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Sebastian stalked through the chamber that held his pool as he thought about the girl he had rescued from the lake weeks ago. Not for the first time, he glared at the door that she had vanished through as she made her way back into the castle and her former life. He wondered how much she would remember about the time that she had spent with him in this cavern and what she would say if the memories returned. He had known that the possibility that she would go back to the surface existed, but had hoped that she would decide to remain with him. It had been so long since he had received company and even longer since someone had accepted him for what he was, not many accepted the presence of an Animagus and he had hoped that she would be different.

There was a brief noise from the direction of the door and he turned hopefully towards it, but was disappointed when it was seen to be the door swinging shut on its own. He stepped closer to the door in the hope that it was the girl returning, but a glimpse down the corridor showed only the empty expanse of the passage. For a moment, he considered doing down the passage, but it had been many decades since the space had echoed with the sound of his footsteps and there was also the fact that each step would take him further from the comfort of his lake.

The passage beckoned to him, but the beginning of the call of his lake reached him as his skin began to burn furiously. He thought back to the time when he was not afflicted with the need to spend so much time within the waters of the lake, life had been different then and he sometimes longed for those days. He closed his eyes as he remembered the happy times in his life when he could live in the sunshine above without the pain that it now brought.

He remembered a miracle with long flowing blonde hair that had been his daughter, a child not so unlike the girl who had just left to return to the castle. Life had been good and he had been honored when the founders of Hogwarts had asked him on occasion for his advice and then had asked him to teach at the school. His child was overjoyed when she realized that her father would teach her in class and the twelve terms that he had spent teaching at Hogwarts had been wondrous. Then the trouble had begun when Slytherin voiced his opinion that only pure blood students should be allowed to study at Hogwarts. This escalated when the founder realized that Katherine was a half-blood with a Muggle mother and he ordered the girl be sent from the school and her father be sacked.

Sebastian refused to listen to the rantings of the founder and continued to teach as he had for several years. It had all come to an end when the founder challenged him to a duel after Sebastian voiced his opinion about the “pure-blood” founder. The duel had been fierce and both men sustained injuries that would trouble them for the rest of their lives, but the most grievous injury occurred when the child had thrown herself between the wizards and had been killed by an errant curse from Slytherin. Sebastian, in his grief, cast an incredibly hateful curse at the wizard who tried to apologize for killing the innocent.

In an instant, Sebastian’s life changed forever as the curse rebounded and struck him transforming him into a hideous monster that could never again live in the sunlight. Only the fact that he was a powerful Animagus protected him, for it gave him short periods when he could appear as a wizard. But those times were torture because he needed the cooling waters of the lake to sooth his skin as it began to dry out. He was also cursed with extraordinarily long life due to one of the curses flung at him during the duel. It wasn’t clear to him how long he would live, but already he had seen a millennia pass.

He turned back to the lake and transformed into the creature that kept him safe from discovery, the townspeople and the Merfolk avoided the area around the entrance to his lair. He, himself, had brought forth the name that the residents of the area gave that area of the lake and it had been in this area that he had made his escape from the world above when he deliberately fell out of a boat and transformed into the creature that had “eaten” him. Many of the residents had seen him struggling in the water and then being “pulled” down by a large creature, it had then been an easy task to make his way to the cavern that he now occupied. He had labored for years to construct this complex and had managed to place the portrait at the entrance without anyone, portraits included, noticing because memory charms were good for that sort of thing.

He slid into the lake as his mind swam with the memory of the child that he had cared for since finding her in the lake. She was so much like his Katherine and yet so different, the girl had been strong willed and uneasily swayed while Katherine followed without question. He had no doubt that the girl was powerful as he had seen her accomplish things that many experienced wizards could not. He, himself, could not perform some spells without a wand while she was quite adept at it as well as casting spells nonverbally. There had been only one wizard that he had known in his long life that was capable of such things and this frightened Sebastian, because that wizard had become incredibly dangerous and incapable of mercy.

The people in the boats floating on the lake noticed the large shape as it moved through the water under their vessels and made haste to get to shore. While he had never actually taken a boat or person, the stories about the thing that dwelled in the lake made his privacy certain as only the foolhardy ventured into the depths. The Grindylows often took care of those who dove under the surface, but he was content to let that make the reputation of the monster in the lake more terrifying.

