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Vraiment by LadyRedRoka

Format: Novel
Chapters: 10
Word Count: 31,349
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, General
Characters: Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Draco/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 10/17/2008
Last Chapter: 12/20/2008
Last Updated: 12/20/2008

Summary:


Banner created by piper_weasley!!  Seda Zabini is surrounded by the perfect people. Her best friends Scorpius, Malachy Nott, and Monalisa Greengrass would do anything for her. But in sixth year the Dream Team is split up for a transfiguration project, and Seda is stuck with a bunch of famous Gryffindors. Seda has a tough exterior and has great reason to be the way she is...but can one Gryffindor break down her barrier? Perhaps someone like...Albus Potter? 1000+ reads


Chapter 1: Lovely News
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Just a fun Author's Note. So I personally am not a very emotional person, I guess I'm detatched in a way, or perhaps an ostritch, either of which makes it sort of difficult for me to convey emotions in other people, in my writing. What often ends up happening is I skirt over and only scratch skin deep (ok that sounded repulsive). This story is a sort of excercise of mine to get as personal with the main character as possible and describe her feelings. So if you all could let me know how I'm doing with that, that would be splendid. :)



Note: Seda is pronounced "Zay-Dah".



Seda sighed as she let the last bit of concentrated thought slip out of her mind. She stared out of the window, hand on her palm, lost in a blank daydream. Focus had always been her strong point, but she was too tired to try to concentrate now.

"Well, I wish I was as cheerful as you."

A voice and a body thudding onto the bench next to her shook Seda out of her stupor. She blinked and shook her head.

"Hey, guys."

"Have you finished Philburt's essay?" Scorpius asked.

"Yes, it's due in ten minutes," replied Seda. She dug the scroll out of her bag and threw it across the table at the blond boy.

"Oh, man," said Malachy, glancing over Scorpius's shoulder. "It actually makes sense. He'll know you didn't write it, Scorp."  Malachy was a gray-eyed, sallow-skinned boy with long black hair and who was so tall he found moved rather clumsily.

"You mean like you wrote your last Charms essay?" Scorpius retorted calmly.

"Both of you are equally hopeless, don't bother trying to make yourselves feel better," Monalisa smirked. She pushed her brown bangs out of her pale eyes.

"Oh look, I'm crying," sneered Malachy.

"That's embarrassing," said another voice.

The five Slytherins looked over sharply at a passing Gryffindor girl who had multicolored hair. She was petite but not unattractive.

"Shut it, Jamin," snapped Seda. "We're five to one."

"True," said Jamin, "It's not fair to you."

"Skyla, I found that book," said Skyla Jamin's twin sister, Seanni. She glanced at Seda and the others. "Oh, dear...my IQ just dropped a hundred points."

"Wouldn't be unexpected from your brainlessness," said Malachy.

Seanni and Skyla pulled mock-sympathetic faces.

"Ooh, resorting to made-up words..." sighed Skyla.

"Let's go refreshen our vocabulary," said Seanni. With that the Jamin sisters disappeared behind the shelves.

Seda glowered at them, anger flooding through her. She turned sharply on Malachy. "Brainlessness? You're the dimwit, you brainless epiphany of bum fluff!"

She and Malachy glared at each other for a moment. Suddenly all five friends dissolved into hysterical laughter. They slumped over the table, unable to breathe, tears of laughter falling on the books.

"B-brainless epiph-iphany of bum fluff...Ha!" Monalisa was laughing so hard she could barely get the words out. When she did, they doubled over with renewed sobs of laughter as the hilarity hit them all over again.

It took them ages to calm down.

"Ah," sighed Seda, wiping tears from her eyes. A few last giggles escaped. She rubbed her face. "Man, my face hurts."

"Yeah, it hurts my eyes," said Scorpius, retorting by default.

And as they left for Charms, everything turned back to normal.

*****~*~*~***

"Gryffindor doesn't stand a chance in this game," Tommy Morphus, the Quidditch captain, assured his team.

"Yeah, as long as Zabini keeps her head in the game," said the enormous beater, Marvin York.

"You want to go, York?" Seda yelled immediately.

Seda was the only girl - first girl in over a decade - on the Slytherin Quidditch team. She was the golden weapon and with her they beat every single team four years in a row (until Gryffindor figured out they had a better Seeker). In fact, national Quidditch teams from across the United Kingdom were almost fighting to recruit the mere sixteen-year-old. Already she was named No. 1 Chaser in the country, with a whole article in a magazine. Seda wasn't particularly striking physically as an athlete, but she was an incredible flier and was not afraid to knock every single burly boy on her team off his feet.

"Shut up, York," said the other beater, Lachlan Hardy who was rather on the heavy side. "Zabini's a million times a better player than you."

"Holy Merlin!" cried York. "I wasn' havin' a go at her or nothin'! Damn! I'm just sayin'!"

"Yeah, Zabini can fly without a damned head at all better than you can with ten on your neck," said their Seeker, Kevin Lang.

"Hey," said Morphus, stepping in just in time and perhaps saving Lang's life. "Lang, don't lose your head. You'll need all of it if you want to catch the snitch before Potter."

"Why is everyone's head getting insulted?" Seda asked, laughing at the argument.

The guys laughed as the Quidditch prodigy suddenly stripped off her gear and ran back to the castle, having remembered a Dark Arts essay. Yes, Seda Zabini was perhaps the cleverest, most talented, and most determined student of the century, according to Witch Weekly.

The only problem was, she was a Slytherin.

*

Slytherin flattened Gryffindor. Although Lily Potter got the Snitch, Seda managed to shoot eighteen of the twenty goals Slytherin scored. The party in the dungeons was mayhem and confusion but pure bliss.

As you could imagine, this did not help the emnity between the Houses. In fact, everybody was rather cold towards Slytherin, either insisting it was unfair to have Zabini on the team or spreading rumors that she took potions. Physical and magical skirmishes became an epidemic between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Seda was impervious to gossip or insults or even jinxes thrown in her face: nothing could go wrong for her now.

But oh it did.

&&

It was bad enough having to sit through a Transfiguration with Gryffindor.

"Professor," said Skyla Jamin, "You forgot to give us our next assignment."

Seda glanced at her and saw Albus Potter nudge Jamin in the arm, looking annoyed. She looked at Monalisa behind her, who was glaring at Jamin.

"Oh, right," said Professor Philburt blankly. "Now, this is going to be a partnered project. What you will do is select a group of elemental transfiguration spells and describle them. You must create a visual presentation and display it to the class. Due in two Fridays from now."

Seda felt a poke on her arm. She nodded at Monalisa. They were almost always partners.

"Can we choose partners?" Rose Weasley asked.

"No, actually," said Philburt. "I have already grouped you all, I assure randomly. When I call your name please rearrange your seat so you are in your group. Group one: Miss Greengrass, Mr Nott, Miss Donovan, Mr. Malfoy."

Seda felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. She and Monalisa gazed at each other, horrified. Why was she the only Slytherin left hanging, abandoned like a mudblood?

"Group two: Miss Jamin, Mr. Lee, Mr. Thomas, and Miss Longbottom."

Seda slapped a hand to her forehead and groaned, bracing herself for the blow.

"Group three: Miss Jamin, Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley, Miss Zabini."

Seda sat still in her seat for a moment, face completely buried in her hands. Slowly her body fell forwards and she slumped into the desk silently, feeling as condemned and doomed as if she had been sent to join the Muggles. The room erupted around her, chairs screaming against the floor. Soon she felt gentle fingers trying to lift up her head.

"They're no happier than you are, if that's any help," said Monalisa's voice.

"They're three to one," Seda mumbled pathetically into her sleeve.

"So," said Monalisa bracingly, "Show 'em what you've got. Prove to them that they're the...brainless epiphanies of bum fluff. Eh?" She shook her friend, trying to get a response.

"Hey, Zabini."

Seda lifted her head and stood to face Albus Potter.

"Let's just act civil and do the assignment," he said stifly. "We don't have to get along to do this."

An ugly expression came over Seda's pretty visage. "Fine. But if I get less the 'O' on this assignment, I'ma be your worst nightmare."

"Your face kind of already is," snapped Potter. "Just meet us in the library after dinner tomorrow so we can get started and done as soon as possible."

Without her answer, Potter hiked his bag onto his shoulder and left. Incesed, Seda threw her books into her bag.

"Hey," said Monalisa rather timidly, "It'll be...okay. You'll make it. Well...maybe."

"I don't even care," she snorted shortly. "But if they cross me...damn them."

"Right," said Monalisa firmly. "There's no getting out of it so just take charge of it."

Seda took a steadying breath. She flung her books onto her back. She hesitated at the doorway, as if about to enter her death sentence. Monalisa looked at her friend to find her face very expressionless, and without a word Seda left for lunch.




What ya think? :)

Chapter 2: Radical Rows
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.

"And why don't you want to go out?" Scorpius put his arm around Seda's shoulders as they walked into the Great Hall.

"I don't care about having a relationship right now," Seda explained. "Just chill out, Scorp."

"It's because she already has a date with Potter," Malachy teased.

"Shut it, you," Seda snapped aggressively.

Monalisa and Scorpius laughed as they sat down at the table.

After dinner the four friends left Zabini and headed down to the common room. For a few minutes she dawdled in the corridor, trying to put off entering the Library until the last possible moment. Just as she was about to chicken out, the red-haired Rose Weasley appeared at the entrance.

"We're not going to eat you," she said shortly. Without a word she turned and re-entered the room. Seda set her jaw and followed Weasley to a table where the others sat, books not yet out.

"So what's the question?" Albus Potter asked, not making any sign that Seda existed.

"It's not a question," said Skyla Jamin. "But I forgot what Philburt said. What was it, Rose?"

Rose took an age flipping through her notebook. Seda rolled her eyes and sighed.

"We select a group of elemental transfiguration spells and describe them. We must create a visual presentation and display it to the class. Due on the twenty- second."

Forced to acknowledge her presence, the Gryffindors looked at her.

"Elemental Transfiguration is kind of an oxymoron, you can't do it," said Albus.

"Are you really that stupid?" Seda snapped. "There are plenty of spells that can be used through the loop holes in Gamp's Law. There's always an exception. We've only been working on this unit for the past month, Potter."

"I'm not so dumb that I'm in Advanced Transfiguration for no reason," said Albus, getting to his feet and standing close her.

"Then we're on the same page," Seda snarled. "Since we're all in Advanced, you should figure out the exceptions to the elements!"

"Or maybe since you are in Advanced, you should try to comprehend that there is no possible exception to the Law!" said Albus, his voice rising.

"Oh please, don't act all pro-Totalitarian," Seda sneered, anger flooding. "You people don't even know how to take a law that's good for us!"

"What's that supposed to mean, 'you people'?" said Albus harshly. "And what are you implying with some stupid law?"

"Means you bleeding heart Muggle-lovers don't know what's best for our people," Seda snapped, taking a step closer and staring Albus in the green eyes.

"Oh, you think wizards should own Muggles?" said Albus incredulously. "They're human too!"

"Wizard supremacy would be so much more effective," Seda hissed. "Your father's a noble idiot."

"Your people are twisted and sick, my father was the only one with his damned head screwed on," said Albus, who felt shaken and offended.

"It's for the greater good!" They both yelled in each others' faces.

There was a stunned silence. Seda and Albus were so close their eyes appeared blurred. Someone coughed. The two drew away from each other and looked around: they had attracted a small audience, including the impossibly old Madam Pince. Rose and Skyla sat there, half awkward, half furious at the Slytherin girl.

Rose jumped up and slipped between them before they could continue the row.

"Let's not talk about politics," she said calmly. "Let's focus on the assignment. Let's try to get along for just a little while and calm down, shall we?" The meaning of her words took an epic age to settle in the proud feud.

Seda shook her head as if to throw off a fly. She quietly swallowed her pride. "You're right, Weasley. I suppose we have to work together if we want to pass."

Almost painfully, Albus attempted a smile. "We won't just pass...we'll get an 'O'."

*

"Zabini!"

Seda and Monalisa turned to see Rose Weasley hurrying to catch up with them.

"Weasley?" said Seda coldly, eyebrows raised.

"Just wanted to let you know," said Rose, ignoring the icy indifference, "We checked out all the related books. We're meeting again third period, Gryffindor and Slytherin both have Free Study then."

"I have a Quidditch practice third period," said Seda blankly.

Rose seemed to deflate on queue. She slouched, her bag strap falling down her shoulder, giving Seda a look of weak disbelief and annoyance. "Quidditch practice," she repeated.

"Yes, Quidditch, you've heard of it, haven't you?" said Seda with a very arrogant air. "You could do with some practice, Weasley."

Rose took a calming breath. "Look, I've resolved to be a pacifist from now on, so I'm not going to pick a fight with you, Zabini. Us three are busy tonight."

"What'll we be doing?"

"No, I mean, Al, me, and Skyla," said Rose.

"I suppose you meet with your cult and perform some sort of weird ritual?"

"I thought that was your peoples' job," said Rose cooly.

Immediately, Monalisa let out a furious shriek. "You dispicable flobberworm! Take that back!" She shoved her wand in Rose's face angrily.

And Rose smiled. "Are we duelling or stabbing each others' eyes out? If it's the latter, I've got..." she rummaged through her pockets, revealing several long and bright instruments. "Although I'm not fussed where I stab this...."

"Oh, cool, thats the Weasley jokeshop stuff," said Seda brightly.

"Yeah, I've got loads of stuff for free, want anything?" said Rose, who smiled.

Monalisa's wand hand dropped to her side. Her mouth fell open and she stared between the girls. It was an oddly tense moment. The feelings of mutual hatred had momentarily fallen away, leaving two normal teenage girls talking innocently about material items. Yet both Seda and Rose had never felt so frightened and disarmed than at that moment.

"Well, I've got herbology," Rose said at last.

"Oh, right," said Seda, "I've got class....Too bad you don't have that." She smirked.

Rose forced herself not to smile. "On the contrary, I have class right now." With that she turned on her heel and hurried out of the entrance hall.

Avoiding Monalisa's gaze, Seda led the way to Potions.

"You two agreed on something," said Monalisa almost disgustedly. "Didn't you hear what she said?!"

"Oh, Mona, it was the same old family-attack crap that we've been rallying for five years," said Seda impatiently. "It's getting old. I'm not saying I enjoyed that concurrence, but...."

"Well, if it's a new insulting ground you want, we can work on it," Monalisa offered.

Seda raised an eyebrow. "I've got enough to work on at the moment."

&*~*~

"You're skiving Quidditch practice for a bunch of Gryffindors?"

Seda looked at Scorpius, Monalisa and Malachy firmly. "It's not the apocalypse, guys. Look, Tommy said I deserve a break anyway. Our next game isn't until December, and frankly, I'm exhausted."

Scorpius narrowed his eyes at her. Arms folded, he leaned closer, as if interrogating in a courtroom. "You wouldn't miss Quidditch practice if you getting your spleen removed that day would save your life."

Monalisa and Malachy, who were sitting on either side of him, looked at him with mingled expressions of humor and exhasperation on their faces.

Seda supressed a snigger. "Yes, but fortunately all my inner organs are functioning properly and nothing needs to be removed. Nice try at an analogy, Scorp. I'll be back, don't worry, I'll be fine."

With that she left her friends on the black leather couch and left the dungeons. She had almost reached the library when she spotted a small group of people. There seemed to have been a slight commotion.

"What's up?" she said, approaching the group. She stopped as they glanced at her: every one of them was a Potter or a Weasley. But Seda was a rather nosey person and, though keeping her distance, stood with her arms folded and quietly watched what was happening from afar.

"Who did it to you, Oni?" Lily Potter was saying to Onyx Longbottom.

"What really happened, Oni?" asked Albus.

Onyx Longbottom was a small, mousy girl that was famous for being rather...out there. "Someone was bullying Otto...and I tried to make them stop, but they just turned on me."

"Who?" asked Rose calmly.

"I don't know," squeaked Onyx, "Some massive Slytherin."

Seda froze. As one the Potter-Weasleys rounded on her, and she stood, trapped in their antagonizing glares.

"I don't know anything about this," Seda stuttered, half putting up her hands defensively.

"Who's a massive Slytherin?" asked Albus.

Seda hesitated. She had no reason to help these enemies, and it was just a trivial Stunner jinx anyway. But the way the families had immediately come to the defense of one of them struck her in a way nothing had before. She knew that her duty was to defend her own House and never rat out her mates; however, Slytherins, though unknowingly so, were not loyal people in their nature. Seda teetered over the edge of a name that first came to mind.

"Well," she said a little awkward, feeling angry at herself for appearing so powerless, "I can't know for sure who threw a little jinx at the kid. But...a big guy is York."

"On the Quidditch team?" said Albus slowly.

"Yeah...But York is all talk, no act. I mean...he's not a mean guy." Seda drew her folded arms tighter across her chest as if trying to hold herself in.

Rose Weasley sighed. "Revenge is pointless, guys. You and Otto just stay out of trouble, okay?" she said to Onyx, who nodded feebly.

"Let's get to work," said Rose to Seda.

***********

Seda surreptitiously watched Albus run his finger down a list of Spell Creators, deep in concentration. Only three days working with the three Gryffindors, Seda was discovering they weren't so dim at all. In fact, she could almost admit to herself they were hard working, decent people.

Not that she liked them, don't get it wrong. They were still quite rude to her and vice versa, there was still hostility in every exchange of words, and Seda's contempt towards them was as normal as ever.

"How should we make the visual?" mused Skyla, her head lolling back, staring up at the ceiling.

"None of that matters. If it's pretty but the information is wrong, we fail." Seda rubbed her forehead, trying to supress the headache building. Finally resolving to admit it, she dug into her bag and withdrew her glasses.

"Yes, but should we make a graph or chart or something?" Skyla went on. Under cover of a new topic, Seda hid behind the cover of a book and slid them on.

"Oh the shame," said Albus dully, "You wear glasses."

Seda extended her arm across the table, placing her finger on the bridge of his glasses. Steadily she told him, "Say nothing, Potter."

"What?" said Albus, swiping her hand out of his face. "They look good, if it's an image ego problem you've got."

"I don't care about my looks," Seda snapped.

"No, that's just why you wear a gallon of make up a day," Albus muttered.

Seda scrutinized him coldly. "For your information, I already have naturally long eyelashes. Also, I prefer not to flaunt my glasses because, well, in my opinion they show weakness."

And as if Rose and Skyla were not there, a sudden smile split across Albus' face. He leaned back in his chair lazily, resting his arm up on the back of it, watching her. "But this is fascinating, Zabini. Is it because people who wear glasses seem to succeed only with them on or because they show that you require assistance in your life?"

Seda raised an eyebrow. "I don't need them for Quidditch or normal work, obviously I can succeed without them."

"Ah, so it's the latter. Stubbornly independent and arrogant, I see. Is that a quality you praise in yourself?" His mouth twitched as he refrained from laughing.

"It's none of your business, Potter," said Seda bitterly. "What's your problem, anyway?"

"Me, I don't have a problem. I am more indifferent to wearing glasses than I am to my History class. Well, I guess I must admit, sometimes I feel so insecure I feel the need to hide behind an upside-down book."

Seda set her jaw and glared at him. "I am not insecure!"

"Oh, I forgot, you're perfect and you know it," said Albus lightly, as if he wished to wound.

Seda slammed the book closed fiercely. "I'm already a widely-known student and world-wide Quidditch player, Potter, without a famous father behind me. I don't know you, I don't trust you, I barely trust anybody and-"

"Oh, you've just got to have control, don't you!" said Albus calmly. "Whenever one tiny thing doesn't go your way-"

Seda jumped up and slammed the table, her last nerve finally struck. "YOU DON'T KNOW ME, POTTER!" With that she picked up the nearest book and threw it at him; he flattened his face against the tabletop just in time. Supressing a scream, she whealed around and stormed out of the library.

Albus, Rose and Skyla sat in awkward silence, trying to avoid each others' gaze. After a few minutes Rose went up to pick up the assaulted book.

"She forgot her bag."

"Let's defenestrate it," said Skyla enthusiastically.

Rose gave her a look. "I'm going to give it back to her."

"Maybe she's got a diary in there," said Albus suddenly.

