Hermione stirred her tea slowly. She seemed a pitiful thing Ron thought, as he sat opposite his old friend at his kitchen table. It had been a week since Draco had moved out and in that time he, Harry and Ginny had tried to spend as much time with the grieving woman as possible. Hermione simply didn’t know what to do with herself, that much was clear. When Ron had flooed round he had found her sat in front of the fireplace staring coldly at the wall, a piece of cold toast in her hand. This may have been well and good, but Ron knew Hermione to be holding onto the remains of her breakfast and he had come round at seven in the evening. He couldn’t quite believe that she had sat there all day and instead he collected a peaceful Evie from upstairs and packed a few belongings for the baby’s mother before bringing them both round to his Winchester home. The children were all tucked up in bed leaving the adults time to talk.
“Things aren’t going well are they ‘Mione?” the flame-haired man asked quietly, once he’d watched his friend stir her tea for the hundredth time or so. Hermione nodded meekly, but did not raise her eyes from the churning steaming liquid. “Have you spoken to Draco since…”
“No,” a croak escaped the woman, before finally she lifted blood-shot eyes to meet Ron’s. “Not a word. It’s as though he’s dropped off the face of the world.”
“He’s only in Hogwarts,” Ron countered. “You could go and see him.”
“Go and see him?” Hermione demanded, her defensiveness making her tone cruel. Ron raised his eyebrows and stared his old friend down for a moment.
“You know,” he mused finally. “You’re a little stubborn sometimes. Do you know that?”
For a moment Hermione stared in petulance into Ron’s familiar eyes before at last she snorted with laughter and nodded.
“So I’ve been told.”
“Look ‘Mione,” Ron sighed, feeling relieved a semblance of his old friend remained in the shell that she had recently vacated. “When Lavender and I were, you know, going through what you guys are going through, well, I used to apologise all the time.”
Hermione frowned deeply. She, Ginny and Harry had never pushed Ron for gossip over his drawn-out break up with Lavender, the mother of his children. They had felt it wasn’t their place and that Ron would speak of his troubles when he felt the time was right. Had that time come?
“It wasn’t always my fault,” Ron was quickly carrying on, his blue eyes meeting Hermione’s with an earnest expression. He didn’t want her thinking he had been to blame for his marital breakdown. “In fact quite a lot of the time Lavender seemed to get cross at me for things I just couldn’t help. That was the problem see? I was never the man she wanted me to be and in the end she couldn’t handle it anymore. Me and the kids, we weren’t enough for her. I didn’t really see that at the time and I tried to hang on to her longer than I should of. Look,” Ron stated suddenly and he sat up straight as though realising the tangent he had taken himself down. “That’s not the point anyway, the point is that sometimes I apologised even when I’d done nothing wrong, just to make things right for a little while longer.”
Hermione stared with narrowed eyes at her friend, tears welling under her heavy lids. She understood his meaning, but didn’t feel herself capable of submitting to his suggestion. How could she apologise when it had been Draco who had taken himself out of the family home? How could she apologise to the man that had abandoned her?
“I can see you don’t want to believe me,” Ron chuckled fondly and he shook his head. “The thing is Hermione that your husband is more stubborn than you are and if you want this to get sorted out sooner rather than later then I’m afraid you’re going to have to take the high road. If you don’t…”
Ron trailed off and he took a long sip from his piping hot tea. The tearful woman before him looked up sharply and raised her eyebrows.
“If I don’t then what Ron?” she asked quietly making the red-haired man squirm slightly under her gaze.
“If you don’t then you lose them Hermione: Draco and Leshia too.”
May swept through the grounds bringing with it lazy afternoons in the sun and a swathe of fresh blossoms. Though exam tensions were mounting, everyone seemed in good spirits. The Hogsmeade visit fell on the third weekend back at school. Rachel and Katie signed their blonde friend up for the trip and dragged her from their stuffy common room to line up with everyone else come Saturday morning. They hadn’t pushed Leshia over her sullenness, though she had been determinedly out of sorts for nearly two weeks. They could guess it was due to a private upheaval in the Malfoy family’s life, as Draco had been a tyrant their last few lessons and their parents had written them independently, urging them to support Leshia.
“I hope Tripper stays missing forever,” Rachel happily though aloud while the three girls ambled down the long lane towards the village. Katie turned to stare at the girl aghast.
“Rachel! Don’t say things like that!” the bespectacled girl admonished.
“Well why not? Everything’s been so much better since he stormed about the place threatening to stick us in detention till we’re fifty. Haven’t they Leesh?”
“I was just saying I hope Tripper never comes back,” Rachel repeated louder this time, her brow knitted together in worry. The shorter girl shrugged her shoulders.
“I won’t argue you on that one,” she conceded. “Although that supply professor, Cabbage…”
“Crabbe Leshia,” Katie interrupted with a withering sigh. Leshia promptly ignored her.
“Well she’s not much better is she?”
“Leesh,” Rachel chuckled happily. “I know she’s not the most friendly, interesting, or hygienic of teachers, but she’s not exactly a homicidal maniac either.”
“Well that’s all just a matter of opinion of you ask me,” the blonde girl countered. “Personally I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we found out she’d murdered half a dozen muggles and had them stuffed under that smock she wears.” Rachel burst out laughing happily while beside them Katie rolled her eyes in a withering expression. “What do you think Dumbledore would say to me dropping Runes at the end of this year?”
Leshia seemed deadly serious.
“I think he’d say ‘no chance mate’ and then laugh in your face,” Rachel replied. “We’re doing OWLs next year Leesh, they’re not going to let you drop a subject.”
“Well I’d do another one of course!”
