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The remainder of her birthday and the holidays were wonderful for Elizabeth as she spent time with people that she loved. Although her father had been forced to leave at times to spend time with Anne, Elizabeth found that she was happier than she had been during her entire life. Her father cared for her even if he wasn’t her real father and he had made enormous attempts to make things up to the child. The one dark spot was the fact that her sister had distanced herself even further from Elizabeth and refused to accept the fact that her father wanted to get closer to the younger girl.

Elizabeth stood in her grandparent’s dining room as she gazed out the window at the freshly fallen snow that blanketed the garden and the pond beyond it. She loved spending time out there, but it was much too cold to stand outside and she knew that one of the adults would scold her soundly if she tried.

‘Being fourteen isn’t much different from being thirteen; they still scold me when I do something they don’t like.’

A noise beside her caught her attention and she looked down to see Tiger looking up at her with his bright green eyes. She leaned down to pick him up and then held him in her arms as he purred and rubbed against her as she kissed him gently.

“You don’t realize how lucky you are, Tiger, no one scolds you for doing things that you want to.”

A soft meow answered her statement and she kissed the cat again as she carried him back into the living room where she sat down in her favorite chair to consider the coming days. She would be going back to Hogwarts to resume her studies, but at least now she could feel that her father loved her. She thought about the trunk upstairs that would accompany her to King’s Cross, it was packed and her family would be going with her to watch her board the Hogwarts Express. It was the first time that her father would be sad to see her go, she was sure of that.

“Elizabeth, where are you?” she heard her mother call.

“I’m in the living room, hugging MY child.”

Victoria walked into the room and found her daughter reclining in the chair cuddling her pet. She smiled down at the girl, who seemed much happier these days now that she could talk to John without an argument. Victoria knew that it would be a much longer road with Anne, the older girl was extremely unhappy with the direction that events had taken.

“Your father sent an owl to you. He intends to be at the station when you leave to see you off.”

The girl sat up suddenly with bright eyes as the news was revealed to her. This was possibly the best present that she could have received and she couldn’t wait to tell Lily, Rose and Beatrice the news. Things were so much nicer now and she hoped that soon Anne would come around and be happy that the family was finally whole. She understood why Anne was angry, but hoped that they could be on speaking terms someday.

Elizabeth smiled once again as she thought about the expressions on her friends faces as she revealed what she had learned during break. Her father might not be her FATHER but at least now he was acting like he was instead of being at odds with her. It felt extremely odd to have him act like he valued her and to have him hold her in his arms, but she liked the feeling and wasn’t ready to have this new found closeness end anytime soon.

“Will dinner be soon?” Elizabeth asked as she glanced back out through the window once again.

“About an hour, why do you ask?”

“I just thought that I might take a walk out in the garden and down to the pond. The snow is just so beautiful and there’s no one here to mess it up like there is at Hogwarts. I want to take it all in while I think about what has happened.”

Victoria wasn’t surprised when the girl turned to her and hugged her briefly before releasing and walking to the coat closet to gather her garment before walking out through the door. The girl closed the door quietly behind her and then walked slowly down the path to the garden. Elizabeth had become so much more serene since she and John had come to terms. The level of tension in the house had diminished and the child was now eager to talk to her male parent whenever the chance arose. She watched as her daughter walked down to the pond and then sat down on the bench that stood there.

While Elizabeth sat on the bench, Jonas Mayer was considering the coming return of the students to Hogwarts and the sure conflict with the Malfoys, who were still enraged by the discipline that had been inflicted on Alexis. The girl had been infuriated by being placed in isolation and her parents had threatened to go to the Ministry with a formal complaint against the entire staff at the school. Not that the staff was worried about repercussions from the Ministry, the Department of Magical Studies was more than aware of the tendencies of that family and tended to take their complaints with a grain of salt.

He turned to the bookshelf to select a tome on the finer points of flying before sitting back down behind his desk to examine a chapter. The Malfoy girl would do well to read this book as it explained everything that she needed to know to be more successful in her attempts. He was very worried that the child might harm herself or someone else with her continued careless attitude about the subject and disregard for the gentle guidance from her teacher and the older students. She even tended to ignore the advice of her older cousin, stating that she didn’t need help and that she wanted everyone to leave her alone.

