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Elizabeth made great strides in rearranging the rooms of the house to make them more functional and knew that her husband would be surprised when he entered the place. Little had been untouched by her hand and it was obvious where Ginny had assisted her son in his efforts. When she returned to the kitchen, the dishes were finished and she looked with surprise at the dish that had appeared on the table. It was filled with fresh fruit and a note rested next to it.

Her mother’s neat handwriting filled the card and Elizabeth smiled as she read the brief note before selecting an apple and biting into it. Only her parents, Albus or his parents or Chloe could have breached the defenses and she felt secure in eating the fruit while she thought about what was to come.

When she was finished with school, when the term was over, she would move to this house permanently, her childhood over. She opened the bag that she had had in her pocket and began to pull the things that she had purchased in Diagon Alley out of it. They swiftly went to their places and she watched with amusement as the broom immediately began to sweep the floor on its own. Sheets of parchment spread across the table in front of her as she began to assemble the final copy of her volume.

“Professor Grims, I hope that this meets your approval, because these things still scare me, even if they are on parchment,” she whispered as she glanced at the evil looking picture on a page.

The young witch drew her wand, waved it and a moment later was rewarded with a fully assembled volume. She had a cover in mind and she watched happily as it appeared and then grew around the pages until it was completely finished. A slight puff of gold dust appeared in the air as the title appeared on the cover with her name below it. She glanced at the spine of the book and smiled as she saw the title and her name there as well. The chore was finished and was ready to hand to the professor when he asked for it.

The sound of someone apparating caught her attention and she rose from the chair that she sat at to look out through the window. No one was visible and she gripped the wand tightly as she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. She hurried to another window at the sound of another apparation and this time saw two figures in dark robes standing side by side as they walked towards the house with their own wands drawn. The young witch was leaving the window and walking towards the door to face them when she heard her name called.

“We know that you’re in there, Elizabeth! Why don’t you come outside and face us?”

She gripped the door handle and yanked the barrier open to walk out into the yard to confront the intruders that were testing the barrier for weaknesses.

“I’m here, and who do I have the displeasure of facing?”

“You don’t need to know that, all that you need to know is that there is a very high price on your head and that we intend to collect it by turning you over to him. What happens after that is none of our concern, all that we care about is the color of his gold.”

“I must have hurt him more than I thought; if he is to the point of hiring the likes of you. Obviously there is no one left in his ranks that will come forward to face me and he has to rely on mercenaries and hired thugs. Go back to him and plead for his mercy while you can because if you face me I will show you no mercy.”

“Brave words for someone who hides behind this shield, come out and face us. Show us your fabled abilities in a duel, Elizabeth Blackwell-Potter!”

“Are you certain that you want me to do that?”

“Enough games!”

She watched as they rushed towards her and she waved her wand as she dispelled the shield to pass through it. Instantly energy leapt from her wand as she countered the attacks that already were arcing towards her.

The brothers in the robes were a rather poor choice of mercenaries, but they had eagerly sought the employment and the promised gold if they succeeded. Alumni of Durmstrang, they had no previous experience with the girl and soon found that her abilities were far beyond what they together possessed. Curses and counter-curses superheated the air as the energy passed through it after leaping from wands. The first man, over-confident and in a hurry, rushed forward to strike just as the curse that he had sent toward their quarry was deflected back at him and his unbelieving brother could only watch as his sibling vanished with a scream and a shower of dust that had once been flesh and bone.

“NOOOOO!” he screamed as the reality of the moment struck him and he was attempting to disapparate just as the girl struck again.

“Expelliarmus!”

The wand that he had held flew from his hand to land several yards away and he suddenly found that he could not disapparate, the shield had been reestablished. Terrified, he could only watch as the enraged witch moved towards him with her wand drawn, a curse being muttered under her breath.

“My father obviously isn’t paying much; likely he is searching in the bargain area of the shops if he is hiring squibs like you and your brother to come after me. If I were you, I would look forward to the Aurors taking you because they at least won’t kill you. But if I let you go now, which I might, my father and his followers will hunt you down and kill you far more painfully than what your friend experienced. You choose which path you take, the Aurors or my father?”

“My wand? Do I get my wand if I choose the Dark Lord?”

“No, I really don’t think that I can allow that.”

“Please, at least let me defend myself.”

“You couldn’t do that when you had a wand before! How is it going to be different now, or are you going to use it on yourself? That would be the coward’s way out, but likely very fitting for one like you.”

The insult cut through his resolve and the wizard fell to his knees weeping as the girl glanced at the wand that lay outside the shield. She shook her head and then waved her wand to open the shield before speaking.

“Accio wand.”

He watched as the wand flew to her outstretched hand and then as she snapped it over her knee. Tears fell from his eyes as he looked at the shattered remains of the wand that he had carried since a child before looking up at the person before him.

