“Harry, you’ve got a letter!”
Harry rolled over to face the wall and pulled the pillow over his head with the groggy hope that Ginny wouldn’t be able to find him. No such luck. She dropped down on the edge of the bed beside him and even that motion felt entirely too cheerful.
“C’mon, Harry. I know you’re not asleep.”
“G’way, ’m tired.”
“I know you are,” she said, not sounding nearly sympathetic enough to suit him. “But this isn’t regular mail. It came inside an envelope addressed to me.” Her weight shifted. “Or, to the Weaselette, at any rate,” she added dryly.
He lifted the edge of the pillow to squint up at her. “To the Weaselette?”
“Yes, but it didn’t say much. Only a request that I give you the letter immediately.”
Shoving the pillow aside, Harry sat up, snagging his glasses off the nightstand. “Only Slytherins call you that,” he said, brow furrowed.
“Only Malfoy,” she corrected.
His eyes darted up to meet hers. “But I just saw him yesterday. Why would he be writing me?”
“I don’t think it’s him,” she said, smoothing out the letter she’d received. “It’s not his handwriting. Whoever wrote it, though, knew it would get our attention.”
She handed him the letter and the sealed envelope that had been with it. Studying the handwriting, he had to agree with her assessment. It made no sense that Malfoy would be writing him, as he was ensconced at Grimmauld Place, but only a Slytherin would insult Ginny as a means of getting his attention.
“I’ve already ran all the checks on it,” she said. “It’s clean, as far as I can tell.”
He nodded absently, not surprised. A lot of mail came for him and Hermione had established a protocol to screen all of it.
“Where’s Hermione and Ron?”
“Hermione dragged Ron to Hogwarts. More research. Said we were supposed to let you sleep.” She shrugged. “Thought you’d want to be woke up for this.”
He was still turning the envelope over in his hands. The slanted Potter on the front looked vaguely familiar, but there was only one sure way to find out who it was from. Tearing it open, he quickly scanned the letter, his eyebrows rising as he read.
“Who’s it from?” Ginny asked, managing to refrain from leaning over to read it for herself.
He lifted his eyes from the parchment.
This was a stupid idea and a foolish risk. He was supposed to be a Slytherin, and Slytherins didn’t owl Harry bloody Potter for help. They didn’t wait in Muggle parks, hoping that Potter actually took the note seriously. They didn’t expose themselves as targets, in a town that wasn’t entirely Muggle.
Then again, only idiots like Weasleys and Lovegoods lived in Ottery St. Catchpole. He wasn’t overly concerned with running into anyone in the Dark Lord’s favour. Of course, there could always be spies hanging about, searching for Potter. He resisted the urge to run.
He didn’t manage to resist the urge to look over his shoulder. Nothing but little Muggle children. Surely Death Eaters would snatch them up first? They’d scream and he’d have time to Apparate. Not that he’d have anywhere to go if it came to that.
Turning his eyes back to the street, he observed the people scuttling about. Where the hell was Potter? His curiosity was supposed to bring him here. It was a miserably sad day for Blaise when he was relying on Potter’s good nature.
Harry shook his head. “No,” he said flatly. “His mother was killed yesterday.”
“Did you kill her?”
The question wasn’t accusatory. Glancing at her askance, Harry realized he could answer yes and Ginny wouldn’t find it surprising, nor would she condemn him.
“No, she was killed by Bellatrix,” he said. “For failing to allow her son to be Marked and causing enough distraction for him to escape.” He found himself relieved that Ginny looked briefly horrified by that news. She hadn’t been completely hardened by the war.
“You saw it happen.”
She nodded grimly and didn’t ask anymore questions. His friends had learned not to question him too deeply, not to press for details they weren’t prepared to hear.
They walked in silence, on alert, just in case.
His brow furrowed as he observed Potter, recognizing as he came closer that there was very little that was casual about Potter’s appearance. He was as scruffy as usual, his clothing atrocious, but he exuded power. Awareness. Purpose. Potter had changed since Dumbledore’s death.
“How long have you been here?” Potter asked, his eyes scanning the area.
Blaise had to fight the automatic desire to argue. “An hour.”
Potter looked at him sharply. Ginny glanced at him, but kept her main focus on their surroundings. Blaise had the distinct impression they knew far more about what was going on than he’d told them in his letter. His suspicions were confirmed when Potter spoke.
“Well, if you’ve made it this far, then you’ve probably managed to throw them off your trail.” He eyed Blaise up and down. “Any injuries?”
Blaise felt like he was being dissected by that green gaze and he felt entirely exposed without his robes. He simply shook his head in answer.
Potter glanced at Ginny. “I’ve got to get him back to the Burrow before Bellatrix catches up to him,” he said grimly.
Her eyes widened marginally, but she didn’t question him. Maybe she didn’t know what was going on, but there was no question that Potter knew.
“Come on, Zabini,” Potter said, already turning to head back in the direction he’d come. “You can’t stay here.”
Ginny glanced at him suspiciously, but fell into step beside Potter. Blaise stared after them for a few seconds before following. It wasn’t like he had much choice in the matter, but it was surreal. Then again, nothing had felt real since the day before.
“You want me to take away the only protection he has in a house full of people who hate him?” Potter said, brows raised. “No.”
“You don’t have any idea which side he’s on! No proof. You’ve not even talked to him!”
“You plan on harming any of the Weasleys, Zabini?” Potter asked dutifully.
Blaise was amused, despite his dire circumstances. “No.”
“There you go,” Potter told her.
“Excuse me, I forgot.” Potter turned back to Blaise. “Do you feel like bowing down before an egotistical, psychotic madman anytime soon?”
Blaise had to swallow before he could say, “Never.”
“Good enough for me,” Potter declared, clasping Blaise’s hand to take him past the wards. His hand was calloused, rough . . . warm, surprisingly gentle. Blaise was even more surprised by the reassuring squeeze before Potter released him.
“You’re explaining to Mum,” Ginny said, glaring at Potter irritably.
Potter winced, but nodded in agreement, leading the way into the most ridiculous looking house Blaise had ever seen.
“Where have you two been?”
Blaise stepped into the kitchen behind Potter, drawing the woman’s attention to him. She blinked in astonishment before giving Potter a stern look.
“Harry James Potter,” she huffed in irritation, hands on her hips. “The other boys used to bring home frogs, creatures of any sort. When they got older, it was filthy magazines and girls. You – I swear you bring home more trouble than Fred and George.”
“I –” Potter stared at her, flabbergasted, his face turning a bright red. Ginny looked fit to burst. A small giggle escaped, which brought her mother’s attention to her.
“You only encourage him, young lady,” she said, wagging her finger. “I’ve a mind to chain you to my side whenever Harry’s home.”
“It’s Harry’s fault, not mine,” Ginny said, looking suddenly innocent. “I was only watching his back since Ron and Hermione aren’t here.”
“Yes.” Mrs. Weasley rounded on Harry again. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?”
“I had to go fetch Zabini,” Potter said, attempting to defend himself. “I doubt he’s eaten since yesterday morning.”
Potter looked satisfied as Mrs. Weasley turned her focus to Blaise. “Oh, you poor dear. What’s Harry been doing, starving you? Zabini, is it? Sit down and I’ll get you something.”
Blaise cast Potter a glare behind her back, but Potter only grinned. He sobered, though, as Mrs. Weasley started bustling about the kitchen.
“I doubt you’re hungry,” Potter said quietly, “but you might as well try to eat. I’ll be back soon.”
“Are you going –” Ginny cut herself off, glancing at Blaise.
“Where are you going now?” Mrs. Weasley demanded.
“They’re looking for him,” Potter said.
“They can keep looking until after you’ve finished eating.”
“Sit,” she ordered, plonking a plate of toast on the table. “Start with that. I’ll have some eggs and bacon up in just a bit.”
Potter snagged a couple pieces of toast and headed to the fireplace anyway.
“Where do you think he is?” Malfoy sneered, his nose wrinkling in disgust as Harry brushed a bit of soot off his toast before taking a large bite.
Harry paid him no mind. He was hungry and if he had to be up and about saving Slytherins, he was at least going to eat. Breaking off a bit of the toast, he fed it to Fawkes, resting on his perch in the corner of the kitchen.
“’Lo, Fawkes. Can you take a message to Snape for me?”
The phoenix trilled a few notes and Harry smiled, still amazed that Fawkes was with them. He had become a vital link between Harry and Snape, able to relay messages without compromising their positions, especially Snape’s.
Shoving the rest of the toast in his mouth, Harry dashed off a short note with the writing supplies that were always kept handy in the kitchen and held it up for Fawkes. Taking it in his mouth, the phoenix disappeared with a flash.
Harry scrounged up some juice while he waited, ignoring Malfoy’s stares. Of course, Malfoy wasn’t fond of being ignored.
“Why are you here?” he demanded. “Fuck something up again?”
“You know,” Harry said thoughtfully. “I used to judge almost all the Slytherins by the way you acted. Maybe I’ve not been fair to the rest of them.”
Malfoy flushed angrily and Harry was rather pleased with himself. They both turned their attention to the fireplace as Snape emerged.
“You know where he is?” Snape asked without preamble, looking tired and haggard after being out most of the night looking for Zabini.