He closed the book with a sigh and thought back to the disturbing dreams that he was having, they all involved mirrors and had taken him to the point that he avoided those objects. Nothing that he had ever experienced bothered him as much as the dreams which haunted his sleep and he hoped that they would fade and leave him in peace. He rose to look out through the window at the Quidditch pitch in the distance. He had spent many wonderful hours on that pitch so many years before when he had been a student here himself. He had served his House team as a Beater, where he had shown incredible prowess but his time at the school had ended without an approach from a professional team. So he had become content to teach instead and had come back to Hogwarts after several terms at Durmstrang. He had jumped at the chance to come back to the school and didn’t regret his choice to do so. A sharp knock at his door brought him out of his thoughts and he turned to the door in time to see Professor Leeds opening the door and stepping into the office.

“A Knut for your thoughts, Jonas.”

“I was just thinking about the return of the students tomorrow, I am very glad that they are coming back although I must admit that I am not eager to see Miss Malfoy.”

“She is difficult, isn’t she?”

“I thought that after so many terms at Durmstrang that I would never meet such a contrary student as she again. Evidently, my confidence is going to be my downfall because she is every bit as difficult as some of those Bulgarians.”

“I have complete confidence in your abilities, Jonas. There is also the fact that she has only six more terms before she completes her studies here, it won’t take any time at all,” the Headmaster said with a wry grin.

“Only six more terms,” Jonas said with a shudder, “I may have to take retirement before that date arrives.”

“Confidence, Jonas, have confidence.”

The Headmaster slapped his colleague on the shoulder before walking out of the office to leave the professor to his thoughts. Jonas turned back to his window to consider what could have been, but now never would. He grimaced as he looked down at his hand as he flexed it, the hand had become more and more painful over the last few months and he wondered if the curse that he lived with was beginning to return. Finally he put it out of his mind and stepped out of his office to walk through the nearly silent corridors to the Great Hall and the dinner that awaited him.

Elizabeth sat quietly at table as she ate the meal that Chloe had prepared, her mother and grandparents noticed the pensive mood that she was in and wondered what she was thinking about. She had returned from her walk in a rather strange mood and they hoped that she was not upset about something. The adults prayed that the change of heart that John had experienced would remain and that things would not return to the way that they had been.

“Mother,” the girl said suddenly, “what time shall we depart for King’s Cross tomorrow?”

“The normal time, Elizabeth, you know when the train departs and that you can’t be late. What has gotten into you tonight? You’re in a very strange mood.”

“I’m fine, just thinking about a lot of things.”

“Well, don’t worry, your father will be there. He made a promise to you and you know that he refuses to break a promise once he gives his word.”

Elizabeth nodded silently as she wondered how her mother had known what she was worried about. She had heard about something called a mother’s intuition and wondered if that was what was going on.

‘Great! Now she can read my mind, I’ll never have any secrets that are safe.’

Dinner progressed quickly and it wasn’t long before her mother was shooing her up to her room to get ready for bed. She knew that the night would pass quickly and wanted to be rested for the trip back to Hogwarts and Albus. Tiger jumped up onto the bed with his young owner and they were soon asleep while deep within the castle a sinister conference was taking place.

“The girl returns to school tomorrow,” the voice from the mirror announced to the figure that stood before it. “All of our plans must be ready to be put into action because I will not accept any more failures. The results of failure would be tragic for all involved.”

“There shall be no more failure, Master, this time there shall be no escape for Elizabeth Blackwell, Artemis Trane or Harry Potter. We shall be victorious this time, we shall rule our world as we should have for these many years.”

“See to it that we are, I shall hold you personally responsible for any failure!”

The figure turned away from the mirror and looked out through the small window at the lake far below. The girl should have died in that lake, there was no possible way that she should have survived and yet she still lived. The Master was furious at the inept attempts on the life of Elizabeth Blackwell and would soon his followers would experience his wrath should they fail once again.

‘If need be, I shall deal with the girl myself! Unlike the others, I do not fear Artemis Trane or his legendary abilities, I should have killed him years ago when he refused to go into that house in Godric’s Hollow. I let our friendship get in the way of our cause and that shall never happen again.’

The dark figure vanished into the shadows with a whisper of a sound and once again the small chamber was left vacant.

Elizabeth awoke the next morning to the smell of bacon frying and she hurried out of bed to make her way down to breakfast. The adults gathered around the table smiled as she dashed into the room with Tiger hot on her heels.

“I knew that would get her up,” Artemis said with a short laugh. “The smell of bacon does it every time.”

