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“W-o-w,” said Jen, coming over to help clean up the mess. “Wow.”

“Shut it,” I muttered miserably as I waved my wand. A flurry of sparks shoved the goop that’d recently inhabited my stomach into the nearby waste basket.

Kent walked up to me, some of his former swagger gone, considering there was still a faint aroma of puke surrounding his gray sweater-vest. I blushed.

“That went well,” he said, a small grin on his face. I gave him a tentative smile back.

“Yeah, it did. Sorry.”

“Miss Leilani, do you need to go to the hospital wing?” snapped Professor McGonagall, who was really getting quite irritated with me and Kent.

“No,” I replied, ducking my head as I went into a bright shade of crimson. I could feel a thousand eyes on my back, and I shrank further into my seat. McGonagall huffed and held the Goblet of Fire up in her palm again.

“I will now announce the champions!” she called in a prim, no nonsense voice that was entirely unbefitting of the occasion. The lights flared and went out, leaving us in the pitch black. I clapped my hands over my mouth to hold back a scream.

It was really, really scary as I felt a tingling up my spine, and I knew what was about to happen before it did.

 

---xx---

I was standing in a doorway of some sort when the candle in my hand flickered and went out, leaving me in the darkness. I, however, had no time to reflect on this new dramatic change, choosing to duck instead as a stream of light shot over my head. I inhaled sharply; the light was green, which didn’t bode well for me. Throwing up a Shield Charm, I dropped to the ground and rolled just in time as twenty spells were fired at once. The maneuver definitely saved my life.

Surveying my surroundings, I guessed from the beams of light flying everywhere that there were at minimum twenty wizards here, possibly on all sides of me. I cursed; my people were good, but not so good that they could take on odds of ten to one.

“Pull out, team!” I yelled, and two figures rose next to me, reassuringly close. I knew without a second thought that I’d be glad to put my life into their capable hands. “Too many!”

“Too late,” whispered a female voice, I turned to see my second in command.

The spectator in me gasped as her eyes shone a bright, unforgettable light blue.


“God, Alyssa, stop spacing already,” snapped Delilah, shaking me. She pointed at McGonagall. “She’s about to announce the champions!”

I swayed a little, disoriented, and McGonagall’s sharp voice floated into my ears.

“...the champions are...”

A slip of paper shot out from the cup, landing in McGonagall’s hand.

“For Beauxbatons, Clark Delauney!” A short, nerdy looking boy stepped out of the wave of blue with a baffled expression on his face, like he couldn’t believe what was happening. “Madeline Louise!”

The elegant brunette trotted up next to the boy on her mile-long legs, shooting him a coy glance, and my body froze. Those eyes. It was the girl that’d stared at me, but what was more, she had the same eyes as the girl from my vision. I blinked, startled, and pinched myself to make sure I was awake.

“For Durmstrang, Igor Ivianski and Chandrelle Black!” A swarthy youth and a preppy brunette walked up to the front of the room.

Professor McGonagall seemed to stand up even straighter, if that was possible. She stared at the cup as if it was transfixed as two tiny slips flew out the rim.

“And for Hogwarts...” her voice rang out, “Albus Potter and Alyssa Leilani!”

 

 

 

I stood, frozen in place. No fricking way. There was no fricking way I, out of all people, got chosen as the Hogwarts champion along with Potter. With the one person I couldn’t stand in one of the many events I couldn’t stand. It was a one in a million chance, and yet, it still happened.

Numbly, I forced myself to stand as every eye was trained on Potter and I, grasping the edge of the table for support. With the unshakable feeling I was walking to my doom, I slowly and lethargically proceeded towards the podium, where McGonagall was beaming at me and the other two teachers were clapping reluctantly and he already stood. I averted my eyes as my fingers dug further into my palm. He, too, was determinedly looking in the other direction.

