My first long project. It all started when I reread the first HP book, and came to the part where Dumbledore takes the house cup away from Slytherin and gives it to Gryffindor instead. It got me angry, because it was like snatching candy from a baby. (sort of) and I decided to give the Slytherins their own story. This is as Slytherin-centric as you can get.

Disclaimer; I do not own anything of this; it belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Bro's. I am making no money of this.

*******'

The dawning age of emotional conflict

Came as the Shadow upon the earth.

Lurking behind shut doors,

And trapped within stone walls of obscurity,

The Shadow remained nameless

- Nicolas J Priselac

*******'

Summer. It a rather nice word when you think about it. It means warmth, sun, and most important of all, no school. Two months that were lesson- free, not a teacher in sight and no homework. The best two months of the year. And in my opinion, the shortest. It was funny really; summer always seemed shorter than it really was, and yet it was the one thing that kept you going through the darker months, also referred to as school.

I actually like school, or at least parts of it, but this year had been a nightmare. Trust me, I will never forget Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons that I'd suffered through under Dolores Umbridge. Maybe that was part of the Ministry's grand plan to take over Hogwarts, but the only teacher I've had that was worse than Umbridge was the Award-Winning Nightmare himself, Gilderoy Lockheart. Umbrige at least taught us something, even if we weren't allowed to use that knowledge; Lockheart only pranced around like a peacock preening its feathers. He was a damn nancy- boy; I was happy when he lost his memory.

The Inquisitorial Squad had been the beginning to the end, and it was all downhill from there. Umbridge making Headmistress had actually made me want to scream out loud. I like Dumbledore, no matter how anti-Slytherin he might be, or how much he might have ruined the school's image, and replacing him with Umbridge of all people was sacrilege. I can still remember, as clearly as if it was yesterday, the first time I met Albus Dumbledore.

It was nothing special really. I was going from the library to the Slytherin Common Room, carrying a book for some Herbology assignment when I stumbled and nearly fell down. Nearly being the keyword. Dumbledore happened to pass at that very moment, and helped me remain standing.

I've never been shy. People always assume I am, just because I keep in the background and mind my own business. The truth is that I just don't see the point in talking to people who don't understand what I'm talking about anyway. But at that very moment, standing face to face with Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of all time, I suddenly felt embarrassed and painfully shy.

A hand on my shoulder shook me out of my reminiscing about Dumbledore, and I looked away from the window to set eyes on my mother. She was standing there, looking like she always did; nervous, happy and ever so slightly damp. I don't know why, but my mother is the kind who burst into tears every time you turn around, or so it seems.

"Yes?" I asked.

"It's time to go Blaise." She said, giving me a watery smile.

I sighed, but got to my feet. I had forgotten I wasn't spending the summer at home. How it had managed to slip my mind I'll never know, because since I started Hogwarts, I'd been spending my summers with Draco, Pansy and Millicent. We'd always been at Malfoy Manor, but this summer, we'd be staying with the Parkinsons. Doubtlessly it was because of Lucius Malfoy's imprisonment.

I frowned. Malfoy Sr. had never been a very pleasant man, although, to us, he had never been particularly unpleasant either. He had been distant, staying in his office or he had not even been in the house, but instead running errands for his ´Master´. Yes, of course I knew he was a Death Eater. You don't get far in the Slytherin house by being stupid, so logic tells that I'm not.

I knew Lucius Malfoy was a Death Eater, and yes, I was troubled by that fact. Who would be? I mean, my best friends father basically wanted to exterminate all non-Purebloods in the world. It made him creepy by default, and naturally, I disliked it. Oh well, I wouldn't be bothered by him this summer; he was holed up in Azkaban. Maybe I could send him an owl and tell him to say hello to his cell-mates there.

Draco would be bad enough, trust me. He really, really needs to embrace the virtue called ´intelligence´ and use it. Maturity wouldn't be so bad either. I won't lie and say I'm too mature for my age, but I'm better at acting like it than he is. Which isn't in itself very comforting, since Draco has the subtlety of a brick in your face. This year's Umbridge- following was just the latest of a long list of idiotic, futile and immature plans he's had.

I, Blaise Anubis Zabini, heir and only son of Sebastien Gilles Zabini, am spending the summer in the company of a boy who looks like he bleaches his hair with peroxide. Pity me. On second thought, don't; send me a sack of galleons to make up for it instead.

*******'

My mother seems to have some sort of compulsion to speak whenever it's quiet, just to fill up the awkward silences. At first, it might seem endearing, but it really isn't. It's just very, very annoying. So annoying, in fact, that I after only fifteen minutes into the carriage ride was quite ready to tell her to shut the hell up. However, since she is my mother after all, I couldn't possibly say that, and kept my silence. Serenity was supposed to be a dominant trait in the Zabini bloodline, but at the moment, that serenity seemed to have taken a vacation.

