Disclaimer: Harry Potter not mine :( so sad.

Note: First of all this was done in response to the challenge: A stroll through the Quote Garden by SilverFox. My quote was Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends. ~Shirley Maclaine. And my pairing given was Blaise/Draco. This is a chaptered story, but uploaded under one, due to the chapters being so extremely short. I didn't want someone to have to keep clicking to a next page after only a couple hundred words in some instances. This is a new format for me, and definitely a new pairing, but hopefully enjoyable.

Friends, Strangers, and Something More

Prologue

At Hogwarts, they had never been especially close. In a room of only a few boys, one would think that they would have been friends, or at least knew a little more about each other. They noticed some things, but didn't know many. Draco noticed the way Blaise's muscles flexed when he pulled off his shirt in the dorm, the way he would glance toward the mirror just to the right, his slanted eyes above high cheek bones catching Draco's gaze so that he had to act as if he was looking into the mirror as well to straighten his tie. Blaise was not fooled, he noticed the way Draco noticed, and though he was egotistical, he was almost flattered. And beyond that, a fluttering in his stomach caught him by surprise but did not show upon his face.

And then there were the assumptions. Blaise had always assumed that Draco would follow in the steps of his parents, and had not been surprised by Draco's part in the events of their last years at Hogwarts. Had assumed that the rivalry the other had with Harry Potter would only lead him into trouble. He had been right, but in the end the other Slytherin's mother had saved her family's reputation and lives by saving the life of her son's childhood enemy. What he had not assumed was that Draco had any interest in him beyond the physical. Most were attracted to Blaise's looks but were put off by his attitude.

Blaise was not the only one to make assumptions. Draco assumed just as well. He assumed that said attitude was due to Blaise thinking he was better than everyone.. which was partly true, but also wrong. Blaise had not dated, never seemed to have the inclination. Draco sometimes wondered if the other Slytherin was even capable of deep feeling for another human being.

And so the two young men, when they had the time to think of such things, thought of the other, noticed, and assumed, but never took that step to actually know. Because after all fear makes strangers of people who would be friends. That, of course, was about to change.

One:

"Honestly, Mother.. why Italy?" Draco's pension for whining to his mother had not changed, it was a tone his father would never hear, and Narcissa treasured. Yes, she knew it could be a bit annoying to others, and he was much too old to whine, but he was her only son and she clung tightly to the remnants of childhood that were left in her boy.

"Why not France? I would at least know the bloody language." The formidable lady shot her son a look. Then again there was something to be said for some adult behavior, and choice of language. Draco's cheeks pinkend slightly at the silent rebuke.

"Sorry, Mother."

"Quite alright dear. As for why? I've a dear friend who has been kind enough to invite us into her home while all that messy business in Britain is taken care of." She gave a wave of her hand as if dusting away what had been a very real threat of their going to Azkaban. The thought of it made Draco both shiver and a slow burn of resentment churn in his stomach. The shiver from fear and the resentment at the thought of Perfect Potter saving his hide in more than one way once again. He noticed his mother looking at him, a knowing expression gracing her exquisite features.

"You and her son will also be given a tutor. It's unfortunate that you were unable to finish your education, and her son is in much the same position. You should know him, he too, was a Slytherin." Draco was reminded that his mother was decidedly a Slytherin herself, by the sly look to her eye.

"A Slytherin." He repeated, a slight frown upon his brow.

"Come now, you roomed with the boy for quite some time. If you'd associated wi," Narcissa cut herself off at the pain she saw in her son's eyes for just a moment. There was no reason to go there, not with one of the boys her son had associated with was now dead, brought down by his own folly. She thanked whatever deity there might be that the fire had not consumed her son. She cleared her throat with a ladylike sound.

"Yes, well, his name is Blaise Zabini." And by the sudden interested look in her sons eyes, she knew she'd made the choice by bringing him here, whining and all.

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Two:

Blaise was not exactly happy that his mother had decided to invite the Malfoy's into their home. He did not argue with her, as he knew it would only cause a scene of drama worthy of any stage in Italy. In all the time she had talked about her days at Hogwarts, she had often mentioned a friend with which she had spent much of her time, but not until the day that she announced they were having guests, did she specify her friend as being Narcissa.

