AUTHOR'S NOTES:

This was my submission for the 2012 WIZARD'S LOVE-THE HARRY POTTER VALENTINE'S DAY HET FIC & ART EXCHANGE. Here was the prompt I worked from:

Prompt Chosen: #22: Post-Hogwarts, EWE, Hermione and Draco break-up after having dated for a long period of time. Blaise swoops in. He and Hermione have a one-off that leads to her getting pregnant. Author, you decide whether Blaise actually has serious feelings for Hermione, or if it was just a one-off (he can be as fluffy or as cold/callous as you want).

To Unseenlibrarian & Ladysashi: Thank you once more for all your input into this story! You really helped me pull it together.

Thank you to the Wizard's Love Mod – this was a wonderful fest to participate in!


DISCLAIMER: "Harry Potter" is the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. This fanfiction was written entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended.

TIMELINE: Post-Hogwarts-EWE (2005).

MAIN CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): Hermione Granger, Hannah Longbottom (nee Abbott), Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Blaise Zabini

SUMMARY: Recovering from heartbreak by getting drunk and jumping into Blaise Zabini's bed hadn't been the smartest move Hermione Granger had ever made, but sometimes it takes a leap of faith to get you where you're meant to be.

RATING/WARNINGS: NC-17/MA - References to a drunken one-off (explicit heterosexual sex) and frequent masturbation to the memory; a seriously unintended pregnancy; U.K. cultural slang; sharing naughty fantasies with a man likened to be a Sex God; making the paparazzi out to actually be useful; GINNY LOVE (not sexually, but as a great best friend, so if you don't like this character... tough luck for you, because I think she's great!); really bad references to "eating cake" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink); off-screen renting of a rent-boy; cheap shots taken at barristers and government employees; really dry British humour (I blame Neil Gaiman); OCC-ness (because, really, this couple wouldn't have happened in canon, so some adjustments had to be made). Right, so that's the list. You've been properly warned now!

**IMAGES for this fanfic can be found by going here (remove all spaces from the URL to make it load properly): http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG / The%20Biggest%20Leap/


THE BIGGEST LEAP (alternatively, 'Learning to Fly')

by: RZZMG


Hermione sat back on the bed, numb with shock.

Ginny took the Muggle pregnancy stick out of her hand, flipped it over, and having familiarized herself with the directions in advance, read the results. Her freckled face grimaced. "No doubt about it, mama: you're up the duff. Are you sure it's his?"

Was she sure? Well, of course she was! She and Draco hadn't had sex for the last three months of their four-year long relationship because he'd been too busy getting it from Astoria Greengrass on the sly. Besides, she'd been on a monthly potion when she was with him. After they'd broken up, though, she'd stopped taking birth control, deciding she was through with men and therefore wouldn't need it.

Bad plan, that.

The night she'd gotten a little too tipsy on a wee too much Champagne during the Magical Law Enforcement Annual Valentine's Bash and taken an ill-advised flight – right into her co-worker's bed - could be considered the most daring, reckless thing she'd ever done in the entirety of her life. It had even been more foolish an idea than attempting to creep past a giant three-headed dog with teeth the size of the Whomping Willow, or sneaking about Hogwarts at night to catch a glimpse of a legendary Basilisk, or fooling a very feral Werewolf with a mating call, or going to the Yule Ball on the arm of the most eligible young bachelor in Europe and thinking his fans outside the school wouldn't find out, or tricking a corrupt Ministry employee into the Forbidden Forest without a really solid plan in mind for getting rid of her, or Confund-ing the rival to her love interest to stuff Harry's Quidditch try-outs and risking her best friend's wrath, or travelling around England in a tent for half a year with only four pair of knickers to her name, or tossing a curse at a very poisonous and overly large snake while simultaneously trying to Apparate away, or even stubbornly refusing to allow the Cruciatus Curse to loosen her tongue while writhing around on the floor in helpless agony with a full bladder.

Yes, in terms of the crazier things she'd ever done in her twenty-six years of life, climbing into Blaise Zabini's bed could be considered the most daring, least considered plan she'd ever undertaken. It ranked just about on par with fighting against an entire army of very unlikeable Death Eaters and their really malevolent and unpleasant Dark Lord with only a wand in one hand and Ron on her right side.

