Generations Book 4: Rebel Inside

Chapter 5

Part V

A week passed and then another. Rachel’s words must have struck a chord with her best friend, who shifted, if only for a little while, into a semblance of the old Leshia. The trio of friends settled easily and painlessly into the slightly altered swing of the castle now so many new people had joined its ranks. Katie’s continuing distance from her best friends and her constant involvement with Luisa remained a point of contention with the other two, but the fact that they still had one another and their homework sabbatical lessened their discomfort at having one third of their number distanced from them.

Autumn, which had seemed such a distant threat to the sun kissed pupils of Hogwarts began creeping in and before they knew it the green leaves outside their windows started changing. And with the changing season came the shocking cold northern winds, keeping the more health-conscious members of the student-body indoors while their less weather-wary friends caught head colds in the freezing winds. Leshia’s commitment to her quidditch side saw her come down with just such a cold, but go down easily the girl most certainly did not.

Having battled through a miserable week Leshia was happy Friday had finally arrived, but over breakfast she hung her head over her cereal her eyes red and her ears too clogged up to allow her to hear straight. Rachel’s attempts to send the girl to the hospital wing were met with a frosty and stubborn silence, so she eventually gave up and found herself in an amusing cornflake flicking competition with Parys, who was sat opposite her.

“Ooh!” Rachel suddenly cried out triumphantly. “And Weasley scores again! Young Miss Jackson just can’t seem to catch up ladies and gentlemen.”

“Oy!” the boy laughed heartily and flicked a well-aimed shot straight between the redhead’s eyes. “Watch who you’re calling a girl you girl!”

“Bet you wish you were as good as me.”

“Yeah yeah, I lie in bed at night wishing I were like you Rach.”

“Admitting you have a problem is the first step in overcoming it.” The cocky smile on Rachel’s face soon morphed into a surprised one when the cornflake Parys had just launched at her landed directly in her open mouth. “Wow!” she managed while crunched on the cereal. “That was amazing! Here, do it again!”

With her mouth hanging open Parys resorted to firing cornflake after cornflake in Rachel’s general direction to the amusement of the rest of the table. Only one person failed to enjoy the antics of her friends and that was Leshia, who, head hanging and all, was only really able to enjoy the pattern the honey nut clusters in her bowl were forming in the milk. Had she been more inclined to believe in the rubbish Professor Trelawney spouted to them on a weekly basis then she might have felt her skin crawl at the ominous shapes she was drawing out of the mushy cereal.

Quite suddenly the bowl disappeared from sight leaving instead in its place a delicately scripted message on an official looking strip of parchment. The others were all climbing to their feet to head off to their first lesson of the day, but Leshia remained glued to the spot staring at the letter in front of her;

Dear Miss Malfoy

I would very much appreciate an audience with you in my study at lunchtime. Do bring your friends if they wish to accompany you.

I will look forward to meeting with you,

Yours truly,

Professor Dumbledore

Several times the girl reread the letter, trying to fathom what on earth she could have done that warranted a special hearing with the headmaster. When her heart started beating at twice its usual pace Leshia looked up with wide eyes to find the teachers’ table clearing. The headmaster was nowhere to be found.

“Come on Leesh, we’ll be late for Divination!” With a jolt of surprise Leshia looked up into the curious face of her best friend. She hesitated too long and after frowning heavily Rachel caught sight of the note on the table.

“Hey what’s that?”

“Dumbledore wants to see me at lunch time.”

“Why?”

“Doesn’t say.” Leshia quickly held the note out for her friend to examine and felt slightly dismayed at the way Rachel’s auburn eyebrows drew further and further in until they were practically touching in the middle in a deep set frown.

“I’m not going to lie to you, that doesn’t sound good.” The school bell rang out from the entrance hall startling both girls and after a moment’s hesitation Leshia scrambled to her feet and headed in the direction of Firenze’s classroom for their Divination lesson.

“I wish they’d teach us something worthwhile. Like how to predict whether you’re about to get expelled or not,” Leshia grumbled in a near impossible to understand nasally voice. When Katie found out about the note she took a more hysterical point of view and started preparing Leshia for every eventuality. By the time lunch crawled round the girl had been coached on every subject from why she’d defaced one of the bathroom stall doors with ‘Silas Tripper smells like sewage’ to why she’d been consistently scoring no higher than a D in her Ancient Runes lesson.

Rachel and Katie were of course more than happy to join their friend on her walk of shame up to the headmaster’s study where they stood shoulder to shoulder with the girl while she faced the wizened old wizard sat at his desk. Albus Dumbledore had never looked so old the girls all felt, but behind his mask of wrinkles and wisdom the old man wore a twinkling smile. He didn’t seem mad, which to Leshia came as an enormous relief. Surely if he was about to expel her from the castle he would have to appear a little peeved? And why would he have suggested she bring along her friends? To enjoy the show maybe?

“Good afternoon girls,” Dumbledore greeted the fourth years after he had leant back in his chair, nudging his half-moon spectacles onto the tip of his nose. “Thank you for arriving so promptly.”

Quickly Leshia nodded, hoping to convey to the old headmaster that he skip past the pleasantries and get right to the point. Dumbledore, being not only a very wise wizard, but also a perceptive man spotted the girl’s impatience immediately and allowed a broad smile to light up his ageing face.

“You need not alarm yourself Miss Malfoy, I have not asked you here to tell you off or interrogate you. I have asked you here to ask you a favour.”

The relief that poured from the Malfoy girl was evident, as quite suddenly her small stiff shoulders drooped and a smile jumped onto her face. At her sides Rachel and Katie seemed almost as happy at this news as their friend; in truth neither had known what to think of this situation, but were very sure that Leshia was in trouble one way or another.

“A favour sir?”

“Indeed. It has come to my attention that our annual upper years Halloween ball has been suffering from very poor attendance in recent years. Word has it the absentees have more pressing party arrangements to get to at the expense of our lavish plans in the great hall. I don’t suppose you know what I’m talking about?” The headmaster’s smile was positively mischievous Leshia thought to herself, but predictably she shook her head in response to his question.

“I haven’t got a clue sir.”

“No I didn’t think you would. However, I have it on very good authority that where parties are concerned the school body seem to consider you the local expert. I have been assured that should I get you on side to plan the Halloween Ball we would find the hall filled with party goers, which as you can imagine would go down very well with our new guests.”

Leshia’s brow dipped while a million and one thoughts whirred round her mind. Dumbledore was asking her to plan the Halloween Ball…it was unexpected to say the least. The headmaster’s blue twinkling eyes seemed narrowed, as though trying to read the blonde girl’s mind while she thought his proposal over. He had replayed this conversation over in his head in countless different ways, but just how the unreadable and unpredictable girl was going to respond was still a mystery to the venerable and powerful wizard.

“What exactly would you want me to do?” Leshia finally asked calculatingly, while at her sides her friends stared at her with wide eyes. Why wasn’t she automatically accepting this massive honour and running from the room to start the preparations?

“You would become the Hogwarts official Party Planner Miss Malfoy. It would of course involve other celebrations down the line should you live up to your reputation at Halloween.”

Katie started bouncing up and down excitement; oh the possibilities! Jealousy didn’t even enter her mind, all she wanted was for Leshia to say yes. How could the girl refuse such an opportunity? Balls, dances, discos…the possibilities were endless. Her friend was being handed Hogwarts social agenda on a plate! For the longest time Leshia chewed on the insides of her cheeks, well aware of what her friends were thinking and equally well aware of what they wanted her to do.

“Sir,” she spoke eventually, sounding slightly gravelly. “I don’t really know why you’ve come to me about this. I mean it’s a great honour to be offered this opportunity, but I think you’re going to have to find someone else. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Katie’s jaw dropped and she wheeled on Leshia while on the girl’s other side Rachel elicited a tiny squeak and looked at the ceiling in frustration. All the while the blonde girl held Dumbledore’s eye with a frighteningly cool gaze. In this frame of mind she feared no one and had finally reached that stage in her life where lying straight to the face of the most powerful wizard in the world didn’t faze her. This was more than concerning to the headmaster, who shook his head gravely.

“So you are declining my offer?” he finally asked slowly. The twinkle in his eye had gone. “You are sure?” Leshia paused and then nodded.

“Sorry sir, it’s just not for me.”

Dumbledore sighed heavily and leant back in his chair, before he looked to the girls either side of their ringleader. He had hoped their presence and the fact that their choice coincided with his would sway the headstrong girl into making the right decision, but evidently this bluff hadn’t paid off.

“You do not wish to discuss it with your friends?” Leshia hung her head a little and glanced at her furious friends, before she turned back on the headmaster with a shrug.

“You’re asking me though aren’t you? And I don’t think I could do it.”

Any further explanation the headmaster wasn’t going to receive, so after a moment he pressed his fingertips together in front of his wiry beard in a steeple, tapping them meditatively against his lower lip. What more could he do? The Malfoy girl had to walk her own path, he could not intervene any more than he already had. In all his days as the headmaster of Hogwarts Dumbledore could only think of a handful of pupils who had surprised him as much as Alecia Malfoy. She was an entity like no other and she was a great cause of concern for the old man.

“Very well. If you are sure. Thank you for your time girls, you may go.”

“Thank you Professor,” the three young ladies offered, before they turned on heel and walked from the room and down the spiral staircase. After a few paces Leshia found herself being guided by her elbow towards the nearest girls toilets into which she was unceremoniously shoved by a livid Katie.

“What are you playing at?” the raven-haired girl demanded furiously once she had checked they were very much alone. Leshia rolled her eyes tiredly and rubbed at her blocked sinuses.

“Katie could you keep it down? I have a splitting headache!”

“You’re lucky that’s all you’ve got. Lying to Professor Dumbledore…”

“Kate ease up,” Rachel warned calmly, though she turned a confused expression on the blonde girl. “Leesh I don’t understand. Wouldn’t it have been cool to plan all of Hogwarts’ parties and stuff?”

“No,” Leshia complained amusedly. “It would have sucked the fun out of it. I’d be doing exactly what they wanted of me…”

“Well what’s wrong with that?” Katie demanded. “Honestly Leesh you don’t have to rebel all the time you know! If they’d have asked me I’d have said yes in a heart beat.”

Leshia’s eyes narrowed slightly at the bespectacled girl, but she held her tongue. The last thing she wanted was to hurt her dear friend by pointing out that when she was asked to be the Hogwarts Party Planner she could do whatever the hell she wanted. Katie didn’t need legilimency to sense the blonde girl’s thoughts.

“But they didn’t ask me,” she complained in a stony tone of voice. “They asked you. Always you.”

“Guys,” Rachel warned and she stepped between her two stubborn friends. “Katie don’t say anything you’ll regret and Leshia please can you just think about what you’re doing?” The pleading expression on the redhead’s face made Leshia’s resolve soften a little.

“Rach I have thought about it and I’m not doing it. I’m not a sell-out and I’m not, by any means, a by-the-book kind of girl. They know that! They must have known I’d never agree to it…”

“But the possibilities Leshia!” Katie suddenly exploded sounding pained. “You could have had complete control!”

