Leshia lay in bed staring at the velvety swathes of her four-poster canopy mulling over the evening's events. The look Katie had cast her when it became evident that as usual Leshia was surpassing her would not leave the poor girl's mind. Why was fate striving so to tear the pair of them apart? It was almost as though fundamental forces were acting to prevent a Malfoy from ever being close friends with a Potter. Perhaps their fathers' legacy now repaired was going to live through them till they turned in turn eighteen. Or perhaps they would never truly be able to call each other a friend and ally.
Her mood was macabre, and though the common room had been in full celebration mode Leshia had snuck away without having to answer to too many people and well-wishers. Though it was only nine-o clock she had retired for the night, lying now curled up in her overly large pyjamas long having given up on doing the Potions homework she had attempted to complete.
"Leshia, are you awake?" Rachel had come to find her, and though she considered feigning sleep and avoiding having to go over it all with her best friend Leshia knew she was no coward.
"No," she replied ensuring that seconds later the cheery face of Rachel Weasley poked through the curtains of her bed.
"Are you done sulking yet?" the happy girl asked while she clambered onto Leshia's bed and shut the curtains behind herself.
"I'm not sulking," Leshia laughed.
"Well that's what everyone's saying downstairs," Rachel jeered.
"They are not!"
"Yep! Everyone's saying that you've come up here to sulk because you lost." Unsure of whether Rachel was winding her up or not Leshia sat up straight in bed.
"You had better be joking," the blonde girl warned amusedly. After a few moments in which Leshia feared her reputation to be in tatters Rachel finally laughed gleefully.
"Nah! Nobody thinks you're a sore loser. We're all happy you didn't win, how sad would it be to be crowned Miss Hogwarts?" Leshia rolled her eyes and grinned much relieved before she dropped down into her cushions once more.
"Tell me about it, that's what I've been saying all along."
"I'm still trying to get my head round that Vera Littlewood's speech," Rachel crowed jubilantly and then suddenly in a very good impression of the girl she clasped one hand to her chest and the other palm outwards to her forehead, "I'd like to thank everybody who voted for me! My mum for always pushing me to be the best. My wonderful boyfriend and all my friends…" Here Rachel paused and sniffed dramatically cracking Leshia up in complete and utter joy. "I won't let you down Hogwarts! I will…"
"Oh stop it," Leshia giggled happily before she flung her pillow at Rachel to silence her re-enactment of a scene that had already had Leshia silently laughing so hard the tears had welled up in her eyes.
"And the way she carried on, trying to make you feel better that you didn't win. It was such a joke!"
"Don't remind me," Leshia chuckled.
"As if three votes difference was that big a deal anyway," Rachel grumbled amusedly.
"Oh don't say that, it sends shivers down my spine," Leshia complained. "To think I came so close to being the biggest laughing stock this school ever saw." The girls lulled into silence while Leshia couldn't help but feel enlightened from her sombre mood. Exactly why she was sulking she didn't really know, as this night ought to be a grand celebration: she had lost!
"Do they still have all those Butterbeers downstairs?" the girl finally piped up earning herself a huge grin from her best friend.
"You'd better hurry, last I saw Tom and Luke were hovering around the crates and you know what they're like when they get going," Rachel warned. After briefly changing back into her clothes Leshia followed Rachel down to the common room, talking about why it seemed that whenever something was in need of celebrating they always seemed to get hold of a never ending supply of Butterbeer.
Once they reached the mezzanine level where the two staircases met and Leshia could see the view over her jubilant housemates she rushed up to the low wall that stood there holding out her arms triumphantly.
"Hey everyone! I lost!" she yelled out over the common room soon joined by the cheers of everyone down below, who welcomed Leshia into their party with open arms. The girl had barely taken two steps before she was thrust a bottle of Butterbeer and practically airlifted towards the nearest comfy settee.
Mockery of Vera Littlewood's mortifying acceptance speech was evidently on the agenda and all about the room Leshia could hear snippets of her cringe-worthy statements. People especially seemed to enjoy reliving the moment where Vera had attempted to console a supposedly heart broken Leshia for not winning the title.
Leshia and Rachel's appearance soon drew their friends in from the crowds and before too long they were all sat together on the settee and the surrounding rug. Katie was very pale and very silent, but this was the extent of her negativity. When she did speak she was entirely pleasant and on the surface it seemed she was trying to put the whole thing behind them. Of course she knew that none of this was Leshia's doing, but deep down she couldn't help but feel stung by the whole silly thing.
Rodeo had tried to console her by explaining that Leshia got votes due to her name being known by everyone in the school. He had tried to explain that in his eyes Katie was far more beautiful. Though his story was a pure fabrication – he didn't know whether Leshia's popularity had swayed the results and in truth felt rather cruel for suggesting it – Katie drank it in and found it to be a consolation to her tattered self-esteem.
"I'm just happy that bloody tiara has disappeared," Leshia found herself saying loudly, rubbing protectively at her now sparkle-free hairline.
"I thought it suited you," Parys piped up cheerfully. "It really brought out the fury in your eyes." Leshia grinned at the boy.
"How long do you think Vera is going to wear hers for?" Rodeo put the group with an amused grin.
"Until it disintegrates," Rachel replied with a roll of her eyes. "I hope she's being ripped to pieces in that Slytherin common room. You wouldn't think the snakes would go in for something like this would you?"
"Are you kidding?" Leshia laughed. "The way I'm hated over there I bet they've raised a little throne for her and are all doing her bidding."
"Hey that's true," Parys agreed. "I mean she beat Leesh, she's probably being hailed as 'Queen Vera the slayer of pesky Gryffindor third years' as we speak."
