Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter because I'm not British enough.
Harry read the book about magical customs voraciously. He especially focused on the parts about life debts and betrothals, as well as any other parts he found having to do with debts between houses. Unfortunately, it looked like Pansy was right in that saving her life would be by far the easiest way to get her away from her family without leaving them any recourse to getting her back. Not that he wouldn't save her life, but he'd really rather just keep them both away from as much danger as possible. Harry had been getting in enough trouble without looking for more.
Friday evening found him wandering towards the back of the library till he spotted Pansy at a table, a book open before her that she was absent-mindedly flipping through. She quickly looked around after spotting him and he drew towards her while pulling the cloak over them. "Did you finish the book," Pansy asked in a whisper.
"Yes. Lets get to the room though."
It was a warm night as they made their way through the halls and up the stairs. By the time they reached the 7th floor, they were both sweating, and as soon as the door to their special room opened Harry was glad to see that it had open windows with a cool breeze blowing in. They pulled their robes off once they closed the door and now that she was only wearing her school uniform, he had a chance to really check her out more closely. Pansy was a bit shorter than average for girls his age, but that still left her with an inch or so over him. She had a slender figure, but her curves had started to develop and she had very shapely legs. Harry quickly caught her turning around and stopped admiring her body as she began to question him.
"Did you bring the book with you? We can go over anything you might have questions about."
Harry pulled it from his book bag and they sat down at a table that appeared before them with chairs for each of them. "It seems from what I read that you were right about a life debt being the easiest option, not that I am pleased about the idea of us facing death together."
"Am I not good enough to face death with you?"
"Despite how often I run into danger, I don't actually enjoy the idea of seeking it out. Nor do I want to put either of us into mortal peril unnecessarily."
"So, kidnapping it is then?"
"Probably. Dobby?" With a crack, the house elf appeared, as excited as ever.
"Master Harry calls for Dobby?"
"I'm not your master yet, Dobby, just your friend. I had some questions to ask you. First of all, the way you appear when I call for you like that, how does that work?"
"A house elf can always hear when he is called for."
"Will that work for anyone? I mean, if Pansy called for you could you come to her too?"
"Once the Great Harry Potter bonds with Dobby, Dobby will only go to people that Master Harry allows."
"Okay, well for future reference, I want you to be able to find Pansy. This summer, we're going to find a place to live. We're also going to figure out a way to let Pansy live with us. Until she does live with us, I want you to be able to go to her if she needs you. Pansy could be in danger. Will you help me protect her Dobby?"
"Dobby will protect miss Pansy."
"Thanks Dobby. Pansy told me that you could transport me with you when you apparate. If it is apparation that house elves do, that is."
"It is house elf magic, but it is near the same as wizard apparate magic. Dobby could take Master Harry with Dobby."
"How many people could you take with you? Could you take Pansy & I at the same time?"
"Yes, Dobby could take a few wizardy people at the same time. Dobby is not sure the most Dobby could take."
"But the two of us wouldn't be a problem? That's great news. Another thing I wanted to talk to you about was clothes. I understand about freeing a house elf, but I want you to be able to wear something other than just rags. So," Harry pulled out a handful of coins, "I want you to take this money and get yourself a proper outfit. I've worn ill-fitting hand me downs most of my life, you and I are going to dress better from now on. After all, the Great Harry Potter will need the Great Dobby looking his best so people will know you're part of my family."
Dobby threw himself around Harry's legs and was attempting to praise him between sobs and tears of joy. Pansy smiled while watching the two of them and realized that joining Harry was going to be one of the best decisions of her life. They'd been friends for less than a week and already he was planning on how to protect her this summer. Dobby left to find a proper outfit to make Harry proud, and Pansy realized there was one other possible scheme to join him.
"Speaking of joining your family, there is one other idea about getting the two of us together. A betrothal."
"I thought you were wanting to avoid being forced into marriage?" Harry was pretty sure he didn't gulp this time. Between offering up her virginity and now her hand in marriage, he was thinking that Pansy probably enjoyed trying to make him blush and gulp.
"I can already tell that you'd be much better than the other options. Don't get a big head though. The Longbottom Squib would be a better option than people like Malfoy and Zabini. Of course, it would be a pretty dull marriage since he usually stutters in the presence of scary Slytherins like me."
