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blind leading the blind

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“I need your help.”

Andromeda jumped as Ginny burst into the room through the Floo and threw herself onto the couch next to her.

“What’s going on?” she asked, setting down the book she was reading.

“Hermione and Narcissa-”

“Oh, thank Merlin, you’ve noticed it too?”

“Yes!” Ginny groaned, throwing her head back against the couch, “They’re completely in love with each other, right? I’m not imagining things?”

“Absolutely, it’s so obvious,” Andromeda agreed, “But every time I try to bring it up with Cissa-”

“-She brushes it off as them being ‘just friends’?” Ginny finished. “Mione does the same.”

“Exactly. For two of the brightest witches I know, they’re so bloody oblivious. It’s infuriating!”

“Which is exactly what brings me here. We both know they aren’t going to make a move on their own. I think it’s about time we intervene.”

A sly grin tugged at Andromeda’s lips and she sat up straighter. “What do you have in mind?”

***

Hermione could barely contain herself as she made her way through the park where she would be meeting Narcissa. Her heart was racing; a mixture of nerves and excitement sending it into overdrive. She fiddled with her thumbs as she got closer, overcome by her emotions.

She let out a quiet gasp as she rounded a corner and found a little clearing in the trees. There was a blanket laid out on the ground with cushions around the edges and a picnic basket in the middle, with a bottle of wine and two glasses next to it. Dozens of candles floated above the scene, casting a warm glow over the area.

She heard footsteps behind her and spun around to greet Narcissa, who looked around in awe. Hermione could do little other than stare at the blonde witch, the candles reflecting in her eyes giving them the appearance that they were sparkling. When Narcissa’s eyes finally met Hermione’s, the younger witch looked away quickly, a light blush forming on her cheeks.

“What’s all this?” Narcissa asked softly.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Hermione replied.

“What do you mean? You set this up, did you not?”

“I… No? I thought it was you.”

“I can assure you it wasn’t. You’re the one who told me to meet you here.”

“When did I- No, no, you told me to be here.”

“What?”

“Yeah, on Thursday you called me through the Floo and said that you had something to tell me, but you wanted to do it in person.”

“Hermione, I was stuck in meetings all day on Thursday. There’s absolutely no way I could have spoken to you.”

“But- How did- What?”

“I got a call from you on Friday saying the same thing.”

“What time?”

“Around three in the afternoon.”

“No, I was with Ginny then. It definitely wasn’t me.”

They looked at the picnic for a moment, both witches equally as puzzled as each other. Hermione knelt down and opened the basket carefully, finding what looked to be an entire three-course meal inside, and a piece of parchment placed neatly on top. She picked it up and held it up for Narcissa to see before she read it aloud.

To the most oblivious witches known to man,
It’s about time the two of you got your act together and saw what everyone else already sees.
Enjoy your date.

“Who is it from?”

Hermione shrugged and pocketed the parchment. “It wasn’t signed, but I have a feeling I know who it might be.”

Narcissa nodded in agreement, and they both spoke at the same time.

“Ginny.”

“Andy.”

“What’s the point of this though?” Hermione asked, gesturing around the clearing. “The note said it was a date, but…” Her voice trailed off, unsure.

“I’m not sure. It’s probably just their way of telling us we both need to ‘put ourselves out there’, as Andy so often tells me.”

“Why don’t we find them and ask?”

They apparated to Andromeda’s house first, surprised to see Ginny there too; both of them sitting at the kitchen table with smug smiles, chatting over cups of tea. When they heard the distinct pop of apparition, their expressions changed to ones of confusion.

“What are you two doing here?” Andromeda asked.

“Like you don’t know,” Narcissa said.

Andromeda and Ginny exchanged a questioning glance and shrugged, shaking their heads.

“What’s this?” Hermione asked, pulling out the note.

Andromeda looked at it with a raised eyebrow, her eyes dancing with mirth. “That’s a piece of parchment, love.”

“I know what it is! I meant, why is this written on it?”

She dropped it onto the table and Andromeda picked it up, making a show of reading it with a furrowed brow. She passed it to Ginny then, who mimicked her actions.

“That looks like your writing, Mione.”

“What? No, it’s not. I didn’t write that.”

“Ah,” Ginny hummed, looking like she solved the world’s greatest mystery, “I think I know what’s happening here.”

“Oh, do you, now?” Hermione asked sarcastically, crossing her arms. “Go on, then.”

