Generations Book 4: Rebel Inside

Chapter 6

Part VI

Lucius Malfoy, the servant of He Who Must Not Be Named, has been sighted here in this very country! Ministry officials claim the information we have gathered from a very reliable source cannot be correct, because surely the Lucius Malfoy, most wanted criminal in the Wizarding world, can’t simply be walking about the country he once terrorised?

Well, this reporter says it is possible. No! This reporter is going one further and is stating absolutely and without doubt that yes Lucius Malfoy is back in Britain. Unless Minister Crayik and the Auror department at the Ministry make some real moves to catch this killer, then the first steps towards the revival of the most evil notorious wizard in history will be taken.

X

Lucius Malfoy spotted a stone’s throw from the Leaky Cauldron! Could it be true? Is the Death Eater at large in the capital? Ministry says no, seventeen independent witnesses say yes!

X

Woman claims she saw Lucius Malfoy, notorious criminal topping the Ministry’s most wanted criminals list, drinking a cup of tea down her local café in Soho.

“I was just ordering a bacon butty like I always do when who should I clap my eyes on sat by the window reading the Daily Prophet? Lucius Malfoy is who! Right here, in the middle London! Takes me five minutes to get to the Leaky Cauldron from my caf it does. When’s the Ministry going to take him seriously eh?”

X

Leshia stared at the newspaper clippings with a heavily wrinkled brow. Her original plan had seen her sitting down to do the difficult essay they’d been set in Potions, but the scrapbook on her bedside table had caught her eye instead. After fighting the urge to examine the clippings and focus instead on Modding Potions Leshia gave in to the inevitable and pulled the big book towards herself along with a map of the nation’s capital.

“Soho,” she whispered to herself and ran her finger along the paper till she reached the area sandwiched between Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. How could her grandfather be hiding in so central a location? “It doesn’t make sense,” she sighed heavily.

It was all a bit too close for Leshia’s liking. Charing Cross Road was the location of the Leaky Cauldron: the entrance to Diagon Alley, and only fifteen minutes up the road in the nice area known as Bloomsbury right between King’s Cross Station and the pub lay Dockstreet, Leshia’s home. That her grandfather might be lurking within easy distance of her mother came as little comfort to the teenager, but she found consolation in the fact that surely the Ministry was well aware of these developments? They would know the truth behind the wild claims; they would know whether Hermione was in danger…

“Leesh! Ready to go down for dinner?” Rachel came bursting into the room. So after shoving her clippings into the scrapbook and pushing the Map within its pages also Leshia climbed to her feet and joined her best friend. Who was she to ruin Rachel’s evening with her fear mongering?

Nearly a week had passed since the Halloween showdown, yet still Leshia received approving grins from those who had enjoyed the party in the room of requirement. For the most part the blonde girl tried to ignore them, but she couldn’t help but feel invigorated by the boost her status had received. The only drawback? She hadn’t been able to look her father in the eye since that dreaded day when she had totally lost her rag.

“Hey Malfoy.” Leshia turned around at the entrance of the Great Hall to see Mila the quidditch captain jogging towards her. “Training after dinner okay?” Despite herself Leshia grimaced.

“In that?” she asked pointing skywards to the storm clouds brewing in the enchanted ceiling.

“Yes in that! We face Slytherin in two weeks; we’ve got to be on form. Besides, I’ve heard they’ve been putting in more hours than they normally do. I bet they’re coming up with new tactics. So we’ve got to stay ahead of them. Is that going to be a problem?” The older girl’s stare was firm, so after letting her shoulders droop slightly petulantly Leshia shook her head firmly.

“No, no problem,” she replied grimly.

“Great,” Mila replied brightly, before she moved on to the next member of the team she came across.

“Do you think if I take one of your uncles’ vomiting sweet things she’ll believe I’m sick and let me off the hook?” Leshia asked in an undertone while the two friends found their places halfway down the table. Rachel laughed appreciatively.

“Hey those things are pretty convincing. There is a drawback though.”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“I used up my last one in Charms last week and you can bet Katie hasn’t got any.”

“Bugger,” Leshia sighed. “Ah well, maybe I’ll just faceplant myself in the mud from ten feet up, she’d have to let me off then.”

“Well yeah, but you’d have to land on your head and I’m not sure your brain, what’s left of it I mean, can take much more of a beating.”

“Do you mind?” Leshia laughed. “There’s plenty of brain left to damage in here.”

The pair of jokers had reached their friends by now, who looked up amusedly at the conversation they were very much engaged in. Katie suppressed a smirk and raised her eyebrows at her friends.

“It makes so much more sense now!”

“What does?” Leshia asked with a frown.

“That the reason you are the way you are is because you’re competing to see who can lose the most brain cells.”

“Charming,” Rachel complained fondly while reaching out towards the food hungrily.

“Not a fair fight though is it?” Leshia remarked with a smile just as Rachel took an enormous bite of her Cornish pasty.

“Mwhaf’s waf?” the girl asked in a spray of crumbs. “Owwy,” she added sheepishly.

“Well you know if we were having a competition like that you’d have the upper hand. Hell you’d have a gigantic head start!” Leshia quickly apologised in a gale of laughter when Rachel accosted her, spraying her with more pasty crumbs.

“Play nice children,” Katie chuckled appreciatively. “Why are you talking about brains anyway?”

“Leesh is trying to get out of quidditch training.”

“No not get out of,” Leshia grumbled with a smile. “Just thinking aloud. Mila’s a piece of work, she’d have me off the team if I started skiving practice.”

“Hey you guys!” the fourth years looked up interestedly to see Nicola and Ashley running towards them, their faces bright and excited. It took the pair a moment to get their breath back as they dropped down at the dinner table bursting with news.

“What’s the matter with the pair of you? Are they handing out free make-up samples in the entrance hall?” Parys teased them, earning him two highly disgruntled looks.

“How do you know what a make-up sample is?” Leshia now teased him in turn, who went a little red in the cheek and shrugged his broad shoulders.

“I know many things Young Malfoy.” The fourth years dissolved into laughter.

“Guys this is serious!” Nicola insisted loudly, silencing her peers immediately.

“All right, keep your hair on.”

“We’ve just seen Filch hanging up a notice outside.”

“It’s calling for all bands to sign up!” For a moment everyone stared at the two girls.

“What bands?” Rachel finally asked with a wrinkled brow.

You know, school bands.”

“Not really no,” Parys now spoke. “I didn’t know Hogwarts had any bands. What are they signing up for?”

“Look there’s no need to get on our case, we’re just passing on the message,” Ashley complained haughtily, before she turned in her seat so just she and Nicola could share a private conversation. The others stared at one another in confusion.

“Okay then,” Rachel remarked slowly. “I wonder what that’s about then.”

“Hang on,” Leshia announced and she swung her legs over the bench. “Back in a jiff.” The others watched while the blonde girl scampered up the aisle towards the entrance hall where she disappeared for a few minutes before scampering back with a silent smirk on her face.

“What did you see?” Rodeo asked hopefully as Leshia made herself comfortable again on the bench.

“Filch threatening me with a drawing pin,” Leshia replied through her sniggers. “You should have seen him, he was wielding that thing around like it was an enormous sword!”

“Well what else did you see? What was he putting up?”

“It’s called Hearing Aid whatever it is and they were right, the sign is all about bands signing up.”

“Think they’re going to tell us now what it’s all about tonight?” Rodeo asked curiously.

“Either that or they’ll have to repeat themselves a few hundred times tomorrow when people come knocking on their door asking the same questions,” Leshia responded thoughtfully.

The mysterious sign was enough of a talking point to keep the fourth years entertained while they enjoyed their delicious dinners. Leshia was rather hoping Dumbledore would climb to his feet an announce what this Hearing Aid thing was all about, but before any such an announcement could take place she found herself being hailed by the rest of the quidditch team.

“Oh crud,” she grumbled, before she swung her legs over the bench and climbed to her feet. “They couldn’t have waited ten more bloody minutes.”

“Enjoy the rain Leesh,” Rachel called after the blonde girl happily.

“Yeah we’ll be thinking of you when we’re curled up in front of the fire,” Parys added.

“You’re not funny,” came the seeker’s dismal reply, but the grin she shot her friends over her shoulder contradicted the sentiment in her voice.

Training was simply awful. Leshia couldn’t see a damn thing in the dark and the rain gave her such a battering she was sure that bludgers had been falling from the sky not raindrops. After an hour Mila lost the battle to motivate her team and the six youngsters descended to the ground against their captain’s wishes, before heading inside in a steady trudge.

Thankfully Gryffindor common room was warm and inviting and filled with the exuberant conversations of their friends and peers. Out of nowhere several musical instruments had appeared and in every corner of the room little groups of friends had splintered into hushed conversations while one member scribbled on parchment whatever it was that they were agreeing upon. Leshia didn’t have time to wonder what on earth they were talking about and instead rushed upstairs to change into some warm dry clothes.

The dormitory was deserted, so after she had changed Leshia ambled back downstairs to find her friends crammed round their usual table and window box. They were wearing the same expressions as all the other secretive little groups and for a moment Leshia felt alarmed. This was all to do with this Hearing Aid malarkey whatever that was and if it involved instruments and bands…well that wasn’t a good thing in the tone-deaf girl’s eyes.

“Hey, what are you guys talking about?” she greeted her friends when she reached their side. She rather startled the small group and suddenly they pulled back with big smiles on their faces.

“Hearing Aid,” Katie replied on their behalf.

“Which is what when it’s at home?”

“It’s a concert, put on by school bands before the end of term dance,” the bespectacled girl spoke clearly, as though she were reading by rote.

“Right,” Leshia spoke slowly.

“It sounds really good, the school bands are going to start the night off and then there’s going to be a proper band during the actual dance. It’s a send off for the exchange guests.”

“Yeah and it’s all to raise money for the Hearing Maladies and Calamities ward at Saint Mungos,” Rachel added cheerfully. “It sounds wicked Leesh. We were just saying we should form a band!” For a moment Leshia’s face fell forward in shock and her eyes betrayed the fear she felt deep inside at such a notion.

“Ha! Leesh doesn’t think it’s a good idea either!” Rodeo crowed triumphantly.

“Yes she does!” Rachel countered passionately. “Don’t you Leesh?”

“Um…well…uh…” the blonde girl struggled for words. “Well who would do what?”

“That’s what we were just talking about,” Katie explained. “Hey Leshia sing for us won’t you?”

“What? No!”

“Come on, we’re trying to decide who’s the best singer out of us girls.”

“I’ll make it simple for you, it’s definitely not me,” Leshia insisted firmly.

“Yeah I bet you say that, but then you’ll turn out to be amazing or something,” Rachel complained happily.

“No I bloody well won’t!”

“Leesh it’s just us, there’s no need to be scared.”

“I’m not scared!”

“Well then sing us a song and stop being such a wuss,” Parys finally concluded. With the eyes of all her friends and their foreign guests on her Leshia felt her heart racing, but she couldn’t back down from a challenge! No one called Alecia Malfoy a wuss, no one!

“Okay, but you asked for it!” For a moment Leshia settled herself and cleared her voice, before she broke into a highly croaky and out of tune rendition of the latest chart topper to take the wizarding world by storm. As though in defence to the terrible sound Rodeo and Parys threw their hands over their ears while Rachel visibly winced. After only one verse Leshia came to a stop and glared furiously at her friends.

“There. Happy?”

“No!” Parys complained firmly. “Jeez Leesh, I think you broke my eardrums.”

“I tried to warn you.”

“God, are you part mermaid or something?”

“I dare you to hold me underwater and find out,” Leshia growled in a low voice, her eyebrows lifting as she spoke adding to the all round frightening expression on her face. Parys jerked backwards quickly and shook his head.

“No it’s okay, I believe you.”

“Okay so we know who’s not going to be the singer, that’s for sure,” Rachel now concluded with a cheeky grin. Leshia rolled her eyes but had to smile. “So Leesh what can you do?”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing. I am by far the least musical person in the world.”

