Generations Book 3: the Blue Lions

Part Five

Part V

The following day Leshia seemed back to her old self and Draco felt very relieved as she rushed off to breakfast. The way she had spoken the night before was terrifying, as she had voiced the feelings he believed of himself. His daughter was turning into him, and he worried so very much for her future. He hadn't told Hermione the full extent of the story; merely that Leshia had been upset after what he presumed was a fight with her friends. Hermione seemed slightly distracted anyway and didn't notice that Draco was hiding things from her. Hermione had been slightly distracted a lot lately.

Over breakfast Katie and Rachel felt incredibly awkward around their best friend. They had discussed what Harry and Ginny had talked about and both couldn't even begin to imagine the pain Leshia must be feeling at knowing she was so mistrusted by the grown ups she had always considered family. They didn't believe it for one second of course, and they wished they could tell Leshia this, but that would involve bringing it up, which they were loathe to do.

"We have to arrange this meeting thing for Wednesday okay?" Leshia told the girls as they walked over to their Charms lesson for the first period.

"Okay," the girls agreed, not daring to disagree.

"We should have it in an unused classroom until we know if they want to get in on it or not, because otherwise we'll show them the secret room."

"True," Rachel said simply, while Katie nodded. Leshia stared at her friends firmly before she clicked her fingers in front of them quite suddenly.

"Guys," she laughed. "Stop it. I'm still me okay? Regardless of what happened last night, I'm still the same old me. So can you stop walking around on eggshells and talk to me already? Please! This is driving me bananas."

"You're right, I'm sorry," Katie said with a pained look. "I just can't believe that…"

"Hey," Leshia laughed and she shook her head. "I said I was fine, that doesn't mean that I want to have a good old natter about the fact that your parents think I'm working for Voldemort."

"My dad doesn't," Katie piped up while Rachel glared at the raven-haired girl playfully.

"Oh give over Katie," she chuckled, before looking back to Leshia with concern in her pretty face. "You're sure you're okay?"

"Never better," the short girl replied with a beaming smile. Of course this was all a lie, and beneath her cheerful bravado her feelings lay in tatters, but never would Leshia Malfoy admit to being defeated by her emotions, so she kept them bottled up. "Let them think what they want." A frown adorned the girl's face, and while Katie and Rachel watched her with wounded expressions, Leshia suddenly darted from their side to the quidditch notice board, where several youngsters were scrambling to see the message that had been left by Madam Hooch that very morning. Being rather on the short side Leshia was having tremendous difficulty looking over the shoulders of her fellow peers. Directly in front of her Nick and Will Mills, seventh year Slytherin twins, who made up the muscle in the form of beaters on the aggressive team, seemed to be having a great time blocking the tiny Gryffindor seeker from seeing the announcement. Feeling incredibly put out, Leshia was about to do something stupid, when all of a sudden she was rescued from behind the tall beaters by her captain.

"Malfoy, what are you doing hiding behind these two oafs?" Mila Evanovitch, the newly appointed captain of the Gryffindor side, called out cheerfully, and within moments Leshia had been swept away right to the front of the hoard of pupils in full view of the announcement. Leshia glanced over her shoulders to see the two hulking Mills twins glaring furiously at the pair of them.

"Mila I don't think they liked being called oafs," the girl said softly as she glanced up at her beautiful companion. The young woman snorted cheerfully though and stuck her tongue out at the boys.

"Don't be silly, everyone knows they're harmless. That family is all muscle and no brains, they'll have forgotten about me by the time they've finished their full English breakfasts," she chuckled, but Leshia didn't seem so sure. The last thing she needed was to build more enemies in Slytherin, and the Mills were an incredibly large family, all of them in the same house. "Now then, what've we got here? Tryouts this Saturday at noon Malfoy, try and stay out of trouble will you?" Leshia grinned.

"I can't make any promises," came her cheerful response, before she rushed to join her friends by the doors into the great hall.

"What's all that about?" Katie asked curiously.

"Tryouts start this Saturday," Leshia explained with a shiver of excitement. As of yet, she had managed to show off her talents quite well, but the stage was getting too small for her, and she could only imagine what it would be like to play in an international tournament. "Anyway, so as I was saying before, we need to get this meeting sorted. How are we going to tell people? And have you started brewing the potion yet?"

"Not yet," Katie replied. "The instructions say to make it on the day of consumption. Apparently if you make it more than twenty-four hours before you take it it can go disastrously wrong and the taker will start spewing secrets out left right and centre!"

"Hmmm, that's a pretty picture," Rachel murmured with a big grin, just as she sat down in front of the delicious as always breakfast stuffs that littered the table.

"Let's just tell them face to face," Katie suggested. "You know, a whisper in the ear here or there, we'll decide beforehand who gets who."

"Sounds simple enough, but before either of you say otherwise, I shotgun Rodes and Parys. That'll stop you tearing each other apart for them." Leshia and Katie gave Rachel two most snobbish expressions.

"We wouldn't dream of doing that."

"Yeah, talk about loser Rach," Leshia teased cheerfully. The girls stayed in good spirits all day as they enjoyed a most successful day of lessons. Their last lesson of the day, Defence Against the Dark Arts, was the most trying as the children were expected to give impromptu presentations on a topic of Draco's choosing. Leshia and Rachel partnered up together and managed to create pandemonium as they got each other laughing and couldn't stop, while somehow managed to get a few random facts in about Red Cap social systems. Draco deducted five points from Gryffindor for their mucking about, but even he found it hard to resist his laughter when the two girls started acting out a typical Red Cap home life scenario. Leshia and Rachel were unforgettable in their respective roles of the bossy violent Red Cap wife and the whimpering cowardly Red Cap husband. Safe to say Draco quickly put an end to their ridiculous presentation, but as they were given leave to return to their seats most of the class burst into applause and the two girls bowed gleefully for their peers.

Finally when the last bell of the day rang out loud and clear and the children were given leave to dart from the classroom, the girls set their plan into motion by sidling over to their designated possible gang members and quietly whispering in their ears the time, date and location. Leshia's last contingent of pupils were Owen Gabriel and his friends Dan and Paul. By evening when most of the Gryffindors had started slinking off to bed yawning and complaining about the oodles of homework they'd been struck with by their uncaring teachers, Leshia realised she was finally going to have to approach the three fourth year boys. She'd been reluctant to approach all evening as the three young men were currently entertaining the fifth year girls, who were adoring the attention the three friends were lavishing on them. Knowing she would be intruding on a very private conversation Leshia would have gladly put it off entirely and forget about asking Owen to be in the club, but Rachel and Katie were glaring at her mockingly, wondering if their friend was going to wimp out.

'I'm not a wuss,' Leshia thought to herself grimly, and after a pointed glare at her friends she pushed herself from the window box they all sat squeezed into and wandered across the common room to the sofa the older Gryffindors had commandeered. Upon Leshia's approach Owen stopped entertaining one of the fifth year girls known as Jocelyn Jones (the queen bee of the pack) to stare curiously at the approaching youngster.

"Hi," he interrupted his friend Dan's joke to call to Leshia when she got near.

"Hi," she replied falsely, trying to ignore the mocking stares she was receiving from the fifth years. "Um…can I have a word with you guys, just quickly…in um…private?"

"Sure," Owen offered, looking to the girls that lay draped around them charmingly. "Excuse us ladies." With this the star keeper climbed to his feet, his friends following him less enthusiastically. "What's up shorty?"

"Wednesday," Leshia told the boys. "Ground floor, class eight, five-o clock." They frowned at one another.

"You what?" Paul finally laughed. "What are you on about?"

"Just be there, you'll see why." With this the girl darted from their side and ran straight up the spiral stairs to the third year girls' dormitory, where she buried herself under the mountain of pillows at the end of her bed. After the sound of scampering feet Rachel and Katie burst into the room in giggles and dropped down around their ringleader. Leshia remained in her state of mortification for the entire remainder of the evening, much to the amusement of her less than sympathetic friends.

XXX

Wednesday arrived (after a very traumatic Tuesday in which Snape was vile to Leshia in her detention) and all throughout the day Leshia, Katie and Rachel ignored the probing looks of the pupils they had notified of the meeting. They had to act as though nothing was going on, they had to act under a cover of obliviousness so as not to alert any untoward characters, mainly Allseyer and his cronies, to their plans. The sound of twenty-three chattering youngsters filled the hall as Leshia and her friends rounded the corner at five-o clock, heading for the disused classroom in the quiet wing of the school.

"They're eager," Rachel exclaimed in surprise.

"They're probably expecting a party," Leshia replied amusedly, knowing their reputation as ultimate party throwers was now well known throughout the school. Her estimation of her peers' expectation was not mistaken and as the girls walked in every single person they had invited (all without fail in Gryffindor and Ravenclaw) looked up hopefully.

"Hi," Leshia told them firmly.

"What's all this about?" Luke piped up from somewhere near the back.

"Yeah, where's the entertainment?" his cousin demanded playfully. "We were promised action." Leshia spun around and looked curiously to Rachel, who had been given the task of inviting her cousins.

"I might have embellished a little," the redhead said while her eyes roved the ceiling innocently. Leshia frowned at the girl with a small grin, before she turned back on the crowd of youngsters.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but there's no entertainment," she explained. "We're actually here to talk about something serious."

"Serious?" Parys piped up from somewhere in the middle of the crowd. "What a gip, Rach you promised us butterbeer and cake!" A murmur went up signifying everyone's displeasure at being dragged out to this unused classroom where there weren't even any refreshments.

"Look, if you'll all just listen…" Leshia tried over the rabble, but she was not heeded. "Hey! Guys!" Still no one heeded her and there seemed to be a general movement towards the door as people decided that if there wasn't a secret underground party taking place then they didn't want to waste their time with any serious business. Leshia knew she had to act. "Voldemort's coming back!"

Complete silence rang through the air, replacing the disgruntled murmurs so completely that for a moment Leshia had to adjust to the sudden quiet. There was no need, as within moments the murmurs were back, only in alarm and anger and far louder than before. Leshia couldn't control them.

"I'll explain," she tried over the sound. "Just let me…"

"Shut up!" Everyone turned around and stared at Owen Gabriel, who had climbed onto a table near the back of the room and had bellowed over his peers to silence them. "Listen to what she has to say." Leshia smiled briefly at the boy in thanks while all eyes turned back on her.

"I know it's scary and I bet you're all thinking I'm totally losing it, but I'm completely serious. I promise you. As much as we want to pretend it could never happen, we all knew that someday Voldemort was going to come back, and even though everyone thought it would be donkeys years, I'm sorry to say that it's going to happen sooner rather than later."

"How the hell do you know?" Owen's friend Paul demanded sounding most bemused. Leshia hung her head and felt incredibly wicked with what she was about to reveal, but she had no choice.

"My grandfather, Lucius Malfoy, who was believed to be dead is in actual fact very much alive." Most of the children stared at her blankly, having had no education in the dark side of Magic and not knowing that the name Lucius Malfoy ought to mean terrible things. "I don't know how many of you guys know about my family's history, but the Malfoys always have been very predominant figures in the world of dark magic. My grandfather Lucius Malfoy became one of Voldemort's closest allies and him being alive is pretty bad for everyone who wants Voldemort to not come back for a while." A ripple of worry ripped through the gathered children who suddenly burst out into worried chatter.

