Generations Book 4: Rebel Inside

Chapter 2

Part II

Seven-thirty the next morning and Leshia had made it back to her bed only to be plagued by nightmares for the rest of the night. Though she would never admit it, she was very relieved to be rudely roused from her sleep by Rachel’s alarm clock-like tendencies.

“Wake up!” the redhead cried out at the top of her lungs the moment she pulled back Leshia’s bed curtains. With a start the blonde girl sat up straight in bed, looking around in a bewildered fashion. When she saw that it was not the shadowy figure from her nightmares stood in the morning light, but her oldest friend a grin cracked onto her face.

“You’ve missed doing that haven’t you?” she croaked. Rachel offered her a massive grin of affirmation, before she skipped off to pick on her next unfortunate victim: Ashley. Across the dormitory Katie was already getting her shower things together.

“Morning Leesh,” she grumbled. Leshia smiled and nodded to her, feeling so wondrously happy at this return to normalcy. Katie was not a morning person and Rachel was a nightmare to share a room with, but at least they were behaving in character.

As Ashley’s cries of outrage filled the dorm Leshia laughed and quickly grabbed her wash bag and things to rush down with Katie.

“She’s unbelievable that cousin of mine,” Katie grumbled as the two girls descended the winding stairs into the empty common room. Luckily for the girls, none of their peers had quite the same early morning wake up call as they did and they always managed to avoid the shower queue. Leshia remarked as much to Katie, who didn’t think this made up for Rachel’s behaviour.

Forty minutes later and the girls were all dressed in their uniforms and robes and heading down to breakfast with a trickle of other early risers. On their way through the entrance hall they passed a few girls in fifth year signing up their names on a long sheet of parchment pinned up on the notice board. Quickly the three friends rushed to put their names on the list, which no doubt registered people’s interest in taking part in the Exchange Trip. Once all three girls had neatly printed their names they continued on their journey to the delicious smelling breakfast that awaited them in the hall.

As usual the Great Hall was relatively empty at this time allowing the Gryffindor fourth years their choice of seating arrangements at the Gryffindor table. Leshia found herself sat between her two dear friends, but where they were piling their plates high with all manner of tasty breakfast things she couldn’t help but state up at the top table at the two vacant chairs her parents had once occupied.

“You okay Leesh?” Katie’s hand flew past the blonde girl’s eyes causing her to jerk back into the present.

“Oh yeah, sorry, just drifted off there for a second.”

“I hope we end up starting with PE,” Rachel yawned. Leshia grinned and shook her head.

“They only ever put PE at the end of the day. No year starts the day with PE. Anyway, who’d want to go out first thing in the morning in the middle of winter.”

“What do you mean go out? Don’t you know in fourth year most of the first term is spent learning ballroom dancing?” Katie now put in with one raised eyebrow and a dreamy look in her eyes. Leshia felt a stab of alarm.

“Um. No. Are you serious?”

“I’ve been waiting ages for this term,” Katie gushed happily.

“Tell me it’s just with the girls.”

“Of course not.” Katie looked aghast at such a statement. “You do know we’re old enough to attend the Halloween ball this year don’t you? We’ll need to learn how to dance properly.”

Leshia and Rachel exchanged a smirk.

“I’m not going to the ball,” Leshia finally announced to which Rachel nodded in agreement. Now it was Katie’s turn to look alarmed.

“What do you mean not going? Why not?” Leshia shrugged her shoulders.

“We can’t let the school down now can we? I mean we’ve got to pull off our traditional Halloween bash don’t we?” Rachel had to hide her laughter in her hand as Katie’s eyes grew impossibly wide.

“Are you telling me that you actually enjoyed all the trouble we’ve got ourselves into with throwing parties to the point that now you’ll refuse to attend a legitimate one so you can get in some more trouble?”

“Katie,” Leshia laughed. “You go to the ball if you want. All I’m saying is I kinda like throwing parties and well, I’ve been thinking about it this summer. I was thinking we could hold it in…”

“Morning ladies!” Leshia’s sentence was cut short by the arrival of the boys, who dropped down opposite the girls looking ruffled, as though they had gone to bed in their uniforms.

“You guys had better hope we don’t get Defence Against the Dark Arts first thing,” Rachel sniggered when she saw them.

“I’ll have you know we’re sporting the very latest of fashions,” Rodeo replied dashingly. “Bed hair complete with…”

“Bed clothes?” Leshia put in with a lopsided grin. At her side Katie was still trying to get her head round the fact that they would not be attending the ball she had been fantasising about all summer. And to think she had even bought a dress for the occasion.

“Dribble marks?” Rachel now added causing Leshia to crack up while the boys turned to each other to surreptitiously check the legitimacy behind the redhead’s claim.

“Oh you only wish you had our style Weasley,” Parys finally concluded, the smile on his face a genuine one.

“Sure sure.” Before the youngsters could find themselves degraded into a comical battle of insults a great fluttering of wings announced the arrival of the morning post. Leshia didn’t look up. She had long since learnt not to expect anything.

Imagine the girl’s surprise when a large parcel dropped down into her lap carried by a tawny owl, who swooped down onto the table, evidently exhausted.

“Isn’t that your family’s owl?” Rachel asked curiously while Leshia ran her fingers over the brown paper surrounding the package.

“Yeah,” she uttered, glancing up briefly at Auralia. “Thanks for bringing this, whatever it is.” Her offering was somewhat heartfelt and after a haughty hoot the bird took off into the sky to find some rest in the owlery before heading home.

“What do you think it is?” Katie next asked. Leshia shrugged her shoulders and reached out to sip at her pumpkin juice, feigning nonchalance.

“Oh Leshia just open the damn thing,” Rachel laughed. With a small smile at her friend Leshia conceded and ripped the thin paper from the package. Chocolate frogs spilled onto her lap revealing a note from her mother and the large book her employers had granted her for her summer’s service.

“I must have forgotten it,” Leshia whispered to herself, before she reached down and lifted up the note.

Hello my darling

I didn’t think you meant to forget this book. I’m very surprised Regus and Tarquin gave it to you. I hope you’re enjoying being back at school, but I want you to know how missed you are back home. Please be good.

I love you so very much.

Love mum xxx

PS Evie smiled for the first time today. I know you’re probably not interested to hear this, but…well she has your smile

Leshia sighed and ran her fingers briefly over her mother’s writing.

“What’s that?” Rachel asked through a mouthful of chocolate frog, her eyes indicating the large book in Leshia’s lap.

“Oh it’s what Flourish and Blott gave me as a thank you present. Now sure what it’s about. Everyone’s making a big deal about it.” With a shrug Leshia shoved the book into her satchel, feeling resentful that it was now much heavier than when she sat down. The chocolate frogs she deposited in front of Rachel with a smirk, before she carefully tucked her mother’s note in the side pocket of her satchel and continued with her breakfast, far more subdued than before.

“Look McGonagall’s giving out our timetables,” Parys suddenly exclaimed sounding hopeful for a friendly lesson arrangement. “Bring on Care of Magical Creatures first thing.”

“I thought you guys hated Care of Magical Creatures?” Rachel asked fondly.

“Well yeah, when Hagrid’s got some new and fantastic lethal pet to show us, but you’ve got to weigh up your pros and cons young Rachel,” Parys instructed. “What’s worse, a toe-chewing furry nuisance or Snape on a bender?” Everyone laughed at the boy’s sensible reasoning until McGonagall reached them and doled out the fourth year timetables.

“Good morning fourth years,” she greeted them with a twinkle to her strict smile. The youngsters grinned at her, before they all turned to their timetables.

“Oh no,” came the communal groan as their faces all fell as one.

“Defence Against the Dark Arts first thing? That’s harsh,” Rodeo grumbled.

“Followed by Potions!” Parys chimed in.

“And history of magic after break?” Rachel now cried out.

“And to top it all off we’ve got Runes after that,” Leshia added quietly. “In which Tripper’s probably going to box me up and ship me off to Azkaban.” Their timetable had turned out so terribly that the Gryffindors couldn’t even offer a smile at Leshia’s grim joke.

“Check out Friday, Potions before lunch then triple Defence Against the Dark Arts afterwards,” Parys now pointed out.

“They’re having a laugh,” Leshia groaned. “This is the worst timetable we’ve ever had. I bet they loved making this up.”

“I bet they were drunk when they made this up,” Rachel grumbled at her side.

The rest of breakfast was entirely tainted by the grim realisation that every Monday was going to be a horrific experience for the fourth year Gryffindors and when they finally climbed to their feet to head off to their first lesson of the day they did so mostly in a moody silence.

They were not the first to find the Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor; the Slytherins had already made their way down and were gathered in little cliques, raucously continuing their summer discussions. Leshia sighed grimly when they rounded the corner to find who they had been teamed up with for their Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons.

“Aren’t we ever going to be with anyone else for Defence Against the Dark Arts? I mean seriously, this is getting ridiculous. Fourth year running now!” she uttered to her friends, before they continued up the corridor and fell into line. As she passed the Slytherins she hadn’t missed over the summer Leshia met each of the scowling eyes until finally she came across the pointed face of Damian Allseyer. Here she paused and simply stared at the boy. He could hardly meet her eye. The last time they had parted Damian Allseyer had tried, unsuccessfully and for the second time, to kill Leshia. They had not met since and Leshia was amused over the summer holidays to find the boy had steered clear of Diagon Alley due to her mere presence.

“Hi Damian,” the girl spoke in a sickly sweet voice.

“Go away Blood Traitor,” the boy countered, sounding annoyed and putout. This only elicited a smile from the girl. It was a cruel smile that soon turned into a sneer.

“Make me.”

“If you think…” Allseyer began furiously, leaning in, his fists clenched at his side, but his tirade never came as from down the corridor fast footfalls preceded the arrival of the dangerously dichotic teacher that was Draco Malfoy. His face was an expression of suspicion while before him the youngsters of his fourth year class jumped into line checking their shirts were tucked in.

Draco’s eyes lingered longer than usual when he reached his daughter, but before long he had deigned the class respectable and reached out to open the door.

“In,” he merely commanded and stepped back to allow the teenagers to pass him one by one. Leshia was one of the last to pass before her father’s piercing gaze, but once she was inside she darted to her usual bench, which had, over the course of her three years in Hogwarts been covered in a graffiti chronicling her trials and tribulations. With a smile Leshia let her fingers rub over the delicate ‘OG+AM’ she had inscribed on the corner of the desk in the popular Everlast Ink even Filch had never figured out how to remove from Hogwarts’ desks. The sturdy desk was a tribute to her fondest and worst memories and it was a pleasure to be sat behind it once more.

Draco Malfoy waited for the last of the stragglers to wander inside and find their seats before he shut the door. He would rather have started the week with one of the younger classes, those pupils who had not yet grown accustomed to his ways and still feared him enough to follow all his rules, but at least these fourth years, slouched in their chairs and leaning on their desks tiredly, were a better alternative to the seventh years who would no doubt take several punishments before they learnt the rules once more. None looked more at ease than his own daughter, who was leaning her cheek on her hand smiling across the room with a cruel sneer at Damian Allseyer. Inwardly Draco groaned; wonderful, she had reignited their vendetta at the earliest possible convenience, how very mature of her.

