Disclaimer: J K Rowling created Hogwarts. There are some other places, names, and ghosts taken from the Harry Potter series, but if you are looking for the primary characters from those stories you will need to look elsewhere.
The Griffindor, the Witch, and the Boggart in the Wardrobe
Her mind still in a whirl Elizabeth found herself again sitting in the Head's office. Uncertainty over her own future, her father's departure from the Governors, and Charles Potter all fought for attention and she had trouble listening as Mrs. Pilton began, "I told something of a half-truth to the students tonight. Professor Saxifrage will not return this fall. She is recovering nicely, but her period of recuperation reminded her of an old dream. She will take a year's Sabbatical to study herbs in the Basque region of Spain. The Governors granted me the freedom to select any witch or wizard I chose to fill in for her. Upon reflection I determined not to ask outside the school. I want students to be prepared for her return the following year. The two of you did a fine job, so I will ask one of you is willing to serve as junior faculty for a single year."
Elizabeth found her heart beating faster. She loved herbology and the appointment could give her purpose. She licked dry lips nervously and glanced at Robin. He seemed calmer than she would have thought possible. Perhaps the idea did not thrill him as much as it thrilled her. "Please, ask me. Please, ask me." Perhaps if she wished it hard enough it would influence the headmistress.
"As I said, you both did admirable jobs in the classroom, and I am extremely grateful. This has been a very difficult decision for me, I believe you both capable and that whichever one of you I ask, should he or she accept, will do well. However, I will only ask one of you…" She paused briefly and Elizabeth held her breath. "Mr. Fletcher, would you consent to teach herbology in the coming school year?"
Robin took a couple seconds to answer. Elizabeth hoped he might say no. But he responded, "I would be honored."
Elizabeth spun into a depression. The headmistress may have said more to her and Robert, but she heard none of it. She and the headmistress had never liked each other, that must have been the reason for her choice. When Robert stood he noticed Elizabeth's blank look and nudged her to gain her attention. She rose and stumbled after him as they left the Headmaster's office.
Once in the hallway he turned to her, "Lizzy, please, you've got to help me!"
"I could never read Professor Saxifrage's notes. You were the one who put the third term lesson plans into some sort of order -- but I won't be able to decipher what she wrote for the first two terms."
She almost turned him down. Part of her wanted him to fail. Perhaps she would be asked to teach. Or perhaps just so that he would experience the kind of pain she felt at that moment. But he was her closest friend in the world. The person who was always there for her, to lift her spirits when she was down and rejoice with her on her successes. The choice had been that of the headmistress and she shouldn't spite her cousin.
"I suppose," she sighed. "Do you want to come for a visit this summer? I don't have any plans. You can stay for a couple weeks and we can go over her notes together."
"Is there any way you could stay here for a little while longer? I'd like to work on the notes where we have the greenhouses and I can be certain everything is in order."
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She did not want to stay here in the nearly empty school helping Robin prepare for the job for which she had been rejected.
He sensed her hesitation, "Please, Lizzy, I need you."
She sighed, "Yes." "I will write Professor Saxifrage and ask if she needs a traveling companion for her trip to Spain."
The exodus from Hogwarts began the day after the banquet. Unlike first night, when all the students needed to present themselves on the same day, the journeys home were scattered out. Vivien left for London immediately, anxious to procure garments suitable for a month at Malfoy Hall and capable of impressing the elder Malfoy. Charlotte left also to fulfill various duties prior to her marriage. Kitty remained, at present, in the room with Elizabeth.
While the majority of students left the first day the remaining students still sat with their houses for supper than evening.
Charles was surprised to find Miss Gray at the meal and went over to see her and Kitty after eating. "You're still here?"
Elizabeth made a great show of holding up her hands and examining the backs. Then she turned them over and stared at his palms. "Yes, you are quite right. I am still here."
"You know what I mean. Didn't you say you were going home? Basil left today and I don't see the Weasel."
"I'll be staying at school for… I'm not certain. But might I ask why you haven't left?"
"You would begrudge me one final meal with my comrades? The men and women with whom I have studied and laughed. You are so cruel you would drive me out?"
