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“Alyssa!” a high-pitched voice screamed in my year, “Alyssa!”

“What?” I asked rather rudely shocked out of my zone. I’d been feeling so good...

“Thank God,” said Jen with no small amount of relief, wrapping me in a bear hug. I hugged her back, wondering what this was all about.

When she finally let me up for air, she took one look at my face and stared.

“What?” I repeated.

“You really have no idea, do you?” she asked, appalled.

“Nope.” Yep, you should join the one word reply bandwagon too!

“How could you? You were out for, like, ten minutes before I could get you up!” she snapped.

“No, I wasn’t. I just started meditating – “

“Uh, yeah you did,” she said with an air of finality. “I was worried to death.”

“But – “

“Just shut it. Why am I friends with you again?” she wondered to no one in particular, her button nose sticking straight up in the air. I laughed.

“Because I’m the most amazing, awesome, wonderful, fantastic, terrific, excellent, marvelous, extraordinary – “

“Enough!” She laughed, and I took it that I was forgiven. I grinned widely.

“How was your day, then?” I asked, since she had that happy glow emanating from her, her cheeks flushed and her hair in wild disarray. “Anything – anyone – interesting?”

She blushed bright red and smacked me on the arm. “No!”

I snorted. “Yeah, right. Now, are you going to spill of your own volition or do I have to threaten you with a Babbling Jinx?”

“Oh, no! Not the dreaded Babbling Jinx!” she gasped in mock horror.

I raised my wand threatening, sliding it out of my pocket. “Bibbity bobbity – “

“You win,” she conceded, giggling and starry eyed as she thought of whatever she’d spent her day doing. “I just had the most amazing day with Michael.”

“Woah, why didn’t you tell me right away?” I demanded. “How was it? What did you do?”

“We snuck out of the castle to the Three Broomsticks, courtesy of the secret passageway Del and I found last year – “

“Secret passage?”

“Next to the one-eyed witch. Uh, yeah. We had a couple Butterbeers, a few corncakes, and it was amazing. We talked about, like, everything. Totally connected.” She grinned widely at me, inviting me to share her excitement. “He’s so sensitive and kind.”

“That’s wonderful!” I exclaimed, holding up a hand for a high-five. She blushed again.

“You think?”

“Yeah, you two are really getting somewhere.”

“Thanks, Lizzi,” said Jen, smiling from ear to ear. “You’re a really great friend, you know that?”

This time, it was my turn to turn tomato red. “Thanks,” I said softly after a good moment. “You know, you’re pretty great too.”

 


Okay. This might sound shameful, but I was hiding from Potter – again. I was always avoiding him. Why couldn’t he just quit or something, so I didn’t have to do this anymore? Jeez. It was all his fault. Everything was his fault.

“Are you okay?” asked Jen, interrupting my reverie and nudging me in the middle of Potions. I was slicing my what-ever-it-was-called root with far more force than necessary. I frowned for a second, then realized I was glowering darkly at the somehow offending ingredient.

“Yeah.” Drop in three pieces of hemlock extract, neutralize the poison via the enchanted peppermint, I chanted to myself. Stir, stir, stir...voila!

“Class! Miss Leilani’s done it!” Professor Grundy crowed excitedly, walking over in huge strides. “Look at this! A wonder!” He sniffed my cold, frothing brew, grinning widely. “Perfect, smells just as it should.”

Sabrina Taylor glared at me. Her potion, I was happy to note, was a wonderfully appealing shade of puce. Or puke, to be more accurate.

“Thanks, Professor,” I said demurely, folding my hands on top of one another. Jen snickered in appreciation, while Yelena just rolled her eyes and leaned closer to hiss at me.

“Really, that’s so immature, Lizzi.”

“Sorry,” I said to appease her, but not sorry at all. She harrumphed and turned her attention back to her potion.

“Professor?” said a high, snobby voice. “Professor?”

Molly Weasley stood at the door. Don’t get me wrong, but Molly was one of my least favorite Weasleys, me being the absolutely judgmental person I am; she had all the makings of an up-and-coming Sabrina Taylor, with her designer robes and painted face.

