Character(s): Hermione Granger and Blaise Zabini
Word Count: 2277
Summary: Blaise offers to help Harry by keeping Hermione informed on the Slytherins, but his motivations are more self serving than noble.
Warnings: AU after Year 6 (Half Blood Prince)
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns Harry Potter
Author Notes: Thanks to Uncle C for the quick edit and to the mods for the extra time.
"You're late," a voice spoke from the shadows of a nearby bookcase.
Turning towards it, Hermione glared as Blaise stepped out of the shadows. "You're the one who wants to be discreet," she responded. "Do you know how hard it is to sneak into the Restricted Section without anyone noticing? Especially right now with so many people milling about."
Albus Dumbledore had once stated that even he hadn't known all of Hogwarts' secrets, and that castle contained extreme amounts of ancient magic and history within its walls and grounds. His words held more meaning than they had realized at the time. Just after the former Headmaster's death, the Castle began to behave oddly but no one had paid any mind. Beyond more important matters at the time, it was often said that the castle had a mind of its own and random flares of magic were not uncommon or unexpected. It was the night of the funeral that the castle one upped itself.
Almost as if sensing the oncoming storm, it had released a great burst of magic and all but sealed itself off from the outside world, and in turn, locking in everyone that was still within its boundaries. It had taken a few days for Professor McGonagall and the rest of the teachers to fully realize that Hogwarts had turned itself in to a magical citadel, creating almost a safe haven from the oncoming horrors of Voldemort.
There was no way in or out; at least that's what was told. Eventually rumors began to be whispered that it wasn't true and there had to be some way out as the Trio would disappear for days at a time. The only problem was that no one could prove it, and it was often supposedly heard from a friend of the friend. When questioned, the Trio would simply answer that they were just in some restricted area of the castle. Since it was Harry who had discovered the Room of Requirement, most accept the excuses they came up with.
"I have," Blaise replied coolly to Hermione's complaint. He had no pity for the girl before him. He had to escape detection from his housemates; Slytherins were sneaky and suspicious by nature. For what he intended to do, he had to be discreet and make sure no one was aware of his actions or the game would be lost. He didn't even want to think of what might happen to him if he was found out. When she opened her mouth to say something he simply waved it aside. "Time is short and I don't really care for one of your lectures."
Giving him a smoldering glare, Hermione closed her mouth and folded her arms across her chest. This had better be good, she thought as she contemplated hexing his head off. She was busy and didn't have time for wild chases. If she wasn't spending most of her time trying to find the remaining Horcrux, she was trying to figure out how to destroy them. Along with keeping Harry from going on a suicide mission.
"I'm sure you're aware not everyone is happy about being trapped here, and some of those are more unhappy than others. There's even a select few who are plotting to try and make a mess of things for you and your friends. From minor disruptions of things like food and other supplies to random attacks in dark corners. And this castle has a lot of dark places."
"What are you getting at?" Hermione asked accusingly. It almost sounded as if Blaise was threatening to do all of this, as if he was blackmailing them into something.
"Let's not play each other for fools," he told her. "I know you and Potter have a way out of here. What do you think would happen if someone knew of your exits? If they couldn't get out, I'm sure one of them would find a way to at least get a message to the outside world advertising the weak points of your defenses. What I'm proposing is to give you a looking glass in on their world. I can at least keep you a step ahead of their efforts, try and keep things relatively calm and safe in here, for the time being."
"Why would you do all of this? You're no fan of Harry's, and you're a pure-blood.”
Blaise closed his eyes and sighed softly. "That's a bit ironic coming from the Mudblood." When Hermione reached for her wand, Blaise held his hand up. "I believe you've seen my point. My blood status has nothing to do with anything. You're both annoying in your own ways, but I believe in order and stability over chaos and lawlessness."
"I still don't believe you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart."
"Very perceptive," he complimented with a quick laugh. " You're right, I do expect something in return, but not immediate. What I want is to be on the winning side when this is finished, and for good Harry to remember those who helped him."
Scrunching her forehead, Hermione tried to comprehend that a Slytherin was not only supporting Harry against Voldemort, but also offering to help. Her past dealings with the Slytherin house, both past and present, hadn't prepared her for something like this. Though what irked her was Blaise pointing out that she had made the same misguided assumption about Slytherins that others had made about her for being muggle-born.
"There are others who might be willing to help as well, but they are understandably afraid to act. It's hard enough to be anything other than a pure-blood in our house, but potentially dangerous as well if you against the crowd. If you can promise their safety, get them out of where they are now, you might find them useful. They might not be your traditional Slytherins, but they were chosen nonetheless. In war, you have to get your hands dirty and I'm not sure you upright Gryffindors are up for the task."
Hermione snickered at his comment and shook her head when he gave her a questioning look. "I'll have to talk to Harry but I think he'll be open to the idea, after we come up with some ground rules. But answer me this: Why? Why are you really trying to help Harry?"
Blaise smirked. "Still don't believe me?"
"I truly don't give a damn about blood status, old privileges, and any other of that garbage. My plans, and those of my family, are better served with Harry coming out victorious. On top of that, while you may not have the upper hand at the moment, Potter... he has a habit of surprising you, especially when his back is up against the wall."