"Poor Neville," Harry said while Pansy glared at him. "He's a nice enough guy but I'm not sure how he got into Gryffindor. And I'm positive that you'd make each other miserable."
"There are few boys your age who could handle being with someone as amazing as I am. You can consider yourself lucky enough to be almost worthy of my time."
"I am so honored, Heiress Parkinson," Harry once again kissed the back of her hand with a flourish, only this time he held onto her a moment longer. Flirting was on the agenda from now on; he would force himself not to be embarrassed by whatever outrageous things she suggested in the future, or the often dangerous gleam in her eyes. Up close now, he realized they were a lighter shade of green than his, probably closer to hazel. He loved looking into them regardless, there was a glint he saw in her that was sarcastic and biting that he thoroughly enjoyed. It showed her strength remained despite whatever pains her parents had inflicted on her. He wondered how well a betrothal might work between them if it could be arranged, dubious as that seemed. "Somehow I doubt we could arrange a betrothal without using a potion on your parents."
"That or the Imperius curse."
"I don't know how to cast that yet and I'm guessing you don't either. Otherwise, all this scheming would be a lot simpler."
"Your fellow Gryffindors would be so disappointed in you, Potter. Shouldn't you be lecturing me about how mind control is evil?"
"You obviously are forgetting this past year. I am clearly the next Dark Lord. Parselmouth is just the first step, next advanced curses. Soon Necromancy, demon summoning, and magic so foul that innocent young women such as yourself could not even hear of it without fainting."
"In your dreams, Potter. You just want me to faint so you can carry me in your arms like a brave hero."
"Yep, that's me. Rescuer of damsels, extraordinaire. I guess Ginny owes me a kiss- too bad for her that she runs screaming from the room whenever I'm near."
Pansy mimed vomiting, "You need to rescue better damsels. I don't want to watch you kiss that little tramp."
"This must be your lucky year then," Harry chuckled. He thought that maybe his luck really was going to change. Now they just needed some luck with her parents...
"Didn't you say that your mother drinks when your father is away?" Pansy agreed with a nod while looking rather disgusted at the reminder of spending the summer back home. "Maybe we could use that to our advantage. Wait till she's drunk, maybe throw in a Confundus charm, and the idea of getting her to sign a betrothal might not be so unlikely."
"Sadly, that wouldn't work. As the Parkinson Heiress, only my father could sign a betrothal for me. Unless he died, but I doubt I'll get that lucky."
"Damn. Here I was thinking maybe you were about to admit that I was the brains for once."
"Kidnapping is back at the top of the list then. I'd suggest getting a Fidelius charm around whatever home you have, that would help keep us safe."
"Well, then you should be ready to go at a moment's notice. I'd recommend keeping things packed, if Dobby needs to pop in, grabbing you & a trunk shouldn't be too much trouble."
Pansy took a deep breath, "I'm trying not to get my hopes up Harry. Let's just focus on one thing at a time. Dobby should be able to pass messages back and forth. My parents would wonder who I was getting mail from, so he would be a safer bet than your owl. Let me know how things go at Gringotts and once you find a place to stay."
"Okay," Harry looked at the nervous Pansy and tried to think of a way to take her mind off her worries. "What do you think of muggles Pansy?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, there are a lot of them, and if we need to hide, hiding would be a lot easier in the non-magical world. It seems like most wizards and witches don't really know much about muggles, especially pure bloods, so it might be much harder for your parents to find us there."
"That's not a bad idea. I don't particularly care one way or another about muggles. I'm glad I'm not one, but that's just because I like being a witch."
"Of course you do," Harry smirked.
"What's that smirk for Potter?" Pansy tried glaring at him but was finding it harder to even pretend to be annoyed with Harry.
"Its just that in the muggle world, calling a woman a witch would mean you found her unpleasant," Harry said with a chuckle, quickly adding, "However, I would never suggest such a thing of you, milady."
"You better not," Pansy managed to barely get out before laughing at him. She was glad he seemed more willing to flirt, that would make things so much easier in the long run. Staying in the muggle world sounded like a good idea, but she knew she could improve on it, "If we're going to live in the muggle world, then you'll need to keep me entertained there. Especially if we can't do magic. So get to thinking about that as well- you don't want me sitting around the house bored."
"That sounds like a threat, Pansy."
