A/N: In this story, Ron and Harry are in Slytherin, and they aren't friends with Hermione. Because of this, Hermione is still unpopular and her only friend is Neville. The Silver Marauders (named after the Marauders, but with silver because of them being Slytherin), consisting of Harry, Ron, Blaise and Draco are the popular group and make Hermione's life hell. Voldemort is not an issue, and for the sake of the story line, he wasn't resurrected in Fourth Year, and none of the events of the original stories happened. This story is completely AU. It is also a little dark at the beginning, with violence and assault, but it will brighten.
...in which Blaise becomes suspicious.
Hermione Granger sat in the library with her best friend, Neville Longbottom. They usually spent an hour or two there every day, doing their homework and starting on any assignments they were given that week. It was the beginning of 6th year, and Hermione was already preparing herself for NEWTS, and Neville, being the closest thing she had to a friend was benefiting from this, highly.
"Hey, Hermione?" Neville asked, peering up from his parchment, "Can you help me with this for a second?"
Hermione put down her own quill and moved to look at Neville's essay. She and Neville had been friends since first year. It was more a friendship out of need, though, because neither of them had any others. Hermione was depicted as the know-it-all bookworm, and Neville was viewed as 'useless'. Hermione had to admit, though, his grades were better than some because of his friendship with her.
Despite that though, they were labelled the school 'losers'. No one wanted to sit near them in class, and no one bothered to speak to them, unless it was to torment. They were their only support system, each grateful for the company they got in a school filled with people who despised them.
Hermione took the parchment, and scribbled a few notes across for Neville to work on, before handing it back, "There you go. It's quite good already, Nev."
He beamed, before gasping, and checking the clock on the wall, "Oh no, I was meant to meet Professor Sprout in the Greenhouses ten minutes ago for my extra credit." He began packing up his parchment and books, and then turned to her frowning, "You'll be alright to get back to Gryffindor tower alone won't you?"
Hermione hesitated, but smiled, "Of course. Go on, you don't want to be late."
Neville gave her one last warm smile, before racing out of the library doors. Hermione sighed. The truth was, she probably wouldn't be fine to walk back to the Tower on her own, all thanks to four boys who had made her life hell since first year.
The Silver Marauder's as they were known, were the most popular group of boys in school, despite the fact that they were all Slytherin. Harry Potter, the Seeker for the Slytherin Quidditch team, was an arrogant ass, in Hermione's opinion. He had a constant gaggle of girls around, and he strutted, actually strutted, around the school as though he were the resident playboy. Hermione rolled her eyes at the thought.
The clown of the group was Ronald Weasley; he had his own cluster of fan-girls and played Keeper for the Slytherin Quidditch Team. Hermione wasn't certain if he ever did any homework on his own. He seemed to date a lot of girls in Ravenclaw, so she assumed they did it for him. He wasn't quite as arrogant as Potter, but he annoyed her because he was one to make jokes at her and Neville's expense.
Blaise Zabini was kind of tolerable. He was the most attractive of the group and had girls hanging off him, but the fact that he didn't play Quidditch and was more of the silent, mature type evened it out. He also never responded to admiration he received, and seemed more level headed. Hermione had been paired with him once in Potions, he was quite smart. He was the least threatening out of them all, only because when they ganged up on her, he never actually laughed or joined in. He just stood and watched, though she assumed that was just as bad.
The final member of the infamous group, and the bane of Hermione's existence was Draco Malfoy. He was Captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team in which he played Chaser. He was a racist pureblood, which meant he hated Muggleborns. In other words, he hated Hermione, and boy did he show it. Hermione was certain it was because of him that she and Neville were so ostracised within the school. He'd disliked her since 1st year when she beat him in a Potions test, and ever since then he'd made her life hell.
If she walked alone in the corridors he would hex her while his friends and most of the student body laughed; if it was crowded he would knock her over and spill her books by 'accident'. The scariest was when they were alone. She remembered the last time that happened, he had pinned her against the wall by the neck, hissing menacing insults in her face while she whimpered and tried not to suffocate. He'd only stopped when they'd heard footsteps; she hated to think what would have happened otherwise.
Yes, he hated her more than he hated anyone, probably even more so than Neville, and she was always watching her back because of it. Honestly, she couldn't wait until she graduated so she didn't feel fear any longer. Hermione was brave, of course, she was a Gryffindor. But four well-built Slytherin boys against a petite girl was something she thought anyone would be scared of.
Hermione was pulled from her thoughts by Madam Pince, "Hermione, dear, it's almost curfew. I have to close up now."
The woman gave Hermione a sympathetic smile. Madam Pince was one of the few that knew what Hermione went through. Many times, she'd had to intervene when the Silver Marauders had tracked Hermione down in the library when they were bored.
Hermione tried to put on a brave face, "Oh, ok," she hesitated, standing from her seat, "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow then. Goodnight, Madam Pince."