“I trust you all enjoyed your summer holidays,” Draco spoke loudly, trying to draw all eyes onto himself. For the most part they complied, but Leshia and her nemesis would not remove their jeering gazes from one another. “And I trust you’re all aware that you are no longer on holiday.” Speaking loudly so as to attract the attention of those who were not watching his every move, Draco was irritated to see his warning fell on deaf ears where Leshia was concerned.

“Miss Malfoy,” he spoke sharply and finally he found all eyes on him. “I am standing over here, not behind Mr Allseyer. Pay attention.” Leshia fought to keep her expression neutral, before she simply nodded to show she had heeded him. “Thank you. I have a challenge for you fourth years.”

The youngsters seemed intrigued and even Leshia forgot to act indifferently to her father’s teachings and sat up interestedly.

“This year’s syllabus, you will be pleased to hear, is going to be very different from last year’s in depth investigation of dark magical creatures. We are going to start using our wands again and for the first time in your Defence Against the Dark Arts careers you will be tackling defensive magic.” The class were hanging on his every word. “Counter-curses.”

Such was their discipline and knowledge of Professor Malfoy’s impressively alternating moods that the teenagers easily contained the whoops of joy they wanted to express at their teacher’s proclamation.

“Today I am going to see whether any of you remember anything we covered in second year, namely, the Seven Fundamental Curses otherwise known as the Corripio Curses. If you will remember we did briefly touch on this year’s topic when you yourselves were instructed on how to formulate a counter-curse for a simple hex?” There were several nods around the room. “Well I am delighted to say that was a very easy counter-curse and it is all going to get impossibly more difficult this year.”

Draco paced the front of the classroom, rotating his wand in his hand as he walked, maintaining eye contact with each pupil in turn as he spoke. He particularly enjoyed the pained looks that materialised on their faces at his announcement that they were in for a difficult year.

“Everyone, on your feet,” he ordered suddenly. Such was his sway over these teenagers that instantly they obeyed.

“Blimey!” Rachel exclaimed in surprise when her desk lurched to the side of the room seemingly with a mind of its own, eliciting a hail of laughter from the class. By the time they had fallen quiet every desk in the room had hopped off to the side leaving a large empty space. Up at the front of the classroom Draco pointed his wand at the centre of the room where a large squishy mattress materialised as though from thin air.

“Who can tell me one of the Seven Fundamental Curses?” Only a few hands shot into the air. Unsurprisingly Katie’s was amongst them. Draco seemed subtly disappointed and as his eyes roved over those who had not indicated they remembered his teachings the pupils shrunk away from his gaze; all except Leshia, who kept her father’s gaze.

“Miss Malfoy?”

“The Balancing Curse,” she replied with ease, effortlessly reaching into her firm memories of their second year course for the answers she needed. Draco smiled and nodded.

“Step forward.” Not quite so sure anymore, Leshia frowned.

“Why?”

“Please step forward.”

“No,” the girl exclaimed. For a moment Draco matched her gaze, his face growing colder by the second.

“Do you not trust me Miss Malfoy?” Every head in the room swivelled towards Leshia.

“Well not if you’re going to curse me then no. You said we weren’t allowed to practice those curses in second year.”

“And are you still in second year?” Leshia twitched a little at this dig at her pride. Slowly she shook her head.

“No sir,” she replied darkly.

“Then step forward onto the mat,” Draco ordered again, sounding firm and yet ever so slightly amused. “Please.” Leshia glanced briefly across the circle to where Damian Allseyer was struggling so hard to keep his laughter at bay he was nearly wetting himself; that would not do! With a grimace the blonde girl obeyed and stepped unsurely into the centre of the mat.

Corripio pondera,” her father suddenly spoke softly, flicking his wand in his daughter’s direction.

It was as though half of her head had suddenly turned into stone Leshia remember thinking as she stumbled onto her side. The world was spinning so violently she was sure she was going to be sick. Several youngsters in the class laughed as their friend (and enemy) stumbled close to the ground, struggling to stay on her feet, her eyes never leaving her father’s.

“Funny is it?” Draco spoke loudly and coldly to the class. “To have one of your most precious weapons stolen from you?”

The class fell silent and watched as Leshia landed painfully on her shoulder. Draco’s brow twitched for a moment in concern. Slowly he stepped onto the mat and approached his daughter, who tried for a moment to scramble away, only to fall onto her side once more.

“This curse steals your opponent’s balance rendering the physically unable to fight you. If left like this Miss Malfoy would eventually perish. She certainly wouldn’t be able to look after herself in such a condition. Reddo pondera.”

Her balance restored Leshia suddenly found her feet. She was panting, staring hard at her father, embarrassed by his making an example of her. Draco held her gaze for a moment, before he nodded to her indicating she return to her peers.

“Who’s next?” With a big smile the teacher turned to look at the class who all stepped backwards in unison not daring to give the answers they had been thinking only moments ago. “No one?”

Bravely Katie’s hand lifted into the air. She had quickly weighed up the pros and cons of the situation and had picked one of the remaining Fundamental Curses that she would not mind demonstrating to the class.

“Ah, Miss Potter? A housepoint for your bravery. Which curse do you have in mind?”

“The Speaking Curse sir,” the girl whispered.

Corripio sonitus,” Draco called out suddenly. Katie reached to her throat in surprise. “And what does the Speaking Curse do Miss Potter?” The raven-haired girl shook her head. She already knew what it did and didn’t want to have to demonstrate. “Please Miss Potter, I know you understand, but perhaps they don’t.” Draco seemed gentle and encouraging and so after nodding Katie opened her mouth to speak, but no sound escaped. “Another powerful weapon,” the teacher spoke to the class. “To steal another’s power to make a sound is a cruel tool indeed. Reddo sonitus.

Katie released her neck and whispered to herself to ensure the counter-curse had worked. Draco saw and smiled at the girl.

“The counter-curse is effective Miss Potter I can assure you,” he chuckled. “Right, next?” Now several hands flew into the air as the rest of the class realised they didn’t want to get lumbered with the more daunting of the Seven Fundamentals.

Julius Black demonstrated The Hearing Curse, allowing Draco to steal his power to hear with his now predictable command, Corripio audio. Parys demonstrated Corripio tactus, the Feeling Curse and experienced the uncomfortable sensation of losing the tactile senses in his body. He could see his limbs and move them around, but the boy had lost all feeling in them. Archie Dregon humorously demonstrated the Seeing Curse by stumbling around blindly after Draco had stolen his sight from him with Corripio specto. Tatiana Zambini became the test subject for Corripia sententia the Thinking Curse and comically became catatonic, completely oblivious to the world around her. Draco admonished the class for laughing at the girl and described to them how frightening it was awakening from a long period of being held without your thoughts. His description of the famous Gassleby sisters who were held under the Thinking Curse for twenty years only to awake to find themselves old women had several of the youngsters grimacing.

After the Slytherin girl had been restored with her mind Draco turned on the class with an expectant smile.

“So then, who will give me the Seventh Fundamental Curse?” The youngsters looked to one another shiftily, trying to avoid the teacher’s gaze. Leshia grinned and glanced briefly to Katie who was stood on the other side of Rachel. With her sneaky grin she conferred to her friend what she had in mind, and after a moment’s serious pause Katie grinned back and nodded. Before Rachel knew what was going on her friends had shouldered her forward a step and stumbling, she held out her hands.

“Ah, Miss Weasley?” Draco called to the girl, having to hide the grin he felt at seeing what had happened.

“The Movement Curse sir,” Rachel grimly responded, pausing briefly to glance over her shoulder and glare at her friends.

“Well done Miss Weasley, nicely volunteered. Won’t you make your way onto the mat?” Rachel grumbled under her breath as she traipsed onto the mat. “Corripio ingressus.

Quite suddenly Rachel’s body froze and she toppled over onto the mat, still in the same position she had been frozen in. The class stared wide-eyed at the redhead.

“You will note the differences between the Movement Curse and other freeze-type curses and hexes such as a the body bind curse in that the body freezes at the point the victim is cursed. Many years ago the Dark Wizard Grindelwald is famed to have taken pride in owning a hall of muggle statues, frozen in undignified poses. He claimed it was art.”

“That’s horrible sir!” Katie uttered in shock. Draco met the girl’s eyes and nodded slowly.

“These curses are horrible Miss Potter. Redda ingressus.” Quite suddenly Rachel scrambled from the floor and darted back into line, the colour rising in her cheeks. “They are powerful weapons and I hope now you understand why so much of our time in second year is dedicated to learning about them. The countercurses follow the same pattern the curses themselves do and over the following weeks you will come to intimately know the magical workings behind the spells.”

Draco turned his back on the class triggering a stampeded as he swished his wand in the direction of the desks and chairs, which hopped back into their places startling the class into jumping out of the way.

“If any of you use these curses outside of this classroom,” the dichotic teacher suddenly spoke loudly, spinning round on heal and staring firmly into each face. He lingered a little longer once more on his daughter’s. “You will face possible expulsion. They are not Unforgivable and therefore not illegal, but they are dangerous and recognised as such by the Ministry of Magic. You have all been warned.”

The rest of the lesson was far duller than the start as the youngsters scrambled to take notes of Draco’s lecturing them on the origins of the spells. By the time the bell rang signifying it was time to pack up and head off to Potions they had quite forgotten the impact the Curses had had on them and were all happy to be free of the classroom. One unfortunate pupil however, was going to have to wait.

“Miss Malfoy, remain behind,” Draco called out over the bell as it rang out. Leshia’s jaw dropped in defiance while her classmates jumped to their feet to a chorus of scraping chair legs across the slate floor. Once the last of the fourth years had filed out and shut the door Draco pushed himself off from his desk and approached his daughter, who had slouched down low in her chair, her gaze drifting off to the window.

“I hope we’re not going to have a problem this year you and I,” Draco spoke coldly. He did not seem impressed. Leshia snapped her eyes onto him.

“What?”

“Exactly that, your tone young lady; have I ever allowed any of my pupils to speak to me the way you did today?” Leshia chewed the inside of her cheeks grumpily.

“No.”

“And I should allow you the privilege because you’re my daughter and you’re upset with me, is that it?”

“No!”

“Well then the next time you walk through that door I expect you to leave your emotional baggage out in the corridor is that understood?” Her father seemed dichotic as usual, partly amused and partly brusque, all Leshia could do was nod.

“Fine,” she stated simply. “Sir.” Draco’s expression softened and he nodded.

“Go on then, don’t keep Professor Snape waiting.”

Leshia didn’t need telling twice and after slinging her satchel over her shoulder she ran from the room, surprising the gathered sixth years out in the corridor as she went. The estranged father watched her go with a small smile on his face; even winding her up had been a fun distraction from her otherwise indifferent treatment of him. Though he missed his wife and baby daughter something chronic, it was worth it just to spend these precious hours with his wayward child.

XXX

Potions wasn’t even nearly as horrendous as the girls had feared. For starters the fact that for the first time in their Hogwarts careers they were sharing their Potions lessons with a class other than the Slytherins had boosted them all to gloriously good moods and secondly Snape seemed to be quite tame after the combined Gryffindor and Ravenclaw class handed in a promising compliment of summer essays.

Somehow even Professor Snape seemed more manageable without the Slytherins in the room to be compared less favourably to and when Leshia and her friends filed out for break they were able to do so free of any detentions or telling offs. Time would tell how long this would last.

