Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Apart from a couple of cookies, this is my first Blaise Zabini/Hermione Granger fanfic. New territory is always exciting, though, so this is dedicated to the shipmates aboard the HMS Overworked and Underappreciated over at FictionAlley. glomps
Please read and review - constructive critisism is highly appreciated.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ANCIENT RUNES
Chapter One in Which Slytherin Rules Are Made to Be Bent
"It's 'Heaven', not 'Sky'."
Blaise Zabini's head snapped up from where he had been working diligently on his Ancient Runes homework. Standing behind him and peering over his shoulder was Hermione Granger, Gryffindor's golden girl and supreme know-it-all.
"The rune. It could be either, but in the context, it's 'Heaven'. It changes the changes the meaning drastically if you use 'sky' and doesn't really make a lot of sense."
He scowled. She was criticising his work! Blaise prided himself on his work in Ancient Runes, his favourite subject: he had even received an E for his Ancient Runes OWL and now Hermione Granger was daring to correct his translation.
Looking down at the piece of parchment, Blaise quickly re-read what he had translated so far. What was even worse than being corrected by Hermione Granger was Hermione Granger being right.
"Why are you helping me?" he asked bluntly. "Come to think of it, why are you looking over my shoulder in the first place?"
She looked affronted, and took a step backwards. "If you must know," she said haughtily with a shake of her bushy brown hair, "you were mumbling to yourself and I came over here to tell you to be quiet; I'm trying to work, you know."
"What a surprise - you're always working."
"At least I don't talk to myself," was her retort. "Good day to you." With this, she strode off, back to the table where she had been working; Blaise had not noticed her before, owing to the fact that she was obscured from view by a large pile of books. Out of the corner of his eye, Blaise could read the spines of several of them: they appeared to be dictionaries of various languages. The top of Granger's head could just be seen over the top of the pile, moving slightly as she wrote.
With a groan of frustration, Blaise scribbled over the work 'sky', writing in the correct translation above it. He would have to write the translation out neatly later. Not that it would look much neater than this version: Pansy Parkinson had once said that she expected that if you dipped a spider in ink and let it run over a piece of parchment, it would be indistinguishable from Blaise's handwriting.
He never had liked Pansy much.
Now that he had changed that one word, the rest of the runes seemed to make much more sense, much to Blaise's annoyance. He just hoped that none of the other Slytherins heard about this. He would never live it down.
Blaise was so engrossed in his work that he did not notice Millicent Bulstrode take a seat opposite him. It was only when she cleared her throat that he was aware of her presence. "Afternoon," she said smartly. Blaise echoed her greeting, as he concentrated on trying to work out one of the runes; he knew what it meant but, for the moment, the knowledge escaped him.
"What's the matter with you?" she asked, pulling her Transfiguration book from her bag.
"Ah. The cause of all life's problems. Hermione Granger. What did she do now?"
"Corrected my work."
"And that's a bad thing how?"
"Because I shouldn't need correcting," Blaise said exasperatedly. "I'm supposed to be good at Ancient Runes."
"Anything you can do, she can do better."
"You're not helping, Millicent."
"I wasn't trying to."
"Remind me why I'm friends with you again," he asked.
"No-one else will have you."
"That's because you scare them off."
The sixth year Ancient Runes class was a great deal smaller than it had been in previous years, due to the fact that many students had given up the subject after OWLs. To be honest, Blaise had been quite surprised that Hermione Granger had not taken the class. However, he supposed she was probably aiming to become an Auror or something foolish like that and would not need the subject.
With only seven people in the class, Blaise was not the only Slytherin; Theodore Nott, a rather odd boy also took the subject. Something of a loner, Blaise had not spoken to him a great deal since first year, despite the fact that they shared a dormitory. The rest of the class was predominantly Ravenclaw - Lisa Turpin, a girl with white blonde hair and permanent ink stains on her fingers, her friend Mandy Brocklehurst, who would not stop talking, Terry Boot, a studious, bookwormish type and Michael Corner, to whom Blaise did not think that he had even spoken. The only Hufflepuff was a Muggleborn by the name of Justin Finch-Fletchley. As a rule of thumb, Slytherins did not associate with Muggleborn students, no matter what their house affiliation was. This suited both Blaise and Justin, as Justin seemed to regard Blaise and Theodore as though they carried infectious diseases.
In the second week of term, however, about a week after she had corrected his work in the library, Hermione Granger arrived in the classroom, about fifteen minutes into the lesson. Looking up from his textbook, Blaise watched as the Gryffindor prefect had a short conversation with Professor Mayfair, handing her a piece of parchment.
From his seat near the back of the class, Blaise heard Mayfair said, "You've very good choice, Miss Granger. It'll be good to have you back in my class."
