Chapter 19 - Happy

Dumbledore rested his chin in his hands.

Did Malfoy really think that he could remove him from the school?

It was only a matter of time before Malfoy's wicked ways of gaining favors were discovered. He looked at the package in front of him. It was from Wulf, as was the note he had read previously. He just couldn't make himself to open the tiny box.

The note said that Voldemort was hiding in Albania. He smiled. It was ridiculous that Wulf always called Voldemort "You-Know-Who" or something similar. The Russian believed that talking about bad things would make them happen somehow.

It looked like everything was coming back to the way it had been before. Well, maybe not everything. Wulf now had someone who was more important to him than Albus.

He furrowed his brows.

As they were together, Wulf would never ever take a woman, despite everything that the Ivanov family expected from him. Now the evidence of change was roaming in the Hogwarts corridors. She made him feel as if Wulf had poked him with an invisible finger, telling him 'She's taken your place. You left me, so there she is to fill the emptiness I've felt after you left me.'

Albus had no replacement.

He heard the Gargoyle moving and put the package in the drawer. It was Filch, with wet hair and fresh clothes, holding a small piece of parchment.

"I was told to give this to you, Headmaster," he said. His breath was still shallow and fast from climbing up the stairs.

Dumbledore had dismissed him quickly, being in no mood for talk with the caretaker. He unfolded the note and his eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline.

As the old, wizarding law says: A thing with no owner that is found, is owned by the finder,

I, Katia Ivanov claim all rights to the dead basilisk which lays in the Chamber of Secrets.

Insolent child, he thought; however after a moment a small smile appeared on his lips. The girl knew about things she shouldn't. Wulf raised her as his successor, it was no doubt since she was an Adept in training.

With Voldemort gathering his strength to rise again, it was a matter of time before he would need to use the girl. Good for her if she was smart and had a natural talent for meddling into things she shouldn't.

Albus took the package from the drawer and this time he opened it. It was a pair of woolen, purple socks. His smile widened. He loved to spend cold evenings sitting in a comfortable armchair with something sweet and tasty to eat, reading a good book and wearing a pair of warm socks. Wulf knew about his preferences better than anyone else. It seemed that he remembered after so many years.

The door to the Slytherin common room opened and Katia Ivanov ran across it, straight to the girl's dormitory. She emerged a while later, dressed in green, baggy trousers and a black t-shirt. Some students were in pajamas already, sitting with bored expressions. She just made it in time as the door opened again.

Their head of House made his appearance all in black, as always.

"There will be a feast in the Great Hall, I expect all of you to grace it with your presence," he said. His eyes swept over students who started murmuring.

"Feast at two in the morning?" asked a voice somewhere in left.

"I believe I stated myself clearly," said Professor Snape and left, leaving them stunned. All except Katia who was grinning and wriggling in her seat.

"Where have you been?" asked Marcus while packing his things from the table into a schoolbag.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she said, flashing him a smile. "Come on, leave this stuff." She grabbed his hand and they followed the crowd which was pushing through the door.

She didn't know how pleasant it was for him to hold her hand. He himself was surprised that he felt so comfortable around her. Her hand seemed so small in his. She had left so quickly after the dare that he was convinced it had been an unpleasant experience for her. Now he was glad that she'd recovered somehow.

Sometimes he didn't know how to see her—from her sometimes coarse demeanor she could appear almost tomboyish. But that kiss, at the dare? That had been anything but tomboyish.

He quickly let go of her hand, afraid that she would think he wanted anything from her.

Katia changed her usual place by the table and now she sat down next to him with an uncharacteristic smile. Marcus was surprised, but not unpleasantly. He glanced quickly at the staff table to see if they had noticed the change of place, but Snape was his usual scowling self. The headmaster however looked like he wanted to pierce Katia with his gaze. Marcus shuddered and leaned close to Katia's ear.

Her hair was slightly wet, so he assumed that she had gone for a long bath when she left the common room few hours ago.

"Do you know that Dumbledore is looking at you? He has a strange expression," said Marcus, glad that the look wasn't directed at him.

Katia looked at the staff table and smiled in a nauseatingly sweet way.

"He's probably glad that I made it alive to the end of year, you know," she replied, not taking her eyes off the Headmaster.

Katia was unusually cheerful and he couldn't deny that her mood affected him. Well, it couldn't be her affecting him…not because of one game of dare! The entire table seemed to be happy and there was plenty of delicious food. His face fell a little when McGonagall announced that the exams were cancelled.