“Champions, please follow your respective Heads to receive certain information,” said McGonagall in a crisp voice. “Mr. Potter, Miss Leilani, follow me.” She beckoned towards us, and I felt my legs move in a robotic manner as I shuffled after her out of the hallway.

For the second time in a week, I found myself in the Headmistress’s office again. The same circular room spun around me, and I made myself very still on account of the person – thing – next to me.

“Professor,” I inquired the moment she turned to face us, “I want to drop out of the Tournament.”

McGonagall frowned, deeper lines appearing across her aged face.

“I am afraid that is impossible. You’ve entered into a magically binding contract with the Goblet. I know this is a bad time for you,” she added, her voice softening, “but you simply can’t withdraw. No, now you’ll just have to do your best. Besides, I think you and Mr. Potter make a great team for Hogwarts this year.”

I let out an angry breath. McGonagall looked at me. “Is something wrong?”

“No, ma’am,” I muttered. My dislike for Albus was personal, not something I would tell her, not that I didn’t like the Headmistress or anything. She nodded and turned to Potter, concern etched all over her face. I made a discreet retching noise.

I also tried not to listen, but I couldn’t help it.

“Mr. Potter, since you’ve been entered into the tournament, there’s nothing I can do,” she said worriedly. “I don’t know what you were thinking, putting your name in there. The media’s going to go insane. ‘Former Triwizard champion Harry Potter’s son entering the next tournament to carry on the family legacy.’ You have huge expectations to live up to – “

“I can handle it, Professor,” Albus interjected blandly. She looked at him for a moment, surprised at his steadiness.

“Well,” she said finally to both of us, “carry on the Hogwarts pride with your conduct and do try to win.”

I felt a small smile spread on my face.

“I will,” I said at the same time as Potter said, “We will.”

 


Half an hour later, I was nowhere nearly as happy. I stomped down the stairs in silence, anger smoldering inside me. Was she serious? I had to come up with an act to introduce the Hogwarts champions at the first scoring? And I had to do it with him? Plus, our score for the act would impact the difficulty of the next three tasks as well. If we scored high enough, we’d get a better hint for the official first task. I was about to barf.

I was not a good dancer in any way. Nor was I an acrobat, singer, or anything that would be considered a performing act. And, though I don’t want to admit it, my balance goes sort of askew when Potter is around.

“Look, Lizzi,” said Albus quietly, interrupting my internal tirade. “Why don’t we set any...personal differences aside for the Tournament?”

I tripped (proving my previous point, that my clumsiness increases tenfold) and had to grab the banister for support. “What?” I said stupidly. Yeah, my intelligence level kinda takes a hit too.

“I said, why don’t we try to get along during the competition?” repeated Albus, patience transparent in his voice. And grudgingly, I had to admit he was right. I didn’t like him, but petty grievances weren’t worth losing the Cup for. I was being just like Sabrina Taylor when I was doing this kind of thing.

“Fine,” I said shortly, not looking at him.

“Maybe we could meet Saturday morning?” he asked. I hated how calm he could be.

“Sunday’d be better,” I said reluctantly. “I have...plans on Saturday.” More like a stupid meeting with a stupid guardian with stupid money that I was obligated to go to unless I wanted to get cut off completely, which would suck, because I couldn’t pay for school then and would have to go and live as a hobo on the streets of London and beg for food and –

“Sunday then. What time?”

“Eight o’clock in the morning sound good to you?” I asked halfheartedly, hoping he’d have an appointment or a date or needed his beauty rest or something. Instead, I heard a smile in his voice.

“Sounds wonderful,” he said cheerfully.

I wanted to punch him.

 

 

When I got back to the common room, I was met by cheers, whooping, and catcalls. I flopped into a sofa nearby, too tired to take part in the celebration. I was woken from my mini-snooze by a none too gentle punch from Delilah. I took one glance at her face and thought, uh-oh. Crap.

Her eyes were blazing furiously. I’d never seen her that angry before; two spots of red were clearly apparent on her pallid cheeks, and her fingers were curled so tightly they looked about to snap.

