The summer had been long and hot. Teenagers strolled through the bustling shops of Diagon Alley dressed in all manner of skimpy shorts and tops earning themselves disdainful glances from their elders. Soon these youngsters would be trapped once more within the Hogwarts walls, destined for another year of studies. Most of them were looking forward to it, but there was one very unlikely candidate who seemed unready to make the journey northwards once more.
Alecia Malfoy wanted the summer to go on forever. Stood now behind the till at Flourish and Blotts the bookshop, Leshia was foregoing the summer sunshine to make amends for two months of wanton self-indulgence. Along with the her childhood friends Leshia had spent the summer drifting between her house and those of her friends, relishing in late night bonfires, sleepovers, parties and evenings out in the Rusty Cauldron's beer garden. The girl had never enjoyed herself as much as she had these last eight weeks and now, she wasn't ready to give up this life of freedom.
Leshia's mother, Hermione Malfoy, had long ago procured the job at the bookshop for her daughter in order to enable the girl to earn a little more pocket money. Even though at first she had strongly objected, eventually Leshia had come round to the idea and dutifully she had spent the last two summers toiling away behind the till or in the stock room. This summer though, had been different. In fact, this was the first full day Leshia had put in at the shop in over five weeks. Usually a very loyal and proud sort of girl, Leshia was determined to set things right and so had vowed to spend the rest of the week helping in the shop voluntarily and without pay. Old Flourish and Blott, descendants of the original founders of the shop, had been amused by Leshia's changing moods this summer, though neither tried to stop the headstrong girl from doing as she pleased. They knew the girl well enough to know that only a fool stood in Alecia Malfoy's way.
It had been a long day, fraught with visits from peers and friends from Hogwarts. Leshia felt she'd been dropped well and truly in the deep end of the school's gossip grapevine and had more information than she knew what to do with. Certainly Katie Potter, one of Leshia's age-old friends and a resident Hogwarts socialite, would do anything to get hold of the fresh gossip, but Leshia wasn't sure if she would be able to remember it all. The two girls, along with the third member of their trio, Rachel Weasley were all meeting later that evening at the last barbeque of the summer at the Burrow. No doubt Katie would be furious if Leshia forgot any of the juicy details she had heard and so the youngster was frantically scribbling things down on a spare stub of paper.
The shop had been quiet for the past hour, its only customer being a very slow old woman who spent at least forty minutes trawling through the books detailing how to deal with magical pests. Leshia might have been able to understand the woman's sluggishness had there been an aisle full of the books, but as the teenager had directed the old biddy to a section of the shop housing only three books she had been quite bemused by the whole thing. In the end the customer had left empty-handed leaving Leshia pouting in annoyance. The whole episode had caused her to forget half of Tina Dackshaw's story about the short-lived romance that had recently blossomed and self-destructed between Arabella Short and Paul Lambert and so now Leshia was desperately trying to write down the few snippets she could remember.
The door to the shop tinkled and the door creaked open. Leshia didn't look up from her notes, hoping the customer would be able to amuse themselves for a few moments.
"I'll be with you in a minute," she called out distractedly. The customer didn't respond and after several moments Leshia realised that they hadn't moved either. Quickly the girl looked up and met the peculiar eyes of a person she had no desire to see. "Oh, it's you."
The tall youth at the door looked the girl behind the till up and down before a dark smile spread onto his handsome face: Julius Black was looking more handsome than ever and it pained Leshia deeply to see it. It would be much easier to convince her friends he was evil were he not so good looking.
"Afternoon," the boy spoke in a voice edging ever deeper towards manhood. Leshia almost shuddered at the sound of it. Though he was four weeks shy of sixteen Julius Black seemed far older than his years and he managed to make Leshia feel like a child with a mere word. How she hated him.
"Hi," she replied stiltedly. For a while the pair eyed one another; Leshia noticing that Julius had trimmed his long dark hair back and the boy noting that Alecia Malfoy seemed to have grown to an average height at last, after a lifetime of looking up at her classmates.
"What are you looking at?" Leshia demanded eliciting a smile from the boy at the door. He had stared too long it would seem.
"I've come for our textbooks," Julius replied easily. "Last time I checked this was a bookshop. Have I come to the wrong place?"
"Very funny," Leshia grumbled and she strolled out from behind the counter, shoving her notes safely away in her pocket. Julius' eyes followed her hand to her jeans pocket and lingered there for a moment. "Fifth year books right?"
"And two sets of the third year books too if you wouldn't mind. You know, for Magnus and Leona."
"Yeah I guessed that," Leshia countered curtly, before she turned on heal and picked up a wicker basket. Without glancing back at the grinning young man the girl dove into the aisles of the shop leaving Julius behind. Her skin crawled in the boy's presence and for the umpteenth time she wished he would simply cease to exist. Katie and Rachel hounded her about her dislike for him, stating all the times he had saved her life as a reason for being kinder to him. Leshia growled angrily at them when they dared to suggest such a thing, demanding to know why she should give Julius Black the time of day when he made it quite obvious he didn't want to keep stepping in to help her and did so only out of a private duty he owed and had no desire to speak about with Leshia. His secrecy was what irritated Leshia the most. Why couldn't he just tell her things straight for once?
Before the summer holidays, towards the end of their fourth year at Hogwarts Leshia witnessed cracks in Julius Black's composure for the first time. He had risked his neck to save her from a team of aurors hell-bent on arresting her and had shown her a passion she had never dreamed existed within his cool exterior. The enigma she called him and that he certainly was.
After expertly scooping up the books that had been listed on the fifth and third year booklists Leshia returned to the counter and started racking up the prices on the till. Julius was nowhere to be seen, but just as Leshia was coming to the last book in the pile he appeared with a small pile of his own. The blonde girl fought hard not to roll her eyes and instead took the pile from the Slytherin enigma.