It had nothing to do with his N.E.W.T.S.

"You will do well," Katia reassured him.

"McGonagall hates me, she will sure as hell fail me," he said gruffly.

"She would have failed me if the exams weren't cancelled, so I've got a one year reprieve. And then the hell will break loose again." She shrugged and took another large piece of fruit salad.

Marcus told himself not to look at her, but couldn't help it. There was a subtle sort of grace in her fingers, something that he was never the type to notice. He watched her sideways, so he could look away quickly if anyone caught him staring.

No matter what he wanted to believe, it wasn't any kind of McGonagall's prejudice that he failed Transfiguration. Marcus was so afraid for the exam that his hands shook, and he couldn't transfigure a chair into an eagle.

His nervousness made it impossible for him to imagine the process of transformation, so he couldn't come up with the series of proper spells. A feathered chair was left to decorate the staff room and he was left to repeat his year.

It was Ivanov again who cheered him up, babbling the nonsense about his failure could help his team to win next year's Quidditch match. Why does she always have to do this? Yet he couldn't deny that, in a strange way, it did comfort him.

Adrian Pucey would have to wait to claim his position as a captain.

Ginny Weasley was happy to be free from the destructive powers of the diary, but truth to be told – she was quickly left alone again. Her brother, Ron kept Harry and Hermione company, leaving Ginny on her own.

She was not completely on her own, though. Neville took it as a personal duty to keep her company and he promised to protect her.

Ginny smiled. Knowing his poor abilities he wouldn't be able to protect even himself, but surely he kept her amused and quite happy. She would never admit it to anyone, but as much as she feared him, she missed Tom. She knew it was stupid – he'd only wanted to use her, but he was the only one who truly understood her problems, was brilliant and smart and-

"Come on Ginny! The weather is great! I've seen that the Quidditch pitch is completely abandoned so I borrowed a broom for you to-"

She never let him finish as Ginny threw her arms around Neville, feeling happiness bubble up inside her.

"Thanks Neville, it's a brilliant idea!"

Maybe Tom wasn't the only one who understood her? Plus, Neville wasn't planning to feed on her life energy and seemed to genuinely like her.

Daphne managed to convince Katia that she needed to quit wearing too large robes and right now she was happy, making a use of the good weather. She sat under the tree, rolled up the legs of her trousers and was taking her first sunbath this year. Her skin was used to tanning, as Bulgaria was a really warm place.

She was reading 'Hogwarts a History' finding the book not only informative but also amusing. A large shadow blocked the afternoon sunrays and she looked up to see Marcus Flint.

"Um hello?" she said, a smile appearing on her face without a hint of forced politeness. "Care to join me?"

Marcus and Daphne were the only people form her house who came to her even if they didn't need anything. She guessed they liked her presence as she liked theirs. Maybe she liked Marcus' presence even more, but why? It was something between the fact that he was a decent guy and had no one and that she liked his company. He was like an open door, beckoning to her.

"Actually I wanted to show you something, if you want of course."

Katia shoved the book in her bag and stood up. "Is that something far from here?"

"No," he answered, smiling. "But the last one is a looser," he answered and started running.

"You asshole! It's not fair!" she shouted, running after him. He may have been in a good shape being Quidditch captain, but Katia used to run every morning. She'd been skipping her training only lately, but so had he.

She almost caught up with him and they ran towards the lake. She was so tired that she barely could catch her breath, but she wasn't going to give up. Katia just loved competition, especially in the areas where she had a chance to win. She was just after him and knowing that she won't be able to run so fast any further, caught his shirt.

"Can- can you let- me go?" he breathed, tired. She just shook her head.

"Admit-" she took a deep breath. "That I'm not a looser- or I will- I will jump on your back," she threatened him, still holding the shirt. They slowed down and Marcus pointed at the lake.

"Look, there is a Giant Squid I told you about. You never believed me," he said triumphant.

Katia looked at the tentackled thing and shook her head. "It's- cool," she said, out of breath. She swayed a little, but Marcus caught her by the arms. She leaned against him, closing her eyes. Had she ever been this close to another boy? She didn't think so.

Katia was taller than most boys in her year, so it was a pleasant feeling being smaller than someone. He wasn't much to look at, but wasn't that bad on other hand. His black hair and harsh features were kind of interesting for her. He was almost like some exotic breed of animal, although he wasn't exotic to look at…it was more like the emotions, the feelings she sometimes had around him, were foreign to her. Since the dare, she'd felt strange in his presence. Like now; as she leaned against him, she was aware of the heat radiating from his body and the agreeable dipping sensation in her belly. If Katia had a tendency to blush, she would be purple right now.