Hermione packed her stuff away and swung her book back over her shoulder. As she walked out of the library doors she heard the librarian say a quick goodnight from behind her. Hermione didn't miss the warning to be careful, either.
Hermione stood outside the doors to the library, and heard them lock with a loud click. She breathed in a deep breath.
Just relax Hermione, they're probably already in their dorms. The dungeons are as far away from Gryffindor tower as possible.
She breathed out. Hermione had been lucky lately. School had started a week ago, and she had managed to dodge them everywhere but in classes, where they couldn't do anything much anyway. She hoped her luck would continue for a while at least. She knew they wouldn't have given up harassing her; it was something they'd been doing for years.
Hermione pushed her thoughts away and began strolling down the corridor towards the shifting staircase. She couldn't see anyone around and was thankful for it. She only hoped that Neville got back without running into any of the Silver Marauders.
She turned the corner, stepping onto the staircase, and began walking up the stairs, waiting patiently for it to move to the correct landing.
Hermione's left foot had just made contact with the fifth floor landing when she heard voices and laughter echoing around the staircase. She looked up and could see a group of students on the landing above making their way down the stairs.
She recognised those voices immediately, and inwardly cringed.
It was the Silver Marauders.
She had no choice but to pass them, or hide.
She decided safety was her best option, however, and turned to race down a corridor on the fifth floor, but not before she heard a cheery voice call, "Well, look who it is!"
She didn't bother to look back; she'd recognise Weasley's voice anywhere, so in her best interest she kept racing as fast as she could to safety. She knew there was a short cut to Gryffindor tower here, somewhere down this corridor; ironically, she'd heard Weasley's twin brothers talking about it in her second year.
It was either that, or hide in the Prefects bathroom. But Malfoy was a prefect too, and she knew she'd be trapped if she went in there.
She heard footsteps racing behind her, so she started running at full pace, only to hear them begin speeding up behind her too. She saw the statue of Boris the Bewildered up ahead, and knew that the shortcut to Gryffindor tower was around here somewhere. She paused for only a moment to decide which direction to take when she felt a pair of hands grab her from behind.
She tried to pry herself free, but ended up falling to the floor and spilling her books everywhere. The boys laughed at her ungraceful fall, and she heard the sound of feminine giggles mixed in with the low hum. Looking up she saw Pansy Parkinson, and another girl she didn't recognise from Hufflepuff, laughing along with the boys.
Potter stepped over and leered down at her, "Well Granger, you've certainly changed a lot over the summer," he said, seductively eyeing her up and down, "I might have to make sure I catch you in the library alone, sometime."
Hermione shuddered at his innuendo, he would be the last person she'd do that with. She flinched slightly as Malfoy stepped forward and pulled Potter backwards. Hermione began to shake. The others were merely pains in the butt, but Malfoy actually scared her. He wasn't afraid to hurt her.
"That's disgusting, Potter. She's a filthy mudblood. Merlin knows what you'd catch." He spat in her direction, "Then again, I'd be surprised if anyone's actually gone near her."
He sneered down at her as the others guffawed loudly. Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.
"You act all tough here, Malfoy, but you're probably scared of little daddy Death-Eater. Am I right?" The others behind them exchanged wary looks and Hermione knew it was the worst thing she could have mentioned. She swallowed nervously. Why couldn't she do the wise thing and keep her mouth shut, despite the truth of her words.
If possible, Draco's expression became even more sour at her words. Hermione eyed the surrounding corridor in the hopes that a patrolling prefect or teacher might see them, but she was out of luck, there was no one around.
Blaise Zabini was leaning against the stone wall behind Malfoy watching the exchange with mild interest. Potter on the other hand was making out with the Hufflepuff girl, not paying attention to Hermione at all anymore. Weasley and Pansy however, were watching with unbridled interest.
"You'll regret that, mudblood," Malfoy hissed dangerously, "Levicorpus!"
Hermione was immediately elevated upside down, hanging by her ankle. Her robes had fallen over her head and she knew her skirt had too.
"Nice knickers, Granger!" Pansy giggled, shrilly. The others laughed. All except Malfoy, she noted. He rarely laughed when he decided to torture her. It was all scowls and serious expressions.
"I always picked her for the white, virgin, cotton ones," she heard Weasley say, amused.
"Of course they are," Pansy answered, as though it was obvious, "She doesn't have girly underwear because no one wants to see her in it!"
The others broke down into laughter, excluding Malfoy who was busy levitating her. Hermione could feel herself moving through the air, and eventually she stopped.
She heard Malfoy speak the password to the prefect's bathroom, and she instantly regretted coming down this corridor. She heard the others walking behind, clearly not wanting to miss the show. While still hanging by her ankle, she heard the tap to the prefect's swimming pool-sized bathtub turn on and looking down, she saw water filling the bath, which she was now levitating above.
So they were going to dump her in the bath tub, that wasn't so bad, right? Instantly she felt the weight of her robes gone; looking up confused she saw she had been stripped down to only her underwear. She heard Potter and Weasley laugh, along with Pansy commenting about her bra being just as 'virgin' as her knickers.