"Of course not… I am simply curious."
"I've spent the day in the library. I've been looking for any information the school might have on the wizarding communities we will visit. There is virtually nothing - my father's work will fill a great need."
"So… If you found nothing do you leave tomorrow?"
He shrugged, "Perhaps… You didn't explain why you are still here."
"Robin has been asked to teach herbology next year and he needs me to help him translate Professor Saxifrage's notes into a form he can comprehend."
"So how long will you be here?"
"I can't say. It might be a week or two. I'm afraid this will sound silly, but I'm very sorry you're leaving tomorrow. I know your father's work is important, but I'll miss you." Elizabeth fell silent.
Charles managed to get a smile from her. "So, you've finally accepted that I'm three-quarters of a decent chap?"
"You might even be seven-eighths of a decent chap. Write me, please."
"Only if you promise to write me… I… I'm going to miss you too."
There was an awkward silence between them until Kitty spoke up, "We could ask your cousin to play whist," Miss Kelly suggested to Elizabeth. "I'll let you keep Charles for a partner."
When the two seemed to hesitate she amended her suggestion to, "Or you can ask your cousin if he will play backgammon with me and I'll let the two of you find other ways to entertain each other."
Charles cleared his throat, "I, uh… Perhaps a walk along the lake?"
They sat on the log and stared out at the reflection of the stars and moon on the water. They each had much to say, but neither knew how to start. He needed to leave for Asia and had no idea when he might be back to Britain. She had no idea what she would do. The grand tour no longer sounded nearly so grand and she didn't know how the professor would respond to the letter she had written. They would each have given all their worldly goods to know what was on the other's mind.
Elizabeth spent the next day with Robin in the greenhouses and classroom. Lobelia Saxifrage's spidery handwriting was a chore even for Elizabeth. By the end of the day she had a splitting headache and they had not finished going through the plans for the first year classes.
More students had left during the day. The remaining students shared a single long table for dinner. And across from Elizabeth sat, Charles Potter. "Why are you still here?" she demanded. "I mean, I'm not unhappy about the fact, merely very surprised. Didn't you say you were leaving today?"
"There must be information of value in the library, I merely missed it yesterday. So I spent another day doing research."
"Did you have any better success?"
He ignored the question. "Perhaps some whist this evening?"
Elizabeth kept the stakes low, a knut a point, because she knew neither her cousin nor Kitty could afford to play for more. Elizabeth need not have worried. She and Charles Potter were spectacularly mediocre in their play that evening, thinking about things other than the game and by the end of the evening They owed one sickle and seven knuts to their opponents.
After breakfast the next day Kitty began to pack her trunk while Elizabeth worked with Robin. Elizabeth felt a pang of irrational jealousy that afternoon during a break from herbology when she could find neither Kitty nor Charles and feared they might be together and wondered if Miss Kelly were the reason Charles prolonged his stay at the school. Miss Gray calmed herself and decided to begin her own packing. Woolens and things she knew she would not need again at school could be put away. A hill troll with a massive club menaced her as she tried to decide if an old robe was worth taking home or should be discarded. The hill troll threatened her with a larger club on her next trip to the wardrobe, and on her third trip the club bore an ugly spike. Elizabeth paused before her next trip to the wardrobe. Whoever received the room next year would certainly have the boggart destroyed. How much could a boggart comprehend? Obviously they had some sort of capacity to read the minds of others - to search for fears.
"I will not be returning to Hogwarts this fall," she spoke aloud. "If you move to my trunk you will be safe. I will take you with me."
The hill troll was gone when she opened the wardrobe again, but the creature sometimes grew discouraged when it could not frighten her.
Elizabeth and Kitty prepared for dinner that evening, but Elizabeth left the room first. She turned and called to her friend. "I need a handkerchief. Would you see if I've packed them in my trunk?"
A loud shriek told Miss Gray that the boggart had moved its place of residence.
"I leave early tomorrow," Miss Kelly told the others as they ate. She turned to Charles, "Lord knows when I'll see you again. But if Lizzy wants to lose a little more money I'll be happy to play whist again."
"My brain hurts from too much thinking to play whist," Robin complained.
