(A/N: A short one-shot written for a fic exchange over at Quiet Ones. This is Draco/Hermione/Blaise, people: yes, all three. There's no sexual content whatsoever, though, except for the vaguest references. The R rating is for language only. Here's the criteria I had to fulfill:
of the fic you want: B/Hr/D
Rating(s) of the fic you want: R/NC-17
3 - 5 Things you want your gift to include:
1. Chocolate Syrup
2. Hurt/Comfort- Draco being hurt by Hermione, Blaise comforting
3. Blaise losing his temper
What you don't want your gift to include: Non-con. Unhappy ending
So- on with the ficlet... who can spot the Princess Bride reference? Aside from my brilliant beta reader Alex25, that is...)
"Ummungh," Blaise Zabini mumbled, stirring in his sleep, beginning, reluctantly, to rise toward wakefulness; "blugh."
He cracked open first one eye, then the other. "Mmmph," he said resentfully, pulling himself fully into a sitting position from the awkward, half-reclining slouch in which he'd been sleeping. He swung his legs down from where they'd been draped over the arm of the large, soft chair he was currently occupying – quite comfortable as far as chairs went, but a poor excuse for a bed when one came right down to it – slapping his bare feet down on the cold, sterile, hospital-room floor. Grimacing, he placed his elbows on his knees and leaned his head forward into his hands, knuckling sleep from his eyes… looking years younger as he did so; a slim, dark boy who was the picture-perfect counterpart of the slim, pale boy who lay unmoving in the narrow hospital bed.
Then he raised his head again and the illusion of youth was gone- he now looked old beyond his twenty years, his face drawn tight with worry and fatigue.
"Draco," he said, his voice hoarse with sleep, then swallowed. Ran his hands through his dark, chin-length, sleep-tousled hair. "Draco, for Merlin's sake, enough. Will you just snap out of it already? Come on!"
There was no response from his best-friend-who-was-more-than-a-best-friend. His better half. Well, no. For Blaise, and Draco too, for that matter, they were not "halves" so to speak, but thirds.
Blaise gave a guttural groan, his hands frozen and clenched in his brown-black hair. "Draco, enough already! I haven't had more than-" he paused, his eyes flicking to the old-fashioned clock on the bedside table- "four hours' sleep together in three bloody days! I know you're dramatic by nature, but this is ridiculous. Just cut it out already and wake up! What are you trying to do to me? Guh! You want me to spell it out? Fine! We're bloody falling to pieces without you. I need you! She needs you, even if this is her entire bloody f-"
He broke off abruptly as the door opened. There, standing uncertain, hesitant, framed in the coldly unnatural white light of the hospital hallway, was the very "she" he'd been referring to; the final piece of their little now-shattered trinity.
It only made sense, really, when one stopped to think about it, that a girl who'd had two best friends for the entirety of her school career should later take two lovers. She had become accustomed to this sort of double attention, after all; it suited her. And with the defeat of Voldemort a year after she'd graduated Hogwarts, she had been among the first people to put the rivalries of her school days behind her and extend an offer of friendship – which had rapidly grown into more – to the two former Slytherins who had accompanied Severus Snape on his final reconnaissance mission for the Order of the Phoenix, carrying on, in the face of great adversity, even after his death; completing the mission successfully, and turning the tide of the war.
So now here stood Hermione Granger, twenty years old, one of the brightest and most celebrated young witches in Great Britain- or anywhere, really- sought after by all the best wizarding corporations, and even governments, in the world- looking absolutely, no-holds-barred, dreadful. Like hell warmed over. Usually she was so calm, collected, the face and voice of reason in just about any situation; yet now her clothes were rumpled and mismatched, her hair, which she'd taken, after graduation, to wearing in buns or plaits, hung long and loose in all its wild, tumultuous glory, and her face showed the same tell-tale signs of sleep-deprivation as Blaise's; mouth drawn tight, complexion pallid, eyes too large and dark with smudges of exhaustion underneath them.
Blaise's eyes narrowed to slits. "What are you doing here?" he spat. "Come to look at what you've done? I told you to stay the hell away!"
Hermione appeared to sway on her feet for a second- a result of her obvious fatigue, if it wasn't just a trick of the light behind her- and Blaise, despite all his anger, had to fight the urge jump up and go steady her. He did love her after all, in spite of everything – loved her as well as he knew Draco did… which was why, when she and Draco had been arguing all those days ago, before the big Quidditch match, her words had cut the silver-haired boy so deeply.
Had led him to this.
Hermione wrapped her arms tightly about herself; a defensive gesture, a folding-in of her body upon itself, against Blaise's rage. When she spoke, her voice was barely above a whisper.
"Look, Blaise, I-" she paused as her eyes flickered to Draco's still form, then back to Blaise's closed, angry face, and a single tear streaked down her cheek. She swallowed and started again. "I know this is my fault, but – but I want to be here with him too, I – please, can I just stay a while?"
Blaise stared hard at her for a moment. She really did look awful, and miserable, and small and lost and unsure and alone – so very different from the usual brisk confidence that was one of the things he most loved about her. Maybe she didn't need his harsh words to ensure her suffering. Maybe she was doing a good enough job of that on her own.
