Plus, she wanted to meet the little birdie Tristan had temporarily adopted. She knew he had the instinct, but was not a man who did a lot of collecting. Anything out of his normal habit was of great interest to her.
Instead of apparating into his home as was her wont (if only to move things around to irritate him), Pansy appeared with a ‘pop’ just outside the entrance to his workshop just as the sun was about to set. She might have delayed her coming as she was in the process of transplanting some of her roses and preparing some of the beds in the gardens for spring, but most people slept at night, and if she intended to meet the woman, it had to be during normal waking hours.
She stepped into the shop, dark eyes darting around at what was new before coming to rest on Tristan. “I’m unnaturally cheerful today. I think I’m ill,” she said by way of greeting. “You?”
The flicker of the wards across his skin warned him of Pansy’s arrival a moment before her voice reached him, and Tristan glanced up from his carving with a smile curling his lips. “On you, that might be a sign of some sort of disturbance, yes,” he agreed teasingly, setting his knife and the nearly-finished fox kit he’d been shaping aside.
He’d intended to rough out a few fusion models for an upcoming project, but the weather and simple lack of time constraint had lured him to the fireside and the last of a set of toys he’d been creating for Tess. “I’m well enough, myself, though my poor old bones are not fond of this temperature, as ever.”
“Old man,” she muttered as she meandered through the shop toward him, running her fingers over everything in her path. One of the several tubs of balm she forced on him was sitting off to the side and Pansy detoured to snatch it from its resting place before finally padding toward him.
“You could read or something,” she said to him as she approached. “Give your hands a break when the weather’s shite.”
“I could,” Tristan admitted, “but as you’ve pointed out countless times before, I’m quite stubborn and set in my ways. Also, I’ve done quite a lot of reading lately, and very little carving, and I felt like being out of the house for a while.”
Catching her hand as she stepped closer, he drew Pansy to sit with him, pointing out with a faint smirk, “Besides, my creaking joints are one of the few enticements I have for you to be nice to me.”
“I’m nice to you,” she said, the faint echo of a frown pulling between her brows as she settled on his lap. “At least a majority of the time,” she qualified, features clearing to a thoughtful mien as she considered their past and her admittedly irritable disposition.
After screwing the top off the tub, dipping her fingers inside to scoop some of the balm, and then setting the tub on the side table where he’d deposited the toy he’d been working on, Pansy held out her hand for one of his. “I didn’t actually come here to be your nursemaid,” she said. “I’ve been curious about your pet housemate and her friend Vlad.”
Placing his right hand in Pansy’s waiting one, Tristan acknowledged, “I didn’t expect that you had, but I do enjoy the opportunity to benefit from chance, and you have a vested interest in making sure my fingers work, so that I can pet you.” It amused him to no end that she subsided like a happy kitten if he played with her hair, and he did look forward to the occasions when she tended his hands, despite her habit of haranguing him about his ill care of himself while she did so.
“Lisa has gone home,” he informed her, having bid a quiet farewell to the Ravenclaw just after the new year, with invitations on both sides to visit freely. “She did say she’d be happy to show you her greenhouse, though, and as you’ve arrived at a marginally respectable hour of the day, I imagine she’d be amenable to guests.”
“It seems I just missed her then,” Pansy mused aloud as she began to massage the balm into his hand. It’d only been a couple of days since Tristan had come by her home. Ah, well. She might not get to see Lisa settled in at Whin Terrace, as interesting as that might have been, but there was always Vlad.
She hummed softly to herself as she continued with her ministrations, and as she was finishing up with his first hand, came to the internal conclusion that it was probably best she was meeting his pet Ravenclaw in her own home anyway. Pansy knew she could be overbearing.
After gathering more balm and then sealing the container, Pansy took his other hand and began the same treatment, slim fingers massaging his palm and rubbing the balm into the hills and valleys of his knuckles. “You’re quite right,” she said at length, “I have need of your hands and thus they are taken care of. I also have need of your person to shepherd me to visit timid Ravenclaws with bloodthirsty plants. Essentially,” she said, lifting dark eyes to meet his, “I’m an absolutely selfish creature, and I’m entirely unrepentant. But then, you’re a surly, arthritic old man. It all evens out in the end.”
