Pine & Cinnamon

Written as part of a Christmas Advent writing challenge. This is a one-shot Pansy/Neville chapter. Enjoy, and constructive feedback is always welcome.

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It had happened almost two years ago. Harry Potter – the boy who lived, and Draco Malfoy – the Malfoy heir had their first date and ever since they had been sickeningly happy. It made Pansy feel both envious and nauseous to see them together, whilst secretly wishing she could find someone that could make her lose her wits in the same way. As a result of this new dynamic, the Slytherins and Gryffindors interacted more and thus brought Neville ‘snake-slicing,’ ‘bridge-blowing,’ Longbottom crashing into her world.

Pansy knew her world would never be the same. Their relationship had started softly, with gentle and tentative gestures. Both were still working through their issues after the war. Neville suffered from nightmares and insomnia where Pansy had experienced depression. Together they had been able to slowly build their lives up again, each giving the other the care and strength they needed.

Up until recently, they had been as disgustingly devoted and sweet as Harry and Draco, that was, until the beginning of September when his behaviour started to change. He’d begun to shift and fidget, and he always seemed to be somewhere else in his thoughts. His smiles were nervous and slightly guilty. She couldn’t put her finger on why things were starting to go wrong.

She watched him as he gazed into the shop window, his eyes wide in interest and wonder. It was the week before Christmas, and it was almost a year to the day when they’d first met again since school. They had decided to go to Diagon Alley and take advantage of the Christmas market which lined the streets selling their wares.

It had been a great idea and one she would have loved if she didn’t feel like being sick. The dread was eating away at her, she knew she had lost weight, and she couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything. She found that she felt tearful almost all the time and had started snapping at Draco and Blaise when they talked to her. She swallowed, feeling a pricking at her eyes as she gazed at the handsome man next to her.

Feeling her gaze, he turned and smiled, pulling her in under his arm. She had memorised all of his smiles in the year they had been together; the ones that asked if she was alright, the tense ones that told her he wasn’t keen on an idea, also the ones that told her he was thinking naughty thoughts; Those smiles were always accompanied by a delicious flush of colour across his slightly-freckled cheeks.

This smile was nervous; she could read it in the lines between his eyes and the way his teeth clenched as if she’d worked out a secret. She’d started to notice more and more of these as the weeks progressed. Furtive glances and jumping at sudden movements. She smiled and squeezed his hand to reassure him even as the knot in her stomach rolled and tightened. She closed her eyes as the smell of him filled her nostrils; pine and cinnamon, festive and earthy, Neville. She swallowed as she hugged him back.

She knew the end was coming for them. She had finally pushed him far enough away that he could see just how wretched she was. She wanted to lash out and scream at the world, but just like any good Slytherin girl, she kept her emotions to herself, hidden from him. She buried them down deep so that they could be mined for argument fuel later. She swallowed the sob that wanted to escape and turned to look in the window, not paying much attention to what was in the shop.

Maybe he had found someone else? She wondered as they walked away from the shop towards one of the stalls that crowded the busy streets. She let him navigate their way through the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers; the sheer amount of people only added to her growing anxiety. Neville motioned to the coffee stand with steam billowing from a chimney. She wondered whether it was the new Transfiguration professor who had just started at Hogwarts. From what she’d heard from Draco, she was a pretty, petite thing from the Castelobruxo school in Brazil; exotic and mysterious, swishing her tanned Latina hips through the school corridors.

She nodded and smiled her thanks for the steaming cup he handed her as they began to walk away. She knew her skin was painfully white and stark against her black hair. She was painfully thin, and her curves were virtually non-existent. She wouldn’t blame him for leaving; it’s not like she gave him any reason to stay. He squeezed her hand, drawing her eyes. She smirked and rolled her eyes as she wiped some of the foam from his upper lip. He blushed and grinned self-consciously. Her heart whimpered as she looked away.

Images created by Mad1492.

She sipped her coffee, feeling the hot, bitter liquid heat up her insides, enjoying the burn. She couldn’t compete with someone prettier; her looks, such as they were, were her one redeeming feature. It certainly wasn’t her sarcastic, and mean personality. She looked into the nearest shop window, catching a glimpse of their reflections. She pretended to look in, admiring the trinkets as she surreptitiously studied him. His gaze, pointing over her head and off into the crowd. She could study his profile and appreciate his strong jaw and soft lips. She remembered how those lips felt against her skin, brushing against her neck and whispering sweet nothings into her ear.

