By Rurouni Star
A/N: Well hello there! Long time, no see! More than ten years, in fact.
I was updating my profile when I got sucked into a great big hole of nostalgia. I ended up rereading this whole thing, and I decided to do something a bit whimsical for the strange, what, two hundred and fifty four souls who decided to follow this fanfic in spite of the fact that it was already clearly finished!
Godspeed, fair friends. Please enjoy the silly little drabble / second epilogue which came to mind while I was rereading this tonight.
"You look like hell, Zabini."
Blaise groaned, and drained the rest of his coffee cup. "I feel like hell," he said. "I've barely slept. I swear, no one can keep up with that woman."
Moody narrowed his mismatched eyes, and Blaise carefully thought back over the words that had come out of his mouth. He blanched. "—Scrabble!" he said quickly. "I was talking about Scrabble, for the love of god!"
His mentor grunted, unfazed. "Is that what the kids are calling it these days," he muttered. Blaise felt an utterly unprofessional flush rise to his cheeks.
"I won with the word invicta," Blaise informed him stiffly. "I shouldn't have done. She insisted on a full rematch."
"I told you women were no good for your career," Moody said shortly. "You should've listened. Now you're up at all hours of the night scribbling—"
"It's a game. A board game called — you know what, never mind." Blaise shook his head with a defeated sigh. Before he'd even had the chance to finish heaving out his breath, Moody swung around with a crowing sound.
Blaise flicked his wand lazily, long used to the routine. "Protego," he mumbled. The spell went wide, crashing into a poor rookie Auror in the hall outside his temporary office. The young man went down with a sharp, startled cry. "I'm tired, not stupid, Moody. Now look what I've got to go clean up for you."
Moody scoffed, not bothering to spare his inadvertent victim so much as a glance. "Boy should've been payin' better attention," he said. "Good lesson for him. Anyway, you're gettin' soft, doin' desk work all day. It ain't proper Auror work, I tell you. I trained you better."
Blaise rolled his eyes. "Talk to Shacklebolt, why don't you. Apparently, we've got a shortage of Arithmancy-certified Aurors, and that knowledge is an absolute requirement for anyone to audit the wards around here. Did you know they were first designed and put up in the medieval era, Moody? Because that's a thing I now know. I feel like someone else should have to know it too." He considered his mentor with a dark expression. "You could crack open a book and help me, if you want me back in the field so badly."
The expression that crossed Mad-Eye's face at those words was perhaps the closest thing to fear that Blaise had ever seen on the old man. The old Auror stashed his wand quickly. "You're a quick study," Moody said, with a sudden change in tone. "Always said you were. Best man for the job." He patted Blaise quickly on the shoulder and turned on his heel. The pace he set as he exited the office made him look suspiciously like he might be fleeing.
Blaise shook his head, and stepped out to levitate the unconscious rookie into a chair, out of the way of foot traffic. As the limp Auror began to groan and blink awake, Blaise shot a long-suffering look at the pile of tomes and old papers that currently littered the desk in his office. This, he thought, was all Hermione's fault.
Only a month or so after Stibbons got himself caught and Blaise got himself pulled off direct Granger-sitting duty, he had found himself in the strange predicament of spending more of his off-time with Hermione Granger than in his own damned flat. The thing was, being around Hermione meant listening to her talk with rapt fascination about whatever academic treatise had most recently caught her attention. Trying to talk back at Hermione meant reading and understanding said treatise, as dry and painfully boring as it might be.
The real danger, Blaise had found, was that one day months later you might wake up and discover that you no longer considered such things quite so boring.
"She's turning me into a librarian," he muttered, plucking an old Arithmancy chart off the top of the precarious stack on his desk. "God save me."
He understood the entire damned thing. He didn't even need a reference book. It was medieval Arithmancy, more than six hundred years old, and some tiny, traitorous part of him was thrilled to look at it.
"I still want to hex something," Blaise reassured himself with a grumble. "It's been far too long since I hexed something."
Nevertheless, he employed a careful sticking charm to pin the chart across the wall, and dug out a quill to start taking notes.
"Couldn't you have brought it home with you?" Hermione asked. There was a pained whimper in her voice of which she was not particularly proud. But frankly, Blaise should have known better than to dangle the thought of original thirteenth century wizardry in front of her by now.
Blaise shot her an incredulous look, halfway through awkwardly tugging off his wingtip shoes. Water dripped from his damp, tousled hair, where he'd come in from the rain. "Couldn't I have brought home the original, classified schematics for the wards on the Department of Magical Law Enforcement?" he said. "Is that what you're asking?"
Hermione paused, and pursed her lips. "Well," she admitted. "It sounds more ridiculous when you put it that way, certainly." She reached out to take his coat from him so that he could balance himself. "...I suppose they would have gotten wet," she added, in a tone that was only halfway serious.
