After exhausting all possible leads in her chosen volume Leshia slammed it shut with a heavy sigh. Julius Black was right; she had no idea what she was doing. Quidditch practice was looming and after putting away the tomes she had taken from the shelves willy-nilly Leshia ambled off to change. Gryffindor tower was bustling with a hive of activity; so much so that the small girl managed to squeeze through the energetic youngsters without being seen by her friends over in their normal window box, who seemed to be captivated by a funny story Rachel was telling them. With a stab of jealousy Leshia powered on changing with such vigour that she scratched herself several times by accident.
Less inconspicuous in her quidditch robes and carrying a large broom upon her return journey through the packed common room Leshia suddenly found herself being granted a clear path through the bustling bodies and consequently her friends spotted her.
"Leshia!" Rachel called out urgently, half on her feet already as she called after her friend.
"Sorry, got to go," Leshia called back before she quite promptly steamed out of the room. Her startling exit didn't fail to catch the attention of half the occupants of the room and though once she got out the door Leshia bombed it down the corridor in order to get away from any possible pursuers, she wasn't quite quick enough for a certain determined young man.
"Malfoy wait for me." Any other and Leshia would have carried on down the stairs, but she couldn't run from Owen Gabriel. Turning round she was rather discomfited to find the boy dressed in his normal clothes. Why wasn't he going to quidditch training?
"Why aren't you dressed?" the girl called to her friend as he jogged to catch up with her.
"Practice has been cancelled," he replied once he'd reached Leshia's side. "And if you hadn't been hiding out all morning then you would have been told."
"I haven't been hiding out. I've been in the library. Why is it cancelled?" the girl persisted, breezing over the pointed look Owen shot her when she said that she had been in the library.
"Too many people have mocks to worry about this week so Mila's postponed it," the boy explained. "Malfoy what's going on with you? It's like you've just dropped off the end of the world this week. And when I asked your friends where you were this morning they completely dodged the question."
"They would," Leshia muttered under her breath, unfortunately still loud enough for Owen to catch wind of it.
"What? Have you guys fallen out or something?"
"Owen just leave it, it's nothing."
"Well it's obviously something if you're spending your weekend hiding in the library.""I wasn't hiding," Leshia complained. "I was researching."
"Same difference," the tall boy countered brusquely. Wanting very much to snap back at the boy Leshia looked up into his eyes and faltered; there lay such concern that she wanted to cry. Here was a friend who would not simply abandon her the moment things turned sour. Here was a friend she could confide her deepest secrets in.
"It's Katie and Rodeo," the girl sighed, dropping down onto the stairs in defeat. After glancing over his shoulder Owen lowered himself onto the step beside her. "Ever since they got together they've been horrible to me, overreacting to every little thing I say, biting my head off the moment I disagree with one of them." The pent-up frustration with the unfairness of it all was coming out in one passionate vent and for now Owen waited while she got her breath back, keeping his thoughts to himself.
"And I just don't understand," the girl was now continuing. "I haven't changed! I'm still exactly the same, so why should they be horrible to me when I haven't done anything different? They're the ones who are different and I hate it!" Once more a pause while Leshia struggled to inhale another large breath before her tirade continued. Owen was finding it difficult to keep quiet and had to interject,
"Well what about Weasley and that Parys what's-his-name?"
"Oh don't get me started on them! They've completely abandoned me and just let Katie and Rodeo lay into me. Parys I can just about understand, he is Rodeo's best friend, but Rachel's mine and…" Leshia trailed off and hung her head pathetically. Seeing her this way was unnerving the tall boy at her side, who thought the girl had nerves of steel and impenetrable feelings. This was not Leshia Malfoy!
"Malfoy!" Owen stated firmly causing Leshia to look up at him in surprise. "Stop feeling so God-damned sorry for yourself. Since when have you let people get away with treating you like crap?"
"What?" the girl bristled.
"There you go," Owen chuckled. "You shouldn't let them get away with it Malfoy. Now save the anger you have for me right now and go direct it at that moron Holsson."
"He's not a moron Owen," Leshia sniggered, unable to hide her mirth at the boy's words.
"Malfoy any guy that chooses Katie Potter over you is a moron. Don't let them get away with it, they've hurt you bad enough already."
"No they haven't," Leshia countered, the colour rising in her cheeks at Owen's assumption that she was in tatters over Katie and Rodeo's flourishing relationship. Giving the girl a fond frustrated look Owen finally smiled and nodded.
"Sure Malfoy, whatever you say."
"Hey I'm just calling it the way I see it."
"Well you must need glasses then." Smiling adoringly at the girl Owen nodded and looked to the ground. He still didn't trust himself completely to look into those beautiful grey eyes for too long lest he succumb once more to the girl's siren-like pull. "Thanks for taking my side," Leshia added softly, staring at the boy intently, willing him to look at her once more.
"Don't be stupid Malfoy," Owen complained brusquely and he wrapped an arm around the girl, pulling her into the crook of his arm in a semi-headlock so he could ruffle her hair. "I'm always on your side."
"Owen!" Leshia shrieked with mirth as he continued to frantically mess up her hair. "Get off me you big bully!"
"Now what did I just tell you about sticking up for yourself?" Owen laughed, which he soon regretted when Leshia took matters into her own hands and turned her expert tickling fingers on his ribs. Within seconds he had been degraded into a giggling wreck trying desperately to struggle away from the girl.
"Miss Malfoy! Mr Gabriel! That is enough!" The course disapproving voice of Professor Snape broke the two playing youngsters apart as though they had been shunted with an electric shock. With red cheeks the pair climbed to their feet and stood before the bemused potions master.
"Afternoon Professor," Owen tried cheerily.
"Detention, both of you!"
"Ah what for?" Leshia demanded petulantly, receiving an elbow to her side from Owen who was trying his best to pacify the teacher not wind him up.
"Behaving inappropriately," Snape hissed, glaring so ferociously at the girl that Owen raised his eyebrows a little. He had never witnessed the interactions between girl and teacher before and was quite glad he wasn't standing in Leshia's shoes at that moment.
"As if…" The girl was silenced by Owen clearing his throat loudly and shooting her a stern look. For a moment Snape stared at the pair of them in surprise; he had misread the situation. Here before him stood a young man with the powers to keep Alecia Malfoy under control.
