Title: It's Always the Quiet Ones
Disclaimer: Rowling owns them all
IT'S ALWAYS THE QUIET ONES
Hermione Granger had to admit that the decorations were quite lovely.
That was about the nicest thing the sixth year Gryffindor could say about the Spring Ball that was currently being held. She had had every intention of avoiding the silly ball, preferring to curl up in her bed with a good book than be forced to sit here amongst her fellow students and acknowledge that she not only didn't have a date, but that no one, save for her housemates that she thought of as brothers, even wanted to dance with her. She was pretty certain that one could look up the word humiliation in the dictionary and there would be a picture of herself sitting alone while everyone else danced and laughed and had someone.
The brunette witch knew that she was not beautiful and had no illusions about her looks. Her face was what one might call cute, with coffee colored eyes and a rather nice nose and somewhat thin lips, but it was nothing special or memorable. Her hair was a plain old brown color, thick and curly and impossible to tame even with charms, falling down her back and constantly looking frazzled and bushy. She wasn't exceptionally tall, but she was taller than her female Housemates, her body curvy and not at all graceful or willowy. She was slender, but her breasts were full and she had hips and her tummy was not flat. She was smart, her brain being her most attractive feature, though the boys at Hogwarts had no interest in dancing with or dating a smart girl, instead fawning over the vapid but lovely girls.
Harry and Ron told her that she was a challenge and that, unfortunately, the boys at their school did not seem to want a relationship that required them to actually think or attempt to keep up with her mentally. Of course, her best friends were pleased that no boys ever approached her, still grumbling about her date with Viktor two years later. She loved them dearly, but they did not help in her quest for love. If any boy did ever show the slightest interest in her, they were suddenly faced with five overprotective Gryffindors who thought of Hermione as their sister and had no plans of allowing anyone non-deserving near her. The boys had scared away two study partners that had no designs on Hermione except as a means of preparing for upcoming tests, both of the wizards now avoiding even talking to her. She had been annoyed at Harry and the others, even though they meant well, and she was almost glad that no wizard at this school seemed to have romantic designs on her.
Besides, it wasn't as if she was actually interested in any of them. The majority made Seamus look mature, which was very scary, or they were just not attractive to the brunette for whatever reason. Her eyes moved around the room, seeking and finding. Okay, so there was one wizard that she found fascinating and intriguing. Unfortunately, except for an occasional polite nod during one of their many shared classes, Blaise Zabini had never showed any signs of even acknowledging her existence. It wasn't very surprising.
The raven-haired Slytherin was extremely handsome, almost beautiful, and one of the most brilliant wizards at Hogwarts. He had curly black hair that brushed against the nape of his neck, and lovely indigo eyes that were intense and focused during class and thoughtful and observant the times she'd been close enough to see them outside of class. His skin was dark due to his Italian ancestors, the color white looking phenomenal against his golden skin and black hair.
For the ball, he was wearing a blue robe that looked fantastic with his coloring. He was always put together so well, early in the mornings or during dinner, he always looked calm and unflappable, his hair perfectly in place or tousled in just the right way to cause her fingers to itch to run through the soft locks. He was not particularly vocal, rarely speaking in class but always knowing the answer when called upon. He took the same courses she did, accelerated and difficult, the only Slytherin in that plan since Malfoy had transferred school's following his Father's release from Azkaban and Voldemort's defeat near the end of summer, and had proven his intelligence and wit on many occasions.
Blaise did not have to be at the center of everything to draw one's attention. She knew other girls noticed his exceptional good looks, her own house mates declaring him the most attractive wizard of their year because of his dark good looks and obliviousness to his own attractiveness and the fact that he had never shown any interest in girls (or boys, for that matter) and his mysterious personality, finding that aura of intrigue a bit dangerous and, thus, attractive. Hermione refused to agree with them, not wanting anyone to know that she, too, had a crush on the dark Slytherin. She was Hermione Granger. She was supposed to be above such silly girly things like getting crushes on the reserved and aloof handsome wizard. Knowing this, however, was far different than actually being able to put an end to her pathetic infatuation with the wizard who probably only knew her as Potter's Mudblood or the annoying Know-It-All.