“Which one?” Katie asked. For a moment Leshia frowned as she considered her options. From what Rodeo and Parys had said about Care of Magical Creatures it sounded both boring and terrifying at the same time, though how this was possible Leshia couldn’t quite understand. Arithmancy was a class populated by those Leshia and Rachel insensitively referred to as swots. Besides, the girl conceded, she probably didn’t have the intelligence to make it within their ranks and had no desire to be made to feel stupid by people she held in little regard. Then finally there was Naturamancy, which Leshia knew very little about. None of her friends had taken up the subject and all Leshia knew was that occasionally Professor Voletta would lead a soaking wet trail of pupils through the entrance hall after what looked like a very dull field trip if the expressions on the youngsters’ faces was anything to go by.
“Um,” the blonde girl uttered thoughtfully. “Dossing around?”
“Ha!” Katie hooted triumphantly. “I thought so. You’re stuck where you are Leshia, you may as well resign yourself to that fact.”
Hogsmeade was coming into focus in the distance. It seemed a lot busier than normal. In fact, there seemed to be some commotion going on. The trio of friends sped up in order to find out what was going on and soon the sound of uproar met their ears.
“I wonder what’s happened,” Rachel mused with a frown, but after glancing to Leshia and Katie she found no answers in their faces.
“Hey, is that Rodeo?” Katie suddenly exclaimed squinting through her spectacles to see that yes it was the bohemian boy, sprinting towards the girl from the direction of the village as quickly as he could. In his wake Parys was hot on his tail. All three girls started to feel afraid and huddled together slightly while their friends ran towards them.
“Run Leshia!” Rodeo shouted hoarsely when he came within hearing range. A wounded look materialised on Katie’s face. Why didn’t he care for her safety in equal measure? “Run! Go into the forest now!”
Without sparing a second thought Rachel dragged a stunned Leshia off the road and towards the tree line. Katie tumbled after them as they darted through the sparse bushes at the roadside. They knew not what was going on, but never before had they seen such terror of their friend’s face.
“I wonder what’s happened,” Katie panted through gasping breaths. Rachel and Leshia held no answers to such a question and instead ploughed on through the undergrowth. The trees became much denser within no time and after only a few minutes of running the girls had to slow down in order to pick their way through the trees. Behind them the sound of crashing and running could be heard. Instinctively the girls pulled out their wands and turned around facing the direction of the noise.
The bushes started to move, cleared by frantically waving arms before quite suddenly a face appeared that none of them had been expecting.
“You!” Leshia accused angrily, feeling disgusted by the concerned look upon Julius Black’s face. “What do you want?”
“Shut up Malfoy and follow me if you want to get out of this alive,” the boy commanded and he stormed past the girls into the thick trees. Leshia exchanged a wide-eyed look with Rachel and Katie before she pelted after Julius Black.
“What’s going on?” she demanded. “Why am I in danger?”
The boy ahead ploughed on, ignoring Leshia’s demands, which grew increasingly aggressive and demanding until finally she caught up with the boy and grabbed his arm. He spun around, his expression tumultuous. Leshia stumbled back slightly.
“Damn it Malfoy! Listen to me, everyone’s after you. If you don’t get away then you’re done for, do you understand?”
“Why? Why is everyone after me? What have I done now?” Leshia demanded desperately. Julius Black’s eyes creased in emotion before he looked to the sky as though seeking guidance. Katie and Rachel meanwhile caught up with them and huddled around their ringleader offering her strength.
“It’s your grandfather,” Julius finally explained, dropping his peculiar eyes onto Leshia’s wide grey ones. “He’s back.”
“Yeah, we already knew that,” Leshia interrupted plainly.
“No! You don’t understand. He’s back and he has a following. They stormed the Magic House in Manchester this morning. Dozens of people are dead and they’ve taken loads more hostage. They’re resurrecting Him Malfoy: Voldemort. They say they’ve nearly done it. They only need one more thing…”
Leshia backed away, her face twisted in a private horror the others couldn’t imagine.
“Why do they want me?” she asked hoarsely. Julius Black dropped his head and rubbed his neck furiously.
“Because Lucius outed you as an accomplice. Your father too.”
Leshia’s knees buckled and she dropped onto the damp moss of the forest floor. Katie and Rachel struggled to lift her to her feet, but she remained where she was. This was the excuse the Minister had been waiting for. Dumbledore’s words were ringing in her ears. He had told her that unless public support in Draco Malfoy dropped then he could do nothing about his paranoid suspicions, but now…
“Where’s my dad?” Julius sighed and hung his head.
“He’s in their custody.”
Instantly Leshia was on her feet and had Rachel not had the foresight to hang onto the blonde girl then she would have been off, storming through the forest once more, only this time in the direction of the castle.
“Let go of me,” Leshia growled angrily.
“No Leesh!” her friend complained and she held on tighter. “Your dad wouldn’t want you to give yourself up.”
“Listen to her Malfoy,” Julius warned. “She’s right. Do you know what they’ll do to you when they get their hands on you?”
“But they’ve got my dad!”
“Yes they do and his fate is now incredibly uncertain,” Julius countered firmly. “But you’re still free for now and you know for a fact that your father would not have you leap headfirst into their hands.”
“But they’ll kill him!” Leshia cried out furiously. “They’ll send him to Azkaban and they’ll have him hanged.”
“Leesh you don’t know that,” Katie quickly cut in and she wrapped her arm around Leshia’s heaving shoulders to offer her some comfort. “Maybe without Tripper whispering in his ear Minister Crayik will see sense.”
