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The days since the departures of James, his parents and grandparents had been quiet and Elizabeth often found a reason to seek solitude while the others made merry in rousing snowball fights and other games. She had found a balcony where she could stand and think about the events of the last week. She had never wanted the fight between Albus and James to escalate to the extent that it had and she felt guilty that the holiday visit of the adults had been cut short.

One morning she slipped away from the table in the Great Hall and silently made her way to her refuge.

Happy New Year?” she asked herself. “What’s so happy about it? James and Albus are angry with one another and James has left Hogwarts. Their parents have to be angry that the boys are not speaking to one another. I’m the cause of it all, I just know that I am.”

She stepped to the rail of the balcony and looked down at the courtyard far below. The fresh snow on the stone floor below made a beautiful smooth blanket that had not been disturbed by footprints of any kind. Her mind made up, she rushed down to the scene and stood in a doorway surveying it. It was so pure, so perfect, just like her love for Albus and just like that love it could be disturbed with a single thoughtless action. She stepped out onto the step and carefully brushed snow from a bench where she sat down.

Albus stepped to the door a moment later and stood, watching her through a window beside the door. Elizabeth had been extremely quiet since the departure of his family members. Their displays of affection had diminished and he often found her distant to him. She often looked like she was on the verge of tears when they were in the same room. He took a deep breath and opened the door to step out. She turned to watch him as he slowly approached her.

“Elizabeth, do you want to talk?”

“I think that we need to.”

The boy sat down beside the girl, his heart filled with dread.

“Albus, I love you so much and that will never change, but I don’t know how long this can continue. I never wanted to come between you and James and look what has happened. James is gone for the rest of the term, you two aren’t speaking and I’m afraid that your parents and grandparents hate me.”

“They don’t hate you, Elizabeth. James made his own decision to leave, but Dad knew that it was probably going to happen anyway. That day after the fight, when James left the Great Hall, Dad followed him to the stairs. He gave James an ultimatum to leave us alone or go home for the rest of the term and James decided to leave on his own. You had nothing to do with the trouble between us, it’s always been there.”

“So you didn’t believe what he said that night up in the common room?”

“Not for a moment and never one word. What made me truly know that you meant it was when you looked me in the eyes and then kissed me in the Great Hall. My parents and grandparents knew it too and believe me when I say that they love you just as much as I do. Now, neither of us has a coat on, can we go inside before we both end up in the Hospital Wing with pneumonia.”

Elizabeth looked away from him and back to the snow that covered the courtyard.

“Anne and I always hurried outside to mess up the snow after it fell. But do you think that we can leave this snow the way that it is. It’s simply too beautiful to mess up.”

“We might leave it alone, but as soon as Hugo and the others see it they’ll be out here.”

“Then I guess that I’ll just have to do this,” she said as she shoved him off of the bench to land in the fresh snow. Then she rushed for the door, only to be grabbed from behind by the boy who had risen from the snow and hurried to catch her.

“You’re going into the snow face first and then some of it is going down your back,” he said as he laughed and she squealed with mock fright.

They grappled for a moment and then tumbled into the snow below them where they wrestled playfully. After a minute or so they stopped with him on top. He looked down into the eyes of the girl as they pressed their lips together. He saw his future in her eyes and knew in that moment that this was the girl that he would someday marry.

“I love you so much, Elizabeth Blackwell,” he said as he brushed snow out of her hair.

“I love you, Albus Potter,” she said quietly. The boy was so intent on the girl that he didn’t see the handful of snow that she swiftly gathered and then shoved down his back. He yelled with surprise and rose from where he was as she hurried to make her escape as he attempted to remove the snow from where she had deposited it.

She was nearly to the door when he caught her again. The girl squealed as he pushed a snowball down the back of her top. Other students raced to the window at the sound of the squeals and smiled as they saw what was transpiring. In a moment, the pair was joined by his siblings and cousins. A rousing snowball fight ensued and the beautiful snow field was soon only a memory. Hermione and Ron stepped to the window and watched as the children had a great time.

“Those two are going to get sick and end up in the hospital,” Hermione said as she watched Albus and Elizabeth. She stepped to the door and called the boy and girl in.

“You two are going to catch pneumonia, going outside and playing in the snow without coats.”

Elizabeth and Albus stood silently with their heads bowed as she scolded them playfully. It was only when Elizabeth glanced out the window that she raised her head and pointed out through the window.

“And what about him?”

Hermione looked out the window in the directionthat the girl was pointing and was aghast to see Ron out in the snow hurling snowballs at the children as the snowball fight continued.

