“That’s not it,” Blanca sighed, “go back.”
Zabini growled and threw the weeds on the banks and dived back in the lake, they had been there nearly an hour and Blanca had sent him back in several times for he had failed to get anything.
“Careful the squid doesn’t get you,” Blanca called, though she really could not care less if it did, but it would reflect badly on her so she had to care somewhat. She leaned back on the grass and tried to grow some daisies around her, though all that was popping up were ferns and buttercups, the sun was setting and the warmth on the back of her neck was quite comforting.
Zabini emerged from the lake, his green swimming trunks clung to his skin as he wiped the wetness from his face, “You know what? Why don’t you do it for a try?” he has an irritated edge in his voice.
“I don’t like getting wet,” Blanca pouted, “but since it’s Gillyweed you want…” she got up and right by the banks there was a small cluster of wild grass growing, she bent down and picked up some slimy looking algae, “there you go.”
“So it’s been there all along?” he asked, shocked and scandalised.
Blanca nodded, “But be careful, not all that lies there is Gillyweed, there’s some poisonous stuff too.”
“Then why did you let me go into the lake fifty seven times then?” he threw his hands in the air.
“Well, you didn’t ask me where it was…you just assumed it was in the lake!”
“But why didn’t you tell me?”
“Cos the only question you were asking is ‘is this it?’ not ‘where is it?’ so to be perfectly honest with you Zabini, I’m not in the wrong here.” She replied calmly.
“Why aren’t you in my house?” Zabini asked, the question threw Blanca off guard; she had been half expecting a rant so the question was more shocking.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“You know,” he said as he put his robes back on, “only a Slytherin would be capable of what you just did without having a battle of conscience.”
“Huh…” she did not know what else to say, “so…you’re not upset?”
“Surprised is more the word, Thomas,” he replied.
“So…we’re done here yeah?” she asked.
“Basically,” he plopped the Gillyweed in a jar he had come with and as he tried to put it in his bag, something pink fell out.
Blanca could not hide her surprise, “You read the Witch Weekly?”
“Do I look to you like I read it?” he asked irritably as he tried to force the magazine back in.
“That’s why I’m asking,” she said with a shrug.
“No…” he shook his head rashly, “it’s just that Malfoy told me his girlfriend said something about my brother’s engagement being in here…so I got curious.”
“Ah…” Blanca nodded, “so I guess it’s a lot of us that are affected by the news this week.”
“Oh yeah…and congratulations about your father,” he replied.
“You saw it huh?” she asked as they slowly walked back to the castle.
“Any wedding bells?” he asked.
“God I hope not,” Blanca shuddered, even if it was not her that had just spent an hour in a freezing lake, “I met her last week and she’s awful.”
“I hear she’s a model,” Zabini said as he walked alongside her.
“Yeah…from America,” Blanca muttered, “I honestly couldn’t care less.”
“Sounds like you do though,” Zabini replied pointedly.
“Why are we making this about me anyway?” Blanca asked, “And you? When’s the date Mr Best man?”
“Don’t say that,” Zabini said quietly.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it again, fixing his gaze on the castle up ahead.
“What?” Blanca pushed, then after some time, she nodded, “Ah…I get it now…blood traitors. You’re pissed at your brother for breaking the rules.”
“I am not,” Zabini surprisingly sounded juvenile.
“Then what is it?” Blanca asked, “I know you and your lot, thinking you’re all high and mighty just cos you’re purebloods.”
“You know nothing,” Zabini muttered.
“I just know that he is your brother and the least you could do is support him,” Blanca pointed out.
“Like you are doing with your dad?” Zabini turned to face her squarely. Blanca had the breath violently pulled out of her, she knew he had her there. When she said nothing, he looked her up and down and said, “Exactly.”
“Hey don’t compare me with your family!” Blanca finally managed to recover.
“I couldn’t…you wouldn’t be able to handle the heat,” he sneered, “that’s what it is Thomas, this thing they’re getting into…it’s more complex than you think. I’m a Zabini, we just don’t up and court anyone…let alone marry them.”
“Why?” Blanca asked dumbly.
Zabini regarded her for a while before saying, “It’s late…my friends are probably wondering where I am,” and with that, he turned to walk away.
“Hey! You still owe me a Charms lesson!” Blanca called after him.
“I’ll think about it,” he muttered coldly before disappearing inside the castle doors.
“Prick,” Blanca muttered, she should have known he was not going to hold to his word. She shifted her satchel to be comfortable and stomped into the castle.
“Oh look, we just got invited to a family luncheon at Zabini Estate,” Al waved a piece of golden flaked parchment in front of Blanca’s face.