“Mr. Finch-Fletchley says that the six champions should go outside to the Quidditch field,” she said primly, head held high and just screaming, oh, look at me: I’m sooo special. “That’s Alyssa Leilani in this class, sir.”

Professor Grundy’s sharp gaze landed on my face.

“Well,” he said after a second of pause, “Miss Leilani, you are free to go.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said as politely as I could manage with stares openly burning into my skin, and resolved to keep my back ramrod straight while I followed Molly out of the classroom.

We arrived at the Quidditch pitch momentarily. The other champions had been assembled; apparently, I was a latecomer. I didn’t meet Potter’s eyes even as I sought him from the corner of my view, sought that familiar, comforting figure amid all the foreigners.

“Miss Leilani,” I was greeted cordially, if a little coolly, by a tall man smartly dressed in a black pinstripe suit.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. – ?” I stammered out. He nodded at me.

“My name is Justin Finch-Fletchley,” he said in that same smooth voice. “I’m one of the five judges for the tournament, here on behalf of the Department of Magical Sports and Games.”

“Oh,” was the only thing I could think of to say.

He didn’t get a chance to say anything else, as a middle-aged woman appeared with a small pop. She was tiny, at about four feet six inches tall, with long brown hair that fell gracefully to her ankles, and wore a maroon satin gown.

“Meezter Potter!” she exclaimed, jumping up to kiss Al on both cheeks. “’Ow good eet eez to see you again!”

Al smiled at her, nonplussed.

“As charming as ever, Miss Ollivander,” he said, bending into a deep bow. “How is England suiting you so far?”

I stared at him, not bothering to conceal my astonishment. It had, surprisingly enough, never occurred to me that Albus Potter could possess the skills of a...socialite.

“Very vell,” she said, beaming. “England eez seemply vonderful.”

“This is Dr. Alicia Ollivander, returning from France to carry on her retiring father’s business,” said Mr. Finch-Fletchley dryly, eyeing the enthusiastic woman with something akin to bemusement. I barely managed to hold back a snort. She was...rather affectionate for a doctor. “I take it you’ve already been introduced to Mr. Potter?”

“Eendeed I ‘ave!” she said loudly, still cheerful. Her warm brown eyes found mine, and I groaned in apprehension. “And zees young English lady must be hees wife!”

I turned beet red, and it got so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. My eyes traced patterns in the mud.

“Oops, am I meestaken?” she gasped, hand pressed to her collarbone as she looked around at the silent, confused, or, most of all, awkward faces. Al, damn him, had dancing eyes, and although outwardly serene, I knew he was about to burst into laughter any second.

“We’re not married,” I refuted quickly to spare myself further embarrassment. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite the way I planned it; Potter couldn’t hold back a chuckle this time. I had to resist the urge to cast a Jelly-Legs Jinx. And discreetly place a silencing charm on the woman.

“Oh! Even better, I can come to ze vedding!” said Dr. Ollivander. Potter finally cracked and expressed amusement at my dilemma...great amusement.

“Of course you can!” he said warmly to the good doctor. “It probably won’t be for some five thousand years, at the way things are currently progressing, but that’s quite alright.” He winked at me rather suggestively, causing me to flush a mortified red. “After all, anything can happen.”

“Shut it, Potter. You’re the last person I’d ever marry,” I hissed at him, hand on my wand. I delicately slid it into my sleeve and pointed it at his feet. Jellify, I chanted silently, and was immensely disappointed that Potter didn’t even wobble as he undid the curse nonverbally. Stupid, handsome, capable Potter. Maybe I should try something else...

“Let’s skip the bickering and proceed with the ceremony,” interrupted a slightly irritated Mr. Finch-Fletchley, casting a glare at Potter and – completely unfairly – me. I opened my mouth to protest, then shut it as I began to use my head. Wow, Lizzi. You’re acting like a Kent right now.

“The wedding eez now?” cried Dr. Ollivander, practically jumping up and down. “But I need time to change and get ready!”

“No, there is no wedding,” Mr. Finch-Fletchley snapped, briskly moving towards the tent. “The ceremony I’m talking about is the Weighing of the Wands.” Everyone could hear the “you dolt” he didn’t say but implied.

