Generations Book 3: the Blue Lions

Part Fourteen

Part XIV

The Blue Lions had all managed to get to the meeting after lessons on Thursday despite the teachers trying their very hardest to ensure all pupils returned to a designated area. All manner of excuses were invoked; sore tummies in need of Madam Pomfry's assistance, knocking over various displays and objects in the classrooms meaning they had to remain behind to tidy them up, and even going to the toilet right before the end of the lesson and not coming back in classes with the less observant teachers.

So here they sat in an awkward silence intermittently disrupted by bouts of everyone talking at once. Though Leshia was by no means the leader of the group, somehow her presence made their gathering more official and enabled sensible discussion to ensue.

"When is she going to get here?" Gracie Wallace, one of the club's Ravenclaw contingent, finally demanded of Katie and Rachel. Her demand was met by a chorus of 'yeah' from the Lions, as each one proceeded to explain the pressing business they each had to get to and therefore really couldn't be detained any longer.

"She'll be here soon," Katie tried to sooth the group's impatience.

"We don't need Leshia here to talk do we?" Rachel suddenly stated tetchily; she hated the mob mentality their friends often displayed in times of unease. "Why don't we each go round and talk about anything that might have happened since the last meeting that nobody's heard about yet. I mean come on; Leesh woke up to find her chest and neck slashed open! I'm betting you've got lots to share."

Rachel's mentioning of Leshia's terrible accident calmed those who were getting angry at the girl in her absence and so with a pointed look from Rachel to Parys at her side, he was asked to begin.

"You know I had my head in the clouds through the exams, I don't really think…" He paused and frowned. "No wait! We were talking to some Hufflepuffs before our Herbology exam and this one girl told us she had woken up that morning with strange marks around her neck. They looked just like the ones you had Amy."

"Yeah they were also saying how they get really bad nightmares and don't really sleep anymore. They're all really scared," Rodeo added.

"I heard that Josie Managan in our year nearly ended up under a large wardrobe at the weekend," Luke piped up with a worried frown. "She said she felt like she was going to die right before it happened, she was so scared she nearly wet herself."

"I heard she did wet herself," Tom countered with a grin. The Lions proceeded in a much more orderly fashion to reveal strange and frightening stories they had heard about or experienced. The fact that she had controlled the situation gave Rachel and buzz and she was content to lie back and watch the fruits of her labour until Leshia got back. Fifteen minutes passed until finally the door to the Room of Requirement creaked open. Everyone stopped talking and looked up expectantly.

"Finally! It's about bloody ti…" Rachel trailed off and her eyes went wide. It wasn't Leshia that had finally come to find them, but someone very different. Julius Black stood and watched the group of stunned Ravenclaws and Gryffindors. The expressions on their faces spoke what a thousand words could not: Julius Black was definitely not wanted at this gathering.

"What are you doing here?" Rodeo demanded.

"How did you find the room?" Rachel added furiously.

"Leshia is in grave danger," the boy spoke very calmly, his cold eyes seeking out Leshia's closest friends who alone out of the group remained silent at his words. Everyone else rose to their feet in complaint.

"What have you done with her?" Rodeo demanded protectively. Julius Black took a step forward, refusing to cow to the angered Lions.

"I have done nothing," he told them firmly, looking once more to Katie and Rachel, who had both gone deathly pale at his words. "And if you all be quiet I'll explain. We have to act quickly, there's not much time!" Instead of heeding him the frustrated youngsters were taking out their pent up anger on the first scapegoat they came across. The Slytherin enigma waited them out, looking dark and brooding and exceedingly irritated with people who couldn't contain themselves intelligently and recognise that this was not a time for debating and pointing fingers.

"Be quiet, all of you!" The squabbling Lions fell silent and turned round to see Katie had risen to her feet, her face dark as thunder. "Listen to what he has to say. Julius what's happened to Leshia? Where is she?"

"Some of my fellow Slytherins invoked the services of a Mordgeist," he told the girl with a dark brow. "Mordgeists are dangerous and unpredictable and this one has been unsuccessfully trying to kill Leshia all year."

"What are Mordgeists?" Rachel interrupted.

"There's no time to explain. They're renowned for being unpredictable and difficult to control and this one's been lashing ever since they released it in the castle at the start of the year."

"Who released it?" Rachel next asked, far too impatient to allow the boy to speak.

"Rachel for the love of God will you just let him talk?" Katie admonished urgently. "Leshia's in danger!"

"I doubt you need me to tell me you who was the mastermind behind this plan," Julius told them darkly. "Damian Allseyer has powerful connections and spent his summer at his great uncle's house in Bulgaria. He got more than he bargained for when he was granted guardianship of the Mordgeist. He's barely escaped with his life on many an occasion." Julius Black paused while Rachel desperately wanted to intervene.

"Allseyer struck lucky in more ways than one when he came across his Mordgeist," the boy continued. "Because this creature had reason to hate the Malfoys more than most."

"Why?" Rachel couldn't help herself.

"That isn't my story to tell, but it does mean that your friend is in great danger because she is with the creature as we speak."

"What?" Now the whole group joined in.

"How is that possible?" Katie managed sounding shocked.

"I believe the creature took the form of her father and led her into a trap sprung by Damian Allseyer and his friends."

"Where are they now?" Rachel demanded.

"Somewhere far from here and difficult to get to and for that reason I can only take two of you." He was looking at Rachel and Katie, who automatically started towards him, but before they could reach his side Rodeo and Parys had stepped into their path.

"What are you doing?" Katie asked them threateningly, empowered by the fact that her dear friend was in danger and needed her help.

"Well obviously Parys and I should go, we're far stronger," Rodeo replied with equal vigour.

"Strength will not be an issue," Julius Black quickly cut in. "If all goes to plan we won't be fighting anyone."

"There, see it's settled, we're going," Rachel said firmly.

"But what about…" Parys tried.

"Look!" Katie stated firmly, bristling from anger. "We're Leshia's best friends, we've grown up together and if she's frightened and hurt and lonely then you can bet she'd far rather see our faces than yours!" Katie's voice broke demonstrating how passionately she felt about Leshia's safety. The boys had no right to pick holes with her logic and insist upon going, so they nodded.

"Well hurry up then," Rodeo finally grumbled. "And don't you lot get captured too!" Julius backed out of the room with Rachel and Katie in pursuit leaving Rodeo and Parys at the forefront of a bristling group of youths wanting very much to go pelting after them.

In the corridor beyond the enigmatic Slytherin hero of the hour led Katie and Rachel in silence with the confidence of someone believing themselves free of the law. It did not matter that if they were to be caught they would surely be thrown into detention regardless of whether they were on a rescue mission or not. His all-too obvious knowledge of the teachers' movements was unnerving to say the least to the two girls following in his wake. What if this whole thing was an enormous setup? What if Julius was the Mordgeist? The only thing that kept them going was Leshia's plight. How many times had their friend risked her safety for theirs? How many times had they supported each other over the course of their lifelong friendship?

Upon rounding the corridor the youngsters were on the home straight, the doors leading onto the grounds were in sight, when all of a sudden they ran into a spot of bother. Quite without warning Julius turned round and flung the girls into the shadows of a large statue of Godric Gryffindor. Indignant to say the least, Rachel was about to loudly voice her annoyance, but her objections never came. The telltale sound of prowling footsteps was approaching. They had been caught.

"Mr Black?" Draco's voice was cool and determined. Fearing what Draco would do were he to learn exactly why Julius Black was breaking curfew Katie shut her eyes tightly, praying to ever God she could think of to get them out of this mess.

"Yes sir?" Julius replied coldly, as in the open corridor the tall boy fell suddenly under shadow by the even taller teacher.

"May I ask what you're doing wandering about past curfew?" Draco next asked calculatingly. He could sense that Julius was acting in what he felt was a matter of great importance. Whatever the boy was about to say was a lie.

"I was actually just coming to find you sir," Julius replied coolly. Draco stared at the boy with one eyebrow dipped in curious disbelief.

"Me?"

"Yes." Behind their statue Katie and Rachel exchanged a wide-eyed look. Was there rescue mission merely going to inform Leshia's borderline-psychotic dad that she had been kidnapped by a homicidal monster? It would certainly do the trick, but wasn't quite what they had planned.

"Back in the room of requirement around twenty Gryffindors and Ravenclaws have broken curfew and are holding a meeting. I believe they have been doing so all year and have a better idea about what is going on that many of the teachers."

"You!" Katie couldn't help herself at this betrayal and flew out from behind Godric Gryffindor to find Draco staring at Julius in a subtle state of shock and Julius holding his cool very nicely. "You dirty rotten little sn…"

"Katie," Draco silenced her quite suddenly. Not wanting to be caught skulking in the shadows Rachel slinked out to stand beside her cousin leaving Draco watching the statue expecting the last member of the trio, but Leshia didn't appear. The steely-faced teacher turned his cold eyes on the Slytherin turncoat before him.

"Why are you telling me this?" he asked.

"Because Leshia's missing and they know where she is. They won't tell us where she is. They want to rescue her themselves. We were just coming to find you." The lie flowed so seamlessly from the boy's mouth that even Katie and Rachel were inclined to believe him. Though Julius' actions were questionable to say the least, the sudden murderous look on Draco's face was enough to silence the cousins.

"What's happened to Leshia?" the young man demanded so darkly Rachel shuffled back a little so that Katie's body concealed her slightly from Draco's furious expression.

"They wouldn't tell us!" Julius exclaimed sounding so distressed the girls weren't sure if he was still fooling their teacher. "Professor you have to go and stop them, they're about to head off." Draco though had become paralysed by the thought that his child was once more in danger.

"When did she go missing?" he demanded.

"About an hour ago," Katie now piped up firmly, not displaying any of the fear, worry and anger she was feeling. She wasn't sure what to make of Julius at this minute in time, but obviously Draco busying himself with the Lions was a good way to go about their business uninterrupted.

"Professor we left only a few moments before they did," Julius urged, perhaps a little too desperately, drawing Draco's suspicious gaze onto himself again.

"Take me to them," the teacher ordered dangerously.