Townspeople gathered on the shore of the lake as he broached briefly and this encouraged the fleeing boats cause to get to the docks as quickly as they could. The fishermen scrambled out of their craft almost before they were secured to the docks and stood there counting their blessings. They were grateful to still be living and not among those who slept forever in the depths of the lake. The gathered throng hurried back to the Hog’s Head to tell tales of what they had seen and the narrow escape that some had managed. The tales, like so many before them would grow in detail and, before long, it would be said that the boats had escaped from the very teeth of the creature of the lake.

High in the Astronomy tower of Hogwarts a group of students also watched the event on the lake and would soon be telling their own tales at the tables in the Great Hall. Those tales, like the ones in Hogsmeade would grow until they were unrecognizable to the participants and indistinguishable from the many legends of the area as they circulated through the years.

Elizabeth knew nothing about this as she sat with her friends in the Gryffindor Common Room while they filled her in on the events that had happened in her absence. Tiger sat in her lap and refused to be parted from his young owner while she talked with her friends and snuggled against Albus. The two young people had wasted no time in resuming their relationship and were clutching hands tightly as they talked.

“By the way,” she said suddenly, “who has my wand and other things? I mean, I got Tiger back and he’s by far the most important thing that I own, but where is everything else.”

“Your parents took most of it home with them although a few things did stay here,” Rose answered.

Almost at once people began to rise to retrieve the items that they had kept as keepsakes and soon several of the items were back in Elizabeth’s possession. She reacted with shock as she was told that some of the things had been left at the memorial to her on the lake shore.

“There’s a memorial to me by the lake?”

“We all thought that whatever lives in the lake got you and wanted a place to go to remember you,” Beatrice said quietly.

“That’s where your rose is,” Lily added. “I put it there before the school closed while they investigated what had happened.”

“Hogwarts closed all because of me?”

“Yeah, they thought that the students were in danger.”

“And they thought that Professor LeBlanc killed me?”

“A witness saw her running from the lake and they read her wand before taking her to the Headquarters of the Aurors. Our dad was the one who arrested her,” Albus added.

Their conversation was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Professor Leeds as he apparated in.

“Miss Blackwell, I am so happy to see you alive and well. Professor McGonagall has sent owls to your parents and grandparents to give them the news of your miraculous return. I am going to need to speak to you in my office so, if you would not mind, I need you to accompany me,” he said as he held out his arm for her to grasp his sleeve.

Elizabeth got the meaning of his gesture and quietly shook her head in denial.

“I can’t do that Professor Leeds, apparating makes me extremely ill and you don’t want the results of that. I can walk to your office, but I won’t apparate.”

“Very well then, Miss Blackwell, I would appreciate the presence of your company as we walk to my office.”

Elizabeth rose after releasing Albus’ hand and then kissed Tiger gently before handing the reluctant cat to Lily. “Don’t worry, Tiger, I promise that I will be right back, I’m not going anywhere.”

The gathered friends watched as the girl left with the Headmaster and wondered what he needed to say that he couldn’t in their presence. While they wondered, the owl had arrived at the home of Artemis Trane and the old man looked up from his chair at the bird who released the message to him. He carefully opened the envelope that was emblazoned with the crest of Hogwarts and signed with the neat script of Professor McGonagall.  Artemis watched as the message opened to give him news that he didn’t think possible.

Mr. Trane,

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter to you as the most wonderful thing has happened. Elizabeth has been found alive and well and is, at this very moment, here at Hogwarts. She has been examined by our nurse and is sound with no signs of ill effect or injury. I knew that you would want to know about this development so that you can share this with your wife. I assume that you would want to travel to Hogwarts to meet with her and welcome your presence in our school.

Minerva McGonagall                                                                                                                          

He watched, stunned, at the note refolded itself and then sank to the table beside him. It took many minutes for the implication of the news to reach him and, when it did he rose so suddenly that he upset the butterbeer that he had just put down. He ignored the crash of the shattering glass as he hurried into the house where his wife and daughter sat. They looked up at him with wide eyes full of concern as he rushed into the room with a wild look on his face.

“What is it, Artemis, what has happened?”

“The most wonderful thing has happened, Amanda,” he said as he looked at his wife and child.

“What is it, Father?”

“Amanda, Victoria, our Elizabeth has been found.”