"Be quiet! She's not done yet!" Rachel complained, getting tired of the mob-mentality their 'chosen ones' were adopting. Reluctantly, the youngsters resumed their silence once more and looked to the small blonde girl stood at the front of the classroom.

"There's more," Leshia sighed. "And I know for a fact that most of you will know what I'm talking about when I say that there's a presence at school this year that wasn't there before. A dark presence." Silence, and whereas before the silence had adopted an air of contempt, this one seemed to smack of understanding. Yes, the majority of the gathered pupils completely understood what the blonde girl was saying.

"Well that's all well and good, but why are we here?" Sarah Weasley, another Weasley cousin in fourth year asked eventually.

"Uh, well," Leshia began and she rubbed the back of her neck agitatedly. How could she put this without sounding like a childish Wally? "We want to start a club." As she had suspected, the class suddenly rang out with the mocking laughter of most of the youngsters. Leshia rolled her eyes in frustration, but couldn't slight them for it; she too would have reacted in such a way after all.

"More of a gang actually," Rachel tried loudly, but this just elicited more laughter.

"Look whatever we call it the principle remains the same," Leshia complained angrily. The class fell silent and as one everyone stared at Leshia with renewed reverence as though professor Malfoy himself had just materialised in front of them. How the small blonde girl had so mimicked her father they couldn't understand, but whatever silliness she had been talking about, they at least had to grant her the respect of listening. "We want to form a network of trustworthy people who will watch each other's backs and report any strange goings on that might shed light on what this presence is. We all know the Slytherins are a pack of rats in disguise and if ever there were a chance for us to find out about Voldemort's movements then this is it. We have to watch them, listen to them, read them. If he's coming back then they're the ones that'll warn us, even if that's the last thing they want. We have to band together on this, because the one thing history has taught us is that those who fight Voldemort alone die alone." The girl fell silent, her chest heaving and falling with the emotion she had just expressed in her speech. The silence dragged out while Leshia looked from one face to the next, trying to gauge what the general reaction to her words was going to be.

Finally the painful hush was broken by a very slow applause. Leshia looked through the crowds to see that the clapper was none other than Owen Gabriel, who after barely a few claps of his hands was joined by several others. Before Leshia had any idea of what was going on the whole room was filled with the sounds of a moved audience and when the girls rolled out the parchment that would sign them away to a fate of secret activity, the youngsters scrambled to sign it, even if it did mean taking that disgusting looking (and smelling) potion.

Later that night the girls revelled in their success with their newly founded Blue Lions, and even though the afternoon's meeting had been a resounding success and one to be proud of, Leshia couldn't help but feel victorious in her own private triumph when Owen Gabriel had approached her at the end of the meeting and thanked her earnestly for including him in her design. His kind words made her feel uplifted as though she had taken a Heaven Drop, the sweets so miraculous they made you flutter out of your seat; but for the life of her, the young girl could not figure out why.

XXX

The week passed by in a haze of homework and dull lessons, but finally the weekend arrive and with it, the ISQT tryouts. The school had been awash with enthused hopefuls blabbering on about their prospective chances in the tryouts all week. Leshia had avoided such conversations fearing the reprove of her peers who considered her a shoe-in, when she herself doubted her chances of success. How could she talk about her fears of not making it with people who already thought of her as a member of the Hogwarts team? Even Katie and Rachel didn't pander to Leshia's fears, instead telling her the ill-wanted reassurance of, "You'll be fine." Neither girl was trying out (when it seemed most of the school were) and so they woke that Saturday morning feeling most refreshed and excited about the day, when their blonde friend, who had lay tossing and turning all night, woke looking like thunder, entirely unwilling to even mention the word quidditch.

Over breakfast the hall reverberated with the excitement of all the hopefuls and every corner of every table rang with the word 'quidditch'. It was enough to make Leshia sick, who sprinted for the toilets shortly afterwards. Her friends could not figure out why their ringleader, who had the other day oozed confidence and strength in their first meeting with the Lions now paled under a pressure she was much more capable of delivering under, now seemed a quivering wreck.

"I don't know what's wrong with her," Rachel grumbled to Katie as they waited outside the bathroom with matching frowns.

"I know, everything we've said she's taken the wrong way," the raven-haired girl added. "I mean who is she kidding? Of course she's going to get onto the team. What does she think? That the population of Hogwarts have suddenly changed into star seekers over night?" Rachel sniggered at the thought, but soon fell silent when a tall figure appeared beside them so suddenly if she didn't know better then she would have thought he had apparated.

"Professor Malfoy," Katie exclaimed in surprise while Rachel coughed away the choke that had caught in her throat when the tall Defence Against the Dark Arts professor had appeared at her side.

"Morning girls," Draco remarked amusedly. "Where's that short friend of yours?"

"In there," Rachel replied, having regained her vocal chords, before jerking her thumb over her shoulder toward the bathroom. Draco looked up at the door.

"She's being sick," Katie added.

"Why?" the confused father now asked.

"She's worried sir, she thinks she's not good enough for the team."

"Oh." Silence while Draco thought. "Anyone else in there?" The girls shook their heads and so quite without warning Draco pushed the door open to the bathrooms and walked in.

"I'm not coming out and you can't make me."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that."

"Dad? What are you doing here? This is a girls bathroom!"

"Your point?"

"Well the last time I checked you weren't a girl." Finally having pinpointed the location of his daughter's voice Draco held his wand up to the door and uttered a silent incantation causing the door to swing open revealing a very pale Leshia sat in her quidditch robes beside the toilet she had just spent the last half and hour getting better acquainted with.

"I'm glad you noticed," the father remarked amusedly.

"Get out," the girl groaned and she dropped her head into her arms, which were currently resting on her knees.

"Well I would, as you've chosen a rather disgusting place to hide out in, but what sort of a father would I be if I left you here to wallow so disgustingly in your own self-pity?"

"A much appreciated one." Draco grinned and after contemplating the grimy floor thought better of sitting down beside his teenaged daughter, instead opting to crouch by her side.

"You're being silly," he told her fondly.

"Well so what if I am? There's no law against being silly, I'm not breaking any school rules, so why should it matter?"

"Because I think it would be a crime if Hogwarts fronted a school quidditch team and you weren't on it." His frankness made Leshia look up at him once more and for a moment a glimmer of confidence stirred in her heart. "You're good Leesh. I know it. Your mother knows it. Your friends out there in the corridor know it. Hell, the whole school knows it. And deep down, I think you know it too."

"Before," Leshia began stiltedly. Her eyes dropping without focus to the wall somewhere behind her father's shoulders. "When I tried out for the team and when I played in games…well it didn't matter if I was good. No one was expecting anything of me. All I had to do was surprise them and play well, but now…"

"Everyone expects you to be the best."

"Yes, and I don't know if I can be what they want me to be."

"So you're afraid of the pressure," Draco concluded brusquely, feeling a little disappointed in the girl he thought he'd raised to be fearless. Leshia's eyes snapped onto his.

"I'm not afraid," she said firmly.

"Really? So this is you being brave is it? This is just standard game preparation I suppose, skulking away in a toilet somewhere clinging onto it for dear life."

"Dad…"

"Leshia this isn't you! The girl who defies every school rule and every rule her father ever laid down for her whenever she wants with not a care for the consequences. Where is that girl? What have you done with her?" Leshia fell silent and hung her head, her father's words of wisdom snaking cracks through her cowardice.

"I'm not afraid," she repeated firmly.

"So prove it, get out there and do what it is you do best: not giving a toss about what everyone else thinks." Suddenly empowered by her father's pep talk Leshia jumped to her feet.

"Dad get off the ground, this is a toilet you know," she told her father cockily before she waltzed from the bathrooms her head held high. By the time a highly amused Draco had reached the corridor the girls were nowhere to be seen, leaving the father with a sense of such wellbeing that he had to go and find a pupil to punish to reinstate his usual feeling of complete and utter tyranny.

XXX

What a day! Queues, waiting, more queues and yet more waiting filled the morning as all the hundreds of hopefuls had their goes through the series of trials Madam Hooch had devised for the Hogwarts Squad in alphabetical order. By the time Leshia reached the testing ground she was so bored out of her mind. Surrounded by two sets of siblings, the Lloyd brothers and the Managan brother and sister, who had nothing interesting to say, Leshia was very much desperate for some decent conversation. None of her friends, or even any peers in her year group that could possibly do for a decent (normal) conversation stood near her and the young woman spent most of her time spying far down the line to where Owen Gabriel stood chatting to his older sister Sienna and rather annoyingly, two of the beautiful Frances-Taylor sisters Katie and Charlotte, both around Owen's age though not in Gryffindor. It didn't seem terribly fair that Owen should be inundated with beautiful ladies and Leshia should have to put up with the snivelling Lloyd brothers.

When Owen took to the sky Leshia felt momentary delight as she watched him excel enormously. There wasn't a doubt in anyone's mind that the young man had made it through to the next round (and indeed, the team). Following his spectacle Leshia was rather surprised that the tall girl she had recently found out was his sister did almost equally as well in her role as chaser. Why wasn't this girl on the team? Leshia continued to ponder the seventh-year's absence from their roster when suddenly she was surprised to see a familiar person aboard the school broom that she was not accustomed to seeing as such.

"Rodeo?" she exclaimed in surprise and sure enough the boy she had always known to be a muggle-sport enthusiast (particularly of that dreadful football game) was now swooping about on the broom almost as though he had been doing it all his life. Amazed by his capabilities at the wizarding game Leshia found herself speechless. Since when had the muggle-born boy taken to the sport and moreover, why had he never told her? Quite put out that she had been kept in the dark over this matter Leshia waited the rest of her time in the queue in an angry reverie, which served her nicely when it was her turn to shine.

Conversations stopped across the pitch when the young seeker took to her broom and everyone watched in appreciation as the girl revealed her superior flying skills. Within no time they could get back to their banter however, as within record time the young girl caught the dummy snitch and secure her place in the next round. After dodging the phoney praise of less successful hopefuls Leshia finally managed to fight her way over to where her best friends were waiting with a triumphant Rodeo, who had just found out would almost certainly make it through to the next stage.

"You didn't tell me you could fly," Leshia accused the boy before her friends had even been given the chance to greet her and congratulate her.

"You never asked," Rodeo countered, seemingly dreadfully pleased that he had ruffled Leshia's feathers. The girl furrowed her brow heavily.

"Should I have? I mean you don't ask me every day whether I've suddenly taken up football."

"Well have you?" Rodeo laughed.

"No, but that's not the point is it? You should have told me you were good at this."

"Why?"

"I thought we were friends."

"We are."

"You don't act like it." An unpleasant silence filled the air as Leshia looked away from the hurt boy to her feet. She didn't speak another word all evening.

XXX

Draco lounged back in his chair at the dinner table, feeling a stupid sense of smug glee at seeing his daughter outperform all the other seeker-hopefuls. He often liked to vicariously feel pride at her achievements and now was no different. Though he did notice that Leshia was decidedly out of sorts and sitting in silence at the Gryffindor table, he didn't allow it to ruin his good mood, correctly guessing that it was yet another teenage drama that had taken control of her senses. He was having trouble keeping up with the number she seemed to be having at the moment.

Later that evening he regretted his feelings of joy and bliss as surely they had tempted fate and the letter he was about to receive. Without so much as a flash or a bang suddenly a parchment had appeared beside Draco's plate as though it had belonged there the whole meal. Knowing that this had not been the case and feeling the dread creeping over him, Draco reached for the parchment and pocketed it. There were too many eyes to see what it might contain.

