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The girl lying on the bed opened her eyes swiftly as she heard someone call a name that she didn’t recognize. She rose from the bed to gaze at the girl who looked at her as though she was seeing a ghost.

“Elizabeth? Is it really you?”

Hannah Maxwell, stunned by what she was seeing, moved closer to what she thought was an apparition. She expected the vision to fade from view, but the person on the bed stayed solid and made no effort to flee. The prefect was nearly close enough to touch her when the girl sprang from the bed and tried to rush past her to the door. She collided intentionally with the prefect as she attempted to push her out of the way, but the larger girl stood fast and refused to be moved.

“How can you be here? You died in the lake weeks ago,” the prefect said as she grabbed the arm of the person who struggled against her.

“Let me go! I don’t know who you think I am, but I assure you that I am quite alive.”

The look in the eyes of the girl that she was attempting to restrain gave the prefect a chilling feeling and she released the arm that she was grasping. The girl that she had held hurried past her and was making her way down the stairs when the prefect rushed to the balcony with her wand drawn.

“Elizabeth!”

The girl stopped in her tracks and turned around as the prefect cast the spell at her.

“Petrificus Totalis!”

The prefect watched in stunned fascination as the girl who was the target of her spell smiled at her before raising her hand and casting her own spell.

“Morphios!”

Hannah Maxwell had only a moment before she slumped to the floor of the balcony and never saw the lithe figure of the girl ascend the stairs until she stood over her helpless victim. The blue eyes of the victor of the brief duel blazed as she looked down at the one who had opposed her.

“Obliviate.”

Once she was certain that the girl was without memory of her, the girl hurried down the stairs and made her way back to the portrait that she had used to enter the castle. She stepped up to the picture of the wizard before asking for passage through the portal.

“I miss the sunshine.”

The wizard in the portrait yawned as he was awakened and then opened his eyes to look with irritation at the person who had awakened him for the second time in one day. He snorted loudly as he looked at the girl, but finally decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble and opened the portal once again.

“Thank you, kind sir,” the girl said as she passed through the opening and the portrait began to swing closed once again.

She swiftly made her way down the passage until she reached the door at the other end and after quick tug and she was stepping into the room which held the work place of the wizard. The girl rushed back to the room that she had been occupying and closed the door behind her as a large shape emerged from the water. The monster that climbed out of the pool as he returned from his foray into the lake and then transfigured back into a wizard a moment later never saw the girl as she closed the door behind her. He made his way back to his desk and sat down to begin looking at the book once again as the door behind him opened. A small face peeked out through the opening as the girl watched the wizard and wondered if she could chance another trip into the castle.

‘Why did that girl call me Elizabeth? Is that my name?’ she wondered to herself. ‘She certainly wasn’t very kind to me when she cast that spell at me, but no worry, I made her go to sleep and then forget about me. She had that pointy stick that she was using, why didn’t she just use her hand like I did? It’s much quicker.’

The wizard at the table sensed the motion behind him but stayed facing forward. Obviously, the girl had awakened and was moving about the room. He wondered if this was the first time that she had made her way to the door or if she had ventured out into the rest of the complex. He remained as he was as she slowly stepped out into the room and began to make her way out of the laboratory.

“I wouldn’t go down that hall if I were you,” he said as she approached the door that led to the hall that she had explored earlier. The trembling girl stopped in her tracks as he turned in his chair to face her. “That passage leads to a place that we do not belong and I must caution you to never venture there.”

“You mean the castle?”

He sighed deeply as he looked at the girl and then nodded his head. It was obvious that the child had been exploring in his absence and he feared what might happen now. If she was discovered in the castle it might lead them down the passage to the home that he had made for himself. The child was innocent and not aware of the danger that she faced if she made her way there again.

“Why don’t we belong there? It all seems perfectly normal and wonderful up there in the sunshine.”

“I once made my home in the castle, but that was a very long time ago. The world above the lake is one of conflict and danger, its inhabitants are wicked and without care for one another. You are an example of their ways.”

“I am?”

“I saved you after those who dwell in the castle cast you into the lake. They did not care that you were struggling for life and made little attempt to spare you. This is your home now and I must impress upon you how dangerous they truly are.”