She felt her heart stutter at the thought of losing him, as her throat closed against the sob that wanted to escape. She loved the awkwardness of him and the strange bashful grace he held. His hazel eyes were so expressive and gentle. She heard her breath hitch before she realised that she was losing control. She pulled away, pretending that she was getting a closer look at something in the window, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“Pan? You alright?”  He asked, his northern accent drawling the end in the way that was so Neville.

She nodded as she tried to stifle a sniff. She couldn’t cry, not here. She felt his large hands on her waist, and even through the many layers of clothing, she could feel his warmth radiate into her skin. She wanted to pull away, wanted to escape from the warmth just in case she would never experience it again.

She swallowed, and once she thought she had her voice under control. She sought out something in the window to comment on. The first thing she saw was a small silver, diamond and emerald brooch. She tapped on the glass to draw his attention.

“Look at that; my grandmother had something exactly like that,” she stalled. She shot a glance back at him and saw his eyes gazing into the window. She let out a slow, shaky breath of relief before turning back to the rest of the street. She took another long sip of her coffee and closed her eyes hoping that she had averted disaster.

The goblins at Gringotts had their usual choir, singing their traditional Christmas hymns which sounded like something between a bird’s chirp and a mermaid. It sounded as awful as fingernails down a chalkboard, but it was tradition, and it almost didn’t feel like Christmas without it.

Red and green lights glittered everywhere as people smiled and laughed at the ridiculous decorations outside the Weasley’s’ joke shop. She wanted to go home. It had been a mistake to come; all this festive cheer and jolliness, so at odds with the coiling knot of dread and fear inside her.

“Come on,” Neville said abruptly, drawing Pansy’s gaze as he took her hand.

“Where to?” She asked, feeling the knot twist acutely.

“We need to talk,” he tried to smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

This was it!

Pansy nodded as she straightened her shoulders and threw her coffee cup into the nearest bin.

Neville squeezed her hand, and suddenly they were in her flat. She looked around with a shake of her head as the dread built, knowing that the residual sadness from this moment would stain her things for years.  She didn’t want to break up here knowing that everything would always remind her of his absence.

“No, not here, please!” She turned to Neville and stared him directly in the eye.

“Why not?” Neville asked, and Pansy could see worry etched on his face. Her eyes darted away, landing on the tiny, decorated twig in the corner where their shared presents sat, then to the fireplace where they had matching stockings. Even to the dashes of red and gold that had sneaked into her neutral colour scheme. Neville had touched and melded with every part of her, and it would damage her to lose him; like tearing out her heart.

“I couldn’t bear it.” Pansy turned. She didn’t want to watch his worry turn to pity.

“Pansy, look at me,” Pansy shook her head, the traitorous tears escaping down her frozen cheeks. “If you’re breaking things off with me, I understand. Just tell me! I can’t bear the silence any more.” She was about to argue when the words died in her throat. She turned to look at him and saw the desolation in his face.

“Breaking things off? With you?” Pansy asked, the momentary confusion cooling the burning mass at her centre. Neville moved to the fireplace and leant against the cold marble, his forearm taking his weight. “Why would I want that?” she hated the quaver in her voice.

“You’ve been so quiet and withdrawn the past few weeks, I just thought you’d gotten fed up with me and wanted out,” he said sadly, looking at her with kicked-crup eyes.

“But-” she started. She shook her head. “But you’re the one that’s been acting strange! I thought that you and Professor Mudanca had gotten close.”

“Me and Alipha? Why would you think that?” Neville asked straightening with shock.

“Why wouldn’t I think that?” Pansy shouted as she stepped closer. “I’ve heard she’s stunningly beautiful and you see her every day! Apparently, she’s kind and generous. Everything I’m not, so with you acting strange, why wouldn’t I think that you had grown bored of me? She’s got so much more to offer,” she paused and squeezed her eyes against the tears as she wrapped her arms around herself. She turned around again and walked to the window, actively ignoring the festive twig. “I don’t want to stand in the way of what you really want,” she whispered thickly.