“I don’t want complete control!” Leshia retorted passionately. “You two know better than anyone else how much I hate being that girl. I’m not that girl! I’m me. Just normal everyday me who tries to stay below the radar.”

“But that’s such rubbish. If you wanted to stay below the radar you wouldn’t do half the stuff you do Leshia,” Katie countered fervently. “I know you remember? I know that the moment he suggested it you started thinking about a way in which you could stick it to them. You’ve probably planned the whole thing already haven’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…”

“Your new Halloween Bash, that’s what. Another illegal party that’ll no doubt get us all expelled.”

Had there not been an element of truth to the raven-haired girl’s words then Leshia would have looked severely affronted at such accusations, but as her mind had been whirring with ideas since Dumbledore mentioned the word ‘Halloween’ she couldn’t very well explode at the truth Katie spoke.

“Leesh I don’t want to get in trouble with my dad again,” Rachel broke the silence in a quiet voice. Leshia quickly shook her head.

“You won’t.”

“Oh God I knew it!”

“Look Katie if you don’t want anything to do with it then I understand, I really do,” Leshia exclaimed with a crinkled brow. She hated making her friends feel this way and wished she could make things right with them without selling out to the headmaster. “I won’t be offended if you go to the school ball and stay totally out of what I’m planning. I don’t want to be the one to decide everything for the three of us all the time, that’s just as bad as being the school Party Planner. I’m just so bloody done being the one who takes charge.” For a moment Leshia’s shoulders rose and fell quickly to show how passionately she felt about this issue. Rachel’s face instantly softened, but Katie’s remained stony.

“Leshia I love you, I really do. You’re one of my oldest and closest friends, but I don’t know if I can do things your way anymore.”

Katie’s words reverberated off the bathroom tiles leaving the blonde girl nodding slowly.

“I don’t want you to do things my way,” she finally managed through her hoarse throat. “I’ve only ever wanted to see you happy Katie and you too Rach. Us being best friends doesn’t stop you from doing your own thing your own way.”

A silence lulled over the depressed little group, one which was only broken by a very loud sneeze from Leshia, followed by another and another, until finally Katie escorted the girl out into the warmer corridor with Rachel in pursuit.

The discussion had been a momentous one and despite the nature of it the girls all felt a little relieved. Thoughts that had been weighing heavily on their minds had finally taken the first steps to being revealed and even though there were plenty more to share, right now they were content to leave it be and seek out a hearty lunch while there was still food to be had in the great hall.

XXX

Word of Leshia’s refusal to act as the Hogwarts Party Planner spread like wildfire down the Gryffindor table resulting in the sickly fourth year being the focus of the house’s discussions. By the time the bell rang signifying the end of lunch she was more than happy to high tail it off to the Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor where hopefully she would find a reprieve from the attention she was receiving. Her wish however, was not granted and soon she found herself face to face with a highly unpleasant smirk.

“Blood traitor! Glad to hear you know your place after all.” Leshia stared stonily into Damian Allseyer’s pale eyes wishing all manner of nasty curses on the boy.

“Whatever my place is Allseyer, I’m safe in the knowledge that it’s always one higher than yours that’s for sure.”

“You wish,” the childish young man scowled. “Last time I checked though purebloods ranked higher than the spawn of mudblood know-it-alls.” Leshia’s fists clenched furiously at her sides and she glared angrily at her nemesis.

“Didn’t notice them asking you though did I?”

“Oh please, they know I’d never agree to such a pitiful role.”

“If it’s pitiful then why does that mean I know my place by turning it down?”

“Because,” Damian sneered, his eyes cold with malice. “You’re the most pitiful thing of all: a blood-traitor rebel without a cause. Go ahead Malfoy, alienate everyone around you, make it easier for me to be rid of you once and for all.”

His words struck a chord with Leshia who looked for a moment as though she might be reaching for her wand, but before she could land herself in a whole world of trouble heavy footsteps sounded from down the corridor. Quickly Leshia jumped into line with her friends, but cast the Slytherin boy one last furious glare letting him know he wouldn’t hold the upper hand for long.

Draco’s mood was undeterminable and when he reached the youngsters he was more dichotic than ever. While he held the door open he held each teenager’s eye while they were forced to skirt past him. Only for Leshia did he change his expression, dipping his left brow at the girl in both concern and reprove.

‘Oh great, he knows,’ his daughter grumbled to herself inwardly and quickly she darted from his side to her desk. She was determined not to let her father get to her and spent the entire duration of the lesson preparing what she would say for the inevitable conversation her father would expect with her.

Leshia wasn’t mistaken and come the end of the rather mundane theory based lesson she was summoned to remain behind while her friends slinked out casting the Malfoy girl concerned glances over their shoulders. Draco all but chased them out and shut the door promptly sealing himself and his daughter inside the classroom and all her nosy friends out of it. Awkwardly the blonde girl shifted in her seat feeling her self-assuredness wavering a little. She so rarely spoke to her dad on her own anymore that she was beginning to forget how she used to do so without a care in the world. She was out of practice and as Draco walked slowly across the classroom to settle on a desk a few rows in front of his daughter, Leshia bit the inside of her cheeks to force herself to keep his gaze.

“You know why I’ve asked you to stay behind,” her father finally spoke. He didn’t sound annoyed where she had expected him to and this in itself gave Leshia the strength to slouch down in her chair nonchalantly and nod tiredly. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Don’t play games with me Leshia, just answer the question.”

So he was mad, just hiding it very well. Leshia looked momentarily to her hands while she inhaled deeply, trying to think of a way to get out of there in one piece. It was the end of the day and her father had all the time in the world to make the girl regret her decision and go back on it.

“I didn’t want to do it,” she finally replied, lifting her large grey eyes to meet her father’s identical ones. “What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal?” Quickly Draco dropped down from his position of resting against the desk to the chair in front of it leaning his arms on the one that separated him from his daughter. “I don’t think this school and its staff can handle many more instances like the one you got yourself into last Halloween Leshia and I don’t want to see you throw everything away just to get everyone talking about how wonderful and rebellious you are for a few days before they forget all about it again.”

“That’s not why…” Leshia stopped for a moment and bit hard on her tongue; she was giving the game away and what’s more she had reacted exactly the way her father had wanted her to.

“Isn’t it? Why else do you do the things you do sweetheart? To stay out of everyone’s way and sink into the background?”

Leshia narrowed her eyes in annoyance at her father, wishing he didn’t know her so well. She knew the words he was saying were just that, mere words he had chosen to get her to open up to him, if only in anger for a little while. He didn’t mean those things…or did he?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh you don’t?”

“No! And I’m not planning anything now either. If I’d wanted to plan a party then wouldn’t I have just said yes to Professor Dumbledore?” Draco nodded slowly.

“We were hoping so yes, but obviously being told you’re allowed to do something sort of sucks the fun out of it doesn’t it?”

“Dad!” the girl complained hotly. “Stop pretending like you know everything, because you don’t you know! Nobody knows everything!”

For a moment the slightest whisper of a smile pulled at Draco’s mouth and he looked down at his hands to hide it. For the first time in a while he found himself in a discussion with Leshia that resembled the good old days when she didn’t pretend not to feel anything towards him. Though she was irritated with him, this was still an emotion an uncaring girl wouldn’t be able to conjure up. She was so good at pretending sometimes that Draco forgot his daughter was still the same stubborn and headstrong girl he’d raised to be just that.

“No,” he finally sighed and looked up into his little girl’s adorably defiant face. “But I do know you.”

“Maybe not as well as you think. I’m not planning anything. I just want to keep my head down and not be her for a while.”

“Who?”

“You know, the person everyone thinks I am, including you by the looks of it.”

“Sweetheart I know who you are,” Draco countered softly and for a moment he lulled into silence, which was broken moments later by a very loud sneeze from his daughter. “You should go and see Madam Pomfry about that cold, you’ve been coming down with it all week.”

“Can I go now?” Leshia asked suddenly in response to this show of concern, eliciting a small smile from her father, who wished she would choose to stay of her own accord, but had no reason for keeping her against her will.

“If you must.” At his words the girl was on her feet to the sound of her chair scraping across the floor. While her father watched she packed her things roughly into her satchel, then without a word she flounced towards the door. “Are you telling me that you’re actually going to follow the rules from now on?”

Leshia stopped still in her tracks and her eyes went wide. The way her father had spoken those words…the way they made her blood vessels contract…why did following the rules instil such a great feeling of terror in her? After a few moments the girl turned round slowly to find Draco on his feet, watching her with great interest.

“I don’t like rules,” she uttered meekly, unsure of whether she was defying him or wistfully pointing out how hard it was going to be. Draco wasn’t sure either and after a few seconds he nodded slowly.

“You know for what it’s worth, I think you would have done a great job. I really do.”

Leshia nodded slowly staring into her father’s familiar and friendly face with a deep sense of regret. Why did they have to have Evie? Why couldn’t they have left things well alone? She loved her father and she loved her mother, but their choosing to have another baby…one to replace her…the pain they had caused her was too deep. And so where Leshia wished she could run across the classroom and hug her father after so many months of not allowing herself to, she actually back stepped until she reached the door. With only a nod to Draco she disappeared through it, her eyes stinging and her poor sore head throbbing.

XXX

Autumn was passing steadily by, but while the weather changed rapidly out in the now cold and wet grounds life inside the castle plodded along comfortably. The atmosphere was cosy safe inside the thick stone walls and most of Hogwarts’ staff and students seemed in high spirits. Aside from the odd sojourns out into the blustery weather to practice quidditch for those unfortunate enough to be on one of the school teams, nobody ventured out of doors much. It was no surprise then that the second Hogsmeade trip of the year received very little interest from the students who had no desire to walk down to the village in the pouring rain. In fact Leshia and Rachel were amongst the few who didn’t feel put off by the furious storm clouds nor the thick mist that hung low over mountainous landscape. The pair of friends wrapped up against the cold rain with several layers beneath their waterproof jackets.

Katie and Luisa watched them wrapping up in amusement, happy they weren’t going out into the storm. Leshia though soon halted Katie’s laughter in her throat by pulling her over to the side by her elbow, a serious expression on her face.

“Something the matter?” Katie asked worriedly. “You look really pale, maybe you shouldn’t go Leesh.”

“Katie I am pale,” Leshia complained with a small smile. “That’s not it. Look, can I borrow your cloak for a little while?”

“What’s wrong with the three cloaks you’re wearing?” the raven-haired girl countered with a frown, misunderstanding Leshia’s point entirely.

“No, not that cloak, I mean…you know…your cloak.” Leshia’s voice dropped until she was barely more audible than a whisper. “Your dad’s cloak?”

“Oh!” Katie suddenly exclaimed and she stepped backwards. “Uh I’m not sure Leesh. What do you want it for?” Leshia held the girl’s green eyes for a moment, before she shook her head.

“I promise it won’t get you in trouble.”

“Yes, but will it get you in trouble?” Katie asked firmly. Leshia’s cold grey eyes still remained narrowed in thought, until finally the girl shook her head once more.

“No. Please?”