"Come now mio caro, do not look so glum." Blaise's expression was only open to his mother, and she saw this as both a boon and a sorrow. For she knew he had much to give, but was afraid to do so. She pouted her lip and tossed her thick curls behind her shoulder, if only to see the corners of her son's lips twitch in fond amusement. It was evident that her son had received his good looks from his mother, and perhaps his slightly taller than average height from both. Not that Blaise had ever known his real father outside of the wizarding photograph his mother had kept of him on the mantle, despite and through all of her marriages.

"I am not glum," the word stuck like glue in his mouth and did not roll off the tongue, "I am only.. wary."

"Of?" the beautiful woman asked, concern in her eyes.

It was met with an expression of confusion and a slight bow of the head. "I don't know." A short pause, and then, "He unsettles me."

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Three:

The reunion, if it could be called that, was awkward. Or at least on the part of the two boys it was, as they watched their Mother's with all the grace of school girls hug, begin laughing, talking all at once, over each other and to each other, and somehow keeping all the threads of conversation from getting tangled. It was not a reaction they had seen often or really at all before. Draco tried to catch Blaise's eye to share the awfulness of what they were viewing, but found himself staring at the other's profile instead. His heart beat a little faster, a steady thumpthumpthump and he longed to run his hand over the dark skin to see if it was as smooth to the touch as it looked.

Dark eyes cut his way and Draco, instead of looking away or pretend as if he'd not been looking, met chocolate brown with his own steel grey. Blaise raised an eyebrow in silent question to which Draco gave a shrug of his shoulders and a glimpse to their mother's with a roll of his eyes. To Draco's immense satisfaction and a little bit of delight as Blaise's lips curled slightly at the corner.

"Oh Cissy, please tell me your son isn't as quiet as mine." Now that their voices weren't entangled, Draco found Blaise's mother's voice pleasing.

Narcissa's lips quirked in amusement, "Draco? Quiet? Pah. Why, we just had a nice conversation on the ways that a man might.."

"Mother!" Draco cut her off, considering matricide. His mother merely smirked at him, before she looked over to Blaise.

"And you must be, Blaise. I've heard so much about you." She swept forward her hands reaching out for him to take, which he did with only a slight hesitation.

"Madam Malfoy" he said in way of greeting.

Narcissa smiled and reached up and patted his cheek affectionately, knowing full well that her son was glaring daggers at her, mostly out of jealousy she was sure. "Please, call me Narcissa."

"And you.." said Blaise's mother stepping up beside him and threading her arm through his, "May call me Cesarina." She gave his arm a squeeze with her surprisingly strong hand. "Now, the two of you shall leave us women to gossip, and Blaise will show you about the manor, yes?" she said, looking to her son with a calculating look in her eye. Draco wondered now if calculation was a Slytherin trait or a mother's trait that all women shared.

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Four:

Blaise was acutely aware of Draco walking at his side and he noticed the little things all over again. The way Draco's eyes lingered on him a little longer than necessary, the few inches of height difference that made Blaise look up with a tilt of his chin, and mostly that he would have to closely guard his feelings. He armed himself with the remembrance of Draco's head in Pansy's lap, allowing her to run her fingers through his hair that he'd let no other touch.

That, of course, only made him feel a bitter anger that made it easier to keep his face devoid of emotion and his tone indifferent when Draco spoke to him.

"So my Mother and yours, huh? I thought girls outgrew that sort of thing." Blaise had to agree, although his Mother had always been very dramatic in everything she did. It was part of her charm, that she held back so little of herself in regards to her feelings and her heart. She oft times lamented that Blaise must have got his stoicism from his Father, but the sad look in her eyes as she said so spoke of the truth that was indeed not the case, and it was more to do with herself.

"Perhaps it isn't only girls who don't grow out of their habits." He said, looking at Draco who had been staring at him. Yet again, the paler man did not look away and as he had claimed earlier, it unsettled Blaise. He was not used to people taking such an extended interest in him, they were usually put off by his attitude sooner or later. Which is what he wanted.. right?