"Potter, what the bloody hell did you do that for?" Growled Malfoy, who Hermione could see was glaring at the raven-haired boy.
"Well you're giving her a bath," he answered innocently; "I thought I should help her undress."
Both he and Weasley held their sides laughing, while Draco turned around shaking his head in disbelief. Zabini, Hermione noticed was leaning on the door, looking between Malfoy and herself with an odd expression.
She was pulled away from his eyes as Malfoy spoke, "Okay, Mudblood. Apologise and say you're a filthy mudblood who doesn't deserve to be taught magic, and I won't dunk you."
No matter how scared Hermione was of what Malfoy might do to her, she was a Gryffindor, and despite her Muggleborn heritage she knew she had just as much right to study magic as anyone else. She set her jaw, the same way she always did when she was being stubborn and glared at the upside down face of the blond boy in front of her.
"If I'm not worthy of learning magic, why is it I beat you every year? Are you just stupid for a pureblood or something?" The was a collective 'ooooh' from both Potter and Weasley, and she instantly regretted opening her mouth when she saw the look of anger plastered on Malfoy's face. She always knew when he was mad, because his normally pale cheeks tinged pink.
She saw him wave his wand and instantly she was dangling head first in the water, which she discovered was freezing cold, her body submerged to her waist. She tried to use her stomach muscles to pull herself out, but they weren't strong enough. She hadn't had a chance to take a breath before she was dunked and her body needed oxygen desperately, she couldn't hold her breath any longer and her bodily impulse took over and she sucked in a gasp of air, which turned out to be water.
She felt herself be pulled by the ankle out of the water a few seconds later. As she spluttered and coughed and attempted to get the water out of her airway, she heard laughing around her. Who could honestly find nearly drowning a person funny? She supposed they were Slytherins...
"Ready to say it yet, Granger?" Malfoy asked, staring at her. Hermione had no doubt now that her white cotton bra was wet and see-through, so she moved her hands to cover herself, as she continued spluttering and coughing.
"Guess not." He said, and he flicked his wand submerging her again. This time Hermione had managed to take a breath before he dunked her, yet her previous coughing fit had not ceased, so she continued choking under water.
It was times like this Hermione hated her life. She wasn't that different to them, yet they hated her anyway. She felt her emotions coming to the surface. Why couldn't they just leave her alone for once?
He pulled her back out of the water moments later. She was shivering and had only just stopped choking from her previous near drowning. She looked defiantly back at him, trying not to let him see that she really just wanted to curl in a ball and cry.
He seemed to notice, however, and if anything he seemed to like it. Not in the way Weasley and Potter enjoyed bullying her, with mere amusement, but in the way someone enjoys something they love. Like the face she was sure made when she stepped into the library. Pleasure mixed with awe.
Was he that horrible that he liked to see people cry because of him? Hermione was certain he was, after seeing it herself.
"We better go now, Malfoy. Filch comes and patrols these corridors in ten minutes," Potter opened the portrait hole and left with the Hufflepuff girl, Pansy, and Weasley. Zabini turned and left with one last glance at Hermione.
It was then only Malfoy and Hermione. He was staring at her; like he was wondering what else he could possibly do to hurt her.
"Are you going to let me down?" She asked in a shaky voice, her throat still sensitive from her near drowning, "If Filch catches you, it'll cost you your prefect badge."
Malfoy sneered, before flicking his wand and removing the levitation spell. She fell with a loud splash in the bath, and submerged moments later to find Draco still sneering down at her. She didn't want to get out with him standing there, especially since she was sure her knickers were now see through.
For one defiant moment they locked eyes. Hermione was wondering if he was reading her mind, but she was sure he wouldn't waste the skill on her. After a second she looked away, unable to stand the disgust she saw directed at her, and she saw him turn and walk out of the bathroom, leaving her cold, shivering and barely dressed.
Hermione dried herself off and dressed back in her robes. They were damp from being left on the tiled floor, but she didn't care right now. All she could do was think that if this was how the year started for her, it would only get worse from then on. She raced as fast as she could up the staircase to the Fat Lady's portrait and stepped inside.
She found Neville sitting on a seat in front of the fire. The common room was otherwise empty. When he saw her enter, looking rather dishevelled, he stood abruptly and looked at her with concern.
"Do I even need to ask what happened?" He asked, sadly. Hermione took the seat next to him basking in the warmth of the fireplace.
"When is it ever not them? They've been torturing us for years, Nev." Hermione wiped her eyes and looked at the boy next to her, "You've had to put up with them too."
Neville sighed, "I suppose, but I haven't had it nearly as bad as you have."
"I just wish they'd leave me alone." Hermione broke down sobbing, and Neville comforted her. This had become a ritual for them, to cry on the others shoulder.
"We'll be out of here soon, Hermione. You'll go on to do great things and prove them all wrong." He whispered soothingly.
