"Beware of nargles."

The voice of that daft Ravenclaw girl echoed in Blaise's head. He looked at the mistletoe with a feeling of disillusionment. Sighing, he took out his wand and blasted down the mistletoe.

Stupid things that would make one person want to kiss another, he thought to himself.

The only things that could be worse than these would be related to enduring the idiocy of Valentine's Day alone.

"Is that all you can do?" a bemused voice called out from the doorway of the room. "I know our side won and yours didn't, but shooting down defenseless decorations won't change that."

Blaise turned a scowl to Ron Weasley, who stood leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed and a disdainful expression on his face. The Slytherin's eyes narrowed, and he aimed his wand below Ron's waist.

"I could try blasting off those useless ornaments of yours, Weasley," he replied, sounding interested at the prospect.

"They're not so useless, Zabini," he said as he made a lewd hand gesture.

Blaise looked at him in contempt. "Oh, go bugger your boyfriend St. Potter."

"I just might," he said as he uncrossed his arms.

The overconfident way Ron handled himself was reminiscent of Draco in his prime. Blaise hated that look on anyone else but Malfoy.

"You self-righteous bastard," Zabini swore as he tried to move out of the room past Weasley.

The other man made no effort to stop him, which surprised Blaise. He stopped in the hall and looked at Ron.

"Why did you come here, anyway? Were you trying to gloat that your lover lived and mine didn't?" he asked acidly.

Ron examined his cuticles and feigned a lack of interest as Blaise spoke. Then he fixed his blue eyes upon the other man in attitude so serious that it left their previous petty bickering behind.

"Harry's not alive," he said. "Yes, he breathes and walks the land of the living, but the War killed him a long time ago."

Blaise walked back to Weasley, who was standing tall and cool against the door frame as if he owned the place. "How nice," he spat. "At least the one you love is still here."

Ron cocked his head to the side and gazed wearily at the dark-haired man in front of him. "Maybe you weren't listening, Zabini. Harry's not here—not the Harry I loved."

"And what the hell does that have to do with me?" he questioned with a growl. He couldn't help it; Weasley always brought out the feral animal in him.

"Nothing," Ron replied, looking away as if in thought, "except... on some level, I'm sorry you lost Draco, even if he was an evil bastard and the world is a better place without him."

Anger flashed over Zabini's face, but he held it in check. Instead, he aimed his wand pointedly at the area of Ron's genitals. "I believe I was removing useless annoyances, Weasley."

Ron swept the wand aside and stepped forward to stand in Blaise's face. "Look, at least you know for sure he's gone. You can mourn and move on with your life. You're not the victim of a false hope that maybe, just maybe, the person you love will snap out of it or simply come back from wherever his mind has been."

"Oh, I'm so sorry for you," Blaise said in a voice that indicated he wasn't sorry in the least.

Ron closed his eyes and resisted the conflicting urges to rub his temples and throttle Zabini.

"The War might be over for the rest of them," Ron said with a vague gesture to indicate other people, "but for some of us, the War will never be over."

"That," Blaise said, emphasizing the first word, "is the first thing you've said that makes sense."

"Happy New Year, Blaise," Ron said as he stepped away from Zabini.

"That's it? You've wasted my time for this?" Blaise exclaimed.

Ron murmured something about wasting his own time, too, as he tried to walk away from Zabini. His own happy New Year wasn't looking to be so happy after all. Maybe it was by charitable inspiration that he had originally intended to mend bridges with the lonely Slytherin. It was too much of a habit by now to bait the other man, so that even his good intentions failed. He didn't realize that talking to Blaise would reveal his own loneliness.

Ron quietly watched everyone at the New Year's Eve party. Harry was the hero of the hour, but he always played that role. So while his lover and best friend was busy, Ron took a glass of champagne and walked outside away from most of the other people at the party.

A figure veiled in shadow watched him pass by, and then he stepped out to follow. When Ron downed the drink in one gulp, Blaise reached out and took the glass from his hand.