“Can you strum a few chords on a guitar?”

“I highly doubt it.”

“Can you play the keyboard?” Katie piped up hopefully.

“Unlikely.”

“Well what can you do?” Rachel asked with a furrowed brow.

“I can stand in the audience and clap, I bet I’d be really good at that!” Leshia suggested hopefully, but Katie suddenly got a look on her face that suggested she’d got a very good idea.

“That’s it! You can keep a beat, I know you can! You can be our drummer.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, I bet you’d be great at that,” Rachel chimed in happily. “You’re good at keeping a rhythm going.”

“But I don’t play the drums,” Leshia complained obviously, her expression clearly betraying the fact that she thought her friends had gone mad. Was the fact that she’d never played a musical instrument really so unimportant in a discussion in which she was suddenly a part of a band?

“You do now. All we have to do is get someone to teach you.”

“This is all a bad dream right?” Leshia groaned and she dropped her face into her crossed arms on the table.

“No, now listen to the pair of us, you’ve got to decide who’s going to be the lead singer,” Katie instructed, before she burst into a pretty melody. Leshia listened though she kept her face buried and when Katie finally came to the end of her song the blonde girl kept her face buried, but lifted her thumb to show she’d heard.

“Next,” her muffled order came before quite suddenly a voice like no other belted out from one of the table’s occupants. Leshia’s hand froze mid air at the sound of that beautiful singing, before very slowly she lifted her head to stare in wonder at the owner of that fantastic voice,

“Rachel?” she uttered in wonder. “Rach you can sing?” Rachel brought her brief song to a close and shrugged meekly at the attention she was receiving from the shocked table.

“Sort of.”

“How the hell have you been hiding that?” Leshia demanded. “Are you wearing the speech stealer?” Rachel laughed indignantly and held her shirt down to show her neck was free of the magical device that held the power to alter voices. “Sorry, it’s just I’ve never heard you sing like that before…that was amazing!”

“Katie was good too though,” Rachel quickly spoke up when she noticed her cousin dejectedly leaning back in her seat.

“Yeah yeah, but you!”

“Luisa and I will be your backing singers Rach, you’ve definitely got to belt that out to the school,” Katie spoke up, putting her own pride away in order to praise her cousin.

“Um aren’t you guys forgetting something?” Rodeo finally spoke up when the girls lulled into silence. They turned to stare at the boy in confusion. “Well don’t you technically need a band to go with your little vocal percussion getup?”

“You play guitar don’t you Rodes?” Rachel piped up curiously. “And Parys you do as well don’t you?”

“Um, a bit, not a lot actually.” The boy was being coy, that much was obvious.

“Well who says we want to be in your band?” Rodeo complained, a small smile on his face.

“Oh stop being such a git and just say yes,” Leshia chuckled, though her gaze was accusing. “If they’re getting me to play drums for them when I haven’t got a musical bone in my body, then you can bloody well get up there and play guitar. Both of you!”

The pair of best friends grinned at one another, before finally they nodded in agreement. It was settled! What followed was an exuberant discussion on what their new band was going to be called, which lasted well into the night. The friends were some of the last to amble up to bed and when Leshia eventually found herself curled up under her duvet she had to smile at the name they had finally settled upon,

“The Small Band,” she whispered into the gloom, smiling at the sound of it and the fact that it had been named so in a blatant attempt to mock her short stature. ‘I’ll have the last laugh,’ she thought to herself cheerfully. ‘They think I can hold a beat? Well, they haven’t heard anything yet!’

XXX

The following morning the members of the Small Band gathered before breakfast to sign up their names. Leshia hung back shaking her head with an amused smile. She continued to think this wasn’t the best idea they’d ever had, but didn’t say anything of it. The girl could see how excited her friends were about the concert and if there was one thing Leshia didn’t have a problem with that was sacrificing her own humility for her friends’ happiness.

Throughout the day the youngsters conferred on where best to hold their first practice session after class and had all but decided to try the room of requirement when they overheard some of the older pupils talking about some new music rooms that had been set up on the fourth floor.

During their last lesson of the day, Potions, Leshia was the only one amidst her friends who wasn’t having trouble concentrating. Quite the opposite could be said for the youngster, who listened to every word Professor Snape said and recreated his example of a Hair Lengthening potion to the tee. Needless to say the old Potions master was highly suspicious behind the transformation of the girl he’d always used to make an example out of.

“Miss Potter,” the aged wizard growled towards the end of the lesson when the pupils of his Gryffindor and Ravenclaw class were supposed to be putting away their things and cleaning the dungeon. “I have had it! This is the third time I have asked you and Miss Cardosa to stop chattering. Detention after dinner and five points from Gryffindor.”

Katie’s eyes went wide, while everyone in the class turned to stare at her jaws hanging. Katie Potter get a detention? Had the world gone mad? If the most well behaved girl in the class could get a detention then anything was possible the surprised class felt grimly and managed to keep quiet for the remainder of the lesson. Katie was still a little shaken up while her friends led her out of the classroom.

“Detention,” she finally mumbled. “Me?”

“Kate it’s not the end of the world,” Leshia managed through a snigger. She found the role-reversal between herself and Katie highly amusing despite the shell-shocked look on her friend’s face.

“I can’t believe I’ve got a detention!”

“Think of it as an eye-opener,” Rachel chimed in happily. Where Leshia found the situation humorous, Rachel found it down right hilarious and hadn’t stopped grinning since. “You never know, you might enjoy yourself.”

“Unlikely, not the kind of detentions Snape likes to dish out.”

“Oh Leesh don’t!” Katie groaned. She remained out of sorts until they reached an available music room on the fourth floor. They were hard pressed to reach it on time, with several other bands fighting for practice time in the new facilities, but Rodeo and Parys had sprinted ahead to beat the disgruntled sixth year girls who had been heading for the door. The girls couldn’t suppress their smirks when their older peers marched past them cursing the boys’ names.

“Nice one boys,” Rachel congratulated them at the door and strolled inside to find the once-classroom nicely decked out with all the instruments they could ever need and plenty more they would never know how to use.

“Where’s Raffa?” Katie suddenly asked once everyone had ambled in and shut the door. Parys sniggered and shook his head.

“Raf said he wanted nothing to do with this train wreck, he’s in the common room.”

“Huh! Lovely!”

“Well he didn’t exactly use those words, that’s all me.”

“You’re such a charmer Parys,” Leshia chirped with a lopsided grin, before she ambled over to the drum set and sat down. She contemplated the enormous contraption with one eyebrow raised. “Um, shouldn’t there be sticks or something? Shall I use my wand?” Experimentally the girl reached out and tapped on a drum, but unintentionally set it off into a continuous and horrifically loud drum roll.

“Leesh shut it off!”

“How?” the blonde girl cried back, her hands over her ears.

Muffliarus drums,” Katie’s determined voice came over the racket and quite instantly the drum fell silent. “Don’t do that again,” she admonished sternly. Leshia shrugged her shoulders meekly and glanced around for some sticks.

“Ah, there they are.”

Everyone manoeuvred themselves into position, briefly trying out their new instruments ever so quietly so the others couldn’t hear, before they all faced off with one another expectantly.

“Um. What now?” Rodeo spoke what everyone else was thinking.

“Shouldn’t we decide what we’re going to play before we actually try and play something?” his best friend added cockily.

“Good point,” Rachel conceded with a cheery grin. “How about we try something easy like ‘My little broomstick’?”

“No way!” came the general consensus against the childish nursery rhyme Rachel had suggested.

“Sounds like a kids song,” muggle-born Rodeo piped up, who alone hadn’t violently objected to the suggestion.

“It is a kids song,” Katie replied, but then she shrugged. “It would be an easy song to start with though.”

“Okay okay, as long as you promise we won’t have to play it for anyone else,” Parys grumbled.

“It never leaves this room,” Rachel agreed with a bright smile. “Okay. Everyone ready?”

“Um no!”

“Rodes just play along, it’s really easy.”

“Right then, on three. One, two three,” Rachel called out, before she broke out into a beautiful rendition of the nursery rhyme her mother had once wooed her to sleep with. For a moment Rodeo winced while trying to play along with the others, but gradually his face fell and he raised his hands up to his ears; never before had he heard anything quite so dreadful! Parys’ chords were the wrong key for Rachel’s singing. Katie’s harmony was out of tune. Luisa’s mumbling had absolutely no structure or lyrics nor a discernable tune for that matter. And Leshia’s drumming…well it would be more aptly named noise-making, rhythmless noise-making to be precise.

“Okay okay! Guys stop playing, it sounds dreadful!” the boy called over the racket after only the first verse. One by one his friends stopped and glanced to one another with equal grimaces, before quite suddenly they dissolved into laughter.

“Man, we sound like crap!” Parys spoke on behalf of the group.

“We sound worse than crap! This band would make even my singing look good,” Leshia agreed.

“Think it’s too late to take our names off the list?” Katie suggested grimly.

“Now hang on a second!” Everyone looked to Rachel in surprise at the determined tone in her voice. “Yeah we sound abysmal, but we can’t just give up. Come on! This’ll be fun if we just prepare a little more. Leesh you need drums lessons and you two need to plan together what harmonies you’re going to sing. Parys we need to play in the same key and Rodes you need to learn the song. I know it’s a lot, but it can be done!”

For a moment there was silence, before Katie finally spoke,

“Where did you learn the word abysmal?”

“Oh sod off, you’re not the only one with brains in the family you know,” Rachel laughed good-naturedly. “Now what do you say?”

“This really means a lot to you doesn’t it Rach?” Leshia spoke up soberly and after a few moments the redhead girl nodded earnestly.

“I really want to do it.”

“Okay fine, we’ll do it, but damn it we’re picking a better song!” Parys grumbled good-naturedly.

“So who exactly am I going to get drum lessons from? I don’t know anyone that plays the drums!”

“Hang on,” Katie piped up with a big smile on her face. “I’ve got an idea.”

XXX

Experienced drummer sought to teach Alecia Malfoy how to play. Extreme patience a must! Those with sensitive ears need not apply. Enquiries should be made in person before Sunday.

Leshia hadn’t thought a school the size of Hogwarts could hide so many drummers with the amount of offers she received. Several of the prospective drum teachers were young men in the upper years that Leshia had never even spoken to and for three days her cheeks flushed furiously at having to speak to so many strangers. Come the weekend Leshia was sure she couldn’t handle any more propositions when finally a tempting offer dropped right into her lap.

“You know I can’t believe you three.” Quite without warning Katie and Rachel’s sixth year cousin Tom dropped down next to Leshia on the bench over breakfast startling all three girls into staring at him.

“What have we done?” Rachel asked amusedly.

“That bloody notice of yours is what.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Katie asked defensively, it had after all been her idea and her wording.

“Well the fact that you put it up to start with. Don’t you remember that Luke plays the drums? He’s really good too.”

“Damn!” Rachel suddenly slapped her hand to her forehead. “I totally forgot about that!”

“It shows, poor guy’s been waiting for you to ask him. Might want to get in there quick before he changes his mind.” Leshia glanced up the table to see Tom’s cousin and best friend Luke sat chatting to their friends and without hesitation she jumped to her feet and hurried up the row of Gryffindors. Luke was the most innocuous and appealing choice out of all the proposals she had received. She’d far rather receive lessons from a boy she’d known her whole life and who she knew to be a good laugh than a complete stranger.

“Luke!” she attracted his attention once she’d reached his side. After finishing his sentence the young man turned around with raised eyebrows.

“Leshia, what can I do for you?”

“I totally forgot that you play the drums!” the girl exclaimed apologetically. “I’m so sorry. You see, I sort of need lessons and I’ve been trying to find someone to teach me. Do you think you could…what I mean to say is I’d far rather have them from you…I mean…”

“I’d love to,” Luke stated cheerfully, saving the girl the embarrassment of trying to find the right words. He was rewarded with an enormous grin from the girl and after agreeing to hold their first lesson in one of the music rooms the following afternoon Leshia returned to her friends feeling much happier about the prospect of learning to play the drums.