Alas, it had also been the best sex of her life. She'd let Blaise do things to her she'd never even considered before, as well as some things she was sure must be illegal...

...and now she would pay for that foolishness a thousand-fold.

"Draco stopped touching me once he began his affair," she admitted. "Zabini's the only one I've been with for months."

Godric, what was she going to do now?

Her best girlfriend came and sat at her side on the bed, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. Their heads clunked together as they leaned in close. "Take a few days to decide what to do next. You've got options. Do you think you might want to tell him, though?"

Hermione considered it. "I think... yes, he has the right to know. If I decide to keep the baby, he'll have some responsibilities as well. We did this thing together, so we'll have to talk about where we go from here."

She took a deep breath and let it out, feeling tears prick her eyes. Merlin, she'd been so stupid. What would she do if Zabini scoffed at her 'unfortunate circumstances' and told her and any baby they'd conceived to get lost? Or worse, would she have to worry about Blaise threatening legal action to have the child taken from her once it was born? He didn't seem the sort, but then, he was a barrister.

She wiped away the tears, as they flowed down her cheeks and off her chin.

Gin gave Hermione's arm a supportive squeeze. "Have a little faith, 'Mione. Things'll work out as they were meant to. And don't make yourself sick with worry, either, 'cause I've got your back, no matter what you decide. Gryffindors stick together. Always have, always will."

Thank the Founders for good friends

X~~~~~X

Two days later...

Hermione picked neutral territory to drop the news on Blaise, to assure he couldn't do something rash. The Leaky Cauldron had too many witnesses during a Thursday afternoon lunch hour, no matter that she'd gotten them a private booth.

He appeared in his prosecutorial Wizengamot robes, looking as dashing and virile as ever. Hermione had a hard time tamping down on her instant attraction. Merlin, why'd he have to look so yummy?

"Sorry I'm a bit late, and I apologize for my attire. My case is on break until two," he offered, giving her a brilliant smile and bending to press a kiss to her cheek. "I'm glad you invited me out, Hermione. I've been meaning to catch up with you since Valentine's night." He took a seat across from her. "I apologize for not contacting you first. I was put on a new case that Monday after the party, and I've been working fourteen and sixteen-hour days all month as a result. Thank Salazar's bones this trial looks ready to end within the next day or two." He waved a hand in dismissal. "Enough about me. Tell me, Bellissima, how have you been?"

Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but Hannah suddenly appeared at their table with a menu to take their drink order and broke the rhythm of the conversation. Instead of being perturbed by the interruption, however, Hermione used it to compose her feelings, and to silently go back over the speech she'd prepared for this meeting.

As soon as Neville's wife turned away, however, Blaise pounced.

"You look delicious, Hermione," he practically purred, his gaze heated. "I've missed you."

Yes, they worked together in M.L.E., but their paths rarely crossed. She was usually to be found with her feet firmly stuck to the floor in the Law Library, pouring through old tomes to find archaic laws and precedents to consider for argument for removal – especially those pertaining to women and magical creature rights - while he took flight across the Wizengamot courtroom, prosecuting criminals.

Well, at least she knew he felt something positive for her. That was a good place to begin.

"Thank you. It has been a while, hasn't it?" she asked, giving him a pointed look. "About a month, in fact."

He didn't catch her drift, his attention already distracted by the menu as he picked out his luncheon selection. "Seems like only yesterday that we were together."

"Does it?" she asked, wondering about his sincerity.

"It does to me," he easily agreed, having decided upon a meal and putting the menu back down on the table. He glanced up at her through thick, dark lashes. His eyes were so deep a brown that they bordered on sable and drew her in with unspoken suggestion. "Doesn't it to you?"

What could she say in response that wouldn't get her into trouble? Yes, she frequently – the stress on that adverb intentional - thought of their one night together. The way Blaise had touched her had made her feel cherished, sexy... naughty. And the things he'd done to her made her blush just to consider, even now...

His teeth locked onto her throat and the grip he maintained on her wrists tightened as he shuddered against her spine. Hips pumping in a slow, long glide against her backside, Blaise released his semen in hot spurts up inside her. His greater weight pressed her overheated, naked body into the chilly glass, as his muffled moan signalled his end.

Not yet, she thought, not having found fulfilment. Please!

The solid, thick length of him withdrew from the soaking channel of her pussy with a wet squelching noise, causing Hermione's legs to tremble and her cheeks to flame.