“I encountered only one of them in the castle and she was easily defeated.”

“You didn’t kill her, did you?”

“No, I merely pointed my hand her and she went to sleep, then I made her forget about me. No one will remember that I was in the castle, I was very careful.”

“The portraits will remember and they will be certain to inform the others about your visit. This is quite a serious matter, I’m afraid. You should have asked me before you went exploring. Now we must hope that they do not find their way down to our home.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause a problem or place us in danger.”

“You didn’t know.”

“Sir, I don’t even know your name.”

“I am Sebastian.”

“Sebastian, I like that name, but do you have another.”

“I am quite content with just Sebastian. No one has called me anything other than that for a very long time.

The girl approached the wizard until she was standing next to him and looked at him more closely as her brow furrowed with concentration. There was something very familiar about him although she could not determine where she had seen him before.

“Have you a portrait in the castle? I know that I have seen you before but don’t understand where.”

“It is possible that you have seen my portrait, although I thought that it was taken down long ago.”

“Why would someone take it down?”

“Those above are quite different from us. They fear that which is different and will seek to harm anyone who appears to be amiss.”

The wizard watched as the girl frowned at his statement before asking another question.

“The girl that I encountered above called me Elizabeth, is that my name?”

“I honestly do not know what your name is. I have been calling you Star, for you are as beautiful as they and their light is one of the few things that I miss about the world above.”

“Star?” she said with a furrowed brow before brightening. “I think that I like that much more than Elizabeth. My name is Star!” She reached forward to hug the ancient wizard unaware that wheels had been set in motion by her visit, wheels that could never be stopped.

Far above them Hannah Maxwell was beginning to stir and she finally rose from where she had fallen. Her searching hand found the wand that she had dropped and she managed to gain her feet and stand up. The girl was confused about where she was and why she had been lying on the landing of the stairs. She remembered hearing something about a strange person having been seen in the castle in the area of Gryffindor Tower, but remembered nothing more. Now she had a horrible headache and finally decided to make her way to the Hospital Wing and Madame Pomfrey.

As she walked out of the common room she became aware of the Fat Lady trying to get her attention. She turned to see a very confused looking portrait regarding her.

“Did you see her?”

“Who?”

“You had to have seen her, she went into the common room right before you did. It nearly frightened me out of my wits until I realized that she must be one of the ghosts within the castle now.”

“Who are you talking about? I didn’t see anyone in the common room, although I have to admit that I seem to have fainted because I awoke on the landing between the doorways to the dorms.”

“Elizabeth Blackwell, I’m almost certain of it.”

“Elizabeth died in the lake, she can’t be here.”

“That’s why I thought that she must be a ghost now, but there is something that puzzles is the fact that she used a password. A ghost doesn’t use a password, they simply pass through the walls.”

“Did any of the other portraits see her?”

“Indeed they did! They are all abuzz with the news of her sighting.”

Hannah stood there for a moment before bidding the Fat Lady goodbye, she needed to speak to Professor Leeds about this development. She was certain that the Elizabeth that had been seen had merely been a ghost, but something played around the edge of her mind. It was a shard of a memory that she couldn’t quite bring into focus and she wondered if she ever would be able to.

She made her way to the office of the Headmaster to find him sitting behind his desk reading an ancient book. He looked up at her with a smile as she entered the cavernous room and rose as he laid the book down onto the desk.

“You seem puzzled, Miss Maxwell. Is there something that I can help you with?”

“I’m not certain, Professor Leeds, the portrait of the Fat Lady says that she has seen Elizabeth Blackwell.”

“Is she sure?”

“Very sure! Professor Leeds, is it possible that she has seen the ghost of Elizabeth?”

“There are many ghosts that inhabit this castle, so I believe that it is very possible that Miss Blackwell has joined them.”

“I wish that I could have seen her,” the girl said as she began to cry. “I miss her so much even if I was angry with her about losing the points. I felt so guilty about the hurtful things that I said to and about her. Do you know what she said to me when she got out of isolation?”

“No, I don’t.”

“She told not to worry about it. She said that she never took it personally and that she understood why I was angry.”

