"Meet me in the Charms Classroom at seven tonight," Blaise had whispered to her as he passed her in the hall that afternoon, and now Hermione was there, sitting on the desk and swinging her legs impatiently. Ten minutes had already passed. Where was he?
She tried to think of what he wanted to see her for, but the answer evaded her. It danced in her subconscious, but she seemed unable to reach out and grasp it. Hermione sighed. It wasn't enough that she'd forgotten nearly five months of her life. Now she was forgetting little things. She must be going senile.
Easter hols was rushing upon her. Only two weeks away now, and still she hadn't a clue how she would journey to Malfoy Manor without the detection of Dumbledore and the Order. At the same time, she was terrified of what she would find there. The thought had occured to her that her relationship with Draco, however sincere he was now, might have been less than truthful before. Perhaps they'd been obliviated because he had been playing her all along. Perhaps he'd raped her. Perhaps the refreshingly honest, sometimes head-splittingly annoying, and wonderfully thoughtful boy she knew now hadn't always been so. He didn't remember the circumstances or events any better than she. When she went to Malfoy Manor, would she remember things she didn't want to know?
When fifteen minutes had passed, Blaise suddenly burst into the room. "Sorry I'm late," he panted. "I had some last minute preparations to finish."
"Preparations for what?" Hermione demanded.
Blaise dumped his bag on the desktop and rolled his eyes at her. "You needed help, remember? I know you've been looking for a charm to hide that your showing."
"Oh, that," said Hermione. She had thought of nothing else ever since her clothes started to feel a bit tighter.
"I've got an answer for you."
"You do," she said skeptically.
"Don't give me that look," scolded Blaise. "I know you've already scoured the library for such a charm. Well, never fear. I have just the one."
"How could you possibly have something up your sleeve that I haven't heard of? It's impossible."
"Improbable. Not impossible. After all, wasn't it Draco who came up with the answer to your returning memories?"
"Listen. Once you've heard me out, you'll believe me. My sister got pregnant before she got married."
Hermione's eyes widened.
Blaise grimaced. "Not a good situation. I was only a first year at the time, and the only reason I knew was because I'd guessed. If she'd been found out, it would have made a huge scandal, especially since that sort of thing just isn't done in the Pureblood world. But she was a Ravenclaw, and if anything else, that sort knows how to research. Her friends and she developed a solution, half potion, half charm."
"Go on," said Hermione slowly.
"You've probably already done some research on the topic. Am I correct?"
"Then you already know that concealing charms are very difficult to manage, this being the main reason why Howarts witches usually resort to weight-loss potions to slim their figures rather than concealing charms. It's simply too hard. For one, if you were to cast a concealing charm on your robes, it might last eight to twelve hours, but then what? And what if you were to change clothes? Get hot and shed your outer robe? You'd need to cast the cham on every piece of clothing you owned to be safe, but what if you forgot? Then the secret would be out."
"I know all this," said Hermione impatiently. "Get to your point."
"Hold your hippogriffs." Blaise grinned; Hermione rolled her eyes, knowing that he was enjoying the suspense. "The second option would be to cast the concealing charm on yourself. But obviously, that would be be dangerous for your unborn child. But also it also, most charms like that only make your stomach look thinner if there is no clothing covering it, which is why this charm is most popular among witches going on holiday who want to look better in bikinis. And I assure you, it works." He winked at her.
Hermione hit his arm. "Blaise, I'm warning you . . ."
"Alright, alright. My sister and her friends knew about this problem, so they developed a potion that would cause concealing charms not to effect the baby, and then a charm that was strong enough to work not only on skin, but also on the clothes as well."
"Really? Where did they get the ideas?"
"Evidently, back before wizards had developed proper contraceptive spells, girls had to find ways to hide their pregnancies. There was mention of these methods in several old books. Hogwarts, A History, for one.
"It can't be in there," said Hermione, flustered. "I'd have noticed. I've read the book eight times."
"It's only in the editions printed before 1462," Blaise told her. "Even the Hogwarts Library doesn't have editions dating that far back. Evidently in 1462, contraceptives were invented, so the editors took that part out, deeming it irrelevant. Besides, they had to make room to write about several new species of ghouls introduced into the dungeons."
