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I was born right in the doorway

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I was born right in the doorway

“A kiss may ruin a human life.” -Oscar Wilde

 

When he finds her, it’s been three years, five months and twenty-six days since the last time he saw her.

Blaise is leaning against the wall on the opposite side on the road to the Hermitage watching as she walks down the steps. Her head is bent against the wind, red coat pulled tight around her and her hands cupped to her mouth to ward off the chill.

She’s fucking beautiful and her absence has been a physical ache in his chest for longer than he cares to think about.

She was always beautiful though; all wild hair and ink smudged cheeks and fingers, that bloody know-it-all attitude that’s always infuriated him and intrigued him all at once. Of all his classmates, she’d been the only one to really hold his attention for any length of time. He really should never have been so surprised by the realisation that she was his mate.

She’d always been perfect.

For the first time in too long, something loosens in his chest and it’s like he can finally breathe out.

Yet even as that weight lessens slightly - the ache he’s lived with for too long dimming just a fraction enough to maybe let him sleep - a compulsion rises up from his stomach. It’s so strong it’s like it has its own consciousness, urging him to shout out, pull her close, claim her lips in a kiss - do anything as long as it brings her nearer.

It’s all encompassing and his body thrums with its call. Mate!

Blaise tightens his hands on the stone wall, forces himself not to move, to not draw attention to himself, because that’s not part of the plan. If there’s anything Blaise has learnt, it’s that he should never deviate from a plan.

It takes all his will power, but he manages to fight against it, stay still and watch as Hermione Granger walks away.

Again.

The only consolation is the firm knowledge that this time it won’t be indefinitely.

~*~

Fourteen.

That’s how old Blaise is when he first discovers who his mate is.

He could have gone years without ever realising. Years in blissful ignorance before the ache to find her grew too strong.

Except fate chooses a different path and she brushes up against him in the History of Wizarding art aisle in the library and that’s it.

He knows straight away. There’ll be no more denying, no more ignorance and not a thing he can do about it.

His life is ruined by a single brush of her hand; her knuckles grazing against his, by her skin catching against his skin as she moves past him. It’s almost like a kiss, their hands are like lips as they brush fleetingly together and Blaise’s whole body sparks and comes alight with it, his brain momentarily on overload as his centre attunes itself to the one person he can’t even contemplate attempting to court.

Hermione for her part merely mumbles an apology as she passes, her head buried in a book that Blaise would have normally paid more attention to except this time he just can’t even bring himself to care.

He closes his eyes, his vision blurring and nostrils flaring at the scent infiltrating every corner of his consciousness.

It’s fucking delicious!

It’s like the best coffee he’s ever had - sitting outside a café in Paris when he was eleven with his mother and soon to be step-father number five. His new school books wrapped up on the chair beside him and less than a month until he was free.

His legs wobble at the sensation and he stretches out a hand to grip a shelf to brace himself against, his fingers curling quickly and clumsily, his nails grazing the spine of a book.

He doesn’t even blink at the noise of damaged leather because it’s like his Nonna’s pumpkin pie. Just after it had come out of the oven; almost too hot as it melted on his six-year old tongue, all thoughts of stepfather number two and his dislike for children disappearing with just a bite.

No.

He takes a deep breath, opens his eyes and watches as her wild curls turn the corner of the aisle.

It’s so much more than either of those memories.

It’s the library of Naples which he’d spent a whole summer exploring when he was eight with stepfather number four, Luc - the one he’d liked, the one he’d thought might last, the one he’d wanted to keep.

Blaise straightens his back, clears his throat and rolls his shoulders. He thinks fuck. He shouts it in his head because, ‘Fuck! Of course it had to be Granger!

~*~

It was his father that was a Veela. That’s what his Nonna told him when he first learned about his heritage: six years-old and too young to fully understand just how much it would really affect him.

The few people that have figured it out - that he’s half Veela - have always presumed it is his mother. They think that it makes sense, think that if she’s Veela then that explains the way she is; the way men flock to her.

They really haven’t got a clue.

Naïve.

Stupid.

Ill-informed.

The little he knows about his father is from his grandparents. Not his mother. His mother has never talked about him.

Not even when he’s asked.

Like when he was about three or four. They were at his Nonna’s house near Florence and she’d just been telling him about his new stepfather. Blaise has a vague memory of pulling on her shirt tails, asking, “Where’s my daddy?”

His mother had turned her back to him, black hair twisted up and pinned elegantly, exposing the long line of her neck and making her look even more like the Egyptian Queen he was reading about with his Nonno.

Even then she was intimidating in her beauty.

“It doesn’t matter,” his mother had answered, but her voice had quavered and a strand of hair had fallen free and Blaise had learned his first lesson in how to read a lie.

It wasn’t until much later that he began to understand.

It’s not until Hermione that he truly comprehends and forgives her.


~*~

He’s nineteen when he finally kisses her.

It’s been five years.