XXX

Hermione shifted nervously on the slate floor in front of the hearth. Uneasily she rearranged the beautifully wrapped parcels in her arms and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear. She’d been stalling for a few minutes now while behind her Ginny played with Evie at the kitchen table, but she wouldn’t be able to hold off the inevitable for much longer. The end of lessons were approaching and if she didn’t get moving soon the corridors would be filled with pupils, who would no doubt want to waylay her on her way to her husband’s study.

“Just go already,” Ginny’s amused voice came. “What are you nervous about?”

“I haven’t had any contact with my daughter in weeks Ginny. Not since…” Hermione trailed off and hung her head. “I’m so frightened of what she’s going to say when she…when I see her. How’s she going to react? The last time she was round we didn’t exactly part on good terms.”

“Don’t worry about it so much. You’re bringing her presents, I hardly think she’s going to blow up in your face.”

“Yes, but she’s not expecting me and…”

“Hermione go!” Ginny laughed genially.

“Okay,” Hermione exhaled determinedly, before she reached out for a handful of floo powder and stepped into the grate. After smiling shakily at her best friend she threw it to the ground and cried out, “Hogwarts family chambers.”

In a whirlwind she disappeared, finding herself transported to the chambers she and Draco had once called home. At the sight of the bare walls and the covered furniture Hermione felt her breath catch in her chest. The room looked so lonely…so desolate. Without dwelling too much on the state of the chambers she had once so adored she rushed out into the empty corridor beyond and briskly made her way towards the first floor. On her way the young woman marvelled at how Hogwarts always felt the same, no matter how long she was separated from it. Somehow it would always feel like home.

Thankfully the laden-down mother reached her husband’s study without being seen. She didn’t particularly fancy having to explain herself to curious pupils wondering why the former Ancient Runes teacher was stalking the school once more, not when she was so worried about what her daughter was going to think of her dropping by. The sound of Draco finishing off his lesson wafted out from the slightly ajar door and after depositing the parcels she held on his desk Hermione tiptoed over to it. She had always been curious about the way in which Draco taught, as she had never been able to envisage it. Her husband was such an unpredictable man; even to this day she found it hard to picture him teaching children as young as eleven.

“So hopefully you will now see fourth years the difference between a Bottom Up approach to complex countercurses and a Top Down approach. I wonder though.” Hermione leaned in closer while her husband paused in his discussion with his class. “Can anyone tell me of any alternative approaches they might have read about? Yes Miss Potter?”

“The Symptomatic approach sir,” came Katie’s studious voice.

“Excellent, five points to Gryffindor. Could you tell the rest of the class what…” Hermione was rather disappointed that her husband’s lesson had to be cut short by the bell. She had thoroughly enjoyed listening to the dynamic young man engage his class and marvelled at the way he composed himself so differently when faced with twenty teenagers to how she had imagined.

“Oh well,” Draco was continuing. “You will have to tell us on Friday. Right then, no homework tonight; I hope you’re all working on the assignment I set you on Monday. Remember it’s due next lesson. You can go.” The scraping of chairs preceded the gentle murmur of conversation to waft up to Hermione’s ears and for a moment she wished she could be back in her classroom. Oh how she missed the profession she’d grown to love so much in the short time she’d practiced it.

“Miss Malfoy could you please remain behind?”

Hermione darted back to the desk to pick up the parcels she had deposited there. Carefully she arranged them all in her arms while the sound of the classroom emptying down below continued.

“What have I done?” Leshia’s suspicious voice came moments after the door had shut.

“Join me in my study?” was the only reply her father granted her.

“Look I’ve got to get to my drum lesson, it…”

‘Drum lesson?’ the confused mother mouthed to no one in particular. Since when had her little girl taken up the drums? And why hadn’t Draco informed her about it?

“Just for a minute, I promise it won’t take long.”

Hermione’s lip trembled slightly at the sound of footsteps on the stairs leading from the classroom to the office. Her nervousness was rising and quickly she tried her face in a series of arrangements, finally settling on one she hoped was warm and loving in time for the door to open. Draco ambled in first, a proud smile on his face when he met his wife’s eye.

“Mum!” Leshia exclaimed in surprise the moment she followed her father into the study. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you one last time before you turned fifteen darling.”

“Oh.” The girl didn’t seem displeased, which was all the encouragement Hermione needed to force her nerves away and approach the girl.

“And I wanted to give you these.”

“What’s all that?”

“What do you think they are?” Draco chuckled amusedly.

“Mum you shouldn’t have,” Leshia spoke sadly, though from her expression it was clear she was mentally unwrapping the parcels, trying to guess what was inside.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hermione admonished adoringly, before she deposited the gifts at Leshia’s side on a console table. Quickly she swept her daughter into a hug, which after a moment’s hesitation the teenager returned. “I can’t believe how long it’s been. I swear you’ve grown.”

“Mum,” Leshia grumbled, a smile nearly pulling at her face. “That’s such a lie, but um…thanks for trying.” Quickly the girl pulled away from her mother and smiled awkwardly at her. “I um, I’m sorry, but I have to get to my drum lessons.”

“I know I heard,” Hermione sighed, but she put on a brave face even though she wanted desperately to hear from her daughter where this new interest had come from. She couldn’t have hoped for more really and the fact that Leshia hadn’t run at the sight of her was a step in the right direction. “Happy birthday for tomorrow darling. Be good.” Leshia lost her precious control for a moment and a small smile crept onto her face.

“I will.” She allowed herself to be hugged one last time before she made her way towards the door, casting a look back at her parents and the parcels on the table.

“I’ll have Tally deliver them in the morning,” Draco assured the girl amusedly.

“That’s not what I was…” Leshia began, but then shook her head. “Never mind. Mum I…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the words, but the expression was clear on her face; she was happy to have seen her mother, she was happy Hermione had come.

“I know,” the young woman assured her daughter, who nodded once more and then fled the room leaving her mother beaming after her. Baby steps that’s all it needed, as long as they were taking those small steps in the right direction Hermione could wait till Leshia was ready.

XXX

November sixteenth was just like any other Thursday for most of the inhabitants of Hogwarts. For a select few however, it involved getting up horrendously early to surprise Leshia on her fifteenth birthday. Their clumsy clattering about woke the birthday girl before they were given the opportunity to surprise her, but she, like Katie before her, suppressed her laughter and allowed her friends the benefit of believing they had succeeded.

She thoroughly enjoyed the kafuffle they made with their noisemakers and the singing birthday cards that flapped about her four-poster the moment the curtains were torn back. Tiny fireworks were going off all over the place while the four Gryffindor girls and their foreign friend sang Happy Birthday for a delighted Leshia.

“Wait! What smells like burning?” Rachel asked with a disgruntled frown before the others had even brought the song to a close.

“The presents! They’ve caught fire!” Ashley suddenly cried out resulting in a stampede to exit the four-poster. Katie quickly saw to the smouldering wrapping paper that had unfortunately become a little singed beneath the celebratory fireworks.

“They’re okay, just a little brown,” Katie offered embarrassedly. “Sorry Leesh.” The blonde girl wrinkled her brow for a moment and turned her attention to the mountain of singed presents, before quite suddenly she cracked up and shook her head.

“It’s okay,” she laughed. “Don’t worry about it. You guys this is great!”

“Open your presents!” Rachel piped up happily and before Leshia had even rubbed the sleep from her eyes the red-haired girl was at her side edging her forward with a friendly nudge.

“Do you want to open them?”

“She’s been eyeing them up all morning,” Katie chuckled in agreement while Rachel’s cheeks flushed furiously. “I don’t think she realises it’s not her birthday for another two weeks yet.”

“Oh sod off, I do so realise! Leesh that big one there’s from me!” Taking the hint Leshia grinned and reached out for the oblong-shaped package wrapped in an imaginative way. She couldn’t hide her sniggers. “Yeah well you try getting a roll of paper round that thing, it was bloody impossible.”

“It wouldn’t have been if you’d let me help,” Katie countered in a sing-song voice eliciting yet more sniggers from the birthday girl, who quickly raised her hands to silence the squabbling cousins.

“Firstly I love it so who cares? And secondly as my first birthday wish of the day you two have to stop arguing over everything! Seriously, you’re like an old married couple.”

“Oh your first wish? Just how many birthday wishes are you entitled to make?” Katie asked with an amused smile eliciting a shrug from her friend.

“As many as I like.”

“Leesh you’re totally forgetting about the presents again…”

Without any further ado Leshia ripped the paper from Rachel’s gift, which soon sent her and everyone else in the room into gales of laughter. Just where the girl had managed to find boots with such enormous platform heels was quite a mystery, but everyone had a fantastic time toppling round the dormitory in them before Rachel revealed another more thoughtful gift she claimed was the real present, which soon spurned on the others.

Leshia was beyond grateful for all the fabulous presents she was receiving and couldn’t find the words to express herself, until finally she came across the pile she had seen in her mother’s arms the day before. There were both lavish presents and thoughtful tokens amidst the loot and with each parcel she unwrapped Leshia felt another stab of shame, followed promptly by a backlash of emotion and hurt.

‘They started this,’ she reminded herself grimly while she busied herself with gathering up the mountain of discarded wrapping paper the morning had generated. Her friends, sensing what was bothering their friend, would not allow her to wallow in self-pity and soon had the girl smiling again – though perhaps it was more of a grimace – when they led her down into the common room, which burst into a spontaneous birthday song in her honour. Before it had even come to a close the birthday girl found herself on the receiving end of more hugs than she could provide and only when it felt like she had embraced the population of Hogwarts did she finally find herself facing a grinning Rachel.

“What?” the blonde girl asked with a wary smile. Without a word her best friend lifted a large piece of parchment absolutely jam-packed with scribbles from her friends wishing her a happy birthday. Leshia was silenced while she glanced over all the kind words, though a smile did pull at her face.

“Thank you all so much!” Leshia laughed and she hugged the parchment for a moment. “You’re all so soppy!” Laughter rang out, which Leshia was highly thankful for, she wasn’t good at expressing emotion in any serious sort of way.

“Shorty!” Quickly the girl winced and braced herself just in time before she was pulled into a backwards embrace by two strong arms. “Happy birthday!” With a beaming smile Leshia laughed when she felt Owen Gabriel kiss the top of her head before he let her go and spun her round. The tall young man was brandishing a poorly wrapped parcel, which Leshia shyly accepted.

“Owen you shouldn’t have.”

“Just shut up and open it,” the young man laughed fondly. Cheeks blushing furiously Leshia eased the shimmering wrapping paper from her present and quite promptly burst out laughing.

Losing your mind? The ten-step recovery programme to getting the old you back,” she read aloud through her laughter. “I repeat, you shouldn’t have!” Owen grinned lopsidedly and dragged Leshia into the crook of his arm.

“Have a good one Malfoy, behave yourself.” There was a deeper significance to the young man’s words than the amused expression his face let on.

“Thanks Owen.”

Being the birthday girl came with certain perks Leshia thought to herself happily after the shower queue allowed her to cut in line. Yes she could cope with the embarrassing moments such as arriving for breakfast and having a large proportion of the great hall burst into song if people would continue acting as though she were a visiting royal. Alecia Malfoy wasn’t the sort of girl who took extreme pleasure out of being pampered, but every now and again she felt she could handle it.

Thursday was arguably the best day of the week in terms of timetabling for the fourth years, as they were lucky enough to avoid run ins with the strictest teachers, namely Professor Snape, Professor Tripper and Professor Malfoy. This allowed Leshia to truly enjoy her day. Suffice to say come lunchtime she was thoroughly excitable, so much so that she found herself in a peculiar competition with Parys that had them both careening down the corridor trying to pull the other’s shirt over their heads.

“Parys!” Leshia cried out across the entrance hall, as her friend darted into the great hall for lunch having just pulled her shirt up so high her entire midriff had been on display. “I’ll get you for that!” The rest of her friends laughed at the girl’s cries and followed in Parys’ wake into the great hall leaving Leshia to catch up, but before she could take even two paces she fell into shadow.

