If someone had told Severus Snape a few years before that he would be sneaking into a child's room in the middle of the night with a carrot cupcake… he would have called the people at St. Mungo's to come and get them.
And yet, there he was, two minutes to midnight on July 30th, cupcake in hand, poking his head in his daughter's bedroom door. Walking lightly, he crept to the side of the bed, careful to avoid the squeaky spot on the floor near the foot of the bed, thinking that he should have removed his shoes. He was so focused on being quiet that he didn't realize…
He nearly dropped the cupcake. "What are you doing awake?" Master spy: caught by a twelve-year-old. Eleven-year-old. For 2 more minutes anyway.
"What are you doing in my room?"
Severus scowled, more from being caught than from the question. "I gave you life, young lady, I can be in your room whenever I want." He sat on the edge of her bed. "Happy birthday, hatchling." He lit the candle on the cupcake with his wand. "Your grandmother assured me that I was insane, that I must have misunderstood that your favorite cake is carrot." He handed her the cupcake once she sat up.
"It's mostly the frosting," Elizabeth said happily, pulling a lump of the white cream off the top and popping it in her mouth.
"You have to blow out the candle, silly child. And make a wish." He watched her close her eyes and blow out the candle. "What did you wish for?"
"I can't tell you," she grinned cheekily. "It's supposed to be a secret."
"This is what I get for giving you sugar in the middle of the night," he ruffled her hair, vanishing the candle and cupcake wrapper so she could eat.
"The best birthday ever," she said, biting into the cake.
Severus smiled sadly and moved to sit against her headboard, putting his arm around his twelve-year-old. "I'm still pretty partial to the one when you turned zero," he said, watching her finish the cupcake. He leaned back and looked at the ceiling, running the past over in his mind.
"It was the middle of the night," he began, feeling Elizabeth curl into him, encouraging the story. "Your mother shook me awake and told me that we needed to go to the hospital." He smirked. "I asked her if she could hold off for a few hours, but—
"Just kidding." Elizabeth rolled her eyes and Severus' smirk expanded to a rare grin. "Anyway, we went to the hospital, and I spent the next 9 hours having my hand broken as your mother squeezed it." He held up his right hand for her inspection. "It seems to have healed nicely. I told your mother that she could break whatever she wanted to, as long as she was the one who gave birth to a human being." He grinned at the memory. "So you were born. A beautiful, pink, little baby. A little messy," he teased. "But they cleaned you up and wrapped you in a blanket, and I discovered that my hours of talking to you through Lily's stomach, playing music to you, reading Potion magazines, and discussing world issues had not improved your conversation skills. You just looked up at me with those eyes and gurgled."
"I was a baby!"
"That you were." He smiled. "You were a girl, so we named you Elizabeth Rose."
"What was I going to be if I was a boy?"
"Henry. We hadn't decided on a middle name."
"Did you want a boy?"
Severus frowned. "What kind of question is that?" Elizabeth shrugged. "I wanted a healthy baby. No parent has a preference beyond that." He leaned conspiratorially toward her. "But just between you and I; I was hoping that you were a girl. Now," he looked at her with mock severity. "Are you going to keep interrupting me?" She shook her head vigorously.
"As I was saying, you looked at me and gurgled. I held you while your mother went to sleep, and then I realized something." He paused. "This is the time when you ask 'What did you realize, Dad?'"
"I was being quiet."
"A minor miracle," he teased. "I realized that I was absolutely terrified."
"Why?" Severus smoothed her hair. "Because I didn't have any idea what to do with you. Suddenly, the baby book that I'd been reading seemed useless." He smiled again. "So I spent the next hour counting your fingers and toes over and over. An even dozen of both, I was happy to see."
"What?" Severus feigned surprise. "Let me see." He made a show of counting her fingers. "You lost 2 somewhere." He smirked as she rolled her eyes again. "Anyway, it hadn't occurred to me until that moment that I had no plan for how to bring you home."
"You can't floo with a newborn baby, and you certainly can't apparate." He grinned at her shudder. "You wouldn't have liked it anymore as a baby than you do now, I'd expect." He watched her yawn and lean her head on his shoulder. "You should go back to sleep."
"No," she said, closing her eyes. "you have to get me home."