"My office next Monday after lessons," the teacher said coolly, his temper now abated by the surprising new information that Leshia held Owen Gabriel in such high esteem that she actually listened to him. "And you Miss Malfoy had better watch your cheek. Five points from Gryffindor." With this the teacher flounced off leaving Leshia staring furiously at the spot he had vacated.
"You're mad you are," Owen remarked with a slightly amused expression, though his tone was stern. Leshia looked up at him with a cocky grin.
"I can't believe you're such a potion master's pet," she teased before she burst into an entirely over dramatised impression of the boy, "'Ooh Professor Snape, such lovely weather we're having. Oh my, is that a new cloak?'" After rolling his eyes to the sky with a big grin Owen finally reacted.
"Oh that is it," he said softly, before he suddenly lurched at the girl to continue his attack on her. With another shriek of mirth Leshia ran off down the corridor towards the portrait of the Fat Lady with Owen in close pursuit. He allowed her to get half through the portrait before he lunged at her getting her back for the relentless tickling she had subjected on him moments before. Their loud and raucous play fight attracted plenty of attention as they came struggling into the common room, and whereas most laughed and started egging on either party across the room Leshia's friends stared in silence.
"Aw aren't they just adorable?" Katie cooed, clutching her hands together to her chest. Rachel snorted.
"You're a nutter you are," the redhead concluded jubilantly.
"Oh they're just so perfect for each other," Katie sighed contentedly.
"No they're not!" Everyone stared in surprise at Rodeo, who had uttered this furious contradiction. Katie instantly assumed a wounded expression, one that Rodeo did not heed. "He's such a twat." Not wanting to get into an argument with the angry youngster the others looked away awkwardly while he seethed in silence.
Over in the middle of the common room the two play fighters had got themselves into rather a stalemate and after a moment's laughter it was Owen who conceded first,
"Truce?" he suggested to a chorus of laughter.
"Will you admit I won?" Leshia countered.
"Well that's not the point of a truce Malfoy." To a chorus of 'fight, fight, fight' Leshia finally let the boy go and both straightened up to the disappointed crowds, who had been enjoying the show.
"'Ooh Snape,'" the girl tried once more through a snigger and after laughing heartily Owen lunged once more at her lifting her clear off her feet and squeezing her so tightly the breath was forced from her lungs making the girl choke on her laughter. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
"Are you really?" Owen asked calmly squeezing her even tighter.
"Yes I really am!" the girl laughed back raucously and when she thought she was going to pass out from running out of breath the tall boy finally dropped her to her feet and ruffled her hair firmly, sending her on her way.
"Remember what I said," the boy told her firmly, before he turned around in search of his own friends, who had been the prime cheerers in the audience. Leshia could sense the hostilities the moment she joined her friends, but with Owen's words ringing in her ears she sat down amongst them grinning fit to burst.
"Have fun did we?" Katie asked fondly, her hands still clasped to her front.
"Yeah, Owen's a laugh," the girl replied happily. Without warning Rodeo jumped to his feet with such vigour his chair toppled over backwards in his wake. "What's the matter with you?" Leshia demanded when the boy glared at her.
"He's not right for you Leesh," the boy stated firmly eliciting four wide-eyed-stares from his friends.
"What?" Leshia finally managed incredulously.
"You heard what I said."
"Rodes I know the two of you don't get on, but I am not going to just sit by while you treat me like crap and then try and dictate who I can and cannot see. So if you seriously want to remain my friend then you should get over yourself and sit down." For a moment the two locked eyes in battle until finally Rodeo slowly leant down and straightened his seat before he lowered himself into it staring now at his hands. Leshia furrowed her brow in pity and for the first time since this feud began she felt the fondness for Rodeo that had first urged her to make friends with him. He was just a slave to his emotions after all, and being a young man he could not yet regulate them.
"I hate fighting with you," Leshia stated gently, looking now to Katie as well. "Both of you. I mean what is going on with us? So you guys are going out, big deal! I still care about you just the same. So can't we all just get along?" Katie nodded fervently, the makings of tears in her eyes, but it took Rodeo a long time to look up into Leshia's eyes. When he did it broke his heart to see the kindness that lay there; all his efforts to convince himself that she wasn't a nice girl, that she was cruel and not worthy of his love had been in vain.
"Sorry," he conceded quietly and he hung his head a little.
"Exploding snap anybody?" Rachel suggested loudly to break up the awkwardness of the situation.
"Well that depends," Leshia countered coldly, turning on Rachel with an icy gaze. Rachel gulped. "Are you ready to get thrashed?" Only after Leshia's face had burst into a big grin did Rachel relax and laugh manically.
"Oh you wish Malfoy. Move over." And so Rachel slid down onto the seat beside Leshia pulling out a deck of cards while Katie wormed her hand into Rodeo's seeking assurance that he still wanted to be with her. The warm smile he granted her was answer enough.
"Oh don't let Rachel deal, she'll cheat," Parys piped up happily as the redhead started to deal the cards.
"Don't make me curse you Parys, I've been told that with my technique I shouldn't even dare trying," Rachel countered happily eliciting laughter from the group of friends. Though their little scene of good relations didn't draw a crowd like the play fight Leshia had just enjoyed with Owen, it was far more momentous. The friends had gone to the very brink of friendship and bounced back; here in the bustling Gryffindor common room on the cold January afternoon life-long bonds were being forged; bonds which one day would stand the test of time itself.
Come Tuesday morning the youngsters found themselves lined up outside the muggle studies classroom chattering cheerfully about the upcoming weekend, which would see the Miss Hogwarts competition unfold. Leshia had since relented and allowed Katie to chatter about the event till her heart's content. Consequently every other conversation the girls found themselves in revolved around the beauty contest.
"I wonder if there will be some sort of dance to celebrate the competition," Katie mused aloud.
"If you had your way there would be a dance to celebrate every occasion big or small," Rodeo chuckled fondly.
"Oh I got an O in Runes," Leshia suddenly yelped excitedly. "Time to hold another dance."
"Leshia caught the snitch again, let's all throw a dance to celebrate," Rachel added happily.
"Hey I made it through history of magic without falling asleep once, now we need to hold a mega dance, perhaps even a ball!" Leshia laughed jubilantly, entirely getting carried away with hers and Rachel's joking.
"Oh give over," Katie laughed happily.
"You know I did actually manage to go a whole lesson of Professor Binns' drawling without falling asleep the other day," Rachel suddenly revealed happily.
