It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single boy of Slytherin must not be in love with a girl of Gryffindor.
However strong the feelings or views of such a boy may be, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding students, that he is considered to be the rightful property of some Slytherin girl or another.
Blaise Zabini, sixth year student and proud member of the Hogwarts House of Slytherin, knew this very well, but he was in love with a Gryffindor all the same. He also knew that should any of his friends ever be even remotely suspicious of his affections, he was done for. Worst of all was his best friend Draco Malfoy, who would not only chastise him for liking any girl of Gryffindor, but surely hate him if he knew which of the girls exactly it was that had stirred his feelings.
For it was as universally acknowledged that Draco Malfoy hated Harry Potter and accordingly any friends of his. Being in love with Hermione Granger was correspondingly an affront to this High Lord of Slytherin himself. Not to mention the girl herself would be mortified if she ever knew the best friend of her mortal enemy was in love with her.
She would not believe a word of it, anyway.
So, what was a poor boy like himself to do? Valentine’s Day was approaching fast and he had sworn to himself to tell her his feelings on that particular day. He was determined. Only, he lacked the courage to actually do it.
“Did you know,” asked Draco at this moment, “that some idiots in Gryffindor started to speak of Granger as a hidden beauty?”
“Excuse me?” was all Blaise was able to answer. Why did his best friend bring up Hermione now of all things? Had his thoughts been so loud?
“Yeah, it is quite ridiculous, is it not?”
He fixed his eyes upon the girl in question, who was walking only a few feet in front of them, chattering happily with some other girls. Her beauty was not hidden to him, that was for sure, but what was he supposed to say? He could not possibly admit to that, but he could not insult her if he tried, either.
“She is tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
That should do the trick. As expected, his best friend burst into a fit of laughter upon hearing those proud words.
“Yes, Blaise,” Draco said grinning, “we all know of your high standards. No simple schoolgirl will ever be handsome enough for you to admit her beauty.”
From the corner of his eyes Blaise noticed that for the shortest moment Hermione looked at him, but before he could even be sure whether it was all his imagination, her head had turned away again. Darn! He was going crazy at this rate. He had to do something about this.
Dearest, prettiest Hermione,
I have no right to approach you without even introducing myself, but you must allow me this freedom, for I have good reasons to conceal my identity.
Valentine’s Day is around the corner and I will not live another day, if I do not take this opportunity to convey my feelings. For me, there is no flower more beautiful, no star more shining than your countenance. I find myself starring at you in the middle of class, dreaming of holding your hand, while you are so absorbed by the teachings of our respectable professors.
I am but a coward, for the valour it would take to confess face to face I have not. You must despise me for this secrecy, or worse, believe not a single word I wrote is true. But let me assure you, even a coward, lurking in the dark, fearing exposure, can still be honest and sincere. I know I am.
Your secret admirer
Hermione could not stop cursing angrily. Whoever had sneaked this piece of parchment into her bag had to be the most ludicrous idiot there was. And if he indeed meant any of it, he was an idiot all the more. What did he take her for? A blushing virgin, overwhelmed by the prospect of a suitor?
Not that she would have hated a little admiration. The words spoken so arrogantly by Zabini the day before had stung against her will. Not handsome enough to tempt me. As if she ever wanted to tempt Blaise Zabini. The pride he took in being a Slytherin and pureblood was disgusting in itself, but the way he seemed to look down upon any girl was truly abominable. Good for him that he was rich and gorgeous. She did not care about his opinion one bit. It was just the general feeling of being considered not so very handsome that stung. Nothing to do with him in particular. He was a Slytherin and as such rotten to the core.
She turned her head slightly to get a better look at him. They were some of the very few students that still took Ancient Runes this year, in fact, he was the only one from Slytherin to do so. While that had made her like him at first, his treatment of the other students in this class and of herself in particular had quickly convinced her that he was still the same pride bastard as before. She studied his dark face. His Italian mother and African father sure had done their best to only pass their best features on to him. He was hatefully handsome.
“Try not to swoon too hard over me, Granger.”
She had not noticed that Zabini had turned to her, too. Blushing, she fixed her eyes upon the silly love letter on her desk. If only those words were as sincere as they pretended to be. It would be a nice change for once, and she could stop fretting about the arrogant depreciation of Blaise Zabini. Why was Professor Babbling late today of all days?
“What are you reading?” Blaise continued his taunt, “A love letter?”
Angrily Hermione turned to him once again: “In fact, yes, if you must know, it indeed is a love letter. Surprising, huh?”
