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Nurse Matilda Smythe sat behind the desk in Madam Pomfrey’s office as she examined the finished the report about an injury that had been experienced during Quidditch practice. The boy that she had seen had acted as though the injury was far worse than it actually was and the time that she had been forced to devote to it aggravated her. She had far more important things to attend to, the highest priority belonging to dealing with Elizabeth Blackwell. The girl had managed to get free of the curse that had been placed upon her and had been instrumental in removing several Slytherin students from Hogwarts.

Matilda really didn’t care about the loss of a few students, even if they were Slytherin, she was more concerned about the instructions that she had received from the Dark Lord’s top lieutenant. The girl was to be eliminated and the best way that she could do that was to destroy her friends. There was little doubt that the girl, crazy with grief, would walk right into a trap that she could not escape. It would then be easy to destroy her and the deaths of the Potter children would be an added bonus because that would undoubtedly bring Harry Potter into striking distance.

She looked up as the door opened and was stunned to see Elizabeth Blackwell being helped into the room by Professor Leeds and a male student. The girl appeared to be nearly unconscious and blood was running down her face from a nasty looking wound on her forehead. She rose from the desk and hurried around to meet the trio as they moved the girl towards one of the beds.

“What in the name of Merlin happened to her?” Matilda asked swiftly, feigning concern, as the girl was placed on a bed.

“Flying practice,” Leeds answered, “she collided with another student and wasn’t able to recover before she hit the ground.”

“What about the other child?” The nurse asked as she feigned concern for the girl.

“They were able to recover from the collision, but Miss Blackwell hit the ground at full speed. How she was able to survive that impact is unexplainable, except for luck.”

“I’ll take over from here. I need to examine her for concealed injuries so I will ask you gentlemen to leave so that her modesty can be preserved.”

Matilda’s heart quickened its pace as the Headmaster and student turned to leave the room; then she stepped towards the bed to look down at the child who lay there. She reached forward to run her hand over the blonde hair as she spoke softly.

“Poor Elizabeth, you really should have waited for Madam Pomfrey to be here before having this accident. I’m afraid that there is really very little hope for your survival. Of course, no one will question your death after the terrible accident that you have been the victim of. The Dark Lord will be very pleased with the news of your death and will be certain to reward me greatly. I just need to decide what I’m going to take as a memento of this occasion. Taking a finger would be too noticeable, but I have to wonder if they would notice that I removed your heart?”

“It would be such a pleasure to rip it out of your chest while it’s still beating and, if I seal the wound afterwards, no one will ever notice. You’re going to die, Elizabeth Blackwell, and no one can save you this time.”

A noise elsewhere in the room caught her attention and she left the bedside and pulled the curtain shut as she moved to determine its origin. When she could find nothing she returned to the curtained off area and the girl that lay on the bed it contained to carry out her plan. She stopped before entering the area of the bed to draw her wand and seal the door to the chamber with a charm. There was now no one that could stop her and no way for them to know just exactly what had happened to the child.

She pulled the curtain aside as she prepared to finish off the wounded child and was stunned to find the bed empty. Rushing forward, she looked under the bed and then pulled aside the curtain that concealed the next. Her wand was still drawn as she searched for the girl and she realized that something was amiss as she noticed that now all of the beds were concealed by the privacy curtains.

“Where are you, Elizabeth?”

“Why don’t you come and find me!”

Matilda Smythe realized in that moment that she had walked into a trap that was so simple that a child could have avoided it. Forgetting her quarry she turned to the door and cast the counter to the charm that she had placed upon it. She rushed towards the door and grabbed the handle to pull it open only to have it resist her best efforts.

Frantically, she cast the counter once again before reaching down, grabbing the handle with both hands and pulling with all of her strength. Once again it resisted her and she started to turn towards the windows only to find that she could not free her hands.

She looked down at the metal handle and was horrified to find that the metal had grown fingers that were now wrapped around her hands in an unbreakable grip. Then she sensed movement behind her and was able to turn far enough to find Elizabeth standing just behind her. Her eyes widened as she saw that the girl was completely unharmed and displayed no signs of any wound.

