Adriana Zabini hadn’t wanted a son. She hadn’t wanted a child at all, really, but her second husband had it in his will that all his money would go to his child, not his spouse, and she didn’t really object to children, they could be quite cute, and all her romantic relationships were disasters, so at least this child would love her, right?
In any case, when the healer pronounced that Adriana had given birth to a healthy baby girl, she sighed in relief. A girl would be much easier to raise than a boy. A boy would look up to his father, and soon this child wasn’t going to have one of those, at least until she met her next mistake, and that might end up being a temporary venture — who knew if Adriana would ever find love? But a girl, a girl she could mold in her image.
She had yet to realize that Blaise was altogether a bit too much like herself to consent to being molded.
As Blaise grew older, Adriana’s efforts to keep Blaise as feminine as possible grew more and more difficult. This was not helped by the fact that Blaise had formed a strong bond with Jeremy, Adriana’s fourth husband, who unlike her previous three, didn’t exit their marriage via death, but by divorce when she realized that, despite how much gold it would cost her to not inherit his estate, Blaise was simply too attached to handle the trauma of Jeremy’s death. The flaw in the plan of creating a creature to love her unconditionally was that she loved them too.
Despite the fact that Jeremy was no longer Blaise’s step father, he was still a close confidant, as they wrote each other frequently, and Adriana even consented to monthly visits — her public reason for divorce had not been malice, but simply that she had ‘fallen out of love.’ It was true enough. The spark in their relationship had ended when his gold lost its shine, given that it was no longer hers.
Adriana resented the term ‘gold digger.’ That was a rather nasty way of describing a series of delicate situations. She simply hadn’t yet met anyone who she actually cared about enough to actually want to spend her life with, but since her pureblood parents had insisted she do something with her life she decided she would just marry for money and make them happy by following the letter, if not the spirit, of the law. It wasn’t like she went out of her way to murder her husbands. Husband Number One was eighty years older than her, already dying, and hated both his ex-wife and all their insipid children, so they hatched a plan that he would leave her everything to screw them over. It was perfect.
Husband Number Two she actually did marry for what she thought was love. He was charming, witty, gorgeous, and excellent in bed, but he was an abusive asshole and she wanted to leave him. The thought of condemning some other woman to her fate was wretched, and she wasn’t above a little bit of murder. A new mother, twice widowed. The amount of flowers she received.
Husband Number Three, really wasn’t her fault. Plenty of witnesses saw her dining with Narcissa Malfoy at the Trident Lounge in Horizont Alley when he had that freak accident with the frog choir and a rogue electric eel. That his three ex-wives had accused him of abuse and Adriana never told him that she went to the same book club as one of them was a complete coincidence.
Jeremy, she had met through a mutual friend, and they hit it off quite well. He was rich, he was good with Blaise, and she thought they had a future until she found out about his other wife in the Muggle world, and that he kept up with both of them using a Time Turner, and who the fuck messes with time and space just to cheat on their wife? She honestly saw red at that point, but since she didn’t want to break her sweet baby’s heart, she instead asked Jeremy if his wife knew about her and if his boss knew about him nicking tools from work to get laid. His counter threat of proof that she killed at least one of her past husbands had them in a state of mutually assured destruction that made them uneasy friends, for the sake of Blaise, who they both adored.
Meanwhile, Blaise was coming to some internal conclusions, and at the age of nine (roughly six and half years after they married, one year since they divorced and started living separately) both parents (Jeremy is the only father Blaise has ever had, and will ever acknowledge) sat down with a very nervous but determined Blaise. The three of them sat together in the cosy drawing room of Adriana’s manor house, a fire burning merrily in the hearth, Blaise on one couch with Adriana to his left, and Jeremy closeby in an armchair to his right. After quite some time in which Adriana and Jeremy could tell that Blaise was circling toward a point, Blaise explained to them that, having never really felt at all like a girl, he would like to try being a boy.