“How sweet!” exclaimed Blaise full of false pathos, “So, what are you going to do? Sneak out of the castle late at night for an amorous tête-à-tête?”
“Certainly not” Hermione retorted with as much dignity as possible, “As if I ever would believe such ridiculous nonsense. No man of honour would write a love letter without saying who he is. This” she continued while pointing to the parchment, “is just soppy and abominable. I cannot take it seriously, really.”
If Hermione would not have known it better, she would have said Blaise looked hurt for a second, but the shift in expression was so swift, she did not care about it.
“Yes, soppy”, she repeated, “like, really. More beautiful than a flower? More shining than a star? Who even writes things like that nowadays?”
“A true romantic, I should wonder.”
That made Hermione giggle. In her head there was suddenly an image of Zabini sitting at an old desk, writing in his best hand, concocting the most ridiculously romantic lines he could make up. But before her creative mind could run too wild, Professor Babbling appeared and her strange conversation with Blaise was put to an end.
Blaise was sulking. The fact that Hermione had called his letter soppy had really hurt. He thought it romantic and sincere. So what if he compared her to flowers and stars? That was how he saw her. Why would she so easily dismiss the honesty of those feelings?
Then again, she had giggled. Giggled about something he, Blaise Zabini, had said. That was a first. It was not that they had not had some conversations before. But even when he had tried his utmost to be civil, she still would be all snarky and defensive. Her prejudice against Slytherin, against him was just so strong.
But now at least he knew she preferred honesty. A man of honour would reveal himself, now would he? Well, at this point there was nothing for him to lose. He would be that man. If she insisted. But first she would have to suffer through even more soppy love letters. She had brought that upon herself. He would convey his feelings in any manner possible, she would laugh about it, and then, come Valentine’s Day, he would tell her his true feelings. Who would have the last laugh then!
Dearest, loveliest Hermione,
I once again write to you without even knowing whether you accepted my first letter. I can only hope you did.
I know, it is not a sign of honour to write anonymously to the one you love, but for now, it has to be so. Be not alarmed by this secrecy, I intend to reveal myself, but not yet. The right time will come and then, if I may convey my feelings so bluntly, I shall hope to find you convinced of my honesty.
You indeed are a lady worth admiring. I need not converse with you to know how brilliant your mind is, nor need I be your friend to know how blessed those are who you call your friends. No girl I ever met is as witty and erudite as you, and please note that I mean this in the best possible way. Many girls call themselves accomplished who know how to draw and dance and sing and play the piano, who speak different languages and know how to converse politely. They give a great deal of care about the way they dress and move, but for me, this will not do. To gather my attention, a girl must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement if her mind though extensive reading. And that is just what you do.
You see, my love for you is more than justified, indeed, any boy walking through this castle is blind not to be madly in love with you. But I will not protest, for at present I need not fear other suitors which is more than I could hope for.
Your secret admirer
Hermione could not but blush deeply as she reread the letter. Once again she had found it after entering the Ancient Runes classroom, once again she could not determine who snuck the parchment into her bag. And once again, there was Blaise Zabini, observing her while she read the letter. She sighed.
Perhaps, if this had been the first letter, maybe she would have believed it to be sincere. But she knew the ridiculous first one, and so nothing in the world could persuade her to take this one any more seriously than the first. Still, somewhere deep inside, she could not but feel flattered. If only this was true! If only she knew who her secret admirer was! If only…
“Another soppy letter?”
She closed her eyes. Of course, Zabini had to ruin the short moment of ignorant bliss she had allowed herself.
“How very observant of you!” she snapped, “Pray, tell, is a new hobby of yours to watch every step I take?”
He was grinning. He was actually grinning at her, a wide, open, amused grin. Where did this guy come from and what had he done to Blaise Zabini?
“If you must know, indeed, it proved to be peculiarly amusing to watch you read those soppy letters.”
Did he really have to use that word over and over again? It made her feel ridiculed.
“Actually, this one is not soppy at all, quite the contrary. It is rather charming, full of honest flattery. Who knew there was a boy out there that actually appreciated my brains?”
She still did not believe it to be honest, but that she did not have to tell Zabini. It was just right that he thought that there was a boy in Hogwarts who found her handsome enough to be tempted!
“So you say every other boy just likes a nice exterior and would date a girl regardless of her character? How very prejudiced of you!”
“Oh, yes, I am so full of prejudices. And no one in Slytherin ever was!” Hermione scoffed. This was ridiculous. A Slytherin telling her, a muggleborn witch of Gryffindor, that she was prejudiced.
