her, taking the empty seat beside her and watching as she tilts her wrist to pour them both a generous measure of champagne. Can’t drink alone goes unsaid between them, and Justin clicks his glass against hers in a silent toast.

They’ve gone through half the bottle by the time she somehow ferrets out the details of a recent date he’d been set up on: some Muggle girl his older brother knew, a blonde with a business degree he’d taken out for Thai food. She was nice, he keeps telling Pansy – nice, as if that was the only quality this woman possessed; nice, as if that’s the only thing that mattered.

“She’s nice?” Pansy echoes, prodding him in the shoulder with a well-manicured nail. “Not funny, or intelligent, or a mad old bat? Do you even know what she does for a living? What she likes? Or did you just tune out everything after he told you ‘she’s nice’?”

Justin snorts and ducks his head, slipping in his sobriety, leaning on his elbow against the bar. Pansy is distracted, and her thoughts flit to his brother the sixth time the word “nice” falls from Justin’s lips; she tries to picture his family and imagines men and women who are tall like him, most likely, fair-skinned with curly hair, Justin’s nose set in other faces. She wonders if the Finch-Fletchley brand of kindness is genetic, if Muggles can do that: pass down compassion and consideration the same way Hogwarts houses run in pureblood families.

“…I mean, these days I think need more than just nice,” Justin says, and it’s the way he says it that pulls her back to the present. “I need someone who’ll keep me on my toes. Someone with a little bite, yeah?”

He laughs it off, refilling his glass, and Pansy feels lightheaded all of a sudden, her unsteady heartbeat pounding in her ears. Pansy has no Valentine, not this year, but she curled her hair with her wand this morning and dusted off her favorite ankle boots; she’s wearing her reddest lipstick, her flippiest skirt, her nicest perfume. She dressed to match the day, she thought, and it’s only now that it starts to dawn on her that she dressed this way for Justin – for the possibility of seeing him today, of all days.

“What about you?” Justin asks, and she nearly chokes on her drink when he adds, “Anyone special?”

Not… there’s no one, not right now,” she admits, and Justin scoffs at her. “I’m too mean,” she adds: teasing, trying to make light. “Men want someone sweet, like your Muggle. I know what they say – better a sweet tongue than bitter, right?”

Pansy swallows what’s left of her champagne, crosses and uncrosses her legs; she feels fidgety, tipsy, she wants something she can’t name. Justin looks at her thoughtfully and sets his glass to the side, leaning in conspiratorially so that when he tells her, “That’s not always true,” she can see the flecks of gold in his brown eyes, she can smell stringmints on his breath under the champagne. Justin sits with his arm against the counter as he talks to her, sleeve back, wrist up, and Pansy doesn’t know why she reaches out for Justin, only that she wants to.

They keep having these little moments, flirtations so quick and so small that with anyone else she’d just assume ignorance, or inexperience, but Pansy has five years of Divination under her belt and she still can’t figure out what any of this means. Is it luck that keeps pulling Justin Finch-Fletchley into her orbit? Or is it fate that keeps pushing them into trying circumstances – maybe chance, some kind of divine intervention? His hand is warm where it rests under hers, pulse jumping under her fingertips, under the ink of his tattoo. The pad of his index finger moves lightly against her palm, and Pansy’s breath hitches in her throat when Justin raises his eyes to meet hers.

There’s a shiver of hesitation in the air between them, the moment suddenly tense as piano wire, and when Justin leans in and presses his lips to hers Pansy doesn’t move, not at first. It’s sheer surprise that keeps her frozen against the brush of his mouth over her own; light and gentle, careful as an unasked question, and there is stubble on his cheek that grazes against her palm when she lifts her hand to his face, her heart rattling inside her ribcage at this strange sudden nearness. Pansy gives herself over to the feeling, dizzy like she’s falling, and deepens the kiss; there’s the warmth of his body against hers as she moves closer, the unfamiliar sensation of his tongue brushing her lower lip, her own heart thudding in her chest. It’s been so long since someone kissed her, since someone wanted her, she feels like she’s fallen out of practice.

Pansy makes a soft, desperate noise when Justin pulls away, and a little voice in the back of her mind tells her that she shouldn’t sound so eager – she shouldn’t be so vocal about how much she wants this. Justin holds her at arm’s length, holds her still, and she can’t read his expression when he tells her, voice low, “We shouldn’t have done that.”

Her mouth is still buzzing from their kiss as he drops his hands, and the haze of confusion she’s clouded in only intensifies with their sudden separation. We shouldn’t have done that? There’s no reason for this change of heart, no warning she could have caught – did she move too fast? Did she read the signs wrong? She shouldn’t have been so obvious, so needy, but what about the records he lent her, the conversations they’ve had, that steady build from acquaintances to friends? What has all of this been, then, these sad building blocks of reconstruction, if not… if he didn’t

Justin backs off, fingers latticed together in his lap, and Pansy can still feel the echo of where his fingertips dug hard against her shoulders, the ache of press and release. “I’m sorry,” he says, “It was a mistake,” he says, and Pansy can’t bring herself to look at him, not directly. She stares at their reflection in the mirror hanging back behind the bar: Justin apologetic and nervous, Pansy silent and pale. The longer she looks the more their faces blur, something that is equal parts too much champagne and the sting of rejection. She can hear her mother’s voice in her head, that twinge of maternal disappointment: What do you expect from a Muggleborn? Pansy closes her eyes, just for a moment, and swallows hard; she slides off her barstool and moves around the counter to set their glasses in the sink. She’s hyperaware of their nearness, now, careful not to touch him, to keep even her eyes away from his.

“I should lock up,” she says, and her voice is smooth, untroubled. “It’s getting late. I’d like to finish closing.”

Justin fumbles with his jacket as he stands, draped awkwardly over his arm as he watches her wash their glassware, set the empty bottle in the box under the sink. He’s always hard to read but never more than now: embarrassment and pity and fear flit over his features in infuriatingly equal measure, his mouth a worried line that twists when he tries to tell her, “I didn’t mean for this to –”

“It’s fine.” She cuts him off sharply, brushing her hair back from her face. There is the mask she wears daily, the blank, indifferent calm she saves for rude patrons, bad tippers, Susan Bones. She never thought she’d have to use it with him. “It’s fine. Just… you should get going. I need to finish up before Tom has my head.”

She motions toward the door and when he doesn’t move, Pansy strides across the room and opens it for him. Justin follows but stops at the threshold, fixing her with an expectant look that only makes her feel empty. This is what she gets for opening herself up, for wanting strings and attachment; this is what she gets for thinking things could ever be normal again.

“I’m sorry,” Justin says again, and Pansy locks the door behind him, she draws the shade, she lowers the lights; she makes it halfway up the stairs before she lets herself cry.


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