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Elizabeth had finally managed to get some sleep after climbing back into bed and cuddling Tiger to her. The uneasiness that she had felt during the night was still with her and it felt as though she had a gigantic flock of butterflies in her stomach as she walked down to the Great Hall with her friends and Kim. The small girl was enjoying being included by the seventh years and the fact that one of the older girls was the Head Girl made things all the better. The chatter of the eleven year old made the girls with her smile as they thought back to themselves at that age.

When they arrived at the Great Hall, Kim departed from their company and walked quickly to the side of another young girl. Elizabeth was happy to see that the child had made at least one friend that was also her age. She didn’t mind the presence of Kim, but also wanted her to have same age friends in place when the end of the term came and the seventh years departed. Kim seemed very happy as she spoke to the young girl from Hufflepuff which left the trio of girls to make their way to the table to eat breakfast.

“You were up kind of late last night,” Lily remarked as she dug into her breakfast.

“Just a bad dream I guess. Nothing terrifying, but it kept me awake just the same.”

“Are you still up to our excursion in the Isolation Tower?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” Elizabeth responded as she prepared to take a bite of her meal.

“Have you ever felt that something was wrong somewhere and yet you didn’t know what?”

“You’re going mental again, aren’t you?” Beatrice quipped.

“I’m starting to think so. It was a really weird feeling, like there was something dangerous here at Hogwarts again and then something important missing, but there aren’t any hidden surprises. I used some of the potion again and no one here is in disguise.”

“Do you think that someone here is up to no good?”

“I guess that it’s possible.”

“You and your weird feelings,” Lily retorted, “you’re going to make us mental too.”

Kim abruptly appeared at their table with her eyes aglow.

“Elizabeth, sorry to interfere, but can I sit at the Hufflepuff table for breakfast? Me and Mallory want to talk.”

“Mallory and I,” Elizabeth corrected the child.

“You want to talk to her too?” Kim answered with confusion clear on her face.

The seventh years laughed at the confusion before Elizabeth spoke again.

“I don’t want to talk to her, Kim. But when you say something like that you always put the name of the other person first. That is why I said Mallory and I. It’s the same if I was talking about you, I would say Kim and I want to talk.”

“Oh,” the girl responded. “So from now on I have to say Mallory and I instead of me and Mallory?”

“Yep, it’s just being polite and proper. And I don’t mind if you sit at that table for breakfast, but remember to sit at this one for mid-day and evening.”

“Okay.”

“Go talk to her before classes start and you don’t have a chance.”

The younger child smiled and then hurried back to the other table while the group watched.

“Were we that way as first years?”

Elizabeth looked at Lily and shrugged.

“I don’t know. Remember, I was at Beauxbatons, they are all about being proper there, not much silliness allowed.”

“Ugh!” Beatrice answered. “So what’s wrong with a little bit of silliness? I still enjoy it sometimes.”

“Yeah, we’ve noticed,” Lily responded.

Elizabeth looked at her friends and then wrinkled her nose.

“And you two call me mental!”

“You want to meet at the door to the Isolation Tower after this?” Lily asked.

“Yeah, I have a stockpile of parchment already there in the library. You’re really going to be amazed at what you can find in those old books.”

“As long as I don’t end up haunted by some antique wizard like Koeppler,” Lily answered.

Elizabeth sighed with mock annoyance while her friend shot her an impish grin.

“You’re hopeless, Potter.”

“Hey, be careful with that expression! Remember, you’re a Potter now yourself.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”

Lily and Beatrice broke into uncontrollable laughter at their friend’s response, laughter that Elizabeth soon joined. They settled down to quiet conversation while they ate and then finally rose to leave the Great Hall to make their way to the Isolation Tower. The corridors were teeming with students trying to get to class and it took longer than they wanted it to, but they finally arrived outside the door that they needed.

“Remember when we all got sent here the term that LeBlanc was here?” Lily asked.

