A/N: So this is a Hermione/Blaise fic that I wrote for this challenge! Never done it before so I'm hoping everyone likes it!
It's dedicated to dreamBIG because, well, she seemed excited about it :D
It was good to be back at school, thought Hermione as she walked around the school grounds, observing the rebuilding of the front of the castle and part of the Great Hall. At first glance, you wouldn’t even recognize what the place was.
Yes, Hogwarts was a lot different to what she remembered and it was hard to believe how much had changed in just a year and a half, even though she had been present when most of those changes had been made just a few months ago.
She had been busy since the Battle of Hogwarts. There had been many a funeral to attend. She remembered the death of Cedric Diggory but he had never been close to her and hence there hadn’t been so much pain at his death; only fear about what was to come. But the death of Professor Lupin... Remus, as he had always insisted she call him, and Tonks had been a severe blow... one she had feared she may not recover from.
And then Fred...
She would miss Fred Weasley; though she had spent much of her tenure as prefect confiscating items he had invented and, later on, that he had sold, she had always admired the way he met challenges head on. He had always seemed like the one person who was so alive... it seemed incredibly unfair that he was gone. She hated to think what George was going through, losing someone who must have been almost like a part of him.
Ron had been an utter mess after the Battle. There was a lot of anger and a lot of pain that he didn’t quite know how to channel. He even blew up at Harry once or twice, blaming him for Fred’s death which really wasn’t on considering how guilty Harry already felt about everyone who had died. When Hermione had pointed this out to Ron, he had only grown angrier, saying she didn’t understand what it was like to lose family since she had hid away her parents in Australia and had brought them back.
She could tell it wasn’t the time to start the relationship that she had hoped they would be able to share when he had kissed her in front of the Room of Requirement. Ron needed time to heal; time away from her and Harry.
The letter that had arrived inviting those who couldn’t complete their magical education to return to Hogwarts for their final year was only too welcome. Harry was too busy being an Auror, an honour never before conferred on someone who hadn’t gone through the training. And she didn’t know Ron at all if she thought he was actually going to go back to school. She predicted, correctly, that Ron would stay back home, learning to live with the loss of his brother.
Coming to Hogwarts was a welcome distraction. After a year of running all over the country, being tortured, plotting against the Darkest wizard of all time, coming back to school, to books, was more comforting that she had ever thought possible. The fact that Professor McGonagall, now the Headmistress, had selected her as Head Girl was a perk.
Hermione glanced down at her Head Girl’s badge which was glinting in the late afternoon sun and smiled a little. It was true that after everything the world had been through, little things like getting to be Head Girl didn’t seem to be nearly as important to her but she was glad that they still brought her some pleasure. She had been scared that wouldn’t be able to smile or enjoy those little things anymore and she was glad to find that she could.
She walked down the sloping grounds towards the Quidditch Pitch. Although she had plenty of friends around (Neville had returned to finish his schooling and was enjoying his apprenticeship with Professor Sprout, Luna had come back simply because she loved the school and Ginny was there too since Mrs. Weasley made her return), she often missed Harry and Ron’s company and when she did, she liked sitting on the bleachers around the pitch; a place that, to her, reminded her more of her two best friends than any room inside the castle could.
She approached the pitch and saw that someone was flying or practicing more like. And it didn’t take her long to recognize that that someone was Blaise Zabini.
Blaise tucked his elbows in closer to his body as he flew, narrowing his eyes slightly as his speed increased as a result of his movement, just like he’d expected. He leaned a little to the right, causing the broom to turn so he could fly laps around the pitch.
He missed playing Quidditch. He didn’t miss any of his team mates, mind; he had never really paid much attention to them. They were just accessories to him that sometimes helped him win a match.
Things were different now, however; everything was broken and was being changed. Half the people in his year weren’t at school and had decided to make do with just their OWLs so classes weren’t taken according to house for 6th years and above; since there weren’t that many of them, they all sat in classes together.
Blaise didn’t care; it was the same place and the same classes, just with different people and people had never really been very important to Blaise.
He tilted his broom upwards, climbing higher and higher, past the clouds that were blocking the sun until it was just clear blue sky with nothing hindering it. If only all life was like this, with Blaise just wandering about alone with nothing blocking his way. Then he wouldn’t have to put up with people and their irksome presence which, he had found, was a lot harder to get by than clouds.
Blaise closed his eyes before pushing the handle of his broom downwards into a dive. He liked playing this game with himself. He would close his eyes and dive, keeping his eyes closed, only using his other senses and his instincts to indicate when the ground was close so he could pull up. Just a second off and he’d crash into the grass, probably breaking every bone in his body. He liked the danger of it and he liked that he could play this game on his own.
He let himself fall from the sky, taking care to point the broom steadily downwards at all times. He saw the light change through his eyelids and felt the temperature get cooler the closer he got to the ground. He knew that it would be long until he was almost touching the ground. He focused on pulling out at the right moment, preparing himself.
There was a high pitched scream and Blaise’s eyelids snapped open as his body pulled his broom out of the dive to fly upwards, a pure reflex. He saw that he’d been less than five feet from the ground when he’d pulled out. He turned around, scanning the pitch with his sharp eyes until he spotted a figure near the Gryffindor side of the bleachers watching him, hands clasped over her mouth. Perhaps she could tell that he had seen her because the next second she had turned tail and run towards the castle
He would have recognized the slim frame and the curly mess of dark hair anywhere; Granger.