Chuckling at Pansy’s explanation, since everything she’d said was essentially true, and a much more candid view of her character than anyone else would dare to give, Tristan shrugged. “A barter system suits me quite well, and I happen to like you, selfishness and lack of repentance included. You do have to be nice to Lisa, though. She’s only been back at Dragonwood a few days, and I’m certain everything is quite different from what she’s used to.”
He’d seen her only once since her return to her husband’s estate a few days prior, and they’d spent it as they’d spent most of their evenings while she’d been in residence at Whin Terrace, reading together in his study in front of the fire. She’d seemed content enough, and he hadn’t pressed for details beyond that she was settling in and the elves were being cooperative and helpful.
“We’ve established I’ve the ability to be nice,” she reminded him, “and given my selfish nature, it’s in my best interest to be nice if I want to meet Vlad, and perhaps have a cutting of him at some point in the future.” Pansy crinkled her nose at the menthol and eucalyptus scent of the balm that was now lingering on her hands as well. It was strong, but she would not rid herself of it. It reminded her of Tristan. “And I’m not a terror. She’s been through a lot. I’ve the ability to be a decent human being on occasion.”
“I know,” Tristan agreed, tumbling Pansy against his chest now that his hands were free and squeezing her tightly for a moment. He wasn’t truly worried, but he did feel the need to remind her once in a while that civility was, for example, less likely to get her arrested than some of her preferred methods of dealing with unpleasant situations. “Thank you for taking care of my hands, and I suppose we ought to go, if we’re to arrive before pitch dark.”
“You’re welcome,” she said even as she willed herself to relax. When Tristan had first wrapped her up like this, she had nearly had an episode. As it was, she’d bitched him out and left abruptly after. Pansy was better about it now. She liked that he wanted to be affectionate with her. No one else did, and she was honest enough with herself these days to admit that it was part of what kept her relatively stable. That didn’t mean she was completely comfortable with losing her freedom of movement even for a few seconds. Not yet, at least. But she was better. It was something.
Slightly surprised at the comparative lack of tension in Pansy’s frame as he released his hold, Tristan ran a hand along her back, keeping her tucked close to him. He ducked his head to catch her eyes, a smile forming at her little huff of air. “No hissing and spitting this time?” he queried, pleased that she seemed a bit more accepting of the contact.
He was not unaware of the ghosts of Pansy’s past; she rarely deigned to discuss anything of the sort, of course, but what had come up was chilling, and he tried not to torment her unduly. Though it was hardly something he’d sought, or expected, he’d come to enjoy having her close to him, and while much of their interaction was conducted on her terms, he’d slowly pushed the issue of their seating arrangements and his occasional impulse for an embrace. She was adapting.
“Ffft, fft,” she hissed at him like a cat before giving him a huffy glare. “Any more condescending and I might have to claw you just to make a point,” she drawled irritably. Even so, she was somewhat pacified at the petting. She could be contrary if she wanted to. It was her gods-given right.
Laughing, Tristan rose and set Pansy on her feet, squeezing her gently once more because he could. “I think your threat would have more weight if the hissing wasn’t adorable,” he prodded, receiving the swat he’d expected without comment. “Come on, then... you’ve a dance with an overly affectionate venomous plant, and I promise to behave myself and not make you feel the need to murder me, at least until we leave Dragonwood.”
“Dragonwood,” she echoed. Sounded like the name of an estate of a man with a Napoleon complex. Figured.
She grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the door. “It’s not to my benefit to murder you,” she assured him as they exited the shop. “Don’t worry too much. Yet.”
Tristan only laughed at her, but didn’t let her pull her hand away in protest, and the next thing she knew they were standing before stone steps anchored on either side by life-size stone dragon heads. Of course, she thought sourly. This Lisa’s husband really had been something else.
When her companion didn’t move right away, she just started forward, again tugging him with her. Men.