Shifting her so she wasn't putting his arm to sleep, he continued. "You were lucky, because Remus was thinking more clearly than I was, and had rented a Muggle car to drive us back to the house. Lucky for me, Remus knows how to drive, or I wouldn't have been able to spend the trip diligently assuring that you were in the possession of eyes, a nose, eyelids, fingernails, toenails—
"Dad!" Elizabeth poked him in the side.
"Right. We brought you home and you proceeded to make the next year of my life very loud." He dropped a kiss on her head. "I am sorry that your birthdays have been… less than ideal."
"It's okay, Dad."
"No it is not." Severus shook his head. "But I will do everything in my power to assure that those in the future are as pleasant as possible." He moved so he could lay her against the pillows and pull the blankets back up to her chin. "I wish I'd been there, hatchling."
"I love you, Dad," she mumbled, as her eyelids grew heavy.
"I love you too, Rosie."
Elizabeth's twelfth birthday did not come with the trauma that her eleventh had. Severus had steeled himself to have to cajole her from her room when Remus, Albus, and Minerva arrived. He almost choked on his coffee when she skipped down the stairs and into Remus' arms.
"Happy birthday, Sevling." Remus spun her around.
"Dad says that Ron and Hermione can come for dinner tonight."
So that's it, Severus thought to himself. He hadn't originally orchestrated the friend-dinner as a bargaining chip for the earlier part of the day, but if it made her tolerate Albus, he wasn't complaining.
"Yes," he drawled from his armchair. "I have sentenced myself to three Gryffindors for the evening. Heaven help me."
"You promised you'd be nice, Dad!"
He smirked. "I will indeed be, nice, my girl." He turned to Albus. "Alright, father. You can give her your present."
Elizabeth settled on the couch and immediately found herself with a box on her lap. She looked at her father, the first sign of nerves all morning, and he nodded. "Go ahead, hatchling. I made sure to check it for child-appropriateness this time."
Albus snorted. "You'll never get over that Cloak, will you?"
Severus rolled his eyes. "An item that makes it easier for my danger magnet daughter to seek out more trouble? No. I won't."
"Dad took it," Elizabeth said, pulling the ribbon off the box.
"Severus!" Albus raised an eyebrow at his son.
"Don't you dare say anything, you crazy old man. She was almost killed."
"Both of you, stop it." Minerva said crossly. "Open your gift, lion."
Elizabeth neatly pulled off the bright wrapping, folding it before opening the top of the box. Inside, was a pure white, fluffy kitten. She looked at Albus, then at her father.
"Father! There were books in that box when I looked earlier!" Severus scowled at Dumbledore.
"Oh relax, Sev. She takes care of her owl, doesn't she?"
"An owl is not at all the same." Severus argued.
"Albus, I thought you asked Severus…" Minerva threw up her hands in irritation.
"She likes it!" Albus didn't look at Elizabeth to confirm this.
As the other adults bickered, Remus turned to his goddaughter. "What are you going to name him?"
"Are you sure it's a him?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at the kitten, as if expecting it to answer.
Remus raised his wand. "Gendious." He ran the tip of the wand down the animal's back until it turned blue. "Boy."
Elizabeth shot the arguing adults another look. "Do you think Dad will let me keep him?"
Remus grinned. "I don't think that even your father could muster the strength he would need to take a kitten away from you. What's done is done, although he may not speak to Albus for awhile. So," he asked again. "What is his name?"
Elizabeth carefully extracted the cat from the box. Before Remus finished vanishing the packaging, the animal had curled up on her lap and fallen asleep. "Casper," she said, stroking its soft fur.
"Casper?" Remus looked confused, but Elizabeth didn't answer, just stood and walked with the cat over to Severus.
She held the cat up to him. "Can I keep him?"
Severus sighed. "I suppose you've named him already?"
She perched on the arm of his chair. "Casper."
Severus laughed. "As in the friendly ghost?" He looked at the other adults, all wearing the same confused look as Remus. "It's a Muggle cartoon. Casper is a ghost with a friendly disposition, as opposed to… other ghosts, I suppose."
Elizabeth nodded. "My second grade teacher used to play us the cartoons. It was really old."