Five years of patience, of waiting until he could do it properly, and of resenting Dumbledore with every ounce of his being when the pain was at its worse and all he wanted was her touch.

“You do understand that no one has ever switched houses, Mr Zabini? It would make quite the news story.”

And he’d understood, agreed even - except for in the middle of the night, biting down on his hand to stop her name from falling from his lips in need, cramps and shivers wrecking his body and Theo watching him worriedly.

Five years is really too long. It may even be a record. Blaise has no idea, he just knows that tonight is it.

Time to declare himself.

They’re at the Fundraising Ball that the Ministry is holding for the relatives of the fallen. It’s the first anniversary of the final battle and there’s an air of hope in the air of things finally starting to move forward – move on.

It’s fitting. This may be the final stage in his plan, one that he’s been building on and developing for the past four months that he’s worked beside Hermione as an intern in the Department of Mysteries, but it’s also hopefully the start of his future.

She’s stood at the side of the hall, no date and no dance partner, but for a single turn around the hall earlier in the evening with Neville Longbottom.

And she’s beautiful.

Breathtaking, Blaise thinks.

Even more so than she’d been during their Yule Ball in fourth year when he’d had to watch her with Viktor Krum; his longing still fresh and new and a giant ball of green roiling in his stomach.

This time she holds herself with confidence and this time he’s free to look his fill.

“Where are you hiding it,” he says, voice low, mouth just an inch away from her ear as he leans in, turning his head and looking absently out across the ballroom.

Hermione leans back quickly, her body turning towards him in surprise.

“Do you practice that? Was there some kind of secret afterhours class in sneakiness that only Slytherins were invited too?”

Blaise smirks, cuts his eyes to her. “It’s more a prerequisite actually. So come on, where are you hiding it,” he repeats, peering around her and lifting her arm to look beneath it, ignoring the way his heart races at the feel of her skin, the way his fingers itch to flex, tighten and pull her to him.

“I don’t know what you mean. Blaise, stop it. What are you looking for?” Hermione huffs, pulls her arm back and tucks her purse back beneath her arm, but as she does it jiggles and clunks, the contents thumping much more loudly than it should.

“Ah ha,” Blaise exclaims, “They are in your bag. Tell me, exactly how many books have you brought along with you to this Ball, Hermione? Three? Four?”

Hermione flushes. “Five, but that’s only because I needed my Arabic dictionary to help me translate some of the runes in Armatidge’s Almanac.”

Blaise laughs. “You brought work with you. Merlin, only you would bring work to a ball.”

Hermione narrows her eyes and regards him shrewdly. “Really? Then that isn’t a shrunken copy of your notes on S. Johnson’s plans for the Room of Requirement in your dress robe’s pocket, then huh?”

She looks entirely too smug as she jabs a finger into his chest and mutters something about pot, kettle and black.

In that moment she’s amazing; clever and smart, with a wickedly quick tongue. As she looked up at him and preens it really isn’t Blaise’s fault that his whole plan to ask her to dance, take her out onto the patio and seduce her with the old slightly fingered edition of this Muggle book she seems to love goes flying out the window.

Blaise swallows, catches her hand like he’d wanted to moments earlier, and pulls her close, thumb stroking over her wrist. He licks his lips and watches as Hermione bites down on her own, pulling it into her mouth and chewing it, eyes searching.

“Blaise?” she asks, unsure and he doesn’t think he mistakes the hint of anticipation in her tone.

He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, cups his hand loosely around the curve of her shoulder, and flicks his eyes back to hers. “Can I kiss you?”

Hermione hesitates, head pulled back and he feels his body tighten and crack at the fear she might say no. That’s the only excuse he has for saying, “Please?”

And at that one word her body relaxes, almost imperceptibly, and she nods, mouth falling open just a fraction and it’s all he needs.

The first press of lips - chaste and soft - is heady. It’s both a relief from the ache he’s been feeling for the past four years and an escalation of that need, his Veela instincts at the taste of his mate kicking in.

It’s the first real taste of everything he’s been needing for so long and he almost looses himself to it. He can feel his father’s blood within him; a boiling thrum in his ears telling him to take and claim.

He pulls her closer, tongue licking out and flickering over Hermione’s bottom lip, her hand still held tight in his, their fingers wrapped up in each other. He trails the other up her neck to play with the loose curls of hair at her nape.

It’s better than he ever imagined.

Better than anything he’s ever felt and he thinks finally!

Hermione whimpers – it’s a soft mewling sound that vibrates through him and Blaise presses closer even as she arches against him, her back bowing. The kiss turns heated in a flash, her tongue presses back against his for just a second and then it’s gone.

She’s gone.

At least a metre between them, and Blaise’s skin itches and screams with loss.

“What -” Hermione starts to say, but she pauses, shaking her head even as her hand reaches up to touch her lips. When her eyes fix on Blaise they are harder; mistrusting and filled with accusation. “What was that?” she asks.

He takes two steps closer, can’t even halt his body from following the need at this point, but Hermione holds up her hand to forestall him and to her his body responds.

