With a trembling hand Draco carefully rolled the parchment up and slipped it into the back pocket of his trousers. Feeling suddenly trapped he lurched to his feet causing his heavy chair to scrape across the slate tiles of the great hall. As one his fellow teachers turned to look at him in surprise, but the dining pupils, Leshia included, were too wrapped up in their own conversations to notice the sudden actions of the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor.
"Draco, whatever is the matter?" Professor McGonagall asked worriedly. The young man couldn't offer her an explanation and instead he fled through the back door into the thankfully empty staff corridor beyond. Who on earth could know about his past? Yes, his father of course, but Lucius was in hiding and could not have simply waltzed back into his old circle of acquaintances and start spreading the malicious truth of Draco's past life. Besides, the Ministry had been monitoring the dark characters who used to deal with Lucius Malfoy and none had shown any inkling that they knew of Lucius' reappearance – none of them seemed to be walking with a swagger in their step for starters.
Ignoring the fact that his first lesson of the day was due to start in fifteen minutes, Draco flew down the corridors until he reached the portrait that concealed the entrance to the chambers he had recently left his wife in in a poorly state. Hermione had since regained her composure and was trying to keep down a piece of toast so that she could make her way to her first lesson of the day.
"Draco," the young woman exclaimed in surprise when her husband came flying through the portrait hole. "What's wrong? You're as white as a sheet!"
"I have to go to London," Draco explained seriously. "Just for a few hours." With this he headed for the fireplace on the other side of the living chamber. Hermione looked affronted to say the least.
"You're doing what? Why?"
"I can't explain, just trust me that I have a very good reason."
"Draco!" Hermione complained desperately and she crossed the room within moments as her husband was reaching for a handful of floo powder. "You're not making any sense. What's happened? Is it Leshia, has something happened?" For a moment Draco stared at his wife blankly.
"What? No, it's nothing to do with either of you, just please, tell them I've had to leave unexpectedly." With this the young man shrugged his arm free from his wife's grip and stepped into the grate.
"Draco!" Hermione warned sounding upset, but her husband didn't heed her.
"Diagon Alley!" And with this he was gone, leaving Hermione staring into the hearth, as the green flames ebbed away leaving nothing but a huge gaping void of confusion.
The girls enjoyed a productive day in which they gained their house a dozen housepoints between them, however after break throughout their transfiguration lesson the three youngsters started dreading what they had next: Divination. Their second lesson with the bizarre Centaur had yielded similar results to the first: wishy-washy nonsense the girls had found very difficult to get their heads round. Their experiences with Professor Trelawney had not improved their opinions on the subject and as they entered this third week of the term they were severely regretting their choice of subject.
As they rounded the corridor on the bottom floor leading to the forest classroom Firenze taught them in ("If you can call it teaching," Katie would always mutter when someone dared to suggest that Divination involved actual teaching) a pack of unruly and despicable Slytherins came into view. Damian Allseyer was standing at the front of the group glaring Leshia down as though he felt his glare carried enough ferocity to kill her on sight.
"You!" the boy growled when Leshia and her friends walked within hearing range. Evidently he was still furious at being punched by a girl. "You mark my words Malfoy, you are going to suffer for what you did!" A plethora of comebacks sprung into Leshia's mind, but as she sifted through the witty remarks and insults, her mother's voice rang in her ears, begging her not to get sucked into another vendetta this year. The girl simply couldn't hurt her mother so, not again.
"I'm sorry." As though she had just suddenly grown three heads, the children in the entire class turned and stared at Leshia, their jaws hanging wide. None looked more shocked than Rachel and Katie, who for one moment wondered whether their leader had been replaced by a Doppelganger.
Damian Allseyer's mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a few moments while he tried to get his head around this turnabout in his nemesis' behaviour. Leshia Malfoy didn't just apologise, there had to be another reason for her cowardice and submissive act. The boy wasn't given a chance to retort as at this moment the door swung open and the children started to file in. Leshia and her friends walked in last, with the cousins still staring at the blonde girl in utter confusion.
"I'll explain later," Leshia finally told them before they dropped down on the moss around their 'teacher' to begin the lesson. Firenze was wonderfully vague as usual and by the end of the hour 'lesson' Katie was spitting with frustration at having followed her friends' lead and picked such a subject. Rachel desperately wanted to tease her about it, but there were more pressing issues at hand, such as Leshia suddenly being possessed.
"So Leesh, care to explain what just happened there?" Rachel demanded the moment the girls stepped foot outside the classroom on their way to the great hall for their lunch. Leshia rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders in an action that hopefully conveyed to her friends to drop their inquiry, as it really wasn't that big a deal. So she apologised to Allseyer, so what?
The girl stopped still in the corridor and her face froze; the true realisation of what she had just done suddenly dawned on her and for a moment she felt sick to her stomach.
"What have I done?" she groaned as she brought her hands up to her face in horror. "I just apologised to Allseyer!" Rachel and Katie exchanged an obvious glance as if to say 'Um…yeah!'
"Why did you?"
"I don't know, it was all that stuff about him saying he was going to get me back. See my mum talked to me over the weekend, she was really worried that I was going to get myself into a fight to the death again." Katie and Rachel didn't think was a good enough reason to explain Leshia's momentary insanity and continued to give her a hard time about in throughout lunch, at which point Rodeo and Parys so tactfully joined in. By the time they reached the Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor to await the arrival of Draco and the start of their lesson, every single Gryffindor was watching her with immense disappointment, while their Slytherin counterparts grinned slyly at the girl. So, Alecia Malfoy had lost her nerve had she? Well this was going to get interesting.
Leshia met each of their nosy gazes with defiance, just daring them to mention what had happened earlier, but before she could make a start of repairing her reputation, the strong loping strides of their teacher could be heard coming down the corridor. After glaring firmly at Damien Allseyer, who had merely smirked cockily at the girl from his position Leshia spun around ready for lessons, straightening her shirt and tie. Where she had expected to find the dichotic expression on her father's face as he approached his class however, she found the sneering grimace of Professor Snape. With a hugely furrowed brow Leshia followed her friends inside once Snape had shoved the door open, waltzing in ahead of the third years. Before Leshia had even touched her seat she raised her hand into the air. Snape was outright ignoring her as he wiped the blackboard clean. Leshia remained standing, her hand straight in the air as those around her took their seats.