The silence that filled the room was so complete that she half wondered whether Neville had left. She wiped away her tears as she stared at the London skyline, cursing her make up as her fingers came away black from her mascara. She heard movement behind her as Neville sat on the arm of the sofa.

“So you thought I was breaking up with you?” He asked quietly. Pansy nodded. “You thought I would drop you the minute someone else came along?” She nodded as she turned and sank into one of the dining table chairs facing him. She stared at the floor; she couldn’t look at him. “And you thought I was breaking up here so that I could be with her?” She nodded again, her hands twisting and rubbing in her lap.

“You’ve been acting weird for a while. It was the only explanation. I don’t even know why we’re still discussing this. Go be with her; she’ll be better for you,” Pansy said with a sniff, and the tears threatened to start again.

At that Neville stood up and Pansy’s breath caught, he was going to do it, he was going to leave her. She tried not to sob, but it escaped. How was it she could be so pathetic?

“I’ll be right back,” Neville said before disapparating with a pop, leaving her alone.

Now that she was alone, the walls crashed down, and the tears fell freely. She rubbed her arms to try and comfort herself. Why was the idiot coming back? Surely it would be kinder to just part ways without any further contact?  She pushed her fingers into her hair and gripped as she blubbered.

Another pop echoed throughout the room, drawing her attention. She looked up to find Neville stood in front of her looking down. His face looked nervous, as he kneeled on the carpet at her feet.

“Why are you dragging this out? Just go already! You’re being cruel, Nev!”

He offered her a box of tissues as he seemed to consider what he wanted to say.

“You’re right, I am, and I’m sorry,” Neville said with a sigh. “You’re right, I don’t want you to be my girlfriend anymore. Not when I could be with someone beautiful, smart, and clever. Someone who cares about me and loves me. I want to spend the rest of my life with someone like that. Why would I still want to be your boyfriend if I could get a better offer, right?” Neville asked.

Pansy felt another sob rush out and covered her mouth. She’d always known that this day was coming, but she didn’t realise just how much it would hurt. Something inside of her wanted to die at hearing those words come out of his mouth.

“Pansy, look at me!” Neville ordered gently. Pansy shook her head as the tears started again. She covered her eyes with the tissue and tried to ignore the pain. “Please, Pans.”

She took a deep breath and looked at him. He smiled warmly, and her heart broke, knowing that smile would never be directed at her again. She closed her eyes again and felt his hands on hers.  Another sob broke through her control.

“Pansy, I want you to have this,” he said as he pushed something into her palm. She sniffed and blinked away the tears before looking down at the thing in her hands. A small black box sat in her palm. All thoughts and feelings fled from her mind as the ring box stared up at her.

Ring Box!

Her hands started to tremble as she tried to open the box. When she finally opened it up, a golden diamond ring glittered back at her. This was no promise ring or idle present! This was an engagement ring! She looked up at Neville, who knelt in front of her with his crooked smile on his face, waiting.

“Pansy Rose Parkinson, I don’t want you to be my girlfriend anymore because you would make me the happiest man alive by becoming my wife.” He smiled as tears glistened in his eyes.

“But, you said-”

“You are beautiful, inside and out. You are street smart and so clever, I’m pretty sure you care about me, and I’m hoping you want to spend the rest of your life with me? I certainly want to spend every remaining breath as your husband, because I love you.”

Pansy looked back down at the ring and watched as the rainbow fire sparkled in the dim light of the flat.

“Well? Will you marry me, Pansy?”

She looked up and met his hazel eyes. She studied every feature on his face as if to commit them to memory. She finally nodded.

“Yes,” she cried. The knot of dread inside her bursting to free a cloud of excited butterflies. So many that she felt that she would explode with happiness.

Neville’s smile was the largest and brightest smile she had ever seen as he pulled her in for a hug. Pansy pulled him to her with equal enthusiasm and held him tight, luxuriating at the warmth radiating through her clothes.

“And just to put your mind at ease, Professor Mudunca prefers women,” Neville muttered into her shoulder. Pansy laughed and squeezed him tighter.

“I love you,” she muttered back.

“Love you too,” he replied.

“Can’t believe you ruined my make u-” She sobbed with a laugh as Neville silenced her with a kiss.

She let the world dissolve around her in greens, reds, and sparkling lights as the smell of pine and cinnamon filled her nostrils.

Images created by Mad1492

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