Hermione Granger looked up from the book she was reading on Rare and Unknown Charms, a smile crossing her face as she looked at one of her roommates and best friends. Chocolate brown eyes swept over him, taking in the well-worn boots, snug blue jeans and a blue sweater that matched his eyes perfectly. His coal black hair was tousled in a sexy way, just slightly longer than his chin, the back curling against his neck, and his blue eyes were shining with excitement and affection. She got off the couch and gave him a hug, "Happy birthday, Blaise."
"So, does Muggle look good on me?" Blaise asked with a smile as he did a little turn for her approval.
"You know it does," she laughed as she sat back down, putting a marker in her book and setting it on the table, knowing she wouldn't have a chance to read again for a while. Today was Blaise's twenty-fourth birthday, as well as Valentine's Day, and it happened to fall on a Saturday this year. To celebrate, he had come up with the idea for his friends to join him in a day of Muggle fun. Blaise had a fondness for Muggles that rivaled Arthur Weasley's, so it was little surprise that he got along charmingly well with her old friend and Minister of Magic.
It had been six years since graduation from Hogwarts and a little over five years since the War ended with Voldemort's defeat. Arthur had been elected the new Minister during their sixth year following Fudge's disappearance. The former minister's body turned up a few months later, reeking of dark magic and baring Voldemort's mark. It was during sixth year that Hermione had been paired with Blaise in Potions and they had become friends. The Slytherin was not nearly as quiet or studious as he seemed to be in class, having a wicked sense of humor and a charming manner that seemed to be common amongst that House. He was bright and flirtatious and rather handsome, and Hermione had had the occasional fantasy about him, but their relationship was strictly platonic, as she had to keep reminding herself, During seventh year, the majority of Slytherin had surprised them all by making a stand against Voldemort. Led by Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini, they had gone to Dumbledore and joined his side. Hermione hadn't been surprised by Blaise's actions, knowing that he had an appreciation for Muggles, but Malfoy's actions had honestly shocked her.
He'd been the same miserable arse during their sixth year, blaming them and Harry in particular for his Father's incarceration at Azkaban. He'd been annoyed at Blaise's growing friendship with her and her friends, and he'd gone out of his way to argue with them at every opportunity. However, Lucius Malfoy had died in prison during the autumn of sixth year, giving Draco the freedom to finally make his own choices. It appeared that they had all been wrong in assuming Draco would join Voldemort. The younger Malfoy had no fondness for Muggles or Muggleborns, but he also had no intention of following someone that he didn't respect or believe in. Draco had confided to her, one time when he was being civil, that Blaise was the one to suggest the Slytherins uniting with the other Houses and fighting with Dumbledore, giving a very convincing and persuasive argument about the reasons it was necessary for Voldemort to be defeated, rallying most of his House easily. Blaise might be somewhat shy and reserved some of the time, but he was also charming and a natural leader.
During seventh year, she and Blaise had been named as Head Girl and Head Boy, which hadn't been very surprising. Their common room became a meeting place for a small group of them. Her and Ron and Harry and Ginny and Neville and Blaise and Pansy and Draco. They had studied and worked on plans to battle Voldemort and gradually all become friends, though, even now, Draco would not admit to actually liking any of them. Of course, Ron and Harry were the same way. They accepted Blaise and Pansy, but refused to admit that they liked Draco. Silly boys, she thought fondly of her friends. In the years since Voldemort's defeat, they had remained close, meeting for dinner every weekend, some of them working together, some sharing a house, and some romantically involved. After the War, Blaise had bought a fantastic home in Muggle London, inviting them to share the space with him. She, Harry, and Ron had each taken a room. Ginny and Pansy had become friends and shared a flat in a wizarding area of London. Neville had moved to America to work as a Herbology teacher at the Salem Institute, marrying a local witch within a year, now a proud father of twins. Draco lived at Malfoy Manor with his wife of almost a year, a Muggleborn witch from California named Willow who taught at Hogwarts. Hermione got along well with the redhead and it was obvious that Draco was completely devoted to his new wife.