Leshia turned her despairing gaze on the bespectacled girl and for a moment Katie felt tears welling in her eyes. Leshia didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve to be hunted down by the ministry. Anger stirred deep in the pit of the tall girl’s stomach and she squeezed Leshia’s shoulders harder.
“Come on, we have to get away from here,” Julius Black insisted and he reached out a slender hand to take hold of Leshia’s wrist. His cool fingers closed around her skin and for a moment the blonde girl stared at his pale fingers with a dipped brow. As though a moment of understanding something far greater than she ought had passed through her Leshia looked up to meet the enigma’s eyes and she nodded.
“Yes,” she managed and she and the boy started running with Rachel and Katie in their wake.
“Your friends on the road won’t be able to fool the aurors. They’ll soon find out which way we have gone.”
“What do you mean aurors?” Katie demanded, listening intently to Black’s words, even though she trailed behind. “Are Rodeo and Parys okay?”
“They won’t be harmed, but you can be sure they will be questioned,” Julius Black replied. “They did just run down the road shouting out Malfoy’s name.”
The children ran for a very long time while all around them flashes of light and loud pops signified more and more aurors apparating to the area. Their positions had been compromised, though not by Rodeo and Parys, who remained steadfast during their interrogations on the road. It had been a lowly Slytherin witness to the whole scene who had gladly come forward and let the auror squad know what they had seen. Yes, Damian Allseyer had very happily told the team that he had seen Leshia Malfoy dart into the woods.
Julius’s fingers were still wrapped around Leshia’s wrist and with every new flash and every new pop his grip grew tighter, until eventually the skin under his strong hand started to grow sore. A flash of light ahead saw Leshia nearly screaming in pain at the strength with which Julius grabbed her bony wrist.
“Agh,” she gasped, as she and the boy came to an abrupt halt. Julius Black dragged the girl to the ground, with Rachel and Katie falling down onto the moss behind them. Up ahead a tall figure had emerged in the forest. The youngsters held their breath and looked to one another with wide eyes.
Another flash of right lit up the sky, while a loud pop to their left signified yet more aurors had pinpointed their position. Rachel stared around with wide eyes, before she crawled forward on her elbows, finally reaching Leshia’s side after several minutes of silent exertion. She fumbled deep in her bag for a moment, before she lifted something out and thrust it into Leshia’s clammy hand. The blonde girl met her best friend’s eyes for a moment with a frown while she felt the object to determine what it was.
“I just know you’re going to need it,” she whispered. There were tears in both their eyes and for a moment they rested their foreheads together while all around them a loud voice cracked through the heavens.
“Alecia Malfoy,” the voice boomed. “There is no point in trying to run. We will track you down. We will find you. Give yourself up now.”
At Leshia’s other side Katie suddenly emerged, tears running down her cheeks. She wrapped her arm around Leshia’s trembling form and nestled her face into the blonde girl’s curls. The four children lay in silence, shaking in the sudden chill that had enveloped the forest while all around them aurors closed in on their location. It seemed an age that they lay there, but suddenly where there had been such heart-breaking silence there emerged an enormous kafuffle.
“She’s here!” a female voice screamed out from behind the children, prompting them to leap to their feet and wheel round to face a short stern-faced auror with an eye-patch covering half her face.
“Expeliarmus!” Katie shouted out shrilly and to her horror found the auror’s wand fly into her hand. The short eye-patched woman took only a moment to register her surprise before spells filled the sky. The children darted apart in different directions while the chaos surrounded them. Leshia found herself separated from her dear friends and followed Julius Black down a small gully to a stream. The boy hurtled into it, dragging Leshia behind him. Up ahead a cave was looming and Black seemed determined to get there.
“Just a little further,” he called out, but his grip was slipping from Leshia’s wet wrist and all around them bright vibrant colours of sinister spells lit the gloomy forest. They weren’t going to make it. Leshia stumbled and fell in the water. She felt herself go under moments before a sharp pain exploded in her forehead. Motionless she drifted to the surface, unable to move and drowning in the red water.
“Help,” she cried out into the freezing water of the river. The sounds of the skirmish in the woods faded away to the pleasant rush of the trickling water. Leshia shut her eyes and her mind drifted from her only for a second before she was dragged from the water by an enraged Black. He held her paralysed form to his chest while he lifted his wand to meet the hungry faces of the aurors that had gathered on the riverbank. Warm blood trickled down Leshia’s forehead.
“Move away from the girl,” one of the more commanding members of the squad ordered while Julius’ wide eyes searched for a way out of this impossible situation.
“No!” the boy roared back. “You’ll have to kill me first!”
“Let her go and no one has to get hurt,” the auror persisted while he motioned towards his colleagues to split up. They started circling the helpless teenagers on the other side of the bank.
“You’re a liar. You’re going to hurt her. She’s got nothing to do with any of this and you know that!”
“What do you know about it boy?” the auror demanded.
“I know a hell of a lot more than you think Horatius Baccus.”
The auror’s eyes went wide and he stayed rooted to the spot on the opposite side of the bank. Julius sneered at the man and nodded. How could this man, this auror before him, know? How could anyone know the story of Julius Black? Not even Julius Black truly knew the story of Julius Black.
Quite suddenly there was a sharp pain and Julius slumped forward. Leshia still lay paralysed and could do nothing to turn and see what had happened to her heroic saviour. His weight felt heavy on her shoulder and at this moment the girl knew she was done for. Heavy hands reached down and lifted her from the ground. She caught sight of a grisly-scarred face before a wand was pressed to her forehead and everything went black.