The bewildered champions of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang followed, and I had to laugh at the way the boy with the glasses had eyes that were bugging out ten feet out of his head when he looked at his partner. I could already tell they were going to get so much done.

We entered the spacious beige tent, and Dr. Ollivander sat down in a plushy chair. I frowned; where was my chair?

“Mr. Delauney,” said Mr. Finch-Fletchley crisply, and also impatiently, like this was taking far longer than he’d planned, “you first.”

“Yes, sir,” Four Eyes said meekly, patting down his dirty blonde hair. He walked slowly towards Dr. Ollivander, sliding his wand towards her.

“Ah,” said Dr. Ollivander, her face lighting up the moment she touched the instrument, “one of Madame Zrina’s, I take eet?”

Delauney nodded mutely, shoulders slumped. Way to take one for the team, Goblet.

“Never approved of ‘er style, I must say. And vat ees zees? A merman scale?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the boy squeaked. God, he was supposed to be seventeen?

“Vell, eet seems to be een working order,” she said, sounding almost disappointed as she waved the wand and a few golden sparks came out. “Next?”

“Miss Louise,” said Mr. Finch-Fletchley.

The brunette walked haughtily, swaying her hips, and my hand smacked Albus without my brain telling it to when I saw him checking out her bottom.

“Focus,” I whispered angrily. He raised an eyebrow.

“Jealous, Leilani?”

“Not at all, just embarrassed that my fellow Hogwarts representative would ever stoop so low,” I said with a sniff. He chuckled. I tried to turn my back, then remembered my back was already turned.

“Miss Louise, your wand, please?”

Reluctantly, it seemed, the girl handed over her wand, which she clutched as tightly as a lifeline.

“Ooh, another one by dear Zrina! More...mundane than the other one, no? Unicorn horn shavings. Unique, I suppose, if not of the best make.” A few sparks once again shot out of the wand tip, and the girl snatched her wand back angrily. I could hear her muttering about crazy English fools that didn’t understand wandlore.

When she looked up, our eyes met again, and she stared at me rather like she’d seen a ghost, her complexion whiter than ever. I’m pretty sure I paled too, and I swayed –

 

It was a windy day, howling gales and stormy breezes all around. I was at the top of a hill, sitting, watching the green scenery and blooming flowers in so many different shades of the rainbow, eyes open yet feeling partially asleep at the same time.

“Alyssa?” a voice interrupted me, pealing like bells, and I turned to look up at her. In the hallucination, no shock registered, while I, I the real me, was screaming in frustration.

“Yes?”

“I found it,” she said triumphantly, showing me a piece of extremely old, fragile parchment in her well tanned hands. The words Cair Peak were scrawled across the top in sloppy, old-fashioned letters next to a strange, and also familiar, depending on which part of me was looking at it, coat of arms and a fierce ecstasy burned in my dream-mind. The map, the map we’d been looking for forever...was in my possession at last.

 

I blinked as the tent was once again around me, and my breath caught in my throat as I felt warm hands holding me upright.

“Albus?” I croaked, as the world spun. He looked at me, evidently concerned. It was so sweet how he always cared about me...

I pinched myself.

“Alyssa, you okay?” he asked huskily, his cool breath sending a tingle down my spine, and I gazed at him, drinking in the sight. I shook my head, snapping out of it.

Evidently I wasn’t alright, if I was thinking absurd things like that.

“I’m fine, Potter,” I snapped, twisting free of his hold. “What happened?”

“You appeared to have lost consciousness for a few seconds, Miss Leilani,” said Mr. Finch-Fletchley, glaring at me like it was my fault I took up his valuable time. “But seeing as no harm was done, let us continue.”

Dr. Ollivander actually sputtered in outrage at his dismissal.

“But Thomas! Zees student may be een danger!”

“No, I’m as healthy as a horse,” I quickly interjected, not wanting to become the object of a fight. “Feeling great, really.”

Potter made an incredulous sound behind me, indicating his disbelief. I ignored him.

“See? The student herself says she is in no need of assistance. Mr. Ivianski!” called Mr. Finch-Fletchley. I was beginning to feel a dislike for the man.