He was mad; absolutely mad, thought Hermione as she carried a stack of books around the library, stopping every now and then to return one to the shelf it belonged to. She had just finished dinner and, as usual, declined Ginny and Neville’s offer of joining them for a game of Exploding Snap in the common room.
She was still thinking about Blaise Zabini and his little stunt on the Quidditch pitch earlier. She kept replaying the scene again and again in her mind’s eye, feeling no less shocked than she did when she had seen it happen. She couldn’t imagine letting the broomstick that was carrying her plummet to the ground while keeping her eyes closed! It was completely suicidal!
And yet, Blaise had showed no fear as he fell from the sky. His face had seemed calm, determined... peaceful, even. How could someone feel peace when doing something that dangerous and reckless?
Hermione felt puzzled by such actions... and also, she was surprised to find, jealous. She wished she was that fearless, that adventurous. She didn’t mean she wanted to fly the way Zabini did; no, she meant more in general. She wished she was that brave when it came to making decisions about anything, everything.
She sighed as she put away the last of the books and dusted off her friends. Although she would never wish for the events of the past few years to repeat themselves, she couldn’t deny that her life now seemed a bit... well, boring in comparison. She could do without living in fear and danger but adventure was something she did miss.
She walked between the shelves until she stepped out into the empty corridor that bisected the rows of shelves in the library. She started walking down the path, her feet barely making any noise. She had almost reached the doors of the library when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. She turned around and very slowly tip toed her way to the line of shelves she had just passed.
Blaise was looking through what looked to be a book about Potions, no doubt research for the assignment that Professor Slughorn had set. Blaise Zabini was many things but unintelligent he was not, something that had earned him his spot in the Slug Club in 6th year.
He was leaning on the shelf with one hand, the other hand grasping the book that he was skimming. His expression was one of mild interest, one that he rarely wore. Hermione had come to classify Zabini’s expressions from class as those of boredom, mockery or contempt. It seemed he, like Hermione, was captivated by books of any sort.
His features were very sharp; high cheekbones, a broad forehead and slightly slanted eyes, almost black in colour. Even his hair looked sharp, spiked casually with some kind of hair product and his skin tone was dusky, like caramel. His fingers were long and elegant, like a pianist’s. He was quite tall, judging by his height compared to that of the shelf he was leaning on. He was wearing dark jeans and a grey full sleeved t-shirt that fitted his lean frame perfectly.
He furrowed his brow as his eyes flicked down the page, his eyebrows knitting together, creasing his skin. Hermione didn’t like it at all and she had the urge to walk over and straighten out the creases. She wondered, for the first time, what he would look like if he smiled. She figured she would never find out. Imagine, Blaise Zabini smiling at her! And right after that, the pigs would fly.
She started to retreat when his voice startled her.
“It’s rude to stare, you know.”
He didn’t even glance up from his book but Hermione jumped a mile. She contemplated making a run for it but she decided against it; she was a Gryffindor, godamnit, and if she didn’t have her courage, she had nothing.
She stepped out from behind the shelf where she had stood and into the narrow space between another shelf, mere feet away from Zabini, who finally looked up, lifting his chin a little too high so he could see her through heavily lidded eyes. He watched her with what she would have described as indifference but there was also a spark of curiosity there that surprised her.
“I uh...” she thought of denying the accusation but she wasn’t that stupid. She’d been standing there for god knows long and apparently he had noticed. She figured she might as well confess. “Yes, I’m sorry. I just –”
“Saw something you liked?” he asked, closing his book with a sudden snap and holding it at his side.
His arrogance annoyed her; she could never picture Harry ever saying something like that and he was turning into quite the looker. However, she only clenched her fists at her sides to keep her annoyance at bay.
“Not really, to be honest.” She answered evenly and she had to admit that she was satisfied to see him raise an eyebrow in surprise. “I was just... seeing which book it was that you were reading since I figured it was probably for Slughorn’s assignment and I haven’t started yet.”
“Really?” he asked fluidly, the fingers on the hand holding the book tapping on the cover. “All you had to do was ask.”
Now it was Hermione’s turn to raise an eyebrow in disbelief. “And you would have just shared this information willingly, is it?” she challenged, her tone clearly stating that she thought otherwise.
“You know, I actually wouldn’t have a few months ago but... the times are changing and I have to admit even someone of your distasteful background can have some minute amount of talent in the magical arts. If nothing, you have proved that.”
Hermione now raised both her eyebrows in surprise. She was willing to ignore the not so veiled stab at her muggleborn status for the admission of the truth that seemed to actually pain him to see. He looked like it physically hurt him to admit that Hermione may be his equal in some way, which is what made her believe it. She really didn’t know what to say to that, really. She wasn’t going to say thank you if that’s what he wanted. It’s not like he’d professed his undying love. It wasn’t even a compliment; it was just fact.
Hermione had her slightly arrogant streak as well.
“Oh... right, well...” she hesitated as she looked at him carefully. “Would you mind letting me have a look at the book then?”
