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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12. change

Christmas was rapidly approaching. I used to think my godparents decorated our house beautifully for Christmas and it usually looked a lot better than most houses I visited during the holiday season. But Hogwarts took it all to a whole new level.

I was studying a fourth year charm with Malfoy one evening when Hagrid stumbled through the doors of the Great Hall, three or four full-size Christmas trees thrust under his arms and clutched in his enormous hands. He set them up in the corners of the Hall and when he had brought in all the trees I counted a dozen. And then it was Professor Flitwick's turn to decorate them. I had watched in wonder as he strung berries around them and make bright, dancing lights gleam among the needles. The prettiest thing by far was when he enchanted snow to fall on them.

Malfoy hardly noticed all of this and I was irritated he took it for granted.

"You should see my house this time of the year," he boasted. "Mother has it decorated beautifully, much more grand than the school."

I hadn't seen his house, but I couldn't see it being more grandiose than Hogwarts. We learned the following day that mistletoe was hung up at intervals along the corridors, which made it difficult for Harry to navigate to classes. I had joined him and Hermione on their way to Defense Against the Dark Arts and we had to take an alternate route since girls were converged in large groups beneath the mistletoe waiting for Harry to come by.

"Hey, lighten up," I urged him as he sat, grumbling, in the back of the classroom. "At least being the Chosen One means you won't have issues getting a girlfriend, right?"

He rolled his eyes at me. "I don't really want a girlfriend."

I laughed, thinking of Ginny Weasley and how he had become so enamored with her during this school year. "Right."

It was during one of my free periods that a first year delivered a heavy envelope to me. I took it from him and he ran off quickly to the dorms downstairs. Augustus was in the room with me, reading a thick book that didn't have anything to do with the preliminary N.E.W.T.s he was supposed to be studying for. I opened the envelope and unfolded the thick parchment within. It was from Professor Slughorn and he was inviting me to attend a Christmas party with the rest of his Slug Club.

"Is that the Christmas party invitation?" asked August without looking up from his book.

"Yes," I confirmed. "It says I should bring one other person, and dress formally. Does that mean a dress, d'you think?"

He nodded solemnly, his attention still focused on the volume. "You should take Draco."

I coughed loudly. "Sorry, what?"

"Take him. He'd probably be delighted."

"I don't want to," I said stubbornly. "I don't need...romance in my life right now. Can't you come with me instead?"

"Yes you do," he responded, looking up at last. "Trust me. And, no, I can't. Hestia got her invitation this morning and she asked me to go with her." He shrugged, not looking very sorry at all.

I sighed. "Maybe I'll ask Harry."

He shook his head. "Bad idea. You're a Slytherin, he's a Gryffindor. Everyone would quit being friends with you here. And you'd probably get death threats or something from all those girls who are infatuated with him." He closed his book and dropped it in the table in front of him. "What's so bad about asking Draco, anyway?"

"I don't want him to think I like him."

"Oh, really?"  August raised his eyebrows. "I was under the impression you already did."

My face turned bright red. "Well, you thought wrong! Now I have to study these jinxes or Snape'll have my head."

Augustus chuckled as I opened up the wrong book and read determinedly until I blocked out all thoughts of the Christmas party and Draco Malfoy.

Friday was approaching too quickly for comfort. I found myself studying vigorously to ignore all the talk of the upcoming party. I visited with Dumbledore and we established I would take my O.W.L.s after winter break. Draco helped me study for them as much as he could between his towering piles of homework. I couldn't help but recall what August had said before. 'Only someone who likes you would bother tutoring you.'  I shook my head, casting out August's voice.

Thursday came and I still hadn't found someone to go to the party with. I just wasn't good enough friends with any boy in my House but August and Draco. And the boys in other Houses were mostly off-limits, as the majority seemed to automatically dislike me for being Slytherin.

Finally, Friday morning, I relented. Augustus winked at me as I left the table with Draco by my side to attend Herbology. We left the castle and trudged down to the greenhouses kicking up white powder as we moved.