“Who still says luncheon?” Blanca muttered as she got the invitation and studied it.
It was a Sunday afternoon and she and Al were sitting under the oak tree near the lake when an owl swooped down and planted an envelope in his lap. “The Zabinis I guess,” he replied when she handed it back to him.
“Well this should be good,” Blanca said, remembering her conversation with Zabini the other day.
“More like awkward…” Al sighed, “Weasleys and Zabinis under the same roof.”
“Oh, don’t you forget the Malfoys too…they’re sure to be there,” Blanca pointed out.
“Prep the fireworks,” Al muttered, “as if I haven’t had my fair share this week already.”
“So…how’s it going?” Blanca asked hesitantly, “you know…with your parents and all?”
“Oh them?” Al spoke as if it was nothing, but Blanca knew him, “Dad is still at uncle Ron’s…though he and Mum are working things out.”
“You mean they’re gonna get back again?”
“No, I mean they’re trying to get the best amicable settlement possible,” Albus replied a little snappily, “let’s talk about something else yeah?”
“Sorry,” Blanca mumbled.
“No, I’m sorry,” he said once he realised what he had done, he moved closer to her and wrapped his arm around her, “I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” He raised the invitation once more and said, “Now…what to do about this.”
“When is it?” Blanca had not read the details, it was the gold flaking that had amused her.
“The 28th, it’s gonna be a Saturday,” Al replied.
“Do you think McGonagall is gonna let you?”
“Well, it’s a Hogsmeade weekend, meaning that we are free to substitute that for another outing provided we have our parents’ consent in written form,” he explained.
“Huh,” Blanca nodded slowly.
“So…what are you wearing?” he asked.
“What? Me?” Blanca asked, “Where?”
“For this circus show of course!” Al exclaimed, “You don’t expect me to go alone…plus, it says in here that I’m allowed a plus one!”
“Yeah…I don’t expect you to go alone,” Blanca nodded, looking at him like he had just lost his head, “I expect you to go with Max…she’s your girlfriend, remember? Plus…you’re the one that told me she’s been asking you to take her home with you for the longest time.”
“But Blanca,” Al took in a deep breath as if trying to weigh his words, “I do want her to meet my family…just not like…this.” He waved the parchment in front of her, “I want her to see them when they’re you know…tame, and I know you know that this is going to be anything but a civil affair, given my nan will be present.”
Blanca nodded, Al made a lot of sense in his argument, the Weasleys were quite scary in their most extreme times.
“And at least I know that you know my people inside out,” he continued.
“The way you said people, like they are a whole alien tribe,” Blanca laughed.
“Unfortunately, they are,” Al said sheepishly.
Blanca laughed, she already had a rough patch with Maxine, and she did not want to make it any worse, she turned to face him and said, “Listen to me Al, you know I would never say no to you under any other circumstances but she would seriously be crushed if you left her out on this one…and imagine how worse it would be if she found out it was me who went in her place.”
“I don’t think she would mind,” Al shrugged.
“You’re not a girl Albus, you wouldn’t know…but we DO mind- a lot!” Blanca told him pointedly, “Trust me, if she really loves you, then she will stand your family. She might not like them…but if she can stomach the Weasleys at their worst, then she’s a keeper.”
“Like the way you’re a keeper?” he asked.
Blanca blushed slightly, “Nope, I just happen to be stuck with you lot cos no one else can take me,” she shrugged off the compliment.
Al laughed, “So you’re sure you don’t want to come?”
“And watch the showdown of the year first hand? No thanks,” Blanca laughed, “I’ve got…stuff.”
“Stuff?” Al raised his eyebrows.
“Yes, stuff, you know…like making sure my broom’s all polished up and pretty and besides…there’s no one to take me.”
“But I offered.”
“But your situation’s a bit complicated,” Blanca shrugged, “and besides…your nan’s gonna start getting ideas all over again.”
“So she cornered you too huh?” he said, it was more of a statement.
“Yeah…she was like… ‘oh, I aint worried about you at all cos I know you and Albus are together and all’” Blanca said, “and I was like…whaaat?”
Albus laughed, “She is so sure about you and me it’s quite scary to be honest.”
“And that’s why you need to introduce them to Max,” Blanca said encouragingly.
Just then, Rose appeared from behind them, she looked flushed and had a piece of parchment identical to the one Albus had, “See you got one too,” she said brightly.
“The prodigal friend returns,” Albus and Blanca said together.
“Oh please! I told you I was busy…in the library!”
“On a Sunday afternoon…please,” Al muttered.
Rose rolled her eyes, “Anyway, I came to ask B if she wanted to come with me…it says I can invite anyone!” she said as she waved it in the air.