He appraised her for a few seconds before he used the hand on the shelf that he was leaning on to push away from it and sauntered over to within a few inches of where Hermione was standing. She couldn’t help but notice the scent surrounding him; like cologne, peppermint and a blast of fresh air. It was quite intoxicating but she wouldn’t be caught dead admitting it to the likes of him.
He held out the book to her, tilting his head slightly to the side. “I wouldn’t mind at all... Granger.”
She reached out very slowly, even stopping once since she couldn’t believe Zabini was even cooperating with her. She didn’t really need the book; she could manage the Potions assignment well enough without it, she knew. But in light of what had happened over the past few years, she felt it important to accept this olive branch of sorts, though it was far from it at the same time.
Her hand finally touched the soft leather bound cover and she grasped it loosely, now waiting for Zabini to let go of his hold on it. He disconcerted her with the way he watched her; intensely, focused on something. He had never looked at her like that before. A flush started creeping up her neck and she hoped that the light in the library was dim enough to disguise it.
He started letting go of the book and, just before he relinquished it, his thumb gently swiped the skin on the back of her hand. Something about the way he looked at her and how slow the movement was left no doubt in Hermione’s mind that it was deliberate and that shocked her. She stood stock still, frozen at his cool touch.
He let go of the book and, in the blink of an eye, swept out of the library without looking back or at least Hermione didn’t think he looked back. She hadn’t had the courage to turn around and confirm it. She stared at her hand, at the pace where he had touched her.
She wasn’t surprised to see that her hand was shaking; she was surprised that it hadn’t done so the minute he had spotted her.
Blaise ran his fingers through his hair as he waited for the Potions class to begin. He was balancing on the back two legs of his stool precariously but years of flying had perfected his balance. He wasn’t scared of falling; never had been, never would be.
His other hand was tapping the nib of his quill against the parchment idly. There wasn’t much to do in the classroom before class. He had never been interested in making conversation with anyone in his year, nor did he ever feel like terrorizing people, something his fellow Slytherins used to take great pleasure in. Not anymore or, as Blaise always figured, not yet. Slytherins would go back to their usual cruel ways after they were sure they weren’t going to get thrown into Azkaban or something. Slytherins were nothing if not cunning.
Though Blaise took little to no interest in his class mates and their inane lives, that day he found himself glancing at the doorway every time he heard the door creak. In fact, he had deliberately chosen a seat that would give him an unobstructed view of the doorway in question and it was also the reason he had come to class early, though he wouldn’t admit it, even under pain of death, to anyone.
Blaise wanted to scoff at himself; if someone had told him six months ago that he would come early to class so he could take a closer look at a mudblood, he would have slapped that person for lying and then would have proceeded to throw himself off of the battlements to avoid such a travesty.
And yet, here he was, glancing up every few minutes like a lovesick puppy, more than fifteen minutes early for a class, waiting for one Hermione Granger to appear.
It wasn’t that he was infatuated by her or anything. Oh no, he wasn’t that far gone yet; he had still maintained some semblance of sanity. He was just... he didn’t even know. Intrigued? Curious? Crazy? Perhaps even all three? Yes; he was those things.
He had just never given her much thought. He hadn’t shared many classes with her in those days and even when he did have to sit through a class where she was present, he managed to block out her existence, just like he did with everyone else. Though he had always held contempt for her kind, she didn’t bother him and he would have been a complete fool to deny her frightening intellect and her penchant for magic.
He had never expressed this opinion before, for he never did like Draco Malfoy’s voice, especially when it was enumerating all the faults of the Golden Trio. He didn’t plan on expressing it now either since... well, he did have a reputation to maintain; though he had to admit he would enjoy the look on his mother’s face if he ever told her that he thought a mudblood was good for anything at all. Blaise liked going out of his way to disturb his mother; just a little payback for a childhood full of fake father figures.
Blaise glanced at the doorway and just then Granger walked in. If he hadn’t looked up just then he wouldn’t have noticed her enter since she didn’t even need to push the door wider, she just slipped in through the space already there since the last person had entered.
He hadn’t quite realized how slim she really was. Perhaps she seemed larger because her uniform shirt was a few sizes too big for her, even though she tucked it into the form fitting skirt that fell to a few inches above her knees. She had slight dark circles under her eyes and her hair looked a little frizzy. Clearly she’d had a rough night, understandable, Blaise thought, since she was head girl.
She looked around the classroom, knitting her eyebrows together. Blaise looked around the classroom as well and, for the first time, realized that the only free space was next to him. He watched as Granger’s eyes searched for a free seat and turned away before she saw that he had been watching her. Surely enough, a few moments later, he heard her approaching the desk he was sitting at.
“Um, hello.” She said, her voice betraying some amount of nervousness. “Is this seat taken?”
Blaise deigned to look up at her, and saw the rosy flush of her cheeks, the long eyelashes that took forever to blink, the slender eyebrows that were still knitted together and the bottom lip that she was biting mercilessly.
“Certainly,” he said with an ease that even he was intimidated by. “It’s not like you have a choice either.”
She looked around once more, arriving to the same conclusion before she stopped chewing on her bottom lip, blood flowing back into the place, turning it almost raspberry in hue.
“No, I don’t suppose I do.” She agreed softly before Blaise moved his things a little to give her space.
She slipped into the space between the desk and the bench, gripping her satchel with one hand and tucking her skirt under her with the other as she sat down. She set the satchel on the table top, glancing his way once before she drew out a roll of parchment, an ink bottle along with the eagle feather that she so favoured just as Professor Slughorn entered the room.
