He want to get her something she liked, and what did she like? She liked... Books!
means 'books' in italian
The store was lined with books; new and old. Windows hung at the front, a washed down door shoved between them. The light from the windows shot beams down the aisles, dust sparkling in its glow. The smell of decaying carpet and ageing books filled the air, as he walked down the aisles, he hand gently brushing against the worn spines, his fingertips tingling from the indentations of the titles. His eyes roamed the shelves, waiting for one of the many bound books to reveal itself as the one he was looking for, but as before they simply sat still, resting peacefully for their true owners to find them. This place was his last resort and he grew anxious that it did not hold the answer. He did not know where to turn next if it didn't.
His attention was drawn from the shelves, to a presence at his back, turning he appraised the shopkeeper. The man was a short, balding man who was rather round in all places, his shy smile would have other-wise made him sneer at the man's pathetic attempt to appear helpful. But as he looked down upon the man's face, he felt reassured, he could help him.
', you have been here for quite some time now,' the shopkeeper stammered, 'Are you sure you would not like some assistance?'
With a sigh, Blaise Zabini brushed down his tailored black on black suit, and tilted his head in a subtle nod, 'Yes, I believe I am in need of some help.' His voice sounded strained, even to himself. Why was this so hard? He was not sure. If his friends, if Malfoy, ever found out the hassle he had gone to, he would never live it done, that he was sure of.
With the acceptance of his help, the man seemed to stand taller, straighter, now in his element. Though he still remained slightly cautious of the Slytherin, shifting back onto the balls of his feet as he waited for the taller man to proceed. When he did not, the shopkeeper quickly glanced at his feet before returning his gaze, 'What type of book are you requiring, Mr. Zabini?'
His eyes flicked back to the numerous titles surrounding them, he had no idea, he just knew that he needed a book quickly or this feeling of unease would never cease, 'I do not require a book, it is for-,' he hesitated searching for the right word, 'For a friend.'
The little man's head bobbed quickly up and down, a his shy smile returning, his feet made to turn but then his smile faded. His body stiff in it's movement to turn, he keep his eyes down, 'Mr. Zabini, is this friend, a lady friend?'
The question drew his body straight, and his gaze narrowed, 'Why do you ask?'
The shopkeeper shuffled his feet, 'I did not mean to cause offence, it is that knowing would help me find the appropriate book for your friend.'
Blaise thought over the man's words and saw them as reasonable. His face slackened from the frown he had been unaware had gather upon his brow. She was a lady friend of sorts, she was a lady and a friend. Suddenly exhausted, he pinched the bridge of his nose, 'She is a co-worker,' he replied.
A small 'O' appeared on the man's mouth at the recognition of Mr. Zabini buying for a woman, this gained him a raised eyebrow and a tilt of the head. The shopkeeper regained himself and finally completed his bodies movement to turn and head down the aisle. He had to walked quickly, as to keep in front of the taller man and his longer strides. When the shelves stopped, the shopkeeper did not hinder but swiftly turned to his right and disappeared. Blaise found him sitting behind a mahogany desk, piled with papers that had gone brown with the years. Standing in front of the desk, his eyes scanned the surface, beneath all the mess. What he saw told him that this man's life was his work, every object and piece of filing was in relation to his store or a rare book. A small smile pushed at the corners of the his mouth, maybe this would indeed end today.
Now propped up behind his desk, the shopkeeper seemed to have regained yet another small portion of his confident demeanour, 'So Mr. Zabini, what is this co-worker of yours into? What does she like?'
This new found ease with words did not bode well with him, but he left it alone, seeing as he needed the man's help, 'She likes books.' He never said he would make it easy for him though.
The given answer seemed to have worked to remind the little man of his place, as his face looked up shocked, he had forgotten who he was talking to, but Blaise knew that would not happen again as the shopkeeper played nervously with the papers beneath his fingers, shuffling and re-organising them. Blaise let out another sigh, this could go on for forever, pushing his sleeve back, he checked the time. He had two hours until he was meeting Malfoy for lunch, that was surely enough time to find a book. No more games.
'She is very fond of knowledge.'
The little man looked up, the shy smile returning. His eyes shone with his appreciation for the answer. 'An appreciation of knowledge is always a very admirable trait, don't you agree Mr. Zabini.'
