Blaise Zabini was glad to get out of the castle, but was annoyed it had to be alone. He hadn't cared much for Valentine's Day years before, despite the loads of chocolate frogs that ended up in his bag. Even this year, two second year Slytherin girls sent him cards that projected a magical ballet they thought he’d like and he'd cooly refrained from sinking into the floor at the embarrassment when he’d opened them in the Great Hall that morning.
But while Valentine's wasn't his thing, a certain Hufflepuff girl was. He'd tried asking her to spend the day with him — only to be rejected. The resulting discontent was a feeling only she could give him, as he’d learned when she rejected him for the Yule Ball last year. She'd said it was because he had some growing to do, and he knew he did, but that didn't make it smart any less. Something about Desiree Warbeck’s insistence that he could rise above the stereotype of his house was both annoying — and really attractive.
He hadn't even wanted to spend the day with her as a Valentine's date, that was just a convenient coincidence. Her birthday was coming up and he knew her sweet tooth probably couldn't resist a private basement reservation at Madam Puddifoot’s (he'd never be caught dead eating in the general seating area) or a trip to the balcony in Honeydukes where they sold their most expensive chocolates. But he'd asked her at the end of last BSU meeting and she'd said no. She claimed it was because her friends had something planned for her birthday, but he suspected she just wasn't ready. Which really meant he wasn't ready.
He was trying. People like Umbridge made it easier for him to see the flaws in his upbringing when she not only recruited people like Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle for her Inquisitorial Squad, but used that group to try to bust up his club just based on the color of their skin. Blaise didn't fight for much, but the BSU had come to mean more to him than he really knew how to express. Come for them and get on his shit list. But Des had caught Blaise smirking at a joke Malfoy had made about the Creevey brothers — Malfoy had done a decent mouse impression, okay? — and she’d refused him her weekly meeting cookies for two weeks.
So Blaise wandered Hogsmeade alone. He tried not to hang with Malfoy’s crowd much anymore, not least of which because Malfoy and Parkinson just started hooking up and he didn't feel like gagging while Crabbe and Goyle pigged out on the chocolate frogs they’d “stolen” from him that morning. (He let them have the chocolate. He’d considered giving them to Desiree, but knew it wouldn’t help his cause to give her chocolates given to him by other girls.) The rest of the BSU had either paired up or squared up and Blaise wasn't in the mood to be anyone's third or fifth wheel. It was times like these that he almost regretted not having more friends. However, a quick look around at the students laughing obnoxiously as they walked out of Zonko’s made him figure it was definitely for the best.
All he could think about was Desiree, wondering where she was, what she would do if he randomly showed up where she was, and how to figure out just how to...do that. It was cold outside, though, and he didn't want to just wander alone. It looked pathetic. So he shook off his stalker inclinations and looked at the shops on his left and his right. His choices were Zonko’s and Gladrags. He typically owl ordered his joke products on the occasion he found some whimsy, to avoid stepping in that madhouse, so he gladly chose Gladrags.
It was quiet inside. Being a shop on the high-end side, not too many Hogwarts students frequented it. Some of the Slytherin well to do and families like the Abbotts frequented, but he knew he'd never spot a Weasley in here.
Blaise didn't buy much for himself. His mother sent him whatever he needed and a few extravagances he usually didn't even ask for, but were the result of whatever dalliances she was working to profit from (and then eventually end). So as he looked around the shop, he found himself looking at the ladies wear, imagining each item on Desiree's curvy form. With her grandmother being a world famous songstress, she didn't want for much either, but he couldn't recall her in a Gladrags original. Her style was practical, with classic silhouettes, and neutral color palettes, but usually with a pop of color. He also knew she liked to wear cutesy dressing gowns (last year’s end of lessons BSU slumber party told him that) and that she liked to bake. Maybe an apron? He went over to the house-wears, but nothing called to him.