The rotund man greeted the class in his usual jovial manner, telling them to place their assignments on his desk at the end of the class before he continued on with his lecture about different magical ingredients and how they react together in potions. Granger, of course, let her hand move over the parchment like lightning, copying down whatever Slughorn was saying verbatim.
Blaise watched her elegant script appear on the page as she wrote swiftly, his eyes travelling again and again to the eagle quill she held in her small, delicate looking hand.
“Draco had one just like that.” He heard himself say, pointing at her quill with the feathered end of his own.
He was quite surprised at himself. He didn’t know why he had volunteered that information. It wasn’t even relevant. She had stopped writing and had turned to look at Blaise, her jaw a little tight.
“Malfoy?” she asked quietly, glancing at the professor to make sure he wasn’t listening.
“D’you know where he is?” she asked and Blaise raised an eyebrow. “I haven’t seen him since the trials and he didn’t come back to school so I was just asking.” She said by way of explanation.
“Draco and I are not good friends.” Replied Blaise calmly as he turned back to Slughorn.
“Oh, I thought –” started Hermione, sounding confused.
“I tolerated him and he tolerated me and we were teammates. Other than that, there is no love lost between us.” Stated Blaise.
She looked surprised that he was even deeming her confusion worthy of clarification. She wasn’t the only one; Blaise still didn’t understand why he was answering her, talking to her.
Perhaps, he thought, perhaps the idea of sparring with an intellect that matched his was so appealing to him that he was willing, for the first time ever, to disregard her upbringing, set it aside, just to see what would happen.
“Wow.” She said softly and he turned to look at her.
She shook her head before she answered me. “Nothing, I guess... I guess I didn’t expect you to be so honest about that.”
Blaise raised his eyebrow once more as he scrutinized her. “You didn’t expect me to be honest... or you didn’t expect me to be honest with you.” He didn’t need to make it a question since he knew he had hit the nail right on the head.
“Both, I suppose.” She stated, watching him with her big, chocolate brown eyes, framed by thick eyelashes that he could tell had rarely seen the touch of cosmetics.
“There’s a first time for everything.” He said suggestively as he tilted his head to the side to survey her.
It pleased him that she seemed to blush a little as she turned back to her notes.
“I’m not friends with him. I just don’t hate him, that’s all.” Explained Hermione as she brushed her hair in front of the dresser.
She was staying over at the Weasley house for Christmas holidays with Ginny, who was steadily growing more inquisitive about what exactly it was that she shared with Blaise Zabini.
If Hermione were to be honest, she’d say she didn’t know herself. She knew that people were gossiping but she could say sincerely that she didn’t provide any material for them to prey on. It’s not like her and Blaise went out of their way to talk to each other, because they didn’t. They only happened to make some conversation in Potions when they sat together. In all the other classes, Hermione sat with Neville or someone else from her house. Her interactions with Blaise outside the classroom were limited to polite nods that acknowledged each other’s presence and once, a small smile across the Great Hall on her part which Blaise hadn’t returned but hadn’t seemed to mind either.
She really didn’t understand what the big deal was.
“I know. That’s what you keep telling me but that’s not what everyone’s saying.” Said Ginny calmly as she tried on different pairs of earrings.
“I really don’t care what people think, Gin.” She said quietly as she pulled her hair back and started plaiting it.
Ginny went quite for a second before she spoke. “The thing is... well, Ron’s heard a few things and he wanted me to ask you about it. Don’t tell him I told you.” She said hurriedly.
Hermione sighed as she finished plaiting her hair and secured the end with an elastic band. Oh, Ronald, she thought exasperatedly. She turned around to look at Ginny who was watching her guiltily.
“It’s ok, Gin. He’s your brother and I get you want us to be happy together but... he has to step up and ask me himself, not send his sister to do it. If he really cared, he would have come to me. Besides, I don’t think we’re ready to be together yet.”
“Are you sure?” asked Ginny desperately, clearly wanting to see Ron and Hermione as a couple and Hermione gave her a smile.
“You mean am I sure I don’t want to try a relationship with the bloke I’ve been best friends with for the past 7 years and know better than anyone? Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
Ginny sighed this time before settling on a pair of white beaded earrings to go with her sweater. “Well, alright. But you’re sure nothing’s going on with you and Zabini as well? Not that I’d mind if you dated him –” Hermione snorted and Ginny laughed. “Alright, I’d mind a lot but I’d rather have you be honest with me.”
“I know, Gin. There’s nothing going on, I swear. We’re just being civil to each other, that’s all. If it was more than that, you and Harry would know already.”
Ginny nodded before furrowing her brow. “You know what gets me, though? Why is he being civil to you? I mean, he’s a Slytherin and it’s not like he was ever overly fond of muggleborns. Why the change of heart all of a sudden?” she mused.
Hermione didn’t need to think hard to remember the answer.
“You make for good conversation... for a muggleborn anyway.”
“I don’t think he’s gotten any fonder of muggleborns. I think it’s just...” Hermione didn’t want to say, ‘I think it’s just me’ since it sounded so conceited but she couldn’t think of what else to say.
Luckily she didn’t have to because there was a knock on the door before Harry popped his head in.