"Yes Miss Malfoy? If you must insist on wasting everyone's time!" Snape said sharply as he finally turned around.
"Where's Professor Malfoy?" the girl asked simply.
"That, is none of your business," Snape merely replied firmly. "Now sit down you silly girl." Leshia lowered her head a little, feeling furious with the Potions Master. The fact that her father was absent was very much her business, the girl felt, much more so than it was Snape's.
"Actually, it is my business, he's my dad," the girl countered impertinently. Snape's upper lip curled in frustration, and after inhaling sharply a few times, he spun around again facing the blackboard with the chalk in his hand, ready to start the lesson.
"Five housepoints from Gryffindor. Now sit down or you will be spending the lesson down in the dungeons with all manner of horrible tasks that I shall make for you." Leshia bit her lip furiously, but then realised that this was not the best way to find out what had happened to her father. So reluctantly, the girl retook her seat and crossed her arms across her chest. Her defiance had won back the admiration of her housemates, who now watched her with suppressed grins on their faces; this was the ringleader they knew and loved.
For fifteen minutes Leshia gazed out the window, flat-out refusing to learn anything from Snape in her father's absence; all the while, her keen mind addressing every possibility as to the whereabouts of her father. Surely she would have noticed him getting ill, and besides, she couldn't even remember a time he had been ill in the past, so why would he start now? Her belligerence was not going unnoticed however, and with every question she blanked, Snape grew ever more furious. Just as he was about to call the indifferent young girl on her attitude however, the door to the classroom swung open and a pale-faced Draco strode in. A face set in a grim stony expression revealed that whatever Draco had been doing, it had not gone his way, and instantly Leshia felt worried. Was it about her grandfather?
"Thank you Severus, I'll take it from here," he told his friend coldly. The Potions master looked from the young man to his daughter with his hand still mid-raised, desperate to articulate the punishment he had about to subject her with.
"Very well," the snide old man finally sneered with an edge of petulance to his own voice, before he stalked from the room without another word. Draco sighed heavily, not wanting to know what had caused his old friend to behave so; though he did suspect that his daughter probably had a lot to do with it, which of course only increase his urge not to find out.
"I apologise for my delay," he told the class with a heavy sigh. "I assume that Professor Snape filled in adequately for me and that by now you have reached page three hundred and thirty one?" Several of the children nodded while a bony hand flew into the air from somewhere towards the back of the class. Draco made a very quiet exasperated noise, but lifted his eyes to his daughter's curious expression.
"Yes, what is it?"
"Are you ill professor?" the girl asked simply. Draco stared at her hardly, trying to will her not to continue her barrage of questions.
"No, and you will stop right there Miss Malfoy, we are not discussing this now," Draco said gruffly, articulating every word with a snap of frustration. Leshia was not deterred however.
"So you've been away?" Shaking slightly from anger and frustration Draco pointed to the door. He would not have Leshia flat-out disobeying him and paying no heed to his authority in his own classroom. She had to go.
"Out," he merely said firmly. Several Slytherins sniggered from across the classroom while Leshia's friends spun around to see how the girl was going to react to this injustice.
"What?" the blonde girl demanded, complete and utter disbelief clear in her face.
"You heard me, out!"
"Do not make me throw you out, move it." For a moment silence permeated the stuffy classroom, until eventually the loud snap of Leshia slamming her book down and the scraping of her chair across the stone floor broke it with a racket. Without another word she gathered up her things and strode out of the classroom, slamming the door behind herself. Draco fumed for a few moments, panting with anger as he watched the door and strongly considered going after his daughter, but the class of shocked children were waiting for their lesson. No, he would deal with her later.
Her face completely scrunched up in fury, Leshia stormed up the corridor and ascended the stairs, heading for her mother's classroom. How dare her father throw her out for such a minor indiscretion? How dare he! Within moments she had reached her mother's door, and without caring that inside the young woman was most likely teaching a class full of pupils, she pushed the door open forcefully, making everyone inside jump with surprise.
"Leshia…" Hermione exclaimed.
"I need to talk to you," the youngster merely stated, before she pulled back out into the corridor. Hermione glanced briefly to her fourth year class and smiled awkwardly.
"I'm sorry, this will only take a minute." And with this she rushed from behind her desk to the corridor, leaving her pupils glancing at one another in confusion. Amongst them Owen Gabriel looked at his friend Dan with a brow dipped in concern.
"Wonder what's happened now," he said softly. Out in the corridor Hermione was wondering the same thing as Leshia paced the floor; still so furious it was controlling her actions.
"Darling what's happened? You can't just burst into my lessons and disrupt them."
"It's dad!" Leshia grumbled.
"What's the matter? Is he alright?"
"He just threw me out of his class for no reason! All I did was ask him where the heck he's been, seeing as Snape was taking our class for fifteen minutes. What's so bad about that? I mean did he have to throw me out? It was so embarrassing!" the girl ranted, feeling her skin crawling with anger. For a moment the relief of hearing her husband was in fact alive and well swept over the young teacher, before she truly digested what her daughter had told her.
"He did what?"
"Well what did you say?" Leshia stared at her mother with wild eyes.
"Do not tell me you're taking his side!"
"No of course not," Hermione consoled. "He was out of line, and when lessons are over I'll tell him." This didn't seem to be the reaction Leshia had been hoping for, but it was all she was going to get, so she sighed heavily and nodded.
"Try and calm down darling, I'm sure he's got a perfectly reasonable explanation…"
"Oh you always take his side! I'm so fed-up of the both of you!" the youngster suddenly exploded, before she turned on heel and stormed off again leaving her mother watching her retreating back with a very worried frown; Leshia was definitely her father's daughter!
Before Leshia had even realised where she was going, her feet had taken her to the library. With all manner of things to research and nowhere else to go she resigned herself to the fact that she was going to have to spend some time in the God-awful place. She hated the library, mainly because of the librarian who stalked the aisles hushing everyone with a very aggressive 'shhusssh'.
Time was ticking by dreadfully slowly, and within ten minutes the girl had given up on her search for spells she had been trying to research for the Blue Lions. Instead, she turned her sights on a book entitled The Great Magical Schools of the World. The youngster had realised the other night when Dumbledore had made the ISQT announcement that she knew very little about her international peers. How many other Magical schools were there?
