"Look, I saw Voldemort come back!" Elizabeth shouted very early the next morning. Glaring fiercely at Fudge, she crossed her arms over her chest and assumed her best Snape posture. "I saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy—
Severus' hand clamped down on her shoulder. "Lower your voice," he hissed. "I didn't allow you out of bed so you could work yourself up."
"Malfoy was cleared!" said Fudge, he'd been at the school all night, and was not in the mood for anything that required a rested mind. "A very old family— donations to excellent causes—
"Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!"
"Avery, Nott, Crabbe, Goyle—
"You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago!" said Fudge angrily. "Snape, get ahold of your daughter. Her tales are getting taller. How are you raising her?" Fudge turned to Dumbledore. "The girl can talk to snakes, Albus, and you still think she's trustworthy?"
"You fool!" Severus snapped. "Cedric Diggory! Barty Crouch! These deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!"
"I see no evidence to the contrary!" shouted Fudge. "It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we've worked for these last thirteen years. In fact," he looked at Severus, "this story seems awfully self-serving for you, Snape. Looking to clear your name once and for all?"
Severus growled, but Dumbledore stepped between the two men. "Voldemort has returned," the Headmaster said quietly. "If you accept that fact straightaway, Fudge, and take the necessary measures, we may still be able to save the situation. The first and most essential step is to remove Azkaban from the control of the dementors—
"Preposterous!" shouted Fudge. "The dementors—
"You've been informed of the facts," Severus said tightly. "I think our presence here is no longer necessary. As you may have heard, my daughter was nearly killed in a competition that you thought was a brilliant idea," Snape looked disapprovingly at Fudge. "I need to get her back to bed while you continue to make terrible choices that will bring the downfall of our world."
With that, he gripped Elizabeth's shoulder and ushered her out the door, closing it tightly behind them.
They'd stepped only a few feet down the hall when the door opened again, and Fudge came out, shoving a large bag of gold into Elizabeth's arms.
"Your winnings," he said shortly. "One thousand Galleons. There should have been a presentation ceremony, but under the circumstances…" he shook his head and turned his back on them, going back into the office.
"Dad, I don't really need to stay in bed." Elizabeth ignoring the bag.
"You listen to me, young lady," Severus said sternly, "We've all seen what happens when I stop making you do what I feel is best. You are going to follow my instructions to the letter for the rest of your life."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "But I feel okay," she moved his hand to her other shoulder and leaned into his side as they walked. "I don't hurt… I just feel kind of sick."
"It's the Crucio," Severus said, feeling her forehead with his free hand. "You need to be in bed for a long nap."
"Can I stay on the sofa?"
"I'll compromise," Severus said indulgently, squeezing her shoulder.
When they reached the dungeons, Sirius and Remus were dressed and ready to leave.
"Dumbledore is assembling… the old crowd," Remus said. He gave Elizabeth a quick one-armed hug. "Be good," he said quietly. "We'll be back as soon as we can."
"Stay with your father," Sirius said, shouldering his bag and hugging his goddaughter as well. "We'll see you soon."
Severus set about reconfiguring the furniture as Elizabeth said goodbye. "They'll be back," he rolled his eyes. "They aren't going into space." He finished setting up the sofa the way he wanted it. "Robes," he held out his hand.
Elizabeth sighed, but tugged them off, giving one more look at the departing men as the portrait closed.
"Now into bed," Severus ordered, "You've got a potion with your name on it. You'll have a good nap, and I'll wake you for lunch." He handed her a vial and placed her robes over the back of one of the kitchen chairs, after he set the bag of gold on the coffee table. "Relax, and try to think about something else for awhile… think about what you're going to do with your winnings. I'll even take you to that infernal sweet shop you love so much."
"I don't want the gold," Elizabeth said quietly. "You have it. Give it to the Weasleys. Give it to anyone. I shouldn't have won it. It should've been Cedric's."
The tears she'd been trying to squelch all night came back, burning, prickling in the inner corners of her eyes. She blinked and looked at the ceiling.
"It wasn't your fault, hatchling," Severus said firmly, sitting beside her.
"I told him to take the cup with me," Elizabeth said forlornly.
"Rosie," Severus cradled her tight to his chest. "It's going to be alright. I promise."
She nodded against him, biting her fist to keep from screaming as images of Cedric's body, her mother's face, and Wormtail's severed hand battered her mind.
"Your potion," Severus said quietly, helping her drink. The effect was instantaneous. Severus carefully laid her back onto the pillows, but he didn't move from her side.