The girls looked scandalized and personally insulted.

"How dare you, Albus Severus Potter!" said Rose shrilly.

"She's Seda Zabini, do you know the stuff we could get?!"

"You venomous tentacula!" said Skyla.

"She's just a Slytherin," snapped Albus.

"It doesn't matter what she is, she's a girl and should be respected like any other," Rose snapped back. "I'm going to return her bag before someone tries to rob it." She threw a dark lok at her cousin and left him and Skyla, who also looked angrily at him.

Rose was coming up to a row of shelves when she heard furious whispers issuing from behind it. The voices definitely belonged to Seda and Scorpius Malfoy. She hesitated, then quietly set the bag down at the end of the row and returned to her table.










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Chapter 3: Saving the Stubborn
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So i know i kind of started the story a bit rough...but i think i've rounded it out nicely so i hope you enjoy it :))




The next several days passed without another row. The four students communicated formally and politely, however forced, and soon they were going to be starting on their presentation, having completed the information part.

Seda was beginning to feel that she was having a tough spot in her life. Her friends, of course, were as great as ever, but there was a mutual understanding that they were disappointed and offended at how much time Seda was spending with stinking Gryffindors. She was no where near being friends with Albus or Rose or Skyla; the last argument had put them all further back. She did not want to be friends with them, but she felt so alone when she was with them and craved company. Possibly the thing that hurt her most was that she was the only one they referred to with a surname.

Seda had never felt so abandoned and alone.

And so, Seda turned to the things that could always keep her company: work and Quidditch.

One Wednsday evening, Seda was sitting at a table in the common room, her nose buried in a book, taking outlines. She was startled when Scorpius appeared out of nowhere and shoved the book off the table and onto the floor.

"What's your problem?" said Seda impatiently.

"You need to stop working, Seda," said Scorpius firmly.

"Scorp," said Seda, a little frantically, "I'm behind in my outlines of Potions!"

"You really think you can get away with lying to me?" Scorpius sounded hurt. He turned on the attack. "You're outlining chapter thirteen, we're on eleven right now."

Seda said nothing, stuck.

"Something's up with you but burying yourself under an impossible mountain isn't the way to deal with it, you ostrich," he said. His voice was not hard or critical: it was soft and sympathetic. He leaned across the table and put his white hand upon Seda's tanned one gently, giving it a squeeze.

Seda looked at him, slightly bewildered at his affection, but touched all the same.

"You're right, Scorp," Seda sighed after a moment. "I just...feel so alone right now."

"And distancing yourself is the way to fix it?" said Scorpius gently, holding her gaze steadily.

And suddenly, Seda knew what he was doing. She frowned at him. "You're trying to charm me so I'll go out with you. You're trying to be my knight in shining armor."

Scorpius' face was blank. He shrugged. "It was worth a try."

Seda laughed softly and shook her head. "Look, I think I'm going to, ah, take a walk. Think for a bit."

"Okay."

Scorpius watched her go bitterly.

**

On the other side of the secret stone door, Seda stood for several moments in the shady corridor. She had no clue where to go or what to do. She rarely wandered the castle at night, usually too busy for it or having fun in the common room, and the shadows and darkness made everything rather unrecognizeable.

"Well, there's no where to go but up," she thought to herself. Without further ado she headed up to the entrance hall. Seda couldn't have told you which way was where: the enormous entrance hall with the grand marble staircase feeding into it was completely dark.

"Shh!"

Seda heard a rustle and a whisper. She refrained from letting out a squeak and quickly hid in the shadow of a coat of armor.

"There's absolutely no one out tonight, man," whispered a voice.

Safe in her hiding place, Seda stared avidly, eyes as round as galleons. A wand tip illuminated and a small group of people stood closer than Seda had calculated.

"What's the temperature tonight?" asked a languid voice. Seda saw the shadow of his arms cracking his nuckles.

"It's cold, it's almost November," said a girl's voice. They were very familiar....

"What are our options?"

"We can go to Hogsmeade...we can wander the halls aimlessly...we could play Quidditch above the lake...."

"It's too cold for recreational flying," hissed a voice.

"Albus, I don't think I've got it down right," said a nervous voice.

Seda gasped and quickly slapped a hand over her mouth.

"I think she's ill, Al," said Rose Weasley.

"Transforming takes a lot of strength," said Albus steadily. "Lily, are you up for it tonight?"

"I've been doing it since third year, I'm fine," Lily snapped stubbornly.

Seda frowned and bit her lip, thinking seriously. Transforming? What on earth could they be talking about?

"Ready?" said Albus.

"I'm going down," said Rose. Seda squinted, trying to make out the wand in her hand. A moment later, however, she didn't have to squint for a blue light grew brighter, and open-mouthed Seda watched Rose Weasley turn from human to something with four legs.

"There's someone over there!" said Skyla sharply.

This time Seda couldn't help but let out a little squeak as a bright light swung and caught her bright and clear.

"Zabini!" gasped Albus and Skyla.

Seda's eyes were fixed on the large panther between them. She mouthed wordlessly, pointing.

"Animagus!" she spluttered.

Albus walked over to her purposefully. Before she knew it, Seda was being backed up against the stone wall, and Albus had her pinned fast with an arm to her chest, his other hand over her mouth, muffling her terrified squeals.

"You never saw this," he snarled.

Seda's eyes were large and terrifed under his suprising strength. She was strangely conscious of how tightly his body was pressed against hers, his racing heart competing with hers. Albus' eyes widened and he let her go. Seda gasped and fell forward helplessly; Albus caught her and pushed her up again.

"Sorry," he apologised. "I just need you to swear to me that you won't tell ANYONE. None of your little friends, no teachers...."

"No-I..." Seda shook her head. Suddenly she was fighting back. She shoved Albus in the chest and he stumbled back, and now he was taken aback at her sudden strength. "What is wrong with you?" she spat venomously. "How dare you treat me like that, Potter?"

"I just need you to swear," said Albus, putting his hands out and backing away.

They stood frozen, locked in each others' gaze. Albus' eyes were glinting more brightly and intriguingly than normal; Seda's dark brown eyes seemed rounder and kinder than their usual cold front. The fight slowly drained out of them both.

"Please," he said softly. "Seda, you can't tell anyone."

Seda blinked but did not look away. She swallowed. She could not explain, even to herself, the emotion she felt at the use of her first name.

"Al, a teacher's coming!"

"Oh great...." Seda's last visual memory was of him, his face looking into hers intently, before all light was extinguished and they were plunged in darkness.

A cold hand grasped Seda's and pulled her forward. Before she knew it she was running, almost sprinting with whoever was guiding her. For a split second she wondered how on earth they could see, and why the teacher couldn't hear their pounding footsteps.

"Al," gasped a voice, "What do we do?"

"Transform and hide," panted Albus. "I'll take care of Zabini."

And abruptly he stopped running. Seda collided into him painfully but she quickly regained her balance.

"Are we alone now?" she breathed, heart racing.

"No," Albus whispered. "They're still in the room. Oh, man...someone must've tipped Filch off tonight." A distant light flared down at the end of the corridor. The distinct hunched figure of the miserable caretaker was illuminated; but at the same time, so were they, and so off they went again.

"Stay close with me," said Albus. He took her hand again and ripped through a tapestry. Seda let out a little yelp and jumped just in time. With no time to figure her bearings, Seda was whipped away and stumbled blindly up a narrow staircase.

"What is this place?!" she cried, and her voice echoed a hundred times.

And below them, the snarling voice- "I hear you, you misfit twerps..."

"Shut up," Albus hissed and dragged Seda into some other unknown hallway. Again he took another secret passageway, into strange labyrinths of the school Seda hadn't even bothered to consider. They dashed across a wide corridor, Albus crashed through a door, and once they were both through it, he slammed it behind them.

Seda panted and gasped for her breath, doubled over, trying to regain a normal heartrate. Slowly the room around her began to become distinct: she could see shiny reflections.

"We-we're in the tro-trophy room?" she sighed, standing straight and facing Albus, who was still leaning against the door and breathing heavily.

"Lumos," Albus muttered hoarsley. A dim light illuminated. Seda blinked in the sudden light. She was suprised and insulted to see Albus grinning at her.

"What's so funny?" she frowned.

"You should've seen your face." Albus let out a laugh. "You were scared as hell. Oh, that was priceless."

Seda glared. She stepped towards him slowly. "Did you set that up?"

"N-no," Albus coughed. "'Course not. If that wasn't a set up I wouldn't have saved your ass."

Seda folded her arms and looked around, away, anywhere but at him. She was feeling sick to her stomach at her display of uselessness in an exciting situation.

"You were so calm," she said at last.

"Well, if you sneak out every night for five years," said Albus lazily, and he slowly leaned over to read a plaque, "You get kind of immune to the looming figure of Filch or other teachers."

"Hmm, I never thought goody Gryffindors would do that sort of tom foolery," smirked Seda.

"We prefer to refer to 'tom foolery' as 'trouble'," Albus smirked back, and he approached her.

Seda's mouth was slightly open. "You think you're so bad ass. Weasley pretending to be an animagus...that was a good one...."

Albus' eyes glinted for a moment. "Oh, right, you saw that...Of course it was a stunt. Let's go with that...."

It was his turn to look away uncomfortably. Seda narrowed her eyes at him. "I know it's true. I just can't believe it."

"Zabini," he said intensely, "You have to promise. Please, you really...you're in this now. I don't feel like obliviating you so...just...."

But Seda nodded. "I know. I...I promise. Now, how am I going to get back downstairs?"

"Out this way," Albus nodded at the door behind him.

"Right," said Seda, teeth clenched. "Well, excuse me." She took a step forward, trying to get past, but Albus side-stepped her. Seda refrained from cursing him out of the way.

"What's your problem?" she snarled suddenly, ultimately unable to get to the door.

"I can't let you go blundering along like a headless hippogriff, with Filch snooping around," said Albus sincerely. "Because admit it, you know the castle at night no better than you know yourself."

Seda stared at him, faintly aghast. "Fine," she snapped. "Take me downstairs."

Albus nodded and he sighed. "Of course."





Several weeks later, Slytherin and Gryffindor sat in Advanced Transfiguration, taking a test. Almost everybody was struggling in the class now: the only two who where on top of things were Seda and Rose Weasley, although Seda wasn't as willing as Rose to help others. Now Seda shakily finished the essay question. One by one the class stood up to turn the paper in to Professor Philburt.

"I hate theory," Scorpius muttered as he slipped back to his seat next to Seda.

Seda said nothing, for she preferred theory to practical.

"No talking," announced Philburt.

Ten minutes later everyone had completed the test. Philburt stood, resting on his desk, almost staring the students down.

"Well, I've finished grading your projects," he said at last.

Seda raised her eyebrows and sat forward in her seat.

Professor Philburt glanced at the clock. "We only have six minutes left, so it will be faster if you get into your old groups."

Seda's lips tightened and she got to her feet. She made her way over to Albus, Rose and Skyla, feeling slightly nervous. They had not spoken since they presented the project, not even exchanged glances.

"We did fine," said Skyla bracingly.

Philburt now went among the groups, giving them a small piece of parchment with the grades and comments. Rose picked up their paper. She took a breath and unfolded it.

"Ninety-eight per cent," she read out. She looked up at them, her brown eyes thoughtful. "It's still an 'O'."

"What did he say?" asked Seda, leaning closer to read the comments.

"We messed up Air and the guy Atilla Nagy," said Rose. "He didn't come up with these two, we grouped them incorrectly."

"Ah," sighed Albus, putting a hand to his forehead. "Of course."

"Hang on." Seda took the paper from Rose and read it carefully. She pictured their Air segment on the poster. "No, we theoretically grouped them correctly. I remember, we weren't really clear on that section, he could easily have been confused."

"But-" began Skyla.

"We presented it correctly," Seda snapped. "I know we did. Let me talk to him."

"Oh- Zabini," groaned Skyla.

"It's a ninety-eight, let it go," Rose advised.

"We are two points from a hundred," said Seda clearly. "Look, let me prove Philburt wrong." Without their answer, she went up to their poster which sat on a precarious display with the others.

"Professor," she called.

Professor Philburt sighed impatiently. He slouched over to her irritably.

"Yes, Miss Zabini?"

"We theoretically grouped these correctly," said Seda firmly, pointing. "You misread it. See, these two were created by Atilla Nagy."

Philburt squinted at it. He now saw that she was right. He hesitated; he didn't give out one hundreds very often, in fact he seldom did. He tried to push his students as much as possible. But this proved that this group had no errors.

"Oh, fine," he sighed, "I guess you're right, Miss Zabini. I'll add two points."

Seda smiled smugly. "Thank you, Professor." She threw her hair over her shoulder and returned to the Gryffindors, gloating. "You can change that to a hundred per cent."

"Nice working with you, Zabini," grinned Albus.

**

"How do you do it?" sighed Malachy.

"Do what?" said Seda vaguely as she carefully checked over her assignments.

"Finish all your work, have Quidditch practice, and have time to do other stuff."

"I just have time management," said Seda calmly. She shut her books and began to put them into her bag. "I grew up on an intense schedule, learned how to control my time."

"You had a childhoold, Seda?" said Monalisa, sounding rather suprised.

Seda threw her a glare.

"Seriously," said Monalisa defensively, "You've been this way since first year. Is Mr Zabini strict?"

Seda shrugged. "I don't know. I was raised by a series of nannies. One taught me magic, one taught me language, one taught me mathematics, several taught me Quidditch."

"Blimey," said Malachy, shaking his head. His hair flopped as usual.

Seda yawned widely, hit by a stroke of fatigue. "I think I'll go up to the dormitories now. See you later Mona."

"'Night," Malachy replied.

She stood and picked up her bag. She was happy to find the dim dormitory empty. Seda exhaled deeply and flopped onto her cast iron-framed bed and lay on the green blankets for several minutes. Slowly with a groan she committed herself to extracting a book and opening it.

The book was called Transformatorum, Volume III. Seda carefully found her marked spot and continued to read through her tiredness. Stubborn and determined, she vowed to figure out how those Gryffindors were able to achieve the process, which was quite complex.

She frowned at the paragraph she was reading:

Before one decides to attempt a transformation for the first time, he should be familiar with human anatomy or his personal build. It is not required, but highly recommended by professional trainers.

Seda raised an eyebrow at the text. She decided to follow the safe side and got up from the bed and headed into the adjoined bathroom. She turned on the light and approached the mirror. For a moment she stood before the streaked glass, looking blankly at her reflection. She did not understand what inspecting her looks had to do with the transformation. Now she leaned closer, hands supporting on the counter.

Seda took herself in objectively. She saw immediately, as did everyone else, her Oriental features: her long dark eyes, identical to her father's, above her high cheekbones and diamond-shaped face. Her lips were gentle and curved. Her skin was brown, her hair jet black. The only Caucasian feature about her was her nose, which was straight and lightly freckled. She had obviously inherited it from her mother, but Seda did not remember the woman.

She hesitated, then left the bathroom and knelt before her trunk. She flung it open and rummaged through it for a few minutes, her slightly shaking hands shifting neat piles of clothes and books until she found a flimsy little booklet. She pulled it up close and flipped open the soft pages.

Seda looked at her mother waving at her. The woman's first name was Janine, she had been wife number two, and that was all Seda knew about her. Now she studied the figure closely: she had a kind, heart-shaped face and brownish hair. Seda saw that her eyes were a soft brown color. Seda could see now the nose, and with a small shock realized they had the same smile. She wasn't very interesting-looking, she wasn't gorgeous, but the picture in which Blaise had his hand in hers depicted an honest and deep relationship.

Seda had several half-siblings at Hogwarts, most of whom didn't look quite so much like Blaise as she did. Seda rarely spoke to them, barely even knew them. All of their mothers, however, were still alive.

She sighed and put the booklet away, refusing to succumb to any emotion. She slowly closed the lid of her trunk then crawled back into her bed and continued to read.




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Chapter 4: Strange Beginnings
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Seda took calming breaths and went over the directions repeatedly in her head. She tried vainly to appear calm and collected as she strolled over to the section of the library where she knew the Gryffindors would be.

"Hey," she hissed.

Albus, Rose and Benjamin Thomas looked over at her, distracted from their work.

"I want to show you something." Seda's voice trembled from excitement and nervousness.

The three Gryffindors glanced at each other, then got to their feet and walked over to Seda.

"What's up?" asked Rose uncertainly. They hadn't spoken for at least three weeks.

"I think I've got it," she replied enthusiastically. "Watch." Seda drew her wand and took a deep breath. Albus seemed to realize what she was going to do and tried to stop her, but he was too late- the wand was directed at her own chest and the spell was issuing from her mouth.

For a moment nothing happened. Seda beamed at the other three, who were staring at her with their mouths open as if she had announced she was a mudblood.

Then an incredible burning pain erupted in the pit of her stomach. Her intenstines seemed to be twisting themselves into a knot; her esophagus seemed to be wrapping around her heart and lungs, which were constricted. Soon her head came to know a splitting head pain. Seda's pain engulfed her fear and she fell to the ground helplessly, writhing.

Albus, Rose and Benjamin ran forward without thinking. Recalling the health classes he, James and Lily had been forced to take, Albus flung himself down on the ground beside her. All of them were in a blaze of terror. Albus straddled her and began to pump her chest; her breathing was becoming more and more difficult.

"What's the counter-curse?!" he screamed at Rose, who sent books and parchment flying as she frantically dug through her bag for the answer.

Suddenly Seda stopped moving; her eyes closed and her body became limp. Desperate, Albus put his mouth down to hers and tried to revive her.

"What the HELL are you doing?!"

Albus rolled off Seda and there stood Scorpius Malfoy, Malachy Nott and Monalisa Greengrass, their wands out with mingled expressions of fury and fear on their faces as they bore down upon the Gryffindors.




*****




Seda felt groggy and dizzy. Her head was aching. With a slight groan she put a hand to her forehead and slowly she came to. Opening her eyes with difficulty, she saw bright light streaming in through a window, which reflected off her white bedsheets. She closed her eyes quickly again, shielding them from the blinding light.

"Hey," said a voice.

Seda slumped back into her pillows and kept her eyes closed. "Scorp," she sighed.

"I'm not Malfoy."

Seda swallowed and supressed the sick feeling inside. She turned her head and tried to focus on the male figure who sat in a chair next to her bed. He was spinning his wand in his fingers, his feet propped up on her bedframe.

"Potter?" Seda mumbled, puzzled.

"For someone so smart you acted pretty stupid," said Albus shortly. "No, sorry, amazingly stupid. Why don't you just try to take off your head safely, I've heard it's a lot of fun."

"I almost had it," she said weakly.

"Ha," snorted Albus. He picked up a heavy book and threw it on top of her legs. Seda winced slightly. "Two things. First, Transformatorum is a crappy series, never trust it. Secondly, you went straight to volume three. Transformatorum covers the whole transformation process in three books. You skipped two essential books, about eighteen chapters on how to do it."

Seda blinked and frowned at him, struggling to focus. "How is it so easy for you?"

Albus closed his eyes and put his head in his hand. After a few minutes he looked back up, and Seda could see he was trying not to laugh. "Easy...James and Jimmy Sawyer worked since third year. They only managed it in sixth. I helped them, but they mostly helped me. It's called years of research and perfection. See, that's what I don't understand. You're such a perfectionist, you like theory and patterns and need everything to be in its place. Then you just went and dove into the final steps of the process and tried to do it in two weeks. You know-"

"Oh, shut up," said Seda. She sat up and leaned against the headboard. She still felt quite weak. "What happened to me?"

"Er, your insides tried to conform to whatever animal you change into by default, but your main frame- your body, your muscles and your bones- didn't change. That's the simplified version of what happened. If you want a detailed, scientific explanation, I can tell you...It's nice and gory...."

"No, I'm good," said Seda quickly. "So, er, what are you doing here anyway?"

"I wanted to tell you off for your stupidity. I guess I've done that, so I'll go now." He stretched and got to his feet. He looked down at her; he looked curiously into her eyes, which were aloof and hurt. He shook his head piteously and turned to leave.

"Why?" Seda blurted out.

Albus turned slowly. He put his hands in her pockets and looked back at her. "Why what?"

