Disclaimer: HP isn't mine.

Beta'd by Dress-Without-Sleeves, who is awesome in every way, and just posted the best Percy fic ever.

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Sugar Quills and Briefs

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It took a while for Neville to realize exactly why he kept getting an odd prickling feeling between his shoulder blades whenever he was in Charms class.

Blaise Zabini sat right behind him. And the dark-skinned Slytherin seemed to have picked Neville-watching as his newest hobby.

Neville spent over a week pondering Zabini's motives. He couldn't imagine this being some convoluted Death Eater plot; Neville wasn't important at all, and he didn't have any useful information, either - though some people seemed to think he knew where Harry, Ron, and Hermione had gone.

He didn't, though. Not even Ginny knew where they were, and she was dating Harry. Or at least, she had been. Luna had mentioned something about them breaking up.

Luna made him nervous, especially when she started spouting off the most incredible, unbelievable theories.

For instance, she seemed pretty certain that Zabini's apparent fascination with him had nothing to do with Slytherin games or evil plots. "He likes you," she told him dreamily one afternoon in the library, after he'd confessed to his bewilderment. "Every time you walk into a room, he stares at you. It's really rather romantic. Have you heard about the Mishlemashes?"

"Mishlemashes?" Neville had repeated, confused, before freezing and saying, "Wait. You think Zabini...likes me?"

"Oh yes," she'd replied airily. "Quite a lot, in fact."

"What...how...but..."

"And now you're speechless with joy!" Luna cried, enraptured. "Oh, how perfectly lovely! You two will be just so wonderful together!"

Neville whimpered quietly, and wished she'd just stuck with talking about the Mishlemashes. Whatever they were.

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Blaise wasn't sure when he'd started noticing Neville Longbottom in that way. It was startling and disturbing and really, since when did smooth, suave Slytherins go for bumbling, chubby Gryffindors?

But Neville...no, Longbottom, was just so...

Not cute. Not cute at all. Nor adorable.

Blaise groaned and thumped his head on the library table, earning a stern glare from Madame Pince. He muttered a rather imaginative insult about the old harridan and her beloved books under his breath.

"I don't think that's physically possible," someone said cheerfully. Blaise started upright to see Loony Lovegood sitting across from him, looking perfectly at home. "I highly doubt a book could fit up - "

"What are you doing here?" Blaise interrupted, eyes narrowed. Couldn't he even have a minor meltdown without someone else butting in?

"Why, studying, of course," Loony said bemusedly. "Did you know there have been only three sightings of Ruby-Eyed Briknaks over the last five hundred years?"

They stared blankly at each other. Blaise prepared a stinging - nay, crushing - retort, when Loony added as an afterthought, "Neville wears briefs, not boxers. And he doesn't like Chocolate Frogs; eating them makes him feel like he's betraying his toad, Trevor. You'd be better off with Sugar Quills."

Blaise watched, slack-jawed, as the Ravenclaw got up and skipped happily away.

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Neville was getting downright paranoid. He was going out of his way to avoid both Luna and Blai...Zabini. Because Luna scared him, and even if B...Zabini didn't want to hurt him and actually did like him...well, chocolate brown skin and coffee-colored eyes weren't Neville's cup of tea. And, well, Bl...Zabini was a boy.

Very much a boy. No doubt at all - all slenderness and lean, hard muscle. Nothing soft there, unlike Neville himself.

And yes, Bla...ZABINI...was handsome. Very handsome. But Neville only noticed because Luna had brought the entire subject up. And Blaise...Zabini...BLAISE...the Slytherin didn't really like him anyway. No one noticed Neville like that.

Yet no matter what Neville did to try and avoid the other boy, it seemed like Blaise was always there. And not just looking anymore. There was smiling now, too. Perfect lips curling slowly upwards to bare blindingly white teeth...

Not that Neville noticed. And if he blushed when Blaise was near, it had nothing to do with any attraction or anything. And he never smiled shyly back. Well, just the once. But then Blaise's gaze had sort of slid down to focus on Neville's lips, which had been disconcerting and disgusting and had made him feel oddly warm in all the wrong areas.

Because he didn't like Zabini like that. At all.

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Longbottom liked him, Blaise was certain of it. The adorably shy...no, the stupidly incompetent...no, the...the...

Well, the Gryffindor blushed around him altogether too often for it not to mean something. And he'd smiled back that once, which had set off an unusual fluttering feeling in Blaise's gut, as if there were a thousand tiny snitches bouncing around in his stomach.

He told himself it was nausea. And then he wondered if Longbottom would like a Sugar Quill.

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Neville stared at the candy, blinked, then looked back up at Zabini. The Slytherin looked as calm and collected and handsom...um, male, as usual, as if he hadn't just pulled Neville into an empty classroom and offered him sweets.

"I...what?"