“I’m going to kill you, Blackwell-Potter, I don’t care how long it takes, I am going to kill you.”

She smiled at him and he knew then what she had in mind before she spoke. He started to shake his head in pleading but the choice had been made.

“I think that you should leave now, the Dark Lord likely wants to talk to you.”

The wizard, now wandless, suddenly found himself outside the shield and vulnerable. He disapparated and Elizabeth knew that he would not survive long. The followers of her father would hunt him down and he would not survive the encounter. He had failed and failure had a harsh price. She dropped the destroyed wand onto the snow and walked back into the house to close the door behind her and settle down in front of the fire in the mantle. A book lay there, courtesy of her bag, and she opened it to read while she absorbed the heat of the fire and thought about what had just happened.

‘So you have begun to hire assassins, Father. Your ranks must have indeed grown thin if that is what you must resort to. Sooner or later, you shall need to face me yourself and then we can end this thing. Perhaps next time you won’t flee like you did when we dueled at my parent’s home.’

Marcus Beales-Armstrong stood in the center of the room in the abandoned pub that his forces had fallen back to. He knew that his daughter had destroyed one of the pair that he had sent against her and that the other fool had fled. It hadn’t been much of a contest, but he had enjoyed watching it from within the mind of the one that had escaped. He turned to the wizard next to him and spoke a terse command.

“Find the cur and bring him before me. He has a price to pay for his incompetence.”

“Yes, my Lord, it shall be done.”

“And find me someone equal to the task! She is a girl and yet none can face her and win. Find me someone who can defeat her or face her yourself!”

The wizard bowed and left his master’s presence, hoping that Marcus Beales-Armstrong hadn’t seen the sweat on his face and the hesitance and fear in his eyes. He hurried to disapparate to find the surviving brother and regain at least some of the confidence that his master had once shown in him.

Harry sat in his office as news of the duel began to filter in. A sobbing wizard had appeared in the Ministry of Magic and had turned himself in. He and his brother had assaulted the home of a witch, his brother had been destroyed and he had been left without a wand and unable to defend himself. He had decided that perhaps Auror custody was preferable to facing the Dark Lord and now the whole story about just who he had faced was coming out. Harry’s eyes widened in alarm as he read the appearing script and he vanished with a POP before the parchment that he had dropped ever hit the top of his desk.

Elizabeth groaned as she heard the sound of apparation and a glance at the clock told her that it could not possibly Albus. She was starting to rise when Harry stepped into the room and she whirled with wand drawn as he surprised her.

“Elizabeth, it’s me, Harry,” he announced from behind the clock where he had ducked as her wand had risen.

The girl lowered her wand, although it still remained ready and watched as he stepped out before she spoke.

“If you’re him you can tell me what Lily was teasing me about at the station.”

Harry smiled as he dropped his own wand onto the floor and then spoke.

“Babies.”

She smiled and dropped her wand as she rushed to him to hug him tightly. He wrapped his arms around his daughter in law as she wept.

“Are you okay, Elizabeth?”

“Yeah,” she answered, “but I hated having to kill him.”

“His brother turned himself in to my office. I guess that he didn’t want to face the Dark Lord.”

“Harry, even with his wand he wouldn’t have had much of a chance. I can’t imagine what they would have done to him if they had caught him. It would have been a lot less pleasant than facing you and a lot more painful. They would have enjoyed making him hurt before they killed him and they would have taken their time about that.”

“Elizabeth, the shield around this house is there for a reason. Please don’t lower it again. They could have apparated someone in behind you and caught you in a cross-fire. You’re good, but against someone on both sides of you I don’t think that you would have stood a chance.”

“That’s what Albus and his friends thought at school and they ended up disarmed and hanging upside down in the air. And there were more than two of them.”

“He told me about that one and was he ever embarrassed.”

They laughed and Harry finally released the girl. His eyes fell on the finished volume on the kitchen table and he looked at her suspiciously.

“Yours is finished?”

“Yep, and just waiting to be handed to Professor Grims.”

“Lily is going to be so jealous.”

“Yeah, I hope so,” Elizabeth responded as she became serious once again. “The skunk won’t tell me what her subject is.”

Harry laughed and looked into the blue eyes of the young woman.

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know what it is either.”

“Can you send her here? I want to talk to your daughter! She has some real explaining to do after that comment on the platform.”

“I talked to her about that, but you are more than welcome to give her heck too.”

Elizabeth smiled as she thought about something and then looked up at the wizard before her.

“What?”

“Grandpa Harry!” she teased playfully.

“As much as I would love that title, Elizabeth, please wait for a while. Get used to being married before children start showing up.”

“We will, Harry.”

“If you’re okay, I will leave and have Lily come here to keep you company. I’m also going to have an Auror or two on duty out here. Please let me know from now on when you are in the mood to pay this place a visit. I couldn’t stand it if something happened to you.”

“I will.”

