Much thanks to my beta, who is awesome, amazing, fantastic, etc. :)


Zacharias Smith stared at the letter in his hands. It had been sitting there for quite some time now, but he still couldn't believe what it said. And what it was inviting him to do.

Dear Zacharias,

I invite you to house on the afternoon of 18 July 1998, for tea and perhaps supper if you choose to stay longer. I assure you that while my family has been fighting on the wrong side for the past few years, this meeting has no traps, for I only wish to share a small meeting with you with the past behind us. I do hope the Zabini Estate is to your liking and that you will be just as pleased as I will for you to come to this meeting. Please send an owl confirming your attendance.

Regards,
Blaise Zabini

First of all, Zacharias barely had any idea who Zabini was. He had heard of him, sure—that dark handsome Slytherin whom all the Hufflepuff girls ogled from afar (very afar.) But now Zabini was inviting him over for tea? Since when did Zabini know who he was? They probably had barely ever talked, save for maybe a few times they had classes together and were forced to ask each other questions or talk to each other or something. It was just that Hufflepuffs and Slytherins rarely communicated. At all.

Second of all—Zacharias wasn't sure if he could even trust Zabini. His family had been on You-Know-Who's side—or rather, Voldemort, as everyone was now calling him since he was dead (Zacharias still flinched every now and then). And even though Zabini had claimed that he was just doing this in interest of Zacharias… well, since when had Zacharias even interested him anyways? They barely looked at each other at school. They barely talked to each other. So it was suspicious. Very suspicious.

Third of all, who invited someone over for tea two months after a war?

Still, a little part of Zacharias was curious. Curious and interested. He had seen Zabini before—despite his family's beliefs, he wasn't that bad of a bloke. Zabini wasn't stupid; he wasn't too obnoxious, though he was quirky every now and then (from what Zacharias could deduce from his past observations). Plus, what harm could Zabini's family ever do to him? If they wanted to harm him, that is. The War was done. And Zacharias still had a few tricks up his sleeve with the spells he had learned in fourth year, from Potter's little Defense Club. So if the time came (which he partially hoped it wouldn't, because he still had to work on his Impediment Jinx), he could probably defend himself.

Zacharias stared at the letter again. Please send an owl confirming your attendance, his eyes read over and over again. And again, until Zacharias picked up a piece of parchment paper and a quill, and started writing.

x x x

The morning of July 18, 1998 was rather clear, though slightly bleak in the distance. Zacharias stared off into the distance. He was going to be leaving for Zabini Estate at around one in the afternoon. After telling his mother—who seemed very surprised and highly reluctant to let him go ("I can take care of myself, Mother; really, don't worry about me.")—that he was going to leave for afternoon tea earlier in the week, he had been waiting anxiously for today.

He wondered what Zabini wanted. Perhaps he wanted to get some information out of him? Well, Zacharias certainly wasn't going to give him that. He hadn't been at the Battle of Hogwarts, in all honesty; courage just wasn't his strong suit. He'd rather stay behind and let the others do the fighting for him. Despite his doubts a few years back, he had had some confidence that Harry Potter could win and conquer over You-Know—Voldemort. And even if he couldn't, well, there was nothing wrong with hiding just in case, right?

And if Zabini just wanted to have tea with him just to have tea with him…

The clock in the house rang one. Zacharias glanced to the open doorway of his bedroom. "I'll be leaving now, Mother!" he called out, hoping his voice would carry downstairs.

His mother called back, "Stay safe, dear!" Then there was a loud clatter; Zacharias assumed that she was cooking lunch for his siblings. Sighing and shaking his head, Zacharias turned back around, held up his wand, and Disapparated.

He found himself standing in front of large metal gates, beyond which was a green grassy courtyard with occasional flowers. The sidewalk running through the courtyard led to a royal stone grey mansion, and Zacharias could not help but to admit to himself that he was impressed. Zabini was right: his house certainly was to Zacharias's liking. Zacharias wouldn't mind having tea in there. Or living in there.

Rather cautiously, though, he pressed a hand against a cool metal bar on the gate, and sprung back when it opened of its own accord. Zacharias stared at the gates. They must have blood magic on them, or something. Most Wizarding manors did, though Zacharias was fairly surprised that Zabini's had let him pass.

He briskly walked through the courtyard and tried not to stare at the stone statues standing near the outer wall, as fountains and decoration. It really was an impressive place, but Zacharias was not one to let his guard down. Even in such a luxurious estate like this.

He pressed a hand to the front door of the house the same way he had done with the gate; however, instead of allowing him access, a loud ringing noise echoed throughout the grounds. Rather startled, Zacharias leaped back and was just about to turn around, in case he had done something wrong—but then the door opened and a small house elf stepped out.

"Ah! You must be Master Zacharias!" said the house elf, beaming up at him. "Master Blaise has told us you would be arriving—Master Blaise is still in his bedroom, getting dressed, but you can come in if you is would like!"

Zacharias nodded numbly. The house elf beamed even more, and then stepped aside to let Zacharias enter.

Zacharias looked on in awe at the inside of Zabini's house—crystalline chandelier; large, cherry wooden staircase; golden paintings left and right without a trace of dust on them. Everything was shiny and completely clean, as if they had just been cleaned today. Though Zacharias wasn't quite sure why Zabini would want to clean his house just because he was coming.

The house elf led Zacharias to the sitting room, where a small table with cakes and biscuits were already set up. A beautiful black woman was sitting in a chair, sipping her tea gracefully. When they entered, the house elf ran up to the woman and whispered something into her ear, and the woman turned around to look at Zacharias, surprise evident in her gaze. Zacharias met her eyes and didn't break contact, hoping to earn a smile from her—but all he got was an approving nod before she turned back around to her tea.

There were two other chairs set next to the small table. Zacharias awkwardly placed himself into one.

The woman opened up her mouth to speak just as Zacharias sat down, but was cut off when footsteps suddenly bounded down the stairs, down the hall and into the sitting room. There was Blaise Zabini, looking as handsome as ever and slightly flustered.

"You're here!" he said to Zacharias, looking ever so surprised.

Zacharias inclined his head. "Well, you said afternoon…"

"Yes, I did, didn't I?" Zabini seemed oddly amused. "Sorry, I was just finishing getting myself ready… have you met my mother?"

Zacharias turned to the woman who was still giving Zacharias the slightest bit of an evil eye. Zacharias quickly looked away and nodded.

"I suppose…"

"This is the Zacharias Smith you have been talking to me about?" said Zabini's mother in a loud, dignified voice. Zacharias's head felt a bit silly for a moment. Zabini had been talking about him?

"Yes, yes this is," said Zabini, looking gleeful and not at all sounding as he had in the letter he had sent Zacharias.

Zabini's mother looked Zacharias over—from his combed blond hair to the light smattering of freckles on his face, then to his best navy dress robes and finally to his boots. Zacharias shifted uncomfortably.

"Interesting," was all Zabini's mother said.

Zabini still looked happy. But then when he glanced at the table of biscuits and cakes—and a kettle, Zacharias noticed suddenly—he straightened up.

"Merlin, I forgot to get a cup for you!" he said, moving towards the hallway. "Be right back!"

He left.

Zacharias contemplated calling out after him. He didn't want to be stuck alone with Zabini's scary mother.

Said mother turned to Zacharias suddenly, placing her cup on the table and folding her hands on her lap. She sent Zacharias a very calculating look.

"Apparently you, young man, have stolen my son's heart."

What? was all Zacharias could think of. His brain was buzzing. He had been greeted by an over-cheerful elf, seen a slightly more animated side of the Slytherin whom he had always thought was mysterious, and now the mother of this Slytherin was saying that somehow he, Zacharias Smith, had stolen his heart.

It was all very baffling.

"What?" he managed out, once he convinced himself he had gotten over his surprise.

Zabini's mother looked very irritated at this point. "You have stolen my son's heart," she said to him. "Now let me tell you that my son's heart is not very easily stolen. Many women for the past few years have tried to persuade my son to take their hand in marriage—but he has refused. He is not easily taken into the tidings of romance and partnership." She scoffed. Zacharias had a feeling that she cared very little for "partnership." "And now he has told me that he will settle for no one other than you, Zacharias Smith."

Zacharias blinked at her. Was he supposed to be told all this?

"My son is very talented in the ways of pursuing what he wants," continued Mrs. Zabini, not at all bothered by Zacharias's lack of response. "And I assure you that you will be falling under his spell soon enough. But if you do anything to hurt him—his body, his head or his heart—then you will not be facing him, but me."

Zacharias suddenly noticed that she had her wand in her hand. Where had it come from? He felt even more uncomfortable than before—if that was even possible.

"I have had seven marriages in the past," Zabini's mother said loudly. "And all of them have ended. Rather gruesomely." She gave Zacharias a wicked smile. It reminded him of a black widow. "I will know how to deal with you, Smith, if you do anything to harm my son…"

She trailed off just as Zabini ran into the room, clutching two tea cups in one hand, a plate of cakes in another. Zabini grinned down at him as he set the plate on the table.

"Jotty said that this was his best batch yet," he said to him, not noticing his mother slipping her wand back up her sleeve. "You should try one, Zach."

Zacharias nodded faintly. So Zabini's mother had just threatened him over her tea, and Zabini had just called him by his first name. A shortened version of his first name.

Plus, there was the whole thing about Zacharias having stolen Zabini's heart. Since when did Zabini have an interest in him? Although it did explain why Zabini had invited him over in the first place. A very bold thing to do, Zacharias had to admit, since if he was in Zabini's place, he wouldn't have done the same thing himself. Perhaps Zabini's mother was right, that Zabini knew how to pursue objects of his interest.

Though Zacharias wasn't sure if he would be falling for Zabini any time soon. Well, he had always had a mild interest in blokes… but it wasn't much, really.

He grabbed a cake when he realized that Zabini had been staring at him for too long. He should get lost in thought less often.

"How is it?" asked Zabini eagerly, watching Zacharias.

Zacharias glanced at him and bit into the cake. The sweetness filled his mouth. "Quite good," he said after swallowing, aware of Zabini's mother's gaze on him the entire time.

Zabini beamed at him—beamed—and took one for himself. "I never doubt Jotty," he said, biting into his own cake. "But it's just nice to know what others think, isn't it?"

"I suppose," said Zacharias, still bemused at his current situation.

"I'll be leaving now."

Zabini's mother stood up abruptly. Zacharias glanced at her as well. Her expression was cool, although she was gazing at Zabini in a loving manner.

Zabini didn't seem bothered, however, as he took the seat next to Zacharias. "All right, Mum," he said, watching Zacharias. "We'll be here if you need us."

"I'll send a house elf if I need you," said his mother.

Zabini waved in her direction. "Right, right." He seemed slightly more joyful as Zacharias reached over for another piece of cake.

Zabini's mother left.

"So—er—Zabini, why did you invite me here?" asked Zacharias as Zabini reached over for the kettle to pour him a cup of tea.

"Oh, didn't my mother tell you?" said Zabini, glancing over at him. "I like you, of course. Do you want milk?"

"Oh—Sure," said Zacharias absently. He hadn't expected Zabini to admit it so freely.

"And please," continued Zabini, "call me Blaise." He sent Zacharias a dazzling smile. "I don't want to be referred to as my father." He let out a small laugh.

"Er—All right. Blaise," Zacharias tried out. It sounded rather nice coming out of his mouth.

Zabini—Blaise must have thought so as well, for he sent Zacharias another award-winning grin as he poured milk from a bottle he had picked up on a nearby tray into Zacharias's tea. Then he gave it to him. "Cheers."

"Yeah. Cheers." Zacharias sipped out of his tea. It wasn't bad.

"So," said Blaise, preparing his own cup of tea. "Are you going to Hogwarts this autumn?"

"I…"

Quite honestly, Zacharias didn't know. He had received a letter, of course, inviting him back with the rest of the students. It was true that he did have to start and finish his seventh year, although in the past year he had learned more magic than he could ever hope to imagine due to the Carrows. It was Dark Magic, yes, but it was still magic. The coming-seventh and "eighth" years weren't required to go to school next year, although apparently it was advised by Professor Sinistra, who had become the new Headmistress (with McGonagall still as Deputy), and Zacharias's mother had encouraged him to go. Still, Zacharias wasn't quite sure.

"Are you?" he asked hastily, knowing that Blaise, who was an "eighth" year, probably wouldn't because he didn't need to.

To his great surprise however, Blaise nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Though Mother says I know enough magic as it is—I want to learn more." He smiled at Zacharias. "Sometimes I wonder if I could do well in Ravenclaw, with a brain like mine." He laughed again. Zacharias was starting to find that it was a pleasant noise.

"You're a Slytherin, though," he said to Blaise. "Surely you have much more Slytherin tendencies."

Blaise just looked at him with mild affection in his gaze.

"I do indeed."

x x x

The scarlet train was steaming around the platform, clouding most of Zacharias's line of vision. Zacharias coughed and batted the smoke away, trying to find the trunk compartment.

Once he had his suitcase all safe and settled inside the train, Zacharias turned around and looked around the platform. He could make out his little sister, a coming first year, running to greet his mother's friends' children. He looked around for his own fellow Hufflepuffs, especially the ones who were a year older than him—that might have been Ernie, getting into a compartment. Zacharias bounded over toward him…

A hand clasped on his arm. Dimly, Zacharias thought for a moment that it was Blaise Zabini, whom he had not talked to since their rather pleasant albeit random tea together—but the hand was not dark and masculine, but rather small and soft.

"Hi," greeted Hannah Abbott, beaming up at him.

"Hey," said Zacharias, relieved to see one of his friends.

Justin Finch-Fletchey materialized beside her. "Zach!" he exclaimed, pulling him in for a brief embrace. "How've you been? How were your summers?" he added to Hannah.

"Good," answered Zacharias vaguely. "Hey, I think I saw Ernie over there…"

He pointed to the carriage he had been running toward.

"Brilliant," said Justin, grabbing both of their wrists. "Come on, then."

Ever the more enthusiastic out of all of them, he dragged them over to the compartment. Hannah send Zacharias a weak smile; their families had been staying together ever since the middle of the War when Hannah's house had blown up, and Zacharias could not help but sympathize for her that she had been stuck with Justin like thisthe whole summer.

They got on the train just as it tooted loudly, the steam rising even more as the engine started. Zacharias tugged at the messenger bag around his waist to make sure it was still there, and joined Hannah and Justin in the hallway, who were now peering into the compartment he had indicated.

"Yup, that's him!" said Justin, throwing the compartment door open and scrabbling in, Hannah and Zacharias entering from behind him. Justin plopped into the seat next to him, startling Ernie.

"Justin! I didn't hear you!" Ernie exclaimed, and laughed when Justin very messily pulled him in for a hug. Ernie looked at Hannah and Zacharias as well. "And you two," he said with a smile.

"Hi Ernie," said Hannah, sitting down on the seat across from him. Zacharias joined her.

"Well, I suppose we should try to find the rest of the D.A. members, shouldn't we?" said Ernie pleasantly, retrieving his bag from his feet. "Invite them to our compartment—ah, here it is!" He pulled out a large, thick gold coin. "Wonder if it still works," he mused, rubbing the side.

Immediately, Zacharias felt an odd warmth coming from his bag, and he opened it to see that his own D.A. coin was inside of it as well. He hadn't recalled putting it there—although it might have just been there since last year and the year before. Hannah and Justin must have kept theirs, too, since they were now fishing through their pockets, looking for their own coins.

"Though I don't know if they're coming to Hogwarts," said Ernie very matter-of-factly. "We're all 'eighth years' now, aren't we?—except for Zach, of course," he added kindly. "So I suppose it's not mandatory—"

But he hadn't even finished what he was saying when suddenly a blond face appeared in the window of their compartment. The four of them turned to watch as the compartment door slid open.

"Luna!" cried Hannah, jumping up from her seat to bring Luna Lovegood in for a hug. "You felt your coin! Goodness, I haven't seen you in ages—what have you been doing?"

"Oh, not much," said Luna, waving her hand which was holding her coin and smiling at them distantly. Zacharias had always thought she was weird. "Dad spent a lot of time with me over the summer, traveling to places so we could spend more time after last year—I was captured to Malfoy Manor, you know."

Yes, they knew, Zacharias recalled with some discomfort. Luna was talking as if they were talking about the weather, however, as she rattled on.

"It was quite dirty, actually—you'd think with such a lovely house as theirs, they'd keep the cellar clean as well. But I suppose that they'd need some place to let the dust collect."

"How was your summer, Zach?" asked Justin suddenly, turning to him.

Zacharias shrugged, glad to have his attention turned from something other than the cleanliness of Malfoy Manor. "All right," he answered truthfully. "Boring, really. Although I did get an Owl from…" He trailed off, not sure if this was information that he should reveal to his friends.

Justin cocked his head curiously. "From who?" he asked.

Zacharias shifted in his seat. "Blaise Zabini," he said. As usual, the name, although unfamiliar, felt rather nice on his tongue.

Justin furrowed his eyebrows. "Blaise Zabini? Wasn't his family—"

"—on You-Know—Voldemort's side, yes." Zacharias felt himself flinch, but was not disappointed to see that Justin seemed a bit uncomfortable with the name as well. "But we didn't even talk about that. He seemed like he just wanted to talk to me… Apparently, I've stolen his heart."

All four heads turned to him at that. Luna, the first to recover, regarded him with some coolness.

"I heard that Blaise Zabini's mother has had eight marriages," she said.

"Seven," Zacharias corrected.