"I'm not pesky," Leshia complained jokingly. "That makes it sound as though I flap around them nibbling at their ankles or something." For a moment her friends reeled with laughter at the girl's silly notion, as each and every one of them pictured her be-winged and miniscule taking a good bite out of Damian Allseyer's pale hairy ankle.
"You're such a weirdo Malfoy," Rodeo laughed happily.
"So what are you going to do with your voucher?" Katie asked civilly, though her eyes seemed greener than usual with envy.
"Well I'll give it to you of course."
"As if I would know what on earth to buy in Madam What's-its-face's boutique. What the heck is a boutique anyway?"
"It's a French word for small shop," Katie quickly replied. "Are you serious? Leesh that stuff is designer, you don't want to just give it away." For a moment Leshia shook her head, smiling warmly at her childhood friend.
"I do, trust me." In a flurry of motion Katie dived up from the rug to hug Leshia with such force that she nearly toppled off the settee. After this the raven-haired girl was not to be pulled from her good mood and she even joined in when people sang a round of "well she's a jolly good loser" in honour of Leshia's defeat at which point she jumped atop the coffee table and conducted the loud and boisterous affair.
Towards the end of the night when everyone started drifting up to bed Leshia suddenly found herself surrounded by the fourth year boys, who managed to jump onto the settee behind her and shove her friends onto the rug.
"Hey!" Rachel laughed when she found herself suddenly on the floor.
"What do you think you're playing at?" Rodeo demanded, much less amused than the redhead had been. Leshia glared at him firmly to stop him from acting up with Owen once more. Was she always going to have to get between them as long as she was friends with both? If so that would be awfully tiring!
"Oh lighten up Holsson," Owen's friend Paul subdued the boy.
"We've made you something Malfoy," Owen now spoke and from behind his back he pulled out the gaudiest thing Leshia had ever seen. It was a rosette twice the size of even an inappropriately sized rosette in bright pinks and gold bearing a large animated drawing of Leshia finding out she had lost and bursting into tears, which then turned into a large burning 2nd Place logo.
"Oh you're kidding," Leshia laughed out loud while Owen pinned the awful thing to her jumper to a chorus of laughter from everybody in the vicinity.
"Wait wait, there's more," the boy managed through his laughter and he leaned in towards the rosette. "Vera Littlewood." Instantly in an overly loud voice the terrible girl's acceptance speech was broadcast from the rosette affixed to Leshia's jumper. The whole common room roared with cheers and laughter while Leshia playfully shoved at Owen with both hands.
"Owen! I am not wearing this." The girl started pulling at the badge on her jumper, but within no time several hands had lunged forward and stopped hers.
"You have to," the boy countered. "We made it especially for you." Leshia forced the colour from her cheeks and pulled her hands away from the badge obediently. Seeing the usually stubborn girl turn so submissive in the face of the attractive older boy made Rodeo's skin crawl and without excusing himself he dragged himself up from the floor and stalked off. Only Katie really noticed him go, as the others were all too wrapped up in the amusing rosette's antics and in turn Leshia's mortified responses.
"I'll expect to see you wearing that tomorrow Malfoy," Owen piped up cheerfully as he and his mates found their feet, ready to go up to bed.
"Fat chance," Leshia chortled back, quickly shooting the dashing boy her most charming smile to sooth the look of feigned hurt that had materialised on his face. "I mean, of course, I'll never take it off as long as I live."
"Glad to hear it," Owen replied cheerfully. "Don't forget Malfoy, we've got a date with Snape after class tomorrow." Leshia rolled her eyes grimly in remembrance; in all honesty, the weekend's mortifying excitement had rather erased that memory from her mind.
"Don't remind me," she grumbled eliciting a large grin from the boy.
"Well I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with you too Malfoy."
"Owen I didn't mean it like that," Leshia complained with a beaming smile. "It's nothing to do with you it's just Snape! He once made me test all these potions when their labels had fallen off in one of his detentions." Owen seemed a little incredulous.
"Last time I had him it was just lines," the tall boy replied simply. "Old man like that? He'll be a piece of cake. Anyway, we're off to bed, see you losers in the morning." After the boys had disappeared up the stairs Rachel turned a satisfied little smile on the gathered friends.
"They're so charming."
Needless to say, the following morning Leshia did not keep to her word: there was not a rosette in sight over breakfast and though the fourth year boys were some way up the table, Leshia had already received joking disapproving looks from them. The world seemed a much brighter place now that the threat of the competition was no longer hanging over Leshia's head.
Indeed, a reminder that the queen had been named was clear for all to see, as there, sat pride of place at the head of the Slytherin table was the lady herself. The tiara had not left her head since it had been placed there by the hosts of the tournament and it was very obvious that she was simply adoring her fifteen minutes of fame. After deciding that the girl was so pitiful there ought to be a whole ward of St Mongos dedicated solely to her condition, Katie and Leshia had both agreed the whole tournament was the biggest joke that had happened since they went to Hogwarts and luckily their battered friendship didn't seem to be suffering too badly for it.
Monday's lesson line up was always an easy start to the week, with the only truly challenging part of the day arriving after lunch. One and a half hours of Defence Against the Dark Arts was one and a half hours too many for most of the third year class and as such the mood was rather subdued as Leshia and her friends ambled towards their queuing classmates outside the classroom.
"Afternoon blood traitor," the piercing voice of Damian Allseyer forced its way into Leshia's happy afternoon. The boy had been unusually subdued as of late and as such Leshia was quite surprised to be suddenly confronted by his broken-record of a greeting. Behind him his posse of half-witted cronies were massing, offering strength in a no doubt pre-arranged campaign against Leshia. Only Julius Black hung back, leaning against the wall looking at his feet, his face a combination of remorse and frustration.
'What does he know?' Leshia momentarily thought to herself.
