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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17. xvii. the room of requirement

The following morning, my owl swept down and landed on the Slytherin table, his wingtips taking a soak in Draco's cereal. I tugged a letter from his beak and he snatched up a croissant before taking to the air again.

"Thanks a bunch, Hermes," I muttered, ripping open the letter.

Dear Miss Banner,

Would you care to meet me in my office this morning straight after you have finished breakfast? I believe we have a few things to discuss.

Sincerely,

Albus Dumbledore

I tried not to look nervous as I put down the letter. Draco glanced over at me. "What's that?"

"Just...Dumbledore wants to meet with me after breakfast," I said hastily. I didn't say why and he didn't ask why. He just nodded and returned his attention to his cereal, stirring it slowly and thoughtfully.

Draco had been awfully melancholy lately. He was always deep in thought whenever I tried to talk to him and our weekly tutor sessions was mostly me practicing some of the spells we missed before the O.W.L.s while he stared out the window distractedly. I wondered if he was thinking about how to tell me about his Death Eater side. I certainly hoped so; I was getting worried about him. He hadn't gotten any color back, so he was still gray-toned and looking rather gaunt at this point. The stress was really getting to him.

After I finished off a bagel, I grabbed my bag and hurried upstairs toward where I now knew Dumbledore's office was. However, I had quite forgotten the password and paced for several minutes saying random candy names for awhile before Professor McGonagall came upon me.

"What on earth are you doing, Banner?" she asked sharply as I stopped dead.

"Professor Dumbledore summoned me to his office and I don't know the password," I said sheepishly.

"You would think he would tell you," said McGonagall disapprovingly, but said, "Toffee Eclairs!" anyway and the gargoyle leaped aside and let me pass.

I thanked McGonagall and hurried up the spiral staircase, where I knocked on the heavy wooden door above.

"Enter," called Dumbledore.

I pushed the door open. Dumbledore's office was even better than I could have ever imagined. The place was loaded with all kinds of crazy magical stuff, with functions I would never be able to dream up. I noticed Fawkes the Phoenix in the corner preening his feathers and noticed the line of portraits above that depicted the previous headmasters and headmistresses of the school.

Dumbledore waited patiently behind his desk for me to approach. "You may sit," he said, gesturing to the chair across from him.

He sat as I did and I noticed my hands were trembling only when he started to speak.

"I asked you to come here this morning because it has come to my attention you assisted Harry last night."  He didn't sound angry, but I was still wary.

"I did," I responded, trying my best to make my voice sound steady.

"May I ask the reason why you offered to help him?" he inquired. "And how, exactly, did you know of the memory we needed without Harry telling you about it?"

I hesitated. I had known this moment would come, the moment where I would have to tell the truth to Dumbledore. I had known it since I first met him in Diagon Alley. He had been waiting, too, I could tell. Except he'd been waiting for an excuse to interrogate me about it.

"It's hard to explain," I said tentatively. "Professor, I can't tell you everything or you'd think I'm completely insane. So I'll just tell you enough so you'll understand."  Dumbledore waited, his blue eyes expressionless. "I...know things. I know what's going to happen if certain things occur, I know how everything will end, and I can tell you right now things could get dangerous if I change even the smallest thing."

Dumbledore was watching me now with a thoughtful gaze. "You mean to say you can predict the future?"

"No," I said, shaking my head. "It's different. If I hadn't come here, I know exactly how this whole story would have gone down to the minute details. But since I am here, I don't know exactly what will happen, but I do know vaguely the things that will happen. I'm supposed to..." I looked down in embarrassment, wondering if Dumbledore thought I was crazy yet. "I came here to change things."

Dumbledore was quiet for several minutes. In that time, he turned to stroke Fawkes's feathers and straightened his robes. Finally, he spoke, "I suspected this."

I gaped. "Y-you thought this would happen?"

"Not exactly," he assured me, with a little twinkle in his eyes. "But I had an idea. I thought you knew more about what was going on around Hogwarts than even I knew, and I am the headmaster! There were a few clues from our meeting in Diagon Alley, how you seemed to know things about wizarding culture that you probably shouldn't have, since you were raised by muggles. And the professors have told me you act like you've been performing magic for years rather than weeks or months. Even Harry has told me a few odd things."

I flushed. Was it that obvious?

As if guessing what I was thinking, Dumbledore said, "Do not worry, I doubt anyone else suspects a thing. You are, after all, a naturally talented witch. Your parents were very talented, too, it is apparent you inherited that."

"Sir," I said hesitantly, "how did my parents die?"

Dumbledore's face fell and he looked grave. "Talented as they were, not many can expect an unprecedented ambush attack. Death Eaters."

Death Eaters? Did Voldemort hate my parents or something? Were they in the Order? Did he want them dead? Questions swirled around inside my head, and Dumbledore seemed to notice my confused expression because he shook his head.

"I don't know why, but I am truly sorry."  Dumbledore paused before he went on. "But I do wonder...how you might change the course of this story, Elizabeth."

I looked down at my still-shaking hands, suddenly flustered. There was one thing I really wanted to change about this story.

"You are good friends with Draco Malfoy, are you not?" asked Dumbledore.

Can he read minds? I wondered, as I jumped when he said Draco's name. "Er--yes, I am."