"We have to go and tell the headmaster sir," Julius countered genuinely, his expression morphed into such a fashion that showed he would be surprised Draco would argue with them on this matter. Faced with such a sensible course of action, though not believing a word of it Draco was put in a terrible position. Leshia's safety or making sure these three stayed out of trouble? The choice was a no-brainer, as most of the Hogwarts student body would have put it. Since the influx of Salemers during Christmas, the school had been awash with all manner of foreign sayings that had driven the teachers mad.

"Go straight there!" Draco told the youngsters so forcefully Katie quickly darted back to Rachel's level and both girls nodded firmly. Julius too nodded calmly and without warning Draco was suddenly gone from their side, sprinting up the corridor towards the room of requirement. Only once the sound of his desperate rush to waylay his daughters' would-be-rescuers had died away did Katie and Rachel turn on Julius Black.

"Don't," the boy told them harshly. "Professor Malfoy was the one thing standing in the way. I'm sorry I had to use your little club as bait, but now it kills two birds with one stone. You can bet your heroic friends are right behind us." Julius seemed so snide he evidently had more emotions about this matter than he was letting on. "Now let's go. Be quick about it."

Without a glance back at the cousins Julius made a run for the main doors and creaked them open. In his wake Katie and Rachel glanced at each other forebodingly, before the whisper of a grumpy meow was carried to them on the castle draught. Without thinking they sprinted after their traitorous guide. They had already escaped lifelong detention once that night and surely wouldn't be so lucky a second time? Besides, every second they wasted Leshia's chances diminished.

Julius had spared no time in crossing the school grounds and was already several dozen yards away from the girls. They ran after him and skidded at his side.

"Just how do you know so much Black? How do you have it all so careful mapped out?" Katie demanded. "Leesh suspected you all year you know. She knew you were in on it. And now you're leading us into our…"

"Potter stop being so melodramatic," Julius complained with a groan. "That's how you lot always get yourselves into situations like this. And for your information, it was Malfoy's pigheadedness that prevented her from looking past her suspicions of me and trying to find out what has been terrorizing the school."

"Well why couldn't you just tell us seeing as you seem to know everything!"

"We don't have time for this, so either you shut up and come with me and save your friend or you can stay here and bicker with yourselves." Julius Black had wheeled around, staring the girls down with an uncharacteristically impatient glare. Katie was all for continuing her tirade, but Rachel reached out and touched her shoulder.

"Katie think of Leshia," the redhead uttered meekly. Ever since Julius had revealed himself in the Lions' meeting revealing that once more her best friend was in peril she had felt indescribably forlorn. With a heavy sigh Katie nodded her head forward indicating Black lead them on. He visibly relaxed before nodding gratefully and turning on heal once more.

"Once he's led us to Leshia I'm going to bloody well curse him," Katie growled under her breath. Despite her sombre mood Rachel managed a snigger of delight at Katie's sudden feistiness. Indeed the image of her cousin cursing a quivering Julius Black was quite a nice change compared to the mental image of Leshia in pain and alone that Rachel just hadn't been able to shake from her mind.

After this the cousins obediently held their tongues, following Black's roundabout and covert path towards an unknown destination. For a frightening moment it looked as though they were heading towards the enchanted forest, but before they could reach it Black veered them away towards a large ominous tree every pupil at Hogwarts had by now learned to stay away from.

"Oh no," Rachel exclaimed in worry. "It's the Whomping Willow!"

"Black what are you playing at?" Katie demanded with the same suppressed anger she had wielded so impressively earlier. Julius ignored them and continued onwards until he was within reach of the aggressive tree, which had already started swaying it's sharp whip like branches in warning not to come near. Very slowly the boy reached for a long stick lying on the side of the bank. The cousins, stood much further away from the snaring branches of the willow exchanged a sidelong look of incredulity.

"He's bonkers," Rachel announced, her eyebrows high on her head, not entirely sure whether to be amused or fearful for the boy's safety. He was meant to be leading them to Leshia after all!

With the stick in hand the Slytherin enigma reached low across the ground with it, avoiding the lashing whips of the tree. It took an immense amount of concentration, but finally Julius reached the knot of wood on one of the immense roots that quite suddenly halted the tree's threatening display.

"How did you do that?" Katie managed in surprise.

"Never mind, just get in before anyone sees us."

"Get in where?" Rachel now asked, but Katie was already leading her towards the gap between two roots they'd never come close enough before to notice. Tentatively they approached, but when the tree showed no sign of coming alive again they hurried on. At the base of the tree the girls exchanged a look filled with emotions they couldn't express in words. Their eyes said it all.

"Here we go again," Rachel said ominously, before quite suddenly, she jumped into the darkness.

XXX

Parys and Rodeo, still on their feet staring at the door that Slytherin turncoat had led the girls through, waited about five seconds before they started towards it.

"Where are you going?" Ashley called after them once Parys had pulled the door open to a crack to peer out after the would-be rescuers.

"I'm not going to sit around twiddling my thumbs when Leshia's in danger am I?" Rodeo explained.

"But Julius Black said…" the girl began.

"Julius Black can bugger off if he says anything," Parys now joined in.

"Besides, he's not going to know is he?" Rodeo added. Before the Lions could say anything more to deter the boys they'd slipped out of the room shutting the door silently behind themselves. The others had already disappeared round a corner, but luckily Parys had seen which way they'd gone. Hurrying as quietly as they could the boys quickly caught up to within a stone's throw of the silent rescue party. The youngsters up ahead seemed to be focusing more on stealth than whether or not they were being followed.

"I think they're heading for the grounds," Parys whispered to his best friend.

"Me too."

"Wait a minute, isn't that…" Quite suddenly Rodeo dragged Parys inside an open classroom. Both boys had seen the massive hulk of Professor Malfoy on the prowl at the same time. In the distance the sounds of Julius Black confronting him were to be heard, but they couldn't make out what was being said.

"What's he saying?" Rodeo whispered, both boys pressing their ears firmly up against the wood of the door. Parys elbowed his friend gently in the side to shut him up. Who knew how far Professor Malfoy could hear? The man was borderline supernatural in their eyes, so who would put extra sensitive hearing past him with any real confidence?

It seemed like an eternity before the confrontation in the corridor was over; marked by the running footsteps of Professor Malfoy sprinting past the door the boys were hiding behind. Parys and Rodeo pushed themselves from the wooden door for fear that Draco might suddenly see them through its solid mass, but the footsteps kept going and after they'd faded away the boys creaked the door open hesitantly, peering out into the corridor to see Julius Black and the girls disappearing out the main door into the afternoon sunshine.

"Come on," Rodeo whispered to his mate and the boys headed out again. The main door within their reach they hurried forward, hoping beyond hope that they might reach it without being disturbed. Their wish was not granted, as hearing the commotion Draco had caused in interrogating Julius, another teacher had come looking for trouble.

"Holsson! Jackson!" Rodeo and Parys froze in their footsteps and turned round ever so slowly to find Professor Snape bearing down on them, his face livid with anger. They had to think fast.

"Professor Snape!" Rodeo called out to him and hurried forwards. Parys, oblivious to his friend's plan stared after the boy incredulously. What was Rodeo thinking? Parys' instinctual reaction was to run, far away and very fast! "We need your help!"

"What are you doing wandering around the castle on your own after curfew?" the Potions master demanded, sounding far from pacified by Rodeo's act.

"Sir there's no time to explain!" Rodeo panted, pretending as though he had been running. Parys quickly followed his lead, finding strength by Rodeo's convincing tale. "Professor Malfoy sent us to find as many teachers as we could find. Leshia's missing!"

"What?" Snape demanded after Rodeo had blurted out the story. "Where is Professor Malfoy?"

"Last we saw he was running that way towards Gryffindor!" Parys replied, managing to get his head round Rodeo's ruse.

"We have to find Leshia's mum sir." Not knowing that this was exactly the same trick Julius Black had pulled moments before on this very spot the boys were clinging to the hope that Snape would believe them and let his curiosity get the better of him into following Draco's footsteps back to Gryffindor corridor.

"Go straight to the staff room," Snape finally snapped icily. "If I find you went anywhere else…"

"Sir please, Professor Malfoy told us to hurry." Rodeo pleaded so convincingly even Parys believed the desperation in his tone. After one last ferocious glare at the boys Snape took off down the corridor, his cloak billowing behind him like an angry thunderstorm. The boys pretended to head off towards the staff room until Snape was gone from sight before they sprinted towards the door and escaped into the fresh air of the afternoon just in time to catch sight of the rescue party up ahead diving behind some bushes near to the forest's edge.

"Make a run for it before anyone else catches us!" Parys urged his best mate and together the boys sprinted as quietly as they could. They used none of Julius' caution and opted for speed not stealth. All they wanted was to get out of sight of the watchful school lest any teachers be looking out the windows. If they were caught now…well it didn't bare thinking about. Not only were they breaking curfew, they had just flat out lied to one of the most terrifying teachers in the school, who would have no doubts about expelling them on the spot when he saw them again.

At the bushes the boys threw themselves onto the grass and panted with relief. Finally they could breath a sigh of relief; they were out of sight and in the distance they could see the rescue party hurrying down a path. They would be able to follow them without the fear of being caught and expelled.

"I wonder where he's taking them," Parys thought aloud as the pair of best friends set off again, following at a sensible distance that would prevent the youngsters up ahead from hearing their hushed conversation or heavy footfalls.

"I hope it's not a trap," Rodeo replied, his brow creased in concern as he watched Katie in the distance. He cared for the girl and wouldn't want to see her hurt. Parys noticed.

"Do you still like Katie? After all that?" he asked incredulously. "Don't do it to yourself mate!"

"No of course I don't," Rodeo countered firmly and he elbowed the boy at his side in the ribs.

"Oy," Parys chuckled and shoved Rodeo so firmly he nearly fell off the path and into the thicket.

"I just don't want to see her get hurt that's all, not after what I did to her," Rodeo explained once he'd steadied himself.

"Hey that one can look after herself. I'm surprised you're still in one piece." Rodeo's face went pale and for a moment Parys wondered what he'd said that was so bad, but then he looked up ahead and saw it too: the Whomping Willow.

"What is Black doing?" the darker boy managed in shock.