"And each one of her husbands died."

"Well yes, that's a tragedy, isn't it?" Zacharias plowed on with some force. "But I don't think that that says anything about Blaise—if that's what you're thinking."

"You mean, you're in love with him back?" asked Hannah, her eyes as wide as Galleons.

"No!" said Zacharias quickly. "And who said he was ever in love with me? I just said that I 'had stolen his heart'—his mother told that to me—"

He noticed that Luna was watching him interestedly as if he were an insect at that, but Ernie, who had stopped stroking his D.A. coin, turned to him.

"So what did you do at Zabini's house?" he asked casually, though there was an obvious trace of suspicion in his voice.

"Have tea. And supper," said Zacharias. And when Ernie opened up his mouth to say something, "And no, he didn't put anything in my food. I checked," he confessed with some haste.

They all continued staring at him. Finally, Luna spoke up again.

"Well I think you and Blaise would make a wonderful couple," she said cheerfully. Zacharias half-wondered if she was being sarcastic, although he doubted "sarcastic" was even in Luna Lovegood's vocabulary. "You're so light, and he's… not. Rather handsome as well."

"Isn't he?" giggled Hannah.

Zacharias chose not to answer to that.

"I hear it was because his alleged father was part Veela," Luna whispered to Hannah.

Hannah's eyes went even bigger.

"You don't say!"

"Yes, and while Veela are also known to be stunningly beautiful, they have a strong scent of Mooglewoogles—"

"What are Mooglewoogles?" asked Ernie.

"Oh, a type of cherry blossom, only grown in the thickest parts of Australia," said Luna. "But they only smell like Mooglewoogles when they're strongly sexually emotional, which is very hard to get a Veela to feel—"

The compartment door clattered open suddenly, and two very familiar faces poked inside.

"Neville! Hermione!" Ernie rushed to get up, knocking his book out of his lap. Rather clumsily, he bent down to pick it up, before beaming at the Gryffindors. "I didn't know you guys were on the train—where are Harry and Ron?"

"Auror Department," said Hermione, although she was smiling. She brushed aside a lock of brown hair. "Both were offered places there—and Harry's going to be Head after training, since Kingsley Shacklebolt's Minister."

Zacharias bit his lip from saying a scathing, Figures. Even though the Boy Who Lived had certainly saved his and everybody else's skin a few months back, he still couldn't help dislike Harry Potter for his personality. There were some things that saving the world just couldn't cover.

But Ernie seemed even more jubilant at this news. "Thought so!" he said, ushering them into the compartment. "Harry'll be a fine Head of Aurors!"

"He will, won't he?" Luna unexpectedly chimed in. "As long as he doesn't let the Nargles get to him."

Hermione sent her a brief smile. "Yes, those darn Nargles."

"What about you, Neville?" said Hannah, sending a shy smile Neville, who had been quiet this whole time. "What do you want to do after school?"

"Oh, I don't know." Neville shrugged, although there was an unmistakable knowing smile on his face. "I was thinking about doing something with Herbology—although there aren't many jobs that involve it—"

"That's because it's such a pointless subject in the real world," Zacharias couldn't help cutting in.

Both Neville and Hannah sent him looks. Neville was clearly offended by his words, but Hannah—well, it was probably because Zacharias had just interrupted her perfect opportunity of flirting with Neville.

"I mean," Zacharias continued, "what can you do? Grow a garden in your backyard?"

"Professor Sprout wouldn't like to hear that from you," said Hannah meaningfully.

"Yeah," Neville said angrily. "And you shouldn't insult your Head of House that way—"

"I wasn't insulting her, I was just pointing out the facts," Zacharias opined. "And you have to admit, I have a point, the only thing you can really do with Herbology is teach it; otherwise, it's just another side subject that you need to get on with in every other career in life—"

"I actually was thinking about teaching Herbology," said Neville, turning to Hannah and now ignoring Zacharias completely. "You know, maybe as a mentor or something."

"Oh, that'd be delightful!" Hannah squealed. "Imagine, you becoming the new Herbology professor—oh Neville, you really should…"

Realizing that he was now cut out from the conversation, Zacharias turned to the others. However, Hermione and Ernie were now in an engaging conversation about what they had been doing all last year during the school year, while Justin was teaching Luna how to fold a paper crane. Luna looked very intrigued and was telling him about the types of diseases that came from standing around dragons for too long.

Sighing, Zacharias unceremoniously stood up. "I'm going to the loo," he announced, though no one paid him any attention. He huffed and stepped out of the compartment, glad to be rid of all the noise from inside.

Zacharias wandered up and down the train corridor. After some time, he decided that since he had nothing else better to do, he might as well just change into his robes. He saw Anthony Goldstein and Terry Boot on the way, asking him about the other D.A. members, and pointed to the compartment, not keen on going back. While he liked his friends… it was much better being alone…

He changed into his robes and then walked out of the restroom, occasionally glimpsing into some compartments. There were a few first years who looked nervous and excited to be going to Hogwarts; second years who looked surprised that they were still alive. Zacharias rolled his eyes; they were the same as the first years. Quite frankly, many of the younger years were all the same: loud, talkative and annoying. It was no wonder why he avoided his yearmates when he was a first year, and then when he finally made friends, got acquainted with people a year older than him.

Zacharias wasn't paying too much attention to where he was going that he bumped into someone, and mumbled, "Excuse me," as he attempted to sidle by.

"Zacharias!" said the person he bumped into, and Zacharias turned to see that the person was none other than Blaise Zabini. Blaise was grinning at him as if he had been told that Christmas was coming early.

"Blaise," said Zacharias, and was surprised to find that he actually felt slightly happier at seeing him. "How are you?" he added politely.

"Oh, I'm fine," said Blaise, still beaming down at him. "You look rather lost—do you want to join me and my friends in our compartment?"

Zacharias considered his options. He could genially say no, because he had his own friends to tend to, and though this was not true, he would probably be more comfortable around loud annoying people than Slytherins he had never met. On the other hand, however, he could say yes, and meet these Slytherins… although there was no telling what they could do. Zacharias knew that not all of them were Death Eaters, but people were still wary. Including himself.

"Sure," he finally said, telling himself to get over his fear. Besides, Blaise was perfectly nice to him, and what if his friends would treat him that way as well? It would be better than the way his friends treated him.

Blaise beamed even more, if possible. "Excellent!" he said, grabbed Zacharias's wrist, and led him down the corridor to a compartment near the end of the train.

He opened the door and pulled him in. Zacharias glanced to Blaise's friends. He recognized one as Pansy Parkinson, who seemed rather sour-faced at his arrival, and another, Gregory Goyle. The third boy looked familiar, though Zacharias couldn't place a name on him at all.

"Zacharias, this is Pansy, Greg and Theodore," said Blaise, indicating each of them. "Pansy, Greg and Theodore, this is Zacharias." He chuckled to himself.

Parkinson shot him a look. "Don't you look delighted."

"Oh, you know I am dear," laughed Blaise, plopping himself next to her and patting down on the seat. Zacharias took it as an invitation to join him.

Parkinson shot Zacharias another sullen look. Zacharias had a feeling that she didn't approve of him at all.

Goyle, however, was now peering at Zacharias curiously. His gaze was fixated on Zacharias's yellow tie. "You're a Hufflepuff," he blurted out suddenly.

"Yes, I am," said Zacharias. And when Parkinson continued looking at him like that, he added, "And a proud one, at that."

Parkinson snorted. Goyle continued watching him. Blaise beamed at him.

"And there's nothing wrong with being a Hufflepuff, right?" he said, winking at Zacharias.

Zacharias did his best not to blush, although he was now distinctly aware that their thighs were touching. "Er, of course not," he spluttered out.

"That's not what you said three years ago," said Parkinson meaningfully, looking at Blaise over her copy of theDaily Prophet.

"Oh posh, what I said three years ago." Blaise waved her words aside. "We're better people now! Smarter! Wiser!" He turned to Zacharias. "Cuter."

Zacharias blushed even deeper. Theodore—the quiet boy—scowled.

"Yes, well," he managed. "Not everyone is lucky enough to make such improvements, are they?"

"You certainly are," Blaise teased, and this time, Zacharias could fully ignore the betrayed look on Parkinson's face.

x x x

The rest of the train ride was pleasant, though Zacharias focused on ignoring Parkinson's disapproving looks and instead did his best to engage in conversation with Blaise. However, Blaise had started talking to Theodore about schoolwork, and when their words starting flying right over Zacharias's head, he was forced to stare out the window. Greg had soon enough busied himself when the food trolley arrived. Zacharias didn't mind much, though; the feeling of Blaise's thigh pressed against his own sent tingles all the way down to his feet, and he was quite aware of the coil of heat in his stomach. He wasn't quite sure what it all meant, but Blaise's hands occasionally finding the fabric of his robes and teasing with them was enough to speak for him. Zacharias wasn't too bothered by it at all.

When the train finally arrived at Hogwarts, Zacharias bid good-bye to the Slytherins—although Blaise was the only one who really responded—and then dashed through the maddening crowd to find his friends. He saw them near the carriages, an empty spot next to Justin. He ran over to them immediately.

"Where were you on the train?" Hannah asked once he was in the carriage with them. Not much to his surprise, Zacharias could see the Thestrals. Apparently the rest of them could as well, by the way Ernie was staring at one's wing warily.

"Changed into my robes," said Zacharias. "And when I was walking back, I ran into Blaise, and he invited me to his compartment…"

"So he's Blaise now?" said Ernie, glancing at him.

"Yes, he's Blaise," said Zacharias impatiently. "And he's quite nice, too, for a Slytherin…"

"Imagine that," said Justin darkly.

"Oh boys, grow up," said Hannah, rolling her eyes at him. Then, to Zacharias, "What did he want?"

"Just to talk to me… meet his friends… and stuff…"

"Bet that was pleasant," muttered Justin.

Hannah shot Justin another look before turning to Zacharias again. "He still likes you?"

"Yes! Why is that such a hard thing to understand?" Zacharias said impatiently.

"I never said it wasn't," Hannah reasoned. "I was just wondering. And it didn't bother you at all, since apparently you don't like him, that he wanted to spend time with you and invite you into his compartment?"

Zacharias shrugged. "Not really."

"You didn't feel uncomfortable? At all?"

"No," said Zacharias truthfully. "It wasn't that bad, actually… Though I'm pretty sure Parkinson hates me…"

"Parkinson hates everyone," said Ernie cheerfully. "Except for Malfoy, of course. And her slimy Slytherin friends."

"Blaise isn't slimy," said Zacharias defensively.

Ernie and Justin shot him a surprised look.

"Didn't think you cared," said Ernie.

"And how would you know, anyways?" said Justin.

Hannah sent them another disapproving look. "Boys, stop fighting," she said. "Honestly," she muttered under her breath.

"And Malfoy wasn't in the compartment," said Zacharias. "Actually, it was just her, Blaise, Goyle and another boy named Theodore… I think they're the only Slytherin eighth years…"

"Theodore Nott?" Justin crinkled his brow. "He's slimy."

"He is," Zacharias couldn't help agreeing. "Scowled at me the whole time too."

Hannah, however, seemed more concerned about Blaise as she tapped her chin. She turned to Zacharias again.

"So you're saying that even though you know Blaise likes you and you don't like him back, you were completely okay with him flirting with you?"

"He wasn't flirting with me!" said Zacharias indignantly, though a voice in the back of his head said pointedly, He was.

Hannah looked like she agreed with this voice.

x x x

They arrived at the castle within minutes, and hopped out of the carriage as quickly as possible; Zacharias assumed that the others, like himself, wanted to get away from the Thestrals as soon as they could. While Hagrid claimed that they were safe, Zacharias had never really trusted Hagrid (a Blast-Ended Skrewt had once blown his hand up and he had to stay in the Hospital Wing for two whole days for Madame Pomfrey to heal him up); plus, the Thestrals were as creepy as hell.

The Sorting was plentiful this year, and Zacharias was mildly glad to see that despite the fact that he disliked the younger years, the Houses were filling up again, making up for the pulled out students and the missing lives from the War. This made Zacharias a bit more settled with being back at Hogwarts; his father had wanted him to stay out, saying that they should keep their business to themselves, but his mother had protested and said that the children should get a proper education, and his father finally agreed only through much persuasion.

Headmistress Sinistra said a few words after the Sorting and then the plates in front of them filled up with food. Zacharias noted with mild amusement that there was a collective gasp from the large number of first years as he dug into his shepherd's pie. Beside him, Hannah was chattering on to Susan Bones about what they had been talking about in their compartment, as Susan had been staying with her family at an inn in Hogsmeade and was not on the train.

Zacharias cast a quick glance to Slytherin table while he waited for his goblet to refill itself with pumpkin juice. There was Blaise, cutting up a filet and eating it with the most proper of manners. He did not seem the way he had been earlier on the Hogwarts Express. However, when he caught Zacharias's eye, he grinned and winked. Zacharias blushed and glanced back down to his food.

After dinner, Headmistress Sinistra said some stuff about the War and the new school year and how they should put the past behind them—as well as House rivalries. Zacharias was sure that she was inferring the harassments that Slytherin house could possibly have during the school year, and told himself not to partake in it. As much as the more undignified part of his head was saying that it was something that they deserved, Zacharias knew in the back of his mind that they didn't. He was raised pureblood enough to know that not all Slytherins were Death Eaters, the same way not all Death Eaters were Slytherins, not all purebloods were Slytherins, and the actual amount of purebloods were so little that it was hard to say if anyone's blood was really "pure" these days. Plus, all the Death Eaters had been sent to Azkaban, so there was nothing to fear in Hogwarts.

And Zacharias was sure that Blaise wouldn't appreciate being bullied either. (He doubted if Blaise could actually bebullied, as well. Blaise was strong, wasn't he?)

The end of the speech was finished with the acknowledgement of the lack of prefects (Sinistra explained that over the summer, so much effort was put to repairing Hogwarts that prefects this year would be assigned in early October) and words of goodnight, and then the Hogwarts students clambered out of the Great Hall. Zacharias walked with his friends, Ernie and Justin arguing about the next World Cup, and Susan and Hannah catching up with their summers. Zacharias was so out of it that his brain only barely registered the fact that someone had suddenly poked him from behind.

He turned around to see Blaise smiling at him. None of Blaise's friends were around.

"Hi," said Zacharias, suddenly feeling very awkward.

Blaise chuckled at him. "You have a little…" He indicated his own mouth. Zacharias realized that he must have a little bit of leftover pudding on his face, and turned a very embarrassing shade of pink.

"It's all right. Here. Scourgify." Blaise grinned and then pocketed his wand, as Zacharias felt the residue of food leave.

"Thanks," said Zacharias, still blushing.

"No problem." Blaise fell into step with him. Zacharias noticed, from the corner of his eye, that his friends had stopped talking and were now gazing at them. Blaise didn't seem to have noticed, though.

"What did you think about Sinistra's speech?" he asked, looking at Zacharias curiously.

Zacharias shrugged. "She has a fair point. Your House doesn't deserve to be punished for something a madman who happened to be in your House did."

Blaise smirked. "Yes, though I think Voldemort should have had a House for himself. A madhouse."

Zacharias was impressed by the way Blaise didn't even flinch at the name, and vowed that he would stop doing so as well. "Yeah," he said, amused at Blaise's play on words. "But even if students do pick on you, you'll be able to fend for yourself, won't you?"

"Of course I will. I don't need a knight in shining armor," Blaise scoffed. "Unless it's you, of course."

Blaise was so obviously flirting with him now, and by the way even Justin and Ernie seemed embarrassed to be eavesdropping on their conversation, Zacharias flushed even pinker. Hannah and Susan looked delighted.

"Well I'll be seeing you," said Blaise cheerfully. "Have fun, Hufflepuffs," he added to Zacharias's friends, before smirking again and then disappearing.

Once he was out of earshot, Justin turned to Zacharias.

"What," he said, looking to the space next to him that Blaise had previously occupied, "was that?"

"I thought that was cute," piped up Susan. "Do you like him, Zacharias?"

"No!" Zacharias, if possible, felt himself going pinker. "I don't! He just… well he likes me, but there's nothing wrong with that, is there?"

"Of course not," said Hannah consolingly, and then turned to explain something to a bemused Susan.

"You're not bothered with the fact that a gay bloke who likes you is flirting with you?" said Justin, ever still bewildered.

"No, I'm not," said Zacharias defiantly. "And I don't know why you guys care so much. I'm going to the common room."

"You're delusional, mate!" called Ernie as Zacharias turned the corner and sped away from them.

What did it matter that Blaise "liked" him? Blaise was nice, and even though he had a reason for that niceness, it wasn't anything that Zacharias wanted to stop. Zacharias was never one to miss out on opportunities when people actually liked him—too often his mouth would say something that he would later regret saying. Besides, if anyone was going to like him, they were going to be at least good-looking, and there was no denying that Blaise was exactly that.

Zacharias arrived at Hufflepuff Tower soon enough, and entered the common room. It was bright and full of younger-years, but Zacharias paid them no mind; he could only think of his yellow four-poster bed waiting for him upstairs. He walked up to the boys' dormitory, and, satisfied and satiated, collapsed onto his bed for the first time in nearly a year and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

x x x

His timetable, which arrived at breakfast next morning, was almost identical to the one last year, although this time with Defense Against the Dark Arts rather than Dark Arts (Zacharias hadn't really had a splendid time performing Crucio on Michael Corner who had gotten detention for talking back to Alecto Carrow. His stomach clenched at the memory.) He had Herbology and Potions in the morning, and then Charms and D.A.D.A in the afternoon. Briefly, he wondered when Quidditch season would start. And who the new captain was.