As Leshia flicked the front cover open her eyes were met with a large map that detailed the position of the top one hundred magical schools of the world. The girl was very surprised to see that in the south of England there was a second British Magical School called Hitchings, which she learned – after flicking to page two-hundred as instructed - was an all girls school and wasn't considered to be terribly good. Indeed, the pictures of the bland-faced miserable looking girls painted a perfect picture of what life at Hitchings was like. There was no need for the five pages of minute scrawl to tell Leshia she was deliriously happy that she had not been sent there. After a brief shudder she started to flick through the pages of the book, wondering which schools were going to compete in the tournament alongside Hogwarts.
"Probably the top eight," Leshia pondered aloud, as she flicked to the front of the book again and glanced at the list of schools. She felt a pang of both pride and petulance as she noticed that Hogwarts was joint first alongside two other schools Salem High in the United States and Schola Atrumlucis in Greece. Several other big names filled the top eight spots and Leshia started to get excited about the prospect of meeting people from all the different countries. After flicking through the pages on the Greek witchcraft and wizardry school, Leshia turned her sights on the American magical school. Instantly her eyes widened in amazement as the bright moving pictures of a bustling corridor came into view. Strange metallic long objects lined the walls of the corridor, which the jeans and T-shirt clad (obviously no uniform here) youngster kept opening and closing, depositing or collecting various belongings and books. The sights of this strange exotic school enthralled Leshia and she stared in wonder at the broad and bright corridors and the airy classrooms, evidently within a modern building.
Turning another page Leshia found a picture of a huge glass atrium, which acted as the entrance to the school, beyond which a car park and a busy road were clearly visible. Did this school not have to be hidden? How did they avoid countless muggles wandering in? Fascinated by the newness of the building, and the good-looking youngsters that wandered about in their cliques, Leshia wondered what it would be like to have gone to school there. Page after page she turned, feeling more and more jealous of her American counterparts. Their school seemed delightful. On the last page of the Salem high section, she found a double spread dedicated to their sporting success. Quidditch, of course, was the focus of the piece and as she read down the page Leshia felt a sick knot building in her throat. These Salem High youngsters were legendary at the sport. How on earth would they beat them?
Indeed, the pictures displayed countless fantastic display of sporting excellence, one after the next. And with every great goal, save and catch of the snitch Leshia felt weaker and weaker, until eventually she slammed the book shut and shook her head worriedly.
"Don't panic," she admonished herself. "They might not even be there!"
An hour or so later Leshia suddenly found herself not to be alone anymore when with a pop she was joined by the unsightly green elf that was her father's servant. Tally the Houself had served the Malfoys for many a generation, and Leshia couldn't stand the sight of the horrid little creature, as more often than not Tally had exposed her mischief making to her father, who was inevitably never impressed.
"What do you want now?" Leshia asked drolly, before the highly-strung little elf had been given the chance to open her mouth.
"Master has given Miss Leshia strict instructions to be in his officer when lessons end."
"Oh has he now?" Leshia sneered grumpily.
"And Miss Leshia will be there," Tally added with a hint of the wrath in her voice that Leshia would incur should she disobey Draco.
"Yeah, I'll be there," Leshia said with narrowed eyes as she worked out what she was going to say when she saw her father at half past three. Without so much as a goodbye, Tally had disappeared again in a haze of grey smoke: her only way of inflicting pain upon Leshia, as the smoke inevitably smelt revolting. "Oh God," Leshia exclaimed and she jumped to her feet grabbing her satchel as she went. "Damn houself!" With this she made her way back down to the Defence Against the Dark Arts corridor where her father's lesson was coming to a close. Per instruction from the rotten little elf, Leshia pushed her father's study door open and took a seat behind his desk, glancing about the papers to see whether she could find anything that could account for his unexplained absence.
Nothing seemed to shed any light on the situation and finally the bell at half past three went, followed promptly by a scraping of chairs from next door in the classroom. The sounds of her delighted classmates filled the corridor, as they gleefully made their way back to their respective common rooms, free for yet another evening. Leshia crossed her arms over her chest and eyed the door separating her father's office from his classroom with narrowed eyes, determined to defy him whatever he was about to say. Eventually the handle turned and the door swung forth to reveal her father's unreadable expression. He carried in a pile of scrolls and dropped them on the settee before he finally looked upon the girl. They locked eyes for a few moments, until eventually Draco sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry." Leshia's expression immediately jumped from furious to shocked in the blink of an eye, and very slowly she started to inch away from her father on the wheeled chair. Draco laughed genially. "No I am actually sorry." What sort of new approach was this, the girl wondered. Was he lulling her into a false sense of security before finally letting rip? She continued to inch away from him as though he were a ticking time bomb about to go off. "I know I shouldn't have snapped the way I did, and I definitely shouldn't have thrown you out the classroom. I'm sorry okay?" Realising finally that Draco was deadly serious Leshia's face morphed back into defiance.
"No you shouldn't! That was so embarrassing!"
"I know, I'm sorry."
"Stop saying sorry, it's unnerving," the girl said grumpily, though her anger was ebbing away. Draco laughed as he met her eyes and she saw nothing but fondness there, where earlier she had almost been sure she had seen fear.
"Do I really apologise so infrequently?" Draco asked amusedly as he crossed his office and started to examine a pile of papers on his desk.
"Yes," Leshia said frankly. Draco chuckled to himself once more, but before he could reply the door to his office swung open once more.
"Draco Malfoy, you had better have a good excuse for running off to London without…" Hermione stood still in the doorway with wide eyes when she saw that her husband was not in fact alone in his office. Draco shut his eyes tightly as Leshia turned very slowly from her mother to her father.
"Why were you in London?" came the inevitable question.
"Leshia…" Draco began.
"Why were you in London?"
"Why were you in London?"
"Stop it…" Once more the girl repeated her question, and she continued to repeat it over and over and over with every utterance her father made, following him about the office until finally he made a loud exasperated groan and lifted the girl clean off her feet and deposited her out in the corridor. Before she could spin around and voice her question once more the door was shut in her face and locked making re-entry impossible. Instead of being furious over being physically expulsed from the conversation she truly felt she ought to have been a part of, Leshia burned with curiosity. What had her father been doing in London that was so urgent it could not wait for the weekend and had left him so visibly shaken up? Despite herself, Leshia shuddered with worry as she made her way back to her common room.