“I would imagine that at this point you would love to be able to free your wand, Nurse Smythe, but that is something that is not going to happen,” the girl said. “Actually, I would like to thank you for locking the door; you made this so much easier. Oh, I heard everything that you said and I like my heart right where it is, thank you! The thing is I’m not going to kill you because that would be like stepping on a cockroach at this point. No, I’m going to do something much worse to you; I’m going to give you to the Aurors and let them send you to Azkaban. I hear that you’ll have a wonderful time there because there are so many wonderful things to do while you’re sitting in your cell. Picking the filth off of your skin is popular from what I hear as is counting the bugs that are crawling on the walls.”

The girl stepped forward and then caught the wand that had flown from the hand of her opponent. Matilda looked at the girl in horror as she realized that Elizabeth could perform magic without the need of a wand. Then the girl did the unthinkable and snapped the wand that she had captured in half. Matilda Smythe uttered a cry of pain as she watched the pieces of the wand fall to the floor.

A moment later, Professor Leeds and Harry Potter apparated into the room to find the scene just as they had expected to as Elizabeth turned to them and grinned.

“I have everything that she said or did on the Scrying Ball,” the girl said as she waved her hand and the invisibility charm that had concealed the device was dispelled.

“You’re going away for a very long time,” she said to the captive as the woman was taken into custody, “and I’ll be waiting when you are freed. The next time we meet will not be so pleasant for you, I promise you that.”

“Elizabeth, would you mind countering the spell that you cast upon the door? I am quite certain that Madam Pomfrey would like to reenter her hospital.”

A swift wrinkle of her nose and a grin betrayed the mischievous nature of the girl as she drew her wand and cast the counter. She looked down at the wand that she no longer used as frequently as she once had. The young witch was finding it much easier to perform magic with a simple wave of the hand, but still turned to the wand when she was not certain of the outcome otherwise.

Before the Head of the Aurors vanished with his prisoner Elizabeth had a final message for her.

“Don’t worry, Nurse Smythe, you won’t be alone for long. I am quite certain that more scum like you will be joining you in the very near future.”

Then the girl gave the captive a quick wave as the witch and Harry Potter vanished from the room.

“I actually assumed that you would send her a less lady-like gesture as she departed.”

“There is nothing to be gained by sinking to her level, Professor Leeds. My parents taught me much better than that. But we need to have a conversation about something else that I have learned, and we shall need the services of the Aurors once again.”

The pair left the room as Poppy Pomfrey hurried back into it to look for damages. The elderly witch nodded with satisfaction that the apprehension of her former nurse had gone without damage to the room or its contents and then walked to her desk to continue her paperwork.

By the time that they reached the Great Hall, Elizabeth had informed Professor Leeds about what she suspected and he knew that she was correct. The forces of the Dark Lord would make an attempt on the children of Harry Potter as well as the remainder of Elizabeth’s friends. This meant that vigilance was the new word of the day and that they would need to take more precautions to ensure the safety of the students.

Deep under the castle there was an air of panic as the loss of Smythe became known. The witch had managed to send a final message about the fact that Blackwell had been admitted to the hospital and then all communication had ended. It was apparent that something had gone amiss and it was assumed that the witch was either dead or in the custody of the Aurors.

‘The girl is becoming increasingly troublesome. No doubt she managed to defeat Smythe otherwise the old fool would have been at the top of one of the highest towers of the castle singing about her victory. Something needs to be done and done soon; we cannot afford to continue to send our faithful out on hopeless missions. Perhaps it would be best to suspend our efforts while we regroup to prepare for a more concerted strike. The girl will expect us to strike again; she will expect us to strike at her friends and family and will have the Aurors waiting.’

The wizard stepped away from the mirror and strode across the room to sit down in a chair at a table. Many of the chairs were now empty when they met.

‘Now is not the time! We shall recall our forces until we are ready. The next time one of us faces Elizabeth Blackwell shall be the day that she meets her end!’

As quickly as they acted, the forces of the Dark Lord could not have been prepared for what was about to happen. The Aurors moved swiftly to snare as many dark wizards and witches as they could and, within days, Harry Potter was able to remove many of the posters that held the names and faces of the wanted from the wall on which they hung.

The Head of the Aurors sat down behind his desk as he placed another poster into the file that contained the faces of the captured or killed. Surprisingly enough, the Aurors had experienced very few casualties, only a small number of his Aurors had been injured and there had been no fatalities. They had been blessed by fortune and knew that the forces of darkness were now in retreat. They would go into hiding while they regrouped until ready. But Harry Potter was patient and he knew that quality would serve him well in the end.