He stops, drops his head, doesn’t even pause to look around to see who might be paying attention, who might hear before he says, “I’m part Veela.” And he knows she’ll have read enough to know exactly what that means. “Please, just let me – I just need to ex-”

Hermione shakes her head. Does it twice. “I can’t do this. I just -”

And then she’s just gone.

~*~

Blaise understands.

It’s different for non Veela mates. There isn’t the longing, the desperate need, and there certainly isn’t the pain. Not before they're bonded, at least. After, well – survival rates of mates that have lost a partner are just as low on both sides.

Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t feel the intensity of a connection even before a full bond has formed. Even just a kiss will be so much more than they’ve ever experienced before.

It’s like coming home after never having one before. It’s the first stitch in rejoining a soul and making it whole. The sense of rightness, of harmony and serenity is so much beyond anything the mate could have even dreamed of.

It’s overwhelming and that’s why rushing in hadn’t been the plan. That’s why he’d wanted them to be close already, so he could explain before he dropped the bombshell on her of that first kiss.

Blaise drops his head, spares a thought for his mother and feels his stomach lurch.

He understands. He just doesn’t anticipate that it will be another three years before he gets to apologise.

~*~

It’s Fleur that finally tells him where Hermione is.

He’s almost given up hope. He’s stood at the gate to the Burrow, head bent and hands clenched into fists, short, manicured finger nails digging red rims into the paler skin of his palm, because he just can’t anymore.

Three years and really how much longer did he have to wait?

Three years and it was no longer just an ache that he felt, not just a need or desire, but a physical pain that pulsed and spiked inside him. He barely caught more than a couple of hours sleep a night – if he was lucky. As a result, his concentration was shot to hell, to the point that two days earlier he completely screwed up the translation of a whole chapter of a book on the history of the founding wizarding society in ancient Greece.

He was a mess and he hated it.

He’s spent his whole life schooling away every trace of emotion or weakness. He’s worked so hard to hide anything that could be used against him, fighting the tempestuous nature of his Veela side to the point that half the time he almost believed the façade he projected.

He was never supposed to be the kind of person that needed with a force so strong he just couldn’t fathom living without it.

Except he does and he has no clue where to find her.

He’s checked Wizarding and Muggle papers everywhere for three fucking years and there’s just no trace. No news, no sign, no nothing.

Blaise closes his eyes and imagines Hermione curled in his arms. He loses himself to thick curls tickling his nose, to bodies glistening with a light sheen of sweat, to the idea of being so close - wrapped and taggled around each other - that he can feel every puff of breath against his collar bone, hear every heart beat. It’s almost like peace and he manages to hold onto it for all of thirty seconds before it shatters and his stomach cramps with painful familiarity. A reminder of just how desperate he is.

And that’s it.

The only reason why he’d come here. To supplicate himself and fucking plead to the Weasley’s of all people - to Potter. To these people that have never once looked at him with anything other than mistrust and suspicion regardless of the fact he fought on their side in the war. Regardless of the fact he’d broke away from his whole house and was one of only three green and silver ties to grace the floor of the room of requirement during that last year.

Fat lot of good it had done him. He grinds his teeth, pushes a hand into his pocket and fumbles for a cigarette.

“Blaise!” Fleur calls from behind him.

She touches his shoulder and it feels so wrong that Blaise has to use every ounce of his willpower not to shrug her off.

“Oh, Blaise,” she says, and the pity in her voice is even worse. “ ’ow long ‘ave you known?” she says and drops her hand lower on his back, rubs slow circles over his back between his shoulder blades.

“Too long,” he says, and even to his own ears he can hear the defeat in his voice and he resents it.

“ ’ave you tried Dreamless Sleep?”

Blaise shakes his head, “It’s just a quick fix, it’s not going to work in the long run, I just need to find her. Explain.”

“I can talk to ‘arry, try and make ‘im understand. Eet ees not – even Bill did not understand at first. Eet ees not easy for zem - to ‘ave never experienced zee level of need we can feel...” She shakes her head.

“Thank you,” Blaise replies and he can hear his voice break, feels only marginally better that at least it was in front of someone who wouldn’t judge him for it. “I would be – I’d appreciate that.”

~*~

“I need to call in that favour,” Blaise says, dropping down into a seat and flicking a piece of lint from his trouser leg before looking up and across the desk at Theo.

“Good morning, Blaise.” Theo doesn’t pause in his work, he keeps writing on the piece of parchment stretched out across his desk, one finger holding his place in a book that’s lying open. “Pleasure to see you. So how’s things down in the Department of Mysteries? What me, Oh, I’m good, thank you. Nice of you to enquire. Now, how can I help you?”

Theo looks up finally, crosses his arms, raises an eyebrow, and Blaise almost blanches. That was clumsy and no matter how long they’ve been friends, he would never normally cut straight to the point like that with anyone. It was not how things were done.