"Did you?" Leshia asked sounding genuinely surprised. "I didn't. He had me snoring by his second paragraph…"
"Rachel! Rachel!" Everyone in the corridor turned curiously to see the least likely person sprinting down the corridor towards them all.
"Hermia?" Rachel stammered in surprise. Aside from the fact that she and Hermia, her younger sister, had barely spoken in the entire two years the younger girl had been at Hogwarts, never before had the girl seemed so in need of her older sister. "What's wrong?" Rachel inquired worriedly when finally her sister reached her side. Despite herself the older girl reached out and took hold of her younger sister's flailing hands.
"It's Emelia," Hermia panted witch wide eyes full of tears. "She's in a bad way Rach."
"What's happened?" Leshia demanded when her best friend seemed to have lost the power of speech.
"She was in Potions when she went to the toilet about twenty minutes ago," Hermia explained, stopping once more to get her breath back. "She never came back! She was found at the bottom of the great staircase all battered and bruised. They don't know if she's going to wake up." At this point the second year Slytherin who Rachel had always assumed had a heart of stone broke down into tears on her older sister's shoulder. Rachel turned an alarmed face on her best friend, who alone at this moment had not broken into whispers instead keeping a level head.
"Come on," Leshia ordered calmly. "Let's got to the hospital wing."
"Well what about Muggle Studies?" Katie complained meekly, earning herself a stern look from Leshia, who was already escorting Rachel and her weeping sister to the hospital wing.
"Katie come on," Leshia said forcefully. When they reached Emelia's side the girls soon found they weren't her first visitors. Indeed, two men stooped in a hushed conversation already stood at her side. Upon the entrance of the youngsters however, the men broke apart still expressing a look of such seriousness that Leshia felt instantly fearful. The situation must be extremely severe to warrant such expressions from her father and Albus Dumbledore.
"Emelia," Hermia wailed the moment she saw their younger sister battered and still unconscious from her attack. Rachel remained strong for her sisters and consoled Hermia while Katie back stepped until she reached the neighbouring bed. The sight of her young cousin so battered was too much for the raven-haired girl and quite suddenly she had felt her feet giving way. Leshia alone remained calm and looked coolly from her head teacher to her father. Draco jerked his head to the side indicating Leshia join him off toward the side of the infirmary.
"Is she going to be okay dad?" Leshia asked worriedly when she, Draco and Dumbledore had moved sufficiently away from the distraught family. Draco glanced momentarily to the stricken girl and winced at the sight of her.
"We don't know sweetheart," he replied honestly.
"What happened to her?" Leshia persisted.
"That is what we are trying to find out dear girl," Albus Dumbledore cut in gently, offering his friend's daughter a reassuring smile. "Perhaps you will do us the great service of remaining here to look after your friends. I do believe they will be impossible to tear away from poor Emelia's side and it would do me a great service to know they were in responsible hands." Leshia nodded fervently. "We must go and oversee a search of the school." Once more Leshia nodded, keeping to herself her worries that Dumbledore and her father evidently felt that whatever attacked Emelia may still be around. Sensing that for just a moment Draco wished to speak to his child in private Dumbledore ducked out of the conversation heading over to Hermia's unconscious form once more to check on her progress. Draco though held Leshia's gaze with a stern concern.
"You're not to get involved in this you understand?" he warned her seriously. Leshia neither nodded nor shook her head, instead adopting the same stubborn expression her father was wearing. "I know you feel you probably already are."
"What do you mean?" Draco grinded his teeth together for a moment regarding the fourteen-year-old with a look of slight pride.
"Don't get dragged into this Leshia. It's not your fight. Don't you think you've put your poor mother through enough already with the scrapes you've got yourself into?"
"Dad I don't know what you're talking about," the girl lied, feeling a little putout that Draco was sinking to such underhand tactics that he would try and use guilt to scare Leshia from delving any further into this sinister affair. Draco though seemed adamant that the girl should be no means become involved. Why?
"Just…" Draco paused and for the first time broke Leshia's gaze, looking away to Hermia's poor battered body. How many times had he had to witness Leshia's broken form in this very room? How many times was he going to have to fear for her life? "Just watch your back okay?"
"I always do," Leshia countered slightly petulantly. Draco snorted derisively and looked back to his daughter with a smirk.
"Just stay out of trouble okay?" He was staring towards the door where Albus Dumbledore was now waiting for him. Leshia nodded, silently adding,
'You too.' Only once the headmaster and her father had left the room did Leshia approach her friends.
"What did your dad say?" Rachel asked stonily, the shock of seeing her sister so horribly attacked morphing her usual cheery features cold and lifeless. For a moment Leshia considered telling them the truth, but what would they think of Draco's urgency for them not to get involved in the situation?
"He was just asking if we knew any reason why someone would want to attack Emelia," the girl lied easily. Without even a nod Rachel looked back to her little sister while at her side Hermia wailed on.
An entire day passed in which Rachel and Hermia were joined by both their parents in their vigil at Emelia's bedside before finally the first year girl opened her eyes to the world. Quick off the mark were Draco and Albus Dumbledore who descended in search of answers, but aside from the fact that Emelia said she was caught by surprise following a terrible stench there was little to explain what had happened to her. With hardly any information on what had unfolded Draco was chased from the room by a severely overprotective Ron. His claims that he was trying to protect the inhabitants of the castle fell on deaf ears and as such he had to stalk off muttering under his breath about a certain red-haired young man.
The run-up to the competition was entirely overshadowed by the dark mid-week events. Emelia's full recovery and return to Gryffindor tower on the eve of the tournament did however serve to reignite the buzz. Over dinner the congregated pupils of the school were told that the following day the nominees would be revealed to the school and that throughout the course of the day everyone would be able to go to the voting booths set up in the entrance hall to cast their vote.
By the time everyone was turning in for the night it would be safe to say that as far as Katie was concerned her personal excitement had reached fever pitch.
"Don't get too excited Katie," Leshia mumbled to the girl as they were drifting off to sleep. "Nothing spectacular is going to happen in the morning. It'll be just like any other day."
Wishful thinking would be an accurate way to describe Leshia's sentiments, as the following day when the jubilant shriek of Katie shunted everyone quite rudely out of their slumber, Leshia soon realised her words the night before had been in vein.
"Look at me! Look at it!" Katie was giggling wildly. "Oh isn't it so beautiful!"
"Oh Katie it's gorgeous. You look just like a princess," came the envious response of an excitable Ashley.