"I'm glad to know your ears work properly Potter."
"I will be sure to keep you entertained in the muggle world then," Harry answered. A part of his mind, though, started thinking of keeping her entertained at home as well. He noticed the clock on the wall and thought of stopping by a broom closet when he walked her back to the dungeons later. He enjoyed sitting so close to her but at the same time, it was a bit like torture. Even though they had been sweating earlier, she still smelled wonderful. His hormones were getting into full gear tonight.
They talked for awhile about the train ride away from Hogwarts. Despite wanting to sit together, they both agreed that it would be better not to be seen together just yet. Her parents would be a big enough obstacle without someone like Malfoy noticing and making things worse. They did, however, come up with a plan to cause enough of a distraction for Harry to leave the train without anyone spotting him while he headed to Diagon Alley via floo.
They spoke about summer assignments and Pansy decided that she would try to focus on school work for the beginning of the holidays, trying to stay busy as well as keeping herself out of the way of her parents. "Out of sight, out of mind after all." Hopefully that would work. And maybe her father would be busy with work too.
Harry thought of being able to practice magic once he was emancipated, something he had read & Pansy confirmed. He would need to get magically more powerful as soon as possible. It was obvious that there were many, many threats Harry would have to deal with, even more with Pansy needing his help, and none of them were just going to wait for him to finish school. If he wanted a fighting chance, he would have to prepare himself.
They talked for hours. All sorts of topics flew by. Simple things like what they enjoyed eating to what types of books they liked to read, and even into more serious topics like things they wanted to do in the future, once they were away from her parents. He suggested going to movies or plays, she suggested going to concerts or out to dance. Harry thought that he would have to get Pansy to teach him how to dance; he would probably have to suffer looking like a fool in front of her for awhile, but it would be worth it to be able to take her dancing. He would fulfill her childhood fantasy of dancing with a handsome young man, assuming she thought him handsome. He was determined to be charming enough to make the idea work regardless.
Eventually, it grew late and they were forced to return to their dorms. Harry once again escorted Pansy down to the dungeons underneath his invisibility cloak. He thought of trying to kiss her good night, but his nerves got the better of him. As he made his way back up to the Gryffindor tower, Harry swore to himself that he would kiss her before leaving for summer. He would use the excuse of it being a kiss for good luck if need be; after all, they both were going to need as much luck as possible to get everything worked out the way they hoped.
The weekend crept by slowly for Harry. He tried goofing off with Ron as usual, but his heart just wasn't in it. He went to see Hermione and tried to talk to her, but the other petrified students had a few visitors too and what he needed to talk about was not something that he could let be overheard. He laughed at himself briefly, he needed to ramble at Hermione because she was the perfect listener, one who wouldn't judge or argue or even remember just how worried and nervous he was about everything. If something went wrong and he was forced back to the Dursleys again, especially after last summer when they locked him up like a criminal, he was just sure that things would end badly. He'd kill those monsters before he let them treat him like that again.
Harry's most his recent near death experience had effected him more than he at first realized. Once he looked up the basilisk and found that by all rights the poison should have killed him, everything seemed to matter a lot more or a lot less. Freedom from the Dursleys and becoming as powerful as possible, as fast as possible now mattered more than almost everything else. Clearly, the adults and authority figures were useless. Since his mother's death, no witch or wizard had ever stood between him and danger. From now on, he would never expect them to either.
The only problems were his doubts. What if something went wrong with the goblins? What if Dumbledore, or others, were conspiring against him? What if Pansy were wrong? And a tiny little doubt that he crushed down as soon as it popped up- what if she were lying?
As beaten down as he had been for so long, it was natural for Harry to distrust someone wanting to help him like she apparently did. But at the same time, something inside him just knew that he could trust her. He wasn't sure why, and the little boy who grew up in a cupboard was terrified that this was all a sick joke, but Harry was now something different. The childish dream of being taken away from the hell that was his life came true when he went to Hogwarts, but then it all came crashing down as well. He had found his first ever friends, he had begun learning magic, he had learned to fly, and he loved Quidditch. But at the same time, people expected more of him. He was their savior and they looked at him skeptically. He felt years behind in class, having never known anything about magic till a month before starting Hogwarts. He was nearly killed, again and again, only to emerge triumphant. Then, he was sent back to the Dursleys to once again be treated like a slave. The wizarding world had shown him its love by throwing him away and forgetting him for a decade.