"Quick, get off the path," Rodeo ordered and he shoved his friend into the bushes before jumping in after him. In their hesitation and worry down by the tree Katie and Rachel were looking about themselves unsurely and had very nearly caught sight of the boys hot on their tail.

"Rodes…"

"Shhh!""No seriously!" Parys exclaimed sounding pained. "Get off me, I'm lying on a rose bush!" Rodeo quickly moved off the boy he'd flattened and instantly Parys rolled off the prickly stems in agony.

"Sorry mate," Rodeo managed with difficulty, as he was trying to suppress raucous laughter that would almost surely attract the attention of the others.

"It's not funny," Parys muttered in return, before he scrambled over the Rodeo's side to look out over the path towards the Whomping Willow. "Look!" he suddenly exclaimed in wonder. Rodeo did look and gasped in unison with his best friend. The pair of boys watched as Julius Black disappeared from sight under the Whomping Willow, which suddenly lurched alive again from being temporarily incapacitated.

"What the hell?" Parys managed, before quite suddenly he was dragged from the bushes onto the path again. "Man, stop dragging me around! I'll just go back again if you carry on like you're…"

"What and leave Leshia?" Rodeo called over his shoulder. "Come on! We have to follow them!" Without hesitation the boys careened down the path towards the infamous tree they had learned about the hard way their first term at the magical school. Not heeding the words of warning of the older pupils the boys had nearly lost an eye each trying to collect a wayward football from between its roots. The ball they had been forced to forfeit for their lives and ever since they had held a bitter grudge against the seemingly aware and very angry tree.

Once they reached the tree the boys stopped just out of reach of the tree's longest weapons, which had started thrashing wildly the moment the friends got near. Overly cautious of its powers, Rodeo and Parys exchanged a look of trepidation.

"So what now?" Parys asked meekly.

"Well there's got to be a way round it because look, they went through that hole," Rodeo complained, pointing out at the evident passage the rescue party had taken. Quite suddenly Rodeo yanked his hand back in agony. "Ouw!" he cried out furiously, sucking on his forefinger, which he had mistakenly thrust into the path of the tree's longest branch. "Damn tree let us past!" he yelled at it angrily.

"Mate calm down, there's got to be a way round it," Parys pacified his friend.

But the way round remained elusive to the young men. Time after time their attempts to get to the hole were thwarted by the overzealous tree. After dozens of attempts and countless more cuts and bruises the pair of would-be-rescuers dropped down on the bank facing the tree with matching sultry expressions. They were stumped.

Without a way past the Whomping Willow Julius Black could do what he liked to their friends and Leshia was lost to them. They had failed and the weight of their failure fell heavy on their wounded prides.

XXX

Ashley shifted on her cushion anxiously. Oh how she missed Nicola now. All around her the left-behind Blue Lions were in uproar about how Julius Black had found their meeting place and how they shouldn't have let Rachel and Katie go with him. Their protective older cousins Luke and Tom, usually so jovial and full of fun, were the loudest of the bunch, angrily insisting they get help straight away before Black could do their cousins any harm, while others thought that Leshia's kidnapping ought to be more of a concern.

Poor Ashley had no allies and stayed out of the fray. Hugging her knees to her chest she looked impossibly lonely and was about to stand up and march straight out of the room when the tables turned quite suddenly. The door burst open and a tall figure strode straight into the room. Two girls screamed and several of the youngsters who had risen to their feet suddenly darted back from the formidable teacher in the doorway.

"Where is Leshia?" Professor Malfoy demanded before the Blue Lions were even given a chance to compose themselves. No one could answer him. "I said," the tall teacher boomed over the hubbub powerfully. "Where is my daughter?"

"Sir…" Sarah Weasley began, but she trailed off unable to explain what had happened. How had the frightening teacher found them out? Only one pupil had the guts to stand up and face the teacher. Ashley was tired of all the nonsense and wanted very much for her dorm-mates to be saved by someone competent for a change. So with a heavy sigh she got to her feet and stood before the teacher.

"We don't know where she is sir," the girl explained simply. "She was meant to meet us just after class for our meeting, but she never showed up. Then about ten minutes ago that Julius Black boy from Slytherin somehow found out about the room and burst in here saying Leshia had been kidnapped and he took Rachel and Katie with him saying they were going to rescue her. Right after they left Rodeo and Parys followed them." Draco stared at the young lady with a murderous look. He'd been had. That artful, convincing, mysterious young Slytherin toe-rag had blind-sighted him with the news that Leshia was in danger and it had worked so effectively he accepted his lies without question. He'd let the boy get away and now had no power to get him back and find out where Leshia was!

Ashley shifted uncomfortably under the dark gaze of Leshia's father, not quite knowing who he was mad at.

"Kidnapped?" Draco finally spoke. Ashley quickly nodded.

"Well Black told us she was with this thing called a Mordgeist. We don't know what it is." Ashley stepped backwards as a look of horror materialised on Draco's face. Evidently though the youngsters had no idea what a Mordgeist was, the teacher did. Had he seemed frightening before, he was almost unbearable to look at.

A dreadful silence filled the room, in which everyone very gradually inched away from the murderous man in the doorway who seemed stuck in time, the same horrified expression on his face as though his worst fears were being realised. He had to get to Leshia before she found out…before it…he had to find her.

Before Draco could bring himself from his nightmarish reverie fast footfalls preceded the arrival of everyone's second most frightening teacher: Professor Snape. Had the Lions thought their luck couldn't get any worse, they all positively groaned the moment the greasy haired ageing Potions Master appeared at Draco's side. The arrival of his colleague brought Draco from his thoughts and he spun on his friend.

"Severus it's got Leshia," he told Snape with such significance that the other man's lips parted in surprise. "I'm going to find her, will you deal with this lot?" Quickly Severus Snape nodded, both so that his friend could go and find his child, but also for the opportunity to punish the rule breakers. He and Draco had been well aware that there was an underground group of students breaking countless school rules to try and find out what was going on in the castle, but when they had appealed to Dumbledore to crank down on the troublemakers the headmaster had refused them the power. Now they were exposed and as Snape had been waiting a long time to punish them he wasn't going to give that up for anything.

"Well go on then," the older man stated exasperatedly. Draco nodded once and sprinted back down the corridor leaving Snape to step into the room and shut the door behind himself. Each and every one of the Blue Lions shrunk away and felt dismayed; they were in so much trouble now.

XXX

Loud creaking snaked trough Leshia's woozy nightmares rousing her slightly from her injury-induced stupor. Fighting the heaviness in her head the girl forced her eyes open to slits revealing a gloomy room that seemed to be swaying. She was obviously in a building that hadn't seen the light of day for many years, and the only light source in the gloom came from the slivers of tired sunlight filtering through the boarded up windows. Dust covered the rotting furniture in thick waves and the scurrying of rats in the walls and floors was audible over the creaking of the derelict building.

Wincing in pain Leshia fought against the cruel ropes tied about her arms and legs so tightly she couldn't move. She had been unceremoniously dumped on the floor in the corner of the dim room. When her eyes adjusted to the light Leshia quite suddenly forced herself from the ground and pushes back into the wall, wanting very much to sink into it. The Mordgeist was watching her.

Having taken Draco's form again the beast was sat atop an old table, its arms about its knees staring the girl down with her father's eyes only recognisable as a creature of darkness by the soulless evil that lay within them. Leshia had never seen such fury on her true father's face. The beast was evidently beside itself with anger and the power it was exuding was making the youngster feel weak with terror. It was draining her such was its wrath. She was powerless against it.

"What do you…want from me?" the girl whispered, a sob interrupting her sentence and making her body shake with impending tears.

Quite suddenly the creature climbed from the table and started pacing the floor before the table. Its anger was increasing as could be seen by the way it shimmered in an out of shape. Darkness and flickering light forced the creature out of its shape every time Leshia uttered a sound, but the girl couldn't help it. She was terrified; unable to suppress her sobs any more than she was already doing. Every time one of them wracked her chest she forced it away, uttering a pathetic hiccup like noise. Each one angered the beast more making the subsequent noise louder as it became harder for Leshia to control herself.

"Please, I don't…" the girl began shakily. Her voice was too much for the beast, who quite suddenly lurched across the room with such inhuman speed Leshia's sobs escaped as she screamed and tried to scramble away.

The blow never came, as suddenly the door to the dusty room flew open revealing none other than Damian Allseyer brandishing a rectangular flat object at the beast. Whatever lay in the boy's hands was terrifying to the Mordgeist, which quite suddenly flew from Leshia's side and sought solace in the corner of the room, losing its shape and becoming a strange mass of light and shadow.

Though he was the last person Leshia could want to see in a situation such as this, even Damian Allseyer was better than no one and the girl felt better for his being there.

"What is that thing?" she asked him quickly. Cruelly Allseyer smiled at the girl, taking pleasure in seeing her more distraught than he'd even hoped was possible. Even while taking the brunt of his cruel fists he'd never seen the girl cry and right now, here in this desolate place, she was openly sobbing.

"Frightened are we Malfoy?" Suddenly the Mordgeist screeched in what could only be described as rage, it suddenly resumed the form of Draco and flew across the room towards Leshia, who screamed in terror. Once more Allseyer thrust the object in the creature's direction, forcing it back. The boy was shaking as he did so, not immune to the draining powers of the enraged monster. Once it had been held at bay he turned on Leshia, twitching as he did so.

"Give me that thing you're holding and you'd be scared too," Leshia cried out, her voice breaking between terror and anger. Allseyer smiled, his twitching giving him the impression of someone with a nervous tick.

"Do you want to know what this is?" he asked snidely. A whimper escaped the girl as a fresh wave of power from the Mordgeist washed over her. She couldn't help it. Though she didn't want to give Allseyer the smug satisfaction of capturing her curiosity, she had to know what was controlling the creature and how Allseyer had managed to keep it contained all year. Jerkily she nodded and fresh tears rolled down her cheeks.

Allseyer smiled smugly and very slowly turned round the flat rectangular object to reveal its identity to the bound girl. Leshia stared at it in complete indignity and incredulity. Where she had been terrified a moment before now she seemed to have entirely forgotten about it and all that remained was the object in Allseyer's hands. It made no sense.