“Why,” she screamed, “didn’t you tell me you entered the Triwizard Tournament?”

I froze in the wake of her wrath.

“Um...sorry?” I squeaked. She continued to glare at me, only the anger had given away to something softer: hurt. Immediately, I felt like the world’s biggest jerk.

“I thought we were friends. Friends tell each other things, like when they’re about to enter the most ginormous event in the history of events!” I almost laughed at her use of the word ‘ginormous,’ except I attempted to plead with her instead.

“Delilah – “

“You suck!” And with that, she stormed off in a huff, leaving me to stare after her helplessly.

“Well, honey,” said Yelena, clapping a hand on my shoulder, “you’ve really done it this time.”

 

 

“Aw, are things not working out for poor little Delilah and Lizzi, supposed best friends for life?” taunted Sabrina Taylor as I pored over my Potions essay. Fighting the itch to hex her with a neat little spell that gave one major B.O. for a week that I’d found while doing some light reading, I ignored her. She inched closer, probably miffed she wasn’t visibly getting on my nerves yet.

“What do you want, Taylor?” I finally snapped at her as she loomed so close that tiny hairs on my arms were prickling. I swiveled to face her; she was frowning.

“Leilani...” she said in an oddly non-confrontational voice. I pinched myself. Was I dreaming?

“Ow!” I pinched hard. Evidently not, then.

“What?” she asked, her keen grey eyes pinning me to the wall in a second. There were many things you could say about Sabrina Taylor, but being distracted wasn’t one of them. I shrugged.

“Pinched myself,” I said offhandedly. A corner of her lips seemed to quirk upwards. I blinked a couple times to make sure I wasn’t in some weird hallucination. Nope.

“Clumsy,” she said tartly, plopping down on my bed. I winced; I’d have to use a pretty strong Stench Removing Charm to get her lavender perfume out of the mattress.

“If you want something, just say it,” I said coolly. I hadn’t forgiven her for her last jibe quite yet. And, unfortunately, Delilah hadn’t forgiven me quite yet either.

She faltered, looking...was that uncertainty I saw on her face? A slight crease appeared between her painted eyebrows. Her mouth contorted into a grimace, and she finally spoke to break the uncomfortable silence between us, the words reluctantly dropping from her lips.

“I need your help.”

Forgetting every lesson I’d ever had about manners, I let my jaw hang as I openly gawked. Taylor, however, didn’t look so pleased; instead she gazed about to see if anyone was watching. We were the only ones in the dorm. Everyone else was still down in the common room. Her face relaxed in relief as she saw that, and with a muttered spell, the door swung shut and locked.

“For what?”

“For this,” she said quietly, and pulled up the hem of her robe – for the first time, I realized she wasn’t wearing her usual short skirts – to reveal a recent, nasty looking gash that spread from her ankle to mid calve. I stared at it, horrified. It was an unhealthy looking purple shade, and seemed ridiculously deep. I tried to approach it clinically. And completely failed.

“How did you get this?” I asked, my dislike for her forgotten at the sight of such a wound.

Taylor bit her lip and looked away.

“I can’t tell,” she said quietly. I frowned at her, a million questions going through my head.

“Why did you come to me? Why not just heal it yourself or go to Madame Pomfrey? I’m not a particularly good Healer or anything – “

“It’s a cursed wound,” she interrupted me, her voice unusually serious and not at all mocking. “I can’t go to the teachers. They’d ask questions I wouldn’t be able to answer, and they’d know something was up. I know you can probably help and that you’d keep quiet, no matter what you think of me.”

I frowned.

“Why would I keep quiet? I mean, no offense, but I don’t exactly like you,” I said bluntly. She laughed at my candidness.

“One or two?”

“What?”

“One is the response I like. Two is the response you’d probably like.”

“Two.” Anything that she liked, I hated.

