It Begins

Summer was filled with a sense of freedom. It was the first summer after the fall of Voldemort, and the atmosphere was loose and relaxed. The Zabinis had stayed neutral before and during the war, and afterward were able to maintain their status in the wizarding world. The Malfoys, while not exactly neutral, did help Harry Potter at some crucial junctures, ensuring that they, at least, would not have to serve prison time. They had made hefty restitutions to those wronged, via the Ministry (a joke, really, since everyone knew that any money collected for 'reparations' invariably went into Ministry officials' coffers), and were working on keeping their own status in the world. Harry Potter himself helped greatly in this by testifying on behalf of Draco and Narcissa. He had also refused to testify against Lucius, so by virtue of this omission, the Malfoys were able to claim a less tarnished reputation. All that aside, Draco and Blaise spent that summer in Italy, with the Zabini family, relaxing and laughing for the first time in ages. Draco was able to let his hair down around the other in ways he'd never been able to around his family and other Slytherin friends, so Blaise was able to see how beautiful the blond really was, and fell deeper in love with him. Draco, for his part, had loved Blaise since third year, even though they'd been friends since they were small. They spent this summer laughing, loving, and planning. Planning the wooing of Harry Potter.

Harry was an enigma to them. He was frustratingly Gryffindorish in the way he selflessly defended anyone, and jumped into situations feet first. It was these qualities that the two Slytherins envied, for they were unable to extend themselves in this way for anyone other than a fellow Slytherin. Harry was also very Slytherin. He was sly, and sneaky. He had no qualms about breaking rules to benefit himself and was wickedly sarcastic when the mood took him. Both boys were violently attracted to the emerald-eyed hero, and wanted him desperately. They didn't know if it was love, but they wanted a chance to see what could become of a relationship with him. Both Slytherins were powerful wizards in their own right, and they knew with Harry forming the third in a triad, they would be nigh unstoppable. No visions of world domination followed these thoughts; they were interested in protecting and comforting the Boy Who Lived. Twice. Actually, more than twice. But we digress.

"Do you think he'll respond? I mean, I've more or less tortured him for at least six years," Draco moaned.

"We can only try," Blaise replied. "We can start now, if you like. I think a letter of intent would be a good way to begin."

"Do we know where he lives? I don't think he went back to the muggles. Maybe he's staying at the Black House."

"We could just try to send it by owl. Hopefully it gets where it's supposed to."

They sat at Blaise's desk in his room, carefully considering the wording of their letter of intent. It had to be honest and clear, and they had to explain their intentions. For all that Harry had done, he was still surprisingly oblivious when it came to personal matters. Ginny Weasley had been hinting for years that she was interested in him romantically, and he seemed unaware of some of her more blatant overtures. This cluelessness, though very cute, would make wooing him more challenging. The boys felt they were up to the challenge.

Dearest Harry,

Draco Malfoy and I have watched you throughout these many years, and have come to a consensus. We would like the opportunity to court you. We think you are a very beautiful young man, with a great potential. But we also see that you are a very lonely young man, and the sadness radiates from those brilliant green eyes. We want the opportunity to prove to you that we could be the protectors and guardians you so richly deserve. Please allow us the opportunity to show you what you truly mean to the both of us.

Warmest Regards,

Blaise Zabini

The owl was summoned; the post sent. All they had to do now was wait.

Harry hid inside number 12, Grimmauld Place, trying his hardest to become invisible. Since killing Voldemort, he had had absolutely no peace. The Daily Prophet had somehow discovered his sanctuary, and had blared his address for all the world to see. The fidelius had fallen when the headmaster did, and Harry never had the time to renew it, or find another secret-keeper. Well-wishers flocked to his house, hovering outside the wards, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wizarding hero. Owl posts bounced off of the wards, set so that nothing even remotely congratulatory or needy could get through. Which meant he received no letters. He had closed his floos as well, not wanting people just dropping in on him. He had shut out the Order, the Weasleys, Granger, and anyone else who felt the need to harangue him. He just wanted to be left alone, to grieve for all the losses he'd suffered, and all the sacrifices he'd made.

Harry knew his friends would never understand. Though Ron and Hermione had shared experiences with him toward the end of the war, they were, at least, able to have a relatively normal life up until then. Before Hogwarts, there was the Dursleys and his enforced imprisonment with them. During Hogwarts, there was the attention, and the near-constant endangerment; an entirely different kind of imprisonment. The horcrux hunt itself was its own brand of terror, culminating in the willing sacrifice of his own life to save others. These were pressures that no child should have to face, and that most people would've buckled under, and yet he couldn't find it in him to hate his friends for the relative normality they were able to have. He could envy them, of course, but he could never hate them. Even now, though everyone had known of Ron and Hermione's contributions to the end of the war, they were still relatively unscathed by the press and the attention. That was all focused with blinding clarity on Harry Potter.

A tapping on the window distracted him from his increasingly circular thoughts. Wait, he thought. How did a post owl get through? The wards were supposed to keep all of the post out. Pleas for public appearances and meet the Minister galas and end-of-the-war functions had poured in before Harry had reset the wards and burned every piece of correspondence that had arrived, narrowly missing toasting a few owl feathers in his ire. The tapping continued as the persistent owl flapped at the window. Cautiously Harry approached and let the owl in. He looked at the scroll gripped in the owl's claws, his eyebrow raised. It wasn't a typical post. No envelope. Just the parchment, tied with a soft pink ribbon. Carefully, he took the scroll from the owl and gave it some treats. It settled on the windowsill and ate the snacks, waiting. Ah, this must require a response. Harry could hear the vague insanity that hovered just beyond his wards, and absently closed the window as he looked at the roll in his hands. Harry cast a few spells over the parchment, to ensure no curses or other tricks were attached. When it was deemed safe, he untied the ribbon and unrolled the parchment, looking at it. He read through it twice, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline and eyes widening in shocked surprise at the words on the paper. Then he started to laugh. He laughed loud, long and hard. When he was finally able to gain control of himself, he looked at the missive one more time, shaking his head and thinking.

Malfoy has nothing to gain from this. His family's reputation has improved greatly since I testified on their behalf. Zabini has nothing to gain from this. His family was neutral, so there's no damage to their reputation. Malfoy's family, though grudgingly grateful, still hate me. This will gain him great disfavor and possible disownment. He will lose everything over this. Zabini has nothing to lose, and no points to gain or score to settle. A small smile graced the boy's features, his green eyes softening. Someone to protect me, someone to watch over me, someone to take care of me. Oh, how I've wanted that for so very long. Someone to love me for me. He considered for a few moments more, then went to his desk to write a response.

Zabini, Malfoy,

Your proposal sounds interesting. I would be willing to allow you to court me. I don't quite understand why; you've got nothing to gain from this, except me, small consolation that is. However, I look forward to being swept off of my feet, if you can manage it. You both are very beautiful, and I would be exceedingly stupid to turn down a chance at happiness. I must confess, I had often wondered what it would be like with either one of you. Now I get the chance with both of you, and I'm very excited. I can't say that I love you; however, my feelings for you, Malfoy, have changed considerably since Dumbledore's death. And Zabini, I don't know you well enough yet, but you always went out of your way to be nice to me. I appreciate that. So, commence the courting.



Satisfied, he sent the letter back with the owl, smiling softly as he imagined the looks on the men's faces.

The owl sailed into Blaise's bedroom, the letter clutched tightly in its claw. Draco raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow, looking at the envelope.

"At least, he didn't send the parchment back unopened."

"Yes," Blaise answered. He opened the letter, and the two read the note together. They grinned at each other; Harry was going to give them a chance.