Chapter 4 : Volume IV
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She was in an almighty huff, the likes of which had not been seen since that of Maravagnia the Malicious before her beheading in 1352. Only in this instance, Hermione Granger rather felt like being the inflictor of pain as opposed to its reluctant recipient. Nothing, including the delicious spread of roasted potatoes and wonderfully rich gravy, could hope to hold her attention.
She was seated on the roughly-hewn wood bench of the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, supposedly eating dinner with the rest of the school, but she found the prospect of putting anything in her stomach quite unappealing. Instead, Hermione deftly pushed the clumps of congealed brown mush around her plate and attempted to tune out the bustle of noise around her. Clanging plates, and the rise and fall of inconsequential chatter formed the melody to which they always ate their dinner, but that evening she found little tolerance for anything.
She had not been looking forward to that afternoon’s class in the slightest, particularly given how she had behaved the last time she spoke to Professor Vector. However, in spite of her trepidations, the class had begun without a hitch and not a word from her teacher in relation to their discussion. Although Hermione was eager to hear what suggestions the professor would share with regard to improving Hermione’s apparent lack of intuitive thinking, she feared mostly that the woman would have none at all.
fter all, she clearly was not that concerned about her pupil’s education. That was just another indicator, as far as Hermione was concerned, that the woman was not nearly doing her job right.
In any case, Hermione had been running a couple of minutes late for that class. She had taken the longer route to the classroom in order to avoid running into Ron and Lavender, who had by all accounts traumatised a large group of first years with their goodbye in front of the main staircase. Hermione, feeling no need for yet another reminder of how dreadful her year had been thus far, gladly took the scenic tour.
She had arrived just before the professor, but after most everyone else.
Only he seemed to have notice this, however; and she found that very odd indeed. It had been quite some time since she had last had any sort of interaction with the socially inept and egocentric reprobate from Slytherin House. Although she had been very much relieved to no longer be watched like a bug under a microscope, she could not deny the inconsistency of his behaviour perplexed her. As she bustled into the room and made her way to sit next to Ernie, she noted Zabini’s coolly assessing gaze upon her. Unwavering, as it had come to be.
Instinctively, she had thrown her shoulders back and squared her jaw, which she had regretted later after the thinly veiled amusement which lit his features. She hated being baited by anyone, mostly because she rose to it on every occasion. Something to work on, she mused.
The class had been a quiet one; with most of the small number of students consumed in unravelling a complicated series of calculations gifted them by the delightful Professor Vector. It was not until the end of class, when Hermione was preparing to leave, that her teacher requested she stay back a moment.
Her suggestion, the one which had apparently taken her two full days to form, was not remotely helpful in Hermione’s opinion.
“Miss Granger, I think I have come up with a temporary solution to help you with the... concerns... you have about how you’re progressing in this class.” She paused to peer at Hermione, and tilted her head as though she were trying to figure her out. “Truthfully, though, you really needn’t panic. You’re doing tremendously well in this class – one of my best students in fact.”
Her expression and complete silence must have made her line of thinking pretty clear because her professor sighed wearily before continuing.
Hermione’s brow was furrowed in confusion. All of that had sounded rather serious to her.
Her stomach dropped.
Professor Vector shook her head quickly. “Don’t think of it as tutoring; you’re a more than able student. Think of this as having someone there to guide you through the subtleties of the art. Whether you choose to listen is entirely up to you.” She peered at Hermione over her glasses in an imperious sort of a way, before ushering her out of the classroom.
Hermione grimaced in recollection of the entire conversation. It certainly sounded like tutoring to her, and if there was one thing Hermione knew, it was that she ought to only ever be a tutor and not the tutee. Nevertheless, she would go to the library that evening and very calmly listen to what the other person had to say. It was hardly their fault that she was ‘narrow-minded’. She bristled again at the description, but could not help but recall the very similar comments she had received in her third year from a dithery Professor Trelawney.
The gloomy turn of her thoughts was interrupted by a nudge from Harry, who appeared to have been muttering in her direction for quite some time.
“- not even having dinner, see? You know that’s not like him... git likes to lord it over everyone at dinner.” She should not have been surprised that Harry’s interest had turned from the Prince to the only other topic which seemed to hold his interest these days: Malfoy.
Not that it was any concern of hers, but really, despite being a pompous git she had thought Zabini had more pride than that. A momentary image of the two together, embraced in a Ron-Lavender-like entanglement of limbs made her blanch. He saw it too, because he glanced up from his food then, and stared down the straight line of his nose back at her, brow raised in question.
Why was it, she wondered, that whenever she looked his way he always caught her staring. It was horrible mostly because she hated for him to think she did it all that often.
Because, of course, she didn’t.