"Quidditch?" Leshia spluttered in surprise when she saw the title of the first book on the pile: The Best of the Goals and Glory from 2014-2013. "You?" Julius frowned deeply and took the book from the girl as soon as she had typed the price into the till.
"You don't know everything Malfoy," the boy uttered darkly, wiping a stray piece of fluff from the dust jacket of the new book. Leshia narrowed her eyes at him and continued through the pile.
"I know you don't give a damn about quidditch."
"Oh yes? And how do you know that?" The boy's eyes flashed dangerously.
"Well, let's see, you never try out for the team, you rarely come to matches and I never see you joining in with that spoilt brat Allseyer and his cronies when they're going on about the latest matches they've been to," Leshia explained. For a moment Julius watched Leshia with narrowed eyes before his let out a frustrated sigh.
"Well by your logic then the fact that I never see you doing your homework, you spend most of our lessons daydreaming and for the most part seem quite thick-headed when I see you speaking to your friends should suggest that you ought to fail every one of your exams."
"Why you little…"
"But as I hear you generally do quite well at school then maybe we shouldn't go jumping to conclusions about one another don't you think?"
Leshia chewed hard on the insides of her cheeks, before she nodded firmly. The sooner she stopped talking with Julius Black the sooner he would leave and so without another word the girl finished racking up his books. Julius paid in silence and left the girl two sickles as a tip, which annoyed her more than she had imagined a two-sickle tip could ever annoy anyone before he picked up his packages and turned to leave.
"There's one more thing," the boy spoke when he was half way to the door. Leshia sighed witheringly and glared forcefully as Julius turned around to meet her gaze.
"What is it?"
Her anger seemed to ignite her face with passion and for a moment Julius stood and admired her. Alecia Malfoy had become quite beautiful it would seem. Gone were the impish childish good looks and in their place a new womanly beauty had emerged. There was no denying the scrawny teenager was still a very young girl, but there was something in her aura that had changed and matured.
"It's about what happened before the summer," the boy finally spoke in a soft voice. Leshia bored into him with her icy grey gaze, urging him to carry on. "I want you to stay very quiet about what happened in the woods."
"What?" Leshia demanded. "What do you mean stay very quiet?"
"Well should my fellow housemates hear about my defending you then I would find myself in a very tricky situation. Do you understand?"
For a moment Leshia glowered at the boy, before a broad sly smile grew on her face.
"You mean if I dob you in to Damian Allseyer they'll give you a hard time?" Julius Black stayed very silent, his own eyes narrowing once more while he regarded the impetuous girl before him. Yes Leshia may have become beautiful in the weeks that had passed since school had ended, but she was just as pig-headed and childish as ever it would seem.
"I'm going to say this only once Malfoy, so listen very carefully. If you tell people at school about what I did for you when the aurors were trying to find you I will make sure everyone knows about all those nasty Malfoy secrets you and your father like to think have been kept in the family."
Leshia's lips parted in surprise and she stepped backwards from the till.
"What?" she demanded, her voice shaking in anger and concern. "What do you know?"
"A lot more than you," the boy countered quickly. "Do we have an agreement?"
Leshia's mind flooded back to the memories of her third year when throughout the year a creature of darkness had stalked her, brining with it the memories of her dear father's sordid and murderous past. Leshia had since come to terms with the fact that Draco Malfoy, her own dad, had once been a murderer and a traitor, but to have it hinted at by this cretin made her heart tremble. How dare he! How dare Julius Black speak so lightly about the darkest secrets in her heart!
"Yes," she spat angrily. "Yes we have an agreement. Now get out."
Julius Black smiled briefly, a look of amusement clear on his face, before he nodded and turned to leave the shop. Leshia glared at him as he opened the door and strolled out into the sunny afternoon leaving her raw and shaky. Her mood could have continued throughout the evening bringing a dampener on everyone's good time had Hermione Malfoy not chosen this exact moment to walk into the shop with little Evie, Leshia's one-year-old sister, clutched firmly to her hip.
Leshia looked up as the bell tinkled, expecting Julius to return for another round of insults, but upon seeing her mother and baby sister the girl felt her bad mood ease away leaving only happiness in its place.
"Hi mum!" the girl called out happily and she ran forward to take Evie from Hermione's arms. The tired mother readily gave in and dropped down on one of the reading benches with an exhausted, yet contented, sigh.
"What have you been up to?" Leshia asked amusedly, noting the oodles of packages hanging from her mother's arms.
"Lih! Lish!" the baby in her arms cried out jubilantly, flailing her fat little arms in the direction of her older sister.
"Yes hi Evie," Leshia giggled, kissing her sister's nose. "I'm happy to see you too."
"Oh darling," Hermione exhaled. "It's so hot out there! I think I might expire if I have to go out there again."
Leshia grinned and dropped down next to her mother, offering her a kiss on the cheek as she did.
"Well I hate to say it mum, but we're not exactly home yet and the shop's not attached to the floo network. So unless you're planning on apparating and leaving me with this one and all this shopping then you're stuck I'm afraid."
"Oh I don't know," Hermione mused aloud. "You wouldn't mind escorting Evie home would you while I nip off for a quick gin and tonic in the garden would you?" Leshia laughed happily and shook her head.
"Fat chance. What are you doing here anyway? I thought I was supposed to be meeting you lot at home before we go to the burrow."
"Yes, that was the plan," her mother explained, before she started rifling through an enormous handbag. Leshia adored her mother's handbag. It was abnormally large by muggle standards, but had the added benefit of being magically enchanted to seem bottomless. Hermione was able to store within the bag everything Leshia had ever needed (including, on separate occasions, an umbrella, a small fold out table and a tennis racket) and secretly the girl had started coveting it and devising ways to make it her own.