Slightly taken aback, Adriana and Jeremy were at a slight loss. Adriana knew that Blaise was nothing like her as a child, but she had also made attempts to raise Blaise very differently from how she was raised, and had placed very little restrictions on what Blaise could wear or play around the property, as long as proper attention was paid to lessons and due respect was paid to authority.
“What do you mean you don’t feel like a girl, hon?” Jeremy asked, not unkindly.
“I just —” Blaise took a breath and looked Jeremy in the eye. “I’m not very good at being a girl, and I’m not like the other girls my age I know, and when I think about growing up, I don’t think about women’s robes and dresses and being called Madame like Mummy is; I want to wear suits and men’s robes and have people call me Sir like they do to you.” Blaise was looking down, twisting his hands in his lap. Jeremy reached out and caught one of them.
“Hey, kiddo, if this is what you really want, we can try it,” Jeremy said softly.
“We can?” Adriana said, startled, first at what Jeremy said, and then at both her own words and Blaise’s reaction, which had been elated at Jeremy’s affirmation, and confused at Adriana’s lack thereof.
“I mean, of course we can, it’s just, what will we tell people?” Adriana asked. “People know I have a daughter.”
“That is something for you to figure out some other time,” Jeremy said pointedly, making a subtle gesture toward Blaise’s somewhat wounded expression.
“Yes, of course,” Adriana took a breath, before leaning over to Blaise and pulling him into a hug, kissing his forehead.
“Really?” Blaise asked hopefully, still sensing some of Adriana’s unease.
“We love you sweetie,” she told him. “And if this is what you want we can try it.”
Things weren’t quite as easy as they all would have hoped, and there were more than a few hiccups along the way. Adriana would sometimes slip up, but as time went on, and she saw how much more comfortable Blaise was, the slip-ups became less and less frequent. Given how much happier he was now, she realized that despite thinking she had been nearly unlimited in the freedoms she gave him, there had still been limits all the same.
It also helped that they had moved again, and so Blaise had an entirely new set of play and school mates who had never known him as a girl. Adriana’s fifth husband was American, and so the two of them moved to Los Angeles. The transition wasn’t perfect — while Blaise was happy to have a clean slate with everyone that he met in the U.S., it meant leaving behind Daphne Greengrass, who had been his best friend since they were babies, both of them feeling like oddballs, but thick as thieves with each other. Their mothers had been best friends at Hogwarts, and given how little Adriana cared for Husband Number Two, spent most of their pregnancies together. The Greengrass divorce would have spelled the end of the toddlers’ friendship, if the mothers hadn’t staged a large falling out and Adriana pleaded not to separate two children who were ‘basically siblings, born within a day, I don’t know anyone else with kids, and Blaise doesn’t have a father anymore —’ it really just was too easy.
Growing up alongside, Blaise and Daphne went on countless adventures without really going anywhere, confessing their silliest secrets, but also their deepest ones. They made up a coded language shared between only the two of them, and Daphne was the first person Blaise had told when he realized he wasn’t the girl everyone had told him he was. Much to his surprise, she was completely thrilled at this revelation. He hadn’t expected outright rejection, but was confused by her abject enthusiasm until she explained how boring it was to have two sisters, but a brother was much more interesting, and one of each felt more balanced. He tried telling her he didn’t think that was how it worked, but she had moved on to writing a short story about a werewolf who lived on the moon.
