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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There were just four Slytherins in the N.E.W.T. level Potions class. I was one of them. Blaise was another, and then Flora (who seemed much shyer than her sister), and--I should have expected it--Malfoy. Four Ravenclaws had made it in, one Hufflepuff, and the Golden Trio of Gryffindors. I wanted to join them, but Malfoy had approached me again to talk.

"Done much potions work?" he asked.

I looked back at my friends one last time before turning grudgingly to Malfoy. "No."

He winced. "You'll want some help, then. I'll ask Professor Slughorn if we can work together."

He moved off to chat up Slughorn, who resembled his actor from the movie as much as a hippo looked like a chick. He was much larger, much jollier, and much different than I would have imagined. Malfoy came back looking slightly annoyed and informed me the professor wouldn't allow it for today's lesson.

So I was left feeling not only disappointed, but hopeless. Potions was supposed to be extremely difficult, and the potion we were making today was one of the tougher ones to make, even for experienced sixth years. I knew that Harry was going to win the Felix Felicis with his book, but it still bothered me I wouldn't be able to get so far as adding ingredients to my potion without anyone's help.

After Hermione had earned twenty points for Gryffindor, and Slughorn had explained what we were doing, everyone started working in a loud clatter and scraping. I flipped open my textbook, wishing I possessed Snape's former textbook instead of this brand-new one from Flourish and Blotts. I was starting to add weights to my scales as the book instructed when I caught scent of that Amortentia Hermione had pointed out a few minutes ago. It smelled surprisingly sweet, like strawberries, and a mix of some nice-smelling wood I found nostalgic. The crisp scent of cool peppermint also had its place in there. It was altogether very amazing to smell, and it confused me on what I was attracted to. Of course, I'd liked boys in my previous years at muggle schools, but none of them reminded me of the scent the Amortentia gave off. Maybe I would learn more about that here.

After succeeding in the weights, I fetched my ingredients and looked at the first set of instructions. It looked like I needed to cut up some roots. I concentrated hard on making the cuts precise so I wouldn't screw up the potion. When I added the roots, Malfoy was cutting up the jumpy sopophorus bean. I remembered that crushing it would serve better and did so, with fantastic results. My potion instantly turned lilac and I hid a triumphant grin when Malfoy looked at it, clearly incredulous.

The last set of instructions told me to stir counterclockwise until the potion was clear, but I was trying to remember what the Prince's edit had been on that. Didn't I have to add a clockwise turn every once in a while? Every--four stirs? No, it was longer than that. Nine? A few minutes passed of me concentrating until I finally decided to add a clockwise stir every seven stirs, since it was the "magic" number, and also my favorite number. I prayed it would work and, when it turned several shades lighter in my seventh stir, I held back a cheer. I watching with growing happiness and satisfaction as my potion became lighter and lighter, until it was so clear I could see the bottom of the cauldron as if it had nothing in it at all. A few minutes later, Slughorn called time and walked around the room starting with the Ravenclaws. He gave a few neutral comments, and nod here and there, and tried not to make faces at the bad ones at the Slytherin table. He spotted mine and his eyes widened.

"Oh, dear, beautiful, truly wonderful!" he exclaimed, looking extremely impressed. "Good lord, I believe we may have a winner over here, but I'll take a spy at the last table quickly."

Leaving me feeling light and happy, he sauntered over to the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff table, and burst out into joyous laughter when he saw Harry's. "Dear, I've never had such excellent students! Both your potions look wonderful but I do think..."  He waddled as quickly as he could back over to mine.  "...this young lady is the winner. This is the best draught I've seen in years. Ah, here you are as promised--the Felix Felicis, my dear."

And as he handed me the small bottle of golden liquid, my heart skipped a beat in sudden fear. Harry was supposed to win that. Harry was supposed to use that to achieve all kinds of magical feats throughout the year.

I had just messed with the storyline. Big time.

