Hello there! I'd like to say this is something new, but truthfully it's been sitting in my writing folder for... well, a couple years at least. It's a sidestep from my usual Draco/Hermione... but there came a point in time where I fell completely head over heels for fanon Blaise and eventually started my own story about him and of course, my girl Hermione. That being said, then, this is incompatible with Deathly Hallows, and most likely Half-Blood Prince as well.

I wanted to keep writing this, as I'm nearly completed five chapters already, but figured I should at least test the waters and see if there's anyone out there who would be interested in reading it. I am plotting chapter 8 of Fidelity's Fleece, and the next chapter of Catalyst has been a work in progress for ages, so this isn't the only thing on my agenda.

Please, if you enjoy, let me know. There is nothing quite like feedback by way of reviews, though I've noticed people don't particularly like to review stories anymore... I guess that's just me coming from the old school . Regardless, it would be much appreciated, and reviews will make me more willing to put up the second chapter, which contains quite a bit more Blaise :)

Oh, and I suppose I should disclaim, I don't own anything!

That's all.

She was watching him again. Her gaze was caught, transfixed, on his graceful figure as he entered the Great Hall. Her hand froze, the goblet of pumpkin juice on its way to her lips neglected. Swallowing heavily, she set the glass down, thirst forgotten.

She averted her gaze, staring disinterestedly at her fork. Had she been in control of her own mind, she might have noticed the fork moving slowly up, her gaze following it.

Bitterly, she set the fork down as her eyes fell upon him once more. She just didn't have the willpower to force herself to look somewhere else, anywhere else.

He was laughing, and her ears automatically tuned in. It was beautiful, melodious, deep. Settling into a seat on the benches at a table across the hall, he selected a slice of toast, placing it meticulously upon his plate, spreading it with orange marmalade.

Her eyes followed his hands intently, his movements precise and calculated, yet soft.

His lips parted, to speak, and God how she wished she could hear his voice. His lips pursed into a smirk as his companions laughed. He took a bite of his toast, chewing carefully with his mouth closed. Such etiquette, so unlike Ron sitting next to her. Such was to be expected, having grown up in a devoutly pureblooded mansion.

Finishing his less than substantial breakfast, he drew a text from his shoulder bag, setting it on the table in front of him. His eyes flickered back and forth across the page, his brow furrowing in confusion. He set an elbow on the table, his hand burying itself deep into his dark hair.

She wished she were the book, to gain such attention. To be the person sitting next to him. To be someone so worthy of his attention would be unimaginable, for him to toss careless remarks to. To share them back with him.

Her eyes itched, and she blinked, looking away once more. Her pride burned, there was nothing she could do. No way to force herself to believe there was nothing for her in watching him. It was just what she did.

When she next looked up, it was to see him going past, his book tucked back into his bag, his pace fast enough not to be considered leisurely. She openly started, unprepared for him to walk so close. She so badly wanted to follow.

His robes were draped over his bag, as was typical for the warmer summer months. His expensive trousers were pressed and wrinkle-free, the top two buttons open on his crisp white shirt. His green and silver tie was loosened.

She knew he was probably studying in preparation for his NEWTs, much as she had been for months. He was disheveled; she presumed he wasn't quite getting as much sleep as he needed. His eyes would never betray him, never produce dark circles as hers might.

"Hey, you alright Hermione?" Ginny asked, staring concernedly. Her gaze tore away to the redhead on the other side of her.

"What?" She blinked, squeezing her eyes tightly shut momentarily. "Oh, yes. I'm fine."

And he was gone.

Sometimes Hermione wished she had never noticed him to begin with. This... system of observation she was currently trapped in was highly distracting. She refused to allow herself to call it an obsession.

He was in a great number of her advanced seventh year classes, some in which she had neither Harry or Ron to work with. Aside from a number of other students she had never gotten to know overly well, it was often her and them.

Them being the Slytherin duo, Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini. A great pair of enigmas, she thought of them.

And while the rest of the female population of Hogwarts worshipped Draco Malfoy, Hermione was torn. Because to her, Draco wasn't all that difficult to figure out.

Sure, it was always a question of where his alliance truly lied, at least to Hermione, but he was, for the most part, a Pureblood. That was all there was to it. A pureblood by nature, by reputation, and by all means, by his lifestyle. He was thought to be superior and he believed it.

Draco Malfoy was intelligent but not wise. He was offensive, yes, but he never quite bothered to come up with new material. The same insults, the same insolent blond Slytherin. The same harsh grey eyes, the womanizing attributes, the need to prove himself as something more than what he merely was. The need, which Hermione wasn't certain he would ever fulfill. She almost felt bad for him.

After having worked with Draco Malfoy for most of her seventh year as Head Girl and Boy, she knew all that she needed to know about him. She had him down to a tee, a concrete image, one she hardly wanted to care for. There were times when he was tolerable, but then again, Hermione thought that even a blast-ended skrewt could be tolerable if it tried hard enough.