Draco stared out at the terrified faces of the citizens of Hogsmeade with a heavy heart. His hands and feet were bound and his body ached from his injuries. He hadn’t gone down without a fight. The aurors had come just as Draco had been sitting down to mark his seventh year pupils’ mock exams when a wide-eyed Dumbledore had stormed into the room. Draco had listened with a racing heart while the elderly wizard explained what had happened.
He had run from the office and through the school without hindrance, the only thought on his mind that of keeping his daughter safe from the aurors that had swarmed the school since the news broke. Out in the grounds Draco’s luck had vanished and he had fought, first with magic and then bare knuckled until the fight went out of him. There had been simply too many of them. When he awoke he was chained like a wild animal, bound in a cell that the aurors had set up in the village while the squad hunted for the younger Malfoy in the forest.
Draco had said not a word to the men stood guard. These men had been his allies once. He had served alongside each of them, saving their skins more times than they had returned the favour and now they had him trapped. They were ashamed of this Draco was certain, though the knowledge did little to soften his furious emotions. How dare they all turn on him! How dare they turn their backs on everything he had done for them. They would see him hanged to stay in favour in the ministry.
Stood nearest to the bound man was a Storik Broadsword. His eyes spoke of a pain Draco cared little for. After everything he had given to the ministry, everything he had given to Minister Crayik and Minister Broadsword, this was how they repaid him. He cared not for the personal heartbreak of a man he had considered his friend.
A small ministerial official approached the Minister of Aurors and bowed his head slightly to the aggrieved man.
“They are waiting Mr Broadsword.” The small man’s eyes darted towards the captive. “We need to apparate him to…”
“Not yet,” Storik growled darkly. “I told you. We wait until the girl is found.”
“But sir, the warden is refusing to wait for…”
“Silence,” Storik commanded loudly. Several nearby officials turned to stare worriedly. “He will be given the chance to see his daughter; to say…” Storik paused and he closed his eyes and hung his head. “To say goodbye at least.”
The small official looked as though he wanted to argue some more, but after glancing to the murderous cold eyes of the prisoner thought better of it and instead he darted back to the huddle of officials to tell them the bad news.
Draco looked from the pitiful ministerial servants to his former boss with disdain in his handsome face. Storik met his eyes before suddenly he turned away again. He could not look into the face of the man he had let down so enormously.
“To say goodbye,” Draco echoed in a low dangerous voice. “Yes, I suppose it is goodbye isn’t it. You want the girl to see me one last time before I’m hanged for a crime I didn’t commit. How very magnanimous of you.”
“What Storik? What? After everything I’ve done for you at least finish your bloody sentence.”
“I won’t let them hang you,” Storik uttered painfully.
“Oh you won’t will you? Tell me, how can I trust a damn thing you say? You once told me you’d never let them lock me up in Azkaban again, well, look at me now. It looks like you were lying then. So how can I trust you eh?”
“I’ll protect her Draco,” Storik uttered quietly, lifting his troubled gaze once more to Draco’s enraged eyes. “I won’t let them harm her.”
“How?” the chained man shouted. “How can you protect her? They’ll hang her next and you know it!”
Tears welled in the eyes of the once great auror now chained like a dog in a cage. Yes, he knew the cowardly nature of the Minister and his lackeys. He stood no chance, of that he was certain, but what stung him more than the thought of his impending death was the thought that as soon as his little girl turned eighteen she would follow. They would wait, keeping her caged much as he was now in the lifeless rotting cells of Azkaban before they ended her life out of fear and spite. He was helpless to protect her as he had always stated he would. He himself had become the liar.
As though he had conjured her with his mind a flurry of activity preceded the arrival of a team of aurors bearing in their arms the unconscious form of Alecia Malfoy. Draco fought the chains that bound him and managed to climb to his feet in his cell. He could see the blood that had coursed down the girl’s head.
“What is the meaning of this?” a loud commanding voice demanded. The aurors looked to their leader with worry in their faces. Storik Broadsword had seemingly risen to an alarming stature and his anger seemed directed solely at the would-be triumphant victors that had captured the child. “I explicitly prohibited the use of violence in capturing the child. I told you should any of you harm her…”
“She fell when she was trying to escape sir,” the small woman with the eye-patch spoke up tremulously. “She hit her head on a submerged rock in the river.”
Storik looked to the girl’s soaking clothing and nodded vaguely.
“See to it that she is healed and revived.”
Everyone watched while a team of healers worked on the girl for a few moments, healing the cut to her head and using a draught to bring her around. The moment Leshia’s eyes opened she sprang up and skittered away from the healers. A dozen wands pointed in her direction and with a terrified gaze the girl glanced around the angry mutinous faces until finally she saw her father, chained and behind a cruel unforgiving set of bars.
“Dad,” she girl cried out and she ran forward to her father’s side. Leshia’s thin arms easily fit through the cold metal bars and she embraced her father’s chest. She was trembling once more while all around them furious faces looked to Storik for permission to act. He though was watching the reuinion between father and child with renewed heartbreak. How could he do this to his friend? How could he destroy the life of an innocent young girl?
“What’s happening?” Leshia whispered tremulously, refusing to let go of Draco’s chest.
“It’s over Leshia,” Draco whispered back, pushing his face forcefully into the top of Leshia’s damp head. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t say that!” Leshia spat furiously and she pulled back to meet her father’s glassy eyes. The sight of so much emotion in his face brought immediate tears to her own eyes and she wiped furiously at them. “We haven’t done anything! Surely they can’t just hang us both if we haven’t done anything can they? There has to be a trial! There’s going to be a trial isn’t there dad?”
Draco looked into the girl’s grey eyes and nodded.
“Yes, there will be a trial.”
“Well then they’ll see,” Leshia spat angrily. “They’ll see what a mistake they’ve made.”
