Generations Book 4: Rebel Inside

Chapter 9

Part IX Dear Rachel and Leesh,

Well! I’ve just spent my first full day as an Americas Institute pupil and let me tell you, this place is amazing! It’s right on the coast and there are palm trees everywhere. The sea is the colour of the sky I swear and the sand is pure white. It’s a paradise! Luisa’s house is a really friendly one – I’d most compare them to Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff if I really had to, they don’t see as crazy as Gryffindor. You know they don’t have houses in the same sense we do don’t you? They have houses as in buildings. In total I’d say there are ten or eleven. I’ve only seen a fraction of them. They have communal dining and living areas and a homework room and then the pupils have to share a room with someone else. Luisa’s roommate Helena is really nice and they’ve made me feel really welcome – nothing compares to you two though and I miss you so much. I nearly wanted to turn back my first night, but I’m trying to be brave. Mostly because I know how much the pair of you would laugh if I came home after only two days of being away!

The lessons are all in Spanish; though I’ve heard some houses have them in Portuguese. I know that makes no difference to you two, but you know me, I like to get my details straight. I’ve been leant a Translator, which is this strange device that you stick in your ear and whispers the English translation for you. It’s not ideal, but at least I can follow what they do.

Everything is so different to the way Hogwarts is run. I think the thing that surprises me the most is how new everything is! This school wasn’t set up too long ago and the buildings are brand new. It feels more like a holiday than a real three-month chunk of my life and I’m sure the bubble will burst soon, but for now I’m enjoying myself. Parys and I try to meet up as much as possible, but he’s in another house across the complex from me and I don’t run into him as often as I’d like. There are a few other Hogwarts faces about though, so that eases the homesickness. In fact, there’s one just up the corridor from me. Do the pair of you remember Lucy Leech in Ravenclaw? The one who can’t smell anything? Well she’s being hosted by some of Luisa’s friends and we spend a lot of time together. She’s no replacement for the pair of you, and come to think of it she spends a horrendously large amount of time sneezing, but she’s better than nothing. She’s a link to the castle that’s actually quite comforting.

I don’t know if I should really mention this because Leesh, you’ll go mad and call me a traitor, but Julius Black’s in my adopted House and he’s been really nice so far. It makes it so much easier to have someone you can just escape to and have a normal intelligent conversation with. Don’t kill me!

I’d better go, I’m supposed to be doing my homework, but felt I had to write you two a letter. I’m sorry I was such a wimp last night…well, what was yesterday morning to you two I suppose. And I miss you so much! I hope you haven’t landed yourselves in detention yet.

Miss you loads!

Love Katie

PS Rachel: don’t let Leshia do anything stupid!

The letter came Wednesday morning over breakfast and for ten minutes Leshia and Rachel craned their heads over Katie’s delicate handwriting and drank in everything she had said. They had spent Monday and Tuesday miserably coping without their friend and were so happy to receive her letter that it put them in a good mood for the rest of the day. Leshia even managed to keep her composure over the news that one of her best friend’s was consorting with the enemy and she also managed to glaze over Katie’s last line, though Rachel rolled her eyes at the message and nodded to herself. What did Katie think she was doing? Putting suggestions in Leshia’s mind and egging her on?

After hearing from their friend the two girls felt finally freed from a peculiar curse that had left them lethargic and unable to commit to anything other than moping about the place solemnly. Leshia’s first course of action was to put up a sign in Gryffindor common room announcing tryouts for the vacant positions on the Gryffindor team would be held after school the following day. Her next was to go straight to Owen Gabriel and Jaime Wood to ask them to help her at the tryouts. Her decision would of course affect them all and she knew she needed their support. Jaime was easy to find, she and Eliot, her identical sister, were hunched over a Potions textbook in the corner. They seemed happy for the distraction when Leshia interrupted their work to ask for the younger girl’s assistance. Jaime of course agreed enthusiastically and so Leshia set off to find the third member of the original Gryffindor team.

Owen was more difficult to find, but eventually Leshia managed to track one of the boy’s best friends down who informed her Owen had landed himself in detention with Professor Malfoy. Intrigued, Leshia overcame her shyness around Dan – whom she knew had never warmed to her, though she didn’t know why – to ask him more,

“What did he do?”

“What Owen? Nothing,” the young man replied brusquely. “Your old man doesn’t need a reason to keep Owen behind. He’s got it in for him.”

Leshia felt a prickle of anger in her spine and gave the older boy a severe look.

“My dad’s not in the habit of bullying people, Owen must have done something.”

“You know what? You’re right. He did do something, he got involved with you and your dad’s never got over it. Owen should’ve listened to us and stayed well clear of you.”

With this the young man sauntered off leaving Leshia glaring at him furiously. How dare he talk to her like that? What had she ever done? The Eye on her branded hand started itching, forcing Leshia to calm herself down, but she still felt very hard done by and misunderstood. With a sigh she made her way back to the common room where Rachel, Rodeo, Nicola and Ashley were slouched down on a settee by the fire, deep in discussion about an essay Professor McGonagall had set them in Transfiguration. It was due in the following day and as of yet none of them had even started it. The departure of Katie and Parys had hit them all harder than they’d realised and the raven-haired girl’s prediction of their failing in her absence was becoming all too painful a reality.

As Leshia stalked in her friends could see the thunderous look on her face, but even if they hadn’t they could not have ignored the exasperated noise she let out when she dropped down on the armrest beside Rodeo.

“Something the matter?” the boy asked with a small smile.

“I hate Owen’s friend! He’s such a pillock.”

“Why? What happened?” Rachel now asked worriedly.

“That twat Dan was having a go at my dad and saying Owen should have never made friends with me. Just because his little boyfriend Paul’s buggered off to Salem doesn’t mean he has to take it out on me. Ugh, look it doesn’t matter. What are you slackers up to anyway?”

Sensing the girl had no desire to further the conversation her friends let her drop it and explained their lack of progress on trying to get started on their essay. Leshia offered them little inspiration however; as she hadn’t even remembered they had an essay to do. Grimly, the fourth years resigned themselves to the fact that they would be pulling an all-nighter and sloped off to the library before dinner.

“What d’you reckon Kate’s up to right now?” Rachel asked Leshia as the pair of them skirted ahead of the rest on the way. The blonde girl shrugged her shoulders.

“Probably tucked up in bed dreaming about homework.”

“You do know this is the first time we’re going to the library without her?”

“Yeah I know. Feels weird doesn’t it. I never though I’d see the day when you and me actually went in there voluntarily without Katie dragging us in by our ears.”

“Hey let’s write her a letter back before we start working.”

Leshia thought it a grand idea and as soon as the fourth years had settled themselves down with a mountain of transfiguration textbooks Leshia and Rachel bent over a new roll of parchment.

Katie!

It’s Rachel; you’ve got to come back! It’s only been three days, but already all hell’s broken loose. I’ve already failed every single piece of homework they’ve set and have forgotten how to get dressed in the morning. I just sort of wander about in my pyjamas, you can imagine how well that went down in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Tripper’s got Leesh trapped in a cage under his desk because she set his head on fire in Monday’s lesson. Before he could get hold of her though she was on the run and managed to snog about half the boys in the school before she was finally brought down with one of the Unforgivable curses, I forget which is which. Anyway, her head split open (it was disgusting, who knew Leshia had so much brains?!) and Tripper did a botch job in fixing her up. One of her eyes is still missing, we’ve got some first years looking for it, but we suspect Mrs Norris has made off with it.

Rodeo’s going out with a first year from Slytherin. We think she’s got him under some sort of spell seeing as she’s about two foot tall, three foot fat and has a face like a donkey’s bottom (like an ass’ arse…haha, sorry). They’re often seen snogging in the corridors. If you ever need to find him you just follow the trail of vomit. Ashley and Nicole on the other hand have started a betting shop in our dormitory. I’m not sure what they’re betting on, I’m too scared to ask, but every night this week I’ve gone to bed with the noise of hoards of upper-years cheering and shouting from their four-posters.

I had no idea how much you held this place together! So I don’t care how much fun you’re having, come home now before Leesh loses it and ends up Tripper’s one-eyed pet forever, I get kicked out of school for indecent exposure, Rodeo marries some hideous Slytherin troll and Ash and Nic end up in Azkaban for…whatever it is they’re doing.

Love Rachel

PS You do know we’re joking right? We’re all fine, there’s nothing to worry about, we miss you!

With their letter crafted and everyone still smiling from the good laugh they’d all enjoyed Rachel folded the letter up and sealed it. With this in hand she and Leshia ran off to deliver it before joining their friends to get down to some proper work. En route back to the library though Rachel worriedly confided to her friend that she was a little concerned Katie might be half way back to the castle before she got to the last line of the letter. Shamefully, both Leshia and Rachel could only hope that this were true and that Katie might return to them, if only for a few hours.

XXX

Come dinnertime Leshia finally caught sight of Owen Gabriel, though he was sat next to Dan, who she was giving a wide berth and an icy glare for his rudeness. Afterwards however, the tall young man caught up to her on their way back to Gryffindor tower.

“Shorty! I hear you were after me earlier.”

Leshia spun round to find her friend falling into step beside her. His friend was walking along with the other fifth year boys a way off watching them with unreadable expressions.

“Yeah, I was.” After staring back at Dan pointedly the girl faced the front once more.

“What’s wrong? Has something happened?”

“No, nothing. Just been a weird day. It was actually about the quidditch trials. I’ve put up an announcement in the common room. I thought we could hold them tomorrow after school. Is that okay with you?” Owen smiled with a shrug.

“What’re you asking me for? You’re the captain,” he replied genially.

“Yeah, but I still need you there. And Jaime! We’re a team and Mila only picked me because she had to pick someone and I’d been there the longest, so…”

The girl trailed off shyly, feeling embarrassed to be having this discussion. Owen though started laughing and he nudged the girl a little sending her off balance.

