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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19. xix. secret-keeper

I was in Herbology, attempting to wrestle a thick-rooted plant into a pot, when a third-year came into the Greenhouse and tapped on my shoulder. Draco took over my spot and jinxed the plant to stay still as he emptied compost around it.

"A message from Professor Dumbledore," said the third-year, blushing scarlet when Draco looked over at her. She practically bolted from the Greenhouse as I unrolled the piece of parchment.

"I have to meet Dumbledore...right now," I reported, a little surprised. I looked up at Draco. "And you have to go to his office at the end of this class." So he wanted to see me first. Apprehension washed over me and I bit my lip, wondering what Dumbledore wanted to talk about with me. With any luck, it would have nothing to do with my new rivalry with Harry Potter.

"You should probably show that to Professor Sprout, then," Draco told me. His gray eyes showed no distrust at all as he looked at me. He'd been so amazing lately, impressing me in ways I never would have thought to see. He was the one who had sat me down after I'd threatened Harry and pleaded with me to not hold a grudge. I had relented verbally, but inside I was still boiling whenever I saw the scars Harry had made. Draco would have him forever because of Harry's attempt to 'protect' me. He'd also been showing a lot more selflessness than I had lately, being considerate to others where I would just worry about myself or him. It was like we had switched personalities.

I showed the note to Sprout and she let me leave the Greenhouse with a reluctant nod. I rushed up the lawn to the castle and, once inside, I practically sprinted through the corridors toward Dumbledore's office. There wasn't much time before class ended and Draco would join us and I knew whatever the Headmaster wanted to say to me wasn't for Draco's ears.

Once I traveled up the hidden staircase to his office, I knocked on the heavy wooden door.

"Enter" was all that was said, and I pushed forward and stepped into the circular room. Between the flashes of magical gizmos, I spotted Dumbledore shifting around behind his desk and finally taking a seat as I approached. He gestured wordlessly for me to sit across from him.

"Elizabeth Banner," began Dumbledore, and I knew I was in trouble.

"I'm sorry!" I blurted out, cheeks flaming. "I know I shouldn't have challenged Harry like that or made an enemy of him when he's only shown friendship to me. It was stupid, and I should really apologize and stop holding a grudge because..."  I trailed off helplessly.

Dumbledore, however, gave me a small smile. "I wasn't aware you had ever challenged him, Elizabeth." His blue eyes twinkled. "But I am fairly certain that matter will be resolved soon. I have more pressing things to discuss with you."

I barely had time to feel an ounce of relief before Dumbledore leaned forward, looking very serious.

"Elizabeth, what will become of me tonight?"

I instantly knew what he was talking about. And an image of his body flying from the Astronomy tower darted through my mind as he spoke of it. My shoulders sank. "I'm not sure you really want to know."

Dumbledore smiled wryly. "I assure you I do not intend to change my fate. It is simply my desire to get a few matters done before I leave."

I knew he was telling the truth. Dumbledore wouldn't try to avoid his death, but he might try to change things that could end with an alternate ending to this story. But then again, I thought guiltily, I had already meddled quite a lot with this story. I was going to help save Draco and his parents from seeing Lord Voldemort ever again and the Malfoys' involvement in this story ran deep.

"You're going to have to drink poison in order to get the Horcrux," I said quietly. "It's a terrible way to go and you'll be weakened from it. When you return here..."

His eyes were soft and understanding. "Please go on."

"Draco...will be waiting to disarm you. And then Professor Snape will come and he'll...finish the job."  I breathed out heavily, my stomach clenching. I didn't want to see Dumbledore die. I didn't want that image forever ingrained in my head.

Dumbledore leaned back. "I see. I am glad Severus will be the one to do it."

There was a long silence, then, as Dumbledore thought and I played with my fingers anxiously. It was terrifying that the whole Half-Blood Prince showdown would happen tonight. I hadn't realized that the main climax of the book had come along so quickly. Now that it was here, I couldn't get rid of the sense of dread. Reading about it and actually being involved in it were two very different things.

"Elizabeth, I have a couple favors to ask of you," said Dumbledore, standing up. Behind his desk was a display case holding none other than the Sword of Gryffindor. He waved his wand, murmured an incantation, and there was a shimmer of light as whatever protective spell surrounding it dissipated. Then he opened it up and took out the sword, setting it on the desk in front of me. "I strongly suspect this will be stolen from me by Lord Voldemort once I am dead. I want you to keep it safe for Harry until he needs it." 

He tapped the sword with his wand and it shrank at once, transforming into a tiny silver heart the size of my nail with a ruby in the center of it. A chain grew from it and connected to form a necklace. Dumbledore handed it to me.

"I can't have this," I protested weakly. "I'm not a Gryffindor. I'm the exact opposite--a Slytherin."

Dumbledore's eyes glinted. "I think you will find that Gryffindors and Slytherins share more traits than you think."

I sucked in a breath sharply. The very thing I had been thinking all year had also occurred to Dumbledore. It was also the very thing I had been doubting lately, the fact that Slytherins and Gryffindors were anything alike.

"Trust me, Elizabeth, you are worthy to wear the Sword of Gryffindor," assured Dumbledore. "You cannot wield it like a true Gryffindor, but you can at least keep it safe."

I nodded slowly, knowing I didn't have much of a choice but to accept it. As I put it around my neck, the bell rang for the end of class. Time was running out; we probably had only five minutes before Draco would show up.

"This," Dumbledore went on, pulling something from his drawers, "is a very valuable object. It originates from the Slytherin House, so you are more than worthy to wear it."  He dropped a ring into my hand. It was also made of silver and it was in the form of a thin snake coiled in two bands. Its eye was a tiny emerald. "It will grant you entrance anywhere and it will...reveal secrets, if you will."