After the War, Hermione took a position at the Ministry. She worked in the Research and Development area of the Department of Mysteries, spending her time experimenting with charms and potions. She loved her job, finding it challenging and enjoyable. Ron and Harry also worked at the Ministry. Ron was in the Department of Magical Games and Sports on level seven and Harry worked in the Department of Muggle Relations on level one. The three of them would often eat lunch together and continued to be very close. Blaise didn't really need to work, but he loved arithmancy so he had taken a position in banking at Gringotts. He would often meet them for lunch whenever his schedule allowed. Pansy and Ginny had opened an event planning business, Special Affairs, four years ago and had earned a very good reputation. Pansy's specialty was large events, formal weddings, balls, charity events and the like, while Ginny specialized in birthdays and romantic weddings and smaller events. Draco was a silent partner in their business, putting up the galleons to get the business started. He invested his inheritance wisely, donated money whenever he believed in the cause, and had done wonders at bringing prestige and pride back to the Malfoy name. He continued to make money, investing in various businesses as well as running several Malfoy owned companies. He had an office in Diagon Alley from which he ran all of his interests, but he would sometimes work from home.
Hermione was twenty-three and had never had a serious relationship. She and Ron had dated briefly during her sixth year, but soon realized they were more like brother and sister than passionate lovers. During seventh year, she'd been busy with her responsibilities as Head Girl and studying for NEWTs and strategizing against Voldemort that dating had never been a priority. It was during seventh year that she developed her crush on Blaise, of all people, and that had ruined her for anyone else. Even now, just being around him caused her heart to race and awareness to sweep over her. She did her best to conceal her secret lust for the former Head Boy, knowing he'd delight in teasing her about her affection and desire if he ever found out the truth. Flirting was second nature to him, charming every witch he met, but she knew he thought of her as a sister, just like the other men in her life. Blaise was her best friend, spending more time with her than even Ron and Harry, and they had a fantastic relationship. They bickered and delighted in teasing one another, but they were very close and spent a majority of their time together. For some reason, Blaise rarely dated, preferring to spend his weekends with his friends. It was fortunate that she and Blaise got along because they would often be paired up whenever the group went out, since they were both single and not dating anyone specific. To be completely honest, she sometimes imagined that they were a couple during those outings, knowing it was silly and immature to do such a thing, but it felt nice, believing that he felt something for her other than friendship.
Ron and Pansy had been married a little over two years, the two very much in love and having the kind of relationship that could make one rather envious. After their wedding, Ginny had moved in with her, Blaise, and Harry, taking Ron's old room. It hadn't been long before Harry had finally acknowledged that he was attracted to the youngest Weasley and had been for a couple of years. Ginny's crush on Harry was well-known by Hermione, the brunette witch having heard endlessly about how wonderful Harry was during most of the years she had known the redhead witch. She'd encouraged him to ask Ginny out, which he did, and within two months, Ginny had moved into his room. They had gotten engaged over the recent Christmas holidays and were planning a late summer wedding.
"Hermione, are you in there?"
Hermione shook her head slightly, smiling sheepishly as she saw that Harry and Ginny had joined her and Blaise in the sitting room while she'd been lost in thought. She said, "Sorry about that."
"Were they at least good thoughts?" Ginny asked with a smile as she sat beside Harry, resting her head on his shoulder, her eyes knowing as they looked from the former Head Girl to the former Head Boy.
"I was actually just thinking about the past," Hermione admitted before smiling, "well, half of us are here. What time is it?"
"It's almost eleven," Harry said, “the others should be here soon.”
She turned her attention to Blaise, asking curiously, "What exactly do you have planned for us today? Don't think I haven't noticed how vague you have been about the details of our day."
"It's a surprise," Blaise smiled smugly, "but it should be fun."
"How you can use the word fun when describing Muggles is beyond me," a voice lazily drawled from behind Hermione.
“Stop it,” Willow scolded as she slapped her husband’s arm, a smile on her face as he pouted at her.
Hermione turned her head and looked at Draco, rolling her eyes as she saw the smirk on his face, having to laugh when Willow smacked his arm. “Hello, Willow. It’s nice to see you. Malfoy, on the other hand, could bugger off and I wouldn‘t care at all.”
“Good one, Mione,” Ron said as he entered the flat, dusting the floo powder off his shirt before helping Pansy stand.