Getting away from Hermione, who alone stayed with him all night, was not difficult as soon after dinner she retired for the night. The fact that she had been enjoying several early nights recently didn't bother Draco as it normally did and instead he ripped the parchment from his trouser pocket and opened it up:

The day of reckoning is nearly upon you traitor. Your days of hiding are over. Run run, do try, but you cannot hide. The truth will out, and you with it. Traitor

Closing his eyes to drown out the red spots that had started swimming before them, Draco leaned back in the sofa and clutched the parchment close to his chest. His past was catching up with him, his evils that had thus gone unnoticed were finally overtaking him. What could he do?

XXX

There was a general buzz of excitement as the girls descended from their common room the following Tuesday and it seemed to be congregating in the entrance hall, more specifically around the quidditch board. Leshia felt a momentary stab of worry when she wondered whether she had made it through to the next stage, but quite predictably her worry was unfounded, which she soon found out when she glanced at the board and found her name second on the list of those through to the next trial, directly under Owen Gabriel's name.

"Look at that, Allseyer's through to the next round," Rachel remarked glumly.

"Pity," Leshia added coldly.

"Rodes," Katie suddenly laughed delightedly. "Look he made it too." Her happiness was short lived as Leshia suddenly disappeared from her side, waltzing off to the great hall leaving Rachel glaring at Katie.

"She's just this morning got back to normal over the whole Rodeo thing and you had to go blow it all up again. I thought you were little-miss-tactful?"

"Oh give it a rest Rach, it's not like he's done anything wrong. She's just being oversensitive to nothing."

"Oh really?" Rachel countered bemusedly. "I bet you knew didn't you?" Katie went bright red and looked away from her fiery cousin. "He told you all about it didn't he? So how would you have felt if he left you out of the loop? Moreover," Rachel continued, not letting Katie get a word in edgeways. "What if it was something you loved and were really good at and could have shared with him?" Katie stayed silent. "No I didn't think so." With this the redhead turned on heal and followed in the direction Leshia had led, leaving Katie feeling quite rotten about herself, and yet also frustrated with her cousin and friend.

At Gryffindor table Leshia sat beside Parys, who told her Rodeo had already been and gone for breakfast far earlier than the rest as he had a detention with Filch to satisfy before lessons. It had seemed like an age since the pair of good friends had caught up and by the time Rachel reached them they were laughing joyously about their plans for the up and coming Hogsmeade visit at the weekend. Rachel left them to it, feeling quite uneasy though she couldn't explain why. Her interest peaked however, when Parys tried his clumsy hand at some diplomacy.

"You know he was trying to surprise you," the boy said quietly after a small comfortable pause. Leshia snapped her eyes up to her friend's eyes and shook her head.

"Don't Parys. I'm already upset with him, don't make me hate you as well."

"Come on Leesh, you don't hate him."

"I'm starting too." Parys paused, Leshia seemed so sincere.

"He wanted you to be proud of him."

"No he didn't. You know as well as I do that when he saw how shocked I was he was pleased. He was happy he made me feel bad." Parys fell silent; he couldn't argue her on this one, because he himself had been shocked at Rodeo's smugness over the weekend. His friend had a very poor way of showing how much he cared for the girl sat beside him now.

"Look I can't defend him for what he did on Saturday," Parys tried, changing tack. "But I do know he really likes you. Leesh we've all been friends for years, don't ruin it by being so stubborn."

"You're lucky I like you," Leshia complained with a small grin and with this their conversation was over, making way fro Rachel to join in and keep them in fits of laughter when gave a commentary of some of the dreadful hopefuls that had been excluded from the list.

For the remainder of breakfast and indeed the first few lessons of the day, the youngsters remained in good spirits and as the five of them all met up for transfiguration it was almost like old times; where harmless fun had featured predominantly in their social order. The good will was all about to end however, when after break the friends trudged down to the dungeons for their potions lesson. Professor Snape was in a foul mood and he enjoyed nothing more than taking out his anger on Gryffindors in such situations. Now seeing as Katie Potter, Rachel Weasley and especially Leshia Malfoy were three of his most disliked pupils they really didn't stand a chance.

"Tuck in that shirt Malfoy!" Snape barked as he stormed into the classroom ahead of the class.

"But it is tucked in sir," Leshia complained when she checked her loosely tucked in shirt.

"Five points from Gryffindor. Now do as you're told." Mouth wide open in shock at the unfairness of the situation Leshia looked like she wanted to complain, but Rachel soon poked her in the side and shook her head firmly, warning her not to aggravate the horrid teacher further. Snape had been near unbearable since Leshia had flouted his authority outside her parents' chambers and now he was in a bad mood, there was a slight possibility that he would do as he had been threatening to do for a very long time and curse Leshia into oblivion.

"Do you want to get cursed?" Rachel whispered to the girl firmly.

"Miss Weasley, be silent or you will be joining me after class." This served as warning enough and Rachel fell instantly silent. "Your essays," the potions master continued, lifting a pile of parchments, which looked as though some crazed graffiti artist had been set loose on them with a red quill. "Were, without a doubt, the worst I have ever read." Furiously he flung them into the air from where they sped back to their rightful owners. The pupils had to remain on guard lest they find themselves at the mercy of the vicious parchments seemingly dead set on releasing a storm of paper cuts on the youngsters. Leshia snapped hers out from the air before it had the chance to launch at her face and instantly felt her blood boil at the D. She was entirely sure her mark was undeserved.

"Calm down," Katie warned, but the E gleaming from her paper, when Leshia had had to help her bespectacled friend on several occasions, made the girl feel even more furious.

"Professor?" she suddenly exclaimed while at her sides Rachel and Katie turned to star at her in horror, shaking their heads in a painfully slow motion, trying to stop the train wreck that was Leshia on the warpath colliding with Snape in a foul mood from happening.

"What is it?" Snape hissed so dangerously that several of the other girls shuddered in fear.

"I don't agree with this mark," the bold girl replied, lifting her homework and showing off the only D she had ever received in her life to the stunned class. Had Leshia entirely lost the plot? At the front of the classroom the aged Potions master was staring ahead with such narrowed eyes that they became invisible to the class. Leshia was not perturbed, believing herself to be entirely in the right.

"You don't?" the old man finally whispered, his whole body shaking with reprove.

"No."

"So what do you propose?"

"Well, maybe you could look at it again?" Silence fell over the gloomy dungeon as the air around Severus Snape veritably shimmered. His bad mood, which was on account of this girl's father, controlled his actions and without so much as a word he stalked across the dungeon, taking the girl's essay in his hand and pointing his wand at it with his other. Magically the D turned into an T.

"Do not question me again Malfoy," the professor sneered at the girl, his face a picture of hatred. "Five points from Gryffindor." Think their friend had got off lightly Katie and Rachel sighed with relief and moved to take their textbooks from their bags, but Leshia was staring at her paper with narrowed eyes, deep in thought. For five minutes she stayed in silence, unmoving, not participating in the lesson, until finally she took matters into her own hands and without so much as a word to Snape she got to her feet and lifted her bag from the desk.

"Miss Malfoy," Snape exclaimed in fury. "One more step and you'll wish you'd never been born." But Leshia did take one more step and another, and another until she'd reached the door to the dungeon, where she turned around.

"Try me," she dared the spitting with fury potions master.

"You're as bad as that father of yours. Walking all over me as though I mean nothing, when I'm trying to save his neck. After everything I've done for your family I deserve respect!" Leshia paused half out the door, slowly returning back into the classroom to stare in surprise at the teacher. Where had that outburst come from? What had her father got himself into now?

"What do…" the girl began, but anything further she didn't find out as suddenly Snape lurched from the room through to his office, slamming the door behind himself. Slowly, everyone in the class turned around to stare at the girl, the Slytherins donning gleeful smirks.

"Oh you're in trouble now blood-traitor," Allseyer sniggered. "I'd go pack my bags if I were you, there's no chance he's going to let you stick around any longer."

"Shut up Allseyer," Rachel snapped impatiently. "Leesh, just come and sit down…"

"Get out!" Everyone jumped as the surprisingly loud, yet muffled bellow came from the office adjoining their dungeon classroom. "All of you!" Suppressing their cheers of glee the children all got to their feet and rushed cheerfully past Leshia, who alone remained in the doorway, still wondering what on earth Snape had meant.

"I have to speak to him," she finally concluded when the last of the class, Julius Black, had glided past Leshia giving her a stern enigmatic look as he did. Leshia completely ignored him, she didn't have time for his games now.

"You'd be a fool if you did," the boy offered, who had only taken a step or two up the corridor.

"And what would you know of it?" Leshia snapped back tetchily, weary that perhaps Allseyer was right on this one, maybe she'd taken it a step too far. Julius turned around slowly, his wise eyes narrowed a little in derision.

"Malfoy, other than the fact that you just caused him to completely embarrass himself in his own lesson," the Slytherin boy began condescendingly. "What makes you think he'd want to see you even if you'd had nothing to do with it? The pair of you aren't exactly best friends are you?"

"He's right Leesh, you should go and tell your parents what happened, maybe they can help," Rachel tried, but Leshia was shaking her head firmly.

"Firstly," she began, wheeling on the dark haired boy. "Sod off, this has got nothing to do with you. And secondly." The girl turned back on the classroom with a worried frown and then added in a soft guilty undertone, "I feel bad."

"Well you should have thought about that before you wound him up," Katie admonished.

"Ease off," Leshia complained. "He gave me a P when you had an E and didn't even have a clue about what was going on. I did half your essay. It's not fair." Katie flushed furiously, but after a glare from Rachel, she didn't pursue the dig at her intelligence. That there was an element of truth to Leshia's unkind words was undeniable, but Katie wouldn't hear of it. "I have to talk to him, to apologise."

"Leesh take my advice and leave him be," Rachel tried, but the young girl would hear none of it.

"Malfoy listen to your friends," Julius Black, who still remained behind, told the girl tiredly, trying to stop her from making huge mistake. "Remember that they're thinking with their minds and you with your damn curiosity. Snape won't tell you what he meant when he mentioned your father."

"What are you still doing here?"

"I'm trying to stop you from making a mistake."

"Why the hell would you do that? You made it perfectly clear to me last year Black, we don't like each other and we never will right?" After a moment's thought Julius finally nodded.

"Right." Without so much as another word he ambled off down the corridor leaving Leshia glaring after him.

"Look Leshia at the moment Snape's got grounds to give you detention for a like a week, but nothing more than that. If you go in there, if you push him even more, then you might find yourself going home and there won't be anything your mum and dad will be able to do to save you." Leshia chewed on her lower lip, looking into the lion's den wondering what Snape was going to do. She desperately wanted to know what was wrong with her father and the only way to find that out would be to go through the Potions Master, but Rachel's words of wisdom were ringing in her mind. At the moment she would be in big trouble, but if she pushed the man caged up in the office then she could make things impossibly worse for herself.

"Agh," she finally complained exasperatedly. "Let's get out of here before he changes his mind and we end up having our own private Potions lesson." The girls didn't need telling twice with this threat on the table and so with a gloomy silence falling between them, they made their way to their common room where their Gryffindor peers were celebrating their surprise free period.