"It was probably from the 50s. Maybe the 40s. Hardly 'really old'." Severus held out his hand and Elizabeth set the little cat in his palm. "Now listen," he scowled at the cat. "You, under no circumstances, are to become a nuisance, do you understand?" Casper tipped his head to the side as if listening. "I've little time to deal with feline antics. You belong to her," he pointed at Elizabeth, "and so I don't want to see you into anything that doesn't belong to her. Do I make myself clear?" Casper yawned and jumped from Severus' hand to his lap, curling up and returning to sleep.
Severus scowled again. "Your cat listens about as well as you do, Elizabeth Rose."
"He likes you," Elizabeth grinned.
"He likes depositing his hair all over my clothing," Severus muttered, but did not move to evict the kitten from his lap.
Elizabeth turned her eyes to Albus. "Thank you, professor."
"You're welcome." Dumbledore fought to keep a serene look on his face. The gift hadn't had his desired result. His "granddaughter" was no closer to accepting him. He believed the prophecy, that he would control the child through her father, but he'd wanted a back up connection of sorts. Unfortunately, it seemed to be Lupin who had established a relationship with the girl. He'd have to determine how that bond could be useful. Or how it could be destroyed.
"This," Severus said, handing her a silver wrapped box, "is from me."
"Thank you, Dad." She leaned against the back of the chair, astounded that he hadn't reminded her that the arms of furniture were not for sitting. She untied the box and carefully removed the paper as before, folding it.
Under the paper, there was a necklace, from which hung a tiny clear sphere surrounding what appeared to be a pinwheelish contraption.
"It's a sneakoscope," he said. "It spins when you shouldn't trust someone…" he smirked as he helped her hang it around her neck. "The catch is, you have to listen to it. You shouldn't be anywhere or with anyone that causes it to spin."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, but fingered the little globe, intrigued. "So it senses danger?"
"Not exactly." Severus vanished the wrappings. "It senses untrustworthiness. Some people say that it isn't exactly foolproof, but maybe it will inspire you to look twice."
"Severus," Albus raised an eyebrow. "It is necessary to turn a birthday gift into a cautionary tale?"
"Thank you, dad." Elizabeth kissed him on the cheek. She dropped the necklace into the neck of her shirt, so the pendant rested securely on her chest. As she walked past Albus to Remus, who was holding out a final box, she didn't notice her new jewelry hum to life.
"What is it?" She asked in wonder as the tissue fell away around her last present. It looked a little like a clock, but there was only one hand, and it didn't appear to be moving.
"It's a lunascope," Remus explained. "It tracks the moon." He pointed at the hand. "When it points straight up, the moon will be full that night. I added two marks," Elizabeth spotted the silver markings, each an inch or so on either side of dead center of the top of the face. "When the hand is between those marks, it isn't safe for you to be near me. Understand?"
"Now who's turning a gift into a cautionary tale?" Severus smirked at Albus.
"Thank you," Elizabeth placed the lunascope gently on the table and embraced her godfather.
"You are most welcome, sweetheart." Remus kissed her forehead. "Happy Birthday."
"I believe we were promised cake?" Albus said, looking around.
Severus rolled his eyes at his father's childlike attitude, but summoned Francy. "Cake it is." He glared at the cat, still in his lap. "No cake for you."
Elizabeth was woken from a deep sleep by the crack of apparation and the shift of her bed as someone or something landed on it. Opening her eyes, she saw, at the end of her bed, a house elf.
At first, she thought it was Francy. But it the elf lacked the general disapproval that Francy always exuded, as if Elizabeth wasn't nearly as loveable now that she'd grown from being a baby.
"Who are you?"
The elf blinked. "Elizabeth Evans! Asking me my name! Such an honor it is!" The elf's eyes welled with tears.
"Don't cry!" Elizabeth sat all the way up. "I'm sorry."
"Apologizing to Dobby!" The little creature had thrown himself on the floor by the point, wailing.
"Shhh!" Elizabeth begged the elf. Her father was a notoriously light sleeper—
"What is going on in here?" The door flew open to reveal Severus, black pajama bottoms and T-shirt rumpled from sleep, wand drawn. "Petrificus Totalus!" Dobby the house elf lay on the floor in a full body bind, and Severus turned to Elizabeth. "Are you alright?"
She nodded. "Is he Francy's friend?"
Severus frowned. "Francy!"
"Yes, Master Severus?" Francy arrived with a pop, and suddenly Elizabeth felt that her bedroom was very small.
"Who is this?" Severus gestured to the elf on the floor.