"So," Fred said, his eyes shining. "Do you like it?"
Elizabeth laughed, holding up the little mirror again. "Hello, beautiful," the reflective glass chirped as it caught sight of her face.
"I like it," she grinned. "Of course, who wouldn't like something that was so complimentary?"
"When we open the joke shop," Fred said, shifting on the bed, "they will insult your victims, but I modified this one for you." He was sitting on the sofa, one foot firmly planted on the floor.
Elizabeth had shied away from the end of term banquet, and had used her wide-eyed look to convince her father to let her stay in the dungeons. He'd agreed, as long as she promised to stay on the sofa and rest, and Fred promised to keep one foot on the floor at all times.
"I've charmed the stones," Severus informed the young man seriously. "If your foot leaves this floor without you other one first returning, I will know, and I will use your body as potion ingredients. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir." Fred had nodded empathically. "I'll leave both feet on the floor if you want."
"That's unnecessary," Severus suppressed a smile.
Elizabeth let him awkwardly sit with one foot on the floor for twenty minutes before she took pity on him. Calling for food from the house elves, she slid off of the sofa to sit on the floor beside the coffee table.
"Aren't you supposed to be resting?"
Elizabeth laughed. "If he catches me, he'll scold for two minutes and give me another sleeping potion. He catches you with your foot off the floor…" she shrugged. "I will not hang out with you if you are in jars."
"True," Fred sat on the floor as well, leaning against the sofa. "Being cut into pieces definitely would cut down on my smooth moves."
"So," Elizabeth sat cross-legged, munching on a chip she took off the plate that had appeared on the table. "The joke shop?"
Fred looked excited. "We really wanted to do it right away, but I don't think mum would ever speak to us again in we didn't finish Hogwarts. But after Seventh year, we're going to be ready. As long as we can make enough money selling this summer and next year."
"What happened to your World Cup money?"
Fred shrugged, "Leprechaun gold. Bagman took us for everything to pay off his own bad debts."
"Can't you do anything?"
"We're not of age," Fred grimaced. "It was kind of a gamble in itself to bet without having any legal… anything. Anyway, you live and learn, right?"
"I guess," Elizabeth shrugged, her mind drifting to the bag of gold Fudge had given her. After her meltdown, Severus had tucked the bag into her trunk, promising that when she was ready, he would take her to Gringotts.
"Hey," Fred made a face, "We're supposed to be relaxing, not talking about finances."
"Yeah," Elizabeth looked at the food on the table. "Do you think Dad cast a "don't eat dessert first" charm?"
"Wouldn't that be more of a hex?" Fred grinned and reached for a chocolate biscuit. "How about this?" He held up the sweet. "Since you didn't want to go down to the feast, where you would have undoubtedly received some kind of toast," he handed her a biscuit, "Here's to the Triwizard Champion, the Girl-Who-Lived-Again, my beautiful warrior. I'm really glad you're on my side," he grinned, tapped his biscuit against hers and leaned over to kiss her before popping it in his mouth.
Elizabeth was fairly sure that Dumbledore's toast couldn't have beat that.
"George," Elizabeth hissed into the Sixth year boys' dormitory the next day, as people were completing last minute packing.
"Hey," George swung around the doorjam quickly, making her jump back a little in surprise. "Lover boy is down in McGonagall's office trying to get her to give back the stuff she confiscated this year."
"I know," Elizabeth nodded. "I want to talk to you."
George looked confused, but followed her further out into the stairwell.
"I want you to have this," Elizabeth pressed the Triwizard bag into his hands.
George glanced into the open top before turning his gaze back to the other Gryffindor. "There must be a thousand Galleons here," he whispered.
Elizabeth nodded. "Fred told me about the Leprechaun gold. Take it. Use it for the joke shop."
George paused for a moment. "Why aren't you giving this to Fred?"
"I tried," Elizabeth grumbled. "He wouldn't take it. Says he doesn't need to take money from his girlfriend. We actually had kind of a fight about it the night of the feast."
"Fred said you had a good time."
"We did. It was just a little thing. So I was thinking that you could take it and pretend to get it some other way or explain it to him so he understands."
"Elizabeth, I don't know if I can take—
"Take it," Elizabeth said firmly. "Take it, or I'll hex you. I can't have that money, George, it's supposed to be Cedric's. I never want to see it again. It's dirty."
"So you're giving me dirty money?"
George sighed. "Alright. Thank you. Really, kid, I appreciate it. Fred will too, once he gets over it."