“You know what old Snape isn’t all that bad when he’s not kissing Slytherin arse,” Rachel remarked cheerfully as the girls made their way out into the grounds to enjoy the summer sunshine. Leshia laughed happily at the mental imagery Rachel’s words had produced while at her side Katie grimaced with the same picture in her mind.

“Lovely,” the raven-haired girl stated in monotone. “Ugh! Get out my head!” The girl thumped at her scull playfully. “All I can picture now is Snape in some pretty compromising situations.”

Rachel and Leshia roared with laugher as the three girls dropped down on a grassy bank to bask under the late summer sun.

“Oh come on, you know you fancy him Katie. How could you not?” Leshia teased with a beaming smile. “Personally I think he’s a stud muffin!”

“Who’s a stud muffin?” Momentarily the girls were startled into screaming childishly as two shapes flew overhead. Parys and Rodeo had easily vaulted over their friends and landed down the slope, but the girls took a moment to laugh away their theatrics.

“Professor Snape,” Leshia told them happily. The two mates exchanged a look of concern.

“Right,” Parys finally spoke slowly.

“Yeah we all fancy him now,” Rachel added.

“You’re kidding right?” Rodeo demanded.

“No. He’s hot don’t you know?” Leshia couldn’t keep the mirth out of her voice this time and for a moment she and Rachel rolled around hugging their sides in stitches of laughter. Katie tried not to snigger at their dramatic display and surreptitiously glanced up to find Rodeo watching her blonde friend with an adoring look on his face. For a moment it was as though an icy pool had started to well up in the pit of her stomach.

“Guys,” she loudly admonished her friends. “Get it together, the moment’s over.” Struggling for air and gulping away the odd giggle Leshia and Rachel sat up on the grass looking to their friend with matching putout expressions. Rodeo and Parys joined them on the ground closing the girls’ semicircle in a full ring.

“Spoil sport,” Rachel sniggered. “Now then, who’s up for trying out that Thinking Curse on the Slytherins next chance we get?”

“Rach you’re forgetting that those Slytherins have about three brain cells between them,” Leshia countered amusedly. “I’m thinking that thinking curse wouldn’t make much of a difference.”

“Well the balancing one was pretty funny, you looked like my Great Uncle Tanker after he’s had one too many at the pub,” Parys put in with a grin.

“Probably not half as stupid as you waving you’re arms about going, ‘Are my arms still attached? I can’t bloody feel them!’”

“I don’t think you guys should joke about those curses, don’t you remember second year?” Katie spoke up sternly earning herself four doleful expressions from her friends, who felt her to be spoiling their fun. “It’s true! We didn’t think they were funny when we learnt about all the chaos they’ve caused. I don’t think it was very responsible of your dad to try them out on us.” All eyes now fell on Leshia who merely shrugged her shoulders.

“Nothing to do with me. He’s a big boy now, he can decide his own lesson plans don’t you think?” Katie seemed a little hurt at the girl’s flippancy. “Well anyway,” Leshia quickly continued. “You guys had it easy, my curse was definitely the worst. I was sure I was going to chuck up my breakfast. I’ve never felt so sick in my life.”

“Ugh,” was the general consensus in response to Leshia’s revelation.

“I’ll tell you what though, this year Defence Against the Dark Arts is gonna be pretty wicked if we get to try out curses on each other,” Rodeo announced happily.

“Yeah, or it’s going to suck because we’ll be the ones getting cursed every lesson,” Rachel countered cheerfully.

“As long as I get Allseyer with the bursting bogies curse then I’m set.”

The Gryffindors’ laughter carried across the sunny grounds and seemed to linger there well into the afternoon. True joy and friendship has such a lovely way of adding to the splendour of a sunny afternoon.

XXX

History of magic provided the Gryffindors and their counterparts the Slytherins with ample opportunity for a midday nap after which they went their separate ways. Leshia, Rachel and Katie started making their way grimly towards Tripper’s classroom for their Runes lesson while the boys happily made their way out to the grounds to enjoy some more of the sunny afternoon down by Hagrid’s hut.

“Ruddy lucky blighters,” Rachel grumbled as the grinning lads disappeared from sight. “They don’t have to sit in a stuffy classroom staring at stones for the next hour.”

“I wonder where Black’s going,” Leshia suddenly remarked. Though her tone was suspicious and accusing, there was no denying the curiosity in her face as she watched the tall Slytherin enigma darting down the corridor in the wrong direction to their Runes classroom. Katie and Rachel turned to watch him just as he disappeared round a corner.

“Maybe he really needed a wee,” the redhead suggested chirpily. Leshia grinned and shoulder barged her friend into a passing hoard of startled looking first years. “Oy, it was a decent suggestion!” the girl cried out gleefully and after manhandling he younger pupils she pulled herself free to join Leshia’s side once more.

“Stop worrying so much about Julius Black Leesh,” Katie warned wisely. “So what if he’s going the wrong way. You never know, maybe he dropped Runes and is doing something else this year.”

“Yeah!” Rachel suddenly exclaimed in such a manner it suggested she had suddenly worked out a very significant clue. “Maybe he fancied your mum all along and was only taking her class because of her. That would explain why he’s been helping you too…”

Once more Rachel found herself being carted off in the wrong direction after Leshia, amidst a gale of laughter, elbowed her friend into a passing throng of seventh years. These giants were less simple to escape and by the time Rachel had caught up with the other two they were lining up outside Silas Tripper’s classroom. Leshia was wearing a mischievous smile.

“Just because you can’t face up to the fact that before long you’ll be calling Julius Black stepdaddy doesn’t mean you have to throw me to the mercy of the upper years,” the flame-haired girl remarked snootily as she took up her place on Katie’s other side. Leshia wanted to burst into another ream of laughter, but somehow she just couldn’t muster the positive energy. Being so close to her mother’s old haunt and knowing just who was going to be taking her place was draining her of any joy she had been relishing moments before.

“Hey look, here comes Daisy Double Crosser,” Rachel whispered to her friends as Daisy Cartwright, the Ravenclaw girl who had broken her best friend Harriet Coldcauldron’s heart came darting along the corridor towards them to get in line before Professor Tripper could arrive.

“Rachel,” Katie admonished fondly. “Calm down. You’ll get in trouble and jeopardise your chance on the exchange trip if you keep getting yourself all worked up.” Rachel and Leshia exchanged a smirk.

“Yes mum,” the redhead finally grumbled fondly. “Anyway, what would it matter if I was going? That wouldn’t help you.”

“Well you’d be out of our hair for a while,” Leshia suggested happily.

“If by chance two of us get picked, I bet they’d place us in pairs,” Katie spoke over the blonde girl.

“Knowing my luck I’d end up paired with Allseyer or Julius Black,” Leshia put in with a lopsided grin.

“Either way, you two have to behave and stay in the running. One toe out of line and that would be it.”

“What about a finger?” Rachel asked curiously. At her side Leshia’s grin was growing.

“Excuse me?”

“Well what if I put a finger out of line?”

“Yeah, or an ear!” the blonde girl put in enthusiastically. Katie stared at her friends bemusedly. They were in fits of laughter, but eventually managed to calm themselves down.

“Are you two quite finished?”

“Somewhat,” Rachel replied through a mouth sore from smiling so much. Leshia snorted at her side, but refrained from breaking into giggles once more. Quickly she nodded at Katie.

“Yeah me too.”

“You shouldn’t need reminding Leshia that you ought to watch your step in this lesson. If this Professor Tripper hates your family as much as you say he does…”

“He does!”

“Well then you’d better watch your step that’s all I’m saying. You don’t need any more enemies in this place Leesh, I’m losing track of the ones you already have.”

“Don’t forget Slimy Samuel,” Rachel piped up cheerfully. Leshia grinned and elbowed the girl to keep quiet. She could see Katie was getting a little annoyed with their antics. Just how she could have become so serious by the first day of term was anybody’s guess, but Leshia didn’t want her to feel chastised for wanting to look out for her friends.

“Katie I’ll be careful, I promise. Thanks for looking out for me.”

Quite suddenly and without warning the door to the classroom slammed open and out stepped Silas Tripper. Up close the gnarled young man seemed a hell of a lot more frightening and as one the fourth years took a step backwards. Professor Tripper might have been quite good looking at one stage, his features were certainly fine and nicely arranged and he had soulful large dark eyes, but over the years and no doubt due to his dangerous profession, Silas Tripper had become badly scarred. Dressed once more in his scruffy robes concealing black clothes Professor Tripper looked worse than the scruffiest of students, though he had taken the time and effort to slick his long black hair back from his battered face. All in all the man gave a distinctly shady and slimy first impression and though he had not yet spoken, Leshia instantly disliked him

He looked like he really ought to bear the name Snape not Tripper, the girl felt. Silas Snape, it had a ring to it.

With a fierce expression Tripper glanced up and down the row of pupils, pausing momentarily to meet Leshia’s eyes at which point the fierceness in his face turned positively hostile. After he had intimidated the studious Runes pupils enough Tripper looked over his shoulder into the classroom and barked in a deep raspy voice,

“Leave.”

Inside the sound of scrambling ensued and soon a stream of third years were spilling out of the classroom. Amidst them was Eliot Wood, a good friend of Leshia’s, who briefly met her gaze on the way past and shook her head, her eyes wide. It was a warning and despite her fiery nature, Leshia heeded it. Watching the youngsters rush away enviously the fourth years were very unwilling to step inside the classroom, but Tripper had now stalked inside leaving the door wide open for them.

“I’m not going in there,” Leshia whispered as quietly as she could. Uncharacteristically, she looked afraid.

“Just keep your head down,” Katie replied and she squeezed Leshia’s arm tightly. “We’ll be by your side the whole time. How bad can it be?” Rachel now leaned into Leshia’s other side, showing that both the girl’s best friends weren’t going to let her suffer alone. With a firm nod Leshia filed into the classroom behind a frightened looking Tatiana Zambini. As soon as she stepped over the threshold her bag flew from her shoulder and landed on the very front desk right in front of the teacher. Leshia stared at it in horror and barely noticed that everyone else’s bags were zooming off to various desks on their own accord. Katie’s landed near the back of the classroom while Rachel’s fell somewhere off to the right. They couldn’t have been more spaced out.

“I have carefully assigned your desks,” Tripper told the class gruffly when he noticed them all stalling. “So sit down.” His tone was on par with Draco’s when he was in a foul mood and the effect it had was instantaneous. Without even glancing at one another the pupils darted to their desks. Leshia approached her new desk with a heavy weight in her stomach. Tripper was watching her, an unreadable look on his face. She held his gaze as she lowered herself into her chair.

A nerve was twitching in Tripper’s neck and quite suddenly his eyes narrowed in disgust. The girl was so alike her father; it was as though he were staring into Draco Malfoy’s eyes. Quite suddenly Leshia looked away.

“Stop dawdling Miss Malfoy, everyone else is ready to start the lesson,” the rasping reprimand came. Leshia nodded quickly and reached into her satchel to collect her enormous textbook, a piece of parchment and her quill. For a moment Leshia’s fingers grazed over the Secret of Strength that she had been sent from home and instantly the rising temper in her dropped away leaving her quite philosophical about her situation. All she had to do was behave and get through the next hour without mouthing off. Surely she wasn’t so immature that she couldn’t manage something so simple?