"There's always speculation or loo. We could even ask a couple more students to play."
Kitty left before breakfast in the morning. To Robin's embarrassment an owl arrived for him from Miss Lovegood, who found two pages insufficient to express her rapture over the fact he would be teaching herbology in the fall. At least Robin assumed the entire letter continued in the same vein as the partial page he read. He turned to Mr. Potter, "Did you send her the news that I would be teaching?"
"I didn't," Charles assured him. "But I wasn't the only Gryffindor who remained here long enough to learn about your plans."
Robin turned to his cousin, "Lizzy?" he asked in an accusing tone.
"Sadly, I must confess to being innocent also. I would certainly have sent her an owl if I'd thought of it. I shall have to visit Hogwarts a few times next year to see how her pursuit of you progresses. There's not been a good faculty-student scandal since…" She turned to Charles, "Was your mother in pursuit of your father when he taught here? Or was your father interested in her when she was a student?"
Charles blushed and said nothing.
"Like Professor Wood was interested in you?" Robin reminded Elizabeth.
"What was that?" Charles asked.
"I always thought Professor Wood had an interest in Lizzy. Of course he was very circumspect about it. But there were a number of clues - such as how often he asked her to dance. Perhaps he was waiting until you graduated to say something," he suggested to his cousin.
"The amount of time you've spent with Charles frightened him away."
"Or perhaps his interest existed only in your own imagination, and you told it to me simply to distract me," Elizabeth protested.
"What do you think, Charles?"
Mr. Potter merely looked confused.
"I will certainly take Professor Wood as my model," Robin promised.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, "If you claim the vampire had an interest in me, and he serves as your model, does that indicate you have an interest in Miss Lovegood?"
"Circumspect! I said he was very circumspect. That was all I meant."
"Yes, but you claim that he was interested, and have him as a model of being circumspect towards someone he felt attraction towards. That certainly sounds like you feel an attraction towards Miss Lovegood."
"I meant that he didn't show any partiality! That's all I meant."
"If he didn't show any partiality then he could hardly have shown an interest in me. You are terribly inconsistent." She turned to Mr. Potter for support. "Do you find him inconsistent in his assertions?" Uncertain what he was finding Charles nodded his head in agreement. Elizabeth turned back to her cousin. "See? Now if you are interested in a young woman you should be honest and confess your feelings towards her. Do not leave her to guess. Miss Lovegood is certainly open in her feelings towards you."
"Almost painfully so," Mr. Fletcher muttered.
"And you should be equally frank with her." She turned to Charles. "Could a young woman depend on you being frank in your feelings?"
If Elizabeth hoped for a profession of his feelings after her pointed hint she had reason to be disappointed. He stammered something incoherent and excused himself from the table.
"If you need a break from your research you should stop by the greenhouse," Elizabeth suggested as Mr. Potter stood to leave. "The stable delivered a load of fertilizer and Robin would appreciate help with it."
Charles came to help Robin with the fertilizer in the afternoon, and lingered so long Elizabeth finally inquired if he didn't have work to do in the library.
Elizabeth and Charles spent the evening together at the lake, largely in moody silence. She wanted him to express his feelings, but facing the long trip he preferred to say nothing. The next evening they attempted to play cribbage with similar results. They only wanted to be with each other, yet being together while the other remained silent and miserable only increased the misery they each felt. After Elizabeth helped Robin with his notes the next day she and Charles walked into Hogsmeade for dinner at the Three Broomsticks. Several times during dinner she thought he would talk about his feelings. But each time she smiled hopefully at him he grew embarrassed and changed the topic of conversation.
Robin seemed happy and in no mood to work when Elizabeth found him in the greenhouse the next morning. With her own mood being foul she complained, "We need to get started."
"We've been working hard for days. We deserve a break…" Robin looked thoughtful. "Lizzy, I really appreciate all you've done. I'm going to miss you."
"What are you talking about? We've more than a week of work before I can possibly leave."
"Well, whenever you leave, I want you to know how much your help has meant."
While she pondered his words and seeming reluctance to start work that morning a house elf arrived asking Elizabeth to go to Mrs. Pilton's office immediately.