“Need any help?” The shopkeeper, a small mousy woman with wide eyes and a nervous manner approached. “Ah, Mr. Zabini. How are you? How is your mother liking that yeti’s fur stole she purchased?” Blaise bit his lip, not wanting to admit the stole disappeared with husband number five. “She's doing well.” He kept it curt, never interested in enduring meaningless small talk.
“Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“Uh, just a gift.”
“For? A special someone perhaps?” The shopkeeper wiggled her very thin eyebrows.
Blaise hated this. It's why he so often owl ordered. But he was stuck on a gift and Desiree would find it hilarious that he had endured what he joked was his boggart: small talk. “It's for a friend. A girl.”
The shop worker’s already large eyes lit up. “Oh, we have a special new makeup collection just in time for a late Valentine's gift!“ She grabbed Blaise by the arm and led him to a display near the front of the shop. “These foundations change their shimmer with the wearer’s mood,” she said, holding up a palette of pale foundation.
Blaise looked at the palette, and the surrounding equally pale mixtures and vials, and looked at the woman. He knew what he wanted to say, but imagined Des as an angel on his shoulder, telling him to be nice to the woman, he said, “That wouldn’t work. Her skin’s about my complexion.”
“Ah,” said the shopkeeper shortly, gingerly putting down the foundation and moving away from the display, looking around the room for where to drag Blaise next.
Blaise turned his head, his eyes falling on a section across the store. It was almost like someone had cast a Lumos charm on a jacket at the far end of the room. He headed straight for it, leaving the shopkeeper to keep up behind him. The jacket was black dragon leather, with a hint of gold shimmer. It was cropped short and had gold swirling embellishments on the collar. It was perfect.
“Oh, I'm not sure this would be of any interest to an acquaintance of a family of your caliber. It’s from a new designer we’ve been trying to work with. But they’re Muggle-born, so their style is a bit…eccentric.”
Blaise smirked. Yeah, it would be perfect for Desiree. “I’ll take it.”
“Sir, it’s going to be 100 galleons.”
“That’s fine,” he said, waving one hand dismissively while the other fingered the collar of the jacket. It was softer than it appeared and he could see the gold shimmer highlighting the yellow-toned brown of Desiree’s skin.
Blaise left Gladrags deciding he’d done enough lonely wandering for the day and started to head back towards the castle. But before he did, he felt the day couldn’t go without a bit of chocolate. He stepped into Honeydukes and got a chocolate frog to slip into the jacket pocket, a little surprise for later.
Desiree Warbeck regretted lying to Blaise. She’d said her friends wanted to do something for her birthday, but really they were just stalking the boys they had very distant crushes on. They were older recent Hogwarts grads who were working at nearby shops, so she was just flitting from store to store with them as they giggled over Grown Wizards. Desiree loved a good giggle over a boy, but the boy she wanted to giggle over sometimes ran with the wrong crowd and she couldn’t be with him if he maintained the same beliefs they did. So she’d shut him down when he’d asked her to hang out today and she wasn’t even having a good time without him. Rubbish.
She thought she’d seen him along the path as they all walked down to the village, but then she kept imagining she was seeing him everywhere she went with her friends. She knew he owl-ordered nearly everything, so there was no way he’d gone in Scrivenshaft's. He didn’t even like their quills. When she profoundly started to ache at his absence, she decided to call it a day and leave her twittering friends to their stalking, heading back to the castle to hole up in the kitchens with the house elves and begin her baking-to-get-her-mind-off-boys ritual.
Four hours later, she’d baked enough cookies to feed an army. I was really trying not to think about Blaise, wow, she thought, realizing with that thought that she’d already lost the game. In front of her were dozens of cookies she’d made without even using magic.
“Ms. Desi, what are you going to do with all these cookies?” asked Dobby, who was always the least fearful of the house elves and liked talking to Desiree and asking her questions. The rest just let her do whatever she wanted and kind of left her alone.