She had first noticed him during fourth year, finding her attention on him during a particularly dull Arithmancy class. He'd been seated in front of her and to the side, perfectly in her line of vision as her mind had wandered. His profile had been attractive, long lashes that any girl would envy, high cheekbones, an aristocratic nose, full lips, thick curly black hair, Merlin, he even had a great neck. His hands were large, his fingers long. He was as tall as Harry, but Blaise was more slender than her friend, not having the muscles that Quidditch helped develop, though he had a very nice build.
She had started to pay more attention to him from that day on, finding him a complex puzzle that she could not easily figure out. She liked that, honestly, having a distraction from the War against Voldemort and her schoolwork. Throughout the last two years, she had continued her study of Blaise Zabini and, as much as it pained her to admit it, she was no closer to understanding him now than she had been then.
He was a bit of a loner with only a few people that he seemed to consider friends, yet he was respected by his fellow Slytherins and she had noticed that they would often seek his counsel or ask his opinion. He was quiet and appeared to like being overlooked and simply blending into the background, yet he was witty and rather sarcastic and could be very charming and almost flirtatious during Prefect meetings or when he was conversing with Professors. He projected a quiet confidence, a sense of knowing who he was and not caring what others thought or expected from him, striking her as someone who planned and set goals for himself just like she did. Blaise Zabini was an enigma, and, well, she had always loved solving puzzles.
No matter how many times Hermione told herself that she needed to get over her foolish infatuation for the dark Slytherin, her eyes would seek him out during meals. She was aware of him every time he was in the library, the two of them and a handful of Ravenclaws being the only students at Hogwarts that seemed to realize there was a library at the school. She had found herself thinking about him more and more since this year had started, having even more classes with him as well as sharing Prefect duties, though they had not yet patrolled together, thankfully. Hermione was honestly not sure how she would react to him if they were walking the halls alone, imagining that she'd either ramble like some silly girl with a crush or she'd been unable to speak at all or that she'd get caught staring at him. Any of those three possibilities would be right up there with sitting here alone during the ball as examples of completely humiliating experiences.
With a determined look in her eyes, she looked away from Blaise. She'd been staring for quite a bit at the handsome raven-haired Slytherin, surprised she had not been caught ogling him. She looked at the table and sighed, wondering if she could manage to sneak out without the boys or Ginny noticing. They were all busy dancing and flirting with their dates so they were distracted. She began to formulate a plan of escape, her lips curving into a frown as she began to debate the chances of passing them to make it to the door without one of them suddenly saying, "'oi, Hermione, going somewhere?" or some other ridiculous statement that meant she'd been caught and would have to sit back down while possibly attracting attention and letting everyone see that she was dateless and unloved and that no one except her best friends even wanted to dance with her.
Well, actually, Justin and Terry had both approached when they'd first arrived and she assumed they had been going to ask her to dance. She didn't know, of course, because Ron, Harry and Seamus had glared at them both and caused them to stammer out something about the weather, in Justin's case, and about the decorations, in Terry's case, before they'd hastily left. When she'd given them her 'what the hell do you think you're doing?' look, Ron had had the gall to smile and tell her that she knew she'd 'be bored to death within minutes of dancing with either of those wankers'.
Harry had actually been far more intelligent than she would have imagined when he'd mentioned that she'd never really be able to respect anyone that was too scared to deal with her friends. Going on to point out that she needed someone that wanted to be with her enough that he'd gladly take the five of them (six, Ginny had added with a smile, giving no doubt that the youngest Weasley would probably be the most vicious to anyone that dared hurt Hermione) for a chance to dance with her. Hermione hadn't bothered pointing out that it was only a bloody dance and not a marriage proposal, merely sighing and muttering something about overprotective and annoying friends that had caused them to laugh. Harry was right, though. She couldn't abide cowards and found indecisiveness and lack of conviction unattractive. She admired people that knew what they wanted, that set up goals for themselves, that worked to achieve their goals, that weren't afraid to fight for something they wanted as long as no laws were broken and no one was hurt by their actions.