Pulling her eyes from the letter in her hands, Lisa’s mouth turned into a grin at the feeling of her wards being crossed. The only person, other than herself, who was allowed to apparate through was Tristan, and she moved to the window for visual confirmation of his arrival. What she saw was a bit different than she’d expected. It seemed Tristan had brought someone through with him.
It took a moment to recognize her as Pansy Parkinson, but Lisa recalled the conversation she’d had with her former host about the woman’s interest in her venomous tentacula. Chuckling quietly to herself, Lisa watched Tristan be pulled across the lawn. It seemed Pansy was a woman on a mission, and apparently Lisa and Regan were not the only beneficiaries of Tristan’s indulgence. She shook her head and started for the front door to meet her guests.
Following Pansy with a faint air of bemusement, not bothered enough by her dragging to extricate himself, Tristan nodded to Lisa as the door was opened before them. He’d have preferred to arrange a visit, given that he’d not had opportunity to assess her state of mind in the past day or so, but she seemed cheerful enough, and Pansy’s whims were Pansy’s whims. “Good evening, Lisa,” he greeted.
“Hallo, Tristan,” the blonde replied, offering a smile despite her mild surprise at his arrival. She hesitated a moment. When she was staying at Whin Terrace, it was habit to attach herself to Tristan physically, but as there was already someone filling that role, Lisa was temporarily uncertain of what to do. It was only the space of a heartbeat before she remembered her manners, though, and pulling the door further open, she asked, “Would you like to come in, or will we be going directly to the greenhouse?”
Aware of the flash of conflict in the curious face turned up to his, Tristan smiled in return, gesturing to Pansy. “Since I imagine you’ve not been introduced recently, Lisa, my friend Pansy Parkinson... Pansy, Lisa Turpin, who may own a more frightening species of plant than you do, to my knowledge.” He raised an eyebrow at Pansy in regard to Lisa’s question. “I suppose that depends on how eager everyone is to visit Vlad.”
Pansy took in the timid blonde in a single glance. She could see the recent past all over; the muted voice, careful eyes, hesitance. Personal experience was a reliable guide even if she was nearing a decade of separation from her own traumatic experiences.
She loosened her fingers from Tristan’s and held out her hand. “It’s a pleasure, Lisa. It’s very good of you to entertain our unexpected visit. I shan’t apologize as I’m not sorry for forcing Tristan to intrude upon your evening, but will thank you for your indulgence.”
Grasping the slender hand extended toward her and giving it a shake, Lisa’s lips twitched slightly at Pansy’s forthrightness. As she pulled back into her own space, she considered the woman across from her. Pansy was as headstrong as she recalled from school, but it was clear she was making an effort to be friendly, or at least pleasant. She hadn’t expected that.
“It’s no problem at all. My calendar is not at all full these days, so it’s nice to have a break in the solitude. It’s pleasure to see you again, too, Pansy, although I’ve been led to believe you have ulterior motives.” The last was said with a shy grin. The tease was light, and in truth Lisa didn’t mind showing off her flora to anyone who might be interested in seeing them.
The blonde’s own forthrightness and light poke back at Pansy had her own lips curling slightly at the edges. The brunette witch had been prepared to endure whatever kind of creature Lisa turned out to be, but her initial impression left her, very surprisingly, inclined toward the other woman. “I never do anything without ulterior motives,” Pansy acknowledged. “And now that that’s a universally acknowledged truth, I believe I can insist we do go straight to the greenhouse without being too terribly impolite.”
With a nod, Lisa stepped outside and closed the door behind her before gesturing in the direction they were to walk. Tristan knew the way, having been there, of course, and knew what to expect when they got to the greenhouse, but Lisa narrated the usual procedure for Pansy’s benefit as they strolled.
“Vlad sits just inside the door. I’ll go in first and keep him occupied while the two of you pass. He’s never bitten anyone, although I’ve poked myself on his shoots enough to be pretty well immune at this point. You’ll want to be sure you stay clear of them. Sometimes he gets a bit tempestuous.”