“It’s getting worse, isn’t it?” Theo’s face softens, forehead creasing in worry and from anyone else Blaise would begrudge the gesture, but this is Theo and they’ve been through enough that instead he feels the muscles in his back loosen just a fraction.

Blaise twitches his lips into a wry smile, tilts his head and says, “Please tell me it’s not as obvious as it feels?”

It takes Theo a moment to answer. “Well, I know about your situation, so obviously it’s going to be more apparent to me.”

Blaise bites his cheek, can’t deny just how much he hates the idea that he could be so easy to read.

Theo pushes back from his desk, brushes his hands off on his trousers and stands up. He crosses behind Blaise and pauses, rests a hand on his friends shoulder. “Stop worrying, I’m sure no one else has realised.”

Blaise looks up and Theo tilts his head, twists his lips. “Maybe Daphne. Have you been to see Daphne? Because she would know. Firewhiskey?”

Blaise almost asks for the bottle, but that’s an addiction that is really far too riskily possible in his situation. Oblivion - whether it comes in the form of Dreamless Sleep or a bottle of alcohol is really too much of a temptation and a quick fix that would likely cause more problems than it would solve. It’s not for him. He’s dependant enough. So instead he winces and asks, “I don’t suppose you have any ginger tea?”

Theo quirks an eyebrow disbelievingly, poring a finger of amber liquid into one of his Waterford tumblers. “Herbal tea – seriously?” he asks.

Blaise sighs. “I know, but Fleur said it may help with the stomach cramps.”

“Delacour? When did you talk to her?”

Blaise inclines his head, thins his lips and says, “That’s actually what I came to talk to you about and why I need the favour. I know where Hermione is.”

~*~

“Seems a little fortuitous,” Theo muses, turning his pen over in his hand and watching it spin. “I mean you come across a possible Horcrux around the same time you manage to track Hermione Granger down?”

“I don’t need believable; nothing’s going to be believable. I just need a mechanism.” Blaise shrugs.

“Good, because it’s a crappy lie -” Theo snorts. “- and coming from you – well, I was starting to worry things had gotten worse than they look. And they look bad enough as it is.”

“Why, thank you,” Blaise snarks back, voice full of mock aggravation as he crosses his arms.

“Pleasure,” Theo returns, and then adds with a huff, “Fine, of course I’ll sign the papers, pass them over.”

“So, out of interest, how long have you been hording it?” Theo queries, looking up from signing the last of the permission slips Blaise had passed him.

“Came in about two years ago.” Blaise shrugs. “In my defence, I’m fairly sure it’s either a defective example or that it’s already been deactivated.”

“But it doesn’t hurt to check, right?” Theo rolls his eyes.

Blaise smirks, “Not when I happen to know where an expert in the field is, no.”

Theo passes the papers back, places is hand over Blaise’s as he reaches to take them, stalls him. Blaise looks up at his friend and is almost taken aback by the genuine concern on his face.

“I really hope this works, Blaise.”

Blaise doesn’t add the ‘me too’ instead saying simply, “Thanks.”

~*~

“Hello, Hermione,” he says.

He’s standing in the doorway to her office and even though he’s expecting it, the way her back tenses up at the sound of his voice still hurts.

When she turns around, there’s a smudge of ink of her cheeks and she looks so familiar it hurts.

She bites her lip, looks from Blaise to the door and back. Blaise watches as she opens her mouth and closes it. He had hoped – but no, her expression of panic unmistakable.

His stomach cramps, and it’s all he can do to stand still, keep his frame straight and relaxed even though it’s the last thing his body wants.

“I’m sorry; we needed your help on an artefact. That’s the only reason I’m here,” he lies. He’s good at lying. He’s spent his whole life perfecting it for one reason or another.

This time it falls flat.

In all honesty, he’d have been disappointed if it hadn’t.

Hermione swallows, looks to the box he’s carrying and nods. “Help,” she says quietly and settles her hands on her legs and smoothes the fabric.

She hesitates, fingers twitching rubbing over her thumbs before flexing and releasing.

“Okay, help. What is it?”

~*~

They’ve been working together for two weeks, when he gives it to her.

Her walls are mostly broken down; they’re almost friends again, almost back to where they were before.

She doesn’t talk about it, neither of them ever do, but she doesn’t tense when she looks at him now either, though there’s something in her eyes that Blaise thinks might be guilt.

He’s been carrying it in his pocket for longer than he cares to admit. He’s read it even more, thumbing the pages just to feel closer; to remind himself.

He places it on her desk, reaches over her shoulder and carefully avoids all contact as he does so.

“You remind me of her. Elizabeth,” he says manages to lift his fingers from the cover and step back.

“Blaise?” Hermione asks, touching the cover of the novel reverently and he likes the sound of awe in her voice.

“I meant to give it you a long time ago.” He swallows and feels the loss of her absence like it’s still fresh and new. “Before – It’s a first edition.”

Hermione picks up the copy of Pride and Prejudice, thumbs it open to the first page. She doesn’t say anything, but Blaise can almost hear her reading, knew she wouldn’t be able to resist.