"And maybe some habits are worth not being broken." The blonde Slytherin gave him a rather daring grin that Blaise was sure had charmed many of their house mates.

Blaise wasn't sure what to say in response to that, so said nothing, though he felt a warmth along the bridge of his nose and cheeks and the back of his neck. He was blushing, and he just knew that Draco noticed by the delighted gleam in his eyes. Blaise looked away and gestured to a door to their left, and hoped his voice was steady.

"And this will be your room for the duration of your stay." He moved forward and away from Draco, putting both emotional and physical distance between them, as he opened the door and strode into the room.

It was tastefully furnished with mahogany furniture and wood floors with plush rugs. It was neither masculine nor feminine and many felt welcome within it.

"Where are your rooms?" came the voice he had expected to come, but not so closely. He turned around quickly, to find himself so close to Draco that he had to tilt his head back to meet the amused grey eyes. This close, he could tell that there were shades of a darker grey around the pupil. Something in Blaise's expression must have made Draco back off, but there was a small tilt of the corner of the man's lips that spoke of some sort of triumph that Blaise didn't quite understand.

"Nevermind, I'll find out later. I think we should reconvene with our Mothers. Hopefully they haven't started braiding each other's hair or playing dress up, or whatever it women do when they get together." He left the room first this time, waiting a comfortable distance away from Blaise as he shut the door.

Blaise felt a fluttering feeling in his chest that distance would not stay that way in the weeks to come. He was unsure if the idea pleased him or frightened him. Perhaps it was both.

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Five:

As Draco went through his nightly routine for readying himself for bed, he reflected upon all the happenings of the day, the most interesting of which was that one moment in the bedroom adjoining the bath. A smile twitched at the corners of his lips around the toothbrush. He had seen Blaise more flustered today than he had in the entirety of their time spent at Hogwarts. And more delightedly, flustered because of him. And that blush, it made Draco shiver in a delicious, glorious way.

He spat into the sink, rinsing out his mouth with a glass of water, and shutting off the tap. But more than the blush, and the adorable fluster, there was the look he had seen in Blaise's eyes as the young man had turned at his questions of where his rooms were. It was… even now, Draco didn't know how to explain it. It was fear, and longing, and of course surprise at Draco being so close. It was a mystery to him why Blaise would be afraid, but the longing, oh that had made him preen for quite a few moments.

The fear though made him back away to give the other a reprieve. It was that now which most occupied his mind as he slipped between the cool sheets, laying on his back, one arm going behind his pillow, his other hand resting upon his stomach above the covers. He had never done anything to make Blaise fear him, none that he could think of. Was it fear of his advance? Of himself? Of what? Draco had always hated mysteries, couldn't stand the things.

He closed his eyes, mind working over time, but no answers came, well none that led to the conclusion to his questions. But Draco was nothing if not determined, and he would find out, and he would make Blaise want him as much as he, himself wanted Blaise. The desire was there, now to make Blaise act upon it. With that plan of action, he expelled a breath of air in a sigh, and slept.

Six:

Blaise had been right, Draco had not kept his distance. He was everywhere that Blaise was, and he couldn't decide how to feel about it. One moment he was enjoying it as a cat enjoyed a firm stroke down it's spine, and the other he was acting as if the stroke was pushing said cat fur in the wrong direction, somewhat pleasurable but more an annoyance to fix later with his own self soothing.

In fact the second day of the Malfoy's stay had Draco at his door with the coming of the morning. Opening the door to a knock he had expected to find his mother, though why he wasn't sure ,she would have swept into his rooms, decorum be damned, it was a pale tall figure instead. He had covered his surprise well with a slow blink and a nod of acknowledgement.

Draco's greeting had been in no way as solemn or stoic. Instead he had reached out, a light touch to Blaise's forearm, that his whole body felt the effect of, and the fingers left as quickly as they had come. He had said good morning and that their mothers had already had their breakfast, and would Blaise please both suggest and accompany him to a restaurant favored by Blaise? And really there had been no way for Blaise to refuse without seeming rude, and well, he hadn't really wanted too though he still felt as if he should.