“Mrs. Weasley’s calling us down for dinner.” He smiled at Hermione and winked at Ginny. “God, it’s good to have you two back.” He said sincerely before closing the door behind him.
“It is good to be back, isn’t it?” said Ginny cheerfully as she stood up and made for the door, tossing her straight copper locks over her shoulder.
Hermione glanced at her reflection in the mirror as she too stood up. Yes, it was.
But as she made her way down the rickety staircase right behind Ginny, she couldn’t help but feel that she might not have minded staying at school so much.
“Why do you always do that?” asked Blaise with genuine interest as he watched Hermione twist her hair up into a bun.
She gave him a puzzled look as she kept her hair up with a clip. “Do what?”
He tilted his head to the side as he surveyed her. “Always tie your hair up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it open.”
He didn’t know why he was saying it. They had never really conversed about something like physical appearance before and he knew he was shattering another boundary for them but he asked anyway. He felt it might be because he often wondered whether she would look any different with her hair down as opposed to tied up like a school teacher’s. Granger was a girl, after all, not a sixty year old woman.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Why does it matter?”
“I just asked, Granger. Its sheer curiosity.” Stated Blaise, resting his elbows on the table, his fingers forming a steeple.
“Well, you try spending all day cooped up in a castle with this hanging on your neck in the middle of spring!” she said primly, pointing at her mass of curly hair.
“I get your point but then again, your hair isn’t down even in winter, I don’t think. I’m sure I would have made fun of you for it if I had seen it.” He added with a smirk that caused Hermione to shoot him a glare.
“I just... I don’t like wearing it down. It gets all poufy around my head like a cloud. And then everyone just stares at me like I’m... I don’t know, inadequate or something.” Grumbled Hermione as she jotted down notes off the board.
Blaise leaned forward to look at her. “You know, Granger, blokes like it when a girl’s hair’s down.”
Hermione snorted as she glanced up at the blackboard and her parchment in turn, almost as if she were willing the words to transfer to her paper with her hand gliding over it. “Not when it comes to me, they won’t.”
Blaise was interrupted by the bell ringing and Slughorn announcing the homework for the next class. He gathered his books and notes, shoving them into his satchel as he waited for the robust teacher to finish speaking, noting that Hermione did much the same in a more immaculate manner, sorting her notes into sections and the like. When Slughorn was finally done talking, he and Hermione slid out of the classroom into the crowded hallway.
He sped up to catch up with the Head Girl whose eyes watched everything, peeled for any mishap or rule breaking. “I wasn’t done back there, Granger.” He said, falling in step with her.
It amused him that she nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of his voice. It was, he realized, the first time he had spoken to her outside of class.
“Zabini, don’t just... my heart’s beating so fast!” she gasped, looking around to see whether people were watching them which, of course, they were.
“Yes, I get that a lot.” Stated Blaise as he ran his fingers through his hair, eliciting an eye roll from Hermione.
“Whatever, Zabini. I’m shocked you get through doorways with that big head of yours. And what’s this about you not being done?” she asked distractedly before issuing a warning to some third years who were careening down the corridors.
“I wasn’t done talking to you about that.” Said Blaise, nodding towards Hermione’s bun.
Hermione raised an eyebrow, actually breaking her stride as she eyed him sceptically, crossing her arms over her chest. “You’re acknowledging my presence verbally for the first time in almost eight years without insulting me and the topic you choose for this conversation is my hair?”
Blaise smirked openly as he leaned against the wall of the corridor. “Now, be fair Granger; this is your hair I’m talking about. Of course I’m insulting you.”
Hermione rolled her eyes once more before she uncrossed her arms and took off down the staircase. “I don’t have time for this, Zabini. Go pick on someone else!”
Blaise caught up with her without even breaking a sweat, ignoring the stares that he was getting as he walked with her. “Come now, don’t get in a strop. You won’t be good for anything if you can’t even have a sense of humour!” he joked, thoroughly enjoying how much he was irritating her.
Hermione huffed as she made her way towards the library. “You know, you’re still the same mean spirited little boy, aren’t you Zabini?” she asked acidly, turning to look at him.
Blaise pretended to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me!” he exclaimed, his voice quivering for effect.
He laughed a little as she shook her head and flounced off, quietening down when he noticed Madam Pince glaring at him. He jogged after Hermione, his soft footsteps echoing in the otherwise quiet and empty library. He finally found her perusing a large tome. She glanced up at him as he approached her, her gaze hardening as it turned back to her page.
“Isn’t there someone else’s soul you have to crush right about now?” she asked coldly.
“No, soul crushing is what I do on the weekends. Weekdays are strictly for shattering the self confidence of Head Girls and other women who could potentially maim me.” He said, looking quite serious. He was rewarded with a smile that tugged at the corner of her lips.
“You are infuriating, you know that?” she said conversationally as she turned a page.
“And here I thought I was being nice to you!” he said as he used his hand to lean against the tall bookshelves.
“Right. What did you want to talk about? Oh yes, my hair. Go on, give it your best shot. I can take it.” Challenged Hermione, closing her book and lifting her chin haughtily.
“As much as I regret not taking this opportunity to shoot the proverbial fish in the barrel, insulting your hair wasn’t actually what I had in mind when I came to converse with you.”