“You’ve been sleep-writing again. You know, you should really get that checked out; it’s becoming a real problem.”

“Ha, ha.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I don’t sleep-write. That isn’t even a thing.”

“Oh, really? Because I distinctly remember finding you in the Hogwarts library-”

“It was one time!”

“Wait, that actually happened?” Andromeda giggled, hiding her grin behind her mug. Narcissa coughed a few times, giving Hermione the impression that she too was trying to cover up her laughter.

“I wasn’t asleep. I just… happened to close my eyes for a few seconds.”

“It was definitely longer than a few seconds. Didn’t you write an entire paragraph?”

“It was a short paragraph!” Hermione let out a huff of air, turning to Narcissa. “A little help here?”

“Right, of course, darling-” Andromeda and Ginny glanced at each other again. “-We know the two of you had something to do with this, so just admit it.”

“That depends,” Andromeda said carefully, tapping her nails along her mug. “Will we get hexed if we say yes?”

Hermione and Narcissa looked at each other, silently debating it before they both answered with a drawn-out, “No…”

“Okay, fine. We planned the whole thing.”

“What about the Floo calls we both got?” Hermione asked.

“Polyjuice potions, obviously.”

“Care to explain why?” Narcissa asked.

“I thought the note said it all,” Ginny said.

“It didn’t tell us anything. It was incredibly vague.”

“Dear Merlin, grant me patience,” Andromeda muttered, dropping her head into her hands. “How are you still this clueless? We couldn’t possibly have made it any more bloody clear.”

“Made what clear?” Hermione asked.

“You’re in love with each other!” Ginny and Andromeda cried in unison.

Narcissa and Hermione spluttered helplessly, almost giving themselves whiplash from how quickly they were looking between each other and the two witches at the table. Andromeda and Ginny just sipped at their tea, waiting for them to form a full sentence.

“We- What? We’re not-“

“Us? No- That’s- No-“

“Please,” Andromeda scoffed, “Everyone can see it.”

“There’s- There’s nothing to see,” Hermione said, glancing at Narcissa for confirmation, “Is there?”

“No, there isn’t.”

“Wait, do you two really not know?” Ginny asked.

“Salazar’s balls,” Andromeda muttered, “How can you not know?”

“Because there’s nothing to know. We’re just friends, that’s all.”

“You two are as far from ‘just friends’ as you could possibly be without literally being married.”

“You act like you’re dating all the time,” Ginny added.

“Name one occasion where we have acted like that,” Hermione challenged.

“Just one? I could name a hundred off the top of my head.”

“I’ll put the kettle on,” Andromeda said, drawing her wand, “This conversation may take a while.”

Hermione and Narcissa sat opposite Ginny and Andromeda, looking at them expectantly. Ginny spoke up first while Andromeda busied herself with the tea.

“Remember that night you and Harry decided to introduce us all to movies?”

Hermione tried her best to stifle her giggles when Narcissa entered the room, dressed to the nines while everyone else was in their comfy clothes. Andromeda, on the other hand, howled with laughter when she saw her sister. Narcissa scanned the room quickly and landed on Hermione with a question in her eyes.

“Cissa, why-“ Andromeda couldn’t even finish the sentence, she was laughing too much.

“You told me a movie is like a play,” Narcissa said, “This is what I wear to plays.”

“You must have missed the memo,” Hermione said apologetically, rising from her place on the couch, “Come on, I’ll get you something to wear.”

She took Narcissa’s hand and led her out of the room, leaving everyone else staring after them with the same, knowing look in their eyes.

“This is so embarrassing,” Narcissa murmured as Hermione dug through her closet.

“Don’t worry about it,” Hermione chuckled, “I should have told you there was a dress code. You couldn’t have known otherwise. Here, you can wear these.”

“Thank you, darling.”

Hermione waited outside while Narcissa got changed and grinned when she emerged, dressed in a pair of Hermione’s tracksuit bottoms and a baggy t-shirt.

“What?” Narcissa asked, glancing down at herself, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“No reason. You look good in my clothes.”

The only seats left when they returned to the living room were next to each other - Andromeda had moved from her spot next to Hermione while they were gone. Although they started out with a bit of space between them, albeit a small amount even then, they gradually drifted closer and closer until they were leaning against each other.

It was the horror movie that got them in the end. Andromeda, having been introduced to Muggle movies by Ted, suggested they put on The Shining after they went through a couple of light-hearted movies. Soon enough, Narcissa had her face buried in the crook of Hermione’s neck, with the younger witch’s arms wrapped around her.