"Oh. It's you," Ron grumbled.

"In the flesh," Blaise replied. "How many of these have you had?"

"Not enough to be properly pissed, but I'm working on it." After a pause, Ron questioned, "Why are you here?"

"I got a visit from an obnoxious redheaded wizard this afternoon. He's a right ass if you ask me, but it seemed like a good idea to socialize and get out with other people," Blaise said softly.

"And how's that going?" Ron asked Blaise while he scanned the crowd for more alcohol.

"How well do you think, Weasley? I'm standing here talking to you."

"Touché," Weasley answered as he quickly grabbed two more glasses of champagne. He handed one to Blaise and then downed his own again as a man dying of thirst.

Zabini stared at his champagne and took a hearty drink after saying, "I hate you, you know."

"Yes, I know," said Ron as he took the rest of the other man's drink and finished that off too. At Zabini's scathing look, he replied, "I had to give you a good reason."

"Oh, you've given me plenty of reasons even before this," he said as he looked off into the gardens. Changing subjects, Blaise observed, "This reminds me of the Yule Ball back in fourth year."

"Yeah? Who was your date for that?" Ron asked, his curiosity piqued.

"Millicent. What a beast!" he answered with an incredulous expression on his face. "Meanwhile, you and Potter were together, even then."

"Not officially, but yeah..." nodded Ron. It wasn't forethought that had made the two best friends go farther than the normal bounds of friendship. Like the saying goes, it "just happened."

"I'm leaving," Blaise announced as he walked away into the distant gardens.

Ron trotted after him and grabbed him by the arm to stop him.

"Hands off, Weasley!" he growled at the tall red head.

"Maybe all I really want is to get my hands on," he said darkly as slipped one of his hands inside Zabini's robes.

The muscles in Blaise's stomach flinched as he felt Ron's fingers gliding over them. "Go play with the Savior of the Universe, or does it amuse you to play with the leftovers like me?"

"Right now, I find the possibility of playing with you highly amusing," he answered as his hand went into the other man's trousers.

"Trying to come when the New Year comes? You're not that good, Weasley," accused Blaise.

"Just try me and see," Ron tempted as he stepped closer, within kissing distance.

Responding to Weasley's challenge, Blaise did something that before that night would have seemed unthinkable. He pulled Ron's face even closer to his and kissed him deeply, loving the moan of pleasure that escaped the other man's mouth. The two wizards fell to the ground, making short work of a passion that was born of desperation and anger.

Meanwhile, the voices of those in the party counting down the time was a distant buzz until the voice of one particular party guest got closer to where they were.

"Ron! Ron, are you there?"

It was Harry Potter. At the sound Ron swore and flattened himself even closer to Blaise. The Slytherin easily made an invisibility charm to cover them until the other man passed and returned to the party. The two men stared at each other for a long time before jumping apart to adjust their clothing. Separately they walked back to the party without a word to each other.

The festivities didn't die down until the wee hours of the morning, and Ron had to stay for them all because Harry was there. He was thankful when the man finally decided to depart. As he was putting on his outer robes, he heard Harry salute one last party-goer.

"I'm surprised to see you, Blaise. I'm sorry," he apologized, and all three knew he was referring to the death of Draco Malfoy.

"Oh, well, you didn't have anything to do with that," Blaise said with deceptive lightness. "Oh, wait. You did." The expression on his face was unforgiving.

He angrily brushed by Harry, daring him to protest or defend himself. When he walked by Ron, who was standing behind Harry, he acknowledged, "Weasley."

"Zabini," he replied.

When a silent moment had come and gone, Ron looked over his shoulder away from Harry, who was intently watching the tops of his shoes, to Blaise who was still standing at the doorway. His stance was so different than the one he personally had used with Blaise only hours before.

The two men stared at each other for a moment before Ron broke the moment with a single, clear nod as if he'd resolved something in his head. Ron and Blaise went their separate ways as Ron escorted Harry home like a parent with a wayward child.