A/N: The devil should be paying me, the way I pave the road to hell with my good intentions! This story was originally intended to be a 'how Blaise and Angelina got together' one shot, inspired by chapter 14 of the George and Alicia fic For Bitter or for Worse and alix33's desire to know how Blaise came to be strolling out of the bedroom. And then I started writing...and wanted to show a Slytherin side to the end of DH, (quotes used were from ch 33 & 36) so now this is the first chapter of what will be a three-part story. :D Something like this has happened before, when I wrote Paint it Black: the Portraits of Phineas Nigellus, so to enjoy repeating history; the next chapter will be from Angelina's point of view. (and yes, the summary is a coming attractions trailer, lol, meant to lure new readers, since readers of the G/A fic already know they're together!) Special Thanks to Molly Coddles for being a fab beta whose suggestions made the story 'mo bettah'!
Everyone in Slytherin House had evacuated, but not all had gone home. One group chose to stay at the Hog's Head, waiting for news of the battle.
The barkeep, overwhelmed by the number of students waiting to Floo to their families, growled, "upstairs" when Blaise Zabini asked if there was a room to let. Taking that as a yes, Blaise led the way down the corridor and up the staircase. On the second floor, he looked into each room until he found one that was large enough. "In here," he said, throwing the door open. Pansy Parkinson was the first to enter. She headed straight for the window, pressing her face to the glass like a pug yearning for her master's return. Millicent Bulstrode followed close behind, her broad forehead creased in worry.
"Ladies first," said Jason Harper, gesturing for Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis to precede him. "Do you think we'll be safe here?" he whispered to Blaise, revealing the motive behind his uncharacteristic chivalry.
"Safer than we were at the castle." Blaise glanced over Jason's shoulder. "Where's Malcolm?"
"Coming!" Along with footsteps, the sound of clinking glass travelled up the stairs. Malcolm Baddock clambered onto the landing, bottles cradled in wiry arms. "I don't know about anyone else, but I need a drink!"
Blaise looked at the Butterbeer.
"I can't drink real beer yet," said Malcolm. "I'm only a fifth year."
"I'm tall," Jason said with a smile, "but I won't be of age until August."
Blaise arched an eyebrow.
Malcolm said sheepishly, "All right. I don't give a damn about rules, but if You Know Who doesn't win, I don't want the barkeep telling the Quibbler underage Slytherins were drinking during the battle. My father would cut off my allowance."
Jason grimaced. "Besides, we'll have enough to live down."
Their voices carried. Pansy's gasp was audible. "What do you mean if he doesn't win? The Dark Lord will kill Harry Potter and rule the wizarding world!"
"You hope," said Millicent.
Blaise nodded for Malcolm to go in.
Daphne and Tracey were sitting on the bed, huddled in their cloaks, blonde heads turned toward the girls facing off.
"Who wants Butterbeer?" asked Jason. He took a bottle out of Malcolm's arms and waved it.
Pansy said, "I want to know what you meant by that, Millie." Her hands were clenched into fists.
Millicent stood her ground. "What if Harry Potter lives? He has before. What will happen then to Vincent and Gregory, and your oh-so-precious Draco?"
"Potter will die and they will be rewarded for their loyalty."
"If they live." Millicent's face started to crumple. "People die in war."
"Stupid people, people who don't matter, our enemies, not the ones we love," Pansy said fervently. "Wait. You'll see." She hugged her friend and resumed her position at the window.
"Sit by us, Millie," said Daphne.
Millicent wiped her nose with her sleeve, sniffing loudly as she walked over to sit on the edge of the mattress. "Give me that Butterbeer, Harper."
"Since you asked so charmingly." Jason snagged two more bottles out of Malcolm's arms for Daphne and Tracey.
Blaise conjured four chairs. He placed one in front of the window. "If you used a spell, it would be easier to see out."