"A bloody loud princess," Rachel grumbled through the giggling. "Go back to bed!"
"Look Rachel look!" Katie countered however, moments later to be followed by an appreciative humph by a very tired Rachel.
"That is actually pretty cool. Show Leesh," the redhead urged, hoping her cousin would disappear from her bedside so she could pull the duvet over her head and seek out her slumber once more.
"I'm sleeping," Leshia called out grumpily, opening her eyes to a crack to peer into the gloom of her bed. Something was wrong. "What the…" she began croakily as she sat up to find the source of the mysterious sparkles filling her usually dim four-poster bed. Quite suddenly the curtains to her little abode were wrenched open. "Hey!" Leshia complained and threw her hands up to her poor eyes, which had been blinded by the bright morning sunshine.
"Oh," Katie stuttered. "You've got one too." The disappointment was so poignant in her tone that Leshia pulled her hands away from her eyes and squinted up at the raven-haired girl.
"What's that?" Leshia demanded with a sliver of fear. For atop Katie's head lay a sparkling tiara made solely out of glittering lights…exactly the sort of sparkling glittering lights that had moments ago filled her gloomy bed. "Oh no," the blonde girl managed and without a word to Katie she pushed her way past her and ran to the mirror beside the aforementioned girl's bed. "No!" the girl crowed sounding pained as her eyes fell on the matching sparkling tiara on her own head.
"What's wrong?" Rachel grumbled, poking her head through her curtains to see what all the fuss was about. Upon seeing her best friend rubbing furiously at her hair trying to disperse the glowing headwear she burst out laughing. "Oh Leesh! It really suits you!"
"It won't come off," Leshia complained feverishly. "Why won't it come off?"
"Well it's obvious isn't it?" Nicola now spoke up with the same envy Ashley had expressed. "You two are nominees for Miss Hogwarts. You're so lucky!" While Katie swooned and clutched her hands together in jubilations Leshia wheeled on Nicola and glared forcefully at the girl.
"Lucky?" she demanded. "Lucky! I'd gladly give it to you if I could just get the bloody thing off!" Leshia's friends were less than sympathetic and by the time they had all dressed they laughed wildly at Leshia's insistence that she was going to spend all day up in the dormitory. In the end Rachel personally frogmarched her down through the common room where the girls were met with a round of applause. No other Gryffindors had woken up to find the magical tiaras affixed to their hairlines and as such Leshia and Katie were the sole subjects of everyone's attention.
Whereas Katie remained behind a little to reel in her peers' compliments and praise Leshia darted from the room with a sniggering Rachel at her side. They managed to get down to breakfast without any mishaps and soon Leshia was handing her head over her dinner in a grim resignation that once more she had been dragged right into the centre of something she would much rather have had nothing to do with.
"I wonder if Katie rigged it," Rachel mused aloud earning her a wicked grin from Leshia.
"That's a little harsh Rach," the blonde girl countered, before adding, "I wonder who she bribed to do it for her." Rachel snorted happily and gulped greedily at her pumpkin juice. "Do you wish you had one?" the blonde girl continued frankly.
"Me?" Rachel choked on her drink and for a moment Leshia had to clap the girl firmly on the back to bring her round again. "Are you mad? I want nothing to do with it."
"Same," Leshia sighed miserably while she looked up across the room. Half a dozen other tiara-clad girls were swarming around with small followings; absolutely gorgeous girls who Leshia had never given a second thought but now felt incredibly threatened by. Upon Katie's arrival she brought news that there were ten contenders for the role, which would be announced at a special ceremony after dinner.
"That just leaves me one problem," Leshia muttered to Rachel under her breath when once more the conversation had grown to such a buzz that nobody was heeding her. "Where am I going to hide until this whole thing is over?"
Rather than reverting to her hide-in-the-library like tendencies Leshia decided she would just ignore the dratted tiara on her head. She was the only girl graced with one to behave so venomously against it and indeed all the others had taken to strutting about the castle trying to convert as many of their peers to their cause as they could. Katie enlisted Rodeo into helping her effectively leaving Leshia, Rachel and Parys lounging in the common room enjoying their Sunday. Well, enjoying it as much as they could with the terribly long Muggle Studies essay they had been set. The girls were picking Parys' brain on the matter as they had missed the lesson that would have been helpful to them due to Emelia's unfortunate accident.
"Oh this is ridiculous," Leshia suddenly exclaimed as she dropped her quill on their usual corner table and dropped her besparkled head into her arms. "I bet you that even muggles don't know why the transport network is suffering so many problems. Can't I just say 'because they're muggles and they're stupid' and then be done with it?" Parys chuckled at the girl.
"If it's any consolation you didn't miss much in the lesson," the boy conceded.
"Oh yeah? Was it so boring that it sent you all to sleep?" Rachel laughed.
"No he was like fifteen minutes late and then was really distracted the whole way through. Most of his sentences trailed off half way through. The guy had something on his mind I'll tell you that." Both Leshia and Rachel furrowed their brows in unison and glanced at one another. Parys barely noticed. "But that's nothing, he left half way through the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuffs lesson before ours and never came back."
"Parys didn't you think to mention this before?" Rachel finally spoke with a very un-Rachel like serious expression. The boy seemed instantly humbled by her change in persona.
"Um, no. Why?"
"Emelia got attacked around that time," Leshia replied for her friend in a distant tone, her eyes still off to the side while her mind whirred over this turn up for the books. Parys instantly recoiled at Leshia's words.
"No!" he exclaimed with a half smile, as though he felt the girls to be joking. When they're expressions didn't change he leant forward incredulously. "You can't be serious. Lewis is like the nicest guy I've ever met."
"Well then why did he disappear exactly at the same time my sister got attacked?"
"Rach I know you're upset about what happened to your sister and I can completely get why you think it's Lewis, but there could have been a million and one reasons for him to be acting that way. I mean look at Professor Malfoy, he's always off in some strange mood or other." Leshia suddenly wheeled on the boy in disbelief.
"What?" she managed catching Parys off guard, who had momentarily forgotten that Leshia was sat beside them.
"Sorry," he profusely apologised softening Leshia's expression until finally she nodded.
"You're right," she conceded. "My dad's always up to mysterious stuff that gets him all hot and bothered and distracted, but that doesn't make him the cause of all these problems and I'm sure it's the same with Professor Lewis." Rachel looked from one earnest face to the next before she finally nodded.