Tristan snorted quietly at the optimistic description Lisa gave of her beloved plant’s behavior. “Assuming that by ‘tempestuous’ you mean ‘as handsy as the giant squid and poisonous as well’, certainly, that seems apt,” he voiced, recalling his previous encounter with the creature in question. Despite his teasing, he was pleased with his decision to bring Pansy this evening as demanded; she was behaving herself admirably, and appeared to have set Lisa at least somewhat at ease.
If Pansy were the type to get choked up about something, this would be one of those times. She loved her blood roses, but it was rare, indeed, to come across another flora that was partially sentient. It took generations to magically cultivate such plants to a degree where they would be useful and not chaotic and unpredictable. Due to the volatility involved in growing and refining such vegetation (death was not uncommon), there were few stable varieties that actually existed, and the few that did tended to be closely guarded secrets of bloodline families or famed botanists.
To say Pansy was more than a little thrilled was an understatement. Not that she would ever admit to such a thing out loud. She kept her pace measured next to Tristan, but her attention was drawn to the greenhouse they were approaching.
Stepping slightly ahead of the group, Lisa crossed the threshold first, repeating the stance she’d taken upon Tristan’s first visit. Standing immobile, arms stretched to the side, Vlad’s vines engulfed the small woman, though there was no malice in their intent. A subtle gesture from one hand beckoned her guests inside, and Tristan held the door as Pansy passed through, following a step behind her.
Lisa’s field of vision was limited, but she could feel the intensity with which Pansy was observing her interactions with the tentacula, and once everyone was out of harm’s way, she began to free herself from Vlad’s embrace. “The first time he did that, I thought my time on this world had expired, but he’s actually very gentle with me most of the time.”
“He can constrict to death as a boa?” Pansy inquired absently, dark eyes only dragging to Lisa’s face and away from the vigorously mobile plant at the very end of her question.
Her gaze didn’t stay with the blonde woman long, however. She was a captive audience of the large plant’s swaying, aggressive appendages, how they reached and grasped and undulated. The very fact the Ravenclaw had put it near the door, that she had to enter before any visitors to spare them pain, and perhaps even their life depending on their reaction to the kind of poison it created, meant it was more of a guard dog than flora. Its very powerful gesticulation set it apart from most all other magical flora she’d come across -- and its size! It had most certainly been well cared for.
She wanted one.
Giggling quietly as her ‘handsy’ plant tried to re-ensnare her each time she’d extracted herself from a vine, Lisa shook her head. “I don’t think he’s quite strong enough to manage that, although his grip is tenacious, as you can see. When I first started working with him, I had to use fire to force him back. Tentaculas shrink back from fire quickly. I think it’s best only to use it when absolutely necessary, though. I can’t imagine Vlad would be as friendly to me as he is if I’d threatened him all the time.”
As she unwound the last of the vines, Lisa realized she’d been rambling a bit and a hint of pink tinged her cheeks. She didn’t often have people to talk to about her plants. It was hard not to prattle on.
“You get more with honey than with vinegar,” Pansy said, dark eyes still keen on the tentacula. It seemed it was not uncommon to have to bond with these magical, sentient types of flora. “My roses demand blood. It has bonded them to my family, particularly to me as I am the only one to have given them their due in several generations.”
It was why she was so particular about germinating and growing new plants. The roses had not been properly cared for since her great-grandmother Victoria. The beautiful savages had been damn near wild when she had taken to cultivating them again. Not even the gardeners would go near them.
"As someone who encounters plants primarily after they are... no longer animate... I find myself greatly out of my depth," Tristan ventured, "so please forgive an ignorant question if it is one, but is Vlad the right sort of tentacula to produce seeds of his own?" He was sure Pansy must be mentally plotting any number of means of acquiring a seed or sprout, some surely of questionable legality, now that he'd seen her observe Lisa with the plant. "If both of you insist on consorting with flora capable of murdering me at whim, you might as well share your various wisdom, I suppose."
Lifting her gaze to meet Tristan’s, the blonde nodded, amusement at his description of Pansy’s and her various plants in her eyes. “He is. Tentaculas produce seeds toward the end of the summer. It always makes me a bit sad, but since the seeds are illegal for trade and I have my hands full just with the one, the seeds go to waste.”