"We have Muggle Studies together? Excellent!" said Ernie, glancing over at Hannah's schedule.

Hannah glanced at Gryffindor table dubiously. "I wonder if Neville's taking Muggle Studies…" she said thoughtfully.

"Doubt it. He probably learns everything he needs to know about Muggles from Granger," said Zacharias, glancing in their direction. And when he noticed the look on his friends' faces, he said, "Oh come on, don't deny it, it's probably true."

"Yes, but you don't need to actually say it," said Susan pointedly.

Zacharias grumbled under his breath and picked up a hash brown with his fork.

He soon bid good-bye to Hannah and Susan, and made his way to Potions with Ernie. Ernie had told him that Blaise had been in his class in sixth year; however, Zacharias was disappointed to see that Blaise was not there. Professor Slughorn had told them, through a mouthful of mead, that Blaise had already gotten his N.E.W.T.s for Potions earlier in the year, being a fully competent student.

Then Slughorn rattled on about something or other about Potions, and Zacharias was momentarily lost.

The morning went by quickly, with Zacharias adapting to his new classes and seeing old classmates, although he barely exchanged a word or two with them. Sometimes he felt like his fellow seventh years behaved like sixth years. Who behaved like fifth years, who were like fourth years, and so on. Really, it was astounding that they were all different ages from the way they so often acted.

Lunch went by and Zacharias had eaten enough, and then he had Charms. He looked forward to Charms; it was actually his easiest class. How anyone could get below an Exceeding Expectations was a wonder to him.

Zacharias was fairly surprised to notice that Blaise was in his class. He hadn't seen him before. Then again, he supposed with everything that had gone on last year, noticing his Charms classmates had been the last thing on his mind.

He contemplated taking the seat next to Blaise, and when Blaise spotted him and waved him over, Zacharias found it difficult for himself to shake his head. He walked over to Blaise and Blaise pulled out the chair for him, smiling.

"You know," said Blaise conversationally, "I liked you ever since last year, when you did such a good Decaying Charm that your robes nearly fell off as well."

"Did you?" Zacharias turned pink as he remembered the embarrassing experience. "It wasn't all that great…"

"Flitwick said it was one of the best he had ever seen," Blaise said earnestly.

"Oh… well then…"

"Plus, you're pretty fit under all those clothes." Blaise smirked. "Not that I had any doubts beforehand."

Zacharias felt the heat flood his face. Once again, he had no idea what to say.

Blaise smiled at him languidly as Flitwick clapped their hands for his attention and started on with the day's proceedings. They were to be learning a Protean Charm today, by changing the text in their textbook to different stories from The Tales of Beedle the bard, based on the reader's wishes. As Flitwick went on to explain to the Muggle-borns what the stories were about, Blaise turned to Zacharias, giving him a small smile.

"Do you want to do it first?" he offered.

Zacharias felt flustered under Blaise's questioning gaze. "I—um—sure," he muttered, turning to his Charms textbook and the copy of The Tales of Beedle the bard Flitwick had handed out to all of them next to it. Focusing very hard on the fictional text, he pointed at his textbook and shouted, "Proteas!"

Immediately the words in the textbook shivered, and then dissolved. Blaise bent down to look at it curiously.

"Can I see it?" he asked Zacharias, and Zacharias nodded, not quite sure he had done it correctly. Blaise had, after all, distracted him.

Professor Flitwick was coming around, watching their progress.

As soon as Blaise touched the textbook, words immediately shimmered on the page. Zacharias could see the titleBabbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump on the left side.

"Exactly what I wanted to read!" said Blaise, pleased. "I love the part when the king thinks she turned into a crabapple."

"Very good, Smith," said Flitwick, passing by and giving them an approving nod. "Zabini, you should get onto work as well."

"One moment, Professor," said Blaise, holding up a finger and flipping through the book. "I'm reading."

Zacharias rolled his eyes, but grinned at Blaise all the same.

x x x

"I already know how to do a Dampening Charm," Zacharias admitted as soon as Professor Flitwick stopped giving his instructions.

Blaise's eyebrows flew up in surprise. He glanced around them where the other students were busy casting, "Moistius!" on the socks and tea cozies they had been given (apparently donated by the house elves). Then Blaise looked back at Zacharias.

"When did you learn to do it?"

Zacharias felt his cheeks heat up. "Over the summer," he muttered. "I had free time, so I read ahead…"

Blaise seemed impressed. "I think you might be a Ravenclaw in disguise too," he chuckled, nudging Zacharias's thigh with his own. "Go on, show me your amazing Charms skills."

He was teasing, Zacharias knew; Blaise had been saying things like to this to him for the past week now. They didn't see each other very often throughout the rest of the school day. Occasionally Zacharias would catch his eye in the Great Hall, spot Blaise in the corridors but would be too cowardly to say hello, and sometimes saw him in the library, if Zacharias was really lucky. But Charms was the one class they had together despite Blaise being an eighth year, and it was also the class in which Zacharias would not be disrupted by his friends (Hannah and Susan would give each other every time he mentioned Blaise—which was not often, thank you very much), and so whenever they talked, it was always in midst of their classmates shouting and attempting N.E.W.T. level spells.

Zacharias's wand hovered above his sock. Well aware of Blaise watching him, he flicked his wand and murmured, "Moistius." Immediately the sock darkened in color.

"Impressive," said Blaise, bending his head low near the desk, and reaching out to poke the sock with his finger. "Perfectly damp, too. Not too wet, but hardly completely dry." He grinned up at Zacharias.

Zacharias's cheeks heated even more. "Th-Thanks," he said. And slightly indignant to being reduced to flustering, he nodded toward Blaise's tea cozy and said, "How about you try?"

"Sure, but I'm not as great as this as you are," chuckled Blaise, sending him a charming smile. "Moistius!"

His tea cozy lay dry on the table.

There was a tutting behind them. Zacharias and Blaise turned around to see Professor Flitwick frowning at Blaise's tea cozy. "You might want to work on that, Mr. Zabini," he said, pointing at it. "Say it with more meaning. Imagine it nice and damp in your palm. As for Mr. Smith." Professor Flitwick reached around him and grabbed his sock. "Ah yes! Well done, Mr. Smith! Perfectly damp, no more or less! You'll almost be good as Miss Granger over there!"

He pointed to the other side of the classroom, where Hermione Granger stood helping Lavender Brown with her own Dampening Charm. Hermione seemed a little caught off guard at hearing her name, but smiled kindly at Zacharias before telling Brown not to prod her wand, but to flick it.

"Thanks," Zacharias muttered. He wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not.

"Yes, yes. Now help out Mr. Zabini, Smith, please!"

Professor Flitwick walked off to the next pair of students. Blaise smirked up at Zacharias.

"Yeah, Zacharias, help me," he said.

Zacharias flushed again, but ignored his pink cheeks and went around the desk to Blaise, and started instructing him on how to improve his Dampening Charm.

A few minutes later, when Blaise was busy evaluating his own tea cozy in terms of wetness ("It's not too wet, don't you think?"), Hermione suddenly materialized before them. Zacharias glanced up at her, started; Hermione sent him a small smile.

"How are you doing?" she asked, referring to Zacharias's sock.

Zacharias shrugged. "Fine."

"Did you do the Charm all right?"

"Are you kidding? Zacharias is a natural at Charms," said Blaise, lazily flicking his wand at his tea cozy, making it turn a bright shade of yellow.

Hermione seemed bemused by this statement. "Really?" she said, turning to Zacharias.

Gritting his teeth, Zacharias replied, "Yes, really. Is it really just so hard to believe?"

"No, I just… I didn't expect it," stammered Hermione. "Could you show me?"

Zacharias rolled his eyes and let out an all-suffering sigh. Since when was it any of her business to see what he could do? Still, he wanted to prove it to her that he could do a perfectly good Dampening Charm, and so he pointed at his sock and said very loudly, "Moistius!"

The sock (which had been dried out before) turned very damp. Zacharias sent a smug look to Hermione.

Hermione raised her eyebrows in surprise, but all she did was send a curt nod to him before starting to stalk off.

"Hey, Granger!" Blaise said suddenly, perking up. "What was yesterday's Ancient Runes homework? I dozed off in class yesterday."

If anything, Hermione looked even more surprised. "Sixteen inch essay on the misuse of runes in the seventh century," she responded.

"Thanks," said Blaise, nodding.

Zacharias felt a little bit peeved at this exchange. What business did they have to have together? Wasn't it obvious that Blaise liked him? Who cared about Ancient Runes when they were currently in Charms class?

The rest of class was spent with Zacharias continuing to teach Blaise how to do the Dampening Charm until finally his tea cozy was at least a little more wet (for his first several attempts only made the fabric a tad cooler than usual). When class was over, Zacharias bid an insignificant good-bye to Blaise, and then headed down to the Entrance Hall.

Zacharias often liked walking out on the grounds during his free period, which was right after Charms. It gave him some time to free his thoughts, and even though he'd sometimes see Hagrid and one of his ferocious beasts prowling around, as long as he stayed away, he was barely disturbed. The view of the grounds was quite nice too, including the Forbidden Forest which he pointedly avoided when he walked around the east side of the lake. Occasionally he'd see some fifth and sixth years studying on the grass, or couples eating on a blanket, or older boys trying to lure the Giant Squid to the edge of the water. But they never paid him any mind, neither he them, so his walks were silent and peaceful.

Zacharias glanced up at the sky and thought about Charms class today. He thought about the way Blaise had smiled at Hermione; it wasn't like the smiles Blaise sent to him. Zacharias briefly wondered if this was a good thing or not.

Yes, he decided. Yes it was.

x x x

"This is so stupid," Ernie groused, flopping his textbook onto his lap. "Why would Professor McGonagall give us a long essay on the first week of term?"

"Because she's Professor McGonagall?" Zacharias leafed through his own textbook. "I don't think there's anything else here about Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration other than what the laws actually are."

"I give up," said Ernie. He tossed his textbook to the table next to them. "I give up," he repeated, and ignored the look Madame Pince shot at them from a few bookcases over.

"This is a library!" she hissed.

"I don't care!" said Ernie for the third time, though a bit softer. "Professor McGonagall's mad, I tell you, mad—she's been made too hard after last year, assigning three feet long essays on a topic we can't even find."

"I'm sure we can find it somewhere," Hannah tried assuring as she put her own book down, although her face was full of doubt as well. "We just have to keep looking."

"I think it's a Hufflepuff thing to be bad at Transfiguration," mused Susan, slouching in her chair.

"I sure hope so," muttered Zacharias, thoroughly displeased at his lack of interest and skill in the subject. It was a miracle that he had gotten his O.W.L. for it.

A few minutes passed in which the Hufflepuffs continued looking through the Transfiguration books for any references to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Zacharias sighed as he put The Theory of Idealistic Transfiguration back on their library table, and then stood up and stretched.

"I'm going to go look for more books," he announced to his friends, pointing to a bookshelf in the back.

They made little noises of response. Zacharias made his way over to the back.

He was flipping through Spellwork and its Limits, using a Searching Spell for the word "Gamp" (and being thoroughly annoyed when the words "flying amphibian" and "wrong amplitude" came up) when a voice out of nowhere exclaimed, "Zacharias!" Startled, Zacharias spun around to see Blaise standing there.

"Blaise," he said, feeling thoroughly bewildered. He had only seen him in the library twice before this year, and didn't expect a third time.

Blaise peered over his shoulder at the book he was flipping through. He seemed amused. "Might want to specify with a capital G, if you're not looking for 'bog, amplify'," he said, pointing his spell at the page in the book. Immediately, the red highlights lessened. Then he looked back up to Zacharias. "What are you doing, anyways?"

"Transfiguration essay," sighed Zacharias.

Blaise laughed and leaned against a nearby bookshelf. "Oh, good old McGonagall," he said. "Luckily I managed to pass her N.E.W.T. last year, despite… circumstances. What's the essay on?"

"How wizards got around Gamp's Laws of Elemental Transfiguration."

"I remember that one," said Blaise reminiscently.

"I'm pants at Transfigurations." Zacharias fumbled with the hem of his robe and stared down at his book, feeling his cheeks redden. "I can't find anything on it. Well, except." He indicated the three pages in the book he was currently holding, which probably mentioned Gamp's Law.

"And that's not going to be enough for you to write an essay, is it," Blaise concluded. "Well never fear! I am here! And you're looking in the wrong section, anyways." He pointed to another row of bookshelves near the entrance of the library. "You might want to check the basic uses of Transfigurations. That might be a bit more helpful."

"Oh." Zacharias managed out a weak chuckle. "Yeah. Thanks."

Blaise smiled at him. "Here, let me help."

So for the next ten minutes, they spent their time roaming the bookshelves, searching for all the books on basic Transfiguration spellwork, which proved to be a lot more useful than what Zacharias had been looking for before (laws and misuse.) Once they were sure they got enough books for reference, they walked over to the table where Zacharias's friends were, who were still fruitlessly poring over books.

"Hiya Hufflepuffs," said Blaise cheerfully, toppling an armful of books onto the table.

Ernie and Justin looked up, alarmed. Hannah was too immersed in her book to care.

"What are you doing here?" Justin asked, narrowing his eyes at Blaise.

Blaise shrugged. "Helping you hopeless Hufflpuffs with homework. Like my alliteration?"

Susan, from her side of the table, giggled. Zacharias shot her a look.

"Thanks," he said gratefully to Blaise. "We would be hopeless without you."

"No doubting that." Blaise smirked. "Well have fun with your essays, Hufflepuffs. I've got my own homework to tend to."

He patted Zacharias's arse and left. Zacharias was aware of the blush that was spreading to every inch of his body.

Ernie and Justin stared at him.

"You're a Veela! You're supposed to love him!" cried Hannah at her book.

x x x

The first Hogsmeade trip of term was the last weekend of September. Zacharias slouched in the carriage, waiting for the rest of his friends to get their permission slips checked by Filch (really, it was stupid how they had to get them checked every year.) He glanced at the thestrals standing and clicking in the front, and shuddered. Those things would probably always give him the creeps.

Hannah was the next one done, while Justin was busy being prodded with one of Filch's Dark stuff detectors in uncomfortable places. Ignoring Justin's pleas for help, she ran over to Zacharias and plopped herself in the seat next to him.

"Hey. Excited to see the reparations since the war?" she asked, reaching into her bag and pulling out a piece of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum. She opened it and started chewing noisily.

"Positively delighted," Zacharias deadpanned. He glanced over at her. "And stop chewing so loudly, I'm getting a headache."

"Sorry," said Hannah, not sounding sorry at all. She blew a large bubble and then popped it. She giggled when a bit of it landed on Zacharias's nose.

"That's disgusting." Zacharias wrinkled his nose and picked the gum off with his fingertips.

"I'm disgusting," Hannah said cheerfully, and then reached into her bag again just as Justin made his way over to them.

"I swear to god, Filch is getting older and older these days," Justin growled under his breath as he climbed up into the carriage. "More and more senile. Why doesn't he just die already?"

"That was rude," said Hannah, glancing up at him and pulling out a quill from her bag.

"You know you agree," said Justin.

"Where's Ernie and Susan?" asked Zacharias, peering out over Justin's head to where the queue standing beside Filch was.

"Susan said that she can't come this weekend," sighed Justin, sounding especially disappointed. "And Ernie..." He looked around. "I dunno, actually. Thought he was right behind me."

"You know, I heard he and Hermione Granger were getting pretty close," Hannah said seriously.

Zacharias scoffed. "Hermione Granger is with one of the Weasleys. The one in your year."

"Ron?" offered Justin.

Zacharias shrugged. "How should I know? I don't keep track of all the Weasleys."

"That's my life philosophy," said a voice behind them suddenly, and Zacharias spun around to see Blaise standing at the entrance of their carriage, looking especially pleased with himself.

Justin and Hannah looked around Zacharias, their expressions mingled with shock and mild wariness. Zacharias stared at Blaise as well, but Blaise just grinned up at them.

"Mind if I join your carriage?" he asked.

Justin opened his mouth, looking like he was about to say something, but then Hannah sharply elbowed him. Zacharias gaped at Blaise for a few moments, feeling faintly like a fish out of water.

"Ah- Erm- Sure," he finally managed out, and scooted over in the carriage to make room for him.

Blaise beamed and climbed up, and then slid himself between the wall of the carriage and Zacharias. "Thanks," he said, turning to Zacharias, his eyes glittering.

Justin finally managed to yank Hannah's elbow out from his side and narrowed his eyes at Blaise. "Why aren't you sitting with your own friends?" he asked relentlessly.

Hannah moaned, "Justin!" under her breath—probably at his rudeness—but Blaise just continued grinning.

"They're a bit annoyed with me, you see," he said casually. "Since I'm hanging out with you Hufflepuffs. And there's no more room in their carriage." He jerked his head over to the side, where Zacharias, Hannah and Justin glanced over to see Parkinson, Goyle and Nott sitting in their own carriage.

"What are you talking about? There's three people," said Justin.

"Greg counts as two people," said Blaise loftily.

Zacharias couldn't hold back a snigger. "True," he said, muffling his laughs.

Blaise shot him a half-grateful, half-irritatedly amused look.

