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Not Falling Apart

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Bored.

Pansy is bored.

Which is definitely a feat when you’re in a karaoke bar surrounded by a bunch of idiots who seem to be fighting for the title of Worst Singer Ever.

Blaise is currently sharing a microphone with Theo, swaying side by side, belting out some rap song Pansy’s not quite familiar with. It really doesn’t help that they butchered the lyrics past the point of recognition. Harry and Ginny don't seem to care, though, considering they’ve been cheering for more. You would think that being parents to three kids under five would mean that your date nights would not be spent watching grown adults behaving like children. This is worse, she reckons. At least Albus, Lily, and James don’t splash cheap beer all over the audience.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Hermione sitting on Draco’s lap in the dimly lit nook. He’s drawing circles on his girlfriend’s bare thigh as she leans back to whisper in his ear. Pansy is willing to bet her wine budget for the next month that they won’t even last another 15 minutes before they take off from Draco’s own 30th birthday party to fuck each other into oblivion. Gone is the prim, proper, know-it-all Hermione Granger she knew from prep school, but even Pansy’s not sure Draco is 100% to blame. It’s always the uptight ones who end up surprising you, after all.

In any case, she’s bored.

“Oi, Pans!” Blaise bellows from the tiny stage, “It’s your turn!”

Hermione, taking a break from snogging the birthday boy, giggles and goads, “Come on, Pansy! Don’t be shy! Please sing us a song.”

And Theo, because he’s Theo, somehow manages to pull a cheap tambourine out of nowhere and waves the damn thing in her face.

She’s bored, but she is not, under any circumstances, about to humiliate herself like that. Maybe if she was a bit more drunk. But she’s not.

“Absolutely not.” She swats the tambourine away, carefully protecting the martini she’s been nursing for the past hour. “Blaise—” she points her chin at his direction, “He can keep you animals entertained.”

“Such a spoilsport, Parkinson.” Draco chimes in, evidently still capable of paying attention to his own party.

Pansy narrows her eyes at Draco, gives him the middle finger, and returns to sipping her now-tepid drink.

She considers an Irish exit. She doesn’t owe anyone any explanation. That being said, she also knows that Hermione would overthink her departure, determine Pansy’s upset at something or someone, drag Pansy to a three-hour brunch to try to sniff it out of her, and eventually insist on introducing Pansy to some nice bloke she works with. No thanks.

If you’d told Pansy one day she’d be braving through her boredom at her ex-boyfriend’s birthday party only to please (and avoid getting badgered by) his current girlfriend, she would have laughed and then punched you in the throat.

So Pansy finishes her martini and orders another one, because at the end of the day she’s only human, and if she had to listen to another one of Theo and Blaise’s off-key renditions of a 90s hit song sober, she’d be too close to bashing her head against the wall.

She decides to sit closer to Harry and Ginny, knowing that she runs the risk of Ginny sharing pictures of her kids that Pansy has already seen on Instagram. Ginny’s just showing off Albus’ latest drawing—even Pansy has to admit the kid is a prodigy—when the door busts wide open.

“You made it!” Hermione squeals, jumping off from Draco’s lap and draping her arms around this tall man. He still hasn’t turned around for Pansy to actually see who it is. All Pansy knows is that he is...fit. At least six feet, broad shoulders, coiffed hair, shapely butt, with strong forearms peeking through the rolled cardigan sleeves. And he smells nice. She’s not actually sniffing him—she’s not a weirdo—but the air around him just smells clean and refreshing. Like standing in the middle of a pine forest.

Pansy waits for him to turn around. So far Draco gets up to shake this man’s hand, Theo and Blaise give him the bro nod, and then the Potters crowd him in a group hug. They all know him. Which only means one thing: She must know him, too.

She searches her memory of attractive (or at least attractive from the back) boys from school. For sure not Ron Weasley. Because for one, Weasel does not have that kind of ass. Or hair, unless he got bored and stupid and dyed it. And two, Draco would have never happily greeted Hermione’s ex-boyfriend like that. There’s Cedric Diggory, captain of the football team, but this man’s gait is just so very different from Cedric’s. It’s highly unlikely that he’s Cormac McLaggen, considering Pansy just saw his live vlog earlier that day of him eating ramen from a street vendor in Tokyo.

Mystery man still has his back to her, and the alcohol in her system almost makes her brave enough to tap his shoulder. Almost, but not quite. It doesn’t matter, because Hermione turns him to face Pansy and says, “You remember Pansy, right?”

“Pansy Parkinson.” The way he says her name is utterly sinful. As if he held his breath and released it the moment he saw her.

If Pansy was sure that he was a total stranger, she wouldn’t even have to think twice before throwing herself at him. It’s just that the more she looks at him—and she looks—the more familiar he becomes.

There’s a familiar twinkle in his downturned eyes. And there’s a secret smile playing across his lips, growing wide as he catches on to her lack of recognition. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

Pansy wishes the ground would swallow her whole. She banks on the dim lighting of the room to mask any signs of embarrassment clearly written on her face.

Hermione, clearly amused, interjects, “It’s Neville!”

The revelation hits her like a bus. And when he starts laughing, it feels like the bus reversed to hit her again.

Neville. Neville Longbottom. Neville fucking Longbottom.

