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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?"
"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.
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