Still, there was something troubling Harry, they still had no idea about the identity of the Dark Lord. Unlike Voldemort, this Dark Lord had no qualms about staying in the shadows while others did his bidding and took the risks. Sooner or later, he knew, the wizard or witch would reveal their identity and the chase would be on. Harry only hoped that the Dark Lord would not find entertainment as his predecessor had, in the pain and anguish of innocents. Even now, the Auror knew, there were families that lived with the echoes of what had happened all of those years ago.

Often he met with Ron and the rest of the Weasley family and they frequently talked about Fred. Although they tried to hide it, Harry knew that Arthur and Molly Weasley were still deep in mourning for their lost son and he often had heard Ginny crying over her brother. Ron had changed as well, he had been an Auror for a time but had left that life to work in the store that his brothers had opened in Diagon Alley, somehow it seemed a better choice for his friend and Harry was glad for it.

He glanced up as Hermione Granger-Weasley stepped into his office. Although he was happy to see one of his best friends from his days at Hogwarts he could tell that she had not had a good day.

“Rough day?” he asked.

She nodded as she sat down in the chair in front of his desk.

“You would not believe the meeting that I just sat through in Professor Leeds’ office. He expelled three students for the remainder of the term and suspended another. Some of the expulsions may become permanent because of what the students planned to do.”

“It was that serious?”

Hermione nodded silently and Harry knew that trouble was coming.

“Harry, one of the students was Scorpius Malfoy. You can imagine the response when Draco and Lucius heard what the possible outcome might be. Lucius was livid, if you can imagine that, and swore that Professor Leeds and the Ministry were out to get his family. It was only when I told him that if he continued his tirade that I would have him removed that things finally calmed down. Of course, I and Elizabeth Blackwell were accused of being behind it all.”

“They really don’t like Elizabeth, do they?”

“Well, the family is certainly no fan of hers and that surprises me because I understand that they tried to arrange a marriage between her and Scorpius. This had gone on since she was an infant and they firmly planned to take it to fruition, then something got in their way.”

“Let me guess, she fell for Albus.”

“Yes, and believe me, it created quite a stir.”

“I’ve watched the two of them and they seem to be quite happy together. I don’t know that I could have said the same if the girl had been with Scorpius. You know that Albus asked her to marry him, don’t you?”

Hermione paused as he told her what he knew before speaking again.

“Albus asked Elizabeth to marry him?”

“He told me that he had asked her at the end of last term. She said yes at the time, but we both know that things can change. Who knows, in five years or so she could be in love with someone else and he has moved on too.”

“They would make a cute couple, but I have to wonder how her parents feel about this development.”

“I don’t know that she has told them.”

“Her hesitance to tell them is understandable; John Blackwell has a history of not being the most understanding although, from what I hear, things have improved between Elizabeth and him.”

“Lily tells me that Elizabeth has proven that she doesn’t always need to use a wand.”

“She what?”

“Elizabeth is one of those witches that sometimes is able to perform magic, I mean, powerful magic, without the use of a wand.”

“Merlin’s beard! I didn’t think that anyone so young was capable of that level of ability!”

“She has the potential to rival Dumbledore in ability and is well on her way to doing so. She was able to defeat Professor Leeds in practice duels and he is certainly no novice.”

“He’s a former Auror, isn’t he?”

“Yes! He used to train new Aurors in self-defense and she was able to best him in what I hear was a very hotly contested duel. She actually managed to disarm him several times. Lily tells me that the other students hate being paired with her during dueling practice because she is so unpredictable. Most wizards and witches have a standard attack and defense that they use, but she doesn’t. You never know what’s coming at you; she’s that good at masking her intent.”

“Sounds like a future Auror!”

“I’ve thought that a lot, but the fact that she was so easily overcome by that curse bothers me. She showed a weakness that a dark witch or wizard might exploit. I hate to think of a possibility that she could be coerced to the darkness, the results of that would be tragic because I don’t know of many that could hope to stand up to her, let alone defeat her.”

“And the curse that she was under?”

“I was informed that the elves helped her get free of it. They used some ancient spell that was able to counter it and remove it.”

Hermione thought about what she had heard for a long moment before changing the subject.

“Are Albus and Lily happy that the end of the term is coming?”

“I’ve never heard them happier! It’s just hard to believe that Albus will be a seventh year next term and Lily a fifth year. They’ll both be out of school soon and neither Ginny nor I are ready for it. How about my niece and nephew, are they ready for summer?”