She was already planning to search out the antique book stores in Diagon Alley over holidays in search of an older edition of Howarts, a History. But then she realised that her time would be otherwise occupied during Easter Hols--occupied in solving a mystery she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to.
"Anyway," Blaise was saying, "do you want the instructions to the charm and potion?"
"Oh, yes," said Hermione, her mind still a million miles away.
". . . but I just figured that you or Draco would want to make the potion yourselves. I mean, I would have done it, but you two are so jumpy of late, and, well . . ." Blaise laughed, snapping Hermione out of her thoughts.
"Oh, right. Thanks," she said. Blaise held out the parchment, but she didn't immediately reach to take it. He waved his hands in front of her face and snapped his finger. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Fine," she assured him, smiling weakly. "Thanks for your help."
"Any time," said Blaise, eyeing her warily. "Are you sure I shouldn't follow you back to Gryffindor Tower just to make sure you don't topple down a stairway or crash into a statue or something?"
"I'll be fine,`" she said, laughing a little. "Really, Blaise. You've already done enough."
He mumbled something like, "Not enough," but she wasn't quite sure, so she didn't say anything.
"Well, I've got to get going before Harry and Ron notice I'm missing," she excused herself, just a hint of bitterness in her voice.
Blaise looked sympathetic. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright. I'll manage, but not for the last time do I wish the Heads could have separate quarters."
"Usually they do," said Blaise, and Hermione blinked at him.
"No, they don't," she said automatically, then stopped. Did they? Something was beginning to tickle at the back of her brain again.
"You and Draco decided not to have separate dorms at the beginning of the school year," Blaise explained. "It's a commodity that Heads can chose to utilize, but as the rest of the school was under the impression that the two of you would tear each others' heads off, everyone, even you, thought it'd be best if you two still resided in your separate dormitories. You and Draco denied the school's offer."
She nodded vaguely, searching for a flashback or memory, but nothing appeared. "I wish we'd accepted," she muttered.
He nodded sympathetically. "It'd make everything better, wouldn't it?"
"And we couldn't ask for it now. They'd suspect something,"
"Your life sucks."
Hermione laughed. "Thank you for that very intellectual summarization, Blaise. I think I'd better go now, though."
"Alright. Take care of yourself."His eyes were serious.
She sighed. "I will. I promise."
As she climbed the stairway to her dormitory, Hermione felt a huge weight lift off her shoulders. She looked again at the parchment, marveling at the complexity of both spell and potion. Her analytical mind told her that both would work. One day, she wanted to meet Belle Zabini and personally thank her. Blaise's sister sounded like quite a character.
Lavender and Parvati were in the room when she entered, the former sprawled on her bed with Witch Weekly, the latter washing off a green face mask.
"What did Blaise want?" Parvati said immediately, and Hermione wondered how she'd known. Duh. Padma had known, and the twins shared everything. But before she could answer, Lavender jumped in.
"To give her a potion that'll hide her stomach, of course."
Ah, yes. The girlfriend would know. Parvati looked annoyed.
Hermione sighed. "It was very kind of him. But don't you two have essays due tomorrow?"
"Padma already helped us with them," said Lavender dismissively. "And we already did the Charms and Divination homework several days ago."
It occurred to Hermione that if Lavender and Parvati actually cared about school work, they might pull grades worthy of Ravenclaws.
"What are you two planning to do when you graduate?" she asked suddenly.
The girls looked at her like she'd grown a third eye. "You've been our roommate for how many years now, and you still don't know?" exclaimed Lavender.
Hermione blinked, racking her mind as to when it'd become common knowledge what the "Barbie sisters," as the younger Muggleborn students had unaffectionately dubbed them, had chosen as their future careers. She drew a blank.
"I'm such a horrible friend," she murmured.
To her astonishment, Lavender laughed. "It's alright, Hermione. We understand. You've always been more focused on Harry and Ron, and admittedly, we didn't give you any reason to be interested in our lives, anyway."
"We were kind of mean back then," said Parvati, looking ashamed.
"I still should have been more attractive," said Hermione, still feeling it was her fault. "But do tell me."
"We decided back in our second year that we wanted to go to fashion school," began Lavender.