“Miss Malfoy!” Leshia froze and turned around very slowly to grimace up at the filthy expression on her least favourite face in the castle: Silas Tripper. “Do you need reminding about the school rules?”

“No sir,” Leshia offered quickly, though her tone was ripe with attitude and belligerence. The youngster hadn’t quite mastered the art of keeping one’s temper in check when faced with a madman with a short fuse.

“Running in the corridors,” Tripper began snidely, ticking off his imaginary list on his fingers. “Shouting. Failing to keep your shirt tucked in and to top it all off displays of public indecency…”

“What?” Leshia exclaimed in amazement. “When?” Tripper narrowed his eyes at the girl and twitched slightly, it was as though he wanted to lunge forward and snap her in two, such was his dislike for the teenager.

“Does the whole school need to see your bare flesh Miss Malfoy?” The way Tripper’s lip curled at the words made Leshia feel dirty. It was quite clear the teacher berating her found nothing so disgusting as the thought of her bare midriff. She would far rather he think nothing at all of the parts of her body. “Well? Or do you think yourself to be so desirable that everyone wants to have a look?”

The cruel man was pushing it too far, but what could Leshia do about it? Tripper was a bully, but he was a bully who had the authority to do as he pleased.

“What is going on here?” Leshia let out an audibly relieved sigh before she spun around to see her father materialise at her side, his eyes narrowed in hatred at his nemesis. “Perhaps you need to be reminded of decent conduct as well Professor Tripper? There are limitations to what you ought to discuss with a fifteen-year-old girl.”

Leshia fought the smirk that wanted very much to jump onto her face at the sight of Tripper floundering to defend his actions. She edged closer to her father until he was practically between herself and the man who had been bullying her moments ago and settled down to enjoy the show.

“I was just punishing her for disrupting the peace…”

“This is a school Professor,” Draco cut in sharply and he indicated the hyperactive youngsters making their way to the great hall for lunch making all manner of noise. “Filled with young people. What hope of finding peace amongst their exuberance do you mean to find?”

That girl was…”

“That girl,” Draco growled darkly. “Has a name.” Tripper grinded his teeth together, positively seething with rage. He looked like a toddler about to throw a tantrum, which didn’t help Leshia in trying to suppress her laughter.

“Miss Malfoy was being indecent.” Draco glanced momentarily down to his daughter with narrowed eyes, but Leshia quickly shook her head to attest to her innocence. “She should be punished.”

“I’ll deal with it.”

“But I’m the one…”

“Are you really challenging me on this?” For a moment the two men sized one another up, both arching slightly as though ready to pounce. Finally Tripper was the one to back down. Though he would gladly rip Draco Malfoy to pieces limb by limb he had his instructions. Challenging the man over the right to punish his own daughter would no doubt lead to an altercation he would get severely sanctioned for.

“It’s not worth it,” the scarred man finally sneered and only after he had cast the girl hiding slightly behind her father a filthy scowl did Tripper stride off in a furious mood. Draco watched him leave in silence, his fists clenched, until finally he turned on his daughter with a more relaxed expression.

“Happy birthday,” he offered gently. Leshia beamed up at her father, gloriously happy he’d been on call to get her out of a sticky situation. It didn’t enter her mind that they hadn’t spoken since that enormous argument she had run from.

“Thanks dad!” Without thinking she threw her arms round Draco’s shoulders and hugged him ever so briefly before she pulled back.

“What were you doing that was so indecent?” her father asked amusedly, unable to hide the joy on his face at this seemingly normal encounter.

“Oh that,” Leshia grumbled happily. “Parys just ripped my shirt up that’s all.”

“He did what?”

“Dad relax, we were playing a game. You should have seen how bad I got him…” Leshia trailed off at the bemused frown on her father’s face, so quickly she gave him a bright smile. “Thanks for stepping in.”

“Do yourself a favour and try and stay out of his way,” Draco replied gently, not having to mention that protecting her from that cretin was his number one priority. “He won’t hesitate to find any excuse to get at you now he feels he’s entitled. I’d hate to see you spending your birthday locked away in his study.” Leshia nodded quickly wanting very much to tell her father how much it meant to her having him there to protect her,

“You know…” she began, but was suddenly silenced by Rachel calling out her name. She turned in time to see her best friend poke her head out the Great Hall and then seeing she was interrupting a private family moment grimace apologetically and retreat. Leshia turned back to her father, but the moment had gone and Draco knew it.

“Be good,” he offered his daughter with a small smile, before he hesitantly leaned forward and kissed the top of her head. For the first time in months Leshia stayed rooted to the spot and didn’t pull away. Only once her father’s footsteps had died away did she rush towards the hall to seek out her friends and tell them all about Tripper’s outburst.

Leshia heeded her father’s advice and kept her excitement in check for the rest of the afternoon until finally lessons drew to a close and the fourth year Gryffindors ambled back to Gryffindor tower. She next went about the enjoyable task of opening yet more gifts and finding places for all her new possessions. With little storage space she had to resort to keeping several presents in her trunk, but when she went to open it her eyes fell on a large book lying amidst the assortment of unwanted possessions already residing in the large coffer. With a curious frown Leshia reached out to the Secret of Strength and stroked the cover.

“I’d forgotten about you,” she whispered, wondering if she might have to start reading it soon.

“Hey Leesh!” Quickly the blonde girl looked up to find her friends barrelling into the room and without thinking she pulled her hand back and started loading things into the trunk. “We were thinking of squeezing a Hearing Aid practice in, fancy it?”

“Oh seriously? On my birthday?” Leshia grumbled.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Katie countered, seeing the blonde girl’s reluctance for the farce it was. After a lopsided grin Leshia shrugged her shoulders and picked up the pair of drumsticks Luke had kindly given her for her birthday, apparently they had been enchanted to make drumming slightly easier and the girl was very eager to try them out.

“The first hint of criticism though and I am out of there,” Leshia complained fondly. She was yet to practice with her friends without one of them voicing concerns over her lack of progress.

“Yeah, but Leesh how will you ever learn if nobody ever says anything bad?” Rachel complained with a big smirk leaving Leshia rolling her eyes in her best effort at feigned-annoyance before leading the way down the spiral staircase.

“You know it’s not too late for me to remove myself from this little getup you people insist on calling a band. I mean it’s not like I haven’t got anything better to do with my time. Mila’s been driving us pretty hard lately so I could do with extra practice and besides, I know plenty of people I can hang out with who don’t fancy sticking me on stage looking like a plonker!”

“Hey we’re just sticking you on stage,” the jubilant red-haired girl countered happily. “The whole plonker thing is all you.”

“Charming. Um, why am I doing this again?” For a moment the birthday girl spun around on the step and glanced up at her friends with an innocent expression.

“Because you love me and I always stick my neck on the line for your crackpot plans that always nearly get us killed.”

“Or maimed for life!” Katie piped up cheerfully from behind her cousin.

“Not to mention psychologically scarred.”

“Yeah yeah, all right. I had no idea the pair of you were so delicate,” Leshia sniggered, before she spun round and carried on till she reached the bustling common room. Without any other further ado the blonde girl strode across the room to where Parys, Rodeo and Luisa were relaxing at the fourth years’ usual table. “On your feet, we’re rehearsing apparently.”

“Aw are you serious?” Parys groaned amusedly. “I just got my hearing back after yesterday!”

“Rachel’s putting her foot down I’m afraid.”

“Well can’t you use the whole ‘it’s my birthday’ card Leesh?” Rodeo asked hopefully.

“I tried that, didn’t work. Come on guys, you know how much this means to Rach.” Leshia sounded serious. Rachel and Katie, who had taken their time in making their way over were finally nearing hearing range and the last thing Leshia wanted was for the redhead girl be made to feel bad for wanting to rehearse. Rachel was the sort of girl who would put a brave face on if everyone complained and agree to let them off the hook, but she would hurt inside and Leshia knew it.

“Yeah,” Parys sighed and he gave the approaching Rachel a big thumbs up. “Seeing as it’s Rachel!”

With their grumblings shot down the members of the Small Band ambled down towards the music room on the other end of the castle. Thankfully there was one left available and the would-be musicians spent the next hour perfecting their rendition of ‘My little Broomstick’. That they would have to start rehearsing a proper song soon was at the forefront of everybody’s minds, but until they could play a simple song together there would be no hope of choosing something more crowd-pleasing. Finally when Rodeo and Parys started striking in protest Rachel conceded they had practiced enough for one evening and allowed her friends to amble back to Gryffindor tower.

“You know unless we start playing something cool soon I’m going to have to start getting detentions to get out of practice,” Parys mused aloud. Rodeo sniggered in agreement at his side.

“Well then we’d have to bring detention to you,” Rachel countered cheerfully. “Anyway, what did you have in mind?”

“Something by the Mullet Heads?”

“What that band that played at the Halloween Bash?” Katie now piped up with a wrinkled brow.

“Yeah what’s wrong with them?”

“I think Kate would rather we played something by the Cauldron Chicks,” Leshia teased with a wicked grin aimed at the bespectacled girl.

“For your information,” Katie replied snootily, while the rest of the band voiced their indignation at such a notion. “I’ve gone off them.”

“Have you? What was it, the fact that they’re lead singer is a husband stealing harpie or the fact that they’re music is crap?” Leshia asked cheerfully, trying to shake the memory of the band’s lead singer trying to come on to her father in their second year. After a moment’s though Katie shrugged.

“Bit of both actually.”

“Why don’t we get together later on and listen to Katie’s wireless to get some inspiration?” Leshia suggested. The others stared at her with furrowed brows. “What?”

“Later? You mean there’s nothing else going on?” Rodeo finally spoke on behalf of the group.

“Like what?”

“Well seeing as it’s your birthday and you are the party queen, maybe a get-together of some sorts?” Parys now spoke. For a moment Leshia shifted her mouth to one side, before finally she shrugged and shook her head.

“I’m not planning anything.” By now they’re reached the Fat Lady and after uttering the password the birthday girl ducked inside ahead of her friends, who all glanced to one another with the same thought weighing on their mind. Surely Leshia deserved more than a quiet night in listening to the wireless?

XXX

“I can’t move,” Leshia groaned, while she rested her hands on her bulging stomach. At dinner she had well and truly gorged herself and was now paying the price. “Seriously, I think I’m going to burst. Agh Parys! Don’t touch me!” The tall boy laughed while he rested his feet on the girl’s swollen stomach.

“But you’re so round and comfortable for once,” he countered amusedly. “Normally you’re just skin and bones, this makes a nice change.”

“You’re lucky I can’t move,” the girl grumbled to a chorus of laughter from her friends. “Or I would seriously squash you.”

The common room had started to empty, as groups of conscientious youngsters sloped off to their dormitories to get some homework in or an early night. So quiet was the room that the fourth years had even managed to secure a whole settee for themselves. All in all the atmosphere wasn’t exactly what you could call festive, which seemed a shame.

“Why is it that you don’t want a party Leesh?” Rodeo finally asked, speaking the thoughts of all those gathered.

“What?”

“Well you know, it’s your birthday, shouldn’t you get a party same as Katie?” the boy persisted. Leshia furrowed her brow before shrugging her shoulders.

“It’s kinda too late to get anything started now.”

“Oh come on, it’s never too late!” Rachel now piped up.

“Look I’m not that bothered anyway.”

“You? Not that bothered?” The redhead girl was finding her feet, setting off alarm bells in sleep Leshia’s head.

“Rach where are you going?”

“The bog if you must know,” came the cheerful response and off Rachel flounced in the direction of the bathrooms. Leshia didn’t notice her making a beeline past the sixth years, where she had a quiet word in her cousins Luke and Tom’s ears. In fact when the grinning freckled girl sat down the birthday girl was so unassuming that something might be amiss that she was succumbing to a light doze after such a heavy meal. Consequently Leshia quite missed the mischievous grin that passed between her friends once Rachel had retaken her seat.