Blaise's eyes widened. She was joining the class? What? No! Did they let people change subjects? Was it still too late for him to move subjects? On second thoughts, Blaise needed Ancient Runes if he was going to go into a career in curse breaking.
As Hermione took a seat at the desk next to Michael Corner, Blaise groaned inwardly. When the class had been larger, it had been easier to ignore her - that Hufflepuff girl, Susan something was just as eager to give answers, even if she was not always right like Hermione.
Surprisingly, she was quiet for the rest of the lesson, as she tried to catch up on the work that she had missed during the two weeks since the beginning of term.
Her very presence was infuriating, and Blaise felt a rush of joy when the bell rang at the end of the lesson. How dare she intrude of the one area of his life that was Gryffindor free? Ravenclaws he could handle. Hufflepuffs were easy to ignore. Ancient Runes had been the one lesson with no Gryffindors in sight, and she had to go and ruin that, didn't she?
Deciding to head back to the Slytherin common room before going to lunch - his bag was rather heavy with all the books he had needed for his morning lessons of Ancient Runes and Potions - Blaise heard someone call out his name.
"Zabini! Erm, Blaise?"
Oh no. Anyone but her. "What do you want, Granger?" he demanded, spinning around to face her and consequently making himself dizzy.
"You dropped your quill," she said, almost apologetically. She handed him the eagle feather quill wordlessly, and turned on her heel and went in the opposite direction.
Blaise looked at the quill. He supposed that he had been a bit rude to her. Then again, she was a Gryffindor and would have undoubtedly been just as rude to him given the chance.
Hang about - she had just had the perfect chance to rebuke him or complain about how Slytherins were all the same. Why hadn't she taken it?
Musing this over, he carried on his way to the Slytherin common room, heading to his dormitory. Storing his books neatly on the shelf beside his bed - he had been taught to treat books with respect - Blaise wondered how he would going to survive the year with Hermione Granger in his Ancient Runes class. She was not taking Potions, and she was in the other Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts classes. Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts were a couple of the few subjects which had garnered great interest from the sixth years when choosing their NEWTs subjects and so the students had been split into two classes of mixed ability.
So she was only going to be in one of four subjects. That was not too bad and, realising that it was only about five hours a week, Blaise relaxed considerably.
The next Ancient Runes class was on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was also a double lesson, meaning two hours in the presence of Granger. Dreading it, Blaise took his usual seat, immersing himself in chapter thirteen of his textbook until Professor Mayfair arrived. He was already in a foul mood, having woken up late and then having to go straight to Potions instead of having breakfast. As far as Blaise was concerned, breakfast equalled coffee. Without his morning dose, he was as good as useless and had so far managed to lose fifteen house points. In Potions. With Snape as his teacher.
Snape never took house points from his own house unless it was necessary. In this case, Blaise had managed to blow up his cauldron in an accident of which Neville Longbottom would have been proud. Not only that, but he had had to put up with snickering from Potter and the Weasley boy.
Much to Blaise's chagrin, Professor Mayfair was in an exceptionally sunny mood and announced with a smile that they would be working in pairs to translate various runes. Upon hearing this, Blaise looked around for Theodore. Rule number 77 of Slytherin house was one that was hammered into all first years during their first week: Slytherins should stick together under all circumstances. It was right up there along with rule number 56 in terms of importance: Slytherins do not wear puce.
No! Theodore was blatantly ignoring rule 77 and was currently collaborating himself with the Hufflepuff, Finch-Fletchley. Doesn't Finch-Fletchley hate Slytherins? Blaise thought as he looked around the small class quickly. Lisa and Mandy were working together. So were Michael and Terry. Damn Ravenclaws. That meant the only person left was… Granger.
This day could seriously not get any worse.
"I suppose we're going to have to work together," Hermione said to him, moving to the desk next to his. If it was any consolation, she seemed as excited about the prospect of working with Blaise and he was about working with her.
Professor Mayfair presented them with the runic symbols that they were supposed to translate, and Hermione took no time in splitting the runes in two so that they could work on separate things. For once glad of her organisational skills, Blaise got to work, finding that the translation came easily to him. After a couple of minutes, he realised that Hermione was looking at him, her mouth working but no sound coming out.
"What do you want?" he asked sharply.
"I don't know what this rune is," she said, clearly embarrassed by the fact; her cheeks were tinged with pink. "I haven't quite caught up on all the work I've missed, you see, and I was wondering if you knew what it means."
"Why didn't you just ask me instead of sitting there looking at me like a goldfish?" Blaise asked, practically snatching the parchment from the desk in front of her.
"Because you looked like you were deep in concentration and I didn't want to bother you."
"Oh." He handed the piece of parchment back to her. In a gentler tone he added, "It's a variation of 'prosperity'. You'll have to put it in context to know exactly what it is."