"How did you do that?!" demanded Malfoy when the bell rang and everyone packed up their things. Slughorn managed to get a vial of my "perfected potion" before he made the contents disappear like the others.

"I guess I'm just good at Potions," I said, shrugging. It was more like I just had a good memory about what all occurred within the Harry Potter books, but no one else knew that. It would sure be a surprise next lesson when I failed to meet Slughorn's high expectations for me.

"Ah, Miss..." 

I turned around to see Slughorn now. "Banner," I said quickly. "Elizabeth Banner."

"Miss Banner," said Slughorn brightly. "I would like to invite you to join my Slug Club... Just a little gathering of exceptional students that have stood out to me. I do hope you'll join us for our dinners and such. I'll send out an invitation to you when the first one comes up."

"O-okay," I stammered, startled I had impressed him so much.

"Excellent!" he beamed. "I've only known a few with such natural talent with Potions! I am looking forward to our classes together, my dear!"

I left the dungeon feeling worse than ever. Now I was really expected to continue to impress him, or I'd be out of the Slug Club. I wasn't sure I even wanted to be in it, but I would become one of the most popular students in Slytherin once word got out and the thought of that didn't sound too bad.

I went up to dinner after a half an hour of figuring out my Defense Against the Dark Arts homework. Malfoy had disappeared, so he was no help, and both Flora and Hestia had gone to dinner early. After writing the introduction to my essay, I sighed and went to dinner as well.

"Elizabeth, do you want to learn how to play Wizard's Chess after dinner?" asked Jessie as soon as I was within earshot.

I sat down on the bench next to her and grinned. "Sure! I just--oh, wait."  My shoulders sagged in disappointment. "I have a tutor session. Every night for a couple weeks, in fact."

"Oh, that's right," Jessie said, looking sympathetic. "That sucks. Well, I hope you get a good tutor and that you won't be too pressured by things, I guess."

I quickly ate a meal of fish and pasta and a short dessert thereafter. Then I grabbed my bag, which was heavy with almost all of my textbooks, and headed up to the library. I got lost within minutes and asked a passing Ravenclaw where the library was. They looked at me in alarm before walking quickly into the Great Hall. The smile fell off my face. There was something wrong with this school when Houses treated each other like crap, specifically Slytherins. Maybe that was why they were thought to be evil. I wouldn't blame anyone who went off the deep end after being ostracized by the other Houses for seven years straight.

I eventually found the library on my own, too dejected to ask anyone else for help. I walked in, seeing only a couple Ravenclaws and a Gryffindor there. I walked past the ridiculously high bookshelves and saw a section hidden in the corner. And there, at the table, sat Draco Malfoy.

Of course.

He looked up, giving a great sigh as I approached. "You're late, Banner."

"There was never a specific time, Malfoy," I retorted, setting my bag against the leg of the table and taking a seat across from him.

"I didn't think you would take half an hour to get up here," he snapped.

I flushed. "I got lost."

His eyes softened a little. "Why didn't you ask anyone to take you up here?"

"I forgot I didn't know this place as well as I thought I did," I admitted, then turned scarlet when I realized what I had said. Crap, I wasn't supposed to know anything about Hogwarts. Truth be told, I knew a lot about the castle, but the books didn't exactly provide a map.

Thankfully, Malfoy ignored that and instead smirked at me. "Charming blush, Banner. But let's get on with this tutoring thing, I haven't got all night."

But as we started work on the first subject--Charms, and what I already knew about it--I came to believe that he had lied about not having all night to tutor me. The way with which he taught me--carefully, precisely, and patiently despite his mocks that told otherwise--said that he wouldn't mind staying up all night with me as long as I did well. When I mastered all the charms he gave me, he flashed me a grin and I grinned back. So this was what House companionship was like.