Lisa was aware of the true purpose of the question. She saw how Pansy looked at her massive plant. The woman had been up front about having an ulterior motive, and it was more than just wanting to see Vlad. The other woman wanted a tentacula for her own.
Whether they would come to an agreement remained to be seen. There were ways to circumvent the trading law, which was how Lisa came to have her deadly plant in the first place, and she could see that Pansy was serious about her own plants’ care. Still, she wasn’t going to hand over a sprout without knowing the woman better. If she did decide to entrust a tentacula to Pansy, perhaps she might be able to bargain for an exchange of one of the bloodthirsty roses Miss Parkinson tended so meticulously.
Pansy could feel the other woman’s gaze heavy on her and she shifted her own brown eyes from Vlad to his mistress. The blonde was measuring her and Pansy lifted a brow in response. She then flicked her gaze to Tristan and gave him a look. “If that was supposed to be subtlety, then I find myself unimpressed. You should have just committed and been plain about your matchmaking.”
She looked back at Lisa. Nothing ever got done with all the prevaricative shite. “And it is a form of matchmaking, is it not? We must come to know one another before committing to sharing our secrets.”
“I suppose it is,” Lisa agreed, pleased that Pansy understood and acknowledged the seriousness in the sort of exchange they were both considering, even if it had yet to be specified aloud. Her mouth curled up at the corners as she added, “Matchmaking’s not so bad when I get to decide my part of the bargain.”
Matching Pansy’s pointed regard, Tristan responded evenly, “If I’d intended subtlety, I’d not have agreed to bring you to visit simply because you arrived demanding such. I could go, if you prefer, as I’m clearly not needed?” His gaze shifted to Lisa as he spoke, curious how uncomfortable the idea would make her despite her easy rejoinders to Pansy.
Lisa’s brows pulled together at the mention of Tristan leaving. It wasn’t that she minded talking to Pansy on her own; the woman hadn’t been at all unpleasant in their short acquaintance. They’d only been at her home a few minutes though, and she missed the company of her... whatever Tristan was to her. Friend seemed too presumptuous a title to assign, but Lisa was quite fond of the man who’d taken her in when she’d nowhere else to go.
“I hope you don’t consider visiting me just something to be done when you’re ‘needed’,” she said quietly.
Extending a hand to catch Lisa’s smaller one, Tristan shook his head. The ripple of tension and dismay his words had caused fairly glowed around her, though neither was surprising.
“No,” he denied, his own voice equally soft, “Though I have developed an unpleasant habit of needling Pansy in turn when she’s being especially waspish; my apologies. I should say it is an unfortunate Slytherin tendency, but I own that I do have better manners, and no one else with whom I readily trade barbs.”
“No apology is necessary,” Lisa said, feeling more settled now that the contact she’d come to expect when she was in his company had been received. “Who am I to deny Slytherins their fun?”
What was not fun was the turn Tristan’s interactions had taken for the proper and delicate.
Pansy stayed her tongue, and the urge to crinkle her nose at the pair, and turned on her heel. “Come, let us retire to tea and discuss terms of a possible trade,” she said as she headed for the greenhouse door, only pausing when it was clear she would not be able to exit until Lisa stayed her tentacula. She lifted a brow at the pair.
Aware of the edge of Pansy's ire, the ragged fringe of it brushing his senses, Tristan turned loose of Lisa to let her clear the path out of the greenhouse. It was far from surprising that his attempt at soothing Lisa annoyed her; any public show of gentleness seemed to do so, and doubtless its direction toward his 'pet Ravenclaw' only made her pricklier.
Lisa felt heat rise in her face as a feeling that she’d been caught at something overtook her, though it was nonsense. As she held out her arms for Vlad to wrap around, she forced the ingrained hesitancy from her voice. “I’ll have the elves bring some refreshments to the parlor and we’ll see what agreement might be struck. Of course, it will be months before Vlad seeds, but if we come to terms I can teach you proper care in the meantime.”