Once more she forced her arms through the bars and hugged her father, wishing more dearly than anything that she could transport herself back in time to a safer time in her life, to a more innocent time when she wasn’t suspected of monstrous evil deeds.
Storik watched the family darkly while all around him the ministerial officials approached, their eyes hungry for bloodshed. He couldn’t fight them off any longer. The small official had nearly reached the girl when all of a sudden a gasp rang through the group of civilians. Leshia pulled back sharply and she and Draco turned to see what had caused such a commotion. They reacted similarly to the crowd.
“It’s him,” Leshia managed, staring with wide eyes at the emaciated, scarred and beaten looking form of Silas Tripper. No one had seen or heard anything about the man for three weeks and now here he was, hobbling beside the Minister of Magic himself as they descended on Draco and Alecia Malfoy, a blood thirst lighting up their faces with darkness and malice.
“There they are!” Tripper growled loudly so everyone could hear. People leaned in and craned their neck’s to hear better what he was about to say. “It was them! They were the ones who took me in the middle of the night from my own home!”
Leshia’s mouth fell open and she looked to Draco with wide-eyed disdain. What was the fool blabbering on about now? Her father however, stared ahead; he knew what Tripper and Crayik were orchestrating here. He knew what this play-acting was supposed to achieve and by the mutinous expressions the locals were casting his way he could see they had succeeded. There wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that Draco and Alecia Malfoy were the very worst of felons.
Crayik and Tripper came to stand before the caged former auror and for a moment hatred coursed through the air between them.
“I had no idea you were so dramatic Tripper,” Draco growled darkly.
“Silence!” Minister Crayik bellowed. “Draco Malfoy and Alecia Malfoy, you are both hereby charged with treachery of the highest degree, abduction and attempted murder…”
“What?” Leshia demanded.
“Shhh,” Draco urged the girl, though his adamant desire for her not to implicate herself further went unnoticed.
“Who did we try to murder exactly?” the girl demanded. Crayik’s eyes darted momentarily to Tripper’s cruel face. Leshia knew instantly who he meant. “Him?” she cried out indignantly. “You think we tried to kill Tripper? You’re mad you are. If we’d have tried then he’d be dead right now, not kissing your…”
Quite promptly Tripper strode forward and dragged the girl from her father’s side by her arm. Draco lifted his hands to the bars furiously and they groaned under his attempt to pull them free.
“Let her go!” he commanded with such fury that several members of the watching crowd turned around and scuttled off. “I’m warning you Tripper, if you don’t let her go I’ll…”
“You’ll do what Malfoy?” the foul man goaded, dragging a furiously struggling Leshia further away from Draco’s side. Draco’s wide eyes sought out Storik who took only a moment to advance on the despicable gaunt man where he easily pried Leshia from his fingers and clamped her to his side protectively.
“That’ll do Silas,” the leader of the aurors rumbled angrily. Leshia rubbed her sore arm while she watched her father pulling at the groaning bars with wide terrified eyes. Would she ever see him again?
“I’ve had enough,” Crayik spoke up dryly, before he glanced over his shoulder to a pair of aurors who had been watching the scene with contempt in their stern faces. They had fought alongside the imprisoned man, he had save their lives more times than they deserved, they had no wish to be a part of this. “Take him away.”
The aurors sighed heavily, but they had no choice and without a word they strode forward, unlocked the cage they had trapped the former death eater behind and took his arms. Draco met his daughter’s eye and she saw fear in his face. She tried to run to him, but Storik held her back.
“Where are you taking him?” she demanded wildly. A foul cackle emanated from deep within Tripper’s throat.
“Where he belongs,” the vile man sneered. “And with any luck you’ll soon be joining him.”
As though Draco had become electric, the aurors holding down his arms fell to the side leaving Draco to swarm across the clearing and drag his chained arms around Tripper’s neck.
“I warned you didn’t I?” Draco stated in a deathly cold tone. “I told you what would happen if you implicated my child. You’re going to die for this Silas…”
The aurors had mobilised themselves and with great difficulty they dragged a surprisingly strong Draco from Tripper’s neck.
“Not if you die first Draco,” Tripper countered darkly. While the two men met each other’s furious gazes a sob broke the silence into shatters. Everyone turned to stare at the trembling form of Leshia Malfoy, yet few found pity in their souls for the girl they believed an accomplice of the dark lord. Draco turned to look at the girl and felt his resolve weakening once more. He took a step towards her, but before he could reach the girl a strong auror at his side had grabbed hold of his arms and apparated from the spot leaving the air shimmering where moments before Draco had stood. Leshia dropped to the ground once more, tears streaming down her face.
Hermione stroked Evie’s soft curls while tiredly drinking a cup of tea. It had gone eleven, but the young woman had only just awoken when Evie had demanded feeding in that very impatient way of her own. The baby was certainly displaying her strong Malfoy personality more and more as of late and it was heartbreaking for the estranged wife of Draco Malfoy to see. Oh how she wanted her husband back.
The clock had just struck quarter past eleven when suddenly a green fire spun into being in the fireplace. Hermione looked up in surprise to see a grey-faced Albus Dumbledore striding out of the fireplace. His eyes spoke of a sadness he couldn’t express in words.
“Hermione,” the great wizard exclaimed and he fell down at the table beside the wide-eyed woman.
“Albus? What’s happened?” Hermione uttered, her throat constricted.
“You haven’t seen the news?” Dumbledore asked incredulously. Hermione shook her head meekly.
“I’ve just got up. Albus please, it’s Draco isn’t it? What’s happened?”
Dumbledore stared for a long time into the hazel eyes of the grieving woman before he nodded sadly.