The carriage ride to Hogsmeade was pleasant, albeit a little awkward. Justin and Hannah found it in themselves to converse rather than attempt to antagonize Blaise (or at least, Justin was the one who resisted the temptation; Hannah just kept glowering at him until Justin managed to at least ignore him), leaving Blaise and Zacharias in a comfortable silence themselves. Zacharias felt the urge to talk to Blaise—he knew that because of their recent... acquaintanceship, they were sort of friends; but he felt too nervous to do so. Plus, he was extremely, extremely aware of the way their thighs were pressed against each other, and Blaise's leg was warm. In a very nice way.

They arrived at Hogsmeade a half an hour later. As the four of them climbed out of the carriage, Zacharias said, "Honeydukes?" to Hannah and Justin. He wasn't sure what to do with Blaise.

"Aw, but I wanted to go to the Three Broomsticks!" said Justin, glancing over at the pub across the street.

Zacharias raised an eyebrow. "Why? We just had lunch an hour ago."

"Yeah, but I'm hungry!"

"You're always hungry," said Hannah pointedly.

"And Honeydukes sells candy, which we can eat," said Zacharias.

Blaise looked around at the three of them in turn, the expression on his face highly amused. Zacharias noticed this, and immediately his cheeks colored. "Don't say anything," he murmured, embarrassed for himself and his friends.

"I wasn't, I wasn't," said Blaise, although the smirk on his face gave him away. "Do you want to go to Honeydukes with me, then? If your friend here—"

"I have a name," Justin said loudly.

"—wants to go to the Three Broomsticks so badly, he can," Blaise continued, as if Justin had not interrupted him at all. "I need to buy some sweets for Draco, anyways," he added as an afterthought.

"Yes, yes, not like we want to hear how chummy you and your Slytherin buddies are," said Justin, looking highly affronted.

Zacharias couldn't help it. He chuckled a bit, at the way his friend was being immature and how Blaise wasn't affected at all. "Sure, then," he said to Blaise, smiling at him. "I'll go to Honeydukes with you."

"And I'll make sure Justin doesn't make a fool of himself in front of Madame Rosmerta again," whispered Hannah to Zacharias very loudly.

"I think he makes a fool of himself all the time," said Blaise cheerfully.

Justin sent them dark looks. "You all just underestimate my capabilities of getting a woman."

"Dear, I don't think you can get a woman," said Hannah, patting his arm.

"You'll be lonely and single all your life," said Zacharias.

"Poor, poor Hufflepuff," said Blaise, putting a hand over his heart.

Justin glowered again and stomped off to the Three Broomsticks without waiting for Hannah. They chuckled.

"Well, I'll see you," said Hannah, turning to Zacharias. And then, to Blaise, she said a little bit hesitantly, "And you."

"You too." Blaise smiled at her.

When Hannah left, Zacharias turned to Blaise, feeling slightly bemused. "Warming up to my 'Hufflepuffs'?" he said, quirking an eyebrow.

Blaise rolled his eyes. "Only to warm up to you," he said, and then grinned and grabbed his wrist. "Now onwards! To Honeydukes!"

The village looked loads better since the war; it was no longer barren and quiet, but full of life as it had never been before. Even though Christmas was nowhere near, already lights hung from roofs and around shops. Zacharias also noticed that a lot of shops were opening, twice as many had closed before.

"You know, I might have been on the wrong side during the war," said Blaise thoughtfully, evidently noticing the same changes as Zacharias had, "but it was definitely worth losing if it came to this."

"Do you regret being on the wrong side?" Zacharias couldn't help asking.

Blaise glanced at him. "I suppose," he said, watching as a Wizarding couple passed by, giggling and kissing each other. "I did believe in the blood purity thing—but in the end, I think it matters very little. Wizards are wizards and witches are witches, and Muggles are Muggles, aren't they?"

"I've always wondered how some wizards and witches are Muggle-borns," said Zacharias. "Wouldn't they need magic blood in them to have magic?"

"Maybe it's just something that's predetermined, and doesn't have any control." Blaise shrugged, and then pointed off into the distance. "Look, there's Honeydukes!"

They sped down the road, Zacharias feeling a little freer as he ran with Blaise. There was something comfortable about the way Blaise's warm fingers were wrapped around his wrist, in a protective and caring way. The thought made his insides bubble with excitement.

Zacharias didn't say anything when they entered the shop, though he did cast an impressed glance around at the walls. The candy shop was lined with more sweets than ever. He saw that Blaise was eyeing each shelf eagerly, like a tiger about to pounce on its prey.

"Are you just going to stand there or are you going to buy something?" said Zacharias, amused. He didn't know Blaise liked sweets so much.

"Oh—Yeah." Blaise jerked out of his reverie and grinned at him. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"Delicious," said Zacharias with a vague nod.

Blaise grinned and pushed past a few students (who scowled at him; but of course Blaise didn't notice) to grab a handful of Cockroach Clusters. "I used to steal all my Housemates' food," he said gleefully.

"Why am I not surprised," Zacharias muttered to himself, though he followed Blaise, smiling all the same. It was sort of adorable, he had to admit, the way Blaise was acting like a complete child.

"Look! Chocolate Cauldrons! Chocolate Frogs! Chocolate everywhere!"

Blaise ran to the chocolate section of the candy shop, everything else forgotten. Zacharias smiled and shook his head, feeling like he should be annoyed but was nothing but endeared.

They ended up spending twenty-seven Galleons, sixteen Sickles and four Knuts at Honeydukes—Zacharias stocked up on his favorite Sugar Quills and Acid Pops while Blaise bought nearly everything in the store. When they were done (and their money bags significantly lighter, although Zacharias knew that Blaise was loaded and didn't have to worry—Blaise actually had paid for about half of what Zacharias bought, as much as Zacharias tried to protest—though, admittedly, he didn't protest too much), they walked out of the shop and back into the crisp autumn air.

"What should we do next?" asked Blaise cheerfully, sucking on a Blood Pop.

Zacharias tore his gaze away. "Um." He glanced around. "Want to go to Zonko's?"

"No." Blaise crinkled his nose. "Pranks are childish." He waved a wand at his bags and then pulled them up with much more ease, and did the same with Zacharias. A nonverbal Lightening Charm. Zacharias was impressed. "I think I need some new clothes, though…"

"We are not going clothes shopping," Zacharias said firmly. "I swear, that's what we do all the bloody time every time Susan and Hannah are along, and I don't want to be stuck with some other girl—"

"Oh, but I'm not a girl," said Blaise, winking at him, still licking his Blood Pop.

Zacharias felt his cheeks redden and turned away. "I know that," he said, purposefully staring at the roof of some nearby cottage. "We are just not shopping for clothes. That's all."

"Fine, fine. You're no fun." There was a loud popping sound, and Blaise withdrew the lollipop from his mouth. "At least we can go to the Three Broomsticks and meet up with your friends. Will that satisfy your masculinity?"

"Very much, thank you," said Zacharias, and then started up the road, Blaise only trailing a few feet behind him.

When they entered the Three Broomsticks, Zacharias immediately looked around, seeking his friends. "Do you see them?" he asked, nudging Blaise's hand with his own. His skin tingled.

Blaise glanced around as well, looking over heads and stools. "No," he replied, "but I do see an empty table in the back. We could stop and sit there."

"Good idea," said Zacharias, although he still sought out his friends. All he saw were other Hogwarts students and Hogsmeade villagers, though. "Maybe they left already to look around without us," he said to Blaise as they made their way to the empty table.

"Probably. Ow, bugger!"

"What's wrong?" asked Zacharias, looking over at him.

Blaise made a face and held up his hand. "Cut it on the table," he said, indicating a small cut with little pieces of wood sticking out.

Zacharias winced. "Looks painful. Episkey." He pointed his wand at Blaise's palm and all the blood siphoned away, though there were still some pieces of wood stuck on his skin. The pained expression on Blaise's face didn't say anything about it getting any better, either. Zacharias brought his wand down and then took Blaise's hand, and observed it.

"Might need to take this out the old-fashioned way," he said, and then chuckled at Blaise briefly.

"I have no objections," said Blaise, and Zacharias started pulling out the wood, tiny piece by piece.

When he was done, Blaise turned and smiled at him. "Thanks," he said; Zacharias's breath caught. "I'll go get us drinks, then. Butterbeer?"

"Firewhiskey," Zacharias clarified.

"Ooh, big boy now, aren't we?" Blaise teased, before going over to the counter where Madame Rosmerta was.

Zacharias watched him order their drinks with a smile on his face. Being with Blaise was nice. Sure, he had never been alone like this with him before, and his friends were off… somewhere… doing their own thing… But so far this year, Blaise had been proven to be decent. Nice. And completely interested in Zacharias. It suddenly struck Zacharias that this visit could Hogsmeade could definitely be a date or something of the sort… and, well, Zacharias had just nearly held his hand. But if it was a date, Blaise would have told him, wouldn't he? And it wasn't like Zacharias actually held his hand. Blaise had gotten a splinter, and Zacharias helped him get it out. That was all.

Blaise came back with the drinks, and Zacharias smiled when he took his. "I have always been a big boy," he said to Blaise, smirking. "I don't need a drink to prove it."

"Yes, right, of course," said Blaise, still smirking.

Zacharias peered over to his flask. "What did you get?"

"Mead." Blaise grinned. "Not sure if it's your type of taste, though."

"I can handle it," Zacharias said defensively.

"Not if you'd handle it. If you'd like it," said Blaise. "I'm sure you can handle anything, Zacharias."

It sounded a bit like a taunt. But it sounded rather genuine as well. Zacharias didn't know what to think.

"Let me try it, then," he said.

"After I drink it first," said Blaise, and then took a healthy gulp. Then he handed the flagon to Zacharias. "There. It's all yours."

Zacharias drank. The meadwas warm, but with a faint sweetness that Zacharias couldn't help liking. Plus, he was sure that there was something else that he tasted. Something that wasn't from the drink at all. But he wasn't quite sure what it was.

x x x

"Two feet on the properties of Binding Charms!" squeaked Professor Flitwick as the class made their way out the door. "And not one inch longer!"

"You'd think that we would want to write a longer essay than that," Zacharias grumbled, shuffling the rest of his papers into his bag.

"I, personally, find pleasure in writing essays," said Blaise, watching him with amusement.

Zacharias glanced at him and rolled his eyes. "Well you're different."

"Different in a good way?"

"Different in a bad way. A very bad way." And when he saw Blaise pouting at him, he straightened up and grinned. "A very, very bad way."

"Oh, is it the type of bad way where you need to punish me?" said Blaise, a mischievous smirk playing on his lips.

Zacharias stared at him for a moment, and then turned bright pink. "I—No!—I—That's not—!"

Blaise laughed. "You're so easy to tease, Zach," he said to him.

Zacharias let out an indignant huff. He didn't know if he was supposed to feel flattered or insulted.

"So, what do you have now?" asked Blaise as they walked down the corridor.

Zacharias shrugged. "Free period," he answered. "I usually go around the lake around this time—helps me clear my thoughts."

"Mind if I go with you? I have a free period too. Unless, of course, I'll interrupt your process of thought-clearing," Blaise added.

Zacharias hastily shook his head. "No, no, of course not! You can come, if you want!" Actually, a part of Zacharias might have even preferred it if Blaise went with him. He didn't say this, though. Nor did he address this feeling much at all.

Blaise beamed at him. "Brilliant. Are you going to drop off your bag at your common room, or…?" He gestured at Zacharias's messenger bag.

Zacharias glanced down and blushed. "Oh, no, er—well the Hufflepuff common room is sort of out of the way, and—"

"That's all right." Blaise nodded, seeming to understand. "Though your common room's pretty close to ours, right? Near the dungeons? You're near the kitchens and everything."

"Yeah, that's true," said Zacharias. "How did you know?"

Blaise smirked. "I sleepwalk sometimes. Other times, I sneak out of the common room. Well, shall we go to the lake?"

Zacharias turned his head away so that Blaise wouldn't see him blush. It sounded oddly like Blaise was asking him out on a date. "Of course," he said, and the two of them proceeded to head out of the castle.

The castle grounds were just as ruined as the inside of Hogwarts—that is, mostly repaired with stains and marks here and there. Blaise looked around at them in awe while Zacharias gazed at the side, determined not to let his mind travel to the boy next to him. He didn't mind being around Blaise, yes, but he also took faint notice of the way that their bodies brushed a little every time they walked. Maybe they were a bit too close together. Zacharias moved away, a bit.

"Look, it's Professor Hagrid's hut," he said, nudging Blaise and indicating the house at the edge of the Forest.

Blaise snorted audibly. "Professor Hagrid," he said sarcastic. "Yes, because that great oaf really deserves to teach students when he can barely say two clear words."

"Sort of grumbles all the time, don't you think? I always wondered how the Gryffindors understood him," said Zacharias thoughtfully.

Blaise scoffed, again. "Because they're Gryffindors, of course. They believe in the good of everyone, instead of, you know, actually seeing what's there."

"Like how Hagrid can't teach at all?" said Zacharias.

"Precisely," said Blaise.

They walked around for a bit longer, holding brief conversations about little to nothing. But it was nice though, Zacharias figured, just strolling around and getting the fresh air. Blaise wasn't intruding on him at all, like Blaise had thought he would; their conversations were brief but nice, and their silences were different but comfortable. It was better than being alone, even. Much better.

They slowed for a moment under a tree near the lake. From this part of the grounds, they couldn't see any other students, and Hogwarts was the only landmark remotely close to them, probably a few hundred meters away. They couldn't even see Hagrid's hut anymore, probably hidden in the shadows of the Forbidden Forest. Zacharias breathed in deeply; the scent of water filled his nostrils.

Blaise's hand nudged his. Zacharias turned to him. "Come on," said Blaise, nodding away from the lake. Zacharias complied and followed him, so that they were walking again, farther and farther away from the castle, though now no longer by the lake's edge either.

Then Blaise stopped and grabbed Zacharias's wrist. Slightly startled, Zacharias tried to tug away out of Blaise's grip, turning Blaise around to face him.

"What are you—" Zacharias started, but was cut off when Blaise placed his mouth on his.

Zacharias had never kissed any girls before, so it was a surprise that Blaise's lips were large and soft, though his rough hands on his arms certainly changed the image. Zacharias was aware of the heat from Blaise's mouth, and immediately tilted his head and parted his own lips when Blaise's tongue pressed against them. He felt Blaise's tongue roam around his mouth, licking, flicking, teasing him. A hand was traveling down the side of his robe, gripping onto the folds, looking for an opening. Faintly, Zacharias recognized the taste from the mead he had drunk at Hogsmeade, though lacking in alcohol and with a unique sweetness, rather than the sweet of sugars. Zacharias pulled away from Blaise and breathed heavily.

"Blaise…" he said, but Blaise took his face with his hands again and kissed him soundly on the mouth. Zacharias moaned; the feeling was too great to be helped. Even though he was sure that every sensible part of his body should be a bit concerned that they were snogging outside in full daylight, and not too far from the lake was well, he didn't care. All he cared was the fact that Blaise's delicious, delicious lips were dragging along his, leaving lingering saliva and the fresh smell of dew.

Blaise moved his head to the side of Zacharias's face and bit gently; Zacharias moaned and pressed himself against Blaise. He was far too dazed to care how loud he was being, as well. He rubbed his body against Blaise's, eager to create friction; he was sure he heard Blaise chuckle and then gasp when his knee drew too close to his groin. Zacharias quickly realized that there was a hardness between Blaise's legs, and immediately felt himself harden as well.

"You like this?" Blaise murmured against Zacharias's chin, trailing kisses around his jawline. One of Blaise's hands was holding the back of Zacharias's head, while the other was slowly traveling to Zacharias's front.

"Y-Yes…" Zacharias gasped out as Blaise's fingers traced on the fabric against his hip. Blaise's hand somehow made its way into the inside fold of Zacharias's robes and then slid them open, revealing his shirt and trousers. Blaise pulled his lips away from Zacharias and chuckled, glancing down at him.

"Never knew you'd be in for Muggle traditions," he teased, looking straight into Zacharias's eyes.

Zacharias blushed. "My mum says it's warmer."

"True," Blaise agreed, before leaning in to kiss Zacharias's ear. Blaise brought Zacharias's earlobe into his mouth and sucked on it, and Zacharias let out a very loud moan at that, feeling the sensation go straight to his cock. Oh, to have Blaise suck on something else like that

Seeming to understand his thoughts, Blaise's hand traveled to the front of his trousers and pressed against them slightly, and then further downward and massaged Zacharias's now fully hard erection. Blaise chuckled.

"You didn't need me to touch you?"

Zacharias blushed against Blaise's lips. "That would take too much time, wouldn't it?"

Blaise merely replied with another kiss on Zacharias's neck, and then bit down gently as his hand stroked Zacharias outside his trousers. Zacharias let out a little whine and pressed against Blaise's palm, eager, wanting him to touch him more. Blaise's fingers found the button of his trousers and popped it open, and then slid a hand down and touched Zacharias without any hesitation.

"Oh!" Zacharias gasped out at the skin to skin contact. He had never felt anything quite like it, Blaise's hot, hot hand touching his cock like that. He jerked forward even more, as Blaise felt around his length, squeezing a bit, running a nail along his foreskin. Zacharias whimpered and whined, throwing his head back and squeezing his eye shut as Blaise's fingers worked on him.

Then Blaise retracted his mouth from Zacharias's skin and started kneeling down; Zacharias let out a little mewl of protest. But Blaise merely smirked up at him, and then pulled Zacharias's trousers down to his knees and exposed his cock, right in his face.

