After my somewhat disconcerting encounter with the youngest Weasel, I rather felt that I needed to be pampered. That would explain why, at the moment, I was allowing Pansy to touch me. Usually, I tended to keep her at arm’s length. Pure-blood she might be, but the girl was an irritating harpy. In this one instance, though, I was making an exception. My head was in her lap, and she was stroking my hair with an almost reverent expression. Good, I mused. I was glad that she understood what an honor I was giving her.
The compartment door opened then, and Zabini entered. He had some trouble getting the door closed. It wasn’t budging for some reason. Then it flew open and Zabini was thrust into Goyle’s lap. What an imbecile, I thought in amused disdain. But as he and Goyle snarled at each other, I saw a flash of shoes appear out of nowhere, disappearing as soon as they’d appeared. I sat up, startled. How interesting. That wasn’t the first time I’d seen body parts materialize. And if I wasn’t quite mistaken, those shoes belonged to the same person whose disembodied head I had spied once in Hogsmeade.
I decided not to mention anything then. I would have fun with the little sneak later. By this time, things had settled down somewhat. I snorted once to show my contempt for the situation and all parties involved and lay back down. “So, Zabini, what did Slughorn want?”
“Just trying to make up to well-connected people,” he replied, still looking irritated at Goyle. “Not that he managed to find many.”
What? Well-connected people? Why hadn’t I been summoned? My stomach churned with resentment. “Who else had he invited?” Surely, no one as well-connected as I was.
“McLaggen from Gryffindor,” said Zabini.
That was understandable. “Oh yeah, his uncle’s big in the Ministry.”
“Someone else called Belby, from Ravenclaw-”
“Not him, he’s a prat!” said Pansy. I’d never heard of him. That meant he couldn’t be very well-connected.
“-and Longbottom, Potter, and that Weasley girl,” finished Zabini.
I sat up and knocked Pansy’s hand aside. The time for grooming was over. “He invited Longbottom?” I asked in disgust.
“Well, I assume so, as Longbottom was there,” said Zabini indifferently. That was ridiculous. Who in their right mind would include Longbottom in a group of well-connected people?
“What’s Longbottom got to interest Slughorn?” I asked angrily. Zabini shrugged. Setting aside the absurdity that was Longbottom’s apparent rise in society, I turned my thoughts to the other person who had merited an invitation from Slughorn. “Potter, precious Potter, obviously he wanted a look at the Chosen One,” I sneered, for the benefit of the eavesdropper. No doubt the statement would grate on his nerves.
Now who had been the last person Zabini mentioned? My stomach lurched unpleasantly as I remembered. Weasley was supremely talented at antagonizing me, it would seem, for even the mention of her name was enough to make me squirm in shame. I couldn’t let the others know that, though. Perhaps I would nonchalantly mention her and let the insults flow. That would certainly make me feel better. “That Weasley girl! What’s so special about her?"There, I thought proudly. That was a nice opener for a whole slew of insults about her character.
“A lot of boys like her,” Pansy said. “Even you think she’s good-looking, don’t you, Blaise, and we all know how hard you are to please!” I could have smacked Pansy. That was definitely not what I’d had in mind. I wanted to hear about how worthless she was, not how pretty she was! Although, now that I thought about it, she was quite attractive. I almost gasped out loud after thinking that. Benevolent thoughts about Weasley were not allowed! How dare she, I fumed. That red-headed brat had made me think a complimentary thought about her!
“I wouldn’t touch a filthy little blood traitor like her whatever she looked like,” said Zabini coldly. I felt slightly relieved by the comment. She was a blood traitor, Zabini was absolutely right about that. Weasley wasn’t worth all this trouble. I needed to relax. Laying back down on Pansy’s lap, I allowed her to resume her grooming. I wasn’t completely at ease though, because I’d noticed that Zabini hadn’t denied that Weasley was good-looking.
~ ~ ~
The remainder of the trip was spent discussing my grand plans for the year. I was wary not to disclose anything concrete though, because I was fully aware that Potter was taking careful notice of everything he heard. He would earn his just rewards soon enough. After the train stopped, I told the rest to go on without me. As soon as they’d left, I shot a quick paralyzing spell at the luggage rack where I assumed Potter was hiding.
I gave a satisfied smile as he fell down at my feet, frozen in a comical position. This was going to be fun. “I thought so,” I said smugly. “I heard Goyle’s trunk hit you. And I thought I saw something white flash through the air after Zabini came back…” Potter glared at me hatefully. My smile grew even wider. I probably resembled the Cheshire Cat by now. “You didn’t hear anything I care about, Potter. But while I’ve got you here…” I stomped on his face, feeling his nose break under my foot. “That’s from my father,” I said grimly. “Now, let’s see…” I took his Invisibility Cloak and covered him with it. “I don’t reckon they’ll find you till the train’s back in London. See you around, Potter… or not.” Without another word, I walked out of the compartment. The day was looking up.
Things went perfectly for a little while. All of Slytherin House rejoiced at my success. Even seeing Potter skulk into the Great Hall didn’t ruin my mood, as it just gave me more chances to irritate him. But as I was replaying my victory to my delighted audience, I felt eyes boring into me. Glancing at the Gryffindor table, I saw Ginny Weasley glaring at me in disgust. My elation instantly dissipated. And that wasn’t all. I felt a tendril of something, some emotion that I was really not used to. It took me a while to place it, but I almost cringed when I recognized it. Guilt. How awful. Weasley seemed to read the emotion on my face, which was unnerving. Usually people were unable to see through my mask of indifference. She turned away then, looking like she’d accomplished something. And she had, I suppose, as I spent the rest of the evening wondering if I’d done the right thing on the Hogwarts Express. Damn that girl.
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