However her skin remained its usual color and only a sunburn or severe cold could change that. For a second, she felt like one of those pretty girls who walked down the street on the arm of their boyfriend—not that she was thinking of Marcus as a boyfriend. But still, no one else had ever made her feel attractive before.

She felt comfortable and nervous at the same time. It was so different from anything which was caused by her curse in 'Flourish and Blotts'. She wanted to hang on to this feeling, keep it close to her.

It didn't last long. As soon as she ended hyperventilating, Marcus let her go and leaned to take off his shoes.

"What are you doing?" she asked, intrigued…and a bit disappointed. "Taking a bath with that thing?"

He shook his head. "No, it's pretty harmless, I wanted to show you." He stepped into the water and touched a large tentacle. "Like a big pet."

"So you don't need me, you already have this friend of yours," said Katia, taking a cautious step back. She wasn't particularly fond of animals and this went both ways.

"Touch it, it has a funny texture," he said and gestured at her.

"No, I don't think I want to." She looked at his stubborn expression. "And no, you can't make me."

He came back to the shore and sat on the warm sand. "It won't eat you."

Katia purposefully sat so close to him that their legs touched. She wanted to feel that funny feeling again. Just as she started wondering why she felt that way, he shifted to the left.

It infuriated her, but she said nothing. Was he angry at her, or did she smell bad?

The Giant Squid was swimming near them, completely oblivious to Katia's shifting mood.

"Who knew that you're such a coward?" he asked mockingly.

Katia punched him in the arm. "You can hardly call me a coward if I refused your life threatening entertainments just this once."

"And did you enjoy my life threatening entertainments so far?" he asked, rising an eyebrow.

"I wouldn't have agreed to come here with you if I didn't. I thought it's pretty logical."

Katia took a piece of bread with butter form her bag and threw into the lake. A giant tentacle picked it up and it disappeared somewhere under the water.

"You're the first girl who doesn't come to talk about Quidditch or to boast that she knows a Quidditch captain."

Katia shrugged, nonplussed. "I like things you can do on the broom, but Quidditch itself isn't interesting for me. It's enough that I watched you showing off." She snorted. "But to talk about it?"

The way he looked at her, intense and yet insecure made her heart beat faster.

"You have no profits from our-" he cut as if searching for the right word.

"Friendship, Marcus." Katia looked at the lake, somehow she couldn't stand looking in his eyes for so long. She felt extremely embarrassed of looking and of not looking. "When two people like each other and have no profit from their acquaintanceship, it's called friendship."

He seemed stricken. "I know what friendship is…I just wasn't sure if I am a friend for you." Did he slightly stress that last word, or was it her imagination?

"I've called you that for some time, as a matter of fact," she said, drawing shapes in sand.

"Oh really? I never heard you calling me a friend."

Katia looked at him and smiled. Well maybe not directly at him, but somewhere near his chest. Meet his eyes, you freak! "It's because I call you that inwardly."

"You call me a friend, inwardly?" he repeated her words. "Have I ever told you that something's wrong with your brains?"

"Uhmm," she nodded. "Something like every day."

The afternoon quickly turned into evening. Katia and Marcus came back to the castle laughing as many other students. She saw some looks of disgust, mostly from Gryffindors. She stuck her tongue out at them.

She didn't care what they thought of Marcus. She'd enjoyed her afternoon and considered it felicitous.

Not everyone could call the afternoon successful in any way. Albus Dumbledore took Minerva to his office and after the usual small talk his expression became more serious.

McGonagall was pacing like an anxious cat as she read a letter from Wulfrick. He had rewritten the letter of course. First – it was in Russian, and second - it contained some small personal part which he preferred to keep for himself.

Minerva quickly put down the piece of parchment, as if it had burned her.

"Oh my God, Albus…it's happening again, isn't it?"

Dumbledore only nodded slowly, his expression somewhat distant and the twinkle in his eyes gone.

McGonagall took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "He will be back, eventually, and this nightmare will start again," she said matter-off-fact and sat down on the chair.

Her posture looked older somehow, as if she'd grown a decade in this short moment. Even her tartan robes looked somewhat flat on her.

"Is there nothing we can do?" asked Minerva after a good while. "Albus?"