During the following days, the mornings started much the same way, so that Blaise had come to expect it. The touches stayed longer, and varied in the location, though always where Blaise would be most comfortable. Their conversations became more in depth as well, and Blaise found himself opening up slightly, his guard lowering, and hope and affection and desire growing until he thought his chest might burst from it.

And today.. well today all had crashed around him. Shattered really, the whole breaking into fragments that he wasn't sure all fit cohesively even if put back together. The morning had started the same, the afternoon filled with conversation when not going through their tutor's assignments, for that was why the Malfoy's were here, for Draco and Blaise to sit their NEWTS eventually. The evening however.. that had been somehow entirely different, and yet not so much until the end of it. They had been parting ways at Blaise's door, just as they had started the day at it. Blaise had expected another touch, maybe firmer, a grasp of his shoulder or arm, but something else entirely happened.

Draco had kissed him.

Him.

Blaise Zabini.

The son of the Black Widow.

It had been a chaste touch of lips upon lips, but even that had held a passion that burned Blaise.

"No." he had said as he had pulled abruptly away, and that calm amused expression he was so used to seeing on Draco's face now, became frustrated and angry and humiliated. And that hurt just as much to Blaise as pulling away from Draco's lips.

"Why the bloody hell not?" Draco had asked, tone terse, words clipped, but Blaise was already moving away with a shake of his head, pulling all the pieces of himself he had shared back behind their wall. Something in his expression must have shown this, for Draco's anger had turned to a pained one instead.

"Please do-" he had started to say, but Blaise knew that if Draco finished, then Blaise would be finished too and he would stay, and in the end it would be to the detriment of Draco, and so he had cut the damning words off.

"Good night, Draco." And he had opened his door and shut it in the blonde's face, before he could utter another word. Blaise had locked the door with both shaking hands and magic. That had not stopped him from flinching when he heard what sounded like the flat of a fist meeting wood before sharp footsteps moved away.

And now Blaise sat with his head between his hands, collapsed into one of the arm chairs. There was such conflict in him. And he knew that perhaps turning away Draco had been a mistake, but for him not for the other. If Draco knew, he would run. And if he didn't run, this heartbreak he was feeling would be a hundred times worse because Draco would be dead. And then Draco could do nothing.

A sound like a sob broke the silence.

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Seven:

Draco's hand still stung as he walked into his Mother's rooms with a precursory knock to the door. His color was high in his cheeks, and hair unkempt from running his hands through it. His mother with one glance at his state, stood, concern in her eyes upon her lips.

"Draco! Whatever is the matter?" she asked as she swept toward him, taking his hands and making him sit upon the couch beside her. As her hands fell away, he could not stand to sit and stood once again, pacing, his hands running through his hair again.

"Blaise!" he said, such frustration in his tone, but no sorrow or pain, and the fist around Narcissa's heart lessened just a tad.

"Yes, dear, what of him?" her voice lowered in such a way, that she hoped he too would lower his, for they were not alone in her rooms. Which was evidenced by the voice that came as Cesarina entered from the adjoining room.

"Yes, what of my son?" And it was to Draco's credit that he did not turn away from the chill voice of the other woman.

"He's.. He's.. Merlin I don't know. He pulls away from me. Why?" he looked imploringly upon the woman who was his affection's mother. A Mother who looked both pained and resigned.

"Please sit, Draco. What I must tell you is not easy for me, and I hope you do not think I am not keeping my son's confidences for I do not believe he knows that I realize why he lets no one close."

Draco gave a nod of his head, sitting on the edge of one of the armchairs, as Cesarina settled herself next to Narcissa. Finally, he was getting his answers. And they were more important to him now than they had been at the beginning of his decision to pursue Blaise. He fancied himself quite in love with the beautiful young man, had seen a wit and a dry sense of humor, and tender heartedness he would not have expected that had drawn him closer and closer until he could not help but show his feelings through the expression of his lips upon the other's.

"I am sure you aware of what people call me, yes? The Black Widow." The tone of her voice was of amused disdain. "Each of my husbands were good men, yes, but none so good as my first. Blaise's father." Some pain now, the sorrow of a lost love and Narcissa's hand gently enfolded her friends in comfort.

