the girl out of time

Elizabeth Banner, sixteen years of age, has been very much in love with the Harry Potter books for as long as she can remember. A visit with a mysterious man makes her appear in the Harry Potter universe with one seemingly simple task: fix what was broken. Upon arriving at Hogwarts, however, she finds herself swept up in the comings-and-goings of the life of a student with magic, which includes seeing snow leopards around the school, trying to fake it till she makes it in Potions, and trying not to set things on fire in her Alchemy class.

With the danger of Lord Voldemort looming on the horizon and the pressure of learning enough magic to face off against Death Eaters, Elizabeth is finding it difficult to fix things as the mysterious man instructed her to do. After all, how is a person supposed to fix things in a world she was never meant to exist in?

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9. actually

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am so sorry that this is like a month late. My deepest apologies. I never had the intention of giving this story up, though. I love it and I love writing the chapters. It wasn't even a writer's block that kept me from uploading this chapter. It was pure laziness. So I'm sorry about that and here is the chapter you've all been waiting for.

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'Just last week I saw a snow leopard outside my office...' Dumbledore's words rang through my head, again and again, and the foggy image of the feline that protruded from my wand matched that of the beast standing by the Forest.

"Elizabeth, what're looking at?"

I turned to look at Jessie. "Don't you see the--" I looked back at the Forest, only to see the snow leopard had vanished from sight. "Never mind."

"Let's go back to the castle," she suggested.

I commented on all of her flawless saves absentmindedly while I thought about the apparition I'd witnessed. Had the leopard even been real? Or had I imagined it? I supposed it was more of a common thing to see animals out of their natural habitat in the wizarding world, but it seemed too much of a coincidence that it had been a snow leopard, of all things. The very animal that had been brought up more than a couple times over the years.

Dumbledore's sighting hadn't been the first time. At least, not for me. My godparents used to bring me to the zoo all the time, and I was always fascinated by the big cats there. The great lions, reduced to gigantic felines as they rolled in the grass licking their paws, I loved almost as much as the leopards that stalked the mountain terrain exhibit.

I connected with one cat there--a snow leopard called Misty. She had a gorgeous snowy coat and was still quite agile for her age. The zookeepers told me she was getting to the age where they'd have to put her down soon, but that didn't keep me from falling in love with her. Even she had taken notice of me and often lingered by the glass wall of the exhibit right next to me. In an exceptionally revolutionary moment, she pressed her muzzle to the glass as if she wanted to rub it against my small hand. Misty was put down a week or so after my last visit to the zoo, and I never saw her again.

That evening, as we were going over nonverbal spells for the hundredth time (I was getting better, but it was still hit-and-miss for me), I blurted out, "Can you teach me how to cast a Patronus?"

Malfoy looked surprised. "Why? I haven't really bothered to learn."

"Especially in this day and age, we'd better learn," I explained. "The dementors are Voldemort's followers--"

"Shhh!" he shushed me, looking paler than usual as he looked rapidly around the corner of the library we had taken to using. "Don't use his name, you idiot. Anyway, why do you think dementors are going to come after you? Like you said, they're the Dark Lord's followers and he was a Slytherin. He'd never attack a Slytherin, I think."

I seriously doubted that, assuming in the future he'd be killing Snape. "Dementors are soulless," I argued. "They'll go after anyone; they don't care what House they're from!"

Malfoy hesitated at that, then gave in. "Fine, we'll learn."

I brightened. "Together! It'll be beneficial, I promise!"

He started searching through his D.A.D.A. textbook and I couldn't figure out why until I heard him mumbling, "Patronus, Patronus..."

"I know how to cast it," I told him. Having the process described to me in detail in the Prisoner of Azkaban tended to help with that.

He looked up sharply. "How would you know?" he challenged. "It's a difficult spell to master."

I flushed. "Er, I looked it up."

He looked unconvinced but conceded. "Okay, how do you do it?"

I took out my wand. "Well, it takes a lot of concentration. On a happy memory."

"A happy memory?"

"A happy memory."

"I don't have a happy memory," he said scathingly.

"That's sorta sad," I remarked. "You can't think of anything?"

"Enough with this wishy-washy stuff," he retorted, taking out his book again. "I want facts."