“Because, as much as I hate to say this, you’re capable of empathy,” she choked out next, wheezing as if she had something lodged in her throat. Oh, wait, she did. Idiocy. “If you were in my position – “

I froze, and began thinking. If I were in her position, and I could only see that too well, I would not want to go to the teachers. And it was probably something bad she was involved in, to get a cursed wound. Dark magic, most likely. I didn’t want to get involved, but...that little twinge of conscience plucked at me.

“I don’t know many healing spells.”

“You most likely know more than I do,” she muttered. “Will you help me or not?”

I took a deep breath. Sabrina Taylor or not, that cut looked damn serious.

“I will,” I said evenly, reaching for a Potions book in my bag. “Let’s see...Draught of Health...Antidote for Cursed Wounds...Dark Arts Tonic. That ought to do the trick. You’ll have to take regular doses for a week; I’ll get to the potions as soon as I can without raising suspicion.” I pointed my wand at the massive cut and started murmuring as many incantations for healing as I knew.

The wound sealed alright, and it faded to a normal pink tone that was common for new skin. I smiled in relief as I cast one last spell against infection.

“Thanks,” Sabrina said uncertainly as she put her weight gingerly onto the leg. “I guess I won’t be calling you any names now.”

“You’d better not,” I warned her. “Remember, you have to take the potions regularly if you want to eliminate all risk of something worse happening.”

“Yes, mother,” muttered Taylor as she limped away. I couldn’t help a small grin; new respect was evident in her tone. This week was certainly turning out to be full of surprises.

A thought suddenly occurred to me.

“Wait, Sabrina!”

“Yes?” She didn’t turn around.

“What was response number one?”

“That I’d kill you if you told,” she said without missing a beat, then walked out. I shuddered.

Yeah, two was the one I liked better.

 


Breakfast was a rushed affair Saturday morning, with the fact that I had to go meet my new guardian and all. The current plan was to take a Portkey that’d been mailed to me this morning, courtesy of a huge white falcon that made the entire school turn and stare at me. Oh, and the damn Portkey ended up being a diamond necklace, of all things, with the note attached that I could “keep the necklace after the one-time Portkey is used.” What an obnoxious, rich prat.

What? Okay, maybe I’m being a little judgmental, and maybe it was a decent gesture, but no one in the history of people can take the place of my mother. I peeked around and carefully dabbed my eye with my napkin, satisfied no one was giving me strange looks.

“You and Delilah still upset?” asked Jen, poking me in the arm. I shrugged; Jen’d taken the news I was champion pretty well. Sure, she was a whiff mad. Her moods tended to blow over quickly, though, and I wasn’t too worried. That was an accurate prediction.

“More like she’s upset with me,” I said helplessly, glancing over at Delilah who was determined to carry on a conversation with Yelena, who wasn’t listening in the least. She seemed far more interested in her cranberry muffin than whatever Delilah had to say.

Jen huffed. “Must be, if she’s talking to Yelena during a meal,” she said, rolling her eyes. “By the way, did you hear that Kent Weasley is apparently in love with you now?”

“No, where’d you get that from?” I asked, amused.

“Well, people are saying that he’s pinning sonnets in your name to the common rooms, all four of them,” she said lightly. “There’s supposedly one in ours, too. Wonder how he managed it, but he is the best prankster in the school.”

I groaned loudly. “What do they say?”

“Something along the lines of ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, my darling Alyssa, I love you.’ Corny and cheesy, eh?”

“Like my cheese corn?” I pointed to my plate, and Jen wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“How...appetizing.”

“Kidding! It’s scrambled eggs.”

Jen paused, her spoon halfway in the air. “Can I have some?”

“No! They’re my scrambled eggs!” I yelled at her, hugging my plate possessively to my chest. Jen’s eyes narrowed and she reached out, her arm as quick as a whip, to snatch a piece. I barely managed to pull my precious possession out of the way fast enough to avoid her. Hastily, I stood up, and we ran around the room, Jen chasing me. I’m one hundred and fifty percent sure we looked completely ridiculous. But then, who cares?