I am not old enough to have my Apparition license, and therefore, we couldn't possibly Apparate to the Parkinson's place. Thus, I was stuck in a carriage with my dotty mother for at least an hour and a half. It was almost as much torture as five years worth of Potions class with the Gryffindors. A nightmare might have been an understatement. At least Potions class taught me something, if only because of Granger's incessant questions.

How to get through this? Let's see, repeating Binns lectures hadn't helped, as they only made me want to curl up and sleep, causing my mother to ask me what was wrong, so I scrapped that idea pretty quickly. Instead, I found myself repeating the contents of an old book I'd found in the school- library earlier that year. It was called ´The Rights and Rules of Scheming´. Kind of like a handbook for evil overlords who wish to take over the world. Thank God no one's showed it to Voldemort. He's mad enough as it is, and just thinking of him as the ruler of anything save his own socks makes me shudder.

I'm a Slytherin who doesn't support Voldemort. Yes, I dare to say or at least think his name. And I'm not all that unusual either. People need to learn that ´Slytherin´ isn't shorthand for ´Death-Eater in training.´ Granted, more Death Eaters and Dark Wizards has come from Slytherin than anywhere else, but just because a few of us turned bad doesn't mean all of us will. I myself have no interest of becoming a Death Eater. It sounds like the fastest way to get you killed, and whatever I want, dying doesn't even make the list.

When Voldemort returned last year, the Ministry immediately rejected any possibility of it happening. It's rather stupid of them. Now finally, they at least admit he's alive, but the situation isn't getting better. Some dim witted person hatched the harebrained idea that it might not be the real Voldemort, but an impersonator, who just happens to look the same, act the same and have the same powers. A second Dark Lord, if you will. Which is completely ludicrous of course. There is not two Voldemorts; it's one psycho with a wand. Thankfully, whoever it was wasn't believed.

I don't really care what they believe; he is back, and he's going to stay until someone gets him a one-way ticket to the afterlife. That someone is probably going to be Potter once again, and whatever else I might think of him, he's a good person to have around when the darkest wizard since Grindelwald is hanging around, demanding to be handed the crown of the whole world on a silver platter.

I sighed and looked out the window. The landscape was rolling by slowly, too slowly for my tastes, and I was growing bored as we went. Being bored always makes me think too much. Of like how I don't want to be a Death Eater. Of how much I dislike being treated like I am one. How much I am going to regret taking on a special project for Charms. Of how much I want to strangle my mother for never shutting up.

I've always been a quiet sort of person, tending to listen while others talk, instead of talking while others listen. My little sister is much the same way, just as my father is. My mother must have come from another planet, because she never stops talking. The whole family tends to be quiet and listen while she rambles. I've never understood what my father sees in her, although sometimes, when she's talking about nothing and has been for hours on end, I catch him smiling at her. Maybe love is blind, just as they say.

Now, if this ride would just end, everything would be perfect. A whole summer with my friends, doing whatever we want sounds like a dream come true, which only once again proves that my short-term memory I failing. I've been spending all my summers with my friends since I started Hogwarts. Our parents thought it would be educational if we were to do all our homework together, and that if we got to know each other better, our grades would rise. Parents can be stupid at times.

*****'

I quickly got out of the carriage, hugged my mother goodbye, grabbed my bags and got the hell away from her. One more minute of tireless chatter about curtains, or whatever it was she was speaking of, and I would have gone stark raving mad. The whole, ´frothing-at-the-mouth, I'm-the-king-of- the-world, bang-my-head-against-the-wall´ crazy. But enough about that; I needed to find my friends.

They weren't that hard to find; Pansy lives in a large house, not large enough to be called mansion, but near enough, and they with the exception of Pansy's parents were the only people in the house. And it is kind of hard to lose someone as loud as Pansy in any case. She can be heard across the Atlantic Ocean without even trying too hard. But she's still, despite all that, one of the few people I could take being stranded on an uninhabited island with.

"Blaise!"

Oh no, I know that voice. It was time to brace myself to the inevitable. And just as I expected, twenty seconds later, Pansy came storming out of the house, tackle-hugged me and sent me stumbling backwards. I am not, I am quite sorry to say, very robust. I am more on the thin and lanky side, and next to Draco and Pansy, I looked like that Muggle movie character, Jack Skellington. And I only know of him because my sister was obsessed with the movie after our mother took her to the Muggle part of the town we live in, and she happened to stumble on it in a store.