"Why do you always...save me?" Seda asked quietly.

Albus stared at her. Then he shrugged. "It's nothing. If someone's in trouble, I automatically help them. I guess I inherited it." He paused. "The last troubles you've been in were my fault. I couldn't leave you to...suffer, I guess."

Seda blinked again. Albus nodded curtly and made his way to the door again. Seda bit her lip, trying to refrain from calling him back.

"W-wait," she said at the last moment.

Albus froze, but did not turn; he stood staring at the door.

"Have my friends been up here?"

"Yeah," was his muffled reply. Then he opened the door and disappeared through it.

***

"So Potter -didn't- attack you?" said Scorpius quietly.

"Nope," said Seda. Her strength had more or less returned, but her stomach still hurt at times.

"Then what happened? I can't understand it, Seda."

Seda sighed. It had been difficult enough trying to worm a story for Madam Pomfrey. Thankfully, Seda was momentarily impeded from answering as the infirmary door opened.

It was Albus Potter. A strange feeling appeared for a minute in Seda's stomach- she passed it off as one of her pains. Albus seemed not to notice the Slytherins and crossed the room, striding purposefully past the beds. Seda glanced at Scorpius, whose hand was in his pocket warily. Finally Albus made it to the nurse's office and sidled inside.

"How come he gets to go back there?" demanded Scorpius.

Seda shrugged, unmiffed. They sat in silence for a while; Seda was thinking vaguely about transfiguration and Scorpius was suspicious about Potter. After several minutes, Madam Pomfrey's door opened and Albus walked out of it. This time, he approached Seda and Scorpius. He was holding a mysterious potion.

"Pathetic," he said, grinning. "You tried to grow more? A Stretching Jinx malfuncationed, leading to internal screw-up?" He shook his head, still amused as he stopped at the foot of her bed. "Did you know I was once ashamed of wearing glasses and almost ended up taking my eyes out?"

"Shut up, Potter," snapped Seda, and she threw Transformatorum, Volume III at him. He stepped aside and it flopped heavily onto the floor.

"You couldn't have caught that," said Seda, annoyed.

"It's not worth it," said Albus.

"What's going on here?" interrupted Scorpius. "What's that?" He pointed at the potion Albus was holding.

"Oh, right." Albus came up to Seda's side table and placed it on the tray.

"What's that?" Scorpius repeated.

Albus ignored him, looking through the three bottles Seda had been prescribed.

"I don't know if you knew this," said Albus heavily, addressing Seda but not looking at her, "But when you try to charm yourself to grow, but it fails, it means your insides get stretched. So what is the remedy? Shrink them to normal size of course. Here's a pop quiz for you: what's the problem with this (quote) remedy?"

Seda knew the answer immediately. "But my insides never stretched. So the potions are shrinking them from the normal size?"

"Right." Albus' lenses flashed, shielding his green eyes as he looked down at Seda. "Any idea what complications this might serve?"

"I never took biology," snapped Seda. "None of us have."

"You don't have to take a class to guess, but I'll help you. The longterm effect would be digestive problesm, perhaps internal bleeding, organ failure or cause trouble in the lungs. Not so good for a famous Quidditch player, eh?"

"What are you saying?" said Seda nervously. "Is that happening now?"

"Yep," said Albus brightly.

Scorpius jumped up. "That's how you tell her?!"

"Relax," said Albus, "I said that would be the longterm effect. That means years from now. But I guess I don't want you to suffer the consequences, Zabini, so I took the honor of making you all better before you almost die. This is what you get for being a bad liar."

"How can I trust you?" said Seda unsurely. "How do I know that potion is right, and why can't Pomfrey do this?"

Albus slammed the beaker he was holding onto the bedside table and said fiercely, "Because I'm the only one that knows what the hell is wrong with you, and I'm the only one who feels like making the antidote."

Seda and Scorpius were quiet, both taken aback at the outburst. Albus took a deep breath.

"Anywho." He cleared his throat. "Since The James's days, we've had all the counter-charms and antidotes in case something goes wrong," he told Seda lightly. "Rose and I did this for you. Just know that for a week after you're discharged you can't eat any meat or seafood."

"Okay," said Seda blankly. "Why can't I eat meat?"

"Do you want to grow seven stomachs like a cow?" Albus asked her impatiently.

Seda scowled. "Yes, it's my life's ambition."

"Then don't eat meat," said Albus firmly. "Now, your height is fine. You need to swear that you won't try that stunt again." He held her gaze seriously, and Seda found that she couldn't look away if she wanted to.

"I want to do it, though," she said meekly.

Albus gave her a look. "Oh, save it. You only did it 'cause it was a sort of competition. Well, withdraw out of this race or you could get into serious trouble. I'm serious. Even if you try the theory...you won't get anywhere."

Seda's eyes were wide and she opened her mouth slightly as Albus gave her the tiniest wink.

"I dare you."

"I'll hold your word," Seda sneered.

"Oh, come on, you'll be more scared of this than you are of Filch," Albus teased. He could sense a rise coming.

"Oh it's on, Potter," she said, smirking dangerously.

"Hey, take it easy," he said slyly, backing up and putting his hands in his pockets again. "It's not a game."

"You're right," Seda said mysteriously, "It's not a game."

Albus rolled his eyes. "Drink up, Zabini." He turned on his heal and left the hospital wing. And as Seda sipped the sour potion, Scorpius tried to process the bewildering episode.

** 

Seda was discharged from the hospital wing that evening with the instructions of taking the potion at breakfast and dinner. She was supposed to be taking a break from Quidditch ("Who knows what can happen in that game," said Madam Pomfrey disapprovingly), but what Scorpius said was true- a medical problem wasn't going to keep her on the ground.

"Well, Ravenclaw plays Hufflepuff next Saturday," said Tommy. The team lounged in the locker room, warming up by the conjured heater. Seda pretended to snore obnoxiously.

"What, Seda?" said Tommy sharply.

"As we all know, Ravenclaw's going to win, I mean since when does Hufflepuff win anything," said Seda, waving her hand dismissively. "Although Ravenclaw's probably not as good as Gryffindor...."

"Why are you strategizing?" asked Kevin Lang. "You really shouldn't assume, Seda."

"Oh, I'm not assuming, Kevin," said Seda. She sat back against the wall with her arms above her head, legs stretched out as the rest of the boys were positioned. "I'm steadily knowing and predicting. Now, if you want to go about it the baby way...what have the odds been for Hufflepuff? Their last win was, like, twenty years ago. Now, unless you believe this team can...magically defy both the odds and the logic, I remain firm in my knowledge that Ravenclaw will win." She folded her arms across her stomach triumphantly. She pursed her lips mockingly and raised her eyebrows maddeningly.

"Ooh, you've got some ego," said Lang through gritted teeth. "If you weren't such a good Chaser you'd be useless to me."

"Ah, too bad, if only you were a good Seeker, then I'd see some use in you," Seda retorted cruelly, a wicked smile on her face.

Lang sat up straight aggressively, and yet again Tommy intervened, throwing a Shield Charm between the two teammates.

"Shut up," he said, sounding ultimately bored.

"Ah, Tommy," said York, "You're never interested. That was a fine rally."

"Eh, it was weak," Tommy shrugged.

The team fell into silence and Lang continued to throw glares at Seda, who smirked back at him automatically.

"So," said Lachlan Hardy, "Are we gonna play tonight, Tomsie?"

Tommy made a face. "It's cold."

Seda rolled her eyes to the heavens and slapped her forehead into her palm. "I have better things to do than to sit here watching Lang make absurd faces at me." She was indeed twinged with annoyance, her omni-focused mind restless. Seda could not stand idle time. She sighed impatiently and stood up. "Tell me when you feel like having a real practice," she snapped at Tommy and left for the castle.

****


Seda stood with Malachy in the line before Charms. It had been a restless day: nothing seemed to be going quite right for Seda. First her potion had been off, then she'd received an Acceptable on her Arithmancy exam. Seda shuddered to think of her grade average was now.

It was when Malachy fell quiet and Seda stood half listening to a pack of giggling Ravenclaw girls that she heard the news.

"There's something big going around," squealed on of them. Ruby Foster had dull brown hair and gray eyes, she was someone Seda held much contempt for.

"Yeah, and half of it is about you, Cheylie," said another girl, Grace Diaz.

Seda froze then looked over sharply at her half sister, the daughter of the woman with whom Blaise cheated on Seda's own mother. Chey-Lin Chang did not have her father's name but she had her father's looks just as much as Seda did. Now Seda was slightly interested in the gossip.

"First you have to guess who the other half is about," said Chey-Lin. She grinned tauntingly.

"It's about Al Potter, of course," said Bonnie Blue Bogner, a girl with platinum blonde hair and incredible blue eyes.

Seda folded her arms and took a sidestep closer to the Ravenclaw girls.

"What'd you hear?" Chey-Lin's voice shook from supressed giggles.

"Well, we heard he asked you out!" said Bogner.

Chey-Lin's self-control was pitiful, Seda thought, as the girl succumbed into peals of laughter.

"He did!" Her friends gasped. They immediately began to squeal and badger. Seda thought she was going to get a headache from it. Yet she couldn't ignore that unexplained feeling of deepest hatred for Chey-Lin.

"You're with Potter now?"

The moment she had said it, Seda wished she hadn't spoken, as she knew it had shown a sign of weakness in the struggle of repressing feminine behavior. Slowly the girls fell silent and looked her up and down, scrutinizing her coldly. Seda knew Malachy's round eyes were on her avidly, probably dumbfoundedly. Seda crossed her arms defensively and stood up straight.

"Since when do you care, Zabini?" said Chey-Lin cooly.

"Since when did you care that I care, -Zabini-?" said Seda in a tone that clipped Chey-Lin at just the right nerve in just that slight amount. Anger and frustration, not to mention confusion, flooded through the Slytherin girl while Chey-Lin flushed the color of Grace's stupid headband.

Chey-Lin seemed to struggle to retort. Her dark eyes locked onto Seda's dark eyes and at that moment the girls felt detestably but incredibly connected. "Oh, you'd probably kill him at the slightest chance."

"Well, obviously you'd do him at the slightest chance," said Seda and she thrust up an eyebrow, standing to the side.

The Ravenclaw girls shrieked scandalously.

"What is this commotion?" said a voice. Each of the girls spun around to see Albus Potter and Rose Weasley arrive.

"Al, Zabini called me a whore!" whined Chey-Lin dramatically. Seda narrowed her eyes dangerously at the girl.

"Zabini, don't get stupid," said Albus calmly as he set his green eyes upon Seda's. The latter froze uncomfortably.

"Don't you call me stupid, Potter." Seda was shaking from the emotions.

"Yes, don't, Al," Rose reprimanded quietly. "Zabini, you really shouldn't call Chang anything demeaning."

"He can call Chang whatever she likes," said Malachy at last, and Seda felt a rush of affection at his back-up.

"Sure, she can, but she has to know she'll definitely be called stuff back," said Albus. He walked calmly through the rather frenzied girls and put an arm around Chey-Lin's shoulders. The girl seemed to melt, and her friends seemed to be frozen. "How're those potions working out foor you, Sed- Zabini?"

Seda scowled.

"Stop your fuss, stop your fuss," said a loud but exhausted-sounding voice and their Professor Flitwick appeared, tiny and ancient. He stayed on just to teach the Advanced classes. The Ravenclaw boys shook their head at the madness. Malachy put his own comforting arm around his friend and led her away from the other students protectively.

"What's up with you?" he muttered.

Seda was startled and frustrated to feel a lump rise in her throat. She swallowed stubbornly and cleared her throat. "I don't know," she said in a choked voice.

Malachy gave her a side-long glance and tensed. Afraid and bewildered at the sight of her watery eyes, he edged his chair away from her nervously.

.

Chapter 5: Creating Schemes
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Seda awoke the next morning, and it would have been impossible for anyone to tell she had fallen asleep feeling she had sufferred her worst defeat. Seda didn't feel it herself; it was a new day, a new beginning, and Seda was excellent at putting the past behind her. Seda walked up to breakfast chatting amiably with Monalisa and Glenda Donovan.

"I have Arithmancy first period," Seda said happily. Having a pattern-oriented, no-nonsense mind made theoretical mathematics very enjoyable for her.

"You're such a nerd," said Monalisa, smiling lightly.

And Seda smiled. "Yes, yes I am."

"Do you know what you're gonna Do with that brain?" Glenda asked as she tied her curly brown hair back.

Seda shrugged. She honestly had no clue where she wanted to go in life, other than play Quidditch.

"Good morning ladies," said a sly voice. Scorpius and Malachy came up behind the three girls swiftly and walked with them up to the Slytherin table.

Seda and the girls took their seats across from the boys. As everyone tucked into breakfast, Seda found herself wandering thoughtfully. She stared almost avidly at Scorpius every time he looked away. She glanced at Malachy, who raised an eyebrow at her behavior. She bit her lip, not really seeing the long-haired boy, slowly forming a plan in her mind.

Before she knew it, there was the sound of scraping benches and before any of her friends knew what happened, Seda scooted off and hurried up to the eastern tower.

Only three people took Advanced Arithmancy classes: Ishmael Stein and Nathaniel Leonard, two seventh-year Ravenclaw boys, and Seda. There were a few more people in the regular courses, but not many.

Stein and Leonard had not arrived yet, so Seda stood in front of the window, looking into the bright sunrise as her plan formulated.

The door opened and the two boys entered. They rarely said anything to Seda unless it was work-related. Behind them the teacher, Professor Formal, followed. Seda abandoned the useless pretty sky and took her seat. It was time to focus on Calculus.

I'll focus on scheming later, Seda thought, and she put it firmly out of her mind.

**

Seda finished her homework early that night, allowing herself time to pluck up the courage to put her plan into action. It seemed to take her friends an age.

Finally, at ten to eleven Scorpius threw his books into his bags and collapsed into the sofa, sighing. He glanced at Seda, who was staring stonily into the vague flames in the fireplace. She felt his eyes on her, the way they always were: procuring, always longing. She focused her determination and suddenly this felt incredibly simple.

Seda turned to him, facing him fully. He looked at her rather warily.

"Scorp," she said quietly, "I think I'm ready."

Scorpius blinked, then sat up rather suddenly. His gray eyes widened, his expression was stunned.

"Are you serious?" he asked slowly.

She smiled softly. "You're right about everything. I just need to open up...Scorp, I'd like to give us a try."

Scorpius rubbed the back of his neck, staring at Seda, whose face was unusually peaceful and kind. It confused him, but his happiness clouded reason. Slowly his face broke into a smile. "Okay," he said breathlessly, grinning. "Alright. Yes, good." He picked up his bag and ran up to his dormitory after nodding curtly to her.

Seda breathed out impatiently. She didn't love the boy, but she had to do what she had to. She just wasn't quite sure if she was competing against Chey-Lin or Albus.

**

"You're together?!"

Malachy and Monalisa sat dumbfounded at breakfast the next morning, their meals dripping off their suspended forks identically.

"When did this happen?" Monalisa demanded. "Why am I always left out of these things? Seda, what got into you?"

"So this is your problem," said Malachy wisely to Seda. "You're left out 'cause she doesn't love you like she loves Scorp, Mona."

"Apparently," said Monalisa darkly.

"Yep. Seda Zabini is all mine now," said Scorpius proudly. He put his arm around Seda and tugged her in quickly, causing her to almost choke on a piece of toast.

Seda cleared her throat after a brief coughing fit, then regained her composure, smiling. She let Scorpius brag and boast...anything to boost his ego.

Scorpius seemed to be there all day. Not in one place, just -there-. He was by her side constantly, squeezing her hand, hugging her for five minutes straight before they parted for separate classes. With or without the girl by his side, Scorpius strutted around the castle, rubbing it in all the boys' faces and teasing the girls he knew fancied him. Seda rolled her eyes unnaturally patiently at it all.

Their deal entered the gossip whirlwind that is Hogwarts, and soon it seemed that almost everybody knew Scorpius Malfoy and Seda Zabini, after years of close friendship, were together.

It never occurred to Seda that the boy actually really loved her.

Everybody but Scorpius seemed to get the picture in a slight commotion that occurred shortly after dinner on Friday.

Seda and Scorpius stood in the entrance hall before the doorway leading down to the dungeons. Scorpius reached for her hands, gripping them tightly. "So, Sadie, what do you want to do...?"

A haze of red flew into Seda's vision. Adamant, her eyes flashed. She placed her hands on Scorpius' chest and pushed him as hard as she could; he staggered and fell back onto a suit of armour (the same one Seda had hidden behind), causing a huge ruckus as he pulled the metal form to the ground with him with much clanging and crashing.

"Seda!" he cried.

"DON'T CALL ME SADIE!" she bellowed down at him, sparks flying from her eyes, her pride roaring.

Lying half-stuck on the hard stone plinth, Scorpius stared up at his girlfriend, pain crossing his eyes.

Seda calmed down. She sighed. "I'm sorry, Scorp." She knelt down beside him and helped the boy to his feet. She saw he had cut his palm badly. "I'm sorry," she said again, now feeling guilty at losing her temper.

"No, I'm sorry," he mumbled. They were both quiet as Seda conjured a rag filled with Dittany and she wrapped it tightly around his hand. It took them a few minutes to realize several people were watching them.

"Clear off," Seda snapped at crowd.

"You're her bitch," snickered a boy. Scorpius glowered at him.

"Never mind," said Seda firmly. She placed a hand on his cheek and forced him to look at her. "I really am sorry."

Scorpius' face twitched into a smile. "It's okay."

****

"Hey, Seda." Scorpius approached her in the common room on Saturday afternoon. "What're we doing cooped up in the dungeons? Let's go outside. It'll probably be the last bearable day, weather-wise."

Seda looked up at him and nodded. She let him take her hand and lead her out to the grounds. She had to admit, there was something comforting in having his hand in hers, but it also made Seda feel incredibly trapped. Once outside, Scorpius slowed down. The two Slytherins put up their hoods and dug gloves out of their pockets before proceeding out to the breezy grounds. The leaves had fallen off the trees leaving them bare and naked, but Seda could have cared less about the presence of dead trees. Really, who cared about decor?

Abruptly Scorpius turned to face Seda. She stopped so they were chest to chest. Up until this point she had been avoiding getting physical with the boy; she didn't want to jeapordize their original friendship. Seda was thinking about this vaguely when Scorpius suprised her out of her wits by pulling her in tight and kissing her.

Seda pulled back, blinking awkwardly. She looked up into her friend's face: he was grinning down at her. She managed a small smile back, and soon his lips were back on hers again; they were cold from the brisk air. Seda went along, but she soon began to sense Scorpius' growing intensity. Before she knew it Scorpius had opened his mouth and pulled her in tighter. -Well-, thought Seda, firmly taking control of her shock, -Might as well give him a running for his money-.

It seemed to go on all day. Seda felt she had never engaged in a more boring activity. Not to mention, she knew herself at least somewhat, and she knew she wasn't ready for what Scorpius wanted. His lust frightened her, it turned her off ever coming within a foot of the boy again. But she couldn't back down from him...That just wasn't the way Seda Zabini rolled....

Seda was exceedingly glad when she heard laughter and amused voices. She firmly drew away, taking a couple breaths. She saw Scorpius' lips were quite swollen, and imagined what her own lips must look like.

"What's up?" Scorpius asked.

Seda looked over. She had been right in identifying the voices of Albus Potter and Chey-Lin Chang. Why was Potter always there to bring her down?

"Alright there?" Albus called.

"Spectacular," Scorpius drawled. Seda suddenly was overcome by a mad desire to burst into laughter. She cleared her throat and choked it down, keeping her face as blank as possible.

"Call me a whore," muttered Chey-Lin darkly. Albus smiled at her.

"Not a whore, just a hottie."

Chey-Lin blushed and beamed. She definitely was very pretty.

"C'mere," said Albus. He picked her up easily and she let out a little squeal. Albus laughed as he approached a large pile of brown leaves. Chey-Lin began to struggle, but she was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. She shrieked as Albus tossed her into the leaf pile, sending a little firework of brown leaves into the air. He jumped in after her, playfully throwing twigs and leaves at the girl.