“Where is Mr Black?” Everyone in the class glanced to the empty desk in the middle of the classroom that Tripper had directed his barking demand at.

“He was in our History of Magic lesson just now,” Rachel offered.

“Five points from Gryffindor!” Rachel’s jaw dropped. “You speak when asked to do so, is that clear Miss Weasley?” Leshia spun around in her seat to catch Rachel’s gaze, her face contorted in sympathy for Tripper’s cruel treatment of her.

“Yes sir,” Rachel replied quietly, taking strength from her friend’s support.

“Very well, we will begin without Mr Black who I hope has a very good reason for keeping me waiting. Eyes forward Miss Malfoy!” Quickly Leshia spun round in her chair again and caught Tripper’s cruel eyes. His treatment of her best friend was not something she wanted to keep quiet about, but she was going to have to force herself to.

“Fourth years you will learn to obey my rules or you will find yourselves out in the corridor having to make up the time in detention. I do not put up with silliness, tardiness and bad behaviour and the only things I appreciate are hard work and discipline. Your results were adequate in last years examinations, but your previous teacher did not properly address the ministry curriculum and you are all behind in your studies.”

Leshia shifted uncomfortably in her seat. There was no doubting Tripper’s dig at her mother had been aimed at her, as he had glanced momentarily into her eyes as he did so, a smug self-satisfaction on his face. That his words were all lies was of course evident, Hermione had stuck perfectly to the curriculum she had known inside out and Hermione’s exam results had been far better than average the last two years. She had set a new standard of excellence and it hurt Leshia to hear her so put down by this bully stood before her.

“You will have to work doubly hard this year to make up for Professor Granger’s incompetence. Feel free to thank her the next time you see her.” Leshia didn’t need to turn around in her seat to see the defiance materialise on her classmate’s faces. Hermione had been one of the most popular teachers in the school; there was no doubting the fact that the next time they saw her they would fawn around her enquiring about the new baby, rather than give her a hard time about their Ancient Runes course.

“We will start this year’s course by discussing the Delvian family of Runes. By the end of the year we will have covered the Satian family of Runes, the Adarian family of Runes, the Hiiani family of Runes and the Khorosan family of Runes. We will also spend one lesson every fortnight studying the practical implications runes have had on today’s society. Yes Miss Potter what is it?” The teacher was impatient and his voice sharp. Leshia glanced over her shoulder to see her raven-haired friend had slowly lifted her hand into the air.

“Sir will we be covering five Rune families this year?” she asked shakily. Her face was drawn.

“Yes Miss Potter. Five.” Katie snapped her hand back down to her desk and nodded in defeat. Leshia understood her incredulity. Last year they had struggled to cover and compare two families of Runes. Covering five such difficult families surely posed an impossible task? Leshia was sure the curriculum demanded no such feat from the teenagers. “If you feel this will be too great an inconvenience to you Miss Potter I can show you the door?”

His patronising tone made Leshia’s skin crawl and for a moment she wanted to throw something very hard at the hateful man. Katie was the most hard working pupil Leshia knew and to make her feel incompetent and incapable was just plain cruel. Katie shook her head quickly and lifted up her quill; ready to start scribbling down notes the moment Tripper started speaking again.

“The Delvian family of Runes encompasses fifteen different alphabets. It dates back to the year three thousand BC.” Everyone in the class started scribbling down frantically, eager not to miss a word. Everyone except Leshia; who continued to stare up at Tripper with slightly narrowed eyes. The teacher noticed. “Miss Malfoy,” the teacher spoke slowly, a gratified smile on his face that the girl had given him a reason to single her out. “You may have been granted an O last year by your mother, but I have taken a look at your work. Do not think yourself to be a natural in this subject? You most certainly are not. Favouritism was another of Professor Granger’s failings. You are going to have to do some work this year, so I suggest you start taking notes. You are going to need all the help you can get. Even then I am not hopeful you will make the grade.”

Leshia’s brow dipped in anger.

“I worked hard last year Professor,” she finally replied truthfully.

“Indeed?” Tripper countered his eyebrows raised. “Well then, now I am certain you will not make the grade.” With a slight limp the teacher stalked over to the door and wrenched it open. The whole class stared at him with wide eyes. “If that is the best of your ability then I do not want you in my class, you’ll only slow the others down.”

Leshia trembled slightly as she started losing control of her Malfoy temper.

“What?”

“You heard me. Get out.”

“You can’t throw me out.”

“This is my class Miss Malfoy, I can do what I like!” Tripper countered. “Now get out.”

“Sir what have I done? You can’t just chuck me out. I haven’t done anything. If you think I’m dumb then fair enough, I promise I’ll work harder, just don’t…don’t throw me out. Please?”

For a moment Tripper’s upper lip curled as he stared at the girl with nothing short of hatred. What words were about to come tumbling from his mouth never came however, as at this moment Julius Black came skidding into the classroom.

“Sorry I’m la…”

“Detention!” Tripper cried out furiously. “And you…” The frightening man wheeled round on Leshia again. “Detention as well. Meet me in my study after dinner. You had better keep your attitude in check, and you had better be on time.” The teacher turned back on Julius Black who nodded quickly and followed his bag to his new desk.

“Now then, where was I? Delvian Runes!” And so off the teacher went. This time Leshia stayed absolutely silent and scribbled down every word the hateful man spoke. Needless to say by the end of the lesson the fourth years were as traumatised as the third years who preceded them had been and as they made their way down to lunch they could barely speak.

“He is, without a doubt, the most horrible person I have ever met,” Katie finally spoke adamantly once they’d sat down at Gryffindor table. “I can’t believe he called you stupid and was going to throw you out even though you got an O!”

“Katie it’s fine, I told you he’d be like that,” Leshia sighed.

“Leesh it’s not fine,” Rachel complained. “You worked damn hard last year. To think…”

“Guys!” Leshia laughed. “Just leave it please.”

“But Leshia it’s not okay! You know what this means right? You’ve got a detention; you won’t be included in the Exchange Trip lottery anymore. You can’t go anymore.” For a moment Leshia sat in silence, her brow darkening in upset. Tripper had done her more damage than she had thought.

“Why don’t you talk to your dad and see if…” Rachel began.

“No,” Leshia countered sharply. “No way! It’s fine.” She was putting on a brave face. “Like I was going to last a week without getting in trouble anyway right?”

Leshia took the news of her disqualification from the trip far better than her friends did, who were out of sorts for the rest of the day despite the fact that they had a free afternoon after lunch due to the fact that their weekly Astrology lesson fell at midnight. She was forcing a brave face of course and inwardly felt more disappointed than she had in a long time. Tripper had won this battle, but she was determined she wasn’t going to let him win many more.

XXX

Draco sat in the corner of the staff room studying his planning notes carefully. His last lesson of the day was combined a group of Gryffindor and Slytherin seventh years who had, through the course of their Hogwarts careers, been one of Draco’s more challenging groups. Some were surly, others hyperactive. There were many gifted young witches and wizards in the class, but also many in need of extra help. And most of the time, they were at each other’s throats. Draco’s planning always had to be foolproof whenever he found himself teaching his ‘bad’ class.

The grand clock on the wall beside him was slowly ticking away what was left of lunchtime. He didn’t have long left and yet still he had two pages of notes to cram in. He could have done without the distraction he was about to endure,

“Malfoy.” Draco glanced up quickly and found Silas Tripper had dropped down across the table from him.

“Tripper.” Every time he looked into that ruined face Draco felt his heart pound thunderously in his chest as the memories of being locked up in Azkaban came flooding back. “I’m busy and don’t have time for…”

“Taught that girl of yours to be just like you I see,” Tripper interrupted him with a cruel smile and narrowed eyes. Draco dropped his quill and leaned forward slightly.

“Okay you have my attention. What do you want?” The scarred man’s smile grew as he leaned back in his chair, bringing his hands up behind his head. After dragging out the moment he nodded to a grand board that had only just been pinned up on the wall. It had been enchanted to show those pupils who had been given detention and were therefore out of the running for the exchange trip. Leshia’s name was the fourth from the top.

“Your handiwork no doubt?” Draco spoke darkly, meeting Tripper’s smug gaze.

“Not my fault you never taught that child manners.” Draco chewed the insides of his cheeks for a few moments.

“She has manners,” he finally spoke icily. “But then again she’s only human and in the face of incessant provocation maybe she loses them.”

“What makes you think I provoked her?”

“Because Tripper I know my daughter,” Draco stated, his eyes cold. “And I know you.” The look that passed between the two men spoke more than words could. “I advise you to leave her well alone if you know what’s good for you.”

“Is that a threat Malfoy?” Tripper growled. His smug smile had now been wiped from his face.

“No Silas it’s not a threat. It’s advice and I suggest you follow it.”

“Well I suggest you listen carefully,” the dark haired man countered furiously, his voice barely louder than a whisper. “Crayik doesn’t trust you anymore Draco. He knows all about Lucius. He knows all about you. He’s finally taken off the rose tinted glasses and sees you for what you are: a dried up Death Eater who lost his nerve. You belong in prison Malfoy and I won’t rest until I see you locked away.”

“Crayik talks about his feelings to third rate Aurors now does he?” Draco spoke quietly, trying to keep his anger at bay.

“Does he have to? All these years he’s stood in my way and kept me out of yours, his golden boy…” Tripper sneered as he spoke these words. “You can imagine my surprise when he told me he was transferring me to Hogwarts. Told me to keep an eye on ‘Malfoy and the child’. Those were his exact words.”

“What?” Draco had gone furiously pale and Tripper loved seeing his greatest foe so shocked.

“What part didn’t you understand?”

“Crayik is watching Leshia?” A cruel smile wormed its way onto Tripper’s face.

“And what if he is? Can’t blame him can you?” The bell rang in the distance, but neither man heard it.

“Why?” Draco demanded hoarsely. “Why is he watching her?”

“I thought that much would be obvious,” Tripper exclaimed gaily. “Malfoy I am disappointed. How the mighty have fallen.” Draco remained silent, keeping his eyes trained on Tripper’s smug face. “What would you do if you were Minister Crayik and your once top man turns out to be a pathological liar, who claimed he killed one of Voldemort’s right hand men only to have this guy turn up again in the Wizarding world. Wouldn’t you wonder what else this man had lied about? Who else he had claimed he’d destroyed? Who else could still be walking the streets?”

Draco stared icily at the man across the table from him, chewing the insides of his cheeks.

“As for this golden boy’s child, the one he pretty much raised single-handedly, who has possibly been indoctrinated into the Dark Arts since the day she was born. What would you make of her if you were Minister Crayik, when you found out this child had been in contact with this dangerous henchman of the Dark Lord for nearly a year before she was found out?”

“She didn’t…” Draco tried, but he trailed off.

“Your days are number, so use them wisely. If you want that daughter of yours to be spared your fate, you had better pray she doesn’t turn out to be as involved in all this as you are. So then I suppose the question is, how well do you know your daughter Malfoy?”

Everyone in the room stared as Draco lurched to his feet with such ferocity that his chair toppled over backwards. He had never seemed so enraged to the staff at Hogwarts and each and every one of them was very happy they weren’t sitting where Tripper was right now.