“Does her name have to keep reappearing?” Elizabeth responded. “She still gives the creeps, even from Azkaban.”

They glanced at the door before them and then the others watched as Elizabeth opened it, but before they could step into the vestibule a voice yelled out to them.

“Hey, wait for me!”

The group paused as Emma Barker, a friend of theirs since she had come to Hogwarts as a first year, rushed to catch up with them. Beatrice looked at the others and shrugged before answering the unspoken question in their minds.

“I invited her along, I hope that you don’t mind.”

“Why should we mind?” Elizabeth responded. “It just gives us one more person to help us corral your Inferi.”

The girls entered the darkened vestibule and then watched as the door closed behind them.

“I hate this place! It’s scary even in the daylight.”

“At least we don’t have to stay here overnight, Lily.”

The girls stepped into the large chamber that served as a common room and glanced around, the gazes of Elizabeth, Lily and Beatrice settling on the rooms that they had been forced to occupy during their banishment. None of them felt the urge to explore the chambers and they turned their attention instead to the door which opened into their destination. The faint sounds of movement within the room brought no sense of danger as pixies as well as other creatures inhabited the dark corners of the castle.

Peeves was one of those inhabitants, and he had been trailing the group of seventh year girls. Overjoyed at the prospect of pranking one of his favorite students, the poltergeist had passed through several walls to arrive in the library before Elizabeth. The shelves of books would make a wonderful distraction and he prepared to strike, unseen by all, at the group of girls that would soon walk through the door. There were no vases of water here and therefore no chance of being shoved into one and then frozen into place.

He noticed movement behind a drape and hurried to investigate it, wondering if a student or perhaps even one of the ghosts had preceded him in his quest. The cloaked wizard, already on edge about what was coming, reeled backwards in shock as Peeves stuck his head through the thick cloth to speak.

“Hey! Who is yousie? What are you doin with your wand and why is you waitin for Bizzy Lizzy and her friendses?”

Elizabeth’s hand had just turned the handle and the door had begun to open when the first attack struck the wall next to the barrier. Peeves screeched out an alarm as the curse passed through him and then, angered, turned to the attack as a number of volumes flew from the shelves to strike the offending wizard.

The girls scattered as their wands came out of their robes and they prepared for battle with a force that was now committed to the attack and which no longer had the element of surprise on its side. They emerged from the shadows as the students readied themselves and then pressed forward to destroy Elizabeth and her friends.

Two of the figures stepped forward to close on Elizabeth as she countered an attack which had nearly managed to breach her defenses. Instead the hate filled curse rebounded to impact with the ancient ceiling of the room, showering all with stone debris and giving the girl an inspiration. Lily, Beatrice and Emma struck back at the pair that had attempted to eliminate them and one of the figures was thrown backwards violently as Beatrice cast a curse which went through her opponent’s defenses.

Screams of rage sounded once again as Peeves lashed out at the wizard that he had discovered. The man was in full retreat, having lost his wand and being covered with severe bruises and contusions from the impacts of ancient books. He tried to make for a door which was at the back of the room and found that he might actually be able to escape. The door was flung open and he hurried into the next room, only to find the door slamming shut behind him and that he was now trapped in an ancient water closet. He turned to see the face of the poltergeist projecting through the door with a malicious grin on it and then Peeves spoke.

“Getting out you ain’t and your pointy stick might faint. Break it I will, and you will be ill as in this room yous will wait!”

“NOOOOO!”

The sounds of a pummeling at the door were lost in the tumult of noise within the room as the angered students continued the duel with the intruders. Elizabeth glanced at the debris on the floor and then cast a spell at it.

“Impetus Tempestatis!”

Shattered stone and battered books rose into the air as a whirlwind formed and then was directed at the pair of wizards that faced Elizabeth. Yelps of pain sounded as the pair was struck over and over again by the flying detritus and they were forced to retreat backwards towards a table that had been upended during the fight. Lily was busy dealing with a new assailant that had emerged from the shadows and she was giving very good account of herself as she forced him backwards. A curse meant to kill her shot past her deflected only by luck as she kept the offensive against him. He fell backwards over a toppled chair and she responded to this happening with a spell that ended his fight.