Hermione knew Neville was right. She would go on to great things and this hell would be over soon, but she wished it would be sooner. The constant fear and insults and abuse were making her doubt herself.
As her tears dried, Hermione and Neville went their separate ways at the stairs. She slipped in to bed and dreamed of happy things, knowing it was the one escape she had for now.
In the Slytherin dorms, Blaise Zabini lay in bed staring at the ceiling. He shared a dorm with Malfoy, Potter, Weasley and another boy they didn't bother to talk to, Goyle or something; he was thick as a brick.
Potter and Weasley were currently playing exploding snap on the floor, and Draco was lying on his bed, with his hand behind his head, staring at the ceiling, much in the same fashion as Zabini.
"I really am going to have to get onto Granger," Potter began, placing a card down, "Did you see her body? Who would have ever suspected that tight little thing was hiding under all those robes." He shook his head in disbelief.
Blaise glanced over to see Malfoy's jaw tense, before he spoke, "Potter, stop talking about the mudblood in that way. It's disgusting to think you'd even want to go near her. Have some respect for yourself; even you have to have some standards."
Potter scoffed, "Come on. Even you have to admit she's a pretty little thing, as long as she keeps her mouth shut, that is." Both Potter and Weasley broke out in laughter. Draco's eyes narrowed at the ceiling.
"Might have to gag her then, Harry," Ron suggested, and both the boys broke into laughter again. Blaise saw Malfoy's fist tense.
"Might have to tie her up completely," Potter said, winking at the red head. Draco sat up looking ready to kill, his cheeks were tinged pink. He went to open his mouth but whatever abuse he was about to give them was drowned out by the cards exploding loudly in the faces of Potter and Weasley.
The two boys began spluttering and fanning away the smoke. "Good game," Ron commented, trying not to breathe in. They went and slipped in to their respective beds.
Draco sat staring at the dissipating smoke, an almost pained expression on his face. He looked up to see Blaise eyeing him curiously. "Sod off, Zabini," he muttered, before lying back down and rolling on his side so his face was no longer in view.
Blaise stared back at the ceiling. Malfoy was acting odd at the mention of Granger. Had something happened after they left, or did her really just despise her that much?
Blaise had never gotten involved in the others' bullying of Granger, and occasionally, Longbottom. He felt he was above such immature things, but he had to admit, Potter and Weasley only really went along with it because of Malfoy.
Draco had begun hating Hermione first and then they joined in later, just for the fun of it, not really because they hated her, but just for something to do. Blaise had to admit, however, the way Malfoy got when he saw Hermione or was in the middle of taunting her, was obsessive. It was like he was locked onto a target. He managed to pick her out of crowds in the corridors; it was like he was constantly looking for her.
Was he so consumed with hate that he thought about ways to make her life hell 24/7? Blaise thought otherwise. He'd seen the way he was looking at her tonight in the prefect's bathroom, like he resented her existence, but needed it at the same time. Blaise decided perhaps this was something he would need to watch out for.
Blaise picked up his wand and muttered, "Nox." The room went dark and he rolled over, listening to the sounds of snores from his roommates as he fell asleep.
The next morning, the Silver Marauders were up and ready by 7:30 to go down to breakfast, excluding Potter, that is. The raven haired boy spent forever each morning attempting to fix his messy hair, but it never worked.
"Would he just bloody-well give up on it already?" Muttered Weasley, he was never happy when people kept him from eating.
Draco snorted, "He was just born with feminine characteristics." The three boys snickered at their friend's expense.
Potter emerged some minutes later, much to the relief of Weasley, and they made their way out the portrait hole.
Outside the Great Hall, they were greeted by a cheery Ginny Weasley. Blaise's ears immediately pricked up whenever Ginny was nearby. He'd never let it be known, but he'd liked the Gryffindor since 4th year.
He'd talked to the red-head a lot, since he was of course best friends with her brother, and had found they got along well. The only problem was she didn't seem to show interest in him, but more in his blond best friend.
"Morning," Ginny greeted brightly, "How are you all today?"
"Starving," Ron answered grumpily, "Now move." He pushed past his sister and into the Great Hall; Potter followed giving her a quick greeting as he passed.
"Well isn't he just a ray of sunshine," she muttered sarcastically, turning back to Blaise and Malfoy.
Malfoy smirked, "Probably takes after his sister." Blaise was a little put out when he saw Ginny blush. She never did that for him.
The red-head girl began talking to Malfoy as they strolled slowly into the Great Hall. Blaise looked away from the scene, feeling a little annoyed when he spotted Granger and Longbottom, walking from the opposite direction. And it seemed he wasn't the only one.
Malfoy had turned his attention completely away from Ginny and was staring straight over her head at Granger, who hadn't even noticed them standing there as she entered the great hall. His eyes followed her all the way to her table and only then did he seem to snap out of his daze and turn back to the red-headed girl in front of him.