"So how does it feel?" Damian was continuing in his bored drawl dragging Leshia's attention reluctantly back onto himself.
"I know you're going to tell me anyway, as you've obviously been rehearsing this little speech with your cronies all day, but just to speed things along," Leshia responded with her jaw cocked out a little in arrogance. "What are you bleeding going on about Allseyer?"
"Well now that you've been reminded for the umpteenth time about your inferiority to a Slytherin, how does it feel?"
"Is that all you can come up with?" Leshia replied with one raised eyebrow. "Honestly Allseyer are the glory days really over?" The boy before her seemed not a jot concerned by the girl's jeering of him, a definite turn up for the books. Damian Allseyer could dish it out with the best of them, but had never truly got the hang of being on the receiving end of an insult. His serene response now therefore came as a little bit of a surprise.
"Glory days blood traitor?" Allseyer questioned curiously. Along the corridor Julius Black looked up with narrowed eyes, his eyes betraying his concern. Leshia faltered, caught in his gaze for a few moments, before she managed to turn her confused eyes back on the rat stood before her.
"Back in the day I would say something witty, you would retort with something clever, I would bring up your incompetent cronies and you would mention something about my mother, you know the drill. So, um, what happened? You've not been yourself all year." A cruel smile spread across Allseyer's face.
"I had no idea you cared for my wellbeing blood traitor, that's sort of tragic." The Slytherins cackled mercilessly.
"Oh I'm sorry, did you think I was concerned?" Leshia countered quickly. "I just feel that if this little thing we've got going on is going to continue, then you might want to make a bit of effort. Hey do you want me to start scripting?" A twitch crossed Allseyer's face, which he soon covered up with a cruel smile.
"Any effort on you would be totally wasted, but not to worry. You won't be my concern much longer." Turning away from the Gryffindors the Slytherins remained deadly silent and exchanged a knowing look that unnerved Leshia no end. They were up to something. Only Julius Black held Leshia's eye, before he ever so slightly shook his head.
"Hey what did you mean by that?" Leshia demanded despite herself, but an answer never came. The long loping strides of their teacher on his way sparked the chain reaction of the students jumping back against the wall and checking the status of their shirts. By the time Draco reached them the youngsters, in their well-rehearsed regime, had made themselves presentable enough to gain access into the room.
"Afternoon," the young man greeted his class, noting with some annoyance that Leshia and Damian Allseyer had locked their tempestuous gazes on one another in battle. Couldn't the girl go a week without butting heads with that boy in battle? "I would like you all to silently deposit your belongings in the classroom, pick up the pad and pencil on your desk and then make your way out into the corridor again as quickly as you can. We've got a lot to get through and not enough time to do it."
It took an immense amount of restraint for the youngsters to refrain from bursting into curious whispers while they left their bags inside, picked up the notebooks and made their way out again. Draco had in the past pulled out some spectacularly fun lessons, but knowing his dichotic nature, none of the youngsters dared to think they were in for a treat. This lesson had just as much potential to turn into a one and a half hour library stint.
Leshia and her friends were first out, and even known Leshia knew she would be breaking the no talking rule she had to know,
"What are we doing?" she whispered to her father as she Rachel and Katie lined up beside him. With no response the fond yet firm look Draco cast the girl silenced her and she waited obediently with the rest of the class until the last dawdlers had fallen into line. Without a word to the class Draco turned on heal and led the class as a mother hen would lead her chicks through the corridors and out into the grounds. Turning towards the dark forest most of the youngsters turned on their friends with eyes wide with jubilant anticipation, which soon turned to worry when Draco led them on through the forest, not stopping at the tree line. Where were they going?
"Um sir?" Katie finally spoke up.
"Yes Miss Potter?" Draco replied, not calling the group to a halt, merely leading them on over fallen tree trunks and forest debris.
"Are we going to be going much further into the forest?"
"Are you worried Miss Potter?" Katie darted a smug Leshia and Rachel a defensive look in response to their teasing grins.
"Um no sir, I'm just, well, we're going quite far into the woods aren't we?"
"Have no fear class, I know how to get back," Draco chuckled. For five further minutes he led them on in silence, until finally he stopped without warning, causing a pile up of youngsters behind him as one by one they stumbled into one another.
"What's that?" Rodeo spoke up; his gaze roving over the ugly smelly pond Draco had led them to.
"That, Mr Holsson, is bad news," Draco replied, slowly turning round to look at his curious class. "I'm sure you'll all be happy to know that we've finally finished our lessons on Grindylows." A subdued 'yes' went along the line of students, who had been rather bored of the tame beasties that had taken up the last month of Defence Against the Dark Arts lessons. "Unfortunately, we're going to have to move on to their cousins." Where a moment before had been relief, a look of grim misery swept over the faces of their third years.
"Don't tell me we're going to find them in there?" Leshia spoke up with a look of disgust. Draco smiled at his daughter and took a step closer to the repugnant pond, crouching down at its turbulent little shores.
"Samian Greyfins," the teacher finally announced and as one the group of youngsters stumbled backwards.
"Dad get back," Leshia stammered without thinking. It was a sign of how terrified the class were that not one of them cracked even a little giggle at Leshia's slip up. Draco however, chuckled in amusement and lifted up a long stick, toying with it in his hands.
"And why is that Miss Malfoy?"
"Well Samian Greyfins are one of the most dangerous creatures known to man," the girl stated bravely, edging closer to her father, wanting very much to pull him back by the scruff of his neck. "Aren't…aren't they?"
"Indeed they are, supposedly," Draco replied, looking across the pond edge to a pile of unattractive looking grubs feasting themselves on a decomposing dock leaf.
"Well um, shouldn't you like…you know, stand back a little?" Leshia continued, taking yet another step towards her father.
"Why is that?"