So of course Blaise missed Daphne when they moved, like a limb, but their coded letters were a comfort, neither of them was about to lose touch. And he made quite a few friends at the local wizarding primary school — the United States was littered with all sorts of public and private wizarding schools, some larger and some smaller. Some of the secondary schools were boarding schools, day schools, or a mix, but all of the primary schools were day schools, usually with one or two per state. Blaise had been looking forward to attending one of the secondary schools — there were so many options in the U.S., and the two he was particularly interested in attending when the time came were Vien Ile in New Orleans and Zora Neale Hurston Preparatory in New York, both of them being institutions steeped in the traditions of Black wizards in the United States. Since living in the U.S. he had started spending a lot of time learning Black wizard history, since they weren’t to start advanced magic lessons until age eleven, and he was behind on the U.S.-specific history, having previously lived in England. He also heard that there was some knock-off Hogwarts in Massachusetts that was where most of the expats sent their kids, but none of his new American friends wanted to go there, so neither did he. It all ended up being irrelevant though, because despite the fact that Husband Number Five had been surprisingly chill with Jeremy’s constant visits with Blaise (something to do with a convenient miscommunication that gave him the impression that Jeremy was the brother of Blaise’s birth father rather than Adriana’s ex-husband), Husband Number Five was still a berk who had cheated his sister out of her portion of their inheritance for marrying a Muggle. When he had a tragic accident and was hit by a lorry while crossing the street, unable to reach help in time and pronounced dead at the scene while she was in a PTA meeting with Blaise’s school — well what was she to do but pack their bags? She couldn’t bear to stay in the home that they had shared together, and so she gifted the luxurious mansion and a small portion of funds to his estranged sister, before she and Blaise packed up and prepared for him to attend her alma mater, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Hogwarts wasn’t what Blaise expected. His mother had tried to hype it up, but he missed all of his friends in the U.S. who were going to be learning all kinds of cool magic that included wandless spells, community magic through song and dance, and dream messaging. As Blaise laid down in his four post bed, alone in the gender neutral room he had been assigned and escorted to after the feast by a friendly prefect who explained that she also slept in the gender neutral housing, he closed his eyes and recounted to himself his first day at Hogwarts. It hadn’t been anything like what he thought he wanted. But was it the worst it could have been?
For one thing, when he had been in the U.S. everyone knew he was a boy and treated him as a boy, mostly because most of them didn’t know he used to live as a girl. But at Hogwarts, there were so many people who knew that it was only a matter of time before everyone in school who cared to would. It’s not like he had changed his name, or his face really, though he had much shorter hair now, and after pleading with his mum she agreed that he would be able to take potions to make his eventual puberty mimic that of someone who the healers had assigned male.
He wasn’t sure how much of it was that she was still uncomfortable with him being a boy, and how much was that she didn’t want him to have to go through all the trouble it took St. Mungo’s to prescribe the potion — apparently the recipe was a closely guarded secret, and to have it prescribed you had to undergo invasive tests by a mind healer who used Legilimency on you to make sure that you were absolutely certain — especially if you were underage. He found out later that his mum had to undergo the Legilimency too, which he thought was rather brave of her, with the four dead husbands and all. That was when he knew she loved him.
He had his potion now, but all the students would still know. Becky, Geoff, Draco, Celeste, Vince, Mandy, Greg, Josie, Pansy, Theo, and Daphne had all been in his school group when they were younger, and they would all remember him as her. He had been dreading it, and in some ways he was right to.
On the train he had found an empty compartment, and was prepared to sit alone for the entire trip, settling down to read Their Eyes Were Watching God. His friend Alex had given it to him before he left the U.S., saying that even if he couldn’t go to Zora and had to go to Scotland “under what are quite frankly dubious circumstances, but your mom scares the shit out of me, and I’ve met my mom,” he could at least have a copy of one of her books.
Before he could get very far, however, the compartment door opened, and in walked Daphne Greengrass, bursting in like she owned the place, as she was wont, bringing with her a girl that Blaise didn’t recognize but who looked at him with an air of apology. Blaise noted that Daphne’s naturally riotous curls had been relaxed, and now fell in a long curtain down her back, held back from her face by a neat green and silver headband.
“I see you’ve already chosen your house, Daph,” Blaise smiled.