"It's a picture of my dad…"

Allseyer threw his hands over his ears as the Mordgeist roared its rage and escaped its corner heading once more for the girl. Leshia screamed in horror, rolling onto her side shielding her face with her knees. Once more though she was saved by the arrival of yet more Slytherins, all brandishing pictures of her father, thrusting them at the Mordgeist, backing it away into its corner now impossibly enraged. It was evidently having trouble retaining Draco's form and was flashing so quickly between light, dark and Draco that it appeared almost to be a strobe light.

Leshia looked up to see what had happened and struggled up once more to face her adversaries in as dignified a way as she could manage. They were all smiling cruelly at her while they fought to control the creature. Leshia barely heeded them, she had bigger things on her mind: her father.

Her immediate terror and anguish was having to make way for an even more powerful emotion; the girl's heart was slowly breaking. As she pieced together the fragments in her mind she was coming to a horrible inevitability. Her father and this creature were evidently linked, which was why it took his form and hated her so passionately. It also explained why Draco had gone so pale and frantic when he heard what had been terrorising the school. He knew of this creature.

But why would it be so terrified of her father? How could a man instil such instinctual terror in a creature capable of draining an entire room of hope? How evil did a man have to be to harness such power? Not a man…no man could wield such power.

Leshia's mind drifted back to the lesson at the Samian Greyfin pond. Defeating all logic and reality her father had been untouched by the devilish creatures. They had not gone near him. Had they too been terrified of him? A horrible truth was dawning on the poor traumatised child. Was her father a beast as well? Was he somehow inhuman…somehow evil? Was he the devil?

XXX

Julius Black used his lit wand to swipe away at cobwebs. His anger was cracking through his usually calm exterior and making him edgy while behind him Leshia's closest allies and friends muttered about traps and traitors. They were trying to lure him into an argument by accusing him of all sorts.

"How did you find out meeting anyway?" Katie finally demanded something new. Julius Black sighed and felt a slight relief at a new topic of conversation. He was surprised it had taken them this long to ask. Potter was supposed to be intelligent wasn't she?

"I stole Jackson's coin a few weeks ago," he replied simply. "It didn't take me long to work out how the coin worked and then it was simply a matter of following you straight to your meeting place."

Katie and Rachel exchanged a furious look. How had they been so stupid to lead this Slytherin rat straight to their secret place?

"I was nearly caught not long ago," the boy continued. "Your meeting had finished and I went in to see what you got up to when I found Malfoy on her own."

"She stayed behind to finish writing in…"

"She was crying," Julius interrupted simply.

"What?" both girls demanded in surprise and guilt.

"As I said, she was crying. That's why she didn't see me. She was hunched over, hugging her knees and crying about something." A deep pain washed over the cousins as they thought of their dear friend suffering in silence. They hadn't thought what this might be doing to her, to have her father called into question as a murderous fiend when she had just found out about his suspect past. On top of that she had been dealing with the impending arrival of a sibling. She was going to have to share the love of her parents barely two years after getting her mother back. They hadn't thought…

"Oh Leshia," Rachel sighed and tears stung her eyes. The cousins were silenced by his revelation of Leshia's secret weakness and suffering, and for ten minutes or so the boy revelled in the silence their guilty consciences provided him with. Sadly though, the silence didn't last.

"You could have prevented all this Black," Katie growled quite suddenly. "You could have told the teachers what was going on and stopped all this before it started. So many people have been hurt and nearly killed."

"It wasn't my place to…"

"Yeah right," the usually well-spoken raven girl grumbled belligerently. "You're a coward plain and simple. Too afraid of what the Slytherins would do to you if you gave it all away."

Up ahead Julius Black swiped furiously at a cobweb with his wand.

"Don't speak of what you don't know Potter."

"Well it's true isn't it? Either you were scared or you're in on it all and you're leading us into the same trap you lot led Leesh into."

"I'm helping you you idiot," Julius complained tetchily, loosing his impeccable manner.

"Well you could start by telling us where we're going and what's happened to Leshia."

"I already told you!" the boy seethed calmly. "I've been trying to help Malfoy all year. So I don't see how you can stand there accusing me. I'm taking you to her aren't I?"

"I can see that," Katie fumed, equally as angry as Black. "I just don't see why. Why are you helping us?" Quite suddenly Julius Black spun around, a terrible anger in his strange pale eyes. Never before had he seemed so emotional and right now, at this very moment in time, he was equally as terrifying as Professor Malfoy in one of his darkest moods.

"I'm helping you because I'm meant to help you all right Potter? It's not like I have a choice!" With this the boy spun round and stormed ahead at such a pace the girls had to jog to catch up with him, only after they had exchanged a wide-eyed look though. They didn't dare push the boy any further, but his revelation had given them plenty to think about. What on Earth did he mean? Who did he answer to?

XXX

Rodeo and Parys stared at the wild tree with two equally bemused expressions. One sat with his chin resting on his palm, hunched over his knees in petulance, the other lay back, leaning on his forearms staring ahead with the bleak reality that the pair of them were being absolutely and utterly useless.

"I can't believe he let Katie and Rachel go instead of us," Parys finally grumbled moodily.

"I know."

"I mean they're a pair of girls. What good will they be?"

"Totally."

Another silence lulled over the best friends. With a heavy sigh Parys sat up at Rodeo's side and hugged his knees in a similar fashion.

"I can't believe you went out with Katie when all you had to do was make a move on Leshia and she would have gone for you." Where this had come from Rodeo wasn't sure, but he suddenly found himself staring at his closest friend in indignant surprise. Parys had never actually come right out and said the words he'd known the boy was feeling, and he knew they'd eventually slip out, but why now?

"What?" the fairer boy finally managed.

"You heard me."

"Yeah, but why'd you say it?"

"Because I don't see how you can sit here feeling as scared as I am when I just don't think you care as much about Leshia as I do." This was new to Rodeo who's jaw now dropped a little in surprise.

"What the hell are you on about?" he demanded angrily. "I've liked Leshia a hell of a lot longer than you have."

"Oh sod off who cares about the whole 'I met her first' line?" Parys countered grumpily, kicking at a small tuft of higher grass in annoyance. "If you cared about her even half as much as I do then you could never have even looked at Katie. All I see is her. I don't even think about other girls."

"Oh give over," Rodeo complained. "That's such crap! What about Helen Carter in Hufflepuff? You went on and on about her for weeks till she got crushed under that cabinet. Remember?"

"No," Parys bristled tetchily.

"You were going to ask her out that weekend, but then she had to go to hospital," Rodeo insisted. Parys twitched in annoyance, remembering it well, but now wanting to lose his moral high ground.

"What I would do if Leshia liked me as much as she likes you," the darker boy furiously grumbled. "She just doesn't feel the same about me as she does about you."

"She doesn't like me. She likes that moron in fourth year. Owen what's-his-name," Rodeo countered equally as tetchy.

"Yeah well she didn't used to. I can't believe you let her slip away. She's like the most amazing girl I'll ever meet."

The lovesick duo lulled into silence, both fighting the rising anger inside of them at being so totally and utterly useless as to actually sitting around in the afternoon sunlight while a pair of girls headed up the rescue effort of the girl they both adored. The weather was mockingly delicious. It was a real summer's day and birds innocently tweeted in chorus, insensitively oblivious to the gravity of the situation.

Rodeo threw a stone at the tree and exclaimed a profanity in anger. The stone bounced off one of the branches only rousing the boys into lobbing even more stones at the one thing standing in their way of being heroes. Stone after stone was rebounded only fuelling the pair's tantrums until finally the tree got lucky and sent of the missiles flying straight back at the attackers. It bumped Rodeo right on the head.

"Agh!" he cried out clutching his scull in agony. "Bloody tree!" he added in pain. Despite himself Parys suppressed a snigger, and then another one, until he couldn't possible control the third. Before too long the boy was rolling around in laughter. "Shut up!" Rodeo grumbled, though a smile was eking onto his face. "It's not funny." Rodeo though, couldn't contain his own laughter and soon the friend's made up wordlessly through their shared mirth.

"I'm sorry alright? I didn't mean to say that crap before I just feel so…" Parys finally sighed, the tension gone between the two friends.

"I know what you mean. We're totally useless just sat here doing sod all."

"Damn tree," Parys grumbled, to which Rodeo nodded in agreement. As though sensing their fury the tree paused momentarily almost pleased with the mischief it was causing. It soon came alive again though when two stones came its way.

XXX

Leshia shook in silence while the Slytherins lined up to watch her suffering as though she were an attraction at a zoo. She didn't want to give them the chance to see her in such agony, but try as she might Leshia just couldn't compose herself. The terror the Mordgeist was spreading and the weight of her own terrible thoughts were making it impossible to compose herself. She wanted so desperately to ask Allseyer what her father's connection was to the beast, but she wouldn't give him that satisfaction. She was not going to give him what he wanted. Allseyer was getting a little annoyed at Leshia's silence.

"Don't you want to know why it can be controlled with pictures of your pathetic father?" the boy demanded. Leshia hugged her knees tightly to her chest and shook her head. Angrily Allseyer stalked backwards and lowered his picture of Draco. The others followed his lead did the same allowing the beast to surge forward again. Leshia stiffened and prepared herself, but before it could reach her the Slytherins lifted their pictures again. The girl trembled in its wake, but still she stayed quiet.

Again the beast was released, being allowed to come within inches of the girl this time, but again she remained firm and didn't give the boy the satisfaction of having her grovel at his feet. Allseyer was getting angry. He wasn't immune to the tension in the room and even though over the year he'd learned to adjust to the fear the Mordgeist invoked in him, he still couldn't control his emotions around the creature.

Again he allowed it to be released this time it reached the girl and reached out to grab her, but the Slytherins forced it back. Leshia wept openly and hugged her legs even tighter to her front, shaking uncontrollably, unable to control the terror sweeping through her, so terribly ashamed to be going to pieces in front of the lowly Slytherins.

"Are you curious yet?" Allseyer demanded ludicrously, sounding as though he were losing the plot. Leshia shook her head firmly into her knees. Allseyer's anger was hidden over a shriek from the creature that was once more given permission to swoop forward, only this time the Slytherins allowed it to reach her. Once more assuming the shape of her father the creature's cold hands found Leshia's neck. Inhuman force squeezed the air from her lungs and all the girl could do was look up into the face of her father.

