"So, Snape. He must be pretty smart, yeah?"
Hermione Granger sent Ronald Weasley a rather disgusted look. She would not be the one to point out the lack of honorific again. She had officially given up two weeks before, after five and a half years of diligently pointing out that all Professors deserved respect. There was only so much she could do.
"Yeah, something like that, Ronald."
She rolled her eyes and continued walking toward the library. Just because they weren't taking the NEWTs this year was no reason to slack off.
Ron nodded his head seriously as he brought his stride in step with Hermione's. He looked like he was thinking too hard. Watching him from the corner of her eye, she thought that it must be a fairly painful process for him. She snorted inelegantly. Lavender Brown had certainly addled that boy's brain beyond the limits of what was decent.
"Right. That's what I thought. Harry though, he figures the only reason Snape must've been taken on staff was on account of Dumbledore needing to keep an eye on him."
Ron sounded proud of himself for stating his disagreement with Harry in a way that made him sound as if his own powers of deduction were much more than they were.
"Just yesterday, you were agreeing with Harry."
She said it dryly and she didn't break step as she continued walking into the library and wandered as close as she could get to the Restricted Section without attracting Madame Pince's attention. Ron was perfect in this regard. There was a Charms book she needed from there for a project and there was no way Madame Pince would actually let her into the Restricted Section to even look at it, much less check it out. Hermione was going for it anyway.
"Ron, could you stand just there?" she asked casually.
She practically placed the boy in Madame Pince's line of sight and away from herself.
"Well yeah. However, I was thinking, and- Oi! What are you staring at Zabini?"
Hermione could have kissed Blaise Zabini for appearing out of nowhere in their aisle. He and Ron together would divert all of Madame Pince's attention during her act of pilfering. She gave the extraordinarily good-looking black Slytherin a genuine smile.
"Hello, Granger," the other boy said. He gazed at her intently and then smirked.
Hermione thought she would just about die. Blaise Zabini was dead sexy.
"You'll be at Professor Slughorn's party, I'm assuming?"
She loved how Zabini could act like Ron wasn't even there. She smiled wider.
"I thought I might. What about you?"
"I still need a date, but I'll be going regardless. Changing the subject, you're in my group in Charms. Have you started the research yet?"
"It's why I'm here."
Hermione looked pointedly at the Restricted Section and Blaise Zabini followed her gaze and then proceeded to actually wink at her.
"You naughty little minx."
"Now, hold on just a second. You can't talk to Hermione like that!"
Ron was sputtering beautifully. His face had turned the perfect shade of red.
"Like what, Weaselby?"
Hermione took the opportunity to slip straight into the Restricted Section. Madame Pince was none the wiser and neither was Ron.
"You keep your snaky fangs off my g…"
"My friend, that's what!"
"Granger is just now becoming interesting. Personally, I think she might have more in common with a Slytherin than she does with you."
"Is that so? Well, have you met my wand, Zabini? It's dying to say hello."
"Sorry Weasley. I only like the fairer sex in that way. I have no desire to cross wands with you, of all people. Granger on the other hand..."
Ron sounded his barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world, or the library of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, at any rate. It was enough to bring adult supervision upon their heads.
"Blasphemy! An argument in my library? You boys will be seeing Mr. Filch if you don't leave immediately."
Hermione's smirk was quite evil and she thought it a pity that there was nobody to see it. She fairly skipped out with the restricted Charms text buried in her school satchel. She floated out of the library and straight into the corridor where Ron and Blaise were still arguing.
Zabini smiled at her.
"Get the book, love?"
"I figured that between my research skills and your quick thinking, our Charms project will be the best this school has seen since Rowena Ravenclaw personally taught here."
"I love a witch with confidence, ambition, and your research skills are the stuff of my dreams."
"And I love a wizard who is cunning enough to help me get what I want without my having to spell it out."
Ron was scandalized. Hermione didn't care.
She didn't take her eyes off Zabini and he held her gaze. They were connected the two of them. Sure, it was just a Charms project, but then it wasn't just a Charms project to them. Oh no. What other wizard at the school could not only match her in grades, but in wit, deviousness, and the ability to quote Hogwarts: A History to all and sundry? Plus, his study schedule was actually better organized than her own was. She needed a man who could take control. Blaise Zabini was the perfect wizard for the job. What they had was special.
Blaise's eyes flicked past her. Yes, he was Blaise now. It had a nice ring to it. Professor Flitwick would be dazzled by their combined brilliance. Professor Slughorn would wet himself at the thought of what they could all do for each other. They would be an unstoppable force. She didn't particularly care that she was staring at him like an adoring loon at the moment.
"DADA master at twelve o'clock," he muttered to her.
"Snape's a DADA master too?" Ron asked incredulously. "I thought he was only a Potions master? He must be more brilliant than I thought."
"Merlin, Ron! I can't believe you!"
"Are you serious, Weasley?"
"What? That must have been a hell of a long apprenticeship, is all I'm saying. It's not like I'm in love with the greasy git or anything."
"I'm quite glad to hear you harbor no undying affections for me, Mr. Weasley," a silky voice drawled behind him.
"Ten points from Gryffindor seems fair, wouldn't you say, Miss Granger?"
"Unfortunately, Professor Snape."
"Hm. Why would a group of students be loitering in the corridor? One might think they were up to something."