"My sister helped us look up different schools and their basic-level entry requirements," continued Parvati. "So we applied for Malkins' Institute of Fashion and Design here in London, LeMarc's School of Décor in Paris, and several other schools in Spain, Italy, and America. We've been accepted to all but the one in Paris."
"They're all snobs, anyway," Lavender said dismissively.
"Fashion school," repeated Hermione disbelievingly.
"Don't look so surprised." Lavender grinned. "Wizards have to get their robes from somewhere."
"Our plan is to slowly introduce Muggle designs into Wizard-wear. Robes are so stuffy and impractical."
"And the classes required?" asked Hermione.
"That's the best part," said Lavender. "Just NEWT's in Charms and Transfiguration."
"And an OWL in Potions," Parvati reminded her, grimacing. "That ws the hardest."
"That's why we don't study like you, Hermione. As long as we keep up in Charms and Transfiguration, we're set."
"Charms comes pretty easily," said Parvati. "Transfiguration takes some work, but Padma's a genius at it, so she usually tutors us."
"And your other class?"
"Inconsequential. Dropped Potions. Usually we do fine in Divination, Astronomy, and Muggle Studies. DADA takes some work, but Dumbledore's Army really raised our grades in that class. We dropped Care of Magical Creatures, and of course, History of Magic."
"I think we're going to go to the school in America," Lavender put in. "Europe is so eighteenth-century when it comes to Wizard fashion. They've offered us scholarships for some of the designs we submitted."
"That's amazing," Hermione said, meaning it. "I'm really glad for you. At least you know what you want to do when you leave here."
"What, you don't know yet?" Lavender looked surprised.
Hermione shook her head, crossing the room and plopping down on her bed. "I haven't had a chance to think about it. Back in fourth year, Harry and Ron had big plans about all of us going to Auror Academy, but obviously that won't be happening." She forced a laugh.
Parvati threw her a sympathetic look.
"I'd thought of continuing my education after I graduate," said Hermione quietly. "But now that won't be possible." She grimaced at her stomach.
"Having a baby won't ruin your life, Hermione!"
It was Lavender who had spoken. Hermione looked at her disbelievingly. "Lav, a baby is a big responsibility."
"And Draco will help," said Lavender, sitting next to Hermione and putting a hand on her shoulder. "You know he will! He's different now. He's not just going to abandon you."
"That's what I thought about my other friends."
"That's what I want to believe." She sighed. "Sorry for ruining the mood. I think I'm going to bed now, though."
"Get some sleep, hon," said Parvati. "Maybe you'll feel better in the morning."
"Maybe," said Hermione, unconvinced.
Lying in bed, a half hour later, with the silencing charms in place, she allowed the tears to escape her eyes and roll noiselessly down her cheeks.
The scenery outside flew by in a dizzying blur of colors and lights; Lavender leaned against the cool window pane, already missing her best friends whom she had just said good-bye to an hour before. She squeezed her eyes closed, feeling her stomach tighten in anxiety. They'd planned carefully. Nothing would go wrong. Nothing could go wrong. At this very moment, Lavender reassured herself, Hermione and the twins were flooing from McGonagall's office to Parvati and Padma's home in Devon, from which the Patils would be departing soon after, journeying to Bermuda to spend the spring holidays. Hermione, of course, would be Apparating to Malfoy Manor, but everyone else would think that she was soaking up the warm sunshine in Bermuda—no one would know the truth. No one except her closest friends.
She stared down at the crumpled note in her hand, then at the silver watch her father had given her for her last birthday. Meet me in the Head's Compartment at eleven, the note said in neat, spidery handwriting. Her watch showed ten fifty-eight, so Lavender rose to her feet, smoothed out her robes, and gracefully exited the empty compartment. She made her way down the narrow rocking corridor, through two more cars, then into the quieter Prefect's car. The compartments were farther and fewer apart here, the carpet a royal blue color, and the windows decorated in gold curtains. The last compartment on the right belonged to the Heads, but she knew it would be empty. Draco was in a compartment further back in the train with Pansy and the other Slytherins in his year, keeping up appearances. But Lavender knew his stay at the Zabini Mansion would be short-lived. He'd be joining Hermione, and from then on, only Merlin knew how they'd spend their holidays or what they'd discover along the way.
"Hermione's a lucky girl," murmured Lavender to herself as she pushed open the door to the Heads' Compartment.
