For Fire the Canon's Fanfic Tournaments March. Pre-Hogwarts.

Also for Amber's Super Insane prompt challenge: Blaise Zabini

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Blaise Zabini never knew his father.

Not his real father, anyway.

Unlike others, though, he was never under any delusions. He calls them father, the husbands, when she trots them in and out, because that's what she wants him to do. He watches them with his big brown eyes and he stays silent, because they don't want a kid loud and messy. He knows his place. He knows that he will last and they will not. And that is enough.

She doesn't offer any details about his father and Blaise doesn't ask. What does it matter? It's not like who his father was has any bearing on who Blaise will be.

And there is a part of him — the damned Hufflepuff part — that can't bear to hear her say that his father was just one of the others. Or worse, that she doesn't remember him at all.

It's stupid. What does it matter how his mother treated his father? It's how she treats him that matters, and he is her prince. She's told him before, when it was just them, in one of the brief in-betweens, that he will always be her favourite man in the world.

He was seven. The thrill of being called a man had made the memory stick. Now, at ten, it's the rest of the sentiment he notices.

He's not naïve. They are insignificant, oh-so-temporary. He knows they don't matter to her, not properly, not the way husbands are supposed to matter. Blaise reads books. He knows how the world is expected to work. He knows that sometimes, his world doesn't quite match up with that.

He doesn't care. It doesn't matter. He doesn't need a father figure. He's got a mother who loves him more than anyone else in the world.

So he smiles when they traipse into his life, beaming wide as they look at his mother, trying to pretend when they look at him. He watches them smile too-bright smiles and even at ten years old he can see the falseness in their eyes. They don't give a damn about him. Not a single one of them gives a damn about him. But they see his mother watching closely and so they smile at him, try to be friends.

Blaise prefers to maintain some distance. They don't give a damn about him, so he's not going to give a damn about them.

She smiles at him after they leave and says, "You're a smart boy, darling. Keep your distance — you'll save yourself a lot of heartbreak."

There's a note in her voice that says she speaks from experience.

He'd looked at her once and said, eyes purposefully wide and innocent, "Mother, do you love them?"

She'd smiled back, stroked his hair and said, "There are a lot of types of love in this world, darling."

It isn't an answer.

He didn't expect one.

He wonders, sometimes, if this life he's living is messing up his brain. He doesn't think like other ten year olds, doesn't act like other ten year olds. He plays with the Malfoy boy sometimes when his mother drops him off, and he watches carefully, attempts to emulate Draco's behaviors, but Blaise isn't like that. He doesn't throw tantrums, doesn't whinge. He doesn't run around, doesn't enjoy knocking things over. He doesn't get bored of games ten minutes after they've begun.

Blaise is a watcher. He's steady and solid, where the Malfoy boy is a whirlwind of energy. It's… unnerving, because Blaise knows, intuitively, that he is the anomaly.

He asks his mother, once, why Draco is so fickle, so changeable.

His mother smiles at him and says, "Darling, he's ten. And you, my child, you are an ancient soul in a ten-year-old's body." Her lips twitch. "Wait until you see him at Hogwarts. He'll be a whole different person."

And so Blaise watches, and he waits, and he wonders. He watches everything. He waits for the rest of his peers to catch up. He wonders a lot of things. Wonders if he'll ever be like everyone else, wonders if his first ten years have already skewed his perceptions permanently, wonders if he will be his mother's son — if he will grow up to be so callous, so broken. He wonders if his mother will ever love again.

He wonders if she ever really loved at all.