Blanca shook her head, “Oh…no Rose, I already told Al I don’t want to go.”
“You said because you didn’t have anyone to take you,” Albus pointed out.
“No…I just…parties…” Blanca grimaced and shook her head, she was sure she did not want anything but to be away from social gatherings of any sort.
“Come on B, you’re practically family! I want you there else it’ll blow,” Rose pouted.
“I’m sorry guys,” she stood from her perch next to Al, “I’ve got a game strategy to plan. Did your captain tell you that you lot are playing without the captains?”
“We’re still trying to work around that,” Al nodded, “it doesn’t make sense…I don’t know what Coach Jones is on about with this but it doesn’t sit well with me.”
Blanca laughed, “Ah…you’ll survive, I’ve got to go now…have that silent spell to work on since Zabini done betrayed me after promising to tutor me-”
“You made a deal with Zabini?” Albus asked.
“It was a fleeting moment of weakness,” she shrugged, “Herbology for Charms.”
“Why didn’t you come to me then?”
“What? So you could sort him out for me?” Blanca laughed, “I’d like to see that go down!” she pointed at him up and down to send the message forward; Albus was a beanpole compared to Antonio Zabini’s strong, muscular build.
“No!” Albus shook his head, “As in, I could have helped you with your spells…even Rose here too!”
Blanca smiled and shook her head, “You guys already do way too much for me! Sometimes I feel like I’m just mooching off of you.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Rose replied, “you know that’s not true and we’re always here for each other.”
“Yeah,” Blanca nodded, though she was not listening, “I guess I just have a lot of things going on right now I can’t think straight,” she gave them a small smile and said, “I’m off now, I’ll see you at supper?”
“Sure,” they nodded and she turned to walk back to the castle.
Thirty minutes later, Blanca was headed towards the pitch, a whole array of brushes, cloths and polishes in a little bag. Her father had taught her how to polish a broom by the time she was seven and she trusted no one but him around her brooms. Hastening her step, she quickly closed the locker room door and grimaced when she saw that Zabini and James were already there, they were the last two people she wanted to see and what was worse? Jenna hart was present, sitting on James’ lap as he polished his broom. Blanca gathered herself and took a deep breath before walking across the room, past them and to her locker.
“Hey Thomas!” Jenna called as she casually ran a dirty rag across the broom handle.
“Hart,” Blanca tied her hair at the top of her head and pulled out her broom and headed to her section where she started to arrange her equipment.
“Didn’t know you could do that…you know…to your hair,” the blonde girl said tentatively.
“Cos it’s so short?” Blanca asked unenthusiastically as she squeezed some first level cleanser on her broom.
“Uh-huh.” The girl replied, Blanca continued to silently work on her broom and she spoke again, “You know…you’re the first girl I’ve seen doing her own broom maintenance…I can’t even polish mine properly.”
Blanca shrugged dismissively, “Father owns a broom shop…learned to when I was a kid, no big deal.”
“I’ve seen him all over the news,” Jenna said enthusiastically, “he’s also big over in the U.S.A…and have you seen his girlfriend…”
“Are we supposed to be having a conversation?” Blanca’s head snapped up so quickly the other girl flinched, dropping James’ broom.
“Honestly Thomas,” James grumbled, “I was almost done with this!”
“I aint the one that dropped your broom, Potter,” she muttered.
“I’m so sorry James,” Jenna sad hastily, “…and Thomas, I didn’t know that was an area of sensitivity.”
“Sensitivity? She’s always in a strop,” James spat as he restarted his work.
Blanca’s hands clenched into fists, but she shook it off and continued to apply more layers of special polish. The Prodigy came with its own special polishes and mixtures that went into its cleaning, it was unlike any other broom she had ever handled before and for once was quite nervous about cleaning a broom.
“That’s rude James,” Jenna said, and as Blanca turned the broom around, she gasped.
“What?” Blanca asked.
“Is that the…the Firebolt Prodigy?” she pointed a finger tentatively.
“Yeah. Why?” Blanca could not help but feel a little smug.
“I saw it in Sports Animated last season,” the girl had jumped off James’ lap and headed towards Blanca’s workspace, from the corner of her eye, Blanca noticed that Zabini had also looked up, but quickly returned to his work silently, “they said there’s only four of them.”
“Yeah…one’s in Dubai and the rest are in Asia somewhere,” Blanca replied.
“Actually, that’s Nepal and Japan to be exact,” to everyone’s surprise, it was Zabini that had spoken, he got up, placed his broom in his locker and walked over to Blanca’s workspace, “the bridge, tomorrow, 9am. Don’t be late.”
“For what?” Blanca asked.
“Your tuition of course,” he retorted.