“Be nice,” Pansy scolded Ron playfully before smiling at the birthday boy, “Happy birthday, Blaise!”
“Thanks, Pansy,“ the dark haired wizard smiled as he sat next to Hermione, deliberately sitting closer than normal. He received birthday greetings from the others, thanking them even as his mind was on the brunette beside him. That wasn’t anything unusual.
He spent most of his time thinking about Hermione. He had had a crush on her since they’d been partnered in Potions during sixth year. Until that time, he had honestly never given the bushy haired Gryffindor much thought, believing her to be a smart and capable witch and dismissing her after forming that opinion. He had been very much a loner during his first years at Hogwarts. He’d been sorted into Slytherin because he was ambitious and cunning and his family was Pureblood, though he thought he was more suited for Ravenclaw. He hadn’t trusted any of his housemates, his family had not been loyal to Voldemort, his sister was married to a Muggleborn for Merlin’s sake, yet he’d still found himself placed in Slytherin. Luckily, it had been easy to adjust to being surrounded by rude, spoiled, prejudiced snots. He’d merely done his best to disappear, spending his time studying and observing his classmates. Most of them probably hadn’t known his name until sixth year, though several of his female classmates had begun to notice him after he returned to school for fifth term. He’d ignored them and they’d eventually turned their attention to the more popular Harry and Draco for their silly female crushes.
He knew he was a nice looking guy. He had inherited his Father’s black hair, though his was slightly curly and always looked a bit tousled, not nearly as unkept as Potter’s though, thankfully. His blue eyes were from his Mum, framed by sooty lashes that Ginny was always telling him any female would envy. He was tall and slender, not overly muscular though he knew his body drew appreciative glances. His Italian ancestry was evident in his complexion and Pansy liked to tease him by calling him Pretty Boy, knowing it annoyed him to be thought of as beauty without brains. Of course, he had no problems using his looks and flirting when the need arose. Strangely enough, he found flirting very easy, despite his preference for privacy and his natural shyness. If anything, the flirting helped him overcome that annoying habit of fading into the background that he had practiced for so many years.
Malfoy had been the only member of his house that hadn’t ignored him, making it a point to force him into conversation from their initial meeting during first year. Over the years, they had become friends, though it was an odd friendship. Blaise had constantly made fun of Malfoy’s beliefs regarding blood as well as making his opinions about Voldemort known once he had determined that Draco wasn’t so convinced such ridiculous notions were worth dying over. He had been the only one that knew Draco was questioning his Father and he’d been the one Draco had finally come to for help when he decided that Voldemort was a crazy old bastard and that his Father‘s death meant he had a choice for his future.
They had discussed their options, Blaise lucky that his parents were not followers of the Dark Lord and that he had not grown up around such prejudice and anti-Muggle attitudes, and had eventually decided that it was time to make their beliefs known. He hadn’t been too surprised when most of their house had stood with them and joined Dumbledore. He’d watched his fellow Slytherin for six years and knew they weren’t as awful as he had once believed. They had grown up, attending Hogwarts showing them many Muggleborns and Halfbloods that were extremely competent, causing them to question what they had been told their whole lives. Slytherins were also a selfish lot and most of them didn’t like the idea of risking their lives for anything, especially not something as foolish as blood.
Sixth year changed Blaise’s life. He was partnered with Hermione in Potions and mid-year realized that his heart began to beat a little faster whenever she was around, that he was dreaming about her, that he could recognize her scent with ease, that he had picked up the habit of searching for her during meals and going to the library when he knew she’d be studying, and he’d had to admit that he, Blaise Zabini, Slytherin loner, had a rather consuming crush on the pretty brunette witch. In the years since, the crush had blossomed into something far more meaningful than infatuation. He had realized it was love a few years ago, but hadn’t said anything because he wasn’t sure how Hermione would deal with the news that he was in love with her. She liked to be in control, to have all the answers, and she rarely did anything without thinking it through save for her risky adventures with Potter and Weasley during their youth and the War. She also didn’t seem to have any interest in having a romantic relationship with anyone so why should he think that he would be an exception? There were times when he’d catch her looking at him in a way that made him wonder if she possibly felt the same about him, but she’d always look away before he could confirm that it wasn’t just his imagination.