“You know I wouldn’t go anywhere but Slytherin,” Daphne sniffed. “How could I? Blaise, this is my best friend, Tracey Davis. Tracey, this is my best friend, Blaise Zabini. The two of you will get along,” Daphne promptly threw herself onto Blaise’s lap, giving him a firm hug and a kiss on the cheek, before sitting next to him.
Tracey sat opposite them, still looking a bit awkward. Blaise wondered a bit what Daphne saw in her, but he often wondered what Daphne saw in him. Daphne tended to be beyond explanation, so that was a bit of an exercise in futility, if he was being honest. Daphne always got what she wanted, and she did that by making sure what you wanted was what she wanted. Daphne was everyone’s friend, and it was pretty much impossible to say no to her once she laid out a plan. Blaise wasn’t like that. Sure he was just as ambitious as Daphne, he too thought Slytherin was the house for him, but he didn’t care about world domination, which he was pretty sure was Daphne’s endgame. Well, perhaps she would stop at Minister for Magic, but he honestly wouldn’t be surprised if she was angling for the former.
“So,” Blaise cleared his throat, hating how high his voice was still. “How did you two meet?”
“Ah, yes!” Daphne closed the book she had been reading, which Blaise belatedly realized was his as she had swiped it when he wasn’t paying attention. “Tell him the dashing tale Trace.”
“It wasn’t really dashing —”
“Tracey saved my life.”
Tracey rolled her eyes. “I pulled Pansy Parkinson off her and punched the bitch in the face when they got into a brawl after Pansy said some racist shit and Daphne slapped her.”
“She deserved it,” Daphne sniffed.
Blaise might just have reevaluated his opinion of Tracey as being mousy. “What did she say?”
“Some bollocks about how it was a shame my mother hadn’t taken me with her when she and my father divorced so that Astoria could inherit the estate, since she’s a ‘proper pureblood.’ Nevermind that Astoria’s a twit who never pays attention to lessons and is obsessed with Muggle culture, just because she and my stepmother are white that makes them better. Hmph. Not that there’s anything wrong with Muggles, mind, but it’s not exactly the proper pureblood thing that Pansy and Draco are on about, is it?”
Great, Daphne was in a mood now. Blaise and Tracey’s eyes met, as if they had that exact thought together, and he had a hope things might not be that bad after all.
A little while later Mandy and Celeste came into the compartment, together as they always were. Mandy and Celeste were cousins, but many mistook them for sisters, as they were nearly inseparable. They had been part of the same lessons group as Blaise and Daphne, though he wondered if they had met Tracey yet. “Do you mind if we sit? Most other places are full.” Celeste asked. Tracey looked up from her knitting and nodded.
“Go right ahead,” said Blaise, trying to hide the nerves in his voice. Daphne, who was taking up two and a half seats by using Blaise’s lap as a pillow while lying across the other two, simply gave a thumbs up.
“So, you’re a boy now?” Mandy asked curiously, as they sat down.
“Mandy, you can’t just ask that!” Celeste hissed.
“Um, yeah,” Blaise said nervously.
“Is that a problem?” Daphne snapped, glaring at them.
“Daph,” Blaise said softly. He was already dreading how things would be for him here, he didn’t want to drag Daphne down with him. And he didn’t want her to always have to fight his battles.
“No! Not at all, I just wanted to make sure,” Mandy flushed. “It’s totally cool, right Cel?”
“Right!” Celeste nodded.
“Thanks guys,” Blaise smiled, and they smiled back.
“Hufflepuffs, I’m calling it now,” Daphne muttered with a wry grin.
Alas, not all of Blaise’s (earlier) childhood friends were as great to reconnect with. Draco, who was one person Blaise was particularly dreading seeing again, was surprisingly non-horrible. He wasn’t great, by any means. One memorable quote was “I hope that they don’t let a girl sleep in our dormitories, I’ll have to talk to my father about this, he’s on the board of governors.”