“Well, now we can at least bury her,” Victoria said as she started to settle back into her chair.

“I doubt that you’re going to want to do that, Victoria. Elizabeth is alive!”

The women sat stunned as he had minutes before until the situation registered and they rose from the chair to grasp him in a hug. Tears flowed down their cheeks as they held each other in the embrace and they finally released each other to begin making preparations. Chloe found herself being gathered into a hug as Victoria gave her the news and the elf was happier than she had been in a very long time, she knew that she would also travel to the school to meet the girl.

While the happy trio and elf made plans to travel to the school to see Elizabeth so that they could return her belongings, John sat sullenly in his chair as he thought about what the letter had said.

‘Why should I be happy that she has returned alive and well? She has been difficult her entire life, even before she was born, and cannot even die without creating a problem. Now she will want to return to this house and I shall have to deal with her whining and scheming. Perhaps it is time that she stays with Artemis and Amanda, it would make things so much more pleasant. Why should I wish to travel to Hogwarts just to see her? To hell with her, I shall travel nowhere!’

He rose from the chair and stalked to the mantle where a picture of the family stood. There he gazed at the image of that the frame held and, as he did, the anger grew within him. The image of Anne brought nothing but joy to his heart and he reached forward to run his finger over the hair of the child. Then his attention turned to the visage of his wife and his smile faltered as his eyes hardened, she smiled back at him as he viewed the picture and he could find little joy in his heart. Finally, he looked at the image of Elizabeth and felt nothing but contempt for the child that he had once tried to love. He abruptly turned away from the picture and strode to the cabinet that held a bottle of amber colored liquid. Pulling the top off of the bottle, he poured a portion of the liquid into a tumbler and then, after seizing the vessel quickly, he downed the liquid with one swallow then poured another as his mind wandered.

‘Damn you, Victoria! Damn you and your secrets! Secrets which prevent us from having the life that we should have had, you brought that child into the world and doomed us to this unhappy existence. I have known your secret for many years and will never forgive you for them, just as I shall never truly cherish YOUR daughter!’

He suddenly hurled the tumbler across the room and watched as it slammed into the wall and shattered into thousands of pieces. The noise brought Digby the House-elf, who began to clean up the destroyed tumbler as his master stalked around the room. Finally Digby finished his task and then vanished as his master picked up another tumbler to pour himself another drink from the decanter. John walked to the window to gaze out through it as he emptied the liquid and then sat the glass down on the table that stood there.

His mind wandered once again as he thought about Elizabeth and the complications that her birth had created nearly fourteen years ago. The child was so unlike her sister, Anne had been a nearly perfect baby, calm and easy to soothe when she was upset while Elizabeth had been almost impossible to quiet. She had been uncooperative at nearly every turn while her sister was easy to manage and, had he not been present at the birth of each girl, he would have wondered if they were sisters.

Then there had been the trouble at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic when Elizabeth made a terrible name for herself and, in the end, had cost Anne the position of prefect. The girl actually thought herself superior because Professor Bellins had seen fit to place her in P.E.T.S. and had almost flaunted it to her sister. He remembered many nights during the summer when Anne had come to him in tears about the fact that she had been overlooked by the Ministry while they had seen fit to honor her sister. Anne had also been upset by the fact that Elizabeth was taunting her about the fact that she had been overlooked. He remembered one conversation that he and his older daughter had shared on a night that Anne had come to him after an argument with her sister.

“She’s being so cruel to me, Father, always bragging about the honor that the Ministry has given her. She acts so superior to me in every way and finds any excuse to be cruel to me. Can’t you do something, Father?”

“The Ministry has my hands tied, Anne, Professor Bellins has taken your sister’s side and refuses to hear my argument for you. The professor has always been against me, it has been that way since we were at Hogwarts together. She hated me with a passion because I chose your mother over her.”

“So, I am to suffer because she’s angry because you chose a better woman?”

“Yes, that is the reason that you suffer.”

“Father, is Elizabeth truly my sister? Or did you take in an orphan?

“Why do you ask?”

“Well, she certainly doesn’t look much like you, Mother or I!”