He slipped his arm around Ginny who, if possible, blushed even harder. Blaise felt the jealousy and anger boil inside him and was only made worse when Malfoy began whispering in her ear. Whatever he'd said elicited a nod from her and with one last smile she turned and walked to the Gryffindor table.
"Come on," Malfoy muttered to Blaise, walking with his hands in his pockets toward the Slytherin table. He spared a glance toward the Gryffindor table, thinking Blaise couldn't see. He saw Draco's eyes narrow, and Blaise followed his gaze, expecting to see Ginny.
He was surprised, however, when he saw Malfoy was watching Granger, who was laughing along with Longbottom, her head rested on his shoulder. Blaise turned back to Malfoy, to find he had turned away from the scene. Blaise narrowed his eyes, suspiciously. What was going on here?
On their way to their first lesson, Potions with the Gryffindors, they found themselves behind none other than Granger and Longbottom. Potter and Weasley barely noticed when Malfoy sped up his footsteps.
He came up fast from behind the pair and barged Longbottom in the shoulder, causing him to fall and spill his books. Malfoy's sneer, however, was directed at Granger, who was glaring at him, their eyes locked the whole time he passed. Potter and Weasley were guffawing loudly, but Blaise narrowed his eyes again. He couldn't possibly hate her that much?
They moved around Granger who was now helping Longbottom pick up his books. Potter and Weasley gave a few sarcastic remarks, but Blaise stayed quiet.
In Potions, the four boys sat at the same desk. Snape walked in, slamming the door behind him.
He turned to the class, "Today we will be starting a new project," he drawled, "Who can tell me what they know about the Polyjuice Potion?"
Not surprisingly, Hermione's hand was the first, and only one that shot in the air. Snape merely looked around, ignoring her eagerness.
"No one?" He asked. Hermione raised her hand even higher, her bottom no longer on the seat.
"What about you, Longbottom?" Snape asked, eyeing Neville with disdain. The boy in question sunk in his chair, along with Granger who was disappointed about not getting picked, but was now looking worriedly towards her friend who obviously didn't know the answer. She did the unwise thing and whispered it to him.
"Miss Granger," Snape snapped, causing her to jump. Blaise heard Draco snigger. "Is your name Longbottom?"
Granger looked to down blushing and muttered, "No, sir."
"What was that, Miss Granger?" Snape asked, with a raised eyebrow.
Hermione looked up at the professor, "No, sir." She said more loudly.
"10 points from Gryffindor for being an incessant know-it-all," Snape drawled, before he turned his attention back to the class, "Now, Polyjuice potion allows..." Snape went into a quick explanation of the potion, while many students took notes.
"I love this class," Malfoy whispered happily to the four boys, "Snape's the only one who puts that filthy mudblood in her place." He smirked, and the other two boys snickered. Blaise however stayed quiet.
"Now, I'll be splitting you into pairs for an assignment that will take one month to complete." Snape began, "You will be brewing Polyjuice potion, which as I just explained, takes one month to brew. You will also complete a theory aspect in which you will explain the potion, its use, the individual ingredients and why combining them creates the potion. Any questions?"
No one raised their hand so he continued, "When I call out your name, go and sit beside your partner."
He began to read off a list of parchment, pairing people off. There were many groans and people hesitated to move.
"...Blaise Zabini and Hermione Granger..." Blaise looked over at Hermione, who looked slightly worried at the pairing, despite the fact that he'd been paired with her once before in 3rd year. He supposed the bullying had escalated a lot since then, though.
"Sucked in, Zabini," Weasley said snickering. Malfoy was oddly silent.
"...Draco Malfoy and Neville Longbottom..." Both Weasley and Potter had to stick their hands over their mouths to stifle their laughs. Malfoy scowled at them before turning to Blaise.
"Swap me," he hissed, not bothering to spare a look at Longbottom, who didn't look happy at all.
Blaise looked at him puzzled, "But you hate Granger?"
"Yes, but it's not as bad as Longbottom. He's an idiot." He scowled toward the boy in question.
"You could always make Potter swap you, he's with Pansy," Blaise suggested.
"Pansy's an idiot as well," Draco hissed, "Just bloody-well swap me."
"There will be no swapping partners," Snape said loudly. The boys looked up expecting Snape to be looking at them, but noticed he was actually directing it at Longbottom, who had a few girls around him trying to convince him to swap so they could be with Draco.
"Now stop your complaining and sit next to your partners," the potions teacher ordered them. Potter and Weasley moved to their partners' tables, and Blaise left a scowling Malfoy to go sit next to Hermione.
He noticed she shifted away from him a few inches as he sat down in Neville's previous seat. Looking over he noticed Malfoy looking none too pleased about the boy sitting in Blaise's previous seat.
The potion instructions appeared on the board, and the students began to prepare their work stations and gather ingredients from the cupboard.
When they started brewing their potions, Hermione and Blaise worked in silence, except for the occasional comment on what ingredient was next. Blaise noticed that Draco was still looking sulky, and Longbottom just looked plain terrified.