She'd thought he would leave her wanting then, as he'd been enjoying this game of denying her pleasure all night, working her up into a state of frenzy, only to back off. He'd returned every time, heighten her need once more, and when she couldn't stand it any longer, he'd touch or lick her just so and the wave of rapture would crash over her. He'd be there to catch her as she fell, too, holding her tight, whispering encouragements in her ear.

That's why she knew that even as he pulled out now, his come dripping down the inside of her thigh, and her body begging for him to come back - to come and stay within the shelter of her wet heat – that he would eventually ensure her pleasure. Still, she felt greedy, wanting that high to come now.

With an unexpected, wild thrust, Blaise gave her what she craved, sinking as deep as he could go, his shaft still incredibly hard as a result of the Aphrodisiac spell he'd earlier cast. With a delightful cry, her muscles clenched around him the moment he was seated to the hilt. As she climaxed, Blaise continued to fuck her, dragging out her orgasm until she felt near to fainting from the incredible pleasure-pain.

Their gazes met in the reflective surface before them, held.

"That's it, my Bellissima," he murmured, his voice a low, growling thing. He gritted his teeth, the struggle for control a challenge for even his iron will. "Come again and again for me. Scream my name. I want everyone to know who you've given yourself to tonight. I want the world to know that you chose me, finally." He released his grip on her wrist and pointed out the window at the people passing below. "Tell them. Tell everyone that for tonight, you're all mine!"

As he demanded it, he brought her to the edge again with a quick adjustment of his hips, letting the wide crest of his cock rub with just the right amount of pressure over that one spot inside guaranteed to stimulate her every time.

Minutes later, she did exactly as he wanted, screaming his name as she came again, uncaring in that moment that she was having sex in front of a window, in full view of the public. It was positively the most outrageous, terrifying, reckless thing she'd ever done.

It made her feel like she was flying, and for once, she wasn't afraid.

In truth, that particular memory had become her favourite masturbatory material in the hush of her bedroom, late at night... or in the shower... or upon her soft, well-worn sofa in the living room... or in her office during the middle of the afternoon, with the door locked...

Godric's great crown, she'd begun to playfully entertain in recent days the rather bizarre idea that it was quite possible that Blaise Zabini was really some kind of primordial Sex God in human disguise, as it became clearer as time went by that he'd succeeded in not only seducing her body that one night, but in obsessing her mind, too. In only a month, it was as if he'd become a Krishna to her Radha, an Enlil to her Ninlil, the Eros to her Psyche. Plainly put, she couldn't stop thinking about him.

But really, did all of that shameless self-pleasuring to thoughts of the man's expert sexual technique mean that she was actually fond of him?

...

Would it count as a 'yes' if she said she wouldn't mind worshipping at his altar at least one more time?

Still, a solid case of good, old fashioned lust did not a relationship make. First and foremost, her heart was still love-sore from Draco's abuse, and she wasn't sure that she was ready to put it back out there on the chopping block quite so soon. Second, she was afraid that if she invested all of her feelings in Zabini and he burned her as badly as Draco had - and Ron before him - well, she'd just have to shave her head and enter a Buddhist monastery.

Just as she was about to open her mouth and tell him her thoughts on the matter, Hannah was back with their drinks and ready to take their order. "What'll it be?" she asked, giving them both a good-natured smile.

Blaise indicated with a wave of his hand that his date order first, as was polite.

"House soup and salad," she ordered, trying to keep the bitterness out of her tone at being interrupted again.

"I'll have the chicken salad sandwich on toasted wheat, and a sliced pickled egg on side," her companion ordered, giving Neville's wife a saucy smirk while handing her the menus. "Thank you, Mrs. Longbottom."

Hannah was over the moon with Zabini's innocent flirtations. She laughed as she took their menus, and made sure the Quick-Quotes Quill floating in the air at her side had correctly jotted down their order before sauntering towards the kitchen.

Blaise folded his well-manicured, strong hands on the table before him and turned his entire attention towards her once more. "You were about to say?" he prompted.

Hermione took a good swig of the water that Hannah had brought them, needing to wet her dry mouth. "We... we need to t-talk," she stammered, placing the glass back down. Under her breast, her heart was pounding like a mad thing. "About that night."