“Don’t be an idiot Malfoy, she picked you because she thought you’d be good at it. I mean did you think me an Jay Wood were sat there bawling our eyes out because Mila picked you over us?”

Leshia blushed furiously.

“No!”

“Well good, because I think you’ll do a great job.” Feeling relieved, Leshia nodded.

“So you’ll be there?”

“With bells on. Hey what happened between you and Dan earlier?” The blonde girl looked up sharply at her friend, but then quickly hid her irritated expression under a suave one.

“Nothing, why what did he say happened?”

“He hasn’t said anything, but you’ve been glaring at him all evening so I’m guessing something happened,” the tall boy chuckled.

“I don’t know what you mean. Why were you in detention with my dad?”

“Why so many questions?” Owen was avoiding the issue and Leshia knew it.

“Hey you were the one that…” Her retort was interrupted by the tall boy feigning an elaborate yawn and stretch, before he looked at his watch obviously.

“Oh look at the time, I’ve got to go see a man about a dog. You stay out of trouble okay?” With this he ruffled the girl’s hair and slunk back to his year mates. Leshia watched him go with an amused smirk before she ran to catch up with her own friends to tell them that she had her daily meeting with Tripper to get to before she could join them in the library once more. Though the regular arrangements had never been gruelling due to Draco’s presence capping any of Tripper’s crueller and more invasive questions, Leshia still hated reporting to the vile man. Then there was the matter of her having come across him in a peculiar state down Piffle Street in the holidays. The girl was constantly afraid that he would suddenly recall seeing her that day and then she knew she’d be in for it. Which was worse, a thrilling night of transfiguration madness or her routine interrogation, Leshia couldn’t decide.

“I’m off to Tripper’s for my thing, I’ll meet you lot in the library when I’m finished,” the girl informed her friends when she reached their sides. The others wished her luck and with this Leshia hurried off. It wasn’t a long walk to Tripper’s study, though she was conscious of the fact that she was a little late. She knew from experience that her father always arrived ten minutes before the arranged time to forestall any possible chance for Tripper to get his daughter alone, but when Leshia was late she worried terribly that she’d find the two men locked in the duel they’d been so wishing to enter into.

After a brisk walk Leshia reached the Ancient Runes study and she knocked heavily on the door. It took only a few moments to open and when it did the girl wished quite suddenly that it hadn’t. There stood Tripper, a twisted smile on his face, while behind him lay his empty office.

“Where’s my dad?” Leshia asked indignantly.

“Not here. Evidently. Tardiness must be another Malfoy trait I see. Go on, get in, you’ve wasted enough of my time as it is.”

“But we have to wait till he gets here,” the girl countered forcibly, her eyes wide and her Eye itching.

“We have to do no such thing. Get inside this office this instant or I will count it as an act of contempt.” The man seemed unusually deranged and wild and for a moment Leshia wondered what might happen should she refuse. Her father had told her in the past that by no means ought she undergo an interrogation alone, but Tripper had powers Leshia couldn’t refuse. What if he was right? What if he used her reluctance against her?

With a heavy sigh the girl stepped into the office and took her usual chair behind the messy desk. A stab of remorse wracked her wary mind for a moment when she thought back to the days when her mother’s things had filled this room. Inexorably, her eyes started stinging and the girl was overcome with a powerful feeling of wanting her mother. The Eye burned briefly in response to her heightened emotions bringing Leshia back to the present in time to meet Tripper’s eye as he took his seat behind his desk. He was wearing a cruel smile, as though he had been waiting for this moment for a long time, which of course, he had.

The man set up his instruments to record the proceedings quicker than usual and took great pleasure in announcing the cause for the interrogation and the name of his victim. Across the table Leshia’s heart started racing.

‘Just stay calm and don’t let him wind you up,’ she ordered herself privately. ‘It’s just like any other meeting.’

“Miss Malfoy I am obliged to remind you not to lie,” Tripper finally spoke hurriedly, his warning evidently a matter of protocol and barely louder than a whisper. When he next spoke however, he seemed empowered, “What happened on the thirty-first of December that warranted an emergency sanction by the Minister of Aurors?”

Leshia blinked in surprise at the question.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. There was an incident. You will tell me what happened.”

For a moment the teenager stared coldly into the cruel man’s eyes. He had evidently been kept in the dark where her excursion to find her grandfather was concerned, but why this was the case she didn’t know. More to the point, what would he do if she told him the truth?

“You’re right,” she eventually replied diplomatically. “There was an incident, but Mrs Hirsch dealt with it. It’s a confidential matter sir.”

Tripper bristled angrily and his eyes fell to the Eye on Leshia’s hand, which hadn’t so much as glowed or even caused a twinge of pain to the girl. She was acting within her rights and speaking truthfully after all.

“Well I demand to know what it is. As your assigned Ministry Official I have a right to know every detail of this enquiry.”

“Then why hasn’t anybody told you what happened yet?” She was treading on thin ice and what’s more Leshia knew it, but she couldn’t allow the vile man to bully her into something she was under no obligation to explain, particularly as it might be just the evidence he needed to lock her away.

“How dare you?” Tripper bellowed feverishly. “Don’t forget who you’re dealing with girl. One wrong move and you’re finished. Now tell me. What happened on the thirty-first of December?”

Leshia chewed the insides of her cheeks and slouched back in her chair; she was finally getting the measure of Silas Tripper. Yes he had powers and privileges, but they didn’t extend as far as she’d first thought.

“I met with Mrs Hirsch sir and she dealt with the…”

“Enough!” Tripper slammed his fist down on the desk and rose slightly out of his chair. “Do you realise what I could to you Malfoy? Do you?” The air rang with his anger and Leshia leant heavily back into her chair, her eyes never leaving the livid ones of Silas Tripper. She was afraid. “Too long I have waited to lock you away! Too long have I waited for my deserved revenge!”

“Sir?” the girl uttered in confusion. Surely he wasn’t talking about her? Tripper panted for a moment while he trembled. His dark greasy hair had fallen into his scarred face giving the impression he had escaped from the Repaired Brains ward at St Mungos that Leshia had frequented in her third year after a particularly nasty accident. The pair stared one another down, until the eerie silence was broken by a heavy knock on the door. Leshia spun around in her seat, her eyes hopeful for the distraction. Tripper however, didn’t move and after a minute had passed the knocker knocked again.

Dejectedly Tripper dropped into his chair.

“Yes?” he called out hoarsely. Within seconds the door swung open revealing the intimidating form of the person Leshia had been most anxious to see. For a moment Draco stared at the scene in front of him, his eyes lingering on his daughter’s frightened face, before he stared heavily at his nemesis.

“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, striding across the room to stand beside his child. Protectively he placed his hand on her shoulder.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Tripper croaked.

“You told me our meeting was to be held at half past.”

“He told me to be here at nine,” Leshia spoke up indignantly. Draco glanced down at the girl briefly before he fixed a dangerous glare on the vile man slouched in the chair behind the desk.

“A mix up, evidently,” Tripper growled. An unspoken battle was taking place in the significant glares the men were casting each other, leaving Leshia out of the loop.

“This meeting is now over.”

“I will decide if and when…”

“You have twenty seconds to ask my daughter your damn questions and then we’re leaving. Is that understood?” Leshia shuddered inwardly at the deathly tone of voice her father had used and wondered how on earth Tripper had the strength to resist it. It would seem though that on this occasion the vile man would forego his pride and let Draco win.

“Have you been engaged in any dark or suspicious activity since our meeting yesterday?” he asked cantankerously.

“No sir.”

As soon as the words escaped her mouth Draco leaned down and hoisted his daughter to her feet from under her arm. Wordlessly he steered her out the room and slammed the door behind them without a glance back at the seething man behind the desk. Leshia didn’t dare speak while he led her back to Gryffindor tower, for her father seemed angrier than she had seen him in a long time. Finally though they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady where Leshia turned on Draco and hugged him firmly about the chest.

“Thanks for rescuing me.”

“You shouldn’t have gone in without me,” her father countered brusquely.

“Like he gave me a choice!”

“From now on,” the tall man continued, hardly heeding Leshia’s defence. “We have to coordinate better you and I. Agreed?” Draco loosened the girl’s arms from around his chest and pushed her away by the shoulders to see the girl nod firmly and answer,

“Yes.”

“What did he ask you?”

“He was asking about what happened at New Years. No one’s told him and he wanted me to, but I wouldn’t and he got mad and started acting loopy.” A small smile etched onto Draco’s stern face.

“I’m sorry I let this happen.” He seemed so wounded and angry with himself that Leshia’s face crumpled a little.

“Don’t be an idiot. I’m fine aren’t I?”

“Well that’s arguable.”

“Oy!” Playfully Leshia shoved her father, but he was standing firm and the girl managed to launch herself off instead. Draco couldn’t suppress his laughter when she stumbled backwards.

“You stay out of trouble young lady.”

“I will dad.”

“Glad to hear it.”

Amusedly the tall man reached out to ruffle the girl’s hair before he started backing away down the corridor. Leshia watched him go before she dashed inside Gryffindor tower to collect her Transfiguration books and make her way to the library. While she rushed to meet her friends she couldn’t help but think what might have happened had her father not come to her rescue. After picturing all manner of gruesome scenarios she contemplatively whispered to herself,

“What would I do without him?”

XXX

“How much sleep did you get last night?” Rodeo asked through a massive yawn, as he and the fourth year girls met up in the great hall. They all seemed exhausted, but tucked safely away in their satchels lay their finished transfiguration essays. Though the contents were dubious, at least they were complete, suggesting detention had been held at bay for a day longer.

“About two hours,” Leshia replied grimly. At her side Rachel was incapable of speech and hung her head tiredly instead. Rodeo rubbed the back of his neck and yawned once more. “You?