I rolled my eyes as he looked it up, flipping rapidly through the pages. "Here, the Patronus Charm..." He pressed his finger to the page and read aloud, "The Patronus Charm is an immensely complicated, very difficult spell that evokes a partially-tangible positive energy force known as a Patronus or spirit guardian. The charm was primarily designed for defense against Dementors and Lethifolds, against which there is no other protection."

"And how do you use it?" I asked, trying to hide the smugness from my voice.

Malfoy let out a little sigh of defeat as he read, "To successfully cast the spell, one must muster the happiest memory they can think of (the happier the memory, the better the charm will work) and begin drawing circles with their wand so as to increase the power of their spell. They must then say the incantation, "Expecto Patronum"; the Patronus will come from the tip of the wand and can be directed towards a target by pointing one's wand at said target."

I smiled in triumph. "Fascinating how right I was about that."

"I don't have a really happy memory," complained Malfoy, slamming the book on the study table. He looked down for a few moments, his face hidden by his hand. I thought he looked rueful, but I couldn't be sure since his eyes weren't visible.

"What, you never received a nice warm hug from your dad or kissed your crush or anything?" I asked, making my tone teasing.

But he shook his head, face expressionless. "My father doesn't believe in physical affection, nor have I ever liked anyone. I have nothing."

"What about when you were Sorted into Slytherin," I pressed. "Were you happy then?"

He paused. "I suppose so. But is it happy enough?"

"Only one way to find out."

He stood up with a little frown in place, a crease forming between his pale brows. He held out his wand toward the open space, not near any books. His gray eyes closed as he focused and as he did I saw his lips lift up slightly. "Expecto Patronum!"

A small airy wisp escaped from his wand, but that was all. I tried to make a Patronus by using the memory of first becoming friends with Harry and the others, but I had little more success. The most I got was a foggy mist and that was more than Malfoy's.

Every weekend we focused on Patronuses. I managed to come up with a small shield after a week or so, but Malfoy was really struggling. I'd thought he just couldn't think of a happy memory at first, but it really was like he didn't have any powerful ones. The fact that he got more frustrated as time went on didn't help, either.

On top of that, we had gotten on to learning how to summon one of the four elements in Alchemy. It was very difficult work and I understood why Snape had asked me if I was sure I wanted to take it. The third lesson or so we had taken a test to find out what our elemental affinity was. Mine had been fire and I was instructed in the careful art of summoning and controlling it. I could summon it just fine, but I had issues controlling it. I had taken to practicing outside after a disastrous first try in the common room, where I set fire to the coffee table. It was getting chillier as we moved into October, so the flames dancing haphazardly around me were often welcome.

Slughorn, since he had first invited me to his little club, had me attend three dinners in his office with the other students. This included Hermione, Ginny, Zabini, a boy I recognized as McLaggen and even Neville. I sat between him and Hermione on the first meeting. I could hardly talk to Hermione at all, as McLaggen forced her to keep her attention focused on him. I remembered from the book he'd been an obnoxious character intent on making Hermione his. She cast me disparaging looks throughout the meetings, but I couldn't do much to help her.

The meetings were actually pretty okay. Slughorn was amiable enough to make up for most of the group's social-awkwardness and he made a point to talk to each of us about what made us special. The third meeting, Slughorn and I spoke in deep fondness of Potions and I told him some of the ideas I had for improving the last potion we made in class and he listened in admiration.

I had just finished reading up on my Herbology homework while also half-watching Jessie and Malfoy doing Quidditch practice. They both made a point of inviting me so I wouldn't be stuck being anti-social in my dorm. Or maybe it was because they liked to see me waving or something. I wasn't positive. But they both trudged by my side up to the castle, me holding my textbook daintily while the other two looked drained with a sheen of sweat on their foreheads.

"Halloween next week!" announced Jessie excitedly.

I didn't know that was much of a thing here. "Yeah. What are you going to do then?"

"We're having a party in the common room, of course! Augustus nicks food from the kitchens and we all gorge ourselves till midnight."

Malfoy didn't seem particularly interested in this, which gave me the impression he'd never been around for it. I jerked my thumb at him. "I'll go if he goes."

"Draco, you should come this year!" Jessie enthused.