He slouched back further in his chair. "Suit yourself," he said flatly, fixing his eyes on a point just beyond her left shoulder – markedly refusing to look directly at her.
Nonetheless, he was scanning her surreptitiously as she crossed the room, searching for other signs of faintness or any kind of illness lingering about her – it was one thing for her to be wallowing in misery and guilt; he wanted that, she deserved that – but it was quite another should she actually be making herself sick over this.
It was hard enough sitting by one hospital bed. He didn't want to even imagine the strain of sitting by two.
Hermione was unfastening her coat as she approached; she slung it over one arm of the empty chair that sat opposite the one Blaise occupied, on the other side of the bed, failing to even notice when it immediately slid to the floor, a puddle of dark fabric. Her eyes were fixed on Draco, all of her concentration reserved for him alone. Instead of taking the chair, she sank down on the edge of the bed.
"Hi, love," she whispered, bending down to plant a kiss on his brow. "I'm so sorry. I never… never meant… Draco, please just come back to us now. Please?"
Blaise, sunk deep in his cushy chair, snorted. He couldn't help it. He was still so angry, goddamn it all. "What, not pleased with your handiwork?" he sneered when her sad, hurt eyes rose to meet his.
"Blaise," she said, "please… I haven't slept in days. You must know I never meant – "
"Never meant what?" Blaise interrupted, leaning forward sharply. "Never meant for him to take it like that? Never thought he would react the way he did? Honestly, what else could you have expected?! You know how insecure he is about Potter! You can say what you like now, but you knew perfectly damn well how he would take it! You wanted to hurt him as deeply as possible. Well, congratulations, Hermione – you succeeded. Aren't you proud?"
"That is not fair!" she cried, tears now openly falling from both eyes. "You were there, you saw the whole thing, you know what happened! So stop acting as though I were the only one at fault, saying mean things just for the sake of it, with no provocation. You heard what he called me, you know how that hurts – "
"Mudblood," Blaise said flatly.
"Yes, mudblood." Hermione practically spat the word. "A fine thing to call someone you supposedly love. I thought we were beyond all that schoolyard name-calling, that we could work out our differences like adults – "
"Don't. You. Even." Blaise's tone and eyes were dangerous. He paused, drew in a deep breath, obviously fighting for control; he was on the verge of losing his temper and Blaise didn't like himself when he lost his temper. "Work out our differences like adults?" he finally asked, in a somewhat normal voice. "Is that what you call dredging up Draco's deepest insecurity and throwing it in his face? So he called you a stupid, childish name! You are an adult, as you say. You should bloody well be able to cope with it! But what you said back was fifty times worse – I still can hardly believe that you said that, you – because frankly, I don't like thinking that the woman I love has it in her to be so vicious!
"I know!" Hermione wailed. "Blaise, I'm sorry! I never meant to say – "
'I doubt you'll be smirking like that tomorrow,' she shouted, red-faced, standing now, fists planted on the table in front of her, one on either side of the bowl of ice cream she'd been eating when the argument had first begun; vanilla with chocolate syrup- Draco had poured it on for her just before smothering his own ice cream with the stuff, nose in the air as he'd made some snidely humorous little remark about how 'a Malfoy would never be so common as to eat plain vanilla.' But his eyes, which had been alive with mirth just those ten short minutes ago, were now as cold and flat as ice, showing no remorse for the ugly, hateful word he'd just hurled at her, and so she continued, 'Harry'll wipe that smug look off your face when he beats you to the snitch for – oh- what is it? – the thousandth time?! He's ten times the Quidditch player you are, and a better man too!'
Draco's jaw actually dropped for an instant – he had never anticipated an attack of this caliber – but only an instant; then his defenses were up, his face as impassive as ever he could make it, only the fact that it was now a whiter shade of pale acting as an indication of just how deeply he was shaken.
'We'll see, Granger,' he said tightly, biting the words off from between clenched teeth, 'we'll just see.' He left the kitchen then, and the flat – left her standing there, shaking, drained by her anger and suddenly bewildered; where in Merlin's name had all that come from? They'd been eating ice cream… they'd been talking about their respective days at work… had one comment about the new Minister of Magic's policy on house elves really begun a chain reaction that had resulted in – in this? She could scarcely believe it. Her eyes sought out Blaise, who was leaning against the kitchen counter, staring back at her, aghast.
'Blaise, I – '
'That was low,' he cut her off. 'That was the lowest thing I think I've ever heard you say, Hermione. And if Draco hurts himself out there tomorrow taking some stupid risk or another as a result of it, I am going to hold you entirely responsible. It will be all – your – fault.'
Blaise slept on the sofa that night; Draco never came home at all. Hermione spent the night awake, alone in the huge bed meant for three, trying desperately to convince herself that Blaise was overreacting – Draco wouldn't really take her stupid comment made in anger to heart… not to the point where he'd endanger himself during the match… would he?