Seda coldly watched Chey-Lin tackle the boy laughingly. Again she was distracted out of her thoughts when she felt hands at her waist. The next thing she knew, she was flying through the air, headed towards a never-ending pile of leaves. She managed to hold in a squeak and landed on her feet, cat like. She turned around. She could see Albus and Chey-Lin laughing at her but ignored them.

"What was that?" she frowned at Scorpius.

Scorpius shrugged. "Fun?" He grinned.

Seda couldn't help but laugh and shook her head. "Don't tell me you have to take it from Potter to make fun," she teased.

"I was trying to get you off guard," said Scorpius, and he poked her in her stomach.

She smirked up at him. "Good luck," Seda said softly.

****

"Hey everyone," said Seda as she entered the Slytherin changing room.

"'Ello, Captain," said Kevin Lang.

Seda looked at him calmly. "What, Kevin?"

"Tommy's in St. Mungo's," announced Lachlan. "He messed up in Potions, the idiot. It's pretty bad. And, well, you're commander-in-chief now, Zabini."

"Really now," said Seda evenly, concealing her excitement. "Well, isn't that nice! York, where's your broomstick?"

"I didn't bring it," replied York dully as he sat hunched on the bench. "We've just been sittin' here ever since it's been cold. Didn't need it."

Seda pursed her lips. "You're all to bring your broomsticks to every practice now. I guess you'll have to use the old Cleansweep in the closet."

There was an abismal chorus of whining.

"It's cold!"

"Oh, you lazy lumps," Seda snapped. "Has everyone got their wands? Just tap our wrist here and say Luminatero! It'll be like a bubble of warmth. You know, if I had my way, I'd have you all play out there without a charm to toughen you up."

"Thanks for being nice," said Sean Quinn.

Seda did a double-take. She stared at her half-brother, who was in third year. "Who the hell are you?" she said harshly. It was not the question she had meant to ask.

"Sean Quinn," he replied, raising an eyebrow. He was definitely not like Blaise at all. He probably had one of the Swedish mothers.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm your Keeper since Morphus is out," said Sean. He frowned at her lightly.

Seda unconsciously banged her broomstick on the floor. "How long should Tommy be away for?" she asked the room at large, restlessly.

"Only a few weeks," said Hardy.

Seda sighed. "We play Ravenclaw the week before Christmas break. Blimey, that's barely three weeks from now..." She snapped into business. "Every body out!" she commanded.

Her team lumbered out of the changing room, out onto the cold pitch; but they were protected by their enchantments.

"It's suicide time," Seda announced.

"What?!" cried Sean.

"Yeah, -what-?" said Lachlan.

"Oh, you whimps! You begin at the end. You run five feet, run back. You run ten feet, run back. Fifteen, back; twenty, back; you repeat twenty. Got it?"

The Slytherins stared at her, horrified.

"Did you say Run?" asked York weakly.

Seda placed her hands on her hips and stared at the boys. "It's not going to kill you! How can you expect to be an agile flier if you can't move on the ground? Now come, on just two laps!"

They each did two laps of the suicides. By the end, everyone but Seda and Sean were desperately gasping for breath.

"Up in the air, let's go," said Seda ruthlessly. The boys groaned and clambered onto their broomsticks. They kicked off, rising slowly. "Okay," said Seda impatiently, "If you're this useless in the air, that means we need to practice. Arial suicides, now."

"Why?!" exclaimed Lang.

"It's conditioning!" Seda yelled at him. "Come on, two laps. We're looking for speed here. Make those corners sharp."

After the arial suicides, Seda had made up her mind to dedicate the practice to just conditioning. She quickly constructed excercises in her head. She had them race once around the pitch, trying to beat thirty seconds each time. She conjured hurdles and hoops in midair for the players to avoid or fly through. She worked on sharpening the turns and reflexes, making up games such as dropping some footballs for the players to dive and catch.

By the end, everyone was exhausted, even Seda.

"That," she panted, "Was amazing."

Only a few of her teammates had enjoyed the workout. Oh well, she thought wryly as she got changed, very few of them are natural fliers. We'll show 'em how to tone it.

 

 

****

 

 

"Mal, hold me lovingly," Monalisa cooed, putting her arm seductively around Malachy's shoulders.

"Alright, wonderful, brilliant lady," replied Malachy, and he hugged her awkwardly.

Seda and Scorpius sat across from them on the train seats, rolling their eyes. Their romance and public display of it made them the main target of jokes. Indeed, at that moment Seda was in the protective clutches of her boyfriend as the Hogwarts Express pulled away from Hogsmeade station.

"Let's go through how perfect Seda is," said Malachy in an uncanny immitation of Scorpius' drawling voice. "All Outstandings...beat Ravenclaw into a pulp, oh yes she did...and whatever I do, I can't catch her off guard!"

"Oh, shut up," Scorpius snapped.

Indeed, Scorpius and even the other two had made it a determination to poke Seda, to startle her and get an amusing reaction. So far nothing whatsoever had worked. In fact, Seda was growing tired and impatient at constantly being grabbed and snuck upon.

"Do you think we can see each other over break?" Scorpius asked. His lips were an inch from her forehead, his breath tickling her slightly.

Seda's eyes clouded. "I doubt it, Scorp. I'll probably have to spend Christmas getting to know Wife of the Year and my random siblings. Break's only thirteen days, after all."

"Okay," said Scorpius, obviously disappointed.

The train ride couldn't last long enough for Seda and all too soon it pulled up at King's Cross.

"How'd that happen so fast?" Scorpius asked.

"Good question," replied Monalisa thoughtfully. As Seda reached up to get her trunk down from the rack, there was a sharp pinch at her waist. Calmly she set the heavy trunk on the floor and turned to glare at Malachy. "If I was any other human being, I would've dropped this trunk on our heads, you know."

Malachy shrugged. "It was one last shot."

Seda rolled her eyes. She took up the handle and deboarded the train with her friends. Seda had never spent Christmas at Hogwarts, and though she didn't like the other option of home, she did not want to start being alone over the holidays.

The four friends joined the crowd onto the platform. The air was cold, but refreshing. It was exceedingly odd, Seda thought, to look around and see all her classmates wearing Muggle clothing.

Seda felt a sharp squeeze at her hip. She turned her face blandly to Scorpius and Malachy, who had failed yet again. Their eyes suddenly stared behind the girl.

 

"Seda," said the boys, pointing.

"I'm not falling for it," said Seda shortly. But the next moment she barely felt a tickle of breath at her ear and thought she sensed someone behind her. Then a yell sounded right next to her ear as strong hands grasped her waist, making her squirm spastically. Fear shot up from Seda's stomach and she let out a hair-raising scream as she spun around.

"Got you," Albus Potter smirked simply. "Good holidays, Zabini."

He turned and walked away. The four Slytherins stared after him, stunned; Seda's hand was apparently stuck to her racing heart.

"How the hell'd he do that?" Scorpius demanded, the first to recover.

"Good question," Monalisa repeated, her arms folded.

Seda seemed to have forgotten her hand was still on her chest. She was the most suprised out of all of them, though not the angriest. Never had Seda been caught so perfectly.

"Get a move on," said one of the guards, and the four friends came out of their shock and walked through the barrier.




:)

Chapter 6: Good to be Home
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Seda, Scorpius, Malachy and Monalisa came out on Platform Nine, each of them glancing around for their reception. It didn't take long to find their parents.

"Hello, Scorpius," said his mother warmly, and she hugged him before he could squirm away. While Malachy and Monalisa approached their own parents, Seda stepped up.

"Hi Scotty," said Seda, smiling at her old butler.

"'Ello, Seda," he said gruffly, grasping her outstretched hand. His hair was still white under the cap he wore and his shoulders were a bit stooped. His name was Paul Scott but Seda insisted on calling him Scotty. Paul Scott had been the closest parent thing Seda had; yet there was still a wall between them as they both recognized Scott could not be much more than a butler. "Good term, dear?"

Seda shrugged. "Quite good, yes. Hello, Mrs. Malfoy." But Mrs. Malfoy was busy talking to Monalisa's father. "Okay...bye, Scorp."

Scorpius wrapped his arms around Seda, holding him to her firmly. He kissed her quickly then let her go. "'Bye Seda. I'll see you next year."

Seda smiled and waved at her friends. Then she turned and followed Scott out of the train station. He led her to an attractive black car.

"Have you learned to really drive yet, Scotty?" Seda teased. She closed the passenger door and settled into the seat.

"Oh, you haven't changed, have you, Sedaline?" said Scott and he smirked at her. Seda couldn't be angry with him.

"Good comeback," she laughed. Scott started the car. There was a slight pop, a flash of light and a feeling of falling through the air; then the car materialized in the driveway of Blaise Zabini's manor.

Seda fell quiet and subdued as she walked up to the house, leaving Scott to deal with her trunk. The house was handsome: olive green with green ivy crawling up the walls with large white windows, sprawling before the circular driveway.

"I'll get the door for you, Seda," said Scott quickly. Seda stood back and allowed the man to balance the trunk on its hind with one hand and with the other take out his wand and tap the emerald green door, which then swung open. Seda walked in before him, into the entrance hall which was wrapped in intricate woodwork.

"Good to be home?" Scott asked her. He tapped her trunk and it disappeared.

"I suppose so," said Seda truthfully. She glanced around: to the right was the living room and to the left the den and more private living spaces.

The sound of distant footsteps floated into the entrance and a minute later a woman stepped out of the far room which led onto the rest of the house.

"Hello, Sedaline," she said sweetly. "You remember me, of course."

Seda stuffed her hands in her jean pockets defensively, hiking her shoulders up warily. The woman was Tracy Rumsfeld. She had red hair and green eyes and had a strange nasal accent. Seda had given up caring about her father's wives, but she did recognize that this was the first redhead of the lot.

Seda nodded. She remembered the woman. She had come home at the end of fifth year to find the lady simply living in the house. Tracy was American, and had amazingly different views of life than Seda.

"I'm sorry I couldn't pick you up myself," said Tracy, "I was busy making dinner for the kids."

Seda turned to Scott. "What kids?" she asked him.

"Maureen's children," the butler replied. To Tracy he said: "I'll set the table now, madam."

"Well, come on in, Sedaline," said Tracy brightly. "This way, now."

"I know the way around my house," Seda bristled, "and if you call me Sedaline again I'll cut you."

Tracy stopped and blinked, looking hurt. Seda ignored her and stalked past with her nose in the air. She made her way through the many rooms and entered the modern kitchen. She caught a glimpse of the room before there was a squeal; the next moment, the wind had been knocked out of her as little arms squeezed themselves around her waist.

"Sadie!" squealed the little girl.

"Camali!" Seda grinned. She picked up the four-year old, balancing her on her hip. "What did I tell you about calling me Sadie?" she repremanded gently.

"Sorry," said Camali quickly. Seda smiled softly. Camali had large clear brown eyes and matching bob-cut chocolate brown hair; she had tanned skin and pink lips.

"Hi Seda!" said another voice.

"Hey, Veasna," Seda smiled at Camali's six-year old brother. He was a spitting image of his little sister, only taller. "What's up?"

"Long division," said Veasna proudly, and he stuck out his chest.

"Going along at a good clip," said Seda enthusiastically, "Well done, little man."

Seda hated Veasna and Camali's mother, Maureen, with a passion. She was half Scottish and half Cambodian and had been barely short of abusive toward Seda. Then she left and dumped her kids in Blaise's abysmal care. It was Maureen who had traumatized Seda with the nickname Sadie, and Seda shuddered every time she thought of her.

But Seda loved her children. They were beautiful and innocent, a break from the haste and perfection of Seda's life. The girl felt particularly connected to them because they were the only ones other than Seda herself who were left in their fathers' care, abandoned by their mothers.

Tracy pushed the door open. "I just called your dad down, kids. Come to the table."

Seda nodded curtly. She led the young ones into the brightly lit dining room. The three of them took their seats at the unnerving mahogany table; Tracy sat opposite them and Scott stood at the door like a statue.

Several minutes later the door opened and Blaise entered. He looked the same as ever: tall with short black hair and striking features. He wore handsome dark green robes. He silently crossed the room and sat in his seat at the head of the table. He regarded the table and the occupants sitting around it.

"Hello, Seda," he said softly.

"Hello, Father," Seda replied formally.

"Did you make this yourself, Tracy?" he asked the red-haired woman, suddenly gentle.

"Sure I did," said Tracy. She looked confused but didn't ask any questions. "It's beef pot pie. I'm sorry I don't know your favorite food, Seda."

Seda shrugged. "Beef's fine."

"Mr Scott," Camali called.

"Don't whine, Camali," said Blaise sternly.

Scott came forward and filled the childrens' plates with the pie, including Seda's.

"You spoil me, Scotty," Seda smirked.

"Welcome home," he responded, giving her a sad smile. Seda's face fell slightly and she looked down at her plate.

The family fell into silence.

"I see you're wearing a Salem University sweatshirt, Seda," said Tracy out of the silence.

Seda looked down at the crimson jacket. "I'll be going to the best wizard university, I know so, Ms Rumsfeld. Well, I suppose it is the -only- wizard university...."

"It depends on how your grades are," came Blaise's gruff voice.

"Worry not, Father," said Seda calmly. "I have my grades in my trunk, if you'd like to see them."

Wordlessly Blaise drew his wand and a second later Seda's progress report zoomed into his hand. "Hopefully you've done better than your final report last year, Seda."

"It was one E, Father," Seda scowled.

The room was silent as Blaise imperiously read Seda's grades. After a moment he folded the parchment and tossed it to his shoulder; it zoomed into Scott's gloved hand.

"Well done," was all he said.

Seda set her jaw and continued on her pie, which was rather dry.

"Well how were they?" Tracy asked kindly.

"All Outstandings," said Seda quickly. "I got a hundred percent in each of my classes. Even in Dark Arts, Father."

"It's progress," Blaise admitted.

There was a tight silence.

"Aren't you proud of her?" inquired Tracy. She sounded rather strained. "All Outstandings is, well, outstanding, isn't it?"

Blaise looked at his wife and then at his daughter, who blinked back at him. Vaguely she wondered if he'd pretend to be nicey-nice for this new woman's sake.

"I'm proud of her," said Blaise, and it sounded as if he was admitting something embarrassing. But Seda's mouth twitched slightly, the corners turning upward. "Although, who's Prefect this year, Seda?"

"Glenda Donovan and Scorpius," replied Seda.

"Ah, right," said Blaise lightly. "You'll be aiming for Head Girl next year, won't you?"

"Yes, Father," said Seda quietly.

There was another long silence. Tracy was looking rather worried, glancing between her husband and her step-daughter. -Caught on that he doesn't give a damn, did she?- Seda thought bitterly.

"Seda," squeaked Camali.

"Yes, Mali?" Seda asked.

"Will you play with me tomorrow?" Camali gazed up into her face. Seda smiled at the girl. She couldn't be cold to such a cute little girl.

"Of course," Seda replied. "Veasna, what're you up to tomorrow?"

Veasna shrugged, twirling his potatoes in his fork silently.

"Veasna has one day of studying left," said Blaise. "Then he can play for as long as he wants."

Tracy leaned over the table, smiling at Seda. "Seda, we didn't get to know each other very well over the summer, you were so busy....What do you say to a nice mother-daughter chat tomorrow?"

Seda's face darkened at the woman's kindness. She felt a lick of anger in her stomach and a dull ache pull at her heart. "I'd like that, if she was here," she said shortly.

It seemed to take a few minutes for Tracy to process her words; then her eyes widened nervously.

"Seda," said Blaise calmingly, "I see you're getting angry. Tracy's very nice, you'll give her a chance."

But Seda's anger was simply rising. She struggled to keep her emotions in check. "Father, Ms Rumsfeld is trying to be my mother, she's trying to be my friend. I don't have to accept her. You-"

"Seda," said Scott suddenly. "Your trunk is upstairs, come up and sort out the dirty laundry for me."

"Oh," said Seda enthusiastically, preparing to stand.

"No," said Blaise quietly. "Sedaline, sit and finish your meal. You'll apologise to Tracy."

"No, it's no problem," said Tracy, looking alarmed. "Seda, I understand if you want time to accept me."

And Seda, whose heart was now screaming, snarled, "There won't be time for you to do anything here, let alone wait for me to accept your random self. You'll be out of here within three months just like the rest of them were."

Blaise's voice rang out angrily. "Sedaline Victoria! That is quite enough! Now you hold your tongue, young lady."

"D'you know how he -actually- makes his money?" Seda asked sweetly.

There was a pregnant pause.

"He runs the wizarding black market industry, for your information," said Seda viciously. She stood up, clenching her fists tightly. "He recruits hitmen occasionally, too. That wealth you're digging for is bloody money, you tramp."

Now Blaise stood up, too, looking livid. Tracy jumped up, bewildered and rather frightened.

"Apologise!" Blaise yelled.

"HELL NO!" Seda screeched. She kicked her chair aside and ran from the dining room. She sprinted through the large rooms and thundered up the back staircase, struggling to keep her heart in her chest. Running down the dim hallways on the third floor, Seda flung her shoulder at the door at the end of the hall, bursting into her room. She slammed the door behind her; she heard the hinges break but ignored it.

Seda stood still in her bedroom, staring unseeingly at her bay window. Her hands clenched and unclenched themselves compulsively. Her heart was screaming, her brain reeling. She couldn't take it anymore, nobody could bear this much grief in one body... But still she did not cry.

There was a timid knock on the door.

"GO AWAY!" Seda bellowed immediately.

There was a pause; the floorboards outside creaked. "It's me," said Paul Scott.

Seda hesitated. She resolved not to answer and simply flopped on her bed weakly. The door squeaked open and Scott tiptoed in, snapping it shut quietly behind him. He turned to regard Seda gravely.

"Come now," he said softly. "Tracy's very nice. I think you should try to give her a chance."

Seda was too weak to glare at the butler. "Scotty," she whined, "You know what happened last time I gave the big Her a chance. It was all a plot, I know it was. Then the one before her, I actually got Attatched to, and she was gone after I liked her. I'm not liking any of those women anymore, they're just out to get me." She reached for a pillow and hugged it tightly.

"Oh, Seda," Scott sighed, "Don't speak like a child. I really think Tracy's the best one so far. Maybe it's because she's American, she has a different mind...."

"She's going to leave him," Seda said moodily. She felt a constriction in her throat and a distant fog in her eyes. She blinked and swallowed stubbornly.

"...Do you want to talk to her?" Scott asked slowly. "Just see what she's coming from? Just give her a tiny chance, and if you don't trust her, we won't push you any more."

Seda's grip tightened on her pillow. She bit her lip, her brain telling her one thing and her heart another. She wanted a mother figure, she knew that in her heart...but getting hurt again was not worth it, said her brain. For some reason Albus Potter's face floated into her mind.

"Yes," she heard herself say.

Scott sidled over to the door and opened it. It swung open, shaking slightly on its damaged hinges, and revealed Tracy. She looked tense and nervous as she entered cautiously; Scott melted into the shadows. The woman's awkwardness made Seda feel impatient.

The door swung shut and Tracy and Seda stared at each other for a minutes, sizing each other up. The silence stretched on, until Seda spoke. Her tone was hard and offensive.

"Number one," she said.

"I'm sorry?" asked Tracy.

Seda threw away her pillow and got off her bed. She crossed the room to her desk and opened a drawer, more aggressively than she intended; it came flying out of its track. Tutting impatiently she picked up the ancient piece of parchment.

Seda cleared her throat. "Wife number one: Maria Hadden. Nice woman, curly hair." She flashed the small picture under Tracy's nose. "Wife number two: Janine Fontaine, my mother. Now let me introduce you to Cheatee number one: Cho Chang. Her daughter Chey-Lin is my age, and is such a bitch." She paused, glaring at the woman, who was silent and subdued. "Claudia Schmidt, the first of the many Swedish women. She had Eugene, who's in fourth year. Number four, Nora Quinn, Sean's mum. She was nice and might've stayed if Cheatee number two, Anika Orange, hadn't popped up. Next was Korea Baye who had Danielle. Korea was a good mother I suppose, and she lasted good time, before she realized what she had got herself into. I liked Korea." Seda took a breath, and now she wasn't looking at Tracy, but down at the paper.