"Well I've heard they can devour the flesh off a human in ten seconds flat. They can smell a person from a hundred yards away and use complex pack strategies to lure their prey into the water."
"Five points to Gryffindor," Draco said cheerfully. "But all of it is entirely incorrect of course." For a moment Leshia's fear was surpassed by indignant disdain.
"What?" Without a word to his daughter, or the cowering class behind him Draco reached out his stick and poked it remorselessly onto the grubs one by one, loading them on as though he were loading a sate stick.
"Professor that's gross," Leshia alone spoke up in disgust.
"We need bait," her father replied.
"For what?" As though the lesson had devolved into a one-to-one session between father and daughter Leshia cautiously knelt down beside her father pushing herself against him still a little rigid with fear. Behind them the class did not budge.
Samian Greyfins were not creatures they had any inclination to mess with. Their childhood nightmares and ghost stories had not revolved around the creatures for nothing. So exactly what their insane teacher was doing crouched inches away from a Samian Greyfin lair was none of their concern, and not an activity they would be joining him in.
With a small reassuring smile at the only student brave enough to stay at his side Draco held the stick out into the water. Within that very second the stick was wrenched from Draco's hand in a blur of whirling water.
"Leshia get back!" Rodeo called out, but Leshia had already clung onto her father's arm, thoughts of her reputation entirely flying out the window in the face of such horrific demonic creatures.
"I can assure you Mr Holsson, your friend is quite safe with me," Draco called back, his tone quite steely, offended that the boy considered him an inappropriate guardian of his own child. "There is no need to panic class," Draco next informed the youngsters, glancing over his shoulder to see the nineteen other youngsters had backed away so much they were barely in hearing range. Several of the Slytherins had disappeared from view, the large trees surrounding the little pond keeping their quivering forms well hidden. "I can assure you that you are quite safe."
"Are you sure?" Leshia whispered dolefully, looking up at her father with concern in her large eyes.
"You're always safe with me," he replied so as the others couldn't hear. "They respond to the state of your thoughts," Draco continued to the class, continuing with his lesson. "If you all approach just a little closer, then I would like you to see first hand that fear is your greatest enemy." The class didn't budge, eliciting hearty laughter from the young man. "If they should somehow grow feet and clamber out you can be assured in the time it will take them to devour Miss Malfoy and I you would be given ample time to escape."
After taking a deep gulp Rachel broke the mould and stepped forward a few timid paces. In her wake the Gryffindors quickly followed joined by Julius Black alone of the Slytherins.
"Fear is a powerful emotion," Draco continued now his audience had approached to within a respectable distance. "If you let it consume you, then you lay yourself at the mercy of anyone or anything who would wish to harm you. In truth, it is your greatest advisory and once you have beaten it, the world truly is your oyster." Quite suddenly and without warning Draco plunged his bare forearm into the pond.
"Dad!" Leshia cried out while her friends screamed behind them, stumbling back once more. Where before the water had frothed in rage now it merely lay stagnant. Indeed, not a ripple lapped up against Draco's arm.
"How are you doing that?" Parys finally spoke up.
"Mind over matter," the teacher simply responded. "Years ago I learned to control every aspect of my mind including when I allow myself to feel afraid." With this Draco pulled his arm out of the water leaving it in the same stagnant state it had been in when he plunged his arm into it. "Control is your most powerful ally and in difficult times you would do well to remember this. Every situation can be turned in your favour, every demon or monster can be tamed by unwavering fearlessness."
Edging ever closer the class had never seemed so awed or impressed. Draco Malfoy was the most insane man they had ever come across, but in this moment every single one of them was in awe of him. At his side Leshia was staring at the water, her heart racing, after glancing briefly at her father she reached out her hand to the water, only to have it snatched away by her father a serious look crossing his face, his eyes wide with worry that defied his claim of fearlessness.
"No," he ordered firmly. "You're too young, you don't yet have the control."
"None of you have," Draco called to the class.
"It's a fake!" Allseyer finally piped up, the momentary awe dissipating in unpleasant disgust. "This is all just a big hoax." Tightening his jaw Draco finally straightened up and faced off with the sharp-faced Slytherin king.
"Oh you believe so?" the tall intimidating man challenged darkly. "I welcome you to call my bluff if you'd like?" Allseyer twitched a little while his cronies turned to him expecting him to do it, but they were greatly disappointed when the boy shook his head quickly.
"Not likely, who knows what you've got in there," the boy grumbled.
"Mr Allseyer unless you would like to join me after class then I would keep quiet and start listening carefully," Draco snapped sharply at the petulant boy. "Now if you'd all like to take a seat, we'll start the lesson." With the threat of detention hanging over them the youngsters quickly obeyed while Draco turned to look over his shoulder to see Leshia still crouched by the edge staring at the water with a thoughtfully look on his face. "Miss Malfoy will you please join the group? The practical element of the lesson is over now."
Leshia nodded to herself and slowly climbed to her feet staring into her father's eyes with an unreadable look. Why did her father keep surprising her? Why was he so fearless? Was that made him so capable of betraying those close to him? Did he have any emotions at all? Or could he sweep them all aside with his immense mental control?
The children found it very difficult to concentrate in their lesson, in which they were instructed to sketch the natural habitat of the Samian Greyfins. Every time they were able to settle into concentration however, an unsuspecting bird or insect would fly to close to the pond and another spectacle would unfold in which the poor creature met its very frothy end.
"Your dad is insane," Rachel whispered to Leshia as they trudged back at the end of their lesson. Leshia nodded grimly, feeling very much shaken by the whole afternoon.
"Sometimes…sometimes he scares me," she whispered, her eyes narrowing in hurt as she spoke the words. Rachel smiled and wrapped her arm around her friend's shoulders.