“Mrs. Weasley is serving him breakfast at the moment,” Harry said.
“Zabini?” Snape verified, arching a brow in surprise.
“Yeah, he owled me this morning and I went to fetch him. He’s all right, considering. Not talking at all, but he’s not injured, either.”
“Zabini owled you?” Malfoy said incredulously. “Why?”
Harry shrugged. “He thinks you’re dead and he thinks Snape’s evil. The Ministry is a joke and Hogwarts isn’t considered safe after the stunt you pulled. His mother is dead and his friends all have ties to Voldemort. Who else does he have to turn to?”
“But you’re Potter.”
“Hasn’t stopped you from living in my house.”
Malfoy snapped his mouth shut and Harry turned his attention back to Snape, who was frowning, deep in thought.
“So, what do you want me to do with him?”
“Keep him at the Weasleys for at least a couple days,” Snape said. “Talk to him and fill him in regarding events as you see fit.”
“Shouldn’t you two be talking to him? He’s not going to believe me.”
“He trusted you enough to seek out your assistance,” Snape said, sounding incredibly weary. “He will not trust either of us – especially after what happened yesterday.”
No one was saying a word.
Harry rolled his eyes and sat down next to Zabini, digging into his breakfast when Mrs. Weasley sat a full plate down in front of him.
“What did you determine, dear?” she asked.
“Is it all right with you if Zabini stays here for now?”
“No!” Ron protested. “He can stay –”
Hermione elbowed him hard in the ribs and he glared at her irritably, but shut his mouth.
“Do you think that’s wise?” Mrs. Weasley asked, eyeing her son and Zabini warily.
Harry shrugged. “Wasn’t my decision, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem.” He looked at Ron across the table. “Will it, Ron?” he added with more than a hint of warning.
“No,” Ron said sullenly.
“We’ll put you both up in the twins’ room,” Mrs. Weasley said decisively.
Ron looked ready to protest, but Hermione elbowed him again. Harry simply nodded, knowing Mrs. Weasley was attempting to keep Ron and Zabini separated, while at the same time having someone to keep an eye on the Slytherin. It was her way of making it clear that Zabini was Harry’s responsibility.
They’d already gone through the obligatory argument regarding Blaise’s presence. He’d been grimly amused at Weasley’s red-faced frustration when Potter put his foot down and stubbornly refused to fight about it any longer. Weasley had turned to Granger for support, but she’d agreed with Potter. She had tactics to calm him down, though, that Potter didn’t have. A light touch to Weasley’s arm and a whisper in his ear and Weasley’s blush had darkened, but he’d stopped arguing.
He didn’t know what they were arguing about now, but it was clear that it was Weasley and Granger against Potter this time. Potter appeared just as stubborn, though, and they weren’t getting anywhere. With a huff, Granger gave up, slamming a stack of books on the table. Their conversation turned serious, intense, determination settling over them like a cloak. It fit them surprisingly well.
“They’ll probably be like that for hours,” Ginny said, settling down on the grass near him.
He shrugged one shoulder. It made little difference to him, as he had nowhere to go. He’d had a shower and Potter had showed him where they would be sleeping, offering him a chance to lie down for a while, but he was too tense to sleep. This was good enough for now. He eyed Ginny. Unless he had to put up with her until Potter was done.
“I just wanted to know if you needed anything. A book, a broom maybe, although, I’ve never seen you fly. Mum insisted I ask if you wanted something else to eat.”
The food he’d managed to choke down an hour before was churning in his stomach. Grimacing, he shook his head. The only thing he really wanted was some answers and he didn’t think he’d get them from her.
Thankfully, she didn’t push, getting to her feet. She hesitated, though, before walking away. “I don’t know if you’ll appreciate this or not, but you’re under Harry’s protection now. He won’t allow anyone – and I do mean anyone, dark or light – to mess with you.” Her voice took on a hint of warning. “But if you attempt to mess with him, you’ll wish you had joined Voldemort.”
Blaise watched her head back into the house, turning back to watch the trio as the door slammed behind her. He’d expected a warning. Actually, he’d expected dire threats and Veritaserum at best and to be whisked off to a Ministry holding cell at worst. He intended to forget the few panicked moments during the night when he’d expected death upon sight.
Not one of his guesses had included a single vague warning and what sounded like the ultimate protection he could get. When had Potter taken charge over everyone? Or was it just Weasleys? He suspected it was the former. No one, not even Potter, had asked him any questions about why he was there.
Because Potter already knew what had happened. Blaise had no idea how Potter knew, but he did. The pitying glances from Granger that grated on his nerves indicated she knew. Weasley knew, but still hated him. Oddly comforting, that. Blaise still hated him as well. Ginny knew some of it, but he didn’t think she knew as much as the trio. Mrs. Weasley apparently knew nothing, but she’d barely batted a lash at his appearance in her kitchen.
Normally Blaise enjoyed hating Potter just as much, and probably more, than he hated Weasley. But there had been no pitying glances, no hatred, no awkward questions. Only acceptance. He could probably learn to like this Potter.
Liking him or not, he hadn’t been able to think about anything but Potter for hours, clinging to him like a life line. He was a life line. Better to think about him than the alternatives. The last twenty-four hours had been the most horrific in his life.
He picked at a loose thread from a tear in his trousers, wondering what was going to happen to him. He was certain his mother had paid the ultimate price for his escape, but her death didn’t seem real. Nothing did.
He glanced back up at the trio. Only Potter seemed real.
“Is that my trunk?” Blaise had to know what his own trunk looked like, but he’d not expected to see it at the foot of George Weasley’s bed.
“Yes,” Harry said without mocking him. “I thought you’d appreciate having some of your own things.” Hopefully Malfoy had packed things Blaise would actually need.
“I’ve got a few connections.”
“A few connections,” Blaise repeated faintly as he knelt beside his trunk and opened it.
Harry left him to it, rifling through his own trunk and changing into pyjamas. It wasn’t until they were both in bed before Blaise spoke again.
“Potter? My mother’s dead, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Harry answered softly, confirming what Blaise already knew. “Bellatrix killed her.”
“How do you know?”
Harry hesitated. “I just do. You need to sleep.”
Blaise didn’t respond, but he didn’t sleep, either. Harry heard the slight hitch of breath and did his best to ignore the fact that Blaise was mourning his mother.
He rolled over, turning his back on Blaise and giving him what little privacy he could. He thought about actually leaving and going back downstairs for a little while, but didn’t particularly want to leave him completely alone, either.
It was several hours later that he woke with a start and it only took him a second to figure out what was wrong, although, there was something strange about being woken by someone else’s nightmare instead of his own. He crossed to the other bed, unable to watch Blaise suffer, and gently shook him awake.
Blaise woke violently, jerking upright and away from Harry, almost falling off the other side of the bed.
“Hey, you’re safe,” Harry said in what he hoped was a soothing voice. “You’re at the Weasleys.”
“Fuck,” Blaise muttered, his breathing uneven. He was trembling and pulled his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them in an attempt to control it.
“Do you want to try to go back to sleep?”
Blaise shook his head vehemently. Harry nodded in understanding. Carefully, watching Blaise closely for his reaction, he sat down on Blaise’s bed and began talking. Nothing important, simply one-sided conversation designed to distract. It was what Ron always did for him and he hoped it would work for Blaise.
He talked about Hogwarts, and run-ins he’d had with Filch, thinking the familiar setting would be comforting. Somehow, he drifted into describing Bill and Fleur’s wedding from the past summer, describing pranks the twins had pulled. That led to describing his birthday and being dragged out to the pub and getting so drunk that he’d ended up kissing Fred instead of Ginny.
Blaise had slowly calmed and that last bit had him actually searching Harry’s eyes out in the dark. Harry shrugged sheepishly. He got teased about it often enough that Blaise was bound to hear about it at some point anyway; might as well tell him what had actually happened instead of some cocked up story Ron told.
“Did he kiss back?”
“Er, yeah,” Harry said, feeling decidedly uncomfortable now. He hadn’t expected that question. Or the next.
“Did you like it?”
Harry was suddenly aware they were sitting far too close to each other. He moved to slide off the bed, but was effectively frozen when Blaise put a hand on his thigh to stop him. That did not help Harry recover his lost composure.
Blaise slowly closed the distance between them. Harry couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe. Their lips touched, a gentle pressure. Harry’s brain was overloading, trying to figure out how they’d gone from nightmares to snogging. Blaise’s tongue tentatively flicked over his bottom lip and he didn’t particularly care anymore. It felt good. Very good.
Harry kissed him back.
It was when he moved to touch Blaise’s shoulders in hopes of pulling him closer that Blaise broke away as if he’d been burned. Muttering curses and an apology or two, Harry stumbled back to his own bed and attempted to stifle his humiliation under the blankets.
Considering he was essentially shadowing Potter’s movements – it made the Weasleys decidedly more comfortable when he was within Potter’s sight – Potter did his best to avoid him. He wouldn’t look at him if at all possible and would blush when he did. He would sit on the opposite side of the table, the garden, the sitting room. He changed in the loo and spoke to him only when necessary.
Except at night. When he woke from a nightmare, Potter was always there and would talk nonsense until he’d calmed enough to sleep again. Although, Potter was careful not to tell anymore incriminating stories.