After the movie ended, Hermione put a comedy on to lighten the mood again, but Narcissa stayed where she was, curled up to Hermione who had a bright smile plastered to her face for the rest of the evening.

“What about it?” Narcissa asked.

“Cissa, you were wearing Hermione’s clothes,” Andromeda deadpanned, “That’s a classic girlfriend move.”

“That’s because I didn’t have anything else to wear.”

Andromeda smirked and leaned back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest.

“Salazar, what? Why do you look like the cat that got the cream?”

“If you only wore her clothes because you had nothing else to wear,” Andromeda said slowly, a mischievous glint in her eyes, “Then why do you still sleep in her t-shirt?”

Narcissa’s lips parted but no sound escaped. Her cheeks grew red as she felt Hermione’s gaze turn to her.

“You do?”

“It- It’s comfortable.”

“Mhm, and let me guess; it smells like Hermione? I sleep in Ted’s t-shirts for the exact same reason, even though he sleeps right next to me.”

“I do the same with Harry’s.”

“No! Merlin, that makes me sound like a creep.”

“I think it’s cute,” Hermione blurted out.

Narcissa blushed even more at her confession, while Andromeda and Ginny looked triumphant, though neither of them said a word.

“Not to mention the cuddling,” Andromeda said instead.

“So? Lots of friends cuddle.”

“Not as much as you two.”

“And the only people cuddling during the movie day were the couples in the room,” Ginny pointed out.

“Okay, so we cuddled once, what does that prove?” Narcissa asked.

“Once?” Andromeda chuckled. “Oh, you’re hilarious.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“A few months ago, when I stopped by after work.”

Hermione stepped out of Narcissa’s fireplace, as had become a habit for them most days after work, and immediately Narcissa could tell that there was something wrong, which she pointed out to the younger witch.

“It’s all going to shit,” Hermione answered, pacing back and forth in the middle of the room.

“What is?”

“All of it. Everything. Every bloody thing.”

“Talk to me, darling.”

“The protests are getting way out of hand. There were more of them than ever today and they were far more aggressive. I could hardly get to my office this morning because every step I took, there was a new person in my face giving me shit about… everything.” Hermione ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “Am I doing the right thing here?”

“Of course you are. What makes you think otherwise?”

“I didn’t, at first. It’s just… I’m getting so much backlash lately. It was never going to be easy, I knew that from the beginning, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.”

“You’re advocating for an entire species who can’t advocate for themselves. That, in itself, is incredible. You aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s going to be difficult; of that, there’s no doubt, but if anyone is going to succeed, it’s you.”

“I tried to make the plan as fair as possible. I did, right? Do you think it’s fair? It’s not a huge inconvenience for anyone; I don’t understand why everyone is so against it. Well, no, of course I do. Those bloody purebloods - no offence - don’t see house-elves as actual, living creatures who deserve basic rights. They’re just slaves to them! But it’s not as if I’m ruining anyone’s lives. All I’m saying is that the house-elves should be given a choice on being set free or not, and if they choose to stay, they will be paid a fair wage for their work. That’s reasonable, isn’t it?”

“Hermione,” Narcissa said firmly, grasping the younger witch’s shoulders to keep her in place. “You’re rambling, darling, and you’re only stressing yourself out. The plan is perfect, I promise you. And you have plenty of time to make adjustments, should you find a reason to.”

“You’re right. Of course, you’re right. You’re always right.”

“I know,” Narcissa chuckled. “Now, come sit with me and relax. Salazar knows you need it.”

Narcissa sat on the couch and Hermione lay next to her with her head resting on Narcissa’s shoulder and one arm draped across her stomach, their legs becoming intertwined. Narcissa summoned a book from her library and opened it to a random page. Running her fingers through Hermione’s hair, she began to read out loud in a soft voice.

Between the soothing motion of Narcissa’s hand in her hair and the sound of her voice, it wasn’t long before Hermione felt her eyelids growing heavy. Not wanting the moment to end, she did her best to keep them open, but eventually, she couldn’t fight her exhaustion anymore and she drifted off.

Narcissa felt Hermione’s breathing even out against her neck and continued on silently with her book so she wouldn’t disturb the sleeping witch. Her hand came to rest on Hermione’s shoulder, thumb stroking lightly.

