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The familiar ride back to school was three weeks behind them and Elizabeth sat in front of the second years as they prepared for the exam that Minerva McGonagall had prepared. She glanced up at the silent children and remembered when she had sat among their number. The seat that she had occupied now held a dark haired girl from Slytherin House who actually showed a great deal of promise. She was willing to listen to the seventh year from Gryffindor and had accomplished many things that still held her classmates in confusion.

Leaving Albus to return to school hadn’t been easy and they had shared a lingering kiss on Platform Nine and three-quarters before the whistle of the train had urged her to board. Tiger had already been released from confinement when she arrived at her compartment and immediately leapt onto her lap as she settled onto her seat. She had spent much of the time during the trip remembering her many trips on the train and knew that this would be the last. When she left Hogwarts again at the end of the term, it would be as a student who had finished her schooling and could leave by apparation.

When she returned to Hogwarts at the start of the next term she would also use apparation, although she was also welcome to use the train and she knew that she would at times for the memories that it held.

A noise attracted her attention and she glanced up to see a girl with her hand in the air.

“Yes, Brittany, do you need something?”

“Can I go to the lavatory please?”

“Yes, but hurry, the exam will begin soon.”

She was about to return to the book that she had been reading when another voice caught her attention.

“Elizabeth?”

She turned her head to see Minerva McGonagall looking at her with concern.

“Is something wrong, Professor McGonagall?”

“You are extremely pale. Are you feeling well?”

“I have a bit of a sour stomach, but nothing that I can’t handle.”

“Why don’t you adjourn to the rain forest to take a walk? It might do you some good.”

“Are you certain? I really want to stay and help.”

“Go, Elizabeth.”

The teen meekly nodded and walked to the door which led to what had become a very popular place within the castle. She had decided to leave it as it was so that others could enjoy it and the fact that the classroom was never used made the idea agreeable to Professor Leeds. The tall headmaster could often be found wandering the labyrinth of pathways while enjoying the many sights that the girl and others had provided. Elizabeth had often been surprised when the creations of other students had been included in the area and enjoyed seeing what the imaginations of others had wrought.

She walked down one of the familiar paths and soon arrived at a bench that she had created from the roots of a large tree. The girl settled down on it to open the book that she had brought and grimaced at the unpleasant sensation that the sour stomach was bringing.

I can’t go to the hospital for this,’ she thought, ‘she’ll give me Pain-B-Gone for certain.

A writing surface appeared before her and she slid several parchments out to continue her final paper for Potions. While the physical part of the class was finished, her final potions brewed over break, the final work was a comprehensive paper on what she had determined over the course of term. There was no right or wrong answer, but failure to give the paper its due would result in everything else done during the term being for naught. As she read, the unpleasant sensation in her belly continued and she realized that she needed to walk to the lavatory, fast!

She rushed from the room, across the courtyard and down the familiar corridor to arrive at her destination in time. A short time later she was in the stall and on her knees as she lost what she had eaten for breakfast. As the retching stopped and then started again, she wondered which bug she had picked up and from whom. A number of students were ill and the very real possibility of a student contracting something was constant.

Elizabeth finally managed to rise on wobbly legs to walk to the hospital where the nurse directed her to a bed while also reaching for the hated familiar bottle. The girl watched with dread as some of the elixir was poured into the glass of water and the mixing commenced before the witch walked to her bedside.

“I guess that you know who this is for, Elizabeth.”

“Yes, ma`am, I do.”

“Good, then you will not mind taking this glass and drinking the contents.”

Elizabeth nodded slowly and then reached for the glass hesitantly. The nurse was insistent and it was not long before the girl was drinking the liquid. She swallowed the mixture and then settled back onto the bed while the nurse looked her over.

“Your color is a bit pale, Elizabeth. Have you been eating?”

“Yes, but I just felt sick.”

“You’ve been nauseous?”

“I threw up in the lavatory before I came here.”

“Well, we shall have you rest and hopefully back on your feet in no time.”

The sound of her belongings appearing attracted Elizabeth’s attention, but she was disappointed when the nurse gathered the things to take them with her as she prepared to pull a curtain around the bed. She looked at the patient once again before speaking.

“Change into those clothes and then get some sleep!” she commanded as Elizabeth’s night clothes appeared on a hanger.

The blonde teen hurried to change clothing and then slide into bed where she swiftly fell asleep after erecting her defenses. It hadn’t been necessary of late, as the attacks on her mind had been almost non-existent and she wondered if her father had given up. She closed her eyes and soon was blissfully asleep. The nurse walked by a few minutes later to look in on her patient and was satisfied that the medicine would cure the girl and get her on her way.

He walked through the corridors of the school as he searched for his target and frowned when she was nowhere to be found. The girl had an annoying habit of vanishing and he wondered if she might be in the Isolation Tower although she was supposed to be in Transfiguration as a Teaching Assistant. He wound his way through the sudden crowd of students that announced the change of classes and paused at a point that the girl was likely to pass.