“Hey why don’t I go get my wireless so we can start looking for a song for Hearing Aid?” Katie suddenly spoke up obviously. So suspicious did she sound that Leshia’s eyes snapped open and eyed the bespectacled girl guardedly.

“What are you up to?” the blonde girl finally asked warily.

“Nothing,” her friend replied shrilly. “I thought we were going to look for a song tonight that’s all.” After a few moments in which Leshia stared deeply into the girl’s eyes, seemingly trying her hand at her father’s unnerving ability to read people’s minds, she shrugged and nodded.

“Sounds like a plan.”

While the birthday girl stifled a yawn Katie jumped to her feet and scarpered up the stairs, feeling happy to be released from those icy grey eyes. Sometimes Leshia Malfoy could be a little bit scary, the raven-haired girl thought to herself with a shudder. By the time she returned with the wireless Katie could see a web of whispers spreading out round the common room unbeknownst to the birthday girl still dozing on the settee. Curious pyjama clad youngsters had appeared and were loitering about as though waiting for something, their eyes flicking to the curly blonde haired girl every now and then to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. Katie felt she had half a mind to tell everyone off for being so obvious, but as Leshia was still enjoying the after-effects of her enormous meal and was only heeding her round stomach at this moment in time, she felt she could let it slide for once.

“Here we are,” the tall girl announced brightly while depositing the wireless on the coffee table at Leshia’s feet. Quite abruptly the blonde girl sat up straight.

“Katie! You scared the life out of me. Take it easy. What’s the rush?”

“No rush!”

“Then why are you out of breath?”

“Leesh would you relax already?” Rachel complained amusedly.

“Well I would, but you lot are up to something and I don’t like it,” Leshia countered with a small smile before she slouched back into the settee once more, adamant she wasn’t going to take part in any of their antics.

“Why do you always think the worst of us?”

After sizing up her friends for a few moments Leshia stretched and started climbing to her feet.

“Well if there’s nothing going on then I may as well just head up to bed. I’m knackered.”

“Um Leesh why don’t…” Katie began worriedly, but before she could quite get her sentence out the portrait door to the common room swung open and in scurried a half a dozen people or so laden down with looted food and drink. Tom and Luke Weasley headed up the group, both levitating two crates of Butterbeer bottles ahead of themselves.

“Where are you off to shorty?” Luke asked jovially.

“Yeah sit down!” his cousin ordered fondly. “We can’t have the guest of honour making a runner can we?” Leshia started laughing and spun round to glare at her friends, who were all smiling and doing their best to look innocent. All around the pyjama clad Gryffindors were bursting into a rendition of Happy Birthday while the looters set up their bounty on one of the tables.

“I thought I told you?” Leshia said fondly once the singers had burst into a round of ‘hip hip hoorays’.

“And we decided unanimously not to listen,” Rachel replied cheerily. Katie wrinkled her brow at her cousin, wanting very much to enquire where she had learned word ‘unanimously’, but now was not the time.

“Leesh if you still want to go to bed then bugger off,” Parys laughed. “More cake for the rest of us.”

Had Leshia any reservations left to voice, they were soon whisked from her mind by the wireless cranking into action. Lively music filled the room and quite suddenly an instant party had sprung into life.

“Since when have I been able to say no to a party?” the blonde girl finally managed with an impish smile. Her friends cheered jubilantly and airlifted Leshia towards the newly set up refreshment stand where pyjama-clad Gryffindors were already serving themselves.

“Make way, birthday girl coming through!”

“Come on Leesh, blow out your candles and make a wish.”

Leshia found herself deposited in front of a cake laden with candles. Everyone in the room watched expectantly while Leshia pulled her hair back with her hands and leaned over the birthday cake. She paused for a moment while a small smile wormed its way onto her face, before she blew out the candles and made her wish.

XXX

“Did you hear? Gryffindor threw another party last night.”

“Why?”

“Leshia Malfoy’s birthday wasn’t it?”

“Yeah I reckon so. I wish Hufflepuff would throw parties once in a while.”

“There’s more! I heard she got off with one of those Americas Institute boys.”

“What the same one as last time?”

“No, a different one, an older one, sixth year apparently. I think his name was Fed or something like that.”

Draco sped up past the gossiping teenagers in the corridor and shut his eyes tightly for a moment. He had been hearing about his daughter’s most recent humiliating exploits all morning and had no desire to find out any further details. Just what was happening to his once innocent daughter was quite horrifying to the outcast father, but what could he do? Leshia had shut him out and set herself on self-destruct.

It was the end of the day bringing the lesson the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher had least been looking forward to: the fourth year Gryffindors. He strode onwards with an increasing feeling of unease, towards the classroom where he would encounter his wayward daughter. He was dreading having to keep quiet about his displeasure at hearing about her distasteful behaviour and would far rather not see the girl at all than deal with this latest development in her downwards spiral.

As he rounded the corridor Draco’s eyes fell on the uniform line of fourth years. They were exuberant at the prospect of the weekend. Leshia seemed to be keeping a low profile, indeed, Draco did not see her at first, but as he got closer he saw a small figure slouched against the wall, head hanging.

‘You should feel ashamed,’ he thought to himself angrily. At the sight of the dichotic Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher the youngsters stood up straight and fell silent and by the time Draco reached them they all appeared presentable. For good measure he glanced along the line, unable to prevent himself from staring more firmly at his daughter than the rest, before he stood back and allowed them to file past him into the classroom. Quickly the youngsters took their seats and by the time Draco had made his way to the front of the class they were in their seats and staring obediently ahead.

“Good afternoon fourth years,” Draco forced himself to say naturally, pushing away his strong desire to tell Leshia exactly how he felt about her most recent exploit in front of the whole class. “I know you’re all excited about the weekend, but let us try and get through this lesson painlessly please. You’ll all be delighted to know it is another practical session.”

Such was their discipline that the teenagers all suppressed the urge to cheer at this revelation. Indeed, their only reaction to this news was to blink rapidly and Draco realised this with a genuine smile. Of all the years in the school the fourth years were his best-behaved year group, which seemed remarkable considering the characters this year housed. They had gone their entire Hogwarts career with just one Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and were very responsive to the way he expected them to behave, whereas the older years still rebelled and the younger years had not the self-discipline for this level of obedience yet.

“We will be concluding our work on the fundamental curses by experimenting on one another our working knowledge of their countercurses,” the teacher explained. “Everyone rise to your feet.”

Quickly the fourth years responded and the moment they lifted from their chairs the furniture darted from the middle of the room to stack up along the side. Heavy mats spread out along the floor beneath their feet creating a padded surface that would hopefully minimise any injuries from carelessly cast curses.

“Please, find a partner.”

Though Leshia had turned to Rachel instinctively, and the red girl in turn had turned towards her, quite suddenly Kati appeared between them looking fiercely at the blonde girl.

“Be my partner Leshia.” It wasn’t a question and all Leshia could do was nod grimly in response.

“Would love to,” she managed quietly, casting Rachel a grim expression that the redhead girl mirrored. They had both known this was coming.

“Everybody find a space,” Draco was continuing to the class. “You will have one hour to curse your partner and then cast the countercurse. Should anyone require assistance, I will be on hand to help.” The fourth years eyed each other with excited smiles while they waited for further instructions. “Well go on then.”

Curses filled the room and pupils started falling to the ground. Laughter permeated the air of curses and countercurses and everywhere there was movement. Only two pupils stared at one another, their wands clasped tightly in their hands.

“Katie what…”

Corripio pondera,” the raven-haired girl suddenly cried out causing Leshia to slouch onto her side, fighting the strength of the balancing curse Katie had thrown at her. It was so powerful she could barely stand up.

“It hurts!” the blonde girl cried out sounding strangled.

“Why did you do it Leshia?”

“Do what?”

“You know bloody well what you did!” With a wince Leshia fell onto the mat, the world was spinning to such an extent it was as though she had downed a whole bottle of fire whiskey. Katie was angry and this anger had fuelled a curse far more powerful than the one Draco had used on his daughter as an example to the class.

“Katie stop,” the blonde girl whispered.

“You only snogged Fed when you saw Rodeo was about to kiss me. You knew what you were doing and you purposefully tried to sabotage us getting back together!”

On the mat Leshia was starting to lose consciousness. Her thoughts were as muddled as her balance and she was sure that any moment now she was going to either regurgitate her lunch or pass out from the sheer weight of her own head.

“I didn’t…”

“You knew the second he saw you he’d lose interest in me. You knew!” A tear rolled out from Katie’s eye while she glared furiously at her friend on the mat. Leshia’s eyes had now rolled back into her head; she had fainted.

“What are you doing? Reddo pondera!” Katie shrunk away from the furious Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and shook her head. She couldn’t excuse her actions. Down on the mat Leshia still lay unconscious and across the room partners had stopped practising their curses to turn and stare at the unbelievable scene in the corner of the room.

“Sir I…”

“Get out of my sight,” Draco wheeled on the raven-haired girl, his tone dangerous and gravelly. More tears fell from Katie’s eyes and she looked to the girl on the mat.

“Is she okay?”

The teacher ignored her and instead dropped to his knees beside the unconscious girl. Quickly he held the wand out and uttered a silent incantation, which worked instantaneously. Quite unceremoniously Leshia sat up straight and leaned over her side as though to be sick, but she held her stomach and winced, managing to keep herself from humiliating herself any further.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered sounding strangled.

“Miss Weasley?” Draco glanced up to see his daughter’s best friend step forward a few paces. Her pretty face was arranged in a horrified expression. “Please take Miss Malfoy to the girls toilets and then to the hospital wing?” Rachel didn’t need telling twice and she rushed forward helping Leshia to her feet. She helped Leshia hobble out leaving the stunned class staring at the perpetrator of the curse.

“I thought I told you to leave?” Draco growled at the girl.

“Sir I didn’t mean…”

“Get out!” Draco’s bellow reverberated off the walls leaving Katie shaking slightly, but she finally did as she was told. After collecting her bag from her desk along the wall she scurried across to the door where she glanced back in shame at her friends. When she saw the scowl on Rodeo’s face she let out a sob, before fleeing into the corridor.

XXX

“I can’t believe Kate would do that to you Leesh. I just…I can’t believe it!” Rachel fumed. Leshia had been propped up in one of the hospital wing beds with two strange pads attached to her ears. Katie’s curse had down severe damage to her inner ears meaning Rachel had had a difficult task getting her to the hospital wing, but Madam Pomfry assured the concerned girls that the strange contraptions she had fastened to Leshia’s head would soon set her to rights.

“She was angry and we both know why,” Leshia sighed gravely.

“That’s still no excuse!”

“Rach I had it coming, you know I did. Katie’s a passionate person, you can’t really blame her for being upset when I buggered up her chances with Rodeo.”

“Yeah, but you told me you were doing that for her own good,” Rachel tried, though her heart wasn’t in it. She knew her best friends well enough to see they had got themselves into the same sticky situation they had found themselves in in second year: they both liked Rodeo again.

“Rach come on, you and I both know I was doing it because I didn’t want to see them together.”

“Well then you’re both horrible,” Rachel grumbled, though a small smile pulled at the corner of her mouth.

“You know what, I think you’re right there. You’ve got to go and find her Rach, you can bet she’s totally distraught…”

“Don’t make me go and get her, I can’t tell you what I’ll do if I see her the way I’m feeling right now,” the red-haired girl pleaded with a worried frown, which elicited a chuckle from the injured girl.

“Oh as if, you’re a much better person than either of us. You’d never intentionally hurt a friend, I know that much.”

“I’m not going to get out of this am I?” Rachel sighed and once more Leshia grinned.

“Not likely no.”

“All right, just don’t go anywhere okay?”

“Rach,” Leshia laughed and she indicated her bed-ridden state. “Do I look like I’m going anywhere? If I set foot off this bed I’ll land on my face again.”