How could Katie say no? So it was with a heavy heart that she watched her two dear friends rushing from the common room, heads bowed together in a hushed conversation. For a moment she felt like sprinting to catch up with them, feeling intensely isolated from them. The visitors at the castle had been with them four weeks now. It seemed like no time at all, but in this short month Katie’s distance from her childhood friends had grown and it seemed as though the only person she spent any time with anymore was Luisa. In truth Katie missed the other two something rotten and was determined to let them know as soon as they were back from their trip down to the village. No matter what trouble they were causing the raven-haired girl would stand by them and make an evening of it.

The day passed slowly by and by the time Leshia and Rachel reappeared bedraggled, but grinning fit to burst Katie was desperate to see what they’d been up to. The moment the pair walked through the portrait hole their friend descended on them talkatively, helping them lug some parcels up to their dormitory. Tactfully Luisa remained behind with the boys while the trio of best friends barricaded themselves inside the fourth year girls’ dormitory.

“So what did you get?” Katie asked eagerly, but before she could peer inside one of the curious packages she found the bags snatched unceremoniously from her hands.

“Never you mind,” Leshia warned cheerfully. Katie wrinkled her brow petulantly at the girls, wondering what trouble they were getting themselves into now. She hadn’t heard a word about the Halloween Ball or Bash since that dreaded day Leshia had turned down her dream role, but she definitely suspected the other two to be in the throws of some intricate and mischievous plan. Several times she’d caught them in the middle of a hushed conversation, which they soon extricated themselves from when she showed up on the scene. Though she had no desire to be involved, Katie couldn’t help but feel exceedingly left out.

“Why did you need my cloak Leesh?” the girl asked reproachfully. Leshia wrinkled her brow and shook her head.

“No particular reason, didn’t end up using it actually.” With this she reached into her satchel and pulled out the damp looking invisibility cloak, handing it back to its rightful owner.

“Then why is it wet?” keen-eyed Katie asked quickly.

“Not sure, it must have fallen out when I was looking for my purse.”

“You had the cloak with you?” Rachel now piped up curiously and it was the innocent expression on her face that caused Katie to falter. Surely if they’d been causing trouble with her father’s magical cloak then her cousin wouldn’t have to pretend that she didn’t know Leshia had even been carrying the cloak.

“Yeah, I thought we might need it. You never know. Katie there’s no need to look at us like that; we’ve been as good as gold. I promise!”

“So what’s in the bags then if you haven’t been up to no good?” Leshia and Rachel looked to one another tiredly.

“If you must know they’re packages for a certain someone whose birthday is coming up this Monday,” Leshia finally explained dryly. Katie’s cheeks suddenly flushed red with embarrassment. They were birthday presents. Birthday presents for her!

“Oh I’m sorry!” she quickly exclaimed and hugged her friends about their necks. “I don’t mean to be a pain, I just don’t want you to get into trouble that’s all.”

XXX

Katie awoke to the sound of a whispered argument taking place beyond the curtains of her four-poster bed. The girl wasn’t what you could call a renowned morning person, quite opposite actually, but it would take a lot to rouse Katie into a bad mood that Monday morning. Finally, after months of waiting she had turned fifteen. Only two more years to go and she would be of age.

“Luisa have you got the corner?” Katie pricked her ears up and smiled at the voices of her friends, trying their best to be covert in the early dawn hour.

“Yes I am ready.”

“Good, Leesh? You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Katie heard the blonde girl mutter under her breath.

“Okay? On three then,” Rachel instructed the troops. “One…two…three.” Katie shut her eyes tightly in time to her curtains being wrenched open. Where moments before the dormitory had been bathed in silence quite suddenly the room was awash with sound and music. Katie sat straight up in bed and stared with shock at the brightly coloured paper birds fluttering about her four-poster and the enormous banner her friends had attached to themselves reading ‘Happy Birthday Four-Eyes’. The three girls were jumping up and down blowing on noise makers in time to the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune being blasted out of Katie’s own wireless.

“Happy Birthday!” they yelled out happily while confetti sprayed them all from the enchanted paper birds trying to escape through the decadent velvet bed ceiling.

“Thank you!” Katie gushed, her eyes falling on the mountain of presents at the foot of her bed. “This is amazing!”

On the wireless the song was coming to a close and to the girl’s utmost wonder the radio DJ Dan Moonshine, a personal favourite of Katie’s gave a ‘shout out’ to birthday girl Katie who had just turned fifteen at Hogwarts.

“How did you guys arrange all this?” Katie demanded in shock.

“We thought you deserved a nice surprise,” Leshia replied happily and after pulling the banner off her top she dropped down on the bed and squished up next to Katie at the top of the bed. “Well go on, open your presents!”

Katie didn’t need telling twice and spent the next fifteen minutes ‘oohing’, ‘ahhing’ and expressing her thanks for the impressive loot she’d managed to score for her fifteenth. She particularly took a liking to the designer top Leshia had given her from her favourite shop down Diagon Alley: Madam Silvergrace’s Boutique.

“I still can’t believe you remembered I like that shop. Leesh their stuff is so expensive, are you sure?” Katie remarked distantly, while she fingered the fine lace on the sleeve of her new top. Leshia rolled her eyes and shoved Katie’s arm playfully.

“Oh please, I spent the summer working my arse off didn’t I? Don’t worry about it.”

“Thank you so much, all of you! This is the best birthday ever!”

“Brilliant,” Rachel cheered and she clapped her hands together. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to run off to the shower queue before all the hot water goes.”

Thinking this a grand idea, Leshia soon joined her red-haired friend and after rushing down with their shower things to find a mammoth queue the two girls joined it begrudgingly. It was slow going, but it gave the pair a chance to catch up on the second portion of their ‘surprise Katie’ plan.

“So we’re agreed then?” Leshia uttered under her breathe. “You’ll distract her while I get everything sorted back here?”

“Yep.”

“Where are you going to take her?”

“Birmingham.” Leshia gave Rachel a stern look.

“Birmingham?”

“Well come off it Leesh, I’m not a moron you know. I can handle distracting my own cousin for an hour or so. I’ll just tell her I want to get to know the library better or something. My God, she’d wet herself I’m sure!”

“Good, then…” Leshia fell silent mid sentence, tilting her chin down while she caught someone’s eye across the room. For a moment Rachel tried to get her attention,

“Leesh? Leshia? Lukas Krosovitch just flew past the window. Leesh?”

After giving up Rachel turned round to see a tall young man walking their way, his dark hair was wet and the skin on his face still dappled with droplets from his shower. Owen Gabriel seemed dark and brooding as he walked along the queue of waiting girls. Unlike the last time Leshia had encountered her friend in such a predicament, Owen wore his loose grey school trousers and a partially undone white shirt, but seemed none the less dashing for it.

“Morning,” the blonde girl called to her friend when he reached her point in the queue. Owen seemed to consider walking past, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do that to his friend. Yes he was annoyed with the Malfoy girl; ever since the castle had become inundated with attractive newcomers he’d not had a moment alone with her and he could see the way she had attached herself to Raffa and Fed in the common room. And had he thought he might get some time with the girl during their quidditch trainings then Owen would have been horrified to find that those two Salemers Joshua and Matt tagged along each time drawing Leshia’s attention without even trying. The jealousy was almost too much for the young man and he found it was easier to deal with if he stopped talking to the girl he had adored altogether.

“Morning Malfoy, Rachel,” Owen greeted the pair in the queue politely.

“How have you been?” the blonde girl asked stiltedly, her expression both concerned and indignant that she be given the silent treatment when she hadn’t strictly done anything to deserve it.

“All right, yourself?” Slowly Leshia nodded.

“Yeah okay I guess.”

“Great.” As though his duty had been done Owen continued on his path towards the spiral staircase that would lead him up to his dormitory.

“Owen!” Reluctantly the boy turned around, his dark brow furrowed in an impatient frown. He didn’t want to look into Leshia’s hurt eyes; he didn’t want to look at her at all. How could she have just turned from him as though he didn’t exist? He thought that the bond they had shared had been special…at least it had meant something to him. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Owen replied gruffly, his eyes falling to the floor. The girls in the queue behind Leshia were watching the exchange with curious smiles, the fresh gossip that Owen Gabriel had fallen out with Leshia Malfoy ready to drop off their tongues to anyone who would listen, so reluctantly the blonde girl shrugged her shoulders.

“See you around then I guess.” With nothing further to say Owen turned on heal and hot-footed it up the stairs leaving Leshia scuffing her slipper-clad foot on the carpet. All eyes were on her, so after smiling awkwardly at her peers she turned round again and glanced to Rachel for support.

“What was wrong with him?” The freckled girl shook her head slowly, her face arranged in a sympathetic expression.

“I don’t know Leesh. Maybe it’s his time of the month.”

Quite suddenly Leshia snorted with laughter and the tension was gone. Over breakfast Katie became the subject of everyone’s attention and the girl was evidently in her element. Her parents sent her a singing birthday card that triggered Michael, her younger brother, to saunter over to dutifully join in with his parents’ voices. After offering his big sister a hug the boy scurried off, his cheeks bright red. More presents followed having to be divided over all the girl’s friends’ satchels, because hers had become too full to cope.

“This is the best birthday ever!” Katie repeated her earlier sentiments over the whoosh of the post owls fluttering in to deliver their bounties to the respective pupils. Leshia was thankful her mother hadn’t sent her a letter (indeed she was accustomed to receiving three or four a week these days) and instead spent the rest of breakfast idly leafing through Katie’s untouched Daily Prophet searching for any clues as to her grandfather’s whereabouts.

Leshia’s collection of newspaper cuttings was getting quite big now and she’d taken to sticking them all into a big notebook to keep a running record of her progress. The accounts were few and far between, but if they were to be believed then Lucius Malfoy was drifting about Western Europe, which was a little too close for Leshia’s liking. The unexplained mysterious goings on (such as the remains of the peculiar and tragic case of the muggle family who had been turned inside out in Australia) were a little more disturbing, purely because they spanned the globe. If Lucius, or worse a following of dark wizards and witches, were to blame for these attacks and mysteries, then Leshia had all the more reason to worry. Western Europe was manageable, whereas an uprising that spanned the globe was slightly more difficult to contain.

Thankfully nothing caught her eye and after closing the paper Leshia stretched appreciatively and glanced about the hall. Plans for Katie’s birthday party had rather overshadowed her own attempts to launch this year’s Halloween bash into life. Rachel had been a fundamental aide in getting the ball rolling, not that the party required anything too extravagant. Leshia had long been thinking why they had made life so difficult for themselves the year before.

On one of her first nights back at the castle she had ambled along the seventh floor corridor outside the location of the room of requirement concentrating hard on a place to have a party. The room had provided a mediocre events hall complete with a half-hearted attempt at a buffet. Further attempts on Leshia’s part with her concentrating on more specific requirements turned out a much better venue; the room had produced an enormous hall complete with high windows, floating lanterns, a dance area in front of a stage, a refreshments area, a lounging area and a more secluded area in the corner where a maze of bushy rose bushes had temporarily grown. There was none of the atmosphere last year’s lakeside gathering had provided, nor any of the celebrities their second year ambitious attempt had turned out, but Leshia was confident this year’s party would arouse a certain level of interest. She had a secret weapon. One which had been painstakingly retrieved from Hogsmeade, hidden in the grounds and then safely moved under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night to the room of requirement.