Eventually Hermione pulled out a slightly crumpled looking letter, which bore the unmistakable Hogwarts crest. Leshia frowned and took the letter and turned it over in her hands. It was addressed to her.
"But I already received my letter," she pondered out loud before she looked up to see Hermione beaming at her.
"I know. That's why I brought it straight over." Leshia frowned even more.
"What do you think it is?"
"I have no idea darling," Hermione lied and she reached over to take her youngest daughter from her eldest's lap. Baby Evie had seemed intent on shredding the letter from the moment it arrived and now it was brought before her once more had instantly reached out with two clammy hands to take hold of it. The baby complained and reached out for the heavy parchment, but Leshia pulled it back and pulled the way seal off the back off the envelope.
"I don't like the way you're grinning at me," the teenager grumbled, before she pulled the letter out and started to read:
It is with a great pleasure that I am writing to inform you that prior to the summer holidays Mila Evanovitch, the Hogwarts quidditch team captain came to me and told me who should replace her in the new academic year. As you know Mila has now left Hogwarts and has moved onto bigger and better things, but before she left she told me that she had selected a successor to captain the successful Gryffindor team. She was absolutely certain that there was only one person right for the job and that person is you Leshia.
As of September, you will be our new Gryffindor team captain. You will need to organise trials to replace any members who have left and you will also need to organise training on a weekly basis if you intend to keep the team in fine form this year. Madam Hooch has assured me that should you require any assistance on coaching she is more than happy to give you advice.
The best of luck Leshia and I look forwards to seeing you develop in your new role as captain,
Leshia read and then reread the letter once more, a broad grin growing on her face until finally she looked up at her mother with an enormous smile. Hermione though, was looking confused as she sifted through the envelope's now empty contents. It was clear she had been expecting more.
"What is it?" Leshia asked, her smile fading for a moment. "What are you looking for?"
"Nothing," Hermione quickly countered, before she forced a smile back onto her face. "What does it say darling?"
"Professor Dumbledore has made me Gryffindor captain mum! Me, the captain! Can you believe it?"
"Oh Leshia! That's wonderful news!" Hermione exclaimed and she reached forward and pulled her daughter into a warm embrace. "Your father will be so proud."
Leshia rolled her eyes fondly and pulled back, wanting to ask why her mother hadn't said that she was proud of her, but instead she said nothing and climbed to her feet.
"Come on, let's go, my shift finished five minutes ago," the girl announced cheerily, before she bellowed into the shop, "Mr Blott?" After a few moments a muffled reply sounded,
"I'm off Mr Blott," Leshia called out. "It's five o' clock. I'll see you tomorrow."
There came a series of muffled crashes before suddenly Mr Blott himself appeared in the doorway to the stock room.
"Splendid Leshia, have a lovely time at the barbeque. Oh, hello Hermione, can I help you with anything? We've just had a marvellous new selection of Runic dictionaries come in, can I interest you in having a quick peek to check they're up to scratch?"
Hermione looked like she very much wanted to agree, but seeing the pleading look on her daughter's face she instead smiled and shook her head.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to turn you down Regus, this one here's had a hard day's work and she deserves a rest don't you think?" Mr Blott turned a broad smile on young Leshia before he nodded.
"Too right, well spoken my dear, now be off with you before you see what I've just had delivered from Rome." Hermione craned her neck to see a large book-like shape covered in a faded dustsheet before Leshia took hold of her arm and started dragging her away.
"Tomorrow mum, you can see tomorrow!"
It took a lot more cajoling to finally get Hermione to leave the shop, but soon the mother and her two daughters were walking into the bright and airy front hall of their Dockstreet townhouse. As soon as they walked in Leshia sprinted up the stairs to change into a less stifling outfit choice before she careened downstairs once more to find her mother in the arms of a tall ash blond unshaven man by the hearth.
"Yuck," the girl complained as soon as she walked in, before she walked over to her baby sister who was watching their parents with interest. "Evie's watching you know!"
A deep throaty laughter escaped the girl's long-suffering father before he turned his grey eyes on his oldest daughter.
"I hear you've got good news," Draco Malfoy remarked amusedly. Leshia grinned stupidly for a moment before she lifted Evie to her hip and rushed over to their parents' side.
"Did mum tell you?" the girl garbled through a manic smile. "Dumbledore made me the quidditch captain for Gryffindor!"
"So I hear, congratulations sweetheart," Draco replied fondly, reaching out his arm to sling it about the growing girl's shoulders. She was as tall as Hermione now, which seemed so unnatural to the father who had always known his daughter to be a tiny little thing. "You'll do a great job. They couldn't have chosen a better replacement."
"Dad," Leshia complained in feigned aspiration. "Don't get all soppy. So, are we going or not?"
"After you," Draco chuckled and he reached forward to take little Evie from the girl's arms, which allowed the teenager to step past and climb into the grate. Leshia grabbed a handful of floo powder and dropped it purposefully into the hearth.
"The Burrow!" the girl called out clearly, before she was gone in a swirl of green flames leaving her parents smiling after her. Draco turned now on his wife, whose face had fallen slightly after their daughter's departure. The tall man at her side laughed heartily before pulling his wife into a one armed embrace, taking care not to flatten their youngest daughter.
"I hope you don't show Leshia how disappointed you are she didn't receive a prefect's letter this morning," he told her amusedly.
"Oh of course I won't Draco," Hermione complained. "It's just you can bet that as soon as we arrive at the burrow Katie's going to flash her badge at everyone and tell us she's been made prefect."
Draco laughed even louder and shook his head.
"So?" he laughed. "What does it matter? Leshia will just boast right back that she's been made Gryffindor captain. I know you wanted her to be made prefect darling, but come on, think rationally for a moment. Who in their right mind would chose Leshia over Katie to be a prefect?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders, but a grin was steadily growing on her beautiful face.