In a blink, Zabini's demeanour went from being all business to predatorily suggestive. He leaned forward, his dark eyes glittering with sexual interest, and gave her a lazy, seductive smile. "Why rehash it when we can relive it?" He leaned in even closer and lowered his voice so that only the two of them could hear. "I've been dreaming up things to do to you for the past month. All sorts of naughty things, Granger – things I know you'd love."

She swallowed hard, flashes of the things he'd also done to her with only his wand and a silken, purple ribbon that night causing her to go hot under the collar. Merlin, could anything top that?

"Like what?" she asked.

Wait, no, no, no! This wasn't why they were here. She needed to get them back on track!

Before she could retract her question, however, Blaise had scooted around the booth until they were flush against each other. He bent his head and his mouth hovered over her ear as he whispered to her one his wickedest fantasies – one involving her naked and sitting in a chair, him kneeling at her feet, and a particular French tickler toy for him to play with.

Oh, Heavens Above, why hadn't they thought to try that during their one night together? That sound like so much...

He whispered another sinful idea involving heavy cream, sliced peaches, and a certain part of her feminine anatomy that required frequent shaving.

She began a fanning motion with her hand, trying to cool down. Lord Almighty, she was going to melt into a puddle of goo right on The Leaky's newly upholstered furniture if this didn't stop. "Listen, Zabini, we need to get serious," she murmured, trying to keep her voice down and shoving on his shoulder to get him to lean away from her. His presence was much too close for comfort just then. "I need to tell you something important."

He nibbled at her throat. "Tell me this weekend when I stop by your flat. Say, eight o'clock on Saturday night? I'll bring the finest French Champagne if you promise to wear black garters and stockings with those same heels you wore last time."

She shivered against him. Her heels had been F*** ME red in colour, with a four-inch stiletto. Next to black stockings and garters, she'd look positively sexy - a wanton bit of tottie out for a hard ride with the man she wanted to...

Damn it all to Hades, she was letting Zabini distract her again! The situation was getting out of hand. The man was simply much too dangerous to her libido and for her rational brain, clearly. She had to tell him the truth before things went too far. It wouldn't be right otherwise.

Turning her head, her lips brushed his earlobe. "I'm pregnant – a little over a month. It's yours."

He paused in his attentions, and the moment became uncomfortably strained as he took another second or two to process her words. Then, he shifted away from her, removing his hands from her person. Just like that, the playful mood that he'd been stoking up between them abruptly snuffed out, and the brief warmth that his body had impressed upon her leached away.

In the ensuing silence, Hermione waited for her former lover to say something, anything, but his lack of a response continued... and was very telling. Daring to glance up, she met his wide-eyed, surprised expression. Shock had cast a greenish-grey hue upon his dark, ebony skin that simply did not flatter. He looked as if he intended to vomit at any moment.

Honestly, she could relate. At that moment, she felt like she was plummeting to the ground at a thousand miles a second from very high up. She broke out into a light sweat, flushing from head to toe, and swallowed back the lump that had risen in her throat.

Gods, this was worse than she'd anticipated!

Blaise finally broke the stalemate when he asked, "You're what?"

Hiding her disappointment at his reaction, Hermione tilted her chin up and squared her shoulders, muscling onward. This ugly can of worms had been opened, and there was no taking it back now. "You heard me, I believe," she stated in an almost defensive tone. "I'm pregnant with your child. I take it from your reaction that you're not pleased?"

Zabini blinked, obviously stupefied. "No, it's not that. It's just that I hadn't planned-" Pausing in mid-sentence, he leaned further back against the cushions of the booth and ran a strong hand over his closely-shaved pate. He appeared to be contemplating how to best convey his thoughts. The irony was not lost upon her: a barrister at a loss for words. "What I mean," he explained, blowing out a heavy breath, "is that I hadn't expected to be married for at least another five years." He threw her a sideways smirk. "I thought we'd be able to take our time and shag a lot more before we got to this part, my beauty."

Now it was Hermione's turn to be stunned and confused. "What? You're not mad or disappointed?"

Slowly, he shook his head, his amusement returning in the face of her astonishment. His smirk bloomed into a full on grin, and a twinkling glimmer returned to his dark eyes.

