Author: Leigh, aka leigh_adams
Characters: Blaise Zabini/Susan Bones
Word Count: ~1,700
Summary: At the Ministry’s annual Remembrance Ball, two unlikely people share cigarettes, cheap champagne, and memories.
Author's Notes: Written for the 2013 - 2014 Winter Fic Exchange at rarepair_shorts as a gift for cyn_ful. Thanks to fiery_flamingo for the beta!
As far as balls went, this one... was a definite bust.
That was unkind of her, she supposed. Snagging a flute of champagne from a passing waiter, Susan brought it to her lips and took a sip of the semi-palatable bubbly. The Ministry had spared few expenses -- the champagne a notable exception. The Great Conservatory at Syon Park nearly glittered between the twinkling fairy lights, the string quartet playing light music, and the melodic hum of conversation. It was the fifth anniversary of the fall of Voldemort, and the Ministry was bound and determined to showcase how their world had recovered.
In all honesty, it really wasn't the ball's fault that Susan was having a so-so evening. Under other circumstances, she might have even enjoyed herself. Her auburn curls did look fabulous in a loose chignon, and she was wearing a beautiful blue gown.
But if she had to endure one more bloody conversation that began or ended along the lines of I'm so sorry for your loss, she was going to scream. Of course she missed her Auntie Mia, but she'd been gone for five years. Susan had learned to deal with the grief. She didn't want to relive her loss all night long.
It wouldn't have been so bad if her date hadn't cancelled on her. And that really wasn't his fault, either. Justin might have been gay as a picnic basket, but he was such a good time. A bloke she could count on to dance, get her drunk on cheap champagne and cheaper whiskey, then deliver her home without even trying to feel her breasts. But Justin had the flu. Of course.
What she really needed, besides a better drink, was a cigarette. At the thought, her green gaze landed on Hannah -- her oldest and dearest friend. The blonde was nearly glowing, the slightest hint of a baby bump protruding beneath her black and gold gown. She'd disapprove of Susan sneaking outside to the courtyard for a smoke, as she disapproved of most of Susan's "nastier habits."
Hannah had always been a bit of a buzzkill.
Susan moved through the throngs mingling in the large room until she found a door cracked ajar. She slipped outside and shivered; the early May night air held a slight chill. There was a man standing on the path ahead of her, his silhouette familiar. A few steps closer, and she recognized him -- Blaise Zabini. Despite seven years of living under the same roof, they had never actually spoken.
Still, it would be rude to stand behind him and stare. Taking a final few steps, she stopped next to him, pulling a cigarette out of her clutch and letting it dangle loosely between her fingers.
"So," she said, breaking the silence, "can a girl get a light?"
A dark brow rose as he glanced over at her and wordlessly illuminated the tip of her cigarette with his wand.
She took a drag and exhaled, blowing out a cloud of sweet blue smoke as she grinned at him. "Cheers."
"Thought good little Hufflepuffs didn't engage in unsavory behavior," he commented, taking a puff on his own cigarette.
"Oh?" she replied, amused. "what sort of unsavory behavior might I be engaging in now?"
He shrugged, showcasing the way his tailored tuxedo clung to his body. "Oh, you know. Talking to Slytherins in the shadows, smoking, that sort of rot."
Susan laughed and shook her head. "Come on, Zabini, isn't the whole point of this ball to reconcile differences and break stereotypes? Show a unified world?"
"I thought this was a remembrance ball. That's what the flier said."
It was Susan's turn to shrug. "Well, that too."
Blaise glanced over and met her gaze. He was, she noted in a completely professional manor, rather striking; high cheekbones and hair cropped close to his head. Tall and lean. She liked that -- not him, of course, but his body type.
"You lost your aunt, didn't you? Amelia."
The amusement faded from her eyes. "You've got quite the memory for history, I see."
"The names are printed on a banner in the front corridor," he retorted dryly. "Even a Slytherin can make the connection."
"Oh." Color rose to her cheeks, and she was thankful for the shadows cast by the light from the party, hiding the evidence. She took another puff from her cigarette and sighed. "So, what'd you lose?"
"A quarter of my inheritance," Blaise answered archly. "Mother's most recent husband was Lysander Yaxley, and I'm sure you can deduce how that turned out." Dropping his cigarette butt to the graveled path, he ground it into the earth with his foot before Vanishing it with a quick spell.