"I don't do cleaning charms." Pansy's lips twisted into a sneer. "You take charge of everything else, acting the prefect when you're not, so why don't you do it for me?"
Faces turned to Blaise, the way they had since his sixth year when Draco, occupied with an important mission, shirked prefect duties. Every Slytherin in need of assistance had been waved off with a curt, "I can't be bothered. Let Zabini take care of it." Consumed by his secret agenda, Draco never noticed when his schoolmates began going directly to Blaise, or that they never stopped.
If Pansy resented her boyfriend's loss of respect and influence, that was her problem. Blaise said, "If you choose to see through a glass darkly, so be it."
He and the other boys grouped their chairs to face the girls on the bed. The group sipped their Butterbeers in silence until the windowpanes reverberated with the tremors of a far off explosion.
A glance at his watch revealed that it was after midnight. The battle had started.
Tracey began crying. "I wish it was all over. I don't care who wins. I just don't want anyone to d—die!"
Daphne and Millicent consoled their friend, but the knots in Blaise's stomach tightened with every hour that passed. He kept remembering the moment when Angelina Johnson strode into the Great Hall.
She had been a Gryffindor, a Quidditch Captain, and Potter's friend. How could he have thought her position with the Harpies would keep Angelina from joining the battle?
Blaise watched her smile at those who called her name, realising that he had convinced himself because he wanted to believe it. He did not want her to be hurt. Although they had only spoken in corridors or in the library, Blaise had admired Angelina since first year. She was strong, and carried herself proudly.
She was also beautiful.
Her smooth, dark skin, full lips, and ebony eyes were his ideal of beauty. The beads in her hair brought back pleasant memories of summers spent with his mother's family in Tanzania. Too shrewd to approach her openly, Blaise held himself aloof except for those times when he happened upon Angelina alone. Over the years, those moments grew more numerous; and the attraction became mutual.
Blaise startled when the floorboards shook beneath his feet.
"Oh my gods!" screamed Pansy. "They must be tearing down the castle! Draco! Draco!"
"Silencio!" cried Millicent. Her face contorted. "You selfish bitch! Do you think you're the only person in this room who's worried about someone?"
Angelina, trapped beneath rubble, or struck down by a Death Eater's curse. Blaise couldn't stand for that to happen. "We'll go back," he said.
Jason laughed shortly. "Return to a war zone? That goes against the law of self-preservation."
Malcolm's eyes were round and scared. "Forget Dad taking my allowance. Mum will kill me if I put myself in harm's way!" He looked around wildly. "Our parents are probably coming to look for us right now!"
"Let them," said Tracey. "Mine can lock me in my room all summer, but I can't stay here. I have to know what's happening!"
Blaise stood. "Whoever wants to stay can tell our parents that we'll return as soon as we can." Before he had taken a step, Millicent said, "I'm coming with you." She rescinded the spell on Pansy. "If I see Draco, I'll tell him where you are."
Pansy shook her head. "I'm sorry we quarrelled, Millie. Don't leave me!"
Daphne said, "Come with us."
"No! I can't!"
"I'll stay with you, Pansy," said Malcolm.
Jason looked at Blaise. "Staying with her goes against the law of sanity. I'm in."
"Me too," said Tracey.
The five of them returned to the room housing the secret entrance. Behind the painting they found nothing except plaster.
"What do we do now?" said Jason.
Blaise crouched down beside the hearth to conjure a communication fire. "I've never tried this before," he said, "but Draco once told me that the Slytherin house-elf will answer the call if we're in need." He bent his head into the green flames. "Slinky!"
The house-elf materialised at his side. "Yes, young sir?"
"We want to return to Hogwarts. You can Apparate in and out of the castle—you can take us there and then bring us back."
"Is not safe."
"We're not going to fight." Blaise saw Slinky start to shake his head. "Please," he said softly.
"Please help us," said Tracey.
Jason shrugged. "We can't do it without you."
"We need you," said Daphne.
