"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'."
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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