“Same. I’m happy we haven’t got anyone evil today. I’m pretty sure I won’t make it past break without falling asleep.”

“If you can make it till after lunch we’ve got history of magic,” Leshia suggested tiredly. Rodeo seemed pained at having to wait so long for a well-earned nap. The short girl noticed and cast the boy a fond smile. “Trelawney probably wouldn’t notice if you collapsed in the back of her lesson. I’m not even sure she can see to the back of the classroom.”

“When’ve we got divination again?”

“After Herbology.”

“Which is when?”

“Rodes we’ve had the same timetable for a whole term and you still haven’t got a clue when anything is?”

“Yeah. And? What’s your point? I’d always sort of follow Parys around, but since he’s buggered off you’re going to have to take his place. Deal with it.” The young man was smiling tiredly, but Leshia elbowed him playfully.

“And what if I refuse?”

“Like you could get away from me.”

“Do you two have to talk so loudly?” Rachel finally spoke, her voice hoarse and her expression fierce.

“We can talk louder if you want?” Leshia teased, raising her voice in the redhead’s direction and earning a not-so-playful wallop in the stomach from her grumpy friend. “Okay, okay! We’ll keep it down. Jeez Rach, I’m starting to believe you’d make a pretty brutal beater.”

Despite her tiredness Rachel smiled and allowed herself to be eased slightly out of her mood. By the time the three friends had yawned their way through breakfast and a fun-filled charms lesson they were all in higher spirits. They were sure to need them, as McGonagall had a difficult lesson planned for her fourth Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. The moment the teenagers took their seats the stern witch turned her probing gaze on them and spoke expectantly,

“Your homework please.”

The class soon complied and within moments parchments were flying across the room to the awaiting teacher’s desk, where they stacked neatly in a pile ready to be marked. Leshia held onto hers a little longer, feeling wary of its quality. She wasn’t accustomed to underachieving, but supposed it was something she was going to have to get used to without Katie present to crack the whip.

“Today’s lesson,” McGonagall spoke loudly over the quiet chatter that had broken out in the wake of the flight of the essays. “Will be a practical session and will involve complicated magic. So I do hope you are ready to listen and learn fourth years.”

The old teacher’s twinkling eyes flicked momentarily to the sleepy Gryffindors, before she turned her back on the class to face the blackboard, which she turned over to reveal a series of complicated diagrams showing a hamster being transfigured into an eagle. A smattering of discerning grumbles rippled through the class at the prospect of so complicated a transfiguration. Turning arms into wings, fur into feathers, small into large, mouth into beak…it was no mean feat.

Leshia found herself missing Katie’s presence increasingly throughout McGonagall’s gruelling explanation as to how they were to achieve this difficult piece of wandwork. Even concentrating without the raven-haired girl’s ever-constant warnings to behave was difficult and when the ageing witch lifted a cage of small grey rodents onto her desk Leshia felt certain her attempts at transforming a sweet innocent hamster could only end in misery.

Upon being invited to collect one Leshia pushed herself to her feet tiredly and followed her peers to collect one of the creatures. The other girls in the class were cooing over the darling animals, while their male friends were pretending not to find them equally as sweet, yet failing miserably. By the time Leshia came to the cage, the only animals left were the ones who had thus far been impossible to catch resulting in the girl spending a good few minutes trying to pin one of the blighters down until finally, with a squirming creature in her hand she returned to her desk near the back of the classroom.

“How am I meant to transfigure the damn thing if it won’t stay still?” she grumbled after trying to set the hamster down on the desk.

“What are you talking about?” Rachel countered her best friend with a big smile on her face. “It’s easy, look.”

Leshia did look and caught sight of a fat round ball of fluff curled over itself motionless on her friend’s desk most definitely asleep.

“Well you had to pick the fattest most lazy one didn’t you? Want to swap?”

“Not on your life.”

“Spoilsport,” Leshia grumbled, before she turned her wand point on the squirming creature in her hand. The girl’s first attempt wasn’t too bad, her hamster, which she had nicknamed Squirmy, had doubled in size and grown feathers, wings and a beak, but still seemed more reminiscent of a rodent than a mighty bird if that were possible. Feeling unperturbed by her failure she untransfigured the animal and tried again, but just as she was performing the last piece of tricky magic Squirmy made a bolt for freedom.

“Ugh! Leesh what’s that?” Rachel cried out grimly when she glanced over to see the abominable result of the miscast spell. Squirmy was no longer a hamster and no longer an animal in fact. Just what he was wasn’t quite clear, though the fact that he was disgusting and producing a vile stench was.

“That’s what happens when certain little rodents don’t keep still when I’m trying to transfigure them, that’s what it is,” Leshia replied with feigned bitterness, though she quickly set the creature to rights. The hamster had the good grace to look startled and when Leshia placed him on her desk he huddled over. “That’s more like it.”

The very next go Leshia succeeded and where one moment her desk had held a frightened little furball, the next it had become a perch for a beautiful grand eagle.

“Ah well done Miss Malfoy!” Professor McGonagall called out to the first successful student in the class. “Five points to Gryffindor. I hadn’t expected any of you to succeed so soon. Please, if you will, bring the eagle over to this cage and you can start on the written work.”

Feeling punished rather than rewarded Leshia wiled away the rest of the lesson pretending to work whenever McGonagall looked in her direction, while her friends enjoyed the rest of the practical session. By the end of the session most of the rodents had been transformed into grand eagles. Here and there a rather sorry looking bird still sported a set of whiskers or a coat of fur, but for the most part the class had risen to the occasion. So impressed was their teacher that she refrained from setting them the homework she had planned for the weekend and even let them leave five minutes before break. Leshia and Rachel couldn’t believe their luck and soon they were ambling out into the brisk January morning with their robes pulled tightly around their bodies.

“What time are the quidditch trials later on?” Rachel inquired once they had found a secluded stone bench near the lake to sprawl on.

“Rach sometimes I wonder if you ever listen to a word I say.”

“That’s not fair. I mean sometimes I do.”

“Yeah well maybe I should teach you a lesson and not tell you.” The redhead cocked an eyebrow at her shorter friend, her face contorted in amusement and worry.

“Then you’d be without a star beater. You know that right? I mean I’m just putting it out there.” Leshia’s face remained serious.

“I don’t know Rach, I mean I need a beater I can count on.” The pair sat in silence for a few moments while Rachel tried to settle her pounding heart in order to work out whether her best friend was earnestly trying to snub her.

“You know just so I know, we are kidding right now aren’t we?”

“Are we?” A sliver of a smile crept onto Leshia’s pretty face and after sighing in relief Rachel shoved the tiny girl.

“Leesh! Don’t be so harsh. I thought you were blimming serious for a second there.”

“Well try and be a bit more on the ball would you? I happen to think you stand a chance at getting on the team, but what’re people going to say if you don’t show up with your head screwed on tight?”

“Well they’d probably send me up to the hospital wing, get Madam Pomfry to fix me up.” Leshia groaned exasperatedly, though there was a broad smile on her face as she did so.

“Not even Madam Pomfry could fix you up Rach.”

XXX

Tryouts came quicker than Leshia would have liked. She spent the last part of the day frantically scribbling notes on different exercises she was going to have the hopefuls do and felt very unprepared when the designated time crept up on her. Thankfully Professor Lewis was quite unaware of what the young Gryffindor was up to and she managed to avoid landing herself in trouble.

When eventually the last bell of the day rang out across the castle corridors Leshia felt a prickle of nerves shoot down her spine. After spending her entire quidditch career in the shadows of two inspiring leaders she was going to have to step forward and attempt to emulate their success. That she felt she wasn’t ready for such a challenge wasn’t surprising, as unless the subject be flying or trouble-making Leshia’s estimations of her own abilities were always so remarkably low. And as she trudged down towards the supplies shed next to the quidditch pitch the girl felt her captain had made a critical error in assigning her the leader’s strip.

Owen and Jaime were true to their word and soon after Leshia herself had arrived and started laying out the equipment she needed for the trials the pair joined in. They had none of the blonde girl’s worry and worked along to a playful banter that Leshia simply couldn’t commit to. She would relax, but only upon returning to the castle, her job done and her team selected.

“Shorty where do you want these?” Owen’s cheery call came. Leshia glanced up from the bag of bludgers she was trying to contain and noticed the tall boy was rather lumbered down with marker buoys.

“They should be stationed in a zigzag about thirty feet up,” she replied with a smile.

“Righto. Endurance flying is it? You know not everyone was born riding a broom.”

“What are you suggesting?” the newly appointed captain jeered with an affronted smile.

“I’m just saying, keep your expectations realistic. Not everyone flies the way you do.” There was a great admiration in Owen’s voice that soothed Leshia’s temper at his words. Of course she was going to be realistic. She hadn’t intended to set the hopefuls tasks that saw them plummeting hundreds of feet towards the ground dodging through obstacles on their way down.

“Better not get out the ring of fire then,” the girl sighed eliciting a drain-like laugh from her companion.

“Oy, you two! Cut the flirting, they’re coming.” Jaime’s call roused a slight disgruntled frown from Leshia, but she couldn’t ignore the trickle of Gryffindors coming towards the stadium across the grounds. As quickly as they could the trio finished setting up the equipment in time for the two-dozen youngsters to arrive. Seeing their bright and expectant faces made Leshia squirm a little; she was going to have to disappoint a large number of them.

At the front of the queue stood Rachel and Rodeo, a broom under each of their arms and a beater’s bat hanging from the red-head’s hand. Leshia caught their eye and grinned momentarily before she faced the group at large. All eyes were on her and for a moment she didn’t quite know how to proceed.

“Um shorty? This is your cue me thinks,” a quiet whisper sounded behind the girl and as though she had been jolted by a spark Leshia jumped into action.