All that remained now was a musical line-up, but Leshia had something up her sleeve in that department as well. For a few weeks now she had been calling in an old favour from an old friend, who, if she remembered correctly, had a pretty decent band at his disposal and wouldn’t mind the publicity one of Hogwarts’ now renowned underground parties could offer them.

Yes, all in all Leshia was quite looking forward to next Tuesday when the night of the party would unfold, but how to spread the word in the meantime without attracting any interest from the teachers?

“Earth to Leesh!” She’d been daydreaming too long and most of her friends were out the room already leaving only Rachel looking concernedly at the blank-face blonde girl. “Oh so you haven’t gone deaf then.”

“Yeah sorry,” Leshia apologised happily while she jumped to her feet to follow Rachel up to the first floor corridor for Defence Against the Dark Arts. “In my own little world.”

“Must be nice to have your own little world. This one’s getting a bit cramped.” Leshia laughed heartily and wrapped an arm about Rachel’s shoulders.

“I love the weird and wonderful way you look at life Rach. I really do.”

XXX

Rachel let her eyes roll back into her head a little while Katie ran off to find the reference book she needed. How much longer was she going to have to keep her cousin detained in the library? She couldn’t handle much more of this! Katie didn’t even seem suspicious of the freckled girl’s sudden interest in quidditch history, which Rachel put down in part to her ingenious acting, but also to the raven-haired girl’s ditziness, which had been rampant all day. Katie had gone slightly silly with all the attention she’d been granted. Normally she would have smelled a rat had Rachel walked up to her and suggested they spend the next hour in the library, but today was an exception.

Rachel glanced at her watch and let a relieved smile spread across her face. Nine-o clock! Finally they could head back to the common room. The others had been given an hour to prepare and any more time the redhead was simply not prepared to grant them. The moment Katie returned Rachel swept her to her feet and claimed she suddenly remembered she had to get back to finish her transfiguration homework for the next day. Though the raven-haired girl seemed disappointed that her cousin’s interest in the library seemed to have evaporated, she followed the girl back through the portrait hole…

“Surprise!”

Katie leapt back with her hands over her mouth, her eyes as wide as dinner plates at the happy faces all donning enormous party hats and the transformation of the common room. Banners wishing her a happy fifteenth were strung from the light fittings and a refreshment stand with stolen pumpkin juice and pastries from the kitchens (in fact Dobby had gone all out when he heard the refreshments were for Harry Potter’s daughter) stood off to one side. And of course a few crates of butterbeer lay beneath the refreshment table; it wouldn’t be a Gryffindor party without their usual unlimited Butterbeer supply doing the rounds.

“Oh my God!” Katie managed finally, her eyes welling up with tears. “This is amazing! Thank you all so much!”

Rachel had by now thrown her arms around her cousin’s shoulders and after struggling through the crowds Leshia appeared to do the same. Katie hugged her best friends back, feeling so thankful for the effort they had made and the obvious care they had shown her all day.

“You guys are the best friends a girl could wish for,” she whispered while chatter resumed in the common room. “What did I do to deserve all this?”

“Are you kidding?” Leshia laughed and she pulled back, giving the raven-haired girl a massive smile. “What have you done to not deserve it? You’re always there for us Katie and we really appreciate everything you do for us. So it’s time we showed you.”

“I deserve the real praise around here,” Rachel jeered cheerfully. “I mean I am the one who had to sit through an hour with Library Katie.”

Fresh tears fell from Katie’s eyes while she laughed and hugged her cousin firmly.

“I knew you were up to something,” she managed joyously.

“Come on, you need a drink methinks,” Leshia quickly ordered and she dragged a shaky Katie over to the comfiest armchair reserved especially for the birthday girl. The moment the bespectacled girl dropped down a butterbeer was airlifted straight to her hand and she found the seats all around her occupied by her closest friends. All of them were grinning at her happily.

“Surprised?” Rodeo asked happily. Katie nodded fervently.

“I had no idea. Whose idea was all this?” All eyes turned on Leshia, who grinned coyly and shook her head.

“Guys don’t, we all came up with it.”

“She’s being modest, it was all her,” Rachel uttered in an undertone at Katie’s side. Leshia rolled her eyes and dropped down on the armrest of the sofa beside Parys, accepting a fresh bottle of butterbeer from a helpful first year. The tall boy sat in the corner of the sofa reached out an arm easily to pull Leshia down onto the seat beside him, though she ended up practically sat in his lap.

“Parys,” she laughed. “I’m going to squash you.”

“Yeah right, like you could! Look I’ll budge up.” But Parys couldn’t budge up far enough, as already Parys, Rodeo, Luisa, Rachel, Ashley and Nicola were somehow squeezed onto the two-seater sofa, which was undoubtedly already more than it could reasonably handle. Leshia rolled her eyes and climbed to her feet again noticing with a slight blush that the only available space was on the opposite armchair beside Raffa.

“Leesh just sit down over there with Raf,” Katie told the girl. So after a nervous smile Leshia quickly darted across the rug and dropped down at his side, having to squeeze in beside him on the wide armchair.

“Hello,” the foreign boy remarked casually eliciting a cheeky grin from the blonde girl.

“Hi.”

“So Leesh, what’s the deal with Halloween?” Rodeo asked loudly to draw Leshia’s attention away from the attractive boy at her side.

“What makes you think there’s anything happening at Halloween?” the blonde girl replied simply. “Besides,” she added urgently, looking at Katie. “I bet almost everyone will be heading to the ball this year instead of…you know, the old stuff that used to go on. Don’t you think Katie?”

Her attempt to switch the conversation onto the birthday girl was thinly veiled, but Katie appreciated it nonetheless and took the opportunity to revel in the limelight. As for Leshia, she was happy to lean back into the armchair to enjoy Raffa’s undivided attention, which he was equally happy to lavish on her.

Hogwarts had never known the likes of a house so ready to accept any excuse to throw a party and for the first years, who were yet to be indoctrinated into the celebratory lifestyle of their new house the night was an eye opener. Everywhere hyperactive and giggly youths were dancing about enthusiastically to the music and falling over each other in a reckless attempt to relieve the stress that had already built up in the first six or so weeks of term.

The climate in the common room was definitely conducive to hushed and private conversations and as the night wore on Raffa and Leshia sunk lower and lower down in their shared armchair until eventually they were practically lying in it, their heads inches from one another.

“So do you guys ever throw parties at the Institute?” Leshia asked curiously. Raffa frowned.

“Oh all the time! This…” The boy waved about the common room with his hand. “This is nothing.”

“Oh get real,” Leshia laughed happily, recognising his joke for what it was. “Gryffindor’s well known for being the wildest house the school’s ever seen!”

“And this is because of you.” Raffa didn’t seem to be asking, rather stating. Leshia giggled coyly and shook her head.

“No, not because of us. It’s just worked out that there’s a combination of years that love to let loose that’s all. There used to be this year who left two years ago, now they were pretty wild! They were always after an excuse to party!” Raffa smiled at the girl and leaned a little closer. Leshia could feel his breath on her chin and the sensation sent a tingle down her spine.

“I think it is because of you. You are different to any girl I have met before.”

“That’s such a load of crud,” the blonde girl laughed, but she couldn’t help but feel flattered. “I’m nothing special.”

“Stop saying these things,” Raffa complained and he sounded serious. “You cannot believe it when you say you are not special. You must have had so many boyfriends at this school…”

“No actually,” Leshia corrected him quickly. “I haven’t. Not even one, not really.” In shock Raffa leaned back, his brow furrowed into a deep frown of disbelief. Leshia’s face though, told of no lie.

“You?”

“Yes me!”

“So you have never kissed a boy before?” Leshia met the boy’s addictive brown eyes and leaned in closer despite the alarm bell that was ringing in the back of her mind.

“I didn’t say that.”

“Oh so you are an expert I see?” Raffa teased in a low voice.

“Not exactly,” the girl replied, her face adorably scrunched up, her mind on the brief first and second kiss she had shared with Owen Gabriel earlier that year in the spring term of her third year. It had been an experience that had been cut far too short.

Before she could dwell on the memory too much however, Raffa’s hand suddenly lifted to her cheek and the boy leaned in so close his lips brushed against her own. Leshia’s surprise soon turned into a smile and she leaned into her third ever kiss finding it an entirely different experience to the one she had been reminiscing about moments before. For starters it was much longer and much wetter than she remembered…

“Oh my God,” Rachel whispered in surprise to no one in particular.

“What?” Parys at her side asked amusedly, grinning at the freckled girl fondly.

“Leshia’s snogging Raffa!” All eyes flicked round to see that indeed the pair on the armchair had finally started what they’d been threatening to do all night. The reactions the sight elicited from the girl’s friends were mixed and whereas most people in the vicinity were amused, there were those, namely Rodeo and Owen who felt their blood boil at the sight.

“God get a room,” Rodeo muttered loudly.

“Rodes,” Parys warned, but it was too late Leshia had heard the boy and pulled out of the ‘snog’ quicker than Raffa would have liked. She smiled shyly at the group while Raffa’s eyes flashed dangerously in Rodeo’s direction. After the pair had glared at one another long enough the foreign boy stretched out in the armchair and wrapped his arm round Leshia’s shoulders. Rodeo visibly twitched in anger and forced himself to look away before he lost his temper. What could he do? A small smile pulled at Raffa’s mouth, but he suppressed it, instead seeking to engage Leshia in conversation once more.

“So?” he asked her with a charming smile.

“So?” she repeated amusedly. “So how bad was I?”

“Bad? No, not bad.” Leshia’s smile faltered; how could she have not been bad? She had felt useless, all clumsy and uncoordinated. Raffa smiled at the girl and sought to reassure her by kissing her once more. Wanting to show she could do better Leshia eagerly leaned in to meet him.

While the girl and boy kissed the rest of the room turned to look, if only for a moment. One of the house’s more prominent members hitching up with one of the attractive newcomer’s was quite a piece of hot gossip and already the seeds were set for a school-wide story to spread. Come morning everyone, from the most insignificant first year to the school caretaker Mr Filch would know that Leshia Malfoy had spent the evening lip locked with the new boy Raffa.

After ten minutes Leshia pulled back from the boy and glanced towards her friends noticing they were trying very hard not to bother her by looking in her direction. When they saw she had come up for air however, they moved to involve her in the conversation, but their attempts were thwarted by Raffa’s eager attempts to reclaim Leshia’s attention.

She started to get annoyed with the boy. So she’d kissed him, did that mean she had to keep kissing him till he left at the end of term? Suddenly Leshia felt trapped by this new limitation to her freedom and she remembered painfully how she had refused just such a relationship with Owen…Owen whom she had really cared about.

The girl felt dirty and wrong and regretted what she had done.

“Raffa,” she finally told him quietly. “I don’t…I’m not really sure that…”

“What?” the boy asked darkly, his thick brows lowering over his eyes.

“Look I’m sorry, but I don’t…I don’t normally do stuff like this. Is it okay if we just, if we like leave it and just be friends?” Her words came almost as a slap in the face to the amiable boy, who turned suddenly less charming and more stony.