She forced me to watch it with her, resulting in me knowing all the lines and all the songs, having seen it at least ten times. My sister, however sweet, can be rather annoying at times. I swear, if someone woke me up in the middle of the night, I'd be able to sing that horrible ´Kidnap Mr Sandy Clause´ song immediately. Trust me, when I grow up, I'll write a book about my tragic childhood. And my sister and the endless torture she put me through are going to be large parts of it.

Sighing, I suffered through Pansy's bone-crushing hug in silence, because I knew that if I struggled, it'd only get worse. She'd let me get away soon anyway; she had hugged me like this every morning since we became friends, so I'm used to it by now. After a while, she finally let go and stood up straight again.

"Hello Pansy." I said, smiling slightly.

"Oh, Blaise you look so handsome!" She gushed.

I grinned as I recognized the tired old joke, and immediately gave the same reply I had given every time she used it.

"I would say the same for you, but my mother taught me not to lie." I shot back.

"Well, my mother taught me that a white lie never hurt anyone." Pansy gave me another hug, but this time not as rib-breaking and then dragged me into the house.

"I take it Draco and Millie are already here?" I asked, trying to sound calm, even though I was nearly horizontal in posture at the moment.

"Oh yes, Millie came yesterday, and Draco only a few hours ago. Mum and Dad aren't here; they're away for some meeting of Dads, which means we have free reign till they come home." Pansy said as she opened the front door.

"I vote for getting smashed." I said, thinking of how funny it would be seeing Draco drunk off his rocker.

"Shut it you! You know how angry Dad was when he found out you nicked his tobacco." Pansy snapped, "You nearly weren't allowed back this summer because of that!"

I chuckled. She was right; her father had been angry as hell when he found out that Draco and I nicked his tobacco, right out of his pocket. We weren't going to use it for anything but apparently he thought so, because we got the yelling of our lives from him. I will never be even contemplating stealing from him again. But it would have been fun to get Draco drunk and trick him into jumping in the lake. Oh well.

"I know, but that's what made it so fun, Pansy." I grinned. I seem to do that a lot.

"Oh, shut it you!" She snapped, but I could she a faint smile on her face.

As a Slytherin, I early on learned to read expressions, and to find feelings and thoughts where there seem to be none. And I know Pansy better than she thinks I do. There was something wrong with her, and I am going to find out what it is.

We entered the house and soon ran into Draco and Millicent. Seeing the look on Pansy's face when she looked at Draco, I knew I had found the root of her problems. Draco wasn't looking as happy as he usually did either, and from the glances he exchanged with Pansy, I knew there was something they were hiding from us. I ignored it for the time being and turned to Millicent instead.

I like Millicent. She's sensible, she's funny and most of all; she's just as much a cynic as I am. She might be heavyset and slightly too masculine looking for a girl, but with that mind and that wicked sense of humour, I never bothered with looking at her exterior. I like her, as previously stated, but we will never go beyond friendship. We have that sibling-like rivalry between the two of us, and I don't see it changing any time soon. We have our spats and our arguments, but they more often than not end in both of us laughing, and if either one of us is ever feeling down, we both know that the other is always there to listen. She's like the twin I never had.

I grinned at her and she grinned back, tucking a lock of her black hair back behind her ear. She even looks like me. Well, a little at least. No one in the universe looks like me. I had the misfortune to inherit my mother's black, tumbling curls, although I keep them short enough to only touch my cheeks at worst, and I got my gangly figure from my father. Sometimes, owing to my preference for black clothes, I really do look like Jack Skellington. Without the prolonged absence of life, of course. I got my triangular face from my father as well, but only God knows where I got my eyes.

When my sister gets angry with me, which is only rarely I'm proud to say, she calls me "freak". She doesn't mean anything hurtful by it, but it never fails to sting, if only a little. I know there's more than one grain of truth in that insult. Due to some accident while my mother was pregnant with me, I was born with a very unique set of eyes. They aren't malformed as such, but one is a light shade of blue, while the other is green. And I don't mean grey-green, but the same shade that the Slytherin ties are. And the green one is slightly, almost unnoticeable, larger than the blue one. It seems like I've been investigating this very thoroughly, but I actually haven't. But since I have been wearing this face for nearly sixteen years, I know it well by now. And I know that I am, in one word, ugly.

I'm too thin, I'm too tall, my eyes are mismatched, my face is too triangular and my feet are too big. But I'm a Slytherin, and I'll be damned if I'll let physical appearances slow me down. What sort of Slytherin would I be if I did? As long as my mind is cunning and my wit sharp, whether I look like I slept in a dumpster isn't going to make a difference.

