In the split second the curse hits her, like the stupid cliche of her life flashing before her eyes, Padma remembers:

and you thought you knew every counterjinx, Padma, Pansy says, her face all lit up and flushed and excited, and Padma hits the table, only hesitating for a moment before hexing Pansy back two steps, then striding up to her and hauling Pansy up by the lapels for a kiss, and -

Pansy's wand is still trained on her now, and her face has the same flush and her eyes the same brightness; she doesn't look any more apologetic now than she did then, back in fourth year. Padma wants to hate her, and, somewhere in her head, she does. But you really can't go to a better place for compartmentalization than a Ravenclaw's head.

"Good, good, Parkinson," Amycus Carrow declares. "Now, Zabini, I would love to see you crush Mr Terrence under your boot…. HA!" The Slytherins laugh, uncomfortably, and he grins, goaded on. "Now, go on! Show me your best!"

Padma pulls herself up, catches Terry's gaze, and tries not to crack a smile at his provocative raising of his eyebrows in lieu of a grin. Even now, even after everything this year has thrown at them and how their world has come crashing down around their ears, the DA has never been stronger.

She feels Pansy's eyes on her. She simply tilts her head back and, for an instant, meets her gaze. Then she glances away, dismissively, as though there's nothing to be seen there.

It'll have Pansy seething for hours.

This is the war they wage against each other.

Padma counts under her breath the doors on the left side of the corridor, one, two, three, four, five, six - and that has to be it. She opens the door, and looks inside, prepared to walk on as though she isn't expecting anything, just a prefect doing a perfunctory sweep, but there Pansy is, pacing like a caged tiger, her back to the door.

For some reason, it surprises her. Then her face flushes and she can't help but smirk.

She steps inside and shuts the door behind her. Pansy turns around instantly, and stops dead, bristling, like a frightened kneazle. "I didn't think you would show up," she says, in the usual nasty tone she brandishes like a weapon. "Since you and your little Army are so much better than the rest of us."

"Did you really think that the Carrows and the power trip they're giving you changes anything between us?" Padma doesn't move, and just lets her cool gaze casually drift the room. "It hasn't. Are you going to come here?"

"Fuck you," Pansy snaps at her, tremulously. "Things aren't the same, you're a dirty blood-traitor and I won't be - I won't - "

"Fine," Padma interrupts her, coldly. "If you're done, I'm done."

"Patil," Pansy starts, sharply.

"No. If you don't want to fuck a blood-traitor, you're not going to fuck a blood-traitor. I'm not going to force you. I'm not like the vipers in the pit you call a house." She turns heel and heads for the door, each step measured.

"You don't get to manipulate me," Pansy says, cutting, and Padma glances back at her. "You don't get to mindfuck me, Patil! You don't know what you're dealing with."

"Look, I think I have more than enough reasons to give up on you," Padma says, her tone now icy. She's angry now, and her only refuge from sinking into love or lust or whatever it is they have is going to be logic at this point. "I don't know why you would give up on me - or I know why, but I really did think what we have was more potent than that."

Pansy's expression wavers between obstinance and something very near pained, and Padma keeps going. "Amortentia, Pansy."

Pansy exhales, shakily. "Patil - "

"Tell me again. What does Amortentia smell like to you?"

Padma watches Pansy begin to melt, and something inside her twists and tries to force her forward, to kiss her and heal her from all of the wounding words, no matter how many of them were hers. But she waits until Pansy speaks. "Hair oil. Imported ink. Sandalwood."

That's it. Padma can't stand it anymore; she wants to rush to Parvati's arms, tell her everything; she wants Pansy to take off their clothes and curl up against her, warm and vulnerable and scented with lavender oil and hair potions. Instead, she and Pansy are just looking at each other, silent, still, until Pansy takes the steps towards her.

Pansy stops in front of her, then sinks to her knees, taking Padma's hands when she offers them. She kisses Padma's hands, lingering, then says, "Right here - away from them - it doesn't change anything."

Padma smiles, just slightly, and strokes Pansy's hair, then curling her fingers in it and pulling sharply, enjoying the immediate intoxication that moves through her darling Parkinson at the pain and the surrender.