“So you changed your mind?” she raised her eyebrows.
“I didn’t say no last time, did I?”
Blanca fell silent, he had a point, he did say he would think about it. With a wicked glint in his eye, he turned on his heel and walked out of the door.
“Oh my god,” Jenna whispered, “you talk to that guy?”
“Yeah,” Blanca shrugged.
“What?” Jenna scream-whispered again, “He’s like, all scary and mysterious and doesn’t talk to anyone…honestly, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard him speak. He scares me.”
Blanca shrugged again, “He’s nothing special,” she muttered.
“So he doesn’t intimidate you?” Jenna asked.
“Why should he?” Blanca raised an eyebrow.
“Oh nothing…James just told me you guys are supposed to be timid.”
Blanca knew that he was referring to Hufflepuffs in general, she shot a look at Jenna and said, “Do I come off as timid to you?”
“Oh no,” Jenna shook her head violently, as though she was scared, “you’re just…different.”
Blanca rolled her eyes and turned her gaze to where James was to shoot him daggers but he was not there. Somehow, he must have left the locker room between then and the time Zabini had left, his broom and equipment still on the bench where he had been.
“Looks like your guy’s taken the dip,” she said as she nodded casually in that direction.
Jenna looked and saw that he was not there, “He’s crazy,” she muttered, “I’m going to find him.” With that, she turned to leave the locker room as well, leaving the things abandoned too.
“You people don’t realise just how expensive Argentine oil is huh?” Blanca muttered as she walked over and started to fasten the jars closed, despite herself and her need to make James Potter suffer in any possible way she could. Watching his supplies dry in five minutes and leaving him to ride a splinter riddled broom for the rest of the term would have easily made her day, but there she was, putting all his things into place.
“What are you doing?” James’ voice made Blanca jump, “You don’t touch my stuff.”
“I was just closing it,” she retorted, “don’t get in a strop for nothing.”
He shot her a dirty look before sitting back on the bench and examining his broom.
“Not like I’ve jinxed it or anything, I didn’t even touch it,” Blanca muttered as she went back to her workspace. He ignored her and she him as she went back to pampering her broom.
“What was that?” he asked after some time.
“What was what?” Blanca raised an eyebrow at him.
“You and Zabini…was it a date? What was it?” he asked quickly, trying to swallow his words as best as he could.
“For your information, and not that it’s any of your business, he is supposed to tutor me,” she replied, “something he had mentioned…though I don’t know where your ears were.”
James clenched his jaw, the tension showing visibly, it took Blanca all her might to tear her eyes away. He breathed in and said, “And Rose? Aint she smart enough to tutor you?”
“Rose is my friend.”
“It hasn’t stopped you in the past.”
“Why do you care Potter?” Blanca narrowed her eyes at him.
“Zabini is a bad guy Thomas,” he said seriously, “he’s in with Malfoy and the whole lot.”
“And you're a good guy?” Blanca challenged.
“This is not about me Thomas, it’s the fact that-”
“That you suddenly care about my wellbeing?”
“You’re in my family’s life whether I like it or not…so your business inevitably becomes ours.”
“Not it doesn’t,” Blanca whispered, shaking her head.
“You’ve changed Thomas, has anyone told you that?”
“I don’t know what you're talking about,” Blanca was now packing up her equipment.
“You’ve always been a pirate, you do what you want…that’s the only thing we probably have in common,” James started begrudgingly, “but even you had your limits. You knew who to mix with and who to steer clear of-”
“Like you?” she cut him off but he ignored her and continued.
“But now, it seems as though you're not sure of yourself anymore-”
“You don’t know me like that Potter,” Blanca replied, her voice dangerously calm.
“I know you, Thomas,” he pressed, “like I said, we’re quite alike. And I know that you’ve always valued control and balance in your life…but with your father getting a new girl, throwing a wrench in things…talks of moving to a new place…you feel like you're slipping Thomas. The fabrics of normal are tearing up in front of you and all you can do is watch because the balance of power is been divided-”
“Don’t bring my father into this Potter.”
But he ignored her and continued, “Your boyfriend left you…you almost slept with me…your best friend is sleeping with me…your father is slipping away from you…it’s almost too much no?”
“What’s your point?”
“You're acting unusual and irrational, you don’t think you know who you are anymore Thomas…and going for Zabini isn’t going to make things better.”
Blanca grabbed her broom and tossed it in her locker, stalking towards the dark haired boy, she said through gritted teeth, “It’s a bloody, tutoring lesson.” She walked out of the door and immediately walked back in and said, “And like you said, I’m a pirate; I’ll do whatever the bloody hell I like.”
And with that, she walked out.