Pansy Parkinson was as unpleasant as ever, but thankfully she was too busy scowling at Daphne and Tracey to really interact with Blaise other than to sniff in agreement when Becky, who she was walking through the train with, said the opposite of what Draco said, almost to the letter. “I hope they don’t let a boy sleep in our dormitories, I’ll have to talk to my mother about this, she’s on the board of governors.”
This was just the beginning of one of the many lessons that Blaise was going to learn as he experienced life while out at school — there really was no way to win when it came to pleasing some people and their contradicting beliefs about him, at least not until they’d gotten more than a surface understanding.
Geoff and Josie, twins that Daphne had also deemed future Hufflepuffs, were also cheerful and glad to see Blaise again, untroubled by his transition. Geoff had never really seemed troubled by anything, and Blaise had often looked up to the other boy as he often thought that Geoff was the kind of boy he wanted to be. Josie, who he had remembered as being a bit of a wallflower and constantly picked on by Pansy and Becky, seemed to have grown much more confident, as she assured Blaise that she wouldn’t let anyone say anything bad about him around her. They settled into the compartment as well, and while it was tight, they did all manage to fit well enough once Daphne sat up.
Once they were moving, Daphne went to the door of the compartment, opened it, peered out either side, closed the door again, locked it, closed the shades, and announced: “I can’t be friends with any of you anymore,” in a prim tone that brooked no argument.
“Oh?” Mandy asked with a raised eyebrow, as Blaise’s heart froze. Was Daphne going to cut him off after all?
“Well, that’s not ominous at all,” Geoff scoffed, and part of Blaise’s heart loosened, as he realized this was probably just part of Daphne’s propensity for theatrics.
“Well, lets just think about it. It’s not a very Slytherin thing to do, is it? Have friends? Slytherins have like, associates and allies, and they network, and —”
“Oh this again,” Tracey sighed. “How do you know what Slytherins are like? You’ve never been to Hogwarts yet.”
“Look,” Daphne said. “The thing is, I’m not saying we can’t be friends. I’m saying we can’t be friends in public.”
“Why does everything have to be about politics, Daphne?” Geoff asked. “We’re eleven! I just want to make friends and go to school!”
“Well that’s nice for you! But you’re going to be in Hufflepuff! My whole family has been in Slytherin. I have to be in Slytherin! And if I’m in Slytherin I have to be strong and I have to think about my position and I need —” Daphne started to cry.
Blaise pulled her into a hug. He had been away for so long he forgot how worked up Daphne got sometimes. “You need friends more than ever, Daph.”
Daphne gets sorted into Slytherin, wearing a smirk, with no trace of the tears she shed on the train. Tracey is already there, and Mandy and Celeste do not wave from the Ravenclaw table — she was wrong about them being Hufflepuffs, but they are still her friends, in secret anyway. Geoff and Josie go to Hufflepuff, and they give encouraging smiles to Blaise, who is the last person to be sorted. As the hat lowers over his head, he is grateful that the hat covers his eyes. He can feel the hungry gazes of the entire school on him, many of the students scowling and grumbling as the hat takes a long time to sort him. He is half-listening to the hat ramble about his potential, half-listening to the growing resentment of the other students, the exasperation at how unfortunate it is that the last student to be sorted is a hatstall, won’t she?— won’t he?— won’t they?— get on with it already?
At last, the hat simply asks him — Hufflepuff or Slytherin. Faced with a choice, Blaise is paralyzed.
He thought of Geoff and Josie, who he hadn’t seen in a long time, but who had accepted him with open arms once he saw them again. In Hufflepuff, he sensed that he would be accepted and loved. He would grow and learn with those who are loyal to him. In Slytherin though, he would be with Daph, his best friend, who for most of his life had been his rock. She could be brash, she was full of so much love, and she had so much pain. She needed a friend. And he needed a friend, and he knew that in Slytherin they would push each other to their limits and their potential and reach higher heights than they would apart. But which to choose? Comfort and stability? Power and love? Before he had really made the choice, the hat called out