Zacharias turned pink at the sight of Blaise staring at his full-hard erection jutting out at him, but Blaise looked completely fascinated. "You're gorgeous," he murmured, before putting his hands behind Zacharias's bare thighs against his robes, and drawing his tongue over the head of Zacharias's cock. Zacharias shuddered, feeling his knees go weak at the feeling. Blaise's tongue was warm and wet, and now Zacharias was sure that every other part of his body felt horrible in comparison to how his dick felt.

Blaise licked him again. Zacharias moaned and thrust forward, wanting to feel his entire cock enclosed between Blaise's lips. "Blaise," he muttered, gripping onto his robes and steadying himself.

Blaise carefully brought Zacharias's erection into his mouth, closing his lips gently, covering up his teeth. Zacharias watched Blaise's dark lips slowly start sucking on him, and a jolt of pleasure ran through him; Zacharias closed his eyes again and pushed forward, needing more and more heat around him. Merlin, nothing had ever felt this great before; no food could ever compare to the feeling of Blaise's hot mouth around his cock. Zacharias cracked open one eye to see Blaise staring up at him, watching his every move—Zacharias's eyes traveled even further down below, and he noticed that Blaise's hand was in his own pants. Blaise was jerking himself off.

The sight alone made Zacharias cry out and come all into Blaise's mouth, and he was sure he saw stars as he squeezed his eyes tighter than ever, barely able to hold himself up. He felt Blaise's warm hands press even more against his thighs, but acknowledging this just sent more waves of pleasure throughout his body. Zacharias came and came, sending his orgasm straight into Blaise's mouth, and didn't stop until he was sure he was going to collapse from the heat and exhaustion.

x x x

Zacharias had no idea what to think after that Wednesday afternoon. Blaise had... had kissed him. Hadtouchedhim.

Had given him a blowjob.

He debated telling one of his friends. But he knew that talking about being sucked off by another bloke with his friends was not something one really would, well, talk about with his friends. His male friends, at least. Who knew what Ernie and Justin would think? Sure it had felt good—but wouldn't anyone feel good if they were being sucked like that? Well maybe they wouldn't have Blaise's talented tongue on them like Zacharias had, and all right, he doubted even a girl could do it that well...

Speaking of girls, maybe he should just tell his female friends. Hannah and Susan. They'd understand, wouldn't they? Well, probably not because they didn't have pricks like he did, but they'd understand that sort of attraction to Blaise... Maybe. Did he even have an attraction to Blaise? He supposed that he didn't really haveto have one: all Blaise had done was suck him off. And if Zacharias continued thinking about this, he'd probably get hard all over again.

He sighed and rested his elbow against the chaise armrest. Staring at his Transfiguration book wasn't going to help anything, because Transfiguration was boring and he'd probably end up thinking about Blaise again. And again. And again. His Transfiguration essay wasn't due until next week, he knew that; but he needed to do something to get his mind on something and not on Blaise.

Merlin, he was hopeless.

"Need any help?"

"Aah!"

Zacharias jumped and spun around to see a familiar face grinning at him.

"Blaise," he said, feeling slightly bewildered, mostly because Zacharias had just been thinking about him. Well, Zacharias had been thinking about Blaise for the past twenty-four hours, since that time near the lake when they had been doing... that. "What are you doing here?" he asked, straightening himself out so he didn't look completely flustered.

"Looking for material on my Ancient Runes homework." Blaise peered over his shoulder. "Still working on that Transfiguration essay of yours?"

"Yes," said Zacharias. "Though I'm not getting very far, but—mmf!"

Blaise chose that moment to kiss him. Somehow, his body had wound around the chair and he was now leaning across Zacharias's body, one hand on the armrest of the chair, the other on the back, his lips pressed very firmly against Zacharias's, the Transfiguration textbook having slipped off his lap and fallen to the floor. Zacharias nearly melted at the touch—but then he told himself that he couldn't let this happen again, and was determined to talk to Blaise about it.

"Blaise, we really shouldn't—" he murmured when Blaise finally tore apart for a moment, for air. But Blaise didn't spare him a second glance, and instead kissed him again. He kissed his lips, and then moved his mouth a little to the corner of Zacharias's lips and kissed him there as well, and then covered the rest of Zacharias's face with his kisses. Zacharias was starting to feel slightly lightheaded at the closeness of their bodies, and he was well aware of the rising temperature in the room, and dear Merlin, he probably looked like he was fully snogged now (which he was pretty much was) and it was hard to think like this.

"Blaise," he tried to say again, but then Blaise pressed his mouth against his, hot and needy. Zacharias let out an audible moan, which embarrassed him for a moment; but Blaise slipped his tongue into Zacharias's wanting and surprised open mouth, feeling every inch of his gums and teeth. He danced little zigzags across the roof of Zacharias's mouth like he had done before—Zacharias moaned again—as his hands moved to the front of Zacharias's robes.

Zacharias felt one cool hand slip through, but it wasn't until Blaise's fingers were running along his warm belly when the feeling finally registered, and his body automatically arched up to him. He moaned for a third time, moving his hands up to Blaise's shoulders and gripping his own robes, trying to tug him closer, even if possible. Very vaguely, in the back of his mind, Zacharias was wondering why he was doing this—but it felt so damngoodthat he didn't want to stop any time soon. Ever.

Blaise's mouth traveled downward and Zacharias let out a little whine of protest at the lack of contact with their mouths, though his cheeks heated up at the sound. Blaise merely chuckled and started kissing downwards, trailing a tongue over Zacharias's jawline, tasting as much of him as he could like he was a man dying of thirst and Zacharias's skin was every drop of water in the world. Zacharias dug his fingers deep into Blaise's shoulders and couldn't help feeling slightly satisfied when he felt Blaise flinch against him; but then Blaise's mouth started doing thingsto the sensitive skin between his neck and shoulder and all other thoughts flew out of his head and he was very, very aware of the growing hardness between his own thighs.

"Blaise," he moaned, finally not trying to talk to him, but wanting more of him, wanting more of Blaise's wonderful mouth all over his body and Blaise's hands touching him everywhere and Blaise's teeth nipping at every inch of skin and Blaise's tongue licking him, licking him everywhere. He heard Blaise chuckle faintly as he bit and sucked at his neck, but Zacharias didn't care; he wanted more, more. He looked down to Blaise's dark head kissing down at him, and then around. It suddenly occurred to him where exactly they were.

"B-Blaise." It took all of Zacharias's effort to push Blaise off of him, but when he finally did, he found the ability to speak. Sort of. Blaise's bruised and swollen lips were distracting him, and as Zacharias did his best to look Blaise right in the eye, he realized that Blaise's pupils were dilated, darker than ever, full of lust. Zacharias swallowed.

"We-We can't do this here," he said with a staggered breath, his voice strangely hoarse. He felt at his throat self-consciously, and wondered if he sounded like that because he hadn't spoken for a while or, somehow, it was Blaise's fault.

Blaise glanced around and seemed to realize where they were too. "Right," he said, straightening up and adjusting his robes. It was astonishing how he could look so cool about this even though for the past about half an hour, he and Zacharias had been snogging ferociously and doing nothing else. "We'll go up to my dormitory," said Blaise, sticking his hand out to Zacharias.

Zacharias stared at it, and remembered faintly that that hand had been stroking his stomach, had felt every beat of his heart. He shivered instinctively. "Th-The Slytherin dormitory?" he said, tearing his gaze away from those fingers. "B-But what about your dormmates—"

"Theodore falls asleep by the fire, and Greg sleeps like a log. We can use a Silencing Charm." Blaise impatiently shook his hand in front of Zacharias's face. "Come on."

In any other circumstance, Zacharias would have sneered and said no, and might have even spat on his hand. But this was Blaise, and plus lust was surging through Zacharias's blood now that if he didn't take a cold shower or wank or do somethingsoon, he would die of sexual frustration. Plus, this was Blaise. So Zacharias stood up from his chair—though his knees buckled, slightly—grabbed onto Blaise's warm hand, and allowed himself to be led away from the library, the Transfiguration book left forgotten on the floor.

It took them very little time to get to the dungeons, for one moment they were standing outside of the library, and the next they were in front of an empty wall. Blaise muttered something to the stones, and they moved apart to reveal a decent sized hole in the wall. Tugging on Zacharias's hand, Blaise guided them into the darkened common room, faintly illuminated green by the glow of the lake water through the windows, and then they were climbing up the stairs to the boys' dormitory. Zacharias assumed that if he was in any other state, the room would have been cold—but right now he was with Blaise and Blaise's lovely fingers were touching him and even if he was surrounded by snow, he would be hotter than anything else in the world.

Blaise walked over to the bed closest to the doorway, pointed at his four-poster bed and muttered, "Silencio," then brought Zacharias onto the bed with him. He stood up and carefully closed the drapes so that they could see nothing but each other and the faint glitter of the green fabric in the darkness, and then Blaise turned to him.

Zacharias had barely registered what was going on when Blaise leaned across the bed and kissed him again. This time, the kiss was slow and gentle, lazy and languid, speaking something more than just sex. Zacharias kissed him back, moving so that their chests were pressed together, and his lips hungrily moved against Blaise's. He was even daring enough to let a little tongue dart out and prod at the slit between Blaise's lips; he felt Blaise smirk but allow him access. With a sort of wonder, Zacharias roamed his tongue around inside Blaise's mouth, pressing against his gums, sliding across his teeth. He felt a little jolt of pleasure when he felt Blaise shiver as he licked at Blaise's bottom lip; he licked him again and heard Blaise growl, and then suddenly he was on his back, on Blaise's bed.

Blaise knelt above him, his knees on either side of Zacharias's body. Zacharias was pretty sure he had never seen something this hot before. He watched as Blaise's dark skin still managed to glow, despite the lack of light in the room. Rather clumsily, he fumbled through the sleeve of his robe, pulled out his wand, and murmured, "Lumos."

Blaise stared at him and blinked. His gaze darted to the wand in Zacharias's hand. "What are you doing?" he said, his harsh voice barely above a whisper.

Zacharias felt his heart jump in his throat, as he looked over Blaise's possessive hands holding his hips in place, Blaise's eyes burning through him, eyes smoked over with lust. "Wanted to... look at you," Zacharias breathed.

Blaise's eyes widened and he growled again, and he pounced on Zacharias, knocking the wand out of his hand. Zacharias could see that the wand was still glowing as it fell to the floor, but then he wasn't looking anymore because Blaise's mouth was attacking his throat, attaching itself to him, kissing, biting, sucking. Zacharias groaned loudly and gripped on Blaise's shoulder, as Blaise's hand found its way to the part in Zacharias's robe. He could feel Blaise's fingers attach themselves around the waistband of his trousers, and Zacharias struggled to look down at him, doing his best not to let himself get too distracted by the way Blaise's mouth was now traveling down to the center of his chest.

"C-Clothes," he gasped, tugging at the sleeve of Blaise's robe.

Blaise nodded, his gaze fixed on Zacharias's collarbone. He fished his wand out of the sleeve of his own robes and muttered a spell; immediately, both of their clothes were gone and were in a pile at the edge of Blaise's bed.

Zacharias chuckled. "Handy spell," he whispered. His mind wandered and he thought of Blaise using the spell on anyone else who was in the same position Zacharias was in right now; his gut twisted in envy.

Blaise glanced up at him. "Never used it before," he whispered back, making Zacharias's insides turn into jelly. As Blaise started moving away to look at Zacharias's body as a whole, Zacharias suddenly leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, just for saying that. When he pulled away, he saw that Blaise was looking at him funnily—but his cheeks felt warm until Zacharias's fingertips, in pleasure.

"Good," Zacharias whispered. Blaise smiled at him before starting to suck at his collarbone, and then his fingers stroked along Zacharias's pale skin. Zacharias couldn't help watching in awe the way their bodies melted together: dark against light, yet the contrast making them look even more blended. And then something moved against his cock; Zacharias suddenly realized that every part of their body was pressed together, their shoulders to their chests to their feet, and their hips too and Blaise's hot crotch was rubbing against his. Zacharias moaned into Blaise's mouth, grinding against him and begging for more friction. Blaise must have gotten the same idea, because he started rolling his hips against Zacharias's, body moving like fluid.

He pulled apart and Zacharias blinked up at him: Blaise was smirking. He watched as he rolled his hips on Zacharias's again, and Zacharias opened up his pink mouth and moaned, his hot breath blowing into Blaise's face. Blaise grinned even wider and kissed Zacharias promptly on the lips. "You like that?" he asked in a teasing tone.

Even though half of Zacharias's thoughts were not coherent at all, he barely managed to gasp out, as the heat between them increased, as his cock throbbed between his thighs, "What do you think, of course I fucking like it."

Blaise chuckled and kissed him on the lips again. "Never lose fire, do you?"

Zacharias barely processed these words when Blaise went down on him again, trailing his tongue across Zacharias's chest, wet and warm, swirling on his skin. He flicked Zacharias's nipples lightly; Zacharias dug his shoulders into the mattress beneath him as he struggled to get more contact with Blaise's mouth. Blaise licked down between his ribs, biting gently on his abs, and then licked lightly at the little hairs that trailed down from below his bellybutton to below his waist. Zacharias whined and shivered a little, feeling Blaise's nose nuzzle the hairs as his mouth worked lower and lower, until he touched him briefly at the base of his cock. Zacharias's body convulsed for a moment, and he jerked forward, bumping Blaise's cheek.

Blaise glanced up and chuckled at him. "Eager, are you?"

Zacharias only responded with a frustrated growl as he thrust upward, causing his cock to brush against Blaise again. Blaise let out a low groan from the back of his throat and he licked at the base of Zacharias's length, and then swept his tongue along the head. Zacharias shoved his hands deep into the mattress to keep himself from shaking too hard; Blaise's tongue flicked along him once more, and though they were shielded by the Silencing Charm, Zacharias bit down on his lip so that the only sound that came out of his mouth was a low, frustrated groan.

Blaise moved downwards. He ran his tongue down along the side of Zacharias's cock, touching, tasting every bit of him—Zacharias wanted so badly for Blaise to bring him into his mouth, if only a little, but all he felt was the torturous wetness and the brief flicks of heat. Then Blaise's mouth traveled further south, licking the underside of his cock, pushing past the skin at his base, moving further and further until Zacharias was aware of one of Blaise's hands grabbing one of his arsecheeks and then—and then he felt something wet dart around his hole.

Zacharias let out a spasm involuntarily. "Oh—fuck!" he swore, waving his hands around and grabbing onto the first thing he could catch hold of—Blaise's shoulder. Blaise's tongue touched his entrance again, and Zacharias did his best to bite back a scream. Over and over again, tantalizing and teasing, Blaise's tongue moved around the edge of Zacharias's hole and then pressed in and it was a little, only a little but the pain ran through Zacharias's body like an electric shock, with little bursts of pleasure along the way. Blaise pushed his tongue further into Zacharias and Zacharias arched his back, wanting more of Blaise in him, small and wet and invasive and yet, yet it felt so right and Zacharias moaned, pressing his hands into Blaise's shoulders until he was sure that he could have made marks, throwing his head back until his neck was sore.

Then Blaise drew back; Zacharias saw that he was smirking. It was a miracle that he hadn't come yet, from the way Blaise had tasted him or from the look on his face. "Was that new for you?" said Blaise, and his voice was raspy and fuck, Zacharias was so aware of Blaise's prick digging into his thigh as Blaise rested on his legs.

"A-A little," Zacharias admitted breathlessly, wanting nothing more than for Blaise to fuck him again, with his tongue or his finger or—or with anything. "Can you—" He whimpered a little and pulled Blaise back onto him, shoving his head back down to his crotch.

Blaise chuckled and brought himself back up to Zacharias's face. Zacharias was a little disappointed that he wasn't going to tongue him again. "What do you want?" Blaise whispered, bending his head down that Zacharias could see the glint of his eyes in the dark.

Zacharias drew in a quick breath. "Want you..." and he gasped when Blaise's rough hand wrapped around his cock, and strained his body upward. "... to fuck me..." He shivered against Blaise and did his best to hold himself up, told himself, not yet.

Blaise smiled. "It would be my pleasure," he said, and then flipped Zacharias over onto his stomach. Zacharias's backside felt uncomfortably bare but he stuck his arse up in the air, closer to Blaise, wanting him to do... to dothatagain. He was pretty sure he heard Blaise laugh again.

"All right," said Blaise's voice congenially from behind him. Zacharias heard the sound of a drawer opening, and then a bottle opening: magical lubricant. Zacharias trembled in anticipation.

Then Zacharias felt something slip inside of him; he let out a yelp, although it sounded much more like a mewl. He dug the heels of his palms into the mattress and struggled to keep his face up, feeling his forehead bead with sweat.

"Tell me if it's too much," he heard Blaise's gentle voice say, sounding a bit worried.

"Never... too much..." Zacharias whined again when another finger entered into him. They moved and stretched and Zacharias writhed in pain; but he made himself maintain a bit of control as Blaise continued stretching his hole around.

"One more?" asked Blaise.

"Yes," pleaded Zacharias, panting.

A third; but when Zacharias cried out and thrashed his body again, Blaise promptly pulled out. Zacharias lay there, gasping and catching his breath, his arsehole feeling more exposed than ever—but then he heard the opening of a bottle, then a closing, and then something filling him again, something bigger.

"Does it hurt?" whispered Blaise as he slid into Zacharias, slowly, gently, almost mockingly.