Leshia couldn't join them in their happiness, as the weight of what Snape was going to do to her fell heavily on her mind. How was he going to punish her for her insolence? How was she going to get out of this unscathed? Throughout the rest of the day Leshia hid her concern with bravado and the girls enjoyed a very productive day filled with laughter. Things seemed to be looking up when they noticed Snape seemed back to sorts at lunch, though he didn't look their way once. However, this was just the calm before the storm, as the girls were to find out on their way back to Gryffindor tower after their last lesson of the day.

"Alecia!" The girls stopped in their tracks and turned around very slowly to see Hermione approaching briskly, her face stony and her brow set in anger. "What have you been playing at?" Leshia glanced at her friends and nodded her head down the corridor, signalling for them to move on before it could get ugly.

"I'll meet you guys up there," she told them in an undertone.

"No Leesh, we'll stay," Rachel countered firmly, wanting to stand behind her friend on this. Katie too seemed firm in her desire to support the girl and for a moment Leshia felt touched by this. She and Katie hadn't been on the best of grounds recently, but this singular display of complete solidarity made her feel a brief moment of complete fondness for the raven-haired girl.

"How could you have behaved so appallingly in Severus' lesson? It's a miracle he doesn't want to throw you out of the school." By now Hermione had reached the girls and for a moment Leshia was amazed by her appearance; her skin was blotchy and seemed a lot more puffed up than normal.

"Mum are you alright?" the girl asked with a concerned frown.

"No I'm not alright," the woman exclaimed angrily. "Leshia why must you go out of your way to wind that man up? What do you stand to gain from it?"

"He gave me a P when I should have at least got an E, and then when I asked him to check it he changed my mark to an T!" Leshia complained defensively. For a moment Hermione frowned heavily, before she looked away from her daughter promptly.

"He did?"

"Yeah, so I decided it wasn't fair," Leshia added. "So I walked out." For several more moments Hermione seemed to be milling it over, until finally she looked back at her daughter with a much softer expression.

"I'm sorry darling, I didn't know that that's what had happened.""

"Why, what did Snape say?"

"That's not important," Hermione quickly breezed past the question. "But I must warn you, your father's on the warpath. If I were you I'd get to your common room before he finds you. I'll have a word with him, make him see what happened." Leshia smiled genuinely and quickly leaned forward and hugged her mother.

"Thanks mum. You're sure you're okay?"

"Yes I'm fine," Hermione chuckled as the pair pulled apart, though the anger was back in her face, thankfully not directed at Leshia this time. "How dare that man give you a P! You've never had a P in your life!" Hermione was still grumbling about the notion that her daughter could never receive a P when the girls hurried on to the common room. Heeding Hermione's warning, Leshia wanted to get to the tower before her father had the chance to catch her; he would not be so easily convinced.

"Snape must be really upset with me," Leshia told her friends as they hurried on. "To lie to my parents making them cross with me too is just plain evil."

"Leesh," Rachel laughed. "Snape is plain evil!" Just one more corridor to go, the girls were so close, but then everything came crashing down, as there, in the distance, standing next to the portrait of the Fat Lady was a tall and wiry figure, stood feet apart, arms crossed and head bowed in anger.

"Damn," Leshia simply exclaimed after she had skidded to a halt. "He's been waiting for me."

"There's still time to run," Katie suggested worriedly.

"Are you kidding?" Leshia laughed, seemingly taking the situation very lightly considering Draco was about to take her head off for a crime she hadn't really committed. "He'd catch me up in no time, and then imagine his mood. No, I'm going to have to face him at some point, may as well be in a public place where there's lots of witnesses should he try anything homicidal."

"I don't think you should be joking about that," Rachel complained weakly, but her worry caused Leshia's mirth to increase and she started forward again to where her father had not moved from. The nearer she got the more in-focus his face became revealing the extent of his displeasure. By the time she'd come to within a few feet of him Leshia didn't feel so confidant any more.

"Young lady," Draco said darkly, his eyes narrowed. "A word?" Whereas Leshia's normal flippant response to such a statement might be, 'Which one?', now was not the time for cockiness and she merely nodded jerkily.

"Yeah sure." Without so much as a nod to his daughter Draco turned on heal and started walking off. After glancing worriedly at her friends Leshia rushed to catch up with him and fell into step beside him.

"I've talked to Severus," he announced icily.

"He lied to you."

"Did he?" The severity of her father's voice increased tenfold, so much so that Leshia edged away from him a little.

"Yeah, I spoke to mum. I don't know what he said to you, but all that happened was that he gave me a P when he gave Katie an E, but I'd helped her do almost the whole thing, so mine was much better, but anyway…"

"Leshia get to the point," Draco cut in angrily.

"I asked him to look at it again…"

"Why?"

"I told you, I didn't think I deserved a P, he was obviously being unfair." Leshia paused and glanced up at her father, trying to gauge whether he was going to interfere again, and when she had deduced that he was going to keep quiet, she continued, "So I asked him to look at it again and then instead of doing that he changed it to an T. So I walked out." Draco stayed quiet while Leshia worried about the trouble she was in. Hermione had instantly cooled at this revelation of events, but Draco seemed just as cross as he had before. "So you see…it wasn't really my fault."

"Not your fault?" Draco repeated incredulously, finally seeming to lose his rag and pushing the door open to an empty classroom. Leshia glanced about herself worriedly, not sure she wanted to step beyond the bounds of witnesses who would prevent her father from going absolutely nuts. There was nothing for it however, her dad would drag her in by her ear if she didn't voluntarily follow. "Leshia do you take some sick satisfaction out of driving that man out of his mind?" Draco demanded furiously the moment his daughter had stepped over the door and closed it behind herself.

"No," the girl complained, but she couldn't suppress the smirk on her face when she thought about how gleeful seeing Snape being carted off to St Mungos for loss of sanity would make her. Draco saw.

"Alecia what the hell is wrong with you?" he exploded. "What has happened to you this year? I don't even recognise you anymore, you're…"

"Just like you!" Leshia cut in grumpily. Draco paused for a moment and leaned forward, his eyes narrowed in disbelief almost. "Snape said something about you, you know that?"

"What do you mean?"

"He said that he was tired of you walking all over him even though he's trying to save your neck. So dad, what was he talking about? What have you done?" Leshia lowered her chin and stared frowningly at her father; for he had suddenly gone very pale with wide eyes.

"What did you say?" he finally spoke, barely louder than a whisper.

"I…um…" Suddenly all Leshia's bravado had fluttered away, leaving her stumbling and scared of the fury her father's face and body-language screamed.

"Alecia, what did you just say?" Draco repeated.

"Um, nothing, I didn't say anything."

"Yes you did."

"But I didn't mean it."

"Leshia I'm going to say this once, and only once," Draco finally said very slowly. "The next time you question me; the next time you demand to know my private business I am going to take you out of this school and send you back to London." Leshia's eyes went wide and she started backing back towards the door. What on earth was wrong with her father? Who was this terrifying man? What on earth had he got himself into? "This school has changed you, and I hate it."

"It's not this place," Leshia suddenly complained, finding her voice at this unjust accusation of her father. "Didn't you ever think that maybe it's because I'm growing up?"

"Oh don't give me that," Draco complained and he looked away in frustration.

"Dad I'm so tired of you treating me like a little girl," Leshia yelled, finding a pool of anger she hadn't realised was building in her heart. "I'm nearly fourteen years old, and yeah, I know what you're going to say, 'but you're still a child' and yeah, maybe I am, but for god's sake I'm not five anymore!" Silence, while Draco stared at the floor, his shoulders hunched in defeat. "Dad? I really don't want you to hate me just because I'm getting older." At this the girl's father looked up, an extremely wounded expression on his face.

"I could never hate you." Draco hung his head and rubbed the back of his hair. "You just frighten me."

"What?"

"I don't understand you anymore…I'm terrified that you're growing into someone I don't know. You're…you're all I had." Draco turned around, hanging his head back trying to suppress the emotion pouring out of him against his will.

"I'm not going anywhere dad," Leshia said worriedly. "And I'm not changing, not really. I'm just moving on to bigger things."

"You mean moving on from a houself to the potions master sort of thing?" Draco chuckled.

"Yeah, something like that," Leshia laughed happily. Draco smiled and turned around again, smiling at the girl genuinely.

"Promise me you'll never change," Draco suddenly blurted out. Leshia nodded fervently.

"I promise. But you know, I wouldn't ever want to change. I love being me."

"Could you love being you without driving Severus into an insane asylum please?" Leshia grinned and pretended to think about it.

"Um, no, sorry, that's asking too much." Draco grinned and nodded, before he walked past Leshia to the door and pulled it open.

"Ignore what Severus said," he finally spoke when he turned round in the doorframe. "There is something going on and I'm sorry to say I don't want you dragged into it, so could you just stay out of it, please, for me?" Leshia shirked her mouth to the side, before she nodded sincerely.

"Okay."

"Okay?" A small smile snaked its way onto Draco's handsome face.

"Okay."

XXX

Katie and Rachel sat in their usual window box nervously fidgeting with anything unfortunate enough to come into their vicinity. Everyone in the common room could see they were on edge, and as the news of what had happened in their Potions lesson had now spread across the school, everyone understood why the pair were nervous.

"Do you think we should go and find her?" Rachel suddenly blurted out worriedly.

"Rach it's only been two minutes," Katie complained as she looked at her watch.

"Yeah, but in that time he could have killed her and hidden all the evidence!"

"Rachel," Katie admonished. "This is Draco we're talking about. He's her dad. He wouldn't harm a hair on her head no matter what she did."

"Yeah, but he seemed so angry."

"That's probably because of what Severus said. Draco's in some sort of trouble and it's probably because of that that he's so angry."

"What do you think it is?" Rachel asked worriedly, very unsure of Draco's character since they had found out about his deceit with their parents.

"I wouldn't hazard a guess," Katie replied with wide eyes. She too had been shaken by the revelation about Draco, and knew enough from her parents' disclosures that the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and her friend's father had enjoyed a very shady past. Draco Malfoy had been a villain, plain and simple.

"What are you girls moping about for?" Rodeo's voice came, before the youngster dropped down beside them at the table. Katie beamed at the boy and shook her head, her worry for Leshia seemingly evaporating into the wind. Rachel noticed and felt incredibly put out by the fact.

"Nothing," Katie replied happily.

"Actually, we're worried about Leesh," Rachel quickly intercepted. Suddenly both boys jumped to attention, their handsome faces morphing into concern, greatly putting Katie's pretty nose out of joint.

"Why?" Rodeo demanded worriedly.

"What's happened to her?" his dark friend quickly added.

"Is she okay?"

"She's in trouble," Rachel explained with a worried frown.

"Well where the hell is she? We'll sort them out," Rodeo exclaimed brusquely, full of masculine bravado.

"No, I mean she's literally in trouble," Rachel giggled, finally managing to overcome her concern by the boys' mannerisms. "With her dad."

"Still want to sort him out?" Katie asked tetchily, feeling delighted at the embarrassed look that crossed the boys' faces, while their shoulders drooped in defeat.

"No," they both quickly offered.

"Um, come on Rodes, let's go do that Transfiguration homework," Parys suddenly suggested and within seconds the boys had disappeared into the crowd of Gryffindors milling about the common room. Katie watched them go with narrowed eyes.

"You are so unbelievable!" Rachel was sat up, staring at her cousin with the disbelief she had just expressed.

"What? Why?" her raven-haired cousin demanded in reply, turning around to face Rachel.