“How dare you,” Draco articulated carefully, anger dripping from his every syllable. “If you try and implicate her, if you even try, I will kill you. Do you understand?”

“Got something to hide do we Malfoy?” Tripper jeered, evidently in his element now he had riled such a reaction out of the blond man. Draco twitched, his anger getting harder to control; how easy it would be to reach for his wand. Then he saw it, that silver solid medallion hanging from the chain around Tripper’s neck. The sight of it caught the breath in Draco’s throat. He was mesmerised by it. Anxiously he rubbed the palm of his right hand with his left. Quite suddenly all words escaped him and he didn’t know what to say.

“Draco,” McGonagall was taking charge of the situation. Her hand rested on Draco’s arm as she very gently tried to pull him away from the fray. “This isn’t the time or the place.”

Just a few moments longer Draco stared at the chunk of silver, stuck in his memories, before he finally nodded and glanced up into Tripper’s eyes.

“Only a coward would turn on an innocent child Tripper,” he spoke in a steely tone. “You’ve been warned.” With this the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher lifted up his notes and stalked out.

“What are you worried about if she’s got nothing to hide?” the scruffy newcomer called after him. His words fell on deaf ears and once Draco had stormed out the door the staff turned on Tripper with a collection of sour expressions. None were quite so bad as the filthy glare McGonagall cast Silas Tripper.

“You would do well to remember this is a school and not the Ministry Silas.”

XXX

Dinner came and went quicker than it ought to have leaving Leshia to begrudgingly part with her friends in order to run to the Ancient Runes study, which had once housed her mother’s fascinating artefacts and had only ever provided the backdrop for good times for the girl. With its change in ownership, Leshia was entirely sure the poky little room could only ever offer her the very worst of times. Julius Black had somehow got ahead of her and just as he was about to knock on the door Leshia sprinted to catch up with him. He refrained from rapping his fist on the door until she had skidded to a halt beside him.

“Enter!” came the rasping order from within once the boy had alerted their teacher to their presence. Leshia glanced up at the tall Slytherin at her side, but he deigned her no such gesture and merely pushed the heavy door open. Leshia followed the boy’s lead into the dreary study that had been transformed since her mother had cleared out, into a freak show of rare magical artefacts. Leshia had to drag her eyes from a particularly frightening device lest she let her mind wander, which would not do in Tripper’s presence.

“Sit down, over there,” the dark haired teacher ordered gruffly without looking up from a massive pile of parchments that buried the creaking desk. Leshia wanted very much to take her time and look around, but Julius Black had already stalked off to one of the spindly chairs in the corner positioned next to a table buried beneath a mountain of rocks caked in mud and clay and two rolls of parchments. With a slight grimace Leshia followed his lead, sitting down in uncomfortable chair at his side.

Tripper looked no closer to looking up.

“Um, sir?” Leshia spoke cautiously. At her side Julius Black shut his eyes and shook his head minutely, his feelings clear on the fact that he felt Leshia didn’t quite understand their new Runes teacher yet.

“Wait!” Tripper’s sharp rebuke came. Leshia narrowed her eyes at the man and then glanced up at her fellow detainee, who did not even look at her. Feeling alienated Leshia slouched down with difficulty in the chair and stared instead at the rubble strewn across the table. Peculiar Runes she did not recognise littered some of the rock faces and she was quite content to study them until finally Professor Tripper climbed to his feet and faced the youngsters sat in the corner.

“An explorer in Greece has donated this collection of rocks to Hogwarts to add to its collection. I haven’t got time to catalogue them; I’m far too busy. I expect you to clean each artefact, make detailed notes on its appearance, use the Quick Sketch quills to draw an impression of each artefact and finally to create an inventory of the finds.” Leshia glanced from the rubble-strewn table back to the teacher in indignant surprise.

“But professor that’ll take forever,” she spoke without thinking.

“Did I say you had to do them all?” Tripper demanded shrilly, seemingly finding the slightest excuse to berate the girl. “Don’t think me a fool Miss Malfoy, I am well aware that two fourth year pupils won’t be able to complete such a task in one sitting. You’ll work till I come and collect you and if I don’t think you’ve covered enough ground in that time then you will be joining me again tomorrow. Is that clear?”

“Yes sir,” the boy at Leshia’s side quickly responded. Leshia fought back a grimace at his obedience.

“Get to it then.” Without a glance back at the teenagers Tripper stalked from the room into the corridor. Leshia listened carefully to his footsteps fading away while her companion picked up the first of the artefacts and a small brush.

“I can’t believe how much you kiss his arse Black,” the girl finally accused venomously as she reached out to grab one of the smaller artefacts. Julius Black tightened his jaw, but said nothing. “Say, why were you late today anyway. We saw you running off in the opposite direction to us after History of Magic.” Again, a stony silence followed in which Leshia swiped across the rune stone in her hand with the little brush Tripper had provided. Secretly she was thinking the next time she met her mother she was going to have to ask for a spell that performed the same function, as no doubt she would find herself in this poky study on a regular basis.

“You should be careful with that.” Julius finally deigned to speak; he sounded aloof. “It’s nearly three thousand years old.” Leshia wrinkled her brow and stared at the rock in her hand.

“And how do you know that?” For just a moment Julius glanced into the girl’s grey eyes, which he seemed to regret because he looked away sharply.

“Tripper doesn’t seem to know anything about Runes,” he sighed. “If he did then he wouldn’t be entrusting this delicate task to two fourth years.” Leshia instantly softened her grip on the stone in her hand.

“Well what’s so special about them?” The wrinkle in her forehead had deepened.

“They’re Runes from Delphi. Back then Wizards with the Inner Eye were sort of worshipped as oracles to the Gods. It’s very rare to find Runes surviving from these oracles. He’s a fool.”

“Okay two things,” Leshia spoke sharply. “How the hell do you all this stuff and why do you suck up to him if you don’t even like him?” Julius Black shook his head.

“You’re also a fool Malfoy. If you wind him up the same way you try and wind everyone up…”

“I don’t try!” Julius merely spoke louder to drown out Leshia’s complaint,

“Then you’re going to find yourself in serious trouble even your parents can’t dig you out of.” Leshia glared darkly at the boy and turned back to her Rune Stone, trying to wipe away the age-old dirt from its delicate surface with renewed care and attention.

“You didn’t answer my first question.”

“I don’t want to.”

The pair lapsed into silence and worked hard at taking notes on the stones. Leshia found it hard to suppress her grin of delight when she first experimented with the Quick Sketch quill and realised how well it recreated what she set it to. The work was slow and arduous and though she was, as Julius had pointed out, the daughter of a prominent expert on Ancient Runes, Leshia found the work hard going. She needed a distraction,

“Why were you late today?” Julius Black exhaled heavily, but didn’t respond. “Are the Slytherins giving you a hard time after they saw you carted into the hospital wing that night at the end of term?”

“I don’t have anything to say to you on the matter Malfoy.”

“But they must know you helped me. Why else would you be there?” Julius, unsurprisingly, remained silent. “So why did you do it?”

“I had my reasons.”

“Yeah, but what were they?”

“Malfoy I’m not going to tell you again, so listen carefully; I am never going to tell you about that night or what has happened since between myself and my housemates. So do us both a favour and stop talking to me. If you don’t step up the pace Tripper’s going to make us both come back and I don’t intend on finding myself in here with you again.”

Leshia stared at the Slytherin enigma with narrowed eyes.

“Fine,” she finally stated icily and turned her back on the boy. With a newfound resolution she worked efficiently and amazingly when Tripper returned close to eleven-o clock he deemed their work to be adequate and didn’t insist upon them coming back. Once they had reached the corridor and were due to go their separate ways to catch a little rest before their Astrology lesson Leshia turned to glance at the Slytherin boy, but he had already started off in the other direction.

“Thanks for a wonderful evening Julius!” she called after him, more than a little mischief edging into her voice. “We should do this again some time!”

XXX

Draco smiled. How could he not? He lay on the soft rug in his and Hermione’s bedroom, the soft sheepskin tickling his bare back while sleeping soundly on his chest, still small enough for his large hand to cover like a blanket, lay his baby daughter. He marvelled at how small Evie was. He couldn’t remember Leshia’s babyhood very well; he’d been a busy man and it was nearly fifteen years ago now. He couldn’t now imagine a time when she had been as small as Evie was now. That she could have been small enough for his hand to span her whole back was quite remarkable and to think that one day this daughter, the spitting image of her sister, would one day be as Leshia was now was equally as mind boggling to the father.

For now he hoped she’d never grow up. She was far too precious to tarnish with the harshness of teenagehood and all other horrors that Leshia had lived through. She was much easier to protect when she couldn’t get herself into the troubles her older sister managed so easily to find herself in on a daily basis.

“I love watching you with her.” Hermione had been gazing at her husband from the bathroom door for quite some time now.

“You love watching her full stop,” Draco chuckled, purposefully softening his tone so as not to wake the sleeping baby.

“It’s the whole man with a baby thing, we women can’t resist,” his wife sighed contentedly and after depositing her hairbrush on the dressing table she approached her husband and child and carefully lowered herself onto the ground at his side. Draco kissed her forehead adoringly once she had snuggled into his side, leaning her tired head on his shoulder.

“Good to know,” he replied with a smile.

“What do you mean?”

“Well you know, if I ever need to replace you, I’ll just take this one out with me on the town.” Hermione smiled broadly.

“If you ever need to replace me, you’ll be replacing her to. She’ll be coming with me. I don’t think I could ever part with her now that she’s here.” Draco’s smile turned into a wry one and quickly he kissed his wife once more.

“I’d never take her from you,” he told her in all seriousness. He knew of his wife’s worries even though she would never speak them out loud. That she might somehow miss her daughter’s childhood was her biggest fear. The ramifications her ordeal during Leshia’s upbringing had wrought were deeply rooted and long lasting.

Hermione smiled warmly at her husband’s understanding of her deepest fears.

“How was Leshia today?” Draco smiled and shook his head.

“Troublesome. She’s already been disqualified from the exchange trip draw.” Hermione had been told all about the Exchange Trip. She looked surprised.

“By who?”

“Tripper. Who else?” Draco replied with a bitter bite to his voice directed not at his dear wife, but the horrid man he couldn’t quite look in the eye. “To be fair, it was only a matter of time before she found herself in some detention or other. I’m surprised it happened so soon, but we both knew she’d never make a week without doing something stupid. Especially with the way she’s been acting lately.”

“Oh it’s just a shame,” Hermione sighed. “Poor little thing.” Draco could almost feel her heart aching and he squeezed her tighter.

“She’s happy sweetheart. Just remember that.”

XXX

Feeling exhausted from the night’s astrology lesson without a customary pre-lesson nap Leshia was a little late to rise the following day. Even Rachel’s best efforts had little effect on the blonde girl, who rolled out of bed and into the shower just as the main queue was gathering. Katie and Rachel didn’t wait for her.

Leshia grumbled fondly about her friends under her breath as she waited, hugging her enormously long dusty green cardigan about herself. She’d never seen the need for a proper flannel dressing gown when she had this fabulous garment that had once belonged to her mother until she pinched it out of her wardrobe. It was so warm often the girl though her mother must have enchanted it to defy the cold and so soft it was like wrapping herself in the softest silk magic could make. Who needed style when there was such comfort on offer?

