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: As much as I hate to admit it, this is the last chapter of The Importance of Ancient Runes. Never fear, though, for I shall be writing a sequel (I already have the feeling that this may turn into a trilogy) and I am currently working on some other Blaise/Hermione goodies. Check out my author's profile for links to Blaise/Hermione sites in the meantime.
Dedicated to: Everyone who sails on the HMS O&U and the members of quietones and slytherincross.


THE IMPORTANCE OF ANCIENT RUNES
Chapter Seven: In Which Hermione's Logic is Astounding


Blaise Zabini was in a foul mood. He was in such a bad mood in fact that, when he looked into the mirror in his dormitory, he was surprised that he did not see a black aura engulfing his reflection. Pulling on his school robes, he descended the stairs down into the Slytherin common room, hoping to disperse some of his bad feelings with a game of Exploding Snap. There was something about combustible games that was very appealing at the moment.

Unfortunately for him, the only available seat appeared to be next to where Malfoy was talking to Crabbe and Goyle. More like talking at them, actually, as they never seemed to enter into the conversation apart from to agree with the blond prefect. Taking a seat, Blaise languidly reached for a discarded copy of the Daily Prophet that someone had left on the table. Perhaps all the stories about death and murder would take his mind off one Hermione Jane Granger.

Inwardly, he cursed New Year's Eve. If it had not been for that night and Finch-Fletchley's idiotic suggestion that they go to Hogsmeade, Hermione would not have kissed Finch-Fletchley and Blaise would not have realised that he fancied her.

Ignorance was bliss, so they said. Blaise did not agree entirely with this statement, but there were times when it applied. Like now. That one kiss between Hermione and the Hufflepuff had thrown Blaise completely off balance and, even as he read the developments on the Krum murder case, he could not help but think of the Gryffindor.

"So, Zabini," Draco addressed him directly. "I hear you and Granger have been getting rather close. Broken her in yet?" Blaise could practically hear the smirk in his voice.

"Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Blaise asked snidely, not looking up from the newspaper.

"Don't even talk about my mother, Zabini," Malfoy threatened, starting to rise from his seat. Crabbe cracked his knuckles menacingly.

"I was merely inquiring whether you had to be so crude," Blaise informed him shortly, turning a page. The face of Viktor Krum blinked up at him, and he quickly turned over to the next page.

"Shall I take that as a 'yes', then?" Malfoy asked, earning low chuckles from Crabbe and Goyle.

"You should take that as a 'mind your own business'." Blaise glared at Malfoy. "My relationship with Granger," he found it odd to be using her surname again, "whatever it may be, is none of your concern."

Malfoy sneered at him. "Not getting any, then, Zabini?"

Blaise folded up the paper, setting it down beside him. He leant forwards, lacing his fingers together. "I talk to Pansy, Malfoy. Let's just say that if you want to take shots at my sex life, I have plenty of ammunition with which to retaliate."

The Malfoy heir blanched, pursing his lips; clearly, this was one thing that he did not want. "Very well, Zabini. Mark my words though, that Mudblood bitch will be your downfall."

"No, Malfoy," Blaise corrected calmly, a steely glint in his eyes. "She'll be yours."


Ancient Runes was probably Blaise's favourite subject. However, it was not until he reached the classroom for their first lesson of the New Year that he realised that he would have to sit next to Hermione.

He had been avoiding her, and he was fairly sure that she was avoiding him. He had purposely chosen not to attend their scheduled Italian lesson, and he had no way of knowing whether she had actually turned up.

Potter and Weasley had actually managed to get him to confess that he liked Hermione in a way that was not strictly platonic. As awful as it had felt to tell them, the fact that someone other than himself knew was relieving. A weight lifted off his shoulders, as it were.

Despite the fact that this weight had been lifted - even just partially - Blaise was not overly looking forward to sitting through a lesson in such close proximity to Hermione. He had nearly kissed her when he had visited her in the Hospital Wing; he had felt his heart racing as they had moved closer. Then he had felt the immense disappointment dropping like a lead weight when she had told him to leave.

Mooning over me, my arse, Blaise thought bitterly, entering the classroom. He was surprised to find that she was not there already.

"Zabini," a deep voice said. Looking over, he saw Theodore Nott staring intently at him, pale eyes unblinking.

"What?" Blaise snapped impatiently.

"Do you want to sit next to me today?" Blaise allowed himself a small smile, slightly embarrassed that he had snapped at Nott.

"Thanks," he mumbled, taking the seat next to his fellow Slytherin. Theodore was still staring at him, and Blaise was compelled to ask, "Why did you ask me to sit with you?"