"You're all sweetness and light to Rodeo until he shows any form of attention to Leshia, and then you flip out. They were friends first Katie, or don't you remember that?"

"How dare you…"

"No! How dare you get upset when Leshia's friends want to help her out. You know what that is? That's vindictive."

"Wow Rachel I'm really impressed, where did you learn that word, Nicola's 'daily words' calendar?" Rachel screwed up her face in anger and jumped down from the window box, not caring about the immense shame that had materialised on Katie's face. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it!"

"No, but you said it. Rodeo is making you act like someone you're not Katie. You've got to sort your head out before you drive all your real friends away." With this Rachel stormed off to sit on the settee across the common room, where Nicola and Ashley were happily twittering away about this, that and the other. Rachel cared not a jot for the latest fashion advice recently released in Witch Weekly magazine, but at the moment she would rather sit through a whole day's worth of History of Magic just to get away from Katie.

XXX

Leshia could sense the unease between her friends when she made it to the common room at last, and she was surprised by the joy Rodeo and Parys expressed at seeing her in one peace, but find out what had happened she did not, because no one seemed to want to tell her. The rest of the week passed in relative peace, with Leshia amazed to find she was not being punished for her run in with Snape. It would seem that Draco had had a word in the old man's ear and instead of taking out his anger on the girl, Snape laid into Draco instead about his discomfort of being abused as a lackey.

With dramas happening every day of the week the girls enjoyed their peace time immensely, getting back to the happy balance their troublesome trio had benefited from before the days of boys, puberty and school. Part of their good behaviour was in anticipation of the upcoming weekend's Hogsmeade trip, which the girls so desperately wanted to go off without a hitch. So Saturday arrived without any terrible problems spoiling the hope of the girls having a good time, and on the day of their trip into town the girls woke early and dressed in warm clothes that would shelter them from the brisk October weather.

Breakfast was an enthusiastic event, with all those above third year happily discussing plans for their day in the village of Hogsmeade. Leshia, Katie and Rachel happily planned their day's activities; including a trip to the joke shop, the sweet shop and of course the tavern for a refreshing butterbeer. Eager to avoid a repeat of the last time they were in Hogsmeade, when Leshia had thrown herself upon Owen due to a scared feeling she and the girls had experienced out by the shrieking shack, Leshia hadn't looked in Owen's direction all morning. It would seem though, that she was not going to be allowed to ignore him, as just before the pupils were scheduled to congregate out in the courtyard in order to set off for the village, the young man approached the girls.

"Leshia," he called out when the girls had started to climb to their feet and head for the door. The blonde girl spun around worriedly, wondering what on earth the boy could want. "Have you heard the news?"

"No, what is it?"

"Word on the street is second tryouts are taking place tomorrow."

"What for the tournament?"

"Yep, just thought I'd let you know. Good luck and all that, not that you need it," the tall boy said cheerfully, before he turned on heel and wandered off to where his friends were waiting for him. Leshia felt the colour drain from her face.

"Tomorrow? That gives me absolutely no time to prepare!" the girl exclaimed in outrage.

"Well what about that training you had yesterday? Isn't that preparation?" Katie asked amusedly.

"No! I wasn't even trying!"

"Leesh would you stop worrying? You'll get through no trouble," Rachel barked fondly.

"But you don't understand," the blonde girl wailed. "These are the penultimate tryouts, they'll be much tougher than the last one."

"Leesh stop being weird and just do your thing," Rachel ordered happily, before she dragged the other two out to have their names checked off on McGonagall's list. Leshia buried her fear, not wanting it to ruin their day and tried to remember the words her father had calmed her with last time. She would have to go and see him when the day was through for a repeat pep-talk.

XXX

Hermione sneezed as the floo powder she had just used to transport to Potter manor blew up her nose.

"Bless you," Ginny's amused voice came and suddenly the frizzy-haired new arrival was enveloped in a hug by her dearest friend. "Congratulations! I'm so incredibly happy for you!"

"Thank you," Hermione gushed as she hugged her friend back. "But keep it down, nobody but you knows just yet." Ginny grinned as she pulled away from the expecting-mother.

"Don't worry, I sent Harry out to play with Ronald, they won't be back for ages. So tell me, how are you feeling?" The red-haired woman guided Hermione over to the kitchen table where a piping hot mug of tea was waiting, before she dropped down beside her, resting her chin on her hand, her bright eyes probing Hermione's face.

"Oh, terribly ill," Hermione groaned with a big smile. "But in such a fantastic way."

"Does Draco suspect?" Hermione cringed guiltily and shook her head.

"I've been keeping it quite low-key. At first it was hard, but I've been working on a new spell to suppress the nausea, or at least, make it look as though I'm perfectly healthy. He does worry when I have to go to bed at around eight-o clock every night though," she laughed happily. "But I don't think he suspects this…oh Ginny, what's he going to say? He's going to be furious!"

"No he's not," Ginny countered calmly. "I know he thinks he doesn't want any more children, but he was pretty sure he didn't want Leshia either and look what happened? He fell absolutely head over heals in love the moment he laid eyes on her. It will be the same this time round, I promise." Hermione wrinkled her brow and shook her head.

"I don't know Gin, what if he doesn't? What if he thinks…"

"What if, what if, what if," Ginny laughed aloud. "Hermione listen to yourself. You mustn't worry about Draco, because he's a good guy and he will love this baby as much as he loves your first. You know family means everything to him."

"Well that's just it though," Hermione sighed heavily. "How do you think Leshia's going to react to finding out she's going to have a baby brother or sister? She's only just got used to the fact that she's got a mother again, who as soon as she comes back into her life is having another baby because she's not good enough."

"Hermione that's not true."

"No of course it's not, but that's what she'll think. And when I break her heart with the news that she's no longer going to be the apple in Draco's eye then he'll hate me for it."

"Hermione you've always been too paranoid about their relationship," Ginny soothed worriedly. "Your daughter loves you as much as she does her father. She cares about you equally, just because you were away for a long time doesn't mean she thinks less of you. You're her mother, what they have is very different to the relationship the pair of you share because she's a daddy's girl through and through."

"I know," Hermione lied, feigning understanding in Ginny's wise and true words. In her heart Hermione felt she would never believe a word of it; in her eyes Draco and Leshia were first and foremost a family of two and they always would be. The red-haired woman didn't believe Hermione actually felt those words she had expressed, but didn't want to push her in her emotional state.

"So when are you going to tell him?"

"Oh I don't know, nine months or so," Hermione said with a shrug. Ginny giggled and shook her head.

"I know our husbands can be pretty dim about noticing things concerning us, but I think Draco might just notice before then."

"I don't know Ginny," Hermione sighed. "There's something going on with him at the moment that he's not telling me. He keeps disappearing off to London and Severus is doing his bidding and isn't happy about it. I'm so frustrated with him, why is he keeping secrets? What's he done?" Ginny frowned.

"How serious is it do you think?"

"Bad," Hermione replied with wide eyes. "I'm afraid that it really is serious this time, but he's keeping me in the dark. So, if he gets to keep his secrets then I get to keep them one too." Ginny frowned worriedly, feeling great concern for the state of the Malfoy family's stability. She couldn't deal with another one of her best friends facing marital stress and hoped that Draco and Hermione could work their way through this. They were after all, the most in love and best suited to one another couple that Ginny had ever encountered. It would be a great tragedy if they broke apart due to both side's incorrigible stubbornness.

"I hope you know what you're doing."

XXX

Leshia, Katie and Rachel enjoyed a very fruitful day in town, gathering about themselves innumerable shopping bags worth of loot, with which they settled down in the Three Broomsticks to have a well deserved warm tanker of butterbeer to warm their insides after wandering about in the chilly weather. The girls felt nothing could ruin their moods as they enjoyed the simplicity of each other's company during peace times, that is, until three fifth year girls from Hufflepuff rushed up to their table with big grins.

"Hi," the bolder of the girls offered.

"Hi," the trio replied somewhat suspiciously, what were these girls after?

"We were just wondering if you wanted any help with this year's party? Because we'd love to help you organise it, or decorate the room. Whatever you need," the girl was continuing. For a moment Leshia and her friends wondered whether these girls had mixed them up with somebody else, until finally the penny dropped.

"Oh," Leshia exclaimed in surprise, correctly assuming that these Hufflepuff girls were insinuating that they were going to be holding the underground Halloween bash again this year. "Um, actually, we're all set. Thanks though." With fallen faces the three girls left them to their Butterbeers.

"Okay, that wasn't good," Katie finally exclaimed. "What have we got ourselves into? Does the whole school consider us the official party-planners or something?"

"Not official my dear Katie," Leshia said with a smug smile. "What we are is even better, they think we're the best underground party organisers. That's just so much cooler."

"Well we'll have to let everybody down, because we haven't got anything planned," Katie said simply, breezily forgetting the past conversations the three of them had had on this matter twice before. There was no way in her mind that they would be able to hold the party at her house; absolutely no way! Rachel and Leshia exchanged a conspiratorial glance and nodded subtly to one another; they would work on Katie.

The girls enjoyed their drinks again, forgetting about what the rest of the school might be expecting of them. It was quite fortunate for their sakes that they were quite oblivious to what the rest of the school was thinking, as they would be quite overwhelmed to find out that everyone was expecting such great things from them. The various first years throughout the school had been told many times about the great party of last year, not needing any further elucidation due to it's infamous reputation.

Just as the girls were contemplating making the long walk back to Hogwarts, they were joined by Rodeo and Parys, who dropped around them with big smiles and fresh tankards of Butterbeers in their hands for themselves and the girls. The girls thanked the boys heartily, happy for an excuse not to have to move from their cosy nook.

"We thought we should warn you guys," Rodeo said with a dark grin. "Everyone's talking about what you might be planning this year."

"You're kidding," Leshia exclaimed with a gleeful expression. "What do you mean by everyone?"

"Well I mean everyone from first year through to seventh, from Hufflepuff to Slytherin," Rodeo explained.

"Slytherin? Well they're not invited," Rachel said snootily.

"So any chance of letting us in on what you're planning?" Parys asked hopefully.

"Nope, sorry," Leshia replied with a grin. "Maybe closer to the time."

"You are planning something though aren't you?"

"My dear Parys," Rachel soothed mockingly. "Have we ever let you down?"

"Well you know, I heard a rumour," Rodeo now said with a significant smile. "I heard that they're not going to be holding a ball this year for the fourth and over years because of the poor turnout last year. They're expecting everyone to come to your thing."

"Really?" the girls exclaimed in surprise.

"Wow," Leshia sighed. "That really does pile the pressure on doesn't it?"

"You guys will rise to the challenge though," Parys assured them with a big smile. "Just make it even half as cool as it was last year and you'll have yourselves a great party."

On the walk back to the castle the girls now started noticing all the glances that they were receiving from their peers, who were not-so surreptitiously staring at them to gauge what great plans they had in store for this Halloween. It was rather daunting, and by the time the girls had got back to the castle, they were in great need of a discussion to see what they were going to do about this little problem. So as soon as they walked in the common room they rushed upstairs to their dormitory and dropped down on Rachel's bed.

"I can't believe everyone's talking about a party that we haven't even thought about yet," Rachel said excitedly. "It's so brilliant! We're like celebrities."

"Yes that's all well and good, but how are they going to react when they find out there is no party?" Katie demanded.