Francy looked down at the other elf and made a face. "That's Dobby, sir. He serves the Malfoys."
Severus kept his wand drawn. Anything from Malfoy Manor was cause for concern.
"Unfreeze him, Dad." Elizabeth was still on her bed, her knees pulled up to her chest.
"Did he say what he wanted?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "He was too busy being upset because I asked him his name."
Francy made a noise that Elizabeth assumed was the elf version of a snort. "Makes me ashamed to be an elf, he does." She poked the immobile creature with a toe. "Needs some self respect. Though I don't know how he'd get it, serving that family. There's evil in that house, Miss Rosie."
"Don't call me that," Elizabeth mumbled, looking down at the elf. "Please, Dad? Unfreeze him?"
Severus pressed his lips together, then raised his wand. "Hatchling, go to my room, please."
"Dad, he didn't seem to want to hurt me—
"Elizabeth, do as you're told." He gestured at the door, his expression that one he usually reserved for students playing around in the lab. She knew better than to mess with that face.
"Fine." She said, shoulders sagging as she went into her father's bedroom.
Severus, ignoring the obvious sound of his daughter throwing her weight onto the bed, turned back to the frozen elf. He reversed his previous spell and as the elf moved back to life, he immediately cast an anti-apparation jinx.
"Please, sir! Don't freeze Dobby again!" The elf quivered, and Francy rolled her eyes.
"What kind of elf lets a wizard freeze him," the female elf grumbled.
"That's enough, Francy," Severus said sharply before turning his glare on the elf that didn't belong to him. "Who sent you, elf?"
"No one sent Dobby, sir! Please, let me go!"
"You broke through the wards to come into my daughter's room in the middle of the night, you wretched creature." Severus still pointed his wand at the elf. "If you want a chance of going home in one piece, you'll explain yourself to my satisfaction."
"Please, sir, Dobby cannot be telling Professor Snape what caused him to come!"
Severus stepped forward and grasped the elf by his pillowcase and lifted him up. "It is unfortunate for you that you've chosen to infiltrate a home that has both substantial store of Veritaserum and a man who has no qualms shoving it down your throat." He glared at the elf. "Or maybe I should just go into your head, hmm? See what kind of occlumens you are."
Dobby squeaked in fear. "Dobby cannot betray his family, sir!"
Severus' voice dropped to a deadly quiet. "Let me assure you, 'Dobby', that your master's wrath is nothing compared to the pain I inflict on those threatening my daughter."
Dobby paled. "Dobby came to keep Elizabeth Evans from danger!"
"What danger?" Severus growled.
"Elizabeth Evans must not return to Hogwarts this year! It is not safe!"
"What do you mean it isn't safe?" Severus gripped the pillowcase tighter.
"There is a plot," Dobby wailed. "Dobby will have to punish himself for telling Professor Snape."
"What kind of plot, Dobby?"
"Terrible things are going to happen this year, sir! Please! She must stay where it is safe!"
Severus dropped the elf. "What kind of terrible things?"
"Dobby cannot tell…" Dobby started to beat his head against the floor.
"Alright, alright, you miserable creature." Severus shook his head. "I'm going to release your apparation ability, and you are going to go home and leave us in peace. Elizabeth will be returning to Hogwarts this year, regardless of whatever your depraved master and his nefarious band of followers are planning. They are chasing a dead wizard."
"Dobby thinks Professor Snape should be careful…"
"Go back to your master, Dobby." He removed the jinx, and Dobby immediately apparated away.
Rubbing his hand over his face, and wishing for the hundredth time in the recent past that times were not quite as… dark as they seemed to be, Severus strode out of the room and into his, where he found his blankets had been pulled up from where he'd thrown them back… and were now securely covering a bump that he suspected had green eyes.
"I told her to go to sleep," Lily's portrait explained from the bedside table.
"And that worked?" Severus asked dryly, sitting on the bed and eyeing the bump, which was right in the middle of the king sized mattress.
"It's the middle of the night." Lily said simply, as if that was an explanation for her daughter sleeping. Severus shook his head.
"I'm aware." He pulled the blankets back and debated this course of action. Sending her to her own bed could cause an outpouring of questions about the evening events, but leaving her where she was meant a bad night's sleep for both of them.
In the end he decided to risk it, levitating her into her own bed before tucking her in. Back in his own room, he lay awake, running the house elf's warning over and over in his head. A plot.