"I implore you, Elizabeth," he said, and the tone of his voice changed so abruptly I looked up at him. He looked very worried, very anxious. "Change Draco Malfoy. He is a poor, misguided boy caught up in the middle of an enormously dangerous situation. He is utterly trapped. You must save him. He serves a very crucial role in what is to come."

"I know," I said wearily. "But if he's trapped, how are we supposed to rescue him?"

"Tell him whatever is holding him back from running away from the Dark Lord...I can guarantee the safety of."  Dumbledore's words rang with sincerity. I knew he meant what he said. He truly believed Draco could be good, just like I believed in him. 

"Change him," repeated Dumbledore.

"I'm working on it," I promised.

--

"Draco, I can see through the blindfold."

"Then close your eyes!"

"But then I'll be tempted to open them! Curiosity, you know?"

"Yes, and curiosity killed the cat, so close your eyes!"

I laughed, glad the blindfold was also covering my cheeks or Draco would see my full-on blush right now. It was later in the evening, after dinner, and he had randomly blindfolded me in the common room before leading me out by hand. So it really wasn't the playful banter we exchanged that was making me blush. It was most definitely the feeling of his hand wrapped around mine as he guided me around the school.

"Stop here a second," he instructed, steadying my shoulder with one hand while still grasping mine with the other. A few frantic heartbeats later, he tugged on my hand and we stepped into a different room. I heard the door close behind us and then Draco was working to remove my blindfold. It dropped down and a crowded room spread out before my eyes. And by crowded, I mean crowded.

There were random things everywhere. In every square inch of the place, there was something. I couldn't see the floor and had no clue what it looked like.

"Wow, is this your room?" I asked, trying to be witty.

He grinned. "Luckily, no."

"Was the blindfold really necessary?" I inquired.

He nodded seriously. "If someone, say, wanted to know where the Room of Requirement was and how to get in, you wouldn't know because you were blindfolded. Simple as that."

He had taken precautions. Still, it was a small one and probably wouldn't do much good in the end. Draco took my hand again and the same warm feeling spread through me again. I couldn't hide my blush, but at least he wasn't looking. We both had to keep our eyes ahead of us since it was so messy we could easily trip over something if we weren't careful. 

It took a few minutes, but we finally came upon a section of the room that was a little clearer than the rest, probably because Draco had been working with this area. A huge something loomed in front of us and when Draco pulled off the sheet I recognized it as a Vanishing Cabinet.

"After my father was imprisoned for the incident at the Ministry," he began, his hand twitching as he started his story, "the Dark Lord wanted to punish him. There are few things that my father holds near and dear to his heart. His first commitment is his family. He loves myself and my mother more than anything else in the world. Loyalty to the Dark Lord comes second to us. The Dark Lord suspected this and decided to use me as a weapon inside this school."

His gray eyes flicked up and looked anxiously into mine. I smiled and nodded, urging him to continue. He took a deep breath and went on.

"He gave me a mission: kill Dumbledore before the end of the school year."  Draco swallowed, closing his eyes. "He told me to complete my mission or I'd have to watch my parents die. And only then would he kill me." The pain on his face was so powerful that I had to resist the urge to hug him tightly. But I somehow knew this wasn't the moment to do that. He needed to finish.

"At first, I tried to consider it an honor that the Dark Lord gave me such a hefty task," he said, his voice cracking. "But as time went on, and I found out none of my efforts to kill Dumbledore were working, I began to realize he had just given me an impossible mission. He just wanted to watch me run around, stressing about what to do and fearful of the fact he'd murder my family. He just wanted to watch me dance."  He paused for several moments, and when he spoke again his voice was a little steadier. "This Vanishing Cabinet was supposed to fix things. I managed to repair it enough so I could send inanimate objects through without harm. I've tried it with birds recently. It's a hit-or-miss. Most come back alive but a few have come back dead. I need it to be perfect or--"

His voice broke and he bowed his head. "I don't know what to do, Eliza," he whispered. "He's going to kill my family."

Now I stepped forward and let go of his hand only to embrace him tightly. I drew back and he raised his head to look at me with his now-moist gray eyes. I kissed him chastely on the lips. "You don't have to go completely through with this, Draco. Trust me. We can save your family."

He looked uncertain. "How?"

I smiled. "It's funny, really, the very person you've been trying to kill all along is the person that wants to help you most right now. Well, aside from me. Professor Dumbledore and I are going to keep your parents safe. We can get them to safety before Voldemort has a chance to kill them."

Draco jumped when I said his master's name and he shook his head minutely. "How do you know it'll work? How will we do it?"

I shook my head. "We'll work out the fine details with Dumbledore sometime. For now, don't worry about a thing other than fixing that Vanishing Cabinet." At his expression, I continued, "You have to make it seem like nothing his changed in any case. Or Voldemort will figure out something's wrong."

He nodded. "Can you help me?"

"Sure. I don't know much about Vanishing Cabinets, unfortunately. But I do know a thing or two about you and, well..."  I wrapped my arms around his neck and leaned in close, pleased when he smiled warmly. "...I think you need some fixing, too."

"I couldn't agree more," he chuckled before he pressed his lips to mine.

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