To Miss Gray's surprise and delight Professor Saxifrage sat on a chair. The older woman stood and embraced Elizabeth and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Everyone tells me that you and Robin did a very credible job in the spring. I'm proud of you. Wish there was time to chat - but the young whelp never could read my writing and I've got to make certain his plans are in order before I leave for Spain."
"Have you decided about a traveling companion?"
The professor laughed, "I'm certain you'll let me know if you're still interested."
"I am," Elizabeth began, "I want to go with--" but the herbology professor had left as though not hearing a word Miss Gray spoke.
"Please, sit down," Mrs. Pilton invited Elizabeth. Miss Gray moved two books off a chair and onto a larger pile on the floor. The headmaster's office had always been piled with clutter, and it only seemed worse today. Mrs. Pilton noticed the disapproving look. "There never seemed a point to arrange things when my appointments were only from one year to the next. Now that I am truly headmistress I have begun to organize, but given the degree of chaos I fear it will take all summer - and it will look worse before it looks better.
Mrs. Pilton began to pace nervously about the room as Elizabeth waited for her to begin. "Miss Gray, you have graduated now and we need to be honest with each other. We don't like it each other, and I doubt that will change. I always resented the way you served as your father's spy here at Hogwarts. Had I--"
"I didn't spy!"
Elizabeth wilted under Mrs. Pilton's glare. "Miss Gray, I insist that we be honest with each other. Your role as spy was as clear as the work of that damn bird."
"My father wanted what was best for the school!"
"So did Wilson. And neither knew how to listen. Don't make their mistake."
Elizabeth fell silent, and the headmistress continued. "Despite my resentment I tried to be fair with you. Whether I succeeded or not I cannot judge. Choosing between you and Mr. Fletcher for the teaching position was not easy. Either of you would have done well. But I had another concern, one I thought better suited to your interests. I brought my proposal before the Wizard's Guild, but they were slow in accepting my suggestion. This morning, however, I received an owl with confirmation."
Elizabeth stared blankly at the headmistress. "I don't know what you are talking about."
Mrs. Pilton laughed. "Your cousin kept our secret? I can't believe it. I felt certain he would speak to you."
Miss Gray's mouth fell open, "Robert knew something? And he didn't tell me?" The headmistress nodded. Elizabeth resolved to find Robin as soon as her meeting with the headmistress ended and try and choke the life out of him.
"There was nothing definite," the Head reminded Elizabeth. "He suggested keeping you here to help him, but he said nothing lest the Guild not approve."
"He should have said something."
"No, he should not have. I am simply surprised that he managed to remain silent."
"Robin will always try and do what is right. But you said this is news for me?"
"You are certainly aware of the Potter expedition."
"Whether the Durmstrang witches who accompany the Potter group can be trusted is a matter of concern. Professor Potter has made some interesting discoveries on his earlier trips and I persuaded the Guild that, with the death of Mrs. Potter, there was a need for a herbologist - and a spy. I recommended the Guild fund your presence with the expedition in both capacities."
"I won't spy on the Potters!" Elizabeth shouted.
"We are not asking you to do so. The Guild simply wants to make certain that all the information Professor Potter discovers arrives back in Britain. It is only the Durmstrang witches who we do not trust."
Elizabeth fell into a moody silence. "I'm not certain if Charles Potter wants me along on the journey."
It was now Penelope Pilton's turn to stare in a blank and uncomprehending manner. "I was under the impression that you and Charles Potter were engaged to marry."
Elizabeth managed a bitter laugh, "Stupid rumor. We're friends… I think. The last few days he has been too moody for decent conversation."
"But he loves you so much."
Elizabeth could not believe her words. "What are you talking about?"
"There were the long conversations you had every Tuesday after the class you taught."
"He had a class near the herbology room at that time. It was purely by chance that we met for conversation."
"Miss Gray, I said we should be honest with each other. Do you believe me naïve or are you that unaware?"
"I'm attempting to be honest with you, I've simply had little practice. Unaware of what?"
"Mr. Potter's prior class was Potions."
"But… But that's on the other side of the school!"