"You're right," she sighed, the twinkle returning to her eyes. "Can you imagine Lewis trying to sneak up on someone? You can bloody hear that man smiling from a mile off." Though she managed to return to the mirth of the situation Rachel remained a little dubious about Professor Lewis' actions. Never before had cheerful Rachel been the suspicious type, but after the destruction of her family through the turmoil her parents were going through any upset was magnified beyond all control and Emelia's attack had stirred within Rachel emotions she had never felt before.
Come lunch time and Leshia was forced to mingle through the Hogwarts' crowds once more coming across beaming friendly faces and the scowls of posse's attached to her competitors. One particularly nasty meeting occurred within sight of the voting booths when Leshia, Parys and Rachel came across Val Beckett sporting a sparkling tiara and her gaggle of supporters. The animosity between the two nominees was evident.
"Good luck Malfoy," Val offered extremely falsely, the mockery in her eyes making Leshia want to curse her with a plague of boils. With a false smile Leshia dodged round the Ravenclaws all set on going down for some lunch, which she might have done had Val not muttered terribly unsubtly, "You're going to need it."
"What did you say?" Leshia demanded icily, spinning on heal and glaring furiously at Owen's ex-girlfriend.
"You heard me." For a moment the two girls locked eyes in battle until out of nowhere a tall shadow fell over them.
"Suits you Malfoy, you should invest of one of these full time," Owen Gabriel spoke up, startling both girls into looking at him; Leshia in gleeful surprise and Val in fury. The boy was staring coldly at the girl he had enjoyed a brief stint with. He said not a word to his ex-girlfriend and instead wrapped an arm about Leshia's shoulders. "Come on shorty, you're going to want to see this. They've got a right little Leshia fan club going down Gryffindor table." Without a word of objection at the thought of such a ghastly activity Leshia allowed herself to be led away with Parys and Rachel jogging to catch up with them. At the door to the great hall Leshia looked over her shoulder to see Val hanging her head and muttering foul obscenities under her breath while her friends tried to console her.
Owen had not been wrong about the supporters gathering at the end of Gryffindor table – all lower year peers who had already idolised the girl beyond all measure. They happily explained to her as Owen pushed her into their midst (before abandoning her in a fit of laughter) that they had already voted for her and were expecting her to win hands down. Rachel and Parys had a wail of a time watching the girl suppress a scream of annoyance and hindered Leshia's mood further by joining in with the others.
Luckily Leshia was soon saved from her adoring fans by her proud mother who wanted to take a walk with the nominee. Just seconds away from taking her wand out to silence her followers Leshia jumped to her feet at the chance to get away from the Gryffindors and moments later she and Hermione were taking a turn round the corridors of the castle.
"I knew the moment they started talking about this contest that you would be picked," Hermione told her daughter fondly.
"Oh mum give over," Leshia groaned.
"Well I can't help it that you're beautiful," Hermione chuckled proudly.
"One more word and I swear I'll turn myself into a troll," Leshia warned fondly eliciting hearty laughter from her mother. The sound of Hermione's glee softened Leshia's mood instantly and for a moment the daughter beamed up at her mother. "You're really happy aren't you mum?" There was a slight pained sound to Leshia's tone, who had to admit she had forced the news of her soon to be baby brother or sister from her mind for fear of what she really felt on the matter. She felt guilty for wishing it away knowing her mother was so happy about the new arrival.
"Yes," Hermione sighed contentedly resting her head momentarily against Leshia's. "More happy than you can imagine little one." Nodding gloomily Leshia hung her head and stared at her shoes as they walked. "No one can ever replace you Leshia. You know that right?"
"Mum," the teenager groaned fondly. "Don't go all soppy on me."
"Well you started it," Hermione laughed and wiped at her eyes where tears had materialised at Leshia's sudden emotionality.
"Can I hide in your chambers until this whole sorry thing is over?" Leshia asked with large pleading eyes.
"Oh darling," her mother admonished fondly. "Why do you have to be such a stick in the mud? You should just enjoy it."
"Easy for you to say, you don't have one of these stuck to your blimming head," Leshia grumbled and once more she ruffled firmly at her hair to try and dislodge the magical tiara.
"I think it looks lovely," Hermione teased.
"Well if you can figure a way to pry it off my head then you can have it."
"Hey Malfoy!" Both Leshia and her mother turned around to see Owen Gabriel jogging towards them from down the corridor. Instinctively Leshia reached up to flatten her manic curls, which moments before she had dislodged in her fit at the tiara. Hermione noted her daughter's about-turn in mood and suppressed a broad soppy smile: her little girl certainly wasn't her little girl anymore.
Once he reached their side Owen's eyes darted to the tiara atop Leshia's head and for a moment he smirked in mirth.
"Not a word," Leshia warned him amusedly.
"I wouldn't dream of it. Good afternoon Professor Granger," the boy now wheeled on Leshia's mother and cast her such a dashing smile that for a moment the young woman was a little taken a back. Since when had this fifteen-year-old become so charming? She could still remember the boy from the term she taught in his second year when he had been all gangly arms and legs and had not strayed further from the safety of his friends. How he had changed!
"Good afternoon Mr Gabriel," the mother finally returned serenely.
"Would you mind terribly if I borrowed Leshia?" the boy was continuing.
"Oh be my guest," Hermione replied happily and after grinning to both daughter and her friend Hermione bowed out of the conversation and headed up the corridor. Over her shoulder she could just about hear Owen explaining to her daughter that their captain had called a meeting to discuss emergency training before the match against Ravenclaw the following weekend.
The young woman was beaming and it was clear for all to see. Not one of her pupils passed her without managing to cast her a warm smile. Even the moody Slytherins cheered up at the sight of the glowing mother. By the time Hermione reached her quarters she was so content she felt she was hovering several inches above the ground.
"What's the matter with you?" came the amused inquiry from her husband the moment she glided in. Draco was lying stretched out on one of the settees with half a dozen exceedingly long essay scrolls nestled around him and the one he was currently marking uncoiled down the whole length of his body.
"Oh I'm just in a gloriously good mood," Hermione replied happily, veritably floating over to where her husband lay to kiss him lovingly.
"Any particular reason for this gloriously good mood?" the young man asked cheerfully once Hermione had breezed past him to flop down in the armchair at his side.
"I just had a chat with Leshia, she seemed to be opening up more about this little one." Draco raised an eyebrow.
