Hermione was going to kill her mates. They were dead. She was going to kill them, revive them, kick their arses, and then kill them again.
It was their entire faults that she seemed to be living through some sort of life-imitating-romantic-teen-comedy John Hughes-like morning after. She was under the bloody glass coffee table. It was not only very, very embarrassing. It was cringe-inducingly trite.
She jostled her foot impatiently, because she knew she had to crawl out at some point, but she was loathe to face whoever’s house this was, and she knew that there was a huge, massive chance that the person or persons were dead asleep somewhere else, but. With her luck, there’d be a crowd of mellow late-nighters sprawled around the room to witness her completely inappropriate position on the floor.
Killing was too swift and merciful a punishment for Seamus and Lavender. They were definitely up for something far more painful. Be prepared, my friends. Hermione was aces at painful, mental trauma. It was one of the many advantages of her brilliance.
And then she saw a pair of trainers, followed by the curl of a hand around the under-edge of the coffee table, and then a black-capped head dipped down to peer at her with sharply-amused blue eyes.
Of course, of course the house had to belong to Blaise Zabini; rugby captain, privileged, incredibly handsome, arguably smart, eminently likable.
It was the last that really got her goat, though. Everyone seemed to like him. Teachers fawned over him. His peers emulated him. Hermione’s own goddamn traitorous friends fell all over themselves if he even smiled in their general direction.
And she was under his coffee table.
Her eyes fell closed for a split-second, she took a brief deep breath, then snapped irritably, “Well? Are you going to help me out?”
Hermione glared at the tall boy across the kitchen from her, aware of the uncanny resemblance this whole escapade had to a certain Anthony Michael Hall movie that would remain nameless for her own sanity.
“So,” Blaise said, perfectly shaped lips quirking up in a suspiciously mocking grin, “this is all very Sixteen Candles, isn’t it? You aren’t going to flash some infatuated girl’s pants at me, are you?”
She blew out a harsh breath. “You just had to say it.”
“What? Like I wasn’t going to? Give me a break, Granger. You were passed out under my glass coffee table.”
“I was napping,” she muttered petulantly.
“Right, napping.” He nodded, leaning back against the counter. “I always find guests napping after fabulously turned-out house parties.”
Hermione gave him a wide-eyed look, choking on a laugh. “Did you just say ‘fabulously turned-out’? Fabulously turned-out?”
Cheeks pinked, Blaise rolled his eyes. “Shut it, Farmer Ted.”
“Oh, well that was just uncalled for.” Hermione crossed her arms in a huff.
“I bet you make excellent martinis,” Blaise needled.
“In fact,” Hermione narrowed her eyes at him, “I do.”
Hermione swung her legs, heels hitting the bottom cabinets in separate beats. She took a sip of her dry, dry martini and smacked her lips. “You like saying that, don’t you?”
Blaise shrugged. “It’s a convenient conjunction.”
Hermione blinked. “A…”
“Convenient conjunction. Introductory particle.”
“Believe it or not, I knew what you meant,” she said dryly.
Bobbing his head, Blaise absently chewed his olive and tossed the toothpick aside. “So.”
“Yes.” Hermione arched her brows in question. It was quite fascinating, really, spending time with Blaise. He wasn’t much different up close than he was from afar – true-blue eyes, olive skin, disarmingly boyish smile - except she understood the likableness at last. He was boy-next-door with a dangerous edge, sporting a trust-me smile with sharp corners. And he was funny. Witty-funny, not the dumb-as-rocks sort of Three Stooges funny that Harry and Ron too often engaged in.
“I should start counting,” Hermione commented, dipping a finger in her drink and flicking it at him.
He cocked his head to the side. “Do I want to know what you were really doing under my coffee table?”
“No,” she shook her head, because, horrifyingly enough, it had less to do with alcohol and more to do with hiding from the demonic clutches of Seamus and Lavender. Of course, that didn’t mean the pillocks had to give up and leave her.
“All right, then.”
Hermione watched him suspiciously. “That’s it?”
“That’s it.” He downed the rest of his martini and winked at her. “Want a ride home? Or is this the part where I give you my dad’s car, and saddle you with my half-shaved soon-to-be ex?”