"But... That is to say..." she faltered, knocked off-kilter by the immediate switch in his mood. In truth, it was quite disconcerting to realize that her expectations regarding where this conversation would end up had been glaringly incorrect. "You mean, you actually wanted this with me?"

He nodded to the unspoken question regarding the strength of his feelings for her.

"For how long?" she blurted the demand, suddenly and irrationally upset that he'd dared to like her in that way, and yet not tell her until confronted with the state of his impending fatherhood.

He roll-tapped his fingers on the table. "If I had to make a best guess... I'd say, right around four years."

Hermione's jaw hit the table. "You mean you've liked me from pretty much the get-go of my relationship with Draco?"

Blaise chuckled and reached out for her hand, bringing the back of it up to his lips. He placed a sweet, almost reverent kiss upon it. "Bellissima, why do you think I hung around Malfoy so much? You didn't honestly think I was that enamoured of the man's particular brand of friendship, did you?"

"Well, honestly, yes," she supplied, having thought exactly that.

Her lover sniffed in amusement. "No. Most definitely not. I was just about to sever our long-time acquaintance, in fact, when you came into the picture. After meeting you again, all grown up and entirely too tempting for a man to ignore, I used Draco to stay close to you. I spent years observing you, learning everything I could about you. I'd intended to steal you away from the blond git and sweep you off your feet the moment your feelings for him began to wane."

Hermione frowned. "You did?" On the one hand, his proclamation of his intense interest in her was quite endearing. Yet, at the same time, the confession of his duplicity was patently disturbing. "Well, that was very... Slytherin... of you," she managed, unsure if that was a good or a bad thing in this case.

Blaise shrugged. "It was an effective tactic. Besides, he knew what I was after, and it wasn't like he wasn't using me right back."

That caught her attention. "And how exactly did my ex use you?"

Wariness crept into her companion's dark, concentrated gaze. "As a cover for his affairs."

Her eyebrows hit her hairline. "Affairs – as in pural?"

Her companion confirmed it with a simple nod.

"How many?"

Zabini held up his hands, palms out, as if to ward off her question, obviously not comfortable answering her query. Hermione stuck a pointed finger in his face and gave him the same bullying expression and tone that she frequently used on Harry and Ginny when they were being particularly obtuse or deliberately irritating. "Don't you dare try to dodge. I'm already inclined to leave one of your testicles permanently disfigured for the state you contributed to putting me into on Valentine's night. Don't tempt my wrath further."

He sighed with resignation and dropped his hands onto the table. "Hermione, Malfoy was never faithful to you. There was always at least 'one for a rainy day' waiting in the wings from the beginning of your relationship with him."

Godric Almighty! Having thought herself duped once had hurt bad enough, but knowing Draco had played her from the start – keeping a witch on the side for those moments she was unable to see him, or was on her menses – was straight-up humiliating. What, was she just not woman enough for him? Tears splashed down her cheeks at the thoughts, but she hastily dashed them away.

"That complete and utter bastard. He used me. Worse, he got away with it, didn't he? He had his cake... and he ate it all up, too."

Hannah was suddenly at her elbow with their lunch plates, as if she'd flown across the room at mach ten. She set them down on the table and wiped her hands on her apron. "Did I hear someone say 'cake'? Well, we just so happened to have a spiced apple crumb in the back, if you're interested!" She gave them both a look of hopefully anticipation, her Quick-Quotes Quill on stand-by at her side.

Hermione couldn't help her reaction: she giggled, wiping at the tears that continued to flow down her cheeks. She was experiencing one of those oddly incongruent moments that life sometimes threw your way, when you either laughed at the world or you let its sorrows tsunami over your sanity. Her feelings were in such a state of ambivalence just then that she couldn't decide which path to take, and so found a queer medium.

"I'll have a bit of cake," Blaise unexpectedly chimed in, throwing Mrs. Longbottom a rakish grin. "And one for my lady love here, too."

Her former classmate's eyes widened with disbelief and her mouth dropped open in surprise, as she suddenly became aware of just how close and comfortable Zabini and Hermione seemed to be. The hamster wheel turned around in her head as slowly the idea of them connected.

"Right, so... um... I'll just go cut you each a slice, shall I?" she asked, but continued to stand there all agape.

"You do that," Blaise heartily endorsed her plan, making an encouraging shooing motion with one hand towards the kitchens.