Then his second year came and he got to experience the magical world's scorn. For months, they treated him like a monster that would attack them. Amusingly, only some of the Slytherins didn't treat him that way- but then again, they were the same kids that already hated him anyway. Once again, Harry had survived and won. However, other than the Weasleys, no one thanked him. No one even apologized for assuming that he was the Heir of Slytherin that wanted to kill all the muggle born students. He had been amazed at their stupidity- he had spent 2 years almost always in the company of Hermione- but now he realized they were all just crazy. Common sense and logic clearly had no place in the world of magic.
Harry ate his dinner while only partially paying attention to the Weasleys around him. Pansy had confirmed the night before that the twins had actually apologized to her, which made him hopeful that they might be open to his friendship with her in the future. Ron, however, was another matter. He had not even mentioned the hallway confrontation, and Harry doubted that Ron would be thoughtful enough to realize that he had done wrong, let alone be sorry for harassing a Slytherin. Slytherins were seemingly all evil in his mind. Harry hoped that Hermione would be more open minded. Maybe there was a book he could find that would list prominent former Slytherins who were productive members of society, that would surely help sway her.
Pansy's caustic nature would probably make it harder for both of them to get along with her though. And Harry wasn't sure what he would do about that. He enjoyed the things about her that he realized his friends would almost definitely dislike or at least disapprove of. This would be something he would have to think on over the summer.
Across the table, he caught Ginny staring at him. He wondered how much his daring rescue of her might have inflamed her crush on him. She was still unable to speak to him and mostly ran off whenever she got too close to him. It was a pity really, as he thought that she would need a friend now more than ever. Who knows what the possession by Riddle's evil diary might have done to her? Harry was pretty sure that the magical world did not have anything like a therapist. Despite the problems it might cause, he was going to have to keep an eye on Ginny in the future, as doubtless no one else would. Yet another thing that the adults were completely neglecting.
He looked around at the rest of his friends in Gryffindor, although really most of them were more acquaintances than friends. Seamus and Dean were decent blokes, but they had hit it off immediately and were close like he and Ron had become, which meant that he didn't really know either of them that well. Neville was usually the odd man left out. His lack of confidence made Harry wonder about what his life had been like, but at the same time, Pansy's statements about how he should have told Harry about his family made him think that perhaps he couldn't really trust Neville. It was one thing to be shy, but to know important things about someone that was supposedly a friend and not say anything to them was worrying. Of course, maybe Harry was just being paranoid, but after the year he'd had, could you really blame him?
Pavarti and Lavender were down the table a bit from him, giggling about something as usual. They were nice enough usually but seemed a bit shallow to him as well. However, that could have been in part because he didn't know them that well, but it was also likely that Hermione was so much more serious in contrast and his friendship with her was so deep.
The only other girl he really knew now was Pansy, and thinking of her made him look over at the Slytherin table. Harry made sure not to stare at her, and instead, chose to look around at her yearmates that sat near her. The boys were all apparently terrible, although she hadn't complained about Nott in particular, at least not yet. Of the girls, while she was sitting among them, he noticed that Pansy was clearly not very good friends with any of them. Of course, from what he'd seen, it didn't seem that there were any particularly strong friendships there. It made him glad that he had argued with the sorting hat, although that also made him wonder if he and Pansy would have become friends had he been a Slytherin. Harry shook those thoughts away and tried to focus on the other girls around Pansy. Davis was seemingly the friendly, sociable one of the group. Greengrass was quite attractive, with her long blonde hair and aristocratic features, but she was also cold and arrogant. Bulstrode made him think of how she had attacked Hermione at the dueling club- she was the largest girl in his year and apparently the female version of Crabbe and Goyle, a brute who threw her weight around. Thinking back, Pansy was probably most often seen speaking to Bulstrode in class. Harry wondered if she was just trying to stay on the big girl's good side.
As Pansy was eating, she noticed Harry looking over at her table. At first, she worried that he might have been staring at her again. As good as it made her feel, it would have been particularly bad timing for someone to notice with the holidays about to begin. However, she spotted that he was looking around at the Slytherins in general and she hoped that maybe he was trying to understand what her housemates were like. That would be more like the secretly sneaky Potter that she had begun to know, which made him more cunning than a large portion of her house. Malfoy was so boastful, arrogant, brash, and loud that he would make a better Gryffindor in a lot of ways. Of course, he was also a wretched coward, so maybe not.