The girls had picked up on Potter’s antics immediately and rolled their eyes behind his back. Weasley, however, was absolutely clueless, congratulating Potter for steering clear of the slimy Slytherin. Mrs. Weasley had evaluated their behaviour the next morning and simply sighed in resignation.
Blaise was finding Potter to be a pleasant distraction from the uncertainty that was his life. Potter was attractive, which made it easy to sit and simply watch him for hours, but he was also a puzzle. Potter was not the simple-minded idiot he’d pegged him for throughout school. He had multiple layers and Blaise found himself intrigued, wanting to discover all of them.
One of the most fascinating and amusing mysteries was how Potter could go from strong and confident one second to blushing furiously the next. More important, however, was the mystery of how Potter knew more than he should. Also important was the hours upon hours the trio spent in the garden, apparently doing research of some kind. Unfortunately, Potter wasn’t talking to him and explanations were not forthcoming.
It was the fourth day when things came to a head after breakfast. Granger shoved Harry, none to gently, in Blaise’s direction, ordering him to explain. Reluctantly, Harry trudged up to their room so they could talk in private. Blaise settled himself comfortably on his bed, propped up against the headboard, and waited patiently, watching Harry pace.
“You kissed me first,” Potter finally blurted out, promptly looking horrified with himself and blushing.
Blaise smirked at him. “I’d do it again if you’d let me.”
Potter’s eyes opened impossibly wide. “Why?” He backtracked instantly. “Ah, hell, don’t answer that.” He raked a hand through his hair in frustration. “I didn’t bring you up here to talk about . . . kissing.”
“Pity,” Blaise said lightly. It was easy for him to be confident when Harry so clearly wasn’t in this area.
Potter gaped at him for a moment before pulling himself together. “I don’t have time for,” he gestured vaguely, “that.”
Blaise thought he was rather adorably innocent, admiring the flush staining his cheeks. Potter took a deep breath, though, and seemingly without effort turned into the confident boy who was fighting a war. That was attractive as well.
“You know about the Order of the Phoenix,” Potter said. “It would make things easier if you joined, pledging the Wizarding oath to keep the Order’s secrets. I trust that you’re not going to run off to tell the Death Eaters, but most people don’t.”
“Who would I have to pledge an oath to?” Blaise asked warily.
“Me,” Potter said, shrugging, a light grin gracing his features.
“You really are leading the Light side, aren’t you?”
“Somebody has to,” Potter said, a simple statement of fact.
“So, that’s how you knew about my mum,” he said quietly. “Snape told you what happened.”
Harry only had to debate for a moment before deciding to tell the truth. “Snape’s not the only spy. I was there, but I couldn’t do anything to stop what was happening.”
“You’re a Death Eater?” Blaise exclaimed in shock.
“No,” Harry said, twisting the bracelet on his wrist that connected him with Snape – and the Dark Mark. “I go with Snape, undercover. He designed several layers of protection and concealment charms that keep Voldemort from detecting me. I go under my Invisibility Cloak that has yet more layers of charms.”
“Because I’m the only one who understands Parseltongue.”
Spying was a productive endeavour, although difficult to endure. He hadn’t learned nearly as much about the Horcruxes as he’d hoped, but he had at least verified that Nagini was one. Voldemort spoke to her often and always kept her nearby. On more than one occasion Harry had learned of plans that Voldemort hadn’t revealed to his followers. It kept him going back.
Silence had again fallen over the room as Blaise attempted to process everything Harry had revealed.
“Now that you know, you can go stay with Malfoy. You don’t have to stay here at the Weasleys.”
“You actually trust him?”
“As far as the war goes, yeah. Do I like the slimy little bastard? No.”
“But you like Snape?”
Harry shrugged. “Well enough. I understand him. And if I’m honest, I reckon Malfoy isn’t really that bad, either,” he admitted grudgingly. “It’s good to have someone around I can fight with.”
“Draco’s good for that,” Blaise agreed dryly. He gave Harry a sidelong glance. “What if I’d prefer to stay here?”
“But you hate the Weasleys,” Harry said in surprise. “Wouldn’t you rather go stay with the Slytherins?”
Blaise looked uncomfortable. “I know it’s safe here,” he muttered.
“It’s safe there, too,” Harry said reasonably. “The company’s just less pleasant. Well, the food isn’t as good there, either. And the house is a nasty piece of work.” He shrugged. “You’d still probably be more comfortable there.”
The corner of Blaise’s mouth lifted into a mischievous smirk. “There’s no chance of snogging there.”
Harry mentally cursed the blush that heated his face. “There’s no chance of snogging here, either,” he retorted.
“No chance at all?”
“Look, I’m trying to help you,” Harry said irritably. “You could at least give me the courtesy of not mocking me.”
Blaise’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Is that what you think? Is that why you’ve been trying to avoid me?” His voice softened. “I wasn’t trying to mock you.”
“Then, what were you doing?” Harry asked, bewildered.
“A horribly poor job of flirting,” Blaise said dryly. “It’s been a rough week and I’ve never tried flirting with a bloke before.”
“You’ve been flirting with me? Why?”
“Because I liked kissing you,” Blaise admitted. “I’d rather think about kissing than war and spies and . . . everything else.”
“Oh,” Potter said, blinking owlishly.
“Can I kiss you again?” Blaise asked, moving to sit down beside Harry.
“I’ve never actually . . . only Fred . . . and you . . . accident.” Harry snapped his mouth shut, absolutely mortified. He could address the entire Order without a second thought and he’d been heading the war effort for months. Why did he have to revert into a stuttering idiot now?
He didn’t have a bloody clue about what he was doing, but when Blaise’s mouth closed over his, it didn’t require thought to respond.
“I gave him a lot to think about earlier,” Harry said, unable to meet Ron’s eyes, feeling the damnable blush creeping up his neck again and burning his ears. Blaise had also given him a lot to think about.
“But why doesn’t he talk?”
Harry shrugged. “What does he have to say to any of us? He’s just quiet. And he does talk to me sometimes.” Personally, he thought Blaise had better things to do with his mouth than talk.
“It’s unnatural,” Ron grumbled. “Nobody’s that quiet.”
Sneaking a sidelong glance at Blaise, sitting in his usual spot in the garden, Harry couldn’t help but think that kissing him had felt anything but unnatural. Turning back to his friends, Hermione caught his eye and smiled at him, both knowing and reassuring.
He smiled sheepishly in return, grateful she seemed to be supportive of . . . whatever the hell he was doing with Blaise.
“He knows everything?” she asked.
“Pretty much,” Harry said. “The basics of everything but the Horcruxes.”
“So, he’ll be leaving soon, yeah?” Ron asked hopefully.
“Er, I don’t know,” Harry hedged. “He might’ve said something about staying here a little longer.”
“Why?” Ron demanded. “I’d think he’d want to go stay with the ferret.”
“Maybe that’s why,” Hermione said. “Would you trust Malfoy if you were him?”
Harry felt a new rush of gratitude towards her.
“I don’t trust him as me,” Ron said, scowling. “But I don’t trust Zabini, either.”
“They’re both harmless,” Harry said. “Just, one barks and one doesn’t. Neither of them bite.”
Ron looked confused, but Hermione burst out laughing. As Hermione attempted to explain the Muggle phrase to Ron, Harry tugged at the collar of his shirt. He’d lied to Ron. Blaise did bite.
“Gods, Malfoy,” Potter exclaimed in exasperation. “Just shut up for once, would you? Or go talk to Zabini. Maybe he feels like listening to you.”
Thanks, Potter, Blaise thought dryly, but he was surprised once again when Draco actually listened to Potter.
“I can’t believe you want to stay here with that git,” Draco said, casting an irritable glare at Potter, who was now talking earnestly with Snape. That was a mind boggling sight in itself, but Draco was apparently used to it.
“I can be outside here,” Blaise said mildly.
Draco looked at him sharply before he nodded in understanding. “It’s the closest I get to seeing the outside world,” he admitted. His gaze was almost wistful as he gazed towards the field. “Maybe I can talk Potter into a fly after the meeting.”
The meeting was even more enlightening than anything else Blaise had witnessed over the last several days. There was no question Potter was in charge, not even a hint of a blush in his hard, determined expression. Snape and Draco sat on one side of him with Granger and Weasley on the other, and all signs of animosity and rivalry had completely disappeared.
Although Potter did a lot of delegating, McGonagall, Aurors, everyone deferred to him. Blaise was introduced then promptly relegated to the sidelines with a few sympathetic glances. No one questioned his presence or Potter’s authority. This was the same boy that trembled in Blaise’s arms, young and inexperienced, but Blaise was the one who felt insignificant as they discussed strategies for winning a war.
Afterwards, Blaise sat on the ground and simply watched Draco and Potter and a dozen others as they played Quidditch, excited because they had enough players for two full teams. It was the only time he’d seen Potter truly relax all week.
“Zabini?” Granger spoke his name hesitantly. “Do you mind?”
He gestured to the ground, not surprised to see her. She sat down so she could see him and still keep on eye on the game.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
He shot her a look. “Why? You don’t like me.”
“I don’t have anything against you, but it’s not about me,” she said, her head tilting back to look skyward. “It’s about Harry.”
“From what I can see, everything’s about him.”