She takes a deep breath, turns around and seems to steel herself. “I think we’ve put this off for long enough,” she says “Let’s get some coffee, we need to talk.”

~*~

They’ve been sat at the table in silence for almost ten minutes. Blaise knows the exact time to almost the second, in fact, because he’s been watching the clock tick round as a means of distraction. He takes another sip of his coffee and moves his attention to an Arithmancy problem in one of the books he’s been reading. Anything to keep his attention focussed, keep him patient. He’s good at patient. This is really nothing in comparison to almost nine years of patience.

Except, Hermione shifts her legs, re-crossing them in the opposite direction and her foot nudges his ankle accidently. “Sorry, she says.

His concentration stutters over an equation for just long enough for every sensation, every scent, every desire to touch, kiss, feel and be with her. It’s like his whole body suddenly slams to a halt and attunes itself to her, pulling him forward.

He grits his teeth and grips the coffee cup harder, firm enough that the cheap ceramic gives an ominous crack.

Hermione on the other hand hasn’t even looked up from the Formica table top. Her hands wrapped around her mug of hot chocolate like they’re trying to ward off the cold that has stubbornly followed them inside the small café.

Blaise sets his cup back down, concentrates on breathing evenly – in and out – and quelling the blood rushing in his ears while he watches Hermione tickle paths up the side of her mug in agitation.

After two weeks of working side by side, of falling back into old patterns, of almost regaining some of the camaraderie that they seemed to have built up before the ball – well, he hadn’t expected this to feel so awkward.

Hermione opens her mouth, closes it and then opens it again.

Blaise can’t help it, he smirks, says, “Weren’t you always chastising Weasley for that. Something about making him look like a fish, I think.”

Hermione looks up at that and scowls, but there’s no heat behind it. “Do you get some kind of sick pleasure out of annoying me?” she huffs.

“It wouldn’t be any fun if I told you I did.”

“Smarmy git,” she retorts. She pauses then, looks away, turns the cup in her hands and finally looks back, looks him straight in the eye. “It was never about it being you, you do know that right?”

Her eyes are wide - unrestrained and honest - and they’re looking at him with a lot more scrutiny than Blaise really feels comfortable with.

Not giving away every insecure thought he’s had the past three and a half years, the past nine, hell most his life – is almost harder than living without her for so long.

He schools his face neutral and nods his head. “Of course,” he says and he isn’t sure he gets away with it because Hermione, blinks twice, pulls back, her mouth opening slightly.

Blaise shifts in his seat, even more uncomfortable and tries to ignore the way his body itches. “It’s overwhelming. I do understand that, how it would have felt. It wasn’t – I honestly didn’t intend for it to happen like that, I…”

Hermione stretches her hand out across the table, covers his skin - warm and soothing in its intention and it seeps into Blaise, relaxes him like nothing he can remember. “No,” she says firmly, and shakes her head. “It’s not that,” she pauses, bites her lip and pulls back. “Well it was, I mean -” She coughs the hand that had so recently been touching his, covering her mouth.

Blaise is transfixed.

She’s flushed and he watches as she drops her hand, fingers grazing her throat before she twists them around the chain of her necklace. He has to swallow, feels himself harden in his trousers and its not – fuck he hates this, the way a few genes control so much of his body - his emotions. It’s like he’s not even in control, but he watches her hand and is right back in the ball room, his thumb stroking up the column of her throat and… he blinks, concentrates with everything he has.

“- it was really pretty much the most erotic moment of my life.”

He tilts his head and just about refrains from inelegantly gawping ‘what?’ at her. Instead, he keeps control of his mouth and leans back on his chair a little more – space - almost confident for the first time in a long time. He allows himself to bask in it for all of ten seconds before asking the pertinent question.

“So if it wasn’t me, then what was it?”

Hermione doesn’t answer straight away. She takes a sip of her drink and stares into the cup like it holds all the answers.

“I’m not stupid, Blaise,” she says.

“I don’t think anyone who’s ever met you could ever accuse you of that,” he replies. Behind closed doors even Draco had had to admit that and it was something Blaise had took note of long before that day in the library.

Hermione gives him a small grin. “Yeah?”

Blaise rolls his eyes and her grin widens, before she schools it into something more tempered again.

“I had read about Veela, I’d even talked to Fleur when we’d been at the Burrow about the whole mate thing and what it meant. Before we’d ever even been friends. Before I ever knew.” She shrugs. “It was interesting. I was – curious.”

Blaise nods because that fact isn’t unexpected, it had been clear in her eyes when he’d told her he was part Veela – full comprehension, no confusion, synapses firing off connections like one of Longbottom’s cauldron’s in Potions. And she was Granger! The old adage of knowledge being power had never been more apt.

She huffs out this little self deprecating laugh. “What I’m trying to explain, probably very inelegantly, is that it wasn’t because of you, or the kiss, or not fully understanding. It was because I comprehended it all too well. I knew what your being part Veela meant and I knew exactly what that kiss meant when you told me that.”