After Rachel had rushed out the room Leshia’s expression fell and she stared miserably down at her hands. Everything was changing and she didn’t know how to end this downwards spiral of misery. Her actions were hurting everybody she loved and yet she was unable to prevent herself from making these awful choices. Yes the sight of Katie and Rodeo on the settee, leaning in close to one another had set alarm bells of in Leshia’s head and yes she had lunged at her nearest admirer in an attempt to break them up, but how could she have been so cruel?

“You’re a disgrace Malfoy,” she whispered to herself. “A total and utter disgrace.” Uneasily she leant back on her pillows and shut her eyes, willing the ringing to leave her ears and let her have a moment’s rest. Before too long though, the doors to the hospital wing swung open once more and in marched Rachel, dragging her tearful cousin behind her. Leshia sat up straight again to the best of her abilities and forced a smile onto her face that brought instant comfort to Katie’s ravaged feelings.

“Leesh,” Katie wept. “I’m just so sorry!” After a moment’s hesitation Leshia opened her arms to the raven-haired girl, who rushed forward to embrace the invalid.

“It was my fault, I started it. I’m sorry too Katie, for everything!” The two girls hugged for a long time while Katie let out all her grief and the friends made up again. Before too long Rachel had thrown herself onto the pile and a group hug of sorts emerged with all three girls giggling stupidly.

“How long are they going to keep you here?” Katie sniffed eventually and she pulled back.

“Till I can stand again I suppose,” Leshia shrugged. “I don’t reckon it’ll be too long. I feel pretty good already actually. What’s um, what’s going to happen to you?” Katie winced and shook her head.

“I don’t know, you’re dad was so mad Leesh.” The blonde girl nodded. Cruelly injuring Draco’s daughter under his very nose? That ought to be enough to make the man ‘mad’ to say the least.

“I’ll have a word with him, tell him what happened.” Katie stared in shock at her friend.

“But you’re not talking to your dad right now…”

“Yeah well I’m not going to let him bollock you am I? Not when this was all my fault.”

“Oh Leesh!” Again Katie fell on the blonde girl, who burst out laughing.

An hour passed before Leshia was deemed fit enough to leave the hospital wing by the formidable matron. The bell had just gone signifying the end of lessons and Leshia had to struggle against the traffic to reach her father’s classroom in time before he flooed home for the day. The Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom door still lay open and after peering inside Leshia could see her father moving the desks back into place without the aid of magic. His gaze seemed to be very far away, as though he were staring back through time.

Uneasily Leshia cleared her throat at the door urging her father to look up sharply. His frown deepened when he saw who was standing at the door.

“How are you feeling?” he asked eventually after his daughter had stepped inside and shut the door behind herself.

“There’s this damn ringing in my ears that won’t go away,” the girl explained. “Madam Pomfry told me that’d last a few days.” Draco nodded vacantly, he had expected as much.

“I suppose you’ve come for your things?” Leshia frowned and glanced towards her bag, which lay undisturbed atop her desk. She hadn’t even remembered it.

“Um no, not really,” she replied, but ambled across the room to sling her satchel about her shoulders anyway. Draco raised one eyebrow curiously.

“Oh?”

“I came to talk to you actually.”

“Talk? To me?” His suspicion wrangled a painful smile onto Leshia’s face and she nodded. What had become of the once strong relationship she had with her father that she couldn’t even come and talk to him without arousing suspicion?

“It’s about Katie.” Draco stayed quiet, his expression murderous. “Dad that’s just it, I don’t want you to go off on one with her. She was right to do what she did, I had it coming.”

“Go off on one? Leshia the girl put you in the hospital wing!” Draco complained angrily.

“Yeah well like I said I had it coming!”

“What on earth did you do to deserve that?” Leshia looked down at her hands uncomfortably.

“I stuffed up her chances with this boy she likes…on purpose.”

“And that’s reason enough to curse one of her best friends is it? A boy?”

“It’s not about the boy dad, it’s about the fact that I hurt her and I did it on purpose. I started it!”

“And when did this happen?”

“When do you think?” the girl countered grimly. “I know you know what happened yesterday dad. You always know.” Draco stared into his little girl’s eyes remorsefully and eventually shook his head.

“What are you playing at Leshia? Hmm? Why are you doing this to yourself?” he finally asked gently. “I understand that you’re angry with your mother and I, but why take it out on yourself? You’re so much better than all this.”

“I don’t know why,” Leshia replied in a whisper and she quickly lowered her eyes from her father’s intense gaze. “I can’t stop myself…” Silence enveloped the unhappy pair, which was finally broken by Draco clearing his throat and getting to his feet.

“I won’t take matters further with Katie,” he finally spoke softly. “She’s already suffered enough I imagine.”

“She totally has!” Leshia agreed fervently. Draco smiled sadly and nodded before he lifted another desk to put it back in its rightful place. “Why aren’t you using magic?”

“I needed to clear my head.” Leshia eyed the remaining desks and then glanced at the clock. She had a drums lesson to get to in five minutes. Quickly she crossed the room towards one of the desks and started pushing it back into its position. Though Draco didn’t look at her his smile grew. Once Leshia had pushed the desk back into position she straightened up and approached her father.

“I’ve got a drums lesson to get to, but um, thanks for being so understanding,” she told her father in a stilted voice. She had reached his side now and Draco straightened up, towering over the girl as he always did.

“I’ll always be there for you, you know that.” Leshia nodded quickly before she lunged at her father’s side, half hugged him and then darted away. It all happened to quickly that Draco was barely given time to respond, but as Leshia rushed towards the door an enormous smile had grown on his handsome face. At the door the girl turned round and managed a small wave before she was gone.

Luke was waiting patiently when Leshia burst through the door to their usual music room. The girl’s progress had been slow, but steady and Luke was quite proud of his efforts to teach the rhythmless girl some tricks. How she would cope on stage was another matter, but here in this music room she was holding her own.

“You’re in a hurry, something happened?” the young man asked amusedly.

“I thought I was late again,” the girl panted while she dropped her satchel on a desk.

“Are you up for it today? I heard about what happened…”

“I’m fine! Really,” Leshia countered firmly, eliciting a lopsided grin from her mentor.

“The scrapes you girls get yourselves into. You’d never catch guys acting like that.” Leshia sniggered and shook her head, thinking quite the opposite, but not wanting to insult her teacher.

“Sure sure. Now move over, I thought I was the one learning how to play the drums?” Luke laughed and cleared out for the young girl to take her seat on the stool. She quickly ran through what she’d learnt the last time, after which Luke burst into applause.

“Why did you kiss Fed yesterday Leesh?” the young man asked out of the blue. Leshia wrinkled her brow and shrugged embarrassedly.

“Why not?”

“You want to watch him. I mean Fed’s a funny guy and a laugh to hang around with, but guys his age aren’t trustworthy. Hell, guys your age aren’t trustworthy,” the red-haired young man warned quite seriously. Leshia sniggered.

“You’re a guy your age,” she accused playfully.

“Yeah but you’re like a cousin to me Leesh, same as Katie and Rachel. I could never think about you like that. No offence, I mean yeah you’re hot and everything, but there’s just no way.” The blonde girl laughed so loudly she actually made the ringing in her ears worse and had to stop.

“Okay,” she finally managed when she came to. “I won’t go after guys your age again, okay?”

XXX

The following morning brought an excited buzz to the castle; it was a match day! The weather had thankfully stayed clear and though it looked very cold up there in the sunshine Leshia was confident about the clash with Slytherin. With all the kafuffle the day before in trying to set Katie’s reputation to rights by glaring murderously at anyone who dared raise an eyebrow at her raven-haired friend Leshia hadn’t really been given the chance to worry about the match.

Saturday morning brought with it a flutter of nerves, but nothing the blonde girl couldn’t handle. Before any of her friends had risen she changed into her quidditch robes and collected her broom. She ambled down the quiet corridors until she reached the entrance hall and was all set on heading inside when suddenly a cruel snigger caught her attention. The girl spun round to find her least favourite person in the castle sauntering up from the dungeons with a posse of Slytherin cronies fanned about him.

“Allseyer,” Leshia growled in greeting.

“Morning blood traitor, good day for a beating don’t you think?”

“I’m glad you think so, seeing as it’s Slytherin who’s going to get beaten,” the girl countered cockily. Allseyer’s twisted smile faltered, but then grew anew.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of myself if I were you. The Slytherin you’ll be facing up there aren’t the same Slytherin you’ve played in previous years…”

“Don’t tell me you’ve replaced them with people who can actually play?” Leshia countered with a sneer.

“I’m going to love watching them take you down a notch you filthy…” Heavy footsteps sounded from down below and quickly the Slytherins filed up into the entrance hall to make way for whoever had crept up behind them. Leshia suppressed a grimace when she caught sight of Severus Snape’s unpleasant face. The Potions master ascended the stairs and moved to stand between the rival parties. After glancing between the two his eyes finally fell on the lone Gryffindor.

“I hope you’re not causing trouble Miss Malfoy,” he finally spoke in a silky voice that made Leshia shudder with revulsion. “It would be a shame if Gryffindor’s star player had to miss the match.”

“I was just on my way to breakfast sir,” Leshia forced herself to explain neutrally, not allowing her intense loathing for the people gathered in front of her to enter her voice.

“Off you go then.”

The girl didn’t need telling twice and quickly hurried into the great hall to find her place midway along Gryffindor table. She sat with her back to the rest of the hall and quickly served herself to a hearty breakfast; if Allseyer was right then she would need all the strength she could find. While she chewed on her toast she contemplated the boy’s words. No doubt he had been insinuating that the Slytherins had some nasty tricks up their sleeves.

“You’ll have to watch yourself,” the girl uttered to herself. Training had been intense in recent weeks and so Leshia felt herself more than confident to handle any dirty-handed tactics the Slytherins could dish out, but whether she’d be in one piece by the end of it was another story.

“Leesh!” Quite suddenly the blonde girl found herself bombarded by hugs from her friends, who had come careening up the great hall to wish their friend luck. Their confidence in the girl gave her strength, as did that of the whole house and so by the time the girl was filing onto the pitch with the rest of the team she felt ready to take on anyone who dared challenge her.

“Players, take your places!” Madam Hooch called out over the pitch. Leshia straddled her broom and kicked off, revelling in the weightlessness of flight for a moment, before she took off into the heavens to circle the field of play far down below. Tara Heeley, the Slytherin seeker and a player Leshia barely rated, followed her up. Higher and higher Leshia flew to avoid having to share air space with that wretched pock-marked Slytherin, but her rival seeker didn’t seem to want to take the hint.

“Fine,” Leshia grumbled to herself while far down below the game roared into action. “If this is how you want to play it.” Quite suddenly she lurched into a drop. Lower and lower she fell while in her wake the other more sensible girl followed in dive. Leshia was falling towards the field of play, hoping to lose the other girl by dropping between the fraught match and then reappearing on the other side. This was a manoeuvre she was good at and had practiced many a time, but today something quite different happened. She fell into the players, seamlessly moving through them as usual, but quite suddenly she came across two Slytherin Chasers, who had formed a wall that stopped Leshia in her tracks.

The girl thudded into the heavy-set Slytherins and nearly toppled from her broom. The crushing blow had left her winded, but she didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself as quite suddenly out of nowhere a bludgers caught her on the back and then another shortly afterwards in the side.

“Ooh!” the sixth-year Hufflepuff commentator Jake Thomas winced into the microphone while across the stands people averted their eyes. “The Slytherins masterfully singled out Gryffindors seeker Alecia Malfoy there. She’d better watch herself; it looks like the Mills twins are lining themselves up for another strike! Where are Gryffindors beaters? Gryffindor still leading with thirty points to nothing.”

Down in the field of play Leshia was feeling dazed, but managed to scramble back upright and dart away from another onslaught by the well-aimed Beaters. The Slytherins though where ready for her escape and just as she tried to rise out of the heavy traffic of the mid-section the third chaser blocked her path. Every move Leshia made was countered by a Slytherin player and everywhere she moved a bludger seemed to follow.