“I didn’t know her as well as you do, but she seems like she must have been a wonderful person.”

“She never asked for much for herself,” Hannah responded between sobs, “she was always concerned about someone else.”

Professor Leeds leaned back in his chair as he considered what the student was saying, he had heard this very sort of comment from many on his staff as well as other students. It was obvious that the girl had possessed a giving nature and he hated the fact that he had been made to punish her because of a teacher who was now sitting in the custody of the Aurors. He never would have believed that a Hogwarts professor could be guilty of the charges against her but, from what he had been told, Monique LeBlanc had killed Elizabeth Blackwell. He waited until the girl had calmed herself before ushering her out of his office and, once she was gone, he turned to the window in his office to gaze out upon the frozen surface of the lake.

‘What possessed Monique to kill that beautiful child? The problems could have been worked out, but there is no chance of that now, instead she will sit in Azkaban for the rest of her life and Elizabeth will never get to grow up.’

He watched the shimmering ice covered surface of the lake as a tear slid down his cheek to drop off and fall onto his robe. He had seen many hardships over the years and had managed to work past them, but this was different, his stay here as Headmaster would be remembered as the time when a professor had murdered a student. Forever memory of his leadership would be marred by an indelible black mark that not even time would erase.

While he considered the troubles that he faced, Monique LeBlanc was facing troubles of her own. Her barrister had informed her that, due to the amount of evidence against her, she would likely face a tremendous battle just to avoid life in Azkaban let alone a sentence of death. She looked around the cell that was her current home and sobbed as she realized just how far she had fallen, only a little over a month before she had been a shining star in Magical education and now she would likely never teach again, if she managed to avoid prison.

Not for the first time she thought back to the girl that she was accused of murdering and her mind wandered back to the day at the lake when she had purposely pointed her wand at the ground under Elizabeth’s feet and cast the spell. She remembered clearly the terrified look on the face of the girl as she tumbled into the water and how, for just a moment, their eyes had met before the spell was cast. Elizabeth had known who was killing her and now it didn’t seem as satisfying to the woman who now stared at cell walls.

Monique was angry at the one who had encouraged her to the course of action that she had taken because she felt that she never would have done it on her own. Without his persuasion she would have been content to wait out her suspension from teaching and would soon have been back in her classroom. She considered talking to the Aurors about what had transpired but remembered what she had been told about any attempt at betrayal. He who had revealed his identity frightened her more than anyone that she had ever encountered before. She knew very well that he would carry out the threats that had been made and that would enjoy watching her suffer before she died.

A noise at the door to her cell made her turn to see the person who brought her meals entering the room. She watched as they silently placed her plate on the table and then backed out of the room before she approached the table to sit down.  'At least the meals are not bad here,’ she thought to herself before picking up the fork to gather a piece of the roast beef that was smothered with rich gravy. She placed it into her mouth and began to chew as she regarded the rest of the meal before her with pleasure. The staff in the kitchen was quite good at preparing food and she wondered if they could be persuaded to prepare the meat a little more rare. 

She was enjoying the meal until one of the pieces of meat seemed to not quite go down her throat properly as she swallowed and she grabbed the glass of water to take a sip to encourage it to finish the trip to her stomach. She realized that she was choking and rose from the chair that she was sitting on in an attempt to get to the door.

A passing Auror, hearing the noises inside and seeing the prisoner within obviously in distress, rushed into the room to offer assistance. He saw a second Auror enter the room behind him and turned to the oncoming man.

“We need a healer!”

He turned back to the woman who was now on the ground and beginning to turn blue from lack of oxygen. He didn’t see the man behind him draw his wand before casting a spell.

“Morphios!”

As the Auror collapsed next to her, Monique LeBlanc saw the face of the man who was ensuring no help would arrive. He looked down at her without sympathy before looking at the Auror beside her and pointing his wand once again.

“Obliviate!”

The Auror stepped out of the cell and walked away to leave two bodies lying on the floor next to each other. He made his way out of the building and then down the street before disapparating, only to apparate in the hallway of his home. He made his way to a large room where a mirror covered a wall, a mirror with a surface of roiling mist.