“He’s in Azkaban Hermione,” he spoke plainly and winced when Hermione clapped her hands up to her mouth and he eyes instantly filled with tears.
“And Leshia is incarcerated in the ministry holding cells.”
“My God Albus, what’s happened? What have they been accused of?” Hermione’s shaking voice escaped her frozen face. In her lap Evie started to whimper.
“Lucius has returned with a following to rival the dark days of the war and he publicly attributed his rise to power and the imminent resurrection of Voldemort to your husband and daughter. This was the excuse Crayik needed to lock them away Hermione.”
Tears trickled down Hermione’s face, stifled only by Evie’s podgy hands brushing at the mysterious water that kept trickling down her mother’s face these days. The baby watched while Hermione dissolved into wails of agony while the old man she had encountered so rarely tried his very best to reassure her. Evie started to whimper once more when Hermione dropped her head into her arms on the table. The baby stroked her mother’s hair and pulled on her top to reclaim the attention she had lost, but no one heeded her.
Evie’s cries were broken by the green fire swirling into being once more in the fireplace. Expecting her father the baby looked hopefully at the person that appeared, but finding it to be that black-haired man her mother was so fond of the baby wailed loudly once more. The man stepped across the kitchen and whisked Evie from her mother’s lap. The baby reached out over the man’s shoulder while he carried her away from the kitchen. Her mother’s sobs were rising, stifled only slightly by the appearance of that kind red-haired woman that smelled like lilies, but Evie’s attempts to get her mother to come to her went in vain. She was deposited in her crib by the tall dark-haired man before being left all alone in the gloomy nursery. Evie sucked on her fingers and used the rails of her crib to climb to her unsteady feet. Her large eyes darted around the empty room, seeking the members of her family for comfort and reassurance, but no one came.
Leshia sat on the hard bed staring at the grey dripping wall of her private dungeon. She shivered in her spring jacket and stuck her freezing hands deep into her pockets to try and restore warmth to them. Something smooth met her fingers and after frowning the girl pulled out a lone lemon drop encased in its shiny wrapping. Leshia sniffed away a fresh wave of tears and carefully unwrapped the sweet. For a while the girl considered the thing in her slender fingers, wondering when she might next have a treat such as this one? Should she savour it in preparation for a life lived behind bars or eat it straight away to say goodbye to her previous life of freedom and fineries?
Tears trickled out of her eyes while she looked at the sweet. It had been the very last of Rodeo’s sweet stash and she had pinched it from his bag when he wasn’t watching over breakfast, assuring a mortified Katie that she would return it to him when they got to Hogsmeade. He had enjoyed teasing the girls that he was waiting for a special occasion to prise off the wrapping. Leshia sighed tremulously and slowly pushed the sweet past her dry cracked lips. It tasted bitter and sour.
It had grown late. Leshia couldn’t tell what time it was, though the light creeping in through the barred door had grown dimmer until only the dusky shadows remained. The meagre blanket offered the girl little warmth in the soulless prison and so she had huddled over herself in the corner of the lumpy bed, her arms wrapped about her skinny knees. No one had come to see her yet. Voices had faded in and out of existence beyond the door, but no one had come up to it, not even Hermione.
The hours passed and the night drew on, but sleep didn’t find Leshia. Her mind fought to escape the nightmares that plagued her unblinking eyes. Nothing could shunt the image of Draco being hanged from her thinking. It was routed in the depths of her desperation. So Leshia started counting, anything to numb the pain and the true horror of her situation.
“Six thousand four hundred and seventy three,” the girl whispered in the dark. “Six thousand four hundred and seventy four, Six thousand four hundred and seventy five…”
But there came no six thousand four hundred and seventy six, because finally the welcome sound of footsteps approaching the door broke through the silence of the dungeons. Leshia hugged herself tighter before she lifted her eyes to the door to see a shadow block out the dim light. The keys turned in the lock and slowly a tall figure walked in. The person stared around the room, adjusting to the darkness before they located the tiny prisoner in the corner.
Heavy steps walked right up to the bed, before a weight eased itself onto the end of the girl’s cot. Leshia watched while a tear rolled down Albus Dumbledore’s cheek.
“Hello Leshia,” he spoke kindly. The girl stared into the kind eyes of her headmaster, before suddenly a sob escaped her and she skittered to his side, burying her face into his robes, which smelled comfortingly of peppermint. It was a smell she associated with Hogwarts. For a long time Leshia wept while Dumbledore stroked her hair. He did not speak until she straightened up and met his troubled gaze.
“Is my dad still alive?” the teenager asked, voicing her deepest fear since being incarcerated in the ministry. Dumbledore nodded quickly.
“Oh yes. I have just been to visit him.”
“In Azkaban,” Leshia stated icily.
“Yes, in Azkaban.”
Leshia hung her head and once more lifted her knees to her chest defensively. Curled up she seemed so much younger than she really was and it made Dumbledore’s strength waver.
“I suppose it will come as little comfort to you that I assure you I will do everything in my power to see you both walk free once more,” the old man uttered barely louder than a whisper. Leshia raised her sad eyes to the wizard before she shook her head.
“People have been telling me that for years, but look at me. There is nothing for me. No hope and no chance. I just wish you’d all stop promising me that I’m going to be okay. It makes it so much harder…”
The girl raised her hands to indicate her state, flashing as she did so the shiny scar the cruel Eye had left upon her young skin. She was a battered little thing, dragged to the very brink of existence and sanity too many times in her young life. She had become the embodiment of her father’s sins. Yes, she had a right to feel abandoned and hopeless to the cruel world she had fallen victim too.