“I had kind of inferred that at the time,” he says, not entirely sure how this is any different from his explanation.

“But you don’t understand.” She runs a hand through her hair, sighs and leans forward – earnest. “I spent seven years watching my best friend’s life be completely ruled and torn apart by fate. I’d ask you if you have any idea what that’s like, but I’m fairy certain you do.”

Blaise nods and feels a moment of dawning comprehension. “I think I’m beginning to understand,” he says, regrets letting his emotions control his actions even more, because if he’d stuck to the plan…

“Good,” Hermione smiles again and continues, “Most of the time we were fighting Voldemort, we weren’t just trying to help Harry survive or win – we were trying to help him cope with the pressure of not being able to escape this prophecy that was foretold even before he was born. You get to a point where the idea of fate becomes more than a little detestable.”

Blaise drops his head, nods in understanding. “You felt like you didn’t have a choice. I – I know what that’s like.”

“No, not exactly. I wanted to know I was free to choose you. I liked you, Blaise. Even at school you were different.”

“Because I could keep up with you?” he asks, smirk on his face as he tries to ignore all the what might have been’s – spilt milk.

“Because you were different. And not just from the other Slytherins’. You were interesting and no one can deny that you’re, well -” She waves her hands at Blaise, shy and uncomfortable and Blaise grins.”

“You thought I was appealing,” he says smirking and unable to keep the pleased look off his face.

“Conceited arse,” Hermione mumbles, before adding, “I just, I’d noticed you and I didn’t - ”

“You didn’t like the idea that maybe you’d never had a choice in that?” Blaise interrupts.

Hermione looks down, fiddles with her cup and nods, small and embarrassed, her cheeks flushed pink.

“You’ve read about Veela, so I take it that you’ve read Puccini’s texts?” Blaise asks, nods to himself when Hermione concurs. “Then you know how this works for both a Veela and non Veela mate?” Blaise coughs and hesitates. He has to take a moment because he’s not used to being this honest. Hell, he generally avoids it at all cost, but this is necessary, so - “I’d looked at you even before I knew you were my mate. In many ways it wasn’t a surprise that it was you. I can’t think of anyone who’d be able to match me more perfectly. But I’m Veela, at least partly and that could just be my heritage subliminally seeking out my mate.” He pauses again, toys with his now empty cup and looks up at Hermione as he says, “I like to believe I’d have chosen you anyway.”

Hermione’s flush returns, darker this time.

“But until that kiss – all research shows that our human mates have free will before a bond is triggered.”

Hermione looks up at him and he sees something settle. He feels hope flare in his chest and thinks maybe soon.

“Come on,” he says. “I really think we should get back to work. That barista is starting to give us dirty looks for extending our welcome and I really don’t believe I can face another cup of subpar coffee.”

~*~

They’re walking along the street back to The Hermitage, the Neva River to their right. At some point during there walk Hermione’s hand has found its way into his. Blaise had had to fight the urge to sit down, the feeling almost too much after so long being alone.

It’s fucking freezing and she tucks herself in against his side for warmth, with a cheeky smile and a light elbow to his ribs.

He can’t help it, he feels the urge to tease and try to lighten the moment because he’s not sure how else to cope with finally having this - having someone else so close. He slows his pace, and bends until his breath is a hot whisper against her ear, her curls tickling his face as he says, “So only the most erotic moment then, huh? What about the most sensual, salacious even –debauched?”

He hums and Hermione shivers against him, digs her nails into his palms and closes her eyes.

Blaise has to stop.

Her breathing has quickened, her face is flushed and he doesn’t think it’s from embarrassment this time. He can smell her. Just the hint of the beginnings of arousal and it goes straight to his groin.

“Fuck,” he breathes out, pulls her to a stop and turns her around, his eyes moving over her face. “Fucking should have known you’d have a fetish for words.”

He swallows and tries to rein in his emotions, but Hermione presses closer, nuzzles her face up against his neck and nibbles. “Blaise,” she says, voice breathy as her other hand finds his as well, pressing closer still. He feels her smile against his neck and bites his cheek as she says, “It’s called logophilia, actually.”

He stops, tightens his grip on Hermione’s hands and breaths.

“Hmm, I might even hypothesise that I’m not alone.”

“Minx,” Blaise hisses and backs her against the wall. He leans in, grins against her cheek, and places a quick kiss against her jaw, meets her eyes “Back to my point though, how about licentious.”

Hermione groans, buries her head against his and her scent gets stronger. He can feel the heat of her skin where it touches his and it’s perfect. He nuzzles her ear again. “Umm, yeah, that’s a good one, huh? Did I make your most licentious list, Hermione?” he asks, curling his tongue around the lobe of her ear. “Or how about your most -”

Hermione pulls her hand from his, places it against his chest and pushes. “How about we finish early today?” she says.

~*~

“I haven’t done this in a while,” Hermione says.