I had no idea what he meant by that, but it sounded incredibly useful. I fitted the ring around the middle finger of my right hand. The silver came alive, then, twisting itself tightly around my finger until I cried out in pain. "What is it doing?!"

Dumbledore didn't reply until the snake burned my skin even more, before suddenly sinking into it, transforming into a dark tattoo. The snake continued to coil itself around my finger, but it was in my skin now so I didn't feel a thing. Was this what wizarding tattoos were like?

"It will take much to remove it now," Dumbledore informed me. "You will find it to be much use in the days to come."  He let out a long sigh, observing me as I held out my hand to watch the snake move around my finger. "Elizabeth, your story is riveting."  I looked up at him, unsure of what to say. "Born in this world, raised in another, only to return again to change it. Enchanting."

"So I really was born in this world," I asserted. Everything was starting to come together. It made sense. I was born in the Harry Potter world, the world of magic. I didn't know what had forced me from my world of origin, but I had a feeling I would find out soon. But my wand had been here, and my parents had been alive here and attended Hogwarts, and they had left a huge vault for me.

"Indeed. I do hope I will get to see in some matter how you change the course of this story, Elizabeth."

"Let's hope it's for the better," I said meekly.

Before he could reply, there was a knock on the door. Undoubtedly, it was Draco. Dumbledore called out, "Enter!" and it creaked open to reveal my boyfriend.

"Welcome," greeted Dumbledore, inviting Draco to sit across from him in the seat next to me. He did so, shooting me an anxious glance. "Thank you, Draco, for finding the courage to stand up to your Master and seek help."

"I couldn't have done it without Eliza," he confessed, smiling at me briefly. "And he's not my Master anymore. No one is."

I felt a flash of pride for this boy, my best friend and lover. He had come so far in such a short of time. He seemed to me to be more of a Gryffindor than a Slytherin at this point. These days, I saw more blue in his eyes than gray. I saw the love of life in them.

"What we are going to do is a difficult bit of magic that involves a powerful bond," began Dumbledore. "I see no trouble with that particular area with you two. Elizabeth, we are going to make you a secret-keeper to protect Draco and his family."

Oh. I suddenly thought of Peter Pettigrew, how he had betrayed Lily and James to Voldemort. He had been their secret-keeper to. I felt a twinge of fear at the thought of so much pressure, but I knew I would never willingly betray the Malfoys. So I nodded firmly.

"The spell is similar to that of the Unbreakable Vow," Dumbledore went on, "except that the vow shall physically protect the subjects from all forms of harm and sight. Please grasp each others left arms."

I pulled up the sleeve of my robes and so did Draco. His cool hand wrapped around my arm and my eyes trailed to the swirling Dark Mark before flicking back up to meet his eyes. They looked blue again.

"Elizabeth Banner, do you swear to keep the secret of the hiding place of Narcissa, Lucius, and Draco Malfoy, even at the cost of your own life?"

I didn't hesitate. "I do swear."

"Do you, Draco Malfoy, approve of the Secret-Keeper Elizabeth Banner to protect the secret of you and your family?"

"I do approve," he replied firmly.

"Then the Secret shall be Kept," finished Dumbledore, tracing his wand along our entwined arms. A faint glimmer showed, tightening briefly around our arms, and then it vanished from sight as soon as Dumbledore lowered his wand. We let go of each other and I could still feel the presence of the vine of light even though it had gone.

I was the Secret-Keeper of the Malfoy family.

There was a soft knock on the door and Dumbledore looked up. "It seems it is already that time. If you would be so kind to leave Harry and I now."

"Yes, sir," said Draco. He hesitated only a moment before going on, "I'd just like to thank you, Professor. Thank you so much for helping me."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "It's been my pleasure. I will see you soon, Draco."

Harry entered the office just as Draco and I swept past him and out the door. As the door closed behind us, I heard Dumbledore start to speak: "Do not ask about Miss Banner and Mr. Malfoy, Harry, we have more pressing matters to discuss..."

"What's going to happen now?" Draco asked as we descended the stairs to the main corridors.

"We're going to warn Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, everyone who can help defend the school," I replied. I had gone through this so many times in my head but it was hard to believe it was actually happening now, and that I would have to put my plan into action. "And then you're going to let the Death Eaters into the school."

--

An hour later, I left Draco inside the Room of Requirement as he started the process to bring the Death Eaters to the school. I started running through the halls of the school, stopping people I recognized to warn them. I managed to find at least one person from every other House that I knew would pass the message to those in their respective common rooms. I found Luna Lovegood from Ravenclaw and a Tobias Huntington from Hufflepuff I shared Alchemy with. I then caught Ginny Weasley and told her to prepare her Housemates for a potential battle.

"Harry told me the same thing," she said, her eyes flashing. "He sent those from the DA to patrol the corridors in case danger came. You're telling me you know something bad is coming?"

"Yes," I told her earnestly. "Death Eaters. Don't ask how I know. Bye!"  I ran off before she could say anything else. By the time I made it up to the Astronomy tower where I would meet Draco, I was reeling with terror. What if something went wrong? What if someone died because of a mistake I made?

"No turning back," I whispered to myself as I clung to the railing of the stairs leading up to the tower. A loud, wailing alarm rang around the school, no doubt set off by one of the Dumbledore's Army patrollers. It cut off almost immediately, but I knew.

The Death Eaters were inside Hogwarts.

--

Author's Note: I can't apologize enough for how long it took to write and upload this chapter. I owe it all to you for a quicker update for the next (and last) chapter of this fanfiction. Expect an update by next week at the latest. I can't wait to finish off this book and move on to the sequel, which I will announce the title of in the last chapter. Thank you so much for sticking with me through this fanfic, everyone, it's been a blast!

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