“Friends?” he repeated incredulously. Leshia nodded jerkily.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered and then quickly climbed to her feet, heading over to the refreshment table in an attempt to get away from the boy’s glare. She was shaking, feeling dirty and wrong and cheap. All she wanted was to get away, she had to get away…

Leshia walked quickly down the empty corridor, heading down a path she had walked many times before, but only once since the grim summer. She didn’t even care that she was exposing herself to danger in the form of several stalking teachers she wanted nothing to do with; like Professor Tripper and Professor Snape for starters. All she knew was that she needed to get away from the mess she’d left behind. What would everyone think of her?

With a grimace at everything that had happened Leshia sped up, sensing a presence behind her that she couldn’t explain. She knew she was being followed and feared who or what was pursuing her. Memories of last year’s terrifying events came flooding back to the shaking girl and without warning she broke into a run.

Luck was smiling on Leshia that night, as on her journey not a soul, dead or alive, stumbled into her path. Before she knew it she’d reached the portrait of the newlyweds that concealed the warm and solid oak door of the once Malfoy chambers. Expertly she reached out to scratch the grateful groom’s foot revealing the door to the dark chambers beyond.

Darkness enveloped the girl as she walked inside and though she had now grown to expect the dustsheet-covered furniture and the cold where once there had been warmth the sight of the chambers still caught the breath in her throat. Pathetically Leshia whimpered slightly, as she ambled through the furniture touching the tabletops where photos and artefacts had once stood pride of place. Her eyes fell on the pot of floo-powder attached to the wall beside the hearth. This was obviously what her father used to get to and from the castle for work every day, Leshia thought to herself and with a crumpled expression she walked over to the dust filled pot. The marks her father’s fingers had traced through the floo powder lay untouched from that afternoon and before she could stop them tears trickled out of her eyes.

“Dad,” Leshia exhaled weakly and after biting her lip for a moment she reached out and pressed her own fingers into the marks his had made only hours before. For a long time she stared in the gloom at the pot and her small hand in the larger print, feeling alone and confused.

Before she could quite lose herself in her thoughts however, she heard the door creaking open. Quite suddenly she wrenched her hand back and darted round to see the front door push all the way open revealing a frowning Owen Gabriel rushing inside and shutting the door behind himself.

“Owen?”

“Shhh! Snape’s right behind me!” Leshia instantly fell silent and waited while Owen pushed his ear up against the door for several minutes. The silence was painful to the girl, as it gave her time to think of all the laughter that had reverberated off these very walls in happier times gone by. Before Leshia could lose herself in the past Owen pulled away from the door and stalked across the room quite suddenly, his face was a mixture of worry and annoyance.

“Are you okay?” he almost demanded. Leshia stared at him tremulously, before she finally shook her head. Fresh tears coursed down her cheeks while she dropped down onto the dustsheet-covered settee. Owen frowned and tentatively approached the girl, taking a seat on the covered coffee table in front of his friend.

“I can’t believe I just did that,” she whispered. “My first proper kiss with a guy who I hardly know and definitely don’t care about!”

“Hey!” Owen complained, a small smile on his face. “What do you mean proper kiss? What about us?” Leshia turned a wounded expression on the young man.

“You know what I meant!”

“Yeah I do,” Owen chuckled. “You mean your first snog. Well sorry, we didn’t really get time for that what with that psychopath Rodeo blowing his top and everything.”

“Owen he’s not a psychopath,” Leshia complained tiredly.

“So you don’t like this Raffa guy then?” Owen couldn’t hide the hope in his face. Leshia shrugged her shoulders meekly and then shook her head.

“I thought he was really nice, but all he’s after is one thing.” This was answer enough for the young man, who nodded to himself and brought his feet up onto the edge of the sofa.

“You really miss them don’t you?” he finally spoke again. “Your parents I mean.” For a moment Leshia hung her head and shut her eyes, trying to pretend she wasn’t having this conversation, but she couldn’t fight the turbulent emotions any longer.

“Yes,” she whispered, nodding jerkily. Fresh tears trickled out of her tightly closed eyes.

“Why don’t you just tell them that and set things straight then?”

“I can’t…”

“But why not?”

“Owen I can’t!”

“Malfoy you’re the most stubborn girl I’ve ever met,” Owen laughed. “You do know that Evie’s not going anywhere right?” Leshia’s eyes snapped open angrily at the mention of her sister’s name.

“Don’t. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“No maybe not, but I know that you ignoring your parents isn’t helping you and it isn’t helping them. So why don’t you just give them a break?”

“Because I can’t okay? I just can’t!” Leshia finally exploded angrily. “Owen can’t you just take my side? Please?”

“Leesh I’ve told you this before,” the tall boy countered earnestly. “I’m always on your side.” The girl’s cold grey eyes bored deeply into his warm ones, until finally she nodded and a small smile pulled at her otherwise taut face.

“Yeah I know and you have no idea how much that means to me.”

“Good,” Owen said decisively, before he clapped his hands down on his knees and climbed to his feet. “Now come on, let’s get Cinderella back to the ball.” Leshia grinned darkly.

“It’s not my ball Owen, we threw it for Katie.”

“Would you just get to your feet please? I’m trying to cheer you up!” Leshia laughed happily and pulled herself to her feet tiredly. She accepted the arm Owen held out to her and so arm in arm the pair of Gryffindors strolled from the former Malfoy chambers. The first whisper of a meow in the distance and they jerked from each other to opposite sides of the corridor, opting for a more stealthy approach than the one they’d initially chosen, but the big smile never left Leshia’s face. Owen Gabriel was a better friend than she deserved.

XXX

Draco appeared in the grate of the London kitchen with a sore head and a mind weighed down by the concerning news he’d not stopped hearing about all day concerning Leshia’s antics the night before at the impromptu Gryffindor party. Tuesday he didn’t have his daughter’s class, which was probably a good thing the tall man conceded to himself, or he might have done something to the cocky foreign boy that he might later regret.

Hermione was up for once and stood at the stove preparing a delicious dinner for her dear husband. At the sight of the beautiful woman dressed in a pretty sweater dress that accentuated her curves Draco sighed contentedly and ambled over to his wife, sweeping her into a firm embrace.

“I love you,” he spoke gently and to his wife’s delight he dipped her low and kissed her with a passion he reserved only for her.

“I love you too,” she replied softly when her husband straightened out again, keeping her close with a hand round her waist. “How was school?”

“Long,” he groaned, but chose not to reveal what he had found out till he was better able to explain it without feeling his veins throbbing in his temples. “Where’s the little one?”

“Sleeping soundly,” Hermione replied with a contented smile.

“Perfect,” Draco whispered and after leaning down low he kissed Hermione’s neck gently sending shivers up her spine.

“You haven’t done that in a while,” she uttered softly, while she stirred the vegetables on the hob slowly.

“This is the first time I’ve found you up missy,” Draco chuckled and after one last adoring kiss he pulled away from his wife to pull his shoes off in the hallway. Within moments he was back at her side with a tumbler full of soothing whiskey.

“Darling you look like you’ve had a rough day,” Hermione told her husband concernedly. “Was it those pesky seventh years again?” Draco chuckled at his wife’s attempts to tease him and he shook his head tiredly.

“I’ll tell you about it after I’ve got some good food and plenty more of this down me,” he explained, raising his whiskey in Hermione’s general direction.

“Well the food I can provide, but perhaps the less of that the better no?”

“No baby I need this.”

“Okay darling, whatever you say,” the loved up woman laughed fondly, before she used her wand to separate their dinner into two portions. “In the meantime, dinner is served.”

Draco thoroughly enjoyed his wife’s cooking that night, even more so now she was sat at his side enjoying it with him for first time in a couple of weeks. They laughed and drank and soon found themselves curled up together in the sitting room in front of a crackling fire.

“So what was so awful?” Hermione asked lazily, her hand intertwined with Draco’s.

“Oh,” he exclaimed tiredly. “It’s not…no actually, it is something. It’s that daughter of yours.”

“Leshia?” Hermione’s ease instantly evaporated into thin air and she sat up staring at her husband probingly. “What’s wrong with Leshia?”

“She spent the night getting off with that Rafael boy from the Institute.” Hermione’s eyes went wide in surprise.

“Really?”

“It’s all the school could talk about all day. Apparently Gryffindor threw a party for Katie’s birthday yesterday and they…yeah well that boy put the moves on our little girl.”

“Draco,” Hermione warned, suddenly regaining her wits about her. “I’m sure it was a mutual decision. I just can’t believe she would…” The woman lulled into silence and looked down at her hands in deep thought. Draco sighed heavily and took a large swig of his whiskey. “That Raffa boy,” Hermione finally spoke in a gravelly voice. “He’s a sweet boy, but he’s trouble Draco. I’d feel much more comfortable if he stayed as far from our little girl as possible.” The dangerous man at her side stared into his empty tumbler pensively, until finally he placed it down on the table and leaned back, wrapping two strong arms around his wife.

“Consider it done.”

“Draco…”

“Shhh, don’t you worry about a thing.” Before Hermione could voice any of the concerns Draco’s words had stirred she suddenly found herself silenced by a firm kiss, which she returned hungrily. When was the last time she and Draco had taken the time to simply lie back on the settee and enjoy a kiss?

XXX

Hey there shorty

So I won’t pretend I was surprised by your letter. Haven’t heard from you in a while and there’s you asking me and the boys to perform at your party. You know a little ‘how’s it going’ could have gone a long way before…

Nah, I’m just messing with you. Seriously, when I read your letter to the guys Freddie actually fell off his chair. Times have changed since we were at Hogwarts! I mean your gigs actually get mentioned in Grunge & Magic magazine in the up and coming venues column every once in a while. So we’ll be there with bells on.

It’ll be good to see you again Nuisance. Where shall we meet?

Tobias

Leshia stared at the letter with a meditative sigh. She’d of course written back immediately to Tobias Dredge her extremely good-looking co-worker from the bookshop last summer. She’d heard him practice with his band at the back of the storeroom when they didn’t think anyone was left at the shop and she had to admit they were talented. The group of young men and their new lead female singer would be arriving by broom just past eight, meaning Leshia had to check everything was ready before going down to dinner.

Word had spread like silent wildfire to those lucky enough to be invited that should they be interested in a little ‘study group’ that was being hosted by Gryffindor, then they ought to show up at the Seventh floor landing at the allotted time. In order to head off the teachers several of Leshia’s peers had agreed to stage a diversion by hosting a few guests in a small abandoned classroom on the other side of the castle. This mock event had been more publicly broadcast, so would hopefully act as a sufficient enough decoy.

Halloween had finally come and Leshia had retreated to their dormitory after lessons to gather her thoughts and mull over the strange events the week since Katie’s birthday had brought. Most surprising of all was the way Raffa had suddenly kept his distance. Where she had been expecting a backlash to her hot-cold treatment of him at the party she was pleasantly surprised to see him dealing very well with her rejection of him. A very small deluded part of her mind couldn’t help but ponder at a possible connection between the boy’s sudden fear of her father in their Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons and his detachment from her…surely they couldn’t be related?

Excitable voices sounded in the stairwell beyond the closed door and instinctively Leshia stuffed the letter under her pillow, but the voices were a mere false alarm.