"Look, Zabini, I know I don't talk to you much because, well, I don't really talk to anyone much." He looked sheepish. "But even I can tell that you don't want to be sat with the Gryffindor today."

"Her name's Hermione," Blaise said automatically, feeling a prickle of annoyance at Theodore referring to her as 'the Gryffindor'.

"Fair enough," Theodore said, extracting a bright orange and black quill from his bag. Blaise stared at the quill.

"Never pictured you as a closet Cannons fan," Blaise commented as he spotted the two black Cs just above the nib. Theodore grinned.

"I've followed them since I was little. Their training ground is right near my house."

"You and Weasley would make a right pair," Blaise said, remembering Hermione telling him about the redhead's passion for the failing Quidditch team.

Theodore shook his head. "We'd never get a decent conversation what with him being attached by the lips to Parkinson."

Blaise's eyes widened. "You know about that?" he hissed in a low voice as the two Ravenclaw girls entered the room.

"I'm quiet and reclusive, Zabini," Theodore said without a hint of bitterness. "That doesn't mean I'm blind."

When Hermione arrived, she did not seem the least bit surprised to find Blaise sat next to Theodore rather than in his normal seat. If she did, she hid it well, and took her normal desk.

Apart from the occasional sneaked glance at Hermione, Blaise managed to survive Ancient Runes. By the end of the lesson, he was at a loss to why he had not spoken to Theodore more during the past few years at school. He had a feeling that he had found a kindred spirit in Slytherin; Theodore even had the same disdainful view of Malfoy that he did, although he was not addicted to coffee as Blaise was, his vice being sugar quills.

However, he could not see Theodore becoming a friend; Theodore was a loner by choice rather than by default, and seemed to consider the people he knew as 'acquaintances' rather than 'friends'. He also had little to no interest in Blaise's personal life, something that would have been vital in a friend.

As he exited the classroom at the end of the lesson, Blaise heard someone call his name. "Blaise!" Then a tentative, "Zabini?"

It was Hermione. He turned around, and asked, "Yes?"

Apologetically, she said, "You dropped your quill." Hermione looked surprised at the sharpness of his tone. She handed it back to him. Feeling a sensation of déjà vu, he took it wordlessly, slipping it into his bag. "Bye," she said, turning.

"Do you still want me to teach you Italian?" Blaise asked. There was a slightly puzzled expression as she tried to translate what he had just said. He repeated the question, more slowly this time, although wondering why he was offering.

Slowly, still unsure of her use of the language, Hermione replied, "I will think about it." Blaise nodded, and watched her walk down the corridor. Leaning against the wall, he considered banging his head against the hard surface.

Perhaps if he just told her how he was feeling, then maybe things would be better. Or worse. In the best-case scenario, she would declare her undying love for him, and they would live happily ever after. In the worst-case scenario, she would be repulsed and avoid him ever after, thus freeing his thoughts and allowing him to get on with his life.

On second thoughts, if things came to the worst-case scenario, Blaise would possibly consider jumping from the Astronomy Tower.

When this particular thought struck him, Blaise was shocked by his own thoughts. Did he really feel that strongly about the brunette witch?

He was not sure anymore.


Hermione could not concentrate. German verbs were just not interesting, and her thoughts continually drifted towards Blaise. Angry with herself for not paying attention, Hermione finally gave up, telling herself that she could always borrow notes from Seamus to copy.

She took a fresh sheet of parchment and started to compose a letter to Blaise, half listening to the professor.

Blaise,

I would normally consider myself quite eloquent, but when it comes to writing this letter, I find myself unable to put my thoughts into words. Please excuse any rambling.

I have considered your offer to continue with your Italian tuition and, as much as it assists me with my language class, I do not think that this is a good idea. Neither is the continuation of the tuition that I have been giving you.

My reason for not wishing to continue is Viktor. That may sound strange as he is dead, but the fact that he has been murdered is the exact reason why we cannot continue. I once fancied myself half in love with him, as odd as that may sound, and now that Death Eaters have killed him, I wonder if it is my fault. It is well known that I am friends with Harry, and it would not surprise me if Voldemort (yes, I do use his name), was trying to get to Harry through me.

By now, you are probably wondering what this has to do with you. As much as I deny it, I have been developing feelings for you that are somewhat inappropriate. I am scared that you will get hurt. I think that it may be for the best if we keep our friendship as exactly that: friendship. Perhaps keeping our distance from one another may be for the best, at least for a while.