The day had been fairly boring for her, unable to scheme with Harry, so she had spent a good portion of it just daydreaming. She envied him, with his own freedom so easily in reach. Although if Dumbledore was controlling Harry's life, then all their plans could go up in smoke. Better to be a bit envious and have things succeed then. She might have been envious even of him being an orphan as much as she hated her parents. Of course, knowing her luck, she would have been taken in by the Malfoys and grown up as Draco's play thing. Pansy suppressed her disgust and tried to get back to more pleasant thoughts. She briefly caught Harry's eye and let her mind wander to being able to spend time with him. The idea of getting away from her parents was still a bit too much to hope for, but her mind could easily imagine sitting in class next to Harry. Or walking down the hall with him, as people gossiped about them. Walking into the Great Hall on his arm,,,
'Oh crap, I'm falling for him.'
A bitter voice inside answered, 'of course you are. Silly little girls always dream of heroes rescuing them. You should know better by now. Your plans won't work. Dumbledore won't let him be free. He won't be able to rescue you. Your parents will arrange things for you, a good pure blood marriage.'
Pansy closed her eyes for a moment to keep the terror from her face, and she realized something about her panic. 'Even my doubts and fears can't argue that Harry wants to help me. Only that external forces might keep him from doing so. Which means that I just have to come up with a sound enough plan. And I will. I will figure out the way to be saved from the parents, then get my partner to be the muscle,' she chuckled as she thought that. It would be nice if he did start working out, Harry was way too scrawny.
They both finished their meals eventually. As she left for the evening, she saw him smile at her. Maybe falling for him wouldn't be the worst idea...
The next day, Harry found that the mandrake potion was being finished and Hermione would be back that afternoon. This would be great news except for one thing. Hermione was much more perceptive than Ron. Sneaking off to scheme with Pansy would be much harder now.
Harry put that aside for now. Hermione would want to know every detail of what had happened. He and Ron had a lot to tell her. He just hoped that she wouldn't be too disappointed in the notes he'd been taking in class for the last few weeks. Of course, if she complained, he could just tell her to get Ron's notes instead. 'As if Ron took notes.'
The trio was reunited, the last few days of term went by and Harry prepared to change his life. But he had one last thing to do before riding the train home in the morning.
He used his cloak to move through the halls in the hour before the final feast. Pansy was finally spotted in the library returning the book she had borrowed for him. He reached out and held her hand through the cloak as she headed for the door. Thankfully, she didn't react too much, just letting him pull her down the hall to an empty class room. Harry removed the cloak and locked the door once they were both inside. "I needed to see you before we left."
Pansy's insides were delighted but she still felt the need to glare at him a bit. Ever since Granger had returned to the land of the living, Harry had not spent any time with her.
"I'm sorry I haven't been able to get away the last few days. Hermione is just way too clever to ditch as easily as I could Ron."
"How are you going to handle them next fall? I thought you wanted to be able to be seen with me."
"I'm sorry if I upset you," Harry could tell that the recent distance had bothered her. He had missed being around her as well, but at least he had Hermione and Ron to keep him occupied. "I just couldn't risk either of them blowing things for us. Hermione is way too much of a sucker for rules and authority. Telling her that I'd been scheming with you to run away from our families would lead her to immediately go running to McGonagall. And Ron would just yell at me for talking to a Slytherin."
"What about next year?"
"As soon as you're safe with me, I'll tell them the truth."
"What if they don't approve?"
"They'll just have to get over it. We're partners after all. I'll owe you for my freedom, I won't turn my back on you just because they're being childish."
Pansy looked deeply into his eyes and could see the truth coming from him. She sighed, stepped forward, and tentatively held her arms out to him. "I'm afraid," she whispered.
Harry hugged her and answered softly, "Everything will work out somehow."
"You can't know that."
"I won't abandon you, Pansy. If you have any problems, just call for Dobby."
"If something goes wrong, or my parents find out.."