"Only a little," Hermione quickly added. "But you should have seen her darling, for one moment she just seemed so happy about the whole thing." Draco smiled fondly at his wife and held his tongue. Personally he felt the whole situation was going to get a lot worse before Leshia would be able to welcome a new sibling into their lives, but he daren't be such a naysayer in front of his wife.
"So what is the little heathen up to today then?" Draco asked amusedly.
"Draco!" Hermione laughed. "Don't call our daughter a heathen! She's not having a terribly good day actually."
"Why?" In an instant the playfulness from Draco's face was gone making way for a stern look of protectiveness.
"She's one of the nominees Draco," Hermione laughed. For a moment the blonde man furrowed his brow in confusion. What was Hermione going on about? Having not stepped outside the chambers yet after deciding he wanted to have a lazy Sunday he hadn't yet been swept up into the excitement of the contest.
"Oh you're kidding," he finally chuckled. "I'll bet she's loving that. I hope she realises its all your fault."
"And what do you mean by that?" Hermione countered adopting a feigned snooty tone.
"Oh don't play innocent. She's the way she is because you're the way you are." Here he waved her up and down with a pointed finger. Hermione giggled despite her bemused act. "So the next time I see her I'll let her know she can come crying to you about the whole thing."
"Like you had nothing to do with it," his wife laughed. "To look at that girl is all you and you know it."
"Don't be absurd," Draco countered. "Why didn't she come back with you anyway? It would have been fun to tease her about the contest."
"Draco," Hermione laughed. "You shouldn't wind her up about it, she's already threatened to turn herself into a troll…"
"That'll be the day." Glazing over her husband's joking remark Hermione continued,
"That Owen Gabriel boy came and dragged her away." For the second time Draco's face fell instantly, only this time he quite promptly sat up scattering the scrolls that had been resting on him about the room.
"He what? Why?" Hermione's mirth remained and after fondly smiling at her husband she explained.
"Surprise quidditch meeting. Honestly darling what do you have against the boy? I hate to say this, but one of these days Leshia is going to pick one of them and between you and me I hope it's him." Draco scowled half-heartedly at his wife.
"That's exactly what I have against him. How is it that within the space of a term and a half he's completely swept Leshia of her feet and now you as well? I don't trust him."
"He's a charming young man," his wife countered fondly.
"A little too charming if you ask me," Draco grumbled, climbing to his feet so as he could pace the room. "I mean since when has it been socially acceptable for a fourth year to get so attached to a third year? Back in our day he never would have got away with it, people would make fun of him till he stopped."
"Yes but Leshia isn't just any ordinary third year is she?" Draco looked once more to his wife mid-pace with a pointed expression.
"Again, all your fault!" Hermione laughed heartily.
"Draco I know that after everything you're very overprotective of our daughter, but please, she's only young once and if we raise her with too firm a hand then she's going to hate us for it eventually."
"Too firm a hand?" Draco exclaimed wildly, a big grin on his face. "That one? Have we really been too firm on her? We let her get away with blue murder!" Rubbing the back of his head awkwardly Draco approached his wife and sat down on the edge of her chair, leaning out to place his large hand over her growing bump. "With this one we're going to do things right."
"Draco," Hermione admonished. "We've done nothing wrong with Leshia."
"I have," Draco sighed. "I won't make the same mistakes again." With a wounded expression Hermione leant against her husband, not wanting to challenge him. She understood him to be talking about the years when she had been absent…the years Leshia had been ignored. The then little girl had tried everything she could think of to catch some of her father's attention resulting in a lot of wild behaviour that had only worsened over the years.
"Come on," Hermione suddenly exclaimed loudly. "On your feet. We're not going to feel sorry for ourselves on Valentine's Day." Carefully the glowing mother clambered to her feet and started pulling on Draco's arm.
"Where are we going?" the young man asked amusedly.
"We're going to go and visit Hagrid. He invited us round for tea over a week ago and we still haven't gone. I feel dreadful!" Draco feigned a disgruntled expression.
"Agh, Hagrid's?" he grumbled. "I thought you said you didn't want me to feel sorry for myself?"
"If you do this one thing for me then I might return the favour," Hermione suggested seductively. Draco's response was instant and within seconds he was on his feet dragging his giggling wife towards the door by her hand.
"Off to Hagrid's it is."
The impromptu quidditch meeting lasted longer than it ought to have and by the end of it everyone was very pent up from the heated debate over the correct strategy to take on the Ravenclaw team. After the draw with Slytherin it was imperative that they win with a high score to ensure that should it come down to goal difference then Gryffindor would come out on top. As such Leshia was very explicitly told to hold off on catching the snitch until they had reached at least a hundred-point lead. When she had objected asking how on earth she was meant to stop the Ravenclaw seeker from catching the snitch she had quite bluntly been told to 'use her imagination'.
The result of the heated discussion meant that every night that week was going to host an intense training session. The debate had also ensured that most of the team members scattered from each other as soon as Mila called it to an end due to their frustrations with one another. It wasn't a very promising start to the rigorous week of training to come.
Leshia alone found herself storming out of the common room with Owen in tow, both questioning Mila's tactics and the logic of exhausting themselves during the week before the big game. Being overly competitive both wanted very much to win, but deeper down there was also the fact that this was the first time they would be facing Val since all the upset the term before. Leshia wanted more than anything to see the smug girl taken down a notch of ten.
"Where's the logic in risking everything to stop the Ravenclaws from catching the snitch?" Leshia complained. "I can't guarantee that I'll be able to stop Lahara from catching the damn thing."
"What are you talking about?" Owen countered. "Of course you'll be able to stop him, but you shouldn't have to. It's not fair for Mila to dump more on your plate. You should be focusing on catching the snitch, end of story. I know that it might eventually possibly maybe come down to the goal difference, but I don't think we should change our game because of something that might never happen."
"Where are we actually going?" Leshia piped up when her friend had finished his rant. Unwittingly they had wandered down to the entrance hall where vast amounts of pupils were milling about outside the voting booths. The sight of them all made Leshia feel sick to her stomach.
"You know," Owen remarked happily. "I haven't voted yet, have you?" Leshia spun on him with her arms crossed. "What?"
"Are you serious? I want nothing to do with any of it. The whole thing is ridiculous." Quite unsympathetically Owen started cracking up, having to bend over double to contain himself. The sight of the girl being so adamant about her indifference to such a contest when atop her head sat a sparkling tiara was far too much for the boy. "Owen!"