“You were saying, Aunt Hermione?”

“Well, at least put a coat on!”

The pair watched as she stepped to the door to yell at her husband.

Ronald Weasley!

Ron stopped for a moment to look at his wife. The moment was all that it took for a barrage of snowballs to converge on him as he became the main target of the children. In an instant he was covered with snow and trying to escape the scene.

Elizabeth and Albus stood at the window and laughed at the scene. Hermione was scolding her husband while he was being pelted with snow. They both knew that Hermione was trying her best to keep from laughing even when she became the target of snowballs from him.

“You have gone and done it now!”

Both watched as she drew her wand and cast a charm that instantly pelted him with dozens of snowballs. As they stood there both became aware of a presence behind them and turned to see Hagrid as he watched the battle.

“Jus like teh old days. Hermione always knew how to get teh better o him. Well, here’s some coats, yeh two get out on there before teh snow’s all gone.”

The trio stepped out into the fray and soon were laughing heartily as they threw and were hit by the projectiles. None of them knew that Minerva McGonagall stood on the balcony that Elizabeth had vacated and smiled as she watched the scene below. They all seemed so happy and the teacher hoped that the happiness could continue.

Elizabeth finally left the frolic and entered the castle, followed closely by Rose, Lily and Hermione. The girls had decided that enough was enough, they were all cold enough to want to find a warm place. Elizabeth swiftly headed for the showers and the warm water that they held and was soon followed by the others as they realized where she was heading. The woman and girls were soon talking excitedly as they showered and then dried off. All of them knew that the adults would soon leave and that school would resume in a few days. Hermione sat down next to Elizabeth who was busy drying her hair and decided to try to determine the cause of the child’s unhappiness.

“Elizabeth,” Hermione said quietly. “What happened at Beauxbatons? Rose has told me that you were unhappy there.”

The girl stopped drying her hair and looked at the woman who was her friend’s mother.

“They were absolutely vile to me there, Mrs. Weasley. I was never quite good enough to make them happy and the teachers seemed to delight in thinking of new ways to punish me. I just couldn’t meet the standards that they set and that my sister had achieved. She’s a prefect now and they made certain that I couldn’t forget it.”

“Did they abuse you?”

“No, they just made life unbearable. Finally, one day, I snapped and attacked a prefect. I split her lip good and they used it as an excuse to get rid of me. I was actually quite relieved when they told me to go home.”

Hermione nodded quietly as she considered what the girl had said. She had heard similar stories from other children who had left the school and was glad that she and Ron had never considered sending their children to Beauxbatons. Actually, it had never been a question that Rose and Hugo would attend Hogwarts, their parents had too strong of a bond to the school to send them elsewhere.

When they were finally all dressed they made their way back up to the dorms to change into dry clothing. Elizabeth was changing into her robes when she heard a noise at the window and turned to see her father’s owl sitting on the window sill. It had a letter clutched in its’ beak as it tapped at the glass. She stepped forward to open the window and admit the bird. It released the letter into her hand and then swooped away from the girl as she regarded the letter that she held in her hand.

She could see the strong handwriting of her father as she looked at the envelope and feared what the contents might be. Finally, knowing that she could not delay the inevitable, she opened the envelope and watched as the letter rose into the air and unfolded before her.

‘At least it’s not a Howler,’ she thought to herself.

Elizabeth,” she heard her father’s voice say. “You will pack your bags and come home immediately! I have been informed by Mr. Malfoy that you were extremely rude and disrespectful to him while he was at Hogwarts. You certainly have been taught to be more respectful than that. I warned you about misbehavior and the consequences in my previous letter. You will come home now, young lady! There will be no discussion, now do as you are told!”

She watched as the letter refolded itself and sank to the bed beside her. A glance down at her hands revealed them trembling and she felt as though she had been punched in the stomach. She looked back down at the letter that now lay quietly where it had come to rest. A moment later Lily, Rose and Hermione walked into the room to see her sitting quietly on the bed. Hermione, realizing that something was wrong, quietly sent the girls down to the common room. She crossed the room and sat down next to the girl where Elizabeth looked up at the woman with stricken eyes.

“Is something wrong, Elizabeth?”

“My father has demanded that I leave Hogwarts and return home,” she said as she handed the letter to Hermione.

Hermione opened the letter and swiftly scanned the text of the letter. She looked up from the letter to face the girl once again and Elizabeth leaned against the woman as Hermione put her arm around the child.

“Please help me, Mrs. Weasley. I don’t want to leave Hogwarts. This is more my home than my home is. My friends are here and I don’t want to leave.”