"I'll just steal you away from them," Harry could feel her trembling in his arms. He had been a bit worried but suddenly everything had changed. He felt confident- she needed his bravery now, so he would give it to her. "I'm supposed to be the hero, right? So obviously, I can't fail a damsel in distress. It would ruin my reputation."
Pansy chuckled in his arms and for a moment she felt happier than she could remember. "I'm pretty sure this entire year has been about ruining your reputation, oh great Heir of Slytherin."
"Yeah, well, a lot of people are morons."
"Of course, it would have helped if Dumbledore had told the truth."
"Oh yes, I'll just rewrite his leaving speech. 'Children, I have a story to tell you of a half-blood orphan who grew up to become a psychopathic Dark Lord. But while he was here at school 50 years ago he opened the Chamber of Secrets and let loose a basilisk which killed a girl. We all now have the pleasure of a haunted bathroom. I knew that Harry Potter was not the Heir of Slytherin and all of you should have as well since he is our saviour after all. Plus, his best friend is a muggle born, so the idea that he would attack them really doesn't make any sense. I forgot to tell you all not to scorn him for several months, that might come back to bite you in the future."
Pansy laughed louder this time and interrupted, "Oh no, I'm sure the great hero won't turn his back on us just because we're fools and sheep that treat him like garbage."
"Of course he won't," Harry said with a knowing smirk then cleared his throat. "Where were we, oh yes, 'regardless of my blatant failure to ensure the safety of all of you, just like last year, Harry once again saved the school by nearly dying. He killed a monster, defeated the evil wizard, and rescued the maiden, just like in those ridiculous books that lied about him as a young child while I sent him to live in hell. For these remarkable heroics, I will award him enough points to nearly make up for the bias of Professor Snape, who has only taken 250 points from him this year for minor offenses like not dying. Let us congratulate Gryffindor for winning the house cup."
"Snape would take points away for you clapping too much if he could get away with interrupting Dumbledore."
"Yeah," Harry groaned. "I hope you don't mind, but once we deal with your parents and the Malfoys, one of these days, we will have to come up with a plot to deal with Snape as well."
"Why would I mind that? He may be the head of Slytherin, but he is lousy at it as well as being a terrible teacher. I just do pretty well in his class because I've read a fair amount about potions and he doesn't grade me harshly because I wear green."
"Feel better now?" Harry asked and released Pansy from the hug.
"Good, because there's one more thing before I can let you go. We both could use some good luck this summer. So..." Harry leaned in; Pansy's breath caught as she saw his approach and she quickly tilted her head a bit, then closed her eyes. He slowly finished the movement towards her and then their lips met. It was a tender kiss, full of the hope they both now had. It was only for a moment, but it was a moment neither of them would ever forget.
Harry began to pull away as they both opened their eyes, but Pansy was smiling at him and she wrapped her arms around him. He relaxed in her arms and returned her embrace. Neither said anything. After everything each had been through, this instant of togetherness felt like a miracle. But it also felt natural, somehow.
"I think we're both going to need a lot of luck this summer." She kissed him, and as he responded, this time the kiss was longer, harder, and more passionate. It was full of a shared desire and need to have someone they could trust and count on.
They both took a deep breath and as they looked at each other, Harry said "I promise I'll do whatever it takes to get you away from your parents."
"You just want me to kiss you like that again," Pansy said, laughing softly. "But I believe you. We need to come up with the right plan to make sure that I get away from them for good. Having to repeat a kidnapping would make things that much harder and they could still try to force an arranged marriage on me."
"Maybe we'll get lucky and your father will die. Then we could use my plan to confound your drunken mother into signing a betrothal to me."
"Since you're not a bad kisser, I suppose a betrothal to you wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. But even if we did use that silly plan of yours, I'm still the brains of this team."
"But I would get to look smug if my silly plan worked. And I'd assume a reward kiss for successfully rescuing the lovely maiden as well."
"Don't look too smug or I might pass on the kiss."
"As you wish, my lady," Harry answered kissing the back of her hand.
"I love it when you do that, even though you are being silly."
"I thought you might."
"We need to get to dinner soon."
"Sit facing away from the Slytherin table tonight so you won't be staring at me all through dinner."
"Not even going to try to argue that you wouldn't be staring at me?"
Pansy chuckled at Harry's sincerity. "I'll leave first in a moment. Put your cloak back on when I do, just in case." She walked over to the door and said, "Good luck Harry."