“Not every prejudice is the same” Blaise countered, “But don’t you think it is rather harsh to call every single boy in existence superficial? If that is not a prejudice, I sure don’t know what is!”
Hermione blushed. If he put it that way, it really sounded unfair. But he was not the one to talk. If she needed an example for a superficial boy that only appreciated the most beautiful girls as worthy of his notice, he was the one!
“You are one to talk. I hope you know your reputation? Even your Slytherin fellows call you proud and arrogant, because you don’t care for common looking girls.”
“Did you just call me superficial and conceited?”
“I did not, but I could have, because it would be the truth.”
To Hermione’s surprise he suddenly looked angry. Why would he be angry about her telling him how she felt about him? He had no reason to care, nor should he be surprised about her low opinion of him.
“And this is how you feel about me?”
He was angry, there was no other way to interpret his facial expression and tone. She was seriously confused. What had she missed?
“You know what, Granger? Just forget it. It does not matter at all what you think. Just sit there and be happy in your silly little Gryffindor world.”
And with that Zabini turned his back on her. Baffling. What had just happened? The nice, flattering letter was forgotten while Hermione stared at his back, trying to make sense of his last words. Was he seriously hurt by her contention that he was an arrogant snob? But why?
He was furious. So his second letter was more to her Ladyship’s liking, but it could not have possibly been written by him, the arrogant git Blaise Zabini, because he was too full of himself. Okay. Sure. Whatever. How could he even for a second have thought she might like him? Or at least tolerate him? Bloody Gryffindors and their bloody prejudices!
And yet. He still could not but love her. She was right to accuse him of being arrogant, he himself took pride in other boys labelling him as such. Other Slytherin boys, that was. There were not so many girls in the proud House of Slytherin, so many boys were too happy to have caught the attention of any of them, leading to the most ridiculous relationships he had ever seen. Draco Malfoy was the respected heir of the Malfoy family and still he had a long lasting on-off relationship with Pansy Parkinson, a girl of uncommon ugliness if he was asked. Why would any self-respecting man do that to himself? He would never stoop so low, that was for sure.
Hermione Granger had his attentions from day one of their acquaintance, even though it had not been as positive back then. She was too smart, too powerful for a muggleborn witch. First he had thought nothing of it, told himself it was only her excessive learning that had bought her a slight advantage for perhaps a year or two. As soon as real power, real magical ability was necessary in class, she would drop to the bottom. Nothing like that happened, on the contrary, she only seemed to become even more powerful. She should have been a thorn deep in his side, a constant reminder that his pureblood pride was not based on truth. But she was not.
She knew her limits, she worked hard, she was ambitious, at times perhaps overly so. Sometimes he wondered why she was a Gryffindor and not a Ravenclaw or even Slytherin, but who knew what the hat really thought. The way she controlled Potter was beautiful, and every time she gave another lengthy, in-depth answer in class, he could not but think how sexy intelligent girls were.
She met his standards. She was not the superficial beauty, but had her own special charms. His condescension for all the other girls had a basis, it was not just arrogance, even though the rest of the boys thought so and he had no interest in correcting them. His fellow students liked him, because they knew he was no rival and they envied him for his indifference towards the female students.
Only Hermione Granger should not think of him like that. She was supposed to see him as he was: a greater man than the rest, a man that valued a lady for her wits, a man that wanted a partner in life, not just a pretty flower to show off. It hurt to see that she thought of him exactly like the rest. He had to convince her that he was not abominable, but just the man she needed!
Dearest, brightest Hermione,
A third time you have to bear with my obtrusion for I will not stop writing to you. Valentine’s Day is only three days away and I hope to gain your goodwill till then.
I feel the need to explain myself further, for I sense a lack of trust on your side. Perhaps I come off as conceited, because I pride myself to be a sensible man, someone who values brains over looks. Many of my friends jokingly describe me as arrogant or condescending, because I rejected every girl so far, but I flatter myself to be more honest than them. I know what I seek in a girl, and if a girl that confesses her feelings to me does not possess these qualities, it would be insolent to accept, don’t you agree with me?
That exact reason is why I fell in love with you, dearest, cutest Hermione. Not only are you pretty, but you are brighter than every other student and you know how to defend yourself. You do not need a man capable of rescuing a damsel in distress, you need a man as a partner, a comrade, a lover. And I just want to be that for you. If only you were able to see me like that. For the moment I may be anyone, an anonymous suitor, but I fear the moment of truth. I fear your rejection, though I know it is the likeliest outcome.