"Okay," she managed. "Stop it!"

Now it had its prey in its grasp the Mordgeist proved harder to frighten away by the pictures of Draco Malfoy, but finally it abated and fled to the corner of the room. Leshia panted, feeling her sore neck with tears streaming down her cheeks at her weakness.

"Tell me," she mumbled pitifully eliciting cruel laughter from the Slytherins.

Allseyer prowled the floor in front of the girl, little whirlwinds of dust springing into life in his wake. Leshia watched them mournfully, wondering whether it would be easier to give in and allow the beast to kill her now. What hope was left? Who was coming to her rescue? She didn't even know where she was. Lying bound on the floor…it just wasn't a fair fight.

"Where to begin," Allseyer finally crowed delightedly. "I couldn't believe what I'd let you do to me this time last year. I wasn't going to let you get away with it. You'd brought me to an all time low I'll give you that. My parents didn't want me around the house I was that out of it, so they sent me to my uncle's place on some desolate remote island in the middle of bloody nowhere."

"My uncle's mad. He's my mum's brother, a complete crackpot. Some say he was a Death Eater once, but he doesn't have the mark. He was too mad to help the Dark Lord, but he did fall into the possession of something very useful. He got tired of me cursing your name day after day, thinking up ways to get you back. My uncle couldn't stand the thought of anyone in his family being humiliated by someone in yours. He seemed to hate you more than I do and he'd never even met you."

"He took me to this room hidden away in the basements of his mansion. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be filled with pictures of that mudblood loving father of yours. I didn't understand, the room seemed to be empty, then I saw it. It didn't look the same back then, it had been weakened for too long. Back then, even the whisper of his name could keep the creature at bay. It's grown over the months of having free reign, but it's not free yet."

"Would you like to know why it's so afraid of your father?" Allseyer finally fell quiet after his informative speech. There was so much to take in. Leshia didn't want to give the boy any more pleasure and remained in a stony silence. "I said don't you want to…"

"No," the girl growled, clasping onto a pocket of defiance. Allseyer's face contorted in anger.

"Malfoy," he said simply. Across the room he creature roared and escaped its confinement.

"Yes! I want to know!" the bound girl cried out in shame, not wanting to feel its cold hands round her neck once more…not wanting to watch as the image of her father choked the life out of her.

"Well because of that I'm not going to tell you yet," Allseyer continued once his pet monster had been subdued once more. Leshia closed her eyes as tears streamed freely from them. Allseyer continued with his story, "All year we've been trying to get that stupid thing to finish you off. My uncle assured me it would the first chance it got."

"At first all it would do was follow you. It was so infuriating, but finally the tables turned. It heard you, the day you told your pitiful friends a piece of very useful information. Yes, father was most happy when I told him I'd found out about your father's dirty little double crossing secret."

Now Leshia's head lifted out of her knees, her face contorted somewhat in anger. SO she'd betrayed her father to this cretin unwittingly? The day she had told Katie and Rachel her horrible secret in the bathrooms, the day they'd felt they'd been watched…the Mordgeist had been listening. She had sold out her own father.

"You don't understand…" she tried to explain through a sob.

"No, you don't understand! He's been double-crossing all the way. He's a born traitor. He was a coward that betrayed every side that had taken him in and in the end he ran plain and simple."

"He killed Voldemort first!" Leshia furiously cried out.

"He ran away!" Allseyer countered with equal fury.

"He was protecting my mum!" At Leshia's words the Mordgeist became so overwhelmed with anger it roared with a bright light and suddenly surged through the wall blasting a massive hole through it and disappeared beyond into the rickety house. The moment it was gone Leshia's immediate terror dissipated leaving her empowered by its absence. She raised her head assuming a cool expression of fearlessness.

Damian Allseyer, evidently having seen this sort of behaviour before and knowing it didn't bode well rubbed anxiously at his neck. The sight of the boy made Leshia smile cockily. Just how she could muster such arrogance in times of crisis would be a question an onlooker might pose, but somehow Alecia Malfoy was cocky through to the core, even though it rarely did her any favours.

"Aww, what's the matter Allseyer? Did your new pet bite the hand that feeds it?" Allseyer snapped his cold eyes onto Leshia's dancing ones and bristled with a twitch.

"Oh you think this is funny do you Malfoy?" he demanded seeming suddenly quite deranged. Evidently constant exposure to the cruel beast had addled the boy's brains a little, or at least, so it seemed.

Leshia smiled at the boy and nodded her response. Allseyer shuddered under another massive twitch.

"Do you think it's funny your dad's a murderer?"

XXX

It was a glorious day. Sunlight was streaming in every single window of the castle basking its imprisoned occupants teasingly in a summer sunshine they couldn't possibly enjoy. Even though their situation was dire, none could fail but smile a little when the rays warmed their faces. It was summer after all and soon they would be free.

Only one sat in a stream of light and warmth desolately alone, incapacitated and unmoving. Draco Malfoy had lost all strength when he knew where his daughter was and what she was with. The shaft of sunlight streaming in the thin slit of a window in the stairwell he'd stumbled into lit up the man's cold grey eyes filled as they were, at this moment, with tears; tears that had not fallen. He couldn't fight it anymore. He couldn't be strong, not when Leshia was going to find out what he'd done that terrible night…

It was cold, colder than it ought to be on a warm June night. A damp and sticky mist had been closing in for weeks now as Voldemort's army of Dementors ravaged the country. Newly turned eighteen-year-old Draco watched the eerie vapour dancing about the trees in the wood he'd spent the last three hours traversing through, trying to find the right spot, the place where he'd agreed to meet him…

With a sigh the young man looked down at his hands and flexed them, reliving that morning's events where Hermione had taken hold of them in happiness. He had brought the Order of the Phoenix great news that day and she had been so overjoyed she had rushed to his side, taking hold of his hands and dancing him about the kitchen. Everyone had been so happy with him, even Molly Weasley his greatest critic had gratefully pinched his cheek and offered him a smile.

They couldn't know the information he'd fed them was a lie…a lie fed to them by the very enemy they were fighting. Draco shifted uncomfortably on the log he'd been using as a bench for the last hour or so. It wouldn't be long before this very wood saw a battle so great it would go down in history as a turning point in the Wizarding world. It was going to be epic. A heavy sigh escaped the young man as he thought of Hermione Granger and what would happen to her when…

"Stop being so weak," he grumbled and clenched his fists, fighting away the joy he had felt at Hermione's touch.

A crack filled the night's sky and suddenly a massive hulk of a man stood before the younger one. Only an hour late the Auror simply known was Tobias had finally arrived at the meeting place he had arranged. Not officially a member of the Order of the Phoenix Tobias was a lone ranger working for the ministry. Draco didn't trust the man and had been alarmed when he found out Tobias wished to meet with him. Indeed, he had very nearly not dared to show up.

"Malfoy," Tobias greeted the teenager coolly. Draco quickly rose to his feet and nodded to the wizened auror.

"Tobias," he replied in a similar tone.

"I suppose you're wondering why I called you here?" Surprised that Tobias was getting straight to the point Malfoy quickly nodded. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end and despite himself he shivered a little. He still seemed so very young to the auror stood opposite him.

"Considering we've never even spoken I think 'wondering' is putting it a little mildly," Draco replied bemusedly turning to arrogance in his insecurity. Tobias' mouth curled up in a twisted smile.

"We might not have spoken Malfoy, but I know all about you." Draco lowered his head, his cold eyes meeting with Tobias' peculiar two-tonal eyes. One green, the other hazel, they had always irked Draco when he caught their gaze across a crowded room. It gave the grisly auror the impression of being two people within one.

"What do you mean by that?"

"It means I know Malfoy. The game's up." Draco shifted uncomfortably, his heart racing in his chest, the skin on his forearm beneath the cruel brandished Dark Mark itching.

"I don't know what you're talking about." The Goosebumps returned making the young man rub his arms to keep the chill at bay.

"Oh yes you do. I know what you've been up to, who's side you're really on." Now Draco snapped and he whipped out his wand with the speed of someone who had become jumpy in his treachery. Even the hardened auror didn't have time to react.

"Expelliarmus!" the youngster cried out and within seconds the auror's wand lay in his hand. What Draco hadn't expected was for the hulking man to suddenly lunge at him throwing him off guard. He had been position awkwardly on the edge of a slight slope to begin with and now at this unfortunate assault both men went tumbling down landing in a shallow stream. When Draco dragged himself to his feet he found to his dismay that both wands had disappeared from his hand.

Tobias too had raised himself from the stream and faced off with the young traitor stood before him.

"You're fast," he growled, almost as an accusation. "But not fast enough. It won't save you. You're going to be locked away for your sins boy."

"You don't understand!" Draco furiously countered.

"Oh? Don't understand you've been betraying us and getting innocent men and women, good men and women, killed?"

"It's not like that!" Once again he boy stood before the man shivered with Goosebumps.

"Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater Malfoy. McGonagall and Dumbledore should have listened. No one ever really trusted you and now I've got the proof they've been waiting for for a long time."

"Hermione trusts me," Draco countered passionately, feeling his grip sliding away. He couldn't control this…he didn't know what to do. How could he stop this horrible reality from unfolding before his eyes?

"Yes, that's unfortunate," Tobias growled. "She'll get over you though, mark my words. There are far better men worthy of her love out there. You mark my words." Draco twitched and shook his head.

"You're wrong." A silent sob wracked his chest as he imagined Hermione's face when she heard of his lies…of his treachery…of his evils. She would hate him. She would hate him forever. "You can't tell them. It's not the way! I'll change!"

Across from the teenager Tobias laughed cruelly.

"You treacherous coward!" he sneered. "Don't even have the guts to stand by your convictions, treacherous though they may be. What will you do Malfoy? Keep changing sides forever to suit your needs?"