The brunette witch made a face as she ran her hand through her hair, snorting rudely at herself. She was sitting here dwelling on not having a dance partner and not having a boyfriend and not having anyone to love her when she was supposed to be planning her escape. She shifted in the chair, reminding herself to never again listen to Ginny and Lavendar when it came time to dress for a party such as this. They'd chosen a robe for her in a very pretty shade of dark red that looked good with her hair color, true, but it was far too low cut and snug, though she had to admit she looked rather nice. She was pulled from her musings about a way of escaping without attracting her friends' attention when she heard Ron snarl.
"What do you want?"
Hermione looked up, seeing that all five of her 'protectors' were suddenly around the table, glaring at someone. Slowly turning her head to see the object of their annoyance, her eyes widened when she saw Blaise Zabini standing beside her looking rather amused and not at all disturbed by the glares aimed at him.
"Would you like to dance?" Blaise addressed her, his indigo eyes looking into hers as he ignored the snarly boys around her.
"Me? Dance? With you?" Hermione cringed as she realized how stupid she had just sounded. Her cheeks were turning a lovely shade of pink as she rubbed her suddenly damp palms on her robe. Had she mentioned his voice? Low and husky and deep, far too mature and sexy for a sixteen-year old boy, she thought crossly.
"Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of, Slytherin," Harry spoke up, green eyes darting from the blushing Hermione to the indecipherable Blaise. Well, well, it would appear that Hermione had been keeping secrets, he realized, watching his best friend stare at Blaise as if she didn't believe he was really there asking her to dance. He would have smiled at the witch's reaction, finding it rather cute the way she was doing an impression of a fish with her mouth hanging open like that, but he wanted to see if this Slytherin was worthy of dancing with their Hermione. From what he knew of Blaise Zabini, which wasn't a whole lot, the wizard was ridiculously smart as well as annoyingly good-looking and wealthy. He knew that Zabini had not been on Voldemort's side and that he was a bit reclusive, spending most of his time in the library or studying, and he didn't even play Quidditch. Actually, thinking about it, the dark Slytherin might very well be perfect for Hermione.
"Why, Potter, I believe you were under the mistaken impression that I was speaking to you," Blaise drawled lazily, his eyes meeting the green gaze of the Boy Who Finally Killed Voldemort. He arched a brow as he smirked, "Alas, though I know it will disappoint you greatly, I am not attracted to members of my own sex. However, I'm sure that Vince would be available for a dance if you are feeling particularly daring this evening. I must warn you, though, that he has a bit of a crush on you so you might very well get more than just a dance. Hmm...actually, you might rather enjoy that."
"Crabbe has a crush on me?" Harry forgot that he was in the midst of protecting Hermione as he shuddered, "Merlin, that's just disturbing. Even if I was gay, ugh, I think I may be sick."
"Well, I suppose that answers the question on the minds of many a witch and wizard of whether or not Potter fancies playing with 'broomsticks'," Blaise remarked casually, smirking as he added, "Oh, and Potter? Vince doesn't fancy anyone except Hannah Abbott, though I must say it was worth the lie to see your expression. Now why don't you boys run along and get into mischief or whatever it is immature Gryffindors do to occupy their time."
"He's rather evil and cunning," Neville whispered to his friends, a slight smile crossing his boyish face, "I think he'd be the type to enjoy a challenge."
"Right-o, Neville," Seamus grinned, "I do believe we've finally found someone worthy enough for our Hermione. After all, he got Harry and that doesn't happen very often! Must say, I'm rather impressed."
"Plus he's quite good-looking," Dean added, "and smart enough to actually understand most of what Hermione is saying."
"He's a snarky Slytherin bastard," Ron reminded them, before sighing, "but it looks like he's rather smitten with our girl and she's practically drooling at his feet so I guess she must like him. What do you think, Harry? Does he meet with approval?"
"Crabbe...dancing...with me...the horror, Merlin, the horror," Harry muttered, shaking his head before smiling, "If Hermione wants to dance with him, I approve."
"They do realize that we can hear everything they say, don't they?" Blaise asked Hermione, finding her even more cute with her face as red as Weasley's hair.