“Master, it is done, Monique LeBlanc will never betray us.”

“Were you seen?”

“No, Master, the job was done with the utmost stealth.”

“Good, very good, you have done well.”

“What do you require me to do next?”

“Return to the headquarters of the Aurors and learn all that you can about the plans of Harry Potter and his family as well as the steps taken to protect Artemis Trane and his family. Perhaps it is time that we strike at the heart of the Aurors, we have already hurt their pride and now it is time that they experience the pain of death.”

“Yes, Master.”

The Auror turned away from the mirror as he thought about the events of the morning. He had been quite excited about the message that the owl had delivered and thought nothing about the chore at hand. This was not the first time that he had been called upon to eliminate one that might create problems for their cause. His position with the Department of the Aurors kept him above suspicion and he often proved his value when information was needed about the plans of their opponents. As he turned away he saw with satisfaction the great vision of a coiled serpent that had appeared on the surface of the mirror.

‘Soon enough, Harry Potter, we shall strike at you as well as the others who oppose us and then we shall take our rightful place as rulers of this world,’ he thought to himself as he left the room to return to a headquarters that was in turmoil. The body of Monique LeBlanc had been discovered by the Auror who had just regained consciousness, the man had done everything that he could think of to revive the woman but had been unsuccessful. The corridor around the cell was crowded with Aurors and healers and the newly arrived assassin found it difficult to make his way to his destination. When he finally pushed his way to the door he saw a body draped with a shroud and several healers gathered around it. The Auror that he had stunned sat at one of the chairs at the table as Harry Potter questioned him.

“Surely you remember something about what happened, Evan,” he heard Harry say as the man who sat before the Head of the Department shook his head.

“I don’t remember anything, Harry, it’s all a blank to me. The only thing that I remember is waking up on the floor with her lying on the floor next to me.”

“Was anyone else around?”

“I didn’t see anyone, the door was closed and I was alone with her.”

“It would have helped if we had a scrying ball in each cell, we would have been able to see what happened here,” Harry finished as he watched the removal of the body.

“It looks as though she was eating her meal when it happened,” the lead Healer commented as he viewed the room. “We’ll know more after we examine her.”

“Let me know what you find as soon as you can.”

The Healer nodded as he left the room and Harry watched as the crowd began to disperse. He looked around the room again before leaving and, as he walked out of the room, he wondered about the coincidence. ‘Professor LeBlanc killed Elizabeth Blackwell and now this has happened while she was in Auror custody. Just how did this happen? This is a secure facility and I just don’t see how this could have taken place.’

He walked away from the scene and failed to notice the Auror that was watching him from a distance. The young Auror watched as the head of his department walked towards his office and reached into his robes to finger his wand. It would be so easy to strike now while the famous Auror had his back turned, but that wasn’t what his Master had ordered. A moment later Harry disappeared around a corner and vanished from view, the young Auror waited for a moment and then went on his way. It wouldn’t do to be seen lingering around the scene of the incident, it might bring questions that he couldn’t and didn’t want to answer.

Harry returned to his office to find an urgent memo on his desk, he watched as it rose into the air, opened swiftly and spoke words that he had hoped he would never hear.

‘We strongly believe that the Office of the Aurors and the Ministry of Magic have again been infiltrated by Dark Wizards. All offices are to begin an immediate review of all personnel in an attempt to prevent illicit activities from occurring. The death today of a prisoner in Auror custody has prompted the immediate lock-down of secure facilties, all personnel will submit to a reading of their wand before they are permitted to leave the Ministry complex. There are no exceptions to this directive and any Ministry employee who refuses to submit to the reading of their wand shall be held for questioning.’

‘This has also prompted the immediate limitation of visitors to the Ministry complex. Only visitors with a valid reason shall be permitted to enter the complex and shall submit to a reading of their wand upon entry and before departure.’

‘We sincerely hope that this shall be a brief interruption of activities within the Ministry of Magic and shall work diligently to ensure that brevity.’