“It is,” she agreed, turning her solemn gaze back to him. “But it’s about what he can do for everyone else, not what anyone is doing for him. I don’t know what your intentions are but you’ve reminded him that he has a life. That there are some things that aren’t about the war.”
She didn’t seem to expect him to say anything and he simply turned over what she’d said as they sat there quietly, watching the game. She didn’t speak again until the exuberant players started to land.
“Just try not to hurt him. Please.”
Watching Potter, sweaty and flushed with excitement, he nodded to her. He wasn’t quite sure what his intentions were, either, but he did know he didn’t intend to hurt him.
“Too late,” Blaise said dryly. “Besides, we’re eighteen. We’re required to have sex.”
Harry turned his head to look at him. “Required?”
“Of course. Otherwise we’ll wither up and die.”
“Well, I’m not dead, but you’ll have to give me a few minutes if you expect any more out of me.”
Sniggering, Blaise tugged Harry closer. “Sleep isn’t required, but we can do that, too, if you want.”
Harry squirmed to get more comfortable, pressed along Blaise’s side with his head on his chest. He listened to Blaise’s heartbeat, still not quite returned to normal. He genuinely liked being with Blaise but couldn’t help thinking maybe they were moving too quickly. Sex was one thing. It was his heart, and Blaise’s, that he was worried about.
“I like the sex,” he admitted. “I just don’t think we should get involved.”
“Sex is involved.”
“You’re a Slytherin,” Harry retorted. “You know better than that.”
Blaise was quiet, but his hand smoothed down Harry’s side to rest on his hip, warm and comforting. His thumb stroked an absent pattern over Harry’s hipbone, causing a shudder to travel up Harry’s spine as he realized it wasn’t sexual in nature. The gesture was tender, meant to soothe.
“It’s too late, isn’t it?” Harry whispered. They were already involved.
“Yes,” Blaise answered, not pretending to misunderstand him.
“But I can’t be in a relationship,” Harry said, shoving away and sitting up.
“You’re a Gryffindor,” Blaise said. “What did you think you were agreeing to when you said you were all right with this?”
“I was agreeing to sex,” Harry said, feeling panicked. “I’m not all Gryffindor, you know.”
Blaise blinked. “You’re not?”
“Of course not!” Harry said. “I’m half Slytherin!”
“You’re half –” Blaise ran a hand down the side of his face, clearly attempting to pull his thoughts together. “Harry, just calm down, all right.”
“You are supposed to be a Slytherin,” Harry said accusingly.
“Slytherins are allowed to want relationships,” Blaise retorted. “Not all of us are cold and heartless.”
“But you’re supposed to be into the self-preservation thing. Being in a relationship with me doesn’t qualify! Either you’ll die or I will.”
“So much for Gryffindor optimism,” Blaise muttered.
“I told you, I’m half Slytherin! Why the hell do you think I broke up with Ginny?”
Blaise arched a brow. “Because you’re gay?” he suggested.
“Well, yeah, apparently,” Harry said, flustered. He glared when Blaise started sniggering.
“Apparently?” Blaise questioned, running a hand up Harry’s thigh and blatantly watching Harry twitch in response. “I’d say it’s a definite.”
Harry slapped his hand away. “Stop that! I can’t think when you’re touching me.”
“That’s a good thing,” Blaise said dryly. “It means we’re compatible.”
“No, it’s not,” Harry said stubbornly. “Not thinking means I can get us killed. That’s why I broke up with Ginny. That’s why I can’t be in a relationship with anyone.”
“So, you’re saying I should be jealous of Ginny after all?”
“No, of course not.” Harry blinked as Blaise’s question caught up to him. “You’d be jealous of Ginny?”
Blaise’s eyes were hooded and unreadable. “Should I be? I’ve thought she was nothing more than a sister to you.”
“She is,” Harry said, his brow furrowed. “Just a sister, I mean.” He tilted his head. “You’re feeling jealous now?”
“Would you be jealous if you found out I’d been snogging Draco?” Blaise countered.
Harry’s nostrils flared as his eyes narrowed. “I thought the little bastard was straight and I know he fancies Ginny, even though he won’t admit it.”
“But you’re jealous, aren’t you?” Blaise taunted lightly. “You can’t stand the thought of Draco kissing me.”
“You’re mine, not Malfoy’s,” Harry growled.
Blaise’s smirk was smug. “So, we’re in a relationship, then?”
Glaring suspiciously, Harry said, “You haven’t been snogging Malfoy, have you?”
Harry groaned helplessly. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’m not blind to the risks, Harry,” Blaise said. “I still want you.”
“It’s too dangerous. Hell, just telling Ron might get us both killed.”
“What Weasley doesn’t know won’t hurt us,” Blaise retorted.
“You want to keep this secret?” Harry asked, frowning.
“Honestly, I don’t care,” Blaise said. “It’d be nice to be open about our relationship, but you’re right, it probably is dangerous right now and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to interfere with the things you need to do. If that means keeping things secret and only being with you like this at night, then I’m all right with that.”
“It’s supposed to be just sex anyway,” Harry pouted.
Blaise’s hand slid up Harry’s thigh again. “All right,” he said congenially.
Blaise hesitated on the stairs, recognizing the teasing voice of one of the twins. His eyes narrowed.
“Shut up,” Harry snapped irritably.
“Ooooh, look at that blush, Fred. You’ve got competition!”
“There’s no competition and I’m not a prize to be won!”
“He’s touchy, too, George. Must be love.”
“Piss off,” Harry retorted. “Let’s go flying.”
Blaise watched as Harry stormed out of the sitting room and out the front door. He hadn’t noticed Blaise on the stairs but the twins who’d followed did.
“Look, George, an attractive bloke.”
“An attractive bloke staying in our room with Harry,” said George, head bobbing in agreement.
Blaise eyed them warily, not wanting them to cause trouble Harry wasn’t ready to face. “Potter has an idiot friend and a dangerous job and doesn’t want an attractive bloke.”
The twins exchanged glances.
“Or, Ginny was right and Harry doesn’t want anyone to know he’s already got one.”
Fred sniffed dramatically. “No wonder there’s no competition.” He fell onto his twin’s shoulder. “It’s over, George. I’ve lost him.”
“There, there,” George said, patting him on the head. “I’m sure this bloke will take care of our Harry.”
Their poses were meant to be humorous, but the expressions directed at Blaise were anything but.
Blaise nodded slowly and they grinned.
“Let us know when we can properly welcome you to the family!”
Gobsmacked, Blaise watched them turn and troop out the door in search of Harry. Welcome to the family? Weasleys? Maybe he needed to rethink the relationship thing. It was all right for Harry to be braving Dark Lords and Death Eaters. They’d be dead eventually. He would be stuck with Weasleys for as long as he was with Harry – not something he’d previously taken into consideration.
He followed the others out to the garden and settled in to watch. Living with the Weasleys was a temporary situation, and he’d been looking at it as such. Sitting in the peaceful garden, though, he realized that it hadn’t really been so horrible and it had one major advantage that no place else had.
Harry dived, cursing one of the twins for bouncing a tennis ball off the back of his head. He pulled out of it laughing, holding the ball up in triumph.
Yes, Blaise decided, Harry was worth braving the Weasleys. No matter how many of them there were.
“Potter!” Malfoy called his name more in alarm than to get his attention. Harry distantly recognized that, but was too sick to worry about reassuring him.
It was long minutes before Harry was seated at the table with a cup of tea generously laced with a Calming Draught and a potion to settle his stomach, courtesy of Malfoy.
“All right?” Malfoy asked.
Harry simply shook his head.
Forcing a swallow, Harry answered, “Busy.”
“Do you want me to get Blaise?”
“Blaise?” Harry repeated blankly.
“Well, you’re seeing him, aren’t you?” Malfoy said, waving his arm about in a vague gesture. “He’s got to be better at this comfort thing than I am.”
Harry knew he should be feeling alarmed, but the Calming Draught and the shock over what he’d witnessed that evening was blanketing his emotions. “You know? About us?”
“Of course I know,” Malfoy said impatiently. “Everyone knows.”
“Oh.” He’d have to figure out how he felt about that later. “It’s not important.”
Malfoy frowned, revealing his concern. “What is important?” he asked warily.
“Er, maybe you should get Blaise. He should know, too.”
Harry shook his head. “This should be private news.”
Malfoy’s concern deepened, but he slipped through the Floo, returning only a minute later with Blaise in tow.
“Just sit down and do something for him,” Malfoy snapped when Blaise hesitated. “I sure as fuck don’t know what to do.”
“I’m not –” Harry took a deep breath and started over. “It’s not me who needs comfort.”
“What’s happened, Harry?” Blaise asked quietly, sitting down beside him after shooting a wary glance at Malfoy.
“Nott was Marked tonight,” Harry said. That was the easy part, but Draco and Blaise both inhaled sharply at the news. Draco had gone white, rubbing at his forearm. “Snape’s busy with him right now, going over the Death Eater code or some such nonsense.”
“We knew he wanted to be Marked,” Blaise said. “That can’t be what has you so upset.”
Harry shuddered violently, remembering the horrors of the evening. Blaise’s hand was warm when it gripped his tightly and it wasn’t until then that he realized how cold he was.
“Potter?” Malfoy said worriedly.