“Lay off the stupidity, Zabini. It’s unbecoming.”
Seamus shook out his limbs, rolling his neck. “I am a tree. I am a damn gorgeous tree.”
“You’re the best tree,” Lavender shouted out from her perch at the front of the auditorium. She turned to Hermione and muttered, “Thank god you didn’t give him a speaking part.”
“I thought it prudent,” she said, tapping a pencil on her script. Although, technically, she hadn’t assigned parts. She’d merely acted in an advisory role and made discreet suggestions to Professor Lupin. Hermione’s discreet suggestions hadn’t steered him wrong yet, though, in her four years worth of involvement in the theater, so they tended to hold a lot of weight.
Seamus strolled over and hopped off the end of the stage, coming to a stop in front of Hermione and Lav. He stuck his hands in his trouser pockets. “So.”
“So,” Lavender echoed.
“Are you still mad at us?” Seamus asked.
“I’m Irate,” Hermione deadpanned.
Lav nodded. “You look it.”
“I’m a seething cesspool of anger.”
“I’m not so much getting the cesspool vibe,” Seamus pointed out.
“Oh no,” Lav disagreed. “I totally see it. Scary.”
Hermione scowled at them. “You know, I wasn’t mad anymore…” She trailed off suggestively.
“And you still aren’t,” Seamus said sagely; or as close to sagely as some one like Seamus could get, “because Blaise Zabini gave you a ride home.”
“What, were you waiting at your window all night?” she snapped.
One of the many hazards of having Seamus Finnigan for a neighbor. Hermione rolled her eyes. “It was nothing.”
“It was classic teen romance.” He pressed a finger to his nose. “I know my movies.”
“Oh!” Lavender bounced in her seat. “Which one? Was it Valley Girl? It was Valley Girl, wasn’t it? Hermione’s parents are like total beatniks.”
“My parents are dentists!” Hermione protested. Successful dentists. Who occasionally imbibed in softly illegal substances.
“You are so off Lav,” Seamus said, tsking and shaking his head. “It was Sixt—”
“Don’t say it.” Hermione growled. And it hadn’t been remotely like Sixteen Candles at that point. Jake never drove Ted home. And he’d certainly never given Ted a sweet peck on the cheek. Although that would’ve made the movie a bit more interesting.
“Well, well. Hermione Granger. Bushy-haired know-it-all and overbearing boss of the stage.”
All three heads swiveled towards the blond standing by the auditorium doors, cool and composed in a blue button-down, pink cable-knit sweater tied over his shoulders.
“Nott,” Hermione greeted grimly.
He sauntered over, giving Seamus a half-leer and flicking Lav a dismissing glance. His eyes were moss green and couched with disgust when he finally settled his gaze on Hermione.
“What do you want, Nott?” Lav demanded, leaning into Hermione’s side.
“Just here to remind Granger of her place.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Hermione was actually genuinely curious more than angry. Her place? She’d always done whatever she damn well pleased. There wasn’t a soul in the school who could stop her.
Nott narrowed his eyes into a glare. “Stay away from Blaise, Granger. He isn’t your type.”
Hermione blinked. “Again I ask: what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Her type? Did she even have one? And if she did, would Nott have any say in that at all? No. Hell no.
“You know exactly what I mean,” he quipped back at her.
“Is this some sort of dare?” she asked sharply. “Because if you push, you know I’ll push back.”
“Blaise is out of your league,” he said through his teeth. Big, shiny white teeth.
She wondered idly if he went to her parents, then she shook the random thought out of her head. “No one is out of my league, Nott.” She was the biggest brain this town had ever seen. All right, so maybe that was a slight exaggeration. But still.
Nott sniffed derisively. “Have it your way, Granger. You’ve been warned.” He slid a fine-boned hand through his hair, the strands feathering in perfect pleats over his ears, then turned and walked away.
Hermione stared after Nott, then murmured dryly, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just evolved from Sixteen Candles to Pretty in Pink.”
“Except I’m not in love with you, and Theodore Nott is…” Seamus cocked his head. “Okay, he’s just as hot as James Spader.”
“James Spader was not hot in Pretty in Pink,” Lavender argued, snapping her gum. “James Spader was hot in Stargate. With the hair. And the spectacles. Like a blondish, much smarter Harry.”