“Oh? And I suppose you’re here simply to chat about conditioners and impart your wisdom?” she mused mockingly.
“Not about the conditioners but you’re spot on with the wisdom bit.” He said, smirking a little. Hermione scoffed but Blaise didn’t let her interrupt him. “Now, see here, Granger. Being a bloke, I know a thing or two about them and the way they like their birds. Although you only just qualify as one, I’m pretty sure blokes react the same way to you as they would to any other bird! So if blokes like their women with their hair down then –”
“I look like an idiot with my hair down, Zabini. It’s out of the question. I don’t really care much about blokes anyway!” she exclaimed exasperatedly.
Blaise only smirked wider as he heard this. “Bloody hell, did Weasel actually turn you into a lez? I never would have otherwise pegged you as one to chase for the other team, Granger but whatever rocks your boat, so to speak. Anyway,” he continued, cutting off what he was sure would be a string of curse words and protests. “Let’s see it, then.”
“See what?” asked Hermione, looking horrified, taking a step away from him and trying to shield her torso with her arms.
As much as Blaise enjoyed seeing her squirm, he clarified so she wouldn’t have a stroke. “See the hair, Granger, the hair. I have no interest in unleashing any other part of you.” he stated clearly before she started untying her hair.
“Fine, but don’t say I didn’t bloody warn you.” Cautioned Hermione as she unravelled her hair from the bun, trying to flatten it out self consciously.
Blaise surveyed her, tapping his chin with his index finger until Hermione finally let her hands drop to her sides. He pushed away from the bookshelf before coming to stand close to her, causing her to lower her gaze.
“Here’s your problem.” He said as he reached out to pat her back.
She looked up at him questioningly before he ran his hand down from in between her shoulder blades to the small of her back, applying plenty of pressure. She looked like she hadn’t realized she’d been slouching and she straightened her spine at Blaise’s touch. Blaise paced, stopping behind her and placing his hands on her shoulders to lift them back a little, making her appear instantly taller.
Blaise would have generally asked for permission to handle a girl like this since that’s how he was raised but he knew that Hermione wouldn’t object to this; he wasn’t doing anything wrong, was he?
He walked around until he stood in front of her and, with his thumb, tilted her chin up so she would look up at him.
“Did you ever notice that you slouch like the hunchback of Notre Dame as soon as you let down your hair?” he drawled casually as he stepped back a little to admire his work. “I mean, your posture’s quite atrocious in general but seeing that was really something.”
“Thanks.” She said sarcastically.
“But now, thanks to me, you actually look human and not part troll.” Said Blaise languidly. “And your hair... may I?” he asked, holding his hand close to her hair but not quite touching it. He realized that touching someone’s hair was a far more personal thing and did indeed require permission.
She looked a little out of sorts but she nodded anyway. “Yes, alright.”
He extended his fingers until he could touch her hair. He was quite surprised to feel how soft it was against his skin, like satin or silk, and now that he was standing so close, he realized it smelled like –
“Strawberries?” he asked softly as he fingered a tendril of her hair.
“The shampoo. Ginny got it for me.” she replied quietly, looking down at her feet.
Blaise released her hair and stepped away from her, in part to give her some space, and in part because the smell of her hair was quite intoxicating.
“You know, your hair’s quite nice, Granger, if a little voluminous, but nothing truly problematic. If you, you know, dressed up a bit more –” He suggested before she looked up and snorted derisively.
“I’m not about to dress like a bleeding tart, if that’s what you mean.” She said sternly.
“Hear me out, woman. All I’m saying is that, with a little bit of effort on your part, you’d look... bearable.” He finished but smiled a little to let her know that he was only joking.
“Was that supposed to be a compliment?” asked Hermione casually but from the dots of pink appearing on her cheeks, he knew he’d gotten to her.
“It’s as close to one as you’re going to get for now, Granger. Play nice and I might even tell you that people care about you.” He said, hitching his satchel a little higher on his shoulder. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to catch up on my correspondence with someone. See you in class later, Granger.”
With that said, he turned around and started walking away from her, almost positive that he heard her sigh as he departed.
“This is a great idea!”
“This is a horrible idea! I look like a... like a –” Hermione struggled to find the words.
“Like a girl?” deadpanned Ginny and Hermione glared at her through the mirror.
But for all of Hermione’s glaring, yes, that’s exactly what she looked like. As Ginny ran her wand over Hermione’s hair one last time before stepping away with a satisfied smile, Hermione couldn’t help but think that she looked, to use Blaise’s word, bearable. She felt pretty even and she could only recall feeling like that a handful of times over the past few years. They were, as Ginny had argued, subtle changes that made all the difference.
“Are you... am I done?” asked Hermione, gulping.
“Yeah, I am and you are.” Said Ginny with a grin. “Now, get out there and make me proud, alright?”
Ginny held out her satchel which Hermione took reluctantly, glancing at herself one last time in the mirror before she took a deep breath and stepped out of the dormitory with Ginny and they both started making their way down the spiral staircase she knew so well but rarely used since she became Head Girl. They passed Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, both of whom gaped at her as she passed them by and broke out into whispers behind her.
She barely looked at anyone when she got to the Gryffindor common room since she was focusing on sprinting to the portrait hole, much to Ginny’s dismay, but she did notice how quiet it got the second she entered it. She practically air kicked her way out of the portrait hole, dragging Ginny along, and used every shortcut Harry had taught them to get to the Great Hall for breakfast.