At the end of the lesson, Snape flicked his wand to put their cauldrons away to permeate, until the next lesson when they would need to tend to them.
"Now, you've begun the practical aspect, so I want you to begin working on the theory aspect as soon as possible. We will only be dedicating class time to tend to the potion, and to complete your other course work. The research must be done in your own time."
With that the class was dismissed. Hermione turned to Blaise.
"I'll be in the library tonight working on it, you can come or not come, I don't care. But, if you do come, you don't bring them." She spared a look toward his three friends who were exiting the classroom; Malfoy was glancing over toward them.
Blaise merely nodded, taken aback by her rude tone. He supposed however that he would be the same if he'd had to put up with the things she had.
He watched her walk out with Neville, before picking up his own bag and doing the same.
That night after dinner, the four boys were relaxing in their dorms. Potter and Weasley were tossing a miniature quaffle to each other from where they were lying on their beds. Malfoy was reading a Quidditch magazine and Blaise was relaxing on his bed.
"What time is it?" He asked suddenly. Draco looked up from his magazine.
"Not sure. Around 8, I think. Why?" He watched Blaise sit up and pick up his book bag.
"I'm meant to meet Granger in the library to work on the Potions assignment," Blaise stood, and placed his bag over his shoulder.
"Great, we'll come." Draco closed his magazine and stood.
"Uh," Blaise hesitated, "She sort of specifically asked me to come alone."
Draco's eyes narrowed, "Why does she want to see you alone?"
"Well she didn't say that...she just asked not to bring any of you." Blaise said. Draco let out a bark of laughter; the other two boys smirked.
"Why, is little Granger scared of us, is she?" Weasley asked in a cooing voice.
Potter and Malfoy snickered. Blaise sighed, "I dunno. Could you really blame her if she is?"
Draco turned to him, eyes narrowed. "Since when do you stick up for the mudblood? Last time I checked, you never stepped in to stop us when we've taunted her."
"I'm not sticking up for her; I'm just saying if I want to get this assignment done, you can't come." Blaise turned to leave, but Malfoy spoke up.
"Well Longbottom's my partner and no doubt he's up there with her, so I think I will come." He picked up his book bag and swung it over his shoulder, brushing past Blaise out the door.
Blaise sighed and followed him out.
In the Library, Hermione was sitting at her usual table with Neville. They were working on a Herbology assignment currently, in which they had to explain the magical properties of a list of plants they'd been given. This was the one subject Neville excelled at, and Hermione always noticed the twinkle in his eyes when he spoke of the subject.
Hermione was wondering if Zabini would actually meet her, she thought he might not, after all he was a Silver Marauder and if he was anything like the others he probably hated her and would rather hang out with Moaning Myrtle then work on an assignment with her.
The Gryffindor was surprised, however, when she saw Zabini emerge from behind the bookcases and head toward her table. That surprise quickly turned to anger and a bit of nervousness when she saw Draco Malfoy trailing behind him.
Neville seemed just as unimpressed by the whole situation, and was eyeing the two with apprehension.
"Granger," Zabini nodded toward her, before turning to Neville and nodding, "Longbottom."
Neither said anything and Hermione scowled at the Italian. "Let's just get this over with, shall we?"
The two Slytherins sat in the only two vacant seats at the table, Malfoy looking like he didn't want to be there at all, as it might risk his reputation. This confused Blaise, as he'd practically insisted he come.
"I'll go find a book," Hermione said, trying not to let her anger show. Neville gave her a look as if to say 'Don't leave me!' but she was far too annoyed to notice.
She began wandering the shelves, running her finger along the titles of books. She pulled one off the shelf and began flicking through it when she noticed someone standing behind her out of the corner of her eye. She turned to find Blaise Zabini looking down at her.
"Why are you standing there?" She whispered harshly, not wanting to cut through the peaceful silence of the library.
"Don't be pissed. I told him not to come, but he insisted." Blaise replied, not bothering to lower his voice.
"I'm sure," Hermione countered, sarcastically.
Blaise went to speak, but was interrupted by a drawl from behind him.
"Not interrupting anything, am I?" Malfoy sneered, eyeing the two of them suspiciously.
Blaise looked at him like he was being ridiculous. Hermione merely narrowed her eyes at him and turned to walk down the aisle and around the corner to the adjacent book shelf. She kept one ear pricked at their whispered conversation.
"You were looking pretty cozy," Hermione could hear the disgust in Malfoy's voice, "Don't tell me you've got a thing for the mudblood?" Hermione flinched slightly at the horrid name.
She heard Blaise scoff. "Don't be ridiculous, Malfoy." She heard the sound of footsteps walking off, and turned back to her perusal of the shelves.
She froze as she noticed a tall shadow block her light from behind; she turned and looked up to find the sneering face of Draco Malfoy looking down at her.
