"I am not at all satisfied with this, Granger," a gentle drawl and the soft flump of papers on a desk cut into Hermione Granger's work like a conveniently pointy dagger.
She looked up from her work desk, in tray on the left, outbox on the right, paperclips by the outbox, spare paper by the inbox, pens in the middle. She frowned as her boss disturbed her work. She'd been getting on with her report so well; no one liked a stray manticore, especially not the people of Sussex.
"And why not?" Hermione could not keep the offence form her voice. She didn't think she'd ever heard those words spoken more in her life than she did from her current boss. He sighed and pushed his glasses up from his nose to his head. It was the kind of sigh which Hermione associated with an immanent criticism.
"Granger," he pushed her inbox back without a second glance and perched himself on the edge of her desk.
"Do you mind?" Hermione shifted back in her chair pulling her documents towards her; she felt thoroughly off balance.
"No," Hermione huffed. Blaise Zabini, Italian pure-blood, didn't say a lot, and had total disregard for other people's feelings. That was her boss. And she hated it. But what she hated most about Zabini (never Blaise) was not the criticisms of her work, or the way he often invaded her space like this, no, what she hated most was his looks. She hated the way he would be criticising and that stray black curl, the one which always fell over his glasses, always, and she was sure deliberately, fell over his glasses when he was with her. She could not figure out why it irritated her so much, but it really did. Or if not that, the way his eyes would flick over to her whenever they had a meeting; he was testing her, she was sure, for he scrutinised her top to tail, making Hermione feel once again thoroughly hunted.
And he was doing it again.
"I can't accept this… epic, Granger," he stated flatly, flicking through the 43 page work in front of her eyes.
"And why not? I spent a lot of time on that!" Hermione once again was at a loss, and drew her current papers closer to her, frowning heavily at the man sitting on her desk.
"It's too bloody long," he said flatly, "'Dragon Activity in Romania, danger to the Ministry?' I specified concise, it was then to be put in a pamphlet form for the Wizengamot, you think the editors, or the Wizengamot for one want to file through all this crap?"
Hermione blinked. Crap. No. She would not be insulted like that, not now not ever. She bit her lip and slowly released her papers, taking a deep breath, willing herself not to cry. Usually she just wanted to slap Zabini silly, but now, now she wanted to cry. She felt so insulted.
"I'm sorry," she said, voice cracking. Hermione stood up and wavered for a second, staring at her boss. Zabini suddenly frowned and pushed his glasses back onto his nose.
"I didn't mean-"
"I heard your opinion loud and clear," Hermione turned and walked quickly out of her office not turning back. She was sick of him humiliating her, with always trying to find a fault in what she worked so hard on.
"GRANGER," a voice called from the opposite end of the hallway. Hermione didn't turn but kept up a fast walk, heading right a few paces later into the ladies toilet. She would not let him see that he had finally made her cry.
Thankfully there was no one else in the toilets, with basins lining the left hand wall and a row of cubicles on the right. Hermione headed into the first cubicle and grabbed a ream of tissue, dabbing frantically, before heading to lean on a basin and peer into a mirror.
She looked a sight. Her eyes streaming silently, blotchy and red, and while her hair was no worse than usual the sight made her feel even more depressed. She was not screaming in pain, but silent tears rolled. She felt so insulted.
Quite suddenly the door banged open with a clatter and Blaise Zabini strode into the ladies toilets. Hermione jumped and turned, watching him stride in.
He said nothing, but stared at her blankly.
Hermione blinked in shock, partially at her comment, partially at Blaise's agreement. He sighed and leaned against the basin next to her, running a hand through his black hair.
"I'm an idiot."
"Yes," Hermione agreed. If he was in that frame of mind then she was perfectly happy to go along with his line of thinking.
"But, Granger, seriously, it was long," he gave her a pleading look, which clearly said 'well at least let me somehow redeem myself.'
"It was, that was its…charm," Hermione giggled instantly after she said it.
"I suppose so."
Neither said anything for several minutes, Hermione dabbed at her eyes, before washing her hands, Blaise watching her every movement.
"I am sorry. Let me take you out, you don't deserve to be insulted," Hermione frowned slightly.
"If you're sure…"
"Yes. Do you dance?"
"I thought you meant dinner?" Hermione blushed, the thought of dancing with Blaise…
"I can cook," he waved a hand dismissively.
"Well, I'm not brilliant, but it's enjoyable, I suppose," Hermione looked down at her feet, she certainly wasn't used to men treating her like this.
"I know a place. It's the least I can do. Meet me in the Leaky Cauldron at seven," his tone left no room for argument. Hermione couldn't quite believe it was happening. Hermione didn't think she'd ever heard him say so many words at any one time.
"Erm, alright, when?"
"Tonight. You'll need a dress," his eyes swept her figure as they so often did these days. Suddenly Hermione felt that this time his gaze wasn't quite as calculating as it had once been.
"Well. Alright, thank you," Hermione was rather taken back by the whole thing and didn't know what to say.
"S'nothing. And, I'll cut down your report, it's no trouble," he almost smiled at her.
Hermione once again had the urge to slap him "Then why on earth did you get so wound up about its length to start off with?"
Blaise didn't say anything for a moment, but tilted his head to one side, his gaze on her steady.
"How else would I have invited you to go dancing?"