They got to the Hall without much incident but she was practically hyperventilating at the thought of facing so many people. Yes, she had dressed up before, but for special occasions like balls and weddings; never for a simple day at school.
She had very little time to think about people’s reactions though since Ginny shoved her right in, mumbling things that sounded suspiciously like ‘minger’ and ‘drama queen’ as she followed Hermione in.
It’s not like everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at her... they kept doing what they were doing and stared at her. Hermione tried to ignore it all, focusing only on getting to the Gryffindor table where Neville was sitting with Dean Thomas and Luna, all three of whom were looking surprised but at least pleasantly so.
“Hey,” she breathed as she collapsed on the bench next to Neville, waving at Dean and Luna.
“You look wonderful.” Said Luna sincerely. “I wonder what I would look like if I had hair like yours.”
“Luna, your hair’s already straight.” Pointed out Ginny, raising an eyebrow as she flanked Hermione.
“Oh, I meant Hermione’s real hair.” Said Luna, smiling at Hermione reassuringly.
“But her hair is straight n- you know what? I don’t know why I even bother.” Said Dean, shaking his head. “But you do look nice, Hermione.”
“Thank you.” Said Hermione quietly as she plated some eggs and bacon for herself, trying not to let the stares bother her.
Ginny leaned towards her so as not to draw attention and whispered in Hermione’s ear.
“He’s looking at you, you know.” Ginny withdrew, taking a bite out of an apple. She winked at Hermione before turning to talk to Luna about the new issue of the Quibbler.
Hermione didn’t need to be a genius though, in all honesty, she sort of was, to know who Ginny had been referring to. She looked over her shoulder discreetly to scan the Slytherin table and, sure enough, a familiar pair of coal coloured eyes were looking right back.
The rest of breakfast was uneventful and Hermione soon excused herself to head on to Potions class. She was climbing the stairs down to the dungeons when she heard footsteps behind her, light but determined. She didn’t even turn around; she knew who it would be.
“Come to mock me, Zabini?” she asked nonchalantly as she turned and climbed down the next flight of stone stairs.
“Hardly.” He stated, his voice as plain as it was on any other day. “I’ve come to congratulate you.”
“On what?” she asked, feigning ignorance. And though Hermione did not glance sideways at him, she could practically sense the smirk grace his lips.
“Surely you saw a mirror this morning, Granger. I have to admit, I’m rarely surprised but this... you really threw me for a loop with this look.” He admitted, looking at her out of the corner of his eye as the climbed the last step and navigated the narrow corridors.
“Did I now?” she asked lightly before she walked over to a tapestry and stopped in front of it, holding it open. “And how do you think I look?”
Blaise gave glanced at her but followed her into the passageway hidden by the tapestry without question. The passage was mostly dark but there was some light guiding the way and Hermione could sense his presence right next to hers.
“I think... that you look...” he seemed like he was trying to find his words. Generally, Hermione would not have rushed it but she had to admit she was more than a little eager to find out what he thought.
“Yes?” she asked, trying to keep her voice indifferent.
She felt his hand close around her upper arm, stopping her. She turned to face him just as he lit up the tip of his wand, holding it up to see her. He started circling her very slowly and she fidgeted with the hemline of her skirt.
She knew what he would be seeing right now; she had, obviously, seen herself: a girl of nineteen with straight dark brown hair that fell to her lower back, surprising considering it only came to her shoulder blades when curled, and chocolate brown eyes framed by long eyelashes enhanced by mascara, her skin like peaches and cream. She was wearing her school uniform which Ginny had finally gotten her hands on and taken in to fit her slim frame, shortening the skirt so it was tighter and a couple of inches shorter, just for good measure. The sleeves of her shirt were rolled up slightly and she wasn’t wearing the sleeveless grey sweater vest today, a welcome change.
But she wondered whether Zabini thought so since his poker face was quite stellar.
He sighed almost sorrowfully before he spoke. “You look... well, not bad, really. I suppose I have her to thank for this?” he asked and Hermione nodded to confirm. “Yes, I rather thought she might have been responsible. Very nice, Granger.”
Hermione shrugged slightly, trying hard not to show that the approval was much appreciated. “It’s not all that, really.”
Blaise hardly seemed to hear her. “You do look quite good. You look... like my type, actually: nice hair, beautiful eyes, amazing body,” he stated, nodding at each aspect gracefully, causing Hermione to flush with pleasure under the light of his wand. He knitted his brows together as he continued. “But there is still just one problem: your clothes.”
Hermione frowned as she looked down at herself before looking at him again. “What’s wrong with my clothes?” she asked, since she thought Ginny had done a fine job of altering the uniform while not making her look like a whore.
“Well...” Blaise paused before twirling his wand in his hand, extinguishing the light. She felt his breath fan across the side of her face as his lips traced the shell of her ear. “They’re still on.”
Hermione barely breathed as she felt his lips kiss the skin below her ear softly, his scent surrounding her, before he withdrew. She waited for a further assault on her senses but it never came.
She frowned as she got out her wand and lit the tip. Blaise was never to be seen. She exhaled in frustration, cursing him silently for leaving her there, making her feel like an idiot. She thundered through the passage, emerging on the other side, past her own classmates until she stepped into the Potions classroom which was almost full.