“Elizabeth, we need to talk to Professor McGonagall. She may be able to help and if she can’t I know someone who probably can.”

Elizabeth followed Hermione as she left the dorm and walked down the stairs to the common room. Her friends watched silently as the girl walked past them with tears in her eyes. Elizabeth walked in a daze as she was led to the Headmistresses’ office and was soon standing before the desk where Professor McGonagall regarded her with concern.

“Mrs. Weasley, is there some sort of trouble?”

“Professor McGonagall, Elizabeth has received a letter from her father demanding that she return home. She wishes to remain here at Hogwarts.”

“I feared that this might occur and I have been planning for this possibility. Elizabeth, don’t worry, I think that between Mrs. Weasley and myself we can help you.”

The girl looked up at the woman that sat behind the desk. Her eyes were red from crying and she trembled as she stood there.

“Can you really help me, Professor McGonagall?”

“Yes, Elizabeth, I believe that we can. Mrs. Weasley, are you familiar with the law about students who show exceptional talent being placed under Department of Magical Studies guidance?”

“Are you referring to the program that Amelia Bellins began?”

“Yes, P.E.T.S.”

“P.E.T.S?” Elizabeth asked quietly.

“Placement for Exceptionally Talented Students.”

“Elizabeth, Professor Bellins developed P.E.T.S. for students such as yourself who show exceptional talent in their studies. You qualify for it because of your capabilities in Transfiguration, Herbology and Potions.”

“But how does that prevent me from being sent home?”

“Because of your abilities the Ministry will resist your father’s demand that you leave Hogwarts. You would become a ward of the school and we would oversee your well-being.”

“But my father…”

“Your father would have no choice but to allow it. He would receive an official notice from the court ordering it.”

“But what happens after the end of the term? Will he let me come back to Hogwarts for the start of the next term?”

“The Department of Magical Studies would make your return to Hogwarts mandatory at the start of the next term. You will be back in classes next term and will not be leaving Hogwarts until the end of this term. We can make that promise. I will send an owl to Professor Bellins explaining your situation and another to your father detailing our response to his demand.”

“I don’t have to go home?”

“You’re not going anywhere. Now dry those tears and go find your friends, Mrs. Weasley and I have work to do.”

The women watched as the girl left the room.

“Professor Bellins will enjoy the idea of dealing with her father. They were often at odds while they attended Hogwarts,” Professor McGonagall said quickly

“I remember that, she hated being paired with him in class.”

“I prevented her from transfiguring into a more useful form on many occasions. How he got past his O.W.L.S. and N.E.W.T.S. still mystifies me.”

The women swiftly prepared letters to go to their respective destinations. Two owls were soon speeding towards the recipients of the messages.

“Elizabeth’s father will be outraged,” Hermione said as they watched the owls vanish in the distance.

“Quite possibly, but even he won’t argue with the Ministry.”

When the owls were safely away the women left the office to make their way to the Great Hall. When they arrived they found the children and Ron enjoying their breakfast, but Elizabeth was nowhere to be seen.

“Have any of you seen Elizabeth?” Hermione asked with concern.

“The last time we saw her she was with you,” Rose said.

“Should we help look for her?” Lily asked. “I know where she likes to go so that she can calm down.”  The girl rose from her seat and hurried out of the room as the adults trailed her.

Elizabeth sat quietly in the library as she soaked up what heat was available from the sunlight that came in through the large windows. She was curled up in the chair as she read out of an ancient tome about wizards throughout history. The girl still was upset about the letter that she had received from her father.

‘He expects me to give up all of my friends and leave Hogwarts. Then, once I have nothing, he’ll be happy, he just can’t stand to see me succeeding at something or being happy,’ she thought to herself. ‘Anne has always been his favorite and always will be. But I wonder how much of a favorite she would be if he knew about some of the things that she has done.’

When Lily and the adults arrived in the library they soon found her in her resting place. As they observed her from a distance she pulled out her wand and pointed it at a quill that rested on a nearby table. A moment later, a stone phoenix stood on the table and then, as they watched, a rat appeared that was pink with feathers. The girl had not even seemed to have concentrated on what she was doing, it had just happened. Elizabeth had not even spoken the words to cast the spell.

Professor McGonagall and the others stood quietly as they watched the display in awe.

“Her abilities are growing exponentially. Most fully trained and experienced wizards cannot perform that spell without speaking the incantation.”

“What does that mean?” Hermione asked.

“Elizabeth Blackwell is a truly talented and extremely powerful witch.”

“Then, when her father questions her placement in P.E.T.S., there will be no question about that placement?”