“Petrificus Totalus!”

The pair being battered by the whirlwind dove for the mantle in the vain hope that it was a part of the Floo Network, and it was, but the dust that would have saved them rose into the wind with the help of the whirlwind around them and was scattered by it. Unable to stop their flight towards the stone mantle, they crashed headlong into the unyielding surface and then fell to the floor unconscious.

The lone remaining figure had managed to slip past them in the fight and now was fleeing into the darkness of the tower. Elizabeth lowered her wand as no further attacks came and watched as the rain of stones and books came to an end. She turned to look for her friends and was relieved when Lily emerged from the shadows, bruised and scraped but upright. They hurried together to hug and then realized that they were alone. The girls parted to look around the room in terror for their missing friends and then turned towards the sound of a voice.

“Elizabeth? Lily? I’m over here.”

They hurried to the source of the voice and then collapsed onto their knees at the side of Beatrice as she attempted to offer what comfort she could. Emma lay on the floor, her hands clutching her middle, as her pain filled eyes looked up at her terrified and helpless friends.

“Emma!” Elizabeth cried out as she realized what had happed and what it all meant.

“Oh, Merlin,” Lily screamed as she knelt next to her friend as a form appeared with a POP in the room. They looked up to see Tobias Leeds standing over them as he surveyed the scene.

“Professor Leeds, Emma needs help,” Elizabeth pleaded.

They could only watch as the wizard picked up the girl and then vanished with a POP as several Aurors appeared in the shattered room. The girls ignored them and hurried from the room to rush to the Hospital Wing where they found no sign of their friend.

“Emma?” Elizabeth asked the very concerned nurse.

“She has been taken directly to St. Mungos, Elizabeth.”

“We need to go there! We need to be with her!”

“Girls,” the nurse answered softly as tears ran down her face, “I am afraid that there is not much that can be done for her. She was struck by a powerful curse and I doubt very much that she will survive it.”

“We need to be with her,” Elizabeth answered through her tears and sobs.

A moment later the friends found themselves in a corridor of St. Mungos. How they had gotten there was a mystery but the scene around them was not. Concerned looking healers were rushing into a room, hurrying past Professor Tobias Leeds. The headmaster stood in the hall with tears streaming down his face as he watched the girls approach. He moved to step into their path and stopped them from entering the room behind the door.

“You cannot go in there.”

“She’s our friend, we have to.”

“No, Elizabeth, you cannot. There is nothing that you can do for your friend. Miss Barker will not survive her injuries, they are too severe.”

“NO!” Elizabeth screamed as she violently shoved towards the door and her stricken friend’s side. Tobias Leeds, surrendering to his own emotions of grief, allowed the trio to pass as he broke down into violent sobs and fell to his knees as he wept uncontrollably.

The girls burst into the crowded room to find the healers that they had seen in the corridor crowded around a very still form that lay on a bed. Lily gasped as she realized that she could see a limp hand dangling from the side of the bed and knew who it belonged to even before she was close enough to see her friend clearly.

“Emma!” she cried out as she felt her heart threaten to break.

Elizabeth was beyond words as she wailed out her pain and she resisted the efforts of the healer that had moved towards them to remove them from the room. He gently pushed her backwards towards the door and stopped short as a sudden movement caught his attention and he realized that the wand of the girl was leveled at his throat.

“There is nothing that you can do, Elizabeth. The curse that struck her will kill her, all that we can do is to make her comfortable and prevent suffering. I am so sorry.”

The words spoken to her met Elizabeth’s very core and she lowered the wand before allowing it to fall from her fingers to the floor, where its clattering seemed to be deafening. The young witch lowered her head as she cried and the sounds of Beatrice and Lily’s sorrow only served to compound Elizabeth’s agony.