But Blaise... oh, Blaise. Blaise was the one Hermione dreamed of through lonely nights, the one she pictured as she allowed herself to drift while she pored over the most boring of her studies in the library. The one she wanted to understand.

How the two of them had become best friends, she had trouble imagining. She presumed it to be something idealized, some sort of Pureblooded rule of society. Some sickeningly inbred tradition; purebloods with purebloods, above all others.

Or perhaps, and she chose to believe this version, the two had some inexplicable bond, much like she had with Harry and Ron. Something unexpected. But that was the magic of friendship. Of course, she would never admit something so utterly cheesy to either of them.

Blaise was the actual curiosity in her mind; she found him to be mystifying, a conundrum, and quite truthfully, gorgeous.

The way his dark hair complemented his tanned skin, and how chunks fell in his dark, penetrative eyes. And on the day of an exam or when an essay was due, his hair was always a little messier. Somehow the procrastination attribute of his personality only appealed to Hermione more. He was so unlike her.

To Hermione, Blaise was the epitome of a man. His shoulders broad, his features sculpted. He had a strong jaw, a straight nose, full lips. His smile, though rare, could definitely capture her whole-hearted attention.

And his deep accent made her simply melt. She knew he was from Italy, though had never learned from what part, or how he came to be in Great Britain. But that was alright with her; just the fact that he was there was enough.

He was so silent, so content to be behind the scenes, to let Draco take the attention. Blaise had probably never spoken more than a dozen words to Hermione, and yet she had fabricated her own beliefs about nearly every aspect of his life.

Hermione thought he was probably trustworthy. Although not overly trusting, unless one was gifted with his trust.

She knew he was smart, he did well enough in classes, but there was a casual aloofness to his persona that led Hermione to believe that Blaise would do just fine on his own if he needed to. He was the type to have a brain full of common-sense, general knowledge, and a bit of specific information on his favourite topics as well.

She knew there would probably never be a chance for her to speak to him, to get to know him, learn all there was to learn about him. He was an unattainable topic, and it drove her mad knowing there was something she had become so fixated on that she couldn't simply research in a book. That was part of the reason she found herself so inexplicably drawn to a Slytherin.

But what she wouldn't have given for a chance. It was her seventh and final year at Hogwarts, the war was looming ever closer, and she so desperately longed for a distraction. And not just any distraction.

And so she watched him. She followed him with her eyes, when her feet could not. And she learned what she could, knowing it would never be enough.

As Hermione sat down at her usual table in the back of the library after classes that day, she felt her nerves slowly begin to dissipate. No one usually ventured this far back into the library except for the occasional couple, seeking a rendezvous. But even that occurrence had become less frequent as word got around that the Head Girl spent the majority of her time in the far end.

Not that Hermione was bothered by that. She didn't want to see underaged students involved in that sort of activity any more than they wanted to be caught. And it gave her plenty of invaluable silent study time. She personally felt that no one else knew just how soft the chairs back there were.

She drew her Arithmancy book and a blank sheet of parchment from her bag, spreading it generously across the table. Chewing momentarily on the end of her quill as she read the assignment, she set to work, scribbling furiously, unaware that she had company.

"I told him obviously I was aware of that, and what did he take me for, some sort of halfwit, and of course he–" a loud voice entered the proximity and Hermione jerked her head up, clearing her throat angrily. The voice paused.

Hermione sighed, knowing she'd recognize that haughty drawl anywhere.

"Malfoy, if you wouldn't mind keeping it down," she called through the nearest row of shelves. The blond shoved his head out into the aisle to see her, his grey eyes narrowed.

"Oh Granger, I thought you knew by now this library isn't your private area of the school," he muttered, emerging entirely from the shelves.

"Really, Malfoy? And here I was mistaken for all those years?" She mocked. "Honestly, I–" she froze, her voice cutting out on her as another figure walked out from the aisles, apparently still browsing the titles. A certain Italian figure. She swallowed heavily, forgetting what she had been saying. Malfoy snorted, taking a seat at a table irritatingly close to hers.

"You aren't the only one who appreciates silence from time to time, Granger." Her eyes were drawn back to the blond's companion, ignoring his words. The brunette had selected a book from the shelves and walked over to Draco's table, pulling out a chair, lazily taking a seat.

Hermione tore her eyes away, falling back into her work begrudgingly, still aware of the two Slytherins in her close vicinity. She had almost been able to ignore their presence entirely when she caught a shock of blond hair in her peripheral vision and glanced over to see Malfoy staring at her.

"Hey Granger, let me see your notes from Runes this morning," he requested.

"Are you joking, Malfoy? Why would I give you my notes? I'd never get them back," she shot at him, continuing her essay.

"I just need to copy them Granger," he replied, exasperated. "I wasn't in a note-taking mood earlier."

"Oh I see," Hermione said lightly. "So that must be reason enough for me to give you something you don't deserve. You didn't feel like it."