They continued to work in silence, ignoring the chatter of the other pairs. Professor Mayfair was sat at her desk, the large pile of parchment in front of her slowly diminishing as she marked essays. Once or twice, Blaise glanced up at her to she her sat there, eyes closed and brushing the end of her quill against her lip in a rhythmic pattern as she tried to remember the meaning of a rune.
Distracting as this was, Blaise forced himself to concentrate on the parchment in front of him. After nearly half and hour, he had finished translating the last few runes: 'and they all lived happily ever after.'
"Finished yet, Granger?" he asked irritably.
"Just a sec," she mumbled, finishing her translation with a flourish of her quill. She handed him the parchment, which he placed above his. Reading it, he realised that it was a synopsis of a fairytale; he could not remember which. "Cinderella," Hermione supplied.
Know-it-all, Blaise thought. However, he did not voice this opinion aloud. "Professor, we've finished," he announced.
Professor Mayfair looked up, surprise written across her face. "Already? It was supposed to take you until the end of the lesson." The other students were looking at them curiously. "If you're sure I can have a look over it."
Hermione practically marched to the front of the classroom, presenting Mayfair with their work.
"It seems you have finished," she said. She glanced up at the clock. There was still an hour left of the lesson. "Very well." Rummaging among the parchment on her desk, Professor Mayfair presented Hermione with two pieces of parchment. "You can get a start on your coursework for the rest of the lesson."
She nodded at Hermione's desk, telling her to go back to her seat. Hermione resumed her place next to Blaise, handing him one of the pieces of parchment without saying a word. Blaise read the parchment with interest, wondering what exactly his coursework would entail.
NEWT ANCIENT RUNES - First Year
As part of your NEWT course, you will be required to produce two extended essays, both of which will count towards your final grade. The first of these essays will be due at the end of January. To make life easier for you, I have prepared several essay titles from which you may select one. You must choose ONE title. A draft of your work is to be handed in before Halloween.
That seemed easy enough, Blaise decided, scanning the list of titles to see if there was one that caught his eye.
It has been said that Ancient Runes is a subject that will not assist anybody later in life. Discuss.
Urgh. Politics. There had been growing concern in the Daily Prophet recently that Hogwarts was teaching students subjects that would be useless once they were out in the 'real world'. No, that one was not for him. Further down the list he saw:
Discuss the multiple significances of the use runes in the war against Grindewald.
That could be interesting. There was practically a whole shelf in the library devoted to the fight against Grindewald in the earlier part of the century. Or what about:
Studying runes is considered a part of a well-rounded education. How far do you agree with this?
Wasn't that essentially the same as the first question? Blaise wrinkled his nose, reading the remaining questions. None of them looked particularly appealing; several of them were also extremely obscure. Grindewald it was, then.
Next to Blaise, an eager hand had been thrust into the air. He winced inwardly. Even that one word grated on his nerves.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"How much historical context would I need to include in the question about Grindewald?"
Perfect. She was doing the same question as him. Was nothing sacred anymore?
Hogsmeade days were not Blaise's idea of entertainment. Hundreds of students roaming around the tiny village, chattering endlessly, not to mention the sight of dozens of lovesick teenagers. However, after Pansy Parkinson's mad cat Delilah had managed to smash every bottle of ink he owned and do something unspeakable to his quills, Blaise was forced to make the journey into the village.
Passing the fifth couple who were attached at the lips, Blaise pushed open the door to Quigley's Quills, a small bookshop just down from the lace nightmare that was Madam Puddifoot's. The shop was all odd angles, bookshelves filling strange nooks and crannies up to the ceiling. A pyramid of inkbottles was piled precariously on a rickety three-legged table.
Surprisingly, Blaise rather liked the place. It reminded him of his Aunt Vittoria's house, except with less cat hair.
As he carefully selected a couple of bottles of blue ink from the top of the pyramid, a bell rang, heralding the arrival of another customer. Out of curiosity, Blaise turned his head to see if it was anyone he knew. It was.
Hermione Granger gave him a small, polite smile before heading over towards the history books. Ignoring her, Blaise took two quills from the display and went to the counter where the owner of the shop was at leafing her way through a heavy-looking tome. Elizabeth Quigley was a woman with frizzy blonde hair and with what seemed like a purple ink stain on her cheek. She could have been any age between thirty and sixty, but, no matter how tempted Blaise was to ask her age, he held his tongue; his mother had taught him that it was rude to ask a woman her age.
"Mr Zabini, you haven't been here for a while. How's your cat?"
"Dead." How she seemed to remember him was beyond Blaise. Every time he had been into the shop since his third year, she had greeted him with the same sunny smile and inquired about his life in general.