This will be the last letter you will receive from me. I shall await you on Valentine’s Day down at the lake, where the first bench looks upon it. I shall be there from dusk till midnight, hoping, waiting, loving you.
Your secret admirer
Hermione could not believe it. It was Thursday evening and she was sure she was the only student in the library. How had this parchment once again found its way into her bag? The only person she had met when entering the library had been Blaise Zabini. For a second she had feared he would stop to talk to her or insult her, but he had only given her a short, polite nod before hurrying off. She had felt awful the past days since their last talk. She had decided that no matter how true it might be and how little she liked someone, it still was more than uncivil to call someone superficial and conceited, even more so if you did not even know that person very well.
Really, what did she know about Blaise Zabini? He was the most handsome student of Slytherin, he was above average in most subjects and he had a reputation of not accepting any girls, because they all did not meet his standards. Apart from that, she only knew him as best friend of Draco Malfoy, whom she hated. Had her hatred towards the latter impaired her judgement on Zabini? She was sure that was not the case, after all she prided herself to be a rational, cool human being.
But back to the matter at hand: the letter. It was obvious now that whoever this secret admirer was, he was serious about his affections. Her first guess as to why he wanted to stay anonymous had been that perhaps he was a lot younger than herself and was too ashamed to admit his feelings. But that was not possible. His writing was too advanced. Another possibility was that he was a Slytherin. It would make sense, no sane person would openly admit to like someone from the enemy Hogwarts House. But for a Slytherin to actually like her? It was highly unlikely.
Or was it?
Except for Draco Malfoy and perhaps Blaise Zabini she did not really know any of the boys. Perhaps there was someone that was not as cunning, as evil as the rest of the snakes. It was impossible for her to know all Slytherin students, so why not assume that somebody had actually noticed her in a positive way? She was the most active student in every class anyway.
Suddenly she blushed. The thought that someone actually liked her for being smart and did not just think of her as an insufferable know-it-all was too good to be true. If only she could really believe it. How she longed to know what – and who – was behind all this. The first letter might have been soppy indeed, but the other two had been so much more sensible. Perhaps he had watched her reaction when she had read the first letter and decided that tacky flattery was not the way to her heart.
Her blush deepened. Someone watching her, observing her? She did not know how to feel about it. Should she worry about it? Was it creepy? But if so, why did it feel so good to imagine herself be watched? Imagine herself be the centre of somebody’s attention?
Blaise Zabini had watched her read her letter, and even though that had been unnerving, it had not been creepy or repulsive. If anything it had made her feel funny.
Suddenly she remembered something. The first two letters had found their way into her bag before Ancient Runes, a class she shared with Zabini. And the only person she had met after packing her bag back in the Gryffindor tower had been Zabini as well.
That was impossible!
Everybody knew that Blaise Zabini had no interest in any of the Hogwarts girls, they did not meet his expectations. No one was pretty enough. Least of all herself. She was not handsome enough to tempt him, after all! What a ridiculous thought. No, it would be even more likely that Draco Malfoy himself had written all those letters than that they came from Zabini.
Hermione sighed. What an awful week. Perhaps the letters did indeed come from Zabini and it was his way of mocking her. Perhaps he just wanted to see whether he could fool her, whether she would actually come to meet him at the lake. Well, if that was his plan, then guess what! She would not go. Definitely not. She was clever enough to sense a trap, she would not do him the favour and ridicule herself in front of him.
By now she was determined not to go. She ignored the sighing, frustrated part inside her that tried to convince her that the letters were sincere. She ignored her sadness about the fact that the only love letters she would ever get were meant as mean prank. Hermione Granger did not need a lover, she did not need affection or flattery. She was old enough and sensible enough to be self-sufficient. She had enough self-esteem to not depend on anyone!
Blaise shivered in the cold wind. February was after all a really cold month. And waiting for hours and hours in the dark for someone that obviously would not come anyway was really stupid. He should have known better. It was not as if Hermione had had any chance to say yes or no to the date, he just had to rely on her coming. He had been so sure she would come, Gryffindor courage and curiosity and all. Well, he had been mistaken.
It was so cold. With every minute that passed his love turned more and more into hate. If anyone was arrogant, it was not him, but her! Hermione and her prejudices against Slytherin, her arrogant assumption that all boys were superficial. Did she even know how very prejudices she was? Did she really think she was the saint she always pretended to be? Or Potter, whom Draco so accurately had named Saint Potter?
“It is actually you.”