Strong arms slipped around her waist. "So are you," murmured Blaise, his mouth close to her ear, the deep tones vibrating down her neck and into her shoulder. Lavender shivered involuntarily.
She leaned back into his embrace. "You think they'll be alright?" she whispered, voicing her fears at last.
"You worry too much," said Blaise, digging his fingers artfully into her tensed shoulders. She couldn't stop the low moan that escaped her mouth.
"Mmmm. You're good."
"I know," said Blaise, and she could practically feel his radiating smirk.
"Dirty-minded boy. If you don't stop that soon I may be forced to jump you."
"I don't think I'd mind."
Lavender giggled, then relaxed back into his touch for a few more minutes before finally turning to face him. Slipping her arms around his neck, she stood on her tiptoes and planted a gentle kiss on his lips. "Thanks."
"If you think you're going to get away with a simple 'thank you' for that unbeatable back rub, you're wrong. You owe me."
She arched an eyebrow. "I do, do I?"
"I can think of a few ways you could repay me."
Lavender took the bait. "And is this one of them?" she suggested coyly, kissing him again, her free hand lightly caressing his back.
"Perhaps," said Blaise carefully.
"How about this?"
She nibbled her way down his jawline and neck to the point where his white shirt collar got in the way, all the while running her fingers lightly over his chest.
"Better," said Blaise.
She lifted her lips to meet his again, locking onto him with more intensity this time, allowing him to roughly explore her mouth as their tongues battled each other. Her hand moved farther south, dipping into the waistband of his trousers and stroking his bum just as the kiss was reaching its height of passion.
Blaise jerked a little, then stiffened, and as Lavender went in for another kiss, pressing her body against him, she instantly knew why he'd become so statue-like. She smirked to herself. All men were the same. But this one was hers, and she wasn't about to mess this up by rushing into things too quickly. Still, it was too tempting not to have a little fun.
"Better?" said Lavender in a low voice, deliberately grinding against him, relishing the guttural moan that issued from the back of his throat.
"Too . . . good," whispered Blaise jerkily, his indigo eyes blazing. He leaned down and kissed her again, slipping his hands to her waist, rubbing little circles on her lower back. His hands were driving her crazy. She slipped her hands under his shirt and grazed her fingertips up the flat planes of his chest . . . he pushed her back into the seat, and she threw a leg over and positioned herself on his lap, not caring that his fingers were making fast work of her shirt buttons . . .
And then, unfortunately, she remembered her resolve. "No," she gasped, panting for air as she reluctantly pushed away from him. "Not here, not now."
Blaise didn't protest when she scurried to remove herself from his lap and hurriedly re-buttoned her shirt, red-faced and embarrassed. She felt like a slut. A dirty, whoring slut. . .she'd promised herself that this time things would be different . . . and for what?
He was going to think she was a slut too. She folded her arms across her chest, humiliated.
"I'm sorry," she said to the floor. "I . . . you have to understand . . . I just don't want to mess things up."
Blaise slid closer. "What do you mean?" he said gently.
Lavender studied her fingernails. "I've never been in a real relationship before," she said at last, slowly, looking anywhere but at him. "Not like this."
A long moment passed, and when she couldn't bear the tension any more, she looked up to find that he was watching her intently. Blood flooded her face again. "I don't want to rush this, you know? I'm afraid that if I treat you like just another bloke, then . . ."
"You're afraid this will end like the others did," finished Blaise.
She nodded, and her hair fell into her face. "We're not like Draco and Hermione," she whispered. "They've overcome memory spells, pregnancies, evil conspiracies . . . it's different—I'm different. I'm not strong like her, or brave, or so innocent either."
He brushed her hair out of her face gently. "I know."
"I'm not wonder-girl-Granger. I don't get good grades, I'm not always loyal to my friends, I've always had really shitty tastes in blokes—I pick the ones who'll trample all over me, the ones who will use me and then throw me away and I don't know why I do it again and again."
She was surprised when he pressed a handkerchief into her hand; then she realised that her face was wet. She worried that her mascara was going to run as she dabbed carefully at the tears. "I was jealous of Padma for her boyfriend. Seamus really seemed to care about her. When Padma broke things off with him, I couldn't believe she'd let him go, and I was mad at her for dumping him and he was mad at her too . . . it all went so quickly and before I knew it I was snogging him in front of the whole school for revenge."