"Blaise was six when Ethan was struck down by an auror. Only for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had friends that were death eathers, I will not deny this. But no, he was not one. He could not agree with the death of innocent people, though he believed them to be beneath him none the less. It was his friend's choices that brought about his own demise in the end for he was at their home when the arrests took place." There was no apology in her eyes as she spoke of her husband's distaste of the muggleborn's death, even knowing that Draco had joined but also knowing from Narcissa his choice had been regretted and almost as disastrous as her own Ethan's choice.

"He defended his friends, I think. I was never given a clear answer as to how exactly it occurred, but in the end it did not matter. Ethan was dead, I was a widow, and my son was without a father. I did what I thought best for myself and my boy, and married quickly and rashly, and luckily it was not so disastrous as it could have been, though he passed away a year after…" the painful memories were evidently a bit too much for the Lady Zabini for she paused to regroup them.

"For all that it matters, I have had seven husbands, and have been a widow seven times over, but through no fault of my own, though many will tell you their deaths suspicious and that I somehow had a hand in their demise. It is my curse, I think, but it is a curse that my son believes that must be linked to him as well."

And it was that last sentence that Draco knew he had suspected was the answer and truth to his questions. The statement he knew had been coming as soon as Cesarina had mentioned her terrible moniker.

"And so he does not push you away, Draco, because he does not care for you. He pushes you away because he cares too much. I know my son, and I know he has given you liberties he has given no other, for with you I have seen him smile, and touch, and breathe freely." Her eyes grew a bit misty, and she still looked beautiful in her misery. "I implore you, young Malfoy, do not give up on him, for he is worthy of your affections, just as you are of his."

Draco nodded, a bittersweet ache in his heart, but there was determination none the less. It would be a harder row to hoe due to his own impetuous actions, but now he was armed with the knowledge of the why of Blaise's actions, and that was a powerful weapon indeed.

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Eight:

Blaise laid in bed, much longer than he would have normally, though he wasn't asleep nor had he slept. He felt fragile, his fingers twisted in sheets his only anchor. He was afraid. His body tense, waiting for nothing, because he was sure after last night, no knock would come on the door. There would be no touch, no conversation, no more kiss. And wasn't that what he wanted?

He had to get up, had to get moving. It was just as he was untangling himself from the duvet when a knock came on his door that startled him so, he almost lost his footing. Catching himself, he straightened, curiousity getting the better of him.. and he wouldn't admit to himself, hope. He smoothed his sleeping clothes and his appearance. If they were knocking this early, than they would have to put up with his state of undress.

And yet, his hands trembled as he turned the knob, the locks falling away. And for a cold moment he stared in disbelief, even though he had been somewhat hoping for it, the fact was beyond him that in his bedroom door way was Draco Malfoy, as if nothing had ever happened, except the man was gripping his shoulder, moving closer, and not away, hot breath on his ear. "Good Morning Blaise." But no kiss, though it was in his eyes when he stepped back, affection and that almost ever present amusement.

"Get dressed, we've a busy day ahead of us. Christmas is a short month away and Mother of course wants her items to be made custom." Blaise stood there still, his hand frozen on the edge of the door, body taut as if he wasn't sure which way to go, through the door or back into his room.

Draco's mouth quirked. "Unless you would like me to dress you?"

That snapped Blaise out of it.

"No. No of course not. I'll… I'll be out in a moment." And he shut the door once again between them, without finality, with insecurity and wonder and questions of why? And how? And did it even matter or change what Blaise knew would have to happen in the end?

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Nine:

They grew closer as the winter holiday grew more near. There was harmless flirtation, and Draco found himself acting with a patience that'd never exhibited before. He gave Blaise his space, or at least enough that he wasn't chased away by Draco's pursuit.

And Draco honestly believed he was making progress. He could rest his hand upon Blaise's arm or shoulder and not have it shrugged away, he could stand closer than anyone else Blaise permitted, and mainly Blaise had stopped trying to push him away.

It was too bad, that it couldn't last.

They were out picking up the orders Draco had put in for his mother, when they heard a light female voice behind them.

"Draco!" Turning, they saw a young woman hurrying toward them.

