Draco Malfoy stared glumly at his breakfast. Had Hogwarts always been so boring, or had he just never noticed its dullness in the past? Here he was, one month into finishing his education, and he was going mad with the lack of excitement and intrigue. Life after the Dark Lord fiasco was so dull. It was the same schedule every day: get up, eat, learn, write letters, eat, chat, bed.
It was also just a little bit too lonely to sit here in the Great Hall without his closest friends. He knew he was spoiled after six years of Crabbe and Goyle's constant presence, but he keenly felt the absence of their two heavy bodies at his sides.
But Crabbe was dead and Goyle probably would stay in St. Mungo's for the rest of his life. Draco absently stabbed at his pancake, wondering if sugar would cheer his glum mood. Probably not, he thought with a sigh.
Nearby, Zabini and Parkinson were sitting close together, whispering to each other and occasionally looking over at Draco.
Draco sniffed and stabbed his pancake. What was their problem, anyway?
Every time he tried talking to Zabini, he'd blabber something unintelligible and run off to Parkinson. Every time he tried talking to Parkinson, she'd smile coyly and tell him she needed to see Zabini at the moment.
If he were to admit to having feelings, he'd say he was hurt by their behavior. They hadn't been as close as Draco and the goons had been, but he'd thought they were friends. Draco didn't have very many close friends. He wrote weekly to Theo and Daphne, but Beauxbatons was too far for them to be of any real comfort.
But friends didn't ignore one another for a whole bloody month. Draco scowled into his (very delicious) pancakes.
If the two had been shagging on practically every solid surface like Bones and Greengrass, he would've understood, or at least wouldn't have been so annoyed. But they weren't. They were whispering and glancing at him.
Draco was going to find out what they were hiding. It'd been too long since he'd had a distraction from his rather boring school life and mysteries were intriguing.
Draco's Plan A was, admittedly, not the most complex of plans.
"Hey, Zabini," he said, plopping down next to Zabini on a Slytherin common room sofa. "You've been avoiding me. Why?"
Zabini noticeably paled. "Of course I haven't, Dr—er, Malfoy. Now, if you'll excuse me..." He quickly stood up and started walking out to the dungeon exit.
"What do you call this, then?" Draco yelled after him.
"Class! Potions!" Zabini yelled.
Draco hurriedly ran after him, but Zabini took a seat on the Gryffindor side of the classroom to get away from him.
Plan B was much more subtle. "Greengrass," he growled in a poor imitation of Greyback, but one that easily intimidated a girl two years his junior.
"Yes, Malfoy?" she asked. "Is this about my sister?"
"You're getting married, after all. I thought you'd talk to me about it at least, but you just went ahead and proposed without even telling me, her favorite sister." She sniffed. "But Mum and Dad say it's okay, so I guess I should let it go."
Draco forcibly closed his jaw. "You've already talked to your parents about this?"
"And Daphne? She said we're getting married?"
Greengrass nodded again. "Yeah. Well, it was implied, anyway. I think you two are a lovely couple."
"I'm going to kill her," Draco mumbled.
"I don't think you can do that before the wedding," Greengrass said. "I need to go to class. Did you need anything else?"
Draco shook his head. "Not anymore. I have bigger worries." He grabbed a self-inking quill and some parchment, then ran up to the owelry. Jotting down a quick note amounting to 'WTF, Daphne', he sent his owl to France.
After a fitful night and a failed Plan C (where was Zabini sleeping if not in the seventh year boys' dormitories, and why hadn't he noticed?), Draco headed to breakfast. This morning, he buttered a piece of bread and waited for the morning owls. If Daphne had even a shred of sense left, she would've owled him immediately.
And sure as an erupting cauldron in the presence of Longbottom, Daphne's familiar pitch-black owl came flying in. He unrolled the scroll that it brought, casting a discrete anti-shoulder-reading charm.
My dearest Draco,
I know you're shocked at the rumors surrounding us, but don't be; they were probably made by jealous idiots. My sister's a little deladdled. Don't listen to her. I'll talk to her about it the next time I see her.
P.S. You should drop the letter right about now.
The letter erupted into a flying bouquet of thornless red roses. Draco launched it into the air in surprise and the bouquet dropped into Zabini's plate.
"Sorry, Zabini, here let me..." Draco reached over to grab the bouquet, but Zabini vanished it with a murderous expression, then strode out of the Great Hall, pulling Pansy along.
Draco gulped and shared a look with Greengrass, who was sitting next to him for some unexplainable reason. "He really doesn't like roses, huh?" he ventured.
Greengrass shook her head.
In the end, Draco didn't bother announcing to the whole house that he and Daphne weren't getting married. Most of them probably either didn't know or didn't care, and the only one who did care was insane enough that he didn't bother explaining the real situation to her.
He trusted Daphne to quell the rumors, since they both knew there was no way he'd marry her if the situation got really out of hand.