"No!" Draco roared passionately, the image of Hermione's face filled with anger and dismissal of him not leaving his mind's eye. He couldn't lose her. Even after he'd lied to her in the worst possible way…she had changed him…he would never betray her and he would not see her harmed. The edge he'd been teetering on for the last few months suddenly dissolved leaving only one path clear to him now: he had to help Hermione and the others defeat the Dark Lord he'd served his whole life. He had to turn coat on the people he'd been double-crossing for. He would make good of his wrongdoings, he would use his contacts in Voldemort's ranks to bring the Dark Lord down…all that stood in his way was Tobias.

"Give it up Malfoy, you're going away for what you done. You'll never have her." Suddenly Draco snapped and lunged forward, once more catching the large auror off guard. A feverish passion was empowering Draco and weakening his enemy. His large hands gripped about the neck of the man while tears streamed down his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he cried out as he strangled the man beneath him. "I'm sorry, but I can't let you ruin it. I have to…"A shiver ran up Draco's arms as he choked the last breath from Tobias leaving him staring lifelessly into nothingness. Quite suddenly a power surged through Draco's arms and flung him back. With wide eyes the young man watched as a bright light twisted into shadow over the body of the once-auror Tobias. Feeling sick and wanting to wretch Draco forced himself to watch as the light and shadow above Tobias' body took human form.

For the briefest of moments Draco cried out when a face materialised in the shadowy figure before it tore off into the night. Without restraint Draco wept and bent over double expelling a lunch he'd eaten many hours before. The face he had seen…that face…it had been his own. What had he done?

Draco's tears dried up before he let them fall. He had not cried since that night. His past was so shameful, but this was the very worst of his sins: the killing of an innocent man at his own hands. He would never be able to atone for this. After that awful terrible night he led the Order of the Phoenix to victory and along with Harry Potter defeated Voldemort in battle. He never would have assured the upper hand for the Order had he not been a turncoat, they never could have won they were so outnumbered. Draco could live down his treachery in the fact that it had saved the day, in a way, but what he had done to Tobias…he would never live that down.

Shortly after that awful awful night Draco found out what the peculiar apparition was that had appeared after the act. He learned what Mordgeists were and how they were created when a harmless spirit 'Devil' passed through the body of someone being murdered. The creatures were thankfully very rare, as they were perhaps one of the most evil beings to wander the earth, impossible to destroy and only to be controlled by the one they feared most in all the world: the murderer that had created them. Draco had created a Mordgeist that night, which, unusually, had taken his form. This was the rarest type of Mordgeist of all. The creatures usually assumed the form of the victim because usually the victim's emotions were the more powerful: fear of death was one of the most powerful of all emotions. However, in Draco and Tobias' case the teenager's emotions, those of guilt and pain, had overpowered those of the unfortunate victim and the Mordgeist had been forced to assume the form of the man it feared most.

And now this Mordgeist was with his child. She was in such grave danger. Suddenly Draco climbed to his feet his resolve renewed. His past was shameful and he would never be able to atone for the worst of his sins, but his future was bright and full of hope. If he could get to his child before she found out what a monster he was then he could save his family. Suddenly in control again Draco strode from the stairwell with a face of stone. He was going to put an end to this.

XXX

Leshia had sat and listened to the whole story and she was in shock. Allseyer had been delighted when his father came back to him with fantastic news, that he had found out the very worst of Draco's secrets at Damian's revelation that Draco had been a turncoat. This revelation had allowed Allseyer Senior to dig deep into Draco's past and find out the whole story. Allseyer's uncle had not known who Draco had killed to create the Mordgeist, but now the story was out and Damian had been gleeful to find it out.

Leshia sat in silence while Allseyer basked in her agony. She had been unable to stop the tears streaming down her cheeks when she found out about this Tobias man her father had killed. That this was the reason a Mordgeist had been created and wished nothing more than to see her killed in a similar fashion. The girl had lost the power of speech altogether such was her distress.

"So how does it feel Blood Traitor?" Allseyer demanded snidely. "To find out in your closing moments that your precious daddy was a murderous coward? This Mordgeist hates you most in the world and when we leave this room it's going to finish you off."

Leshia stared up at her nemesis with her father's eyes. Her tears had long dried up and now she just stared, coolly and calmly waiting. She would not give him any more satisfaction at seeing her afraid or upset. Allseyer looked into Alecia Malfoy's eyes for the last time and narrowed them in contempt at the nonchalance that lay in her cocky gaze. He had emotionally torn her to pieces and yet there she sat, unbroken and unwavering. What more could he do?

"Malfoy!" the boy roared as loud as he could, before he smiled evilly and ran from the room slamming the door shut in his wake. Leshia heard the cowardly Slytherins cackling loudly as they descended the stairs beyond her prison room and then there was nothing but the sound of Leshia's shivers and sobs in her chest.

Like a little girl Leshia pulled her knees to her chest and hid her face in them as the only comfort she had and wept. The terror was rising again in her chest as the Mordgeist began closing in. Incapable of remaining strong Leshia gave up on any hope of salvation and lifted her eyes slowly to the door as it creaked open. In walked what ought to have been the most comforting sight of all, but this man had not come to sooth away her fears as the original would have done, he had come to kill her. What a cruel way to go, the girl thought miserably.

"He didn't mean it you know," the girl found herself uttering in a shaky voice barely recognisable as her own. The Mordgeist slowly approached her, murderous with rage and anger. "He never had a chance with the upbringing he had. He's changed. He's a good man now. He helped kill Voldemort. He's not a monster anymore. You don't understand…I love him, he's my dad!"

At these last words the monster lost control and quite suddenly in a flicker of light it had bore down on the girl, it's cold inhuman hands round the small girl's neck. Without a hope in the world Leshia shut her eyes, not wanting to see that face she had sought for comfort her whole life, hovering above her as he choked the life from her. A tear rolled from her eyes as Leshia thought of her mother's agony when she found out what had happened…and when she found out about Draco's past. What a sorry way to end it all.

"Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy!" a chorus filled the room after the sound of the heavy door slamming into the wall filled the room. Leshia wrenched her eyes open in time to see a large picture of her dad force the beast from her neck and sweet air filled her lungs once more.

"Katie! Rachel!" the girl managed as her best friends swooped down on her, soothing her agony with their embraces. Leshia wept tears of joy as they unbound her arms and legs and helped her to her feet. Across the room Julius Black had forced the beast back, which simply couldn't handle his chanting and the colossal picture of its worst fear and without hesitation it fled through its previous hole punched through the wall.

"Quick! We have to get back!" Black called to the girls. Leshia stared at the boy incredulously.

"You?" was all she managed.

"We'll explain later, come on we have to hurry," Katie insisted and she and Rachel supported Leshia out of the room and down the winding staircases of the Shrieking Shack to the entrance way to the tunnel. Sensing their escape quite suddenly the Mordgeist blocked their path. Again Black started his chant and forced the beast back with the only weapon that worked.

"Go without me, I'll keep it back," the boy called to the girls.

"What about you?" Leshia demanded to know.

"It doesn't want me, it wants you. Now go!" Without needing to be told a third time Katie and Rachel dragged an unwilling Leshia down into the tunnel.

XXX

"I spy with my little eye something beginning with T," Rodeo drawled in a bored way. At his side Parys sighed heavily and glanced about their surroundings with a meek shrug.

"Tree."

"Nope."

"Tower?"

"Nope."

"Trampoline."

"Trampoline? Where do you see a trampoline?" Rodeo asked amusedly. Parys shook his head in annoyance.

"I wish we had a bloody trampoline I'll tell you that. How much longer are they going to be?" As though his wish were being answered quite suddenly the tree stopped waving about and a head started emerging from the hole. Rodeo and Parys jumped to their feet and watched in amazement as the Slytherin thug Harry Stump emerged from the hole between the roots of the Whomping Willow. Both boys instantly reached for their wands before the vile boy noticed them.

"Expelliarmus," Rodeo yelled angrily and from the back pocket of Stump's jeans his wand was stolen from him by an enemy he hadn't even seen yet.

"Oy!" the boy cried out, but before he could dodge out of the way Rodeo had cursed him.

"Furnunculus," he cried out reducing Stump to a snivelling boil-covered wreck on the ground. Suddenly a curse lit the afternoon sky just barely missing Rodeo and Parys who dove to the side as four more Slytherin ruffians emerged from the tree. A further one they disarmed from their hiding places, but three remained armed. What followed was a fray unlike any other the boys had seen. Luckily they had read up about a lot of hexes and curses as a little bedtime light reading and had plenty of ammunition, but they were dealing with Slytherin bullies who had their fair share of ammo to dish out.

Rodeo and Parys were on the losing end, catching painful hex after painful hex, while the wandless boys tried to manually take them out. Their double team effort was making it hard for the Slytherins, but not impossible and all in all the best friends weren't sure how long they could keep this up. All that was keeping them going was the knowledge that these thugs had caused Leshia harm.

Just when it looked as though all was lost – Rodeo lay in a heap on the ground, his wand taken, his nose broken and Parys stood surrounded – wand fire filled the grassy slope once more. Katie, Rachel and Leshia, now slightly recovered, emerged from the hole beneath the Willow armed and fighting. Without even having time to express joy at Leshia's safe return Parys retrieved his best friend's wand for him and helped the boy up to continue with the fight between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

"You!" Allseyer cried out when he saw Leshia alive and well. "No!" his roar was one filled with emotion and fury.

"Yes," Leshia cried back at the boy. "Me! When are you going to learn Allseyer?" Leshia dodged a curse sent blunderingly in her direction. "You're never going to beat me. Understand?" Allseyer's subsequent cry of outrage was overpowered by a roar from deep underground. Before the youngsters had time to react a terrible fear crippled them. Out from under the Whomping Willow the Mordgeist emerged having left Julius Black unconscious in the corridor beyond, his valiant efforts to contain the beast just not valiant enough. With so much confusion the beast lashed out at any that moved. It was no longer to be controlled. It was free and liked it!

"Allseyer, stop it!" Archie Dregon, Allseyer's number two man, cried out snivelling and unable to contain his terror.

"I can't!" the Slytherin cried back, he more cowardly than his man. "Run for it!"