“No doubt someone worrying about what they’re going to wear,” Leshia sighed tiredly. “If only my life could be so simple.”

After stretching elaborately Leshia rolled off the mattress and ambled down the stairwell to find most of her friends very much engaged in a game of exploding chess. She dropped down beside them, checking her watch every now and then. Dinner was fast approaching and when only fifteen minutes remained she collared Rachel and dragged her towards the room of requirement.

“Leesh would you stop worrying? Everything’s in place,” Rachel complained amusedly and for a moment she peered at the mysterious crates beneath the sacking Leshia hadn’t removed yet. “Are you going to tell me what that is yet?”

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Leesh!”

“All right,” the blonde girl exhaled worriedly, before she crossed the large venue to the drinks table. She fingered the edge of the sacking for a moment, wondering how on earth Rachel was going to respond to what she’d done… Quickly the blonde girl shut her eyes and pulled the cloth away.

“Leshia!” Rachel exclaimed in complete shock. “Is that alcohol?” Slowly the smaller girl dared to open her eyes and nod slowly.

“Yes.”

“Lots and lots and lots of alcohol?”

“Yeah.”

“But where did you get it?” Rachel managed through her surprise.

“I um, well I bought it, technically.”

“Leesh what are you going on about?”

“That day we went to Hogsmeade. I found a back way in to the Three Broomsticks and I took some…”

“You stole it?” Rachel was in disbelief.

“No not stole! I left more than enough gold to cover it.”

“But how did you get it back to the castle?”

“Covered it with the invisibility cloak and levitated it all the way back. Then I hid it out in the grounds and went out at night to bring it inside…” Leshia trailed off and looked worriedly into Rachel’s eyes. “Rachel are you mad?”

“Um,” the redhead pondered for a moment, looking more shocked than anything else. “Actually, no not mad. It’s, well it’s unexpected…Hey! Is that firewhiskey?”

“Mate there’s all sorts under there! I think it’ll definitely make the upper years’ night don’t you?” Rachel managed a snort of laughter and then turned a genuine smile on her friend.

“This is a big thing Leesh. If the teachers ever found out about this then…well that would be some pretty major trouble right there.”

“Yeah I know, but, well it’s worth it don’t you think?”

“Do you care that much?” Leshia grinned stupidly and shrugged her shoulders.

“I’ve shot myself in the foot with this Halloween tradition. Shot myself big time! I mean every year these vultures expect something bigger and better. Hopefully this’ll just be so different that they can let me off the hook for a year to think of something else.”

The girls lulled into silence while Rachel considered why Leshia hadn’t involved her in the plan to get the alcohol. Couldn’t she be trusted?

“Come on Rach,” Leshia interrupted her friend’s grim reverie as though she could read her thoughts. “Dinner will be served in a minute. We’ve got to act normal and ditzy like the rest of them.”

Dinner was a lively affair with people talking about their upcoming plans for the evening. Katie was gushing about the ball and how fantastic it was going to be while Leshia kept a low profile from everyone trying to catch her eye, including half the teachers. What disturbed her, but wasn’t all that surprising, was that Draco had remained for dinner, which meant he was on duty. On a night so primed for mischief and with such a precedent of troublemaking in the past it came as no surprise that Dumbledore wanted his ‘best men’ out on the prowl and Draco with all his terrifying mind-reading capabilities and his history of being the invisible strength behind the Ministry’s crack Auror squad set him up as the most desirable of all would-be watchmen.

Only once did Leshia meet her father’s eye and it that brief moment she fought hard to keep her mind blank. If he sensed the slightest weakness or hint of a plan they’d all be done for.

Shortly before the end of dinner Leshia slunk away from the table, well aware that all eyes were on her as she went. Rachel and the boys followed her all the way back to the common room in accordance with the plan, where she donned Katie’s invisibility cloak and headed back towards the door with Rachel carrying a bag full of library books in need of returning.

“So we meet in the room of requirement right?” Leshia whispered from under her cloak, forcing herself to remain calm and collected. Rachel nodded firmly.

“Right.”

“And what’s the signal if you get caught and we have to abandon the whole thing?”

“I’ll flood the seventh floor.”

“Okay. Well, I guess this is it.”

“Leesh,” Rachel quickly stopped her friend by reaching out blindly and grabbing what she hoped was Leshia’s arm through the cloak and giving her general direction a significant look. “You’re not going to drink are you?”

The thought had been bothering her throughout dinner and for a moment Leshia was very glad for the cover the cloak offered her. The guilty look on her face spoke a thousand words her lies could never hide.

“I shouldn’t think so. I can’t stand the stuff.” Rachel’s shoulders drooped in relief and she nodded one last time to her best friend before she took off into the corridor with Leshia clambering out right behind her in case anyone untoward were loitering outside. As it happened, not one, not two, but three teachers were all a stone’s throw from the Gryffindor portrait hole.

“Where are you going?” Leshia heard the strict voice of Professor Snape demand, but she didn’t have time to listen out for Rachel’s excuse, she had to get to the Northern Tower to rendezvous with the band.

She felt highly alarmed by the sheer volume of teachers patrolling the corridors and had to flatten herself up against the wall of the corridor several times to avoid being bumped into. How on earth were they going to get away with it? They’d need a miracle!

Finally Leshia reached the entrance to the North Tower and after checking several times to see that the coast was indeed clear, she opened the door to a crack and scrambled in. Without stalling for time she wrenched the cloak from over her head and sprinted up the spiral staircase. By the time she reached the door at the top leading out onto the turret she was out of breath, but the excitement of the night was finally catching up with her.

Tobias and his band were a little late and as Leshia waited out in the blustery cold night she prayed to every god she could remember the name of to ensure the night wouldn’t be her last as a pupil of Hogwarts. Rachel’s words were weighing heavily on her mind; if she got found out for bringing alcohol into school then she would be expelled, surely?

Thankfully Leshia wasn’t given time to dwell on this unhappy thought as suddenly and without warning several figures swooped straight down on broomsticks from the thick clouds that had been hanging high in the sky. Leshia hadn’t seen them coming, which boded well she felt afterwards, because if she hadn’t seen them coming and she was sat up on the tower scouring skies for them then the chances were slim that anyone else had noticed.

“Tobias!” Leshia cried out in surprise when the figures pulled their hoods back to reveal a series of mid-twenties faces. Tobias Dredge was still as good looking as he had ever been, but when he flashed his charming smile Leshia didn’t go weak at the knees, as had once been the case.

“Malfoy!” the tall man replied happily. “Good to see you. These are my mates Hobsy, Paddie and Deak.” Leshia quickly shook the hands of the young men fanned out around Tobias. “And this beautiful lady is Vanessa.” From the way Tobias snaked his hands round the attractive woman’s waist Leshia could guess she was being introduced to his girlfriend, but nevertheless she shook the gothic woman’s hand and smiled at her.

“Guys,” Tobias was continuing. “This is the infamous Alecia Malfoy.”

“She’s smaller than I thought,” Vanessa exclaimed tactlessly, but then realised what she’d said and smiled broadly. “Sorry kid, it’s just Grunge and Magic’ve done a few pieces about you in the past and they always made you seem larger than life you know?”

“I’m sorry?” Leshia stuttered. “What was that?”

“Grunge and Magic, you know, the magazine?”

“They’ve written about me?” Leshia gasped.

“Yeah in the ‘people to watch out for’ bit. You didn’t know? Man, Tobias is always saying how one day he’ll be able to say he knows the Alecia Malfoy.” The short girl turned her demanding gaze on her ex-colleague, who merely shrugged his shoulders.

“She’s exaggerating! Now then, what’s the plan shorty? I mean we all went to school here, but that was like ten years ago, the teachers would probably suss something’s up if we were seen wandering the corridors again.”

“I’ve got it covered,” Leshia explained with a grin. “You’ll have to come one at a time though if that’s okay?”

“Lead on,” Tobias replied cheerfully, offering himself up as the first one to go. Leshia smiled at him and led him down the spiral staircase to the seventh floor. There she threw the invisibility cloak over the man and led him out into the empty corridor. They didn’t speak as they went and came across no one, which could only mean the diversion was going ahead as planned.

The plan went off without a problem and soon Leshia was leading the last of the band members to the room of requirement, where she’d already settled the others in with a drink and the instruments of their choice. They were impressed to say the least and were all too busy reminiscing about their own Hogwarts days to pick holes in the fourth year girl’s plan.

Vanessa was under the cloak and Leshia had nearly got her to the entrance to their venue when suddenly the hair on the back of her neck pricked up, which could only mean one thing…

“If you can clear your mind!” she whispered hoarsely to the invisible woman, before she spun around to see a figure approaching lazily from the other end of the corridor. “Keep going till you get to the tapestry of St Barnabas the Barmy.” With this Leshia headed back down the corridor towards the telltale figure of her father patrolling the corridors, his hands pushed into his pockets and an unreadable expression on his face. By the time Leshia reached him he’d stopped in his tracks right beside the stairs.

“Hi,” the girl called out when she reached him and such was her worry about keeping her mind blank that she forgot to act indifferent.

“Hi,” her father replied and if she didn’t know any better she would think he looked highly amused. “What are you doing prowling around the corridors at this time?”

“I was just heading back to Gryffindor tower to change for the ball.”

“The ball? You’re going to the ball?”

“Yeah why not?” For a moment Draco smiled and hung his head a little, before he shook it with a heavy sigh.

“Just promise me you’re not going to do anything stupid, okay?”

“Dad it’s just a ball…”

“That’s not,” Draco began loudly, before he shut his eyes and started again in a gentler tone, “That’s not what I meant.”

“Dad would you just relax? I’m taking a break this year. Why does everyone always think the worst of me?”

Draco opened his mouth to speak when suddenly hurried footsteps on the stairs preceded the arrival of Severus Snape, looking invigorated by the prospect of catching pupils in the midst of their troublemaking.

“Malfoy!” he called out when he saw Draco, but then dropped his voice when he saw whom the tall Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was standing beside. Both father and daughter were looking at the Potion’s master with the same frown. “May I have a word?” Snape asked significantly and he started back stepping down the stairs, indicating his friend follow him.

“Of course,” Draco sighed, before he looked down at his daughter feeling sorry their somewhat normal conversation had to be cut short. “Remember what I said.”

With this he descended the stairs to reach Snape’s side and then both of them were gone. Leshia wondered if the old hook-nosed man had caught wind of the series of events her friends were stringing for the teachers, but she didn’t have too long to dwell on it; there was still so much to be done.

Only once she was sure enough time had passed Leshia rushed towards the tapestry she had instructed the peculiar woman Vanessa to find. The corridor was deserted, but Leshia didn’t dare to call out. Hoping beyond hope that she hadn’t lost the lead singer of the band Leshia made for the door that opened into the room of requirement and walked in to find the band tuning their instruments. They turned round eagerly while Leshia held the door open long enough to give anyone who had been lurking around under an invisibility cloak enough time to rush in after her.

“Vanessa?” she whispered hoarsely before she shut the door. Silence.

“Hey Shorty, wasn’t Ness supposed to be with you?” Tobias called to the panicking girl by the door.