“Thanks for coming. It’s great to see so many of you taking an interest in the team. You probably all know, but we’ve only got four spaces available. We’re after two beaters and two chasers, so if you’ve come for anything other than those positions then I’m afraid we won’t be able to help.”

“What if we turn out better than one of you?” a cheeky demand came from the crowd. Leshia caught eyes with the freckled offender of the call for a moment before she shrugged her shoulders.

“Well you’re more than welcome to challenge us I suppose. Any takers?” An amused murmur went through the crowds while they eyes up the seeker and keeper at the front of the pack. Take on Alecia Malfoy or Owen Gabriel at quidditch? No chance! A grin grew on Leshia’s face and she started to feel her confidence growing. These people were here at her invitation, she knew what a good chaser or beater looked like, as she’d worked with and played against a fair few in her time; why shouldn’t she do well in her new position?

“Right then, the tryouts are going to take place in three parts. First we’ll test the general flying ability of all of you before we move into separate chaser and beater trials. Are there any questions so far?”

There were a surprisingly large amount of inquiries into what was to be done if they didn’t have their own broom, how long the trials were going to take, when they were going to find out the results, what were they going to do about uniforms, when practice took place and every other obscure topic Leshia hadn’t considered. She hadn’t their questions well though and within no time she had set the hopefuls to task in lining up on their brooms behind the levitating obstacle course Owen had set up.

For the next twenty minutes she and her team mates made notes on the progress of the hopefuls and when all had completed the flying ability test and were given a moment to take a break the three had almost made up their minds on their four favourites.

“Your mates, Rodeo and Rachel, they’re great flyers,” Jaime insisted. The three team mates had sat down on the grass a little way off the others and were leaning over their notes.

“I agree,” Owen affirmed, though it looked as though it had pained him to suggest Rodeo was good at anything other than being a pain in the neck. “That guy in third year, William Lloyd, he’s alright too.”

“What Will?” Jaime interrupted. “You think? He seemed to wobble a bit on the last cone.”

“He had just been racing through the course at a cracking pace though,” Owen countered. “It’s a wonder he stayed on the bleeding thing. What do you think Malfoy?” Leshia consulted her notes before she looked up and shrugged.

“I’ve got him down as one to watch. What’s he trying out for?”

“Chaser.”

“He might do as a chaser, he’s quick. What about Magnus Black?” Leshia had very carefully spoken the words, trying to keep any hostility out of her tone when she mentioned the name of her nemesis’ brother. In truth there wasn’t a doubt in Leshia’s mind that the sweet younger brother of the Slytherin she couldn’t stand was a shoe-in on her team, as he had flown the course in the quickest time with the most stealth, but she wanted to gauge her friends’ opinions before she started making assertions.

“Yeah he was wicked!” Jaime agreed. “See how he does with a bat and then sign him up I’d say.”

The hopefuls were getting restless and so after one final check of one another’s notes the three team mates took to their feet and started straight away with the chaser trials. Leshia watched Rodeo with keen interest as he performed superbly and she couldn’t help but smile at the irritated little utterances that were wafting towards her from Owen’s general direction.

After the fifteen would-be-chasers had demonstrated their abilities it was the beaters turn and Leshia watched with a more intense honesty when Rachel took to the sky. To her utmost relief her best friend performed better than all those who had come before her and she flew down towards the ground again the pair of girls met one another’s eyes and a smile passed between them. Rachel knew she had done well. Magnus Black too performed extraordinarily well, though Leshia was aware that she might have been favouring him more than she might had he not gone straight after the tiny girl who had hurled a bludger at the judges and nearly knocked Owen off his broom.

Finally the trials were over and after flying gently back down to the ground Leshia congratulated all the hopefuls and explained to them that she would post a notice in the common room after dinner detailing who had been successful. With this she dismissed her peers who all trudged back to the castle chattering amongst themselves about their highs and lows of the experience leaving Leshia, Owen and Jaime to clear away the equipment.

“Weasley, Holsson, Black and Lloyd, that’s where my votes lie,” Owen announced as soon as the last of the hopefuls had disappeared over the rise up to the castle. Jaime looked up and nodded thoroughly.

“Yeah, I agree. Leesh, what did you think?”

Leshia grinned and sighed with relief at the ease these tryouts had unfolded with. Everything had gone according to plan and to top it all off, she felt very secure in her appointment of the four players she had in mind as her team mates had obviously seen their worth also.

“You two read my mind. I’ll put up the announcement later.”

XXX

“Oh come on Leesh! Can’t you just tell us? Did we make it?” Rachel whined as Leshia led the way back to the common room after dinner. She was quite ready to curse her best friend and then remove her name from the notice she had folded up in her pocket and ready t stick on the notice board. Rachel hadn’t let up since the newly appointed captain returned to the common room and after a few hours badgering Leshia had had enough.

“You’re about to find out in two bloody minutes Rachel! Now stop pestering me.”

“You’re being such a harpie, you know that?”

“Rachel!”

“Just tell me!”

After an incredibly frustrated sigh Leshia sped up, reaching the Fat Lady before any of her peers where she veritably spat the password at an extremely bemused portrait, which swung open slowly in spite. Once she’d reached the common room Leshia pulled the notice from her pocket, unfolded it and stabbed it up on the notice board with four pins. All around her curious Gryffindors had stopped to look and even as she was making a quick escape to meet Tripper for her daily meeting Leshia hears the disappointed grumbles of those who hadn’t made it. Had she not been so furious at Rachel, then she might have felt sorry for them.

XXX

“Did you hear? Leshia Malfoy put two of her best friends on the team?”

“D’you reckon they’re any good?”

“What do you think? Probably not as good as some of the others. Bet she only did it because they’re her friends.”

“I’m not sure, she takes her quidditch pretty seriously.”

“It’s favouritism. End of.”

Leshia lifted her head and scowled at the two Ravenclaws sat a little way along in the library. Either they were entirely engrossed in their own gossiping to notice her or they simply didn’t care that the Gryffindor captain could hear their grumbling, but Leshia had long since grown tired of these rumours that had been circulating the school since her list had gone up. It was Saturday morning and first practice was taking place that afternoon. She’s already caught wind of the fact that a whole crowd of pupils were coming to watch in order to see if Leshia had unfairly given her friends preference.

“Do you mind?” the girl spoke up angrily, her grey eyes focused on the gossiping Ravenclaws. The two girls bolted upright, their embarrassed eyes wide in alarm. Evidently they hadn’t seen the small Gryffindor buried behind her mountain of Runes books. “Some of us are trying to work.”

“Leshia we’re so…”

“Just keep it down will you?”

The two mortified girls returned silently to their work allowing Leshia to do the same. She was struggling with her latest Runes essay and was having to get through it on her own as Rachel had landed herself in rather sticky situation with Professor Snape. Her napping in his lessons had become more pronounced as of late due to the horrendous workload the fourth years were having to struggle by with, particularly those in Professor Tripper’s class. Without Katie to help them Leshia was amazed she and Rachel had even survived the week.

By the time lunch time had arrived Leshia had made a little progress. So it was a big smile that she made her way down to the great hall and found a place next to Rodeo on the bench.

“Rach not back yet?” The boy at her side sniggered.

“Caught sight of Snape leading her towards the forest. Don’t reckon she’ll be back anytime soon. So you ready for practice?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you know we’re getting an audience don’t you?”

“Oh yeah, that.” Leshia sighed and rubbed the back of her head awkwardly. In truth she was terrified that people would leave the pitch feeling their gossiping and their rumours had been vindicated and that yes, Alecia Malfoy had been found guilty of favouritism. She knew she had picked rightly, but what if everybody underperformed due to nerves?

“Don’t worry Leesh, when they see us play, they’ll be queuing up to apologise to all of us.”

“Thanks Rodes,” the blonde girl managed with a smile and for a moment her nerves calmed down a little. “Don’t see what I’m worried about anyway. They’ll all be watching you. I could just sit back on my broom and watch the show.”

“Yeah that’s what you think, but they’ll be judging you as captain more than anything else.”

Thankfully Rachel’s flustered arrival managed to push Rodeo’s recent revelation from Leshia’s mind and the redhead’s angry ranting and raving about the hook-nosed potions master served as enough of a distraction to ensure the thoughts didn’t return till the moment Leshia led the team down to the quidditch pitch to find half the school had turned up.

“Bloody brilliant,” she grumbled to herself before she dropped the crate of balls she was carrying onto the floor.

“Blimey,” Rachel uttered at her side sounding a little awe-struck. “Are they here to watch us?”

“They’re vultures, ignore them and play like you did in tryouts. Soon they’ll get bored and find something else to do with their time,” Leshia told the newcomers to the team firmly. Her nerves were trickling away making way for protective anger over her newly assorted team members. This was her team and she wouldn’t let anyone say a bad word about them.

“Oh so we’re boring are we?” Rachel piped up, a small cocky smile on her anxious face. Leshia glowered at her playfully.

“Shall we?” As one the seven players rose to the air and burst into a terrifically fast set of warm up laps. By the time they’d done ten rounds the team came to an impromptu stop that was followed by a curious silence. The Gryffindors had flown well, there was no denying that.

For the following hour Leshia led the way through drill after drill putting her new team to the test and producing very pleasing results. Yes a few quaffles were dropped and a few bludgers sent astray, but all in all the team performed outstandingly resulting in a tremendous cheer from the crowds. Feeling ecstatic that she had been vindicated Leshia would have liked to have continued to the practice, but quite out of a nowhere a lightning storm crept over the grounds towards the pitch resulting in a speedy exit by the pupils gathered on and around the stands. Even Leshia wasn’t foolhardy enough to play during a lightning storm.

Inside the apologetic glances the Gryffindors received from their peers left them all on a high and it was with this frame of mind that Leshia and Rachel tackled and conquered their impossibly difficult Runes assignment.