Entirely caught up in her own worrying thoughts, Leshia didn't realise that she had taken a wrong turn and now found herself in a windy little corridor of disused classrooms and furniture that had long outgrown their usefulness.
"Damn," she grumbled as she turned on heel in order to return the way she had come. Before she had even taken two steps however, the hair on the back of her neck stood up right on end as a shudder of involuntary terror snaked its way across Leshia's skin. The haunting smell of death danced around her nose seductively as the corridor ahead of the girl stretched out into the distance. Rooted to the spot with utmost terror, Leshia was sure she had stopped breathing.
"Move," a hoarse rasp escaped from deep within her, and as though suddenly broken from a spell she lurched into action, sprinting down the corridor as fast as her short legs could take her. The bustle of the corridor leading to Gryffindor tower loomed ahead and for a moment Leshia laughed triumphantly as she realised she was going to make it.
Pain seared through the girl's head as she opened her bleary eyes to see a colossal cabinet had landed on her chest. How she had winded up on the floor as anybody's guess.
"Help!" the girl cried out, before her mind had kicked into action. She was still running on the adrenalin that had been pumping through her system moments before. "Somebody! Help!" But as she regained her senses, Leshia realised that whatever had had her running scared just moments ago was now gone, and though her hair was still stood on end all over her body, there was no need to fear the darkness any more.
"Leshia, is that you?"
"Owen!" Leshia cried out when she heard the voice of her friend. "Owen I can't move!" The sound of several running footsteps echoed down the corridor until eventually Owen and two of his friends had slid into view on their knees, all of them reaching out to shift the heavy cabinet off the trapped girl.
"What happened?" Owen demanded as he and the boys heaved against the heavy furniture.
"I don't know," Leshia exclaimed with a pained wince. "Hurry! I can't breath!" Spurred on by the pain in the young girl's voice the young men finally managed to push the cabinet aside, freeing Leshia to sit up as though she had been fired up by a spring, clutching at her chest in agony.
"Are you okay?" Owen asked worriedly as he gripped her shoulders in concern. Leshia nodded slowly, feeling mortified that for the second time, Owen Gabriel had had to come to her rescue. "Do you want us to take you to the hospital wing?"
"No," Leshia suddenly complained, before she smiled at the young man. "Really I'm fine. My mum will have kittens if she finds out what happened."
"Well what did happen?" one of Owen's friends asked with a frown.
"Was it to do with earlier?" Owen interrupted. Leshia wrinkled her brow at him. What was he talking about? "You burst into our lesson earlier, you seemed really upset about something. Is there someone after you?" Leshia's eyes went wide.
"No," she said firmly, quite in disbelief that that had been Owen's lesson she had burst in on and had not noticed the young man sitting in the classroom. The young man seemed unconvinced. "That was about something else. No, it was Peeves, he pushed the cabinet onto me." The lie came out so naturally that Owen and his friends instantly believed her.
"Oh that is it," Owen grumbled furiously. "Come on, we're going to McGonagall's about this, there is no way that little prat is going to go around throwing cabinets at girls. It's not on!" With this the tall young man climbed to his feet and hoisted Leshia onto hers with the ease of someone blessed with his strength. The girl was practically frog-marched down the corridors by her friend – his friends in turn, making their way back to the common room – until they reached McGonagall's office, and before she could wheedle her way out of it, Owen knocked firmly on the door.
"I really don't think…" she began worriedly.
"Leesh it's not on," the boy interrupted with concern in his hazel eyes. "Peeves hurt you! I'm not going to let him get away with it!" Silenced by his loyalty, Leshia stared up at him in amazement before the door to McGonagall's office swung open.
"Yes?" the scratchy voice of their head of house wafted out to greet them. "Ah, Mr Gabriel, Miss Malfoy, what can I do for you?" Owen led Leshia inside the office and pushed Leshia into one of the seats opposite McGonagall quite unceremoniously before he took the one beside her.
"Peeves dropped a cabinet on Leshia just now," the boy said frankly, hidden anger burning beneath the surface. Professor McGonagall looked surprised to say the least.
"We were just walking back from our lesson, Dan, Paul and me, and we hear Leshia calling for help. She was being flattened by this huge cabinet that Peeves had pushed on top of her. It's not on Professor, she could have been seriously hurt."
"Are you hurt Miss Malfoy?" McGonagall asked quickly, with a worried glance to Leshia. The girl shrugged her small shoulders under the severe gaze of her friend.
"A little," she replied meekly. "It was frightening, I couldn't really breath." As though this was the conviction he needed to have Peeves thrown out of Hogwarts Owen turned back to McGonagall.
"Well how do you know it was Peeves Leshia?" McGonagall was continuing, she could see there was something that Leshia was hiding.
"I saw him," the girl lied easily, feeling rotten for blaming the ghost. "I don't know if he was aiming the cabinet at me, but I did see him down the corridor messing around with it."
"Professor something has to be done," Owen was continuing firmly, back on his soapbox once more. "If a pupil had pushed a cabinet on another then they would be expelled wouldn't they? How come Peeves can get away with blue murder?"
"That is quite enough Mr Gabriel," McGonagall soothed, not sounding angry in the slightest. "I understand your concern for your friend, but we must assume this has been a very unfortunate accident until I can discuss the matter with Peeves and the headmaster."
"I simply cannot accept that Peeves did this on purpose Mr Gabriel without further proof, as Miss Malfoy herself has confessed, she does not know he was targeting her, it may have been an accident." The room fell into silence as Leshia stared at Owen in nothing short of wonder. Why was he being like this? Anyone would think Peeves had thrown a cabinet at him. She hadn't asked him to fight her corner, and yet here he was, almost shaking with anger that there wasn't going to be any justice for Leshia.
'Maybe he really hates Peeves,' the girl pondered privately.
"Fine," Owen finally sighed and he seemed to calm down, before he climbed to his feet. Leshia quickly copied him and jumped up at his side.
"You're sure you're alright Miss Malfoy?" Professor McGonagall checked. "I really think you ought to go to the hospital wing. Better safe than sorry."