"I am well aware of that fact. I received three complaints of students knocked off their feet as he ran across the school to see you. Eventually students learned to clear the halls and give him room."
"Why did no one tell me?"
"We assumed you knew. He really told you he had a class near Herbology?"
"And you believed him?"
"Of course! I--"
"Miss Gray, what classes could a seventh year have taken near the Herbology room?"
Elizabeth thought for a minute, wondering why she had never thought to ask him the question. She had simply been so pleased to see him it had never entered her mind to ask him for more details. "It doesn't mean he loves me. We enjoyed each other's company."
"And that is your explanation for all the time you spent together at the balls? His interest in your well-being when you were hurt in the quidditch game? The kiss you gave him during the dueling competition?"
"He had been turned into a horse! The transfiguration spells to turn someone into a frog or toad are broken by a kiss. I thought it might help him."
"Do you have an explanation for why he remains at Hogwarts, after telling several faculty members about the importance of going to London and completing the final preparations for his trip?"
"He… No, I don't."
"The explanation is that he loves you."
"Then why has he said nothing?"
"Miss Gray, I do not pretend I can read minds. Perhaps he has been reluctant to say anything when he prepares to leave the country. Perhaps you told him something which has discouraged him… What are your feelings towards the young man?"
"Miss Gray, I put considerable effort into making this proposal to the Wizard's Guild. I will look foolish if you reject the offer, but am prepared to live with that. The question is your feelings towards young Potter. Are you willing to go with him?"
"I… I… Yes, if he wants me."
"Then, unless I am very much mistaken, you need to be off as quickly as possible."
"But if he doesn't love me?"
"I have already confessed I can not read minds. But every indication I can see suggests he loves you deeply and currently experiences the acutest sort of misery at the prospect of leaving you."
Joy and disbelief swirled through Elizabeth's minds in equal parts. "How am I to discover--"
"You will probably fare better talking with young Potter himself than me."
Elizabeth left Mrs. Pilton's office with her head spinning. She wanted answers to her questions and wanted them a week ago. Uncertain where to locate the source for answers she headed to the kitchen. "I need to see Charles Potter of Gryffindor immediately. Can any of you help me?"
Half a dozen of the house elves stopped scouring kettles and polishing copper pots to assist her. "Certainly, Miss Gray," one answered.
"Thank you, Flinn. I shall wait outside the Great Hall."
She paced and fretted for what seemed like an eternity, but the clock insisted lasted hardly a quarter hour before she heard footsteps swiftly approaching. He skidded to a halt in front of her, "What's wrong?"
"Mr. Potter, I've heard a story I have trouble believing. I've always heard Gryffindor took pride in the courage of her sons and daughters."
"Why did you ask--"
"Is that true or not?"
"It is certainly true."
"Yet I have just been told of an act of abject cowardice on the part of a recent graduate. A fear I can not comprehend."
He flushed with anger, "Who made the accusation? Who was accused?"
"My source was Mrs. Pilton. And Mr. Potter," she pointed at him, "Ecce homo."
"She claims you have someone you love, but you've never spoken a word of your feelings towards her."
He looked confused.
"Do you deny the accusation or admit to the charges?" she demanded.
"I don't understand… What…"
"I think it is clear enough. True or false?"
"True," he admitted.
"And what possessed you to keep your mouth shut on such a matter? Is cowardice the best excuse you can offer for your behavior?"
"I'm not a coward!"
"Oh, so you claim another motive for your silence. What kept you from speaking?"
"She has no interest in me. It seemed easier to say nothing."
"And the reason you believe she has no interest?"
"How does she hate me, let me count the ways… I am the last person she would ever marry, which I have from her own lips. Not tall enough either. She was clear on that also. My own behavior towards her was less than exemplary, and finally I am leaving for the continent and may not be back for years."
"You must tell her your feelings before you go."
"I don't recall offering you an option on this. It would not be fair to her to leave without telling her."
"But she isn't interested."
"And the unfortunate possibility raises its head that you are an idiot on top of being a coward. Tell me, have you loved this person since arriving at school and pined silently for her these last six years?"
"No, I couldn't abide her for most of the time."
"If your opinion has changed towards her, could not her opinion change towards you?"
