Magnolia Crescent

Chapter Forty-One

Underhanded Tricks

"Leo, there are easier ways to get a date," Harry noted, watching Leo stretch his muscles.

"Look, Harry, give me some tips. What can she do?" he asked.

"She can do wordless magic, she doesn't stand still at all and she is fast, very fast," he replied with a sigh. He glanced behind him; Ron and Neville were both present as well as was Fleur. Outside of that, nobody else was in the room. Fleur clearly didn't want any of her posse to see her against a lesser duelist.

"Yeah, we all watched the duels. She beat each of you flat out and didn't lose a single match," Neville added. Lee rolled his eyes at the other Gryffindor. "Or you know, you can do your own thing," he said, hastily backpedaling. They looked at Ron, all set up for the match with a bag of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and a mug.

"What?" he asked, noticing that they were looking at him.

"Well then, I zink we 'ave put zis off long enough," Fleur said, stepping forward and moving onto the table. As she walked, her hips swung in a clam and almost emphasized manner that would catch the eyes of everyone around.

Harry blushed, turning his face away but Ron openly gaped while a fuzzy haze came over his mind. Neville itched at his nose but his cheeks and ears were a deep red that gave him away. But Leo simply stepped onto the table. Both opponents held their wands at the ready, calm smiles on each of their faces.

"Nice try, but isn't that a bit dirty for a half-Veela?" he asked.

"No less zan you deserve, you underhanded, uncultured Brit!" she spat back.

"Well, then, I've put in a precaution to fend off your skill. I hope you don't mind," Leo noted with a smirk.

"You can have all ze preparation in ze world and it will make no difference," she replied easily, snapping her wand to the side.

"Good to know," Leo said, giving a polite smile.

"Um, ready?" Neville asked nervously, holding up a hand as they turned to face each other. He dropped his hand and before Fleur could move, a loud crack echoed around the room. She fell backwards and off the table, cracking her jaw on the edge.

Nobody dared move until Leo swaggered down the table, fueled by self-satisfaction. He flicked his wand and snatched Fleur's out of the air with his other hand. She shook her head to clear it and glared up at him hotly.

"You cheated!" she accused. Leo touched his chest, a look of pure hurt on his face.

"Madam, you wound me. I did only what you allowed – you said I could have any preparation," he said, looking positively hurt that she would accuse him of such a thing. Her eyes flicked to Neville, who was acting as their judge.

"Well, that would be, um, I, well," Neville stammered, seeming to shrink under Fleur's gaze. She was clearly unhappy that he could not give her an answer.

"It was uncalled for, you cheated! That iz a forfeit, now where iz my wand?" she demanded, words barely understandable through her anger.

"Oh, you mean my new wand?" Leo asked, brandishing said wand. "House rules: if you lose your wand during a duel, champion gets to keep it."

"You cheated," she hissed, watching Leo dangle her wand before her.

"I acted in all fair rules. My wand acted faster than yours and that is not a cheat. If you wish to call me out on it, you're more than welcome to bring before the Headmasters," he said, smiling calmly as he placed both wands in a pocket of his robes.

"I have never heard of such a rule," Harry whispered to Ron.

"Do we even read the rules?" he asked, shrugging. Harry looked appropriately sheepish at the comment.

"Fine," Fleur said through clenched teeth. "I will be your date for ze Yule Ball. Now, give me back my wand," she demanded, holding out her hand and shooting daggers at him.

"I think that can wait. You'll get it back after the first dance," Leo decided. "Until then, I am sure an expert duelist such as yourself can enjoy a vacation," he finished with a calm smile. He turned on his heel and walked away, hands in his pockets. Harry, Ron and Neville glanced at her then, without a word, raced after Leo.

"Leo, what the hell?" Harry demanded, looking at the Slytherin in disbelief.

"Is there really a rule such as that?" Ron asked suddenly, voice full of concern.

"There are some applications where a wand will change allegiances if won in combat. But there is no such rule: I made it up," he replied confidently.

"What if she calls you out on this?" Neville asked. "This is stupid risky," he pointed out.

"She won't," Leo said simply. The other three stopped in disbelief. After a second, Leo realized they were no longer following him and turned to look at them. "Pride is a very effective weapon; she would need to call in all the Headmasters because this is an international event. And in doing so, would have to call me out in front of all the Champions. I've done my research. Even if it was just us and our respective Headmasters, the humiliation would be something fierce and naturally, the whole school would know. Her victory in the Tournament would add up to nothing," he explained.

"But the fallout – "

"Would be nothing but beneficial to me. I beat a Champion and took her wand as insurance that she would not go back on her word. Her reputation would be trashed and my house would hail me as a badass for at least a week. But that loss to a virtual nobody would haunt her for the rest of the game," he said, smiling cruelly. "It's more beneficial for her to just give me a dance in exchange for her wand than it is to start whistle blowing. Am I clear?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at each of them.

"Clear," they all agreed at once.

"Dandy," he said, smiling and beginning to walk down the hall again.

"You underhanded bastard," Ron said, watching him walk on in a mixture of awe and angry disbelief.

"Slytherin," Leo said simply, raising both hands as he spun to face them. With that, he vanished down another hall.

"And he was calling me out for being a bad friend," Ron said, shaking his head.

"Well, in all fairness, you were being a bit of a jerk," Neville reminded. Harry and Ron looked at him. "Well, so is he, but at least he is willing to admit it."

"I think you are taking Dumbledore's words from first year a little too close to heart," Ron replied sourly.