The stocky, black-haired boy swaggered up to Dr. Ollivander, a supremely confident look on his face. He presented his wand with great pride, and set it down with a flourish.

To my surprise, Dr. Ollivander looked at it with far more interest than that of the Beauxbatons pair’s.

“A genuine Gregoroveech?”

“The real thing,” Ivianski bragged. I rolled my eyes.

“Zeese are so rare zeese days,” sighed Dr. Ollivander wistfully. “Not quite as good as my father’s work, but zere seemply aren’t any left. You must have paid an arm and a leg to get your ‘ands on zees, Mr. Ivianski.”

“It was my father’s.”

“Oh,” said Dr. Ollivander, sounding considerably less impressed. “I suppose zat vould be ze logical case. You are aware zat vands vork better eef zey are custom fitted, yes? No? Vell, eet eesn’t broken or anything like zat.” She handed the wand back to him.

Chandrelle Black had yet another Zrina wand, and apparently, Dr. Ollivander couldn’t resist poking at the flaws.

“Too zeeck, no sense of style! Seemply ostentatious, zees one. And what on earth ees zees? Veela ‘air? So outlandeesh!”

Chandrelle, not that I could blame her, ended up stomping away in a huff.

“Albus!” Dr. Ollivander called this time. “Come ‘ere, vell you, dear?”

Mr. Finch-Fletchley gave a long suffering sigh. I wished I could punch him just to shut him up.

“Zees ees one of my father’s, ees eet not?” she said with much more enthusiasm than ever before, which was a heck of a lot of enthusiasm. “Thirteen and a ‘alf inches, blackthorne, phoenix feather. One of Ollivander’s last. Beautiful make, Mr. Potter, ze finest wand I ‘ave ever seen my father make.” She waved it with unnecessary vigor, and a stream of gold light shot out of the wand.

“Miss Leilani...if you will,” began Mr. Finch-Fletchley the minute Potter once again had possession of his wand. I withdrew my wand from my pocket and walked towards the woman, nervously placing it on the desk. It felt wrong without my wand, and I suddenly knew this was how Muggles felt: vulnerable.

It was a long time before Dr. Ollivander spoke, her eyes probing the instrument, poking and prodding it with an air of astonishment.

“I’ve never even seen a wand like zees before, Miss Leilani,” she said, finally looking up. “Ebony ees not frequently used to make wands, but zees ees surprisingly springy, as ebony ees one of ze hardest woods out zere. Twelve inches...vat ees zees core made of? I ‘ave never encountered it...but I’m guessing eet ees something powerful, looking at ze craftsmanship. Gorgeous, tailored balance. A finesse zat only my father possessed, yet so far from hees style zat I cannot believe eet ees hees. Old, too -”

“Perhaps we could get on with it,” interrupted Mr. Finch-Fletchley as I stood in shock at her words.

“Yes, of course,” said Dr. Ollivander, jumping slightly. She waved the wand, and a stream of silver, not gold, but silver emitted from the wand. She frowned, then smiled brightly.

“Eet vorks vonderfully, of course,” she said to me, passing it back. I grabbed it from her hands hungrily, relishing the sense of security having it back gave me. What I’d learned from Dr. Ollivander wasn’t really, now I was over the moment, that surprising. My wand was weird; I’d known that ever since I’d set foot in Hogwarts.

I strolled back to where all the champions were waiting.

“Since that is over with,” Mr. Finch-Fletchley said. “I’d like to remind you that – “

And rather unexpectedly, a woman’s voice could be heard, arguing furiously with a man’s, and into the tent bustled none other than –

Hermione Granger Weasley herself.

“Good heavens!” Mr. Finch-Fletchley exclaimed, his startled gaze going immediately to the pretty, professional looking woman in front of him. She looked about thirty-five, but I knew from History of Magic that she was in her early forties. Her brown hair was pulled back in a neat bun, and a few curls escaped to artfully frame her face. The light amber eyes that looked up to Mr. Adam’s were extremely intelligent; it was immediately apparent where Rose’s smarts came from.