Sincerely,

Neville Burke-Haffleton                                                                                              

Minister of Magic

Harry watched as the memo sank back down onto his desk as he considered the implications of what he had just heard and what had happened this morning in his holding area. A prisoner had been attcked in the custody of his Aurors and there would be questions to answer before the Wizengamot. He wasn’t held in suspicion, but the court would want answers and, unfortunately, he didn’t have any to offer them.

While the Ministry began to attempt to sort out the mystery, students were beginning to return to Hogwarts. The cessation of classes had ended and many of the professors were eager to get the students back into the classrooms. Professor Leeds stood near the entrance to the Great Hall as he greeted the incoming students and wondered just how many would not return. There had certainly been a lot fewer owls bearing the message that a student would not return than he had expected and he was grateful for that.

He watched as students entered through the doors and greeted as many as he could by name while the other professors who had already returned did the same. All of them realized that it would take a while for things to return to normal and that there would still undoubtedly be tears shed by the friends of Elizabeth Blackwell. He had already seen many students walk down to the site of the memorial to the deceased student to leave trinkets behind in honor of the girl. As he watched the students enter the castle he wondered about the conversation that had occurred between Hannah Maxwell and himself. Had the ghost of the girl returned to Hogwarts to visit her friends and professors? And, if she had, why had no one else seen her but the portraits? It was all a great mystery that he questioned if it would ever be solved.

He stepped forward to greet her as Minerva McGonagall entered the castle, approached him and then shook his hand as she smiled warmly.

“Minerva, I am so glad that you returned, Hogwarts would not be the same without our Transfiguration professor, I have missed you intensely.”

“I had questioned whether or not to return, Tobias, but I feel that I am needed here.”

“Indeed you are, Minerva, I trust that you have been well.”

“Things are improving, I can sleep at night without constantly waking up to cry for her.”

“Are the Potter and Weasley children returning?”

“They are coming back, in fact, they should be coming through the doors very soon.”

A moment later, Lily and Rose walked through the Entrance Doors followed by their brothers and the Campbell sisters. The children had been down to the memorial for their friend and had now made their way up to the castle. The girls looked as though they had been crying and the boys looked crestfallen as they passed the professors who greeted them. The professors stood and watched as the procession of students made their way through the Entrance Foyer to the stairs and then to their common rooms.

“How many didn’t return, Tobias?” Professor McGonagall asked the man who stood next to her.

“My guess would be about thirty, but some of the parents haven’t made it official so we may see stragglers.”

At that moment, Scorpius and Alexis walked through the Entrance Doors to stalk past the professors who greeted them. Scorpius continued on his way, but Alexis stopped to glare at the adults who had spoken to her.

“Why would I be glad to be here? My parents made me come back, they evidently don’t care about me because they sent me back to a place where they have drunkards for professors and students get murdered by those professors. This place should be closed down and the lot of you professors sacked. I can’t believe that I’m back in this poor excuse for a school, they should turn it into Hogwarts Sanitarium for the Feeble-Minded it would be a better use of everyone’s time…”

“If you are finished, Miss Malfoy, you need to move along before I take points from Slytherin for your outburst,” Professor Leeds said as he interrupted the girl. “Now move along before I take those points.”

The small girl looked up at the Headmaster as if sizing him up for a fight and then squealed her indignation before stomping her foot and storming away to the stairs that led to the Slytherin Common Room. The professors watched her with slight annoyance before leaving to make their way to the staff room where Professor Leeds would inform them of the fate of Monique LeBlanc. He had received the news just before the arrival of the students and didn’t want rumors to get started among the students.

When they had gathered he informed them of the death of Professor LeBlanc and, as he expected they would, the professors reacted with shock as he informed them of the death of their former colleague. They had many questions while he had few answers and many of the staff left the meeting confused and worried. If the Aurors couldn’t protect a prisoner in their custody, could they be counted on to protect the students at Hogwarts. He watched as they left the room before leaving it himself to make his way to his office. He had no idea that one among the crowd that had returned to the school stood in the shadows and watched him as he ascended the stairs. If he had, he would have known that the troubles were much larger than he could have ever imagined.

Deep within Hogwarts, the dark wizard watched the mirror and planned the revenge that had been so long in coming. Some would die, but none would ever forget.
 

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