"I love you."
Elizabeth smiled, "Was that so very hard to say?"
"In point of fact, it was. And I don't see that it changes anything. I'm going away and your parents have lists of men to whom they will introduce you. Why did you need me to say that? How do you feel about me?"
"I had to know your feelings because the Wizard's Guild just offered me a position. They want me to accompany your father's expedition and assist with the herbology work. I had to know your feelings towards me before I accepted."
Joy and amazement shone on his face, and he suddenly put an arm around her. "You will forgive me, but I have a tremendous fear you are not Elizabeth Gray at all, but the boggle trying to torture me."
"And how do you propose to verify if--"
His lips ended her question. They were both smiling at the end of the test. "Satisfied?" she asked.
"Still slightly suspicious… I believe we should run the test again."
They ran the second test a little longer.
"You haven't told me your feelings," He said at the end of the test. "But I give you high marks in nonverbal communication."
The enormity of the trip finally sank in to Elizabeth. "We must leave for London. I will require warm clothing for the trip."
"We can stop at a blacksmith in Scotland before we reach London."
"I believe that is the least romantic proposal ever. We will be wed in my parish church."
"Am I allowed any lead in this marriage?"
"I will dutifully follow whenever you lead correctly. I am following you to the ends of the earth aren't I? But I can't believe you would wish me to follow when you are wrong."
"Fine," he sighed. "You are correct. My father and your family will wish to be there."
She raised an eyebrow, "You are being far too reasonable. I grow suspicious you might be the boggle. We should run the test again."
"My trunk is mostly packed," she told him at the end of the test. "I can leave in twenty minutes. Do you need to pack?"
"No, I'm… What about your cousin?"
"He's not coming with us."
"You know what I mean."
"Professor Saxifrage is here and will help put his notes in order. But we must leave for London. First, there's the wedding--"
"I offered the blacksmith."
"I must prepare for the wedding." She repeated. "And place the most peculiar order for wedding clothes Kestrel's will ever receive. My parents will have to be… There are the wedding articles--"
"I am marrying you because I love you, not for your dowry."
"It is wonderful that we love each other passionately, but one of us needs to be practical."
"Practical? Did you think at all about the trip we'll be making?"
"And whose fault is that? If you'd spoken earlier I might have had a chance to think before saying yes…"
"Should I become accustomed to everything being my fault?"
"Of course. Now… Where were we?"
"We are leaving for London as soon as we fetch our trunks, but first we test for the boggle again."
Elizabeth smiled, "I am happy to follow when you lead so well."
They were only partially through the test when a loud attention-getting cough sounded. "Hogwarts students should not behave in such a manner," Professor Sauberkehren warned them sternly.
The two reluctantly stepped away from each other. Elizabeth blushed as Charles took her hand. "We are no longer students," Charles reminded him. "We've graduated."
"And school is not in session," Elizabeth added. "Besides, we were testing to make certain the other was not the boggle."
"What?" the Dark Arts professor sputtered.
"Testing for the boggle," Charles assured him. "And I am quite certain this is Miss Gray."
"And he is Charles Potter," Elizabeth added. "Please apologize to everyone for our hasty departure, but we leave for London immediately."
"I'll get my trunk," Charles told her, "I'll be back in twenty minutes."
"So will I," she assured him.
The two ran for their rooms, leaving a stunned Professor Sauberkehren wondering if their boggle test could possibly be used in the fall.
Whist required four players and thinking. Speculation and loo could have more players. Speculation required counters we'd call poker chips. But with poker an uncommon word in 1836 I'd have used the contemporary term for the counters - fish.
Ecce homo - Behold the man
Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese appeared in 1850, so similarities of phrase by Charles Potter are pure coincidence rather than parody.
I'm not certain if that was Professor Sauberkehren at the end or the boggle in his form.
Author's Final Note: I outlined this story years ago and had ideas, without outlines, for several others - such as Hogwarts 1940. For List of Romantics I sketched what would happen to Viven, whose designs on becoming Mrs. Malfoy don't work out exactly as planned. I would like to thank Imablack for serving as canon checker. Any departures are my own choice.