Her friend was dying! Emma was going to die and there was nothing that could be done about it. She was going to be lost to them and all because of Marcus Beales-Armstrong. The wizard that had fathered her was going to take something more from her and there was no way to prevent it.

“Elizabeth,” a nearly inaudible hail reached her. “Beatrice, Lily, are you there?”

The girls, responding to the summons, stepped past the healer to approach the bed and then look down into the fading eyes of their friend. They looked away for a moment as a series of POPs announced the arrival of Emma’s family. Tears flowed as the parents and sibling of the dying witch rushed to her side and Emma managed to smile as those that she loved surrounded her.

“Please don’t cry. I don’t want to see you all so sad.”

“Emma, please…, please don’t go,” Elizabeth whimpered. “Remember, you said that you want to help Lily and Beatrice spoil my children. Please stay.”

The girl on the bed smiled weakly at the thought before speaking.

“I guess that I won’t get to, Elizabeth, I want to but I know that I won’t get to. You’ll tell them about me won’t you?”

“Every time that I talk about going to school at Hogwarts, I’ll tell them about their Aunt Emma,” the girl answered as she realized that time was short.

“Be careful, please. Don’t let them hurt you again.”

“It’s not fair, Emma,” Lily responded in a whisper. “That curse was meant for me, not you. You shouldn’t be here, it should be me in this bed!”

“Then I would be the one standing there crying over you.”

“It would be fair then.”

“No, it wouldn’t.”

They watched as she seemed to rally as she pulled the last of her reserves to the front and spoke directly to Elizabeth.

“Find him, Elizabeth, find him and finish this! Make this mean something, if you were any kind of friend to me at all.”

Elizabeth nodded silently and then leaned down to kiss her friend on the forehead. Lily and Beatrice followed the lead of their friend and then stepped back to look at the fading girl on the bed.

“I want to say goodbye to my family now. You have been the best friends that I have ever had. I love you all. Goodbye.”

“I love you, Emma,” Lily managed to choke out through her tears before she covered her face with her hands and then ran from the room, her sobs echoing behind her with Beatrice following closely after bidding her own farewell.

Elizabeth clutched Emma’s hand for a moment before kissing her once again and then speaking the last words that her friend would ever hear from her.

“I love you, Emma.”

“Goodbye, Elizabeth.”

“Goodbye, my dear friend Emma.”

Elizabeth turned and walked out of the room to find Lily leaning against a wall as she sobbed. Beatrice sat as though stunned by the terrible thing that had happened. She rose and the girls flung themselves into each other’s arms and cried together as they realized that what they had enjoyed was sundered forever. They would never get to talk for hours, walk to class together, play argue or make fun of each other again.

More POPs sounded and they realized that their parents had arrived, along with Professor McGonagall. The adults stepped forward to take the girls into their arms and they had only just reunited when they heard the wails from within the room that told them that Emma had gone into the beyond.

Emma was dead.

Elizabeth sagged against John Blackwell as he put his arms around her and she put her face into his shoulder to allow her tears to soak into his robes. A very quiet healer stepped out of the room and nodded grimly to those that were waiting, although all knew what had happened. He stepped up to Elizabeth and held out the wand that she had dropped. John reached out to receive the wand and then slide it into his robes while his child cried.

“I want Emma,” she wailed as he held her, “I want her back and okay.”

“I know, Honey, I know,” he answered as he ran his hand over her back.

A healer stepped up to the pair with his wand drawn.

“Perhaps it would be better if she got some rest.”

John nodded and Elizabeth, like Lily and Beatrice before her, didn’t resist the charm which would allow her to relax. A short time later the girls lay quietly, but not peacefully, in beds in the same room. The trauma that they had undergone replayed over and over again within their minds and both knew that they could never forget what had happened.

Elizabeth’s eyes snapped open as she realized where she was and what had happened and what her dreams had meant. She had dreamt of danger and of something important to her going missing and now it all made sense. She had sensed that the attack was coming and the thing that had gone missing, something that she could never replace no matter how hard she tried, was Emma.