"I'll be fine," Leshia assured the head of the house. "Really." With this the two youngsters departed and McGonagall watched them leave with a twinkling smile on her face. On their way back to the common room Owen seemed calm down a little, and instead of ranting and raving about the poltergeist as Leshia had expected him too, he merely talked about the upcoming ISQT tryouts. He seemed certain that Leshia would make it onto the team even though she was less sure of herself, and then she informed him of what she had read on the rival school that most likely was going to make the top eight schools chosen for the tournament. The prodigal keeper seemed less concerned than his blonde friend, and by the time they'd reached the common room his confidence had stilled Leshia's fear about the tournament. Of course Hogwarts stood a chance at winning the cup, they were after all in one of the best nations for Quidditch that the world had ever seen, so surely that had to matter somewhat?
"Thanks Owen," the girl finally said as they climbed inside the portrait hole side by side. The tall youngster looked at the girl with a lopsided grin, before he reached out and ruffled her hair much like Ryan Lofting used to.
"No worries," he said cheerfully. "Got to look after our own haven't we?" With this he sloped off to find his friends while Leshia ambled over to the usual window box she and her friends commandeered to find said friends staring at her with mischievous grins.
"What?" Leshia demanded when she had squeezed into the window seat with the girls.
"Owen likes you," Katie said triumphantly. Leshia rolled her eyes though and shoved the raven-haired girl.
"Yeah, as a friend! He just rescued me from beneath a cabinet." The two cousins wrinkled their brows and remained silent while Leshia explained all about the sinister feeling she encountered and then her untimely collision with the falling cabinet, to her deceitful excuse to McGonagall. By the time she was finished the girls had thoroughly forgotten about Owen's intentions and instead were worried that the mysterious presence that had been terrorising them had now turned hostile.
"But that's not all," Leshia said worriedly. "My dad, well he was in London today and whatever he was doing there must have been pretty secretive because he did not want me to know. I don't know why, but I kind of got the idea it was something to do with my grandfather or Voldemort." This news on top of the news that dark risings were already evident in their very school, had Rachel and Katie thoroughly panicked and now, more so than ever before, their urge to start up their very own club to protect each other from the dark rising of Voldemort and his following was reaching fever pitch.
"It's time to draw up a final draft of everyone we're going to invite into the club," Katie told the others firmly and after glancing at her friends she jumped down from the window. The other two quickly followed until they'd reached their dormitory where they dropped down on Katie's bed, a regular meeting point as it lay between Leshia and Rachel's. Katie had drawn out a fresh piece of parchment and a quill before the other two had even got themselves comfortable.
"So, who've we got?" Katie asked as she started expertly penning Rodeo's name at the top of the list.
"Ease up," Leshia laughed. "What makes you think we want that boy in our club?" Both Katie and Rachel stared at Leshia with identically frowns. "Okay then, I guess we do want him in our club," the blonde girl said with wide eyes. Katie quickly followed Rodeo's name with Parys' as well as the girls they shared their dormitory with, before she sat back and looked up at her friends.
"Well Luke, Tom, Sarah, and Amy obviously," Rachel remarked simply, naming her and Katie's older cousins within their house.
"Put Owen and his friends Paul and Dan," Leshia told Katie, and looked affronted when both cousins turn to star at her with conspiratorial grins. "Oh leave off, we need them, they're pretty strong and were really useful today." Katie grinned once more at Rachel, before she obliged and wrote down the boys' names.
"What about Michael?" Rachel wondered aloud.
"Yeah, well what about Emelia?" Katie retorted with a grin. The two girls considered having their younger siblings in the club.
"There's loads of you Weasleys in the younger years, why don't we start them off as initiates so that if they prove worthy then they can become full members like this lot?" Leshia suggested. Rachel and Katie seemed to like this idea and they scribbled down the names of all their younger siblings and cousins despite the houses they had been sorted into. Only Hermia, Rachel's younger sister who had been sorted into Slytherin the year before, was left off the list. Next on the 'maybe' list came the twins Jaime and Eliot Wood upon Leshia's request.
"I say we also add the Black twins," Katie mused aloud and while Rachel nodded to herself Leshia seemed aghast and she shook her head firmly.
"No way! There is absolutely no chance that any relation of that weasel is going to be in our club! I don't care how cute they are. It is not happening!" With this the girls seemed to think they had enough names to be getting on with and next they addressed the issue of how they were going to let everyone in the club know when meetings were going to be held and how they were going to keep the secret of the club within its members.
"I don't know," Leshia groaned and she dropped back onto Katie's cushions. "We have to think smart here girls. We need something more than what my mum thought up. We need to stop them from spilling their guts about this secret that isn't even theirs to keep!" With a squeak that startled the living daylights out of Leshia and Rachel, Katie suddenly leapt from the bed and sprinted out the door leaving the other two staring at each other with wide eyes.
"Okay then," Rachel finally said very slowly.
"Hey don't look at me," Leshia laughed genially. "She's your relative."
"Come on Leesh," the redhead yawned before she rolled off the bed and onto the floor. "I challenge you to a game of Wizarding chess, of which the loser must complete the other's Divination homework for next Monday."
An hour later, after Leshia had fought a fabulous campaign against Rachel and still lost meaning she had double the workload for their next Divination lesson, Katie reappeared looking so deliriously happy with herself that without having to be chided, Leshia and Rachel dashed back upstairs to their dormitory to hear what their raven-haired friend had to say for herself.
"Come on Katie, this had better be good," Leshia told the bespectacled girl as she dropped down on Katie's bed.
"Oh it's good," the dark girl boasted gleefully.
"Well spit it out!" Rachel complained.
"A while ago I came across this potion that when taken forbids you from spilling other people's secrets that they've told you. It only works on permanently fixed secrets such as the existence of a club, but it won't work on things like the locations of people, that's why secret keepers are made. It lasts about a month, but if we make people take it regularly then there's no danger." Leshia and Rachel grinned to one another at the self-appreciating grin on their friend's face.
"That's pathetic Katie," Leshia joked.
"Yeah, I mean we already knew about that spell ages ago," Rachel added while the grin dropped instantly from Katie's face.
"Oh you did?"
"No you idiot!" Leshia suddenly exploded happily. "That's amazing! You've found our solution you wonderful bookworm you!" Katie sighed with relief before she basked in the praise her friends started lavishing her with. Now they were so close to their goal, Rachel finally brought up the issue of Hermione's brilliant plan that they used for letting members of the DA know about when their meetings would be held.
"Seriously Leesh, we should just nick the idea, I mean it was brilliant," Rachel complained. "It would save us all this hassle."