"My dad scared me over Christmas," the redhead confessed seriously, causing Leshia to turn and stare at her curiously. "Yeah, he was wearing my mum's old apron with a pink duster in his hand trying to attack the silverware." Leshia snorted despite herself. "Honestly, it was terrifying. Pink is definitely not his colour." Her mood a little repaired Leshia and her friends made their way up to the castle where all their peers were already milling around.
"Oh no, detention!" Leshia suddenly blurted out before she looked to her friends desperately. "Will you lot get my things?"
"Of course, now go before Snape skins you alive," Katie laughed. Leshia barely heard her though as she had already sprinted up to the head of the class where Draco was still leading the way.
"Professor can I be excused? I've got detention with Professor Snape," the girl panted. Draco furrowed his brow in reprove.
"Really?" he asked warningly.
"Yes fine, go," Draco finally gave his permission and Leshia didn't wait a moment longer. The last he saw of his daughter was her blonde head bobbing down the stairs to the dungeons. Were he about to lead the class back the young man suddenly changed tack and headed across the entrance hall to where his wife was watching them all in slight surprise.
"Class, we'll adjourn here for the day, homework for Wednesday; three feet documenting every horror story you've ever heard about Samian Greyfins. I don't want you to consult a book, just write it off the top of your heads." The class didn't need excusing twice and darted down the corridor the moment Draco turned his back on them. He was at his wife's side within moments.
"Afternoon," he greeted her charmingly, wrapping his arm about her neck and kissing the side of her head.
"What have you been up to?" Hermione asked him suspiciously.
"Introducing my class to the Samian Greyfins Hagrid's been tending in the forest," Draco replied simply, leading his pregnant wife back to their chambers.
"Oh you never!" Hermione complained seeming suddenly severe. "Is that why they seemed so shaken? You didn't do the arm thing did you?" Draco shrugged his shoulders. "Draco! You shoved your arm into a pond full of Samian Greyfins in front of your fourteen-year-old daughter? You probably traumatised her half to death!"
"Yes she did seem rather alarmed," Draco replied cheerfully. "But she stayed by my side, the others all darted for cover as though the bleeding things were about to ravish the lot of them. She's a brave little thing that one."
"Darling you put her in a terrible position, she was probably too terrified to leave your side."
"But I was in no danger, you know how they work, they don't attack if you're not afraid," Draco countered simply.
"That," Hermione said firmly, but a smile pulled at her mouth. "Is an unproven theory. I can't believe how reckless you were to test it out on your own arm again."
"It's not unproven anymore," Draco countered happily and he lifted up his arm. "Look, proof." Wanting very much to continue the debate, but knowing her husband wasn't going to budge on his stance Hermione quickly changed the subject.
"Speaking of Leshia, where was she running off to in such a hurry?"
"Detention with Severus."
"What?" Hermione seemed shocked. "Surely he would have told you by now, doesn't he always tell you when he gives her detention?"
"Yes, which leads me to think either she's done something so terrible that she's mortified him and he doesn't want to talk about it, or, he knows something in his favour and he doesn't want to share yet."
"You know," Hermione said wearily, not sure how her husband was going to react to her news. "I just had my fourth year class and Owen Gabriel was rushing off for a detention with Severus as well." Her revelation instantly brought her husband to a halt who stared ahead with narrowed eyes.
"Gabriel," he finally uttered.
"Darling don't take it out on him," Hermione soothed. "Perhaps Severus likes to call in all his detentions on the same day."
"Or perhaps he caught them doing something they shouldn't have been doing," Draco growled. "That would explain why he didn't tell me, he's trying to drag it out until he's got something to hit me with."
"Darling he's your friend," Hermione countered.
"I think you're forgetting what sort of a friend Severus really is."
"Well it's all irrelevant anyway, because I would know if our daughter had had her first kiss." Draco shuddered involuntary at such a notion spoken aloud and briefly tightened his arm around his wife's shoulders.
"Enough, no more," he finally managed and reached out with his other hand and stroked Hermione's small bump adoringly, seeking solace in the fact that his second child was so far from puberty it was still safely in its mother's womb. "So how are you two today?"
"Absolutely wonderful," Hermione sighed with heavenly contentment. "This little one is so much easier to deal with than Leshia ever was."
"Are you sure it's not my presence?" Draco asked charmingly, mesmerised by his unborn baby, wanting so much to meet the little person inside. "Maybe Leshia knew I wasn't around and was acting up in defiance."
"That could explain a lot," Hermione giggled.
"What, her tantrums started prenatally and all that?"
"Something like that."
"Wouldn't surprise me, maybe we shouldn't introduce them to each other until we've morphed this new one into a perfectly well behaved child." Hermione laughed out loud earning her surprised glances from the pupils around them. "I'm serious, Leshia would be able to learn something from it."
"You're terrible," Hermione chuckled adoringly and wrapped her arms around her husband as they made their way back to their chambers where they curled up together on the settee and enjoyed their umpteenth argument about names. Their argument lasted well into the night.
Leshia came skidding to a halt outside of Severus Snape's office where she briefly got her breath back before she banged on the door tiredly.
"Enter!" Snape's bellow followed and even though she wanted to turn and run Leshia rolled her eyes and pushed against the door heavily. Inside Owen was sat at on the ground in the corner buried under scrolls and bottles of potion. Leshia offered him a cringing smile, which he returned dashingly.
"You're late," Snape carefully hissed.
"I know, I'm sorry, but my dad was taking his lesson out in the forest and we were late getting back and…"
"Oh spare me Malfoy and go and join Mr Gabriel. I will be back shortly." Not daring to believe that Snape wouldn't be breathing down their necks while they carried out their detention Leshia quickly obeyed and dropped down beside her friend. Without another word Snape marched out leaving the door ajar behind himself.