“Hugo is, but Rose isn’t really looking forward to her last year at Hogwarts. She says that she’ll miss being around her friends, especially Elizabeth. They have grown so close since Elizabeth started at Hogwarts and she mopes all summer long when they cannot see each other.”

“You mean that they don’t arrange to meet in Diagon Alley?”

“Oh, they have a few times, but Victoria and John keep a tight hold on Elizabeth even though she probably has less to fear out in the open that they do. Rose tells me that Elizabeth managed to produce a Patronus last month.”

“What was it?”

“Of all things, her Patronus is a cheetah!”

“Wow, fast and powerful, not to mention unpredictable. It really did take her personality, didn’t it?”

“Rose said that Elizabeth told her that she either wants to teach or be an Auror.”

“She would do well in either position. I guess that I assumed that someday she would want to ascend to the post of Headmistress at Hogwarts. Can you imagine the look on Malfoy’s face if she did that?”

“She definitely isn’t your normal witch.”

“Well, she rather reminds me of one of my classmates while I was at Hogwarts.”

Hermione blushed at the comment as Harry continued.

“You remember what Sirius told you that night after we helped him avoid the Dementor’s Kiss, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do and I agree with you. She very probably is the best in her class and age range. I can’t think of many other fourth years that can do what she can.”

While the friends talked in Harry’s office, Elizabeth was standing in the greenhouse during Herbology while Professor Longbottom explained what their final project of the term was. Elizabeth shuddered as she watched the writhing tentacles of the Amazonian Red-leafed Serpenticulars and remembered the effects that they had produced on Scorpius and Nelly. She stepped away from the tentacle that had approached her leg to get closer to what was being said.

“The final project for this year shall be a complete cleaning of the greenhouses. They are in a dreadful state and I have decided that you shall be the group that accomplishes this rather than a lengthy assignment. Each of the greenhouses needs to be spotless before I grant you a passing mark for the project. This is undoubtedly going to be a lengthy process because of the magical barrier that surrounds the buildings. You are going to have to do this as if you were Muggles, by hand.”

A series of groans that sounded as he finished was suddenly punctuated by a shriek as an unobservant girl suddenly found herself covered with brilliant red pustules after a tendril managed to touch her leg. She jerked free of the plant and ran from the greenhouse to get to the Hospital Wing. Neville Longbottom watched her as she vanished down the corridor and shrugged silently.

“Hufflepuff has just lost five points for her failure to follow directions. You were all warned about the Serpenticulars and I expected you all to show a little more caution around them.”

“This project shall begin next week as all years are finished in the greenhouses for the term. All of you will need to report in clothing that you are comfortable in to work. Those not working in the greenhouses shall be tending to the school gardens as they are prepared for the summer. There will also be a small group that will be working around the Whomping Willow to clean up the ground under it. Are there any questions? You’re dismissed; I shall see you all after the weekend.”

Elizabeth and her friends were among the first to get out of the greenhouses and were soon walking towards the Library as they took stock of their finals for the term.

“I think that I would rather have to take a final than work around those plants!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Those things give me the creeps and they’re faster than they look.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and get assigned to work in the gardens,” Beatrice responded.

“At least there all that we should have to do is clear the area of junk that is left over.”

“Don’t bet on it, I understand that last year they had to plant Mandrake seeds to get them started. Those things are just as bad as the bigger ones! Can you imagine having to wear earmuffs outside in the heat while you plant them?”

Beatrice and Elizabeth looked at Lily in horror as she told them about the ordeal that the fourth years from the last term had gone through. They were soon sitting in the library as they pulled out their parchments for Potions, the final there promised to be unpleasant at best and downright dreadful at worst. There was going to be a list of potions that they had to produce and the process would take several classes to complete.

Elizabeth groaned as she looked at the list that Professor Tindwell had given them.

“This is horrible! This list is going to take forever and we have to study for other classes in the process. What are they trying to do to us?”

“Get used to it,” a voice said from behind them, “fifth year finals are worse and you have to take the O.W.L. exams.”

The group turned to see Rose standing behind them and swiftly moved to make a space for her. She sat down and they were horrified to see the length and number of the parchments that she had to study for her own finals.

“Want to trade with me?” she asked.

The fourth years quickly shook their heads in response as their friend began to shuffle through what she needed to learn and remember. All of them knew that their weekends were going to be largely sacrificed if they wanted any chance of passing their finals and none of them were looking forward to the ordeal that was coming and that there was no way to avoid.

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