She cried herself to sleep, although it took a long while, and tried to put the vision of her dying friend out of her mind. It was something that she would fail miserably to do.

Two days later, in a crowded Great Hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Emma’s coffin lay before the gathered students and family. Several pictures of the girl, with her smiling brightly in all of them, were arrayed around the room. Elizabeth sat quietly in her seat as she listened to the speech that Professor Leeds was giving and knowing that very soon she was going to rise to speak as Lily had. Beatrice had been too overcome with grief to speak.

The eulogy ended and Leeds stepped away and Elizabeth knew what was expected of her. She rose unsteadily, but shrugged off offers of support, before walking to the lectern to speak.

“This is something that I had hoped to never have to do, except for many years from now when we were old and gray. She was a friend of mine, anyone can say that they are a friend, but she proved it on so many occasions that I have lost count. We met during my second year, in Transfiguration class as we transfigured rats. Mine turned out pink with feathers and hers looked somewhat like a Flobber Worm with wings and we became friends while we laughed about it.”

“She was always there, with her quirky sense of humor and her quick wit, ready to set me straight when I strayed from the path. Emma was always there, at my side, whenever I needed her, regardless of what others thought or what she was risking.”

“My friend is still here,” she continued as she placed her hand over her heart, “she’s right here. For each and every person in this room, for everyone who ever met her, for everyone who ever let her touch their lives, she is right here and we can never let that go. She charged into the fight that day in the Isolation Tower, knowing that it was going to be dangerous, but she did it anyway. Emma joined in the fight with the Dark Lord’s followers without thought of her safety instead of withdrawing, which is something that I would never have faulted her for doing. She was smart, witty, courageous and a true part of my life that I will never willingly relinquish.”

“Emma Kathleen Barker, you taught me what true friendship was and I shall never forget your teaching. Continue to look down on us, my true friend, while we learn to live without your presence. Guide us through what we have to do as you always guided me through the days here at Hogwarts.”

Elizabeth paused and then turned to look at the coffin before drawing her wand and casting a charm which caused a glowing star to appear above it. All assembled gasped as, within the star, a moving image of the girl and her friends appeared as they smiled happily.

“It’s not really goodbye, Emma, we’ll see each other again someday.”

A short time later, the casket was being lowered into the ground while the friends and family of the girl looked on. Elizabeth, Lily, Beatrice, Rose and Albus watched sadly as the girl that all of them had called friend was placed within her grave and knew that they would never see her smile again. Albus felt Elizabeth take his hand and reached up to put that arm around her shoulders as she leaned against him for support. He kissed her gently on the side of the head while she cried for her lost friend and finally led her away from the scene.

When she returned to the dorm that night, she tried to avoid looking at the now empty bed that her friend had always slept in. The cabinet was empty as was the nightstand next to the bed. All that remained of the presence of Emma were the small, but very important, bequeathals that her friends had received.

Elizabeth looked at the book that her friend had left to her. She had always admired the book and had jokingly suggested that the girl leave it to her should something ever happen. Now she regretted that morbid joke and wished that she could take it all back, that by doing so Emma would return whole and alive to their presence. But she knew that it was only an impossible dream that would and could never come true.

Lily clutched tightly the picture that the girl had given her. A beautiful dove flew serenely about within the frame, offering peace to the tormented thoughts of the girl. She hugged it to her chest while she cried softly.

Beatrice looked at the book that gave information about strange beasts and smiled at the hand-written inscription that Emma had left.

‘Where would the world be without dragons?’

Tiger sat quietly on the bed next to his owner as he patted at the toy that Emma had always teased him with. The absence of the girl holding it in the air for him to pursue somewhat diminished the allure of the item and he settled against Elizabeth while she ran her fingers through his fur.

Through all of the pain and sorrow, however, a terrible resolve built within the trio of girls. Their friend was gone, and would never return, and now it was their job to exact retribution on the wizard responsible.
 

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