"Okay fine!" Leshia suddenly exclaimed.
"What do you mean fine? Is that a yes?"
"Yes that's a yes."
"Oh Leesh!" Rachel exploded and she hugged the blonde girl. "Finally! We're where we want to finally move on. When can we tell them, when can we tell them?"
"Calm down Rach, we've got to make the potion first and I have to find out from my mum how to make those damn coins. She's not going to just hand over the information I need on a silver platter now is she?"
"So you just used a varius charm on your coin after you'd already done a connecto charm on the coins to make them linked?" Leshia asked with a furrowed brow once she had digested her mother's long story into an easy to remember sentence. The girl still couldn't quite believe how easy it had been to get the story out of her mother, who had spilled the dirt on how to carry out the deceivingly easy magic on how to make the trick work. Leshia had made sure that Draco was out of the room finishing some marking in his office that Sunday after dinner, before she posed her mother with the question of how she had so cleverly created the system. Blinded by the flattery and keen to show off her skills Hermione had quickly explained how it had all been done.
That night Leshia and her friends had pooled their galleons and gone to work on the simplistic spells straight away. By nightfall they had enough coded galleons for the full members of the club ready for distribution. Finding the ingredients for the celoalius potion was proving incredibly difficult as the girls only had a handful of them in their own personal stock drawers. The possibility of breaking into Snape's stock cupboard had crossed their minds, but the girls were far too timid to try it in the end; they were skating on thin ice as it were anyway and decided they didn't need to give the cantankerous teacher a good reason to throw them out of school.
For days the girls thought hard about how they could possibly get the ingredients they needed until finally on the following Friday the answer came to them.
"If only I were home," Katie groaned as she rubbed her temples. "My parents have all these ingredients in our stock room, I'm sure of it!" For a moment Leshia and Rachel stared at the dark girl as the idea popped into their heads at the very same moment.
"Katie," Leshia said very slowly and very sensibly. "Are you telling me that all this time you've had the ingredients we need just sitting in your house?" Katie wrinkled her brow and then nodded.
"Well yeah…" the girl trailed off when she realised where her friends were heading with this. "Oh no! No way! Absolutely not! We are not going to sneak through that cabinet into my house and take those ingredients. There is absolutely no way!"
"I can't believe that I'm doing this."
"Shhhh Katie, do you want to get caught?" Leshia whispered hoarsely from under the invisibility cloak.
"Yeah, it's too late to turn back now!" Rachel added from behind both girls, bringing up the rear of their little train under the cloak.
"No I do not want to get caught, that is why I don't want to do this!" Katie cried out pathetically, feeling so hard done by that it had taken her friends only two days to wear her down to the point that she had agreed to do this harebrained scheme merely to shut them up. It was Sunday night at ten to midnight, so the chances of her parents being in bed were second to none, but still, these odds did nothing to sooth Katie's fears about being caught. Oh what trouble they would be in if they were discovered not only having knowledge of the transporting cabinet, but having used it too. Katie was sure they'd be banished to three separate corners of the earth.
"Stop shoving me Rachel," Leshia grumbled as they reached the door leading into the room of requirement. Pacing the corridor up and down had been a difficult task under the safety of the cloak, but it was of utmost importance as Mrs Norris had been past three times since they had snuck out; evidently the mangy cat could smell or sense something. Personally, Leshia blamed Rachel's feet, which she claimed must have been jinxed by Luke or Tom in some sort of practical joke to smell inhumanly awful. Needless to say, whenever the blonde girl began to speculate on her theory aloud, Rachel would jump on her and tickle her into tears of laughter.
"Just get inside will you?" Rachel grumbled, she hated being cooped up under the cloak, and they had a lot more snooping around to do under it before the night was through. The girls crept through the door and into the room of requirement as quickly as they could and there, in the shaft of moonlight, stood the cabinet they had been planning around all weekend.
"Right then, in we get," Leshia said cheerfully as she skipped to the doors and wrenched them open. She was the first one in, followed by an excitable Rachel, who was yet to use the cabinet. Katie was the last to climb in, and even though she had already said yes to this idiotic plan, she very much looked like she wanted to run away and hide under her bed until Leshia and Rachel had come to their senses again.
"Get in Katie," Rachel ordered amusedly. With the heaviest sigh she could manage the raven-haired girl complied, followed shortly by Rachel tugging the doors shut. The girls moved in absolute silence (lest Harry be in his study) while they rearranged themselves under the cloak. Once five minutes had gone by in anxious silence, Katie pushed the door minutely ajar and peered out into her father's dark study – evidently he and Ginny were upstairs curled up in bed. She patted Leshia's leg behind her to tell her the coast was clear, before Leshia passed the message onto Rachel by the same predefined signal. Katie led them out of the cupboard, making sure they remained painfully silent. As she knew the house far better than the other two she led them through it in the dark. The ticking of a clock was the only noise that penetrated the darkness while the three girls shuffled along as silently as they could.
The stock room lay beyond the kitchen and it was a long and painfully slow shuffle from the study. By the time the girls had reached it in the dark, half an hour had passed. Only once they were inside did Katie dare to turn a light on and now the girls started pillaging all the ingredients they needed. They worked in silence, sharing a list of everything they needed. To their merit, they were in fact very stealthy and within five more minutes they had completed their mission and had all the needed safely tucked away in their school bags.
Now their journey was even more hazardous with their bulging bags, and their movement had become so painfully slow that Leshia was sure she was standing still. Navigating their way out of the stock room was easy enough and soon they were traversing the kitchen once more.
Their rustling, no matter how silent they had sounded to human ears, had in actual fact come very much to the attention of Tinker, the family cat. Yawning and stretching the fat silver tabby jumped down from his perch atop the kitchen counters and trotted across the room to investigate the rustling that had driven him from his sleep. That was funny, there didn't seem to be anything there. How peculiar. Tinker let out a loud meow of annoyance, followed by an even louder cry of indignity. What was this tomfoolery that could be heard and not seen?
"Shhh," came the voice of a master that ought not be there. "Quiet Tinker!" Now even more disgruntled the tomcat let out a loud wail that caused the girls to freeze. Surely the cat had woken Ginny or Harry. Surely they were about to get caught?
"Katie do something," Leshia whispered sounding panicked.