As I have given this letter to Daphne to give to you and have not sealed it, I have no doubt that she will have read it. She has a heart of gold, but she is an incorrigible gossip.

Hermione.

Re-reading her letter, Hermione wondered if sending it was the right thing to do. Screwing her Gryffindor courage up, she folded the letter in half, then in half again. Carefully, neatly, Hermione wrote Blaise on the parchment. She pushed it to the edge of her desk, forcing herself to concentrate on the lesson.

However, the letter seemed to have other ideas. It was taunting her, just lying there oh-so innocently: a folded piece of parchment that held her secret. It was just waiting to be read, just waiting for someone to find it and discover how she felt about the dark haired Slytherin.

Picking it up gingerly, as though she was afraid it would explode, she carefully underlined Blaise's name. With that one stroke, it seemed to finalise what she had written, and she was able to ignore it for the rest of the lesson.

When the bell rang, she passed the note to Daphne, with instructions to give it to Blaise. The blonde witch gave her a knowing smile and scampered off to the dungeons. Hermione sighed, hoisting her bag onto her shoulder and heading to the Gryffindor common room.

Arriving in the bustling room, she found Harry, Ron and Ginny involved in a noisy game of Exploding Snap. Hermione took a seat, glad to kick off her shoes. As the cards that Ron was holding exploded, leaving a fine layer of ash across his face, Harry asked, "Do you want to join in, Hermione?"

Thinking of the homework that was awaiting her, Hermione surprised the others by saying, "Sure." Ginny dealt another hand, Ron trying to wipe the grime from his face with his sleeve.

"Where's Dean?" Hermione asked, surprised not to see Ginny's boyfriend in the near proximity.

"Detention," the youngest Weasley replied glumly. "You snogged Zabini yet?" she asked in the same tone.

Hermione nearly dropped her cards. "Ginny!" she exclaimed. Then, she looked at Harry and Ron, who were both grinning at her. "You told Ginny!"

"She's very persuasive!" Ron protested.

Harry nodded in agreement. "She put a Bat Bogey Hex on me - not the most pleasant experience, I'm sure you'd agree."

Hermione groaned as she threw a card down on top of the one that Harry had placed on the table. The Queen of Hearts. "No I haven't," she told Ginny shortly. "And if you must know, I won't be."

"Why not?" Ron prodded, adding a card to the pile.

"Because it's not a good idea," was Hermione's reply as Ginny put down the two of spades.

"He is kind of good looking," Ginny said thoughtfully, after a moment. "In a tall, dark and Slytherin kind of way."

"Snap!" Harry picked up the pile of cards. He looked at Ginny. "We all know Hermione doesn't go for looks - she did go to the Yule Ball with Krum." He paled, realising what he had just said. "I'm sorry," he apologised. "I forgot that he was… that Krum was…"

"It's alright, Harry," Hermione told him. "Sometimes I forget as well. Sometimes it doesn't seem real." She sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if this is all just a dream, and I'm going to wake up as just a Muggle."

"If it's a dream it's bloody vivid," Ron said, putting down a card.

"I'd say it was more like a nightmare sometimes," Harry said solemnly. "If it is a dream," he relented, "I'm not sure I want to wake up."


Blaise always put his robes down to be washed on Sunday morning. It was a ritual that he went through every weekend; sorting out which ones needed to be cleaned, putting these with the rest of his dirty clothes. He would then check through his pockets to make sure that there was nothing left in them: he had lost an absurd amount of knuts that way in first year before he had started doing it in this methodical way.

The only time that Blaise could remember this routine being disrupted was in his third year when he caught chickenpox from one of the Ravenclaws in his Herbology class and spent three days in the Hospital Wing until Madam Pomfrey deemed that he was no longer infectious. After that, his laundry routine had been thrown off for several weeks, much to Blaise's annoyance.

There was nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, in Blaise's opinion, especially the cleanliness of your clothes. Clean clothes were as important to him as his personal hygiene was; you could not have one without the other.

Besides, neatly laundered robes that had been pressed created a far better impression than robes that were crumpled and had the remains of your dinner on them. It was because of his views that Blaise disagreed strongly with Slytherin rule number seventy: godliness is above cleanliness.

Pulling a piece of folded parchment from the pocket of one of his school robes, Blaise tossed it carelessly on his bed. As it landed, he spotted his name written on it in neat handwriting and underlined. Brow furrowing, he picked it up, wondering what it was. All he had was a vague recollection of Daphne handing it to him with a knowing smile. Thinking back, he had stuffed the piece of parchment into his pocket, planning to read it later. Obviously, he had forgotten about it.