The attacks on her mind had been halted as they had proved to be fruitless and had cost them more than a few Legilimens, so many in fact that very few were willing to volunteer to try. They had to be ordered to and for many it was the last order that they would ever obey. Sooner or later, he knew, he would have to make contact with the girl and that was something that he was hesitant to do. Not that he feared her, he didn’t, but he knew that the event would reveal his presence and identify him to her.

As students walked past him he waited for her familiar form and it was only when the doors to classrooms began to close that he realized that she was likely still with McGonagall in the Transfiguration room. She was the Teaching Assistant in a growing number of classes as she finished with her own coursework and this made her even more difficult to get to. She would be in the corridors only occasionally with all other times being in the company of a professor.

The best time to catch her would be if she went to Hogsmeade, but that was also unlikely as he knew that her Potions work was done and that there was nothing that she would need to purchase. The window of opportunity was closing, once she had finished at Hogwarts she would never again be as vulnerable and his task would become monumental.

He left his position to walk to another part of the castle and failed to stop at the hospital where the object of his search lay helpless.

Elizabeth was dreaming and it was a strange dream. In it there was only darkness and a steady rhythmic sound that would speed up and then slow down for no reason, but it was constant. She tried to move her arms in the dream, tried to speak, but no speech would come and she found her limbs strangely constrained. It was all oddly familiar, although she wasn’t certain why, she couldn’t recall any experience like this with any clarity but it was there on the edge of her mind. Whatever it was, it was comforting and drew her to relax as she didn’t want to do anything else. The strange sound continued with its monotonous repetition, although there was nothing hostile about it. She wanted nothing more than for this to continue and fell deeper into sleep.

The nurse looked up from her desk at the sound of a whimper from Elizabeth and rose to walk to the bed where the teen lay. A glance showed Elizabeth to be curled in a ball on her side. There was no sign of distress and the girl seemed to be in a deep sleep, so the nurse was inclined to let her rest and hopefully be over whatever bug she had picked up. She stepped forward to place her hand on the forehead of the young woman and found it to be cool, with no sign of a fever. Relieved, the witch stepped away from the bed and pulled the curtain shut again to let her patient rest.

Lily and Beatrice sat at the Gryffindor table as they worked on their Potions paper and wondered how the day was going for their friend. Elizabeth had seemed worn out lately, always tired, and they were worried about her. Had the stress of their seventh year finally gotten to be too much for her?

“Do you think that she’s okay?” Beatrice asked. “She looked exhausted last night after the meeting.”

“Yeah, you know Elizabeth, ready to tackle a dragon at a moment’s notice.”

“You and dragons, Lily, I honestly believe that you dream about them at night just for fun.”

“That’s why my volume is on them.”

“You’ve been researching dragons all this time?”

“What else? My father had to face one during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, it was a Hungarian Horntail and it almost got him (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). It was just lucky for him that he could fly a broom so well and could go places that it couldn’t.”

“Yeah, if it had gotten him, you wouldn’t be here.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Didn’t he, your Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron ride one after they escaped from Gringotts?” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

“Yep. The poor thing was almost blind after being underground for so long.” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

“Poor thing? Lily, it was a dragon.”

“They have feelings too.”

“And you call Elizabeth mental sometimes.”

Lily shrugged at her friend’s comment as she completed another page and looked at it with satisfaction.

“You do realize that once we have these projects done that we are basically finished with school, don’t you?”

“Lily, I don’t even want to think about it. You and Elizabeth have been the best friends that I have ever had and we won’t see each other as often after we leave here,” the girl answered with a tear beginning in her eye. “I just can’t believe that it is all going to be over so soon,” she continued as the tear began its trip down her cheek.

“I know,” Lily responded as her own tears began to flow.

“Just think about Elizabeth, she’ll be back here next term as a Junior Professor. She’s never going to leave Hogwarts to have a normal life.”

“Yeah,” Lily agreed as she shuddered.

“What are you going to do after you finish?”

“I don’t know; maybe try to get a job at the Ministry of Magic. How about you, Beatrice?”

“My parents want me to apprentice at an apothecary. It pays well and I think that I’ll like it.”

“Whatever we all do, we have to make certain to stay in touch with each other.”

“Owls, lots of owls.”

“Yeah, Beatrice, lots of owls.”

Finished with the work, the girls rose to walk back to Gryffindor tower and paid him little mind as they passed. A glance at him told the pair that he had his own schedule to keep and they really had no desire to talk to him in any case. He managed a look at the girls before scanning the room in search of Elizabeth and was disappointed when she was not present.

‘Sooner or later, I’m going to catch up with you and then you will meet your end.

The dream was intoxicating and Elizabeth reveled in more comfort than she could easily remember. It was warm and inviting and she didn’t want to leave it. The constant sound held her in its grasp and there were other sounds as well, but she couldn’t place them. Being unable to move her arms and legs freely should have alarmed her, but it didn’t. She was able to move them enough that she understood that she was not paralyzed and she flexed her muscles occasionally. A light pressure against her alarmed the girl for an instant, but it alleviated itself and she was comfortable once again.