"Then Maureen Tat came along." She gave a forced, dry laugh. "She was a lot like you. Sweet and nice and oblivious. Until she beat the shit out of me, of course. Why, I have no idea, I was somewhat polite to her. But it took her a few months and she cracked. I love Mali and Veasna but really..." She looked up, smiling oddly. "Francesca George was, and remains to be, my hero. She was cheatee number three, but I was glad, 'cause she got rid of," she shuddered, "Maureen."

Her lips curled and she made a clicking noise in the back of her throat. "You're next. Wife number seven, woman number ten. So I'm sorry if, you know, I don't love you and all that."

Tears were streaming down Tracy's face and Seda hated her crying not because she felt sorry but because the woman was not trying to fight back. She simply stood there with water flowing from her eyes.

"You're in pain," she sniffed, wiping her cheeks.

"Not anymore," said Seda, not understanding her comment. "Although I think a scar was left along my arm."

"I'm sorry, Seda," Tracy sighed. "I didn't know all of that before. Do you give that performance to all of the wives?"

"Congratulations, you're the first," Seda replied hollowly. "Maureen taught me well."

Tracy took a shaky breath. "I don't know what Maureen did to you but...I would never, ever lay a hand on you inappropriately."

Seda glared at her, her face full of distrust.

"My parents divorced when I was young," said Tracy and she wiped her cheeks again. "My brother and I thought that was bad enough. I can't imagine, Seda..."

Seda's eyes glinted. "You pity me."

Tracy blinked. Then she nodded wryly.

Seda rolled her eyes and groaned, turning away from the woman. "Pity...It's very undermining. I don't like to be some sort of charity case."

Tracy opened her mouth but stopped, looking concerned.

"I'd like to like you, Ms Rumsfeld," said Seda honestly. She turned to face the woman squarely. "It would be very nice to be your friend. But you're not going to last any longer than any of the others and I just can't get attached to you."

Tracy bit her lip. A few more tears leaked out and she nodded slowly. She turned away with her head bowed and left the room slowly. Scott sent both women sympathetic looks then slipped out. Seda's face screwed itself into a tearless tantrum and she flopped back onto her bed feeling thoroughly miserable.





Comments? Concerns?

Chapter 7: Not Appreciated
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"Wakey wakey."

There was a scraping sound and light flew into the room brilliantly. Seda turned onto her back, her eyes blurry and puffy.

"It's nine o'clock," said Scott's brisk voice."Come on. Up you get."

Seda rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly. Her bed was warm, the expensive magical sheets were sweet oblivion. She snuggled deeper into the covers under the Egyptian-woven comfertor, smiling vaguely.

"Come on, Seda," said Scott loudly.

Seda growled. Finally she sat up and threw the covers off and got out of bed. She sat on the edge of the bed and yawned widely. She then glanced at Scott who was hanging up her robes for that week.

"Happy Monday," said Scott cheerfully. Seda smiled sleepily. "Now wake up, sleepy."

Seda consciously forced herself to wake up fully. She stood up and stretched, feeling refreshed. If only Seda had that mental control when she was upset, she thought. She smiled tightly at Scott who then left the room. Seda went into the adjoining bathroom and got ready for her day.

"Let's see what we've got here," Seda said to herself as she approached the robes rack. Her Monday robes were navy blue, made of the finest material, and patterns were embroidered on all the hems and collar in gold silk thread. Seda's robes all had the same embroidery design, they were just all in different colors. All Seda's robes were basically stolen but she didn't care; she liked the richness in which she grew up.

Seda slipped the robes on and tied her hair in a tight ponytail. She was ready for the day.

Seda made her way down to the kitchen which was empty. With her wand she summoned cereal, fruit and tea. She wondered vaguely where everybody was. Sitting in silence, Seda then thought she heard music. It was very vague, perhaps coming from the far away living room.With her fruit bowl in hand she wandered through the house, the piano playing coming louder. Seda had barely known they had a piano.

The living room was a massive room with high windows and mint green walls. It was not a comfortable living room: it was for decoration, not for use, so there were many hard wooden chairs. A white grand piano sat in the far corner from the grand fireplace, and Seda could see Tracy's red hair.

Seda snuck in nonchalantly, listening. It was a beautiful piece, Tracy was a very good pianist, and the crescendos seemed to make Seda's heartstrings vibrate. Seda had always thought music was useless, but this was exceedingly lovely....

"Now what do you think you can do?" said Tracy as she stopped playing. For a moment Seda didn't know who she was talking to, but upon coming into the room fully she glimpsed Camali sitting on the bench next to Tracy.

"Father probably won't like her learning music," Seda said loudly and Tracy jumped.

"Oh good morning, Seda," she said, smiling. "Why wouldn't Blaise like it?"

"He thinks music is useless," said Seda simply. She walked over and stood next to the piano. "He raised all of us to think logically."

Tracy shook her head in disbelief. "Music is a way of expressing emotions," she said, "It's an art. A player can place his heart in his hands and let the world hear it without words."

Seda shook her head impatiently. She couldn't comprehend anything that was not right in front of her, anything with an obscure meaning was utter nonsense. She left Tracy and her musical madness to roam her house. She couldn't face being deemed ignorant in not understanding Tracy's metaphorical language.

The Zabini manor was divided into four sections with three floors. The first floor was the living space and kitchen and whatnot. The second floor was the work floor with literal offices for tutors to teach Seda and Maureen's children. The third floor was where everyone slept. The basement, however, was where Blaise's business operated in secret.

I haven't been downstairs for a long time, Seda thought musingly. Seda walked into the formidable downstairs library, which was quite a full library indeed. She approached one of the bookshelves. She drew her wand and tapped it, muttering the password. The bookshelf didn't open, it didn't even seem to change but Seda was able to walk right through it into a small chamber. Seda took the marble staircase leading down to the world of her father's business.

The basement was hardly a basement: it was the size of the whole house and was paved with black marble tiles on the floor and white painted walls. Chanedliers hung from the ceiling. Fogged glass cubicals in which workers sat filled the hall. There was a sort of checkpoint, which could be related to an airport security check, where wizards worked busily on a mountain of goods.

An agitated- looking wizard suddenly bumped into Seda.

"Oh, sorry Connie," he said quickly, his bald head glinting from the chandelier overhead. "Could you take this down to High Security for me, Apollo Tsiatas and Robert Larson want to exchange a Greek dragon for a Common Welsh."

"Excuse me?" said Seda arrogantly. "Do I look like I'm wearing workers' robes? I am Seda Zabini."

The man's brown eyes widened and he became incredibly flustered. "Oh, Miss Zabini, I'm so sorry, you look like Connie Song, my apologies."

"You should be more careful who you talk to," Seda reprimanded. "This is a secret business, McGrille."

"Yes, of course," McGrille muttered and he even gave her an awkward bow.

"Do you know where Mr. Zabini is?" Seda asked him.

"Er, I believe he is at a meeting in Egypt," replied McGrille. "Look, I'm very sorry about this mishap, Miss Zabini. I'll just get my intern to do it."

"No, I'd actually like to deliver the message," said Seda. Unwillingly McGrille handed the file over to the young lady. She smiled at him and walked down the aisles until she came to the High Security offices. She approached the largest office: Head of High Security Dept, Korea Baye-Signa.

Seda's jaw dropped as she entered the office.

"Korea?!" she gasped.

The honey-haired woman looked up from her papers. She broke into a smile. "Seda! How are you? What brings you down here?"

"How long have you worked here?" Seda asked, astonished.


Korea smiled. She was a beautiful woman, tall and elegant; she was kind but could be incredibly shrewd and tough when the situation demanded it. "I've been here all along, Seda. I met Mr. Zabini when I was an intern. I've worked my way up to this high position."

Seda struggled with her emotions for a moment, then pushed everything away forcefully. "Oh, I see. Well I was just coming down here to wander when McGrille ran into me and now I'm running messages."

Korea laughed as she stood up and went over to a filing cabinet. "I don't remember you as being the wandering type, Seda. What was the message about?"

"Something about a dragon exchange," said Seda, extending the file in her hand. "So what happened to your name? It seems that you've gotten remarried, Baye-Signa."

"Oh, yes," Korea beamed, and now Seda saw the rings on her finger. "Alan Signa and I met when we were both on vacation in France. I didn't want to drop Baye so I hyphenated my name."

"So what's Danielle's name now?" Seda asked politely.

"She wanted to keep Baye. Danielle Baye is much nicer than Danielle Signa."

Seda nodded, pursing her lips idly. There was a sudden buzz. Seda jumped and Korea calmly walked over to a small wooden box and turned a knob on it.

"Yes?" she spoke into it.

"Mrs Baye-Signa, we have a security breach!" said a gruff voice. It was panicked.

Korea paled and looked up at Seda. "You should go upstairs. Don't come back down for a while. I need to check this out."

"I'm coming with you," said Seda fiercely. She turned on her heel and led her post step-mother down the halls. There was a bit of a skirmish in a far room: the interrogation chamber. Seda, Korea and two burly men entered. A thin boy with his hands tied behind his back and a gag and blindfold over his face sat fidgeting in a chair.

"We caught 'im," grunted the first man, Marvin Legitt.

"What happened?" Seda asked calmly. She thought the boy looked rather familiar. "No- let's start with -who is he-?"

Legitt jabbed his wand at the boy and the blindfold and gag disappeared. Albus Potter sat coughing and spluttering in the chair.

"Al Potter?" Seda gasped. "What the hell?"

"Just what I'm thinking!" Albus said. He licked his cracked lips, staring around him. His face and his voice was calm but his eyes were quite frightened. "I don't know what's going on. Why am I captured?"

"You was snoopin' around one of our facilities," snarled the other man, Gustavus Ronaldo.

Albus wrinkled his nose. "What facilities? I don't snoop, Sir."

Seda folded her arms and glared at Albus shrewdly. "So what were you doing there?"

Albus blinked at her. "Oh, is that you, Zabini? You're in on this madness? That could explain it."

Immediately Ronaldo and Legitt seized Albus and threw him on the floor. The thugs began to kick the boy.

"No!" screamed Seda wildly. Fear clouded her heart for a moment. "No, stop it! Ronaldo! Legitt!" She whipped out her wand and pointed it at Legitt: there was a bang and he uttered a girly squeal as he staggered backwards, wincing.

Albus sat up on the floor after several moments, shaking his head. He got to his feet awkwardly. "Okay...I'm all for doing whatever one must to justify a situation...but what was that for, exactly? Was there a reason?"

Seda glared at him. "You need to tell us what you were doing in the facility."

"Seda," said Korea, "Let me handle this."

"No, Korea," said Seda sharply. "I'll deal with Potter."

"I was trying to Floo to the Burrow," said Albus through gritted teeth. "But I guess it thought I said something else, then took me to this warehouse place. I didn't know where the hell I was, I wasn't snooping"- he glared at Legitt and Ronaldo -"then these thugs came and just took me away."

"So you weren't investigating anything?"

Albus looked incredulous and insulted. "Yes, in fact, I commonly investigate a random warehouse when I Floo accidentally to it. It's a hobby of mine."

Seda rolled her eyes. "There's a time for sarcasm, Potter."

"Anything that will get me out of this place," he replied. "And if you are operating in secrecy, you shouldn't keep me here for too long."

"Why not?" Korea frowned.

"Er, my dad's Harry Potter," said Albus and there was a hint of a threat in his voice. "He's Head of Auror department. He knows wherever I am."

All of a sudden there was a loud, harsh alarm. Seda and Korea spun around and stared out of the room: there were flashing red lights.

"Security breach!" gasped Korea. "Zabini is in Egypt, he won't be able to get through!"

"I'll handle it," said Seda firmly. She set her brain into gear. "Take away his wand and keep him locked here for a little bit so he's out of the way."

She dashed out of the office. Most people were running down the aisles, some were screaming, and everyone was panicking, even Korea. Seda pointed her wand at her throat and muttered "Sonorus."

"Excuse me!" Her voice rang through the chamber, echoing madly. The workers' bodies froze but their heads kept turning oddly as they searched for the voice. "This is Sedaline Zabini and I'm commander since Mrs Baye-Signa seems unable to do the job.

"I need you all to be calm and keep your wits. This is no time to be stupid." Seda ran (as composedly as she could) onto the small stage where Blaise made announcements. She stepped up to the imperious podium. "We need to act fast. I need three people to go outside this building and set up defense charms and concealment enchantments. Cast every protective spell you know." Several workers Disapparated.

"We must freeze all exchanges being dealt currently," Seda announced.

"But there are articles being flown as we speak!" yelled a voice and Seda recognized McGrille.

"You have communication with those transports, don't you?" said Seda coldly. "I need the communications division on top of things, send the alert to all bases. Tell current traveling items to rest no closer west than Russia and no closer south than Greece. Where are those oafs I sent to cast the defenses?"

There was a great bustling as the workers grouped to send the message out. Seda continued to give out clear orders.

"What about the inventory here?" called a woman, Connie Song.

Seda hadn't even thought of her answer before she spoke. "Open the extendable walls and put all the inventory there. Don't seal the walls unless we're physically infiltrated. Hey, don't shove it haphazardly, organize it!"

"We don't have time to place it in an organized fashion!" yelled a man, Greg Tucker.

"Everyone in the-the- organization department, your proper title escapes me, get together and figure something out, pronto. Divide it mathematically, in fact everything grouped now can fit evenly if you separate the items properly."

"There's no time!" shrieked Connie Song.

"Not when you waste it arguing with me," snapped Seda, "just get to it. I can see the ideal pattern from up here."

"Nice job," said a voice.

Seda looked over sharply at Albus who had an odd smirk on his face.

"What are you smiling about?" Seda's voice echoed through the chamber. She quickly reversed the spell. "How did you get out? They took your wand."

"No, they took my joke wand," replied Albus. He took his real one out of his pocket and twirled it in his fingers like a baton. "You've really got a knack for bossing people around."

"This is not the time, Potter," Seda snarled. She was distracted as a ferrety little man ran up to her. "Miss, what about our other facilities?"

"They're constantly armed, aren't they?" said Seda in a tone that offended the man. "Send the message to them to be on their guard."

"Zabini!" Connie Song burst toward her, rather out of breath. "We can't fit it evenly. Barely half fits the secret chambers, we might have to open the deeper sections."

Seda tutted impatiently. She shot a glare at Albus. She seized him by the wrist and pulled him with her as she jogged back with Connie. Damn the size of this hall, Seda thought. They rounded the stock site and at the sight of it Seda thought she might lose her mind.


"Are you kidding me?!" she yelled. "How useless are you? You, watch Potter. You three, open the rest of the wall with me. You only opened half of them." Soon all entrances to the outer hall chamber was accessible. Seda jumped into the fray herself and by magic separated mounds of items far more sinister and illegal than pretty robes and bed sheets.

"Pretty efficient."

"Potter, why are you always here to ruin everything?" Seda snarled at him. "This is your fault."

"No it's just my job," said Albus lightly.

Seda opened her mouth to yell at another incompetent worker but stopped. She stared at Albus suspiciously. "You said Harry Potter knows wherever you are."

"Caught on, have you?" Albus grinned. "You are smart, Zabini, I'll give that to you."

Seda's eyes scrutinized him calculatingly. "You didn't arrive there by a Floo mishap. You're a set up!" She turned on her heel, fear bubbling inside her. "Where are the defenders I sent out?!"

"Probably Stunned," said Albus lightly.

Seda whirled back around to glare at the boy. Her head was beginning to spin. Fast as lightning she sent a curse at Albus: he was knocked backwards and collapsed on the marble floor heavily. Seda left him unconscious on the ground and ordered for the Inventory Inventors Squad.

"Do you still have those magical sacks?" she asked the sweating men.

"They're still in testing," panted a very fat man, Heath Holmes. "Also not Federation of Regulated Magical Enterprise Approved."

"Since when is anything you work with FRME Approved!?" Seda's nerve was beginning to rise from the pressure; she alone knew exactly how little time they had. "All of the grouped stock, wrap it up in those sacks as fast as humanly possible."

The team went to work. Streams of workers came to consult Seda.

"Mr Zabini just got the message," said Korea. She was just as nervous as the other tittering workers.

"Pull yourself together, Korea," said Seda, snapping her fingers in the woman's face. "We need you, so do your job. When should Zabini be arriving?"

"You told us to seal all entrances into the chamber or any of the facilities," replied Korea. "Nobody can get near the facilities in Britain or Europe. The whole continent is frozen under your command."

Seda nodded and took a shaky breath. "Good, our first priority is to protect the stock. Did you clear out the files and transfer them to Diamond Quarter?"

"You told us to freeze-" began Korea blankly.

"I thought you were smart, woman!" Seda screamed hysterically. "I told you to keep a limited channel open between here and Diamond Quarter, it's practically empty. You need to get files and evidence out of here!"

"Are you sure?" Korea questioned. "Are you sure we have to?"

"Have to?" Seda repeated. "You must! The Aurors are on their way, Baye."

Korea's eyes widened. She nodded and hastened away. Panic was beginning to abstruct Seda's clear thought process.

"We've finished wrapping, Zabini," said a voice and Seda turned to the Inventory Inventors Squad.

"Alright," said Seda firmly. She mentally lodged herself back into business. "There's a limited channel open between here and Diamond Quarter. I need everyone to pitch in putting these bags in the magical carts I called for."

"Miss," said a timid-sounding voice. Seda rounded impatiently on a quaking intern.

"What?" she snapped.

"There's been a delay in retrieving those magical carts," squeaked the spiky-haired intern.

Seda stood still for a moment, her dark eyes boring into the lad Brad Collins. "Why, Collins?" she asked as sweetly as she could.

"Er," Collins checked his notes, "They're in full operating use at Diamond Quarter."

"Diamond Quarter is a warehouse!" said Seda furiously, dropping the sweet act without a thought. "Are you the one sending the message back? Tell them to dump everything out of the carts, onto the cement floor if they've got to. We need those carts now. And don't take no for an answer, if I don't have carts in thirty seconds you're out of here forever."

Collins' eyes widened and he sprinted off without further ado. After thirty five seconds of pure agony, in which Seda stared around at the bustle surrounding her, Collins returned. His eyes were bright and his face was flushed. "They're on the way, Miss."

It seemed to be a miracle, but in the mere twenty minutes that had passed since the alarm had sounded, all stock and paperwork was nowhere to be seen. All filing cabinets and desk drawers were cleared; the moveable cubicals were pushed against the walls.

"Everyone get out while you can," called Seda hoarsely; her voice was almost gone.

There was a slam and a scream. Seda and several others turned around to see wizards dressed in Auror's robes running down the back entrance steps. Seda's stomach lurched; they had come through her open book case.

Most workers ran for the exit, some hid behind extra desks and a few tried to fight. Seized by an idea, Seda snuck quickly over to where Albus lay sprawled on the floor, still unconscious. She raised his body off the floor, holding it upright against her. She took a big breath and yelled as loud as she could.

"Stop or he dies!"

All fighting ceased and the Aurors turned sharply. Seda's wand was pointed straight at Albus' exposed neck. She was going to Azkaband anyway, she knew it.

One of them stepped forward. He slipped his hood off and Seda saw the fabled Harry Potter staring at her, his face white. The Auror head and teenage girl stared each other down intensely, not saying anything. Seda was glaring fiercely and Potter's eyes glinted strangely. It made Seda hesitate....

"You don't want to do that, Sedaline," he said and his voice was surprisingly calm and soft. "Come now...put your wand down. If you spare his life you'll only go to Azkaban for a week; you're underage and I so far have no proof that you're an accomplice to keep you longer. If you kill him...there will be dire consequences."

Seda blinked rapidly. It wasn't the words he said that made her heart throb, but the gentle insistence in which he said them. She looked down at Albus' blank face. He wasn't here to save her this time....

And suddenly Seda felt exhausted, more tired than she ever had been in her life. The weight of all the emotion and stress came down upon the sixteen-year-old and her body went limp. Her stinging eyes were closing...her heart was sobbing, about to burst. Darkness gathered at the edges of her brain, creeping in...and then the feeling of Albus in her arms disappeared and the dark fog took over completely.