"So what are we doing?" Leshia asked curiously.
"Taking an inventory…or something like that," Owen replied happily, lifting up three bottles and a long list with a bewildered look on his face. Leshia sniggered and shook her head, lifting up another list and a bottle. "What were you doing in the forest?" Owen asked next curiously.
"My dad was sticking his arm into a pond full of Samian Greyfins," Leshia replied drolly eliciting hearty laughter from her companion, who promptly stopped when she turned her serious slate eyes on him.
"My God you're serious! Is he okay?" Owen asked in shock.
"Yes, not a scratch on him in fact, but I just don't get it," she sighed. "He said that if you control your fear then nothing can harm you."
"Do you think the whole thing was a fake? You know, just to scare your class?" Leshia shook her head.
"Even though he says he doesn't get afraid, he seemed pretty worried when I wanted to stick my hand in."
"You what?" Owen nearly choked. "You were going to stick your hand in to a pond full of Greyfins? You're as mad as he is!" Leshia shot him a stern look. "No I'm serious, you've got to be careful Leesh, your dad's like crazy brave. I don't think I've ever met anyone so terrifying or so fearless in all my life and you can't do everything he can, so you shouldn't try."
"Who's side are you on?" Leshia countered.
"I'm always on your side shorty, always," Owen expressed passionately, seemingly very shaken by his friend's revelation of her careless behaviour. "But you make me so scared. I don't think I've ever met anyone who makes me feel as scared as you do."
"But I'm not scary," Leshia tried sounding a little hurt. The thought that she terrified Owen was just somehow revolting to her. To think she could hurt him in any way made her cringe with disgust.
"But that's just it. I'm not scared of you, I'm scared for you," Owen explained with eyes creased in concern. Leshia leaned in to him despite herself, wanting to ease the pain evident in his face knowing it was all her doing. How could she hurt someone so important to her just by being herself?
"You don't have to be afraid Owen, nothing's going to happen."
"Well it is if you go putting your life in danger at the slightest whim."
"It was not a whim!" Leshia countered hotly.
"You're not your dad Malfoy, I know you're like him in so many ways, but you're not him and you shouldn't try to be. Enjoy who you are, we do."
"Where's all this coming from?" Leshia demanded, feeling now affronted by Owen's words. Owen rubbed the back of his neck anxiously and shook his head.
"Nowhere, it's nothing, just ignored me," the boy complained tetchily and he turned his attention back on the list in his hand.
"Owen don't be like that," Leshia complained. "Tell me!"
"Oh you really want to know?" Owen suddenly exploded passionately making Leshia pull away again. "How can you not understand Leesh? How can you not have picked up on it already?" Leshia's eyes widened in shock, suddenly understanding what Owen was about to say and entirely sure she didn't want to hear it. "I really like you Leshia, I have since the moment I met you."
For a moment the pair locked their eyes together, Leshia's chest rising and falling rapidly as she tried to digest this new information. Had Owen just told her he liked her? In that way?
"I…" Leshia began barely louder than a whisper, but thankfully her sentence was cut off by the reappearance of Severus Snape face buried in a book.
"Why aren't you two working?" he growled at the youngsters who quickly got back to the task at hand, not even catching one an other's gaze while they worked. Only Snape stole furtive glances at the teenagers, wondering at all that had transpired and how he was going to use all this new information he had learned to his advantage.
Leshia and Owen managed to put the words that had gone between them aside for the time being as they wandered up to dinner in the great hall after their long and arduous detention. Though he hid it very well Leshia knew she had hurt her friend's feelings by not immediately returning his sentiments, but how could she? She didn't know how she felt about Owen. She didn't know how she felt about anyone anymore.
Leshia kept Owen's words from her friends and didn't mention what had happened in their detention together, though they could tell she was hiding something. As far as Owen was concerned, the awkward moment had never happened, or at least so he acted. In lieu of the upcoming quidditch match against Ravenclaw Mila was training her all-star team to their limits and as such Leshia and Owen were spending an unnaturally large amount of time together.
Mila's plan to stall for time in order to score lots of goals was still a point of contention amongst the team, with a roughly fifty fifty split on what their action plan ought to be. Leshia, Owen and the beaters Luke and Tom Weasley were all very much against the idea, while their team of chasers, overly confidant in their own scoring abilities, were adamant they could pull it off.
The argument was so heated it was still going strong as the team sat down for breakfast together on Saturday morning, dressed for their battle in the rain. Leshia kept quiet, allowing her friends and team mates to battle it out amongst themselves. Her mind was solely on the beautiful girl sat at the Ravenclaw table donned in their blue coloured robes: Valerie Becket. Leshia cringed despite herself and wondered what it would be like to lose to the talented chaser. They had not met in battle since their spat over Owen and more recently, since their Valentines Day exchange of frosty sentiments.
'She can't beat me!' Leshia hissed to herself, her eyes narrowing in contempt.
"So Malfoy it's all up to you then!" Leshia spun around and noticed everyone in the team was looking to her expectantly, their flushed faces set in determination that the girl respond in their favour.
"What do you mean?"
"Well you're the one who's going to have to hold off Lahara and catch the snitch when it's time, so what do you think? Can you handle it?" Mila asked the little seeker. Owen narrowed his eyes at the older girl, wanting to berate her for posing the question in such a way that Leshia couldn't refuse. Alecia Malfoy admitting she wasn't brave enough for something? Hell would sooner freeze over.
"Of course I can handle it," Leshia quickly complained. 'I just don't think it's such a good idea,' the girl added silently in her mind.
"Good then, it's settled. You keep Lahara from catching the snitch and wait for my signal okay?" With a stony expression Leshia nodded, avoiding the pointed look Owen was shooting in her direction. Never before had the Gryffindor team been so divided right before a match. It could not bode well.
