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Elizabeth wandered through Slug and Jiggers Apothecary with her mother as she selected fresh components for her potions work for class. Some of the things were hard to find, such as Australian Snow Fly Eggs (as they had a tendency to melt prematurely) and the young witch shopped carefully to ensure what she bought would be usable when she got home.

The bag that she carried already contained the mundane things that she would need to set up housekeeping in the home that she would share with Albus. It was in this respect that her mother and grandmother had been an incredible help, showing her what was truly needed in comparison to what was wanted. Elizabeth had refused to even consider the thought of a house-elf, considering even a freed elf like Chloe to still be in servitude. If Muggle women could maintain a home without the use of a wand, surely she could with one. Her mother had listened with amusement to her reasoning and had acquiesced to her daughter’s thoughts. Now they stood side by side while the younger woman examined roots needed for the new potion and glanced at brooms.

“You will change your mind once children start showing up,” Victoria told her daughter.

“Yeah, probably, but until then the wand will do,” Elizabeth responded with a giggle before changing to the serious young woman that her mother was used to. “Mom, you aren’t going to pressure us into having children right away, are you?”

“Elizabeth, you will know when it is the right time for children to start showing up. Until then, your father and I can wait patiently to be called Grandma and Grandpa Blackwell. Are Albus’ parents pressuring the two of you into that?”

“No, but Lily really wants to be an aunt. I just wish that Anne would feel the same way.”
Victoria stopped to look into her daughter’s eyes before hugging her younger child.

“I wish that she would too.”

Her basket filled with roots and other items, Elizabeth walked to the counter and handed it to the clerk.

“Elizabeth, Victoria, I haven’t seen you in a while. How have you ladies been?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose playfully before responding and smiled brightly as the girl that her mother was used to re-emerged.

“I’ve just been busy at school.”

“This is your seventh year, isn’t it?”

“It is, although I will be returning to Hogwarts at the start of the next term.”

Concern crossed the face of the witch as she regarded the girl before her.

“Why in the name of Merlin would you do that after you have finished?”

“Professor McGonagall wants me to serve as a junior professor of Transfiguration and Professor Leeds has agreed to the post.”

The face of the woman lit up like a jack-o-lantern and she smiled broadly at the young woman before her.

“Congratulations, Elizabeth, I knew that you would do well. I remember you coming in here with your mother as a little girl and now here you are, a junior professor to be and married as well.”

Elizabeth smiled at the praise and blushed slightly as the witch totaled her purchases and quickly handed over the requested coins after turning down her mother’s attempts to pay for what had been bought.

“Where do we need to go next?”

Elizabeth looked at her mother with an almost pained expression that told Victoria where her daughter wanted to go, not necessarily where she needed to go.

“Flourish and Blotts?”

“Where else, Mom?”

The women walked out of the apothecary and nearly collided with a passing person in Hogwarts robes. Elizabeth blinked in surprise as she recovered from the shock of the encounter and finally managed to speak.

“Benjamin?”

“Hi, Elizabeth, I didn’t expect to run into you here.”

Elizabeth smiled as she spoke to the boy before turning to her mother.

“Mom, this is Benjamin Randolph. He’s Head Boy this term.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Benjamin. Elizabeth has told us all about you.”

“Good things I hope.”

“Nothing but the best,” Victoria responded while trying to fight down a slight frown.

“Well, I should imagine that you ladies have things to do,” the young wizard responded. “I have some people to meet so I will let you go but also wish you a Happy Christmas.”

“The same to you, Benjamin,” Elizabeth answered as they parted.

As they walked away, Elizabeth looked at her mother, she was puzzled as she had caught the reaction of her parent and she wondered that had produced it. Finally she spoke to her now silent mother.

“Is something wrong, Mom?”

“It’s nothing, Elizabeth. I just have something on my mind.”

As they walked, Victoria ran the thought through her mind once again.

‘Where have I seen you before, Benjamin Randolph?’

Flourish and Blott’s was nearly as busy as the Weasley brother’s shop and Elizabeth found it rather difficult to make her way through the crowd that was gathered around a display of books concerning a famous wizard, Gilderoy Lockhart. She managed to get close enough to see the title of the display and was surprised at the title of the new book.

Gilderoy Lockhart: Famous or Fraud?

“Mom, you met him didn’t you?” Elizabeth asked her mother.

“Who?”

“Gilderoy Lockhart, of course, who else would I ask about?”

“Oh, yes,” Victoria answered as she realized what Elizabeth was looking at. “He was all the rage in our world until something happened to him and he ended up in St. Mungos. His mind got damaged somehow when he, your father-in-law and Rose’s father found their way down to the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). There were a lot of stories about what happened down there, but only a very few know the true story about it all.”