"You may have a point there."
"Oh I may have a point?" Draco uttered gently, bringing his wife close to his chest so that he might kiss the side of her neck.
"Leshia would never have chosen being a prefect over being the quidditch captain," the beautiful woman sighed. "So I suppose I can only be happy for her."
"Well spoken," Draco stated happily, before he kissed Hermione firmly. Seeing this display of affection Evie started gabbling nonsensically, though Draco could understand from her babbling that she was delighted to see her parents so happy with one another. For the majority of her young life Draco and Hermione had endured a strained painful period of their marriage, but in recent months those days seemed a thing of a nightmarish past neither ever wished to revisit.
Draco flooed through to the Burrow slightly ahead of Hermione and soon found himself emerging in a sea of redheads large and small. Most of them called out cheerily when he arrived, but there was one in particular who immediately rushed to his side and swept him up into a hug.
"Draco! I thought I saw Leesh sweep through here a second ago. I was just coming to find you," the young woman exclaimed before she let go and beamed at the tall man.
"Hi Ginny," Draco responded warmly, his smile a genuine one at the sight of his and Hermione's dear friend. "I hope you're well."
"Oh very well now you're here. Oh look at you!" Ginny's eyes had since moved from Draco's amused eyes to the pudgy pretty face of the baby in his arms. "Evie you are so pretty! Can I?" This last part she addressed to the father once more, who after kissing the side of his baby's head handed her over to his wife's broody best friend. Moments later Hermione appeared, smiling broadly the moment she laid eyes on Ginny cuddling baby Evie.
"Ginny my darling!" Hermione exclaimed and she pulled her best friend into an embrace. "Have one of your own for heaven's sake and stop trying to steal mine."
Loud laughter filled the room as all the Weasleys turned to stare at Ginny's pink cheeks.
"Well if you can convince Harry then by all means," the younger woman finally chuckled, giving Hermione a conspiratorial smile. It was old news that Ginny desperately wanted a new baby, but had come across a stumbling block in the form of her husband Harry Potter, who had no desire to have another child to add to the two they already had.
"How are the children?" Hermione asked, her question loaded with a silent demand to find out whether her suspicions were correct. At the sight of Hermione's keen gaze Draco rolled his eyes and darted from their sides to find something more entertaining than the battle of who-had-the-most-accomplished-child that was about to unfold.
"Oh very well," Ginny replied breezily. "Katie had some good news today, she's been made a prefect."
"I knew it!" Hermione crowed, though a broad smile remained fixedly on her face. Ginny giggled. "Congratulations."
"And Leshia? I hear she had some good news too today?"
"How did you hear already?"
"She screamed it out so the whole house could hear the moment she arrived," Ginny laughed. "I feel sorry for poor Rachel. With those two hogging the limelight she'll have had enough of them before the evening's through!"
Rachel Weasley sat back with a broad smile on her face while she watched her friends talk over one another. While the tall raven-haired girl was trying to explain about the perks attached to being one of the school's prefects the smaller blonder one of the two rattled on about quidditch tryouts and training sessions. Katie seemed particularly enamoured with the idea of having a private bathroom away from the shower queues of Gryffindor tower whereas Leshia was describing in fine detail how each training session would unfold.
Only Rachel listened to what was being said. She was quite happy to sit back and listen to her best friends, to share in their enjoyment and their jubilation. There wasn't a trace of envy in her mind, as Rachel had long known that these two would undergo these separate journeys. Yes, she had thought Leshia would become quidditch captain a little later on in their school careers, but she had always known Katie would be made prefect in their fifth year. Who in their right mind wouldn't make Katie a prefect? The girl lived and breathed the rules and spent her life trying to keep her wilder best friends under control.
As though to demonstrate this point, Katie was reeling off the rules she would find most difficult to police as a prefect. Leshia had stopped pretending to listen a while ago leaving Rachel to burst out laughing when she heard her cousin's plans.
"How on earth are you going to stop people from daydreaming during lessons?"
Katie glowed bright pink while Rachel got her breath back. Leshia, who had jumped when Rachel burst out laughing, was now watching the raven-haired girl with a frown.
"Why would you want to do that?" she asked. "You'd be stabbing all your best friends in the back."
"Yeah," Rachel agreed happily. "And besides, you daydream with the best of them during History of Magic."
"Well I was saying I probably wouldn't be able to make people stick to that rule," Katie grumbled. "The others should be much easier."
Rachel and Leshia exchanged a worried glance before they shuffled forward to sit right in front of their taller friend.
"Katie, you know how um…well, you know we're like…" Rachel fumbled, while at her side Leshia rolled her eyes.
"She's trying to say you do you we break the rules right?" the blonde girl cut in. Katie's cheeks grew even redder and she fumbled with a bit of rug between her fingers. "I mean, you're not going to dock housepoints from us are you?"
Katie's cheeks had gone the colour of Rachel's hair while her two best friends stared at her in disbelief.
"Katie!" the other two exclaimed in shock.
"You'd never dob us in to McGonagall. I know you wouldn't!" Rachel asserted firmly, eliciting a furious nod from the blonde girl at her side. Katie seemed to be fascinated by the carpet underneath her fingers.
"Look," she finally spoke, glancing up to meet the fierce expressions on her friends' faces, before she looked down again sharply. "I'd never dob you in, you're right, but I don't want to have my job taken away either! If I see you two doing something that totally flouts the rules I have to do something about it, so the only available option is…"
"Being a backstabbing bitch?" Leshia cut in, earning herself a glare from the other two. She grimaced at what she had said and shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, I didn't mean it like that."
"That's okay," Katie sighed. "I know that's what I'll be if I take housepoints away from you guys. Just, look please, if you have to break the rules, can you at least make sure I'm not in the room when you do it? What I don't know can't hurt right?"