"You're mine," Padma says, softly, and tightens her hold on Pansy's head after she nods, then releases her. "Up."

They have always played a game like this, before Pansy knew much about sex at all. It was variations on a theme. At first, it was a game of Auror and criminal. The roles have never been consistently one girl's or the others; usually, one would have the stronger urge and the other would happily agree. It was one of the few things they didn't actually argue about: the game, or anything within the game.

Right now, it's more real than it's ever been. Padma has her pressed against a desk, her hand is around her throat, her body flush against hers, and Pansy's short enough of breath to keen against her. "Tell me," Padma says, breathlessly, "what you know."

"I don't know anything," Pansy says, and smirks; when Padma tightens her grip, she makes a wonderful but embarrassing mewling sound. Padma's knee moves between her legs to part them good and wide, and she gives, allowing Padma to shift her onto the desk.

"I know you know," Padma says, half-growling it, just slightly releasing her throat, and the darkness in her eyes, feigned or not, drives Pansy to an entirely new level of turned-on. Fuck. "Why are they hurting us? What's the point? They know it's not going to change what we're doing."

Merlin fuck, Padma's talking about what's actually happening. It's enough to shock Pansy out of the scene, if only for a moment, but Padma is just looking at her, and there's an obvious change in her eyes; that darkness, it's betrayal, it's worry, it's real anger.

"Because this is the world now," Pansy says, not breaking Padma's gaze for a moment. "And you know that, you and your whole Army know that, but you can't deal with it so you just - "

"You'll never win," Padma says, and Pansy recoils; it might as well have been a physical blow. "You know that, don't you?"

"Padma," Pansy says, more subdued, softly. "I wish I could believe in Potter. In your cause. I wish I could, but I just can't - "

"Because of Draco?" Padma says; she sighs, and leans against her, pulling her close by the small of her back. "He's not here. And he's… you said he's different now, maybe even he's..."

Pansy forces herself to speak, her stomach turning. "Don't bring up Draco," she says, quietly demanding. "I don't bring up your mudblood."

"He's not - " Oh, Pansy is so grateful she doesn't get pedantic and start arguing terminology. "It's not about that."

"You're still jealous," Pansy notes idly.

Padma moves away slightly and stares her down. "Why would you think that?"

Pansy knows what to say. "Because you don't trust me and I don't think you ever have, even if you love me - "

Padma pulls away and walks away, and dammit, Pansy almost wishes she could take it back, but she doesn't think she could even if she wanted to. But Padma turns back and she doesn't think she's ever been more relieved. "I do love you," she says, sad but fierce and passionate in a way Pansy isn't sure she's ever seen. "And you know that, but I don't know if that's enough."

"I love you," Pansy says, intently keeping her gaze. "And right now it doesn't matter which side we're on."

"It matters," Padma insists, her voice strained.

"That's what love means," Pansy argues. "Nothing else matters."

Padma shakes her head, frustrated, and Pansy is startled to see her shoulders jerk with a sob; then Padma is rushing towards her and they're kissing frantically, hungrily, as though this is their last chance and Hogwarts Castle is imploding around them. All Pansy can do is drown in the passion rushing between them like Priori Incantatem and breathe in the soft touch of sandalwood and taste the peppermint bubblegum taste left in Padma's mouth, all of it more intoxicating than Amortentia could ever hope to be.

"Take off your knickers," Padma murmurs in her ear, breath hot against her cheek, and she doesn't hesitate even for a moment to obey.

After, so long after, when dust around the Battle of Hogwarts has settled and the bodies have been buried, when Parvati mourns and drinks and owls her nastily, Pansy sends the shortest, most honest owl she's ever penned.

You were right. I'm sorry.

Padma is at her door within an hour. They hug, first, then Pansy very nearly cries but Padma puts her hand on the back of Pansy's neck and whispers, "Shh," softly, comforting; she obeys, again, only a few tears streaking down her face as she presses her face into Padma's shoulder, still conflicted but more content than she's ever been.

"You're mine," Padma says quietly, certainly, like she's pronouncing an edict, and Pansy's heart leaps. "That won't ever change."

Pansy nods, then seals it with a kiss, as chaste as their first so many years ago.

It's love. And right now, nothing else matters.