“Leshia when you were born there lay a shadow on your parents,” Albus Dumbledore spoke wheezily, his mind and his body tired and aching with the gravity of his life. “You were born into a dark world under a dark sign. Your life was never going to be as straight forward as the others. There are few who have been born under such grave portents as yourself. I know only of a handful.”
“So I should just die and accept that that’s all that I ever had going for me,” the girl uttered tiredly. Dumbledore met the girl’s eyes steadily and shook his head.
“No,” the great man spoke firmly. “No! You stay and you fight and you live another. You have no choice in this matter. There is always another day.”
“Yeah,” Leshia suddenly burst out and quite suddenly she unfolded herself, her expression livid. “There is always another day. Another day to get shafted by people like Crayik and Tripper! Another day where everyone takes what they want from me and then just leaves me rotting at the side of the road. Why does Crayik have to be such a coward sir? Why doesn’t someone overthrow him?”
“Someone like who Leshia?” Dumbledore asked patiently. The girl screwed her face up in annoyance.
“I don’t care who, just someone who’s on our side; me and dad I mean. Why can’t we catch a break for once?” the girl complained furiously. The elderly wizard at her side sighed heavily and his shoulders drooped.
“I’m afraid you will find very few who have remained on your side dear girl,” he finally explained darkly. Leshia threw her hands to the sky and dropped back against cold damp wall. A shower of plaster sprinkled down from the ceiling.
“Because of Tripper. He framed us professor and everyone believed him! Why do people have to be so stupid? I mean of course Tripper wants to frame my dad, they hate each other,” the girl ranted. “And that grandfather of mine, well he hates us too and…” Leshia made an extremely exasperated sound. “Ugh! It just makes me so angry. Why are people so bloody stupid?”
A small silence filled the cell while Dumbledore watched as Leshia chest rose and fell rapidly. Eventually a smile grew on his face and he reached out to touch the girl’s shoulder, to still her raging anger.
“One day they will rue the day they crossed you Alecia Malfoy,” the sad old man chuckled, before he climbed slowly to his feet. Leshia sat bolt upright and watched him with enormous soulful eyes.
“You’re not leaving are you sir?” a tiny voice escaped her mouth. Dumbledore nearly winced at the sight of her.
“I’m afraid I must. I was granted only five minutes of your fine company. I must go now to the Minister of Magic to prepare for the trial. It is to begin in the morning and there is much to do.” Leshia’s shoulders fell and she curled up into a tight ball once more.
“Is,” she began softly, her heavy lashes fluttering against her pale tear-stained cheeks. “Is my mum coming to see me?”
“Of course she is,” Dumbledore responded heavily. “Of course she would be here this moment if they would let her. She’s waiting outside their doors and she will not leave until she is given access to you, but these things will take time Leshia. Be patient, I beseech you. Those who hold the keys to your fate are terrified.”
“Terrified?” Leshia interrupted fiercely. “Of what? What do they have to be scared of? I’m the one in the cell! I’m the one who could get hanged in the morning!”
“They are terrified. They are terrified of you,” the old headmaster spoke softly, his face drawn and ashen. “And until they know what part your mother has played in this they won’t let her anywhere near you.”
“Mum?” Leshia demanded, her face frozen in fear. “They’re trying to blame her as well? What next? What about Evie? Do they blame her too? Maybe she helped as well; you know, grabbed a finger or an ear or something and helped us piece the dark lord back together. Hell, she can’t bloody walk straight, but she can build an evil monster.”
Leshia panted in anger, her quick mind analysing what she had just said. She had defended her sister…and it had felt like the right thing to do. It occurred to her in that moment that she would go to great lengths to spare the baby her own fate. These alien thoughts left the girl with a deeply furrowed brow and a well of confusion in the pit of all her obstinate emotions tied up with the memories of her sister. Dumbledore too had evidently noticed what the girl’s words meant and he smiled slightly before he started shuffling back towards the door. Leshia seemed too preoccupied to notice.
“We will meet again tomorrow Leshia,” the headmaster told the girl, before he turned his back on the tears that had started trickling down the child’s cheeks once more. Once the heavy door had been bolted shut and the sound of the great wizard’s shuffling footsteps had drifted away Leshia climbed to her feet and paced the cell. She fought the tears threatening to overthrow her and instead fumbled deep in her jeans pocket for the object Rachel had thrust into her hand. Leshia had put off thinking off her best friends and what they were up to at the castle as it brought raw agony to her heart.
The thin choker was covered in lint from Rachel’s red jeans, which Leshia lovingly picked off, running her fingers over the magical device her best friend had received in second year: the speech stealer. Two of the lights were flashing on the device suggesting it had stolen two voices already. Leshia knew them both. With a lump in her throat she pressed the first button and lifted the speech stealer to her throat.
“Don’t worry,” the girl spoke and she quickly stifled a sob. Parys’ voice had come drifting magically from her mouth. Strengthening herself the girl pressed the second button and lifted the device once more. This time she steeled herself for the voice that was about to emerge from her own mouth. “We’re all thinking about you. We all want you to come home. We miss you.”
Rachel’s tremulous voice filled the cell as Leshia uttered comforting messages to herself in the cold gloom. The child fell asleep singing herself a lullaby in her best friend’s beautiful singing voice.