He simply nodded, his impatience growing, he let it show on his face. The shopkeeper jumped to his feet and gestured for him to follow as he hurried down the aisle. Blaise did not follow him immediate, but waited a moment to ease his face back into its neutral exterior. The aisle the little man had turned into, had a large wooden sign hanging from two chains on either side of it. There was a golden line framing the edge of the sign, and the word 'Incantations' written in the same golden shade.
Blaise found the shopkeeper on his knees, a pile of books already surrounding him, his eagerness for the hunt was apparent on his face. He lived for a challenge. Blaise remained standing, peering down on the man once more. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he waited for the man to look up.
When he finally did, he started a little, 'Do you know of anything in particular she would like, Mr Zabini?' he said this while waving his hands over the top of the books scattering around him.
'No, not particularly, but anything recent she would probably already have read, as for the old I am unsure.'
The little man nodded to himself, placing a handful of the less worn books back on the shelves. Scratching his bald, he got to his feet, passing three books to Blaise, 'These are very informative for their subject and very enjoyable to read.' Pulling a pair of wire rimmed glasses from his pocket, he placed them on his nose, 'May I?' he asked, his hand out stretched for the largest book Blaise held. He nodded and handed the book back. The shopkeeper flicked though the book as though searching for a certain page, he made a small 'ah' sound which let Blaise know he had found it.
'This here-,' he said, pointing to a paragraph, Blaise couldn't read, 'Explains all the different ways in which one can disarm an opponent in battle, this book is extremely popular.'
The little man looked up at him, waiting for his answer, 'No, she has need for it, she was in the Order,' he replied dryly, the words clinging to the back of his throat at the vile he was saying. He watched as awe wove throughout the lines on the shopkeeper's face, placing the book back in its place on the shelf. The man made to turn but stopped, Blaise placed the books he was still holding in the shopkeepers out stretched hand.
'She would have no need for those either, no.' he mumbled to himself.
Without looking back the little man headed back the way they had come. Blaise came to find him now standing in the only wide aisle in the shop, the shopkeeper was craning his neck towards the signs which hang above each of the other aisle. He wasn't really reading them, as his glasses where now tucked firmly in the collar of his robes. He was thinking. Blaise stood a few feet away from the man, watching him think. He went to lean against the book shelf, but thought better of it when he saw the coating of dust that covered it. Instead he removed his suit jacket and placed it over a the arm of a near by chair. He hadn't realised how humid it was in the tiny store until he started to roll up his sleeves.
The shopkeeper came away with a puzzled look on his face, but not deterred, 'What is this lady like, may I ask Mr. Zabini?'
'What do you mean?' Blaise replied, dragging a hand through his hair.
The little man frowned, 'What is she like? Is she funny? Polite? Athletic? Loud? Conservative?'
Blaise put his hand up to stop him, 'She is, well she is bossy and a know-it-all,' the shopkeeper just looked at him, waiting for him to go on. Blaise was a unsure how to proceed, what was she like what was she really like? He looked around the store, anywhere but the little mans waiting face. How could he explain what she was like when he wasn't even sure?
He turned to where he had thrown his jacket and sat down on the chair, his finger tapping lightly against the wooden arm of the chair. He had to be honest, that was the only way he could get the book and leave and never have to think about her the way he was now. It was not the way it was between them. The shopkeeper took a step closer to him, 'You must know more than that? You said you were co-workers, where do you work?'
Blaise looked up from his hand, 'The Ministry,' he replied.
The shopkeeper nodded, 'And how much time do you spend to together?'
Blaise's eyes narrowed slightly, but he answered none-the-less, 'I would see her at least once, maybe twice a day.'
Again the shopkeeper nodded, 'That much time together, Mr. Zabini, you must have noticed something?'
It was his turn now to nod, he did notice things, annoying little things that she did all the time. Before he could think and stop himself he was saying them out loud. 'She is always at work ridiculously early, when no one else is there.I thought it was to get ahead of everyone else because that is just like her, but now I don't know maybe she just likes the quiet. The stillness of the office when there is no one else around. You can always count on her turning something so mundane and boring into this big escapade, always giving her attention to the little things,' Blaise rubbed his face, but didn't stop his thoughts were coming as quickly as he was saying them, 'She is funny, in way that you know it's not on purpose, but it makes her real. She's not fake, she doesn't hide who she is behind her status, money or power. With her it is like the saying 'what you see, is what you get', I like that about her.'