"Yeah," Rachel replied slowly. "But Katie, that means we won't be able to hang out together all the time. I'm not sure how I feel about that."
A sad silence enveloped the three friends while down below someone was bellowing that dinner was being served. Avoiding one another's eyes, the girls climbed to their feet and joined the throng moving steadily downwards. An enormous magically enhanced barbeque had been set up in the garden right next to a small muggle contraption that Arthur was tending with utmost care. As the girls emerged into the warm evening they arrived just in time to see Molly dashing across the garden with her wand outstretched. She managed to douse the flames licking at Arthur's eyebrows before they managed to do too much damage.
"Are you okay grandpa?" Katie asked nervously while Leshia and Rachel suppressed a pair of sniggers at her side. Arthur turned a broad sooty smile on the three girls and nodded.
"It's exciting stuff this beebeequeing!" he gushed jubilantly. Leshia, who had been examining the charcoaled meat on the metal tray snorted, but managed to turn it into a cough.
"It's called barbequing grandpa," Rachel chuckled.
"That's where you're wrong my dear girl," Arthur countered with a broad grin. "I've been reading up all about muggle barbeques and I know for a fact that they call it a beebeeque. In fact, my colleague Jocasta Raindrop was invited to a beebeeque just last week."
The trio of friends looked up to see Ginny waving them over from a veritable mountain of food over by a long trestle table that had magically appeared in the garden.
"Looks like we're needed Grandpa," Katie apologised and the three girls quickly scuttled away before bursting into hushed giggles. When they reached Ginny's side the girls were ushered into serving duty and spent the next half an hour doling out all manner of tasty grilled foods to the vast array of Weasleys and friends that had gathered for the occasion. After what seemed an age the girls finally managed to serve themselves, before they rushed over to a private spot to carry on their chat. None of them wanted to continue the awkward conversation from the bedroom, so thankfully there was a more pleasing topic to hand: Ryan and Julia's wedding.
"Why're they holding it in the middle of the bloody ocean?" Rachel murmured through a mouthful of chicken drumstick. Leshia shrugged her slender shoulders.
"I dunno, I didn't plan it."
"God, the pair of you!" Katie grumbled fondly. "They're not holding it in the middle of the ocean Rach, they're holding it on a beautiful tropical island!"
Rachel and Leshia exchanged a perplexed glance.
"What's wrong with England?" the red-haired girl asked curiously.
"Look around us," Katie countered causing all three girls to glance about themselves at the sunny meadow hopefully. "It's not exactly breathtaking around here is it?"
"I didn't think Ryan would be that soppy," Leshia complained. "But it will be cool to get away for a bit."
"Are both your parents coming Leesh?" Rachel asked.
"Yeah and Evie too. We'll be leaving tomorrow evening. Apparently it'll be morning there…"
"Eleven in the morning to be precise."
"Yes thank you Katie! So it'll be morning anyway, that'll give us enough time to get ready. I'm so happy they invited you two as well. It would've sucked being there on my own with all those ex-upper years."
"Oh come on," Rachel scoffed happily. "You'd have loved it! All that attention… Hey!" The flame-haired girl glowered at Leshia as she picked a chicken bone off her jeans and flicked it into the grass.
"I've got more where that came from," Leshia warned with a sweet smile. Rachel grinned back and reached out to flick a dollop of mayonnaise onto the blonde girl's arm. Before they could get out of hand Katie spoke up firmly,
"And when we get back we're meeting up with everybody at the Cauldron for one last round of butterbeers before school right?"
Rachel sat up sharply and nodded. Her smile had become dreamy and for a moment Leshia sniggered while she wiped the white dollops of mayonnaise off her arm with a napkin.
"Looking forward to it are we?" she asked conspiratorially. Rachel shrugged her shoulders and tried to hide the keenness in her face.
"No not really," she uttered noncommittally. Leshia and Katie exchanged a grin, but said nothing of Rachel's excitement. She had been waiting weeks to see their good friends again, one of whom she had been missing unashamedly: Parys Jackson. The boy had been away with his large family all summer travelling around Europe. His absence had been felt most keenly by the flame-haired girl, who couldn't admit to her friends that she felt deeply for the boy.
"Will Parys be back then?" Leshia asked slyly, enjoying for a moment the way Rachel turned to stare at her sharply.
"You know he will. You're the one who told us!"
"Oh yeah, well that's what Rodes said the other day when he popped into the shop."
"He'll be there Rach, don't worry," Katei soothed, casting Leshia a glare. The blonde haired girl grinned and shrugged her shoulders before she leaned back and stared up at the deep pink sky. The sun was setting and it was taking with it the very last days of freedom.
"Where are they?" Leshia grumbled anxiously as she paced across the rug in the hall. Her mother, who was standing in the kitchen, looked up with a smile.
"They'll be here soon darling," she called over to the girl soothingly. "They're only a few minutes late."
An exasperated sound came from the hall before the teenager stalked into the kitchen, her hands up in frustration.
"Ten minutes mum! They're ten minutes late. We'll miss the portkey and then what will we do?"
"It won't come to that," the long-suffering mother chuckled, before she slung the bag she had been preparing onto her shoulder and went to collect little Evie from her cot up in the nursery. Leshia followed her mother upstairs, trailing the woman like a helpless puppy, much to the amusement of Hermione. "Look darling, if we miss the portkey, your father and I can apparate us to the island. It won't be a problem."
"It is a problem," the girl countered. "I told them to be here at half past and it's already nearly quarter to! And where's dad?"
Leshia craned her neck to see past her mother into the nursery to see Draco playing with a tired looking Evie on the floor. He was dressed for the wedding already and the sight of him made Hermione swoon with adoration. She could never get enough of looking at her husband, particularly when he was dressed in such fineries. Her expression gave her feelings away and with a particularly disgusted noise Leshia whisked her baby sister away from their parents towards the door.