Harry stared at him, hating the fact that he was the one delivering the news. “I’m sorry,” he said mournfully. “Pansy . . . she was supposed to be Marked tonight as well.”
Draco’s skin went beyond white and into grey. “She’s dead?”
Harry could only nod. He couldn’t begin to describe the tortures she’d endured before death had been seen as a mercy.
“Bad?” Blaise whispered.
Another violent shudder shook Harry and he simply nodded again.
Blaise had remained sober, knowing someone would have to watch over the other two. Harry’s eyes had been haunted, though he refused to talk about what exactly he’d witnessed. Draco had simply taken the news badly. He and Pansy had always been close, even after they’d broken it off over a year before.
Both of them believed Pansy’s death was their fault. Blaise knew they were both wrong. He smoothed Draco’s hair away from his eyes and stroked Harry’s cheek with his thumb, wishing there was something more he could do.
He and Draco had managed to escape, but they were slowly losing everyone they knew. They’d both lost their mothers, ironically the reason they were both currently at Grimmauld Place with Harry. Nott was lost to them, as were Crabbe and Goyle and Millicent. Pansy, along with Tracy, hadn’t survived the initiation. No one knew where Daphne and her family had disappeared.
What would happen to him and Draco if something happened to Harry? Blaise’s chest tightened painfully. He had only been with Harry for a month and yet it was an entire lifetime. His old life was dead. He had no future. Not yet. But if he was going to have one, he rather hoped it would be with Harry, that they would have a chance.
Harry was the key to Draco’s future as well. Blaise had been able to clearly see the bond of friendship binding them tighter throughout their drunken evening. Blaise himself was closer to Draco than he’d ever been in that other lifetime. There was no one else.
Except Snape. The man watching over all three of them.
Blaise lifted weary eyes as Snape entered the room. He looked more haggard than Blaise had ever seen him. His eyes swept over the three boys and the litter of dirty glasses and empty bottles of Firewhiskey before meeting Blaise’s gaze directly.
“You did not drink?”
“No,” Blaise said quietly. “They needed me.”
He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not, but Snape’s features appeared to soften.
“I see that. Would you care for some assistance?”
Blaise hesitated before answering. The reason he was still sitting there was because he didn’t want to put Draco to bed and leave him alone. Not tonight. And he wasn’t about to leave Harry alone. So, he sat.
“Would you be able to just transfigure the couch? Make it wider or something?”
Snape complied with Blaise’s request without question, understanding in his eyes. In short order, Blaise was more comfortable in a couch shaped bed with Draco on one side of him and Harry on the other. They were still in their robes, but that was just as well.
“Thank you, sir.”
Snape nodded in acknowledgement, his hand brushing across Harry’s forehead with the barest of touches. “Take care of them,” he said before sweeping out of the room. Blaise would wonder the next day if he had simply dreamed the tender gesture.
Ginny’s shout piercing through Harry’s skull was surely the roughest transition from sleep to waking he’d ever endured. A matching groan indicated someone else was in agreement with him.
“Oh my,” came the sound of Hermione’s voice.
Harry cracked his eyes open to see Hermione, Ginny and Ron standing at the foot of . . . the bed?
“Where ‘m I?” he mumbled.
Harry recognized Malfoy’s voice and was inclined to agree with him for once. Wincing as he turned his head, he was nose to nose with Blaise, though, not Malfoy. That was good. Much better than Malfoy, who he just caught a glimpse of on the other side of Blaise. Blaise looked an intriguing combination of sleepy, amused and concerned.
“Where are we?”
“The drawing room at Grimmauld Place,” Blaise answered, and Harry was never so grateful for his soft-spoken voice. “On the couch. Transfigured.”
“Oh.” That answered some questions but raised many more, and Harry’s brain was working fuzzily. Felt rather like his tongue, actually. Fuzzy and nasty and not working properly.
Hermione cleared her throat, a horribly loud, grating noise. “Why are all three of you sleeping together?”
Draco moaned pitifully. “If I could move, I’d jump away from them in disgust.”
“I’d give you a push if I had the energy,” Harry said sympathetically.
Hermione and Ginny didn’t do a very good job of suppressing their amusement. Ron gaped. Blaise gingerly manoeuvred himself into a sitting position. Harry and Draco winced at the movement and burrowed deeper under the blankets to at least block out the light.
“We had a rough night,” Blaise said. “They’ve both got hangovers.”
“What happened?” Hermione asked in concern.
Harry’s mind decided to finally kick in. Pansy. He was suddenly trying to untangle himself from the blankets as quickly as possible, knowing he was going to be sick again from a combination of the memories and the hangover. Blaise wrenched the blankets out of his way and he managed to make it to the loo.
He’d never felt so sick and guilty and utterly wretched in his life. Malfoy being violently sick in the tub behind him did not in any way help. They were definitely in hell. With angels. He always knew his life wasn’t normal.
The girls apparently had stronger stomachs than the boys because they had braved the room, providing soothing hands rubbing their backs and blessedly cold cloths. Humiliated as he was, Harry had never loved Hermione as much as he did at that moment. He knew Draco was crushing on Ginny, but was willing to bet he had a new appreciation for her as well.
“Potter, I hate you,” Draco muttered, slumping against Harry’s back.
Good to know some things didn’t change. “Yeah, me too,” Harry agreed.
“Potions,” Blaise announced from the doorway.
“But I love Blaise,” Draco said.
“Yeah, me too,” Harry repeated. He didn’t notice Blaise’s pause before passing the potions over to the girls.
With a round of potions and brushed teeth, Harry was feeling halfway human by the time he made it back to the drawing room, but he was drained. He sprawled on the transfigured couch, face buried in the cushions. Malfoy did the same on the other side of their makeshift bed. Blaise sat on the edge, close to Harry.
“Er, what’s wrong with them?” Ron asked.
“Pansy died last night,” Blaise said, finally giving them the news.
Harry felt the bed shifting but ignored it until he felt someone running fingers through his hair. Turning his head and cracking his eyes open, he saw Ginny sitting cross-legged between him and Draco, stroking his hair as well. Draco met his gaze and Harry wondered if his eyes looked as haunted as Draco’s did. Pansy’s death had hit them both hard, albeit for different reasons.
He decided he didn’t want to think about how odd this situation was, because that meant thinking about why it had come about in the first place. War and death. It was forming ties that never would’ve been formed otherwise.
Blaise glanced at him askance. “What are you doing here?”
“Everybody’s here,” Draco said sullenly. “Now, answer my question.”
“You have no interest in hearing about why I think Potter’s sexy,” Blaise said. “So, why don’t you just ask me whatever it is that you really want to know?”
Draco’s nose scrunched as he pulled a face. “You really think he’s sexy? Potter?”
“He’s especially sexy in bed,” Blaise said, enjoying Draco’s discomfort. “But, even dressed, he exudes power.”
“Urgh, no discussing your sex life, but I’ll give you the power thing.”
Blaise shook his head in exasperation. “What do you want, Draco?”
“What’s it like staying here?”
“With the Weasleys? They’re all right.”
Draco eyed him sceptically. “You think so?”
“Why don’t you just ask her?”
“Ask who?” Draco asked, eyes shifting automatically to the other side of the garden.
“Since when are you shy?”
“I’m not shy!” Draco protested.
Blaise arched a brow in disbelief. “Then why don’t you just ask her to go with you?”
“She’s a Weasley!”
“She’s also Potter’s,” Draco muttered.
“She is not Harry’s.”
“But she liked him, though, didn’t she?” Draco said irritably.
“That’s why you wanted to know why I like Harry?”
“I just wanted to know what everyone sees in him. If it’s the black hair, then I’m out of the running, aren’t I? Every bloke she’s gone with has dark hair. If it’s the bravery thing, well, I’m out of luck on that as well,” Draco said bitterly.
Blaise tilted his head curiously. He’d never seen Draco out of sorts over a girl before, although the jealousy regarding Harry was certainly nothing new.
“I like Harry because he makes me feel good. And not just like that,” he said when Draco grimaced. “Harry doesn’t give a damn if I’m a Slytherin or rich or a Zabini or if I’m black or a pureblood.”
“Then, what does he like about you?” Draco asked, bewildered.
Blaise rolled his eyes. “There’s more to me than those things.”
Draco eyed him doubtfully. “If you say so.”
Blaise wished Ginny patience if she ever decided to go with Draco. “Draco, you’re not going to win her over by any of those things. If anything, they’ll count against you. She doesn’t care if you’re a Malfoy or if you’re rich.”
“I need to know what she does care about,” Draco said, exasperated. “You’re not being helpful.”
“It isn’t going to be your patience that attracts her,” Blaise muttered.
“She likes you,” Blaise said. “Merlin knows why, though I reckon you’re pretty enough.”
“Pretty?” Draco squawked in protest.
“I just meant you’re good looking,” Blaise snapped.
“No, he’s pretty,” Harry said, dropping down beside Blaise and grinning evilly at Draco.
“I’m not pretty.”
“Sure you are,” Harry said. “Not my thing, but Ginny seems to like you well enough.”
Blaise suppressed his sniggers when Draco perked up in interest.
Harry nodded. “She also seems to think you’re brave for switching sides. Takes a lot of courage to fight against everything you’ve grown up knowing.”