Zacharias saw black, and then white, and he tugged on whatever part of Blaise he could reach from behind him—his forearm. "Faster," he said, trying to pull on Blaise like he was guiding him in.

Blaise chuckled, and then he pushed himself into Zacharias until Zacharias knew nothing but pain, an impossible numbing pain that he couldn't help loving. He arched his back forward and drew his back closer to Blaise's warm chest, though all he was distinctly aware of feeling was Blaise's cock thick and hot inside of him.

"I'm going to move now," Blaise said suddenly, once he was inside and Zacharias was sure he couldn't hold out any longer. Zacharias nodded and bit his bottom lip back, and then Blaise started moving.

The heat grew, if possible, and suddenly Blaise was thrusting into him, his hands on either side of Zacharias's body as he moved. Zacharias moaned and then he cried out and suddenly Blaise was doing something inside of him and he didn't know what but dear Merlin it sent white sparks of pleasure in front of Zacharias's eyelids as he moved as well, in rhythm with him. Zacharias's legs stretched all the way up to fasten around the top of Blaise's thighs and he was sure he faintly heard Blaise whimpering at their touch and Zacharias tightened his ankles around him, encouraging, pushing Blaise against him even more. Then suddenly Blaise's hand found its way to Zacharias's cock and it was stroking and moving it at all the perfect angles and Zacharias knew he was going to come within the next second, he hadto.

"You're incredibly flexible," Blaise whispered into his ear, his breath hot against his skin and then suddenly Zacharias cried out and came all over Blaise's palm, the same moment he felt heat surge through him and Blaise shouted out as well. Their voices blended and became one and then Zacharias couldn't stop as Blaise continued stroking him, and he came and he came and he could feel his toes curling up as he threw the back of his body right against Blaise's and Blaise released all into him. Black shot in front of his vision, and then white stars, and Zacharias didn't know when it would be over but he prayed that it wouldn't be too soon, he never wanted it to end. They continued to move together as Zacharias released all he could onto Blaise, and Blaise the same into him.

Then Blaise rolled off of him; Zacharias vaguely heard him say, "Scourgify," next to him. Zacharias turned to look at Blaise, even though now his eyelids felt heavy already.

But when his gaze flickered to Blaise again, he was sure he saw a smile on Blaise's face, before he fell asleep.

x x x

Zacharias no longer let himself wonder about what Blaise's intentions were. Yes, he had no idea what Blaise was doing and what was the point of all this—but shagging and frotting and everything else was simply so good, perhaps the best thing in the world (why hadn't Zacharias done it sooner?) so he wasn't complaining. As long as Blaise continued having his way with him and Zacharias enjoyed it, everything was perfectly good and happy and dandy.

And of course he didn't let his friends know. What was he going to say? "Oh, Blaise Zabini and I have decided that we're fuck buddies. Friends with benefits." He doubted that Susan and Hannah would like it very much, and Ernie and Justin at all. So instead he just kept his mouth shut and told them that during all his free time and the periods when they didn't see him, that he was studying. Which he was supposed to be doing as well. But then Blaise's hand would touch his leg and then Blaise would be sitting so close to him and one thing would lead to another and the next thing they both knew, one (or both) of their hands were in each other's pants and they were orgasming all over the place.

Zacharias got very little accomplished nowadays.

But what he did accomplish were more blowjobs by the lake, which not only were immensely satisfying but allowed some time for them to stay next to each other for a few moments without worrying about some interrupted presence, until they'd both finally decide to get up. Or maybe they'd shag again, in the Slytherin boys' dormitory (they couldn't in the Hufflepuff dormitory, of course), and then Zacharias would stay the night and then sneak out during breakfast (because Goyle was always the first to leave the room); or if they had shagged during the daytime, they'd lie there for a few peaceful moments before getting dressed to avoid any awkward confrontations. Or maybe they'd be sitting in Charms and learning how to do a Tracking Spell and a teasing hand would run up Zacharias's thigh and Zacharias would say that he would need to put a Tracking Charm on Blaise's hand and Blaise would say something like, oh you know exactly where my hand was going.

Yes, Zacharias got very little accomplished nowadays indeed.

x x x

They got into a habit of walking between classes together an awful lot as well. Even though Blaise had eighth year Defense Against the Dark Arts while Zacharias had Transfiguration, and Zacharias had Potions when Blaise had Herbology, they still managed to find ways where they could remain together when going to their respective classes.

On Halloween evening, they walked back from Arithmancy and Divination (Blaise's and Zacharias's classes, respectively) toward the Great Hall. Inside, Zacharias felt very excited: he had heard that this year, there was going to be a surprise for Halloween.

He got the surprise as soon as he entered the room. There, in the middle of the Great Hall, was one large table, not looking like it could hold the entire population of Hogwarts at all, yet Zacharias had a distinct feeling that they could all sit down and there would be plenty of room left over.

He was not the only one confused; Blaise looked around and said, "What the hell is this?" Many of the other students were chatting away idly on the sides as well, casting dubious glances to the front table, where the teachers' table had been at before. Instead, there stood Professors Sinistra, McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout and Slughorn, Slughorn looking vaguely uncomfortable.

"Zacharias! Do you know what's going on?" said a voice, and Zacharias spun around to see Hannah running toward him. Behind her were the rest of their friends, equally bemused.

"No," said Zacharias. "Why, do you?" He glanced at Blaise but Blaise seemed perfectly content in their presence.

Hannah looked at him as well, but then perhaps recalling their previous conversations which had been nothing short of civil, decided not to throw Blaise a glare, which Justin and Ernie were currently doing as their default "there's a Slytherin around" scowl. "No," Hannah echoed, shaking her head. "Is this what they're doing for Halloween?"

"I believe so." Blaise pointed up to the ceiling and the walls. "They did the decorations, didn't they?"

They did. It looked additionally morbid with the stains on the stone and floor from the leftovers from the war. Zacharias tried not to think about it.

"Let's just wait to see what Professor Sinistra has to say about it," said Zacharias, turning to them. Susan nodded in agreement.

Luckily, they didn't have to wait for very long. Soon enough it was seven o'clock and Professor McGonagall raised her hands up in the air. "May I have your attention please?" she called throughout the Great Hall. It immediately quieted.

Professor Sinistra stepped up beside her. "Thank you, Professor McGonagall," she said, nodding to the Deputy Headmistress before addressing the rest of the school. "Now, as you may have noticed," she said in her clear, strong voice, "all the tables are gone and have been replaced by this large, single table."

"No, we haven't noticed at all," Justin muttered sarcastically under his breath.

Zacharias swore for a moment that Professor Sinistra's gaze swept over Justin pointedly. "The Heads of Houses and I have decided that for this year, we will try to promote House Unity. It is not an easy task, nor do we expect you to cooperate immediately. However," continued Professor Sinistra, "as our Halloween Feast is a Hogwarts annual celebration, we have decided to change it this year. You all must sit here at this table together when we eat, and the persons on either side of you are not to be from your House."

There was a collective groan throughout the Great Hall, Zacharias's friends included. Zacharias, however, took a glimpse at Blaise. He saw that Blaise was smiling right back. Feeling his cheeks heat up, he quickly focused his attention back on Professor Sinistra.

"This is to provide an opportunity for all of you to create friendships and relationships from other Houses. Learn about each other. Know each other. Love each other."

"Fuck each other," Blaise whispered into Zacharias's ear, and Zacharias let out a nervous giggle. He noticed Susan look at them briefly.

"And now that that has all been said," said Professor Sinistra, clapping her hands. "Let's get started on the feast!"

Zacharias was pretty sure that even if someone wanted to leave because they were against House Unity and sitting with non-Housemates, they wouldn't have been able to, anyways. The giant table was suddenly filled with tons of dishes, varying from smoked chicken to lemon meringue pie. Zacharias immediately settled himself down at a bench and grabbed an empty plate.

"This looks good, doesn't it?" said Justin, clambering onto the bench with him. "I wonder if the house-elves made pumpkin—OUCH!"

As soon as he sat on the bench, he jumped off immediately. Zacharias looked at him, and raised an eyebrow.

"It burned me!" said Justin, jumping off of the bench and holding his bottom. "It burned! What kind of sick joke is this, putting spells on the benches—"

"Encouraging House Unity jokes, Mr. Finch-Fletchey," said Professor McGonagall, appearing out of nowhere. "Surely you had been listening when Professor Sinistra was speaking, correct?"

"Yes," said Justin. "But I didn't think that we were actually supposed to take it seriously—"

Apparently they were, though, because now many other students were jumping up, upon having discovered the same thing as Justin did. McGonagall raised a single eyebrow at Justin, and then said, "No two Housemates together."

Justin grumbled and stalked off with Ernie, while Hannah and Susan ran over to find Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil. Blaise, however, sat next to Zacharias.

"If this seat isn't taken, I suppose you won't mind," said Blaise, slipping his legs underneath the table.

Zacharias turned to him and smiled. "Of course," he replied, taking a bite out of his chicken leg enthusiastically.

Blaise chuckled and reached over for a piece of treacle tart. "Never in my life have I been more relieved that I'm not a Hufflepuff," he said, picking up his fork and digging into the tart.

"Well I've never wanted to be a Slytherin, if it makes you feel any better. Or worse." Zacharias smirked.

"Now boys, that's not how you should treat one another!"

Zacharias nearly screamed as a head popped out up through his plate. The face of Nearly Headless Nick grinned back at him.

"Haven't done that in ages, it feels like," said Nearly Headless Nick, floating up and resting on a plate of pumpkin pie. "The first years don't scare that easily."

"Hear that, Zach?" chuckled Blaise while Zacharias removed himself from nearly-sitting in Blaise's lap (as that was where he had jumped when he had seen the ghost.) "You scare like a first year."

"Shut up," said Zacharias, shooting him a look before returning to his food.

Nearly Headless Nick looked between them. His gaze seemed to linger on the badges on their robes. "A Slytherin and a Hufflepuff?" he said, disbelief clear in his voice. "Don't tell me you two are friends."

Zacharias glowered up at him. "Actually, Blaise and I happen to be—"

"—perfectly good acquaintances, thank you very much," interrupted Blaise before Zacharias realized what exactly he was about to say. "And yes, I know it's astonishing. I must say, when I met Zacharias, I thought he was a fellow Slytherin like myself."

"I am absolutely nothing like a Slytherin," said Zacharias, sticking his nose up in the air.

"Could have fooled me," mused Nearly Headless Nick. Ignoring Zacharias's outcry of, "Hey!" he floated around and observed Zacharias. Zacharias felt like an animal trapped in a cage.

"You are most definitely a Hufflepuff," he said to Zacharias. "Though I do not doubt that you could do well in Slytherin. As for you," and he turned to Blaise. "You are a Slytherin if I ever knew one."

"I thank you," said Blaise, inclining his head.

"And you are both most definitely compatible," Nearly Headless Nick concluded. He glanced around the Great Hall. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see if I can scare some of the Ravenclaw first years…"

As he floated off, Blaise smirked to Zacharias. "We're compatible, apparently," he said, forking over a piece of blueberry cake to put into his place.

"We are," said Zacharias. "And why are you eating dessert for dinner?"

"Because I like having dessert for dinner," said Blaise rather defensively. But then a mischievous smile crept up his face as he looked at Zacharias, and he said, "Although I can think of much, much better desserts…"

Zacharias shifted in his seat. Blaise's gaze bore into him.

"I'm still eating," he said quickly, to stifle the heat that had been rising up his cheeks. He could see from his peripheral vision that Blaise smirked again, but said no more for the next few minutes.

They talked a little bit about Quidditch, and then about their classes. But throughout, Zacharias would notice how Blaise's eyes couldn't seem to keep themselves off of Zacharias's lips, no matter how much Zacharias tried to draw his attention back to the conversation. It was like trying to get a bee away from honey. Zacharias finally resorted to stop talking and to continue eating, because as much as he really wasn't opposed to doing… otherthings with Blaise, there was a time and place for everything.

Right?

"Hey," said Blaise, nudging Zacharias's thigh with his own as Zacharias finished his third plate of food. Blaise was done with his fifth. "Want to leave?"

"Leave? Why?" Zacharias licked a stray piece of rhubarb at the corner of his mouth.

Blaise's gaze flickered to where his tongue had been. "You know why," he said, staring straight at Zacharias.

Zacharias did his best to resist the temptation, although he didn't do very well when he weakly croaked out to Blaise, "But I want to finish eating…"

"You can finish eating some other time." Blaise tugged on Zacharias's forearm. "Come on, let's go."

The walk from their seat in the Great Hall to the large doors seemed to take forever, and Zacharias was growing more and more aware about how Blaise's fingers were fastened tightly around him. How Blaise was staring straight forward, nothing but lust and sex in his mind. How Zacharias wanted the same thing, needed the same thing, Blaise on him, against him, with him. How throughout their entire dinner, even though Zacharias had been eating and told himself to concentrate, his mind would frequently project dirtier images in his mind's eye with Blaise's mouth and Blaise's tongue doing anything but eating to him and oh Merlin he really should stop thinking right now or else he'd be hard for the whole world to see.

As soon as they were out of the Great Hall, Blaise pushed Zacharias against the stone walls of the Entrance Hall, making all of Zacharias's blood run south. He whimpered as he looked Blaise in the eye.

"I bloody love Halloween," Blaise growled, before diving in and ravishing Zacharias's lips with his mouth. Zacharias moaned and rubbed himself dry against Blaise, trying to increase the friction already.

"We're compatible, remember?" Zacharias teased as Blaise drew back for a breath. He swore he saw a smirk in Blaise's eyes before Blaise kissed him again, all teeth and tongue and tasting very much like berries and pie and sugar.

It was probably cold outside, but it was very hot here in the Entrance Hall, at least for Zacharias and Blaise. Blaise snogged him senseless until Zacharias was sure he was going to run out of breath and die of overexposure to heat, especially since the stones of the walls were still digging into his back every time Blaise kissed him, their black robes like large barriers between their bodies.

When Blaise drew back for a second time, Zacharias shook the tousled blond hair out from his face—tousled mostly because Blaise had crumpled it every time he kissed him—and looked right at Blaise, aware of his cheeks flushed bright pink. Blaise breathed in exhilaration; Blaise looked fantastic, dark skin glistening slightly with sweat, eyes almost completely black. Zacharias brought him closer again and kissed his bottom lip, raking his teeth over Blaise's chin.

He felt Blaise's hand go towards the front of his trousers; just as eagerly, he felt for the front of Blaise's. Blaise was hard and full already, there was no doubt, and Zacharias was surprised by the way he could feel him through the fabric in his hand. Blaise was large and heavy on his fingertips, and suddenly Zacharias was itching to touch his skin, touch him.

Blaise moaned and gripped Zacharias's cock tighter and then Zacharias moaned as well. Zacharias pushed the bottom of Blaise's robe up and then slid his hand under, and worked around the outline of Blaise's cock until he was firm on Zacharias's palm. He lifted and stroked him steadily, and almost staggered when Blaise threw his body over Zacharias's shoulder.

"Merlin…" Blaise breathed into his ear, and his own fingers fumbled with the waistband of Zacharias's trousers and felt for his own cock as well. Zacharias hitched a breath as Blaise's calloused fingers rubbed him, quick and easy, almost as if they knew what turned him on, knew exactly what they were doing. Zacharias did the same with Blaise, gripping his cock and squeezing it gently in his hand; Blaise's fingers pressed against the slit of Zacharias's prick and Zacharias practically shuddered in his hand.

"Blaise…" He squeezed harder and tighter, running his fingers and then his fingernails along Blaise, trying to get him to come while throbbing in Blaise's hand at the same time. Blaise thrusted into his own hand, almost slipping out of Zacharias's palm; Zacharias tightened and then Blaise was rocking a steady beat, then Zacharias was doing the same and they were in sync together, fucking each other in each other's hands.

Zacharias didn't know who came first; all he knew was that he squeezed his eyes shut and saw a flash of white right behind his eyelids, and then his cries were muffled by the Blaise's robe covered shoulder as he came right into his pants, splaying over Blaise as well, just as hot liquid landed on his palm, and then more and more and Zacharias didn't know if he should be fascinated or turned on by feeling Blaise's release on his hand. And when they finally, finally drew back, Zacharias tugged his wand out of the sleeve of his robe and murmured, "Scourgify," to both his and Blaise's own messes in their robes, and then pointed his wand at his hand and repeated the incantation.

He looked to Blaise questioningly, about to do the same thing—but Blaise shook his head and put Zacharias's wand hand down with his clean hand. He brought his soiled hand up to his face, his eyes never leaving Zacharias's—and then he licked his palm.

It was torturous, teasing, and Zacharias could only watch and stop himself from drooling at the way Blaise's dark tongue would work its way all over Blaise's palm, licking his come off, and Zacharias was pretty sure he had never seen anything else so hot in his life. When Blaise was done, Zacharias caught a glimpse of his hand—dark, pretty and wet.

Zacharias was suddenly very hard again.

"Your dormitory," was all he said, and then they ran off to the dungeons, no longer hungry for the Halloween feast.

x x x

Blaise concentrated very hard on Zacharias's hand. He pointed his wand at it.

"Frigus Ignitum."

Nothing. Zacharias watched as Blaise sighed and slouched back in his chair, looking ultimately defeated.

"I can't do it!" said Blaise, throwing his wand to the side. It clattered onto the desk. "I can't!"