Millicent nodded. "And if you don't help us, so help me Merlin, I—"
"I will help." The elf bowed. "It is Slinky's honour to serve such fine Slytherins."
Blaise said, "Will you Apparate with us one at a time?"
Slinky chuckled. "Such is for wizards."
He held out his arms for them to take hold. In the twinkling of an eye, the group was transported from the Hog's Head to the Slytherin common room. It was deathly quiet. Apprehension jittered down Blaise's spine. "Where is everyone?"
"In the Great Hall."
Another voice, cold and mocking, echoed in the chamber. "You have fought valiantly."
It was Voldemort.
Daphne and Tracey screamed.
"Shut up!" Millicent yelled. "Listen!"
Voldemort the "merciful" was giving the survivors one hour. If Harry Potter did not face him within that time, every man, woman, and child within the castle would be punished.
"I said this was against the law of self-preservation. Why didn't I listen to myself? What am I, a Hufflepuff?"
Blaise put a hand on Jason's shoulder. "You're a true friend." He looked at each house-mate and the elf that had brought them there. "You all are."
Millicent scowled. "If you're thinking about telling us to go back, you can save your breath." She crossed her arms. "I'm not waiting here, either."
Blaise nodded. "Can you cast a Disillusionment Charm?"
Everyone except Jason said yes. "So I haven't practiced my spells like I should have," he said defensively. "My NEWTS aren't until next year!"
Daphne said, "I could transform you into a ferret and hold you."
"Or I could try to cast the charm for you," said Tracey.
Jason was beside Daphne in two strides. "I've always wanted to hold you," he said, "but this will be almost as good."
Her cheeks turned pink. "Really?"
Amused, Blaise said, "I hate to interrupt, but we have less than an hour to get in and out of the Hall."
"Beg pardon," said Daphne. She hurriedly cast the spell to change Jason into a ferret. "I'll call you Brownie," she said, scooping him up.
He stuck his head into the opening of her cloak.
Daphne yelped, "Ack! Your nose is cold! Stop it, Jason!"
The ferret's head emerged from the fabric.
"Flirt later," said Millicent. "We need to get invisible."
Blaise shivered as his spell took effect. He walked toward the others. "Remember that Disillusionment isn't true invisibility. If you move too quickly, you'll create a blur—and you'll be caught."
The ferret gave several loud barks.
Blaise smiled. "Yes, Jason, that would definitely go against the law of self-preservation."
Unseen fingers clutched his sleeve. Tracey said, "Are we going to stay together? How can we? It's bound to be crowded in the Hall. Should we have a place to meet?"
"The entrance," said Blaise, "It's unlikely that anyone will be hanging round the doors."
"But how will we know when to meet?" Tracey asked. "We can't see our watches!"
Daphne said, "Don't be a blonde stereotype. Find someone visible and look at theirs!"
"Let's go!" Millicent's voice came from the entrance.
Blaise thanked Slinky before following Millicent down the Slytherin corridor. He bumped into her when he reached the Entry.
"Watch it," she said distractedly.
He wondered who occupied her thoughts. Was it Crabbe, or Goyle? Millicent wasn't the demonstrative type. She could have been dating both of them—or neither. Feelings weren't dependent on romantic involvement. He had never kissed Angelina, and yet, if her body lay among the dead... Blaise refused to consider the possibility. "Let's go," he whispered.
The doors to the Hall were open. Blaise was drawn to the centre of the room, where bodies lay in a row, as if they were sleeping. Although the staff had begun transporting the dead to a chamber off the hall, he could tell there had been many casualties. Students, teachers; faces he had seen in the Hall or his classes. He blinked rapidly, surprised at how deeply he regretted their deaths. Pumzika kwa amani, he thought in Swahili. Rest in peace.
One body remained entirely surrounded by mourners. Each one had red hair. Blaise froze. One of the Weasley twins and his sister were missing. Which one had died?