 

“No way. You are not wearing that,” said Jen, staring me in horror. I looked down; I was wearing a ratty t-shirt, sweats, and flip flops.

“What?”

“Um, Lizzi, you don’t want your future guardian to think you’re a hobo or something.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s only a few months before I’m legally independent. ‘Sides, I don’t even know his name, where he lives, etcetera. I just know he’s some rich guy who sent me a Portkey I was supposed to take.”

“Rich guys?” Jen looked concerned. “Okay, definitely not that.”

“It’s fine,” I sighed.

“No, it isn’t. I’m never talking to you again if you wear that to your first meeting with your guardian.” I frowned at her, then decided she was serious from the set expression on her face. “Alright,” I conceded wearily, going over to my dresser. I pulled out a silky white blouse and a pair of skinny jeans. “These good?”

“Yeah, pretty decent,” she replied, flopping down and looking at me over the top of her copy of Witch Weekly. Reassured, I stepped into a pair of black heels and grabbed my purse. Knotting my hair up into a bun and wearing a cute navy blazer, I was now doing my best to seem older and more mature. I was, after all, an all or nothing kind of gal.

“G’look!” Jen called as I drew the cream envelope, tried to calm my racing nerves, and lightly touched the diamond necklace –

The world around me blurred into a confused assortment of colors and shadows, and I knew I was on my way there.

 


I landed with a rather loud thud. It wasn’t my most graceful landing; it was only by my early training as a ballet dancer I managed to stay on my feet. Well, shows that money isn’t everything if that Portkey was so poorly enchanted. Disoriented, I had to rub my eyes to wake myself up.

I was, I noted at once, standing in front of a huge brick manor. Around it were lush green grasses and obviously professionally cared for magical plants, including a tree that seemed to give off mist. My mouth dropped open at the iron and stone gate and I began to stare. Wow. This was even more money than I’d thought.

Hesitantly, I looked down at my enchanted Hello Kitty watch, which I’d refused to part with no matter how professional I was supposed to look. It was exactly time, so I rang on the gate knocker. A wrinkly old house elf, brown and dressed in sharp gray livery popped into attendance with a poof. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but as we didn’t have elves in the States in great numbers, I was a more than a little startled. The creature stood in silence -

“Oh, hello,” I greeted her cautiously, realizing she was waiting for me to speak. She nodded at me, expressionless.

“Welcome to the manor, miss. Please, follow me,” she said in a sort of croaky way. Completely out of my element, I followed, clutching my purse tightly. I noted that even the rocks on the path were pearly and expensive looking. Why on earth did my mother have to choose the owner of this place as my guardian? God, this was probably some gazillionair...I was really happy at the moment that I’d taken Jen’s advice on what to wear, because if I was wearing that ratty old t-shirt, I would die of embarrassment.

We reached the ginormous mahogany doors, and the elf waved her hand. The doors magically opened, revealing a crystal chandelier and rich Persian rugs set in a one thousand square feet foyer. My eyes were blinded by the dazzle of the rocks, most likely diamonds, hanging from the dome ceiling, so I looked down at my feet.

“Come,” urged the house elf, gesturing at me to follow her past another double door. I entered a room that somewhat resembled a study.

“Good morning,” said a cool voice, and my head whipped around to its source. My jaw dropped open all the way to the ground.

Because the person sitting there? It was Draco Malfoy.

 

 

Malfoy wasn’t half bad looking, to be honest, with his white blonde hair and sharp grey eyes that didn’t miss much. He reminded me of an attorney, a really good attorney, in his elegant black robes; he sat behind a cherry wood desk as if he was a principal of some school and I was a miscreant. I shrank further into my coat.

“Miss Leilani?” he asked smoothly, and gestured to a chair that appeared in front of me. “Please take a seat.”

Numbly, I flopped into the leather office chair.