She attempted to walk away but he reached out and grabbed her around the wrist, causing her to wince at the pain. He began to walk toward her effectively pinning her to the book shelves. This was a purely intimidating stance however, though she expected any other girl might enjoy it. She was near-trembling with fear.
"What's the matter, mudblood? Don't you like me touching you?" He hissed close to her face and she felt the heat on her ear. "It's me who should be disgusted, though." He continued, sneering down at her.
"Leave me alone," she managed to say, though she was quite scared.
He let out a menacing chuckle, "Oh right, you only want Zabini touching you. The little mudblood has standards."
She managed to forget her fear for one ridiculous second to scoff at him, "You honestly think he would go near me?"
He looked her up and down for a moment, then stepped back, "It better stay that way, Granger. Potter may have no standards when it comes to girls because he's a half-blood, but pure-bloods don't associate with mudblood filth like you."
"What's your point?" She asked, feeling a little hurt at his words, but feeling much more confident now that he wasn't in her personal space. While he was quite attractive (though she'd never admit it freely), she'd only ever associated his presence with torture.
"My point is, don't start thinking that because Zabini doesn't sneer at you, that it means you're something special. It doesn't mean you're pretty, or that anyone wants you, it just means he's put aside his prejudice for a while to work with you. Got it, mudblood?"
He stared down at her and Hermione stared defiantly back. He was such an arrogant git. Right now he wasn't scaring her; he was just being a nuisance.
Hermione turned to storm away from him, but once again her arm was gripped in his hand tightly as he spun her around causing her to collide straight into his chest. He was much taller than her, so all she could see and feel was the structure of his body.
There was an odd moment where he looked down at her, his eyes void of disgust, and Hermione looked up at him, quite shocked to see his face in such a relaxed way.
The moment passed quickly however and as Hermione recoiled from him he pushed her away, hard, causing her to fall on her back on the stone floor. She felt a pain shoot through her chest instantly.
Malfoy didn't hesitate as he strode off out of the rows of shelves, leaving Hermione lying on the ground. Once alone, she sat up though she was having difficulty breathing. She felt as though she'd broken a rib from falling so hard on the floor, but she knew it wasn't that serious.
She moved to a crouching position, clutching herself around the chest and attempted to breathe steadily.
"Hermione, what's wrong?" She looked up to see Neville crouching down beside her, looking concerned, "What did he do this time?"
Hermione merely shook her head, she wasn't sure she could talk right now without extreme pain. Neville placed an arm around her and helped her stand, though she was rather crouched over and breathing in small intakes, as she found breathing deeply hurt too much.
"I'll take you to the Hospital Wing." He said as they walked out of the shelves toward their table, which was, Hermione noticed unhappily, still occupied by the two Slytherins. As they made their way over to the table Blaise looked up.
He eyed her stature and her quick breaths, and instantly sent a sideways glance to Malfoy who was pointedly staring at his quill like they weren't even there.
"I'm taking her to the hospital wing," Neville told the two boys, sounding as though he were trying to hold back his anger. Hermione found it unnecessary though, it was not as though they would care. She did notice however that Malfoy looked up, and took in her pained expression, before looking back down. Hermione found it odd that his eyes weren't filled with the pleasure he got the last time he'd caused her bodily harm. She almost thought she saw a look of regret, but upon a second glance she'd realised she must have mistaken it for indifference.
As Hermione and Neville hobbled away slowly; with Neville carrying both of their bags on his shoulder, Blaise turned to Malfoy.
"So what did you do now?" He asked, not bothering to act as though he was surprised.
Draco's eyes shot to his with a look of scorn, "Concerned about her safety?"
Blaise scoffed, "Bloody hell, what is it with you and thinking that I've got a thing for her?" He snapped, impatiently, "You seem worried that I might!"
Draco sent a particular nasty look his way, "Perhaps I am worried. I don't want to be seen with people who associate with that filth."
Blaise laughed dryly, "Really? Because that's not the impression I'm getting."
Draco leaned back resting his chair on two legs; he stared at the Italian almost daring him to continue, "And what is the impression you're getting, Zabini?" he asked, barely keeping the anger out of his voice.
"Well, you're always talking about her. It's pretty obsessive. If I wasn't so sure you hated her, I'd say you might like her, with the way you act."
Draco's chair slammed back down on to four legs with a large bang that echoed throughout the library as he scowled at the boy in front of him. Students around had looked up from their work, and he could hear Madam Pince storming over.
"You're fucking lucky you're my friend," hissed Draco, before packing his things just in time for the librarian to grab him by the back of his robes and pull him toward the library doors.
Blaise sat at the table alone, staring at his quill for some time. He had noticed odd things about Draco in respect to Hermione lately. Though, it had always been like that...
Could he really like her, or possibly love her? Blaise didn't want to think that was the case, because if that was the way he acted toward someone he loved...
Blaise was broken from his thoughts by Ginny Weasley taking a seat at his table. The usually chirpy girl was looking rather disconcerted.