Blaise closes his eyes. He bites down hard on his cheek until he can taste blood. He has to fight down the irrational burst of anger and jealousy at his mate ever doing this with anyone else. It’s not unexpected, but it’s still -

“Blaise?”

“Sorry, just – Just give me a minute.”

Hermione’s on her back beneath him, her hair a fan across his pillows, but she pushes herself up on her elbows, crowds herself into his space. “It’s okay.”

“No.” he huffs out a laugh that is anything but full of mirth. “It’s really not. Merlin, I hate this.” He really does.

When he’d spoken to Fleur about being part Veela, about how she’d coped, he’d discovered their experiences to be as far apart as could be. Fleur had long ago accepted her Veela nature as a part of herself – embracing it fully. For Blaise however it had only ever been something he’d felt resentment for. His whole life has been a battle to control his powers, his allure, and even more his temper.

There’s a brush of something against his cheek, and he feels lips settle in a chaste kiss over his cheekbone just a moment before Hermione rests her forehead against his.

It’s grounding.

“Have you ever -?” Hermione lets the question hang.

Blaise opens his eyes, keeps his head pressed against hers and looks down at the sight of her tongue flicking out over her lip. He shakes his head in a barely there movement.

“I was fourteen when I – you brushed up against me in the library and you smelt like every book I’d ever loved. After that I just – it was too strong, I couldn’t -” He’d tried, thinking maybe it was help alleviate the pain of not being able to claim his mate but it had only ever made it worse.

That had been how Daphne had found out – Blaise bent double and almost screaming from the pain of just trying to kiss her.

Hermione draws her lip inside her mouth and chews it for a second before pushing Blaise back, reversing their positions as she settles on top of him, her knees bracketing his hips. “Well in that case –“

She looks determined and Blaise laughs. “I do know what I’m doing,” Blaise retorts indignantly, his hands settling on her hip to pull her more fully against him as he arches his hips up in a small thrust. He arches a smug eyebrow when she moans as he manages to bring her clit into perfect contact with his pelvis.

“Never said you didn’t,” says Hermione, slightly breathless as she flicks a button open on his shirt. “But I’ve always admitted I have a bad habit of being bossy.”

~*~

It’s not at all what Blaise expected.

It’s easier.

Their bodies are pressed tight together and they’re almost naked except for Hermione’s knickers and his boxers. He can feel every breath she exhales against his skin; every pulse, every heartbeat like it’s his own and it’s good. It’s fucking amazing.

Hermione has got her legs wrapped around his back, and it’s definitely a hell of a lot easier than he ever expected this was going to be.

He’d thought that everything would get worse. He’d even worried about it, scared beyond anything he could ever admit that his control would slip completely as the need to mate and seal their bond became overwhelming.

But it’s not like that.

His head is clearer than he can remember it being in a long time. His body quietened in its urgency. The pain he’s felt in increasing strength since that day in the library is now just a dull ache that recedes with ever kiss; with every press of flesh against flesh as their bond strengthens and grows. Whatever it is in him that has been calling out for his mate for so long seems to be finally appeased now that they’re here and doing this.

And Hermione’s fucking gorgeous too. More unrestrained than he had ever imagined prim little Granger possibly being. She’s bossy, and forthright, and sexy as hell.

“Minx,” he hisses against her, as her nails rake a light line of scratches down his back. He presses a line of kisses up the column of her throat, slides his lips against hers and coaxes another moan.

It’s becoming kind of an addictive game to find every spot that draws a sound, to catalogue the different ones, the different reactions. One day he thinks he’ll have to bring a notepad to bed with them, research it thoroughly until she’s begging him to let her come.

He has to take a second to pull back and focus before pressing in again with more determined skill, licking over her mouth and pleading his entrance this time with tiny licks, only to pull back and nip when it’s granted.

“Tease,” Hermione accuses, and pokes a finger into his chest. She’s breathing hard, her pupils blown wide and cheeks so prettily flushed Blaise can’t help himself. He grins wickedly and tips her back so quickly that she lets out a startled yelp. He follows, nips her ear and places a kiss so chaste to her lips, that it’s somehow dirty. “You have no idea,” he says and drops his head, sliding down her body enough so that he can claim one her nipples in his mouth as he slides his fingers below the waist band of her pants.

~*~

It’s more than just feeling her now.

Every whimper of pleasure is accentuated, echoing and resonating until he can almost feel the sensation behind it. The bond between them almost complete.

Six months ago and he’d almost given up hope of ever having this, his depression so all encompassing at that point in the face of Hermione’s absence.

He twists his fingers inside her, crooks them and finds a spot that makes him almost fall apart with Hermione, her reaction is so strong; tight coiling anticipation hot and promising as it tingles in her belly.

“I used to fantasise this at school.” He hums, his full bottom lip against her pelvis as he watches her. He smiles as she arches up with the vibration of his voice reverberating through her.

“Blaise,” she breathes out.