Blaise shook his head. "You need a new project," he told her. "An obsessive, detail-oriented, research-heavy project. And no, you can't have mine, much as I marvel at those words."
She sighed. "You're all conspiring against me. Simone said the same thing last week."
"Wise woman," Blaise muttered. He shook off the last of the rain and stepped forward to hook her into his arms. His warmth and scent enveloped her, and his lips brushed lightly against hers, and Hermione quite forgot what she'd been talking about just a moment prior.
His fingers brushed through her hair, tugging at the pencil that still held it up. Hermione reached up to swat at his hand, but she was far too late to prevent him from stealing it. Her hair came loose into a tangled, curly mess. She made a short grumbling noise, but Blaise smiled against her lips and pulled back to look down at her.
"Now I've got to go brush it out," Hermione muttered in a peevish tone. But the expression on his face gave her pause. Blaise was looking at her with such warm, awe-struck affection that she found she couldn't bring herself to hold the theft against him. It was the sort of sentiment that she had only had the privilege of witnessing a handful of times in her life. Her mother sometimes looked at her father that way. Arthur Weasley wore that expression when he looked at Molly. Percy Weasley basked in that same glow when he talked about cauldron bottoms.
Never, not once in her life, had Hermione anticipated that she might have that look directed at her.
"I saw something irresistible on the way here," Blaise said. "I decided I really had to pick it up for you."
Hermione blinked. The idea made her color. "Oh," she stuttered. "You, er. You really didn't have to." She rarely had occasion to deal with the social implications of gift-giving and receiving except around the holidays. Hermione wasn't entirely certain of the right thing to say when someone you were probably-almost-certainly dating bought you something, but you didn't have to seemed like a generally safe British fall-back.
"I can always take it back if you don't like it," Blaise told her with a wry smile. He seemed to realize he'd caught her on the spot. Normally, Hermione would have expected him to enjoy teasing her about it a bit more, but there was an oddness to his behavior today that she couldn't quite place.
He rummaged in the bag he'd dropped next to the door, and pulled out a suspiciously book-shaped lump, wrapped in waxy brown paper.
Hermione took it from him curiously. Blaise had once sworn he would never dare to suggest a book to her, given the frequency with which she said the words Oh, I already quite enjoyed that one. But he seemed quite pleased with himself at the moment, which meant that he must have been very sure of his choice.
She tugged at the string on the package, unraveling it with what was left of her nails. The paper came away, revealing a very old, very ragged book. Hermione blinked.
She held in her hands what had to be the oldest, most decrepit version of Vittory's Transfigurations she had ever seen in her life.
Her eyes widened. "This isn't possibly—"
"Oh, it is," Blaise informed her. A broad grin split his face.
Hermione carefully flipped open the cover. A book card was still tucked into the pocket on the front page, scrawled with the names of every frantic transfiguration student ever to request it from the library. She tugged the card free: sure enough, the name Hermione Granger was printed in neat little cursive letters, a number of lines up from the bottom.
"You just happened to see this?" Hermione laughed. She knew her face had gone bright red from delight and embarrassment.
"I might have had to go looking a bit," Blaise admitted. "Might have had to illicitly bribe a school librarian. But like I said, I can take it back if you don't want it—"
Hermione quickly hugged the book to her chest, wide-eyed. Misty little tears welled up in her eyes before she could stop them. She sniffled. "No. I like it. Don't you… don't you dare."
"Er." Blaise cleared his throat, sheepish. "You should probably check the back of the card before you say that. Just… to be sure."
Hermione blinked. Carefully, she set the old book onto a side table, and turned the card over in her hand. There was fresh writing on the back, in a hand she recognized.
Wouldn't dare deface a book. Hope I'm allowed to write on the card.
Hermione stared. Her brain went blank, unable to process the words in front of her.
They were really very simple words. They were just in the absolute wrong place, and she truly hadn't expected to read them.
Dimly, she became aware that Blaise had frozen in front of her. Possibly, he had stopped breathing entirely. That was probably unhealthy, her brain supplied, based on her many years of study.
"Um," Hermione managed eloquently.
"You know," Blaise was saying nervously, in a worried tone that was entirely unlike him. "It's suddenly occurring to me that you don't take surprises well. Maybe I can take the card, and you can keep the book, and we can have a rational adult conversation about this later—"
"Yes," Hermione squeaked.
Blaise pressed a palm to his heart, suddenly pale-looking. "Yes what, Hermione?" he asked, terrified. "To the rational conversation or the—"
"Yes!" she repeated, more emphatically this time. "To the... to the… marrying part."
Blaise stared at her in turn, so utterly flabbergasted that Hermione couldn't help but break out into a helpless, mortified laugh. She threw her arms around him, and put them both out of their misery with a long, emphatic kiss.
Postscript, noted Blaise's mental journal on Hermione Granger. Very shortly, this journal will require a different last name.