The shopkeeper was leaning up against the shelves, unmindful of the dust, 'It seems like this lady is a very wonderful person.'
Blaise broke from reverie at the sound of the little man's voice, 'Yes, well that doesn't make her anyless bossy or annoying.' He growled.
The shopkeeper pushed off the shelf, brushing his sleeve of the dust, he turned and vanished down on of the many aisle's. Blaise simply waited for him to return, his words repeating over in his head. What had he been thinking, to say those things aloud? Pinching the bridge of his nose once more, he looked down at his watch. He had been here for forty minutes, where had all that time gone? Leaning back, he rested his head on the back of the chair, closing his eyes, he listened to the sounds around him. The bustling noise from the street outside, children yelling with excitement, a distant bell rang with a shop door opening. He could hear the shopkeepers feet shuffling across the carpet, then the creak of a shelf a he pulled a book down. He was never going to find the right book. He resigned himself to that fact that it just wasn't meant to be. Tomorrow he would send his house elf out to buy some jewelry and he would be done. Why was he trying so hard to buy her something she would like?
Opening his eyes, the light blinded him for a moment, then the dusty store came into view. Gathering his jacket, he got to his feet. Walking down the wide aisle, he glanced around trying to find the store owner, but he was no-where. Just when he was about to give up and just leave, he found him sitting behind his desk again.
'I think I have found it,' the little man said, his glasses at top his nose again.
Blaise walked over to him, 'I have had enough for today,' he said, his eyes absent-mindly roaming over the books and papers on the desk again, 'Thank You for your-,' he stopped in mid-sentence when he saw her name, 'What is that?' he asked, pointing to a ledger lying open.
The shopkeeper glanced in the direction he was pointing, 'That's just my ledger, where I place all the books on hold in,' he replied, confusion on his face.
Blaise picked up the ledger, 'A Hogwart; A History,' he read out loud.
The little man, peaked up at the title, 'Oh yes, that was a very special order that I got in a few weeks ago, personally signed by the author. I am afraid though that it is on hold, as that is my on- hold ledg-'
'Why didn't she buy it straight away?' Blaise asked, cutting him off.
Startled, it took the shopkeeper a little while to answer, 'Oh, like I said it is a very special order, a very rare book indeed, and she could not afford it all in one go. Sad, she won't have it for a few more months at the rate her deposits are coming in. Pity, she really seemed excited about it too.'
'Do you have it in store now?'
The little man looked up at him warily, 'Yes, but like I said before-'
Blaise placed the ledger back on the desk, 'I'll take it.'
'Mr. Zabini, that book is on hold, I said that before.' The little man, looked quite distressed at the fact that he was not listening to him.
'It is fine, I am buying it for the woman it is on hold for,' Blaise replied with a small smile.
The shopkeeper seemed unsure of how to proceed. Unsure if he was telling the truth or lying just to get the book.
'I promise you that the book is for the woman you have it on hold for, if by the end of next week she has not come in and told you to cancel her order then I will personally return with the book in hand.'
The little man seemed to think on this for a while then smiled broadly up at him, 'Mr. Zabini we have a deal,' he said before racing off through a door that Blaise had not noticed was there. Coming back in only minutes with the large book in his hands.
'Do you want it wrapped Mr. Zabini?' He asked.
'Yes, thank you,' Blaise replied, he rather liked this little man, if he ever needed a book he was certain to return, for this man held a quality that he just couldn't put his finger on that just made you trust him and tell him this that just weren't said. It was something that interested him and would have to no more on. But for today he would settle with liking the man, for he was to tired for anything else.
'Mr. Zabini, a card?'
The little man was looking at him, as though he has asked him a question, 'Hmmm,' he replied.
'Would you like a card, Mr. Zabini?' the little man asked.
Blaise just nodded, as he checked his watch again, he was going to be late for lunch with Malfoy, how would he explain? He could say the truth and tell him he had been shopping but he knew he would ask for who and then there would be the question of why. Sighing to himself, he took the pen the little man offered and quickly scribbled down on the card.
To Hermione Granger,
I hope you enjoy this gift, for all the trouble it caused me to find it,
I wish you all the best for the holidays.
Anonymously your Cris Kringle.