"Well who's to say that there's not going to be a party?" Leshia countered with a frown. "We've got great plans."

"Yes, and they're not happening! I know what you're planning Leshia and I won't hear of it. You are not going to have a party at my house, there is absolutely no way in hell that that is happening."

"What exactly are your objections?" Rachel wondered with a mocking grin. Katie glared from one girl to the next, desperately trying to convey to them that she didn't want to discuss this anymore. How could she explain to them, make them see, how much obeying her parents meant to her. Handicapped by her own self-doubting mind, Katie had always wanted so very much to be natural with her parents, but she never quite succeeded. A very suspicious and fussy child, Katie had never been able to truly relax unless she was doing everything by the rules and trying her very hardest to impress Harry and Ginny. They had long got used to the fact that their daughter was a finicky sort of child, but it still hurt them to think that their only daughter didn't seem to trust that they would love her no matter how she behaved.

Neither one could figure out why Katie had turned out the way she did. Although they did suspect it was because Michael had been very sick when he was a baby, having been born very prematurely. They had lavished attention on him when Katie was still a baby herself and in need of the attention they were devoting to her younger brother. The youngster had learned at an early age that if she kept her room tidy and did exactly as she was told she could make things easier for her parents. Not wanting to burden them with her problems, even long after Michael had got better, Katie started keeping her emotions close to her chest, and treating her parents very guardedly. It distressed them and this only seemed to make matters worse for Katie, who had no idea how to regulate her emotions and behaviour to make her parents happy. They always seemed upset by her.

In recent years things had improved with Ginny, but Katie had never been able to have a somewhat normal relationship with Harry. This is why she so envied Leshia's relationship with Draco, which to her seemed perfect. Yes Draco was scary and strict, but he also understood Leshia to the core and the pair could talk about everything they desired. Leshia could go to him with any problem no matter how serious, and even though Leshia always got in to trouble, she never seemed to lose Draco's adoration or love, which he lavished upon her in spades. Katie was sure that if she got into half the trouble Leshia did then Harry would have disowned her by now; the young girl couldn't see the immense love her father felt for her, and that of course, he would let her get away with murder if only she tried. All in all, it was a very sad situation.

Leshia was watching Katie now with a small frown of concern. She knew not the ins and outs of the situation, nor the reasons for any of it, but she did know that Katie tried far too hard to impress her parents, and that these were her objections.

"Come on Rach, we'll think of something else," Leshia told the redhead. With a look of immense surprise Rachel spun around and looked to Leshia to see what on earth the blonde girl was thinking now, but soon she understood when Leshia looked at her significantly; they would work on Katie slowly. In the end, they would have their party at Potter Manor.

XXX

Sunday arrived quicker than Leshia would have liked and before she knew it she was trudging down to the quidditch pitch in the rain with the rest of the severely watered down hopefuls. With more talent than not on the pitch, this time Madam Hooch had them playing in small games to ascertain which of the pupils would make it through to the third stage of trials. Leshia was placed on a team with pupils she recognised from afar, but had never had the pleasure of making conversation with. Like the day before, she was receiving conspiratorial glances from them all, each of them wondering what she had planned for Halloween. After being asked to choose a name for their team, two boys in fourth and fifth year chose the name 'the Dungbombs' and so it was that they started their first game. Ten seconds later it was over with Leshia having spotted the snitch and caught it quite easily. The rest of the Dungbombs were quite disappointed that they hadn't had a chance to shine, which made Leshia feel a bit lousy, though she soon cheered up when she heard that seekers would be working on a switching system.

Her next team, 'the Harpies' (an all girls team) also suffered from Leshia's lightning quick ability to catch the snitch, barely enjoying two minutes of playing time. This seemed to be the general pattern and when Leshia reached her fifth team of the day and encountered someone she knew well at last, Owen Gabriel, she found out why.

"Hey shorty," Owen greeted the girl fondly. "You look so bored." Leshia shrugged. "Too easy for you eh?"

"Huh?"

"Hooch has bewitched the Snitch to go slower," Owen explained. "Weeds out the best ones, like you who catch it in five seconds flat, from the worst ones, who can't even catch it at this pace."

"Oh," Leshia exclaimed in understanding. "That's why!"

"Not to worry, I think this is the last game, after this it'll be back to dull drills," the tall boy explained with a lopsided grin. "So, how was your Hogsmeade trip? No terrifying experiences I hope?" Leshia smiled embarrassedly, but Owen wasn't being vindictive, he was merely smiling cheerfully at the girl.

"No, not this time," she quickly uttered. "It was okay I guess, we didn't really do much, just wandered round the shops. It was really cold!"

"Just wait till Christmas time comes, the whole village gets inundated with millions of little candles and elves roam the streets. It's really nice actually. You know, if you like that sort of thing." Leshia grinned at Owen's attempt to cover up for his momentary lack of 'manliness'.

"Are you staying here for Christmas?" the girl enquired.

"No," Owen sighed with a grin. "My parents like me and Sienna to come home. They have this strange concept of family and insist we spend holidays together."

"I didn't know you had a sister."

"I've got three actually, and an older brother," Owen explained with a shrug.

"Really?"

"Joshua is three years older than Sienna. He was in his last year when I was in my first. Now he plays Keeper for this French team, and absolutely loves it out there. We hardly ever see him, but every Christmas he's made to come home with whatever lady he's seeing at the time." Leshia grinned, thinking this Joshua sounded like fun.

"And are your other sisters younger?"

"Yeah, Claire and Sophie. One's ten, the other nine, they're insanely annoying," Owen chuckled. "So you see, I'd love to stay here for Christmas, but orders are orders. I don't know what they'd do if I stayed here without telling them. Probably come and drag me back by the ear." Leshia giggled. "How about you Malfoy?"

"Yeah I'll be going back to London. My mum's really into Christmas traditions, ever since she got back we've been doing everything you can imagine. This year she's been threatening to take me carol singing." Owen laughed heartily.

"I live in London too, in Hampstead. Never know, might bump into each other." Leshia grinned happily. Hampstead was only a few boroughs over from where she lived, so the possibility was there for a chance encounter with Owen Gabriel. Though why this made her so very happy she didn't know.

Further conversation with the boy wasn't possible as now the team were thrust into their next game. As had been the pattern all morning, it didn't last long with Leshia catching the snitch within the first minute. Owen was correct in his estimation about the following proceedings, and without so much as a rest the pupils were thrust into more boring drills as they had the week before.

By the end of the day Leshia was through with ISQT and wished nothing more than to curl up in her bed and sleep away the rest of the day. She was soaked through to the skin from the torrential rains that had not abated all day. Without a word to her waiting friends, keen to find out how the tryouts had gone, Leshia disappeared into the bathroom to have a well-deserved hot shower. Finally after her skin had gone bright red from the sheer heat of the shower Leshia got dressed again and went to find the others in their usual window box, where she was instantly roped into doing her left-till-the-last-minute-homework with Rachel under Katie's strict orders.

XXX

Come Wednesday Leshia and Rachel were getting desperate. No matter how hard they tried to get Katie to change her mind about their party plans, the raven-haired girl wasn't budging. The gossip of what everyone was expecting had finally reached their ears and with every day that passed Leshia and Rachel felt the pressure upon them increase. If they didn't perform then their reputations would be shot.

After break on Wednesday the girls trudged along to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom where they met their Slytherin counterparts in the hall. The gruesome bunch were eyeing them up petulantly, aware that if an insane party was going on again this year, then they wouldn't be invited.

"So blood-traitor," Damian Allseyer remarked bitterly as he wandered down the queue of Slytherins until he came face to face with Leshia. "I hope whatever you're planning is big, because I don't imagine you'll be here very long."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Leshia retorted with a frown. "Planning what exactly?"

"You know exactly what I mean," Allseyer hissed. "Every year you throw a stupid party. Well this year my father says he won't stand for such blatant relaxation of the rules."

"Oh your father?" Leshia sniggered. "Well you can tell daddy that I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't know anything about any parties ."

"Liar! I've heard the rumours, everybody's talking about what you've got planned."

"Well that's convenient, because I haven't planned anything, let alone told anyone my plans." Leshia was telling the truth and it was clear on her face. Allseyer scowled at her.

"Mark my words Malfoy, I won't be happy until you're thrown out of this school," the boy sneered unpleasantly, but the only reply he received was a sweet smile on Leshia's part before she turned around and led her friends to join Ashley and Nicola. For ten minutes the youngsters waited, while the more earnest of the bunch, predominantly Katie, kept checking their watches.

"Oh, he's ten minutes late! Where is he Leesh?" Katie groaned, not wanting to miss out on any precious lesson time. Leshia frowned worried and shook her head.

"I don't know. It's not like him to be late, but then again, he hasn't really been himself lately either." The girl trailed off and glanced up the corridor to her father's study door, the flickering of candle light could be seen from around its edges. "I'll bet he's in there. What's he doing?"

"You should go and see," Katie suggested.

"Why me?" The bespectacled girl stared firmly at Leshia, as though daring her to persist the obvious question. After an elaborate groan Leshia threw her hands into the air. "Fine, I'll go, as usual." And so the girl stalked up the corridor, the class' eyes on her, to the Defence Against the Dark Arts office. Without knocking, she had never had to knock, she pushed the door open and instantly wished she hadn't. Her father wasn't alone, joined by a black-clad shady looking character if Leshia ever saw one. A large waxy trench coat concealed most of this figure's features, aside from the scarred nose and brow and a mane of dark grey frizzy hair that spilled out from under a large hat. Both men were sat around the desk, seemingly in a serious discussion, but the moment Leshia entered they looked up in surprise.

"Leshia!" Draco exclaimed angrily. "Get out!"

"Um, we're all waiting…"

"Out!" Not needing to be told a third time Leshia quickly backed out of the office and shut the door promptly. Panting heavily in concern and shame Leshia held onto the door knob still, staring at the shut door, trying to block out the nineteen curious (and some mocking) faces that were still watching her.

"He'll be out in a minute," she managed, before she stalked back down the corridor to the back of the queue hanging her head to avoid the questioning glances.

"What happened?" Rachel asked quietly when Leshia darted to her side and hid behind her.

"Nothing," Leshia lied and she stayed entirely silent for a further five minutes until finally Draco's office door opened again and he stalked down the corridor, not even glancing up and down the group to ascertain how presentable they were. He shoved open his classroom door and walked in, leaving it swinging open for the class, who very reluctantly filed in and took their seats.

"I apologise for being late, but there was some pressing business I had to attend to," Draco told them stonily. Everyone in the classroom continued to watch him while he leaned against the desk in the front of his classroom. That is, all but one; the smallest member of the class still hung her head, staring determinedly at her desk. Who had that man been? What the hell was going on with her father? Was he turning sides once more? Draco though, was staring directly at the girl as he spoke, willing her to look up.

As he began his lesson the girl didn't brighten up, nor did she even look up as Draco led the lesson on banshees. Most of the class participated enthusiastically in the interesting lesson about everyone's personal experiences with banshees. Toward the end everyone had spoken at least once, and Draco was determined to get Leshia to join in. He hadn't meant to stress out at the girl, but she had just witnessed something she ought not have and now it was evidently going round her mind, in conjunction with what Snape had said and his own behaviour this past week, Draco was sure the girl was imagining all manner of sinister things and he wished nothing more than to put a stop to it.

"Miss Malfoy, do you have any experiences you wish to share with the class?" Draco asked brusquely, warning her to participate.