Blaise said nothing—he just sat there, his warm, comforting hand resting on her shoulder. She took a great, shuddering breath and somehow found the strength to continue. "That's not it, though," she whispered shakily. "I did—stuff—with him. Things I really, really regret, and when he 'dumped' me the day after he said that all the rumors were true, I was nothing but a dirty whore."
Somehow, after admitting it all, she felt better, calmer, and she was able to meet his eyes. She'd expected to see disgust and anger there, but there was no judgment. Instead, there was understanding.
"You're the only good thing that's happened to me in a long, long time," said Lavender, swallowing back the lump in her throat. "I don't want to lose this."
She couldn't read his expression. Maybe he understood, but wouldn't he be angry? She'd just spilled her innermost thoughts.
"You won't," said Blaise quietly, his expression intense.
She took a shaky breath. "But what if I do?" she whispered. "What if you're like all the rest?"
"I used to be," he whispered. "But I'm not anymore. Hermione didn't just change Draco. Knowing her changed me too. I swear, Lavender, I was . . ." He swallowed hard. "You remember my reputation."
She did remember his reputation. "It wasn't any worse than mine."
He shook his head. "I wish you were right," he muttered. Then Blaise seemed to collect himself. "Last year, I knocked up Daphne Greengrass."
Lavender couldn't help the gasp that escaped her lips.
Blaise wasn't meeting her eyes, and she instantly regretted her reaction. Blaise took a breath. "She didn't tell me until after she'd already gotten rid of the baby," he said in a rush. "Obviously, I was shocked. I thought she was using a Contraceptive Spell."
Lavender thought of the many times she'd been absolutely terrified when her period had come late or when she'd come back to her dorm to shower after "hooking up" with a bloke and realised that she hadn't used the spell. It could happen to anybody.
"Then it sounds like we're both pretty much even on the 'dirty past' scale," she said bitterly. "Blaise, I don't care what you've done before. How could I? It'd be hypocritical, especially after all the blokes who have dumped me for being 'used material.'"
"I don't think you're 'used material.'" He leaned in and stroked her cheek.
Lavender looked away. "You might if you knew everything."
"Even then, nothing would change."
She was silent for a moment, and the compartment rocked as the Hogwarts Express sped around a corner. "Blaise, does it bother you to think about the other blokes I've been with?"
"Does it bother you to think of Daphne?"
Lavender bowed her head. "Yes," she admitted in a tiny voice.
"Every time I see a bloke in the halls who I know you've been with before, I want to kill him," said Blaise quietly.
She reached out for him, and he pulled her into his arms. She felt safe there, unlike any other boy who had held her ever before. After a few minutes, she said, "Blaise, do you think that we're just to messed up to ever work together?"
He waited a moment before replying, stroking her hair with long, gentle repetitions. "I think that it's only because you and I are alike this that we can work," he said firmly. "Can you imagine me dating Hermione?"
"She's too innocent. Not that it's bad, of course, but she would never understand what it's like to be known by your reputation. Now, imagine you dating Harry Potter."
"Asshole," coughed Lavender, and Blaise laughed, a deep, rumbling sound in his chest. She felt the laugh vibrate through her body.
"Just think about it."
"It'd never work," admitted Lavender. "I know for a fact that he's still a virgin. I'm not sure I could seriously date someone so 'perfect.' Besides, he's been so horrible to Hermione, and he's got the hero complex with Voldemort after him at every turn . . ."
Blaise laughed again. "I get it. You'd never work. But now you understand why we work so well with each other. We understand each other."
She snuggled still closer. "Are you sure about me, Blaise?"
In reply, he leaned close and ever-so-gently brushed his lips against hers as he stroked her cheek. "Does that answer your question?"
A/N: Kind of an odd, filler chapter. Not really Draco/Hermione-centric at all. I got a little too involved in character development, I suppose. Lavender and Blaise are both intricately complicated characters in my mind, and their story deserves to be told, even though I haven't elaborated on it in the past. Next chapter, Malfoy Manor. I've already got part written, but I can't promise to post again until Thanksgiving when I have some more time to write.
"Ah, love, let us be true to one another, For the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new, hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." - Matthew Arnold