“Justin, it’s wonderful to see you again,” she said calmly, her tongue rolling over the last syllable only a millisecond before a man burst in beside her. He was tall and well-muscled and lean, with a crop of messy black hair and an ageless face upon which existed carefully-shaped and prominent features that gave him a powerful, mysterious countenance. And, a little voice that I steadfastly ignored nagged, he’s a mirror of Al’s good looks.

Only one man possessed that kind of freakishly important aura. And there was only one man whose picture I’d seen that often.

Harry frickin’ Potter was here.

 

 

“Lady Weasley, Lord Potter,” Finch-Fletchley said formally with a small nod towards each of them. Harry Potter grinned at him with laugh lines crinkling up at the corners of his eyes, warming up in a moment, and the effects of his bearing...changed. It was still impressive, but not formidable, and I found an urge to grin madly as well.

“Lord Potter? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that outside of the Wizengamot before, apart from old Langsley,” he said in a deep, sonorous voice that pulled your attention to it like a magnet. To be honest, if there was anyone that was a born leader, it was Harry Potter. And my opinion was only reinforced by history.

“Fine, Harry,” Mr. Finch-Fletchley said, trying for resignation but instead rather sounding like he was enjoying himself, something utterly unfamiliar.

“Hey, Dad,” greeted Albus casually from my side, “Aunt Hermione.”

“How’re you doing, Al?” said Mr. Potter, smiling at his son affectionately, a twinkle in his eyes – which were just like Al’s, I noted. “Got into any scrapes so far this year?”

Al laughed. “Sure. Hexed a few Slytherins, blew up some classrooms, insulted Professor Grundy...”

Mr. Potter moaned in a quite undignified manner and clapped his hand to his forehead. “Not again, Al,” he said with mock severity. He hugged his son, as did Ms. Granger-Weasley. “Now, how are things really?”

“Great. Rose and Hugo say to send their love,” Al said. I envied him his relationship with his dad and aunt, and suddenly, I found myself wiping my eyes. Grief, or sentimentality, popped up at the strangest places.

“At least they have some sense,” Hermione said as a third man entered the now crowded tent.

“Harry, ‘Mione, at least give me five minutes advance warning before showing up,” Professor Weasley grumbled quite unprofessionally. “I had to run like – “

“Not in front of the children, dear,” Hermione said disapprovingly, but Ronald Weasley just laughed and pecked her on the cheek. She blushed, much to my amazement; I’d never thought I’d seen Hermione Weasley, first female Chair of the Wizengamot and Head of the Department of Magical Creatures, blush.

Mr. Finch-Fletchley sighed, looking like he’d seen all of this a million times before. “May I be so rash to ask why this unannounced visit was made?”

Um, yeah, you may be so rash, considering you just asked. Pompous idiot.

“We were just checking in on the tournament on behalf of the Ministry. The fifth judge asks your pardon for having to miss this ceremony.” Mr. Potter’s jaw tightened briefly at the word “tournament,” but he soon winked at Al, and I suddenly comprehended another reason for the impromptu visit. It did make sense for one to want to visit their son when he was placed in a life-threatening game.

Fifth judge?

“Ah,” said Mr. Finch-Fletchley. “I was wondering where he was, but I assumed the Head of Laws and Legislation had far more important things to attend to.”

Wowee, that sounded important.

The Golden Trio exchanged the amused grins of insiders.

“It was good to see you, Justin,” said Mr. Potter, finishing up the short, impromptu meeting with a glance at his battered seeming watch. I chose to guess that it was of sentimental value, because as the wealthiest wizard in the Wizarding World, Harry Potter could more than afford to replace a decrepit timepiece. “Although I would like to meet the champions, I’m late for a meeting. And – is that you, Cassandra?”

“Harry!” cried Dr. Ollivander. “Father sends his greetings.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Finch-Fletchley interrupted with a pointed tap at his wrist, “but we do have things to attend to.”

“Bye, Cassandra, Al,” said Potter, grinning. “Your mum sends her love.”

Professor Weasley laughed and added with a humorous undertone, “Watch out for the rabid reporters waiting outside. Skeeter’s more vicious than ever in her old age,” as they exited the tent via lifting the flap, the trio complete.

I was left with a dumbfounded expression on my face at meeting the three most famous wizards and witch in Europe and possibly the world, as were all the students save Al.