“Bit early for you eh Malfoy?” Leshia opened her eyes and quickly pushed herself away from the wall outside the bathrooms that she had been leaning against, her eyes shut in a gentle nap while she waited. Owen Gabriel had caught her and when Leshia’s eyes fell on the young man the colour started rising in her cheeks. A towel wrapped around his waist and not much else Owen Gabriel was breaking the house rules about flaunting oneself in public. The girl had to admit, though he was being foolish, he looked very good doing it.

“You’ll be dead if one of the paintings tells McGonagall you’ve been walking around dressed like that,” Leshia smirked. Owen grinned and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.

“I think ‘dead’ is a little bit of an exaggeration shorty,” he chuckled. “I mean it’s not like I’m whipping it off or anything. Then I might be in trouble.” At the thought of him doing as such the third year girls in the queue behind Leshia giggled giddily humbling Owen slightly into smiling wryly at his friend.

“So Tripper gave you a hard time yesterday huh?” Leshia frowned.

“How’d you know?”

“Saw you heading off to his study after dinner. Plus you never came back, so I guessed you were having a pretty rough time. What did you do to piss him off?”

“I’m a Malfoy, plain and simple,” the blonde girl sighed. Owen furrowed his brow curiously. “It’s a long story.”

“You can tell me, come on, it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do right?” His wicked smile belied the fact that the water that was still jewelled over his toned body was dripping onto the carpet beneath his feat. Leshia grinned and wanted to reach out and give him a shove, but felt somehow peculiar about touching his bare skin, so refrained.

“Go and get dressed you moron before McGonagall finds out you were parading about in a hand towel and you get a month’s detention for it.”

“Bet you’d like to see me parade about in a hand towel.”

“Go!” Leshia laughed heartily. As though he realised that he would be in big trouble if caught Owen smiled at his friend and briefly ruffled her hair before he made a quick getaway up to the boys’ dormitories. Leshia watched him go with a silly smile on her face; Owen Gabriel may have been a bit on the tall side, but he was filling out and growing into a real young man.

Half an hour later and Leshia had dropped down amidst her friends at Gryffindor table. Her friends had already eaten, but they stayed at her side to join her while she ate hers. Everyone was still a little silly and giddy from it being the start of the year and the whole hall was awash with loud chatter and laughter.

“Muggle Studies then Herbology, that’s a pretty sweet line-up,” Parys announced to the table at large with a loud yawn.

“Well that all depends on if Professor Sprout’s going to roll out something lethal during class today or not,” Rodeo countered. “I mean she’s been known to.”

“Yeah or something really boring,” Leshia added thoughtfully through a mouthful of toast.

“Hey yeah, what were those stupid little pear things we had to look after in first year?” Rodeo laughed, his big smile lighting up his handsome face and dragging a smile out of the blonde girl as she remembered their first year project in which they had to rear a tiny half plant half beast creature from infancy into adulthood.

“Rodes the Hillipups weren’t stupid,” Katie countered dolefully. “They were adorable. I still miss Fifi, he was so cute.” The bespectacled girl’s friends exchanged a look of disbelief.

“I can’t believe you remember its name. That’s sad Katie,” Rachel finally snorted.

“Oh yeah? I bet you remember Pooperscooper; you were really attached to her. And you Leesh, you spent so much time caring for Marmite. I bet you do remember them.”

“You called yours Pooperscooper?” Parys laughed, clutching at his sides to stop them from hurting in his ecstasy. Rachel didn’t dignify his mirth with a response, though she did flick a cornflake at the boy.

“All I remember about Marmite was that he was pretty damn good at projectile vomiting,” Leshia finally concluded with a frown. “And…yeah that’s about it.”

“What was the point in them again?” Rodeo now asked, his own brow furrowed into a thoughtful frown.

“I hear Professor Sprout made a pretty tasty broth out of them all,” Parys explained with a mischievous grin. His suggestion elicited a highly shocked utterance from Katie, who instantly whacked him playfully about the head.

“She did not!”

“Relax Katie, they probably lived out their pear days in sunny cage somewhere,” Rodeo soothed amusedly, though he did wink conspiratorially at his friend, congratulating him on his ruse. Their argument could have happily carried on, but at this point several of the youngsters fell into shadow. Without needing to turn around Leshia knew who had silently come to stand behind her.

“Can I have a word?” Her friends had gone totally silent, and after swallowing her toast Leshia arranged her face into an expressionless arrangement before she turned round to meet her father’s eyes.

“Fine.” After lifting her satchel onto her shoulder Leshia extricated herself from the bench and smiled at her friends encouragingly. “I’ll meet you guys outside Muggle Studies okay?”

Draco led his daughter out of the great hall and towards a relatively empty corridor. He had meant to wait till he had her class next, but that would mean waiting another day for Wednesday to bring the girl’s next Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson and to be honest, he was worried about her.

“How’s things going?” the concerned father asked once they’d walked far enough away from the castle goings on. Leshia stopped walking and crossed her arms, staring incredulously at her father. Had he really dragged her out of breakfast to ask her how things were going?

“Things were going great. What’s the matter dad? What have I done?” Draco smiled sadly.

“So I need an excuse to talk to you now?”

“Well…no, but…” The girl couldn’t think of a way to excuse her words, so she quickly crossed her arms and stared up at her father with her Malfoy defiance.

“I’m worried about you,” Draco finally spoke, his voice more gentle than normal.

“Why?”

“All the time you’re going to have to spend with Tripper actually. I see you’ve already crossed him. What happened yesterday?” Leshia sighed and wanted to walk away, she hated it that her parents always knew about everything that happened to her at school.

“Nothing major. It’s fine.”

“Leshia I’m begging you to be careful with that man.” There was such a serious pleading tone to her father’s usually brusque voice that Leshia frowned concernedly. She had never heard her father beg for anything in her life. “You have to be careful.”

“Yeah,” she finally said obviously. “Well of course I’ll be careful.”

“Sweetheart for the first time there are going to be serious consequences for your actions. You’ve got to watch your back, he’s dangerous.” Leshia narrowed her eyes as she examined her father’s sincere face. She didn’t like seeing him so concerned. Draco had always been an emotionless pillar of strength in the face of adversity, well, in all aspects of his life really. He had never been overly sentimental or adoring with his family and friends, though the love was there and everyone knew it. He was brusque, laconic, stoic; that’s just how he was and to see him so concerned made Leshia’s skin crawl.

“You’re being weird,” she finally concluded gloomily. Draco sighed and nodded.

“Not as weird as you’ve been all summer.” For a moment a small smile adorned Leshia’s face; a smile her father shared. Their identical grey eyes met for a moment before the girl realised what she was doing and promptly stopped.

“Tripper’s horrid,” she quickly complained trying to get out of the intimate and familiar moment they had shared.

“Tripper is horrid you’re right and he’s got it in for you, so you’ve got to watch your back. He’s a nasty piece of work sweetheart and he’s sly too…please just be careful?”

“Dad I already said I’d be careful. Now can I go? I’ve got Muggle Studies and if you’re late Professor Lewis likes to give detentions and to be honest, I don’t feel like having another detention this week.”

“Yes about that, whatever happened between you and Tripper yesterday, you know it’s knocked you out of the running for the Exchange Trip?” Leshia nodded, a stony expression on her face. “Do you want me to try and get you back in with a chance?”

The girl’s eyes snapped onto her father again and this time her face was cold. Gone was their semblance of a normal conversation and she seemed positively outraged that he’d dare suggest such a thing.

“Don’t you remember you’re not meant to be my dad at school? Just stay out of it.” With this the girl turned on heal and started storming away from her irritated father.

“Alecia don’t walk away from me.” The girl sped up and before Draco could call after her a second time she’d rounded a corner and was gone. Her father grinded his teeth furiously, wondering how quickly their somewhat pleasant conversation could have deteriorated.

“You don’t let me be your dad at home either,” he finally uttered under his breath sounding both sorry for himself and furious all in one. With a thundercloud over his mood Draco stalked off in the opposite direction to reach his classroom, where the poor second years he had first thing would bare the brunt of his temper.

Leshia’s mood soon repaired when she met up with her friends outside their Muggle Studies classroom and she spent the day flitting between some of her favourite lessons with a smile on her face. Whenever she came across her father in the corridor she avoided his eyes and felt a little guilty to see she had put him in a cross mood that was not abating. She wasn’t sure who she felt worse for, Draco or the poor pupils he would no doubt punish for her insolence. This guilt however, could not bring her to apologise and when the bell rang at the end of the day the weight lifted from her shoulders when she realised her peers were out of danger.

The common room was crowded after lessons finished and when the fourth years eventually scrambled across their housemates to their usual window box and table they were all very affronted to find it occupied.

“Oy,” Rachel addressed the chattering first years. Leshia sniggered at her side, while Katie assumed a look that seemed to impress upon everyone in the vicinity her fervent insistence that she and Rachel were not related. “What do you think you’re doing?”

The first years stared at the older girls with wide eyes, each turning to look at the others to see who was going to have the guts to stand up to the fourth years. Finally the boldest of the youngsters sat up straight, her familiar face arranged into a defiant expression

“We got here first, you can’t just reserve a section of the common room,” Sophie Gabriel spoke clearly and boldly.

“Yes we bloody well can, we always sit there, have done for the last three years. You sprogs are just going to have to find somewhere else to sit.” Leshia no longer sniggered; she felt awkward berating Owen’s little sister, but at the same time didn’t want to sacrifice their usual haunt. If they let the first years have it now, they would never get it back as this would make way for everyone else who had been eyeing up their hang out for the last three years.

“Well if you’ve sat here the last three years then it’s someone else’s turn don’t you think?” Sophie Gabriel countered full of conviction. Rachel opened and closed her mouth a few times, unsure of how to counter the girl.

“Sophe move it!” Leshia and her friends spun around to see Owen Gabriel had somehow materialised on the scene with his friends in tow. He seemed amused by the whole thing, but when he addressed his little sister his voice was firm.

“But Owen they…”

“This is my friend Leshia.” As if by magic the whole scene changed. The young girl sat in the window box turned to Leshia with an enormous smile and instantly she sized her up.

Your Leshia is actually Alecia Malfoy?” the girl finally cried out happily.

“What?” Leshia demanded. “What does she mean?” Owen though shook his head at his friend and beckoned his little sister forward urgently. Sophie though, was far too caught up by the fact that she had just discovered that the girl Owen had been going on about last year was Alecia Malfoy, the girl she hadn’t stopped hearing about since coming to school.

“Owen,” Leshia warned darkly.

“It’s nothing Shorty, don’t worry about it,” he pacified her charmingly and though his heart was pounding at the embarrassment of it all he managed to keep his cool. He only needed to take a step towards the window box before his sister realised he was serious and quickly jumped down with her friends at her side.

“All yours Leshia,” she sang happily as she waltzed past. The blonde girl hadn’t taken her eyes off Owen, who offered her a meek smile before he and his friends moved out as well leaving the Katie and Rachel grinning at one another.

“Sure he doesn’t like you, we believe you,” the redhead finally laughed.