Elizabeth paused long enough to give each adult a kiss before sitting down at her place to enjoy the breakfast that had been prepared. Tiger was at his bowl enjoying his meal as he looked up at his owner with adoring eyes, he purred softly as she reached down to pet him gently. The meal passed quickly and Elizabeth was soon showered and dressed for travel as Chloe prepared to take the trunk to the station while the family chose to use the Floo network. Artemis had taken the precaution, knowing Elizabeth’s weakness, of preparing a small hearth in an unused room to receive them. A few minutes later, they were stepping through the opening into the room and then out into the station itself. The Muggles around them never noticed that they had come out of a room which had been sealed off for decades, just as they would never notice that the locks to that room refastened themselves once the family had passed. Elizabeth found her trolley waiting just outside the door and she carefully placed the cage containing Tiger on it before setting off for the pillar that concealed the portal to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

When they arrived at the pillar, they were pleasantly surprised that there were fewer than normal Muggles about and they were soon standing on the platform where the Hogwarts Express waited for the students. Elizabeth’s eyes widened with delight as her father stepped away from the kiosk he had been visiting to take the girl into his arms in a great hug. He leaned down to kiss the child gently in the center of her forehead before releasing her.

“I never realized how enjoyable that it would be to do that,” he said as he looked down into her blue eyes. “I promise that there will be many more of those in the future, I have a lot of making up to do.”

“I love you, Father.”

“And I love you, Elizabeth. I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to realize that.”

“I forgive you.”

“You shouldn’t need to. I promised to raise you as my own daughter and I intend to make good on that promise. Before I forget, I have something for you,” he said as he handed her a small bag. “It’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.”

The girl opened the bag to look inside and was surprised to find a small mound of gold Galleons rattling around within. She looked up at her father with shocked eyes and noticed a small tear evident in the corner of his eye.

“There is no way that I can ever make up for everything, but I hope that you can find something that you want but couldn’t afford before. Now you can buy it, if you desire.”

“Where’s Anne?”

“She left for school yesterday. I begged her to come with me today, but she refused.”

Elizabeth nodded her understanding as the shriek of the whistle caught the attention of all present. She saw her friends in the distance getting hugs and kisses from her parents and now she was getting the same from both of hers. She felt tears running down her face and knew that now they were tears of happiness, now she was getting what they got and she couldn’t be happier. Elizabeth released her grandparents and mother before finding herself gathered into a hug again from her father. As she hugged him she noticed Lily and Rose watching and smiled at them before she was freed.

“You have a wonderful time at school and I hope that you will spend more time at home this summer, we have a lot to discuss.”

“I promise to be there, Father.”

John kissed the child once again and the adults watched as she got onto the car to hurry to the compartment where her friends already were seated. The adults could see the happiness as the friends were reunited and could tell that Elizabeth was giving them all the news. She turned, her face aglow, to yell out through the window at all of them.

“I love you all!”

“We love you too!” John answered as the train began to move away from the platform and he proceeded to follow it as far as he could to keep her in view as long as possible. Finally, he stopped to watch the train fade into the distance and the others weren’t surprised to see his face wet with tears. He turned to look at them as he wiped his eyes.

“She is such a wonderful child, she didn’t have to forgive me but she did!”

“You’ll find that there is much to learn about your daughter, John.”

He looked at Victoria for a moment before hugging her and looking into her eyes.

“Of that I am very certain.”

A moment later, Chloe grasped their hands and they vanished as Elizabeth sat in the compartment chattering happily with her friends as they sat listening with incredulous expressions as she told them about her holidays.

“You father isn’t you father?” Lily asked.

“He’s not my father, but he’s my Dad and that’s all that counts.”

“You certainly don’t want Malfoy to find out about that, he’d spread it all over school in a heartbeat,” Albus mumbled. “Then I would have to take points from him and Slytherin.”

“It’s no one’s business unless you want to tell them,” Rose added as she came to terms with what she had heard. “I’m just so glad that everything has worked out for you, I can’t even imagine living through what you did.”

Elizabeth leaned forward and hugged the older girl in gratitude somehow, she thought, this was what was meant to be and she couldn’t have been happier. She released her friend and the girls sat back to enjoy the trip even though Rose and Albus often had to leave their group to patrol the train cars. It wasn’t long before the students began to drift off as the gentle rocking of the train lulled them to sleep. Elizabeth cuddled Tiger as she fell asleep and the cat decided that his owner for once had a great idea, he was soon curled into a ball on her lap.

Alexis Malfoy, unable to sleep, rose from her seat and left the compartment that she shared with several other Slytherin girls. She was still furious about the treatment that she had gotten before the break and intended to set some of the people responsible straight, beginning with Professor Mayre. He had no right to treat her or talk to her the way that he had and she intended to get a bit of retribution for that treatment. Surely, she thought, he was hiding something and she intended to find out what that something was. She was nearly halfway through the Ravenclaw car when she was stopped by a burly Ravenclaw prefect who wondered what a Slytherin first year was doing on their car.