 

 

 

 

 

****

 

 

 

 

Something was bustling. There were hurried footsteps and loud, angry voices. The light was almost blinding. It was all very overwhelming and stressful and Seda put her hands on her head and moaned, trying to hold herself in from exploding.

"She's awake now," said a voice. It was soft and the accent wasn't English.

"Great," said a hard voice, "Tell her I hate her."

"Shut up, Potter," snarled another voice.

With every ounce over energy she could muster Seda forced herself to sit up and open her eyes. It took her a few minutes to see through her blurred vision. After blinking thoroughly she saw she was in an unfamiliar room. It was a room that gave the impression of being rather squat from the low ceiling and the large and thick furniature.

"Where'm I?" Seda mumbled.

"Relax," said a voice. A gentle hand appeared on her shoulder, forcing her back to rest on the headboard.

"You're in the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic."

All at once, everything came rushing back. The business, the crisis, the Aurors coming....A fresh bubble of panic popped in Seda's chest and her eyes flew open. She sat bold upright and stared around her. Immediately people began to hush and subdue her.

"I didn't do anything!" she tried to yell; it came out in a hoarse rasp.

"Zabini," said the offended voice. Seda looked around and saw Albus Potter sitting up in the bed next to her. She had never seen him look so angry.

"You hit me with a Conjuctorel Imiter curse," he growled at her. "That's bad enough to land you in here not to mention Azkaban. You almost killed me, Zabini."

"He's right." With a slight shudder Seda looked up into Harry Potter's face. It wasn't angry or offended; rather, he looked disappointed. As if he was disappointed in Seda. "You do know what the Conjnucotrel Imiter curses do?"

Seda tightened her lips defensively. "Of course I know. It temporarily imitates death. It's just a high dosage Stunner."

"Do you know what it means to temporarily imitate death?" asked Mr. Potter.

Seda hesitated awkwardly.

"It does begin to shut everything down," said Mr. Potter steadily. "Eventually it-"

"I -know- what it means," Seda snapped. She restlessly looked around for some comfort. To her surprise Scorpius had been standing there the whole time; and Tracy stood right next to her bed.

"What happened?" Seda whispered to Tracy.

Tracy bit her lip and began to tear up. "I'll tell you when we get home."

"Don't cry," Seda said desperately. She couldn't deal with the tears right now. "Don't, please. Ms. Rumsford, if you do I swear-"

"Stop it," said Scorpius fiercely to the red-haired woman. He approached Seda's other side and took her hand.

Tracy blinked rapidly. She still looked depressed as she looked over at Mr. Potter, who was looking confused.

"Miss Zabini," said a brown haired Auror woman, "your mother said she doesn't know what you were up to yesterday. So when you're feeling up to it we're going to have to question you directly."

"Who?" said Seda blankly.

"Mrs. Zabini," blinked Mrs. Weasley kindly. "Tracy."

Seda slowly looked over at Tracy. She wrenched her hand out of Scorpius' grip as a red haze appeared in her eyes. Hatred burned on her face. "What's wrong with you?!" she spat with such spite and venom that Tracy, Mrs. Weasley and Scorpius all stepped back timidly. "Why would you tell people that? You're not my mother!"

"She has legal rights to you," said Mrs. Weasley soothingly.

"She doesn't have anything to do with me!" Seda yelled, pain crossing her eyes. "My mother's dead. I don't need yet another phony coming in and trying to call herself my mother."

Mr. Potter stepped forward. He walked right up to Seda and took her face in his hands. A thrill of mingled anger and misery welled inside Seda as her eyes locked again onto the man's.

"Seda," he said very softly, "It's okay."

Seda trembled and tried to squirm free but he set his hand firmly on her shoulder. "Tracy just cares for you. It's okay to open up once in a while."

Now Seda turned on the offensive. She glared at Mr. Potter. "You don't know what it's like. You don't know anything about how I feel."

"Don't I?" said Mr. Potter heavily. "I was made an orphan was I was a baby. I was raised by my abusive relatives and then I had to fight the most powerful wizard of all time when I was seventeen. I thought I was alone. Seda...it's okay. It seems terrible now, like there's no where to go, but you have to put some trust into other people. And don't say you don't have other people...plenty of people love you. You know they do."

Seda blinked and then her eyes turned huge at the strange words being thrown at her. She understood the meaning, but she struggled to find the essence and true comprehension. Someone was trying to relate to her...and she wasn't pushing him away.

The door of the room burst open loudly and everybody, who had been gazing almost transifixed at the exchange between Mr. Potter and Seda, jumped. Blaise Zabini entered the ward warily.

"Ah," said Mr. Potter. He straightened up and stepped back from the bed.

"Blaise," gasped Tracy.

He crossed the war and grasped Tracy's hand briefly, glancing at her. Then he turned his eyes upon his daughter laying weakly in the bed. The room was silent.

"Hi Father," said Seda.

Blaise's hand went to her forehead gently. His palm was cold; Seda's forehead was burning. "Hi Seda," he said simply and retracted his arm.

"How is everything?" Seda asked apprehensively, giving him a look.

Blaise's eyes turned clouded and angry. Seda read his face immediately and scowled.

"I did the best I could," she told him. "I swear, Father, I did as you would have."

"You didn't think about our house, did you?" snapped Blaise. "We lost it, Seda, all of it." He shot a glare at the Aurors Potter and Weasley.

"You took our house?" said Seda weakly, staring at Mr. Potter.

"We have evidence that you acquired it in questionable ways," said Mr. Potter to Blaise.

Seda looked over at Albus. He was staring at her with his eyes aloof. He looked very guilty. Seda shook her head at him and her eyes burned.

"Where are we living now?" Seda asked, not taking her eyes off Albus.

"Maureen has agreed to let us stay at her house temporarily," said Blaise in an evasive tone. Seda went rigid and looked over sharply.

"Blaise," gasped Tracy is disbelief. "All the contacts you have and you decided on Maureen? I'm sorry, Blaise, I refuse to move in with that woman. I won't let you put Seda through that." She folded her arms defiantly. Blaise's face was impassive as he regarded his wife.

"Fine," he said finally. "We'll go somewhere else."

Seda let out a desperate sigh of relief. She felt a strange rush of affection for Tracy.

"Can we have some time alone?" Tracy asked the room at large. A helper drew thick, sound-proof curtains around Seda's bed, Blaise and Tracy.

"What did you do, Seda?" snapped Blaie immediately.

"I saved your ass, Father!" Seda snarled. "They may have gotten our personal belongings but I saved your whole business. I saved the whole industry, Father! They have no proof against you. Why can't you accept that I can actually do something good for once?"

"That's not it, Seda," said Tracy quietly. "You put yourself in danger by taking part in fighting back. It was an incredible risk."

"Well I'm sorry I didn't just sit around and let everyone get caught!" Seda said shrilly.

"Hush," said Blaise. "Keep your voice down, Seda. They'll be suspicious."

Tracy and Blaise exchanged meaningful glances and she sighed deeply. She turned to Seda, looking grim. "Unfortunately, although the Aurors have no proof about Blaise's business. they have uncountable proof on all the illegal items of them house."

"What does that mean?" Seda asked apprehensively.

"It means I'll either be arrested or watched carefully," said Blaise in a low voice.

Seda's mouth fell open. "You can't go to Azkaban! Who's going to run the system? Who's going to take care of Mali and Veasna?"

"Korea Baye is succeeding me," said Blaise.

"Oh, no," Seda groaned. "Father, you have no idea how useless she is. I like her, but during the fiasco she was tittering around like some chicken with its head cut off. No, you must put someone strong in charge. Please consider it."

"I would if I had time," said Blaise. "I have no intention of going to Azkaban. I'll still have full control of the business, I'll simply operate from the south. Our only problem is getting me out of here now."

"Why are you here? You're in the Ministry of Magic."

"I was taught a few tricks," said Blaise in the strange evasive tone he used when he skirted the stories about his Death Eater days. "I'll be fine." He turned to another manner and his eyes turned cold as he looked at her steadily. "Seda, I'll be able to come back to England so if you do something stupid, or your grades go down...keep your head on and don't be an old idiot. Remember you-"

"-Must always do better than your best," Seda finished, rolling her eyes. It was the same old speech he always gave her. On the pretense of him going into exile, Seda felt more disconnected from her father than usual; and she found she didn't care.



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Chapter 8: Capital R's
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Seda was relieved and happy to be back in the swing of things in January. She silently rejoiced in returning to the boring teasing of her friends and the figure of Scorpius swinging off her constantly. The coursework had been ramped up, but this was just a plus in Seda's opinion. She was glad for the distraction of her father's absence and of Tracy's persistant correspondence.

There was one evening, several weeks into the new term, when Seda came to the realization that she had made a mistake in dating Scorpius. It was any other evening, during which Scorpius attended detention (for being late to class by holding on to Seda for an age) and Seda sat with Monalisa and Malachy in the library.

Seda was walking back from one of the bookshelves to their table. She was about to sit down when she caught her friends' faces staring at her.

"What?" she said defensively. She couldn't read their faces but knew they weren't pleased at all.

"The time's come," said Monalisa firmly.

"If you're going to throw me in the Lake like you've been threatening-" Seda began, rolling her eyes; trying to deflect the real purpose of their glares.

"Depends on your answer," said Malachy. Seda took in his long thin face and his rather bony nose; his gray eyes and his dark hair reaching his shoulders. His features were usually bored and haughty; now they seemed hard and wary.

"I haven't been talking to any of the old Gryffindors," said Seda, again trying to distract them.

"Seda, we're not stupid," snapped Monalisa suddenly. "Why are you still dating Scorp?"

The question almost blew Seda off her seat. She stared at her girl friend as the girl played with her enormous hoop earings vaguely out of habit. "Why do I have to have I reason?" she spluttered.

Monalisa folded her arms and put her head to the side calculatingly. Her bangs and bob haircut framed her round and slightly freckled face and it too reflected Malachy's expression. "Seda, don't make me call you by your full name."

Seda folded her arms as well. She wasn't feeling insulted; she was feeling angry, and almost angry at herself. She opened her mouth wordlessly as her stomach squirmed.

"You don't like Scorp like that," Monalisa went on.

"It was fun and games at the beginning," said Malachy seriously, "but it's getting old now. Your joke's up."

"Maybe I always did like him," Seda snapped.

"You wouldn't admit that so easily," said Malachy, pointing his finger at her accusingly.

"You're going to break the boy's heart," said Monalisa, "and Merlin forbid he ever gets dumped again. Remember when Glenda dumped him last year? Well, he'll be ten million times worse with you. So our suffering with his brooding should be on your conscience."

Seda was stunned at the little speech. "You- what- why can't I be with Scorp? We're not going to- to- get married or something."

"I heard he was ring hunting this Christmas," said Malachy with relish.

A cold fear pierced Seda's heart and she visibly shuddered. She had resolved to never get married, let alone when she was still in school, let alone to Scorpius.

"Has his mind gone mental?!" she gasped after gaping for a minute.

Fortunately Malachy laughed. "I'm kidding. He did go shopping for a ring for you, but not that kind of ring. We talked him out of it."

"Why?" Seda frowned. She didn't mind taking Scorpius' pretty gifts.

"Because you're not worth it, Seda," said Monalisa desperately. "We know there's something behind this, we know you're using him or something cruel like that."

"You can talk!" said Seda furiously. She felt shaken and vulnerable. "Remember Vincent? You used him so you could get with fricking Tommy!"

Malachy blinked and looked at Monalisa avidly. "What?!"

Monalisa had turned bright red. "That was different. Vincent wasn't a friend, he didn't matter."

"Girls are heartless," muttered Malachy and he shook his head. Before the girls could round on him angrily, he swiftly changed the subject. "Have you had sex yet?"

This question hit Seda in the face; her jaw fell. She immediately felt hot and awkward and uncharacteristically flustered. "Th- that's a personal question, Mal."

"You did! Ughhh, gross!" Malachy and Monalisa almost yelled together, making faces of mingled disgust and horror.

"Oh, someone's going in the Lake now!" said Malachy, his voice almost panicked. He stood up purposefully.

"No!" Seda said wildly. The girl was absolutely mortified. "We didn't! I swear, you can ask him, we never did. What's wrong with you, of course we didn't!" In truth they had not gone the whole way. They had indeed gone as far as possible without that- but they still had not. Had not. Seda's mind screamed in her embarrassment.

"Well, don't do it in the future," warned Malachy. "If you're going to use him, do it with some dignity. That's the way a real criminal does it."

"I know how to be a criminal," Seda snapped. This was a Slytherin standard: the more one boasted about his or her negative (in sane peoples' minds) abilities, the higher up the person was socially. It was considered a failure if a person could not carry out a deceitful job successfully. Seda happened to be very well respected as everyone recognized her father's standing, but she still felt stung at Malachy's words.

Malachy and Monalisa both shook their heads as they packed up their books. They gave Seda one last look and retreated to another section of the library. Seda sat in her seat for several moments, scowling at their empty chairs.

"Drama, drama!" said a voice.

"Leave me alone!" Seda cried and she jumped to her feet.

"You're so defensive," said Albus as he joined her at her table. "I didn't even say anything."

"Were you eavesdropping?" Seda asked suspiciously. She watched him fall into a chair and open up his bag; she remained standing warily.

"I don't eavesdrop," said Albus nonconfrontationally. "Do you know if armadillo bile or aardvark bile is more effective for a stomach poison reversal?"

"Armadillo bile would create the poision," said Seda immediately, "Aardvark bile would be used for the antidote."

"Ah, thanks," replied Albus. "Potions really isn't my best subject."

"Potions are fascinating," said Seda and she found herself sitting down across from him. She picked up her quill to return to her homework. "They're a whole powerful portion of magic."

"I didn't say Potions isn't cool," Albus pointed out. "I just suck at the subject."

Seda said nothing. The two fell into a brief silence in which they worked on their assignments. Seda found herself deeply imersed in her work after a while, not noticing that Albus seemed much unable to concentrate.

"Stop that," said Seda sharply. Albus stopped bouncing his leg and turned a page in his book idly.

"Zabini, I'm sorry."

Seda took a few minutes to come out of her focus. "Hmm?" she asked lazily.

"I'm sorry."

Seda looked up at him, puzzled. A shadow of anger stirred inside her. "What for?"

Albus hesitated. Seda had never seen him awkward before. "Y'know...I feel bad about setting you up. I didn't think you had that much illegal crap that all this would happen. It was...well..." he pondered his words for a moment.

Seda's lips tightened and she locked her jaw. "Why're you apologising about that? Why do you care?"

"I just feel bad," said Albus empathetically. "You didn't deserve what happened. You...well, you're a very natural leader."

Half of Seda wanted to throw a bok at the boy, but she also felt calm and almost peaceful. "Well, you are too."

Albus shook his head. "Not like you. I mean, I won't say I'm not a good leader, not to be conceited, but I couldn't command a whole business."

Seda twirled her quill in her fingers vaguely, contemplating the boy. Her gaze fell to his parchment.

"I just noticed you capitalize all of your Rs," she stated.

"Oh, yeah. Nice subject change there."

She rolled her eyes. "Really. I've never seen anyone do that. What's wrong with your lowercase Rs?"

"I physically can't write them," said Albus truthfully. "I never really tried lowercase...and frankly capital Rs look much nicer." He shrugged.

Seda refrained from smiling. It was an odd moment, but not a tense one. She gazed into Albus' eyes and noticed how very green they were and how they twinkled. She remembered Mr. Potter's eyes, identical, and felt strange comfort. They stared at each other for a few seconds silently.

"Al, what are you doing?"

"Seda, what is this?"

Seda and Albus jumped as startled voices sounded around them. To the right stood Chey-Lin and to the left Scorpius. There was an awkward pause.

"Oh boy," Seda groaned.

"It's not what you think," said Albus in a sarcastic voice that surprised Seda. He stood up slowly and addressed the boy and girl grimly. "I know it -looks- like we're making out, but we're actually, y'know, doing homework."

His words amused Seda; she had to cover her mouth with her hand to hide her smirk.

"At the same table?" Scorpius growled.

"I don't appreciate your tone, Al," whined Chey-Lin. She folded her arms and looked very hurt. Seda rolled her eyes.

"Aw, Cheylie," said Albus softly and he approached her. He put his hand on her shoulder gently and pecked her on the lips. "Don't worry, C-L. I don't go out with just any girl." Chey-Lin immediately began to smile uncontrollably. "There's that smile," said Albus happily. He hugged his girlfriend; when he pulled back he skillfully captured her lips again.

Seda looked away from the scene, feeling slightly nausiated. She grimaced and stood up as Scorpius joined her. He pushed her hair back from her face. "You got me there for a minute," he said cooly.

"With Potter?" Seda raised her eyebrows almost coldly. "I'd never do anything with that Muggle-loving son-of-an-Auror Gryffindor idiot."

Scorpius looked pleased. "I know that." He put his mouth on hers and kissed her deeply. After a few quiet minutes, there were footsteps and voices.

"Oh look, it's a kissing party," drawled Monalisa's voice.

"Well I feel left out," said Malachy's voice. His voice then became deep and seductive. "What d'you say? Ready to get moanin', Mona?"

There was a muffled thud and Malachy gave a pained grunt. Seda and Scorpius and Albus and Chey-Lin looked over at the two Slytherins. Malachy was kneeling on the floor, covering himself, screwing up his face into a pained expression.

"I was joking," he groaned to Monalisa through gritted teeth.

Seda, Scorpius and Albus laughed loudly; Monalisa still looked offended and Chey-Lin was obviously uncomfortable with the situation.

"Tough one, mate," Scorpius snorted.

"Mona only ever does anything with Tommy," Seda snickered.

Scorpius stopped laughing. "What?" he said blankly.

Monalisa narrowed her eyes at her friend. "I'll do anything with anyone who doesn't make sick puns on my name," she snapped and pushed Malachy's shoulder while he was off-balance, trying to get up. The boy toppled helplessly.

"Well there's a comfort," muttered Albus and now Chey-Lin laughed.

"Shut up, Potter," Monalisa barked.

"Oi, keep your voices down," said the passing Head Boy.

"Yes, I think we will be on our way." With his wand Albus put his books into his bag and summoned it. He put the bag over his shoulder and smiled down at Chey-Lin. He took her hand gently and they intertwined their fingers together. The motion struck Seda deeply and she was back to feeling miserable in Scorpius' arms as Albus and Chey-Lin walked away in their blissful happiness.

 

*~*~*~*

Seda leaned back against the wall and stared across the corridor, her face white. She held a crumpled parchment in her frozen hand against her chest. She couldn't take it.

"Seda?" Scorpius asked her, concerned. He touched her on the shoulder gently and Seda exploded.

"Look at it!" she shrieked, and shoved the abused paper in his face. Scorpius blinked and then refocused: it was an essay. His mouth fell open as he saw the grade.

"Are you sure that's yours?" he pointed out.

"That's my name!" said Seda fiercely, punching the top left hand corner. "That's my handwriting! I've never gotten this grade before, Scorp!"

Apparently Scorpius thought she needed comfort; he leaned in to kiss her. Seda stepped back and pushed him back. "Not now. I'm going to see the teacher."

"You do that," said Scorpius, sighing with relief.

Seda turned and marched down the hallway. She launched herself over the threshold and collided with an outcoming student. They both stumbled backwards slightly; Seda shook her hurting head.

"What's your rush?" Albus grinned.

Seda's face turned red and she began to breathe heavily. "This!" she hissed. She threw the paper at him. He caught it in mid air and regarded it.

"'Poor'," he read.

Seda put her hands on her head and let out a full fledged scream. Her brain was reeling, her heart pounding. That word was not directed at her, no, that was not the correct grade on her paper. That was not her paper!

Everyone in the corridor had turned sharply at her scream. Albus winced slightly and looked astonished.

"Flitwick can probably drop your lowest grade," he said reasonably.

"That's not the point!" Seda cried. "I've never even heard of that grade in my life! It was never an option! Now you listen to me, Potter." She pointed her finger at him and began to stalk him threateningly; he retreated. "You don't know the pressure, Potter. You don't have so much riding on you- what are you-?"

Albus had caught her wrists and now steered her backwards firmly. "You don't have to feel any bloody pressure. See the ground? It's not spinning. The world, it is turning. Everyone is alive and well. It's not the end of it all, Zabini. Now stop taking all of your shit out on me."