"Hey, Draco," I said, looking at him. I realized I had started calling him Draco in my head instead of Malfoy like I used to and that fact bothered me a little bit.

"Yeah?"  He adjusted his grip on his bag and looked at me appraisingly.

"So there's that Christmas party--you know, the one with Slughorn?" I took a deep breath and went on. "It's silly, of course, but he's expecting me to come since Potions is sort of my thing and...well, I was wondering if you would want to come with me?"

His gray eyes widened for a fraction of a second, as if he hadn't expected me in a million years to ask him to anything. A sort of shy grin lit up his face and he nodded. "Sure. That's tonight, right?"

I nodded once, extremely relieved he had said yes. Now all I would have to worry about was...being with him all evening. It wouldn't be any different than walking around like this, would it? Probably not.

"You could have given me at least a day's notice," he complained as he walked up to the greenhouse. He sighed deeply. "Whatever. I'm lucky that Father sent me some dress robes awhile ago."

To my enormous relief, he acted normally during the lesson and it was easy to act like myself as well. It might have been my imagination, but I thought he looked a little happier than usual.

After double Potions had finished that afternoon, I had a small dinner and went down to the common room to get myself ready for the party. I had ordered a dress as soon as I received the invitation and it had arrived a couple of days ago. Now I slipped into the red dress, which showed my shoulders just a little bit and had bows positioned just over the short sleeves. The dress dropped to just above my knees and I decided to dug on some sheer tights so my pale legs wouldn't stand out embarrassingly. After some internal debate, I decided to put my hair up in a loose braided bun, letting a couple of tendrils fall out of it.

I exited the bathroom and hurried up the steps to the common room. At first I only noticed Hestia and Flora, both wearing identical pretty green dresses, and the boys they had with them. August was looking radiant as usual wearing long black dress robes and his formerly casually-tousled dark hair was sleek and orderly. He winked at me as he walked out of the common room with Hestia.

Draco was standing just behind them, now visible since they had moved. A smile tugged at his lips as he saw me. He was dressed in robes similar to August, though not as long, and a white shirt was visible underneath the dark vest he was wearing.

"You look nice," he commented as I approached. "Red suits you."

I flushed. "Maybe I was supposed to be a Gryffindor."

He backtracked. "In formal wear, not school wear," he corrected. "You were born to wear green and silver."

I laughed, recalling my first few hours as a Slytherin and how I'd thought it had all been a cruel mistake. Now I had to agree with him: Slytherin was the House I was meant to be in. "Whatever, you idiot. Let's go."

We went up to the Great Hall, where there was a thick gathering of girls watching resentfully as Luna Lovegood came from the hallway I had seen Ravenclaws walk down frequently. Harry appeared at the stairs and joined her. I'd forgotten that Harry had asked Luna to go with him. Draco and I shoved through the crowd and by then Harry and Luna were already walking toward Slughorn's office.

"Let's catch up!" I said to Draco.

He snorted derisively. "Why? Potter isn't exactly my best friend, Eliza."

I stopped. "What did you just call me?"

A faint dusting of pink appeared on his cheeks. "Er, Eliza? I mean, Elizabeth is a bit of a mouthful so I just thought shortening it would be easier. Do you not like it?" It was funny how worried he looked that he'd offended me.

"No, it's fine." I grinned. "No one's ever called me that. I like it."

He looked relieved and we continued walking toward Slughorn's place, taking up small talk. Harry and Luna disappeared inside the office just as we rounded the corner to go inside. I could see bright flashes of light and hear the noise of the party as we approached.

"Elizabeth Banner..."  Argus Filch was taking attendance, it seemed. He eyed Draco suspiciously. "Is he with you?"

"Yes," I said firmly, daring him to reject Draco.

Filch just sneered and let us inside. The office had clearly been charmed to make itself bigger because I hadn't remembered this much space in previous Slug Club meetings. We had hardly stepped inside when a man appeared with a large camera.

"Pose!" he commanded.

Draco's arm snaked around my waist and drew me closer and I had just enough time to smile before the camera flashed at us.