"Yuck, that's all I can say," she told the amused couple, before she stalked over to the stairs. "Sorry you had to see that Evie."
"Lih!" was all the baby had to say in response to her sister's concern. Leshia nearly smiled at her sister before suddenly the sound of someone pottering around in the kitchen reached her ears.
"Finally!" she called out and ran down the stairs clamping Evie tightly to her chest as she went. By the time she'd reached the archway leading into the kitchen her best friends had arrived looking sheepish.
"Don't explode!" Rachel warned. "Blame her highness over there."
"I couldn't find my shoes," Katie quickly offered, wincing when she saw the anger etched into Leshia's fine features. "We're not too late are we?"
"Well actually…" the blonde girl began, before the sound of her parents on the stairs interrupted her.
"Not at all girls. Are you ready to go?" Hermione called out to the newly arrived teenagers. Rachel and Katie beamed at Leshia's mum, before they edged around their best friend towards the hall.
"Ray Ray Ray Ray…" Evie had spotted Rachel and after rolling her eyes and putting her temper aside Leshia giggled and let her flame-haired friend whisk the baby from her arms. Katie watched enviously.
"I wish Evie liked me that much," she sighed, as she and Leshia led Rachel into the middle of the hall where Hermione and Draco were holding a large golden invitation between them. Leshia grinned and slung her arm around her taller friend's shoulders.
"They're kindred spirits. You'd have to stoop to Evie's mental age to really understand what they see in each other," she explained dryly.
"Hey!" Rachel complained fondly, her smile reaching her ears when Leshia burst into reams of laughter at her expense. "As though you're the epitome of maturity."
"Come on girls, you've got a minute," Hermione warned the girls fondly, before she extricated Evie from Rachel's arms. She lifted the baby's hand to the gold invitation and then clasped her hand around Evie's to make sure the baby was holding onto it.
"Got everything?" Draco asked the girls, who all nodded indicating the large duffel bags swinging from their shoulders. One by one they took hold of the gold invitation and counted down the last remaining seconds. The minute had passed and after exchanging a gleeful look of excitement the girls all felt the pull behind their bellybuttons dragging them forward towards the invitation. The world spun frantically and each of the friends found themselves jostled against each other, their elbows knocking together and their stomachs churning.
Finally, the spinning stopped and the three teenagers managed to catch themselves before they landed on the floor of a luxurious hotel lobby.
"Welcome to Hotel Mysteria!"
The newly appeared guests looked up in surprise at the smiling witches who were walking towards them with wreaths of flowers. Leshia, Katie and Rachel giggled as they watched Draco turn slightly red when a flower wreath was draped over his shoulders. Soon they were sporting their own wreaths and they turned to grin at each other ecstatically.
"I had no idea it would be this luxurious," Katie uttered under her breath as she looked around the stunning hotel foyer. There were no walls in the tropical complex and they could look right out onto the pale aqua lagoon barely a few yards from the lobby.
The blonde girl looked up with a goofy grin to see Ryan Lofting careening across the lobby towards her. He had barely changed since their days on the Gryffindor team together at Hogwarts and by the look on his face he still regarded the girl with the same brotherly fondness he always had.
"Lofting!" Leshia called back and after grinning at her friends the girl rushed forwards to be met in a messy embrace with her former quidditch captain. Ryan Lofting was the older brother she had never had.
"You've grown again," the young man accused and when he pulled back he realised just how true this statement was. The girl hardly deserved her nickname anymore it would seem.
"Yeah, well it was always bound to happen some day wasn't it," Leshia replied playfully and she shoved Ryan away in embarrassment. She didn't appreciate the way he was looking her up and down nor the shock in his face at seeing her so…well, womanly.
"Sorry shorty," the tall young man replied roguishly, before he looked over his shoulder and beckoned his wife-to-be forward. Julia Walling was looking radiant and as she and Leshia embraced the teenaged girl felt a little giddy with emotion. After months of looking forward to this wedding she couldn't believe it was finally upon them.
"You look beautiful Julia!" the blonde girl uttered emotionally into the young woman's shoulder. Julia laughed happily and pulled away from her third bridesmaid."Well so do you. Ryan's right I'm afraid, you've changed so much since the last time we saw you." Leshia's expression faltered and so Julia quickly swept her up into another embrace. "I mean that as a good thing of course!"
While the bride and her bridesmaid chattered Ryan strode across the room to greet the other guests in the party. Hermione and Draco had both once taught him in his days at Hogwarts and both were surprised at how charming the once student heartthrob had become. He led the whole group to a pair of basic, yet beautiful, huts on the beach that would be their home for the night, before leaving them all to unpack and prepare. He and Julia had to get back to greet the next arriving group of guests.
Leshia, Rachel and Katie had a hut all to themselves while Hermione, Draco and Evie shared the one next door. After promising to meet her parents back at the huts for a light lunch in an hour Leshia and her friends hurried off to explore the idyllic island.
"I can't believe how nice this place is! It's so hot!" Katie gushed as she shrugged her cardigan off to reveal a summery dress. She had come prepared for the tropical heat. Unfortunately for the other two, who were clad in jeans and T-shirts, they were slightly less prepared.
"It's a totally magical-run hotel isn't it?" Rachel asked worriedly when she saw a few guests lying in front of their hut with a large palm leaf hovering in the air and fanning them. Leshia grinned and nodded.
"Yes, run by a group of witches. At least, that's what Ryan told me the last time I asked about it."
"I can't wait to go for a swim. Just look at that ocean," Rachel sighed contentedly, her eyes seeking out the crystal clear water. There was a group of young adults splashing around in the distance and as the girls approached they realised they recognised them all.