"No," Leshia replied softly.

"Everyone has shared something, I really think you ought to do the same," Draco said with a slight hint of anger in his tone. At this Leshia looked up sharply, staring firmly at her father.

"What about you sir?" she asked tetchily. "Do you have anything you want to share?" Draco gave the girl a hard stare, ever so subtly shaking his head. "I mean you know everything I have to share, so really there's no point in me saying anything, but you! Yeah, you seem to be keeping a lot of secrets lately…"

"That is enough," Draco snapped in frustration.

"No it is not enough!" Leshia countered passionately.

"Oh yes it is if you want to stay in this class."

"Well what if I don't? I don't want to be anywhere near you. All you do is lie and keep secrets!" Everyone in the class was staring in complete and utter horror as Draco's expression turned murderous. They very much wanted to cut loose and run, and indeed those seated around Leshia, including her friends, started to edge away from the seemingly suicidal girl.

"Pack up and get out," Draco said darkly, but Leshia shook her head fervently.

"No! You can't get rid of me that easily dad, I'm not just going to stop wondering what the hell you're doing because I'm not sitting in your lesson."

"Well what do you want me to do about it Leshia? There's nothing I can do! I don't know what the hell I'm doing! I don't know how to stop it!" Draco suddenly snapped feverishly, seemingly forgetting where he was. He panted in stress and threw his hand up to his forehead, leaning back against his table, lifting his other his face, to cover himself from the class. Leshia's brow knitted in such worry that she seemed suddenly a hundred years old with the wrinkles in her young face.

For several minutes nobody moved, stuck in some horrible sort of equilibrium where everybody wished so dearly to be somewhere else. The bell ringing to signify the end of the lesson was a God send, and without being excused Leshia's fellow classmates leapt to their feet with a scraping of chairs and rushed out the classroom without so much as a glance back. Leshia remained, but she too climbed to her feet and approached her father, who still stood with his face in his hands.

"Dad I'm so sorry," the girl whispered and she quickly rushed to her father's side and wrapped her arms around him, trying to press her face between his forearms, still holding his hands pressed upwards. "But I'm scared, I don't know what you've got yourself into."

Wanting so much to express how scared he too felt, Draco instead buried his feelings behind wall of strength and then slowly wrapped his arms around Leshia's shoulders, letting her know he wasn't angry with her. Of course she was going to want to know what was going on in his world. She'd always known everything about him and now she had no idea what was going on with him it was only natural for her to want to find out. He'd raised her this way, so he couldn't very well get angry with her for being exactly what he'd turned her into.

"Don't tell your mother," Draco whispered after a few moments.

"Why not?" Leshia demanded worriedly as she pulled back and looked up at her father in immense concern.

"Because I don't want you to worry her," Draco told the girl firmly.

"But she has a right to know…"

"Leesh just please, for once can you just do as your told?" There was such pleading in her father's face that Leshia nodded weakly; she couldn't refuse him anything. She would keep to her word.

As the following lesson was Ancient Runes, the test of Leshia's promise was to come sooner rather than later, and after Leshia had ran to catch up with her friends she filed into her mother's classroom with them. Hermione instantly sensed something was wrong, but instead of probing the girl in front of the whole class she waited until the subdued lesson was over and then asked her daughter to remain behind. Leshia did so reluctantly, her head hanging over her desk.

"So," Hermione remarked lightly, walking over to her daughter and sitting down on the desk beside hers. "Do you want to talk about it?" Leshia looked up pathetically and nodded dolefully.

"Yes," she sighed. "But I can't. I made a promise." Hermione's brow wrinkled in worry.

"They should never have asked you to keep a promise that would make you so upset," the concerned mother said gently and she reached out and smoothed Leshia's curls down. "Are you in any trouble sweetheart?"

"No, it's nothing like that," the girl replied, instantly soothing Hermione's worries a little.

"Can I help?" Leshia sighed and shook her head, looking down once more at her hands, which lay limply on her desk.

"No, I really don't think you can."

Leshia remained grave all day throughout their afternoon free period (on account of their astronomy lesson at midnight) something which had Katie and Rachel sharing her pain at seeing their friend so down. In retrospect Leshia was very glad of the mood she had been in that day, as just before dinner Katie cracked, completely unable to see her friend so depressed, and knowing that she could make it better instantly.

"Leshia," Katie said gently to the girl buried deep into one of the large armchairs. The blonde girl didn't even look up from her stoical stare into the hearth. "I just wanted to let you know that your plan, you know, for a certain house and a certain wardrobe…" Leshia looked up sharply at the dark-haired girl. "Well, I'd be happy to help."

As Katie had predicted, the change within Leshia was instantaneous and she leapt up, throwing her arms around Katie's neck. Rachel, who had been listening in intently, joined them exuberantly, wrapping her own arms around both of them.

"Oh Katie you complete and utter star!" the redhead crowed jubilantly. "I really think I love you!"

"Hey," Katie laughed. "I'm your cousin, you should love me no matter what I do."

"More to the point," Leshia added. "We're all best friends, so you really ought to love her no matter how silly she can be."

"Hey! I can retract my offer," Katie giggled.

"Oh no you can't Katie," the blonde girl exclaimed joyously. "That's it now, it's set in stone. A week on Saturday is going to be the most amazing night any of us have ever had, I'll make sure of it!"

XXX

Friday brought Katie's fourteenth birthday and in order to express their gratitude at Katie's acceptance of their party plans Rachel and Leshia threw the girl a small party in the common room with smuggled food from the kitchens and party decorations they had manufactured when they walked past the room of requirement expressing an intense desire to find some decorations. Katie was gleeful of their efforts and had one of the happiest birthdays she could remember.

Saturday brought forth the final tryouts for the ISQT squad, which saw all of last week's hopefuls come and await judgment. Madam Hooch had devised a plan that saw five teams competing in an all day tournament, and as such, the whole school had turned out to watch. Whether or not the pupils had got through to this last round they were about to find out. The stab of panic Leshia had felt was unnecessary as her name was read out first. The momentary stab of happiness Leshia felt was soon washed away though by the news that Allseyer was going to be in her team.

"Brilliant," she grumbled, and at her side Rodeo chuckled. He was still holding out for a place in the third trials and privately Leshia was sure he would make it through after the way he'd been flying the week before. Owen Gabriel was placed in the next team and after that one his sister met a place. Rodeo was starting to look entirely unsure of himself, until finally his name was called in the fifth and final team. After thanking all those who had tried out Madam Hooch gave the teams their schedules and quite predictably, Leshia found she would be playing Owen's team first. Their seeker was a fourth year Ravenclaw girl named Alexandra Cliff, who was best friends with the absolutely beautiful girl Owen was wrapped up in a conversation with: Valerie Beckett. Val. Yes, Leshia had heard the name Val spoken in delight by many of her male peers and now she was getting a good look at her. Arguably a good chaser Val was now a member of the Ravenclaw team and Leshia hated to say it, but the girl was good.

Seeing her talk to Owen now, swishing her dark long curls over her shoulders and fluttering her thick dark eyelashes at him, was making Leshia feel a little ill. So she looked away and instantly found something more repulsive to turn her stomach.

"Don't fall off eh blood-traitor," Allseyer jibed at the girl as he walked past and shouldered her out the way. Leshia glared at him as he sauntered off and she wished more than anything that she could march right up to him with her broom in her hands and take a swing at him. Stuck in the daydream where she was thwacking the boy with her treasured racing broom, the girl entirely missed the point where Madam Hooch blew her whistle signifying the start of the game.

Everyone had risen to the air by the time Leshia became aware of what was going on, at which point she leapt onto her broom and rose to the air amidst a sea of laughter at her complacency. With a new desire to show the mocking school that she really was better than their contempt, the girl threw herself into the game, and it paid off. Barely fifteen minutes had gone by in which Owen's team was ahead by nearly a hundred points (they did after all have the legendary keeper himself), before Leshia spotted the speck of gold hovering behind the goal hoops down Owen's end. Like a bullet she sped across the pitch, dropping into a lower and lower dive the more the snitch tried to evade her.

The players practically stopped playing and watched while the lightning quick little seeker darted round them so expertly, leaving Alexandra Cliff trailing in her wake with not even a glimmer of hope of catching up with her. Owen too stopped and stared when the snitch came to hover directly in front of his face, and for a moment he felt a stab of fear when he saw the small seeker heading right for him, her face so low down on her broom that she looked entirely focused, and a little bit evil. Despite himself, the boy managed to keep his eyes open while right before his face the girl snatched the snitch from the air and managed to pull off precision stop so that she came to rest beside the boy mid-air. The cheers from the crowds were deafening and Leshia felt entirely vindicated for their laughter only a quarter of an hour before.

"Nice one Malfoy," Owen said cheerfully.

"You weren't so bad yourself Gabriel," Leshia replied cockily, before she dropped into a dive so she could clear the pitch for the next game.

Leshia's further games went exactly the same way as her first, with her catching the snitch after a pretty poor effort on her team's side. Allseyer didn't perform well at all Leshia was happy to say, and although they lost their last game despite Leshia catching the snitch, the girl was still happy as she trudged back to her common room to change because she was sure Allseyer wasn't going to make it. Rachel and Katie talked her ear off about how they were sure that she was going to make the team, but Leshia couldn't allow them to get her hopes off, so she ignored them as best as she could without seeming rude.

When Leshia was changed and had made her way back to her room she frowned at the note that lay on her cushion. In the past, notes smuggled into her room somehow had only meant bad news as more often than not they contained threats from her grandfather. This note was entirely harmless however, as it read:

Got time in your busy schedule to have dinner with your old mum and dad? I know we're not as thrilling as the praise you'll no doubt receive at dinner for your performance today, but we'd love to see you

Love mum xxx

"Can we go down to dinner now?" Rachel was whining playfully; she'd been grumbling all throughout the last game (which had gone on two hours – Leshia was not playing in this one it was safe to say) due to her grumbling stomach.

"If it means you'll stop moaning," Katie laughed. "You coming Leesh?"

"Sorry losers, I'm going to have to love you and leave you. I've got a better offer," the youngster replied happily and she made for the door.

"Charming," Rachel exclaimed only feigning the insult in her tone. Leshia grinned at the pair of them before she darted out of the room and headed for her parents' chambers. They were waiting for her Hermione in the kitchen cooking some delicious smelling concoction with Draco at her side opening a bottle of wine.

"Hi," Leshia called to them brightly, before she wandered into the kitchen and started to nibble on some of the carrots Hermione had cut up for steaming. "I'm starved, mum this looks so good."

"Hi trouble," Draco said fondly reaching out momentarily to ruffle the girl's hair.

"Well done darling, you played so well today," Hermione told the girl happily, briefly pausing in her task to hug the girl firmly.

"It got kinda boring towards the end," Leshia said with a shrug. "Four games is way too much to do in a row. Hey dad can I have some?" the girl asked eagerly when she saw her father had finally got the bottle open.

"Will you get horribly drunk and start swinging from the chandelier?" Leshia giggled and shook her head quickly.

"I don't think so."

"Okay then, grab a glass," Draco said and he started pouring three glasses of wine. Hermione instantly noticed and she made a fond exasperated sound.

"Darling I told you, no alcohol, I'm on a diet!" the woman laughed.

"But…" Draco tried.