Katie and Rachel stood side by side outside the heavy door in the dank dark corridor of the ministry of magic. They were pressed up against one another, hands entwined while they waited alongside the other witnesses. They were exhausted, as they hadn’t slept since the night before. Leshia’s absence from the castle had been too traumatising for the girl’s best friends and they had instead been granted permission to floo home to their grieving families, who tried their best to cheer the teenagers up. Dumbledore had come for them early to explain that they would be character witnesses for both Leshia and Draco and that they were to dress for the ministry. On the way the old man explained that they should emotionally steel themselves for a trying few weeks. Criminal trials could go on for months and they were to expect their best friend’s name to be dragged through the mud and slandered in the worst possible ways. The girls had nodded, but nothing could prepare them for the headlines in the papers that first Sunday morning:
Death-Eater father and daughter pair behind bars after trying to resurrect the Dark Lord.
Alecia Malfoy; school girl, quidditch prodigy, murderess…
Draco and Alecia Malfoy behind bars where they belong!
Silas Tripper’s Trauma: Death at the hands of the Malfoys
Katie was still trembling from anger as she and Rachel filed into antechamber to the courtroom. They squeezed in side by side in an armchair, their hands still entwined. All around them familiar and unfamiliar faces jostled around gravely. Their parents sat down nearby, their own faces drawn. Rachel scanned the faces to distract herself from her troubling thoughts and found to her surprise the ashen face of Professor Snape. The man seemed deeply troubled and Rachel found him mesmerising. After a while the potions master became aware of the redhead’s gaze and he looked up to meet her eye; he seemed so terribly sad. They watched one another for a while before Rachel tore her gaze away to offer her cousin strength. Katie’s anger had turned to a deep sadness once more and she had started crying again.
“Hey,” Rachel offered quietly. “It’ll be okay Katie. We’ll get Leshia back.”
Katie sniffed and shut her eyes sending a cascade of tears flooding down her cheeks. She wanted so badly to believe her cousin.
“Yes,” she forced herself to say. “Everything will be okay.” Rachel nodded to herself, willing the words to come true.
“Leesh is strong Kate,” the girl breathed firmly. “She’s brave and she’s strong. She’ll convince them. I bet she’s laughing now, I bet she’ll be seeing the funny side to all this. She’s going to go out there, her head held high and she’s going to show them they’ve made a big mistake!”
Leshia’s feet dragged as she was led heavy-handedly towards the subterranean courtroom. The girl let her eyes fall to the ground to avoid the suspicious glares she was being cast from all those she passed. The guard leading her was doing so with a firm grip and by the time they had reached the door to the court room Leshia felt her skin starting to bruise. Thankfully they reached the door to the courtroom soon enough and Leshia was bolstered into the crowded chamber. The girl’s head hung further and she closed her eyes while she shuffled in. There was a sharp intake of breath and she could hear words such as ‘murdered’, ‘death eater’ and ‘guilty’ being banded around freely. Her heart sank deeper into the deep recesses of her self while she made her way up to the platform where the shackled chair stood waiting for her.
Only when she reached its side did she dare lift her eyes.
“Dad!” the girl exploded, as there, chained to a chair sat Draco Malfoy. Pale, dishevelled, pasty and frail, the man seemed a shell of his former self. Azkaban had stolen more from him than his freedom. The man lifted his gaze to see his state of wellbeing mirrored in his innocent daughter and his expression crumpled slightly. The girl was trying to run to him, but the cruel guard at her side had his fingers clamped tightly about her shoulder. Forcefully Leshia was thrown into the seat at Draco’s side where the shackled instantly tried to tighten themselves, but Leshia was far too small for such a contraption and she easily pulled her hand free and tried to reach out for her father.
“They’re too loose,” the guard growled while he grabbed his charge’s hand and forced it back into the shackle. Once more Leshia’s hand came free. A kafuffle at the side of the courtroom preceded the arrival of an official looking wizard who glanced nervously at the young prisoner before pointing his wand to the shackle and uttering the spell minoria under his breath. The shackled tightened around Leshia’s skinny wrists while the girl maintained her father’s gaze.
Their wrists and feet now shackled the guards stepped back revealing the prisoners to the eyes of the Wizengamot who looked down from their lofty benches. They seemed far more threatening than they had before. Leshia flexed her little finger at the same time that Draco did so and in that moment their fingers found one another. A small sight of relief escaped the troubled father as he found this tiny way to still the frantic breathing of his teenaged daughter, who seemed on the brink of hyperventilating.
In the centre of the gathered Wizengamot the small figure of Maxwell Pax climbed to his feet. His face spoke of his troubled thoughts and despite the gravity of the situation a small smile wormed its way on to Leshia’s face. She knew the small man to be an ally. The whispers in the courtroom died down as the chairman rose to his feet and a respectful silence followed while he glanced from one pale face to the next.
“We will begin,” he began croakily, before he stopped with a heavy sigh. Everyone stared while the sad chairman took a sip from his water before he turned his bespectacled eyes on the chained family down below. “We will begin by establishing your credentials. You sir, you are Draco Malfoy, born June fifth nineteen eighty, teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”
A murmur went around the room while down in the midst of it all Draco lifted his jaw in defiance. He nodded once.
“Yes. I am he.”
Maxwell Pax nodded thoughtfully before he turned his eyes on the younger Malfoy, his gaze softening starkly.
“And you, your name is Alecia Trysten Malfoy, born sixteenth of November two thousand, fourth year pupil at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”
Leshia glanced around the menacing expressions of the Wizengamot before she met the compassionate eyes of the chair.
“You know that’s who I am,” she finally spoke. “You asked me last time. Remember?”
“Yes Miss Malfoy,” Pax replied gravely. “I remember.”
Leshia sighed and turned her eyes on her father, who was staring at the chairman with an unreadable expression. Whatever secret communication had passed between them she was not privy to, but after staring intently at Draco the man turned to grant his daughter a comforting smile. His fingers reached out slightly further to squeeze the girl’s and so the trial began.