“There will be no question.”

“Do you think that she presents any danger to herself,” Hermione asked as the rat became a raven.

“I don’t believe so,” The professor answered as the raven turned purple. “She actually appears to be enjoying herself.”

Elizabeth abruptly rose from her seat and then looked at the raven. It was suddenly a quill once again. She placed the book back on the shelf that it had come from and then started for the exit. She stopped short as she noticed the adults and her friends. Her face brightened as she noticed them and she hurried to them.

“Did you see what I was doing? I didn’t even have to say the words, I just thought about what I wanted to appear and it did!”

“Elizabeth, how long have you been able to cast spells like that?”

“I don’t know, it just started happening one day,” she said. Suddenly a look of concern crossed her pretty face. “Is there something wrong with me?”

“No, it just means that you are more talented than we believed and P.E.T.S. will indeed be graced by your inclusion. Now, I know that you had no breakfast and I am sure that the elves could find something for you.”

Elizabeth nodded quietly and walked back to the Great Hall. She was silent as they walked through the corridors and appeared to be deep in thought.

When they arrived she took her usual place and swiftly grabbed the hand that Albus offered before she began to eat. Even though her friends had seen her apparently enjoying herself they were concerned about the implications that this newly discovered power represented. Her interest in wizards and witches of old was frightening. Many of the ancients had been extremely powerful and even more dangerous.

Elizabeth knew nothing about their concerns and was soon enjoying the breakfast before her. She listened to the conversation that was going on around her and responded to the questions that were directed at her.

“Professor, what will we be doing in transfiguration when classes resume?”

“You will find out soon enough, Miss Potter.”

When Elizabeth finished eating she looked at Albus with a playful grin and then gave him a gentle shove. Then she laughed and rose from the table where she waited for her boyfriend to join her.

“I’m going to watch the Hippogriffs fly around the lake. Do you want to come along?”

Albus knew that Elizabeth was entranced by the young Hippogriffs that had been born earlier in the year. The large animals often soared over the lake in search of fish and other prey. Elizabeth often spent hours watching them as they flew through the air and admired their freedom. She saw them as true flying creatures and regarded wizards and witches on brooms as a poor imitation. Brooms were fine for Quidditch or going from place to place, but they had none of the majesty of the winged creatures.

The young pair walked out of the room and hurried to the tower where they would have the best view of the lake below and the skies above it. Elizabeth watched with rapt attention as the great creatures soared over the lake and often played games of tag with each other. She admired them, not for the first time, for their freedom and beauty.

“I don’t think that I have ever seen anything so beautiful,” Elizabeth said as she held Albus’ hand.

“Oh, I can think of something even more beautiful than the Hippogriffs.”

“What could be more beautiful than them?”

“I’m holding her hand.”

Elizabeth paused for a moment and then looked up at him. He could see the pleasure in her eyes as she thought about what he had said a moment before.

“I love you more than anything, Albus.”

“Beautiful and smart, that’s what I love about you.”

They hugged quietly as the large creatures soared serenely through the air above.

Several hours later and many miles away, Elizabeth’s father looked at the letter that the owl had delivered only a moment before. As he read the neat script of Minerva McGonagall his anger grew. The professor had overridden his decision concerning his daughter and he was furious. What made him angrier was the fact that the Department of Magical Studies had become involved and the news that his youngest daughter had been included in the Placement for Exceptionally Talented Students. Anne had never been given this honor and it angered him that the child that he considered inferior had outreached his favorite child in achievement.

He crumpled the letter and then hurled it across the room. He could see no way around the letter and knew that not only was Professor McGonagall behind it, but so was Professor Bellins. He remembered the woman from his days at Hogwarts. She had been a thorn in his side at every turn.

“She has always believed herself superior to me. It is no different from our days in class. She believes that she can tell me what to do with my own child. This will not be the last that she hears of this.”

Professor Amelia Bellins sat in her office in the Department of Magical Studies. She looked again at the letter that Hermione Weasley had sent her.

‘It’s just like John Blackwell to do something like this. I knew that he could be cold, but to do this to his own daughter. What Victoria saw in him still mystifies me.’

She swiftly signed the document that placed Elizabeth in P.E.T.S. and then signed a duplicate to send to the parents of the girl. Each would go out swiftly to arrive at their destination by the end of the day. She knew that Elizabeth’s father would be outraged, but the cruelty that he had shown to the child could not go unchecked.