 

 

 

“Mr. Potter! Why did you place your name in the Goblet?”

Good God, the media sharks had arrived at long last.

“Albus! Do you ever feel like you’re living in your father’s shadow?”

“Do you feel that you have to win this tournament to make a name for yourself other than ‘Harry Potter’s son?’”

“How are you coping with the pressure?”

“Albus!”

“Mr. Potter!”

“Albus!”

I couldn’t resist a snide comment.

“They’re really...into you, Al.”

He looked at me, trying to look offended, but an amused quirk of his lips – definitely kissable lips – revealed his true feelings.

“Takes one to know one.”

“Excuse me?” I gasped, affronted. “Of all the things to say – oh.” He was laughing his head off. Here, Al, I’ll help you with getting your head off. Wait, you don’t have a head.

“Shh, listen,” he muttered, grinning and holding a finger to my lips, and my heartbeat escalated once again at his expression, his almost-touch. That man didn’t need a wand to Stun, that’s for sure. “That’s Rita Skeeter and her progeny – I mean, protégée.” I snickered; he was pointing at a portly woman of about sixty with obviously dyed blonde hair, hippie style hoop earrings, and wearing a suit of bright flamingo pink. To her side stood a tall, wispy-thin-like-she-starved-herself lady, having little on other than a scrap of fabric meant to represent a dress and, predominantly, a fake happy expression.

“Albus!” the former called, waving frantically at Al. “Albus, do you feel any deep rooted attraction for your fellow Champion?”

Whatever I had been expecting to say, that was not it. I felt myself going Weasley red in the face, like I’d swallowed a pail of chili peppers. Oh, no. This was bad.

“Or is it vice versa?” Dammit, the woman noticed. It was probably hard not to – I was more likely than not vaguely resembling of someone suffering a stroke. “Is it unrequited love on Ms. – “ she checked her note sheet – “Leilani’s part?”

Thankfully, Al didn’t notice my furious blush. He turned to me, laughing.

“Did you hear that question?”

“Um, no, I didn’t,” I fumbled, desperately wishing I was somewhere else. “What? Eh? Huh?”

He stared at me suspiciously. I did my best fake grin, which definitely at this point looked like a clown grin, and decided that this was a wonderful time to change the subject. Groping for something unrelated yet reasonably related to say, I pointed up at the sky and said, “Oh, look! A cloud bunny!”

Al looked at me oddly, and I realized exactly what had come out of my mouth, while the nearest reporter began scribbling; his eyes lit up at my words. I could imagine the headline already: “SECOND HOGWARTS CHAMPION ABSOLUTELY LOONY!” Um, no, actually, for that I would even stoop to asking Mr. Malfoy to sue for me.

“I meant...the sky looks dark. I think it’s going to rain soon,” I tried again.

He frowned, tilting his chin up. “It is, isn’t it?”

Wow. I’d gotten it right? ‘Cause that had been some insane, random guess...I looked up to check, and sure enough, ominous storm clouds were gathering. Yes!

I’m not depressed or anything (I think), but this was good news. First of all, this made me happy because it proved me uncrazy. Sorta. The second part of my excitement was more malicious, but I didn’t care – those reporters were bugging me and them getting soaked was all just a part of karma. A very, very scrumptious piece of the karma and blueberry pie.

I have a thing for blueberry pie. It’s the best thing in the world – in fact, my earliest memory is of me eating a blueberry pie. I don’t know exactly when it happened. It feels like a few years ago, maybe when I was four or five. It was a purely good memory. Something that was rare, because – I don’t quite know how to explain it, as my life had been so happy, summers spent at a Florida beach, winters wasted away skiing with my mother in Vermont – not many of my memories were so fulfilling, substantial.

Memories.

I squinted suddenly, forced to see through a hazy mist. I didn’t understand its abrupt appearance. Naturally, I did what anyone would do – try to push the mist aside.

It wouldn’t budge.

“Alyssa?” I heard Al’s voice, cutting through the white fog sharply. “Alyssa?”

In the brief moment I heard his resonating words, I managed to speak through the clouds that had descended from the sky to envelop me.