“And again Leshia comes under fire from those persistent bludgers,” Jake Thomas roared to the outraged crowds after Leshia caught a bludger to the head. “The Slytherins seem to care more about bullying the opposing seeker than the score. Gryffindor leads ninety points to zero!”

Furious that she had been caged like a trapped animal Leshia waited for two lumbering Chasers to dive at her before she dropped out of the level of play resulting in the clumsy Slytherins colliding in a messy heap above. The crowds burst into cheers, but Leshia had not the time to hear them; she was free! Now where was Tara Heeley?

“Woah!” the girl suddenly exclaimed and gripped onto her broom for balance. Her rival had just raced past her at a cracking pace and was circling up ahead, evidently coming around for another go. The blonde girl’s brow was set in a furious scowl.

“Ruddy cheaters,” she hissed into the winds. Without hesitation she dropped once more, barely missing a collision with the other seeker, and flew inches from the grass. Up above a furious and messy game was taking place and though it took a lot of effort to tear her eyes from the field to glance upwards Leshia had to keep track of the Slytherin beaters, who were targeting her with well-aimed strikes. Only when she caught a bludger to the back of her head and saw stars did Leshia realise that scurrying about beneath the level of play was about as advisable as muddling through their midst.

The Gryffindor seeker gripped tightly at her broom and pulled it tightly, sending herself into a cracking spiral. Upwards she shot towards a wall of Slytherins who had somehow gathered within a split second to block her. Fearlessly the girl approached until she was nearly upon them when suddenly she gave her broom an almighty tug and managed to avoid calamity. Onwards she shot towards the free air above the level of play where she took a moment to race down to the other end of the pitch where Owen’s goalposts stood well defended.

“Malfoy! You okay?” the tall keeper called to the girl as soon as she was in hearing range.

“What are they playing at?”

“They’re trying to bash you off your broom! Just stay away from the level of play and you’ll be fine!”

“That’s easy for you to say!” Leshia complained, before she suddenly lunged from her broom and spun around mid air in an attempt to avoid a furious bludger aimed at her head. “They’re not trying to kill you!”

With this the girl rose away from the goalposts and took off into the sky. She needed to gather her wits about herself in order to concentrate on finding and catching the snitch. For a moment she was able to do so in peace, but then, predictably, Tara Heeley caught up with her flying about her like an annoying wasp. Leshia held her cool and didn’t let the other girl’s tactics bother her. Every time the rival seeker swooped past her the ends of her broom scratched against Leshia’s face leaving her feeling battered, but still she didn’t move.

Only when the Slytherin beaters located her above the furore down below did Leshia finally move. Easily she dove down past the beaters, barely missing the bludgers on her way down, but evidently this eventuality had been carefully planned for and Tara Heeley dropped just low enough to position herself below Leshia’s descent. Upon coming across the obstacle in her path Leshia had to stop and soon found herself a Bludger target once more. This time when the cruel balls struck into her she lost her grip and fell from her broom. Scrambling she grabbed at the smooth wood.

“A well aimed double strike by Slytherin’s beaters have left Leshia Malfoy hanging onto her broom for dear life!” Jake Thomas roared to a terrified audience.

Leshia’s hands ached, but she pulled herself up. She’d nearly clambered back onto her broom when suddenly a bludger struck her arm.

“Agh!” she cried out despite herself and she let her wounded arm drop at her side. With one hand she held onto her broom and glanced down at the long drop below. For the first time a part of her felt afraid. How could she possibly survive such a fall?

“Hang on Leshia!” Like music to the girl’s ears Luke and Tom Weasley’s calls preceded their arrival on the scene.

“Sorry Shorty, we’ve been detained,” Tom growled while he and his cousin swooped round the Seeker allowing her the time she needed to get back on her broom.

“They’re playing dirty those Slytherin rats,” Luke told the girl once she was sitting comfortably. She rolled her eyes.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Can you just watch my back? If I have to deal with them the whole time I’ll never catch the snitch.”

With two guardians Leshia’s task became a little easier, but the Mills twins and Tara Heeley didn’t let up so easily and continuously hounded the Gryffindor trio. There was so much traffic in her usually empty air space that Leshia couldn’t concentrate and dropped away from the scramble high in the air.

A flash of gold!

Like a dart Leshia dropped skimming above the field of play with Tara Heeley chasing her tail twigs. Had the snitch been bewitched? Leshia wondered to herself, as she saw painstakingly that the golden ball was hiding between the scrap of play between the chasers. There was nothing else for it and so with a wincing expression the seeker bent low over her broom and threw herself into the mix. Chasers tried to topple her left right and centre and several times she collided with Slytherins. Bludgers soon joined the battle and after only five minutes in the fray Leshia was sure she was bleeding from top to bottom.

“Leshia Malfoy is either totally stark raving mad,” Jake Thomas was calling to the crowds. “Or she’s the bravest seeker I’ve ever seen!”

The chances of Leshia catching the snitch seemed pitiful until suddenly an opportunity fell into her lap, though not without its risks. Up ahead the snitch was hovering, but before Leshia could dart towards it two chasers and a beater suddenly lifted into her path.

‘The Snitch is right there,’ Leshia thought to herself furiously. With a grimace she glanced down at her swollen hands and then up again. There was nothing for it; she was going to have to choose the insane option over the safer one once again.

Furiously the girl set off into a terrifyingly fast dive. She dodged a bludger, darted round a Gryffindor Chaser and before she knew it reached the wall of Slytherins. Desperately she tried to dodge over them, her hand outstretched to the snitch, but they countered her dodge and the girl collided.

It was as though time had slowed down the terrified audience agreed after the game was long finished. In horror they had all watched while Leshia Malfoy flew through the air, arms and legs flailing, her eyes never leaving the golden ball. Incredibly the girl’s fingers gripped round the ball while she flew broomless across the pitch, but when all seemed lost and Leshia started falling towards the grass far down below miraculously and as though it had all been staged, the girl’s abandoned broom rose beneath her. It had skidded beneath the blocked wall directly below its owner and just when Leshia was sure she was going to be killed on the ground down below her broom rose up to meet her. The second she landed her arms wound round the wood tightly and she clung on for dear life. All about her the stadium erupted into cheers the likes she had never heard before, but all Leshia could care about was the fact that she had just escaped death in the most spectacular fashion.

Madam Hooch’s whistle was blowing and all around Gryffindors and Slytherins were facing off as though in battle, but Leshia couldn’t move. She clung to her broom, too frightened to move, breathing rapidly and her heart beating so fast she was sure she could hear it over the deafening roar from the stands.

A few minutes past until finally Leshia lifted her cheek from the cold wood and looked down at its glittering surface.

“Thank you,” she whispered through a constricted throat, before finally she made her way slowly back down to the ground. She had never been so happy to touch down before.

“Leshia you madwoman!” Quite suddenly the girl found herself mobbed by her captain, who despite nearly fainting at the sight of Leshia practically leaping from her broom to catch the snitch, was grinning so broadly the blonde girl could see all her teeth. “What the hell are you playing at?”

“Ow,” Leshia managed in protest. Her injuries were hurting quite a lot now.

“Sorry, sorry,” Mila quickly offered and she let the girl go. As though Madam Pomfry had magicked herself to the girl’s aide all of a sudden she appeared at the two young women’s sides.

“Oh dear,” the matron complained while she inspected a particularly nasty bruise on Leshia’s forehead. “Off to the Hospital Wing with you young lady. Come along. I’ve lost count of the amount if times I’ve had to repair your broken scull Miss Malfoy!”

XXX

Following Leshia’s death defying leap of faith on the quidditch pitch her reputation, which had been cast into doubt by her recent exploits, was totally restored. The girl shied away from well-wishers though, as it had never been Leshia’s way to revel in the compliments she received from the student body. Thankfully after a few days the castle quietened down into their usual manner of admiring the Gryffindor Seeker from afar and she was able to go about her business as she pleased.

Thursday brought Rachel’s birthday along with it and the redhead girl awoke to find a mountain of gifts and an enthusiastic common room full of balloons and leaping chocolate frogs. The girl thoroughly enjoyed the royal treatment she received all day and was privately ecstatic when the friends returned after dinner to find the common room awash with decorations, tasty treats and music. Gryffindor had never seen the likes of so many parties, but Leshia had been quick to arrange this final soirée in honour of her best friend. Why should she and Katie receive parties, but not Rachel?

Everyone was in a festive mood after the Weekend’s triumph over the serpent house and as such the party got going very quickly. Leshia stayed at Rachel’s side throughout the evening, but soon found herself chatting to the gorgeous young men from Salem Matt and Joshua at the refreshments stand. They were in awe of her performance on the quidditch pitch and would not listen to the girl’s insistence that she had not planned or practiced her final move that caught the snitch. She enjoyed talking to these young men, as they reminded her of her good friend Ryan Lofting, but it would seem her friends were less keen on her attachment to them. Leshia was in the middle of listening to the tall young men retelling an amusing story when suddenly she fell into shadow. Leshia wrinkled her brow and glanced over her shoulder to find Owen Gabriel stood in her wake, staring firmly at the two Salemers.

“You okay Owen?”

“Can I have a word?” the tall young man asked darkly, before he glanced at Leshia sincerely. “In private?”

“Hey, she’s all yours,” Joshua chuckled and he nudged his friend to grab their drinks and go. They could recognise a jealous suitor when they saw one, and as their intentions with the young seeker were entirely amiable and as far from romantic was possible, they stand in the way of a lover’s tiff. Leshia waited for the young men to leave before she spun around and faced Owen with a wrinkled brow.

“You’re being weird,” she accused him with a lopsided grin.

“No, I’m stopping you before you get yourself into any further trouble,” the young man countered and he grabbed Leshia’s elbow and led her away from prying eyes to an out of the way settee. Then pair dropped down on it.

“It’s not like anything’s going to happen with Matt and Joshua Owen, they’re really old!”

“Yeah well that Fed guy was too old for you too and look what happened there.” Leshia sighed and shrugged her shoulders.

“Why do you have to bring that up, that was ages ago…”

“One week Shorty, it was one week ago.”

“Well what’s your point?”

“I just don’t want to see you acting like a…” Owen fell silent and chewed on the insides of his mouth. For a moment Leshia stared at him firmly and then poked him unceremoniously with her elbow.

“Acting like a what?”

“Um…”

“Owen!”

“Well like a tart if you must know,” the boy grumbled. Leshia’s mouth fell open in outrage and she pulled away from her friend.

“I do not act like a tart,” she complained fervently, though her cries of innocence were met by hearty laughter from Owen.

“Sometimes you do and I know you hate it, so I’m stepping in and stopping you before you do something stupid.”

“Really? Or are you doing this so if I do something stupid I’ll do it with you?” Leshia hadn’t meant for those words to come out and her eyes went wide. Owen too looked surprised and though there was truth in her sentiment he couldn’t believe the girl would say something like that. Hurt, he looked away. “Owen I’m sorry…”

“You know how I feel Malfoy,” he spoke hoarsely. “And sometimes I think you feel the same way about me, but then…”

“Owen I don’t know what I want,” the girl sighed and she leant down in the settee, her cheek resting on the tall boy’s arm. “That’s the problem. I keep hurting everyone because I’m going through some sort of pre-life crisis and…” Owen burst out laughing.

“What the hell is a pre-life crisis?”

“You know, what’s happening to me,” she replied matter-of-factly. “I know I’ve liked you for a long time and I would have wanted to, you know…but then Rodeo.”

“And now? What do you want now?” Owen had slid down in the settee, his face inches from the girl he loved. His eyes met hers and for a moment she leaned in towards him, their lips brushed against one another before she pulled away. What was she doing?

“I don’t know…”

Not taking no for an answer Owen reached out a strong hand and wrapped it around the back of Leshia’s head. He pulled her towards him and kissed her firmly. It was a hungry sort of kiss, the sort of kiss he had obviously been waiting for for a long time and for a moment the girl returned it, but then she pulled from him again.

“Owen don’t,” she whispered. Owen exhaled angrily and rested his forehead against Leshia’s.