I gave Draco a grin and a handshake, and he smiled back. We immediately settled back into our old and well-worn school roles. Since it had only been a week, it wasn't hard. Crabbe and Goyle had always been his cronies, but I had the role of lesser known sidekick who has been known to read a book once or twice. Slytherins have livelier imagination than the other three houses, which probably can be blamed for our many pranks and our nearly always successful plots. Plots which I have been the father of many times.

"Welcome to the House of Insanity, Blaise." Draco smiled, looking rather troubled.

"Insanity? Has it really gotten that bad?" I asked, "What happened with you and Pansy?"

"Found that out didn't you?" He grimaced, as we headed out through the back door.

"I know something happened," I said cautiously, "But I don't know what."

Judging from their faces as we sat down under the large willow, it was something pretty bad. Even Millicent, who could find something to laugh about even at her own funeral, was looking grave. I sat down on the misshaped tree's lowest branch and looked from Draco to Pansy and back again. Soon enough, one of them would speak. That much I knew.

"Remember when my mother took me aside when we arrived at Kings Cross?" Pansy asked, nervously clenching and unclenching her hands.

I nodded. It remembered that clearly, since my short-term memory isn't as poor as, say Longbottoms. Pansy's mother, a tall, rather withdrawn woman with thick dark blond hair, had indeed pulled Pansy aside when we came to Kings Cross. I didn't hear what they were saying, and as I had to go almost immediately, I don't know what happened afterwards.

"Well, it turns out she's already decided who I'm going to marry." She swallowed.

Alright, now I was thoroughly confused. We're only fifteen, for crying out loud! And from the looks of it, it wasn't someone Pansy would appreciate being married to. From the looks of Draco's face, it was someone he wanted to rearrange physically and permanently. Hell, I wanted to do something drastic, like rip out his spine and beat him to death with it.

"Who is it?" I asked, and I sounded like someone had dropped an anvil on my head.

"Cassius Warrington." Draco spat, sounding angrier than I had seen him in a long time.

"Cass- Wait, that can't be right!" I exclaimed.

Cassius Warrington wasn't, should we say, a very nice sort of person. He had, I learned from very reliable recourses, joined the Death Eater society immediately after graduating from Hogwarts. From what I know, he isn't loyal to their cause, as much as only a Death Eater in name, since he spends all his time flying for the Falmouth Falcons. But being a non-Death Eater still didn't improve his mood. If there was any person on this Earth who was worse than Warrington on a bad day, I had yet to find him. Snape doesn't count; I suspect they slipped something in his coffee to make him the way he is.

But back to Warrington. He wasn't rich, he wasn't well-mannered, and he wasn't powerful. In fact, the only thing that spoke for the marriage was his lineage, which was Pureblooded and had been for a long while. But there was no sensible reason for him to marry Pansy when I knew he had it in for Su Li of Ravenclaw. What the he sees in her I'll never know. Maybe it's just because he's got nothing better to do. Maybe it's just a rumour.

"It is. She's marrying Cassius-bloody-Warrington." Draco looked momentarily sad, before straightening up and exchanging it for an angry sneer instead.

"I don't want to. I really, really don't want to. I don't like him at all; he used to harass me while he went to Hogwarts." Pansy muttered, "Besides, I've seen his mother. She's got this dead, lifeless look in her eyes, and even when she smiles, it doesn't go away. I don't want to become like her."

"Then don't."

I turned my head to Millicent, who was lying, head on her forearms, on the branch to the right of mine. Millicent rarely speaks unless she's got something important to say, or a sarcastic comment to deliver. I'm not sure of what category the last line belongs in. After all, it had sounded relevant, but it had been delivered in a decidedly sarcastic tone.

"What do you mean, Millie?" I asked.

"I mean she doesn't have to become like Warrington's mother." Millicent replied, raising an eyebrow at me. "She doesn't have to be someone else. If Warrington doesn't like her the way she is, well then, screw him, right?"

"Flawless logic, dear Millie," I grinned, "But it doesn't work like that. Warrington would only have to find someone to fall for, and I know just the girl. Su Li of Ravenclaw; she's smart and she's even pretty, so I've no doubt he'll consider her at least. All we have to do is convince the two of them to get their damn act together, so Pansy doesn't have to marry him, and it'll all be solved."

"Well, dear Plot-Hatcher, how do we accomplish that?"

Plot-Hatcher is an old nickname of mine, and Millicent enjoys reminding me of it as often as she can. I earned it by always having at least three backup plans for whatever we were doing. Since Plan A is obviously not going to work, I might as well skip it and go directly to Plan B, or at least that's how it got started. But this time, to tell the truth, I didn't have any clear plans. I had traces and beginnings of one, but nothing finished.