She sat back and thought about her days at Hogwarts. She had been in Gryffindor like her friend Hermione Weasley and had detested John Blackwell from the first time that she had met him. He had no talent or ambition, but acted as though he was bound for the position of Head Boy. He had set a record for detentions and had lost more than one point for his house. Considered nearly a pariah by most he had found his love in Victoria Trane.

The girl had been talented and intelligent, but lacked motivation. Before long, she was failing classes because she was spending so much time with John. Many of her friends had tried to dissuade her about the boy, but she had been steadfast in her devotion to him. Many times they had been caught in embarrassing situations in areas of the castle that they thought no one would enter and their schoolmates had expected them to begin their family before they had. Anticipation of an unexpected blessed event was in many minds as the couple ignored the possible consequence of their activities. But, no child had resulted until they were married. Somehow, they had avoided expulsion and managed to finish school much to the surprise of all.

Her office had received several requests from John Blackwell to place his older daughter, Anne, in P.E.T.S., but the requests had been denied. The girl was simply not talented enough to warrant the honor. While her marks were good, they were not exemplary enough to include her. The letters had continued and had eventually turned into demands. A firm letter from her had put the matter to rest until now.

She had seen the favor that he placed in his older child many times when she had seen the family together in public. The older girl got what she wanted regardless of cost, while the younger girl often was denied even the smallest and cheapest request. She had seen the older girl throw horrible tantrums and get by with it, while the younger girl had been severely chastised for the smallest of infractions.

Amelia Bellins had reviewed the record that covered the term the younger girl had spent at Beauxbatons. The professor found it strange that the girl had been considered incorrigible from the start, even before she had attended her first classes and frowned as she read a testimonial from the older girl that related that her younger sister should not be permitted to attend the school. It went on to say that Elizabeth was not intelligent enough to attend classes and that she would be an embarrassment to the school if allowed to attend.

She looked at the marks that the younger girl had achieved in her classes. She had proven to be very intelligent and talented, but had a dark cloud over her. Her record of deportment related that she was troubled and often committed offenses that required discipline. There were records of the punishments that had been meted out to the girl. One punishment had been three weeks cleaning the Abraxan stables with Muggle implements because her parchment had been of insufficient length. The girl had been punished harshly for minor infractions that should, in Professor Bellin’s mind, should have only been worthy a verbal reprimand.

Professor Bellins looked at the report about the final incident, the incident that had brought about the expulsion of the girl. It contained a testimonial from a witness who had seen the entire incident and had come forward to defend the girl. The witness had given their testimony on the condition that her identity not be revealed, the person was in their final year at Beauxbatons and didn’t want trouble.

The witness had seen the prefect in question seek Elizabeth out, shove the younger girl and then grab her violently by the arm as she tried to escape the scene. She had gripped the girl by the shoulders and shaken her physically while screaming at her that she was worthless and didn’t deserve to be in school. It was strange timing that two other students walked onto the scene as Elizabeth struck the prefect, but not in time to hear or see what had transpired prior to Elizabeth’s actions. What made it truly strange and very suspicious was the fact that the two students had previously given testimony that the girl was unstable. They were also known to be close friends of the prefect. The witness had further heard rumors that the whole incident had been planned ahead of time by the trio of students and Anne Blackwell.

'No wonder she lashed out! I would have done it too. She was being treated horribly and it appears that some of the staff and prefects were in on it,' she thought to herself.

She looked at the reports from Madame Maxime and shuddered. The Headmistress reported that she found the girl to be impossible to teach and that, in her opinion, she had no place in any school. It went on to say that despite the excellent marks that the girl had achieved that it was recommended that the Ministry ban the girl from any further magical studies and that her wand be confiscated and destroyed.

Professor Bellins had met the Headmistress of Beauxbatons on several occasions and had, at times, misgivings about the woman continuing at her post. She had been at her post for many decades and sometimes displayed a frightening propensity for vindictiveness.

She finally put the reports aside and smiled to herself. The girl was where she needed to be and belonged. P.E.T.S. would protect her while she studied despite what her father and the staff at Beauxbatons said about her. The letters from Professor McGonagall detailing the capabilities of the girl proved it.

She put the files back into their folder and placed them carefully on her desk. They vanished a moment later as the elf that transported files took them. Amelia smiled as she regarded the elf, he was an essential part of her department. She couldn’t do her job without him.

Elizabeth and Albus had finally returned to the castle and made their way to the common room of Gryffindor. The corridors could be dreadfully cold in the winter and they sat in front of the fireplace enjoying the heat. Tiger soon jumped up onto his owner’s lap and settled down for a nap. The young couple both wondered what would come next and if true happiness would ever be possible.
 

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