He was in his usual spot, of course, looking supremely unconcerned about having left the girl in a dark passageway on her own, especially considering the events that took place shortly before that. He said nothing as she sat next to him, glaring at him. He looked amused, much to Hermione’s annoyance, though he did not smile, nor did he acknowledge her presence.
The class went by in a blur and, for the first time, Hermione didn’t listen even a bit. In fact, she cursed Slughorn silently for droning like a fat, ugly bumblebee and she cursed Zabini for being a right prat. By the time the bell rang, Hermione was ready to kill both men.
Blaise barely noticed Hermione fuming as he gathered his things and left the classroom but Hermione caught up with him well in time.
“Zabini, we need to talk.” She snapped loudly as she took long strides to cover his normal ones. They were drawing attention but she hardly cared; it must have seemed just like the old days to everyone, eh?
“About what, Granger?” asked Blaise mildly, turning into an empty corridor at which point Hermione grabbed his elbow and dragged him to what her non verbal spell revealed to be an empty classroom.
She looked the door behind her, placing an imperturbable charm on it before she turned around, crossing her arms over her chest. Blaise was leaning against a desk, adopting a similar pose though he looked a lot more at ease than she imagined she did.
“Like I said, we need to talk.” She said through gritted teeth.
“Yes, I heard you. About what?” he asked again and Hermione rolled her eyes, huffing.
“About what happened in the passageway?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
Blaise furrowed his brows, feigning confusion but the sparkle in his eye gave him away. “The passageway... you mean when I complimented you?”
“After that.” Ground out Hermione.
“You mean when I abandoned you?” he suggested.
“No, before that but we’ll talk about the abandonment in just a bit.” Stated Hermione threateningly.
Blaise nodded as he squinted a little, as if trying very hard to remember something. “Ah, you mean when I kissed your neck?”
“That would be it.” Said Hermione sarcastically. “You mind explaining that?”
Blaise shrugged as he uncrossed his arms, letting his satchel drop to the floor as he hopped up to sit on the desk. “Not much to explain really.”
Hermione snorted, clearly in disagreement. “There’s plenty to explain. Why’d you do it?” Not that she was complaining, mind. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience.
“Well, that’s simple; I wanted to, Granger.” He said coolly, looking at her calmly.
“You wanted to make a pass at a muggleborn?” she asked disbelievingly while wishing that he did indeed want that.
“Forgive me Granger but it’s hard to forget your upbringing with you dressed like that. I’m a man first and then a pureblood.” He smirked a little, letting his eyes rove over her frame as if to illustrate his point.
Hermione blushed slightly but otherwise maintained her indifferent stance. “Then... then why didn’t you...” she hated how she’d sound if she finished the question.
“Why didn’t I what?” he asked, tilting his head a little to the side. Of course he was going to make her say it.
“Why didn’t you... you know? Keep going?” Hermione mumbled the last part but she knew he heard her because he laughed a little.
“Did I hurt your ego Granger?” he said, chuckling. “Forgive me, that wasn’t my intention.”
“Then what was, exactly?”
“To be quite frank, Granger, corrupting you won’t make one hell of a difference in my life. Being me, I’m going straight to hell, no question about it. But you?” He got off the desk, sauntering over to her with his hands in his pockets. “You have a lot more to lose by dating me, don’t you?” He finished quietly.
Hermione mulled over his words before taking a step towards him. “And who do you think you are to make that choice for me?” she asked softly. He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Don’t you think it’s up to me to decide what I want?”
“I was just being noble, Granger.”
“Well, it doesn’t suit you. I can take care of myself. If I didn’t want someone to be doing something to be, they’d be staring down the end of my wand in a heartbeat. Did you face the end of my wand?” she challenged.
“No, but –”
“Then I suggest you do what you want and you let me do what I want.” She stated with finality.
Blaise lifted his chin up a little as he looked down at her. “You sure Granger? There’s no going back from this. I wouldn’t want you ruining your chances at Heaven for a guy like me.”
Hermione closed the gap between the two of them, for the first time wanting to make the first move. She placed her hand on his torso and grabbed the end of his tie before she pulled him to her, pressing her lips against his.
Her body felt hot and cold at the same time as he slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her right up against him. She slid her hand to the back of his neck, tugging at the ends of his hair as she kissed him. She felt little bursts of heat go off inside her as his lips moved over hers, with need and urgency, showing just how much they had both wanted this. She let her hand roam his torso, tracing the ridges of taut muscles beneath his skin, admiring his strong, lean form.
He tangled his hand in her hair, pulling on it slightly so she gasped, allowing him entry to her mouth. He engaged her tongue softly, smoothly with his own, as his thumb traced her jaw line. She sighed happily as she kissed him and he kissed her, enjoying the way oxygen was becoming so scarce that they had to share each other’s.
She didn’t know how long they kissed but she knew it ended too soon for both their likings. When he finally pulled away to catch his breath, he smiled at her; a real, genuine smile.
“Heaven can wait.” She whispered to him, leaning her forehead against his. “I’ll take my chances with you first.”
As he leaned back in to kiss her, she realized how wrong they both were; heaven was when they kissed, in every touch, in every breath. Heaven was anywhere and everywhere they were together.