And so the Slytherins bolted to the cheers of the Gryffindors. Only one started backing away, the sober look never leaving her face. The Mordgeist had finally found its prey and this time, nothing way going to get in its way. Quite suddenly taking Draco's form the beast was before Leshia, lifting her from the ground by her throat, its face so contorted in anger the fine features of her father no longer resembled him when mutated so grossly. This was little of comfort to Leshia and her frantic friends though.

XXX

Draco saw the flashes of light down the slope leading to the Whomping Willow and knew instantly that this was where the showdown was occurring. Hoping he wasn't too late he sprinted from the castle joining a general throng of teachers towards the commotion. While they remained to placate fleeing Slytherins Draco raced on. In the distance he could see a sight that tore at his heart and nothing could stop him now. With the supernatural speed of a father about to loose his child, Draco crossed the distance between himself and that creature holding his daughter by the neck and did not stop running when he reached it. The Mordgeist stood not a chance against the rugby tackle of Draco going full speed and found itself flung down the slope.

Within seconds Draco was on his feet and the Mordgeist could see that before him stood his worst fear. It lost its shape instantly, shrinking to a small ball of trembling light and shadow.

"Be gone from this place foul beast and never return!" Draco cried out at the creature. Unable to refuse its creator the Mordgeist was quite suddenly gone. The castle and all its occupants were safe.

When he was sure the creature had vanished Draco spun around to see Leshia slumped on the grass, her whimpering friends fawning at her side. Within seconds he'd dropped down at her side, reaching out to feel her neck for a pulse. For a split second dread filled his heart and Draco felt his own breath leave him at the thought that his child had perished because he was too slow to save her, but with a tremendous sigh that wracked his whole body Draco felt the faint pulse.

"She's alive," he told her friends and ushered them away to lift the girl easily from the ground.

"Sir Julius Black is down under the tree still. We don't know if he's alive or not." Rachel quickly told Draco worriedly. Draco glanced at the tree and then up the slope to see more teachers approaching. Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall were amongst them. Without a word to the girls Draco lurched towards them.

"Julius Black is still in the passageway. They don't know if he made it," he explained gravely to the headmaster.

"Was it the Mordgeist?" the age-old wizard asked the young man. Draco nodded slowly and shifted his daughter's unconscious weight, the blue marks of the creature's fingers about her neck were becoming clear in the waning light of the afternoon.

"Yes, but it won't be coming back. I've made sure of that." Albus looked the young Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in eye gravely and finally nodded before his eyes fell to Leshia's unconscious form.

"Go quickly, she needs Poppy's help," Dumbledore suddenly exclaimed and after one last look Draco hurried up the grounds. His walk to the hospital wing was unhindered and soon he reached the commotion. Slytherins and Gryffindors were bickering while teachers tried to pacify them and see to their wounds.

"Silence!" Draco called out over the chaos with a power none could disobey and everyone looked to him as he placed Leshia's unconscious body down on a bed. "All of you will have detention every evening for the rest of this term for your unconscionable behaviour out on the grounds, if you do not want this punishment to extend into the new school year then you had better keep quiet. All of you!"

Amazingly the group of riled up youngsters kept quiet and allowed Madam Pomfry to see to her most in-need charge. Leshia was soon revived and shakily she sat up on the bed, looking with wide eyes at her father sat beside her.

"Dad…" the girl began in a whisper, when suddenly the doors to the hospital wing were flung open once more and Snape emerged with the unconscious form of Julius Black in his arms. The boy bore similar markings to Leshia about his neck.

"Another one for you Poppy," the Potions Master called out. The Slytherins all stared in shock at the body of the boy they hadn't known was with them. What had Julius Black been doing and where had he been hiding? The commotion died down when Draco cast the Slytherin bunch a foul look, before he earnestly looked back to his daughter.

"Dad there's stuff I know now…" the girl managed mournfully. "Stuff I don't…I don't understand. Allseyer found out stuff from the Mordgeist about you betraying mum and the others? He told his dad and…" Quite suddenly Draco had lurched forward and hugged his daughter firmly. She returned his embrace, seeking out the comfort she had missed.

"I can't explain any of this now," he told her hurriedly. His mind was whirring; he'd just worked it all out. The notes, the threatening letters, the errands. His unnamed blackmailer had just been given a name.

"But dad I don't want you to explain. I don't want to know. I just want it to be over," Leshia mumbled and ashamedly she realised she was crying. Draco pulled back and pushed the tears away with his thumbs, leaning forward to kiss his daughter's forehead.

"I have to explain when you're ready to hear it," he said simply. For now he was relieved, whatever it was that Leshia did or didn't know, she still loved him. He could see it in her face. All was not lost. The youngster nodded weakly. "Baby I hate to leave you, but there's something I have to go and do urgently."

"Dad don't leave me," Leshia countered desperately. "Please don't go." Again Draco embraced the girl trying to hug away her fear.

"I'll be back. I promise." He pulled away and got to his feet, hating himself for leaving her when she looked so alone and in need of his comfort and protection. "You still trust me don't you?" Leshia stared into her father's eyes and thought of everything that had happened, of everything she had found out about him. She couldn't believe what he had been, how much he had changed, but he had changed. That was all that mattered.

"Yes I trust you," she whispered. Draco couldn't fight the smile that crept onto his face as he backed out of the room and raced to the nearest fireplace. It was time to pay a visit to Allseyer Senior.

XXX

Albus Dumbledore was tired. It had been a very long day and one he wasn't entirely sure had been properly resolved. With the Slytherins and Gryffindors in detention for their brawling in the gardens, he wanted very much to see that certain characters were punished for their role in bringing terror to the school, but now one was pointing any fingers. It was obvious who had caused all the grief, but innocent until proven guilty was the ethos of the free world and Hogwarts was no exception. With no one to lay the blame at a certain young man's doorstep, Albus could do nothing. He had gladly announced to the school (and the press) that Hogwarts was safe again and that thankfully the curfew had been lifted, but still he felt uneasy with the way it had all worked out.

The was growing to old for this sort of excitement, the old man decided. He was tired. And yet he wasn't going to turn in for the night before a good friend had come to pay him a visit. He'd been waiting all night, but finally, it seemed his friend had arrived. Better late than never.

A soft knock and a brisk response by the headmaster allowed the door to be pushed open revealing the stony face of Draco Malfoy. In one hand he carried a sack and in the other a letter. Slowly the young man wandered in and stood before the old wizard's desk. He seemed impossibly grave. After lowering the bag carefully onto the headmaster's desk Draco lifted the letter in Albus' direction.

"What is that?" the head asked curiously, his twinkling blue eyes seemingly amused. Draco gulped away his hesitation.

"It's my resignation Albus," he replied shamefully. Albus looked from it to the sack on his desk containing the items that had been going missing from his study and from his school all year. He didn't need to open it to know this.

"And why are you resigning?" the old headmaster next asked. Draco seemed incredulous.

"I thought that much would be obvious."

"What is obvious to me Draco is that you are an excellent teacher with a history that has finally caught up with him." Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "Draco the full extent of your past actions are a mystery to me and I feel they ought to stay that way. We should all have our secrets."

"Albus I stole from you," Draco quickly interjected passionately. "I'm not a changed man! At the slightest upset I gave in."

"Draco I have known all year who was taking these objects. I trusted you to return them and now you have." Draco closed his eyes.

"Albus you can't trust me, you don't know what I've done."

"Oh yes I can Draco, I would trust you with my life."

"I betrayed you all!" Draco suddenly exclaimed passionately, his grey eyes finally lifting to the comforting gaze of the old headmaster. For a moment Dumbledore's face creased in sadness, before he nodded.

"I know," he finally sighed. "I have always known." Draco couldn't hide his shock.

"You knew all along? You knew what I was?" Again the headmaster nodded.

"I had faith that you would eventually come around. I had faith in you. I have never known the exact point at which you turned to our side, but turn you did. You made the right choice in the end Draco and you overcame your difficult start in life to bring an end to a war that was threatening millions. You shone through. I have always had faith in you."

Before the venerable old headmaster Draco slumped into a chair. All this time he had been carrying a dark and terrible secret, but it was one that had not been his alone to bear.

"I knew you must have been taking these things for a reason," Albus continued, indicating the sack. "I suspected you were being blackmailed, which is why I allowed you to take them. I had faith they would be returned. Draco your life is coming full circle. You must accept that you have atone for your sins." At this the younger man looked up and very slowly shook his head.

"Albus I can never atone for the atrocities I have done," he whispered. Dumbledore sighed and shook his head.

"You must accept a new chance, a new life filled with light. You are to become a father again Draco and your new child will be born under light and purity. It will be free of your past misdoings and you will not have to worry. I fear for Leshia though, she was born under the shadow on your heart and this is a shadow she will never be free of. She will never be as pure as her sibling. You must guide her on this path and therein you will find the atonement you seek. Though you may not realise it now, you will die a free man Draco. You will not forever labour under the weight of your past."

XXX

Just how things got back to normal as quickly as they did was mind boggling to the pupils at Hogwarts, not least those who had had a hand in the showdown at the Whomping Willow. Leshia, Katie and Rachel were the only ones who did not have to work out their detentions for the rest of term and wiled away the last week of school in the sunlight. The blonde girl would not tell the others what had happened and buried the new information she'd been told under a heavy wall of denial. Her relationship with Draco had only strengthened and the family was as close as ever.

After Draco had fled the Hospital Wing Leshia had suffered only a few moments as moments later her mother had wobbled in and comforted the distraught girl. Hermione was a pillar of strength and Leshia had clung to her mother like a little girl and not let go till she was forced to get some sleep later than evening. Even then she had insisted she be allowed to stay at her room in the family quarters. Since then she had relaxed into her former self. Her rebound had been so complete that Damian Allseyer avoided her in the corridors for fear of what she was going to do him. Leshia didn't in fact know how she was going to enact her revenge on the boy, but it was fun pretending.

Julius Black, acting as though nothing had happened, slunk back into the shadows, not even glancing at the Gryffindor he had rescued. Leshia and her friends had gone over the events of that fateful day many times into the wee hours of the morning and none could decide what to make of the boy. For now, they would leave him to his seclusion. He wasn't going anywhere and everyone was too exhausted for yet more drama.