"Who is Gilderoy Lockhart?" Elizabeth examined her Hogwarts letter with no less interest than she had the year before.
Severus looked up from the book he was reading. "I have no idea. Why?"
"Almost all the books on the list are by him."
"All? You should only have 2 texts this year," Severus said, reaching for the letter. "The second year spell book and whatever text the new Defense professor has assigned."
"Fred says that you wanted to be the Defense teacher."
"Hmm?" Severus perused the list. "And how exactly does Mr. Weasley know anything about my career aspirations?"
"I dunno, he just mentioned it."
"You shouldn't believe everything you hear," Severus raised an eyebrow at the parchment.
Second-year students will require:
The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 by Miranda Goshawk
Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart
Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart
Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart
Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart
Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart
Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart
"Whoever the new professor is, he or she must be a fan of this Lockhart." Severus shook his head. He'd made it a point, in his career, to require students to buy a minimal amount of books and supplies. He remembered his mother, during those first three years of Hogwarts, scrimping to find the money for his education, and was keenly aware that many of his students were in the same situation. Asking a family like the Weasleys to buy seven books for one class was irresponsible.
"The Weasleys are going to Diagon Alley tomorrow, and Hermione says she's going as well—
"And I said that we would go, did I not?" Severus handed her list back.
"So you weren't, by any chance, going to ask for the 300th time if we were going, were you?"
Elizabeth grinned. "Maybe…"
"We will go. We will buy your books, and anything else you need. In fact, I want you to try on your uniform tonight so I can see if we need to replace it."
Elizabeth skipped off up the stairs while Severus shook his head and returned to his book.
"Dad, he's so sad!" Elizabeth lay on the floor, her nose against the door of the crate that held Casper.
"My daughter, the cat whisperer," Severus shook his head. "He will be fine, Elizabeth. We will return to find both your obnoxious fur ball and our home intact."
"He's not obnoxious, Dad." Elizabeth leveled her mini-Snape glare at him.
"He's hairy and disobedient."
"You don't make me keep Hedwig in her cage."
"The owl has the decency and intelligence to follow the rules, something I despair the feline will ever do." Severus strode purposefully to the floo.
"He can follow directions." Elizabeth pulled herself off the floor and followed her father.
"Oh really?" Severus raised his eyebrow. "Did you, by chance, direct the ball of fluff to join me in my bed last night?"
Elizabeth tried to hide her grin, and was unsuccessful. "No, sir."
"You didn't give the oversized cotton ball directions to curl up next to my head, systematically pushing me off my own pillow?"
Elizabeth was laughing outright now. "No," she managed around her giggles.
"Well then, my child, it seems that your white rat is in fact as disobedient as I have previously stated." He tossed powder into the fireplace.
"He's not a rat!" Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Ron has a rat. It's disgusting."
"And I've no doubt that the rodent could best your Q-tip end in a fight."
Severus smirked. "Are you ready to go, or do I have to stand here and continue to come up with cotton-themed euphemisms for your weevil feed?" Elizabeth looked confused. "A weevil is a parasite that infests the cotton plant. Never mind." Severus pointed to the floo. "Speak clearly, please."
Elizabeth thrust her hip out it classic teenage personification of irritation. "Dad! I can do it!" Her track record with the floo was not spectacular. Severus was beginning to think that his daughter had a very specific type of speech impediment. Floo-induced lisping. Or something. Every time she'd gone anywhere, except home or Remus' house, she ended up somewhere else. Severus had wondered if she would ever be able to travel successfully. Between losing her stomach every time she apparated and ending up dirty and lost out of the floo, she was looking toward a future of Muggle transportation.
This trip did not break a trend.
When Severus arrived in Diagon Alley to find the area devoid of green-eyed child, he groaned. Where could she have ended up? Searching the immediate area and finding nothing, he turned back to the floo. Grabbing another handful of powder, he threw it into the flames, going one more grate, hoping… or maybe not hoping… that she'd ended up on the dodgy end of town.
Elizabeth had indeed ended up on the dodgy end of town. Falling out of the floo, covered in soot, she found herself in a dark and dusty shop. She'd fallen face first, tears welling in her eyes as she stood, not only because her nose was already starting to swell, but because her glasses were broken. That, mixed with the shame of once again missing her exit in the floo almost pulled her into a well of self-pity until she heard the door of the shop open.