"You can," Zacharias encouraged. It was strange to try to urge Blaise-anyone-on, but it also pained him to see Blaise behave so despondently. "You just have to mean it. You're going to light yourself on fire, but you're going to feel nothing... except for maybe a little bit of tickling," he added, remembering when he first did it without enough deliberation. He swished his arm and pointed at Blaise's wrist. Blaise nearly jumped up out of his seat as a fire erupted on his sleeve.

"Put that out," he said quickly, and Zacharias muttered, "Finite." "It's not that I don't think I can," said Blaise, staring at the place where the fire had been previously. "It's just that I don't want to light you on fire."

"As much as I appreciate the gesture, you'll need to do so in order to pass this class." Zacharias pushed a piece of parchment toward him. "Here, do it on this, first."

Blaise pointed his wand and said, "Frigus Ignitum," again. Immediately, the parchment was caught up in flames but did not burn.

"See? You can do it. Now do it to me," said Zacharias.

"What I don't get," complained Blaise, turning around to face Zacharias, "is why we're supposed to perform this on a person. I mean, what if we cast Incendio accidentally?"

"Well I don't think you'd do that unless you really wanted to light someone on fire," said Zacharias. "And you'd probably be expelled. Plus, Flitwick said that we had to practice Spelling people instead of objects this year, right?" He gestured to Blaise's wand. "Now come on, set me on fire!"

"Rather not," said Blaise, but all the same, he pointed his wand directly at Zacharias's neck and said, "Frigus Ignitum!"

Zacharias waited patiently to see flames licking up his throat. But when he looked down, he saw that he was completely, cleanly, not on fire.

"Come on, it's really not that hard," he said, lazily flicking his own wand. "Frigus Ignitum."

Blaise's crotch caught on fire.

"Zach!" Blaise yelped, jumping up and covering his groin with his hand. It looked a bit odd, to see Blaise's hands trying to move the fire out of sight without getting burned at all. "What was that for?"

Zacharias twirled his wand in his fingers and smirked. "And I'm not going to stop it until you cast this spell properly."

"But-" Blaise struggled to keep his hands over his robes, and twisted his thighs into a rather uncomfortable position. "But it tickles."

"That's what you get," Zacharias said smugly.

But then without warning, Blaise grabbed Zacharias's hand and placed it over his groin as well. "See what I mean?" Blaise hissed, shoving Zacharias even further down on him.

Zacharias's eyes widened. He could definitely feel Blaise's cock swelling underneath his fingers.

"Oh, um-" he started, but was cut off when Professor Flitwick's tiny voice sounded behind them, "Boys, let's see what you can do!"

Zacharias turned around, startled to see him. Blaise quickly wrenched Zacharias's hand away from him, and Zacharias could feel his cheeks heating up. He pointed to Blaise's shoe and hastily murmured, "Frigus Ignitum," for the umpteenth time in the class period.

"Splendid!" Professor Flitwick clapped his hands and jumped up and down as Blaise's leather boots were engulfed in flames. Zacharias quickly dimmed them down. "And how about you, Mr. Zabini?"

This time, Zacharias was sure Blaise didn't even try at all. "Frigus Ignitum," he said, pointing to Zacharias's head. As expected, not even a single cooling spark came out from his wand.

"Disappointing." Professor Flitwick tutted as class ended. "Thirteen inches on why it didn't work, and what you can do to improve it. Off you go!"

Zacharias quickly gathered his books and left, well aware of Blaise right behind him. As soon as they were out of the classroom, Blaise said into his ear, "Bathroom," and they quickly made their way to the boys' bathroom at the end of the Charms corridor.

As soon as Zacharias entered the first stall, Blaise came in right behind him and shut the stall door, and then kissed Zacharias harshly on the lips, knocking him into the wall. "Fucking tease," Blaise murmured right against his mouth, his breath hot on Zacharias's tongue.

"You're the one who made me touch you in class," Zacharias pointed out, gasping when Blaise's hand wormed its way into his pants. "Fuck."

"Gladly," whispered Blaise, tugging the fly of his denims down.

It felt like a long time before Zacharias's pants were finally tugged down to his knees, his cock out and in Blaise's warm wet mouth, the front of his robes parted slightly, and his back strained against the cool metal of the bathroom stall. He dug his fist into Blaise's shoulder as he came, squeezing his eyes and parting his mouth, arching his back on the stall and crying out. When the extent of his orgasm was over, he looked down to see Blaise's dark eyes staring up at him, his mouth dripping with Zacharias's come.

Blaise lifted his head up and kissed Zacharias languidly on the lips; immediately Zacharias felt around Blaise's robes until he found the bulge in there. "Feels different now, doesn't it?" Zacharias whispered, stroking and squeezing him.

Blaise whimpered into Zacharias's mouth and shoved his shoulders down, until Zacharias was on his knees at the foot of his robes. Zacharias ducked his head down and parted the fold of Blaise's robes, tugging them open, and then slipped Blaise's underwear down. He stared at the cock in his face; never before had he seen anything so glorious, and the way Blaise's cock was throbbing, full, leaking a little at the head made Zacharias's mouth water.

"Go already," said Blaise in a strained voice, and Zacharias moved his lips forward and drew Blaise's cock into his mouth. He was hard and a bit bitter, but Zacharias sucked on him like he was the most delicious thing he had ever tasted. In and out, his tongue sliding along Blaise's length, he drew him between his lips little by little, delighting in the sounds of Blaise's moans and whimpers above him. Blaise's fingers knotted themselves into his blond hair and yanked, but Zacharias didn't care; he wanted to do anything to make Blaise come.

"You like this?" said Zacharias, looking up at him and feeling his eyes water from the pressure inside his mouth. His voice was muffled by Blaise's erection, though, and his throat vibrated rather painfully.

But apparently this was all Blaise needed; one more second and then Blaise was coming all into his mouth, crying, "Zach!" and rocking his hips back and forth against Zacharias's face. Zacharias's nose bumped with the layer of pubic hair above Blaise's cock, and then his mouth was being filled with something bitter and salty. He drew back, trying not to gag but instinctively swallowing as Blaise spilled all into him, relentlessly pulling and tugging at Zacharias's sweat ridden hair.

Then they stopped and collapsed. Zacharias cast Scourgify around his face and then to his and Blaise's bodies-and to the bathroom floor, just in case. When he turned back to Blaise, he saw that Blaise was panting and his cheeks were dimly flushed, despite his dark skin. It suddenly occurred to Zacharias that he was the one who had done this. He was the one who made Blaise unravel. The thought was infinitely appealing to him.

"Want to go out by the lake?" he asked, and Blaise let out a breathy laugh.

"Sure," said Blaise, turning and grinning at him. Zacharias's cheeks heated up, as he felt a beatific smile spreading across his face as well.

They got up from the bathroom floor and walked out, and then made their way through the corridors to the front door. It was lucky that there weren't many people in the halls; otherwise anyone would have noticed that they were both disheveled and slightly pink-faced (in Zacharias's case, at least), to which their shagging would be all the more obvious.

As they stepped out of the castle and onto the grounds, Blaise suddenly turned to him and lifted a hand to Zacharias's cheek. "You have a little… there."

"Oh." Zacharias ducked his head down and blushed even more. He had probably cast Scourgify too lazily to siphon off all of Blaise's come. And upon thinking this, his cheeks got even hotter. He quickly wiped his sleeve on his cheek and avoided Blaise's eyes.

Blaise chuckled. "Maybe I should be the only one to cast Cleaning Charms from now on."

"My Cleaning Charms are perfectly competent, thank you very much," said Zacharias, sticking his nose up in the air. He glanced at Blaise from the corner of his eyes. "And I was distracted, all right?"

"Okay, okay." Blaise laughed. "Just don't get distracted too often."

"It's not my bloody fault," Zacharias muttered, thinking of how Blaise had been watching him with this look in his dark eyes when they had finished. He didn't know what the look meant, just that it made him feel like he had just swallowed a mug full of Butterbeer.

They sat in their usual spot by the lake, although this time they were much too tired to go for another round. Instead, Zacharias yawned and leaned his head against Blaise's shoulder. He felt Blaise nearly jump up in surprise beneath him.

"Don't do that, I'm trying to fall asleep," Zacharias murmured, lethargically burying his nose into Blaise's neck. "And you smell good."

"Strange how you say that after we just came out of the bathroom." But Blaise didn't try to shake him off. On the contrary, Zacharias could feel a hand running down the small of his back. He smiled against Blaise's shoulder.

"You don't smell like the bathroom," he said, tilting his head to the side and looking Blaise in the eye.

Blaise smiled back at him, and his gaze looked like that again. "Well neither do you," he said, leaning forward slightly and pecking Zacharias on the lips.

Zacharias's stomach did a backflip, but he merely pressed his face back into Blaise's neck and didn't say anything.

x x x

"Just add the part about the Love Potions and you should be fine," said Blaise.

Zacharias nodded, and bended over to scribble the last few sentences of his Transfiguration essay. It was already over four feet long, and his handwriting was tiny. How he finally managed to finish this essay, he didn't know. Actually, he did know. If it wasn't for Blaise's help, he'd still be wandering around the library aimlessly, trying to find books on magic misuse rather than Transfiguration laws.

"There," he said, satisfied, putting his quill down and looking over his parchment. "All done."

"Let me see." Blaise gestured to him. Zacharias handed him the paper and rested back in the library chair. Even though Blaise had been a load of help over the past few weeks, they certainly get distracted. A lot. Zacharias had to gather up a lot of self-restraint to tell Blaise today that he had to finish his Transfiguration essay before they could shag, just like he had done yesterday. And the day before. Not on Sunday though, because apparently that was some day where the Slytherins got together to gossip… or something. Zacharias never understood the Slytherins.

They also had been spending a lot of time in the Slytherin boys' dormitory lately, during late nights when they were the last ones in the library and were snogging instead of studying. Zacharias had thought that after all the kissing and the fucking and all the things in between that he would have gotten tired of it already, but that seemed near impossible. He could never get tired of Blaise, and Blaise's mouth, and Blaise's neck, and Blaise's shoulders, and Blaise's… other parts of his body.

He turned pink at the thought, and moved his head to the side that Blaise wouldn't see him.

Blaise handed his essay back. "Looks good," he said, as Zacharias placed it on the table next to them. "You'll get an O on that, for sure."

"Thanks to you," said Zacharias, feeling the heat creeping up his face. He was pretty sure that his skin would probably turn pink from all the blushing he'd been doing lately.

"Only because I wanted you to get a good mark. And to get it done soon," said Blaise, moving over from his chair and toward Zacharias. "And now… we can do this."

His lips had just found Zacharias's when a voice behind them suddenly exclaimed, "Blaise!"

Blaise whipped around and Zacharias nearly shoved him off. Or at least, he tried to, except evidently Blaise was too strong. Blaise moved away, anyways.

"Hi Pansy," he said, almost grudgingly. Zacharias was pretty disappointed that they had been interrupted as well, though he supposed that snogging in the library in broad daylight wasn't exactly the brightest idea that they could come up with.

Parkinson seemed undeterred by their previous positions. "Could you help me with my Pleasing Draught? The book said that we should let it simmer for three minutes, but Slughorn said for two. And I don't think I have any troll nose hairs left…"

"Did you try looking up your own nose?" Zacharias said.

Parkinson sneered at him, but then addressed Blaise instead. "Lovely boy toy you've got here." Her tone was nasty.

"My favorite," said Blaise without an ounce of uncertainty. "And later, Pansy, okay? We're kind of busy right now."

"Fine. But you owe me later," said Pansy. She stalked off to another side of the library.

Zacharias glanced at Blaise worriedly. "I'm not your boy toy, am I?"

"Only if you want to be." Blaise smiled at him. "You could be my boyfriend, too, if you'd like."

Zacharias blushed but said nothing.

x x x

Zacharias jittered in his seat. Where was he? It wasn't like Blaise to be late. He had seen him earlier today, of course, when they were snogging in a broom closet, right after breakfast.

Professor Flitwick started talking, but Zacharias didn't pay any attention. Instead, he doodled on his parchment, waiting for Blaise to come. Blaise would often draw inappropriate things next to him and then spell his doodles so that they would move and dance. Once, he had made Zacharias draw a picture of the two of them, and then cast a spell so that their drawn figures were shagging. They did a rendition of it later after class, by the lake.

Zacharias was decorating a swirly i on his paper when suddenly the door to the classroom opened. His head immediately perked up. There, standing in the doorway, was Blaise.

"Sorry Professor," he said, bowing his head respectfully at Professor Flitwick.

"It's all right, it's all right!" said Professor Flitwick, eyeing him. "Just don't come late again, Zabini."

"Will do, Professor," said Blaise cheerily, and then slid into his seat next Zacharias. "What did I miss?" he whispered to him.

"Something about Housework Charms," said Zacharias dismissively. "What kept you? Why were you late?"

"Oh." Blaise shrugged. "I was talking to Granger about Ancient Runes. I didn't realize the time until she reminded me that I should be in class about now."

"You were talking to Hermione?" said Zacharias, scandalized.

Blaise nodded, not seeming to note the disbelief in Zacharias's tone. "Yeah. Well, I mean, she's not that bad when Weasley and Potter aren't around." He chuckled.

Zacharias slumped over on the desk, his chin resting on his arms. He knew that it was stupid to get over something jealous like this, but the fact that Blaise had been talking to Hermione made anger bubble up in his stomach.

Blaise prodded him in his side. "And why were you writing my name on your paper?" he asked, amused.

Zacharias glanced down to the parchment he had been doodling on before, and blushed. There, in his fancy cursive handwriting, read Blaise Zabini.

x x x

"Are you all right?" asked Hannah from spreading jam on her toast.

Zacharias looked at her. "I'm fine."

He tried to catch another glimpse at Slytherin table. Though, of course, he was looking at the wrong side—Blaise usually sat more towards the left. Still, seeing the Slytherins made him feel slightly happy. It was a bit disturbing when he thought this over.

"Are you sure?" said Hannah. "You've been jumpy for the past few days."

This was probably true. Zacharias had just realized—that the sight of Blaise made his heart skip a beat. Quite a few beats. And that talking to Blaise could make his entire day, even though a lot of times there was a lot less talking going on between them. Still, Zacharias had been impeccably cheerful for weeks, and only got in touch with his feelings last Saturday.

"I'm great," he said enthusiastically, and completely honestly. "Can't wait for Charms, you know."

This was true as well. He really couldn't wait for Charms. And the period afterwards. Because that meant that he had Blaise all to himself, and there was no one who could interrupt them. Well, unless they happened to stumble by the spot where they sat at the lake, or wherever else they chose to shag/snog/do other sexual things today.

Hannah seemed troubled, even though Zacharias wasn't quite sure why. He had actually told her (and Susan) about his little flings with Blaise—although they actually didn't seem like flings by the way they were seeing each other regularly. But that was beside the point. Hannah and Susan had been delighted, slightly disgusted (but not really), and a tiny bit suspicious until Zacharias assured them that Blaise didn't have another agenda or anything else like that.

"Zacharias," she said, moving forward and lowering her voice that none of their Housemates at the table could hear them. "Doesn't it bother you that a boy whose mother has claimed that you've stolen his heart has… well, has made it a routine to kiss you? And… do other stuff?"

Zacharias frowned. "No. Why would it bother me?"

"Well…" Hannah struggled for words. "Well has he stolen your heart?"

Zacharias blinked.

"I mean, do you like him?" asked Hannah.

"Well I'm not in love with him, if that's what you were asking," Zacharias said immediately. He hadn't given it much thought. "And, well. I dunno, truthfully."

Hannah drew back. "So you are routinely shagging a boy you don't even know you like?"

"Hey!" Zacharias blushed and quickly covered her mouth in case anyone had heard. "Don't say that so loudly!" he hissed. "And besides… you can shag someone without liking them."

Hannah moved away and shook her head, but spoke no further on the subject.

Herbology, Potions and lunch were torturous. During Herbology, Zacharias had only been thinking about Blaise and their ventures from yesterday, and hadn't been paying attention to what he was doing until a small pot of Devil's Snare had tripped him when he was on the way to getting a pair of gloves. In Potions, Slughorn's voice had nearly bored him to tears so he busied himself with daydreaming about Blaise instead (the daydream involving a lot of ropes and one of those high-backed chairs in the Slytherin common room), which evidently led him to not paying attention to the directions for their Hiccupping Solution on the board that he ended up making some thick gooey liquid that caused one of his quills to turn into a banana. And all throughout lunch, he was so subdued with his thoughts about Blaise that his friends had ultimately given up with trying to get him in the conversation about Quidditch tryouts this year.

When Charms finally came, Zacharias happily sat himself in the seat next to Blaise. Blaise turned to him.

"You seem happy today," he said.

"That's because I am. Now, anyways," Zacharias clarified. He beamed at Blaise. "How are you?"

Either Blaise was completely oblivious or didn't seem to care about Zacharias's uncharacteristic exuberance, because he responded, "Great, though it's completely ludicrous how Vaisey became Captain of the Quidditch team. He's never liked me; it'd be impossible for me to get on the team this year."

"I'm sure you're a great player, though," Zacharias encouraged.

Blaise shrugged. "I'm not horrible, though I prefer Keeping to Chasing. Maybe if he bumped off Pritchard…"

Class started then, and they shut up as Professor Flitwick started on a lecture about common Household Charms, and how they were rooted in many basic Charms, with a few modifications to the theory and the intent. Unfortunately, he told them that they wouldn't be doing any practice today, just taking notes, so Zacharias couldn't talk to Blaise as much as he had hoped, today. Though it did cheer him up slightly when Blaise passed a note to him on a piece of parchment paper, and they spend half the class passing notes to each other and not paying too much attention to Professor Flitwick.

