Hermione hated how hard it was getting to concentrate on her studying. It hadn't been so hard in the beginning, but now it was getting slightly ridiculous. In the last few days she had found herself anticipating midnight. Midnight, when she could forget N.E.W.T.s work, teachers, Harry and Ron and who she was.
Or, who she usually was.
She tucked a rebellious strand of bushy hair behind her ear, squinting at the parchment in front of her. Harry and Ron had gone back to the common room at least an hour ago, as soon as they had finished their homework. Hermione had finished hers hours ago, but she had decided to study. Study, study, study. That was all she had been doing lately. However, studying was getting increasingly harder to do, considering her late nights. Also, it was getting harder to stay awake in class. Ever the inattentive friend, Ron hadn't noticed any change in her. On the other hand, Harry had begun to be suspicious at the dark circles under Hermione's eyes and how easily distracted she now was. Hermione could tell that he knew something was up, but he hadn't said anything to her yet. Hermione figured it was only a matter of time.
She tried to stifle a yawn, her eyes threatening to close. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and checked her watch.
She still had and hour and fourteen minutes. Madam Pince closed the library at eleven, so Hermione decided to head back to her common room until that fateful hour when she could slip away from the rest of the world. Jadedly, she gathered up the books scattered across the table she was studying at and threw them unceremoniously into her bag.
Sleep was threatening to take over, even as she was walking to her sixth-floor dormitory. She rubbed her eyes again.
Being the Head Girl, Hermione shared a common room with one other person. Despite the fact that that person was Draco Malfoy, she enjoyed having more privacy than she used to have.
Luckily Draco was no where to be found as Hermione stepped into the common room. She decided to try and get some sleep before her midnight rendezvous with her other self. She needed to be well rested.
Hermione smirked as that thought crossed her mind. And before she could stop it, more thoughts of her past late nights crowded into her head and she was anticipating tonight even more than before. A chill went up her spine every time she thought of it.
She shook her head. She needed to sleep a little before tonight. She didn't bother getting ready for bed, she just collapsed into it.
Her watch alarm went off at a quarter to midnight. Excited now, she hurriedly went to the bathroom that she and Draco shared to brush her teeth and her hair and other such preparations.
Hermione looked at herself in the mirror, expressionless. Sometimes she just wanted to erase her face. Just take the washcloth and scrub at her skin until it came off and another anonymous, beautiful one appeared. As she squeezed a blob of toothpaste onto her toothbrush, she decided that she felt like wearing sunglasses tonight. She didn't want to look at herself. So, while she circled the toothbrush over her teeth, she went into her room and grabbed a pair of large sunglasses off of her dresser. She kept them there for when she got annoyed with looking at her face or when she needed help sleeping.
Returning to the bathroom to spit out her mouthful of toothpaste, she glanced at herself again, eyes, eyebrows, and cheekbones covered by the forgiving sunglasses. A smile picked at the corners of her mouth.
The night transformed her. The sunglasses transformed her. By this time she was too tired to think rationally. She didn't think about school or consequences or reason.
After she brushed her hair and splashed herself with a little perfume, she left the bathroom. Hermione crept out of the common room and made her way to the Room of Requirement. One of the advantages to being Head Girl was that she had an excuse if someone caught her in the corridors after hours: she was patrolling the hallways.
She saw the stone door set in the wall, which meant that it was already occupied. Hermione worked her fingers into the crack of the door and pulled it open silently.
When it was used for these late night trysts, the Room of Requirement had a very plush couch, an overstuffed armchair, a small bookshelf, a lamp, and a table covered in candles. There was also a boy. The very same boy, in fact, that had been in the room every night Hermione was there.
Each night was unpredictable. Some nights they sat and talked, sometimes they read, sometimes they just stared at each other without saying anything at all, and sometimes they snogged. Tonight, Hermione felt like talking.
"Hello, Blaise," she greeted as she leaned on the closed door behind her.
He turned his head to look at her. "Hermione," he acknowledged. He turned back to the book that was resting in his lap.
She strode over to the armchair across from him. "What's with the sunglasses?" he asked, without looking up. "There's no sun in here."