"I'm not sure. Send Warrington to China with a one-way ticket?" I suggested, only half-jesting. "Poison his food? Play matchmaker for Li and Warrington? Any ideas?"

"Gee, Plotty, the last one sounded almost relevant. How do you do it?" Millicent grinned.

"I'm born this way, Millie, what's you excuse?" I chuckled.

"Excuses are for cowards." Millicent snorted. "But back on topic; matchmaking between Warrington and Li. How?"

Silence descended over the old willow tree for a few minutes, as Pansy was staring to look hopeful, as did Draco, and the main plotters of the little gang, namely I and Millicent, were trying to come up with a way to save their sorry behinds.

This was turning out better than I'd imagined. Usually, we just go over to the Manor or wherever we're staying, and we spend our days playing Wizards chess and being slowly bored to death. None of our parents ever lets us do anything remotely funny. Probably because they know we'd raise hell if they let us. It's what Slytherins do, and I see no reason why we should be following a different set of rules than those of our classmates. Of course, we already follow widely different regulations, but only when it suits our purposes.

But back on topic. I knew Li was a member of a very old wizard family, all of which had been either Ravenclaws or Slytherins. She was, much like every Ravenclaw, prone to keep in the background and mind her own business. All in all, someone I could get along with fine, provided she kept silent. Nobody likes a know-it-all, but I had a feeling Li would keep her knowledge to herself unless asked about it. I was sure Warrington would like her if he only had the chance to get to know her.

"Pansy?" I ventured, breaking her out of her conversation with Draco.

"Yes?"

"Will you be inviting Warrington over for one of those dinner parties you mother insists on always having?" I asked, because a plan was beginning to from in my mind.

"Yes, she mentioned something about it. She said I could invite my friends if I wanted to as well, so you're all coming." Pansy grinned.

"Gee, how nice of you to ask." Millicent muttered.

"That's perfect Pansy; invite Su Li as well, and say it's one of your friends. She'll come since her parents want her to gain more friends and get out more, and then we have the perfect opportunity to set them up!" I always get overly enthusiastic about my well laid plans, and this time was no different.

"Once again, Plot-Hatcher, you leave me to patch up the holes in your amazingly transparent plans." Millicent shot at me, "How do we know Li will even like the guy?"

"I'll leave that to you girl, who understand each other; I don't dare to analyze the female psyche." I shrugged. "You girls are too crazy for me."

"So you fancy boys then, Blaise?" Pansy asked, smiling widely.

"No, Pansy, I don't. And I never will. I do fancy girls; I'm just saying I don't understand them." I sighed.

We'd been over this a hundred times; I would be stupid enough to drop a comment that could be taken two ways, and then Pansy or Draco would ask me if I fancied boys, and I'd say no. I will never know where they got the notion that I would fancy boys, as I had never even indicated anything of the sort. Of course, I hadn't shown any particular interest in girls either, but that was because the girls in our year were too damn stupid, and those who weren't were in Ravenclaw in any case. And I knew it would be a dead-end anyway.

I had known from and early age that I would, just as Pansy, be married off to a girl my parents chose. It was one of the Pureblood rules of conduct. My parents would pick a girl of good lineage, and good wealth, and then I'd be expected to marry her without complaints. If nothing changed in a year or so, I knew it'd be Millicent, and I couldn't say I was too awkward about it. If you're going to marry someone you don't love, it might as well be a friend, eh? And Millicent, despite her habit of treating me as a vermin that needed to be disposed of, could actually be nice if she had to.

I glanced over at Draco, where he sat talking to Pansy. I know why he's against the marriage. He's fancied Pansy for quite a while now, and even if he doesn't say it, I know he does, because he has a bad habit of talking in his sleep. He should be happy that Crabbe and Goyle are as stupid as they look, and that I am his friend, because if we weren't, he'd soon have all his secrets out over the school. Maybe he hoped that since his father was in prison, he'd have a chance to get Pansy without parental interference. He hasn't a hope in hell; Narcissa Malfoy is the most meddlesome woman on the planet.

But now we need only to wait for Pansy's parents to come home; I need to ask her mother about inviting Su Li, and whether or not Warrington is actually coming. Until then, I shall tease my friend mercilessly, just as I always do at these occasions. Maybe I shall even invent a new way to get back at the Gryffindors.

*******'

Ending Notes; as first chapters go, this one wasn't so bad. I like it in fact. Next time, Blaise's plots will continue, and maybe Pansy will even get out of marrying Cassius Warrington. Who knows?