Nerd extraordinaire. Member of the chess club, Duffledoor’s Army or something like that, if she recalls correctly. He was also Hermione’s chemistry lab partner in junior year. The guy who accidentally started a small fire where he lost his eyebrows and had to shave his head bald in an experiment gone wrong. He wasn’t in the graduation pictures, though. Or maybe he was but Pansy just didn’t notice, considering they weren’t really friends and didn’t even have any friends in common back then.

She definitely notices him now.

Pansy hides half her face behind her second—or maybe third— glass of martini. Her vision darts from her drink to his face, hoping that she’s stealthy enough to get a quick scan of his features that he won’t notice.

Neville Longbottom definitely won against puberty. Completely, utterly annihilated puberty. He grew into his mouth, his teeth are now the perfect size for his face. And he lost his chubby cheeks. Pansy’s not a big facial hair kind of girl, but his stubble or whatever it is he’s got going on his face looks good. His hair is tousled in an effortless yet stylish manner, as if all he did was run his fingers through the locks and they just happened to end up perfect. And his body looks good. No—really good. The soft white shirt sculpts his chest pleasantly, even the ugly green cardigan accentuates his biceps. And the fit of his jeans. And those thighs. And he’s got big feet. And big hands. Oof.

And that’s how Pansy knows she needs to put down the martini and sober up.

She catches him staring at her, lips pursed as if he’s assessing her as well. It makes her feel dizzy and raw and exposed, so she does what she does best: Ignore whatever it is that makes her feel that way.

If there’s anything Pansy hates more than feeling vulnerable, it’s long and stretched silence. So she starts a conversation with the blandest opener ever, “It’s been a while.”

“Yeah.” He runs his hand behind his neck. “It has.”

They’re both leaning against the wall, watching Blaise take his top off and pretend to dry-hump Theo. It is absolute—

“Madness.” He chuckles. “This is madness.”

“It’s just going to get worse, trust me.”

“I thought I’d miss out on the party because I had to stay at work a bit late.”

“I don’t think they’re stopping anytime soon though. But I’ll bet one hundred pounds that Hermione and Draco leave in five minutes.”

“They wouldn’t!” He sounds mildly offended that Pansy would even suggest that. “It’s Draco’s birthday. And Hermione would never.”

“You underestimate the power of horny Dramione.”

“Oh, gross! Hermione’s like a sister to me.”

“They’re going to make up some pathetic excuse and skip. In the next five minutes. Hundred pounds. You in?”

“I think you’re wrong. Also—Dramione? Really?”

“Theo came up with the name.” She shrugs. “It stuck. Are you in or are you out?”

“Okay. Five minutes.” He taps on his watch, “I’m timing it.”

She shifts her weight from one foot to the other, “So what have you been up to lately?”

“Oh, I just moved back into town last month for a new job.” He takes a sip from the glass of whiskey Blaise forced on to him. He winces (adorably—Pansy can’t stand it), “God, that burns. I suppose I’m still figuring things out. The city has changed so much in the past ten years.”

And that explains how she hasn't seen him around.

“Hermione actually helped me get this job.”

“At the University?”

“Yeah. Botany research.”

“On?” She prompts.

“Uh.” He swirls his glass around, somewhat hesitating before he says, “Flower colour patterning of Viola tricolor hortensis.

She notices the blush blooming on his face. The alcohol must be hitting him.

He quickly turns the conversation to her. “You?”

She tells him about her dad cutting her off because stepmom number 3 (who also happened to be her sorority sister from uni, that bitch, Lavender Brown) thinks that Pansy was getting way too much allowance. She tells him about her job at the advertising agency. She tells him about her annoying neighbour. She tells him about the stray cat that wandered into her flat the other day, the one that ran away after a week, after she bought a litter box and cat toys and cat food. And now she’s left with all that crap and zero cat.

“Hey guys!” Hermione interrupts. “Uhm. Draco is not feeling so good.”

Hermione is the absolute worst liar. She tries (and fails) to look apologetic as she waves goodbye. Meanwhile, Draco is nowhere to be found. Fucker’s probably in the car, ready to take off.

I told you so, she mouths at Neville.

“Four minutes!” He hisses, a little bit too loud that Hermione turns her head around.

“Hope Draco feels better, Hermione.” Pansy adds, “Heal him with your magic pussy!”

Hermione flushes in embarrassment and immediately runs out of the room, and Neville immediately bursts into the most lyrical laughter Pansy has ever heard in her life. It’s nice. Refreshing. Like a glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

“Alright. I’ll give you a chance to earn your money back. How long do you think until Blaise takes off his pants?”

 

 

 

Neville loses again, since Blaise takes his pants off in ten minutes and not twenty.

The rest of the night passes in a blur, and before she knows it, Harry and Ginny are packing Blaise and Theo away in their minivan since they have most experience dealing with the babblings of babies who happen to be nearing thirty.

Neville insists on walking her home from the bar. Chivalry isn't completely dead, after all.

They’re standing in front of her flat when he waves her good night, with an earnest smile that reaches his eyes. “It’s real nice to see you again, Pansy.”

It really was. She’s not sure why it’s so easy to be with him. Perhaps it’s his kind eyes. Or perhaps it’s the fact that he actually seems to be interested in what she has to say. Or perhaps it’s because it’s been a while since Pansy has gotten any action. And she doesn't want the night to end. And the last remnants of alcohol in her system are giving her the courage to call out, “Neville!”

His head whips back to her. “Yeah?”

“Do you want to come upstairs?”