"I'm sorry," he managed through his laughter. "You're just too much Malfoy."
"Yeah, well so are you," Leshia grumbled and she started to back away down the corridor again.
"Wait, please don't go!" Owen called after her and quite promptly he straightened up again grinning apologetically at the girl. "It's just you're so not like every other girl I've ever met. You can bet that any of them would be so incredibly chuffed to be one of only ten girls nominated as the fittest girls in the school, but you… I just don't get it." He seemed genuinely perplexed and for a moment all mirth had left his charming face.
"What's so hard to understand?" Leshia tried miserably. "I'm always there, right in the middle of things I want nothing to do with. And this contest…" The girl trailed off hugging her arms to her front. "Well it's stupid. There are so many pretty girls in this school and the only reason I'm wearing one of these idiotic things," Here she took a moment to swipe at the sparkles adorning her head. "Is because people remember my name from all the countless dramas I've been dragged into." Owen shook his head with a small smile.
"Leshia, Leshia, Leshia," he sighed. "You're quite some piece of work you know that?"
"You can't talk," the girl snorted in an incredibly unladylike way.
"I think you'll find that I can. See? I'm doing it right now," Owen chuckled, eliciting laughter from the cheered up girl. "Anyway, I wasn't kidding. I really am off to vote, so if you don't want to have anything to do with the contest then you'd better not come with me." Without needing to be told twice Leshia turned on heal and headed back down the corridor they had come from leaving Owen shaking his head fondly while he watched her sparkling tiara disappear into the crowds. There wasn't a doubt in his mind about where his vote lay.
Dinnertime was far too comical for words, as without fail all but one of the nominees paraded themselves round like show ponies. In a last grab for votes and a sheer display of their tiaras before they would undoubtedly disappear from their heads the girls went from table to table greeting acquaintances they hadn't spoken to in years. Even Katie was sucked into the nonsense and rushed off to mingle with their Ravenclaw friends somewhere after the first course not to return until well after desert to woo the Gryffindors she had left behind.
Predictably whenever a nominee swept past Leshia and her loyal friends to woo several of her house mates they cast her extremely contemptuous looks. After the second or third such attack Parys and Rachel took to glaring back and sticking out their tongues resulting in a lot of laughter down the end of the table. Their support and antics left Leshia reeling with joy and quite surprisingly to the girl she enjoyed that dinner terribly.
After everyone's plates had disappeared from the table all eyes started to instinctively turn to the front of the hall where not only had the plates disappeared from the scene, but also the teacher's table and chairs. They had moved to some comfortable armchairs arranged a little off to the side while centre stage a very extravagant and beautiful crystal tiara had appeared on a purple velvety platform surrounded by three very elaborate bouquets. Its sudden appearance spurned the whole hall into excited chatter and as such when the two organisers of the event Eva Westwood and Tara Peters took to the stage they were met with a tumultuous applause and more than a few catcalls. It did not escape anyone's attention that the beautiful Eva Westwood was donning a sparkling nominee tiara herself.
"Good evening Hogwarts!" the two girls called out to their receptive audience, their wands pointing to their throats no doubt to magically enhance their already shrill voices.
"I hope you're all having a fantastic Valentine's Day!" Once more the student body responded in applause.
"Let's start off by saying that we're so impressed by the turnout for our little contest," Tara Peters spoke next.
"Almost everybody turned out at the voting booths today resulting in a very close result," Eva Westwood took over.
"So without further ado, let's welcome all our nominees to the stage! From Ravenclaw, Miss Valerie Beckett! Come on Valerie, come and join us," Tara Peters now called out. Across the room hands flapping Valerie was climbing to her feet amidst the praise of all those around her and the chorus of applause from the rest of the school. The girl's fan base were shrieking uncontrollably.
"I'm not going up there," Leshia uttered sounding shell shocked.
"From Slytherin Miss Meja Olsen!" Eva Westwood was continuing up on stage, eliciting a similar performance to erupt on the other end of the great hall. Leshia's heart had started pounding uncontrollably.
"Leesh you have to," Rachel told her best friend concernedly. "Just grit your teeth, force a smile and get up there. You'll be fine."
"I'm not going up there!" Leshia repeated more urgently.
"From Gryffindor…" Leshia's terror spiked. "Miss Katherine Potter!" The table around her break into roars of approval as Katie magnanimously climbed to her feet. Rachel stopped momentarily consoling Leshia to cheer her cousin on. Even Leshia managed to briefly shake herself from her misery to cheer the girl on. This had meant so much to Katie; she didn't want to spoil it for her.
"From Slytherin let's welcome Miss Maia Drakovic to the stage!" Leshia looked once more to the furthest table in the hall and froze once more, only this time her pause was in anger. Julius Black was watching her with as intense a look of amusement as his mysterious face could manage. Wanting very much to scream in frustration Leshia glared furiously at the boy before she looked up at the stage so as to pull herself from his gaze. Amidst the beautiful tiara-clad girls Katie looked very much in her element as they jostled each other excitedly and whispered together about how nervous they were. Never before had she seemed so very silly either, Leshia thought to herself.
With her heart pounding as though in her mouth Leshia watched as the glamorous sisters Gillian, Vera and Sarah Littlewood and Evie Drakovic joined the young ladies on stage. A ray of hope shone in Leshia's heart when it looked as though the two presenters on stage seemed set on moving on. Perhaps her tiara had been a horrid mistake and she wasn't a nominee after all?
"And finally…" Leshia's heart sunk as all eyes fell on her. Across the room Hermione was lifting out of her armchair with a beaming smile to seek out the only sparkling tiara left in the crowds. At her side Draco was shaking his head with a large grin; oh how Leshia would be fuming right now. "From Gryffindor Miss Alecia Malfoy, won't you join us on stage?"
"No," a sound escaped Leshia's throat, but wasn't heard by a soul as Gryffindor table and many many others in the hall burst into cheers of approval. She received one of the most favourable greetings out of the lot, which served only to terrify Leshia even more.
"On your feet Leesh," Parys crowed in her ear before he stood up and lifted the girl to her feet. Despite her feet trying to turn her in the opposite direction and run, Leshia found herself cajoled towards the platform she most wanted to hide from. She seemed to impossibly small stood beside the tall and striking nominees the contest had turned out and for the umpteenth time that day poor Leshia felt so very out of place. She had no business competing with such young ladies. Give her a broom and a quidditch match over a sparkling tiara any day.