"Tinker. Please. Be quiet!" Katie hissed, but the cat continued to get louder and louder until eventually he was silenced by a loud crash. Spinning around Leshia and Katie found Rachel looking more guilty than they had ever seen her.
"Rachel!" Leshia hissed when she noticed the redhead had accidentally knocked a vase off the countertop. In the girl's defence, it was not entirely her fault, as the two girls ahead of her in line under their magic cloak, had started backing away from the cat the moment it started meowing. They had in fact backed their redhead friend straight into the counter.
"We're done for," Katie gasped sounding horrified.
"Shhh!" Leshia hissed and the girls waited with baited breath, not daring to breath lest Harry and Ginny hear them from above. Ten minutes past, and nothing happened. Tinker by now had lost interest in the strange disembodied sounds believing himself either to be going mad or in need of a good long sleep, and so he had shuffled off.
"Come on, let's go," Katie suddenly ordered her friends when her parents showed no sign of coming downstairs to investigate the racket. It seemed a lucky escape was on the agenda for the girls. Their pace quickened once more and this time they were making quite good time. The study was just past the hall within their reach when suddenly two loud bangs filled the hall. The girls had to cover their mouths and bite their tongues to stop themselves from screaming as two figures suddenly materialised in the hallway.
Harry and Ginny were home.
"I tell you what Ginny," Harry was saying with a heavy sigh as he took of his coat and hung it up. "I'm getting tired of all these surprise meetings Draco keeps calling. Anyone would think he's scared."
"Oh I don't know Harry, that's just Draco isn't it?"
"Oh no no, Draco's not easily frightened, at least not obviously so, but something's happened; something that's got him all worked up. I wonder what it is."
"Maybe he's heard from Lucius again," Ginny suggested as she inspected a pulled thread on her coat. Very slowly, after getting over the shock of their sudden appearance Katie started to push the other two towards the study. Rachel soon cottoned on and both girls tried to drag Leshia away, but the blonde wasn't budging. With such a lack of communication going on between her parents and herself, she was going to glean as much information from this fortuitous situation as she could.
"I doubt it, if it was just Lucius then Draco wouldn't be worried. He knows what Lucius is capable of. This is…well I think this is something else."
"Well you know him better than any of us Harry," Ginny was telling her husband with a fond smile. "You're the one that's been so close to him all these years. I know how you've hated it." Beneath the cloak Leshia's face twitched with anger. Had being her father's friend truly been such a chore to Harry? Once more her friends tried to drag her away, but she was too strong for them to move without making a noise.
"I haven't hated that," Harry said sadly. "It was what I was made to do it that I've hated. Draco's an all right guy. I mean yeah, it's in his nature to be cruel. He's cruel with everyone, even Leshia and Hermione sometimes, but underneath all that, his heart is in the right place. It's just the fact that I was made to spy on him, when he didn't deserve the mistrust. Even now, after all these years! What did Molly and Arthur ask me to do just this evening?"
"Harry," Ginny sighed. "They're just being careful."
"No, they don't trust him! Still, after fifteen years! They asked me to keep my eye on him Ginny, your mum, and your dad too. Of course they wouldn't just come straight out and tell me to spy on him, but that's what they meant, it's as clear as day. They want me to spy on him again." Once more Leshia twitched in anger as her protectiveness for her father tangled up her emotions inside. Yes her father had been a traitor, but he wasn't anymore and he did not deserve their mistrust!
"Draco's acting suspiciously Harry, everyone can see it," Ginny tried soothingly. "I mean yes, he's always been the twitchy kind, but this is different."
"You were just telling me I was reading too much into it," Harry chuckled. "And now all of a sudden everyone can see it? Come on Gin." Across the hall his wife grinned and shrugged.
"I'm trying to stick up for him Harry, I'm trying to convince myself that he's not a bad guy, but there's too many questions that lie unanswered. Too many doubts. Even Hermione sometimes wonders." A renewed tick in Leshia's neck started to pound as they brought her mother into the conversation. Katie and Rachel were now at desperate breaking point trying to drag their friend away.
"Hermione trusts Draco, she's the only one out of us that has always unconditionally trusted him, even when he disappeared and everyone thought he'd turned sides again."
"She was carrying his child…"
"That doesn't make a difference. I just don't want you thinking Hermione is with the rest of them on this, because she's with Dumbledore and I on this one. We're the only ones that truly trust him and I just resent having to turn tables and spy on him. What would Hermione do if she found out? She'd hate me."
"No she wouldn't, she's your friend…"
"But he's her husband. He's the father of her child…" Harry broke off and shut his eyes tightly as memories of the last few meetings came flooding back. "Leshia," he said softly and across the hall Leshia felt a stab of panic while her friends practically passed out from worry. Did Harry know they were there?
"I know," Ginny sighed with the same heartfelt emotion. "How they can suspect that poor girl is beyond me."
"That, if anything, should prove to you that most of them are clean off their rockers. To think that a thirteen-year-old girl is working for Voldemort is completely absurd." A splutter very nearly escaped Leshia's lips as she threw her hands against her mouth to stop herself from screaming. So she was mistrusted as well as her father? How was it possible? "It's because he raised her isn't it?" Harry was continuing. "That little girl is completely mistrusted because her mother was taken away from her when she was only six years old and so she was raised by her father. They see the loyalty she has to him above and beyond that to Hermione and it makes them scared, it makes them wonder. Well it's bloody obvious isn't it?"
"Harry I know. I think it's terrible that…" Ginny trailed off as they both heard the strange sound from across the hall waft over to their ears. It sounded almost like panting.
Leshia had lost the ability to control the torrent of emotion that was wracking her chest with shudders. She had to let the emotion out somehow, and without her say so it was forcing her to pant loudly in pain. To think that everyone she had always loved felt of her as a threat…as a traitor…well, it was too much to bear.
"Oh no!" Ginny suddenly exclaimed and the girls froze. "That vase belonged to my grandmother!" With this the young woman strode straight past them and into the kitchen where the vase Rachel had broken lay shattered on the ground. Forgetting suddenly about the strange sound Harry rushed off to join his wife leaving the girls stunned and alone in the hall. Leshia finally allowed herself to be moved and as quickly as they could manage they made their way back to the study and back into the wardrobe. The girls waited inside with the doors pulled shut for five minutes, while Katie and Leshia eyed their blonde friend worriedly. Finally the time had passed and Leshia extricated herself from the cloak and rushed ahead of her friends out of the wardrobe and into the bare room of requirement.