The results of the exams brought about a premature celebration in Gryffindor tower on the last Thursday of term. Leshia had done the near impossible once more and achieved a full sheet of Os. Hermione could not have been prouder of the girl and she made this very clear. Something Leshia was stupidly proud of.

XXX

Leshia woke up in the early hours of Friday morning to an incessant poking. She groaned and rolled over to see who was bothering her and recoiled at the sight of the green houself that went by the name of Tally. A long-serving elf of the Malfoys Leshia hated the cretin and was worried as to why it had come to wake her up long before the train was due to shepherd everyone back to London.

"What do you want?" Leshia groaned moodily at the creature.

"Miss Malfoy must come to the hospital wing at once!" Tally insisted. Leshia sat up straight knowing instantly what had happened.

"Oh God," she uttered. She scrambled from her bed and pulled on a massive quidditch jumper and her school shoes, before she rushed from the dormitory. She couldn't think straight as she traipsed down the stairs in Gryffindor tower and ambled out into the corridor beyond. Though her mind was going a million miles a minute, she couldn't get her body to go any faster and it took her a long time to reach the hospital wing doors. Reaching out to touch the wood of the grand doors Leshia found she couldn't do it. She couldn't go in.

She was paralysed by dread and worry.

"I can't do this," she managed and dropped her head against the door in defeat. "I don't want this."

Quite suddenly the choice was wrenched from her hands as the door suddenly gave way. Someone had opened it from the other side causing Leshia to fall forward into Professor McGonagall.

"There you are," the ageing teacher chuckled and she quickly ushered Leshia inside before hurrying out again. A curtain drawn on the other side of the hospital wing concealed Leshia' worst fears. Life wasn't going to be the same again. She would never again command the sole love and attention of her parents. She was going to have to share…"Oh Draco isn't she beautiful," Leshia heard her mother coo from across the hospital wing. A stab of pain shot up Leshia's back and made her stumble.

"She," the girl repeated silently. A sister. Leshia started backing away from the dreadful scene unfolding before her and wished that it could all be a nightmare. She didn't want a sister. She didn't want to have to share her family with an interloper, with an intruder, with a stranger!

Almost at the doors and with escape in mind Leshia suddenly backed into a solid figure that smelled slightly of peppermint. She wheeled around to find none other than Albus Dumbledore staring at her with a twinkling smile. Without a word to her he nodded his head towards the curtain indicating Leshia go forward and make herself known. With no escape in sight Leshia gulped and shook her head. She didn't want to go over there. Dumbledore though didn't move and remained implacable by the door.

Feeling a burning sensation in her eyes Leshia glared at the headmaster and turned around once more striding purposefully towards the curtain shielding her from her worst nightmare. Once she'd reached its side she hung her head and fought back the tears.

"She looks exactly like you," the girl could hear her father uttering softly, amazement in his voice. Next Hermione snorted.

"No, she's the spitting image of Leshia, only darker."

"They do look alike. Where is Leshia? I sent that elf to get her twenty minutes ago!" Gulping away the last of her anguish Leshia steadied herself and shuffled out from behind the curtain. She nearly looked away. There it was…there was her sister. Hermione lay bedridden with her husband sat up on the bed at her side. In her mother's arms lay a bundle of baby, wispy dark curls peeping out from under a little woollen hat and large brown eyes that stared unmoving at Hermione's face. In that instant a shadow engulfed Leshia's heart.

Her parents didn't notice their oldest daughter at first. They were too concerned with watching the newest addition. Their indifference to her broke Leshia's heart further and she nearly turned away, but then she was noticed.

"Leshia!" Draco exclaimed in surprise. The girl's eyes didn't leave the baby.

"Darling look, you have a sister!" Hermione now exclaimed joyously to her firstborn, whose expression didn't change. Draco now climbed off the bed and walked over to Leshia who recoiled a little when he reached out to guide her towards her mother.

"Sweetheart I know it's a shock, but come and see her, you'll feel better," Draco tried to assure the girl and he firmly took hold of her shoulders and almost frogmarched her to the bed. The new father made Leshia sit down on the bed and then sat down beside her so the girl was sandwiched in her new family. She felt trapped at this close proximity to the baby and as she looked at it tears welled up in her eyes.

"We were just saying how she's identical to you when you were a baby. She looks just like you," Hermione sighed contentedly. Leshia still remained silent. "Do you want to hold her?" Draco quickly caught Hermione's eye and subtly shook his head; from his vintage point he could see Leshia's face whereas Hermione couldn't. He could see the tears forming in the girl's eyes and the sight of them had dampened his high spirits within moments. Hermione though was insistent.

"Here darling lean back." Powerless to fight her mother Leshia did as she was told and was suddenly being lumbered with the baby girl, who now turned her large dark eyes onto her sister. Leshia stared it in the eye. For a minute at least the sisters sized each other up, one with the innocence of a newborn, the other with the heartbreak of a child misplaced. A tear rolled from Leshia's wide eyes and instantly the baby started to fuss. Now Leshia trembled and she leaned away from the squirming baby in her arms. Hermione quickly took the baby back and tried to console her, but now she had got started the littlest Malfoy was upset.

"Babies cry," Hermione was now telling Leshia comfortingly. The mother was tired and far too delirious with her new child to see that Leshia was entirely out of sorts. Usually so perceptive and attentive her blindness to Leshia's needs was even more noticeable now. Draco though, very aware of his older daughter's turmoil knew not how to console her. He wrapped his arms round her shoulders while another tear fell from her eyes followed by another and then another. Before too long the girl was freely crying and all Draco's best efforts to make it all better had no effect on the girl. Even Hermione noticed when the baby had settled down and with a look contorted in worry she caught her husband's gaze silently pleading with him to make it all work. He shook his head gravely while Leshia's shoulders trembled and she hid her face in the crook of his arm. Nothing was going to make this better in a hurry.

XXX

Later that morning when the news had broken that Professor Granger had had her baby girl and would be leaving a steady throng of well wishers stopped by the hospital wing on their way down to the last breakfast of the year to wish the mother well. Hermione would be transporting home later after a longer stay in the hospital wing while Draco escorted Leshia home on the train.

Their daughter's sudden silence was slightly traumatic to the parents on what ought to have been such a joyous day and try as they might they couldn't get a word out of the girl. Draco was going to find it tremendously hard to be torn away from his wife and new daughter for the duration of the day, so he stopped by the hospital wing right before he was due to set off for the train. Sat beside his beautiful wife with the baby in his arms Draco felt an intense feeling of peace flood his senses.

"She really is beautiful," he sighed, taking in the baby's delicate features.

"What are we going to call her?" Hermione asked fondly. They had been arguing over names for months and hadn't been able to decide. Alecia had been such an easy choice for them and they had both instantly loved it, but this time round they just couldn't decide. Perhaps their being older and wizened had made them more set in their ways. Draco sighed and smiled at his wife.

"You decide," he told her fondly. "You made her after all." Hermione laughed gently.

"Well we both made her, I might have built her but…"

"Stop stalling," Draco chided adoringly, looking back to his daughter's fluttering eyelids. Hermione glanced at the baby with a serene smile and quite suddenly the name came to her.

"Evie." For a moment Draco looked at the baby and let the name roll around in his mind. Somehow it just seemed right.

"Evie it is then." Hermione laughed.

"What you're going to agree. Outright?"

"Evie Malfoy, it's perfect." The proud parents exchanged a beaming smile while in Draco's arms little Evie squirmed a little in her sleep. In the distance a bell was ringing, drawing everyone to the courtyard to board the Threstral driven carriages to the station. Leshia would be waiting.

"I've got to go," Draco sighed and he leaned over and lovingly kissed his wife. "I love you more than ever, you know that?"

"And I love you," she replied with a smile. She took Evie from her husband's arms and allowed him to kiss their baby's head before he climbed to his feet. "Draco, look after Leshia for me." A heavy sigh escaped the father who nodded.

"Just give her time," he said softly. "And don't worry. She'll be fine." Hermione nodded bravely, hugging Evie close to her chest. With this Draco forced himself to leave the hospital wing and jog down to the courtyard. Leshia was nowhere in sight. He only caught sight of her when he wandered past the carriages and saw her slumped in a chair with her friends fallen about her talking in a subdued way. They had an uphill struggled on their hands, all of them, he thought gravely.

The train journey home was a subdued one as Leshia spoke only a handful of words. Her friends' best efforts to cheer her up went in vein and soon they were pulling into King's Cross Station to a wall over waving parents. Katie and Rachel escorted Leshia with all their stuff onto the platform where they met up wither their parents, who had already singled out Draco and were congratulating him on the news.

"We'll see you later on in the week okay Leesh?" Katie told the blonde girl firmly and she pulled her near-catatonic friend into a firm embrace. Leshia hugged her back and nodded into her shoulder.

"Thanks Katie," she whispered earnestly before Katie let her go only to have Rachel hug her firmly.

"If ever you need us you know we'll be there in a flash."

"Or you can come stay whenever you want."

"Yeah whenever you want," Rachel reiterated firmly. Leshia smiled at the girls, the first smile she'd cracked all day.

"I'm going to miss you so much," she said softly. All three girls shed tears when they bid each other farewell. Leshia remained mute almost the entire walk home and Draco didn't push her. He knew she would cope with Evie in her own way, though this didn't make it any easier for him to watch. Once they'd reached their pleasant street Leshia suddenly grew sluggish.

"I know you're going to take a while to get used to your sister Leesh," Draco began gently. "And that's fine, but can we speed it up a little maybe? I really need to go to the toilet." At last a small smile snaked its way on to Leshia's face.

"Well go on then I'm not stopping you," she chuckled. Draco grinned at his daughter and slung his arm around her shoulders.

"I'd never leave you behind." Leshia sighed and rested her head back on his arm. So much had happened in such a short space of time she just didn't know what to think. The summer was looming impossible long ahead of her and with the birth of her sister everything was going to change. Leshia didn't like change, she never had.

"It's going to be all right, you know that right Leshia?" Draco next explained in what he hoped was an understanding tone of voice. His daughter looked him in the eye and neither nodded nor shook her head. Whether it was going to be all right or not in the long run was still undecided, but what was certain, was that it was going to be a pretty bumpy ride in the mean time. Who knew what the new school year would bring?


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