“Oh! Yeah, but we got separated when…” Leshia fell silent and stared at a patch of air seemingly no different to the patches either side of it. She couldn’t explain it, but she had somehow sensed something…or someone. “Vanessa I know you’re there,” the girl uttered darkly and shut the door she was still holding onto forcefully. Sniggered laughter broke out from an invisible source before quite suddenly Vanessa appeared in a swirl of cloak, which Leshia took back with a cold look.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, it was just a joke,” Vanessa laughed accusingly, before she sauntered over to the stage to join her band.

“Very funny,” Leshia managed lightly, though her eyes remained dark. “I need to show you guys something. It’s important.” The band watched the blonde girl with interest while she walked across the room and retrieved five small silver bottles from a small chest and five small drawstring pouches. She stared at the bottles with an almost wistful look.

“What have you got there?” one of the men asked curiously.

“Little bit of go-faster-juice?” Vanessa piped up hopefully. Leshia glanced up with a furrowed brow and shook her head.

“It cost me an arm and a leg to get these, so don’t use them unless you absolutely one hundred percent have to,” she explained while she walked over clutching the bottles between her hands.

“Well what’s in them?” Tobias asked with slight concern.

“It’s Polyjuice potion,” Leshia replied thoughtfully, feeling very proud of herself for having the forethought to start the procedure of procuring the potion weeks ago from a very dodgy man she had met in the Three Broomsticks who she was assured by Tom and Luke Weasley could get her anything she needed, at a price.

“Isn’t that the potion that transforms you into someone else?” Vanessa asked, seemingly a lot less sure of herself. Leshia nodded to the woman slowly and held up the drawstring pouches.

“In here are the hairs of some Gryffindors who were kind enough to donate them. If for some reason the teachers find us or I’m not around to get you back to the tower then drop one hair each into your bottle and drink it. You’ll be able to sneak out in disguise.”

The girl doled out a bottle and a pouch to each band member and was happy to see they kept them safely tucked away on their persons. Everything was slotting together nicely, the fourth year girl thought to herself reassuringly.

“You’ve really thought of everything haven’t you Malfoy?” Tobias asked after a while, a small smile on his face at the ingenuity of the girl he’d once thought to be an adorable young girl but not much more. How wrong he’d been.

“Well,” Leshia replied with an impish smile. “That remains to be seen.”

XXX

Katie hung her head over her glass of punch sombrely. The ball was a disaster, a very poorly attended disaster. This had obviously been expected, as the great hall was barely decorated and only a small spread had been laid out. The raven-haired girl felt a stab of annoyance and pain at the effort she’d made to find a beautiful dress for the occasion and all the ballroom dancing she had been practicing in honour of this formal night.

“Of course no one was going to show up,” the girl whispered bitterly.

“Hmm?” Katie looked up quickly to see Luisa watching her worriedly, unsure of what to do about this peculiar turn of events. The girl had been excited about the prospect of a ball, but was exceedingly confused as to why the great hall was practically deserted. Perhaps this was just the way Hogwarts balls were.

“Sorry, I’m talking to myself,” Katie whispered with a sad smile. “Shall we go?”

“Back to the tower?” A small smile eased onto the bespectacled girl’s face and she shook her head marginally.

“No, I know somewhere we can go.”

Katie and Luisa were some of the last to admit defeat and leave the great hall. Stealthily Katie led the way up the winding routes till they reached the seventh floor corridor a stone’s throw from Gryffindor Tower. It was empty and dark and while Luisa marched straight past the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy on her way to the Fat Lady Katie lingered behind and thought hard about a venue where a great party could be taking place. Before her very eyes a door appeared.

“Katie are you coming?”

“In here Luisa,” the raven-haired girl called back and she reached for the door handle, it was vibrating with the heavy baseline of a song she couldn’t hear yet. The curious foreign girl quickly reached Katie’s side and together they pushed the door open onto a raving party.

“Wow,” Luisa gasped while Katie’s eyes went wide; Leshia had outdone herself. Quickly the two girls darted inside and shut the heavy door behind themselves. The lighting was dim and the dancing too excitable; Katie couldn’t make head nor tail of the happy youths and took to leading Luisa through the crowds in search of their friends.

“Katie!” Quickly the tall girl spun around to see Rodeo and Parys bound towards them. “You made it!”

“Yeah,” she conceded with a coy smile, happy at the way Rodeo had looked her up and down appreciatively. “The ball was a bit of a dive really.”

“Can you believe this?” Parys exclaimed jubilantly. His eyes didn’t seem to be focusing very well Katie thought to herself. “Leesh has actually managed to get the Mullet Heads! Look!” Katie followed the boy’s hand to the band of young adults performing exuberantly on stage.

“Who are the Mullet Heads?”

“They’re this totally wicked band that gigs round London and stuff. They’re really amazing!”

“Are they famous?” Katie asked sounding impressed, eliciting a shrug from Parys.

“To some of us yeah!”

“Parys are you okay?”

“Yeah why wouldn’t I be?”

“You’re swaying,” the raven-haired girl remarked cautiously and after glancing to Rodeo she could see he too didn’t seem all that steady on his feet. Come to think of it…most of the dancers seemed to be lacking a normal level of coordination.

“Well that’s the best part!” Rodeo suddenly piped up. “Fancy a beer?”

“A what?”

“Well it’s this drink see and…”

“I know what beer is!” Katie snapped furiously. “There’s beer?”

“And wine and firewhiskey and some other stuff too, come on,” Parys explained and he led the way for an incredulous Katie to the by-now empty barrels and crates that had provided the teenagers of Hogwarts with a boozed up night they weren’t likely to forget any time soon.

“I can’t believe you’re all drunk!” Katie exclaimed in complete fury. The boys seemed a little hurt.

“Kate we’ve only had a beer each, it’s not like we’re drunk,” Rodeo complained. “I mean my dad lets me have beer all the time.”

“Where’s Leshia?” The boys glanced to one another with a look of irritation. “Guys, where is Leshia?”

“Um, you might not want to go talk to Leshia right now,” Parys uttered softly.

“Why not?”

“She went over the top Katie,” Rodeo explained darkly and in that instant all the joy was gone from the boy’s face. “Went totally mad first hour or so. We left her in on the cushions to sober up a little…”

“Sober up?” Katie cried out in complete horror. Rodeo and Parys nodded to each other grimly.

“We keep checking on her, Rachel too. Don’t worry she’s fine. She just wanted to party a little too hard,” Parys explained.

“I don’t see how her being wasted is fine, take me to her?” The boys obeyed instantly, far too terrified of the look on the girl’s face to disobey her. En route to the comfortable floor cushions in the other corner of the room Katie could see how much the pupils of Hogwarts were enjoying this party. Everywhere she looked smiles shone out and the girl was very thankful to see nobody seemed too inebriated. Perhaps Leshia had drunk it all by herself, she thought crossly.

“She’s right over here…” Parys fell silent, his eyes scouring the people lounging on the cushions for their friend.

“Where?”

“Um, she’s not here anymore.”

“Bloody brilliant!” Katie hissed furiously and she wheeled on the two boys with an icy cold glare. “I thought you were looking after her?”

“Guys!” Rachel’s voice drifted out over the music and moments later the red-haired girl appeared out of breathe. Her face was creased with worry, but when she saw Katie stood beside the boys it crumpled with relief and she threw her arms around her cousin.

“Thank God you’re here,” she uttered sounding upset. “Leshia’s gone. I’ve looked everywhere.”

“Calm down Rachel,” Katie comforted her cousin, before she pulled back and gave her a strong smile. “She can’t have got far, we’ll spread out and look for her okay?”

Everyone agreed and went their separate ways in an attempt to find the drunken party host. With so many nooks and crannies to the venue the room of requirement had generated the possibilities were endless and while they searched the night ticked steadily on. All seemed hopeless when suddenly Rodeo, who had been searching over by the maze of rose bushes, caught sight of a head of blonde curly hair over the top of a thorny bush. He sped up and rounded the corner to find Leshia enveloped in the arms of a boy he didn’t even recognise.

“Leshia!” he called out angrily and before the kissing couple knew what was going on Rodeo had wrenched the offending young man back, his fist raised, ready for a fight.

“Rodeo?” the blonde girl asked sounding disorientated. Her partner, a boy Rodeo could vaguely place on closer inspection as being hosted by Slytherin, smiled smugly at the intruder. He didn’t seem the slightest bit intoxicated, which was far from what could be said for the unsteady girl he’d been exploiting.

“Who the hell are you?” Leshia’s protective friend demanded, pulling the girl into the crook of his arm.

“I’m Joel mate, now who the hell are you?” the foreign boy spoke in a heavy Australian accent.

“I’m the guy who’ll kick the crap out of you if you go near this girl again. Got it?” Where this fury was coming from Rodeo wasn’t quite sure, but all he knew was he had to get Leshia away from this place. He had to protect her from these predators and even from herself if need be.

This Joel boy laughed mockingly, but slunk off to find something better to do leaving Rodeo guiding Leshia towards the door step by step. It took him an age to get his friend back to the cosy common room in Gryffindor Tower, leaving behind the exuberant party.

In annoyance Rodeo let Leshia drop down on the comfortable settee, before he sat down next to her, his feet up on the coffee table, his elbows resting on his knees. He couldn’t describe how he was feeling, and wanted nothing more than his friend to snap out of her ridiculous stupor.

“I can’t believe you let yourself get like this Alecia,” the boy finally grumbled in annoyance.

“I don’t care,” she slurred in response, before she clawed on the back of the settee to bring herself up into a sitting position. “I don’t care about anything anymore.”

“Don’t say that,” Rodeo complained. “That’s such crap! Of course you care.”

“No I don’t! I don’t feel…” The girl pushed her fingers firmly into her bare sternum, which her low top revealed. “I don’t feel anything anymore. I’m tired Rodeo. I can’t…I can’t do this anymore. I just want to wake up and be me again. I want to be me again.”

Her face was so distressed that Rodeo forgot instantly of the mess she’d made of herself. His expression softened and after sighing heavily he slouched down in the settee at Leshia’s side. Too intoxicated to hold herself up straight Leshia slumped against him.

“So cut the crap and be you again,” the boy told her quietly. “I want you to be you again. We all do.”

“How? Rodeo tell me how! Please!”

“I can’t tell you how Leshia. Only you can tell yourself how to stop taking everything one step too far. Take tonight; everything was perfect, but why did you have to get like this? Leshia? Leshia!”

The girl was asleep, her heavy eyelashes sealed tightly shut.

“Hmmm?” Rodeo stared at the girl with pain-creased eyes and shook his head.

“Nothing. Just go to sleep.”

So Rodeo sat for two hours. He sat and he waited and he listened to Leshia’s heavy breathing. Not wanting to disturb her he ended up reading a discarded fashion magazine from cover to cover. The loyalty he showed to the girl might have been touching had anyone been watching his devoted vigil at her side.

Only when the clock in the common room struck twelve did Rodeo deem it necessary to try and move his friend. Who knew when the others would be coming back? And besides, he wanted more than anything for Leshia to salvage what she could of her dignity.

“Leesh,” the boy spoke loudly. “Leshia get up now, you’ve got to go to bed.”