“But for them to call him a fraud? Isn’t that a bit harsh when he is in St. Mungos and unable to defend himself?”

“There were those who believed that of him even then. Now, after all of these years, people have had the time to look into his career and some of the things that they have learned have not been all that flattering for him. Some have even been a bit scandalous. What I can tell you is that he was a ghastly professor, full of himself and not much else.”

“What did he teach?”

“Defense against the Dark Arts, and that was only for a part of a term.”

Elizabeth shrugged and walked on towards a less crowded area of the shop where she found the ancient books that she sought. She shuddered as she remembered selecting a book written by Gabriel Koeppler from one of the shelves in the library in the Isolation Tower, a book that had nearly ended her life. The books before her now were much more benign and she felt comfortable while she searched through the shelves for something that would catch her interest.

Victoria watched her daughter while Elizabeth shopped and wasn’t surprised to see the girl select several books from the shelves. A sudden motion at her side announced the arrival of her husband and parents.

“We knew where to find her,” Amanda announced. “Where else would our Elizabeth be?”

“She does love books, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, I think that she learned her lesson about ancient books though. That bit with Koeppler was almost her undoing.”

A squeal from Elizabeth caught their attention and they looked toward Elizabeth to see her moving towards them with a book open. She proudly pointed to what she had found and Artemis Trane blanched as he saw the photo of a much younger version of himself being indicated.

“This one is definitely going home with me,” the girl announced with a giggle.

“Elizabeth,” her grandfather responded, “what do I have to pay you to forget about buying that book?”

“Won’t work,” the teen answered, “this is just too good to pass up! Now all that I have to do is to find pictures of my parents and grandmother.”

“That will get you into no small amount of trouble, young lady,” John growled at his daughter’s statement while the book that she carried slipped into the basket that floated next to her despite Artemis’ pleading.

“I love you, Grandpa,” the teen announced while assuming an attempt at an angelic expression and batting her eyes at her grandparent.

“I love you too, Elizabeth, but do you have to buy that book?”

“How else could I find out what my grandfather looked like while he was a student at Hogwarts?” she answered as she stepped forward to hug him and then look up into his eyes.

He finally chuckled and then reached up to ruffle her hair before kissing her gently on the forehead. The teen stayed with her grandparent until they reached the checkout and he watched mournfully as the book was placed on the counter. The clerk looked at the book and shook his head as he read the date.

“I hated this year when I was at Hogwarts, the last thing that I needed was to see this book again. That was the reason that I sold this thing, finally someone is going to get it out of the building so I do not have to see it again.”

Elizabeth’s eyes lit up at the comment and she stifled a giggle while the wizard placed the book to be wrapped with her other purchases. She handed him the coins that she needed to and then happily took the package that she was offered. They walked out of the shop amid her giggles and the grumbling of her grandfather. The happy group soon found themselves seated at a table in the Leaky Cauldron while they enjoyed a meal and the company of each other. Christmas was coming soon and Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents knew that it would likely be the last one in which the girl awakened in their home. She would likely be at the home that she and Albus would share the next time that the holidays arrived.

The presence of the girl in Diagon Alley irritated him and Ludwig Portman had turned angrily away from the window of the flat that he stayed in when he wasn’t at the school. She was pleasant enough and he had, more or less, forgotten about the confrontation that they had had the first day of classes. But she had an annoying habit of exceeding his expectations on the assignments that he presented to her class. Clearly there was no way that he was going to be able to fail her or her friends, not even with the new portion of the N.E.W.T.S that had been included concerning his subject.

Already he was very concerned as hints of displeasure at his performance trickled back to him. He had failed to challenge the students under his charge and the ongoing investigation into his dismissal from the Office of the Aurors was proving troublesome. Even during the holidays, the Wizengamot was continuing his troubles, giving him no chance to rally. While he doubted very much that he would ever see the inside of Azkaban Prison as an inmate, the very real probability of being sacked at Hogwarts was growing in clarity. He may not have been the brightest instructor, but he was no fool, this would be his first and last term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

He settled onto the bed in the flat while he thought about the girl.

‘There has to be some way of getting to her,’ he thought, ‘if the problem that she represents is removed, all will be well again.’

The wizard fell asleep thinking about his problems and the solution to them.

The family finally returned home to find that Chloe had dinner ready for them and they settled down to eat while they discussed the day that they had enjoyed.

“Elizabeth?”

The teen looked at her grandfather with amusement as he spoke.