“By the way, where’s the wand that you took from him and snapped in half.”

“Out in the yard, I just dropped the halves in the snow.”

Harry retrieved his own wand and then accompanied the girl to the door, which had opened on its own. He watched as the girl lifted her own wand and then spoke.

“Accio wand!”

The sad remains of the wand flew to the waiting hand of the girl and she promptly handed them over to the waiting Auror. She looked up at the man with mischief in her eyes and he furrowed his brow in puzzlement.

“What are you up to now?”

“I wonder if Lily would appear if I said Accio Lily?”

A moment later, to the surprise of both, a flower flew through the air to land in the outstretched hand of the girl. They examined it for a moment before both of them burst out in laughter at what had happened. The flower was a lily.

Harry hugged the young woman again and then vanished. Elizabeth, alone in the house again, sat quietly until a POP announced an arrival and she hurried to the window to see Lily waiting impatiently outside the shield. The girl hurried to allow her friend in and they hugged before they settled down onto the couch to talk.

“Why didn’t you just apparate into the house?”

“You mean that I can?”

“Yeah, the shield would have recognized you and let you in.”

“Now you tell me!”

Lily’s eyes fell on the finished volume and she rose to hurry to the table to open it and examine it. She looked at her friend with surprise.

“You’re finished with it?”

“I finished it just a little while ago. This place is wonderful, Lily, quiet and no disruptions, except for the occasional hired thug that comes a calling! They lost the game that they came to play.”

“Yeah, Dad told me about that. You’re getting mean in your old age! Eighteen years old and giving pairs of people a thrashing in a duel!”

“It’s what I do.”

“So, Elizabeth, what’s it like? Being married, I mean.”

“I guess the same as not being married. You just have to think about someone else too. It’s like really liking someone in school, you think about them all the time.”

“He’s not like he was being my brother, is he? I mean, we fought all the time and he was a typical brother. He was always telling me what to do because I was his little sister. I love him, but I guess that it is probably different for you.”

“Yeah, it is.”

“You know that I was teasing you about babies, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I knew, and someday there will be babies but not for a while.”

“”You guys are going to wait, huh?”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like I can wave a wand and summon a baby. It’s the same for us as it is for a Muggle. We have to wait.”

“I knew that, silly!”

The girls hugged as they laughed before settling down at the table to talk about the things that friends discuss. While they talked, Elizabeth thought about what had happened outside the house a short time before and what was likely to happen again. The followers of her father would be back and, until he was defeated, no one that she loved would be safe.

The fact that the wizard had turned himself in to the Aurors was swiftly learned by the followers of the Dark Lord. Fearing reprisal from his master, the wizard that had been tasked with retrieving the man had busied himself with attempting to find a way to enter the headquarters of the Aurors to, at the very least, eliminate him. This enterprise did not go well as he was swiftly recognized and captured after a brief duel that had resulted in painful injuries to him and nothing to show for his efforts.

Marcus Beales-Armstrong was beside himself with fury as the news of this latest loss reached him and he was quite certain that the man had not put forth his utmost to accomplish what he needed to do. Three had been lost, nothing had been gained and the girl had been further alerted. He had not yet been prepared to count on the one ally that he had at the school, but now felt that he was his best hope. A report from the wizard told him that Elizabeth had been encountered in Diagon Alley, but once again there had been too many witnesses present to make a move on her.

‘Can I count on you to do what is necessary if I should call on you? Will do as I ask and destroy her or will you fail as so many have before you? Are you prepared to die if that is what is necessary to accomplish your goal?’

He settled back in his chair while he considered what had been lost, what could be lost and what there was to gain if he and his followers succeeded. The girl would strike once again, he was certain of that much. The attack at her home would infuriate her, although the force sent to the house had been laughable. Both of the men sent to deal with her had been eager volunteers once the mention of gold had been made. Not that they would have been paid anyway. The killing curse had awaited them even if they had succeeded; none could survive to reveal anything that they knew.

He could almost feel it, and it angered him, he could feel the noose tightening around him as the girl and the Aurors eliminated his faithful. The once numerous legion was but a handful now, whittled down through attrition and betrayal as many had fled the cause and, in some cases, had paid the ultimate price. He understood now that his own flesh and blood, the girl that he had fathered, was likely going to be his executioner for Elizabeth was not going to forgive anything that had occurred. The killing of her younger sister and that of her friend in the Isolation Tower had filled her with an unquenchable fury that nothing would diminish except for his own defeat and death or imprisonment in Azkaban.

Elizabeth! So much like her mother in appearance, but so unlike her in spirit. Victoria had been gentle in spirit but Elizabeth had inherited his fury and unstoppable quest for what she wanted. She would not be swayed from her cause. She would be his undoing.
Marcus Beales-Armstrong leaned back to close his eyes and consider the course of the future, if there was one.

Little did anyone know was that a new player was entering the game and that they would change everything.
 

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