“Hmm, in a minute,” she whispered through her heavy sleep. Rodeo though wasn’t taking no for an answer and after climbing to his feet forced Leshia to do the same. He guided her up the first stairwell and then paused at the base of the second leading up to the girls dormitories.

“I can’t actually get you up there Leesh,” he told his friend, who seemed to be sleeping though she was standing independently at his side. “But I’m going to stay here and listen to your every step till you reach your dorm and call to let me know you’ve made it okay?”

“Okay,” the girl whispered and allowed the boy to point her in the right direction.

“Stairs Leshia,” Rodeo reminded her. Obediently Leshia took the stairs one at a time, hanging onto the banister to prevent herself from tumbling down them. Finally she reached the fourth year dormitory.

“I’m here,” she called down. “I’m here. I can see my bed.”

“Good, go and lie in it!” Rodeo called back, and he tried to crane his neck to catch sight of the girl with no luck. “Leshia? Walk towards your bed!”

“Okay. Goodnight Rodeo. Goodnight!” Her voice had become a slur, but the boy could hear her getting fainter and fainter as though she had moved into her dormitory. Quickly he ran up the boys’ stairwell and into the fourth year boys’ dorm directly beneath the girls’ one. He strained his ears to listen out for the telltale signs of someone passing out on the floor, but no such sound came, so with a heavy sigh of relief he dropped down on his own bed and crossed his arms across his chest.

“Get it together Leesh,” he whispered into the gloom.

XXX

Severus Snape stared at the door to the room of requirement. Lined up at his side were the other patrolling teachers of Hogwarts, all waiting for the clock to strike twelve giving them permission to go and see what the student body had been up to all night. Dumbledore of course had known about the party the pupils liked to think was strictly underground, but in actual fact was monitored by the teachers they were trying to fool. He had forbidden his staff though from interfering until the youngsters had been given a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

The underground party had become a Hogwarts tradition and Dumbledore was a man who valued tradition, conventional or not.

Draco ambled over to his friend’s side and smiled at the look of apprehension on the hook-nosed man’s face.

“Easy Severus,” he warned fondly. “You look like you’re ready to go in their wand aloft cursing them all.”

“Depending on what is going on in that room, we may have to.” The younger man chuckled amusedly.

“They’re in the middle of the castle, how bad can it be?”

Severus raised his eyebrows, wanting very much to contradict his younger friend, but finally the clock had struck twelve. Professor McGonagall led the way and after exchanging a glance with her colleagues she pushed the door open into the crowded party sending an instant wave of panic through the celebrating pupils. In the distance the music stopped and a swarm of pupils managed to get out the door in the five minutes it took for the teachers to regain control over the situation.

“Silence! All of you!” Snape called over the frightened youths. “Who is responsible for this?”

A deathly silence swept across the room and while Snape tried to glare the answer out of the pupils around him Draco ambled round the side of the room searching out for a blonde curly head amidst the crowds.

“You,” Snape hissed, targeting a small Ravenclaw first year. “Who is responsible for this highly illegal party?”

“I don’t know sir!” the young boy mumbled.

“Oh really. Where, pray tell me, is Alecia Malfoy?”

In the distance Draco glanced back at his hook-nosed friend with a stern look. Why did he have to assume immediately that it was Leshia who had been the criminal mastermind behind this get-together?

“I haven’t seen her sir,” the first year replied truthfully. Snape, sensing no lie, looked to the boy’s neighbour, a sixth year girl in Hufflepuff.

“You, have you seen her?” Again Snape received the truthful reply that Leshia hadn’t been seen and as far as anyone was aware, wasn’t at the party. Snape sensed his grip slipping away from him, after all how could they pin this on the girl if she wasn’t even at the damn party? Across the hall Draco had spotted a familiar group of youngsters and quickly he waded towards them.

“Rachel, Katie,” he called out to his daughter’s best friends. They avoided his gaze. “Where’s Leshia?”

“She’s not here sir,” Rachel replied truthfully. Draco’s brow darkened.

“She’s not? Where is she then?”

“Back at Gryffindor,” Katie now spoke with equal truth. The girls had been informed by several of their peers that Rodeo had been spotted guiding Leshia out of the hall and were safe in the knowledge that they could enjoy the rest of the party without having to worry about their friend. So in telling Draco that Leshia was back in the tower, they weren’t strictly lying.

“Why?”

“She’s having an early night,” Katie replied and jerked her eyes briefly onto Draco’s confused ones, before she looked away again.

“Oh my Goodness! This boy is drunk!” A horrified silence swept across the room while everyone stared at Professor McGonagall holding the arm fifth year boy who seemed very unsteady on his feet. Draco immediately darted from the girls’ side to join a shocked looking Snape at the front of the hall.

“How did they get alcohol?” Draco asked in an undertone and now he scanned the faces of the older youths he could see indeed, that many of them were slightly inebriated.

“Nobody move a muscle!” Snape called out to the frightened pupils, who obeyed and remained absolutely still while the teachers did a sweep of the hall searching for evidence, but some intelligent young witch or wizard had already seen to it that the barrels and crates had already been shrunk to fit inside the pockets of several of the youngsters till they could find a way to better dispose of them.

With no one to pin the blame on and very little else they could do the teachers excused the pupils and escorted them back to their common rooms. Despite the anticlimactic end to the night the conversations that gripped the attention of pupils from all houses later that night was how this Halloween Bash had been the best one yet!

XXX

Come Wednesday, the morning after the night before, Leshia hung her head in shame at her behaviour and in pain at the headache that would not leave her, not even for a moment. Everywhere she looked people were either giving her an enormous thumbs up for the fantastic party they had enjoyed or bowing their heads together with their neighbour to discuss how drunk Leshia had been. The girl could barely remember what had happened after the fifth drink and she certainly didn’t remember her run in with the Australian boy Joel.

Throughout the morning Leshia’s ears were ringing from the amount of times she heard her name and the word drunk in the same sentence from passers by and it wasn’t long before the consequences of her actions caught up with her. After break the fourth year Gryffindors and Slytherins had their hourly Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson to get to. Leshia’s legs grew suddenly sluggish and she wanted more than anything to turn and run.

Katie and Rachel, though sympathetic towards their friend, wisely pointed out to the girl that it was better to get it over with and face her father rather than to run away from him and delay the inevitable. Leshia couldn’t have felt worse, both mentally and physically while she waited in line with her peers outside her father’s classroom. She loitered near the back of the queue and went rigid with fear when the sound of her father’s heavy footsteps rang out down the corridor. As usual the youngsters passed their teacher at the door, but today they shrunk from his furious gaze as best as they could. Their dichotic teacher seamed livid!

None hid their face so much as Leshia herself and when she reached her father his very aura was nearly enough to prevent her from going anywhere near him.

“Get in,” her father uttered dangerously when he saw his daughter stalling. As Leshia passed her father she felt his hand on her back shove her inside and then the door slammed.

The lesson itself was highly unpleasant with Draco’s every interaction with his daughter an icy cold one. Leshia dreaded the end of the lesson. What on earth was her father going to do to her? She was sure she had never seen him so angry.

Predictably, when the bell went all Draco had to do was catch Leshia’s eye to express to her that she ought to remain behind. Her peers couldn’t have escaped the class any quicker, leaving it with a slam of the door that sealed Leshia’s fate inside. The girl was alone in the mess she’d made. Draco looked on the miserable form of his oldest daughter for a long time, before he finally approached her desk. She went rigid with fear and avoided her father’s gaze, even when he sat down on the desk in front of her.

“The whole school’s laughing at you,” he finally announced, his voice dangerous and low. Leshia felt a twitch of annoyance; that was a lie! Yes the school were gossiping about her drunken behaviour, but in the same breath they were applauding her for planning and executing yet another wicked party. “Where’s your pride Leshia? How could you have fallen so hard?”

He was raising his voice, making Leshia’s temples throb painfully. Before she knew what she was doing Leshia found herself grumbling,

“I’ve got a headache! Can’t you just get it over with and leave me alone?”

For a moment there was silence in which Draco’s eyes went wide and his fists clenched into balls at his side.

“You’re lucky that’s the worst of it!” he suddenly growled. “Alcohol? Are you serious? You’re not even fifteen yet!”

“Stop talking so loud.”

“I can get a lot louder Alecia!” Draco barked as though to demonstrate his point. “Sort yourself out, you’re a bloody disgrace.”

“Yeah well you…” Leshia trailed off, lifting her eyes for the first time to meet her father’s furious gaze.

“What? How can you possible defend yourself?” he demanded cruelly.

“I…”

“Your friends deserve a bloody medal for keeping you safe. What would you have done if they hadn’t looked after you huh? Do you have nay idea how foolish you’ve been acting lately?”

“Oh just shut up!” Leshia cried out, too upset to care anymore how big a hole she was digging for herself. “You’re doing my head in.”

For a moment Draco inhaled and exhaled loudly, in disbelief at Leshia’s behaviour, before quite suddenly he lurched from the desk and reached Leshia’s side in one step. She was slouched down in her chair and leaned back worriedly when Draco rested one hand either side of her head and bent down close, a beyond angry expression on his face.

“Now you listen to me,” he ordered furiously. “Either you get your act together or we will pull you out of this school. Do I make myself clear?” Leshia’s heart skipped a beat and she found herself balking. Was her father serious? How could he do this to her? How could he try time and time again to ruin her life?

“I’d run away,” she managed hoarsely.

“I’d find you.”

“No you wouldn’t!”

“I would.”

“You never found mum! I had to do that and I was only twelve.”

Quite without warning Leshia found herself wrenched from her chair and dragged towards the door. She’d pushed her father too far, but somehow, she wasn’t done yet. She couldn’t stop the words tumbling out of her mouth.

“I wish I never had. I wish I’d never found her then none of this would be happening.” As though the last of his patience had snapped Draco spun his daughter round and squeezed her shoulders so tight it hurt the girl.

“Say something like that again and you’ll not know what’s hit you,” he whispered, so angry and so dangerous Leshia had never believed it possible. In that split second she could see why evil wizards and witches had crumbled beneath those eyes…how he had murdered in cold blood. Murderous…that’s how he looked.

“I wish she’d never been born,” the soft tearful words escaped the trapped girl. Draco gulped, trembling slightly with the emotional turmoil. Leshia winced, preparing herself for the worst, but before she knew what was going on she’d been wrenched into a powerful hug.

“It’s not going to work,” her father was speaking into the side of her head. “You’re not going to push me away. I’m not going to let you. You can act out all you want, but all I’ll do is stick closer to you than before.”

A sob escaped the girl and she tried to pull away from her father, but he was true to his word and merely held her more tightly still.

“I hate you!” she cried into his shirt and she pushed her fists firmly into his chest, trying to break away. “I hate you! And I hate her! Everything was perfect till she came along! I hate all of you. Just leave me alone!”

Leshia was distraught and Draco knew he wasn’t going to be able to change her mind…not now, not like this. Quite suddenly he let her go and she stumbled backwards from trying to push him away. She met his eye with hatred and anguish in her face, before quite suddenly she fled the room surprising the sixth years waiting in line out in the corridor. Draco swallowed hard and pressed his finger and thumb tightly into the corners of his eyes…that went well.


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