“In the library, when you were studying. I’d think about spreading you out over your sea of books, see how well you could concentrate on fucking magical theory with the feel of parchment against your skin, my mouth on you breasts and my fingers drawing patterns right -”

Hermione makes a sound that is more a mewl, her hands clench in the one-thousand thread count covers of his bed, and Blaise grins when he feels her reaction: the curl of desire.

“Maybe take my quill, use your skin to make notes on or -”

He leans forward pulls the bundle of nerves he’d been focussing on - just moment earlier - back inside his mouth, flicks his tongue and sucks. He feels how she falls apart with a flash of exploding tension, muscles clamping down on his fingers as she cries out.

It’s like an elastic band snapping free after being pulled taut for too long, curling in on itself in a tight concentration of release and energy.

It’s perfect.

When he kisses her this time he has to close his eyes, almost scared by the sense of fulfilment he feels - at the sense of relief. Hermione’s hand cups his cheek as she kisses him back. Their heads tilt in synchronicity.

Bonded,’ he thinks and kisses her again.

It’s not heated. Their mouths are almost closed as they move against each other, tender little movements that calm and soothe and reassure. It’s like waking up and Blaise shivers. He feels Hermione whimper in response, the noise both a puff of air against his mouth and a vibration through his chest as he feels the aftershocks of her orgasm continue to sweep through her and through him.

He slides his fingers free, works her through it with slow circling movements of his thumb over her clit, strokes his free hand through her hair.

“That was always my favourite fantasy at the Ministry as well. Whenever you were being particularly resilient to one of my theories. Spreading you out on my desk, scrawling my calculations across your skin -” he says, lifts his mouth and places a kiss to her cheek, trails it up over her eyes, before settling one on her nose and moving back to her mouth – catching her bottom lip between his. “- try and make you listen to my reasoning.”

Hermione’s face softens and she touches his cheek, thumb catching on his lip as she drags it across it.

“I’m sorry,” she says and Blaise can feel the strength of sincerity behind it.

“It’s okay,” he replies, smiles softer than usual and places a quick kiss against her palm. “You were always a challenge, Granger.” He pauses, looks at her with wonder and adds quietly, “A worthy one.”

~*~

“What happened to your father?” asks Hermione.

They’re lying curled together on the bed. Hermione’s head is tucked into the crook of his arm and her fingers are playing idly with his treasure trail. It’s so easy to close his eyes; to let himself be lulled by the movement, her scent, the way his body finally feels at ease.

“What do you mean?” he asks, voice thick with sleep and a yawn threatening to break free.

“I met your mother last year – well, I saw her really. At a Production of Le Villi in Prague – she’s not exactly traditionally Northern European in looks, and you said you were half Veela, so I just presumed -”

“You would be the one witch to figure that out,” Blaise huffs. This is the kind of question he would usually tense at, freeze up emotionally and work hard to change the subject – find an adequate distraction.

He doesn’t though. Instead, he tips his head back against his pillow, folds one arm behind it and takes a breath.

“He died. I wasn’t even born. The first war, you know.” He shrugs, doesn’t feel anything but a loose detachment to the story, a hint of resentment.

“But she survived?”

Blaise shifts and is glad he can’t see her, can only feel a trickle of her curiosity seeping through. “They’d met during the last Triwizard Tournament,” he says. “She was seventeen. Mother went to Beuxbatons, he to Durmstrang. They were married straight out of school. I’m told she was different then. Naïve, free spirited and happy.”

He sighs. “This isn’t easy, Hermione. As Veela, our mates balance us out. It’s more than just a stereotype that we are temperamental. It’s our nature. I guess that’s what comes from being a child of the Fae. But when we bond – it trickles through. Sometimes I think maybe it would have been better if… She has always seemed empty.”

Hermione kisses him, her hand against his chest and he covers it with his own. He keeps his eyes closed and lets himself sink into the comfort she offers up.

“I’m still glad you found me,” she says. “Both times.”

 

~*~

They’re in their office at the Ministry. Hermione’s, sitting on her desk, arms propping her up on her elbows as Blaise hikes her skirt higher, scribing another rune along her inner thigh, the feather of his quill tickling against her skin every now and then, making her laugh.

“That still doesn’t make sense,” she says.

Blaise huffs, slides a hand below her knee to lift it over his shoulder and keeps writing. “You’re not giving me chance to explain.”

“There’s no way you could layer up a Levitation charm with an anti-matter spell, they’re incompatible.”

“Not if –Look!” he flicks the bottom button on her blouse opens, raises one eyebrow and smirks. “I need more room to explain.”

He catches her lips and Hermione laughs against his mouth. It’s like bells and he can feel her mirth as well as the spike of lust that comes with it.

“I take it back,” she says. “I think this may be the most erotic moment of my life.”

Blaise licks his lips, and looks up at her through thick black lashes, smirk more than a little devilish as he says with promise, “Don’t count your dragons before they are hatched, Granger. Just wait until you hear my argument on - Ouch”

“Shut up and focus.”

 


Nox