“Mr. Malfoy. I didn’t know you were going to be my guardian,” I said awkwardly. His thin lips twitched a little, like he was holding back a laugh. I grinned inwardly. I’d almost made Draco Malfoy smile! C’mon, everyone, clap for the Lizzi.

“Apparently so,” he replied rather dryly. “Coffee?”

“Thank you, sir. Is this hazelnut?” I accepted the steaming cup he handed me, appreciating the drink’s rich flavor. “Delicious.”

“Yes, Hazelnut is my favorite.”

Both of us seemed to run out of words after that, something that I sensed was a rare occurrence for Malfoy, and we sat in a silence that was almost tangible and definitely smothering. Gee, this wasn’t weird at all.

He actually looked hesitant as he cleared his throat.

“Did Emily – your mother ever speak of me?” he asked slightly nervously. I shook my head, bewildered.

“No, definitely not,” I admitted. “That’s why it was such a shock.”

“Oh,” he said quietly, almost like he was disappointed. I frowned.

“Did you know her well?”

“I did,” he muttered bleakly after a moment, “but evidently not as well as I thought.” He glanced at me almost accusingly. “After all, you are living proof of that.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were close at a time,” he answered vaguely. For the first time, his eyes seem to hold real concern. “How are you coping with your mother’s untimely demise?”

I blinked, startled by the unexpected question. “Al – Alright,” I said, faltering a little. I’d been so much better the last two days or so, managing to not think about it at all, and with the absence of the nightmares, my life had almost been peaceful. Thanks for mentioning it, Malfoy.

“That’s good to know.”

“It is,” I agreed with a flippantness I didn’t feel.

“So how is my son these days?” he asked abruptly, changing the topic.

“Scorpius?” I asked in surprise. “Well, I don’t really know him too well, but I think he’s living up to your expectations, especially if they include dealing banned products to first years.”

“Really.” He raised one elegantly arched eyebrow. I shrugged.

“At least you can find comfort in the fact that he’s a shrewd businessman, very much like you,” I said lightly.

“Perhaps,” said Draco Malfoy, seeming to have to smother another smile. “Speaking of businesses...allowances...”

“I don’t need anything,” I interrupted quickly. “I’m quite fine with what I have at the moment.”

His lips seemed to vanish. I looked at him straight on, unrepentant. I didn’t like living on charity or being indebted to anyone.

“You will have an allowance. I won’t let anyone say that the Malfoys are stingy.”

“It’s okay – “

“You need not spend it, as long as you dress as well as you did today,” he interrupted me, rubbing his forehead wearily. “But I can’t in good conscience disregard Emily’s daughter, can I?”

“I guess,” I conceded quietly. My brain was already going: if I didn’t have to spend it, I could always tuck it away in a storage vault to donate to charity or give it back...somehow. Although that might be a little difficult. I supposed I could just purchase tons of stuff from WWW illegally for the good of all Ravenclaws. I wasn’t a stickler for rules like Yelena, and the other prefect, Jason, wouldn’t bother me (I hoped). Besides, distribution was best saved until mealtimes, where Yelena’s heart, mind, and soul was sucked into the scrumptious vortex we call food.

“Good,” said Mr. Malfoy. “I’ll mail over a check monthly.”

I didn’t want to sound ungrateful, so I added a quick, “Thank you, sir.”

He bobbed his head. “You’re very welcome, Alyssa. You’ll visit again next week, yes?”

“Of course,” I acquiesced, rising, and wondered silently whether Scorpius knew of this new arrangement. I hoped not; it would be so embarrassing at school if we were...whatever we were. “Bye, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Good-bye,” he said softly, also rising, and clasped my hand one more time, as if for reassurance, and I had to blink back a tear at the hunch that he might have held my mother’s hand the same way some ten or twenty years back.

I followed the elf through the front door and swiftly walked away from the manor, that unfamiliar feeling still emanating from my hand.
 

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