Giddy embarrassment bloomed across Hannah's reddening face, and she rushed off, mumbling something about 'the rumour of the century'.

By then, Hermione had managed to calm down from her emotional outburst and had wiped away the worst of its evidence from her face. "You realize you just informed one of the worst gossips in The Alley that we're dating, right?"

Blaise dragged his plate across the table to set it before him, and began unrolling a napkin to place across his lap. "Did I?" he asked, nonchalant, eyeing his sandwich for problems. "Hmmm, guess there's no taking it back then."

She took a deep breath. "So, you were serious earlier when you said that you had feelings for me?"

He paused with his sandwich half way to his mouth and stared at her over the toasted crust. "Do you want me to tell you that I'm in love with you now or after I finish my meal? Either time is convenient for me."

It was her turn to gape now. "You're WHAT?" she all but shouted in her astonishment.

Zabini took a bite of his sandwich, his gaze never leaving hers. She watched as his perfectly pillowed lips moved as he chewed, and then how his throat convulsed as he swallowed. Merlin, he was smoking hot when he ate, too! It made her distinctly self-conscious of her own eating habits; frankly, she thought she looked like some kind of grazing heifer whenever she ground up her food.

"Aren't you going to eat?" he asked, gesturing with his chin towards her untouched plate. "You need to keep up your strength for the baby. I want our son growing up like his father – a strapping Quidditch player, not some skinny bookworm like his mother."

This time, her jaw unhinged, and she was quite sure that it was going to take some major corrective Orthognathic surgery to put it right. "It could be a girl, you know. Besides, aren't you drawing the cart before the horse? I'm not even sure if I like you in that fashion, much less anything else."

Blaise put his sandwich down, politely wiped his mouth with his napkin, and leaned back into her personal space. His lips were mere millimetres from hers, lightly brushing skin against skin as he held back from a full-on kiss to stare her in the eye. He conveyed a dozen naughty thoughts in that single, heated glance.

Hermione blushed and squirmed in her seat as images of him pressing her fully naked against the tall, glass windows of his bedroom as he came up behind her rolled through her memory. Godric, that had been, hands-down, the hottest thing she'd ever done...

Her lover's grin bloomed in arrogance across his handsome features. "Oh, you like me, Hermione, and more than you're willing to admit - even to yourself. You're one stubborn, hard-headed Gryffindor." He gave her a quick peck on the lips and pulled back to resume eating, confident in his hold over her. "But that's fine. I like that whole 'burning fire within' thing you've got going on, love. It'll keep me warm at night."

"But I don't love you!" she protested, then sighed as she realized that for her, lust and love tended to go right alongside each other, and she was already pretty firmly set on the 'wants this wizard naked and slathered in chocolate' life path. Realistically, she was only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the other side of that equation. Add a baby on the way between them to the calculation, and...

"All right, I admit it: I may have some serious feelings growing for you, but to be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready for another man in my life. I've just quit mourning Draco's rather unkind ending of our four-year-long relationship. Also, I'm not sure how much I like you in general. I'll need to chart it out first. Maybe come up with some graphs." She began compiling a mental catalogue of what kind of information she'd need from him to make her compare-and-contrast diagrams. "I'm sure there will be a list and a questionnaire or two in there as well."

Zabini shrugged, seemingly undaunted by her intention to evaluate their relationship, and instead turned his attention to his sliced, hard-boiled egg, using his fork to inspect it. "Whatever makes you happy, my beauty. I have no doubts about what I've walked into with you." He reached for the salt on the end of the table and lightly sprinkled it over the solid yolk. "I fully recognize that you don't love me... not yet anyway. However, I think I can confidently say that whatever the results of your compatibility tables and pro-con inventories, they won't matter in the end, as I'm just going to seduce you into falling in love with me." As he lifted a small piece onto his fork in preparation for eating it, he peeked at her from the corner of his eye and threw her a playful wink. "Give me two months."

It turned out he'd only needed half that amount of time.

X~~~~~X

Four weeks later, on a rainy Saturday morning...

Ginny's head appeared in the Floo, scaring the ever-loving wits out of Hermione.

"'Mione! Are you in? Are you decent? I'm coming through!" A moment later, her best girl friend appeared in her living room, brushing soot off her blouse. "Aye-up!" she cheerfully called out. "Have you seen today's paper?" She held it out for Hermione to take. "Check out page three."