"You are Harry's best friend, man, and you up and killed the mood during his celebration," Neville reminded.

"Oh, don't you start as well. I apologized, at least I don't go picking fights with my friends in the middle of the hall," Ron commented. Neville and Ron walked off, still bantering, when Harry felt a prickling sensation on the back of his neck. He turned to see Fleur staring after them from her seat on the hall floor. He quickly raced back to help her up but she brushed him off.

"Zat friend of yours iz a piece of work," she admitted, dusting herself off and adjusting her hat.

"I do apologize. I don't really understand his angle for going after you like this. He's normally not so underhanded," Harry admitted.

"All ze same, I would love nothing more zan to hex 'im," Fleur stated. "I would watch your back with zat one."

"I'll admit, he has his less-than-savory points," Harry acknowledged. "But despite his behavior, I think he has the best out for his friends, not so much for people he labels as adversaries. I do apologize, I'm going to talk with him and see if I can get him to give your wand back," he said, glancing between her and the hall where Leo had disappeared.

"See zat you do," she said coolly, giving him a look that sent a shiver down his spine. She walked away, salvaging her pride to the best of her ability. Harry took a deep breath before racing off to see find Leo in hopes of salvaging the situation – since the French girl was now on the receiving end of the worst behavior possible from a student of Hogwarts.

Harry nearly jumped when he left the room and heard Leo speak suddenly.

"So, took you long enough. I was expecting you to come running at least a minute or so ago," Leo said, smirking at Harry.

"You were?" he asked in surprise.

"Well, that's what I like about you, Harry. I figured you would disapprove of my behavior and, at the very least, say something about it," Leo said. "And I know what you're going to say: be the bigger person and give her back her wand."

"Um, yeah, that sums it up rather well," Harry surmised, glancing at him, his face scrunching up a bit.

"But I am going to do what I believe all men who find themselves in such a position should do," Leo started.

"Um, be nice and let the woman have her way?" Harry tried. While it sounded like a question, it really wasn't.

"Stick to my guns," he finished, completely ignoring Harry's comment.

"You do realize the harm you are doing to her and our school image in general?" Harry asked.

"At the end of all this, do you really think house placement of the school is going to be a big impact?" Leo asked, raising one eyebrow. "Look, the thing is, I did not – and do not – trust her to keep her end of the bargain. So it's insurance. It seems mean, but in my mind's eye, I am being completely reasonable.

"Even if you cheated?" Harry pressed.

"Like I am going up against a superior duelist without a backup place. You must be crazy if you think I am ever going to play fair when fighting dirty is a completely legitimate alternative?"

"And here I keep wondering why you're not in my house," Harry said, rolling his eyes.

"I have heroic traits. I just know when they are more likely to get in the way of living or preventing me from advancing in some way, shape or form," Leo replied with a shrug.

"So, there is an ulterior motive to all this?" Harry asked, looking at Leo.

"Well, of course. I honestly don't care much for these dance things at all," he admitted. Harry felt his jaw drop but nothing came out and he just stared at Leo.

"What possible reason could you have for all this?"

"I just disarmed the most skilled wanduser. I think even the shot to her pride should give you something of an advantage," he replied but Harry didn't seem to be buying it.

"Oh, so this is all about me then, is it?" he asked with an unmistakable hint of sarcasm.

"Something like that."

"Wouldn't happen to have anything to do with a girl who decided to go out with someone else. I mean, going out with a Champion wouldn't be some way of getting back at her for all but ignoring your advances," Harry said, rubbing his fingers along the edge of his robe.

"Nothing like that at all," Leo said, left eye twitching. A very exasperated smile spread over his face. In a moment, he had collected his cool and was impassive once more.

"Good, because that would be very petty of you," Harry noted, shaking his head. "I take it, I won't be able to get you to change your mind?"

"Unless I can find who she is going with and give him the cruelest sickness imaginable that she would need to reconsider," Leo said. "I may need to start doing a bit of research."

"I think you may be taking this a bit too far," Harry replied, watching Leo worriedly.

"Maybe," he admitted, shoulders slumping a bit. "But I already put myself into a position. Besides, you need to be willing to take an advantage or two. I heard you gave your competition a heads up," Leo noted idly.

"Well, I felt we should all be on even playing ground," Harry admitted, shrugging lightly.

"I got my work cut out for me. You do realize that someone is trying to use these games as a means to kill you, right? Take everything that's given to you and then some, or else you're going to end up dead," Leo said seriously.

"Even when it proves more helpful to be giving then to be greedy. After all, the help I give has yet to make my life harder," he pointed out.

"You cannot trust people to do right by you unless they have shown in, at least, the most basic of ways that they are worth their word," he advised.

"Why trust me?" Harry asked.

"You have a natural tendency to be a good person. Your reputation in this school is built on that – despite public opinion swaying in the wind every other week or so," Leo acknowledged.

"So, why are you trying to convince me that being me – being the person you were so willing to trust before you even met me – is a bad idea?" Harry asked. Leo opened his mouth to speak but closed it again.

"Far into the night, when I am half asleep, I shall have your answer," he replied a moment later, pointing at Harry. "But in the meantime, I have dress robes to get prepped and ready," he said. With that, he turned and away. When he had vanished around a corner, Harry slapped his forehead.

"Dammit, I was supposed to get Fleur her wand back," he cursed. He had been sidetracked with a moral debate. Leo Holmes really was an underhanded little devil.

Poor Fleur. Not much to say besides that. R&R as always, we love to see the reviews coming in!