"Ministry confiscated some of my money as repartition for his crimes, despite my lack of involvement. Never let it be said they discriminate. Must share the stigma of being a pureblood, though I suppose it could have been worse."
"That's always true," Susan said sagely.
Blaise pulled another cigarette from the case hidden inside his coat pocket. "Well, Bones, what brings you out into the cold? I'd have thought someone like you would be dancing the night away and getting pissed on cheap champagne with all the happy little Hufflepuffs."
"One, not all Hufflepuffs are happy. Loyal, hardworking, yes, but not always happy." She quirked a brow at him, lips twisting. "I mean, you've met Zacharias Smith, arse extraordinaire, yes?"
"Can't say I've had the pleasure."
"Yes, well, he's not made a pass at you because you lack a pair of breasts."
"Men make passes at me."
"That I don't doubt." The retort slipped from her lips before she could stop herself. She hurried on before he could comment on her confession. "Let's add to the fact that my best friend is married, pregnant, and my very gay date had to cancel on me because he came down with the flu. So really, smoking cigarettes with a Slytherin of ambiguous morals is just about the best I'm going to do this evening."
He blinked, momentarily stunned into silence before he laughed. "Not quite the retort I was expecting. You're full of surprises, Bones."
"Please, it’s Susan. 'Bones' sounds like the nickname of some seedy Auror," Susan replied. "What sort of retort were you expecting?"
He took a long smoke and exhaled, blowing smoke into the night air. "Oh, you know. Cheating bastard of an ex-boyfriend, nursing a broken heart, you can't bear the sight of your former friends because the hurt is still too fresh. The usual theatrics."
It was Susan's turn to laugh. "Well, that's melodramatic, Zabini. Do you moonlight as a romance novelist -- Priscilla Penwright, perhaps?"
"Nonsense. I prefer bondage to bodice ripping," he scoffed. "And really, if we're going by given names, it's Blaise."
"Blaise." She tried the name out and decided she liked the way it sounded. "What brings you out in the cold?"
"What do you think?"
Susan pretended to think. "I think you had a scandalous affair with the wife of a Ministry official. Perhaps he found out, and you're avoiding him so he can't assassinate you and claim the government gave him permission?"
He stared at her. "How did you know?"
"I'm a Legilimens," she teased.
His lips quirked upwards. "Close, but no. I just really needed a smoke, and I can't say the conversation found inside is exactly...scintillating."
She nodded and took a final puff on her own cigarette before grinding it beneath the sole of her newly purchased silver Louboutins. "Truth. I can't get five feet without someone stopping to say how sorry they are about my family. I appreciate the sentiment, I really do..."
"But every time someone says something, it brings it up anew?"
Susan blinked in surprise up at him. "Exactly," she said slowly. Curiosity blossomed within her, making her wonder if her smoking companion had merely made a tactical guess, or if he spoke from experience.
Blaise nodded slowly and glanced up at the night sky. Despite the lights scattered throughout the estate, the stars could still be seen overhead; a miraculously clear night. He exhaled and glanced over at her. "I've a proposition for you."
She raised a brow. "Oh? Pray tell, what's on your mind?"
"Dance with me. Fend off rabid Ministry officials, and I promise not to mention your dead relatives, or let anyone else do so for the rest of the night. I'll even get you drunk and escort you home like a proper gentleman, and I won't even try to get your dress off."
Well, that's disappointing. She blushed at the thought and shook her head to cool her cheeks. Glancing up at him, she noticed his gaze had travelled down to her chest, lingering on the swell above her neckline. "I accept, on one condition."
"Hmm?" He lifted his dark eyes and looked at her in question. "What's that?"
"You quit staring at my chest. You did say you'd behave like a proper gentleman."
He smiled, a flash of brilliant white against his dark skin. "A proper gentlemen, yes. I never said a perfect gentleman." He offered his arm for her and raised a brow. "What do you say, Ms. Bones? Shall we liven up this dull affair?"
Hannah was going to spontaneously combust at the sight of her best friend on a Slytherin's arm. First the smoking, and then then fraternizing with someone with a reputation like Blaise Zabini? The look on the blonde's face alone would make it all worth it.
"With an offer like that, how could a girl refuse?" She looped her arm through his proffered elbow and grinned. "Lead the way, Mr. Zabini."