John remembered pausing for a moment and taking in a deep breath as he thought about what his child was asking. Many times he had pondered that same question, only he knew very well that Elizabeth was not some orphan that they had taken in. He remembered the pregnancy that had produced his younger daughter very clearly and, at first, had not questioned that he was the father of the girl. But as the years had passed he began to question whether he had sired the child or not, especially since he and Victoria had spent several months separated prior to the birth of Elizabeth. In his mind he had harbored some suspicion that the girl was not his daughter, but had never confronted his wife because he knew what would happen and he couldn’t bear the thought of Anne being taken from him.

Elizabeth and Professor Leeds had arrived in his office and the girl looked around the room as she always did, hoping to get a glimpse of something new that had been added to the cases. She was disappointed when she failed to see anything unfamiliar and was soon sitting in a chair in front of the Headmaster’s desk.

“Am I in trouble, Professor Leeds?”

“No, Elizabeth, you’re not in trouble although I am rather curious about your sudden reappearance. Where have you been all this time and why have you chosen to show back up now?”

“I really don’t know where I was, Professor Leeds, all that I remember is falling into the lake and then waking up in the girl’s dorm in Gryffindor tower. Beyond that, everything else is blank, although I do have brief glimpses of an old man and a lot of water.”

“So you have no recollection of where you have been all this time?”

“No, Professor Leeds.”

“Do you have any recollection of Professor LeBlanc the day that you fell into the lake?”

“The only thing that I remember about her is seeing her standing on the opposite side of the ledge I fell off of. The strange thing is that I think that she was pointing her wand at me and casting a spell. Is it true that they have arrested her for trying to kill me?”

“You’ve been told that?”

“Yes, sir, Albus, James and Lily all have said that their father arrested Professor LeBlanc and that she confessed to the attack.”

The tall professor took a deep breath as he looked at the girl who sat before him and then decided not to reveal what he knew about the fate of the accused woman. No good would come of it, he was sure, and there was no need to trouble the child with the news of the death of Monique LeBlanc. He looked once again at the very pretty girl and decided that there was no sign of deceit in what she was telling him. It amused him that she persisted in attempting to steal glances of the items in the cabinets and, as he thought back, he remembered that she was extremely curious about what she was seeing.

“You have a highly inquisitive mind, Miss Blackwell,” he said as he chuckled. “We need to set up an afternoon for you to get a good look at the contents of those cabinets.”

The girl smiled at the man who sat behind the desk and was reminded of her grandfather by the twinkle in the eyes of the professor. As pleased as she was that she wasn’t in trouble she was still concerned about the future and it showed.

“You’re still concerned about something, Miss Blackwell.”

“I’m not really looking forward to going back to classes, I mean, I know that Professor LeBlanc is no longer teaching here but I worry about the reaction from some of the students.”

“I am quite certain that they will come around, Elizabeth. But I should let you go back to Gryffindor Tower, I understand that you have some visitors who are extremely anxious to see you.”

“Visitors?”

“It is my understanding that your mother and maternal grandparents are here and waiting to see you. So, should we walk back to your common room for a reunion that is too long over due.”

Elizabeth felt as if she was going to faint, she was breathing so hard, but rose from her seat and hugged the surprised professor before they hurried out of the office. The halls of Hogwarts seemed endless, but she was soon entering the common room and seeing her mother and grandparents for the first time in a long while. They rushed forward to hold one another and many tears flowed as they gave and received kisses and hugs.

The girl abruptly released her parent and grandparents to take Chloe into her arms as she hugged the tiny elf.

“Chloe is so glad to see Miss Elizabeth alive and well. Chloe was so upset when it was thought that Miss Elizabeth had been eaten by the creature that dwells within the lake.”

“I’m fine, Chloe and I’m so happy to see you again.”

The rest of the evening was spent by the reunited family as Elizabeth’s belongings were returned and they talked quietly about the weeks since the disappearance of the girl. Although she was happy to see her mother and grandparents, a dark cloud hung over the happy time as Elizabeth thought about the fact that her father wasn’t present even though he had been notified.

As she climbed into bed that night her mind was filled with thoughts about this latest slight and what it meant.

‘I intend to find out why you hate me so much, Father. I intend to bring forth whatever motivation you have for staying away and treating me so differently from Anne. You shall answer these questions, Father, because I suspect that you have been behind many of my troubles and if you were than you shall answer for what you have done.’

She closed her eyes, her mind still working, and didn’t realize that the answers that she sought would be more that she wished to understand.
 

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