He unfolded it, scanning it quickly. Blaise sat down heavily on his bed. Eyes wide, he re-read the letter, making sure that his eyes were not fooling him.

For once, Blaise forgot about his laundry and raced down the common room, where Pansy and Daphne were giggling sleepily over the horoscopes in the Sunday Prophet. "Even I know that's not going to happen," Daphne was saying.

"When did Hermione give you this?" he demanded, brandishing the letter in a threatening manner. Daphne blinked.

"Pardon?" she asked, looking confused.

"The letter from Hermione," Blaise said through gritted teeth. "When did she give it to you," he said slowly, as though speaking to a small child.

"The other day after Languages." She wrinkled her nose. "Why? Haven't you read it yet?"

"Did you read it?" he demanded impatiently. He was not in the mood for Daphne's playfulness.

Daphne had the grace to look surprised that he would accuse her. "Erm, no?" she said hesitantly.

"Daphne," he warned. "Did you read it or not?"

"Yes!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands up into the air. "I did read it, if you must know, but I wasn't exactly going to tell you that was I?"

Pansy looked at Blaise curiously. "What does it say?" Blaise handed her the letter wordlessly, flopping down into a chair. The Slytherin prefect read it silently and, as she finished it, she peered at Blaise with inquisitive eyes.

"And I thought she was supposed to be intelligent - her logic astounds me." Pansy re-read the letter, before staring intently at Blaise. Finally, she said, "Let me get this straight. Hermione Granger has what she calls 'inappropriate feelings' for you?" She handed the piece of parchment back to him.

Blaise nodded glumly. "Yes."

"And, unless I'm very much mistaken, you have 'inappropriate feelings' for the bushy haired wonder herself."

"I suppose," Blaise muttered, feeling himself blush.

A look of disgust crossed her face. "Then what the hell are you doing sitting here? Go and find her! Snog some sense into her or something!" Daphne eagerly nodded her agreement.

For a moment, Blaise sat there, stunned by what Pansy had just told him to do.

"I, I can't," he said eventually.

"Why not?" Daphne asked.

"Because… just because."

Pansy pulled a face at this. Then, she said, "You're pathetic, you know that?" Blaise did not reply to this and stalked back upstairs to his dormitory. It was all very well for them to tell him to go and do something about the letter, but actually doing something about it was a very different matter.

Sweeping his clothes off his bed, Blaise lay down, burying his head in the pillow. Damn Ancient Runes, damn Hermione Granger, he thought bitterly. Damn me for actually liking her. Gryffindors and Slytherins aren't supposed to like each other. He rolled over so that he was lying on his back and stared up at the canopy of his four-poster bed.

We're too similar, Blaise supposed. Gryffindors and Slytherins are too similar, and that is why we fight so much. Musing this over, Blaise closed his eyes, breathing deeply to calm himself.

When he opened his eyes again and looked at his watch, it read one o'clock. Lunchtime. He had been asleep for about two hours, and he sat up, stretching his arms above his head.

He decided to go to the Great Hall for lunch. Hopefully, he would run into Hermione. He found his heart beating just a little faster at the thought of seeing the Gryffindor, and he wished it would not. He could practically hear it beating, and he was sure that someone else would notice.

Arriving at the Great Hall - slightly breathless, for he had walked far faster than he normally did, he recognised Ron Weasley's voice and ducked around the corner.

"What're you planning on doing today, then?" he heard Ron ask as he drew closer to the entrance of the Great Hall. He was obviously not alone - the footsteps that he could hear led Blaise to believe there was at least one other person with him. This was most likely Potter, Blaise decided, as Ron and Pansy were never seen in public together. Besides, Pansy and Daphne had still been in the common room when he had left.

"Dunno." Blaise was somewhat surprised to hear Hermione reply to this question.

"Why don't you come down to the Quidditch Pitch?" Harry Potter suggested as the three of them moved into Blaise's line of sight. Harry pushed his glasses. "We're thinking about trying to get an impromptu Quidditch match going."

Hermione rolled her eyes at this as she pushed her plait over her shoulder. "You know I'm no good at Quidditch."

"You could keep score?" was Ron's contribution, as he slung a friendly arm around her. Blaise felt a tingle of jealousy at seeing someone else touch Hermione, even though he knew that Ron was devoted to Pansy. "C'mon, Hermione," he begged, eyes large. "We don't spend half as much time together as we used to."

"We're not exactly going to spend time together if you two are off zooming around on your brooms, are we?" Hermione was less than impressed with his offer for the three of them to 'spend time together'.

