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.
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.
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.
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