"Leshia!" Rachel called after her.
"Just leave me alone!" a sob came in reply and the blonde girl ran from the room slamming the door behind herself. Not caring where she was going she followed her feet as they led her to her parents' chambers. She needed solidarity with her father, who alone, would know what it felt like to be mistrusted and outcast. The fact that it was nearly two in the morning and she was walking around without the aid of invisibility cloak did not occur to the girl, and so when the croak of someone hoarsely clearing their throat behind her sounded just seconds from her parents' door, Leshia spun around in surprise.
"Well Miss Malfoy, flouting the rules again I see," Snape sneered at the girl and took particular note of the tears that had streamed down her cheeks not so long ago.
"No," the girl countered furiously. "I need to see my dad."
"Rules are rules Miss Malfoy, and though you may need to see your precious daddy to make right whatever teenage drama you have got yourself into this time, they must be obeyed and you must stay in your dormitory. I'm sure he will still be there in the morning." Leshia stared angrily at the potions master.
"Well I'm not waiting for tomorrow. I need to see him now! So you can just give me detention and leave me alone!" The tears had started falling anew, and yet nothing softened Snape's fury at the way she had spoken to him.
"Detention! And twenty points from Gryffindor. Tuesday after lessons, my office! Now back to your dormitory! Immediately." Leshia shook a little from her anger and frustration before she slowly started backing away from the potions master. She was very nearly at the portrait that would reveal her father and mother's door. "Not one more step…"
"You know," the girl cried pathetically. "You grown ups aren't the only ones around here with things on their minds!" Her cryptic message made Snape pause for a moment as Leshia quickly reached out and scratched the foot of the groom in the painting, which caused it to swing forward and reveal a door that she had never found locked.
"Not one more step…" But Leshia did take one more step, and another, and another, until she had slammed the door behind herself and rushed inside to the living room of her parents' chambers. As luck would have it Draco was still up, clutching at a glass of whiskey and staring into the fire with a dead expression. Hermione had long since gone to bed. As the door swung open Draco looked up in surprise, which instantly turned to immense concern when he saw the state his daughter was in.
"Leshia!" he gasped and he jumped to his feet, depositing his glass on the table. "What's happened?" He didn't get an answer; instead the girl ran to his side and hugged him firmly about his chest. He returned the girl's embrace while a fervent knocking sounded at the door. The young man navigated past the furniture with his young daughter still clinging to him so as he could open the door. Though when he saw the expression on Severus Snape's face when he did, he dearly wished he could have ignored it.
"What?" Draco asked suspiciously when he saw his friend, and despite himself he tightened his grip on his daughter.
"She should be in her dormitory, I told her, but as usual she would not listen!" Snape hissed, glaring at the girl. Draco stared forcefully at the old man before he pushed Leshia off himself forcefully so as she would let go, though when he spoke, he was nothing but gentle,
"Go and sit down, I'll be back in a minute." Leshia obeyed her father and ran to the settee where she hugged one of the large cushions to herself so as she could bury her face in it. Draco stepped out into the corridor and shut the door behind himself, before he looked his old friend in the eye with narrowed eyes.
"Severus she's upset," Draco said darkly, warning screaming from every single one of his fine features.
"That doesn't matter! That's just an excuse for her to disrespect me again."
"She's not trying to disrespect you, she was just trying to see us."
"Well she shouldn't! No other pupil gets that privilege, so why should she? You should send her back!" Draco inhaled sharply and his gaze narrowed in anger.
"Severus my daughter is upset, I would not send her back now even if she wanted to go back."
"She will never learn, she will continue to flout authority…"
"You don't have children," Draco cut in angrily. "You have no idea do you, what it's like to have your crying child come to you with the belief that you're the only one who can protect them and understand them. She needs me Severus, and if you ever try and stop her when she needs me again, then I swear to you I will make you regret it!" Snape shook from head to toe with anger, but he knew that Draco was not to be trifled with. Once upon a time he may have been a snivelling youngster all talk and no action, but those days were long gone, and here before him stood one of the most dangerous men alive living free from Azkaban.
"You remind her she has detention," Snape hissed sharply, before he turned around and stormed off, Leshia's cryptic message going round and round in his head. As soon as he had left Draco opened the door again and rushed inside, dropping down beside his daughter and stroking her soft hair worriedly.
"I hate them," came the muffled sob.
"All of them. What did I ever do wrong? I don't understand. I never…" The rest of the girl's sentence was inaudible as the sobs took control of her voice.
"Leshia tell me who's hurt you and I'll make it right again," Draco tried, feeling such immense pain at seeing his daughter suffer so and having no power to make it better for her.
"You can't." With this the girl looked up pathetically. "I just…you…" She trailed off and sniffed, trying to stave the tears that she was sure she would feel so humiliated for tomorrow. Draco sighed heavily and pulled the girl into the crook of his arm, squeezing her small shoulders tightly.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked sadly. After a few moments the girl shook her head.
"I don't think so. I just wanted to see you, and then Snape…"
"I know. I talked to him. He's never going to do that again, I promise."
"Dad why are we friends with the Weasleys and the Potters?" Draco frowned, where had this question come from? Was it because she and her friends had fallen out?
"We just are. You can't choose your friends Leshia."
"We're just so unlike them," Leshia said bitterly. Draco frowned and stroked the top of her daughter's hair down with his cheek so he could lean against it.
"Don't say that," he said softly.
"Because that's like saying we're not like your mother."
"Sometimes I don't think we are," the girl whispered barely audibly. Draco frowned heavily and pulled away to look her in the eye.
"What?" he asked in disbelief. Leshia looked him in the eye, immense concern filling her pretty face.
"She's so good dad," she whispered. "And we're just…not." Draco frowned even more heavily. He knew very well what his past indiscretions were, and there was no way he would attest to being 'good', but what had his precious little girl done that had her thinking she wasn't a good person.
"Leesh what do you think you've done that is so bad?" he asked worriedly. For a moment Leshia's lip trembled, before she looked into the fire and assumed a hard look that would not look out of place on her father's face; in this moment, the likeness between the pair of them was so great it would have caused her father to shudder were he of a more theatrical disposition.
"I just know…I know I'm not a good person inside."