“Thanks Leesh,” Rachel spoke finally, once she had checked the spelling in her essay for any stray ‘v’s where there oughtn’t be any.

“For what?” the blonde girl asked curiously, while she too scanned her finished work for mistakes.

“For letting me on the team.”

“Oh shove off, you’re as bad as they are. You’re on the team Rach because you should be on the team. I wasn’t doing you any favours and I wouldn’t have picked you if you hadn’t been good enough.” Rachel wrinkled her brow.

“Really? You wouldn’t?” The girls met one another’s eyes and for a moment a glimmer of a smirk appeared on Leshia’s face. What could she say? She was very happy Rachel had performed excellently, because in truth, she didn’t know what she would have done. This was enough of a display of loyalty for Rachel, who smiled broadly and looked back to her work.

“Bugger,” she finally grumbled.

“What’s that?”

“Victorious. It’s not spelt with a ‘w’ is it?”

XXX

Leshia stared at the wisp of white smoke coming out the end of her wand. She had focused so hard on her happiest memories that finally, after uttering the incantation a whisper of her patronus had finally shown itself. Desperately the young girl tried to see a shape amidst the swirling whiteness, where form had shown itself in those of her friends, but she saw nothing and after ignoring the burning in her hand she couldn’t avoid it any longer and she dropped her hand painfully.

‘Damn Eye,’ she grumbled inwardly. Across the classroom Draco had spotted his daughter’s success and was en route to congratulate her when suddenly a ghost-like shimmering badger jumped onto the table beside Leshia’s. While Draco slowed down and stared in surprise at the fully formed Patronus everyone in class turned to look as well.

“Well done Miss Weasley!” Draco finally managed. “Ten points to Gryffindor. That is one of the best Patronuses I’ve seen for a witch at your level of experience. What on earth were you thinking about?”

Rachel hung her head a little and her cheeks glowed brightly.

“I don’t really want to say sir,” she finally managed eliciting a smile from the dichotic teacher.

“Very well, I won’t force it out of you. I wonder if any of your peers can succeed with their patronuses. Remember, this is our last practical lesson on this subject before your test on Monday, so search deep inside yourself for those happy memories and thoughts and see what you can come up with.”

Draco moved now across the classroom leaving Leshia staring at Rachel with a peculiar frown set into her forehead. So rarely did her friends out-perform her that it left her reeling. How unfair it was that she be branded so cruelly with a magical device rendering her incapable of deep powerful positive magic.

‘I hate you,’ she thought to herself miserably. ‘I really hate you.’

“Leesh. Leshia! Stop glaring at me.” The blonde girl shook herself out of her reverie and looked straight into Rachel’s concerned eyes. “What have I done?”

“Sorry?”

“Well it’s just you’ve been glaring at me like I’m something nasty stuck to the bottom of your shoe. What’s wrong?”

“Oh nothing, sorry, I was just thinking about this.” Pathetically the girl lifted her singed hand and flashed the vile Eye at her best friend. “It doesn’t let me do Patronuses very well.” Rachel nodded humbly, feeling a little awkward at succeeding so spectacularly when her usually competent friend had floundered. Leshia realised and she felt worse for having ruined Rachel’s moment. “So it was a badger was it?”

“Yeah, I wonder what that means?”

“Maybe it’s because you like living in dark holes underground?” Rachel sniggered.

“More like I’m cunning and graceful and wise.” For a moment the two girls met one another’s eyes before they both burst into giggles.

“Yeah yeah Rach, I bet that’s it. So um, what were you thinking about?” Rachel once more blushed bright red and glanced around to see if anyone was listening in to their conversation. “Come on Rach, you can tell me.”

“I know I can. Just not here.”

“Well write it down then.”

Rachel sighed heavily and tore a corner of parchment off her notes. She paused for a moment and looked up to meet Leshia’s inquisitive eyes before she scribbled a word down on the parchment and hurriedly passed it across to her best friend. Everyone was far too distracted to notice and thankfully their hawk-eyed teacher was busy on the other side of the classroom. With a deep feeling of curiosity Leshia unfurled the scrap of paper and glanced at the word her friend had felt so powerfully about:

Parys.

Leshia’s wide eyes shot back onto Rachel, who had gone nearly as red as her hair and who, for a moment, couldn’t meet her friend’s gaze. When she did however, she saw only support and joy where she had expected to find mockery and mirth.

“Well good for you Rach, your Patronus was amazing.”

Before a heartfelt moment could unfold between the girls their teacher moved to the front of the class and gathered everyone’s attention with a mere clear of his throat. When all eyes had finally met his Draco spoke,

“We have to stop it there I’m afraid. I’m very pleased with the progress you’ve made these last few weeks and I’m so impressed with the level of commitment and effort that you showed to this subject that I won’t be setting you any additional homework for the weekend.”

Only the very slightest of murmurs rippled through the classroom after such a joyous revelation and for a moment Draco paused and waited for his class to settle.

“Don’t forget you have a test on Monday. I hope you’ve all been practicing for it.” In the distance the bell rang leaving twenty sets of anxious eyes watching the teacher. Waiting for him to dismiss them from their last lesson of the week. “Yes off you go then, have a nice weekend.”

Amidst the sound of chairs scraping Leshia, Rachel and Rodeo streamed out of the classroom, the blonde girl waving to her father cheerfully at the door before they were released and free to do as they pleased.

“Come on, let’s go change. I can’t wait to get out of this bloody itchy uniform,” Rachel grumbled. Leshia followed her friend and no sooner had they reached their dormitory than she found a surprise waiting for her on her bed.

“What’s that? A letter?”

“Yeah. It looks like it’s from Katie,” Leshia explained to her best friend while she picked up the delicately addressed letter and turned it over in her hands.

“Well go on. Read it.” With care Leshia undid the wax seal and unfurled the letter from her friend. By the time she’d opened it Rachel had reached her side and dropped down to read.

Leshia!

That book your mum sent you, it was called the Secret of Strength wasn’t it? You have to read it! Tell me you’ve started. I can’t believe you’ve had it all this time and I bet you’ve not even leafed through one page of it have you?

Read it! You have to!

Hope you’re both behaving yourselves, no time to write I’m afraid, I’m off to a party in a neighbouring house.

Lots of love, Katie.

“Is she serious?” Leshia grumbled and she dropped the parchment onto the bed. “What does it matter if I’ve read that old book or not?”

“Yeah and why has she suddenly started fussing about it?” Rachel chimed in, equally as bemused by the letter as her blonde friend. “Are you going to write back?”

Leshia shrugged her shoulders and glanced to her bedside table to see a notebook lying on top of it with a quill. She had been scribbling down thoughts for a Potions essay, but this was much more important. With a fresh sheet in hand she wrote,

Hi Katie,

We miss you too, thanks for writing such a lovely letter. And I hate to disappoint you, but no, I haven’t started reading that ruddy book yet. What’s the big deal?

Hope you enjoy your party.

I would write longer, but I’ve got better things to do and I don’t want to.

Love Leshia.

Her letter was a little cruel and both girls knew it, but neither said anything of it. With the rolled up sheet of paper in hand Leshia wandered over to the window next to her bed and threw her hand out into the open air. After a few minutes a white owl flew to her arm allowing Leshia to tie the letter to it and give it instructions on where to go.

“Hang on, did Katie say she was going to a party?” Rachel asked in disbelief. Leshia grinned and nodded on her way back to the bed.

“Two weeks in the sun and she’s a regular party girl,” she sighed. “D’you reckon she misses us?”

“Misses bossing us around more like,” Rachel sniggered in response. “She can’t even manage a fortnight see? Sending you a letter ordering you to read a book, what is she thinking the loon?” Leshia shrugged her shoulders and allowed her eyes to drift to the trunk bearing the book she had received from the owners of Flourish and Blotts. Uncomfortably the girl’s branded hand started stinging and she turned her eyes to it, rubbing it angrily.

“I can’t wait to get rid of this thing,” she sighed grimly.

“It won’t be long now Leesh you’ll see. I mean, how long can they keep suspecting you without you putting a toe out of line?”

“With Tripper breathing in the Minister’s ear I’ll bet I’ll be old and grey before they finally remove it.”

“That’s the spirit!” Rachel chuckled. “Positive thinking. Say, can I see this book of yours. What’s so special about it?”

Within moments Leshia had delved the large dusty tome out of her trunk and had placed it on her sheets. Both girls peered over it, turning the pages to see page after page of carefully scripted text.

“God there’s no pictures or anything. I can understand why you haven’t gone near it yet. Are you going to read it?” Leshia snorted and shook her head.

“You saw my letter didn’t you? I mean what can Katie possibly do? She’s halfway round the world!”

XXX

Dear Leshia,

I’m sorry, my last letter was rude. I just can’t believe you’ve had that book all this time and you still haven’t read it. I don’t know why, but it’s really important. I thought it was strange when you got it, you know, that I knew it’s name from somewhere. I was reading a book I’ve got, it’s all about famous magic legends and all that and it’s mentioned as a fabled book. It doesn’t really go into it much, but it does say it’s really important. I can’t believe it’s been sat in our dormitory for the last term. I’d read it from cover to cover if it were in front of me right now!

You have to read it Leshia. Think of it as a personal favour to me!

The party was fun thank you very much and I hope that by ‘better things to do’ you mean your homework. I do worry about the pair of you!

Take care.

Love Katie

XXX

Dear Leshia,

Well there’s no need to take that tone! I know I’m a bit of a bookworm, but there’s no need to get carried away – Rachel that goes for you too, because I bet you had some hand in that ever-so-witty response.

Read the book Leshia! I just have this feeling. Call me Trelawney if you will, but I feel it’s so important!

Please?

Love Katie

XXX

Leshia!

You’re not funny!

Read the book!

Katie.

XXX

READ THE BOOK!!!!

XXX

Fine! But just remember, you asked for this!!