She looked up, suddenly feeling eyes on her, and found Andromeda standing in the doorway with a raised eyebrow.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing, nothing. You two look… cosy.”

Narcissa glanced at Hermione with a soft smile and shrugged her free shoulder, careful not to jostle Hermione too much. “We are.”

“I had a bad day,” Hermione argued, “Cissa was comforting me, you know, as a friend does?”

“No offence, love, but if you came to me after a bad day I wouldn’t be spooning you to sleep,” Andromeda said.

“I second that,” Ginny agreed, “We’ve been friends since we were eleven and I wouldn’t cuddle you like that. If you were having a bad day we’d be going out for ice-cream.”

Narcissa and Hermione shrugged again. “I still don’t see how this makes us more than friends,” Narcissa said.

“Okay, fine, what about…” Andromeda trailed off, looking at Ginny for help.

“I don’t know, they just cuddle an awful lot,” Ginny muttered.

Narcissa and Hermione rolled their eyes and sat back, watching the not-so-quiet debate that was unfolding before them.

“They do almost everything in sync,” Andromeda said, throwing a pointed look at positions which seemed to mirror each other. “It’s like they’re following the same script.”

“Narcissa seems to only ever call Hermione ‘darling’.”

“I call a lot of people that,” Narcissa piped up.

“You didn’t even call your bloody husband ‘darling’,” Andromeda scoffed.

“Yes, well…”

“Oh, I’ve got it!” Ginny exclaimed. “The Ministry Ball a few months ago.”

Hermione was frozen as she watched Narcissa descend the marble staircase. The blonde had kept her outfit a secret in the run-up to the event, so this was the first time Hermione was seeing the grey suit she had chosen to wear.

Blue eyes scanned the room carefully, picking out people she would need to make small talk with, for formality’s sake, and others she planned on avoiding for the evening. She caught Hermione’s eye and very nearly tripped on air at the sight of the younger witch in her dark red dress.

Despite having planned to get the formal conversations out of the way first so she could enjoy the rest of the night with friends, she found herself gravitating towards Hermione with little she could do to stop herself.

“Hello, darling,” she purred, not quite catching the shiver that ran down Hermione’s spine in response.

“H-Hi.” Hermione swallowed hard, her eyes trailing downwards. “You look… stunning.”

“Thank you, darling. So do you.”

“Oh, we’re matching,” Hermione said, glancing at the red handkerchief peeking out from the pocket of Narcissa's jacket.

“Look at that,” Narcissa chuckled, “What a coincidence.”

They were interrupted by someone vying for Narcissa’s attention and she shot Hermione an apologetic look before allowing herself to be led away. Hermione, too, found herself being pulled into conversations left, right, and centre, spending hours answering the same questions about her plans to make Wolfsbane potions more accessible.

The two met again later that evening at the bar when they had both successfully escaped whatever conversation they had been trapped in. Narcissa rested her hand on Hermione’s lower back as she invited her to dance and well, who was Hermione to say no to that offer?

Narcissa’s smile lit up the room for a moment when Hermione agreed and she took the younger witch’s hand, eagerly leading her to the dance floor. Her hands moved to Hermione’s waist and Hermione’s were resting loosely around Narcissa’s neck as they slow-danced.

Neither of them noticed the song ending or the next one beginning; all they could focus on was each other as they whispered and giggled together as if everyone else in the room had faded out of existence. It became impossible for either of them to tell just how many songs had played until the room actually did start to empty. Hermione was the first to notice the significant reduction of bodies, which she subsequently pointed out to Narcissa.

“I suppose that means we should get going, hm?”

“Probably. One more dance, though?” Hermione asked hopefully, not wanting to let go of Narcissa yet.

“Of course, darling.”

Unsurprisingly, ‘one more dance’ turned to two, which turned to three, and so on until they were one of maybe five couples left on the dance floor. Hermione’s head was resting on Narcissa’s shoulder, the latter breathing in the scent of her hair while they swayed to the music, just barely moving.

“Okay, one last dance, then we’ll leave,” Narcissa declared.

“Okay.”

And again, they continued on past one dance. It took Andromeda and Ted appearing next to them for them to realise it this time.

“You know, if you two stay any longer, the band may just fall asleep on stage,” Andromeda teased.

“You’re still going,” Narcissa pointed out.

“This will be our last one before we leave.”

“Then this will be our last one too.”

“Didn’t you two say ‘one last dance’ about… five dances ago?” Ted asked.

“I suppose we did,” Hermione chuckled.