“How much would it take to make certain that that book never sees the light of day again?”

“But it’s only a book, Grandpa.”

“The picture of me in there is ghastly.”

The others at the table laughed at the comment and Artemis Trane knew that the picture was destined to revisit him again, likely repeatedly. The pleasant night was enjoyed by all and none of them noticed the passage of time until it was very late in the evening and all finally decided that sleep was what they needed.

Elizabeth rose and walked around the table to kiss her parents and grandparents before gathering her books and walking to her bedroom, followed by Tiger, where she changed clothes and slipped under the covers to fall asleep quickly with her companion assuming his favorite location. The girl buried her nose in his long fur and the two settled down to rest until the morning.

The quiet house settled into its own slumber after the adults went to bed and no one noticed the dark figure that paced outside the protective shield that surrounded the property. Another opportunity had been missed, the girl had escaped and now new plans had to be made. Attempts at discrediting her had all failed which meant that she would never be vulnerable to that. She had learned from them and now was very careful about what she did for fear that something might be used against her.

The defeats of the many Legilimens that had attempted to breach her defenses had left them with little chance of success on that front. No one within their ranks was willing to volunteer to move against her in that fashion, they had all seen the shattered remains of those who had been brash enough to claim that they could defeat the girl. Only a direct command from their leader could motivate one of them to make such an attempt which was, in effect, a suicide mission.

An attack on her friends was also out of the question, such an act was certain to be met with considerable force and retaliation was a given. They were all protected by a shield such as the one that surrounded the home of his quarry and the school had been tightly locked down, even over the holidays, while it was carefully searched for intruders or a way that they might enter Hogwarts unseen. The death of Emma Barker had taught them a lesson and the forces that opposed him and his kind were up against defenses that were nearly impenetrable.

One opportunity that did exist was to strike at the small girl that Elizabeth had shown extreme affection for. If the girl could be attacked, but not killed, it would bring Elizabeth out into the open where she would be exposed to assault. She had shown a propensity for rushing to the aid of those that she cared for and he felt that this might be their best chance to finally deal with her. If the younger girl died during the assault it was no huge loss, she certainly brought nothing to them in the way of benefit.

He reached forward to gingerly touch the field around the house and found his touch repulsed firmly. Somehow the residents within had arranged for owls to pass through the field and this intrigued him. Perhaps one of his associates, an Animagus that had chosen an owl as his other form, had a chance of penetrating the field. If this happened there was a chance that he could drop the field and allow them to attack the house. These options left much for him to think about and he finally vanished with a POP.

The house hadn’t been as quiet as he had believed that it was and Chloe watched with concern as the wizard outside the field vanished. The elves that resided in the woods around the house kept her informed about the happenings in the area and this had definitely been something to notice. Obviously the dark ones were planning something and it likely involved injury or death to the family that she loved and cared for.

 The wizard had been examining the field around the house and that meant that he had been looking for weaknesses in it, weaknesses that he could attempt to breach.

Perhaps, she thought, it was time to reveal a weakness to him, a weakness that he would never forget. She vanished to visit with her kin in the woods and it was not long before the plan was in place and in motion. Chloe went to bed that night knowing that she had done her part to protect her family.

When Elizabeth woke the next morning, she glanced out through the window and smiled broadly as she noted the fresh blanket of snow on the ground. Memories of playing in the snow with her sister, Anne, came back to her full force and she forced herself not to cry at the recollections. Anne had cut all ties with her and had actually told her parents that under no circumstances would she ever call Elizabeth her sister again. Elizabeth had hoped that her marriage to Albus would change Anne’s mind and that she would respond to the invitation that had been delivered to her, but it had come back ripped in two and with a hateful note attached. This made the young witch wonder if, when it did happen, Anne would come around when a niece or nephew’s impending birth was announced or would she maintain the distance that she had assumed to her sister.

The girl wondered if she should make a trip to the house that she would share with her husband. Albus had been a dear, he had tried incredibly hard to please her and she loved him intensely for it, although he obviously had had no idea about what he was doing. She would, at some point, have to rearrange things to make the house a bit more functional. He would be at training soon and therefore not in the house and she would have a wonderful opportunity to do what needed to be done, as well as surprise her husband when he reapparated into the house upon his return. She needed to put the things that she had purchased for the house away anyhow and decided that a visit was in order. Hurrying to get dressed, she was soon walking down the stairs and settling down at the table with her grandfather.

He glanced at her and smiled as she entered the room before walking to him to kiss him gently.

“Good morning, Grandpa.”

“Good morning to you! You’re up and dressed early, have something in mind for the day, do you?”