“I’m not sure Dobby. I can take a few to tomorrow’s BSU meeting, but the rest…I definitely can’t eat all those cookies,” she said with a laugh.
“Should we decorate them for the Valentimes Day and give them out?” Dobby could never get the name of the holiday quite right.
“That’s a great idea, Dobby!” With a snap of his thin fingers, dozens of Desiree’s cookies had pink and white frosting in the shape of hearts. Desiree liked experimenting with decorating spells herself, but house elf magic was second to none. She insisted Dobby eat one and he nibbled at one before slipping it into his little apron pocket. Desiree wondered if house elves had very different taste buds because he just didn’t seem to enjoy it and she knew her cookies were good. After thanking him, she grabbed her tin of BSU cookies, and headed out the door.
Just as she was climbing out the portrait hole, she bumped into someone and nearly dropped the cookie tin. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “Oh!” she said again when she realized it was the very boy she was trying to avoid thinking about all day. “Blaise, what…what are you doing down here?”
He looked startled at having run into her, and she noticed him move his hand, which held a package, behind his back. It took him a minute to speak and Desiree flashed back to when he’d asked her to the Yule Ball last year. He hadn’t even been this nervous asking her out for her birthday.
“I was looking for you,” he said finally. Then…nothing.
“So why do you look so shocked to see me?” She arched an eyebrow at him which, from the way he continued to stare at her, she realized didn’t help put him back on his guard.
“Sorry,” he said, scratching the back of his neck with his free hand. “I’ve been looking for you since before dinner and I just realized I hadn’t thought of what to say when I actually found you…”
He motioned for her to walk with him and they headed to a little nook under the staircase leading to the Great Hall. There was a ledge and he invited her to sit.
“I know it’s not your birthday yet, but I got you something in Hogsmeade today.”
“Oh Blaise, you didn’t have to get me anything.” She smiled softly, though, at knowing he’d been thinking about her all day too.
“I know, but I saw it and couldn’t walk away without getting it for you.”
He placed the package in her lap. She opened it, finding the black dragon leather jacket, the light gold glimmering softly at her. Her mouth dropped open.
“Blaise, I can’t accept this, it’s too much. Literally. This had to cost a fortune.” But she couldn’t help but stare at the jacket, finally putting her hands on the soft leather.
“You know that’s not an issue,” he said, sitting next to her, vanishing the wrapping with his wand to let her hold the jacket in her hands. “And look, it’s perfect for you. You once told me you wished your Hufflepuff came with a little more ‘badass,’ so…here you go.”
Desiree felt like her heart was growing four sizes in her chest, and it already took up way too much space. She clutched the jacket to her chest, squeezing it as she forced the incoming tears back into her eyes. She refused to cry in front of this boy! But not only had he been thinking about her today, he’d listened to something she’d said off-hand months ago, maybe even last year.
She looked at the boy to her right. The boy who was a Slytherin (which wasn’t a bad thing), dormed with members of the Inquisitorial Squad (which wasn’t his fault), and had some regressive views about Muggles and Muggle-borns (which she’d refused to tolerate). But she thought, from their BSU meetings and personal conversations, he was working on that last one. And here he was. His usual stony face more open than she ever saw it in public. The faint flush on his chiseled cheekbones a very brown distraction from the thought that had been niggling in her mind for a minute. Which was...
“Wait, did you…go to a store for this?”
Blaise laughed, a full blown cackle, which she’d definitely never seen him do before, and she couldn’t help herself. She kissed him on the cheek.
He stopped laughing, his breath caught in his throat. Desiree smirked and stood.
“Thank you, Blaise. I love it. I’ll have to save it for just the right occasion. Maybe you’ll even be there to see me wear it.”
She winked and walked away towards the Hufflepuff common room, with an extra sashay in her step. Her grandmother, the great Celestina Warbeck, had always told her to “always leave ‘em wanting more.”