"I said, I thought you might like a Sugar Quill."

"I...yes?"

Zabini rolled his eyes. "Then take it, you dunce."

A little hurt and a lot bewildered, Neville cautiously reached out and took the candy from Blaise. "Thanks?" he offered uncertainly, as he stared at the quill and wondered if it was poisoned or something.

"Aren't you going to eat it?" Zabini demanded after an extremely awkward pause.

Neville eyed him suspiciously.

"Oh, for...I didn't poison it, if that's what you're wondering," the dark-skinned boy said irritably.

"Right," Neville agreed, and cautiously unwrapped the candy and took a bite. Zabini's gaze was oddly intense.

Another moment passed, and Neville shuffled from foot to foot, glancing desperately at the door.

"Oh, just go," Zabini sighed.

Neville hesitated. "Um. Thanks. Really."

Blaise stared at him, then smirked. "If you really want to show your gratitude," he suggested smoothly, and got no further because Neville had run away.

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Blaise was getting frustrated. Longbottom...oh, all right, Neville...was proving to be the most difficult seductee he'd ever faced. The Gryffindor was just too bashful.

And it wasn't cute. At all. Because Zabinis didn't use words like 'cute', and they certainly didn't get soft fluttery feelings when their potential conquests smiled nervously at them in the hallways. It was embarrassing.

The candy had worked, to a point. Neville had stopped trying to avoid him so assiduously, yet still hadn't given in to the passion he obviously felt for Blaise. At least, Blaise was hoping Neville felt something along the lines of ardent and burning lust. Most people did; it'd be just his luck that Neville was the only person at Hogwarts who didn't want to shag him.

Anyway.

So the candy hadn't done the job. Blaise couldn't imagine how he might work the briefs/boxers bit in; he doubted Neville would appreciate a gift of underwear, at least at this stage in their relationship.

Not that they had a relationship. Or would have one. Because this was just physical. Really.

Bugger.

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Blaise wasn't looking so good recently.

Well, no, he always looked good - not that Neville noticed, at least not in that way - but the past few days he'd been staggering around with glazed eyes and rumpled clothing, which was a sure sign of an impending mental breakdown in upper-crust Purebloods.

Neville was getting a little concerned.

"He's languishing from unrequited love," Luna told him solemnly. Neville was beginning to worry enough that he actually believed her for a few minutes, before his common sense, previously overwhelmed and forced into hiding due to Luna's presence, reasserted itself and told him that there was no way Zabini could be in love with him after just one conversation.

And that didn't disappoint him in the least.

Really.

Drat.

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Blaise finally lost patience a week before Christmas vacation was to begin. He knew neither he nor Neville were going home for the holidays, and was hoping he'd be able to actually make some progress during that time.

But he had no idea how to make said progress. And so he did something that many would call stupid, some would deem inspired, and all would think brave.

He went to Loony Lovegood for help.

"Oh, it's ever so simple," she said once he'd poured out his woes. "What you need to do..."

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Neville was surprised to wake up on Christmas morning and find a small package from Blaise on the end of his bed. He opened it up and found a little knit green sweater with "Trevor" scrawled across the front in silver. There was a note as well - "I thought your toad might be cold in the winter. Yours, B. Zabini."

Neville went a bright red, and was glad he was alone in the dorm for once. The other boys would have teased him mercilessly.

But that wasn't the end of things. At breakfast, an owl swooped down and dropped a pack of sugar quills on his plate, along with another note - "Meet me by the lake tonight at seven."

Neville fretted about it all day, but in the end he called forth all his Gryffindor courage and ventured out to meet with Zabini.

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"Longbottom. Neville, I mean. You came." Blaise looked oddly relieved, considering how emotionless he normally acted.

"I...yeah. I guess. I mean, not I guess, because I'm here...um."

"Right. Well, the thing is...I am attracted to you. And not just on a physical level, though there's definitely that too, because you're really very cu...adora...handso...good-looking. So. I have a proposition."

"I...ah...okay?"

"We can meet places. Do things together." Blaise cleared his throat. "Kiss, maybe."

"Date?" Neville squeaked, eyes wide.

"Date." Blaise tested the word, eyes narrowing in thought. "Yes, I suppose. We can date."

"Um. Okay?"

Blaise smiled, then realized he was being horribly un-Zabini-ish and changed it to a lazy smirk. "Excellent. You'll accompany me next Hogsmeade weekend, of course. Wear something less shabby than normal, will you? We'll go to The Three Broomsticks first, and then..."

And sitting high up in a nearby tree, Luna smiled serenely and nodded to herself in satisfaction as she wondered absently what Neville would do when he found out Blaise went commando.

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They'd been dating for nearly a month when Blaise, quite suddenly, thought to ask, "Neville...exactly how did Lovegood know you're a briefs man?"