"But you could be like the referee," Ron continued with a grin. "You could tell us off for breaking the rules - you're good at that," he teased.

"That's because you're good at breaking the rules," Hermione responded with a grin.

"What do you say, Hermione?" Harry asked in a pleading tone. "Will you come?" He clasped his hands together as though he was praying.

Relenting, Hermione nodded. "Fine. I just need to go up to the common room and get my cloak, okay? It's a bit colder than I thought it was."

"Hermione!" Blaise found himself saying, stepping forward and holding out the piece of parchment at her. "Wait!"

Sighing, Hermione tried to ignore him, even though Ron's arm fell from her shoulder and she could feel both Harry and Ron staring at her. Eventually, she said, "Go away," using Italian for extra emphasis.

"No." Blaise's response was short and sharp as he tried to regain his breath. "I have just read your letter." He held the piece of parchment out towards her, and she took it, fingers trembling.

Licking her lips, Hermione said, "I do not want to talk to you."

"I want to talk to you." He took a step closer to her, forcing Hermione to look upwards so that she could stare at him defiantly.

Out of breath and red in the face, Pansy Parkinson and Daphne Greengrass arrived in the Great Hall.

"I am an idiot," Blaise told her earnestly. She gave him a look as if to say 'do you really need to tell me that?' "But I'm an idiot who like you a lot more than he should." He moved closer still, and Hermione's breath caught in her chest.

"I feel dizzy," she told him in a whisper; Blaise was distantly aware that Daphne was attempting to translate their conversation in a whisper to the others.

"So do I." Blaise paused, biting his lip. "I think that I am going to kiss you."

"Do it before I change my mind."

"Blaise." The voice was insistent and it was most definitely not Hermione's. Blaise groaned, opening his eyes. "Wake up," the voice told him.

"I'm awake," Blaise said groggily, realising that it was Theodore speaking.

Wait - Theodore? Hadn't he been outside the Great Hall a moment ago? How had he got back to his dormitory?

"You were talking in your sleep," Theodore said. "In Italian," he added. "You looked like you were having a nightmare.

He had been dreaming. Looking quickly at his watch, it was only quarter to twelve. He had not gone to the Great Hall. He had not kissed Hermione. Everything was still exactly the same, and now he felt like an idiot for talking in his sleep.

"No," he said slowly. "It wasn't a nightmare; it was…" he trailed off, looking up at Theodore who was standing above him. "Have you ever had a dream that's really surreal - where nothing in it is even like reality?" he asked.

Theodore seemed to consider this. "I had a dream where Harry Potter got turned into a rhinoceros once," he volunteered.

That was certainly bizarre, but Blaise did not comment on this. Instead, he said, "Well, I think I just had a dream which makes reality look surreal."

"Your dream was perfect and your waking life is screwed up?" Theodore asked.

"Something like that."


The day finally came to hand in his Ancient Runes coursework. Flicking through the folder of notes that he had amassed since the beginning of the school year, Blaise plucked out the piece of parchment that Professor Mayfair had given him with the list of titles on. Even now, some of them seemed ridiculous. NEWT ANCIENT RUNES - First Year, it was headed.

One of the questions caught his eye: Studying runes is considered a part of a well-rounded education. How far do you agree with this?

His mind's eyes flickered to Hermione, and he pictured her doing the same sort of thing as him - re-checking her coursework for the umpteenth time. He pictured the way that her hair curled around her shoulders. The way that she scratched her nose with her quill when she was trying to decipher a particularly difficult rune.

The importance of Ancient Runes? he mused.

Vital.

THE END


Thank Yous: Thank you to everyone who reviewed chapter six - Lady Draherm, draconas, Hi Im Crazy, NotYourAverageSchoolgirl, Norwegianne, I-LOVE-SPENCER, patagonia, slytherinphoenix7, Sw33t Vi3t, CrimsonEnchantress, crazley, MissDramatic, Sam Fisher's Wife, Lissie89, JeanB, Finnigan Irish, Procella Nox-noctis, Jesse S, LilyAyl, ShimmeringEvil, trurockergurl and wood-n-snape.

A/N: I will not be giving any guarantees for when the sequel will appear. I have several other things that I would like to write, and I would like to take a short break from this little universe to concentrate on them: I don't want to be stretching myself too thin.
Also, Theodore's dream about Harry turning into a rhino is a reference to a couple of bizarre cookies posted on the HMS O&U cookie jar (the name of the author escapes me at present) - hunt them down, they're yummy!

Love and hugs and coffee,
silverphoenix