“Al, where did you know me from?”

The words were forced out of my frozen lips, almost like they weren’t mine. Only they were mine, more my own than my usual speech – and at this inopportune moment, a piercing headache struck. I clutched my hair as my head was pummeled from the inside out –

And the pain and the mist disappeared together without warning, leaving me both confused and afraid.

 

 

 

“Alyssa!” yelled Al, shaking me while grasping my shoulders tightly. I grinned from the sheer pleasure gained from his touch, his presence. This was heaven...

“Alyssa!”

“What?” I blinked up at his emerald green eyes. “Oh, yeah. I’m fine, just blanked out for a second...”

He let go, and I had to bite my cheek to prevent the protest from coming out. His arms settled into a crossed position, and his stance became defensive. I winced. Uh-oh.

“That was quite some blank,” he observed casually, too casually. I smiled feebly.

“It was, eh?”

He glared at me, all pretense of nonchalance dropped. “What. Happened. There,” he enunciated heavily and slowly, like I was a dimwit or a Jillian or a Sara. That last statement happened to be a bit redundant, come to think of it.

“I had a headache,” I admitted rather reluctantly, dropping my gaze to the floor. He sighed. When he spoke, he came out as exasperated.

“I guessed that when you scrunched up your face and clapped your hands to your forehead.”

“Well, what do you want me to say?” I snapped back.

“Maybe why you seem to have fits out of nowhere every time I see you might be a good start,” he stated with false amicability.

“Allergies,” I said shortly. “I’m allergic to you.”

His eyebrows rose a notch.

“Really.”

“Yep,” I insisted cheerfully. “I’m severely allergic. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t gotten hives yet.”

“Of course,” he said coolly. “You have allergies. I’m assuming these allergies developed recently.”

“I only knew about them after I met you, of course, but I have had them since September.”

“So...you didn’t know about them before September?” he bit out, cutting off his words angrily. I gaped at him; I’d never seen him furious with me before. And believe me, I didn’t like it. “Because I can’t seem to remember anything of the sort when we were living together a year ago, Alyssa, to answer that question you had.”

 

 

 

 

The floor lurched out from beneath my feet, and I barely managed to keep myself upright as dizzy stars swam above my head, his words hitting me with a physical impact.

Woah.

Whatever I’d expected to hear, it wasn’t this. Al and I had been living together?

No. No way. Not even possible, because last year I’d been zip-lining in the beautiful scenic forests of Costa Rica, quite illegally I might add.

“You’re crazy,” I managed to stammer out through dry, cracked lips after a few moments. “I wasn’t even in England – or the States – last year.”

“Believe what you’d like, Leilani,” he said curtly, jamming his hands into his trouser pockets and walking off in rapid, angry strides, leaving behind nothing except the faint lines of crushed grass that refused to pop up like normal grass would.

 





“Alyssa.”

It was a new voice that rang with so many nuances I couldn’t pick one to describe it, other than...familiar. I whirled around at the sound of my name spoken.

When I peered into a pair of glacier cold blue eyes, I knew I was right. It was her. Only this time, she seemed much more open, less hostile.

“Alyssa, I need to talk to you,” she whispered urgently, leaning in close so that her chestnut hair blocked my vision.

“Do we know each other?” I asked quietly. “I feel like we do.”

She stared at me, then shook her head angrily. “Lady, this is no time for games! I’ve finally found you – to warn you – that they’re coming soon!”

Lady. The ridiculous words struck a chord, and I felt something rise up inside of me, bubbling outwards. My mouth moved, but the words coming out weren’t mine.

“Who?” I sounded imperious, confident, arrogant, every note the traditional British aristocrat. I frowned; what was this? I should have been an actress in the Muggle world.

“They’re coming! The Knights!”

“The – the Knights?” My normal voice was back again, and I sighed in relief.

She goggled for a moment, then her face darkened, genuinely enraged. I could only just push back the impulse to step away from her as she pierced me with that harsh gaze.

“You really did abandon us,” she murmured, her voice dropping. “This wan’t one of your solo missions at all, was it? You left.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I forced myself to say, even though my mind was screaming in protest. But I don’t, I rationalized.