"We were discussing our Charms project, Professor," Blaise added helpfully. "Well, Hermione and I were. I don't know what purpose Weasley had in hanging about."
"Indeed, Mr. Zabini? Perhaps Mr. Weasley is in need of a detention?"
Professor Snape turned to look at Ron suspiciously.
"We were just on our way back to Gryffindor, right Hermione? You were going to help me with potions, remember?"
Hermione glared at him.
"No. I'm not helping you with potions. Perhaps you should ask Harry. He's become brilliant all of a sudden."
Hermione was bitter. There was no way that Harry bloody Potter could be better in potions than she was. It was all that dodgy Half-blood Prince.
Professor Snape snorted. Hermione didn't blame him one bit.
"Potter couldn't find his way out of a cauldron."
She couldn't help but agree.
Now Ron was glaring at her.
"Well, Professor Snape is right, Ronald! You're always backing Harry up in not listening to reason! "
Ron obviously was dying to say more. Hermione didn't hold back.
"And to think I Confunded Cormac McLaggen to get you on the Quidditch team!"
"Now you wait just a minute! You bloody well did not! "
"No, you wait! Now I have to go to Professor Slughorn's Christmas party with him out of the misplaced idea of appeasing my guilt. And it was all for nothing, apparently."
"For nothing? What's that supposed to mean, Hermione?"
"Well, it's all irrelevant now. I have Blaise."
Hermione said this part quite calmly.
"Zabini? What does he have to do with all of this?"
"He's only the most brilliant Charms partner I've ever had."
Blaise was obviously preening in the background. Professor Snape looked as if Christmas had come early, but stayed strangely silent.
"And all of this has to do with your supposedly Confunding McLaggen how exactly?"
Hermione laughed derisively.
"You're so thick, Ronald Weasley!"
"I am not thick!"
"Well, I'm not the one who somehow doesn't know that adding the word master after the subject refers to a schoolmaster, as in a formal way of addressing a male Professor! Which, incidentally, has absolutely nothing to do with finishing an apprenticeship!"
"What? You're having me on!"
"This is one of these things that only you know, and you expect the rest of us to cotton on, I reckon?"
"Everyone knows, Ronald. Besides you, that is."
"I know," Blaise added helpfully.
"Shut up, Zabini!"
"You know what? Fine! Whatever! Be completely barmy. I can't believe you! I'm off."
Ron stalked away angrily.
"To Lavender Brown no doubt!"
She yelled after him and she could tell he was holding off on making a rude gesture. Hermione Granger so did not need Ronald Weasley.
"Confunding another student, Miss Granger?"
Professor Snape sounded oddly pleased. However, she had to leave doubt. It wouldn't do to be caught.
"Of course not, Professor. It's all about the mind games with Ronald. Besides, McLaggen is our cover."
"For Blaise and myself. This school isn't ready for star crossed lovers from two opposing houses. Tragedy could only come of it. A plague on both our houses and all that rubbish."
Hermione blushed. The moment turned slightly awkward. Both Slytherins simply stared at her.
"Well, I have Prefect rounds. I'd better go."
Blaise quickly made to follow the way she had gone. He had every intention of holding Hermione to her professed ruse. He and Professor Snape both knew she really did Confund McLaggen because she liked Weasley. However, he had no qualms about getting to know her better and she would certainly forget all about her red-headed wonder soon enough.
Even still, he wasn't at all surprised when he turned the corner and saw Hermione waiting for him. She gave him a conspiratorial smile.
"Star crossed lovers, eh?"
Hermione blushed becomingly.
"Perhaps that was a bit melodramatic."
"Not at all, sweetheart. I have every intention of holding you to it."
She blushed even deeper and that caused his smirk to widen.
"I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye properly. To make sure you're okay with my slight twisting of the truth."
"I'm nothing if not proper."
Blaise picked up her hand and kissed it.
"Well then. See you later, love."
Blaise couldn't help but admire her gleaming brown curls as she walked out of sight.
"She should have been a Slytherin."
"Everyone says how she would have done well in Ravenclaw, but if she weren't Muggleborn, she would have been in Slytherin. I almost gave her points. Don't you have somewhere to be, Mr. Zabini?"
"Then get there. Oh, and Mr. Zabini? When you are both finished with that Charms book, bring it to me. I'll turn it back in to the library."
"Of course, Professor. Thank you, sir."
Blaise knew that people weren't always what they seemed. He knew that Hermione Granger was more than a bookish Gryffindor. He knew that Professor Snape wasn't evil. He knew that Harry Potter wasn't as thick as he seemed and had the potential to defeat the Dark Lord. He also knew that Ronald Weasley liked Hermione Granger, but wouldn't get the chance to pursue anything because Blaise would see to it personally. He knew things would turn out fine in the end. Times may have been dark, but Blaise Zabini fully intended to make his own light.
Author's Note: I had three ideas to address with this little fic. The first is that I have always been enamored of the Blaise/Hermione pairing. He's a minor character, but whatever. I wanted to briefly touch on it. Also, I wanted to write something that could conceivably fit into canon as a missing moment. And, I wanted to incorporate what has become a personal pet peeve into this fic. The whole Potions Master thing is misunderstood in the fandom (hopes others can't remember my own faux pas in this regard from the past). There will be no further chapters at this time. I still have Knight of Pentacles, Queen of Wands to finish, after all. Also, I couldn't help but put a Walt Whitman quote in. Please read and review. Hope you enjoyed it.