Sat in their seats amidst their colleagues Hermione and Draco linked their hands together, sharing a fond look of pride. Though being nominated for such a contest was not something Draco would normally rank as one of his daughter's more prestigious achievements he couldn't help but feel a stab of satisfaction at seeing her outshine so many beautiful young women. The girl was her mother's daughter there was no doubting that. There was just something about her that drew you in, and even though she was left inched away from her competitors at the edge of the stage most of the hall's residents were watching her intently.
"First of all, let's give all of our beautiful nominees a huge round of applause! Don't they look just divine?" Tara Peters shouted out to the audience who did just that with such strength Leshia had to fight the urge to cover her ears. Down the row Katie was in her element smiling so broadly she could barely see. Her heart may have been pounding, but this was exactly what Katie Potter had been craving since she arrived at Hogwarts and she was determined to savour every second of it.
"In just a few moments I am going to reveal who you voted as the three most lovely ladies stood here on stage," Tara Peters was now continuing, hushing the cheers and catcalls instantly. "Though only one lucky lady can be crowned Miss Hogwarts the two girls lovely enough to be crowned second and third place will be honoured with a voucher each to spend at Madam Silvergrace's boutique on Diagon Alley." Evidently such a prize was worthy of envious chatter from the more fashion conscious ladies in the audience, but as far as Leshia was concerned Tara could have just announced she was going to be giving away vouchers to a flesh-eating-slug-repellent specialist.
"So, without any further ado, let's find out who our three winners are!" From thin air Tara Peters conjured a very extravagant and garish sparkling gold envelope while the audience went absolutely berserk in their noise making. For a few moments Leshia was entirely sure she was about to pass out from frustration. What a farce, the whole thing!
It seemed to take a painfully slow age for the Slytherin presenter to open her theatrical envelope bearing the fate of the ten girls stood in a line on the stage. Whereas all but one were forcing their white toothy grins to beam with joy, Leshia couldn't mask her annoyance at the whole thing and remained stony while she stared at Tara Peters resentfully, willing her to speed up.
"The three ladies who will be competing for Miss Hogwarts this year are…" Tara finally spoke before she paused for the impatient crowd to start chanting for the names of the three short-listed nominees. The effect her stalling had on the line of beaming ladies was to make several of them quiver in anticipation and nerves.
"Read them out!" one impatient young man yelled from the crowds.
"Vera Littlewood!" Tara finally yelled out eliciting ear-pounding applause to fill the room. Over on the Hufflepuff table Vera's fan base were screaming themselves hoarse with appreciation, as the evidently stunning girl stepped forward at Tara Peters' beckoning.
"Meja Olsen!" the presenter added and once more a similar spectacle unfolded in the audience only more localised around the Slytherin table. Stood in line the final eight nominees all looked to one another with frightened expressions. Did they have what it took to make it into the final three?
Unwittingly Leshia caught Katie's eye, who was staring at her with such a wounded fawn expression that Leshia felt more protective of her friend than ever. Why did this horrid event have to do this to Katie? Why did the girl need such recognition of the beauty she already knew she possessed?
"The last nominee to make it into the final three is…" Tara paused cruelly, looking the contenders up and down until finally her eyes paused on the one, "Alecia Malfoy!"
Leshia's ears started ringing while Gryffindor table burst into a unanimous roar of approval. The blonde girl's heart broke when Katie's eyes, which she had not yet turned away from, creased in pain and disappointment. Once more Leshia had beaten her…once more she was going to have to struggle in the tiny girl's overpowering shadow. As though the world had slowed down Leshia held Katie's gaze until her lifelong friend turned away from her. With a constricted chest Leshia followed in her competitors' wake to stand at the forefront of the stage in plain view of the ghastly and garish tiara that would seal one of their fates.
Gone was the pride on Hermione's face.
"Katie's heartbroken," the concerned mother uttered to her husband.
"As is Leshia," Draco replied darkly, seeing the empathy in his daughter that she had not inherited from him.
"Oh," Hermione sighed sadly. "They didn't need yet another thing to come between them." Draco comforted her by squeezing her hand tightly in his, and even though he hadn't followed the ins and outs of Leshia and Katie's rivalry he too felt this contest was the last thing their fragile friendship needed.
"Well ladies," Tara Peters was now speaking again, looking the three finalists up and down. "Tell us how you're feeling." With the wand once pressed to her neck now pushed up against Meja's Leshia actually took a step back when the Slytherin fifth year started speaking.
"Very excited Tara!" the girl expressed happily, eliciting cheers from her home house along the edge of the hall.
'Oh do not tell me they expect me to say something,' Leshia thought to herself furiously, but oh yes, Tara had now moved her wand on to Vera Littlewood's neck, who confessed to feeling,
"A little bit nervous, but extremely proud!" Had she wanted to run before this was nothing to how Leshia felt when that sinister wand was pushed surprisingly firmly into her neck.
"And our youngest finalist, how are you feeling Leshia?" Tara inquired firmly. The girl gulped and looked from the fifth and sixth year girls she was supposedly competing with to the school now watching her exclusively. This was all just too much.
"You really don't want to know how I'm feeling right now," she finally spoke in a steely tone eliciting hearty laughter from those who also felt this whole spectacle was a complete idiotic waste of time.
"Well said Malfoy!" a call that sounded suspiciously as though it had come from Owen Gabriel sounded from the Gryffindor table. Tara Peters narrowed her eyes slightly at the ungrateful girl who didn't feel the honour of being voted one of the three most beautiful girls in the school when she was only in third year herself.
"Right then," the presenter finally spoke and she turned the wand back on herself. "Onto the moment we've all been waiting for, the results!" With the hint from one of the finalists themselves that this whole thing had been going on far too long now Tara took no time in announcing the final order of things.
"In third place with thirty one votes Meja Olsen!" The hall burst into applause while the grim faced Meja stepped forward to receive the bouquet Tara was handing her. While she received her voucher for the boutique and uttered an exceedingly quick acceptance speech to the crowds Leshia and Vera Littlewood turned to stare at one another. Just how Leshia had made it this far was beyond either of them, but both were wishing more fervently than ever that the next name to be read out would be that of the third year Gryffindor. The hall had fallen deathly silent before Meja Olsen had even finished her speech and now all eyes were on the presenter, waiting to find out the fate of the two girls left staring at one another.
"In second place and runner up for Miss Hogwarts is…"