“Oh give over,” Leshia grumbled, before she climbed up to the window seat with ease and shuffled in as far as she could go so that she could lean back and put her feet up on the wall. The girl stared out of the small bevelled window determinedly, trying to pretend her friends were not still stood beside the padded ledge grinning at one another. After a while Rachel scrambled in after her, positioning herself so her upper body rested beside Leshia’s feet and her own beside the girl’s head. She continued to smirk at her friend while Katie struggled in last, letting her feet dangle down over the edge; she was getting a little too big to sit sideways in the window box and much preferred it when the three girls sat side by side, their legs dangling over the edge.

“You two are going to drive me mad with all this Owen rubbish,” Leshia grumbled seriously. Rachel continued to smirk at the girl, but Katie, who could see Leshia’s face lay devoid of any mirth realised they would soon become the brunt of her Malfoy temper if they pushed her too hard.

“We didn’t mean anything by it,” Katie soothed.

“Yeah we did!” Rachel countered happily. She was looking at Leshia and therefore couldn’t see the look of warning her raven-haired cousin was casting at her. “You and that bo…Oy!” Leshia spun around in time to see Katie’s fingers retreating from Rachel’s leg that she had just pinched and despite herself she smiled. “What d’you do that for?”

“Because you’re clueless and you need to learn how to think before you speak,” the oldest of the three girls chuckled fondly.

“That’ll be the day,” Leshia uttered under her breath.

“I’ll have you know I know perfectly well what I’m going to say before I say it. Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean you have to attack my leg,” Rachel grumbled.

“Leshia!” Leshia looked up at the sound of her name and saw a familiar face coming towards her through the crowds: Mila Evanovitch, the Quidditch captain.

“Hi Mila,” the blonde girl called out cheerfully; she had been wondering how long it would be before quidditch started up again. Their team still retained its full compliment, thankfully being spared any seventh year departures in the summer. They would not be spared this fate again however, as this was Mila’s last year in charge meaning she wanted to go out with a bang as it were. It wasn’t enough for the young woman that Gryffindor had not been knocked off the top spot in three years, she needed to go out with a bang. Her long-standing boyfriend Luka Ibrahim, who had once played Chaser for the Hogwarts team was now enjoying a flourishing professional quidditch career and if Mila wanted to join him she was going to have to step up the pace. She truly was a talented chaser herself, but it was her hard work ethic and her commitment to the game that set her apart. How the team was going to manage without her Leshia had no idea.

“Have a nice summer?” the pretty seventh year asked once she’s stridden over to the window box.

“Yeah it was okay, how was yours?” A dreamy look materialised on the older girl’s face.

“Wonderful!” she gushed. “Luka and I went travelling around Central Europe tracing our roots. It was so much fun! We ran into Ryan and Amy in Prague and spent the weekend with them. They are so in love, I bet you anything we’ll all be hearing the sound of wedding bells before too long.” Leshia laughed incredulously.

“Lofting? Get married?”

“Well he’s a grown man now Malfoy. They’re living together and everything.” The thought of her idol marrying and growing up was a bit disconcerting to the teenager squeezed in the window box, so very quickly she changed the subject.

“How’s Luka doing? Is he still with the Montrose Magpies?” Mila beamed proudly and nodded.

“Yep, second year running. He was the third highest Goal Scorer in the league last season. They think he’ll make the England team at the next Quidditch World Cup.” Now Leshia seemed genuinely intrigued.

“Really? That’s so good! When is the next world cup?”

“Summer after next, but they start training pretty early. Anyway, enough chit chat, quidditch practice, it starts tomorrow.”

“I’ll be there,” Leshia stated cheerfully. Mila cast her a look of warning that was ripe with fondness.

“Will you? I hear you’ve already bagged yourself a detention.”

“Well yeah, but that wasn’t my fault,” Leshia quickly explained, hoping she wouldn’t cop an earful from her captain as well as everyone else who felt they needed to poke their noses in.

“It never is though is it?” Mila chuckled, her smile a genuine one. “Four-o clock down at the quidditch pitch. Don’t be late.”

“I’ll be there.” With one last beaming smile the captain of the champion quidditch team wandered back into the fray to catch some of her other players and let them know about the prompt return to training. Leshia’s smile fell the moment Mila’s back was turned.

“What are you being so funny about?” Rachel asked amusedly.

“Is it about Ryan maybe getting married?” Katie asked, once again proving she was perceptive beyond her years and very in tune to emotional goings on where her friends were concerned. Leshia turned her large grey eyes on the girl and nodded slowly.

“It’s just…well everything’s changing isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Katie agreed kindly. “But then again Ryan left over a year ago now Leesh, you must be used to him not being in your life anymore.”

“Well he still is in my life, I mean we write to each other every month, at least. If not more,” Leshia complained, but after thinking about it she nodded meekly. “You’re right though, it’s not the same. I just can’t imagine him doing something so grown up. He’s still the same old Ryan Lofting that used to take pleasure out of throwing me round the common room like a rag doll. Come to think of it, the last time I saw him down Diagon Alley a few weeks ago he tried to do it again, but the shop was crowded and Mr Blott stopped him.”

“Why is it that every bloke you come into contact with always inevitably picks you up and lobs you across a room?” Rachel piped up with a thoughtful look on her face eliciting fond laughter from her friends. “I bet it’s because you’re small.”

“I must just bring it out in people,” Leshia sighed with a smile, the gravity of the moment now a thing of the past. She would be happy for Ryan Lofting no matter what he did with his life or how old he became. He was like a brother to her and she idolised him.

“We should get started on that Potions assignment before the library gets too busy,” Katie instructed after a pleasant silence. Leshia and Rachel stared at their friend incredulously.

“Kate it’s like the second day back, are you mad?” Rachel complained on their behalf.

“No I’m just being logical. Think about it, tomorrow we’ve got our second Defence Against the Dark Arts and Runes lesson of the week so you can bet we’ll get homework in those lessons and the Potions assignment is for Friday so, well, I just don’t want to get swamped. I bet Tripper will set us something really hard in Runes.”

Her friends glanced to one another with matching grim expressions at the thought that they would be spending their second afternoon home at the castle trudging down to the library.

“And think about it,” Katie was carrying on. “Tomorrow you’ll have quidditch training Leshia, so when are you going to fit everything in?”

“Well…” For a moment Leshia paused and chewed her lower lip. “Have you seen the sunshine though Katie? I mean can’t we work outside?” As though to prove her point about the glorious afternoon Leshia flung her hand toward the small window, smacking accidentally into the bevelled glass with her knuckles.

“Well…”

“Please,” Rachel pleaded. “All we’d need to do is get a few books out and we’d be sorted.”

“Pretty please.” With matching doleful expressions the two girls teamed up against Katie, who had the sense to realise that if she wanted her friends to cooperate she was going to have to meet them half way.

“Okay fine, as long as you to promise to actually do some work instead of just dossing about.” Rachel and Leshia sniggered to one another, but nodded nonetheless.

“Well you know we do like the dossing around,” Leshia finally spoke sounding reluctant.

“And it is such fine dossing around weather,” Rachel added amusedly.

“Fine, if you’re just going to joke about my offer then…”

“No!” the pair of jokers quickly offered, both smiling sheepishly to show they had meant no harm.

“Fine then, let’s go.” So Katie led her friends first to the library to collect some books and then out into the gloriously sunny grounds, where most of their peers weren’t studying as they were, but what Katie would have aptly called ‘dossing around’. Leshia and Rachel regarded their peers with jealous glances. After finding a relatively quiet spot the three girls dropped down on the warm grass and sprawled out along with their notes and books. It didn’t take long for Leshia and Rachel to go back on their promise to behave.

“Hey hey Leesh, who am I?” Rachel suddenly announced with delight and after laughing herself silly over her joke to come she sat up straight, pressed her hand to her throat and spoke in a voice that was definitely not her own, but sounded remarkably like Professor Tripper’s, “In my free time I like to dress up in mama’s Sunday frocks and dance the polka round my sitting room.”

“The speech stealer!” Leshia squealed, her face contorted in joy and she pulled Rachel’s hand back to see a tiny device on a leather choker that Rachel had been given as a Christmas present in second year. It had allowed them to cause all manner of chaos back then.

“Oh why did you bring that back to school?” Katie grumbled the moment she saw Leshia turning it over in her hands.

“Never know, thought we might need it that’s all,” Rachel replied with a big smile.

“This is wicked, brings back so many fond memories,” Leshia sighed happily.

“Oh put it away and get on with some work. You two promised!” Her threat hanging over them, Leshia and Rachel rolled onto their fronts and turned their quills back on their parchments.

“I can’t believe you’re not going on the trip,” Rachel finally uttered under her breath so that Katie didn’t hear her. This was something that had been on her mind since Katie had pointed out that Leshia’s detention meant she would not be going on the trip. Lying out here in the sun pretending to do some work the grim thought had been rolling around in her mind.

“Yeah well you probably won’t be going either. Every fourth year and over signed up for that thing,” Leshia replied with a forced smile. The fact that she had been so unfairly removed from the running had also been weighing on her mind, but the more she thought about it, the more she felt the urge to torch the Ancient Runes classroom to the ground, which would not do.

“Yeah, but if on the odd chance I do get chosen, I don’t want to go without you Leesh.”

“Well Katie’s still signed up.” The look that Rachel gave Leshia spoke what she dared not say in front of their best friend; Leshia knew that as far as her redhead friend felt she was by far the more desirable travel companion.

“Well yeah, but it would have been cool if we could all go,” Rachel quickly covered. She had been silent too long and Katie had looked up sharply to see why Leshia’s assurance that Rachel would not be alone hadn’t elicited a relieved response from her cousin.

“What have you got for question four Rachel?” the bespectacled girl asked loudly.

“I haven’t got to that one yet,” her cousin mumbled sheepishly.

“Leesh?”

“Um…ten?” Katie stared blankly at the blonde girl for a moment, until finally she lowered her glasses on her nose donning a highly bemused expression.

“You got the answer ten for, ‘Why must the powdered asphodel be added exactly three seconds before the silver shavings?’” Leshia blinked.

“Yeah,” she finally replied cockily. “Why? What did you get?”

“Oh you two are impossible! I’m already on question eleven. Do we have to be out here all day? Get some work done will you?”

“You know free time used to be fun,” Rachel remarked sounding putout, but after Katie turned her highbrowed glare on the girl she quickly returned to her work with renewed vigour and a brow dramatically furrowed in thought. Leshia smiled at their theatrics feeling renewed joy at being in their presence again, before she too returned to the irritatingly difficult assignment.

It wasn’t long before their moment of hard work was interrupted once more.

“What are you lot doing?” Seconds after Parys’ call he and Rodeo suddenly appeared kicking a muggle football between them. When the girls didn’t really heed them Parys rolled the ball over Rachel’s assignment, smudging her last sentence and knocking over her inkpot.

“Parys you muppet, look what you did!” After laughing goofily the boy dropped down on his knees and peered over her work.

“That one’s wrong anyway,” he told her simply after he glanced at the sentence he’d ruined.

“What do you mean wrong? Like you’ve done the assignment already,” Rachel accused, a smug smile on her feisty face.

“What makes you think we haven’t done it yet?”

“For starters you two are well known for your last minute botch jobs and secondly Snape just gave us this assignment like half and hour ago, so you’d have had to do it in like ten minutes flat, because we’ve been watching you over there playing football for the last twenty minutes.”