"No," Hermione said fondly. Grumbling slightly Draco stuck to two glasses, making sure there was very little in one of them. Dinner was soon done and as the family sat down to eat the delicious food Leshia felt a momentary sense of warmth. And as dinner progressed Leshia's parents seemed to forget about their respective problems, instead acting like they had in the summer: with not a care in the world.

Quite naturally for such an occasion, talk of their friends, the Weasleys and the Potters cropped up. Hermione was expressing how concerned she was for Ron, having to constantly have battles with her over every little move he made. It was depressing for his friends who had to watch him suffer. The couple were slipping down a rocky slope toward breaking point and purely for humane reasons in that Ron and the children were suffering from all this strife, Hermione wished dearly that they would separate sooner rather than later.

"I just want him to have one night surrounded by his friends so he has the strength to carry on again," Hermione sighed grimly. Imperceptibly Leshia jumped to attention, her mind going into overdrive while she thought how she could manipulate this situation to better serve her and her friends. Yes, she was very concerned for Ron's wellbeing, he was after all her best friend's much loved dad, but if there was a way to comfort him and get Ginny and Harry out of their house, then why not kill two birds with one stone?

"Why don't you have them all round for dinner here?" Leshia suggested. "You never bring them here." Draco and Hermione turned to look at the girl in thought, both evidently thinking hard; though their subject matter was entirely different. While Hermione considered the possibility of entertaining her dear friends in her 'home' for the first time, Draco was meanwhile wondering why he had felt, through his misunderstood grasp over Legilimency, a surge of mischief come from Leshia moments before.

"You know," Hermione finally said with a big smile. "That is a very good idea. What do you think darling?" Seeing the bright and beautiful smile on Hermione's face instantly elicited a nod from Draco; he could not deny this woman anything. "Oh wonderful!"

"Besides," Leshia added; and she too was beaming the same as her mother. "You've both been so, um, distracted lately, it'll be nice for you to unwind as well."

"Tell me shorty, will you and your hoodlum friends be joining us?" Draco asked curiously while leaning back in his chair and stretching his arms out behind himself.

"We might be popping in throughout the evening."

"Oh? Why, do you have other plans?" Leshia shrugged her shoulders, not wanting to lie to her father. "Leshia?"

"Draco," Hermione interrupted with a smile. "Of course she has plans, but maybe we should just leave her to them." Leshia stared in wonder at her mother. Where had this about-turn in personality come from? Normally Hermione would never dream of condoning Leshia's rule-breaking. She could not know that Hermione was pre-emptively pacifying her by letting her have her way, so that when the news finally broke about the new Malfoy baby, hopefully Leshia would be of a far more understanding disposition.

"Fine," Draco said amusedly, before he leaned forward once more with a very stern look. "But any plans that involve that Bulgarian thickhead Krum, and I'm sending you to school in Iceland." Leshia laughed, as did Hermione; the only difference between them was that Leshia considered her father to be joking, and Hermione had a sneaking suspicion he was serious. She had caught him looking up information about the Povetski all girls' Magic school in Reykjavik. Draco's dislike of Victor Krum, the Bulgarian seeker who was now on the brink of retiring stemmed from the fact that he and Hermione had briefly enjoyed an interlude with one another when Draco went missing presumed dead straight after the war. Hermione had been in a state and had rebounded onto Krum as though he were Draco reincarnated. Needless to say, when Draco returned and Hermione pregnant with his child and seeing Krum he did everything in his powers to win her back. Ever since a great feeling of animosity had existed between the two men, which Leshia had not helped by inviting Viktor Krum to last year's Halloween bash, which had thus far gone down in history as the best party in Hogwarts history, and consequently the reason everyone was expecting so much this year.

"I promise dad, that whatever it is that I might or might nor be doing," Leshia said firmly and resolutely; so much so that Draco faltered in his suspicions of her. "Victor Krum is not going to be involved in any shape or form."

XXX

The revelation that Leshia had procured the means by which to distract Harry and Ginny was taken with mixed emotions back at Gryffindor tower. Rachel was over the moon and went into overdrive, bouncing off the walls and already mentally scoping out the grounds for their decorations. While Katie went very quiet, wondering what on earth she'd let herself in for. The girls had a week to plan their party and so the preparations began.

Knowing already that the room of requirement could produce the decorations they would need, and alongside the cabinet itself, decorating their party wasn't going to pose a problem. Keeping their guests warm in the cold October weather was causing more of a problem, when the girls walked past the room of requirement wishing for some means to keep warm by and all the room seamed to produce was mountains of thick blankets.

"We'll just tell them all to bring coats," Rachel suggested and as this was the best idea they had, Leshia and Katie agreed, saying they would also light torches about the place to add an extra feeling of warmth and atmosphere. The room provided on one occasion a sideless marquis and after considering that they could shrink it with a charm, the girls decided they would request more of these and they too would be coming with them through the cabinet.

Food they ordered from the elves in the kitchen, sneaking in after class one day (after making sure Leshia was keeping Tally very much distracted by pretending to be ill – later on after her friends had returned the blonde girl had attested that the half hour she spent alone with the elf had been the most excruciating half hour of her life). The elves were more than happy to deliver food and drinks to the room of requirement and didn't even question what the girls were up to.

Moving the cabinet to the grounds didn't pose too much of a problem, as the girls had decided that they would go through ahead of any of their decorations and levitate it to the lawns down by the lake. A greater problem was how they were going to transport two hundred odd pupils through the room of requirement and into the cabinet effectively. They didn't want to give away their advantage of what the room was and how they would get to it. In the end they devised a clever system, telling their guests to come round at an exact time at which point they would be guided towards the cabinet, which the girls would place just inside the door in the room of requirement and they would shut the doors behind them before they had a chance to realise where they were. The open door to the room of requirement would be covered by a large tapestry should any teachers wander along the corridor; to which the girls also had a diversionary tactic in a pretend fall Rachel was going to take down the stairs to draw them away from any suspicious behaviour in the corridor.

All in all the girls were very happy with their plan, and truly, the only concern they had was keeping their parents occupied long enough to throw a great party. Yes, in the past gatherings their parents had held tended to go on until the early hours of the morning, but with the current state of things, would they be able to pull one of hose evenings out of the hat? In order to check up on them regularly, the girls decided they would go in twos every half and hour to ascertain whether their parents were still enjoying themselves (and if not run interference to make sure they would).

Before Saturday's events could take place however, the girls were to chair the first meeting with the Blue Lions. Their original plan had included meetings on Wednesdays every two weeks with emergency meetings being called in between if an emergency arose (in which case the coins would be used to alert the members), and yet three had passed since their original meeting to set up the secret gang. The reason being that the week before when they had scheduled their original meeting was the day Leshia had fallen out with her father and was far too grave to chair a meeting. The group had been informed through a series of whispers, and now, due to last weeks delay, people were quite eager to attend the very first official meeting with the lions. Leshia and her friends went early to the room of requirement, wishfully urging it to produce a room where they could hold their meetings. They were gleeful to open the door onto a cosy candle lit room covered by drapes and tapestries and with twenty-three large and cosy cushions on the ground, fashioned in a circle so as to make for easy discussion. Beside each cushion was a small table to place refreshments on, or anything else they pleased.

"Look!" Rachel had squealed excitedly. "They've got butterbeer and cake! Just like I promised." What was more impressive was the empty logbook that lay on a small lectern by one of the cushions – evidently a means of keeping note of the things the girls were going to discuss. They had not considered such a logbook and were very happy that the room had provided one. After all, what safer place to keep it than in a room most pupils didn't know how to get to? And in the eventuality that they did know of its existence, they would have to be wishing for the same thing the girls had just wished for.

Everyone arrived on time and were guided into the room they had not known existed. Needless to say they were very impressed and had soon made themselves comfortable, taking a butterbeer and slice of cake to their chosen cushions. Leshia, Katie and Rachel sat themselves down on three of the cushions where logbook lay and after everyone had quietened down Leshia spoke,

"Thanks for coming, I wasn't really sure that anyone would," she said with a meek grin. "I hope you don't mind, but Katie's going to keep a log of the meetings, just so we can keep up with what's going on." There was a general mumbling that people didn't mind and so Leshia grinned and carried on. "Basically, if anyone's heard of anything, or witnessed or even experience anything strange then, you know, now's the time to talk about it." Feeling like a prize idiot Leshia now hung her head and waited for people to speak.

"Actually," said a girl in Ravenclaw known as Gracie Wallace, a girl Leshia and her friends had got friendly with in some of their lessons. Her best friend Claire had also been invited, as well as two boys from their class that Rodeo and Parys were very friendly with known as Alex and David. Gracie was continuing, "I've been having this really strange nightmare several times a week." The girl didn't seem shy, but she did seem quite afraid as she relayed her experience. "It's quite horrible actually, I'm being strangled in it. There's this familiar voice in the background pleading 'not to tell them'. I don't know what it means." The girl trailed off while several youngsters in the room stared at her wide eyed.

"Oh my God, I've had that exact same dream!" Owen's friend Dan exclaimed, while several of the others quickly attested that they too had had the dream, while others claimed they'd heard word of friends, or friends of their friends having the same experiences. This seemed to be the impetus the meeting needed and soon everyone was discussing how on earth people could be having the same frightening dream.

"Maybe there's a ghost roaming around that was killed by being strangled and is now having its revenge on the pupils in the school," Amy, Rachel and Katie's cousin, suggested, to which several people nodded.

"But there's something else," Gracie now announced. "I've been having these really weird headaches, which suddenly come on right before I get this horrible feeling of being watched."

"I've had that too," Nicola whispered quietly. "And I know for a fact that Charlie's had it too." The girl was referring to Charlie Dotton, who was a boy in their year in Gryffindor. Leshia started to frown, while across the room Rodeo was shifting on his cushion uncomfortably as though he too had experienced such a thing.

"You're all muggle borns," Leshia suddenly exclaimed in surprise. "These headaches, they're only happening to muggle borns." The room fell silent as everyone pondered the meaning of such a discovery. Why would a ghost who had been strangled only target muggle borns? There had to be more to the story.

An hour passed by quickly, and by the end of it everybody had a lot more to say, but dinner would soon be served. There was one more matter to discuss however, before they all went to satisfy their grumbling stomachs.

"Actually," Leshia called over the group when they started to get to their feet. "There's one more thing we wanted to talk about. I know there's quite a few of us already, but we've got quite a few more members we're thinking of letting into the group if they show they're you know, up for it. And well, we were wondering if there's anyone you guys want to let into the gang, because we're all equals here, so if there's anyone anyone in the club wants to let in, then we'll have a talk about it as a group and decide what to do."

"Who are the people you guys didn't ask already?" Rodeo asked curiously.

"Just most of the Weasley clan," Rachel replied making a few people laugh. "You know, the younger ones, we weren't sure whether we could have all those youngsters running about the place."

"Well if everybody has a think about it anyway, and then at the next meeting we'll discuss what to do about it," Leshia cut in before Rachel could ramble on too much. After a general nodding of agreement the youngsters all climbed to their feet and filed out of the room. Leshia, Katie and Rachel stayed behind for a few moments to make sure they could shut the door properly so as it would disappear back into the wall. All in all it had been a very successful meeting, and as they wandered down to the great hall for the delicious roast meal that was waiting for them, the girls praised their own ingenuity. With the aid of the Blue Lions, they were going to find out what was terrorising the school, and surely with their combined efforts they would find a way to beat it?


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