XXX

It was Monday the fifth of February and for over a week now Leshia had been receiving letters in varying degrees of insistency from Katie over the book she had now quite unceremoniously stuffed back into her trunk. Every time she received a bossy letter she returned it with a simple ‘no’ scrawled at the bottom. It had amused Leshia and Rachel no end imagining their best friend’s response each time the letter was returned, but now, secretly they were both a little worried over what the raven-haired girl had planned. Her last letter had been a little ominous.

Over breakfast everyone was quite happily distracted by discussing the strange booth that was being constructed in the entrance hall to worry too much about the post owls as they came hurtling into the Great Hall bearing their letters and parcels. Leshia certainly gave them not a second thought until a heavy red letter dropped onto her plate. It was smoking slightly. Very slowly the girl turned to look at the howler, her expression a little tense.

“That ruddy cousin of mine!” Rachel grumbled when she too saw the howler, though there was a grin on her face at Leshia’s impending embarrassment.

“Is that from Katie?” Rodeo now piped up, very curious as to why the bespectacled girl would send one of her best friends such a volatile parcel. “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Leshia grumbled, anxiously glancing up and down the table to see who was going to witness her humiliation. “She’s just being a complete and control freak.”

“Best get it over with Leesh,” Rachel suggested and she shrunk back a little while Leshia reached out to unfold the letter. At her touch it came alive and fluttered up into the air. Its very aura seemed furious and Leshia felt her skin crawl as Katie’s angry voice emanated from the howler’s mouth,

“You’re impossible Leshia! Stop being so stubborn and read the book!”

The message was short and to the point and as soon as it had started talking the letter shredded into pieces of smouldering paper, scattering over the perplexed fourth years surrounding Leshia and Rachel.

“What did she mean by that?” Rodeo asked confusedly, while all about the hall people were turning to stare. Leshia though gave him an accusing glare.

“Sticking her nose in where it’s not wanted,” the embarrassed girl grumbled. “Like she usually does. Come on Rach, let’s let to Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

Rachel spared no time in scrambling to her feet and following her best friend out of the hall at a brisk pace. As they passed pupils turned to stare in curiosity, wondering what had happened between them and their dear friend so far away.

“I can’t believe she’d embarrass me like that Rach, she’s such a pain,” Leshia grumbled, but any further her tirade didn’t develop as before them in the entrance hall they had stumbled on the completed booth, which was currently being manned by two Hufflepuff seventh years. The girls skidded to a halt and stared with identical grimaces at the large sign the booth bore: Send your loved one a kitten for Valentines Day.

As suddenly as they had come to a halt the two girls hurried off once more, their faces still set in disgust. Only once they had walked out of hearing range of the booth did they look to one another, their eyebrows raised.

“It’s ghastly,” Leshia insisted first, followed quickly by Rachel’s assertion that the new Valentines Day celebrations sounded,

“Gross!”

“What could it mean? Does it mean an actual kitten?” Leshia added next, she sounded almost curious.

“I hope not. You’re bound to get dozens, if not hundreds.”

“Rachel! No I’m not.”

“Yeah you are and you know it, but I’m telling you now, I am not sharing our dormitory with any more pets than we already do.”

“But Rach, we don’t share our dormitory with any pets,” Leshia countered her friend with a frown.

“My point exactly!”

XXX

Had Katie’s howler embarrassed Leshia enough on the first day she received one, then the second and the third positively mortified her. There was however, a slight amused side to her resigned face when she finally scribbled a response on Wednesday morning conceding defeat. A simple message of: Fine, I’ll read it, was accompanied by a couple of dungbombs before Leshia sent the letter back with the owl that had delivered the howler to her plate.

Imagining Katie’s horror at the smelly reply Rachel and Leshia spent a good few minutes laughing into their cornflakes, but then quite suddenly they sobered up and looked to one another pitifully.

“I wish she’d never left,” Leshia finally uttered, her expression miserably.

“Yeah, she’s got this way of nagging her way into your heart and then when she’s gone, well I guess it’s just not the same.”

“We’ve always been the three of us though. My earliest memories, you and Katie, you’re both in them. Remember that Halloween we went off on our own and we got picked up by those muggle policemen?”

“Oh god when we were seven? I was in so much trouble!”

“Yeah, but do you remember how scared Katie was at first and we were egging her on, but then when we were put in the police car and we were both crying she completely came through for us.”

The pair lulled into silence, thinking of the vital part of their trio, who was so far away from them.

“It’s just not the same without her.”

XXX

The following Wednesday brought Valentines Day to the castle. The booth that had been selling the mysterious kittens had had a steady throng around it all week that Leshia and Rachel had skirted round, craning their necks to understand more of the celebrations. Their experiences with past Valentines Days at the castle had seen them both receiving their fair share of gifts and so they had a right to be concerned.

The morning of the day itself Leshia was very wary to go down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Rachel had to manhandle her into coming and when they reached Gryffindor table they found everyone to be in a state of curiosity and excitement. There were however, downtrodden faces in equal measure, who, like Leshia and Rachel found the whole concept of Valentines Day to be a disgrace.

When the best friends found their seats they noticed Rodeo to be avoiding their gaze. Either he was dreading the day’s proceedings as much as they were or he had contributed to them. Leshia was hoping it was the former.

“When do you think they’ll strike?” Rachel asked in an undertone, as she and Leshia started serving themselves.

“Hopefully they forgot.” Rachel snorted into her apple juice.

“At the rate this school’s been going on about it?” Leshia’s eyes drifted up to the head table where the teachers were enjoying their breakfast, relishing in the relative peace and quiet before the storm of chaos struck. Her eyes drifted towards the scarred figure that had taken to stalking her nightmares along with her daylight hours and she shuddered. A deep feeling of hatred stirred in the pit of her stomach, which was almost instantaneously matched by the burning in her hand.

“I wish you couldn’t read my mind,” she whispered, unbeknownst that she had spoken her thoughts aloud.

“Well sorry, I’ll try to keep my powers under control,” Rachel complained fondly at her side. Leshia looked up with a wrinkled brow, before she realised what had happened.

“Oh very funny. Well if you’re so smart what am I thinking right now?”

“Is it, um, that you think Rachel is the most amazingly funny and smart girl you’ve ever met?” Leshia grinned darkly.

“Close enough.” The girl’s eyes drifted back to Tripper and in an instant a wondrous little thought dropped into her head. “Hey! Is that booth still selling kittens and whatnot?”

“Um, I don’t think so. Why? Who are you planning on wooing young lady?”

“It’s a secret.” Across the table Rodeo finally looked up and caught Leshia’s eye. His dark brow was furrowed. “Oh don’t look at me like that. I’m not trying to woo someone for real, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise either. Who were those girls Rach? The ones doing the booth?”

“Oh um…” Rachel rubbed the back of her head in thought. “Um, I think one of them was Sam Daily.”

“Is that the one with black hair?” Leshia checked. As soon as she received the nod from Rachel she jumped up and rushed off leaving her breakfast untouched. Rachel watched curiously while her best friend crossed the hall and dropped down near the top of the Hufflepuff table.

“What do you reckon she’s up to?” the redhead finally asked Rodeo, who was also following Leshia’s movements intently.

“Trouble if you ask me.”

Ten minutes later and Leshia was back with a satisfied smirk on her face and bright eyes. She sat down heavily and smiled from one friend to the next.

“Just…”

“Not saying.”

“But…”

“Nope.”

Rachel and Rodeo exchanged amused smiles, but before they could pester their friend any more the door to the great hall was flung open. All heads swivelled round in time to catch sight of the mysterious kittens that had been auctioned off to admirers. Across the room choruses of ‘awww’ and ‘oooh’ were rising as the little creatures reached their intended recipient and revealed just how sickeningly sweet they were.

Each creature reached about the height of an adult’s thumb and had obviously been created magically, as they possessed abilities beyond those of normal cats and dogs. They seemed to be able to jump vast distances despite their tiny height and once they had reached their intended recipient they clung to them with vast amounts of affection. Tied around each of their tiny necks was a pink sparkling collar bearing a love message from the sender.

Leshia and Rachel stared in horror at the tiny creatures while all about them the message bearing animals leapt up at their peers. Both knew it was coming and within no time the girls, who had always enjoyed a prominent social standing in the school, became the attention of several kittens.

The very first of them, bearing a message for Rachel, leapt up, aiming for the redhead’s shoulder, but missed at the very last moment as Rachel pulled away ensuring the kitten landed in her cornflakes. While everyone laughed the tiny cat, unfazed, scrambled out of the bowl and pranced right up to Rachel purring.

“Oh it’s so cute!” Nicola gushed.

“What does the message say?” Ashley now enquired. Rachel’s cheeks were glowing and though Leshia would have liked to enjoy the show she became the next to receive a very persistent kitten, followed moments later by another. Their messages were innocuous enough, but Leshia was dismayed to find that once she had relieved the animals of their burden they still clung to her with no intention of disappearing.

“Are they going to follow us round all day?” the girl asked incredulously while she experimentally poked the kitten in the tummy to ascertain whether it was really there or not. The adorable creature, mistaking this for a game rolled onto its back and started playing with Leshia’s sleeve. “Oy, get off!”

At her side Rachel was pretending to be equally as disgusted as her friend, but in truth she was quite enamoured with her kitten.

“Oh Leesh you’re such a spoilsport,” Nicola complained. She was yet to receive a little creature. “You never get into the spirit of Valentines Day.”

“Yeah,” Ashley asserted at her side. “But still you get sent the most each year. You should have a little tact.”

Feeling irritated at their words Leshia wanted to retort, but they had humbled her enough to enable her to hold her tongue. Yes the whole concept was entirely ludicrous, but to some people not being included in the grotesque celebrations was as heartbreaking to them as Leshia would feel were she suddenly dropped from the Gryffindor team and so, she said nothing more on the matter till they reached the history of magic classroom. Professor Binns usually floated in along to the bell and expected his pupils to be seated and ready to listen, so Leshia and Rachel wandered straight into the classroom and found their seats near the back.