“This is killing me,” he uttered darkly. “You’re killing me.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered back. “I don’t know what I want.”

“Well then stop playing with my feelings,” the hurt young man countered angrily and quite suddenly he pulled away and climbed to his feet. “Just sort it out Malfoy!” With this he stalked away to the stairs and was gone leaving Leshia reeling. What had she done? Of all the friendships she relied on for total and unconditional support Rachel and Owen came out on top. She couldn’t afford to lose him!

XXX

“Miss Malfoy, remain behind.” Leshia cast her father an affronted expression while those around her climbed to their feet and filed out of the classroom. Katie and Rachel glanced over their shoulders on their way out and grimaced at their best friend. No doubt the salacious gossip that had been circulating about Leshia’s latest antics with none other than her good friend Owen Gabriel had reached the ears of the girl’s father and he had something to say on the matter.

As soon as the classroom door closed Draco strode towards his desk, picked up a pile of marking and flicked his wrist in his daughter’s direction.

“On your feet,” he merely stated. Leshia quickly obliged, lifting her satchel as she went. She ambled over to her father, wary of his intentions, but soon found him heading towards the recently closed classroom door.

“Where are you going?” the girl asked worriedly.

“Come with me.” This was the only answer she was going to get and so with a heavy heart Leshia followed her father through the end-of-day traffic towards an unknown destination. Before too long the girl had worked out where her father was taking her and she started to feel afraid. He was taking her towards the portrait of the Newlyweds, which could only mean…

“Dad I’ve got a Hearing Aid practice I can’t go home…”

“You will do as your told for once,” he countered darkly and continued to lead to the way. Once he had scratched the foot of the groom and gained entry to the chambers he had once called home he took up a hand of floo powder and reached out for Leshia’s reluctant hand.

“Take it,” he ordered when she seemed to refuse.

“But dad…”

“Don’t you dare disobey me Alecia. Take it and transport home this instant.” Leshia could see this was a battle she would never win and so after a heavy sigh she took the powder from her father and stepped over the grate. How easy it would be to floo somewhere else and run away, she thought to herself, but then she realised how wrathful her father would be when he inevitably caught up with her and she shuddered at the thought.

“Number forty-three Dockstreet,” she called out clearly and in a swirl of green flame she was gone. Waiting for her in the kitchen of the home Leshia had left in such a state the last time she had come home for a visit was Hermione. The girl’s mother was tight-faced and worried, which only added to the churning feeling in the pit of Leshia’s stomach. Now she was in for it.

“Sit down Alecia,” Hermione instructed coolly.

“What’s this about?” the girl countered defiantly; she wasn’t going down without a fight! Behind her in a swirl of green flames her father appeared. He hadn’t been in the room three seconds before he grabbed hold of his daughter’s shoulder and forced her into the nearest chair at the table. Hermione winced a little, but lowered herself into a chair near to her daughter. “You can’t do this! Don’t I have rights? You can’t just abduct me from school you know.”

“Abduct you?” Draco demanded angrily, before he took a chair on the other side of the table caging Leshia in. “We’re your bloody parents, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Draco,” Hermione warned gently. How were they to have a frank discussion with the girl if he seemed ready to throw a tantrum himself? There was no doubting his personal unease with Owen Gabriel had contributed to his foul mood when hearing Leshia had yet again found herself in an intimate situation with a young man.

“What’s going on?” their daughter demanded.

“I think we should be asking you the same question,” Hermione countered firmly. “Your father has told me all about the rumours circulating at Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall came to see me this morning Leshia, your own head of house! She’s concerned about your behaviour. I’ve never been so ashamed!”

“What’s there to be ashamed of?” Leshia countered, though she seemed less sure of herself. McGonagall had come to see her mother?

“Your attempt to paint yourself as Hogwarts’ very own village bicycle is what!”

“Draco,” Hermione warned again. Leshia, not understanding the insinuation wrinkled her brow in confusion. “Your behaviour has been nothing short of disgraceful,” Hermione was continuing. “Bringing alcohol into the castle, drinking, kissing strange young men far too old for you, getting in fights with your closest friends… I’m just at a loss for words.” Leshia narrowed her eyes at her mother.

“Nobody can prove it was me who brought in the drink.”

“As if anybody needs proof,” Hermione countered slightly angrily. “You alone of all the youngsters in that school has enough ingenuity and sheer gall to pull of something on that scale. What were you thinking? I’m just so ashamed…”

“Oh please,” Leshia countered far too cockily for her own good. “You two can hardly talk…”

“Enough!” Leshia jumped. Her father had slammed his fist down on her table so forcefully the ancient piece of furniture groaned in protest. “Don’t you dare talk to your mother that way.”

Leshia tried to meet her father’s furious stare for as long as she could before her eyes fell to the slight imprint his fist had left on the soft wood of the table. Leshia Malfoy may have been both very foolish and very brave, but even she couldn’t hold the murderous gaze of and enraged Draco Malfoy for more than a second. This was the gaze that had brought Dark Wizards to their knees pleading for mercy, what chance did a fifteen-year-old girl stand?

Hermione let out a stifled sob and a tear rolled from her cheek. In surprise the blonde girl glanced up to see the state of her mother and instantly her resolve started weakening. How could she do this to her parents? Slowly the girl opened her mouth to speak,

“I’m…”

The three occupants of the table stared at one another as though in surprise, as up above a tremulous wail cried out. The sound of the interloper made Leshia’s blood curdle and she quickly shut her mouth, dragging her arms round herself protectively.

“Sweetheart…” Hermione began, but she could see the moment was gone. Whatever Leshia had felt ready to say had fast retreated at the sound of her sister. Slowly the mother rose to her feet and hovered near to her oldest daughter. “Just…just behave yourself, please? Remember that a lot of younger pupils look up to you. Show them a good example eh?” Leshia continued to stare across the table, her brow lowered over her eyes in a childish expression. Hermione sighed shakily and reached out to smooth Leshia’s curls down, but at her mother’s touch the girl jerked her head away. Draco opened his mouth to object, but he met his wife’s eye. Hermione shook her head before she turned to leave the room, tears streaming down her face.

When Evie’s cries were settled by the arrival of her mother Leshia lifted her impertinent eyes to her father, who was staring at her coldly.

“If you think you can keep this sort of behaviour up much longer then you’re very much mistaken my girl,” he finally spoke crossly. Leshia didn’t react to his threat and merely stared at her father. “Go on,” he uttered accusingly, nodding towards the grate. His daughter didn’t need telling twice and jumped to her feet. She didn’t glance back while she picked up a handful of floo powder and climbed into the hearth. Only when she dropped it and called out, “Hogwarts,” did she catch her father’s eye and for a moment she shuddered…he seemed really to hate her in that moment.

XXX

The weekend was a miserable experience for Leshia. As if she didn’t have enough on her mind with her parents’ displeasure with her and Owen’s ignoring her, Sunday brought a new article chronicling her grandfather’s movements. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that the terrible Death Eater was in London and his proximity to her mother made her feel all manner of confused emotions.

It became a matter of utmost importance that she trace his progress and see if she could work out his intentions. She took to carrying about her scrapbook of clippings and notes wherever she went, which soon, inevitably, landed her in more trouble than she could have imagined.

Monday had already been an unpleasant day. The first lesson of the day, Defence Against the Dark Arts, had been an awkward encounter for Leshia and it had been followed by a Potions lesson that had seen the girl lose her house ten housepoints. By the time Ancient Runes rolled by Leshia had had enough and she wanted nothing more than to skive the lesson and go back to bed.

Tripper seemed to be in a foul mood and from the moment Leshia stepped foot inside the classroom she knew her bad day was only going to get worse. She shuddered despite herself when she took her seat beneath his filthy gaze and suppressed a stream of obscenities while she reached into her satchel to take out her homework.

“Crap,” she hissed, as her hand reached not into the usually dry state of her bag, but rather a suspiciously wet mixture of parchments and books.

“Miss Malfoy!” Tripper hissed.

“I’m sorry sir, it’s just I think my inkpot’s spilled all over my stuff,” the girl quickly offered. The scarred teacher marched up to her side and narrowed his eyes at the girl while she pulled out the contents of her satchel. As she had predicted, everything was covered in blue ink. With a grimace she started rifling through the books and parchments to find her homework, but before she could quite get to it the teacher froze.

“What is that?” his high-pitched wheeze escaped earning himself the curious gaze of everyone in the class. Leshia wrinkled her brow and then quite suddenly her heart skipped a beat. The breath caught in her throat when she realised she had just taken out her scrapbook in front of the one man who she least wanted to find it. And had she…oh God…she had just leafed through it, revealing its contents in an attempt to find her homework.

“Nothing,” the girl stammered, her strength failing her. What had she done? Abruptly Tripper reached out and lifted the ink-stained book from the table. At the back of the room a strangled cry indicated that Katie now very much understood what was happening at the front of the classroom. The more the teacher leafed through the book the greater his cruel and twisted smile became, until finally he reached the last page, where Leshia had only just this morning scribbled the line ‘Where is he?’ in her frustration, and looked up with an enormous wicked smile.

“Trying to find him are you?” the twisted man demanded sounding terrifyingly happy. Leshia started breathing rapidly and she tried shaking her head, but it wasn’t behaving.

“S-s-s-s-si-si…” the girl broke off and panted when she couldn’t get the word out.

“Class dismissed,” Tripper called to the confused students. They didn’t need telling twice and quickly scarpered leaving Leshia and her friends still sat at their desks. “That includes the three of you. Though you Miss Malfoy, will be hearing from me later.”

“Leshia let’s go,” Katie softly told her friend and she walked up behind the blonde girl, who was still staring at Tripper like a rabbit caught in a headlight. Katie and Rachel had to practically lift their friend from her seat and guided her out of the lesson.

“What am I going to do?” the girl finally managed shakily once the three friends had found a secluded out of the way classroom to bolt themselves up in. Leshia hadn’t been ready to return to the common room.

“Tell your dad Leesh…”

“I can’t! He hates me.”

“He does not hate you!” Rachel complained.

“Tell Dumbledore then,” Katie tried next. Leshia though didn’t want to do anything, or rather, felt she was unable to do anything and for the rest of the day the girl couldn’t be moved from the classroom she had fled to. Finally when dinnertime rolled by her friends managed to coax her down to the great hall where Leshia sat stiff as a board, barely touching her food. Up at the high table frantic discussions were taking place and Leshia was very worried to see her father had stayed for dinner and was looking as white as a sheet.

Dinner was nearly coming to a close when suddenly a flapping of wings and a commotion up above preceded the arrival of four official looking black owls. They swooped along the great hall drawing everyone’s gaze, until finally they singled out Leshia and landed on the table in front of her. She gulped and looked at the heavy black letter they carried between them. Fighting the tears that were prickling her eyes the fifteen-year-old girl reached out and lifted up the letter. The stamp on the back had been sealed with an imperial looking C, but she didn’t have time to marvel at it and instead tore the letter open.

Leshia had never received a howler before, but she had seen others receiving them. Her fellow housemates were able to marvel at the similarities between howlers and this mysterious black letter as it suddenly came to life and fluttered up to Leshia’s eye level.

“I hereby notify Alecia Trystin Malfoy of inclusion on the Ministry’s Watch List for Dark and Suspicious Activity under article five one three seven of the Crayik Code for intervention in possible dark and illegal activity. You will be expected to report to a Ministry official every day. Do not try to leave the country. Any attempt to do so will be considered an admission of guilt and will lead to immediate incarceration in Azkaban.” The deep booming voice stunned everyone in the room, before quite suddenly the letter started glowing. Leshia stared in horror at the apparition before it swooped down and collided with her hand. She winced in pain and looked down at her burned hand to see a peculiar symbol had been branded on her young skin. It was a sinister looking eye.

For a moment she simply stared at the mark, before she lifted her eyes to the High Table. A flurry of activity blocked her view for a moment, before quite suddenly she caught the eyes of Silas Tripper. He was smiling.


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