He had decided a few weeks ago that today would be the day he finally confessed how he felt. He was twenty-four and had loved her for the last quarter of his life. It was time to just be honest and hope she felt the same way or that she was willing to give them a chance. He didn’t think it would ruin their friendship. After all, she’d dated Weasley for a few months during Sixth year and still considered him one of her best friends. Besides, Hermione wasn’t the type to turn her back on a friend merely because he happened to be in love with her. It was his birthday, damn it. Wasn’t it only fair that things went well and he’d finally have the one thing he wanted most in this world: Hermione’s love, her heart, her.
He casually moved his hand closer to her leg, wishing he’d been born during the summer instead of the winter. She was wearing jeans and a burgundy sweater that caressed her soft curves. To him, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. He loved her wild curls, preferring her hair loose and untamed to when she put it up or used magic to manage it. She didn’t wear make-up and wasn’t obsessed with fashion, preferring clothes that were comfortable and that she liked, always managing to look put-together and elegant even when wearing muggle jeans and a shirt. She was an average height, the top of her head level with his chin, and her figure was curvy yet slender. Had it been summer, she would have been wearing shorts, showing off a pair of tan legs that were long and shapely. He shook his head slightly, knowing that now was not the time to let his thoughts drift in that particular direction.
He had to focus on his plans to woo Hermione. He had planned the day rather carefully, choosing activities that they would both enjoy. He intended to show her how good it would be if she gave them a chance, let her see that they could have fun and reveal through his actions just how he felt. Call it the Slytherin in him, but he had planned his entire birthday around the idea of wooing Hermione when it would have been far easier to simply tell her how he felt. He had a fondness for making plans, though, and he wanted this day to be special. Call him romantic, though not to his face because, as a Slytherin, he’d deny such an accusation, but he wanted the first time he told Hermione he loved her to be like it was in those silly Muggle romance novels she thought none of them knew she read. He hadn’t told anyone his plans for the day, none of them aware that he had feelings for Hermione and he didn’t have any intention of them finding out until he finally told her. He had chosen Muggle activities to celebrate his birthday because he had always enjoyed their brief outings in the Muggle world and thought he could impress Hermione with his acceptance of Muggle things, plus he knew he looked good in blue jeans and needed all the help he could get in his pursuit of the brunette witch.
Harry Potter covered a smile as he exchanged a knowing look with his fiance. Pansy was telling them about an annoying client while Blaise and Hermione were doing their best to pretend that they weren’t resisting the urge to snog each other senseless. They thought they were so discrete about their feelings for one another, but all of them had seen it for years. In fact, Blaise and Hermione were the only two that *hadn’t* realized they were in love. They all did their best to bring them together, pairing them up at parties and dinners, watching and waiting for something to happen. They had become very good friends over the years, which Harry honestly knew was an important part of any long-lasting relationship.
He was glad that Hermione and Blaise were such good friends now, having an idea that any relationship that might have started at Hogwarts would have had a chance of not working out because they were both quite a bit alike and hadn’t really known each other all that well until seventh year. He could admit that they needed time to develop a friendship and move beyond the physical attraction and passion that seemed to have always been there from the start of their relationship. He just hadn't thought it would take them so bloody long! He might be a loner and slightly reserved, but Blaise Zabini was confident and had no problems going after anything he wanted, except Hermione. And Hermione was never hesitant about speaking her mind or acknowledging her feelings, except about Blaise.
Harry believed that they were both scared to admit how they felt, knowing that Hermione was not at all familiar with romance and love and probably worried that there was something she couldn't read about and learn perfectly before experiencing. And Blaise had never really had much practice at love, himself, and Harry could see him being a bit scared about taking such a risk with his heart. He had a loving family but he’d never been romantically involved with anyone as far as Harry knew. Willow thought they should just stay out of it, let things happen naturally, believing that it would all work out when the time was right. Draco insisted that Blaise was too bloody shy to ever admit how he felt and that it was their duty as friends to interfere, though Harry personally thought the Slytherin just liked the idea of being sneaky and plotting against his fellow Housemate, plus he seemed to like the idea of being partially responsible for their happiness, most likely for the opportunity to gloat and constantly remind them they’d needed his help to get together. Draco had matured in some ways, but, in others, he was still the same smug arrogant Pureblood that enjoyed besting them all. Willow had been great for Malfoy, though, and he was starting to get a little better as time went by.