As the week went on, I felt like I had found something more than friendship in Malfoy and in a lot of my fellow Slytherins in the past several days. It was something akin to family. It felt normal to wake up in a dorm full of girls I hadn't known a week ago. It was normal to know their sleeping habits, the way they communicated with each other. It was normal to walk in my pajamas up to the Slytherin common room on Saturdays because I knew everyone else would also be in their sleeping wear. Even if I somewhat disagreed with how Hogwarts handled their House thing, I loved the companionship I found in my House. No one judged me, no one particularly disliked me. Any teasing that occurred was lighthearted and never seriously hurtful. Honestly, I never would have thought I would think of any Slytherin fondly while reading the books, yet here I was forming familial bonds with them.

I became especially friendly with Augustus Hemmingway, who didn't cease contact with me after the first day. He helped me quite a lot when Malfoy wasn't around and liked to chat with me. I found I liked him immensely, and so did almost all of the other Slytherins and a surprising amount of people from other Houses. Possibly his only detractor was the fact that he was a Slytherin, or he otherwise would have been among the most popular in the school.

After telling me he enjoyed my presence compared to that of some of the "half-wits of this godforsaken House," he made a point to talk to me whenever he saw me. I got the feeling he liked having intelligent conversation more than being worshipped by some of the stupider people of our House.

Not only was my social life pretty good, so were my classes. They were all extremely difficult--especially Alchemy, which had a particularly boring first lesson in which we were asked to research the history of the subject all period--but I found myself enjoying all of them and doing better in them than I ever would have thought for supposedly being a muggle. The Sorting Hat was absolutely right, then--my parents must carry magical blood... or I was muggleborn. I did very well in Potions for a reason I couldn't quite put into words. It quickly became my favorite class and I spent more time on it than anything else. Within a few days of my first lesson, I had already tried adding experimental instructions of my own after having explored Potions theory more thoroughly. I pulled off almost all my potions magnificently, earning a multitude of points for Slytherin. At the same time, Harry earned nearly as many with the help of the Half-Blood Prince.

I couldn't say the same for Defense Against the Dark Arts, which everyone but me in the class seemed to have a knack for. This was probably to be expected, since Harry had taught half of them last year in Dumbledore's Army. But it still crushed me that the class I had expected to be one of my favorites became one of my worse ones.

And I had homework. Piles and piles of homework that never seemed to lessen. The tutor sessions with Malfoy every night became welcome by the third day, and we stayed up well past ten in the common room as we both worked on schoolwork. Between the piles of homework I seemed to live under, Malfoy was barely able to get new spells to teach me in edgewise. So he gave me the homework of looking up a small list he gave me and practicing them everyday during my breaks to present them to him in our tutor sessions. By the end of the second week, I reckoned I had learned most of the spells first-years had learned in their entire school year in less than ten days.

And then before I went to sleep every night, something tugged at me that I should be worrying about. The image of the first man I had met here, the man that was becoming all too familiar as the weeks passed, kept popping into my mind before I drifted off. Why was he important to me? Why did he refuse to leave my head? And why did he look like he was pleading with me, even invading my dreams to ask despairingly why I hadn't done anything yet? He kept saying, "Please, Eliza, time is running out. You have to change things."

But I never knew what he wanted me to change. He could never be direct; he was always so vague, which just made me frustrated. Maybe he was some version of God that was trying to tell me something.

When Malfoy invited me to come watch tryouts for the Slytherin Quidditch team, I welcomed the prospect of doing something I might actually enjoy. So I sat and watched as Malfoy made the team as a Seeker again, and then a bunch of much bigger, brute-like teens become Chasers and Beaters. I narrowed my eyes looking at them, thinking we'd be handing the Quidditch Cup to Gryffindor on a silver platter if this was our team.

And then Jessie made it as Keeper. I'd never seen her happier than in that moment. She was truly magnificent in flight, all grace and ease. She effortlessly blocked all seven shots made toward her, blowing away all competition by a landslide. I couldn't wait to see her perform in a match.

As I rushed out of the stands to go congratulate her, I happened to look by the nearby Forbidden Forest. What I saw made me halt immediately and freeze in place.

Because a snow leopard was standing deliberately at the edge of the Forest, looking directly at me.

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