Draco’s brow furrowed. “Do you think so?”
“Yes,” Harry answered honestly, shrugging. “I think Ginny’s looking for you, by the way. She was looking for someone decent to fly with.”
“I can fly,” Draco said, getting to his feet and heading off immediately.
Blaise glanced at Harry suspiciously. “You overheard everything, didn’t you?”
“I happen to think you’re sexy, too, even if you are a rich, pureblood Slytherin,” Harry said, grinning unrepentantly.
“Harry, tell her she can’t come with us,” Ron demanded.
“I’m going,” Ginny said stubbornly.
“No, you’re not,” Harry said.
Ginny was livid. “I’m just as good as Ron and I could help.”
“It has nothing to do with you being a girl. If it did, Hermione wouldn’t be going. You know this.”
“Is Zabini going with you?” she demanded.
“No and neither is Malfoy.”
That took some of the wind from her sails, but she rounded on Blaise. “You’re just going to let him go?”
“I’m not his keeper,” Blaise said.
“What kind of boyfriend are you?” she demanded.
“Ginny!” Harry exclaimed. “Leave Blaise out of it, all right? I happen to like him the way he is.”
“So you’re just going to run off with Ron and Hermione, then? That’s it? No other backup?”
“We know what we’re doing,” Harry said, beginning to lose patience. “We’ll be back in a week.”
“And what if you don’t come back?”
“I’ve seen Hermione,” Ginny said. “She’s scared out of her mind.”
Harry didn’t need the reminder. “I know that, all right?” he snapped. “I’ll take care of her. And Ron will.”
“And we’re not going to let Harry do anything stupid,” Ron said.
Ginny snorted in disgust. “Like you can stop him.”
Harry snagged her arm and pulled her into a hug, not surprised when she latched on tightly.
“We’ll be fine and we’ll be back soon,” he murmured into her hair.
“You better be,” she said, her voice muffled in his shirt.
“What’s going on?” Malfoy demanded.
Harry shoved Ginny away from him, none too gently. Blaise’s eyes were narrowed and Malfoy was furious.
“Er,” Harry floundered, darting panicked eyes at Ron, who was returning his stare, wide-eyed. “Fuck.”
“Boys, you’re all idiots!” Ginny exclaimed, stamping her foot in frustration. She jabbed her finger at Harry’s chest, then Ron’s. “You and you will come back home safely after you’re done with whatever idiot quest you’re going on.”
She pointed her finger at Blaise. “I know you’re smarter than them, so don’t be a jealous prick.”
She rounded on Malfoy, her eyes narrowed dangerously. “And you. You’re coming with me.” She snagged his robes and pulled him from the room.
“I, uh, think I’ll go see how Hermione’s doing,” Ron said, backing out of the room slowly, but peeking out of the door before entering the hallway.
“She’s a scary little thing, isn’t she?” Blaise said mildly as Harry shut the door and warded it.
Harry smiled weakly. “She keeps Malfoy under control, so it works for me.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by giving her a hug.”
“You did mean something. You meant to reassure her.”
“Well, yeah,” Harry said miserably.
“It would be a waste of my time if I got jealous every time you hugged a Weasley,” Blaise said dryly. “But it doesn’t exactly make me happy to see you hugging her.”
“I’d rather hug you,” Harry said hopefully. “Or snog you. Or fuck you.” He shrugged. “I’m open for suggestions.”
“How about you strip for me and we’ll take it from there.”
Harry’s eyes widened before he hastened to comply.
Blaise simply glared at him for stating the obvious. If the trio were back from whatever bloody mission they were on, Blaise’s insides wouldn’t be twisted in worry. Draco’s precious Ginny hadn’t gone with them, so of course he wasn’t as concerned.
“You’re no fun to fight with,” Draco observed.
“Go fight with Ginny.”
“I already did. She hexed me,” Draco said sullenly. “Takes the fun out of snogging.”
Blaise smirked, amused despite himself. Four months before, he never would’ve been able to imagine Draco and Ginny even remotely getting along, let alone together as a couple. The fiery redhead was a good match for him, though, providing him with a constant challenge.
“I miss Potter,” Draco said. “He’s always up for a good fight and I don’t have to worry about pissing him off.”
Blaise missed him, too, but he certainly didn’t want to fight. He wanted to tie Harry to the bloody bed and never let him leave again. Impractical maybe, but it was still what he wanted.
“He should’ve been back yesterday,” he said.
Draco eyed him and Blaise could see the concern mirrored in his eyes, but his response was unsurprisingly flippant. “Potter’s always late. You should get him a watch. One that will Portkey him to wherever he’s supposed to be at the right time.”
Blaise sniggered. It was actually a tempting idea because, Draco was right, Harry was rarely on time for anything. Draco looked satisfied and began outlining outrageous ideas for the ultimate watch for Harry.
Listening to him, Blaise was inclined to think he should be working with Fred and George. Not that he intended to tell Draco that. Draco was still having trouble adjusting to the fact that he had a Weasley for a girlfriend, ignoring the rest of the family as much as possible.
Ron was the exception and he was still a sore point in both Blaise and Draco’s relationships, but he was more trouble for Draco. Harry simply didn’t put up with it and he and Blaise ignored Ron when he started in. Ginny was the baby sister, though, and Draco was always spoiling for a fight. He and Ron had got into some spectacular rows over the last couple months.
Blaise thought Ron was rather stupid, not that he’d ever thought otherwise, but Ron didn’t appear to realize that he simply encouraged Draco to try all that much harder to make things work with Ginny.
Her head popped out the back door. “They’re back!” she shouted.
Blaise was up in an instant and striding towards the house.
“What do you need?” Blaise asked, carefully holding Harry’s hand and examining his blackened, burned wrist.
Harry fell for him yet again. Not a demand to know what happened or accusations regarding his stupidity or threats to chain him down. Although, there was no guarantee those wouldn’t come later.
“I need Snape and Pomfrey,” he said wearily. “Mostly Snape.”
Provided with direction, Malfoy and Ginny disappeared through the Floo without further question. Blaise quietly requested tea from Mrs. Weasley, giving her purpose. Ron and Hermione stared at him in amazement and Harry managed a smile, despite the fact that he was in a great deal of pain.
Pomfrey and Ginny returned first.
“I’ll take a pain potion if you’ve got one, but Ron could use your help more than me,” he said, deflecting Pomfrey’s attention. There wasn’t much she could do for him, but Ron had banged his knee up pretty severely.
With sad eyes, she took one look at Harry’s wrist and nodded in agreement. She was giving him the potion he’d requested when Malfoy returned.
“He wasn’t there, but I sent him a message.” Malfoy hesitated. “I don’t know how long he’ll be.”
“I know,” Harry said tiredly, resting his head on Blaise’s shoulder and closing his eyes. “He was summoned earlier.”
His bracelet normally warmed when Voldemort summoned Snape. This time it had burned unmercifully, aggravating his already injured wrist. Unfortunately, Snape was the only one who would know how to remove it without damaging him further.
The potion started kicking in and it was a relief to simply sit there as attention averted to Ron. They’d taken a bit of a beating but they were a step closer to their goal with two of the Horcruxes found and destroyed. They’d not expected the Horcrux to react badly with Harry’s bracelet, though, and he could feel the dark magic seeping into his skin.
Blaise shifted sideways and pulled Harry close, apparently not caring what it might look like to the others. It wasn’t that their relationship was a secret any longer, but it still tended to cause a fuss at times. Harry didn’t think Ron was in a mood to say anything and allowed himself to relax against Blaise’s chest, falling into a light doze despite his surroundings.
“Is he asleep or unconscious?”
Harry started at the sound of Snape’s voice. “’m awake,” he mumbled, prying his eyes open to see Snape crouched in front of him.
Snape’s expression was impassive as he glanced at Harry’s face before returning his attention to Harry’s wrist. “With the obvious amount of dark magic to which you have been subjected, I am astounded you are in any way coherent.”
“’m never normal,” Harry said, not actually feeling very coherent. He felt Blaise attempting to suppress his sniggers.
“Indeed,” Snape said dryly. “Granger, what happened?”
Harry exchanged glances with Ron and Hermione. They wouldn’t tell everything.
“We don’t know exactly, sir,” she said. “We did the same thing as last time, but Harry didn’t have the bracelet before. The magic reacted badly. When we destroyed the artefact, the bracelet . . . responded.”
It sounded lame, but Harry couldn’t think of a better explanation without explaining the Horcruxes. Voldemort’s magic in the Mark, and Harry’s bracelet, had responded with painful intensity to the destruction of a bit of its life force.
“Did you feel it?” he asked Snape.
“No.” Snape glanced at Draco, brow arched questioningly.
“Nothing unusual,” Draco said. “Only the summoning.”
“Good,” Harry said sleepily. “Must be distance. Next time I’ll leave the bracelet here.”
“Potter, if I can safely remove this, you will never wear it again.”
“I have to. I’ve got a plan.”
“Merlin save us from one of your plans,” Snape said snidely.
“Piss off,” Harry said without heat. He glanced briefly at Ron and Hermione before gazing steadily at Snape. “I’m getting close.”