On their way up to the pitch Owen fell into step beside the young seeker and stared down at her with a furrowed brow of concern.
"Don't start Owen, I'm this close to throwing in the towel and staging a protest!" Leshia grumbled.
"For the most self assured girl I know, you do have a nasty habit of letting people boss you around Malfoy," he admonished.
"Yeah well you're not helping," Leshia countered frostily. "I won't have anyone telling me I'm a wuss."
"That's not what Mila was saying."
"Yeah she was and you know it," the girl sighed. "And she's right too. This is important for the team. I would be a coward if I refused to try it." Owen seethed silently for a moment, cursing their captain for making Leshia doubt herself before a game. "Don't worry Owen, I won't let Lahara get to it before I do." The little glint in the girl's smile reassured the keeper for the briefest of moments before they joined the rest of their team waiting in the wings ready to parade onto the pitch.
Despite the bickering they had waged on each other the team seemed to come together in these final few minutes to forge an inspiring team talk that left each of them itching to get onto the pitch to take on their most challenging rivals in this tournament. When the time came the barrage of sound that welcomed the teams as they walked out onto the pitch sent their adrenalin levels shooting through the roof. After they had lined up and shook hands with one another – Leshia and Val rather harder than was called for – the two teams took to the skies to await Madam Hooch's whistle.
The moment the shrill sound was lost on the rainy winds Leshia shot straight at Lahara, unnerving the boy so much he shot up into a steep ascent. Relentless Leshia tailed him, following him every which way he dodged briefly enjoying the horrified look on his face when he realised the girl was not letting him be. Of course the Ravenclaws knew what tactic the Gryffindors were going to adopt – they knew a long drawn out game with a larger goal difference would favour the Lion's House, converse to their goal in seeking a quick win, having already beaten Hufflepuff goal difference was irrelevant to them in comparison with the win – but Lahara had not been prepared for the small Gryffindor to chase him to within an inch of his life.
"And again Leshia Malfoy dives into a cruel pursuit of the Ravenclaw seeker Martin Lahara. Juts what she must be thinking is anyone's guess, but at this rate it's going to be a case of who can outfly the other the longest? It's stamina that's going to win this battle folks!"
Down below in the field of play the Gryffindor chasers were proving their worth by pulling ahead of the Ravenclaws by 60 points. Oh yes, Val tried her very best to motivate her team into retaliating, and she personally came very close several times, but Owen was a factor she could not control. Playing against an international level keeper was far from fair, but those were the cards that had been dealt, no use whinging about it.
The audience let out a roar of surprise when suddenly mid chase, both Leshia and Lahara dropped into a dive. They had seen the flash of gold at the same time as one another and though Lahara's only wish was to catch it in his gloved hand and end this pitiful farce, Leshia needed to stall for time. She was faster, dropping vertically to the ground with frightening velocity, while in her wake Lahara tried to keep up at a more shallow incline. He had not the sheer stupidity to throw himself headlong into the ground, no matter how highly he held his esteemed flying skills.
Momentarily the furiously battling chasers paused to see the two seekers bearing down on them. Val had to act quickly.
"Foul!" the commentator shouted out hoarsely as all around the stands the pupils of Hogwarts burst into noise – the Ravenclaws and Slytherin in hoots of triumph and the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs in roars of disapproval. Val's accidental on purpose lunge had nearly toppled Leshia from her broom. Indeed, as they watched, the young seeker was frantically scrambling to regain control of her racing broom before she and it became a messy mush of splinters and body bits on the fast-approaching and very solid looking ground. Ahead of her Lahara had pulled out, his mind only on catching the snitch now darting clearly ahead of them.
"Leshia!" Owen called out from his position, flying out a little better get a view of the treacherous position his dear friend found herself in. Val pounced on his weakness, but Owen didn't care as the ball flew past his ears through the hoop. What was 10 points against the possible obliteration of the first girl he'd ever really cared about.
"Madam Hooch must do something to regain control of this match," the commentator was now crowing in an irritated fashion. Though he was meant to be impartial, none could hide the fact that the Hufflepuff boy Jake Thomas was a blatant Gryffindor fan in this particular match. "After a blatant foul by Valerie Beckett of Ravenclaw young Leshia Malfoy is tumbling to her demise and yet in the midst of all this the questionable referee is allowing the Ravenclaws to score goal after goal. What are we up in? Five goals? Ladies and gentlemen the score stands at sixty to fifty in favour of the more honourable team…"
"Mr Thomas!" Had the situation been less critical then the audience might have laughed at Professor McGonagall's admonishing of the biased commentator, but as Leshia was near squishing point and Lahara almost on top of the snitch there was very little to smile about.
Leshia alone out of all those present was keeping a level head. Yes, she could see the ground fast approaching, and yes out of the corner of her eye she could also see that her advisory was nearly upon the snitch, but deep down the girl knew she could turn this nightmarish scenario to her advantage.
With all the power she could muster the girl forced herself onto her out-of-control-broom, pulling at it with all her might so that it might lift up out of her plummeting dive. If she got the timing just right she could pull it off. If she kept a level head and tried to forget about the frighteningly quick growing landmass ahead of her, then she would become a hero to her team and her house. Leshia Malfoy was not one to resist being a hero.
"Wait a second!" Jake Thomas' surprised and breathy exclamation jolted the terrified audience into peeking out from behind the hands they had thrown up in front of their eyes. "It's Leshia, she's preparing to… oh my God, I don't believe it, she's not going to die!"
Down on the pitch, only inches from the ground Leshia pulled up, using such a tremendous amount of strength that she shot herself spiralling back into the sky. Tightening her jaw so that she didn't deposit her breakfast all over the field the girl kept her watering eyes on her target, the floundering Ravenclaw seeker, until she was nearly upon him. Barely in control the girl just about dodged around her startled advisory, blocking his path from the snitch and hitting against it with such force it was sent flying skyward.