“Just exactly why are you in this car?” Gabriel Malcon asked the girl who stood before  him.

“I don’t have to answer your questions, don’t you know who I am?”

“Oh, I know who you are, but my question still stands, why are you in this car?”

“I’m not answering that question because I don’t have to and I refuse to.”

“What’s going on here?”

Both of the people involved in the dispute turned to see Albus walking towards them. He often visited this car to sneak in a quick game of Wizard’s Chess and had arrived just in time to come upon the argument.

“Albus, glad to see you. I caught Miss Malfoy here snooping about the Ravenclaw car and she refuses to answer my questions.”

“Alexis, why are you in this car?”

“I don’t have to answer your questions anymore that I have to answer his. I’m Slytherin which means that I don’t answer to your kind. I’m pure-blood, can you say the same?”

“Pure-blood is something that only you Slytherin are concerned about! Since you have decided to refuse to answer two prefects the next step will be to talk to Professor Longbottom, who happens to be in the next car. Since he happens to be a “pure-blood” you shouldn’t be afraid to talk to him. As it is, I’m taking twenty points from Slytherin and I’m sure that Mister Malcon here will do the same for your display of disrespect to prefects. Now, do you still want to talk to Professor Longbottom or do you wish to go back to where you belong and stay there?”

Alexis stomped her foot and squealed her anger before leaving the scene to storm back to the compartment that she had left. She knew that the prefects would be certain to carry through with the threat to take twenty points each from Slytherin and that her classmates would be angry at the loss of the forty points. As it was, they were in last place again and there was little chance for them to have any chance at the lead. The girl sat down in the seat that she had left, crossed her arms and glared ahead in anger.

She was still sitting in that fashion when the train finally began to slow down as it approached Hogsmeade Station and the other girls in the car wondered why she was angry yet again. They got up and silently left the sulking girl alone in the compartment as they hoped that she would not cost Slytherin more points. The trio hurried to get out of the car and to the carriages so they would not have to share one with her, the small amount of time that they had stayed awake and listened to her had been enough that they wanted no more of it.

“At least you don’t have to share a dorm room with her, “one of them remarked. “All that she does is complain and boss people around. Everyone knows that she’s the niece of the great Lucius Malfoy, because she won’t let them forget it. Honestly, if he were my uncle I wouldn’t be bragging about it, I wouldn’t be excited about being related to a wizard who was a known Death Eater and ran from a battle like a rabbit. The whole family is mental, at least that’s what my father says and I believe him more than I do her.”

Alexis had tried to catch up with the girls but found herself riding up to the castle alone in a carriage. She sat stone-faced on the seat as she watched the other girls in a carriage ahead of her laughing and talking among themselves.

“To hell with them all,” she said to herself as she turned her head so that she wouldn’t have to see them. It was bad enough that she could hear them and her anger grew as the carriage made its way up the road to the castle. ‘No doubt,’ she thought, ‘the professors will be waiting to greet us but I could care less. All that I want is to get to the dorm and have one of the house-elves unpack my trunk.’

Elizabeth knew nothing about the angst of the younger girl, she was incredibly happy to be back at the castle and the development with her father made the situation all the more wonderful. She hurried up the stairs with her house-mates and was soon back in the common room visiting with her friends, but not before she and Albus exchanged a kiss as they entered the room.

“I am so happy that you are here,” he said as he held the girl in his arms while he looked into her eyes.

They walked to the stairs that led to the dorm and ascended them together, not parting until they reached the top and they walked into their respective dorms to find their belongings waiting for them. Elizabeth hurried to release Tiger from his confinement and he wasted no time in making sure that he was free. The cat sprang up onto Elizabeth’s bed to curl up in the center of it while the girl emptied her trunk and put her clothing away in the dresser and wardrobe. He watched her with glowing eyes as she moved back and forth until all of her items were in their proper place. She looked at the crystal rose and the dragon that she had been given by her friends. She had felt a little strange when Lily had taken her to the memorial site so that she could retrieve it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting with friends until it was time for dinner and they made their way down to the Great Hall to reunite with the rest of their schoolmates. Elizabeth was extremely pleased to see Professor McGonagall sitting at the High Table and made a mental note to talk to the woman about the developments over break. The older woman was the one staff member that the girl felt close enough to discuss the issue with.

The students sat at the tables eating quietly as Elizabeth thought quietly to herself while she listened to her friends.

‘I’m home again, but maybe not so much as I used to be. At least now, when the term ends I’m going home to a family.’

She had no idea how long the rest of the term would be or what other secrets would be revealed.

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