Blaise actually jumped from the shock of suddenly hearing a female voice from behind. Slowly, he turned. There she was. Midnight was mere minutes away, he had already given up all hopes – and now here she was.
“Granger! What are you doing here?”
He could see her shift uncomfortably. Well, she better was ashamed of her behaviour, there was no excuse for it.
“The letters … did you write the letters?”
He studied her for a moment, unsure whether she honestly had to ask this question. Shaking his head, he answered: “Of course I did.”
“Why are you asking, then?”
He could not believe the audacity this woman possessed. Did she really just ask that?
“You clearly didn’t intend to come here at all, so why are you here now?”
Again, she hesitated, as if she did not know the answer herself. After what seemed an eternity to Blaise, Hermione at last whispered: “I … I don’t really know. I was sure you were gone by now.”
“Well, I am not. In fact, I have been waiting here for hours now, I am freezing cold. I will die because of you!”
Suddenly Hermione seemed agitated: “What? Now it’s my fault? What idiot would wait so long, anyway? If the girl doesn’t come after an hour, she clearly isn’t interested.”
“But you are here now!” Blaise retorted no less furious, “So if you intended to come anyway, why make me wait so long?”
“What do you think of me? A mysterious admirer that claims to be madly in love with me, but won’t say who he is. Soppy, overly dramatic love letters. And then I discover that it cannot be anyone but you, who wrote them? Did you honestly think after I got to know that little detail that I still would trust anything that so called admirer wrote? It was clearly a trap! Hence why I did not want to come!”
So she might have believed the letters to be true, if not he had been behind them? Blaise did not know whether he wanted to shake her furiously or just go home and cry. What was so wrong with him that she was so determined against him?
“Why could you not trust the affections that I conveyed in the letters?”
Hermione just snorted: “Really? The one day you proclaim I am not handsome enough to tempt you, the next day you write soppy letters? Really?”
He could see how that would not make much sense. He clicked his tongue. Of course Hermione Granger of all people had to overhear his short talk with Draco that day. Frustrated he explained: “That did not mean anything. What should I have said to Draco? That I indeed think you are a hidden treasure?”
Hermione remained silent. Well, they were not going anywhere at this rate. This was definitely not the romantic confession he had dreamed of. Perhaps he should just go for it, he had nothing to lose now, anyway. Her feelings were clear.
“Hermione” he said quietly and he could almost feel her shock about the familiar address. Slowly, carefully he took one of her hands. He was happy that she did not instantly withdrew, but then again, perhaps she was just in shock. He took a deep breath: “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and … love you.”
“You … you can’t be serious. You just cannot.”
Still holding her hand, he shook his head: “I am. I have been in love with you since fourth year. Till then you just were an interesting girl, a student with outstanding marks, but on that day, during the ball? I suddenly just knew that you would be the most beautiful woman on earth, especially because your wits are sexy as … they are sexy.”
Again, Hermione stood silent. He still had her hand and that was the only thing at the moment that gave Blaise even the least glimmer of hope. Then, at last, she spoke: “This is a prank, isn’t it? You just want to see, whether I fall for it?”
“No!” he nearly screamed. What else did he have to do to convince this girl? It was so frustrating. He stepped even closer and cupped her cheek with his free hand: “Hermione Granger. I just stood here for over four hours, waiting for you. I did my utmost to praise everything about you in my letters. I missed the Valentine’s Ball. Do you really think I would do all that just to play a stupid prank?”
“I … I guess not.”
“I love you, Hermione Granger. I love your intelligence, I love your countenance. You are everything I would ever want in a girl. What more do I have to say to convince you that I indeed are madly in love with you?”
He sounded desperate, he knew that very well, but what should he do? Here was a very, very slim chance that perhaps, maybe Hermione Granger might give him the chance to prove the sincerity of his affections, he would not let it slip away just because he feared to sound desperate.
After what seemed like another eternity, Hermione carefully put her hand on his resting on her cheek. She seemed to actually enjoy the feeling.
“Fine, you win. Perhaps you really do love me. Perhaps all your trouble should be rewarded with a little bit of effort from my side. Perhaps I shall try to date you.”
His heart skipped a beat. She not only believed him, but wanted to date him? Oh happy day! This witch was truly amazing. He would do everything in is power to show her how fine of a gentleman he was. He would show her exactly why he thought she was the brightest, loveliest, and prettiest of all girls he ever knew. He would make sure not to lose her. The luck he had had today would not last, from now on he had to once again fight for her, but boy, was he ready to fight. But first …
“May I kiss you?” he whispered nearly inaudible.