"Malfoy's blocked Lahara!" Jake Thomas bellowed to a tumultuous roar of sound. "This game isn't over yet!"
Coming to a halt mid air Leshia finally stopped the world from spinning and allowed herself the briefest moment to lean over her broom, her mouth tightly clenched and her head spinning. The slightest disturbance to her equilibrium and she was sure she was going to vomit.
"What do you think you're playing at?" Martin Lahara's angry call came urging Leshia to open her eyes and face him. "Chasing me all over the pitch. You're mad you are! A cheating lousy psycho woman, that's what you are!" For a moment Leshia felt a little sparkle of happiness; the boy was very spooked. How many times was Leshia going to defy death while simultaneously inventing some fantastic new quidditch move? Honestly, something just wasn't right about that Malfoy girl. It was as though she were the luckiest creature alive.
"Not scared are you Lahara?" Leshia jibed cheerfully.
"I just hate cheaters," the boy countered furiously, making Leshia's face turn very stony once more. Without warning she flung herself in his direction, eliciting from the boy a very clumsy and comical getaway that had the crowds roaring with laughter. Their chase continued.
It continued for a long time.
Two hours passed, in which the score line soared in number. Gryffindor were now ahead by three hundred points and in all honesty, all the players were absolutely exhausted.
'Just give me a sign,' Leshia thought to herself desperately as she watched Mila score yet another goal. It was worth letting Lahara get the snitch just so that she could go and curl up in bed Leshia though miserably. They were so far into the lead it didn't matter anymore anyway.
The snitch fluttered into the field of play once more, dragging the two tired seekers into a half-hearted chase. It was as though the little ball were getting tired itself, as it seemed to be making it rather easy for the two players. Had Leshia not purposefully been trying to shield it from Martin Lahara then this game would have been over many moons ago with even an incompetent set of seekers.
"Now Leshia!" For a moment the blonde girl looked up. Was she imagining things? But no, there floated Mila waving her arms at Leshia frantically. "Now! Catch it!"
"With pleasure," the blonde girl grumbled plunging forward with renewed vigour. The exhausted Martin Lahara stood not a chance and watched in misery as Leshia easily plucked the snitch from the air, right in front of Val. In an impressive display of airborne agility Leshia suddenly stopped in front of the dark haired harpie who had tried to upend her. The two girls exchanged hateful glares while all around them the Gryffindors roared their approval.
"That wasn't the smartest thing you've ever done," Leshia finally spoke.
"No," Val agreed, almost spitting with rage. "I shouldn't have missed." The score clear between them Leshia shook her head indicating that now was not the time or the place, before she dropped down to the ground and hopped off her broom. Big mistake: the moment her feet touched the ground the entire world lurched to the right.
"Hey shorty, watch yourself," Owen's voice came from nowhere and before the girl could drop to the floor he was suddenly at her side supporting her.
"I'm so dizzy."
"Yeah, you're knackered, that's why," Owen chuckled, his previous terror being buried by the jubilation of their victory. Leshia smiled tiredly and nodded, cringing when she saw the hoard of supporters massing towards them across the field.
"Owen, get me past that lot to the common room and I'll never not listen to you again," the girl pleaded tiredly, eliciting a broad grin from her friend.
"Never not listen to me again? Well that's an offer I can't refuse." And so the boy kept to his word, disappointing dozens of fans in sweeping Leshia into the crook of his arm and dragging her forcefully along ignoring even their closest of friends. Katie and Rachel too were shoved aside, but rather than accepting Leshia was too tired for praise, they simply tagged along, chattering incessantly at their friend about her death-defying stunts.
Moment away from the portrait of the fat lady though two people appeared that Owen would never dare push away from his young friend.
"Leshia!" Hermione gushed sounding almost panic struck. Within seconds the girl had been plucked from Owen's arms and into her mother's.
"Mum, I'm fine, I'm just shattered," Leshia grumbled fondly while Hermione doted on her. "Dad make her leave me alone." Draco though was locking his pale eyes onto Owen, who with immense amounts of bravery and sheer stupidity forced a dashing smile onto his face and met the murderous man's eyes.
"Where were you two going in such a hurry?" Draco asked icily.
"I made Owen a deal," Leshia replied simply finally freeing herself from her mother's arms.
"Oh really? And what was his end of the bargain?" Her father now turned his eyes on Leshia, staring at her with a much softer expression: never before had he been so proud of her athletic prowess as he had been earlier that day.
"To get me back to the common room without having to answer to anyone. I just want to go to bed," Leshia groaned tiredly, instantly stifling a yawn at the mention of the word 'bed'. Draco raised one eyebrow.
"And what was yours?" Leshia grinned and went a little red in the cheek.
"Nothing important," she replied softly. "Dad can we talk about this tomorrow over dinner, I'm exhausted." Draco grinded his teeth together and nodded to the girl, reaching out a hand to briefly pull her into a firm embrace.
"You did good trouble, showed those cheating no-good…"
"Draco," Hermione admonished gently – he couldn't exactly go bad mouthing the pupils could he?
"Well you taught them a lesson whatever you want to call them," Draco chuckled fondly, kissing the top of Leshia's sodden head firmly. After releasing the girl the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher next turned on his daughter's companion. "Mr Gabriel, a word?" Both Hermione and Leshia's eyes went wide, before they simultaneously exclaimed,
"Of course," Owen interrupted them, briskly walking to catch up with the teacher, who had already started walking away. Leshia and Hermione watched them go with severely concerned expressions on their faces, which they soon turned on each other ominously. No good could come of this.