Hermione crossed from the kitchen doorway into the living room, and accepted the copy of The Daily Prophet from Gin's hand. "Isn't that the new location for the Social Page?"

Ginny grinned. "Sure is."

She opened the newspaper to the suggested section...

...and burst out laughing.

"Isn't your ex blondie-boy just so precious?" her companion asked with false sincerity. "I especially love the way he's trying to hide from the reporter's camera behind the Emo rent-boy he was caught doing the 'nuh-uh' with in the pub's back alley." She flicked the page for emphasis. "Bet you a hundred Galleons the Greengrass bint has dropped his arse for this."

Hermione read the article with a focused attention, savouring the exposé's sensationalist details. Apparently, her ex had been caught on camera giving the rizz to a male prostitute after he'd been trailed to Piccadilly Circus by a member of the wizarding paparazzi. The reporter claimed to have received an anonymous tip that Draco would be there that night, and was intrigued by the idea that the recently-engaged, presumed heterosexual wizard would pull for a gay Muggle.

"Ah, I see you've already procured a copy of this morning's paper," Blaise stated, unexpectedly appearing at her side as if from thin air. Hermione jerked back and gave a startled yelp. Her new boyfriend pressed a quick peck to her lips in greeting. "Good morning, love."

"M-morning," she stammered, trying to still her racing heart. "Merlin, don't do that to me, Blaise! You know my hormones are all over the place right now and I can't take the surprise."

He wrapped his strong arms about her from the side and pressed a warm hand to her belly. "I'm sorry to have startled you, Bellissima." He nodded towards the paper in her hand. "Well, I'm definitely relieved to have publicly ended my friendship with Draco two weeks ago. It would have been a disaster being associated with him after this fiasco."

Ginny grinned at him. "You said it. Thank Circe I never liked the git either."

A sneaking suspicion crept into Hermione's mind. She turned to her lover and glanced up – way up, as Blaise was a good head taller than she – to throw him a sceptical frown. "Yes, how fortuitous. Your timing was impeccable."

Zabini was completely unfazed by her cynicism. "I did receive an 'O' in Divination, you know."

She tsk'd. "That's because you flirted Trelawney's striped knickers right off her bandy legs," she countered his defence. "The poor woman had no idea you were deviously scamming her for a grade."

His eyes widened in mock innocence. "I would never!" he protested, and actually managed a bit of sincerity.

Ginny giggled.

She peeked sideways at her best girl friend. "And you – did you conspire on this plan, too?" she asked, tossing the paper back at her companion. Gin caught it in a quick, snapping move, snatching it from the air as she would a Snitch.

Her friend grinned as she flicked her long, red hair back over one shoulder. "Well, I've done all the damage today that I wanted to do. See you both tomorrow for brunch. Harry's looking forward to it, so don't cancel to stay in all day and shag like last week, yeah?" She turned towards the Floo, grabbing up a handful of the sparkly Floo powder from the box above Hermione's mantle. "Oh, and 'Mione? Gryffindors stick together. Always have, always will!" she called over her shoulder as she stepped into the fireplace. With a toss of her hand and a call out for Grimmauld Place, where she lived with Harry, her best female friend was gone in a flash of green light.

There was a moment of utter stillness and silence in the wake of Ginny's exit.

Only a moment.

Hermione threw herself into Blaise's embrace, reaching up on tiptoes to pressed her mouth to his. "You're a scheming, slippery snake, you know," she stated in between pulls of lips. Merlin, his deviousness turned her on!

He kissed her around a mouth full of chuckling. "You're welcome, my Bellissima." Ending the assault, he leaned back and looked her in the eye. "Besides, from what I've learned over the last two weeks from Potter and the She-Weasel about some of your school-days exploits, I'd say I'm in excellent company. Did you really trap Rita Skeeter in her Animagus insect form under a jar for weeks during that year of the Triwizard Tournament?"

Hermione paused, caught flat-footed by the accusation.

Oh, dear. Technically, what she'd had done to that rotten Skeeter bint – regardless of it having been justly earned - had been kidnapping, which was considered an assault under the law.

...

To admit to wrong doing, or not to admit to it – that was the ultimate question.

...