He nodded at her acclamation, though she knew her sarcasm was not lost on him.

"You've got it exactly. Just let me borrow them."

Hermione huffed angrily, attempting to ignore the blond. However she looked back over as Draco stood up, and her eyes momentarily locked with Blaise's. So caught up was she in his gaze that she almost didn't notice him roll his eyes in the youngest Malfoy's direction. His lips curved up with the slightest amount of humour. He shook his head and looked back down at his book, writing something in the margin of the text he was studying.

Hermione was stunned. Not only had Blaise just made eye contact with her, but he had engaged her in the ridicule of his best friend, if only minimal. She blinked, attempting to process the information, when she noticed Draco had crossed the room and was standing over her.

"It's just notes, Granger, no need to be so uptight," he scoffed.

"Fine, take them," she muttered distractedly, flipping through her notes and producing the sheets on Runes. Malfoy looked taken aback, as if he hadn't expected her to relent, and he quietly walked the notes back to his table, copied them and returned them.

She stifled the urge to laugh. Malfoy really was so predictable. She had given in with relative ease on his part, something he hadn't been expecting, and so he had no idea how to respond. At the moment, her brain was too numb from Blaise's actions to actually seize her chance to belittle the elitist.

When they left a while later, Hermione's brain was still buzzing with excitement and she was forced to put her work away and head to dinner. There was no way she'd be able to concentrate like this.

All through the year Hermione had been forced to do nightly patrols with the Head Boy, and all year neither her nor Draco had any inclination whatsoever to speak to each other as they did their duty to the school.

On one particular night, some weeks after the event in the library had occurred, he broke their code of silence. They met as usual outside of the Headmaster's office and he greeted her with a curt nod, more acknowledgment than she was used to receiving.

He didn't actually speak until they were nearly completed their rounds, searching in the last of the dungeons. It had been a rather boring evening.

"So Granger," he drawled, avoiding her eye contact, "you know Blaise Zabini, do you not?"

"I do," she replied formally. Inside she was itching to know what he was about to say.

"So you should understand that he's fairly smart?" he said. "Much like you and myself."

She had to wonder where he was going with this. And wonder did she ever. The Slytherin sighed in frustration, running a hand through his hair.

"Look, I don't know how to say this. Blaise is a bit mad over his NEWTs; he needs a certain number of them to get this job in the Ministry that he's wanted since he was like nine, I don't particularly know what it is." He paused, looking to see if she was still listening. She was frozen, not sure what to expect.

"The thing is, Granger, Blaise and I share a worst class, transfiguration, which happens to be your best class. And the Ministry looks for transfiguration as one of the top NEWTs required. So I can't help him prepare if I don't even understand the material myself. You know it obviously kills me to ask you this, but Blaise is my best friend, and he's requested I ask if you'd study transfiguration with the two of us once a week."

The blond's admittance had sped up as he spoke, and by the end Hermione was sure she had misheard him. Two Slytherins, two purebloods, wanted her help with studying?

"Are you sure there aren't any Slytherins who do well in transfiguration?" She panicked. There wasn't really a way that she could possibly spend one evening a week with them, was there?

"Granger, have you ever taken a look at the sort of students we have in seventh year Slytherin?" She shrugged, not wanting to admit she saw his point. "You're the best, as horrible as it feels to say, and this is an issue where we're willing to shelf our pride if you are."

"To be entirely Slytherin with you, Malfoy, there's clearly nothing in this for me." She met his gaze for the first time, defiantly.

"True, I had hoped you'd be Gryffindor enough to do this out of the goodness of your heart and I wouldn't have to bring this up," he trailed off. He stared into the floor, trying to evince her conscience. She stared him down, not falling for his scheme.

"Cunning, Malfoy," she stated. "We all have our limits, and I really see no reason why I should help the pair of you."

"Alright Granger. What's in it for you, you ask? I should presume you mean aside from spending time with Blaise and myself, something many women in this school would give anything for." She raised an eyebrow, unimpressed.

"However, I know you better than that, and I understand that studying with the both of us is not at the top of your list of priorities. Of course, I already know you'll do this, or you might be soon learning you aren't the only observant one in the school, Granger." His silver eyes met hers with a meaningful gaze and her eyes widened in horror. Surely he wasn't insinuating what she thought he was... was he?

And when he said both of them in that way, he didn't mean just one of them, did he?

She swallowed, finding herself completely trapped. Even if he was bluffing, she couldn't risk Blaise finding out, let alone Harry and Ron. She would be destroyed.

"My help for your silence, Malfoy?" she whispered, her voice failing her.

"Precisely, Granger," he purred back, giving her hand a silky shake before he stepped closer to the wall, murmured a password and was gone into the Slytherin common room.

She didn't notice that she was back at the Gryffindor common room, didn't notice herself quietly changing out of her uniform, and only when she laid in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling did she question what she had gotten herself into.

And what might have just begun.