“Tell me, is it fun to be a liar?” Andromeda asked, tilting her head while a smirk played on her lips.

Narcissa nodded, subconsciously squeezing Hermione’s waist. “I’ve quite enjoyed it on this occasion, yes.”

“I guess that makes two of us,” Hermione said with a grin.

“It was a ball. We danced. As friends,” Hermione said, but her words didn’t sound as confident as they did earlier on.

“How can you still not see it?” Andromeda groaned. “Merlin, it’s like the blind leading the blind with you two.”

“You couldn’t keep your eyes off each other for the entire night,” Ginny said, “Mione, you look at each other like she’s the only person on the planet.”

“And Cissa, I know you purposefully matched your handkerchief to Hermione’s dress. You asked Madam Malkin to give you some of the fabric from Hermione’s dress, for Merlin’s sake!”

Neither witches knew what to say. Hermione looked at Narcissa, who cleared her throat and avoided eye contact.

“We’re not trying to embarrass you,” Andromeda continued, “We just want to… show you what we all see. I think you both see it, too, but you’re just scared to admit it.”

“Like at Christmas, when Andy and I kept charming mistletoe to-” Andromeda silenced Ginny with a smack on the shoulder, but the cat was already out of the bag.

“That was you?”

“Well, the first time it happened was by chance,” Andromeda explained, “It was clear that you wanted to kiss each other but were too scared, hence why you settled for a kiss on the cheek. After that, we decided to see how many times you had to get caught for you to finally give in, but Salazar, you’re both terribly stubborn.”

Hermione thought back to that night and how strange it seemed to her, at the time, that she and Narcissa kept getting trapped by the mistletoe. It all made sense now. Looking back, the realisation dawned on her that she had been mildly disappointed every time they were released after a simple kiss on the cheek.

Unbeknownst to her, Narcissa was thinking the exact same thing next to her. She had been slightly more daring after a couple of drinks and each time they got stuck, she pressed her lips closer and closer to the corner of Hermione’s mouth. She hadn’t been brave, or drunk, enough to take that final step, though. It was something she had regretted not doing ever since.

“Did… Did you… want to...?” Hermione asked quietly.

Narcissa bit her lip, inclining her head ever so slightly. “I did. Did you?”

“I did. I-I still do.”

“Fucking finally,” Ginny blurted out, earning another smack from Andromeda. “Oh, sorry.”

“We’ll give you a moment alone,” Andromeda chuckled, practically dragging Ginny out of the room, both of them giggling as they went.

Neither Narcissa nor Hermione spoke a word for a few minutes when they were left alone, any coherent thoughts having flown out the window the second they realised that they did indeed have feelings for each other and that said feelings were returned.

“What… what happens now?” Hermione asked eventually.

“Well… I believe, if you’re interested, there’s a lovely picnic waiting for us.”

“Are you… asking me on a date?”

“Is that okay with you?”

“Cissa, it’s- it’s more than okay, I… I’ve wanted this for longer than I can even remember.” Hermione’s eyes were brimming with tears of happiness, which she internally cursed herself for, until she realised that Narcissa was the same.

“Let’s go then.”

Narcissa held out her arm for Hermione to take and she was about to open the door when Hermione, mustering up every ounce of her Gryffindor courage, stopped her.

“Wait.”

“Yes, darling?” Narcissa’s brow furrowed with worry as she turned to face the younger witch.

“This is long overdue.”

With that statement, Hermione cupped Narcissa’s cheeks, walking her backwards until they met the wall, and pressed their lips together. Narcissa responded instantly, running one hand up Hermione’s spine while the other remained on her hip.

They broke apart after a few moments and Hermione rested her forehead against Narcissa’s, her eyes remaining closed and a small smile growing on her lips.

“Merlin,” she breathed.

“I think you’ll find my name is Narcissa, darling,” came the teasing reply.

“Oh, shush,” Hermione chuckled, nudging her gently, “Come on, I believe we have a date to get to.”

“I believe we do.”

Andromeda and Ginny were sitting on the stairs when they emerged from the kitchen, both looking as smug as ever, especially when they noticed Narcissa’s smudged lipstick and their interlaced fingers.

“Don’t say a word,” Narcissa warned, playfully pointing a finger at her sister.

Naturally, Andromeda ignored her. “You’re welcome.”

“Enjoy the date,” Ginny said.

“Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!” Andromeda called out as Narcissa and Hermione disapparated.