Instead, he started on Plan D.
"Parkinson!" Draco called, walking a little faster to catch up to her.
She slowed down to meet him and they walked to the dungeons together. Draco purposely dragged his feet to slow their stroll down. "What is it, Malfoy?"
"I thought I'd talk to you. We haven't really talked this year. Have you been busy?" He tried going for an innocent tone, but he felt Parkinson saw straight through him.
"Yes, I have. Now if you'll excuse me..." She started to turn around, so Draco took desperate measures.
"Will you go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?"
Parkinson looked at him wide-eyed. He knew she would've killed for this opportunity when they were younger, so she had to be hooked. Now, he'd have an entire day to subtly wheedle information about Zabini out of her. It was a brilliant plan, an awesome plan, a—
"Sorry, Malfoy, I have plans."
A failed plan.
Draco gave her a pained grimace. "With Zabini? I guess the two of you are dating?" They slowly continued walking to the dungeons. Draco didn't remind her of whatever she'd felt the need to almost turn around for.
"No, we're friends. I'm dating a guy who's already out of school. He's training to be a healer." She looked at Draco for a moment. "Do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend?"
Draco shook his head. "Nah. Too much trouble."
"You've never dated at all. Except for that time you took me to the Yule Ball, but you ignored me pretty much the entire time."
He fiddled with his cuffs, swallowing. "I had an arranged marriage contract with a French witch. She goes to Beauxbatons. Her family called the wedding off after the trials." He didn't need to elaborate why. The Malfoy name and influence was in shambles, the head of the family on permanent house arrest, and the heir with the brand of a maniac on his arm. Parkinson rubbed his shoulder consolingly.
"I'm sorry. Blaise and I've been so rude, too."
"Don't worry about it," he murmured, looking at her with watery eyes. It had taken him a few moments and a delicate silent spell to build up the crocodile tears, but he now looked sufficiently distraught. "We didn't really love each other, anyways. I just feel like I've ruined my chances with anyone else. I've never tried having a relationship..."
"Are you interested in girls? Guys?"
Draco twitched. While he'd faked the tears, the story hadn't been the least bit false. After his stunning performance, Parkinson had the right gall to be holding back the reason she'd been avoiding him. "Girls."
"Are you sure?"
"What do you mean, am I sure? I check out girls, therefore I like girls."
"You've never oggled at a guy?" Parkinson asked. Draco thought she sounded too hopeful. Was she secretly a guy? There had been that odd rumor third year, but he'd discarded it as absurd. Could it be true?
Pansy mumbled something suspiciously curse-like under her breath. "Meet me at eleven at the Three Broomsticks tomorrow?" she asked more audibly.
Draco agreed and let her run off somewhere.
While Parkinson had looked suspiciously like a guy in third year, but was now pretty and girlish, Zabini had really grown into his father's manly features, Draco noticed. He had seen enough photos of Zabini Senior (courtesy of his mother, who had been a close friend of his) to know Zabini Junior resembled him very closely, to an odd extreme. Draco pushed those thoughts away; this wasn't the best time to ponder Zabini's heritage.
"Are you meeting Parkinson, too, Zabini?" Draco drawled. Zabini had plopped down on the other side of the booth a few seconds ago without so much as a hello, and hadn't said anything since.
"Yeah. She said she'd meet me here..."
Draco sipped his drink, twirling his wand awkwardly. "So, how are you? I haven't talked to you in a while." Guilt trips were his specialty.
Zabini, at least, had the decency to look ashamed and explain himself, even if Draco noticed his obvious lies. "Homework, classes, apprenticeship papers," Zabini said, shrugging. "How about you?" With a gulp and an odd expression, he continued, "I heard you're getting married. Congratulations."
Draco felt Zabini's words were flat, but didn't comment. It was time for Plan E.
Hook. "Thanks, Zabini. Daphne's wonderful, I'm a lucky man."
Zabini's expression darkened and Draco inwardly grinned. Zabini's avoidance of him had something to do with the outrageous rumors.
Line. "Problem is, I need a best man. Theo's going to be out of the country, my cousins are all unpleasant, and Flint's got Quiddich season. I was hoping you might be interested. I heard from Greengrass you're free this summer. "
Zabini paled and opened his mouth to say something, but Draco interrupted him. "Unless you'll still be avoiding me this summer?" Sinker.
Zabini looked panicked and choking, so Draco decided to push just a little more. He leaned in over the table, bringing his face into Zabini's personal space. "Please, Blaise," he pleaded, liking the way Zabini's eyes widened at Draco's use of his first name. Good. Draco didn't call just anyone by their given name. "Tell me why you've been avoiding me."
The most satisfying moment of the manipulation was the one right before Zabini cracked. Draco could see the realization of futility and resignation in Zabini's eyes, the very slight what-do-I-have-to-lose shrug of his shoulders, the tongue running nervously over his pink lips, the-
"I love you," Zamini said with a grimace that didn't make the confession any less real. "I'm in love with you."