"You know what I remember most about that year?" she asked, feigning innocence, "Dragons. Fascinating creatures, dragons, don't you think? The different tactics that the Champions used to capture the eggs was quite educational, too." She wiggled out of her beau's arms just as her stomach gave a loud, embarrassing growl. "Speaking of eggs, I'm absolutely famished! Have you had breakfast, yet?" She headed for her coat rack and slipped on her mac, as she could hear the spring rain beating down against her window pane. "I know this great Muggle cafe just off The Alley. We should go there together and have a nice, big breakfast. Your treat, of course."

Blaise snickered. "Granger, you sure you want to go out looking like that?"

Hermione looked down the length of her body. Well, what do you know? She was still dressed in her pyjamas from last night, even down to the fuzzy otter slippers Luna had given her as a Christmas gift last year.

"Oh, and love? Your dodge and weave needs some serious work," her boyfriend relentless pursued, a wicked grin plastered to his smug features.

She stared at him a moment longer.

Really? Was that so?

She put her hand over her belly and faked incredulity, her voice rising in pitch, heading towards a good hysterical tone. She'd trained to be a barrister, too, after all. "What are you saying, Zabini? You would actually deny your unborn child proper nutrition and a regular feeding schedule?" She gave a sham gasp. "What kind of father are you? It's not like you're lacking for money – you work for the government, for Merlin's sake!" She shook her head and gave a long, suffering sigh. "You know, I'm not sure I really want a man who would be so cheap as to deny buying the mother of his child a solid meal once in a while."

Blaise looked taken aback by her fake accusation for a moment, but then threw back his head and roared with laughter. "Gryffindor my arse! You're more Slytherin than I am!" He crossed the distance between them in a few long-legged strides and swept her up into his arms, twirling her about. "No wonder I'm positively mad for you, Hermione Jean Granger!"

Being held in Blaise's strong, safe arms, for the first time in her life Hermione wasn't afraid of flying. In fact, it actually felt pretty good… so long as she held to him tight. "Well, that's good," she stated, maintaining a strong grip on his shoulders, "because I must admit, I'm finding myself rather attached to you, too, Mister Zabini."

He pulled her closer and set her back on her feet, slowing in the spin until they finally stopped. "Does this mean you'll marry me, then?"

She tossed him a playful, coy smile. "I'm not sure. What are your terms, sir?"

He tweaked an eyebrow her. "No, no, my beauty. The question is: what'll it take to convince you that I'm the one for you?" he asked, a wicked gleam in his eye. "Because we both know I'll do anything for you."

Hermione gave it a few seconds of solid thought. "You mentioned something about peaches, if I recall correctly."

Blaise laughed, recognizing the reference. "There are none here. I checked your fridge last night. I'll have to go to the market."

Pressing a quick peck to those lusciously plump lips of his, she pulled out of his embrace and gave him the Queen's point towards the door. "While you're out, get us some breakfast, too."

He pinched her bottom. "Yes, my Bellissima." He headed for the door. As he pulled it open and stepped through, he turned back and gave her the once-over, from head to toe. "Remember: black garters and stockings, same heels. And set the chair in the middle of this room. I want to play out here today."

The moment the door shut behind him, Hermione ran into the shower to get clean, eagerly anticipating the morning that awaited her. After drying off, she sat back on the bed and dressed as he'd asked - and in nothing else.

As her hands smoothed over her bared belly, she paused over her lower abdomen and smiled. Four weeks ago, sitting in this same spot, she'd been haunted by the past and terrified by the future. Now, she had the distinct impression that all was as Ginny had promised: things had worked out exactly as they'd been meant to. She'd finally found a man who appreciated her, who was compatible with her on many levels, and who respected the tradition of loyalty between partners. Blaise made her laugh, gave her immense pleasure, and best of all, he defended her honour.

Yes, overall things had worked out quite well, unexpected though some parts of it had been.

She rubbed her tummy again with a fond pat, wondering what it would look like once it began to swell with the growing life within. Would her child be a boy or a girl? She hoped it would be a little girl who would melt her daddy's heart as assuredly as the man had melted her mother's.

Besides, if she had a daughter then she could name her Faith, for it had taken a tremendous leap of such a thing for Hermione to finally fall in love again.

~FIN~


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

PLEASE REVIEW! I'd love to know what you thought of my first attempt at shipping this couple.

"Bellissima" = Italian for "very beautiful (female)".