When class was finally over, Blaise whispered in his ear as they gathered up their bags, "Classroom twenty-one is empty right now." Zacharias nodded. He wondered slightly how Blaise had come to know this—but then again, this was Blaise who just happened to figure out things like this. Quickly and quietly, they slipped out of the Charms classroom, walked down the Charms corridor until they found classroom twenty-one.

It was indeed deserted, and Zacharias had only stepped in when Blaise grabbed his shoulder and pinned him against the wall. His mouth immediately worked along Zacharias's pale collarbone, and Zacharias let out a small moan.

"The door, it's still open," he gasped, struggling to keep his eyes open and looking at Blaise.

"Right," said Blaise absentmindedly against his skin. He flicked his wand toward the door, and it closed shut.

Zacharias let himself fall into the soothing feeling of Blaise biting and licking at his neck (although he hoped that this time Blaise wouldn't forget to spell them away; he had last time and Susan only barely covered for him when Ernie asked that he had bumped into a moving staircase), and then whimpered when Blais's fingers slipped below the waistband of his trousers. He pressed himself against Blaise, though Blaise's hands kept his back firmly pressed against the cold stone wall. Zacharias's knees were starting to buckle already.

"We should… move," Zacharias muttered, and then gasped again when Blaise's full hand was inside of his trousers, and his fingers brushed against Zacharias's cock. "Fuck…"

"Indeed," murmured Blaise, although Zacharias wasn't sure if he was referring to them moving or his second statement. Still, Blaise moved Zacharias's hips and spun them around, and then shoved him into a desk, making Zacharias perch on top of it.

"That better?" asked Blaise, leaning in to kiss him again.

Zacharias smiled against his lips. "Much better."

Blaise continued kissing him, his tongue languidly roaming around the inside of Zacharias's mouth, while his hand fumbled with the front of Zacharias's trousers until they were completely off. Then he parted the front of Zacharias's robes and moved his mouth down, kissing the side of Zacharias's neck, then the top of his shoulder, then a place on his shirt achingly close to Zacharias's nipple, and then all the way to the head of Zacharias's erection.

Zacharias moaned, gripping on the edge of the desk and squirming his bare arse on top o it. He felt Blaise chuckle as Blaise wrap his mouth around his entire cock, and didn't know if he should feel mildly amused or strangely turned on. It turned out to be a combination of both, though, as he felt his cock harden the longer it was in Blaise's mouth.

Blaise started sucking, and Zacharias nearly blacked out at the pleasure that raced through his veins. He was distinctly aware of Blaise's hands moving around him, but it wasn't until Blaise squeezed his right arsecheek when he realized where this was going. He made a little noise of pained pleasure, just as a single one of Blaise's fingers slipped inside of him.

With Blaise fingering him and Blaise's mouth sucking on him, faster and faster by the moment, it was only mere seconds before Zacharias spilled all into Blaise's mouth. His eyelids drooped but he watched through his eyelashes as Blaise swallowed him whole, and the sight made his orgasm keep going as his toes curled and he nearly fell over. Blaise's hand seemed to have a bit of difficulty with Zacharias still seated on the desk, but he kept moving his finger around and it felt like forever until Zacharias's orgasm finally finished.

"That was nice," said Zacharias, falling over onto the desk as soon as they were done. His head felt light.

Blaise laughed at him. "You're always so tired when we finish," he said.

"Yeah, well only you can make me come this hard," Zacharias pointed out.

Blaise looked pleased at this. "I do?" he asked.

Zacharias nodded. "You do."

x x x

Blaise kissed him, muffling the sound that Zacharias let out, and pushed Zacharias onto his bed. He quickly waved his wand at the both of them, and immediately both of them were naked.

"Best spell ever," Zacharias murmured as Blaise set aside his wand and continued kissing him.

Blaise made a little noise of agreement as his hands snaked down to Zacharias's thighs. He squeezed them gently and then parted them, fumbling around with Zacharias's cock. Zacharias gasped into his mouth, but Blaise was intently on nipping at his lips more than anything else.

"Fuck… Blaise…" Zacharias groaned as Blaise continued fondling him. It wasn't long until he came, and Blaise's fingers were slick with his come.

"Mm." Blaise nodded and grabbed his wand from the table he had placed it on before, and cleaned off his hand. Then he flicked his wand at his fingers, and immediately they were dripping with some magical lubricant.

"Learned that the other day," he whispered as he pulled Zacharias's thighs again and slipped a finger inside of him.

Zacharias whined and thrashed about, and made to turn so that Blaise could have better access when Blaise stopped him.

"No. I want to see your face," said Blaise, looking intently into Zacharias's eyes.

Zacharias whimpered again and nodded. Seeing Blaise looking at him like that made his bones feel like liquid.

Blaise propped Zacharias's legs over his shoulders and moved his wet finger inside of Zacharias, making Zacharias twist and turn on the bed as he did his best not to kick Blaise in the side of his head. He settled for shoving his hands in his mouth and forcing his head down onto the pillow so hard that the back of his head hurt; but he didn't stop.

"One more?" asked Blaise, and Zacharias nodded, still biting down on his fist. He was pretty sure he tasted his own blood, but all worries of that went away when Blaise twisted both of his fingers inside of him, moving and spreading him apart. His eyes glittered with something more than lust as he watched Zacharias, and Zacharias was about to unwind again if Blaise continued looking at him like that.

Blaise drew his fingers out and grabbed for his wand again, his shoulders still holding up Zacharias's ankles; he cast the spell nonverbally once again, this time on his own erection, and Zacharias's mouth watered at the sight of Blaise's dark cock, so close to him.

"Come on already," Zacharias said hoarsely, moving a hand away from his mouth, faintly aware that it was covered with saliva and little ruts where his teeth had dug in. He saw Blaise's gaze flicker towards him—and then suddenly Blaise had slipped his cock inside of Zacharias's hole, making Zacharias nearly scream out in pain.

"Sorry," Blaise whispered, adjusting Zacharias's knee over him and looking Zacharias in the eye. "You all right?"

Zacharias whimpered and nodded, and then cried out again as Blaise thrusted into him once more. Then he cries became something more like pleading sounds of pleasure, as ecstasy ran through his veins every time Blaise hitthat spot, and he struggled to keep his fist in his mouth once again. Blaise's eyes darkened the more he watched him, but he didn't stop; and then more than just Blaise's thick cock was inside of him, and a warmth was filling him and Zacharias came as well, right onto Blaise's chest. Blaise didn't seem bothered though, and he finally closed his eyes as he did the last of his orgasm, and Zacharias just moaned as his spent cock fell over across his chest.

And then they were done. Blaise moved over and lay on the bed next to Zacharias, nuzzling against him and drawing Zacharias into his arms. Zacharias smiled to himself. He knew that only someone like Blaise would want to cuddle every time after they had sex.

"Goodnight," Blaise whispered, even though it was only late in the afternoon.

Zacharias turned to look at him. The intensity of Blaise's eyes staring into him was fiery, causing a warmth to spread throughout his body, from head to toe.

And then suddenly, Zacharias knew.

x x x

"I have a problem," Zacharias said at breakfast the next day.

Justin didn't look up from his copy of the Daily Prophet. Ernie and Hannah, however, glanced at him, interested.

"I think I'm in love with Blaise Zabini."

He heard a gagging noise; he turned his head to see that Justin had put his newspaper down, probably from hearing him, and was now choking on a mouthful of egg. Ernie thumped him on the back, and then looked back at Zacharias.

"What?"

"I said, I think I'm in love with him," said Zacharias.

Hannah sighed. "Oh Zacharias, finally. I was wondering when you would realize."

"Yeah, well," said Zacharias defensively. "I guess I always knew, but it wasn't until we had finished shagging yesterday—"

"You WHAT?" shouted Justin, now with cleared airways.

"—and then he looked at me and it was like he loved me, and I was pretty sure I was looking at him the same way that I loved him back, so…"

"Since when were you and Zabini shagging?" squeaked Ernie, looking extremely mortified. He sounded a bit like Professor Flitwick, too.

"For about the past two months. You two were too thick to notice it," said Hannah, waving a hand dismissively at him. "And Zacharias, you should tell him, you know. In case he doesn't know already, either."

"You think he knows?" Zacharias let out a moan of despair. "Oh no, what am I going to do…?"

"It's not a bad thing to be in love with him," said Hannah reasonably. "Especially when he loves you back."

"Yeah, but it's not a good thing!" said Zacharias. "I mean, I'm all right with shagging and all that… but when emotions come in…"

"You're shagging?" Ernie still didn't seem quite used to the idea. Even Justin was turning green.

Hannah ignored them. "Honestly, boys," she said to Zacharias. "There's nothing wrong with emotions, you know. Especially since you both feel the same way towards each other."

"Yeah, but—"

"Don't tell me that you don't want to be in love with him," said Hannah, sternly looking at him over her breakfast plate.

Zacharias fidgeted uncomfortably. "I just don't know what to do…"

"Nothing! Nothing should change between you two," said Hannah. "Although," she added thoughtfully, "you should stop saying that you're shagging him just because you want to shag him, and start saying that you're doing so because you're boyfriends."

Zacharias shifted in his seat, recalling Blaise's words from a few weeks ago.

"Anyways," said Hannah. "Just see how it goes, okay? You two should be fine."

The truth was, Zacharias certainly hoped so. But his damned feelings were in the way, and unless he was very much mistaken, he was pretty sure that they wouldn't go away soon. He just didn't like knowing and feeling that he was wholeheartedly in love with Blaise, or at least liked him very, very much. He felt a bit vulnerable. And extremely sensitive, like a girl. And Zacharias was not a girl.

He half looked forward to, half dreaded Charms due to his recent revelation, and gave Blaise a weary sort of hello when he sat down next to him. Blaise seemed untroubled, however.

"So I was researching that clothes-removing spell, and I found out that there are different forms where you can remove certain pieces of clothing," said Blaise casually, leaning back on his chair and gazing at Zacharias.

Zacharias shifted around in his seat. The feeling of Blaise watching him made his stomach flip, and the thought was very much appealing. But he remembered the part where, Oh right, I'm in love with him, and did his best to control his facial expression so that he didn't gawk at him like some sort of lovesick third-year.

"Oh… really," he finally managed out, his voice oddly strained.

"Yeah." Blaise moved forward and brought his mouth close to Zacharias's ear. "Want to try it out after class?"

Zacharias opened his mouth, although he wasn't sure if he was going to be a coward and say yes or be a coward and say no. He was saved from this decision when Professor Flitwick suddenly waved his wand, casting blue sparks to signal the beginning of class. Blaise moved away and back to his part of the desk. Zacharias didn't know whether to feel relieved or sorely disappointed.

Throughout the class period, as they worked on trying to make dishes clean themselves (though Zacharias mastered it within several minutes; he had seen his mother use this same spell quite often at home), Blaise was constantly teasing him. He was either winking at Zacharias as he Charmed his own dish, or moving his hand around the inside of Zacharias's thigh whenever he could, or even going around and gripping Zacharias's arse. More than once, Zacharias wanted to push him away because he loved him and he didn't want to complicate his love with their continuous sexual activities; but he was very bad at pushing Blaise away. Either that, or Blaise didn't notice, or Zacharias barely made any effort to keep Blaise away from him at all. Zacharias wasn't sure if this was better or worse.

When the class was over, they walked out of the classroom, Zacharias still battling with his emotions inside of his head. They walked out to the lake in silence, Blaise seemingly content despite the fact that Zacharias felt quite sullen.

"You're thinking too much," Blaise said as soon as they stopped in their usual spot. They didn't sit down, though Blaise did move toward the nearby tree.

"Am I?" said Zacharias vaguely, wondering how long he could avoid looking Blaise in the eye. He was afraid that if he did… Well, he just knew that if he did, he would be a slave to his emotions. And he didn't want that.

"Well of course; you've been quiet all day." Blaise chuckled. "And I think that you should stop thinking and do something else."

"What—" Zacharias started, but Blaise cut him off by closing the space between them and moving Zacharias's hand to the front of his own crotch.

Well, if Zacharias wasn't a slave to his emotions, he certainly was a slave to his libido.

x x x

The next week passed uneventfully, mostly because every time Zacharias tried to get himself to talk to Blaise about loving-him-but-not-wanting-to-love-him (or something like that; he just didn't want to love anyone. If he did want to love someone, though, he wasn't quite opposed to the idea of loving Blaise of all people. Actually, he'd rather be in love with Blaise than anyone else), he would get distracted. As in, they didn't have the time, they were interrupted, or Blaise's hand was down his pants while his mouth was fastened to the side of Zacharias's neck so that all of Zacharias's coherent thoughts—and all thoughts at that—flew right out of his head.

Such as now. They were in the Slytherin boys' dormitory again, the hangings drawn back since Goyle was at dinner and Nott was in the library (as Blaise has reported), Zacharias's clothes in a pile next to Blaise's bed, the comforter rising up on his stomach as Blaise licked around at his hole. He cried out and his muscles contracted, while Blaise's tongue continued moving around and doing things to him, inside of him.

"B-Blaise…" he panted, and for a moment he wondered if this was how it was going to be for the rest of his life. That they were going to keep fucking without really discussing their relationship.

Blaise made out a little sound with his red tongue still out of his mouth, causing his tongue to vibrate a little inside of him. Zacharias gasped and nearly uncoiled at the feeling.

"Blaise," he said, with more strength this time and finding control over himself to stop giving into Blaise's touches and actually speaking to him. When Blaise looked at him, he nearly gave way again.

"Blaise," he said for a third time, this time more firmly, and Blaise drew his tongue back from out of him. Zacharias bit back a whine of protest.

"Yes?" said Blaise. Zacharias suddenly realized that he must have sounded like he wanted to talk to him, after all. He internally patted himself on the back.

"I… we should talk," said Zacharias.

"Now?" Blaise raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah. Well, I mean, I think we should." Zacharias squirmed. He missed the feeling of Blaise inside of him already.

"All right. What do you want to talk about?" As much as Blaise seemed disappointed, he watched Zacharias intently.

"I…" What was he supposed to say? I'm in love with you? It didn't sound right; at least, not now.

Blaise cocked his head to the side. "Is something wrong?"

Oh Merlin, he sounded worried now, too. Zacharias didn't want to worry him. He just wanted to enlighten Blaise to the fact that, hey, he was just a bloke who was in love with him.

Still, with Blaise's naked body pressed so close to him like this, it was suddenly hard for Zacharias to think again.

"Nothing," said Zacharias, and moved up against the comforter and kissed Blaise on the mouth before Blaise could ask any more questions. Besides, this conversation could be saved for another time. Right now, they had much more pressing matters at hand. Matters that involved Blaise's hand pressing into him.

x x x

It was several days later when Zacharias finally, finally got the courage.

"So, um," he said to Blaise, picking at the grass beside him. They both didn't feel like shagging today, and so instead they were sitting next to each other beside the lake. Zacharias was near in Blaise's lap at this point from the way they were so close together.

"Yeah?" Blaise looked at him, his eyes twinkling. Zacharias felt his heart dislodge into his throat.

"I, um." He quickly glanced down to his knees. "IthinkI'minlovewithyou."

"You might want to say that a bit slower," chuckled Blaise.

"I… I think I'm in love with you." Zacharias focused on a grass stain in his trousers. "And, um… I'm not quite sure if it's a good thing."

"Oh?" Blaise looked at him. He didn't look surprised at all, only mildly interested. "Why not?"

"Because… Because I don't want to be in love. At all," Zacharias added hastily. "But, um, I'm in love with you… and, er. I think we should stop." The last sentence sounded more like a question than anything else.

"So," said Blaise, gazing out to the lake. "You're in love with me. And you think we should stop…"

"Having sex," finished Zacharias, his cheeks feeling hot. And when Blaise opened his mouth again, he added, "And snogging."

"All right." Blaise looked amused, which was odd. Zacharias thought he would have been disappointed. "Does this mean I can do this?" He slipped a hand between Zacharias's thighs and grabbed there.

"No!" Zacharias quickly moved aside and nearly jumped out of Blaise's lap. He didn't though.

"And does that mean that I can do this?" Blaise drew Zacharias closer to him and brought him into an embrace, one of his hands stroking the back of Zacharias's head. His face was buried into the side of Zacharias's neck, his cheek on Zacharias's shoulder;

"N-No…" stammered Zacharias, as Blaise's breath ghosted the side of his neck.

Blaise let out a laugh and pulled back, and looked Zacharias in the eye. "You're a silly Hufflepuff, aren't you?" he said teasingly, gazing at Zacharias fondly. "Come on, let's snog."

"But—But—I just said—"

"I know what you just said," said Blaise, bringing their faces closer together so that their noses bumped and their foreheads pressed together. "And I think you're in love with me too. At least, I know I love you."

"What?" said Zacharias dazedly.

"Don't worry about it. I think my bed is calling our names." Blaise chuckled and stood up, and then offered his hand out to Zacharias. "Coming?"

Zacharias looked at his hand. He wasn't quite sure what their conversation had just been about. But unless he hadn't heard correctly, he was pretty sure that Blaise had definitely confessed to loving him as well. So that their feelings were mutual. So that they were equally vulnerable to their emotions. So that… they could both turn to each other when they needed to.

"Yes," said Zacharias, taking Blaise's hand. "I'm coming."

Blaise grinned at him, glowing. He squeezed Zacharias's fingers. Zacharias squeezed back.