“Hey!” Harry yelped indignantly, glancing up from where he’d been bent over the set, paintbrush poised.
Seamus licked his lips. “Oooo and in Secretary. Jesus god. Hot.”
“Listen up, chuckleheads,” Hermione jabbed a finger at Lav and Seamus, “let’s get off the movie tangent, all right?”
“You started it,” Lavender muttered darkly, sinking further into the auditorium seat.
“No, I didn’t. Seamus did.” Although, technically, the blame lay squarely on Zabini for voicing it first out loud. There was something terribly wrong with the entire universe. She was sure of it.
Music woke her up. Cacophonic music, actually. Horribly bad, catchy cacophonic music. She stumbled to her window, leaned out and glared down at Blaise Zabini. “She Blinded Me With Science? Are you insane?”
Blaise lowered the boom box to the ground and flashed her an unrepentant grin.
There he goes again with the sharp edges, she harrumphed.
“I thought it somewhat appropriate,” he shouted up at her. Then twisted the volume up and, horror of all horrors, started Robot-ing in the middle of her driveway.
She slapped a hand over her mouth. She was not going to laugh.
There was a knock at her bedroom door, and she bit her lip when her mum called out softly, “Hermione dear, there’s a strange boy out front. Should we turn the hose on him?”
Sitting on her front stoop, Blaise scowled at her from under the towel on his head.
“We were in a rut.”
His eyes narrowed more.
“Seriously. I had to do it.”
“We were not in a rut,” he muttered, pushing back ink-black sopping wet strands of hair. Driplets of water slid down his cheeks, settling at the corners of his nose, his mouth.
“You were staging out Say Anything in front of my house!”
“I was doing The Robot.”
A chuckle bubbled up from her throat. “You were.”
“And you turned the hose on me.”
“Technically, it was my mum.”
“Technically, it was,” he agreed, and his eyes started to twinkle.
His eyes started to twinkle. Twinkling was dangerous.
“Your mate Nott doesn’t like me,” she pointed out.
“Theo’s a protective, pompous arsehole who’s half in love with me,” he countered affably.
“I was thinking we could feed him to Seamus.”
Blaise nodded. “Great idea. Seamus is the tree, right?”
“Seamus is a bloody good tree.”
“Never said otherwise.”
“Good,” Blaise agreed, eyes on the cusp of dancing. Dancing was ten times worse than twinkling. It was really rather attractive.
Hermione wrapped her hands over her knees. “So.”
“Hey, that’s my line.”
“Sorry.” She bobbed her head towards him. “Go on.”
Taking his cue, Blaise breathed out and went, “So.”
“How do you want to play this? Better Off Dead?”
“Rut,” Hermione stated emphatically.
From beside her, he bumped his shoulder into hers. “Come on. It’s our thing.”
Hermione sighed, but answered, “No snow.”
“We could do it snowless.”
“We could,” she said slowly. Really, though, she didn’t think she’d like being tossed over his shoulder.
“One Crazy Summer, then.”
Her brows furrowed. “Is that considered a romance?”
“It’s got John Cusack,” he ticked off his fingers, “cartoon bunnies, Demi Moore, and Bobcat Goldwaith stuck in a Godzilla costume. I think it qualifies.”
Hermione conceded he might be right. “I’m going to confess I don’t remember how it ends, though.”
“Me neither, actually.”
Hermione dipped her head down to stare at the cracked sidewalk, her bare toes curling over the edge of her flip-flops. It felt a little more awkward than before, and she wasn’t certain why.
“Generally speaking…” Blaise said slowly.
Her head snapped up. “What?”
“Generally speaking,” he started again, “there’s bound to be a kiss.”
“A kiss,” she echoed, not quite a question.
“A kiss. And music.” He flicked on the boom box again, the infernal Thomas Dolby song pouring out of the speakers. It was all terribly romantic.
She stifled a laugh.
“We’ll make our own ending,” Blaise said, and Hermione gave him the hairy-eye.
“That was utterly cheesy,” she accused.
“Only way to be.” And then he slid his hands into the hair gathered behind her ears, thumbs tucked over the line of her jaw, and the kiss was dry and soft and perfect until it wasn’t. And then it was better.