"Very nice," the cameraman said quickly after glancing at his camera. "Go on! Next!"

We moved out of the way and Draco's arm lingered on my waist, making my heartbeat pick up against my will. All I could think of was August saying, 'He'll find any excuse to touch you.'

"Is that Professor Snape?" I asked, seeing the Head of our House drifting sulkily around the room.
 I looked up at Draco and was surprised to see his gray eyes had hardened.

"Come on, let's find some food," he said at once, grabbing my hand and dragging me through the crowd. I kept a tight grip, afraid to lose him in the throng of bodies, and finally emerged beside him and a table piled high with all kinds of food.

"Are you avoiding Snape?" I shouted above the noise, watching as Draco scraped a few cakes onto a plate and grabbed two butterbeers from the table. 

He didn't meet my eyes and merely shrugged. "It doesn't matter. Let's find someplace quieter."

There were several tables scattered around the edges of the office and we managed to find an empty one relatively withdrawn from the rest of the party. At least here, we could talk normally.

"Snape is just...being annoying," admitted Draco as soon as we sat down. "He always invites me to his office because I'm slacking off a bit in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I haven't showed up because I have to tutor you and he's getting annoyed."

He kept looking around as he spoke, not looking at me directly, and I knew he was lying. Snape was bothering him, but not for the reasons he spoke of. Snape was trying to assist him in his quest to kill Dumbledore and Draco kept refusing. As I leaned in closer, I noticed for the first time his skin had a gray-ish tint to it, like he was ill. This whole affair was affecting him physically and soon it would probably affect him mentally as well. For some reason, the thought of him in anxiety and depression hurt me.

"Let's talk about something else," he said at last, looking back at me. He took a bite of one of the cakes.

"I heard there's a vampire here," I offered. That was pretty much the only distinct detail I had remembered from Slughorn's party in the book.

"Oh, really?" he said, bemused. "Maybe we'll have to go find him."

I opened my mouth to reply but at that moment Harry, Luna, and Hermione appeared from the golden hangings next to us. Both Harry and Hermione gave me strange looks as their eyes whisked between me and Draco.

"What's the matter, Potter, not satisfied with your own date?" demanded Draco scornfully. His gaze moved to Hermione and he drawled, "And I suppose you got shown up, Mudblood?"

"Shut up, Malfoy," I snapped, shooting him an angry look.

"I'm starting to question your taste in men," remarked Harry.

"Hello, Elizabeth!" said Luna brightly. She was the only one who gave me a positive greeting, not seeming to mind the fact that Draco was my date at all.

"Hi, Luna, nice to see you," I said. I glared at Harry and Hermione, who glowered back. I'd have some explaining to do later. "I'll see you guys around."

They moved off without another word, Luna waving at me before catching up with Harry. I looked back at Draco irritably.

"What was that all about?" I demanded. "You don't have to be so rude!"

"I'm just wondering why you think you're friends with them!" retorted Draco. "Potter and Granger are Gryffindors and that Looney Lovegood isn't much better."

"Don't call her Looney! She's nice!"  I folded my arms. "And I can be friends with whomever I like, regardless of their House or mine! I really don't understand the animosity between Houses and why we're not allowed to all be friends with each other! We all go to the same school! We're all witches and wizards!"

He gave me a curious look, shocked into silence.

"Honestly, you just act like a five-year-old when Gryffindors are involved," I snapped. "It's getting really old, Draco, and I'm not going to hang around with someone so rude. I thought you were different."

His face contorted. "I am different." He hesitated. "Look, I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"It better not," I said severely.

I wasn't sure if I could believe him when he said he wouldn't be rude to Harry and his friends, but I would have to trust him for now.

--

Author's Note: Sorry about the longer wait for this chapter--I've been busy with semester finals and things like that. I'll have up the next chapter sooner, I promise! And in case anyone is curious about Elizabeth's dress, there's a picture of part of it below. I really liked the images I found on Google and thought you guys might as well. Anyway, that's all!

 

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