A smile curved Draco's lips upward. "Astoria, what are you doing here? In Italy?"

Blaise watched with some jealousy and uncertainty as the girl gave the other a quick hug, chattering about how they were there on holiday and to look at wedding gowns. Did they know that Daphne was marrying Theodore Nott? And what was Draco doing there?

"Evidently my and Blaise's Mother's were school girl friends. We're on a visit." Draco said and Blaise felt a small bit of relief that he actually hadn't been forgotten. Astoria's pale blue eyes turned to him. She was a beautiful girl, light where her older sister was dark. She smiled at him, and he couldn't find it in himself to be spiteful, and so he smiled back. They had never really interacted at Hogwarts, he and Daphne not being particularly close.

Astoria looked back to Draco, a light in her eyes that Blaise recognized as attraction.

"I have to catch up with Mother, but can I call upon you? I would dearly love a guide, and Mother and Daphne are so busy with the wedding preperations."

Draco frowned slightly, his gaze shifting to Blaise who, while good at hiding his emotions, had adapted almost a look of what? .. was it jealousy? Draco's mind worked quickly. It would be using Astoria.. but to get what, or who, he wanted? Well that was the Slytherin in him.

He turned back to Astoria, and with his most winning smile, replied, "I'd be delighted."

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Ten:

Blaise hated Draco and Astoria. Not separately, not as people, but the way their two names were put together. He watched as they exchanged light touches, Astoria more so than Draco, but those touches were his just a week ago.

He found that he missed having Draco's sole attention, and wondered why he had ever let himself feel anything. Surely allowing himself to feel nothing, was better than this grip on his heart. He tried to pull himself back, but it was too late.

He and Draco still spent time together, and Draco still flirted and touched him too, but now he wondered if it was in the same way which he touched Astoria.

Why did she have to be so beautiful? And Blaise, self depreciatingly wondered, why was he so cowardly? He could tell Draco that he felt something, would that be enough encouragement for Draco to drop his affections for Astoria?

There was only one way to find out, and Blaise trembled a bit at the idea of making himself so vulnerable.. but that morning following the night he had pushed Draco away, he had come back. Standing from his perch on the edge of a chair in the sitting room, he made his way through the manor to where he knew Draco's room to be.

He went to knock on the door before he noticed that it was ajar and there were voices coming from within. Blaise looked in and wished he hadn't. There upon the settee, sitting rather comfortable and closely were Draco and Astoria. They were murmuring to each other quietly, and it looked so intimate. Blaise closed his eyes tightly for one moment and stepped away.

Enough, he thought, It's too much, and I am finished.

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Eleven:

Draco was mature enough to know that his plan had backfired. It had seemed to be working at one point, Blaise had started to demand a little more of his time, had started touching him without provocation, or Draco doing so first, but it seemed he had been pushed too far.

Draco found himself wracking his brain for a solution. Once again he had tried to manipulate a situation, and had caught himself up in the web of it. He knew Blaise, at least had felt some sort of attraction for him, it was there in his eyes and his touch, if not his facial expression.

There had even been jealousy there once, but now it was all hidden away. Hidden from Draco and it was slowly driving him crazy. And what to do about Astoria?

He looked at her as she walked beside him in the gardens, and considered. She would make a good wife, but she wasn't who he wanted. They would perhaps have an amiable marriage, but there would be no fire, no passion, at least none on his part.

Her voice drew him out of his musings.

"Mother has decided we will be going back to England before Christmas after all." She said, glancing at him.

"oh?" Draco said, uncertain as to what to say.

"Yes, I will miss you of course, and you will miss me?" He could see what it cost her to ask that, and he could appreciate her courage, but felt terrible all the same.

"Astoria.." he started, and as if sensing the end of it, Astoria continued quickly.

"I have talked to her, Mother I mean, about you, and she thinks we would be a good match. If you're in agreement, she would like to speak to your Father." Her cheeks were stained pink.

Draco stopped in startled shock. He had known she held affection for him, but to speak of marriage?

She stopped as well, looking up at him with wary hope. At his expression her shoulders slumped slightly. "There is someone else, isn't there?"

"Perhaps, maybe?" he said softly. "I'm not sure. Astoria, I didn't mean for this to happen."