"Mila!" Leshia shouted out and she ran to the water's edge. In the water a few of the young adults separated from the group and made their way over. Running faster than the others was Mila Evanovitch, Leshia's most recent former quidditch captain. She had just finished Hogwarts and was here with her long-term boyfriend Luka, who had been one of Ryan's best friends at school.
"Leshia!" Mila called out before she and the young blonde girl embraced. "It's so good to see you. And, did you hear the good news?"
Leshia pulled back to see her former captain grinning mischievously at her.
"If by that you mean has Dumbledore told me I'm captain then yeah," she laughed. "Thank you so much Mila! Really, I won't let you down."
"Oh shut up Malfoy," Mila laughed and she hugged Leshia once more. "Of course you won't. You're going to do an amazing job."
By now two young men and a strange young woman Leshia had never met before had reached the group on the sand. The two men however, were a sight for sore eyes. It had been two years since Leshia had seen Luka and Oskar, Ryan's best friends and now she saw them she realised they hadn't changed a bit. Judging by the expressions on their faces though, it would seem the two young men couldn't say the same for the once adorable young girl had had been Alecia Malfoy. How she had changed! There was a round of hugs all round before Oskar stepped forward with the new pretty woman at his side.
She transpired to be his girlfriend, a certain Penny Hawthorne from New Zealand. The pair had met when Oskar had gone travelling after leaving Hogwarts and had been an item ever since. Leshia, Kate and Rachel listened to the stories of these ex-Hogwarts pupils while the morning slid away. They could have stayed for longer had a figure not approached them down the beach with a tell tale swagger.
"Head's up," Luka suddenly warned with fond recognition for who was approaching. It reminded him on his Hogwarts days. "Here comes Professor Malfoy."
Leshia spun around to see the young man was right and suddenly she remembered about their promise to have lunch.
"Damn, we forgot," she told her best friends. On cue the three girls leapt to their feet and bade the others goodbye before they ran across the white sand towards the ambling form of Draco. He was smiling at them.
"I had a feeling you'd forget."
"Do we have to come for some food?" Leshia asked when she and the other two fell into step with her father. "We're not even that hungry."
"Well you can stay if you like," Draco replied. "But we were thinking of having something to eat and then taking a nap. With the time difference you might find yourself passing out half way through the reception from exhaustion, which probably wouldn't look so good."
Leshia wrinkled her brow and looked to her friends. In Rachel's quizzical face she saw her own confusion reflected, but sensible Katie was nodding fervently.
"Your dad's right Leesh. You'll probably get tired far too early and it would ruin your night. Let's go back and have a nap too."
There was a steely determination in Katie's face that Leshia and Rachel had seen too many times before to ignore. They knew they stood little chance trying to argue with her and so they went peacefully. Before too long they were all pulling eye-patches onto block out the bright light and giggling as they pulled the cool silk sheets over themselves in the luxurious soft beds. Katie went to sleep straight away, but on the other side of the room Rachel and Leshia, who were sharing the large king sized bed, couldn't contain their giggles and instead gossiped happily until a heavy knock sounded at the door several hours later.
"Come on girls," Hermione's voice wafted in. "The ceremony will start in one hour."
"One hour?" Leshia echoed with a frown. "Look what you've done Weasley! You've kept me up all this time we should have been napping."
"Me?" Rachel laughed loudly. "It was all you and your damn gossip."
"Yes your gossip. I'm not the one who's had every body and their aunt saunter through the shop whispering in my ear all summer. You're like a walking talking gossip grapevine you are."
"Would the pair of you keep it down?"
Leshia and Rachel looked up in surprise to see a ruffled Katie emerging from her bed. Her hair was standing on end and she was squinting at them through puffy eyes. On pain of death the pair of pranksters nodded quickly.
"Yes sir!" Rachel barked and she quickly ran past the other two with a towel and her wash bag towards the hut's only bathroom.
"Rachel!" Katie bellowed and she hammered on the door. "Don't be too long in there! I need to wash my hair."
The loud sound of Rachel's singing filtered through the paper-thin walls eking a broad grin out of Leshia while she watched Katie stamp her foot in frustration. Needless to say, though it would have pleased Rachel no end, she didn't make her cousin suffer and after barely five minutes she was out the shower.
"Katie," Leshia called after the raven-haired girl, who bustled into the bathroom as soon as Rachel had opened the door. "I need a shower too you know, so don't take too long."
"Hah," Rachel chortled. "Fat chance. She takes ages does that one."
Unfortunately for Leshia, Rachel was right. Nearly half an hour before the beginning of the ceremony and Katie still hadn't emerged from the bathroom. Rachel had been dressed for ages and was happily enjoying a magazine while Leshia banged on the flimsy door in an outraged fashion.
"Katie!" the blonde girl shouted. "Katherine Potter! Get out of there! What about bridesmaid's rights huh? I need to have a shower!"
"In a minute," Katie's faint response came making Leshia bang harder on the door.
"You've been saying that for the last ten bloody minutes! Stop being so selfish!"
"Leshia?" The blonde girl pulled away from the door and turned to see the silhouette of her mother outside the hut door. "Is everything okay?"
"No!" Leshia called back and she ran to the door still clutching her towel and wash bag. "Katie won't get out the shower and I need to get ready."
She wrenched the door open to see her mother was looking breathtaking in a very bohemian floaty dress. There were flowers pinned in her curly vibrant hair and she looked simply stunning.
"Come on," the mother replied amusedly and she led Leshia out onto the sand. "Come and use our bathroom. Your father's taken Evie out to look at the sea. Our hut's all yours. You go on, I'll get your things. Rachel! Why you look just beautiful…"
The rest of their conversation Leshia didn't hear as she had darted into her parents' hut and into their bathroom. The comforting mix of smells that were her father's aftershave and her mother's perfume overwhelmed Leshia's senses as she leapt into the shower. Soon she was leaping out again to find her mother had lovingly laid out her possessions on the bed. She had barely fifteen minutes to go.