He snatched his hands back when she was against the wall and walked away. Seda mouthed wordlessly after him, her hands still elevated to her chest. She was so surprised she had forgotten about her abysmal grade.

"He's got some nerve," snarled Scorpius and he reached into his pocket.

"Maybe, but at least he shut her up," said Monalisa fairly.

 

****

 

Seda wandered on her own for a while after dinner. She didn't feel like staying in the commonroom, trapped by the people she called her friends. She had been walking longer than she thought and before she knew it the torches had illuminated and the hallways dimmed.

"Where am I?" she whispered to herself. She was somewhat sure she was on the fifth floor.

There were muffled footsteps approaching. She whirled around and there approached - you guessed it.

"Wandering the halls again, are we?" Albus asked lightly. He made to walk right past her. Seda followed him with her eyes.

"Where are you going?"

"I am going to Hogsmeade," replied Albus.

Seda was confused. "How are you getting to Hogsmeade? And why're you on your own?"

Albus rolled his emerald eyes. "I'm going to get a couple Butterbeers and snacks. Why are you on your own?"

Seda shrugged. "I felt like wandering tonight."

"Mm, I love wandering," said Albus conversationally. "Hey, here comes Philburt. I got caught by him once. He was nasty."'

"What?" gasped Seda and she jumped around. At the very end of the corridor she could barely make out a figure. A harsh voice, the voice of Professor Philburt, rang out.

"Students!"

It was happening all over again. Seda and Albus grasped hands and sprinted. This time Seda had her bearings and ran at the same pace. She heard clumping footsteps close behind her. For some reason, the situation struck her as hilarious. She laughed. And she laughed. She was barely able to run from laughing so hard; and soon her laughter had affected Albus and he laughed with her. They ran like criminals from a scene and laughed like maniacs.

"Glissedio!" Albus panted, pointing his wand on the floor. A chute formed in front of them and Seda and Albus fell down it. It was free-falling, whipping Seda's stomach out from under her. They landed on her neat cushioning spell.

"Third floor," gasped Albus. "To that humped witch, quick!"

They hurried to it; Albus tapped it and opened the hump. They both jumped in and fell to the floor in the narrow passage below.

Seda and Albus collapsed on the dirty floor, unable to stand from their laughing attack. Seda hadn't felt happier almost ever before. It took them several minutes to calm down and find their breath.

Neither of them said anything as Albus helped Seda to her feet. They walked together in silence down the long tunnel, even though Seda hadn't a clue as to where it led. Seda bit her lip and glanced down at Albus' hand.

No! she thought fiercely. She pushed all of those thoughts out of her head immediately. "Where're we going?" she asked finally.

"Honeyduke's," replied Albus simply.

"How d'you know all of Hogwart's secrets?" Seda inquired. She really was curious to know how the boy knew so much about the castle's secret passageway.

"I got the information from my dad, he got it from his father," said Albus with a shrug. "Jimmy and I added a few passages."

"But how did they get it in the first place?" Seda frowned; she was feeling rather frustrated at his evasiveness.

"That's a secret," Albus grinned mysteriously. "Oh, relax, Zabini. You don't even really care, so don't screw up your face like I'm causing you pain. We're here anyway."

They had come to a short flight of stairs and a trapdoor. Quietly Albus pushed up the trapdoor to check that the coast was clear. He and Seda clambered out and found themselves in a dim storage room. There were distant muffled voices.

Seda startled. "There're people here!" she whispered.

"Yeah, the owners," said Albus with raised eyebrows. "You are totally chill with breaking the rules, aren't you?" He led the way out into the main shop. Slightly shaken, Seda caught a glimpse of the familiar shop with the rows of treats and boxes of sweets. Then a large lady with a round, rosy face appeared, showing off her yellow teeth as she grinned at them.

"Hey, Al," she said cheerfully. "Hello, Chey-Lin."

"This is Seda, actually," said Albus quickly. "Hi, Marjorie. I'll have a sixpack of Butterbeer and a pack of cauldron cakes. I'll also take a box of Chocolava chocolates for Cheylie and those spice-covered sunflower seeds for Bonnie Blue." He looked down at Seda. "Want anything?"

"A Versailles Bar," grunted Seda. She crossed her arms.

Albus's small smile slid. "That's the most expensive thing in here."

"So?" she snapped. "I'll pay for it."

"Fine," he sighed and nodded to Marjorie. When she turned to collect the requests, Albus turned to Seda. He put up his hands and waved them defensively. "Oh, sorry," he said loftily, "It must be so bad to be mistaken for the prettiest girl in our year."

Always touchy about the subject, Seda began to bristle. "Did you know that Chey-Lin Chang is my sister?"

Albus blinked. His mouth fell open slightly. "Er, no I did not," he said, obviously very surprised.

"Sorry that I don't worship your girlfriend," said Seda shakily. "I actually hate her. Like a lot. I hate her more than she hates me."

"Who's older?" Albus asked vaguely. "I mean, you couldn't be twins."

"She's two months older," sneered Seda. "Born in June. I'm born in August."

Albus was clearly struggling to comprehend. "I suppose you sort of look alike. But she's so sweet and innocent. You're so..."

"God kill me if I was ever as useless as her," Seda flared.

Albus's face darkened dangerously. "Obviously you don't know her if you think she's useless. It's possible to be nice and functional at the same time, you know. I don't care if you hate her more than anything, but don't you say a word against her in front of me."

"I don't hate her more than anything," said Seda blandly, "I hate her mother more than anything."

Albus's eyes still glared angrily. "Your mother?"

"Okay, we're half sisters," said Seda. "Different mothers. My mother's always been dead, I believe from Miss Chang, while the latter gets to live her happy life." She flung her arms across her torso and folded them furiously and glared into the distance.

"I just remembered why I like her," growled Albus darkly. "She's not a jaded, miserable old bat."

Marjorie shuffled up to them now with a small sack. Albus handed over his money silently and then Seda declined the massive chocolate bar. Albus thanked the woman and the Slytherin and Gryffindor descended back to their tunnel.

The walk back was cold and silent. Seda couldn't stand their bipolar relationship, but she always simply got so angry around the boy. His calm, weary demeanor and his languid, witty way of speaking intrigued but also infuriated her. She could never win against him. Everything she did was put down and inferior to the great Albus.

Frankly, arguing with Albus was one of the best parts about him. Seda had never been challenged by anyone, and Scorpius was as spineless as a flobberworm. It was too easy for her to win everywhere else, and it was refreshing - and yet so maddening! - to barely ever be able to win anything against the son-of-an-Auror Gryffindor.

At their exit to the third floor, Albus cupped his hands expectantly. Seda put her foot in it and made her way out of the humped witch. Albus followed agiley.

"I take it you know how to get to your dungeons?" he asked coldly. His tone was surprisingly icy and hurt Seda.

"Yes," she replied shortly.

They parted wordlessly.

 

****

 

"Nice day," Seda stated.

Scorpius smiled. He caught a small Magnolia flower that fluttered by them, and put it behind her ear. "Sure is," he said. They were standing underneath the tree, and a moment later they were kissing underneath the tree.

Seda opened her eyes and cast them around vaguely; they fell on the tree trunk. She blinked and detatched her mouth from Scorpius's and stared at what was there. SZ + AP was carved in the trunk, surrounded by a carved heart.

"What's that?" Scorpius asked sharply as he noticed it too.

"I don't know," said Seda breathlessly. A strange swooping feeling came to her stomach.

"Excuse us," said a voice. Seda and Scorpius turned to see a seventh-year Hufflepuff couple standing on the fringes of the magnolia tree.

"D'you have a problem?" Scorpius asked angrily.

"This is our spot," said the boy, who had curly light brown hair and an undestinctive face.

"This is a free tree," snarled Scorpius.

"Who are you?" Seda asked clearly.

"I'm Stephen Zourier and this is Alita Pratt," said the boy and he frowned at her.

Seda looked back at the carving. A raincloud seemed to pass over the brilliant spring day. "We should get out of their way, Scorp," she said. She pulled him away by his sleeve, ignoring his spluttered protests, thinking the episode quite pathetic. She never wanted to go near that tree again.





Chapter 9: The Impossible
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**




It was beginning to get frustrating, to hear everything from gossipping Ravenclaws, but Seda realized they were a reliable source in anything Potter or Chang. The class was waiting in front of the Charms classroom as usual when the girls began talking. Their tones were hushed and serious for once, and this caught Seda's attention.

"Chey-Lin was crying all night," whispered Grace Diaz. "They were together this morning, but something's up now."

"They probably had a little row," said Ruby. "All couples do and Chey-Lin is dramatic, after all. The first time they snogged she came back almost screaming, remember?"

"As annoying as the screaming was, it was less worrisome," said Bonnie. "You're right. You guys, they've been getting a bit rocky lately. I think they might've broken up."

The three girls were silent as they absorbed this theory.

"I doubt it," said Ruby slowly. "It's well known that Al's a whimp in dumping girlfriends."

A tap on the shoulder made Seda jump. She turned and faced Malachy who was peering at her curiously. She put her finger to her lips and hushed him. She turned back to eavesdropping.

"He gave me these." Bonnie pulled out a long tube full of multicolored sunflower seeds. "They're my favorite, it's really sweet that he remembered. But this means he weant to Honeyduke's last night, however he did that. When he does he always brings something back for Chey. She doesn't have a new box of chocolates."

"How d'you know Chey didn't get a box of chocolates?" asked Grace.

"'Cause she squeals to us all every time she gets one," replied Bonnie. "There was no screaming last night. Only crying."

Seda turned away and furrowed her brow. She wondered vaguely what they had fought about.... When she looked up at Malachy and gave him a tense smile, something else caught her eye. Albus Potter was walking up towards them...Chey-Lin was not by his side. That was definitely very strange.

"Hello, Al," said the girls rather shrilly.

"Hey," he said. "What's up? Bonnie Blue, nice pack of treats there, d'you like them all right?"

"Of course," said Bonnie a little too quickly.

Albus turned slowly to face Seda. They stared at each other for several moments; Albus's face was almost blazing. Seda wondered what expression she'd arranged her own face into.

"Well, it's true," he said almost weakly.  "About you and Chey."

"Of course it's true," said Seda calmly. "Does that change anything?"

He shook his head. "No, I don't think so. It doesn't matter what sort of blood she's got or anything."

Malachy and the Ravenclaw girls both turned more suspicious at every word.

"Funny," drawled Seda and she crossed her arms, "You seemed to care about that for me, Potter."

For a moment Albus looked stunned. "What? No, I never did. Okay, Malfoy, yes, a lot, but not you."

Anger flared up inside Seda. Scorpius, more of a Slytherin than herself? Seda opened her mouth to retort but Albus cut across her.

"Look, you don't have to get insulted at every little thing, Zabini," he said harshly.

"I don't get insulted at every little thing!" said Seda, and her eyes narrowed dangerously. And suddenly Albus laughed.

For a moment it seemed that all Albus could do was laugh.

"What?" Seda prompted impatiently.

"Your face," Albus laughed. "Ha ha!"

At Seda's side, Malachy rose to the occasion. "Oi! What's your problem?"

"Oh, right." Albus's smile vanished in a second and his face became serious. He turned to Seda. "Seda - is it alright that I call you Seda? - she felt threatened by you."

Seda considered this for a moment. "She thought I liked you or something?"

"Well, yeah."

Seda put her hand up to her chin and massaged it thoughtfully with her index finger and thumb. "Well, that's clearly not the case. But Scorp felt threatened too. Maybe we should follow through and kill 'em," she added in a quick joke and grinned.

Albus actually laughed. "Sounds like a plan to me."

"Albus!" squealed Bonnie. "Did you just joke about killing Chey-Lin?"

Albus turned his twinkling eyes on her vaguely. "Sure." He turned back to Seda. "But that would be quite impossible."

"Oh now you talk about impossible," Seda said, raising her hands and rolling her eyes to the heavens.

"Did you just tell me I'm impossible?" Albus asked, a smirk straining his lips.

"Why yes, and it's quite true."

"Ha, of course it is. Only, I am living and breathing which makes me possible. You, on the other hand are also impossible. Always picking a fight."

"Excuse me, you're the one who always provokes me on purpose. You just called me impossible, by the way, so your argument means nothing."

"Fine," Albus grinned, "You're maddening."

"You are vexatious!" said Seda triumphantly. She suddenly felt all eyes upon her.

Albus's green eyes twinkled at her. "Fancy synonym for maddening. Pathetic."

"Oh, I'm not losing this one, Potter," said Seda seriously.

"So now joking around is a competition too?" Albus contemplated for a moment. "You're overzealous, Seda. I never asked you, what do you want to do as a profession?"

Startled by the abrupt change of conversation, Seda shrugged. "I have no idea."

Albus looked blown away. "What? But you're so smart and you'll be able to succeed at anything you do, you'll just claw your way to the top."

"Oh, yes I will," said Seda waspishly.

"Okay, other than Quidditch..." Albus bit his lip. "I want to figure this out."

"Why do you have to figure me out?" Seda frowned.

Albus dropped the pondering pose and looked at her. His expression was unreadable. They simply looked at each other vaguely. Suddenly a sharp voice rang out. "Students! So sorry I am late!"

Seda hated Professor Flitwick for a moment.

*******

"I can't believe we're playing Gryffindor again," said Lang in a hollow voice.

"This hasn't happened for about fifty years!" Tommy lamented.

"We finished in the same place," said Seda bitterly. "We play them in the finals now."

"Zabini," snapped Tommy, "I know."

"Well, we've already done it!" said Seda. "We crushed Gryffindor. Let's just do it again."

A whistle blew and the team, dressed in their bright green Quidditch robes, got to their feet and shouldered their broomsticks.

"Let's go," said Tommy.

Nerves jangling, the Slytherins walked onto the pitch, amid cheers and boos. The sun was weak but still there and the ground was soft. There was absolutely no wind to speak of, which was good for everybody.

"Captains shake hands," said Madam Pousse.

Seda watched Tommy and Albus shake hands. Albus's green eyes were visibly gleaming and he didn't spare Seda a glance as he mounted his broomstick. The others clambered of theirs too.

"On my whistle," said Madam Pousse. "Three- two- one-"

Seda kicked off and seized the Quaffle before anybody else knew what was happening. She weaved through the opposing team and shot in the other direction. She had a clear shot; she threw the Quaffle and - the Gryffindor Keeper came flying out of nowhere and caught the damned thing!

Seda swore.

"Potter is now in possession of the Quaffle," said the commentator. "He throws it to Thomas - Thomas makes a nice pass to- wait, the Quaffle's already in Potter's hands? Blimey, Gryffindor's got the Quaffle going like the Irish."

Seda pelted down the field. "Let's go!" she yelled to her other Chasers. They were gaining on the Gryffindors. As Melissa Bloom threw the Quaffle, Seda made a great catch and caught the ball. She turned sharply, to find Ben Thomas blocking her. She feinted left and bolted to the right and passed to Hunter. Damn! Albus intercepted and soared back to the Slytherin posts. This time Seda and the others struggled to keep up.

A Bludger flew at Albus but he dodged it easily and now he didn't even have to pass. Still he passed it easily to Bloom and she shot and--

Seda groaned.

Within ten minutes, Slytherin was down fifty to ten. When Gryffindor scored one more goal, making it sixty-ten, Seda seized the Quaffle. She sped down the field, fire blazing in her eyes. Gryffindors tried to block her and Bludgers tried to hit her, but Seda dodged all of them and continued charging madly. She rammed her body into the Gryffindor Keeper and threw the Quaffle through the goal.

"You bitch!" screamed the Keeper; his mouth was bleeding freely.

Seda ignored him. However, a few minutes later Gryffindor scored two more goals. This was not happening! For each goal Slytherin made, Gryffindor made four.

A couple hours later, the score was one hundred and fifty to Gryffindor and fifty to Slytherin. It was like a horrible nightmare. Now it was down to whoever caught the snitch.

"Lily Potter has seen the Snitch!" said the commentator. Indeed, had Lily made a very neat dive. Lang followed her like a whirlwind. They were very close to the ground. Lily pulled up neatly and Lang struggled to regain his balance. Everybody became breathless as the Seekers came neck to neck. The whole stadium gasped as Lily slammed her shoulder into Lang and at the same time launched her body forward, took both hands off her broom and-

Madam Pousse's whistle sounded and the stadium exploded.

Seda zoomed down to the ground and stormed off the pitch. She had lost! Albus Potter had beaten her yet again! She sprinted into the changing room; her team followed.

"AAARGH!" Seda yelled. She ripped off her head gear and threw it with all her strength; it knocked down a lonely locker. Frustration, humiliation and anger swarmed through Seda like poison. "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS!"

"Sed-" began Lachlan.

"WE LOST!" she shrieked at him. Her eyes were almost deranged; she looked as she had when she received her 'Poor' grade- perhaps even worse. "YOU!" she screamed at Tommy. "YOU SUCK!'

"SHUT UP!" Tommy roared and he slammed his broomstick on the floor.

Seda made up her frenzied mind: she was going to kill Albus Potter. That was it. Just rid him off the face of the earth! She drew her wand and stormed out of the locker room. However, there wasn't a soul in the stadium- the team had already been presented wit hthe Cup and the school had already reentered Hogwarts.

Seda screamed out a cry of her soul and it echoed around the eerily empty pitch.

*~*~*

"Potter!"

It was a beautiful spring Sunday, but Seda's stormy mood was impervious to the nice weather. She stormed down the grounds to where Albus sat reading on his own.

"Can a guy be in peace for a bit?" he said, sounding annoyed. "Without being threatened with a wand?" he added as Seda thrust her wand into his face.

"Stand up and fight," Seda spat. Albus got to his feet but he didn't draw his wand.


"Seda, it's just Quidditch," he told her realistically.

"But you beat me," Seda snarled.

"So?" Albus snapped. "Everybody loses sometimes, Seda. Get used to it! Life isn't always what you want it to be, everyone but you knows that." When Seda still looked thunderous, he moved so fast that Seda didn't even see him raise his wand. All she knew was that hers shot out of her hand and spun into Albus's. He pocketed them both.

"Al," said Seda, annoyed. However, he surprised her by putting his arms around her and holding her tightly. Seda's heart rate soared and her stomach plummeted. She temporarily lost her train of thought and the ability to speak. All the fight and anger drained out of her at once.

"What?" she whispered.

"You're only angry because I beat you," Albus said. He was smirking at her. They were incredibly close.

"You always win," Seda complained.

"Most of the time, yes," Albus conceded with a cheeky grin.

"I never win," whispered Seda, hurt crossing her eyes.

But Albus was smiling. He became much more subdued and suddenly shy. "No, you won something."

"What?" said Seda a little sharply.

"It's corny to the extreme," said Albus, "but you won my heart, Seda. I don't know how or why. You're infuriating and ridiculous, but somehow I just really like you."

Seda's heart seemed to stand still and oxygen failed to pass to her brain. "I like you too," she breathed. "I don't know how either. At times I hate you, but...oh, Al...."

Seda made a slight movement to back away but remained still. Slowly Albus reached up and touched her face gingerly. They were close, nothing but the calm wind between them. Seda's heart was in her throat as in a small corner of her mind she was screaming -No! No!-...Albus' hand cupped her chin and he moved in slowly. He travelled to her inch by inch, his twinkling eyes, his enchanting and sparkling green eyes, firmly set on hers.

Seda closed her eyes and a moment later Albus' lips touched hers. They were soft and warm and gentle, innocently pressed to hers. It was so simple, so perfect, and neither of them tried to intensify anything. For the first time this wasn't a competition. It wasn't like kissing Scorpius, trying to please his hunger and being determined to do so...there was no fight in Seda and she let Albus kiss her quietly, and he held her as if her body was a fragile thing, held her in a way Seda had never been held before. For the first time, Seda surrendered herself completely and ultimately to another being, firmly placing her heart in his hands.

And it was the most wonderful feeling she had certainly ever experienced. 


:)

Sorry the chapter was so short guys! i just had to break it cuz it wouldnt have the same effect...and i didnt want to fill the text with boring, useless stuff. either way, REVIEWS ARE APPRECIATED. :)

Chapter 10: Baby It's Fact
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***

"Zabini!"