"I don't have to see anything clearly," she replied. She didn't really want to tell him the truth. Their relationship was a strange one. She wasn't sure if anything he ever told her was the truth. Sometimes, when they were having long talks, she let slip some things that she was feeling, but she wasn't sure if he knew that those things were truthful.
For all the either knew, they could be making up elaborate stories each night. After all, it could just be another part of the strange game they played.
Hermione reached over and pulled a volume from the bookshelf. "How was your day?" she asked as she cracked open the book.
Blaise didn't respond. Hermione looked up, wondering if he had nodded or shrugged her shoulders and she just didn't see. Before she knew it, he was there on the arm of her chair and his mouth was closing quickly in on hers.
Kissing Blaise wasn't like kissing Victor Krum, or Ron. Blaise didn't like her and Hermione didn't like him. They kissed because they were stressed, Hermione thought. Well, at least that's why she figured they kissed. Through their mouths, their hands, their tension flowed, out of themselves and into each other. They kissed with passion, but passion for relaxation and not love or friendship.
Blaise's hands wandered to the nape of her neck and hers of his knee. Her neck was stretched upwards to reach his lips and his head was bent down. Hermione enjoyed snogging Blaise, it let her be immersed in something totally and extremely unlike her. It wasn't as if she was cheating on her boyfriend or sleeping around, no, it was just harmless snogging. Harmless, healthy snogging. They never actually had sex. Hermione wouldn't let it go that far, and she wasn't even sure if Blaise would either. In fact, they had never even gotten farther than taking their shirts off. Hermione wasn't sure whose fault that was; she wasn't even sure if it was a fault.
Even so, Hermione felt ever-so-scandalous in this room, wearing gigantic sunglasses, snogging a Slytherin who she met every night in secret.
Hermione was ever-amazed at Blaise's lung capacity. Sometimes, though Hermione wasn't sure if this was her imagination or reality, it seemed that they had a competition to see who could hold out the longest. It was Blaise this time, and when Hermione pulled up briefly for air he had traces of a smirk on his face.
He reached up and put his thumb and forefinger on the left lens of her sunglasses, pulling them from her face. She stretched her neck up again and her lips connected with his. "Rough day?" she whispered between kisses.
Blaise just pressed his face harder on hers.
Hermione wasn't sure how this all began. It was an accident. One night the pressure of N.E.W.T.s and Head Girl duties that had built up since September threatened to explode from Hermione, so she had gone in search of the Room of Requirement, hoping for a Jacuzzi and a large book to calm her nerves.
What she had found was the Room already occupied. Miffed, she had barged into the room to find seventh year Slytherin Blaise Zabini occupying her place already in a Jacuzzi with a novel, although he also had the idea of alcohol.
He had turned his head to look at her when she entered, wine glass held gracefully in his hand. He hadn't seemed angry, merely surprised. They had just stared at each other for a few moments before Hermione had said, "Hello. You took my room."
Blaise had raised an eyebrow casually at her. "Come join me then, Hermione," he had said.
Before this, Hermione had never really exchanged many words with Blaise. In fact, she hadn't really known him until her seventh year. He and Draco were best friends and Blaise had been coming by the common room to visit Draco.
Thus, they were on first-name terms. But Hermione had never known that Blaise had even noticed that she was there. And now, he was inviting her into the Jacuzzi with him.
She had had her bathing suit on because she was planning to go for a dip anyway, and, slightly bewildered at her own audacity, she stripped down. Blaise had averted his eyes politely as she did this, and only looked at her again once she slid into the deliciously warm water.
And now, they were here, slowly snogging the life out of one another. As she often did, Hermione speculated on how Harry and Ron would react if she told them about what she did at night. She wondered how she would react if she told herself what she did at midnight.
She pulled away from Blaise again, but this time it wasn't because she was out of breath. To her surprise, she found her head leaning against his chest and his arm around her shoulders. They had never shown any intimacy except for kissing. At the moment, however, Hermione felt like she needed someone to lean on and envelop her with…with something, anything.
Blaise rubbed his hand up and down her arm and Hermione bit her lip. "You're a mystery to me, Granger," he said.
Hermione had to agree with him there.