"We'll see," he said vaguely. Maybe his disinterest was a result of his distraction. He hadn't been very attentive the past few days. He actually looked worried a lot of the time, but I hadn't asked about it yet.

Once in the common room, we noticed a paper pinned to the bulletin board. There was a Hogsmeade visit scheduled for tomorrow. A bit late of a notice, but still welcome. They must have debated on letting us go because of the whole Voldemort-is-out-and-about thing.

When we left the school the next morning, Filch had us scanned for Dark objects. He scanned the Slytherins at least five times over, which was annoying. But he found nothing on me and Malfoy. He had decided to accompany me once I found out Jessie had to stay behind for whatever reason. I couldn't tell if he was in a better mood or not; he conversed with me willingly enough, but he still looked so distracted, like he had something else entirely on his mind.

"Let's go to Honeydukes," he said through his scarf. We were both wrapped in cold weather accessories to protect ourselves from the bitingly cold wind. It was difficult for me to walk against the angry wind, since my slight frame threatened to fall often. Malfoy actually had to steady me once or twice before I toppled into a snowdrift.

"You need to eat more," he remarked, the smile on his face more real than I'd seen for days.

I huffed in annoyance. "People always say that. I eat a ton."

"Not enough."

"I'm just small, okay!"

He laughed, and then we entered the village of Hogsmeade. There weren't very many people wandering like I had imagined; rather, they were all hurrying to wherever they wanted to be to get out of the cold. Malfoy and I entered the blissful warmth of Honeydukes and we were finally able to thrust down our scarves to breathe.

"Have you had these wizard candies?" he asked, passing through the aisles.

"No," I said, looking at them all bright-eyed. My pocket was heavy with gold, probably enough to buy some of everything.

He thrust a few Chocolate Frogs into my hand along with a Sugar Quill and a Pumpkin Pasty. "These are my favorites."

We spent probably ten minutes in there. I picked out at least one of everything, if not more if they looked exceptionally tasty. After Honeydukes, Malfoy insisted on buying me a Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. I was only too happy to take him up on his offer. Butterbeer was one of the things I'd been dying to try since I arrived at Hogwarts.

Once he brought me the mug, he told me quickly he had to go to the bathroom. So I waited for him at our table for two, taking a wary sip of my drink. It was delicious and I quickly downed it in satisfaction. I had ordered another before Malfoy came back. He had the strangest expression on his face, a mix of satisfaction and anxiety.

"What's up?" I asked him, meaning to inquire about his distracted state the past few days.

"Nothing. You don't need to worry about it."

I looked at him levelly for a long moment, wondering whether the good friend would press for information or leave him be unless he was really suffering. I decided against pushing and we made pleasant conversation. He became less anxious as time went on and by the time we left he looked rather content.

The following morning I was snacking on Chocolate Frogs in History of Magic, my breakfast not having been enough for me. A few students were whispering behind me about something but I didn't pay attention to them until one of them mentioned 'cursed.'

"Do you think Katie was the target?" asked the girl in a hushed tone. A glance told me she was a Hufflepuff.

"Yes, of course. She's been pining after that Ravenclaw boy for ages so of course his girlfriend sent her that cursed necklace. It only makes sense," replied the Hufflepuff boy confidently.

"I didn't know Katie even liked anyone other than Fred Weasley," said the girl doubtfully. "I've seen her around him more than the Ravenclaw."

The boy shrugged. "I'm just telling you what I've heard."

I'd frozen in my seat, a million thoughts racing through my head. I'd completely forgotten about this part of the book, the part where Katie Bell had been cursed by a necklace. She'd been taking it to Dumbledore to do him in, but against her will.

I slowly turned around, where Malfoy was sitting staring stonily out the window.

Had Malfoy really brought the necklace to Katie while in the Three Broomsticks with me? That must have been why he looked so anxious and yet oddly satisfied. My eyes narrowed and Malfoy looked up, catching my gaze. Confusion swept over his futures as I looked at him coldly and turned back around to face Professor Binns, who was droning on as he floated about the room.

I was sure now.

The same hands that had caught and steadied me on the way to Hogsmeade, the hands that had thrust candies into mine, the hands that had given me a butterbeer, were the same hands he'd delivered the cursed package to Katie Bell.

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