‘Where is this wonderful place?’ she wondered. ‘Have I been here before and, if I have, when?’

The girl fell back into a deep sleep as she allowed comfort to overtake her once again and all was right with the world.

When evening came and Elizabeth had not yet awakened the nurse walked to her bedside to check on the young woman. The easy, steady breathing of her patient reassured the woman and she shook Elizabeth gently. The girl opened her eyes and looked at the woman curiously.

“You were sleeping soundly, Elizabeth, are you feeling any better?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Well, it probably did you some good. If you move now you can get to the Great Hall for dinner.”

“I haven’t missed it?”

“No, you still have plenty of time.”

Elizabeth nodded and then rose to change her clothing before leaving the room, certain that her things would be in her dorm when she got there. She walked through the corridors quickly and soon was stepping into the Great Hall and making her way to her spot at the table. Lily and Beatrice brightened at her approach and she was soon settled down to eat.

“What happened to you? We waited here to work on our Potions paper, but you never showed,” Lily asked.

“I was sleeping in the Hospital Wing.”

“Ugh,” Beatrice announced, “if you went there, we know what you had to take.”

“Hey, I got a great sleep out of the deal and some really interesting dreams.”

“I’ll pass on that if I have to take Pain-B-Gone to get it,” Beatrice answered.

“It really wasn’t that bad this time,” Elizabeth replied.

“What were the dreams about?” Lily asked.

“It’s really hard to describe, I was in this dark, comfortable place and couldn’t really move. The whole time there was this sound over and over again and it wasn’t scary, I actually kind of liked it.”

“Sounds like you got swallowed by one of Lily’s dragons,” Beatrice remarked. “Think of it, dark place, couldn’t move, sounds over and over again, you were in some monster’s stomach. Not something that I would like. Were there teeth involved in it? Because I’m really thinking that a dragon ate you.”

“It wasn’t a dragon, Beatrice” Elizabeth defended as her friend grinned mischievously, “it was something, but it wasn’t a dragon, and I don’t think that I got eaten. That would have been a nightmare, not a peaceful dream.”

Elizabeth gave Beatrice as stern glance as she settled down to the roast chicken that she had placed on her plate after wrapping a piece in a napkin for Tiger and placing it in her pocket. The dreams that she had experienced had her intrigued as vague memories of something very similar played around the edge of her mind. Certainly it was nothing recent, so what was it?

Minerva McGonagall watched the girl from a distance and was pleased to see that she looked much better today than she had in the morning. The professor was quite aware that there was something going around and many students and staff had fallen victim to it, but she wondered about Elizabeth. The girl had exhibited none of the common symptoms, but had still appeared to be mildly ill. Now she was involved in some light-hearted banter with her friends and the elderly witch smiled as she remembered the young girls as they had been when Elizabeth had come to Hogwarts as a second year. The years since then had passed so swiftly and now the young women were poised to finish their schooling.

Elizabeth was being watched from another vantage point in the room as he frowned internally. Where had she been? It was almost as if she knew who was intending to kill her and was avoiding him, but that didn’t sound like her. He knew about the attack at the home of the little first year, she had come to the child’s defense without thought for her own safety and had freely leapt into battle to best several of his allies. He watched as she joked with her friends and traded conversation with others. The death of the young witch would be a sad thing and he hated the thought that he had to be the instrument of her demise, but it had to be done and soon. The Dark Lord was not known for his charity.

He also wondered what the girl would think is she knew the whole truth. She had been stunned to learn that she was the daughter of Marcus Beales-Armstrong, the Dark Lord, but how would she react if she found out that there was more than that hidden from her. Would she show hesitation if she knew everything? He knew that he wouldn’t pause for an instant when the moment to strike arrived, no matter what knowledge came to him.

Tobias Leeds watched the students as he thought about what was coming and soon, already many of the seventh years were either hard at work on their final assignments for professors, finished with them and just passing time or nearly frantic with the knowledge that too much time had passed and there was no way to finish before they began their N.E.W.T.S. The students that found themselves in this situation rarely, if ever, did well on the very important exam and, in the past, some had reappeared the next term to try to rectify the situation.

Elizabeth Blackwell-Potter, Lily Potter and Beatrice Campbell would not be among those unfortunates. All had assured their completion of the course of study with stellar marks and the coming exam was merely a formality that he was certain they weren’t looking forward to. The three had made life interesting for him at times, especially Elizabeth, but all had also made his tenure as the headmaster successful and he knew that he would miss them intensely. He looked around the room again at the seventh years and knew that there would be many missing familiar faces the next term, but that the spots that they had vacated would be filled by new members of the Hogwarts family.

As the bells rang and the students began to rise to walk to their Houses, Elizabeth talked with her friends excitedly as they made plans for the evening. The long train of black robes making their way either up or down the stairs would take a long time to disperse and night would fall on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry long before the last student went to bed.

Then the dreaming and the scheming would begin.
 

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