"Hey Blaise," she greeted, rather flatly than usual. She didn't greet him with her usual bright smile.
"What's wrong?" Blaise asked, eyeing her. She really was beautiful, he couldn't count the number of times he'd wanted to reach out and run his hands through her shiny hair. He wondered if it was a soft as it looked.
"Oh, nothing," she said half-heartedly, "You haven't seen Draco have you? I've been looking for him everywhere."
Blaise's heart sank; of course she was looking for Draco. While Blaise had his own horde of fan-girls, mostly Ravenclaws because of his intelligence; he'd never actually been interested in them. The one girl he wanted spent all her time chasing his friend. What luck he had. "He left here about 20 minutes ago."
"He was here?" She asked, surprised, "He was supposed to meet me in the Astronomy tower tonight?" She looked down blushing. Everyone knew what happened in the Astronomy tower.
Blaise nodded, though he felt a bit ill at the thought of Ginny and Draco. "Right."
They fell into an awkward silence.
It was odd that Draco would pass up a rendezvous with Ginny to spend his night studying in the library. This only brought his thoughts back to one thing.
"Ginny, you're a girl." He began, she smiled half amused at his observation, it sounded like something her brother would say, "Could someone still like a person, even if they torment them constantly?"
Ginny broke into a sly grin, "Has some girl been bullying you, Blaise?"
Blaise smirked, not the least bit embarrassed, "Maybe." He lied. He didn't want to tell her about his suspicions, as she seemed to have invested some feelings into Draco, it would only hurt her.
Ginny chuckled. "Well to answer your question; yes. It could mean they like you. Haven't you ever done that? Teased the girl you like?"
Blaise shook his head; he'd always been mature, even when he was younger. Ginny gave him a surprised look.
"Well most guys do it at some point."
"Why?" He questioned. It seemed odd to him that if you liked someone, you'd be mean to them.
"Well, sometimes it's to get the girls attention when they're too scared to tell her they like her," Ginny started, thoughtfully, "or it could be that they're in denial about it."
"In denial?" Blaise questioned, thinking back to his previous encounter with Draco.
"Sure, they might be mean to them to cover the fact that they like her, because they're ashamed or something," Ginny said, not quite interested, "They say there's a fine line between love and hate, you know."
"Right," Blaise said, deep in thought. Ginny gave him an odd look, before sighing.
"I should go. I'll see you later, Blaise. If you see Draco, tell him I was looking for him." She stood and left. Blaise didn't even watch her leave as he became enthralled in his suspicions.
When Blaise got back to his dorms, he found them empty except for Draco who was lying on his bed, staring at his ceiling.
"Where's Potter and Weasley?" Blaise asked as she made to lie on his own bed.
"Meeting up with some girls," Draco said, never once taking his eyes from the roof. At least he wasn't still pissed about before, not noticeably pissed, anyway.
"Right." Blaise commented, barely interested. "Speaking of which, Ginny was looking for you...says you were supposed to meet up tonight." He finished, rather uncomfortably.
"Huh? Oh yeah, forgot about that." Draco said, sounding bored. Blaise felt a little annoyed at his friends lack of concern. If it was him, he certainly wouldn't forget to meet Ginny.
"She seemed upset," Blaise continued, feigning indifference.
"So? She's just a girl who wants to jump my bones, I'm sure she'll get over it." Draco said impatiently, "I'll just ask her out again tomorrow and she'll be all over me, no big deal."
Blaise bristled in anger, but stayed quiet. He was used to Draco's indifference about girls, but when it came to Ginny he was highly sensitive. The only girl Draco had focused on for longer than a month was Granger.
He'd been torturing her for years, and he never seemed to tire of it. Blaise supposed it must be a different sort of satisfaction, but overall, Hermione was the only girl that had managed to keep Draco interested, though not intentionally, for more than a few weeks.
Blaise thought about what Ginny had said. Could Draco be in denial? Could he not even realise he liked her? Did he even like her at all? Blaise wasn't sure, but he was going to find out.
Hermione left the hospital wing that night feeling much better. Her fall had apparently resulted in a bruised lung which could be easily fixed with a few potions. Neville had insisted she tell the nurse what had happened, but Hermione had told her that she tripped over a book in the library. It was close to the truth...at least, she was in the library when it happened.
Hermione was more worried about the awkward moment she'd had with Malfoy. For a moment she'd almost forgotten who he was and how horrible he was, but only for a short moment. It still made her uncomfortable though, to think she'd been that close to him.
She smirked at she thought of him scrubbing himself clean to get the 'mudblood germs' off of him. What a complete git he was. And Zabini! He was just as bad, turning a blind-eye to his friend's behaviour.
What's more, it frustrated her that Malfoy harassed her so much that he was now a regular thought of hers. She mentally slapped herself for letting them get to her. She knew that's what they wanted, and she'd be damned if she would let it happen.
Both Blaise and Hermione went to bed that night thinking of ways to change things, and what things needed to change.
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