“And what makes you so sure we didn’t do it the moment we got back from class?” Parys continued jeering.

“Well did you?” Leshia finally intervened, an amused expression on her face. Parys turned his bright eyes on the girl and shrugged in a charming sort of way.

“No, but we could have.”

“So how do you know my answer’s wrong?”

“Because you’ve spelt Wand with a V that’s why.” For a moment Leshia was overcome with laughter, which she wasn’t able to recover from until Rachel pulled out her wand and threatened to curse her with the Speaking Curse. Needless to say when faced with her fiery friend wand a-ready Leshia soon sobered up and shrugged apologetically.

“What was all that about?” Rodeo managed through stifled laughter.

“Absolutely nothing, old private joke,” the blonde girl replied with a big smile directed at her best friend. She wasn’t going to embarrass the girl further by revealing that Rachel’s peculiar inability to spell the word ‘wand’ had once before brought her great mirth.

“I want to get one of those spellchecking quills,” Rachel grumbled while she leant over her work and quickly corrected her simple mistake.

“We’re not allowed them are we?” Parys countered. The boys had both relaxed at the girls’ side now, sprawling out in the waning sunlight and stretching their long bodies. Rachel’s bag had become Parys’ headrest and though she kept pulling at his hair playfully to annoy him in response to embarrassing her, he merely sidled nearer to her every time she touched him.

“No we’re not,” Katie replied, a familiar dreamy expression creeping onto her beautiful face.

“Just learn how to spell ‘wand’ Rach, it’s not that hard,” Leshia chuckled genially before she reached over and plucked the football from under Rodeo’s arm. Happily the girl started throwing the ball up in the air and catching it in her boredom.

“Do you mind,” the tall boy at her side remarked amusedly. “That’s not a toy.”

“What is it then?”

“It’s a serious piece of sporting equipment,” the boy countered, before he leaned up on his forearms to smile at the blonde girl now clutching his football to her front with both arms. “You’ve got to treat it with respect.”

“Oh and how am I not treating it with respect?” the girl sniggered.

“You’re not taking it seriously.”

“Oh please, the way you lot kick it about I’m doing it a lot less harm.”

“Yeah, but it’s a football. It wants to be kicked. That’s like releasing a snitch with no intention of catching it. I mean that’s just cruel.” Leshia cocked her head to one side as she regarded Rodeo in a new light. She’d not had the opportunity to really talk to the boy for a good year or so, not since he and Katie had started teaming up against her. She’d forgotten about his intriguing and unique take on the world; even if he was only joking.

“Okay then, I’ll take it seriously,” Leshia announced, before she climbed to her feet and backed away from the group. “Play with me.” Rodeo smiled lopsidedly.

“Play with you?” he repeated fondly.

“What’s the matter Rodes? Think you’ll get beaten by a girl?” Never had more magic words been invented in getting a boy to do something Leshia thought to herself as Rodeo quickly climbed to his feet, his smile now a dashing one.

“Come on then,” he was saying cheerfully. “Give it your best shot.” His arms were outstretched as he moved away from the group, evidently welcoming the challenge.

“What do you want me to do?” the girl asked, now a little shy.

“Try and get past me.” Having only played football a few times before, but being a natural at most sports Leshia charged forward opting for speed instead of skill. Within moments Rodeo had picked the ball from between her legs and spun out of her path with the agility of a natural himself. Having grown up with a professional athlete for a father Rodeo had been playing sports since he could walk and though he was quite prodigal at his father’s game Ice Hockey, football was where his heart lay.

Leshia skidded to a halt and found the boy rolling the ball back to her, his dashing smile still in place.

“Try going a bit slower this time. How do you expect to keep control of the ball if you’ve kicked it out of reach?” Leshia smiled and shrugged, accepting his advice. The next time she approached her friend she did so at a snail’s pace and managed for a few moments at least to keep the ball from him. A strange feeling was stirring in the pit of her stomach every time he tackled her, a strange fluttery feeling that she had, until now, only ever associated with Owen Gabriel. Within no time Rodeo had plucked the ball from his friend once more, only this time she played dirty and shoulder barged him to get it back.

“Foul play!” Parys called from the ground and within seconds he was on his feet to help his friend, who was grinning fit to burst. Against the two young men Leshia stood no choice and soon it became evident that rather than pass the ball around she was the one being passed between them.

“Two against one!” Rachel cried out jubilantly, happy to have an excuse to be pulled away from her work. Within moment she had joined in the messy amusing game that had rather deteriorated into something resembling rugby, not football. Their laughter carried across the grounds and though the four players were having the time of their lives Katie sat watching them with a stony expression. Each time Rodeo threw himself at one of her friends she felt her heart sink a little lower. What aggravated the girl the most was her own weakness for feeling for the boy again. What power did he hold over her? It wasn’t fair!

XXX

Needless to say it took the girls all night to finish their Runes assignments. They were happy though to have worked so hard as Katie’s prediction about Runes and Defence Against the Dark Arts shafting them with an impossible workload the next day came true. Tripper’s assignment was positively ghastly and though Leshia had two hours’ training on the quidditch pitch to look forward to, her friends headed straight to the library to get started. They had finished the day with PE and being already changed for her training Leshia was able to join them for a bit before the training ground called her away.

The seeker felt she had an awfully large amount of aggression to dispel after Tripper had tried his hardest to lure her into behaving out of line again. She had resisted thinking only of her quidditch career and obediently held her tongue in the face of monstrous lies about her mother’s teaching methods and her own intelligence. After break during her father’s lesson she had let some of her anger out and had been thoroughly warned about letting it happen again. Draco was taking a firm stance and Leshia knew better than to behave out of line.

She wasn’t the first down at the pitch even though she was five minutes early. Her friend Jaime Wood was already putting in the laps, practising her scoring technique now no one was around to watch her. The daughter of the famous Scottish Keeper Oliver Wood, Jaime and her twin sister were both excellent young flyers. The girls were built on the same design as Leshia, small, wiry and heads full of blonde curls. Jaime and Leshia often teamed up together in practice and seeing her mate so unsuspecting and open to attack the mischievous seeker jumped onto her broom and raced up taking Jaime by surprise. As the quaffle was carried down to the pitch by a brisk wind a frantic chase broke out across the heavens with the two pint-sized wunderkinds giggling up a storm.

“Nice one Wood!” Leshia cried out over the howling wind after her friend pulled off an impressive roll that nearly toppled Leshia from her broom.

“I’ve been practising!” the smaller girl called back. “Dad taught me some new tricks.” She was closing in on Leshia, who grinned to herself and called out,

“Bet he didn’t teach you this!” Quite suddenly the girl fell from view, freefalling towards the ground at maximum velocity, her broom barely staying in her hands. Before she could become an indistinguishable mix of splinters and body bits on the floor though, the girl managed with immense strength to loop back up with tremendous speed. By the time she reached Jaime the girl had stopped midair, her hands clapping slowly in applause, a wry smile on her face; she’d been bested, no doubt about it.

“You’ve got to teach me that one day,” the younger girl chuckled once Leshia had come to a halt at her side grinning smugly.

“What and give up my trademark move? Never.”

“Wanna see my trademark move?”

“Yeah, wha…” Quite suddenly Jaime ripped the other girl’s hood over her head before she dove down to the ground laughing manically. Leshia, after swaying in Jaime’s slipstream steadied herself and ripped her hood back to see Jaime cracking up on the pitch alongside two redheaded figures and an extremely tall one.

“Brilliant,” she grumbled fondly, before she dropped down into a dive and landed at their sides. The Weasley cousins Luke and Tom, sons of Bill and Charlie Weasley respectively, were very much like their uncles Fred and George in that they were exceedingly naughty, hilariously funny and weren’t what you could call studious by any means. They had grown up together as close as brothers, the first of the Weasley Grandchildren born while the war was still raging. Their parents had kept them together throughout their babyhood and their bon was stronger than most.

Stood now beside the still smirking Jaime Wood the boys seemed to have enjoyed her prank on Leshia as much as the girl at their side had. Only Owen had remained contained, but he did seem terribly amused by the whole thing.

“What, none of you came to my rescue?” Leshia accused fondly the moment she touched down.

“Nah,” Luke jeered. “Much more amusing to watch you battle it out with your jumper.”

“For your information, it’s windy up there,” Leshia countered tartly, but her eyes were twinkling. “And for your information…” She wheeled on Jaime with a big grin. “That does not count as a trademark move!”

Practice was extremely tiring with Mila insisting the Gryffindors be pushed to the limits. As she was very fond of telling them, they were the champion squad of the school and if they weren’t up to scratch with their fitness she would have no qualms about replacing any of the talented flyers. By the time they were given leave to trudge back to the castle in time to catch a late dinner it had started raining. After an unfortunate yet fun bout of messing around Leshia and Owen were given the task of collecting the balls and training cones in while the others raced for cover.

“This sucks!” Leshia grumbled as she dropped her collection of cones, ingeniously stacked on top of her broom, into the large sack. “Mila’s turning into a slave driver this year.”

“She always was a slave driver,” Owen countered amusedly. “From what the lads told me, she puts Lofting in the shade.”

“Yeah, Lofting was good actually. He made you work hard when you had to, but for the most part least training was fun. Nothing against Mila or anything, but she does sort of suck the fun out of playing. Hey when do you turn sixteen?” For a moment Owen stared at the girl blankly.

“What?” he finally laughed. “Why?”

“Well you can play International level when you’re sixteen can’t you?” The girl was genuinely curious.

“Two weeks time actually.”

“Aw, happy birthday for two weeks time!”

“What I won’t get a present on the day?” Owen teased his friend, reaching out and nudging her with his elbow.

“That depends on how good you are,” she teased back. “So will you try out for the next Quidditch World Cup? Mila thinks Luka’s going to play and if he can then you totally can. Luka’s good, but you’re like amazing!”

Owen Gabriel actually blushed and looked away from the short girl at his side, focussing instead on fitting the wet and slippery bludgers into the Gryffindor training supplies box.

“You’re forgetting who plays keeper for England Malfoy,” he finally replied coyly. Leshia wrinkled her brow, but then it clicked.

“Ooohhhh. Damn, I never thought of that,” she exclaimed and clapped her palm against her forehead. “Yeah I take it back. You’re good and everything, but your mum, she’s like out of this world!” She was teasing him and Owen knew it, but it still felt a little painful to have Leshia, of all people, to emasculate him. Yes he was the son of a contemporary quidditch legend – Lucy Gabriel had racked up more clean sheets in her short career than many keeper’s would their whole lives – but he still didn’t like being reminded of his inferior skills.

“Want me to start comparing you to your mum?” he warned, only half fondly.

“Compare all you want, I know I’m a thickhead compared to her,” Leshia laughed joyously. Quite suddenly she regretted her careless laughter as without warning she found herself being tickled horrendously. She couldn’t put up a fight against such enormous strength compared with her own.

“Owen! That’s cheating!” she cried out through her laughter. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. “Use your words, not your…” She couldn’t continue as she was degraded into fits of laughter. Eventually Owen let her go, her punishment over.

The two youths stared at each other in the rain, the remnants of smiles on their faces. There was something in the way Owen looked at her that made Leshia pause. Was it fair to lead him on when she wasn’t sure how she felt about him? Were her friends right, did he really fancy her again?


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