In this case, Harry happened to agree with Draco, believing that it would require interference to ever get them to acknowledge that they loved each other. Pansy thought they just needed to be locked into a room together until they stopped arguing and denying their feelings and ended up snogging, already having some ideas in mind for a wedding between the two, having no doubt that a wedding was in their future, albeit possibly distance if they kept hiding their feelings. Ginny agreed with Pansy, knowing Hermione well enough to know that she was brave and courageous except when it came to relationships, having a bit of an insecurity about risking her heart. Ron was on Willow's side, believing that the passion would overwhelm them eventually, probably during the middle of one of their deep conversations. He seemed to believe that they were both ready to begin a relationship and just needed a slight push into realizing they were meant for each other.
Harry had watched them dance around their feelings for seven years and he was tired of waiting for them stop being stubborn and finally admit that they were in love so they could have their well-deserved happy ending. They'd all remained silent and done their best at subtle matchmaking throughout the last four years, but even Ron was starting to think locking them up together somewhere romantic wasn't such a bad idea. Harry had come up with a plan. Today, on Blaise’s birthday, they were all going to meddle and try to get them to admit how they felt. His goal was to see his best friend and Blaise stop ignoring their feelings and finally share a kiss. Just one real, passionate, toe curling, I've wanted you for years type of kiss. The declarations of love could come later, once they'd started dating and felt comfortable talking about matters of the heart and emotion.
Harry knew that a kiss would be the start of their relationship, the passion and affection they both felt something that would clearly translate perfectly through a kiss. His plan wasn't very complicated, because he wasn’t entirely certain what Blaise had planned for the day, but he had discussed it with everyone over the last week and they were all in agreement to encourage Hermione and Blaise as much as possible without being too blatant. Subtle was the best bet, according to Ron, who knew that Hermione would resist if she got suspicious.
Their main objective was to make sure that Hermione and Blaise would be paired up all day and it was a beautiful winter day and Valentine's Day, which meant it was romantic and the perfect setting for admitting long ignored desire and love. Okay, so it wasn’t much of a plan, but maybe it would work. If not, they had agreed to follow Pansy and Ginny’s suggestion and simply lock Blaise and Hermione up in a room together until they were snogging. Since Harry suspected that Hermione would hex them all terribly for going to such extreme measures, even if she was in a happy relationship with Blaise by the time they were freed, and she was the brightest witch he knew, which meant she had a vast knowledge of horrid hexes, he hoped his plan worked.
Pansy finished her story and smiled at her friends, asking, “Is it time to go, Blaise? By the way, what are we doing today that required the wearing of Muggle clothing? This better be good since it is Valentine‘s Day and I could be shagging my husband instead of spending the day with all of you.”
“You look smashing in Muggle clothing, darling,” Ron told Pansy as he kissed her cheek tenderly, whispering, “we‘ll spend of tomorrow shagging.”
“I think I might lose my breakfast,” Draco groaned, his lips curving into a smile when his wife glared at him.
“I think it’s rather romantic,” Willow informed him haughtily, doing her best to maintain her glare when she saw the sexy smirk on his lips.
“Weasel is not romantic,” Draco smirked, leaning in and brushing his lips against hers, muttering, “I’ll show you romantic,” before claiming her lips in a passionate kiss.
“Merlin, now we’ll all be sick,” Ginny teased as the Slytherin kissed his wife. She laughed when she saw two middle fingers directed her way from the kissing couple. “Willow!”
“Sorry, Gin. Draco’s a bad influence on me,” Willow said innocently as the kiss ended, giving her fellow redhead a smirk that rivaled Draco’s and confirmed her status as a Malfoy, if only by name.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” Blaise laughed as he stood up from the sofa, offering his hand to Hermione to help her up. He looked into her eyes when their hands touched, wondering if she had felt the same spark. Their eyes met briefly before she quickly looked away and said something to Willow about becoming as snaky as Draco, though she said it as though being snaky was a compliment. He looked at his friends, his lips curving into a wide smile as he said, “I think it’s time to start our day. Let’s go.”