Title: A Smoky Conversation

Rating: PG

Pairing: GiW/BZ

Summary: Somehow, they had struck up an odd friendship over an odd Muggle habit, but Ginny wonders if she even knows Blaise at all.

They walked along the green grass toward the castle. A brief gust of wind blew through, and Ginny clutched her robes tighter.

"Uch. What is that awful smell?"

Ginny looked over at the person shrouded in a haze of smoke as Hermione turned up her nose.

"Smoking is such a disgusting habit," she condescended and tossed her bushy hair. "It ruins your lungs, turns your voice raspy, makes everything you own smell bad, AND it stains your teeth."

Ginny ignored Hermione's rant about the horrors of cigarettes as she watched the figure. He was leaning against the castle's roughly hewn stone wall in an alcove created by two adjacent flying buttresses. Inside the nook, the wind did little to disturb the cloud of smoke that hung in the air around him, obscuring his features, but not the green of his tie. She could tell he was tall with a slight build, though not gangly like her youngest brother. He had charcoal dark hair, but his face was a blur. Through the smoke she couldn't tell if his indiscernible eyes watched or even saw her, but the tingle at the back of her neck after they had passed his smoky retreat told her he did.

He had smiled when she only coughed a little the first time, more of a slight curling of the right corner of his lip than a proper smile, but still. It had been months, though, since she had initially walked up to him and asked to try one. She remembered that almost smile as she approached his nook–their nook now–her boots kicking noiselessly through the fresh snow. When she reached him, he wordlessly offered her one out of his pack.

She had learned the "Muggle sticks of death," as he called them, were his favorite vice. An older cousin, a half-blood, had introduced them to him a couple years back, but it was only during the stress of studying for his O.W.L.s that his casual and infrequent smoking turned into a regular habit. A habit that she now shared.

He lit the end of her cigarette and watched as she took the first slow drag. She closed her eyes at the pleasant burning in her lungs and turned her head to blow the acrid smoke away from his face. Mindlessly, she flicked away the ashes.

She always bummed from him, and he never complained. She wondered where he got them. He never told her. Not that she had ever asked. Neither ever said much of anything when they were together. Most times they would stand in silence and watch the world from behind the veil they created. When they did speak, it was generally more monologue than conversation.

"All of my brothers are fucking idiots," she began after he lit a second for her. He raised an eyebrow. "I have six." The other eyebrow rose to meet its partner. "Seven if you count The Boy Who Sulks." Blaise snorted. She glanced his direction, a small smile curving the corner of her mouth, and saw his indigo eyes shine with amusement.

"They all seem to see me as my ten year old self. Bright-eyed. Innocent. Naïve. A precocious little girl who needs them to protect her from the big bad real world." She turned to stare out into nothing as she spoke. "They conveniently forget what I am capable of, what I have done, what I have seen." He watched her as she spoke, something he hadn't really done before. For a brief moment, he saw her eyes cloud over with … something. Fear? Pain? Shame? "They forget what I went through…" she whispered. He could see the fingers of her free hand clutch her cloak with a white-knuckled grip.

"Well, lucky them," she spat as she threw down the stump of her cigarette and ground it out with her heel more harshly than necessary. He watched her rage boil beneath the surface. She took a few ragged breaths before forcibly reigning in her temper. She leaned against the rough stone and turned to him, the haunted look in her eyes clearing, leaving only the anger. She ignored his questioning glance and continued. "They've all been on the wrong side of my wand enough times to know I can take care of myself." The wry twist of his lips and angle of his head seemed to acknowledge her magical prowess.

She turned away from him again, and sighing, she slumped further into the hard wall. "I just wish they would fucking get off my back."

He continued to smoke silently as he watched her. "I love the bastards more than anything, but…" she trailed off and stared down at her clasped hands. There was no sound but their breath in the stillness.

"You wish they could see you," he finished for her, shattering the quiet. "The real you, not the idealized vision of their perfect little sister." She glanced into his azure eyes, but couldn't match his piercing stare. She looked away, back down at her hands, and nodded. The stillness descended around them again.

He finished his cigarette and snuffed it against the stone wall. He stood in front of her, between her and the open nothingness, trying to catch her eye. She continued to stare down, now at their two pair of feet.

"Ginny," he said softly, brushing her cheek with the back of his knuckles. After she still wouldn't meet his gaze, he pulled her chin up, one hand cupping her cheek. Her wide brown eyes looked into his, flickering with anxiety. "I see you." He took a slow step toward her as the hand on her face caressed her skin, barely touching it. "I've always seen you."

There was a moment that seemed to last an eternity. In the stillness that was complete once more, he continued to defy that stillness and move ever closer to her. Ginny held her breath, fearing and anticipating what he would do. The hand on her face was so warm. His blue eyes were, for once, laid bare. Her own eyes began to flutter closed as he came so close it was hard to focus.

A sudden slam rang through the cold silence and the two jumped away from each other, the moment broken. In the distance, they could see Hagrid march away from his hut into the Forbidden Forest in a huff.

Ginny hazarded a glance at her companion and saw his features morph into his usual mask of casual indifference as he tucked his hand, the hand that had moments ago warmed her cheek, back into a pocket. She continued to stare at him, but he wouldn't look back. The stillness was back, but now she could feel the cold start to bite in her bones. She sighed and looked away.

"Lunch is soon," she stated, not looking at him. The comment hung in the air between them, an offer. He didn't respond. He didn't react. He didn't move, but to pull out another cigarette. She didn't know what she had expected when she first came to him, but she could no longer participate in this dance, this icy parody of a friendship.

She shook her head and pushed away from the hard stone, steeling herself to walk away. Even if he reached out to her, at some point he would recoil again.

"I'll see you around," she said, affecting her usually cheery tone a bit too brightly. She had never used that voice in the subdued time she spent with him. He would recognize the dismissal for what it was.

As she moved to leave, he caught her arm, but almost instantly let her go. She could see the word 'wait' on his lips, but he didn't voice the sentiment.

"Sorry," he muttered, tucking away the offending hand. "I… I guess… I guess I'll see you around then," he repeated. The stutter ruined the effect of his normal cool intonation. She could also detect a flicker of something that might be regret in his eyes.

She stood there eying him, and this time he couldn't look away from her assessing stare. He moved toward her and opened his mouth as if to say something, but stopped when she stepped away and broke eye contact.

"Probably not," she whispered.

She walked away without looking back, leaving him alone in the cloud of smoke. "See you around," she called over her shoulder. Her voice rang in the cold air with false brightness, mocking him.