He felt a twinge of relief when Ginny Weasley entered the hall with a girl who said over and over, "I want to go home."
"I know," Ginny said comfortingly, "but right now you need to see Madam Pomfrey." She led the girl to the area where the injured were being treated.
Blaise watched them pick their way through the groups of survivors, until his gaze fell on a woman who stood with her arms around the neck of her friend.
Angelina's body was shaking. Her eyes were scrunched closed; her face was wet with tears. The joy Blaise felt to see her alive and unharmed was blunted by the sudden, painful knowledge that Fred Weasley was the twin whose body lay on the floor of the Hall. Fred: the boy who took her to the Yule Ball. Fred: the boy who kissed her beneath mistletoe in the entrance hall. Fred: who Angelina had loved.
Blaise took a step toward her, and then halted. He refused to intrude upon her grief. There were no words he could say that would offer comfort anyway. He must wait.
He stood to the side of the doors, feeling like a ghost, until a hand brushed his shoulder.
"Blaise?" Daphne whispered.
He felt a body lean against his arm. "Millie won't leave!" Tracey breathed. "She found Draco and Gregory with the injured. Gregory's still unconscious, and Draco—Draco says Vincent is dead!"
Are you going to eat that, Zabini? No? Then can I have it? Thanks!
The memory of Vincent's childlike smile was poignant. Blaise said, "Let her stay."
At that same moment, a voice magnified by magic crashed through the walls.
Harry Potter is dead.
Because no one could see him, Blaise shook his head. He couldn't believe it. Harry Potter was The Boy Who Lived. "It has to be a trick to lure them out of the castle," he whispered, drawing Tracey and Daphne to the side, away from the doorway.
Professor McGonagall rushed out, followed by all those physically able to move. Her scream caused the survivors to push forward, filling the entrance and leaving the Hall nearly empty. When Angelina passed, Blaise had to fight the mad urge to stun her and carry her off to safety. Even if he didn't have friends to look after, she was flanked by Wood and Spinnet. They would curse first and ask questions later if Angelina fell.
"We're trapped," said Daphne.
"Then we wait."
Next to him, Tracey whimpered as Voldemort announced that there would be no more Houses. "This is wrong."
Blaise agreed, but he would not commit suicide by joining those cheering Longbottom's defiance.
"What should we do?" said Daphne.
Before he could tell her once more to wait, screams rent the air. The castle shook with the roar of giants...and what sounded like an approaching army.
"To the back," he urged. "We have to protect Gregory."
"And the others?" said Tracey.
"We'll protect them too."
Daphne said, "I only know one Shielding Charm."
"That's all you need." Blaise circled around Madam Pomfrey, who stood over her charges with her wand drawn. Firenze, although unable to stand, held his bow at the ready. For a second, it seemed that the centaur looked directly at the three approaching. Smiling slightly, Firenze resumed his watch.
"Don't worry. My father will come for us. You'll see," Draco muttered. He sat on the floor beside Goyle, gnawing at his thumbnail. His other hand was outstretched; held by Millicent?
Blaise kept his distance. "Stay ready," he whispered to the girls. "Stay safe."
The battle on the grounds spilled into the castle. While he and the others cast a never-ending succession of Protego charms, Voldemort and his Death Eaters duelled students, teachers, parents, and villagers. Wizards and witches continued to pour into the chamber, outnumbering Death Eaters and taking them out, one by one. Blaise felt no sorrow.
Then someone screamed that Harry Potter was alive, and Blaise experienced relief so great, his knees felt weak. After the pair duelled and Voldemort's body crumpled to the floor, strength returned in such a rush; he bit his lip to keep from shouting with the crowd. It was as if a terrible weight had been lifted. As a Slytherin and a pure-blood, Blaise had been prepared to survive Voldemort's rule. Now he had the chance to live life on his own terms.
In contrast to the cheers, a grim voice said, "Can we get out of here?" It was Millicent. "I'm next to Daphne. Draco's parents will see to Gregory, and people behind me are starting to wonder why no one's filling up this empty space."