He only had one more unknown Horcrux to locate and he hoped to use the Sword of Gryffindor to stimulate Voldemort into helping him find it. That required him to be at Voldemort’s gatherings so he could listen to the man’s ramblings in Parseltongue. A burned wrist certainly wasn’t going to stop him.
Snape stared at him for long seconds before he began casting spells over Harry’s wrist. The Dark magic was sapping his energy and Harry dozed again as Snape worked. It wasn’t painful, simply uncomfortable, but he had the feeling he was going to become very familiar with Pain-Relieving and Numbing Potions.
He hadn’t complained to anyone and didn’t realize Blaise was currently observing him. Harry’s arm suddenly jerked and he turned. He paused, though, when he saw Blaise.
“I’ve got to go.”
Blaise simply nodded, recognizing that the bracelet had warmed, once more ensconced on Harry’s wrist. Harry never reacted well when it happened, although he’d got better at hiding his reaction when others were around. Blaise watched him leave, wondering what horrors Harry would witness this time.
Harry was growing more distant by the day. Blaise could evoke emotion from him at night when they were alone and only Draco could incite any life in him during the day. Hermione and Ron stood back and actually encouraged Draco to provoke Harry into fights.
Everyone watched him with growing worry. Most were beginning to watch Hermione and Ron as well. Every time Harry returned, the three of them would once again hit the books with a disturbing, desperate air about them. Searching for clues to something they wouldn’t reveal to anyone else.
Whatever Harry’s plan had been for the sword, it hadn’t panned out the way he’d hoped. Harry had only said that he’d got a few little tidbits of information, nothing substantial. Whatever he’d learned, though, had sent Granger back to Hogwarts for yet more books. They must’ve had half the Restricted Section at the Burrow.
McGonagall stopped in more frequently. As did Snape. Neither of them, however, actually did anything to stop the trio. No one did. They simply watched and waited. For what, no one knew.
Blaise had never particularly liked Dumbledore, but he’d grown to hate the man recently. It was Dumbledore who had insisted on the secrecy. He was the one who had placed everything on Harry’s shoulders. Blaise would never tell Harry, but he was glad Snape had killed him.
It was a couple more depressing weeks before Harry came back from yet another gathering with renewed determination in his stride. Apparently the sword had proved fruitful after all.
“I’ve got it,” he said, his eyes gleaming as he gazed at everyone in the back garden.
“Got what?” Draco demanded.
“I’ve got Voldemort by the balls,” Harry said with a malicious smirk, causing everyone to stare at him in astonishment.
Harry simply shook his head, refusing to answer any questions, as the other two members of the trio joined him at their designated work table. It was difficult to watch them and not pick up on their growing excitement, but Blaise knew it likely meant Harry would be leaving again.
“Why are you with me?”
“Because I like you.”
“But why? I’ve been horrible to you.”
Blaise turned to face him, tangling their legs together. “You’ve been horrible to everyone lately.”
That didn’t exactly make him feel better, but Blaise was right. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” Blaise said. A pause. “You’re leaving in the morning, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but we shouldn’t be gone long this time. The war. All of it. I should be able to end it soon.”
“This week,” Harry admitted. If their search went well the next day, he could technically go kill Nagini and Voldemort the day after. Assuming there were no nasty surprises in between. He knew his way around Voldemort’s lair; it was not going to be difficult to sneak up on him and cast the fatal curse.
Harry’s hand was lying on the sheets between them and Blaise smoothed his thumb over the bracelet and surrounding scar tissue. It wasn’t pretty and he’d avoided talking about it.
“Are you disgusted?” he asked. Blaise had never seemed disturbed by it, but he wasn’t always easy to read and Harry had never dared ask him.
“No, I was thinking that since you won’t need this one any longer, I’d have to get you a new bracelet for Christmas. Doesn’t seem right that you’re wearing one that Snape gave you. Perhaps something made of a soft leather instead of metal.”
Harry blinked in the darkness, completely thrown by Blaise’s answer and wishing he could see his face, rather than just blurry shadows. He didn’t know what he’d done to deserve Blaise, but was grateful nonetheless. It didn’t seem right to tell Blaise that he loved him, though, not until the war was over.
So, he picked something inane to focus on. “Er, you’re not supposed to tell people what you’re going to get them.”
Blaise pushed him onto his back, rolling on top of him. “I’m not?” he asked, obviously amused.
“No, it’s not a surprise if you tell them.”
“Then forget I said anything,” Blaise said, rolling his hips.
Harry gasped at the pleasant friction. “Keep doing that and I’ll be certain to forget everything.”
“That’s the idea.”
It felt like too much of a risk at the moment, but he wanted to actually tell Harry that he loved him. He could’ve told him earlier, except he had the feeling Harry didn’t need the distraction. What if he had reacted badly? Blaise didn’t honestly think he would and rather thought the payoff would be worth it, but he wasn’t willing to risk everything to take that chance. Everyone’s lives were on the line. But soon. Soon he would tell him.
Shifting to lie on his back, Blaise stared at the ceiling, thinking about his mother. It was her death, and having no one else to turn to, that had led him to Harry. His mother had taught him that love was a weakness and to never let his guard down. She would laugh at him for foolishly falling in love and he couldn’t help but feel a little depressed at the thought that she’d never loved anyone. Maybe she had, and maybe all her other husbands simply couldn’t compare to the first. He had no idea as he’d never really known any of them. It didn’t matter. Right or wrong, he loved Harry.
He spent the next day silently worried, hoping Harry would come back safely. It was a miserable feeling, knowing that Harry would be turning around to leave one more time soon after. Blaise slept fitfully the next night, wishing he’d tied Harry to the bed when he’d had the chance.
He frowned when he walked into the kitchen the next morning for breakfast and saw Ron and Hermione.
They looked at him sharply, growing alarm in their eyes.
“He’s not in your room?” Ron asked.
Blaise shook his head. “I didn’t know you were back.”
“We got back last night around one,” Hermione said. “He went into your room. I’m sure of it.”
“He’s gone,” Ron breathed. “He went to do it.”
“He wouldn’t go without backup,” Hermione protested. “At least Snape.”
“Snape’s not here, is he?” Ron snapped.
“He wasn’t at Grimmauld Place,” Draco interjected warily. “Neither of them.”
“What’ve they gone to do?” Blaise demanded, already knowing what the answer was going to be.
“We destroyed the last –” Hermione took a deep breath, her face ashen. “He’s gone to kill Voldemort.”
After that pronouncement, no one but Mrs. Weasley spoke another word for the next two hours. She cleared the breakfast no one ate before contacting other members of the family and the Order. They simply sat. Waiting. Hoping.
Others joined them in their silent vigil. More Weasleys. McGonagall. Pomfrey. Lupin. Tonks. Shacklebolt. Blaise retreated to a corner of the room, wishing he could go outside, but he kept in sight of the Floo, hoping that any minute Harry would tumble out of it.
Everyone jumped when Draco abruptly let out a piercing scream, a chilling sound of pure pain. Shacklebolt restrained Draco as he thrashed, his face twisted in agony. Blaise stared in horror, not understanding what was happening. Time slowed and each second lasted forever. He had no idea how long it actually lasted, but Draco stopped as suddenly as he’d started, his body suddenly falling limp. Shacklebolt carefully lowered him to the floor.
Pomfrey bustled forward, but Draco shoved her away, much to her astonishment. He was obviously dazed and still gasping for breath, but his eyes found and locked onto Blaise’s as he slowly pulled up his left sleeve. With a collective gasp, everyone stared at the pale, unblemished forearm.
“He did it,” Draco whispered. “Harry’s killed him.”
No one cheered. No one celebrated. No one knew what had happened to Harry and Snape. No one knew if Harry had survived – especially after what they’d seen happen to Draco when the link to Voldemort had been severed.
Finally, finally, the Floo flared green and Severus Snape stumbled out with a barely conscious Harry Potter. Blaise caught Harry as Lupin steadied Snape.
“That is the last time I am rescuing this fool boy,” Snape muttered into the silence, swaying dangerously despite Lupin’s grip on his shoulder.
Harry managed a weak grin. “We won,” he said before passing out, becoming a dead weight in Blaise’s arms.
“Why?” Hermione asked, astonished. “I thought you’d be happy the school is open again and they’re letting us make up the last year, even if it is rather odd to be going back on Halloween. Can’t be helped, I suppose, with all the celebrations and trials. Everyone needed a little time.”
“We saved the bloody Wizarding world. Isn’t that enough?”
“Yeah,” Ron said in agreement. “Why do we need to take our NEWTs?”
Hermione looked utterly scandalized. “What is wrong with you two?”
“We don’t want to work?” Ron suggested. “We’ve been working all year and deserve some time off.”
“You’ve had the last two weeks,” Hermione said reasonably. “And it’s still another two weeks before classes start.”
Harry tuned them out as they continued to bicker. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go back to school. He simply wasn’t looking forward to being separated from Blaise, especially at night. During the day they would have to deal with everyone else and he wasn’t certain how they were going to react.
It was doubtful that being a war hero would matter in the corridors of Hogwarts when the other students found out he was a pouf and seeing a Slytherin. Those choice bits of news had yet to reach the Daily Prophet, but it was only a matter of time. Likely, the next day. The lot of them were supposed to be getting ready to go to Diagon Alley to get their supplies and Harry refused to hide his relationship.
