Summary: Pansy doesn't care for the boys who are trying to court her. Secretly, she fancies a girl right in her own House.
At dinner, another boy shambled up to Pansy and offered a flower. She took it without looking at him, for when Pansy looked into the mirror every morning she saw something ugly---a turned up nose, thin lips, squinty eyes, and oily skin---and she knew the boy saw the same thing. She also knew the boy was wealthy, pureblooded, and had traditional parents, just like she did. And that explained that.
He clasped his hands behind his back, waiting. She wouldn't have looked up at him at all if his shadow weren't cast over Millicent, obscuring her view.
"You're looking unusually pretty today," the boy said.
He was looking straight between her eyes, not into them, which made her think that he had not meant to insult her more than he meant to scare her away. Or else he was scared himself, which meant she had to hurry this along or she would never return to concentrating on the freckles across Millicent's nose or the warmth of her foot under the table. Now that Pansy thought of it, if she slid her foot just left their shoes would be touching, and that would almost be like their skin touching. But since Pansy was aware of their feet now, she wasn't sure if Millicent would believe it were an accident. Was Millicent noticing their feet too? Was she really so interested in that pie her mother had sent? If Pansy threw her fork at the boy would Millicent look up at her?
The boy cleared his throat, eyeing the flower as if he wished to grab it back and give it to another girl.
"I hope that rash you developed in Potions last week has cleared up," he said.
Millicent's eyes flicked up at him and then at Pansy, but Pansy wasn't able to enjoy the look because Draco Malfoy had begun to laugh.
"I didn't hear about the rash," he said loudly. A few people at the Slytherin table leaned in for more. "Do tell, Pansy."
The boy narrowed his eyes, but didn't look at Malfoy. He stood like a dog, waiting to be fed or sent away. Pansy liked that he was persistent, but that didn't mean she liked him more than Millicent, who was eating her pie much slower than before.
"I never had a rash," Pansy said.
"But I asked you about it in the infirmary. I remember your blue dress."
"That was my sister, Posey." She looked at Millicent for a reaction. She was smiling, apparently wondering why she had never heard of this sister. "And I don't wear dresses."
"Oh, I see."
He flattened the front of his uniform, and Pansy noticed for the first time that he wore the Ravenclaw crest. Oh, she thought. So he thought he was clever. He thought he'd swagger up and throw her medical embarrassments in her face and go back to his House table and slump over his encyclopedia, giggling with his bespectacled friends. He thought he'd spout off her private business right in front of Malfoy, who everyone knew was a gossip, with hopes that Pansy would become a mockery and his parents would no longer want him to court her.
Was he as observant as his crest suggested? Had he seen the looks she'd been giving Millicent? He might have chosen this moment especially---just the moment that Pansy longed to place her shoe on the toe of Millicent's and press down so that Millicent's jaw would tense and her hand would reach across to Pansy's and she would say, "Please take your foot off my foot." Had he known that she had relished Millicent's company in an unwholesome way since last Christmas, when Pansy had seen her hair tied up in ribbons? When his parents asked him to court Pansy he'd probably smiled on the inside, and thought, "Sure I will, and I'll have a little fun with her, too. I'll ruin her chances with that dog, Millicent Bullstrode."
Well, he was the only dog around here!
Pansy threw down her serviette. Millicent looked up. Or had she been looking up all along?
"Well," Pansy spat, "ask me, why don't you?"
"Pansy," he said with just the right combination of sweetness and spite, loud enough that all of Slytherin table could hear. "Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the Yule Ball?"
He exhaled. "Thank God," he said, and ran away.
Pansy went back to her dinner. From the corner of her eye, she saw Millicent's pie was smashed to bits; one couldn't tell the crust from the lemon filling. Millicent's fork was nowhere to be seen, except for the markings it had left on the surface of the table.
Then she said, in her deep, quiet voice, "You have a new suitor every week."
"They're all worthless. And don't call them suitors."
"I'd think you'd...like it. The attention, I mean."
"It's not for me to like. It's for the promotion of honorable wizardry."
"And you don't like that?"
"I would if it were someone else doing the promoting."
"Some of them must like you."
"I don't think so."
"Some of them must think you're pretty."
Pansy felt a rumble in her stomach, and it wasn't from hunger. If this meant Millicent thought she was pretty, then she shouldn't ruin it by saying something stupid. She turned to wipe her oily face on her sleeve.
Draco tapped her shoulder. "So what was his name?" he asked.
"Don't know. Goldstein, I think."
"You'll never get married. Once you're old and alone, you'll regret turning down every boy who ever asked you to---"
"To go for a moonlit walk? To have a study date?"
"It's the proper thing to do," he said imperiously. "A pureblood girl needs a pureblood boy."
"You don't seem concerned with courting girls."
"I'm busy with my studies."
"How long have you been studying Viktor Krum's backside, again?"
He narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to retort. Then he smirked. "I like you, Pansy."
"I know that."
"Which is why I recommend that you accept the next study date you're offered. Maybe then you'll have less time to poke your nose into my business." He seemed to be trying not to look down the table at the Durmstrang students."Besides, getting a boyfriend would distract you from less savory pastimes."
"What does that mean?"
His eyes wandered toward Millicent, and Pansy found the rumble in her stomach getting stronger. How could he---? How could he possibly---?
Millicent was staring at them. She did not react, but Pansy knew she wasn't stupid.
Malfoy stretched like a spoiled old cat. "Yes," he sighed. "You should really get a boyfriend---a pureblood from a respectable family. Someone like me. Think of the combined wealth."
"You'll be so happy," he drawled, and before she could think of a response he was sauntering away with his cronies.
Pansy wanted to look at Millicent. She thought she might cry if she did. How embarrassing. How foul. She was going to punch Malfoy.
Soon, her curiosity was overwhelming. She turned. Millicent was red in the face.
There was nothing Pansy could say, except, "You haven't finished your pie."
"No. It didn't taste good anymore. Er. Have you finished your Transfiguration essay?"
"Not really. I don't know what concealment charms have to do with transfiguring moose into rabbits."
This seemed to spark something in Millicent. "Well, you have to think about the corresponding parts. Moose have antlers; rabbits don't. You have to work the concealment into the spell or else your rabbit will have something weird sticking out of its head."
Pansy rolled her eyes. "That's the worst part about this subject. You have to know the whole anatomy of what you want to transfigure."
"Yeah, it's hard. No one's really good at it but McGonagall---and probably Granger."
"I know. It's disgusting."
"I could help you study, though," Millicent added. "I'm okay at it sometimes. McGonagall told me so."
"Erm, are you sure?"
"I don't have anything better to do."
Millicent was still red. "We could meet in the common room tonight."
"Yeah. At eight, or whenever."
Then Millicent plodded out of the Hall. Pansy stared at her wide, retreating form. Her fists were clenched, with fingernails covered in chipped black paint---and within those fingers was a bent up fork.
Pansy smiled at the demolished pie, at the fork holes in the tabletop, hoping she could contain herself until their---their study date! They had a study date. Together. Side by side.
Maybe their shoes would touch.
(5/2004; Edited 1/2009)