Blaise scanned the room until he found what he was looking for: Angelina. She was among the group running towards Potter, laughing and crying. He let out the breath he'd unconsciously been holding. "Let's go."
Once they returned to Slytherin House, Daphne wrapped her arms around Jason the moment he transformed. The couple swayed, hugging each other fiercely. The top of her head barely reached his chest.
Millicent turned bloodshot eyes towards Blaise. "They were less of an odd couple when he was a ferret."
Blaise rummaged in an inner pocket to offer her a handkerchief. "I'm sorry for your loss. Vincent was—" He shrugged.
"He was special," said Tracey, shooting daggers at Blaise.
Millicent snorted. "Special to me, Gregory, and Draco, maybe. I know he was stupid." She released a shaky breath. "But Vincent was so sweet." She blew her nose. "There's no use going on about it. What we need to do is talk about what's going to happen now."
She didn't mean returning to the Hog's Head. Blaise said simply, "We live." He smiled a little. "I think we'll be surprised at how life goes on, even after events like this."
Tracey said, "But what if they don't hold NEWTS? I'll never get into the Healer program if I don't get E-level NEWTS!"
"Slytherin alumni still control the Board of Governors," said Blaise. "They'll make arrangements for exams to be held as scheduled."
Daphne pulled away from Jason. "Even if we sit our exams, will any Ministry department hire us?" Her lips turned down. "We're Slytherin."
Blaise said, "Whoever discriminates will find themselves and their department facing the Council of Magical Law."
"Yeah," said Jason. "There's loads of Slytherin solicitors and barristers."
"If you can afford one," Daphne said sharply. "Not everyone in Slytherin has a vault filled with Galleons."
"I have a vault filled with Galleons," said Blaise. "If you need a solicitor, I'll hire one."
Millicent used a cleaning spell on the handkerchief so she could wipe her eyes. "I guess you meant what you said about true friends."
Blaise held out his hand.
Instead of shaking it, Millicent placed her palm atop his and glanced sideways. Tracey smiled as she put her hand atop Millicent's. With a giggle, Daphne put her palm on top of Tracey's. She looked pointedly at Jason, who rolled his eyes. "Who invented this little bonding ritual? A Hufflepuff?" Jason laughed when Blaise slapped his other hand on his. Within seconds, they were each grinning as they jockeyed to be at the top of the pile.
Blaise never got to enjoy being "top Slytherin." Slinky appeared and placed his fingers on the back of Blaise's hand, just as the others conceded.
The group was transported back to the Hog's Head.
Jason burst into laughter. "The top Slytherin is a house-elf?"
Blaise lifted a brow. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"No. It's brilliant, convenient—I mean ace. Really."
The tips of Slinky's ears turned red as they thanked him. "It is a pleasure to serve friends."
Once the elf Disapparated they filed out of the room. Leading the way downstairs, Millicent said, "Speaking of friends, I'm not promising to be anyone's pen friend. I hate to write letters."
"Me too," said Jason, "and I'm not into group hugs, either." He turned to wink at Daphne. "I only do one on one."
She said, "I'll only kiss my boyfriend."
Tracey mimed gagging. "I can't stand that kissing cheeks stuff."
Near the bottom of the steps, Blaise said, "I would enjoy meeting my friends in Diagon Alley—and buying them lunch."
Everyone liked the idea so much; it took a moment for Malcolm's voice to register over the restaurant suggestions. "There they are! I told you they'd be back!"
While the other parents rushed forward, Blaise's mother waited for him to come to her. Regal and beautiful, she placed her hand on his cheek. "Mwanangu," she said. "My child. You are unharmed."
"Salama," he said. "I am fine." He leaned forward to kiss her cheek and answer the question he saw in her eyes. "Voldemort is truly dead."
She enfolded him in her arms, whispering, "We are free."