"Curse you Katie!" she grumbled as she grabbed the beautiful dress she had tried on in April. "Later on I'm going to well and truly get you back for stitching me up!"
Rachel and Katie fanned themselves with a pair of ornate floral fans they had found on their seats when they took their places next to Hermione and Draco. The wedding venue was one of the most stunning places they had ever seen, but the temperature was taking some getting used to. At the front of the aisle they could see Ryan in a beige linen suit, a thin film of sweat making his face glisten in the setting sunlight.
"He looks nervous," Katie whispered to her cousin, who nodded with a broad grin.
"Wouldn't you be?"
"No," Katie countered haughtily. "When I get married there isn't going to be a doubt in my mind that it's the right person for me."
"Oh yeah?" Rachel laughed.
"And what happens if he suddenly becomes the wrong person for you on the day of your wedding? I mean, you might not spot it coming, but he might do a runner while you're standing there waiting for him with a hundred people watching you."
"Yes thanks for that Rach," Katie complained.
"Hey, I'm not saying it's going to happen, but you never know. Say Katie, what sort of man do you think you'll marry?"
Katie went quiet for a few moments before she frowned and cocked her head to one side.
"Well," she pondered aloud. "He'll have to be sporty. I suppose…well, he'll have dark blonde longish hair and dark eyes. He'll be tanned and he'll have to be funny. I couldn't stand marrying a man with no sense of humour, but he'll have to have a sensitive side to him too. Oh, and he has to be willing to travel."
Rachel turned very slowly to stare at her cousin with a slightly quizzical expression. Had she just heard the raven-haired girl correctly? All those attributes…
"So Rodeo then," the flame-haired girl stated with a grin. Katie spun around and glared at the girl.
"No not Rodeo!"
"Well you pretty much just described Rodes to a tee Katie, I'm sorry but…"
The girls fell silent as all around them a string quartet filled the candle lit beach with a beautiful rendition of the wedding march. The cousins climbed to their feet in time with the other guests and turned around to see Julia's older sister Becka walking arm-in-arm with Luka. After they had passed Ryan's little sister Taylor and a young man the girls didn't recognise swept past making way for Leshia and Oskar to make their way down the aisle.
Upon seeing their best friend the pair of cousins looked to one another with wide beaming smiles; she looked beautiful. They had never seen their ringleader seem to elegant nor so feminine as she did now, dressed in a simple floaty blue gown and with her long blonde curly hair loose around her shoulders, adorned like her mother's with white lilies.
'If only they could see her now,' Rachel thought fondly, a mental picture of all of Leshia's Hogwarts suitors springing into her mind's eye.
After Leshia had taken her place at the front of the aisle alongside the other bridesmaids she cast Rachel and Katie a beaming smile before the music became grander to precede the entrance of the bride herself. The cousins spun around and were blinded by the reflection of the setting sun dancing off the radiant image of Julia Walling. She was the very embodiment of the word Bride and she was happier than she had ever been.
Leshia ambled along the beach under the full moon, her mind drifting far away to the draughty hall of Hogwarts. It had been a spectacular wedding and an even better reception, but now the night was wearing on and the blonde girl was lamenting her lack of sleep earlier that day. Rachel and Katie were still throwing themselves around on the dance floor, but poor Leshia's feet had stopped working properly. She wanted some time away to think and to truly understand the peculiar feelings that had started to form a knot in her stomach ever since she witnessed the love passing between Ryan and Julia as they said their vows.
There was a persistent charming face trying to make itself known to her and so far she had been very good at denying him. Now though, away from the frenzy of the party Leshia let her thoughts drift back to him, back to Owen Gabriel, back to where they wanted to be.
"Why can't I stop thinking about you?" she whispered into the hot sticky night. Only the crashing of the waves responded leaving Leshia feeling as though she were the sand while her emotions became the waves. The girl had had quite enough of hormones and the havoc they wreaked to last her through to the end of her teenaged years, but it would seem her body had other plans in store for her.
"Do I love him?"
Leshia laughed and shook her head, feeling giddy to be having this conversation with the ever-expansive night. Though there was no one to listen to her ramblings, she still felt very self-conscious for saying such things out loud. Surely she didn't love Owen Gabriel.
"Then why do I feel this way?"
Another face scrambled into Leshia's mind, though this one was far less welcome and for a moment the girl paused, her skin crawling with the emotions of what had just happened.
"You stay out of my head," she accused angrily, but the face returned. It was as though he were standing behind her. She could feel him. The girl spun around and glanced at the thick undergrowth lining the beach. There was a rustling sound and for a moment the girl stopped breathing and strained her ears to hear.
"Who's there?" she called out. She edged closer, feeling cold in the hot night, wishing she had brought her wand with her on her stroll. "Julius Black? Is that you?"
Leshia jumped in surprise. There, between the palm fronds, a pair of pale eyes were watching her. The girl's lips parted in shock and she edged ever closer, staring deeply into those eyes. They were not the eyes of her nemesis Julius Black. No, they were far more familiar.
A small object came hurtling out of the bushes and landed at Leshia's feet causing the girl to dart back cautiously. She looked down to see a shiny dark green stone lying in the sand with a leather cord dangling from it. After glancing around curiously, Leshia reached down and lifted up the surprisingly heavy trinket. It was highly polished with peculiar runes etched into it. It sparkled with a blue sheen and seemed to be emitting a peculiar humming glow.
Leshia looked more closely at the stone. Her face started to tingle; there was a ringing in her ears. The girl felt sick. She looked up desperately to where she had spotted the grey eyes and found they had vanished. The humming was rising to an almost deafening level before quite suddenly there was a bright flash.
Leshia fell to the ground unconscious while the moon drifted across the night sky.