Hermione grinned briefly before she remembered it was Blaise in front of her. "He's definitely not one to count out."
"To show my sincerity," Blaise said. "I'd have that house elf of yours keep an eye on your food. One of the misguided Slytherin underclassmen, in a vain attempt at making a name for themselves, has been trying to brew something in the dungeons. Thinks they're being discreet, but really just making a foul stench of the place. While she doesn't have the talents to create something truly horrific, even a fourth rate potioner can make something... unpleasant."
"We'll keep an eye out," she told him, and made a mental note to send some of the older D.A. members to do a sweep of the dungeons. "I'll talk to Harry tonight, we'll see what he says. When do you want to meet again?"
Blaise pondered this for a moment. "Next Tuesday. I think a week is more than enough time to consider my proposal. A quarter after eleven here in the Restricted Section."
"Agreed. We'll have an answer by then, and some kind of ground rules if this should continue."
As Hermione was about to take her leave, Blaise called out, "One moment. There's something else, another condition of our little agreement."
"What is it?" she asked a little impatiently. Just because he was offering to be helpful, didn't mean she believed it. It had gone against her better judgment to meet him here in the first place, but at the moment they couldn't really be choosey about where they could get help from.
The smirk returned to Blaise's face as he closed the gap between them. Several inches taller than her, he loomed over her slightly and caused her to look up at him. "You are my contact, and only you. I won't go through anyone else."
"Because that's the deal, take it or leave it," he taunted.
Defiantly looking back up at him, she found his smirk a little bit unnerving. "Not until you explain why?" she repeated.
"You want to know why?" Reaching out, he swept away some hair that had fallen across her face. "It's because you intrigue me," he answered. "There is something maddeningly frustrating about you."
Shaking her head, she brushed Blaise's hand away from her face. "Funny, I'd figure someone like Parkinson would be more your style."
Blaise let out a dismissive grunt. "Pansy, Daphne, the rest of them are nothing but simpering, dismal old hags that are in search of nothing more than someone who will keep them in the life they're accustomed to. They want nothing more than a deep vault to keep them supplied for their every whim. You think Pansy's with Draco because she cares for him? He's simply the richest fool that would pay her any attention," Blaise explained.
"And I'm supposed to believe that you're different?" Hermione asked sarcastically. "I've heard how you talk about everyone, how you think you're better than everyone, that you're something special."
"It's cause I am," Blaise deadpanned. "Unlike some, I don't settle for good enough. If you're not going to be the best, then it's not worth doing. Why should I be apologetic for someone else's laziness and failings?"
Hermione understood what he was saying, and even though she didn't want to admit it, she agreed with him in a way. It was one of the things that annoyed her about her friends. Ron and Harry did just enough to get by in most of their courses. At least Harry put in some effort with D.A.D.A., but survival could be one hell of a motivator too. But she didn't like hearing it come from Blaise, even if she believed it.
"What you say and what you do are two different things. You don't just strive to be the best, you make sure others know about it, rub others faces in it. It's rather pathetic," she taunted. "Whether it's earned or not, you're still conceited."
When Blaise lowered his face inches from her own, she reacted in surprise. Her hand flew upward but just as she was about to smack him, he caught her wrist and yanked her hand down. With amusement evident in his voice, "Thought I was going to kiss you, Granger? I'll admit it had crossed my mind, but I didn't think now would be the right time."
"Jerk," she muttered as she yanked her hand free. Her gaze shifting to the floor, not wanting to look in to those dark, intense eyes that were only a few inches away from her own.
Blaise grinned as even in the dim torch light of the Restricted Section, he could see some color spread across her cheeks. While he always had an eye for a pretty face, they were usually only enjoyable for one thing and he had grown tired of that. He wanted something more, a challenge maybe, or perhaps someone better than his usual fare.
Even if she was Muggleborn, there was no one like Hermione Granger. Extremely intelligent, endlessly driven, motivated, and possessing the potential to do great things. While the boy he had been would've never admitted, too hung up on his own prejudices, the young man he now was would say that he had grown to appreciate the young witch's unique beauty. She may not be comparable to Daphne or the Patils, but Hermione had a certain charm about her that he found himself attracted to.
With her brains and potential and his money and connections, there was no telling what they could accomplish. Perhaps to him that was a greater aphrodisiac; she would be more of an equal than some gorgeous pure-blood who never had an original thought in her life. That would be more of a liability than anything. Besides, if the Yule Ball was any indication, Granger cleans up quite nicely.
Unmoving, he watched Hermione slowly back away. Her reaction was amusing and the more flustered she became the more he enjoyed it. She was usually so calm and analytical, but right now she was quite the opposite. Rattled, almost. Slowly straightening up, his eyes watched her as he almost expected her to bolt like a frightened animal.
"I'll... talk to Harry. See what he says," she said as she retreated, trying to keep up appearances. Hermione then let out a soft cry of pain as she struck her shoulder against the edge of the bookshelf behind her.
A quick laugh escaped Blaise's mouth as Hermione cringed while rubbing her bruised shoulder. Even more embarrassed, she said, "Yes, I'll talk to Harry. I get you an answer next week," before turning and leaving.
Closing his eyes, he waited until he could no longer hear her fading footsteps. You can run, little rabbit, but I'm a man who is used to getting what he wants.
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