"I'm going to kill them all," Hermione muttered, "I don't even care if it means a sentence at Azkaban, they're so paying for this."
"You could always claim emotional stress and perhaps serve the sentence at St. Mungos," Blaise smirked slightly, watching her head snap up and her eyes widen as she seemed to be resisting the urge to laugh. He confided, "I think any student at Hogwarts would be able to testify on your behalf and give numerous examples. In fact, I would go as far as suggesting that they would not sentence you at all since you must have the patience of a saint to put up with those loud mouthed, interfering prats you call friends."
"Hey now!" Ron spoke up, all five boys and Ginny listening eagerly to the exchange between Blaise and Hermione, enjoying the fact that the normally calm and controlling brunette witch was blushing and totally affected by the charming Slytherin.
"Shh!" Ginny smacked Ron's arm, "You're ruining their moment. If you mess this up for Hermione, I'm telling Mom about those naughty magazines the twins gave you for your birthday!"
"Ginny!" Ron turned red, "How do you know about those?"
"Neville told me," Ginny smiled smugly, "and since I have wonderful blackmail material to hold over you, big brother, shut your mouth and let the pretty Slytherin flirt with Hermione!"
"Perhaps torture then murder," Hermione decided, giving Blaise a sheepish smile as she apologized, "I'm sorry. I understand if you regret ever coming over here and asking me to dance. Because," she turned and glared at her friends, "all you wanted was to DANCE," facing him again, "and my moronic friends have just managed to embarrass me more than I ever imagined possible so, if you'll excuse me, I think I am going to go hide somewhere and hope that this is just a really bad dream or that you are kind enough to forget any of this happened."
"Do I often appear in your dreams, Hermione?" he smiled slowly, watching her blush darken and having his answer without her speaking. With a soft laugh, his fingers beneath her chin and forced her to look at him, "I don't regret asking you to dance, you silly girl. I only regret that it took me three years to actually approach you. As for your friends, regardless of their stupidity, they do mean well, and it says a lot about you that they are willing to look imbeciles because they care that much about you."
"Oh," Hermione managed to say, surprised to find herself the object of his intense gaze. Wait, had he said, "three years?"
"You noticed that, did you?" he smiled ruefully, "I had hoped it slipped past your attention. But, yes, three years. What can I say? I am not fond of rejection and then, when I realized you had finally noticed me, I decided to keep you interested by remaining cryptic and complex. And, fine, there might have been the slightest, very very slight, hesitation of making my interest known for fear you would not react favorably, but I deny spending hours thinking of ways to tell you that I fancied you or making foolish romantic wishes upon every star for the last three years in hopes that one day you would simply confront me and force me to tell you that I wished to know you better. After all, such nonsense is unbecoming for a Slytherin and not at all appropriate for the confident and self-assured wizard standing before you."
"I don't know about Hermione, but I think I could fall in love with him," Dean sighed dramatically, smirking at his friends as they rolled their eyes.
"Hermione, you had better agree to that dance before Dean tries to steal your man," Seamus suggested helpfully, winking at Blaise as he gave his nod of approval.
"Any man that is willing to be that honest in front of other guys has to be sincere," Ron declared, "talking about all that romantic stuff and emotions? Merlin, he must really like her!"
"Hermione, put the poor guy out of his misery," Harry nudged the brunette witch, smiling at her when she looked at him, "go dance with him!"
"Poor Hermione. She looks dumbfounded," Neville shook his head sadly before fluffing up her hair and straightening her robe, telling Blaise, "Maybe you should ask her again. I think she's forgotten the question."
"Would you like to dance?" Blaise asked again, holding out his hand to Hermione, only a trace of nervousness in his indigo eyes. He had her friends on his side, after all, which was somewhat surprising and a bit strange, but he realized he could possibly adjust to having them around.
Hermione looked into his eyes and ignored her friends whispers of encouragement and support, losing herself in his indigo gaze, realizing that he was not asking for just a dance. He was asking for a chance, an opportunity to get to know her better, a beginning of a possible future for them. She had always though that Blaise was unattainable, an impossible dream, a foolish infatuation, yet he was standing there with his hand out, trying to look confident even though she could tell he was anxious and possibly scared she'd refuse him.