She spun and stalked away, leaving me to stare at her shrinking back, absolutely confused. Great. This was the second champion I managed to piss off today now.

 

 

 

 





I looked down at my watch. One of its hands pointed towards Charms class. Thanks God it at least wasn’t D.A.D.A. I wasn’t in any mood to face Al.

I hurried back towards the enormous castle, hoping I didn’t miss anything too important. Grades were now essential if I wanted to do something with the rest of my life; the money my mother had left me wouldn’t last forever. A bitter taste was left in my mouth as I contemplated the costs of an apprenticeship. Thanks to the intensive one-on-one training required for most Wizarding jobs, prices had skyrocketed to about five thousand galleons a year.

For the first time, I felt a flickering flame of anger towards my mother, that she’d left such a stupid obligation in her will. I couldn’t sell the damn manor house, and the tiny, four-room apartment we’d owned in Salem as at most worth ten thousand. That left me the grand total of fifteen thousand galleons – enough for just three out of four years of higher schooling, not counting living costs. My mind raced. If I lived frugally enough, I could cut down room, board, food, and transportation to five thousand galleons for the entire four years.

I was still missing ten thousand. And no, I would not ask Mr. Malfoy for help. My mouth set in a grim line; I’d better start inquiring into financial aid.

My brief sojourn in the possible and probable future was cut short as I pushed the door to Charms open. Professor Scamander gave me one of her calm, unreadable, and utterly tranquil looks that only she could manage as I hurried in to take my assigned seat next to Jason Wells, who winked at me roguishly. Or, at least, what he probably thought was roguishly. It looked rather like he had something stuck in his eye.

“Simply charmed you are here, Miss Leilani,” he said in a deep voice. “May I inquire as to – “

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up,” I snapped halfheartedly, secretly amused. “Your jokes are so bad.”

“I’m wounded for life,” he muttered melodramatically, clutching his chest. Professor Scamander stopped in the middle of her lecture and fixed her ethereal eyes on him. Jason smiled cheekily at her. “Professor, you’re as beautiful as ever. Will you - ”

“I believe Miss Leilani doesn’t appreciate your antics nearly as much as I do,” deadpanned the professor, making me frown. Was she implying that Jason’s joke was funny and she liked the flattery, that I had no sense of humor, or that I was even more annoyed that she was? Or something else entirely?

Professor Scamander was far too hard to figure out for a simplistic person like me.

So I shook my head and went back to scribbling on my notebook, diligently taking notes and drawing flowers and bunnies. Yep, that’s me: Alyssa Leilani, artist extraordinaire –

“Are those cows?” Jason whispered in amusement, gesturing at my paper. I looked up and glared at his smiling face.

“No, they’re buttercups,” I corrected him. “But-ter-cups.”

“Shh!” admonished the good professor, and we both returned to scrutinizing our “notes.”

 

“My God, I hate midterms,” said Jen. We were lying in bed in the dorm, her doing homework, me pretending to listen while thinking. “They’re so bloody stupid – “

The Knights. The Knights that the other champion – Madeline Louise – was talking about. That sounded so damn familiar – where was my perfect recall when I actually needed it - ? Knights, Knights, Knights –

Oh God.

It was on the notes.

The frickin’ notes that fell every time a nightmare appeared to torment me.

Now that I remembered where the passage was from, I could easily recite it word for word, but the two things I remembered most were that whoever had written the note was trying to hide something from them.

And that the game he or she played was becoming deadly.

Hell, why couldn’t things be simple for once?

I tossed and turned and shifted beneath the covers, and it was a long time after the candles had flickered out that I fell asleep at last.
 




 

A/N:

Hey guys, sorry about the long wait. I had a brief bout of writer's block, and I was in Costa Rica with no computer. No worries though, that's all over and done with. The next section - just as a warning - may incorporate some cliché elements. May. I'm not quite sure yet.

Anyways, in this chapter, Albus and Alyssa have finally started...talking. I remember someone asking why Alyssa didn't just ask Al. Some light might have been shed onto the matter now...

Thanks for reading and reviewing, everyone. Almost at 3000 hits! Wowee!

<3 Sola Grey

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