Looking up quickly, fully expecting to see her father, she was disappointed to see a different tall figure. She didn't recognize the man, but she didn't have to wait long to determine his identity. Draco Malfoy followed the man in, whining about wanting something from the shop.
If Elizabeth had been on the receiving end of the glare Draco got from his father, she would have shut her mouth forever. Severus' angry look could peel paint off walls, and his lectures would convince a saint that he'd done something wrong, but whenever her father glared at her, she could always see the concern behind the scowl. The elder Malfoy looked like he'd sooner hex his child than hug him.
She crouched behind an old trunk, something telling her that she didn't want to be seen. Even though she had only one working lens, she could see that Draco came by his nasty disposition honestly. The glasses… she was supposed to take care of them. Tears threatened to spill over again, obscuring her vision even further.
From what she could hear, Draco was whining and his father was selling… something. The shop keeper and the other wizard argued furiously for a few moments before Malfoy seemed to decide that he was finished, snapping up the parchment they'd been haggling over, and swept out with his son in tow. The shopkeeper grumbled his way into a backroom and closed the door.
Elizabeth tried to blink back the tears, but only succeeded in making them spill down her cheeks. She was lost, there were no friendly faces to be seen, and even if she made it home, Severus was going to be furious about the glasses. She took them off from where they were dangling and looked down at the broken lens and nose-piece.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand closed on her shoulder.
"Elizabeth Rose," Severus' voice came from above her, "what am I going to do with you?"
"I'm sorry!" Severus found himself with a crying twelve-year-old latched to his waist.
"For what?" Thinking for a moment that he'd lost most of his dignity in the past year, he knelt down to look at her. "It's alright, hatchling. We will practice."
"I fell…" she sniffled.
"Are you all right?" Severus swept her with his wand. "You have quite a bruise on your nose."
Elizabeth shook her head and held out her hand, tentatively opening it to reveal the broken glasses. "I'm sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to."
Severus closed his eyes, reminding himself that Elizabeth, when upset, was very serious, and would not appreciate him laughing. "Oh, Elizabeth. Come with me." He threw powder into the flames and led her back into the floo and to their intended destination.
Finding an out-of-the-way bench, he sat and gathered the still crying girl onto his lap. She'd grown considerably taller over the last year, but she'd inherited his almost-too-thin body type. "Hush. I can fix your glasses." He waved his wand and murmured the incantation. "See?" He held up the intact spectacles and used his handkerchief to wipe the tears from her face. "It's alright, hatchling, it was an accident."
The fixed glasses seemed to only slightly ease his daughter's distress. He tucked the delicate frames into the pocket of his robes as she buried her face in his chest.
It was really not a tribute to Snape's intellect that it took him whole minutes to understand what was going on.
"You were afraid."
"I didn't know where I was, and my nose hurt, and my glasses broke, and there was stuff everywhere, and it was dark, and Draco's dad was really mean—
"Draco's dad?" Severus stopped the flood of words from his daughter.
"He and Draco were in the shop," Elizabeth explained, still half mumbling into his robes. "Draco was being a prat—
"Elizabeth." Severus raised a stern eyebrow.
"Sorry, but he was." Elizabeth looked up at him with puffy eyes. "And his dad was selling stuff. He said that the Ministry is raiding houses, but I don't know what that means."
Severus knew very well what it meant, but he didn't see a reason to explain it to his daughter. "You should avoid Lucius Malfoy if you can. He has some very dark connections." He kissed her forehead and set her on the ground.
That was no problem for Elizabeth, who never wanted to see the man again. "I don't want to floo anymore."
Severus sighed. "Hatchling, I know you were scared, but you'll get the hang of it eventually. I'll always find you, understand? I'll never let you be really lost." He held her shoulders. "When we go back, we'll go together, but you can say the destination. That way, we'll end up at the same place, even if it isn't home." He stood. "But now, you have friends waiting." He held out his hand, willing to take the rejection he knew was coming because he was still a little shaken at losing track of her.
But instead of the usual "DAD!" he got when he offered his hand, Elizabeth latched on to him. He could feel her still shaking, and changed his hold, putting his arm securely around her shoulders. "We can go home, you know." Elizabeth opened her mouth to answer him, but she was interrupted when they heard a shout.