“Are you sure they’re okay in there?” Rachel asked her blonde friend dubiously as girls dropped down and lifted their satchels onto their desks. In her arms she was cradling her tiny kitten, which she had named Gobstopper. Her question was referring to the meowing noises emanating from Leshia’s satchel, where her pair of kittens had been quite unceremoniously thrust. The blonde girl shrugged her shoulders noncommittally.

“I think they’re actually enjoying the ride. Look.” Carefully she lifted the flap on her satchel revealing the two kittens jumping up excitedly, but they didn’t try to escape their leather cage.

“Say Leesh, have you got anywhere with that book yet?” Rachel now asked curiously, eliciting a grim expression from her friend.

“Not quite. I mean every time I open the damn thing I get overcome with this huge wave of exhaustion and I end up falling asleep before I’ve even read the first page.”

“Why don’t you start on the second page then?”

“Oh very funny. Why don’t I just shove the damn thing back in my trunk and tell Katie I read it?”

“Well that could work in theory, but knowing my cousin she’ll set you a test on it when she gets back.”

Leshia chuckled fondly, picturing their raven-haired friend doing exactly that and allowed pleasant thoughts of Katie’s homecoming to filter into her thinking until the end of the boring lesson. She hadn’t heard a word the spectral teacher had spoken. The girls’ next lesson of the day would offer no such opportunity: Ancient Runes. With a feeling of unease and yet a flutter of mischief Leshia led the way with Rachel hot on her tail. The girls had both accumulated more kittens during their hour-long history lesson and now Leshia’s satchel was a little weighed down by the eight kittens she had unceremoniously plonked inside. Everywhere they went tiny creatures skirted in between people’s feet and though many girls seemed to be relishing in their new temporary pets, most of the young men of the castle were sporting a similar disinterest to the cats as Leshia herself was.

By the time the girls got to the Runes classroom they were the last to join the queue. The bell had only just rung and before they could open their mouths to resume their conversation the door to the classroom flung open making way for a crowd of frightened looking sixth years to escape the clutches of their manic teacher. Leshia felt her skin crawl at the thought of enduring another hour under Tripper’s watch, before she and her classmates filed in.

The scarred teacher seemed more out of sorts than normal and at the sight of all the playful kittens accompanying his class in he visibly shuddered. Leshia was quite happy she’d forced hers out of sight, for she wasn’t the target of one of Tripper’s shrill cries for once,

“Put those damn creatures away! I don’t want to see them for the rest of the lesson.” The worried fourth years quickly followed Leshia’s lead by bundling their dear cats away. Once they had done so the foul teacher started his lesson.

Leshia was having trouble concentrating and every few minutes or so her eyes would dart to the large clock hanging above the blackboard. Tripper though, was far to enraged by the morning’s ludicrous activity that he barely paid his least favourite pupil any attention.

Only ten minutes of the lesson remained until quite suddenly the door to the classroom barrelled open making way for a stream of twenty kittens to come hurtling inside. The class stared with wide eyes at the animals, hoping against hope that they weren’t the recipients of the Valentines, as surely their irate teacher would find this enough of an excuse to punish them?

Quite to everyone’s surprise however, their worry had been in vain, as one by one the kittens targeted their teacher and started jumping up at him. Never had the fourth years seen Professor Tripper so out of sorts and after flapping at the determined kittens with wild arms he started hopping up and down trying to stamp on them.

At first Leshia, who was shaking from having to contain her laughter so much, felt a stab of panic. What if the furious man harmed the animals? Having sent them all herself she would not be able to escape the guilt if she became responsible for their premature demise. Thankfully though, the magic that had brought the kittens to life was powerful enough to avoid calamity and the bewitched miniature creatures merely jumped out the way of the teacher’s large thumping feet.

It was a sight to behold.

“Enough!” the man finally cried out and he dropped into his seat, his chest rising and falling dramatically. Where moments before the class had been clutching at their sides to avoid their laughter from bubbling out, they all stared now with wide eyes at the incensed man. He seemed more livid than ever they had seen him and despite the fact that his appearance was more than comical, with twenty tiny kittens clambering all over him, there seemed nothing funny about the situation at all.

“All of you, get out!”

Without needing to be told twice the fourth years gathered their parchments and textbooks together before they streamed out as quickly as they could. The door slammed behind them leaving Leshia stood a little way down the corridor looking over her shoulder with a worried frown.

“Leesh what’s wrong? Come on, let’s go before he changes his mind.”

“I feel responsible. What if he’s hurting them?” the blonde girl countered and she turned to look her best friend in the eye.

“I knew it was you who’d sent them,” Rachel crowed triumphantly. “Look, they’re not real okay? He couldn’t hurt them. He’s probably stuffed them in a drawer somewhere. Now let’s go, because there’s absolutely no way I am going back in there with him in that mood.”

XXX

By the time dinner was served in the Great Hall the school had become inundated with miniature kittens. Leshia alone had accumulated a following of bewitched animals and she was quite beside herself with what to do with them all. Her satchel had long since become too small to accommodate them and after tiptoeing round the cats to avoid stepping on them she remembered Tripper’s attempts to squash them failing miserably, so she merely strode confidently ahead. Sure enough, the cats jumped out of her path and not once had she trodden on as much as a miniscule tail.

Her mood was grim over dinner and though Rachel, Nicola and Ashley were relishing in their tiny companions, the blonde girl had had quite enough of them.

“I wish they’d bugger off,” she grumbled when one of them made itself comfortable in the nape of her neck. After giving it a flick the cat yawned broadly and scrambled away.

“You’re such a misery guts Leesh, they’re so cute,” Nicola countered with a beaming smile at her tiny pet. Leshia cast the girl a sour look.

“I couldn’t even show my own cat enough love and attention to make him stick around. What the hell do I want with sixty odd kittens?”

“Oh yeah, what did happen to Philly? I haven’t seen him since September,” Rachel suddenly remarked with a frown. Ashley looked up curiously.

“Don’t you know? Some girl in Hufflepuff adopted him. He’s been living with them since we got back after the summer.”

Though she hid her disappointment Leshia felt an odd rush of emotion that she couldn’t explain. She’d rather hoped her old cat had turned feral rather than taken to moving in with someone else. She missed him every now and then when a cold draught rattled through the tower. When she had first moved to Hogwarts he’d slept curled up at her side and could always be counted on to offer a little burst of warmth and a cuddle, but now he was gone, giving his love and his warmth to someone else.

Leshia was much kinder to her kittens after this momentary well of self-pity and though she didn’t tuck them all up in bed with her like Rachel did come the end of the day, she didn’t object when they crawled onto her four-poster after she’d shuffled under the covers. By the morning, they’d disappeared.

XXX

Dear Rachel and Leshia,

I hope you’re both managing without me and that nothing too disastrous has happened. Those Valentines Day kittens sounded adorable, I wish I could have been there to see them. I was a bit worried to hear about a certain incident involving twenty kittens and a man not to be trifled with. Whoever was responsible for that ought to tread lightly and not incriminate him or herself.

Anyway, I’ve been here five weeks and I swear I don’t need translator spells anymore. I can almost understand every word. Parys isn’t doing so well, but I think he’s using this as an excuse to have a party all the time and lay about in the sun. He’s gone as brown as a berry and I don’t think he and Raffa go to many of their lessons. He’s in danger of being sent home if you ask me. Julius Black on the other hand is taking a very assiduous view to this experience and he and I spend a great deal of time in the homework room trying to make sure our essays are up to scratch. They cover such different topics here I’m in a little over my head.

How’s the book going Leshia? Is it terribly fascinating?

How’s Rodeo?

Must dash, afternoon lessons start in ten minutes. Good luck in the Ravenclaw game this weekend. I know you’re going to win, I just know it, so don’t you worry. Especially you Rachel! You’re on the team because Leshia thought you were good enough.

Love you both!

Katie xxx

The letter arrived on the morning of the Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw match. Leshia had been on tenterhooks since Friday, but Rachel was a veritable mass of quivering nerves. Katie’s words of assurance did little to settle the red-haired girl and she merely made an incomprehensible squeak and returned to her slice of toast. Secretly Leshia was a little worried. To put Rachel off her food was quite a feat; would she hold it together during the game?

The new Gryffindor team had been training together nearly every day for the last two weeks and though they were all excellent flyers, getting the new players to work as a team and adapt to the trademark Gryffindor moves had been tough going. Finally though, their temporary captain was satisfied with the progress they had made. She was sure that were they to face the same Ravenclaw team they had in previous years then they would end the game victoriously. However, the Ravenclaws, having lost two of their players, a chaser and a beater, had also been practicing furiously in recent weeks and Leshia didn’t know what to expect from them. Then there was the fact that Martin Lahara, Ravenclaw’s seeker had left school in the summer making way for a new seeker.

Joe Thompson was in fourth year and Leshia had come across him in lessons since they were in first year. He was a rather unremarkable young man, but the Gryffindor seeker knew not to use this as a reason to underestimate her new rival. She would have to fly carefully and catch the snitch as soon as she laid eyes on it.

All in all as the Gryffindors made their way out to the quidditch pitch, where an aura of chatter and noise revealed that the school had already made themselves comfortable in the stands, the team members were all looking a little green from worry. Leshia was trying her very hardest to keep them motivated and when she got them all together in the dressing room she gave a rousing speech that managed to perk up her players for a grand total of five minutes, before the awe-inspiring sight of the paced stands made their faces fall once more.

“Just remember what we practiced,” Leshia uttered to Rachel as they made their way onto the pitch.

“I can’t, my mind’s gone blank.” The seeker shot her friend a worried glance.