Dumbledore took a deep breath. "We will do what we did before. Gather as many allies as possible, keep Severus as our spy, run the school."

"And keep Harry Potter out of danger," she added icily. "He's too young to handle Tom yet. We need to protect him."

"That we will do," replied Albus, but his words did not sound convincing to Minerva. Not at all.

A couple of days later, Katia found herself walking towards the lake with Marcus again.

All larger parts of shore were occupied by other students. Some of them swam, some were taking a sun bath.

They reached the shore of the lake. It was the same tiny beach where she had seen the Giant Squid for the first time. There were bushes and trees and she could see a rope dandling from a branch, its end just above the surface of the water.

"Take off your clothes Katia," said Marcus, a playful glint in his eyes. He undressed himself, looking at her expectantly.

"Come on," he urged her, standing in a shallow water only in his boxers.

Katia looked at the rope. "You can't be serious about it. I thought that we will just sit on the beach and take a sun bath or cool our feet in the water, nothing more."

"Stop making so much fuss of it. Just take off your clothes. I won't drown you for Merlin's sake!"

Was she really so afraid of his – how it was? Ah, life threatening entertainments.

Katia sighed and took off her baggy trousers. She was standing in a black tank top and black knickers.

Marcus noticed that she had quite wide shoulders for a girl. Her arms were rather thin but brawny. Her hips were also wide, but visibly smaller in comparison to her shoulders. Her legs suggested that she was running a lot. She must have been some health nut.

She would probably make a good beater on the team, being built as she was...if she had any talent with brooms.

He swam a little further and waited for her.

"Do you reach the bottom there?" she asked, gripping the rope.

"Of course," he lied. "Why, you can't swim?"

"Of course I can," she replied scowling a little. He rather liked this scowl of hers. "Odin-dva-tri," he heard her muttering under her breath. In one, swift movement she swung and let go of the rope. Of course, she fell far below the surface as the bottom wasn't anywhere near.

She emerged a moment later, spluttering and furious. "You liar!" she shouted and swam towards him, her glare murderous. He laughed and dodged her, swimming a great deal faster than she did.

Katia had expected it, of course she had. But the asshole had the guts to lie in her face. Finally she stopped, took a swipe and splashed him with as much water as she could. Repeatedly.

She smirked when he spluttered. "You didn't find the water tasty?" she asked mockingly. "So did I! I should have drowned you!" she shouted.

He dove just to emerge with a large portion of water plants, which landed on her. "There! You look like a mermaid. And probably smell like one!"

She dove and got rid herself of a greenish crown.

Some time later they were laying on the warm sand.

"You couldn't tell me that the water was deep?" she asked, with feigned seriousness in her voice.

"It was funnier this way," replied Marcus, shrugging. "Besides, I wouldn't let you drown."

Damned male. He likes to annoy me.

Katia smiled and turned to him, leaning on her elbow. "I've got sand in my knickers and I smell like a fucking tuna," she said and looked at him. His brown eyes seemed brighter as they reflected sunrays. That feeling of excitement began to creep over her again.

"So, we're on the same boat," he said, moving slightly closer to her.

His gaze raked over her with an intensity that was almost predatory, stopping somewhere near her lips. It hit her that he was probably making an attempt to kiss her. Her breathing became shallow as she realized it. Katia wanted it very much. She felt nervous anticipation and suddenly it was funny how he leaned so slowly.

Katia giggled nervously and his expression changed to scowling.

"That was a stupid idea," he said gruffly, moving away. Katia caught his arm.

"No, no! I want you to do- that thing you wanted to do before-" she said, nervously.

She learned how to seduce a man for Rasputin's sake! Why couldn't she use the theory in a practical situation? Why was she so nervous?

Katia moved closer to encourage him and closed her eyes. A moment later she felt his lips on hers and then his hand tangling itself in her hair. It was so far from perfect, but it made their kiss so innocent.

It was Marcus who pulled away, being unable to resist the urge to see her expression. To see if she liked it as much as he did.

And she… she was looking at him, grinning like a nutcase, some joyful spark dancing in her eyes. And then she pulled him into an embrace, pressing her cold, wet body against him.

He put his arms around her, and rested his cheek against hers, being unable to suppress the a smile which that spread across his face. Marcus had acted upon some instinct, and it turned out that she enjoyed what he'd done, maybe as much as he had. Well, this was certainly a first.

Marcus dressed fast and was standing, waiting for and looking at her.