She had thought he was attractive before, but now, seeing him displaying this slight vulnerability and knowing that he wasn't scared of her friends, she was even more infatuated. Merlin, he'd not only impressed her friends but received their approval despite his placement in Slytherin, which was quite an amazing feat in itself. Hermione realized in that moment that their eyes met and everything around her faded except for him that she could very well fall in love with this man. She smiled as she put her hand in his and stood up, telling him, "I'd love to dance with you, Blaise."
Blaise smiled as he led her to the dance floor, aware of eyes on them as they began to dance. He looked into her eyes and smirked, "Since you seem unable to resist my good looks and charming personality at the moment, I do believe I shall ask if you'd like to accompany me to Hogsmeade tomorrow."
"Was that a question or do you simply enjoy hearing yourself speak?" Hermione asked with a teasing gleam in her eyes, finding herself relaxing around him and not feeling quite so nervous and able to be herself despite the fact that she was dancing with the boy she'd fancied for years.
"There she is. I knew she had to be in there somewhere, the witty and intelligent and outspoken spitfire that first caught my attention," Blaise smiled smugly, "Hermione, favorite Gryffindor of mine, would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me tomorrow?"
"Normally, I would scold you for waiting so late to ask," Hermione informed him politely, "I do not believe in procrastination or putting things off at all."
"I might enjoy you scolding me," his voice was flirtatious, his eyes flashing with amusement, "do you want to spank me for my lackadaisical ways? I daresay, I might deliberately break the rules for that punishment."
"I always imagined you Slytherins were a submissive lot," Hermione smirked, rather pleased that she had turned into a stuttering twit from his blatant flirting. It hadn't helped that she had been able to imagine such a scenario all too easily and in vivid detail.
"We Slytherins are adaptable, my dear, as you will soon learn. I can beg or I can make you beg," Blaise shrugged, "as long as we are both naked and given pleasure, I really don't care who's on top."
"Blaise!" Hermione gasped, watching him laugh, as she gaped at his comment.
"My innocent little Gryffindor, that was far too easy," he laughed, his eyes looking into hers as he said, "While the thought of being naked with you has entered my mind on many an occasion, I do not foresee such an event happening until you realize that I am perfect for you and acknowledge that you love me. At that time, we'll discuss who gets to be on top, though I do believe we'll enjoy it far more if we share that responsibility, don't you?"
"Why don't we save that discussion until we've had our first date?" Hermione couldn't help laughing at his shocking topic of discussion. And, Merlin help her, she found his smug arrogance and assumption that she would decide he was perfect for her and they would, in fact, have a discussion regarding nakedness and who was going to be on top, very attractive.
"First date?" he arched a brow, "Why, Hermione, what sort of boy do you think I am? It will take you at least three dates before you get me naked and begging. However, I may find my resolve weakening if you look at me with those beautiful brown eyes and smile that sexy little smirk that suggests you have all the answers to every question in the world and know everything and wear those Muggle blue jeans that mold the curves of your arse so I may let you into my boxers sooner than our third date. What can I say? I try to hold firm to my morals but you make me forget my name much less my resolve to remain fully clothed around you, you sexy vixen."
"I always thought you were the quiet type," Hermione shook her head, a large smile on her face as she said, "I can see I was wrong. You're an incorrigible flirt, Blaise Zabini!"
"It's always the quiet ones, Hermione," Blaise caught her eyes and smiled knowingly, "you know that, my quiet rebellious little spitfire. And, honestly, you just bring out the hidden flirt within. It really is all your fault that I'm the charming and flirty handsome rogue you're dancing with. Now quit playing with my sensitive emotions and happily tell me that you'll accept my invitation to spend the entire day with me tomorrow so that I can begin wooing your properly, and astound you with my wit and intellect and rakish good looks."
"I rather like having this effect on you," Hermione admitted as she moved her fingers into the soft black curls brushing against his neck, her lips curving into a smile as she looked into his indigo eyes and whispered, "Blaise Zabini, I would love to spend tomorrow with you."