“I thought that I would go to our house and rearrange things. Albus had good intentions, but I really have no idea how he can find anything.”

Artemis smiled at his granddaughter’s comment and watched as she sipped from the cup that appeared before her.

“Elizabeth?”

“Yes, Grandpa,” she answered.

“Is there something going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“The night that you came home in the wee hours of the morning I was a bit concerned about you. Did something happen while you were gone?”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened at the question and she blushed slightly as she coughed before shaking her head.

“Are you certain that there isn’t something that we need to know?”

“Its fine, Grandpa, nothing happened.”

Artemis nodded slowly and looked at the girl who was now fidgeting in her chair and obviously trying to think of something to change the subject to. He reached forward to lay his hand on top of hers and then looked into her eyes.

“What is it, Elizabeth?”

The girl shook her head again and it was then that he realized what had happened.

“Something happened that you don’t wish to discuss, didn’t it?”

She looked into his eyes and then nodded slowly before he smiled weakly and then spoke again.

“I understand, Elizabeth, and nothing more will be said. It’s between you and him and that is the way that it will stay.”

Elizabeth smiled with relief and then looked up as her mother walked into the room before mouthing a silent word to her grandparent.

“Thank you.”

Victoria looked at the pair and smiled as they hugged. Elizabeth had grown incredibly close to her grandfather in the time since they had met and could, when she was home, often be found in his company.

“What are you two conspiring about?” she asked jokingly.

Elizabeth and Artemis looked at her and smiled before Artemis spoke.

“I am just enjoying a few minutes with my grandchild. You’ll do the same when you have some of your own,” he answered as he glanced at Elizabeth and carefully winked.

“Well, I hope that that is a long time in the future, but not too long.”

“It will be Mom, Albus and I aren’t even talking about children yet.”

“You have to admit, Elizabeth, that what your friend Lily yelled at the platform kind of put ideas in our minds.”

“I know, Mom, but there will not be any babies any time soon, although calling you grandma would be kind of fun.”

“Whoa, wait a minute, young lady, if she becomes grandma, you know what that will make me,” Artemis announced suddenly.

“Yeah, a great-grandpa, but I already think that you are great.”

They laughed together as Elizabeth leaned forward to kiss her grandparent again and then the girl turned to the breakfast that had appeared before her.

“Are you two certain that you don’t want a house-elf to do things like this?” Victoria questioned as Elizabeth dug into the pastry on the plate.

“Well, maybe, if we could hire it, you know, pay it for what it does.”

“Elizabeth, you know how they react to the offer of pay,” Artemis said slowly. “They regard it as an insult.”

“I know,” the girl responded sullenly as her father and grandmother entered the room.

“Good morning all,” John announced briskly before noticing that his daughter was already dressed for the day.

“What are you up to, young lady?”

“I just thought that I would go to our house and rearrange things before Albus got home. It definitely has a man’s touch and that was a problem in this instance. He’s going to take some training in housekeeping I’m afraid.”

“Do you want someone to go with you?”

“No, I should be okay. I’m eighteen and it’s time that I start acting like a grown-up and a married woman. It has a shield around it too so no one can just apparate in unannounced. Besides, if they want to tackle this girl they have a lesson coming and it’s going to be a hard and painful one.

“That’s my girl,” Artemis added with a smile.

“Okay, but be careful,” John finished.

Elizabeth finished the breakfast and then rose to kiss each one of them before slipping her traveling cloak over her shoulders and then vanishing with a POP. The remaining people in the house looked at the vacant space at the table and it was Artemis that spoke first.

“It’s going to take a long time before I am used to seeing it like that.”

Elizabeth appeared in the living room of the home and looked around. That Albus had been here was obvious by the looks of the place, clothing lay everywhere and the table had used dishes sitting on it.

“You are definitely going to take some training, Albus,” she announced as she drew her wand and waved it as she spoke.

Tergeo!

The young witch smiled as she watched the clothing take wing to fly to its destination, cleaned as it went. The dishes on the table vanished to appear in the sink where water began to flow and clean dishes started to emerge to land on the drying rack.

While this was going on, Elizabeth took the opportunity to wander through the house to take stock of what lay ahead of her. She paused as she reached the door of the bedroom and then cautiously pushed it open before stepping into the room. The words of her grandfather came back to her as she looked around the room and she realized how truthful they had been.

“I understand, Elizabeth, and nothing more will be said. It’s between you and him and that is the way that it will stay.

In that silent room Elizabeth spoke her understanding once again.

“It’s all changed, and there is no going back.”
 

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