Katia's skin looked golden in the blazing sun. He noticed the oval shape of her face as once the insufferable hair was pulled away. Her chin was slightly prominent and it gave her face a lot of character.

Right now, he would punch anyone who would dare to tell her that she was nothing special, as he'd heard it often about her at the beginning of the year.

"What are you staring at?" she asked cheekily, spilling sand out of her shoes.

"You," he replied simply.

She couldn't deny it, this made her feel appealing again. She tied her shoes and approached him. "So, you found anything to your liking?" she asked, smirking.

"Very much to my liking," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. Merlin, she made it so easy for him to feel comfortable around him.

Katia took his hand in hers and closed distance between them. It was her this time who kissed him. There was fondness in this kiss as she kissed him again and again.

Too soon they came back to the castle.

Too soon the semester ended and Marcus found himself packing.

Katia spotted three Gryffindors as they were leaving their tower for the train.

"Hello," she said, smiling uncertainly. Her gaze rested on the red head. They all looked at her expectantly and it made her feel more uneasy. Weasley's expression resembled loathing.

"I wanted to thank you for saving my life," she said, looking him in the eye.

"I did it because I wouldn't be able to live knowing that someone died because I kept my mouth shut. It doesn't mean that I like you or something," he said stiffly as if ashamed that he'd done something for a girl from the Slytherin house.

Katia looked at her nails and then at Weasley. She cocked her head slightly and smiled like he had said something funny.

"Prejudice." She snorted. "It's so easy to put everyone in the same bag, isn't it?"

"You can't deny that most of your friends are from families who supported You-Know-Who," said Weasley with an angry voice.

"No, she can't Ron, which doesn't mean that she's from one as well," interrupted Hermione.

Katia took a deep breath and looked at them.

"My mother died when I was four. She was tortured and killed by the Death Eaters and I saw everything hidden under a bed," she said in one breath.

The three Gryffindors opened their mouths, she could tell that they hadn't been expecting that. Before any of them had a chance to speak, she continued. "My point is that not everything is as it seems. Not every Slytherin is a bastard who deserves Azkaban just in case."

Harry Potter looked her in the eye.

"I jumped in conclusions, I did, yes, and I'm sorry for that," said Potter. His face was full of contrition and suddenly Katia felt something tightening in her chest. Something which made her admit one thing she felt ashamed of right now.

"Your not the only one, Potter. I was no different, suspecting you with the rest of the school. I think of myself as an open minded person, but I was no better than everyone. And I feel bad right now, I'm sorry. I should have known better." She looked at the bushy haired girl. "Hermione is too smart to be friends with someone who wants Muggleborns to die."

"It's good that you finally noticed it Katia," said Hermione in her bossy manner. Katia just smiled and looked at the red head again.

"A word if you please, Weasley," she said.

"See you," said Hermione, Potter only nodded and they left.

Weasley had a look of uncertainty in his eyes and Katia's polite smile did nothing to change it. He almost jumped as she reached to her pocket.

"I didn't know what you like, so- just buy yourself what you want," she blurted and gave him an envelope. "I'm really grateful, Weasley," she added.

"Thanks," he muttered and walked away, to join his friends.

She turned in the opposite direction to meet Marcus who took care of her trunk.

They sat with Adrian Pucey and Miles Bletchley.

Adrian smirked and took a camera. "Don't you want a picture?" he asked in a tone suggesting that he would take one anyway.

"I do want one," said Katia, grinning. Marcus scowled, so she punched his arm. "Hey, don't be so stiff. You don't have to keep it."

He sighed and put his arm around her, looking into the eye of the camera. He wasn't serious for long, seeing that their little disagreement was perpetuated on a wizarding photograph.

The boys started talking about Quidditch and Katia had hardly anything to say in that topic. Katia felt her eyelids growing heavy. She rested her head against Marcus' shoulder, and gently tucked her arm around his.

Merlin, how natural that felt.

As they were leaving the train, her expression grew very serious. "You don't even look at me as we leave, ok?" she asked in assertive tone.

Marcus furrowed his brows. "But -"

Katia put finger against his lips. "Just don't, please."

She took her fingers and kissed him quickly. After that she left the train, and left Marcus to deal with his parents and explain why he was left for next year. Knowing them, he would be working all summer to earn money for the next year. They would not take his failed exam lightly.

A/N: BIG THANKS to manicrose not only for beta reading, but for help with some parts which were incredibly hard to write for me. There are some areas in which my English fails me completely - yet. Nevertheless; I'm working on it :D