Seda, Scorpius, Malachy and Monalisa turned to see Albus approaching them. Seda's stomach did a backflip and she gave him a dazzling smile.

Albus did a double-take and gazed at me. "You -are- related," he said.

"Don't remind me," Seda grumbled.

"'Course not," he said immediately. "Hey, remember that time that Hufflepuff kid turned himself into a pumpkin on the fifth floor?"

Seda tried to cast her mind to remember. It was more difficult than usual, because Albus simply being there was distracting. Eventually she did remember. "Yes."

"Well, that's just it," said Albus simply.

Seda stared at him. "What are you talking about?"

"Just wanted to remind you." He stared into her eyes intensely. Suddenly Seda caught on. He wanted to meet her on the fifth floor, where that boy had transfigured himself.

"Okay," she said, nodding to show him she understood. He nodded curtly then hurried off.

"Was that a secret message?" Scorpius demanded immediately.

"Yes," said Seda sarcastically, "Because pumpkin boys are really a codeword for 'secret message' between Albus Potter and I."

However, when the four friends took their seats at the Slytherin table, Seda's friends did not seem satisfied.

"You always talk about things like you and only you two know what's going on," said Malachy suspiciously.

"We've had some run-ins," Seda said calmly. "Either way all we do mostly is fight."

The three friends badgered Seda all day. Their harrassing and the face of Albus always in Seda's mind, made the day very stressful. During classes, Seda and Albus didn't dare to glance in each others' direction. The day crept by incredibly slowly for everyone.

"Time for Quidditch practice," said Seda that evening.

"Have fun," grumbled Malachy and Monalisa. Scorpius insisted upon sucking a kiss from Seda before she left the commonroom. She felt uneasy, as if she was blatantly cheating on Scorpius. Of course that was what she was doing, but to her it felt the other way around: she felt as if Albus was her first boyfriend and Scorpius her meaningless other man.

She wiped her lips and dug a mint out of her pocket. She didn't know what exactly was going to go down on the fifth floor, but she decided to be on the safe side.

"Hi," she said as she approached him on the fifth floor. He smiled at her in his weary way and nodded to his right. Seda's jaw dropped; there was a shiny brass door where the wall usually was.

"What's this?" she gasped.

"Just come on in," said Albus. He opened the door and they both walked in; he closed the door and locked it with a loud click. Inside the room was a miniature commonroom, with an armchair, sofa, fireplace, and a couple desks. It was very warm and comfortable. Albus threw his bag on one of the tables.

"How was your day?" he asked, and his voice was laced with amusemet.

Seda ignored the question. "What is this place? How do you always manage to pull secret passageways from nowhere?"

Albus grinned. "The secret passsageways are always there, Seda. This is most commonly known as the Room of Requirement, for the people who know of it. Not many do."

A soft smile played Seda's lips. "It's very impressive."

"Thanks." Albus walked over and plonked down into the couch. "Let's have a little chat."

Seda approached and sat next to him. Her heart was nervous. "Do you mean chat or...-chat-?" She threw him a meaningful look.

Albus laughed. "We can get to -chatting- later, maybe. We'll see. I just want to talk to you though."

"Okay." Seda felt quite touched. Albus took her hand; it was warm and soft.

"Why'd you break up with Chey-Lin?" Seda asked.

"You're the only person who I'll tell the truth to," said Albus. "Honestly, I began to see that...well, you were right. She's kind of useless. I mean she's cute and nice and we have a lot of fun...but we don't talk about anything interesting. She's quite shallow and also just too emotional for me."

"I knew it wouldn't last," said Seda smugly. "You're too smart and sophisticated."

"You mean you -hoped- it wouldn't last," Albus smirked. Seda rolled her eyes. "You never told me. What do you want to do?"

Seda sighed. "First I'm going to go to Salem University. After that...I've no idea."

"Well there must be something you're passionate about," Albus said sincerely.

Seda had never considered her passions. What did she enjoy? She loved Quidditch and magic. She found herself deeply contemplating herself. Finally she answered, "If I was passionate about anything it would be Arithmancy."

"So you should do Arithmancy with the people who know it best," said Albus.

"Who?" Seda frowned.

"Muggles," said Albus simply.

Seda laughed. "You're joking, right?"

"No," Albus blinked. "They're the ones who invented Arithmancy and mathetmatics. In that world the subject goes to infinity. Then you could come back and be a kick-ass curse breaker for Gringotts."

Seda was amazed. He had actually listened to her, he'd given her sound advice- as ridiculous as it was. He wasn't Scorpius, who listened from desperation; he listened because he was sincere and honest. They continued talking for what ended up being two hours. The conversation never got repetetive. Seda learned that Albus desired to become a Healer or Minister of Magic. The combination made Seda almost scoff, but she remembered that Albus had been patient with her wishes.

Finally silence fell between them. The fire was roaring and the couch was incredibly comfortable.

"What do we do now?" Albus mused idly.

Seda put her hand on his cheek and turned his head to face her. "Kiss me, you twit."

Albus grinned dangerously. He cupped her face and kissed her. A shiver shot up Seda's spine. His lips were pressed firmly against hers and slowly he began to tilt his head, deepening the kiss. One hand was resting on the side of her neck, the other was in her hair. Seda wrapped her arms around Albus's neck and buried her hands in his impossibly messy hair. It was complete bliss. He was a fantastic kisser, he nearly blew Seda away.

Albus licked her bottom lip gently and Seda admitted his entry. Seda's brain was in a daze as he pulled her closer, gently. His hands began to travel- to her lower back, to her waist. Seda couldn't believe how much better he was at this than Scorpius. They moved together rhythmically. Albus's mouth left Seda's and moved to her neck. Seda let out an involuntary moan as he bit her skin lightly and kissed her. In returned she moved on to his ear; he laughed in to the nape of her neck, his breath tickling her. It was sensual and completely blissful. Her own hands went to his muscular, sexy chest. He skillfully captured her lips again and now his hands did other things. He pressed into her back but he didn't have to do that to make her arch into him. His other hand found her thigh. Seda pulled him as close as physically possible and leaned back, pulling him on top of her. He laughed slightly again and deepened his kiss.

*********

"Where is Seda?!" Scorpius demanded of no one.

"There's Tommy," said Monalisa suddenly as the Quidditch captain entered the commonroom. "Tommy, is Seda on her way?"

"What are you talking about?" Tommy asked vaguely.

"Is she coming back from Quidditch?" Malachy inquired.

"What?" Tommy repeated. "There was no practice tonight."

Scorpius's eyes widened dramatically. He whipped around to face his friends, who both looked alarmed. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"I think she's on the fifth floor," said Monalisa.

"What makes you say that?" the boys asked, confused.

Monalisa sighed. "This morning, all that bullock about the boy exploding into a pumpkin or something, on the fifth floor. Potter doesn't seem the type to waltz up and randomly talk about exploding pumpkins, does he? The important thing was that it happened on the fifth floor."

"Do you think she's meeting Potter?" Scorpius squeaked. Both Malachy and Monalisa stared at him. He cleared his throat and blushed.

"Well, we should go to the fifth floor and see," said Malachy. With Scorpius in the lead, the Slytherins made their way up to the fifth floor. It was eight thirty, almost curfew, so they had to hurry up the million staircases. They walked down the fifth floor corridor and ran into three people.

"What're you doing here?" Scorpius, Malachy, Monalisa, Rose Weasley, Skyla Jamin, and Ben Thomas chimed at the same time.

"Looking for Al," said Rose.

"We're looking for Seda," said Malachy. "What're you doing on the fifth floor?"

"Our commonroom is on the sixth floor," said Thomas. "We have to come through here to get downstairs. What're you doing up here? A little out of your way, isn't it?"

Monalisa glared at him. "We told you, we're looking for Seda. We have reason to believe she's around the fifth floor."

"Why would she come up here?" Rose asked.

"We think Potter gave her a message to come up here," snorted Scorpius. Jealousy dripped from every aspect of his demeanor.

"Malfoy," said Skyla, "I don't think you have anything to worry about. Al's into those Ravenclaw girls, not girls like Zabini."

"Oh goodness," said Rose softly. Everybody looked at her; she was gazing at the blank stretch of wall before which they were standing. She looked at the opposite tapestry of the trolls doing ballet and pulled a grim face. "They're in there. Or at least Albus is."

"In where?" said Scorpius sharply.

But Rose began to pace, walking the length of the hallway. She seemed to be concentrating very hard. She stopped pacing; nothing.

"Al's in there," she said quietly.

****************

There was a loud buzzing sound. Seda and Albus detatched themselves and gazed at each other breathlessly with glazed eyes. The buzzing sound came again.

"What is that?" Seda mumbled, deeply annoyed.

"Someone's trying to get in," groaned Albus. He got off her; he stumbled slightly. The buzzing sound came again. "Rose," he growled.

"Will they be able to come in?" Seda asked. She reached for her shirt nervously.

"They shouldn't be able to," said Albus thoughtfully. As he pondered the door for a moment, Seda had a rushing realization. She sprung to her feet. Her sudden movement alarmed Albus. "What's up?"

"I just did all that," Seda whispered, "with a Gryffindor. You're my enemy, Albus, I can't be with you!"

She walked away and Albus hurried after her. He caught her by the elbow. "What are you talking about?! I thought we'd put the House stuff aside!"

"It's not just House stuff, Al," sighed Seda. "What about our parents and our friends? What will they think? We can't live in secret forever. I'm sorry, but it's too risky."

Albus screwed up his face and put his head in his hands. Seda picked up her robes as he struggled to make up his mind. "Seda, wait."

It was a mark of how much Seda liked the boy that she stopped and listened to him.

"I've never told anyone but my dad this," said Albus in a low voice. He took a breath and held her gaze. "The Sorting Hat only put me in Gryffindor only because I asked it to."

Seda frowned at him. "What do you mean?"

Albus took another breath. "The Sorting Hat tried to put me into Slytherin my first year. It did for my dad, but that was a different situation. This, this was all me. Also, the Hat and I battled hard for it. It said I had all the qualities..." He shuddered. "But I was determined to get into anything but Slytherin. It's our decisions that truly matter, as they saying somehow goes."

Seda stared at him unabashedly, half because he was still without a shirt and half because of this news. "For serious? A Potter, a Slytherin?"

"I know, mad thought," said Albus. "See why I didn't want to be there?"

Seda nodded vaguely. This changed things somewhat....

"Seda, you're thinking with your head," said Albus. "I know you, you always consider and analyze everything. This was one of those rare occasions that you rushed into something, and you're afraid of it. You don't like your emotions 'cause you're afraid you'll get hurt. Well, let go of your heart and let go of your head and feel it now."

Seda bit her lip. Suddenly Albus grinned almost wickedly. He took her hand and placed it over his heart firmly, keeping his hand over hers. Seda's heart fluttered for a hundredth time that day and she promptly melted into a puddle. She closed the space between them, resting her head on his bare chest. His warm skin was pressed against her cheek...she could hear his heart beating double-time with her own. Her fingers wandered lazily down to his wonderful abdomen. Albus was rubbing her back gently, kissing the top of her head. His hands changed direction and ran the tips of his fingers up and down her waist slowly; another tingling sensation crept through Seda and she groaned into his neck. He pinched her waist and Seda's body forced itself tighter to his immediately.

"You've obviously had way too much experience with this," Seda whispered as she looked up into his dreamy eyes and latched her arms around his bare shoulders.

"I've never done this in my life," Albus whispered truthfully. "Snogging, sure, but not this." He put his lips to her shoulder and nibbled at her neck a bit, making Seda go completely weak.

************

"Are you sure?" said Monalisa evenly.

"I'm sure," said Rose grimly. "Al comes here a lot...and yet he still thinks it's some sort of hiding place. The idiot."

"But is Seda in there?" Scorpius asked, his voice panicked.

"I doubt it," Skyla frowned. "Can you get us in there, Rose?"

"Hang on," replied Rose. She thought for a moment, then began to pace again. After a few laps, a door, a shiny brass door, appeared. The Slytherins gaped at it.

"Ready?" whispered Rose. The others nodded nervously. She turned the handle and pushed the door open. Everyone peered through nervously. For a moment nobody could react.

Albus Potter stood shirtless with his arms wrapped around Seda Zabini, who was also shirtless. Both Albus's and Seda's hair was messy and both wore dreamy, punch-drunk expressions that were marred slightly by shock.

"YOU!" Scorpius roared.

The six students charged into the room, most of them still struggling to process the image. Skyla slammed the door behind them with more force than intended.

"What're you going to do?" Albus laughed at him. He was extremely calm; Seda looked petrified.

"She's scared out of her bloody mind," snarled Scorpius. He was shaking and his face was white. "Let go of her, Potter."

"She's scared of -you-, Malfoy," said Albus flatly.

"How long has this been going on?!" demanded Rose. She was glaring at her cousin.

"Since yesterday?" Albus shrugged.

"Seda," said Malachy weakly. He and Monalisa were the only ones who were not frenzied and angry; they were simply weak and in distant disbelief.

"This is my choice," said Seda firmly. Feeling self-conscious, she searched around for her shirt vaguely.

"Really, now?" Albus seemed surprised and amused. "I'm not a Muggle-loving son-of-an-Auror Gryffindor idiot anymore?" He grinned in that wicked way of his and Seda's eyes gleamed.

"No, you're still all of those things," Seda assured him.

"Good, I'd never want to be referred to as something positive," Albus chuckled.

"Excuse us," said Scorpius. "I am not finished with you yet."

Albus withdrew his arms from around Seda. A cold draft hit Seda and she shivered; she felt suddenly alone. However, she managed to put her shirt on fairly quickly and arranged her face to impassive.

"You want to go, Potter?" said Scorpius, drawing himself to full height.

"Yeah, maybe I do," snapped Albus. He wrenched on his own shirt.

"The prize is Seda," growled Scorpius.

"What?!" Both Seda and Albus exclaimed. They both glared angrily at the blonde boy.

"Scorpius!" Seda snarled. "I am not some trinket to be won in some petty contest! How dare you?!"

"Well, you -are- a hell of a prize," conceded Albus. Seda glared at him too, and he cleared his throat. "Did I say prize? I meant surprise. You're always a right old surprise, Seda."

Seda couldn't help it. She burst out into raucus peals of laughter.

"I won that one," grinned Albus.

Seda's laughter stopped and her smile vanished. Everyone in the room vaguely mused at how quickly she could change her emotions.

"Sorry, Potter," said Scorpius. He was smirking, covering up his hurt inside. "I've known this girl six years now. You're thick if you think you can win anything."

Albus's mouth strained for a moment and he looked from Scorpius to Seda. "I've known her for a year and I know how to win. I know how to make her furious until her head almost comes off, but-"

"You also know how to make me happiest," Seda finished for him.

"Gross!" exclaimed Monalisa finally. "Seda, who are you now? You're some desperate romantic like Scorp."

"Thanks," Scorpius snorted darkly.

"There's nothing wrong with being in love," said Rose quietly.

"Love is what makes a person weak," Malachy pointed out. "I mean, look at Scorpius." Scorpius glowered menacingly. "Just kidding, mate," he added.

"That's what I thought too," said Seda to Malachy. "I really thought that emotion could be the death of me. But really...it's so much stronger, you know. A lot stronger."

"You know," said Albus, "My dad only beat Voldemort because Voldemort couldn't love and he could. Love was the reason my dad ever survived, and the lack of it was Voldemort's downfall."

The Slytherins, including Seda, all hissed at the name automatically, but also considered this information.

"Al," said Skyla. "Have you perhaps, y'know, gone mad? You love Chey-Lin, and if not then your Bonnie Blue. You and Zabini can't go five minutes without having a row."

Albus shrugged. "I'm over Chey. I like Bonnie Blue, but only as a friend. She's my best friend, I could never date my best friend."

"But you're a Gryffindor," said Scorpius. "You, you're a Slytherin!"

Seda sighed. She closed her eyes and seemed to be plucking up courage. Her eyes fluttered open and she looked at nobody but Albus, even though everyone was looking at her.

"It was the same for me," she said.

"Same of what?" Albus asked patiently.

"The Sorting Hat, I completely forgot, it considered putting me in Gryffindor," said Seda. Everyone gazed at her, amazed. Seda put her mind into gear firmly as usual and ignored them. "It said, my deepest nature was that of a Gryffindor, but my exterior and my mind was of Slytherin. I didn't have to -ask- for it to put me in Slytherin, but it did debate with itself for a time." She took a breath. Her eyes glinted from speaking the truth.

Albus was watching her with a soft smile on his face. "I knew you were a Gryffindor at heart the moment you didn't run away and save yourself when your father's business was under seige. But still, you're so brave and...thick."

Seda gave him a look, but Albus was unphased.

"That was the first time you told anyone that, wasn't it?" he said. His smile widened. "You're brave to tell a whole room full of people, when you're basically mortally ashamed of the situation. I couldn't say my story in front of all these people, even Rose."

"What?" said Rose sharply.

"That -he- was almost put in Slyth-" Seda stopped in time. Her eyes widened nervously at Albus.

"I remember you were afraid you'd be put in Slytherin before we came here," said Rose slowly. "First James teased you, then you seriously considered it. Was it because of your middle name?"

"What's your middle name?" Seda asked Albus quickly. He hesitated, then said: "Severus."

"As in Severus Snape?" said Seda, Scorpius, and Ben Thomas together. Albus nodded.

"He was our traitor," said Scorpius darkly.

"I don't care who he was," said Albus fiercely.

"Neither do I," said Seda and she put her hand on his arm gently. Her hand came down and she took his hand; she squeezed it comfortingly.

"Well, well," sighed Rose. "Al Potter has won yet another girl's heart."

"What are you talking about?" Scorpius yelped at her.

"Scorp," said Monalisa and Malachy together. Something extraordinary was happening: they were glaring at the blond boy. "Let it go."

"Seda can make her own decisions," said Malachy. "While her decision makes me sick to my stomach...well, actually don't think Potter's such a Gryffindor anymore."

"The Sorting Hat messes a lot up, doesn't it," mused Skyla.

"What 'bout your father?" said Scorpius. He still had an ugly look on his face.

"Honestly," said Seda, "Harry Potter was more of a father than mine ever was. I barely know either men." She felt Albus squeeze her hand quickly. He leaned down and his nose brushed against her cheek.

"Do you trust me?" he whispered in Seda's ear. He closed her eyes, relishing in the feel of his hot breath tickling her neck.

"Yes," Seda breathed. She was nearly trembling. Albus kissed her on the cheek slowly and seductively.

One would have thought everything had been settled, but Seda and Albus were going to have to face much worse confrontations considering Albus's popularity. As Scorpius burst out of the room and everybody else made noises of protests, Seda and Albus kissed each other again, both feeling freer than any time before. They would get through any difficulties thrown in their way.

The feeling was strange and foreign to Seda but she was no longer afraid of her feelings. As Albus wrapped his arms around her and picked her up off her feet, she squeaked, "I love you."

Albus froze and placed her back on the ground.

"Really?" He was smiling.

It was the first time Seda had uttered the words to any one.

"Well, I love you too," said Albus calmly.

It was the first time Seda had been the receiver of the words. But it wouldn't be the last.

 

 

Just in case they're wondering
They've got us pinned terribly,
They don't believe our love is real
'Cause they don't know how real love feels

You should know it's true, just now,
The part about my love for you
And now my heart's about to burst into
A thousand pieces so it must be true
And they'll believe us too soon


Baby, it's fact that our love is true
The way black is black and blue is just blue
Our love is true, it's a matter of fact
Oh and you love me too, it's as simple as that
Baby our love is true...


They may say some awful things
But there's no point in listening
Your words are the only words
That I'll believe in afterwards


You should know it's true, just now,
The part about my love for you
And now my heart's about to burst into
A thousand pieces so it must be true
And they'll believe us too soon


Baby, it's fact that our love is true
The way black is black and blue is just blue
Our love is true, it's a matter of fact
Oh and you love me too, it's as simple as that
Baby our love is true...





The End!!

Ending song Baby, It's Fact by Hellogoodbye.

Hope you enjoyed this and please review! :)

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