A sardonic twist of Astoria's lips gave a parody of a smile. "Yes, I'm sure it wasn't. I suppose you expected a different outcome from another. I thought.. but I hadn't been sure. I blinded myself. I'm a bit of a fool, aren't I?"

Draco touched her shoulder. "No, never a fool, Astoria. I may be the fool for denying this."

Astoria gave a swift shake of her head. "No. I do not think you are. We would have been happy, I think. And I might have grown to love you, I am certainly attracted to you, but realizing what I know now there would have always been a ghost between us. For you, him, and for me who I might have met instead. But Draco," she paused and reached up on tip toe and placed a swift kiss upon his cheek, "Do not play games with any more hearts."

And with that she withdrew and walked away from him, out of the gardens, and out of his reach.

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Twelve:

"Why did you not agree to the marriage?" the soft voice came from behind Draco and he turned, somehow not surprised that Blaise had been there, listening.

"I feel nothing for her. Perhaps she would have made a good wife, but not one I could have shared anything with."

"And so there is someone else you want?" Don't dare to hope whispered through Blaise's mind, and his hand clinched into a fist. And the whisper was so strong in both his thoughts and heart that he almost missed Draco's next words.

Draco was tired of the games, and in his impatience and firm belief in his feelings, he was uncharacteristically straightforward in his delivery. "Yes," he stepped closer. "And it's you." Calmly delivered, there was determination in his tone, despite his shaky belief that Blaise might feel the same way, for why else would he have drawn away as if in pain, when Astoria tried to draw nearer to Draco.

"You turn down her offer and claim to want me," disbelief flavored that one word strongly, "but you don't even know me!" the almost disdain filled expression would have thrown Draco off if it weren't for the anguish that accompanied the words, giving them the sound of a whispered shout.

"I do!" He just knew Blaise was about to scoff at him, and say some cutting remark. It was what he would have done after all. Stepping forward he grabbed Blaise by the arm. The touch alone caused his fingertips and palm to tingle, and gave him the courage to do a very combination of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor thing.

"I know at least one thing. That you're afraid! No listen! I know you're afraid to let anyone close, that you think you're cursed. It's why you pushed everyone away at Hogwarts, why you secluded yourself, even with all the machinations going on around you seventh year, you took no part. And Merlin, I'm so grateful for that. But Blaise, you have to realize, you aren't your mother, and I am like none of her husbands. I'm a Malfoy, and we do not die so easily," he ignored Blaise's flinch," and understand this too, Blaise. I will not be one of many, I will be the only one." His gray eyes were intense as they stared in to the dark brown ones of the other man and in all his days afterword he would never be able to describe the expression on Blaise's face at that moment. It was fear, affection, disbelief, and a golden sliver of hope, that if Draco's heart had been in his chest, instead of in Blaise's hands, it may have been stolen away in love all over again.

"I..I.." Blaise seemed unsure of what to say before saying softly..

"Idiota." And gave a light slap to Draco's head, before his dark fingers massaged into the scalp, causing the pale haired man to lean into the touch. The hand that had been holding on so fiercely to Blaise's arm, now ran up and down it in a caressing action that made Blaise shiver.

There was still uncertainty there in a face that Draco felt so dearly for and had worked so hard to read. It amazed him that it was now so open. And more so that it was open for him.

"Yes, that too." He said in response to Blaise's comment, and was rewarded with a small snort of amusement. And Draco knew that this was just the beginning of his struggle to make Blaise accept him into his life permanently, but at least he now had this starting moment, where he had pulled down at least some of the walls that had guarded such a treasure so closely that none had seen it worth fighting for, until now. He would not let fear keep them as strangers, nor even just as friends. No, Draco wanted more, and even though Blaise may not be ready to admit to it, Draco was certain that the other felt the same way. And if not ,well he was a Malfoy, and he would make it so.

So now we are at the end! I hope you enjoyed it. I started this about 4 months ago as a challenge, I had the ending already planned and written before the two chapters before it. I'm sorry if it got a bit rushed. I may go back in the future and expand it, but for all intents and purposes the story would remain much the same.

Please review and thanks!