"Oh dear. What a shame. That'll be one galleon and eleven sickles, please. Did you do well on your OWLs?"
"As well as can be expected." Blaise was not feeling in the mood for chitchat. He handed over two golden galleons.
"Good, good." She smiled broadly, pressing his change into his hand. Her fingers, topped by electric blue nails, were icy cold, and Blaise shuddered involuntarily. Elizabeth did not notice this, however, as she had turned her attention to Hermione Granger, who was now stood behind Blaise, clutching a couple of booking in her arms.
"Ah, Miss Granger. That book you requested has just come in!" Blaise started towards the door as Elizabeth ducked down beneath the counter, emerging a moment later with a book, which she put down with a slight bang. Out of the corner of his eye, Blaise could not help but notice the title: The History of the Animagus Transformation.
"A bit of light reading, Granger?" he commented, not really knowing why.
"Something like that," she said absently, putting her other books on the counter and handing Elizabeth her money. Shrugging, Blaise pushed open the door and emerged out into the sunlight. What was that smell? Spotting an odd-looking brown mess in the middle of the street, Blaise assumed that someone had been setting off dungbombs. Lovely.
Sidestepping around the mess, Blaise paused to look in the window of the robe shop, Gladrags. Why anyone would think that puce robes were fashionable, Blaise could not fathom. Besides, Blaise was a Slytherin, and if he was to wearing anything in that colour he would be in violation of Slytherin rule number 56.
A sharp cry sounded behind Blaise, and he spun around, hand reaching for his wand. He relaxed when he saw it was only Hermione Granger. She was on the ground, clutching at her ankle, her face pale. The purple bag in which her new purchases were held was lying a few feet away.
Two options now faced Blaise. The first was to pretend he had neither heard nor seen Granger's fall. This would ensure minimal contact with the Gryffindor. The second was to enquire after her well-being. As tempted as Blaise was to pick the first option, he somehow found the words "Are you alright?" escaping his lips.
She looked surprised that he was speaking to her. "Yeah, I should be fine," she grumbled, trying to get to her feet. However, even Blaise could notice the wince of pain that crossed her face as she tried to exert pressure on her left foot.
"No you're not," Blaise found himself saying as he crossed over to her. "It looks like you've twisted your ankle."
"Thank you, Doctor Zabini," she said gruffly, trying to reach for her bag. Blaise beat her to it, and he held it at arms length so she could not reach it. For a brief moment, Blaise wondered what a 'doctor' was, but decided that perhaps she had banged her head as well and was now delusional as well as annoying.
"Give me my bag." She stood there awkwardly, almost balancing on one leg as she tried to keep the pressure from her left foot. Nevertheless, she managed a good glare, hands on hips.
"You're hurt. Let me help you back to the castle."
The Gryffindor looked at him suspiciously. "Why?" she asked.
"Because you're injured?" Blaise suggested. "Look, I'm going back there anyway; it's not exactly out of my way." She seemed to consider this for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip.
"Fine," she agreed, somewhat reluctantly. "I don't think I can walk too fast, though," she added. Blaise nodded, moving towards her so that he could act as a human crutch. As they started up towards the castle, she looked at him oddly. "Surely this must be breaching some Slytherin code of ethics?" she asked.
"How so?" he asked. His knuckles were beginning to turn white - he was carrying her newly bought books and they seemed to weigh a tonne.
"You're helping a Gryffindor. Not to mention a Muggleborn Gryffindor."
"I suppose," Blaise agreed, trying to get some feeling back into his fingers. Hermione winced as she put her left foot down too hard. "But the rule that prohibits assisting Gryffindors can be overridden by the rule that states that no one should suffer needlessly."
"What about Malfoy?
"What about him?"
"He seems to like people to suffer. That seems fairly needless to me."
"Depends on your interpretation of 'needless'," Blaise corrected with a crooked grin. "Malfoy often feels the 'need' to be entertained and other people's suffering seems to be entertaining to him."
Back at Quigley's Quills, two set of eyes watched the scene unfold in front of the shop. The owner of the pair that was obscured behind half-moon shaped spectacles remarked, "I hope you're not injuring my students, Elizabeth."
"It's just a twist," Elizabeth remarked lightly. "Nothing that can't be fixed in a jiffy." She paused, a dreamy smile crossing her face. "Besides," she added. "I had to do something."
"Didn't your parents teach you not to interfere with other people's lives?"
She grinned. "Of course. But then my scheming uncle taught me that meddling can be a lot more fun. Wouldn't you agree, Uncle Albus?"
Albus Dumbledore allowed himself a small smile. "Certainly." He paused momentarily. "Speaking of your father, Elizabeth," he said, "please inform Aberforth that his owl made it all the way to Hogwarts but lost the letter it was bearing en route."
Author's Note: Please read and review. :)