Except . . . he was thinking about changing his mind. He wasn’t remotely ashamed of Blaise, but he already received so much unwanted attention.
Harry rolled his eyes. Then, there was Malfoy. Difficult not to attract attention with him around.
“What?” he shouted back.
“Are you lot coming or are you just going to gossip all day?”
“We were discussing which colour to dye your hair,” Harry said blithely as they headed back to the house and the Floo. “It was an important discussion.”
Draco looked properly horrified and Harry was satisfied as he stepped around Draco into the kitchen. Blaise and Ginny weren’t bothering to muffle their sniggers.
“Me first,” Ron said, heading for the fireplace.
“Feeling special, Weasley?” Draco said irritably.
“Do you want Harry going first?” Ron countered. “Or, you can go first. If I’m lucky, maybe they’d mob you and I wouldn’t have to look at your ugly mug anymore. How about we send the girls through first? Let them scout out the area for us.”
“Ah, you go right ahead,” Draco said, changing his tune.
“That’s what I thought,” Ron said, throwing down his Floo powder and disappearing in a whoosh.
Personally, Harry wished they’d finally drop the anti-Apparition wards around the Burrow, grimacing as he stepped in after Blaise. He especially hated Flooing to Diagon Alley, but at least he made it to the right location these days.
Blaise was fairly certain the shock of who was in their group was what kept most people at a distance. Harry Potter flanked by two Slytherins. Ginny next to Draco. Hermione next to Blaise, then Ron. Confident strides carried them to Gringott’s then on to the shops.
“Don’t these people have things to do?” Harry muttered, pausing outside of Flourish and Blotts.
“No, they find you irresistible,” Blaise said, winking at him.
Harry rolled his eyes and entered the shop. Blaise’s tone had been teasing, but he’d told the truth. His eyes travelled down Harry’s body, following the jean-clad arse into the store. Definitely irresistible. Everybody else had best keep their distance.
Unfortunately, he knew that was too good to last. The book shop was full of students who hadn’t seen who Harry was with and they flocked to him. Blaise rested his back against one of the shelves, crossed his arms over his chest and simply observed, waiting to see what Harry would do.
Harry tried talking to Longbottom but was quickly overwhelmed by what appeared to be half of Gryffindor and a few students from Ravenclaw. Although conceding that might’ve been an exaggeration, Blaise determined there were too many of them for anyone’s good health.
“Stop!” Harry finally shouted to be heard over the clamour, creating almost instant silence. “Where’s Blaise?”
“D’you mean Zabini?” Longbottom asked incredulously. “The Slytherin?”
“Yeah, that’d be the one,” Harry said impatiently. “The bloody git abandoned me.”
“I’m right behind you,” Blaise said quietly, smirking in amusement.
Harry whirled to face him. “You could’ve said so,” he said crossly, but looking extremely relieved.
“Erm, you know him, Harry?” Longbottom asked. The entire crowd of students waited expectantly.
Harry raised his brows questioningly and Blaise nodded. They’d discussed this, but now that the matter was at hand, it was a different story. Harry took a deep breath and turned back around.
“Blaise is my boyfriend,” he announced.
Longbottom looked like he was going to faint. One of the Patil twins – Blaise wasn’t sure which one – looked about ready to cry. Most of them gaped in astonishment. Lovegood, though, beamed a wide smile at Harry.
“What are you lot doing?” Malfoy demanded, shoving his way through the crowd. “Oh, should’ve known it was you two,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Can’t stay out of trouble, can you, Potter?”
“I didn’t do anything,” Harry protested. “I just –”
“Told them you were with Blaise and broke all the little Gryffindor hearts?”
“Draco, shut up,” Ginny snapped, coming up beside him. “You can’t insult the Gryffindors when you’re going with a Gryffindor.”
“Says who?” Draco demanded.
“Says the Gryffindor you plan on snogging later,” she said pointedly.
Draco huffed in irritation and took up a position beside Blaise. It was a normal interaction if they’d been at the Burrow. In the middle of the book shop, however, they had everyone’s gobsmacked attention.
“Maybe we should get our books?” Blaise suggested.
“Yeah, books,” Harry said, latching on to the means of escape. He grabbed Blaise’s hand and pulled him through the crowd, which parted for them, just as it had for Draco. Around the corner they were met by Ron and Hermione, who each plonked a stack of books in their arms.
“Your books,” Ron said. “Let’s get out of here.”
Harry nodded fervently in agreement.
“You have to,” Draco said as the group settled down around Harry, tired and lazy after their trip to Diagon Alley. Hermione joined them but had, of course, brought a book out.
“Because I need someone to fight with.”
“Oh, come on,” Draco said. “You don’t see Blaise complaining, do you? And he’s stuck with you.”
Harry rolled over onto his stomach to look at Blaise. Malfoy had a point. “You tired of me, yet?”
Blaise gave him an amused smirk. “I’m not bored, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Yeah, well, there’s too much excitement,” Harry said, scowling. “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be with me.”
“Come here,” Blaise said. “I got something for you in Diagon Alley today.”
“What?” Harry asked warily.
Blaise arched a brow.
Giving in, which wasn’t exactly a hardship, Harry moved to lay with his head in Blaise’s lap, grinning up at him.
“You’re lazy,” Blaise said, but he was smiling.
“Hey, I’m entitled to be lazy for a change.”
“I reckon you are,” Blaise agreed. “Give me your hand.”
Harry held up his right hand curiously.
“Your other hand.”
He frowned. Blaise knew his left hand still didn’t exactly work properly.
“Your hand,” Blaise repeated. His voice was soft but it was clearly a command.
Harry held up his left hand reluctantly, surprised when Blaise pushed his shirt sleeve further down to reveal the band of scar tissue.
“Do we have to –”
“Hush,” Blaise said, reaching into his pocket and producing a strip of leather. He wrapped it around Harry’s wrist and meticulously tied it, making certain it was secure.
When he was finished, Harry examined it. It was a dark honey colour and incredibly soft. Blaise had been right that it would feel so much more comfortable than the metal bracelet he’d worn for so long. It was over an inch wide, easily covering all of the scar tissue. There was an intricate design somehow ingrained in the material, a series of Celtic knots that wound around his wrist. It was amazing.
He looked up at Blaise. “It’s not Christmas.”
“That’s the surprise.”
Through his laughter, Harry managed to say, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Blaise said. “But I hope you realize that this means you’re mine.”
“Yours?” Harry asked suspiciously. Blaise’s dark eyes were sparkling mischievously.
Blaise nodded, attempting to appear properly solemn and not remotely succeeding. “Property of Blaise Zabini. I’ve claimed you.”
“I’m not property!” Harry protested, but the others were laughing.
“Give it up, Harry,” Ron said. “Even I know you belong to Zabini.”
“All right, all right,” Harry said, darting a mock-glare up at Blaise. “You’ll pay for that.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
He couldn’t help but notice that Blaise truly did appear to be looking forward to it. He looked happy. If Harry was honest, he wasn’t remotely offended with the idea of belonging to Blaise, but he wasn’t certain Blaise would really want to stay with him.
Blaise liked things quiet and peaceful. Life at the Weasley’s hadn’t exactly been either, but he’d been able to get away frequently, retreating to the back garden. Harry’s life was anything but quiet and peaceful and Blaise was going to be subjected to a lot of attention now.
“Come here,” Blaise said abruptly, getting up and pulling Harry to his feet. “I want to show you something.”
Harry followed willingly, ignoring the teasing from the others as they retreated some distance away and out of sight.
“Read it,” Blaise said, appearing uncharacteristically nervous.
“Read what?” Harry asked, confused.
“The bracelet. There’s words, if you know to look for them.”
Harry looked at the series of interwoven knots. Blaise was clearly delusional because there wasn’t even a single letter, let alone words, that Harry could see.
“Don’t look at the knots,” Blaise said. “Look between them.”
Harry glanced at him sceptically before dutifully turning his attention back to the bracelet – but then he saw them. “There are words,” he said in surprise.
“I know,” Blaise said dryly. “Now read them.”
It took several moments for Harry to decipher the words, the design requiring him to look at it a lot differently than normal.
Great love and great achievements involve great risk.
I love you
“You don’t have to say anything,” Blaise said quickly.
Harry thought that was rather fortunate, because he wasn’t certain he could speak.
“I just wanted you to know,” Blaise said, looking endearingly uncomfortable. “I know things aren’t going to exactly be easy for us as a couple, and nothing’s ever particularly easy for you.”
Harry nodded dazedly in agreement and was treated to a rare grin.
“I didn’t mean to break you.”
“I’m not broken,” Harry said, finding his voice. “I’m just –” He took a deep breath before starting again. “Slytherins aren’t big on taking risks.”
“No, but someone taught me that some risks are worth the rewards.”
Harry rubbed his thumb over the leather band that covered the scar tissue. Risks. Achievements. Love.
“I love you, too, you know,” he said. “I’ve known for awhile, but wasn’t sure how to tell you. I reckon I was busy taking different risks.”
“That would be the great achievements,” Blaise said, his tone dry.
Harry looked up at him. “Great love.”
“Requires great risks,” Blaise said, nodding in agreement. “I want it, Harry. With you.”
A smile took over Harry’s features. “I want it, too.”