As it turned out, he did. The next time Hermione saw him, through her Omnioculars at the Quidditch match the following afternoon- he was flying like a maniac. It was the annual Ministry of Magic amateur Quidditch match, and Harry, Ron, Draco and Blaise, all of whom were employed by the Ministry; Harry and Ron as Aurors, Blaise on the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, and Draco as an Unspeakable – (Hermione herself had risen quickly to become the Head of the Department for Non-Human Relations) – were participating – Draco and Harry playing Seeker opposite one another, just as they always had in school. Though the four young men had put their differences aside in the wake of the war, and even forged the bonds of a tentative, edgy friendship, largely for Hermione's sake, the rivalry between Harry and Draco hadn't changed – Draco, competitive by nature, found it extremely galling that not only had he never won a match against Harry in school, but he had lost the two previous annual matches they'd played in as well.
It was this long-standing frustration, and the deep insecurity that resulted from it, that Hermione had called upon with her cutting remark in the kitchen the night before, and though she'd lain awake all night, praying praying praying that Draco wouldn't take it to heart, wouldn't do anything stupid, as Blaise seemed inclined to believe he would, it now appeared, as Draco rocketed overhead like a shooting star, taking risks he would never even consider under ordinary circumstances, that her words had hit their mark unerringly well. Too well.
In the end, it was Draco that caught the snitch.
The only problem was, he stretched so far off his broom, and at such a high speed, that he lost his grip on the broom handle as he did so. There was a collective gasp from the stands as he slipped almost entirely off the length of smooth, polished wood- then, for a moment, it appeared that things would be all right again, the gasps turning into sighs of relief, for Draco still held tightly on with one white-knuckled hand, the other clenched around the fluttering golden snitch.
But then- and this would haunt Hermione in guilt-ridden nightmares for years- things had all gone to hell, because in order to pull himself back onto the broomstick, Draco would have had to use both hands; would have had to release the snitch.
And he didn't release the snitch. The match was not officially considered won until the victorious Seeker touched down to the ground still holding that God-forsaken little bastard of a ball – and so Draco did not release the snitch.
He fell instead.
She was on her feet, shouting the words of a slowing spell without even consciously realizing what she was doing, and that helped, the mediwizards told her later; that was probably what made the difference between comatose and dead.
But she could hardly find any satisfaction in being the one to save his life when she was the one who had caused it to be endangered in the first place, as Blaise had pointed out to her when she'd run onto the field, hysterical- and had told her just to stay the hell away from them both, hadn't she done enough already? And now –
"Never meant?" Blaise said, his voice rising as his tenuous grip on his temper began to fail him. "Never meant? It's a little late for never meant now, Hermione, wouldn't you say?!"
"Blaise, please! I feel wretched enough already! I told you I was s – "
"Sorry doesn't cut it when Draco's life is on the line!" Blaise shouted, half-rising out of his chair, losing his temper completely at last. His hands were clenched into fists and he brought them both down at once, onto the upholstered armrests of the chair, with a muted thud. "Look," he said after sucking in a deep, unsteady breath and raising his hands to rub wearily at his temples, "this is… this can't… just leave, all right, Hermione? I'll owl you as soon as there's any change. Go home and get some sleep, okay? You look exhausted, I don't like seeing you this way, I – I do love you, Hermione, but I'm just… very, very angry right now. So um…" he gestured vaguely, tiredly, at the door. "Just go. Please."
Hermione stared at him for a long moment over the hospital bed, hurt written clearly on her face and in her eyes. Finally, stifling a sob, she wrenched her eyes away from him and shot to her feet, ready, it seemed, to flat-out bolt for the door, leaving her coat forgotten in its sad little heap on the floor. Before she could do that, though –
A hand shot out and caught hers from the air.
Hermione made a small sound of surprise, looked back at Blaise, realized the hand holding onto her did not belong to him, then slowly, disbelievingly, lowered her eyes to Draco, just as Blaise did the same thing.
Those amazing, gorgeous eyes – eyes the color of arctic ice – eyes she'd begun to fear she'd never see open again – were regarding her with an expression that was half puzzled, half amused; his brow just slightly knit.
"Hey," he said, in a voice that was cracked from disuse, "you two fighting over me again? If I've told you once, I've told you a million times – there's enough to go around."
"Draco," she breathed, in dawning wonder, as it finally began to sink in that he's awake! He's all right! He's really all right! And then she was throwing herself down on the bed, stretching out full-length right there beside him, covering his face with kisses as he grimaced and spoke just a single protesting word – "gently!" – before dropping her head to his chest, sobbing out her relief, feeling his hand come up to tangle in her unkempt hair, and then Blaise was there as well, on Draco's other side, half-kneeling on the bed with his forehead resting against Draco's, his eyes screwed shut and an expression on his face that almost looked like pain… but Hermione knew it wasn't pain, it was joy that was beyond Blaise's ability to express.
She heard Draco mutter to Blaise, "Did I hold onto the bloody thing? Did we win?" and Blaise's reply of "Damn straight we won, mate!" and then Blaise buried his face in the juncture of Draco's throat and shoulder, just breathing in the scent of him as Hermione was doing, and she felt his arm sling around her – he was holding her and Draco all at once.
And there would be a hell of a lot to talk through, but that was for later. For now, this was enough. For now everything was right in the world because thank God, thank God, they were three again.