Later that evening, Hermione trudged out of the Gryffindor common room, walking, with much reluctance, in the direction of the library. She was in no mood to meet with anybody, least of all the auspicious person who deemed themselves so superior as to think they were capable of offering her assistance.
She turned the corner into the wide open space, occupied only by neatly arranged study desks; her eyes sought out the inevitable blue collar of a robe.
She was much dismayed at what she found.
The way Granger’s eyes had bulged out of their sockets seemed to defy the laws of gravity. Were Blaise not so completely horrified at the sight, he might have been amused. He eyed the girl speculatively, waiting for her to say or do something, but fearful for his safety for one small moment. She looked ready to inflict pain, and he saw no need to feel the brunt of it. Despite being a witch, he felt entirely certain she would forget about her wand and bite him.
Such a heathen sort of action, but she did spend an unhealthy amount of time around Weasley. Well, not lately, he conceded. But six years had done quite enough damage.
He took in the flush of red which rose intriguingly from the collar of her jumper, and the way her absurdly thick hair seemed to have a life of its own. His inspection stopped when he noted the dangerous flare of her nostrils, as she attempted to regain her faculties before speaking.
Blaise raised a brow in disdain; he knew how much the simple action irked her, before gesturing for her to sit down. She was like a common mule with all this misplaced stubborn pride.
“Well... the fact that our borderline aged professor would have given me the earth, moon and stars to get you off her back. Really, Granger, a little gratitude wouldn’t go astray.”
“Why, you –“
The effort it took not to smirk triumphantly when she finally sat down, with much reluctance, was considerable indeed. In fact, he would never in a million years have accepted Professor Vector’s request to assist Granger in their Arithmancy class if it were not for this exact moment, getting to witness the gloriously pitiful expression on her face.
Truthfully, given the volatile times he probably should not have said yes anyway, but Blaise quite liked the idea of having an excuse to bait Granger up close and in person.
The sound of her fidgeting called his attention, so Blaise closed the book with a snap and faced her head on. Her expression was expectant. Did she really just assume he could dish out enlightenment in a pretty confection of wrapping paper? Apparently so.
“Well...” She asked, and her impatience was barely concealed.
“Granger... you do realise that there is more to this than me giving you a couple of words of advice and sending you on your way. By all means, we can take that option and drop the pretence, but...” He paused and shrugged nonchalantly.
“But that won’t get you anywhere. It’s your attitude that’s the problem.” He leaned back against his chair; limbs sprawled beneath the desk and waited for her to explode at the slight.
“My attitude?! I thought this was about learning. I did not come here to be abused by an egocentric and, might I say, ignorant individual like yourself. Goodbye.”
She was just extricating herself from the chair when he waved at her and told her quite forthrightly to sit back down.
“I’m not insulting you, so stop taking everything as an attack. Vector mentioned that you were looking to broaden your thinking about the main concepts, and to stop being so detail-oriented. Am I right?”
It would not do to be caught grinning at muggleborns.
“Then the first thing you should know is that you won’t be needing those.” He nodded in the direction of the heaving bag load of books which sat on the seat next to her. The forlorn look on her face was worth putting up with her complaints.
Blaise sauntered through the entrance to the Slytherin common room later that evening, and was so distracted by the turn of his thoughts that he entirely missed the questions which had been thrown his way.
“Well? Late-night rendezvous, was it?” She pouted in what she undoubtedly thought was a pretty manner, and Blaise’s lip curled scornfully.
The irony of her question was not lost on him. A late-night rendezvous with Hermione Granger was an entirely absurd notion, not least of all because he seriously doubted she had ever participated in such a prohibited activity in her life.
“Actually, quite the opposite,” was his only response. He thought for a moment about the way she had flushed pink with irritation and, at one occasion, embarrassment. She had pouted at one point too and he highly doubted she was even aware she was doing it. Unlike Pansy, hers had been pretty, and that was something he found most discomfiting. He told himself it was just that it was so unexpected; he would not normally stare at her lips.
But he did tonight. He had watched the shapes they made when she was silent, desperately trying not to wring his neck for some comment he had made. Oh yes, Blaise enjoyed those rare moments when she was quiet. Yes, indeed.
“He was in the library with Granger.” This contribution came from an unexpected source. Blaise and Pansy both whipped their heads around to see the fair haired boy who had only recently entered the common room himself. Malfoy was watching him with an intensity which had been lacking in his observations for quite some time. Interesting, he thought.
“You’re kidding?! What were you doing with her?” Pansy was evidently horrified, and thanks to the screechy quality of her voice, Blaise was now partially deaf.
“Needs help with Arithmancy, apparently. Professor Vector’s asked me to do it.” He shrugged as though it were no big deal. Pansy looked disgusted, and Malfoy was very quiet.
It took Malfoy even longer.
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