Draco stared at him, wide eyed. "You're what?" Suddenly, he wanted Zabini to shut up and avoid him forever, but once the dam opened, Zabini just wouldn't stop talking.
"I was going to tell you this year. I know we aren't friends, barely acquaintances, really, but I've had it with pining for you in secret. You're just so— so—" He ran his fingers through his hair in what looked like aggravation. "So closed off! You barely noticed me the entire time we've been schoolmates. You had your group of friends, and I just couldn't get in. You grew up with Nott, you knew Daphne for years before Hogwarts, and Crabbe and Goyle were goons, but they were your goons, and your relationship with them was practically symbiotic. I...I wanted you to see me. And then I started to see you in a different light. Salazar, you're beautiful. Handsome, arrogant, annoying, and the most attractive person I've ever met. I just fell in love."
Zabini kept talking, but Draco's mind had long since left the conversation. Stumbling in shock, he made his way out of the Three Broomsticks and to the castle. Merlin, Zabini was in love with him. What the bloody hell was he supposed to do about that? He hadn't come to any answers by the time he'd gotten to his dungeon dormitory, but he had remembered he'd left the Zabini to pay for his butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. Really, the idiot should've known not to drop such revelations at a pub.
Plopping down on his bed, Draco contemplated whether Zabini was telling the truth. He'd never noticed Zabini perving on him, nor had Zabini ever given him the impression that he was interested in men. Draco sighed, ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to calm himself, then decided to write a letter to his father about this odd situation. Father would know what to do.
Just as he'd finished sealing the letter to his father, Parkinson stormed into the boys' dormitory.
"Malfoy!" she yelled. "What did you do to Blaise? Why is he so upset?"
Draco gulped and pushed away the treacherous thought that Parkinson looked really manly when she yelled. "Sorry?" he ventured.
"You should be sorry! Now, tell me what happened," she ordered, giving herself permission to sit down on Draco's bed.
Draco promptly told her everything, leaving out uninteresting parts like how he manipulated Zabini into telling him the truth. Parkinson could easily read between the lines, anyway.
By the time he finished, her bottom lip was overly red from her annoying habbit to bite on it in stressful situations. "So are you two going to date?"
Draco rubbed his head. "What the hell? I barely know the guy and he claims to be in love with me!"
"I notice you're disturbed about his confession, not at the fact that he's a guy with a gay crush on you. You're not very straight, Malfoy." Parkinson was too perceptive.
"I'm not really anything! Merlin, I've kissed one person in my entire life, and that was my then-future wife! My father raised me better than to betray my betrothed."
Parkison looked him over, and Draco felt one centimeter tall and on a watch glass. "I'll get Blaise to see you now. You two need to talk. Hurt him and die," she said with a glare, flouncing off.
"I don't want to see him!" Draco yelled after her. He got no reply.
A few minutes later, Zabini walked into the dormitory. A four-poster bed came into existance next to Draco and Zabini sat on it, looking disturbed and awkward. That made two awkward teenagers, Draco thought.
When it seemed Zabini wasn't going to say anything, Draco kicked his pride and began the obligatory uncomfortable conversation. "Where did you sleep?"
Zabini raised an eyebrow. "You noticed I was missing?"
"Yes," Draco said, hotly. Then, for the sake of honesty, he conceded, "Yesterday. I looked for you."
"You're so self-absorbed," Zabini muttered.
"And you what, love me despite the fact that I'm so self-absorbed?" Draco scoffed. "You want me to believe that?"
"Believe what you will, but I love you. I know you're getting married, but-"
Draco waved his hand. "Hold it. I'm not getting married. Those are just rumors. I was...pulling your chain today."
Zabini stared at him. Draco didn't know what to make of his expression. Was he happy? Angry? Confused? Draco didn't want him to be angry; anger was troublesome, especially in the form of an angry Slytherin. Then, as though he'd come to a decision, Zabini slid off his bed and walked close enough to touch Draco.
"You're a prat," Zabini grumbled, pulling on Draco's shirt to pull him closer. "You don't have to love me to kiss me." His lips were so bloody close now, but Draco couldn't bring himself to pull away. "Give me one chance. Go on some dates with me. I promise they'll be worth your time."
Draco pressed his lips against Zabini's. They were a little wet, like he'd picked up Parkinson's lip biting habit. If that was the case, Zabini had been nervous earlier. Draco felt a little better about his own nervousness and inexperience.
A few moments later, Draco smiled into the kiss. "You're a good kisser, Zabini."
Zabini's lips turned down just a little. "Will you call me Blaise already?"
Draco hummed in agreement and kissed him again. Maybe one day, he'd return Zabini's feelings. But for now, he was content with being loved so selflessly.