“Well then just aim the damn bludgers at the opposition and stop it from hitting us, it’s that simple.” Rachel managed a smirk and she nodded to show she was going to keep it together.

“Leesh I think they want you to do the captain’s thing.”

Sure enough, Madam Hooch was waiting with Ravenclaw’s captain Robert Parker in the middle of the pitch. With a flutter of worry Leshia approached, pulling at the captain’s band pulled tightly round her left arm. After shaking the tall boy’s hand Leshia glanced over her shoulder to see her players were ready to shoot into action.

“I want a clean game, from all of you,” Madam Hooch called to the players, before quite suddenly she threw the quaffle high into the air to the shrill sound of her whistle. Leshia had been practicing the shoot out, knowing it was the captain’s role, but she was no chaser and Parker easily swiped the ball from her grasp and had lofted it to one of his chasers.

Not allowing this to deter her Leshia quickly rose through the mid-level traffic to find her favoured cruising zone about twenty feet higher up, away from rogue bludgers and errant quaffles. Somewhere down below Joe Thompson was hovering near the action and Leshia felt a flutter of worry. Could he have already seen the snitch and was waiting to strike?

“And Gryffindor score with a fantastic goal by Rodeo Holsson!” Leshia’s ears perked up and she lost her concentration for a moment to glance down and see Jaime Wood and Will Lloyd congratulating Rodeo.

Thompson darted and for a horrifying moment Leshia thought her lack of concentration had cost them the match, but thankfully the inexperienced Ravenclaw seeker had merely caught the reflection from someone’s broom and he came to a complete halt once more. After rolling her eyes Leshia settled down into a scouting pattern, reminding herself not to let anything distract her from her task.

“And Wood’s flawless finish puts Gryffindor twenty points ahead.”

“Ignore it,” Leshia whispered to herself, struggling with the pressure of her captaincy only moments into the game. She was concerned with the progress of the team and it was detracting from her usual steadfastness in the hunt for the snitch. Higher the girl flew, until she could barely hear the commentator and the players were indistinguishable. Her keen eyes still roved for the golden ball and though she was now at a ridiculous height, she knew her eyes were good enough to spot it from such a distance.

For fifteen minutes she remained, flying from one end of the pitch to the other, desperately seeking out the ball that could put an end to her frayed nerves. The only disturbance to her peaceful hunt being a bludger, which had been belted her way by accident. Rachel soon came to collect it, throwing a beaming smile and a cry at Leshia as she went,

“Can you believe it?” But just what Leshia was meant to believe she couldn’t discern, as Rachel had already dropped down to the level of play once more.

Three minutes later and a glimmer of gold caught the experienced seeker’s attention. Without hesitation she dropped into a terrifyingly vertical descent. All eyes paused for a moment to watch while the small blonde girl literally plummeted from the sky, with only her thin trusty broom to prevent her from crashing fatally into the ground.

Not once did Leshia take her eyes from her prize, which was hovering under the level of play. Across the pitch Joe Thompson finally caught sight of the snitch and he too lurched into a clumsy passage across the mid-level traffic. Had he been below them he would have been upon the snitch within moments, but thankfully for Leshia he was experiencing severe difficulties in the form of the Gryffindor chasers flying around him, passing the quaffle in front of his face, giving their seeker enough time to descend.

Like a stone Leshia dropped straight through the mid-zone without harm and her goal was within reach. With enormous strength she ripped the nose of her broom up before she could collide with the ground, sending her spiralling towards the snitch. It stood no chance and without any contest, the snitch lay fluttering in Leshia’s hand. It had been a textbook finish.

The crowds were going thoroughly wild for the Gryffindor victory and after appreciating their energy for a few seconds Leshia found herself swamped by her team mates. Leshia struggled through them all to find Rachel smiling fit to burst. The nerves had dissipated the moment she had lifted into the air and she had enjoyed a thrilling game.

“What did you yell at me just now?” Leshia asked, raising her finger to the sky to indicate what she was talking about.

“I said ‘Can you believe it?’” Rachel repeated ecstatically.

“Could I believe what?”

“We were leading Leesh, by a hundred and sixty points!” Leshia’s eyes went wide.

“No! Seriously?”

“Deadly serious. Those Ravenclaws didn’t know what hit them!”

XXX

Following Gryffindor’s magnificent victory over the Ravenclaws their training regime wound down. There was no need to keep training so religiously, as by the time Gryffindor played Hufflepuff in the summer term, the original players would be back from their exchange trip and Leshia would no longer be captain. While she had had them Leshia had never been prouder and she had let her team know that she had never had so much fun as leading them onto the quidditch pitch and winning with such glory.

With more time on their hands the girls managed to return their minds to their homework, which they had been rather ignoring as of late and with plans to spend the whole of the following Saturday in the library, Leshia and Rachel awoke early and made their way down to breakfast. There weren’t many pupils around at this hour, allowing the girls to enjoy a raucous conversation in relative peace and quiet. Just as they were finishing their cereal the post owls filled the hall with flapping wings and a flurry of activity. Leshia and Rachel glanced up curiously and watched as the owls delivered letters and parcels to empty seats around them where their peers usually sat. They themselves received nothing and though Rachel had a fond little moan about Katie not sending enough letters Leshia’s attention was otherwise detained.

“Leesh!” With wide eyes Leshia glanced back at Rachel. “I said, she’s probably off canoodling with Julius Black and too busy to send us a letter.” Leshia wrinkled her brow, very confused by what Rachel was saying before she glanced back to the Daily Prophet, which had landed a little way up at Samuel Thomas’ place. Rachel, not accustomed to being ignored glanced up as well.

“Oh,” she exclaimed in shock the moment she saw Lucius Malfoy’s mangled old face glowering at her from the front page of the newspaper under the heading ‘Dark Wizard spotted in Manchester!’.

Leshia started rubbing at her stinging hand and she forced her eyes away from her grandfather’s picture. Though every bone in her body was trying to force her to reach out and read the article, the Eye on her hand was reminding her of what could happen if she did and so with a heavy sigh she climbed to her feet, lifting her enormously heavy satchel as she went.

“God, this book weighs a ton!” she grumbled, referring to the Secret of Strength, which she had taken to carting around in her satchel as an incentive to read it.

“Maybe you should just read it and get it out the way?” Rachel suggested all too readily and she led Leshia away from the article on the table. Leshia grinned resignedly.

“You know, that’s not such a bad idea.”

And so with renewed vigour Leshia threw herself into the book, forcing herself to read through its dull pages. It became a labour of resentment and though she was loath to open it’s battered front cover she took to doing so every day. Everywhere the girl went the book accompanied her.

Two weeks passed until finally the end was in sight and she had made it onto the last chapter. Being so close to completion the girl had the book out over dinner and was so heavily involved in the words in its pages that she didn’t notice the tall and scarred figure that was hobbling towards her through the Great Hall.

Silas Tripper had been watching Alecia Malfoy for several days now, her nose buried inside a massive tome and her attention very difficult to claw away from it. Making everything she did a matter for his concern he was demanding to know now, what had the young Gryffindor so distracted. Within moments he had reached the girl’s side and without pausing to ask he reached for the book and slammed it shut to read the front cover.

Instantly the man recoiled from the girl, his hand frozen and his face contorted in disgust and fear. From his throat a constricted scream escaped and one by one the occupants of the hall turned to stare in wonder at the peculiar teacher.

“That book!” Demented he seemed and ever so carefully Leshia was edging her way closer to Rachel, who was more than happily trying to wrap and arm through Leshia’s to offer her comfort. Whatever that book had done to the Runes professor did not bode well for her best friend and moreover, both girls knew it. “Dumbledore! Do you see what book she has? Is this not enough to convince you?”

The scarred cretin wheeled on Leshia, his frozen hand now pointing at her accusingly. Any trace of amusement was gone on her peers’ faces as they all saw now how much trouble the popular girl was in.

“Silas!” Dumbledore had risen to his feet before the younger man could launch into a further tirade aimed at the innocent child. Stealthily he was making his way down the aisle towards Leshia and Tripper. All the while Leshia held the ministry stooge’s gaze, while he pointed his finger squarely in her face. Her hand was itching, the cruel Eye very aware that something monumental had just occurred.

“Do you see Dumbledore? Look!”

As the venerable old man approached his attention was forced onto the old tome lying in front of Leshia on the table and when he had scanned the title his face went very pale and his eyes very wide. Leshia felt a wave of fear wash over her; if Dumbledore was afraid, then surely, she ought to be terrified?

Quickly the headmaster swept the book up and into the folds of his robes. He looked straight into Leshia’s eyes and offered her a look of courage and strength.

“Return to your common room Leshia and try not to worry,” he told her firmly.

“Try not to worry?” Tripper repeated snidely. “She’s done for! The ministry is finally going to act and not even you can stand in my way this time old man.”

“Silence.” Those pupils sat nearest the headmaster felt their heads swim under the power of his utterance. Even Tripper seemed humbled. “This is my school Silas and I will not have you turn it into the ministry nor will I allow you to terrorise my pupils. My study, immediately!”

With this the empowered old wizard strode back up the aisle with Tripper in pursuit. They left without another word to one another leaving everyone in the hall staring at Leshia in shock. Every pair of eyes, be they pupil or teacher, were trained on the small Gryffindor girl, who at this moment struggled to catch her breath. Her shoulders were rising and falling rapidly, tears were coming.

Rachel climbed to her feet and lifted Leshia to hers. At the girl’s other side Rodeo jumped to his own feet and with the aid of her close friends Leshia found herself escorted from the curiosity and pity of the school. Leshia’s last glance back darted to the head table, where two empty seats reminded her ever so painfully of the fact that her parents weren’t there to support her. Finally, after months of threats and near misses Leshia was going to suffer the consequences for being the daughter of Draco Malfoy and he was nowhere to be seen to protect her from them.


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