"Thanks for taking it," Elizabeth said, throwing her arms around his waist in a quick impromptu hug.
"Hey, feel free to hand over any other large bags of tainted money you come across," George grinned. "Small ones too."
"I have to go, Dad let me out of his sight for fifteen minutes. But I'll see you over the summer."
"Careful out there, sis," George gave a little wave, the bag of gold safely tucked in his robes.
"Are you ready to go?" Elizabeth dropped her bag on the floor beside Severus' desk, where he was filling in final marks.
"Just a moment," the Potions Master said, green ink flowing from his quill. "You're sure you have everything?"
"Triple checked," Elizabeth assured. "Made my bed, hung up my uniform, gave my prize money away."
Severus signed the last sheet of parchment and tapped the stack with his wand, sending them to Albus' office.
"Alright," he said, "But I'm not buying you a new broom."
"I don't want a new broom."
"Alright then." Severus pushed his chair back from his desk. "Come here a moment."
Elizabeth wasn't surprised to be pulled into her father's lap. She'd assumed that, at some point, Severus would move, as he always did, from "kill whoever hurt my daughter" mode to "pretend my daughter is an infant" mode. It happened every time danger came knocking at her door.
So she was surprised at what he said.
"It occurred to me," he began softly, "That I've spent a lot of time since the third task healing you, and yelling at various ministry officials. I've ranted about how ridiculous the challenge was, and how wrong you were to disobey me." Severus took a slow breath. "But it also occurred to me that I haven't told you how incredibly proud of you I am."
"Really?" Elizabeth's eyebrows threatened to disappear into her hairline.
Severus nodded. "Regardless of why you were there, you showed time and time again how selfless you are. Taking the Cup with Cedric… bringing back his body. And then…" He swallowed. "And then as I saw you throw off the Dark Lord's Imperius Curse, and fight him, I was prouder than I'd ever been. Of anyone."
"Because I survived?"
Severus nodded again. "That. And because, in the face of what is perhaps the most obvious personification of evil on the planet, you stayed firmly aligned with the Light." He looked at her with unhidden pride. "You could have used the killing curse. You know it. You could have cast it. But you didn't. You held on to what you knew was right."
"The Death Eaters would have killed me."
"Yes," Severus gripped her a little tighter. "But that's not why you didn't use a Dark spell. Mind you, the Dark Lord will die. I'll see to it. But I can't say I'm sorry that your hands are free of that man's blood." He kissed her forehead. "I'm so proud of you, Elizabeth Rose."
"Thanks, Dad." Elizabeth leaned her face into his shoulder, feeling her eyes prick with tears.
"Let's go home," Severus said softly.
"Mmmhmm," Elizabeth mumbled against his robes.
Severus chuckled. "Maybe just another minute."
"Hey, Dad?" Elizabeth swiveled on her lab stool.
"Hey, what?" Severus made a face over the cauldron he was stirring. "I see you are firmly ensconced in summer dialect."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Anyway… I was just wondering something."
"Do you date?"
"Pardon me?" Severus glanced up at her.
"I mean, after Mum… have you dated other women?"
"This is, most definitely, not a conversation I am having with my fourteen year old."
"But you ask me about boys."
"Because you are my fourteen year old," Severus said firmly, adding chopped newt tail to the cauldron. "My personal life is not something I need to discuss with you."
Elizabeth shifted to kneel on her stool, resting her forearms on the table and leaning over to look at the bubbling potion. "You can't be happy being alone."
"I'm not alone," Severus answered, pushing her away from the steam that rose over the cauldron. "Careful. You don't want to directly breathe that."
"Not alone in the house, no," Elizabeth pressed. "But someday, do you want to be married again?"
Severus cast a stasis spell and crossed his arms over his chest. "What is this about?"
Elizabeth shrugged, "I just wondered."
"Hmm," Severus raised an eyebrow. "Elizabeth."
"Elizabeth." Severus' voice was firmer.
Elizabeth shrugged again. "Mrs. Weasley said that you probably weren't dating because you had me to deal with."
Severus' eyes narrowed. "To whom did she say this?"
Elizabeth grimaced and looked down at her feet on the rungs of the stool. "Mr. Weasley."
"In confidence, I assume." Severus looked for her nod before coming around the lab table and tilting her face up to look at him. "What have I told you about eavesdropping?"
"I shouldn't," Elizabeth mumbled. "But I didn't mean to."
"Oh really?" Severus shook his head. "Did you, perhaps, stumble and fall into a private conversation?" He frowned, but returned to the real matter at hand. "Elizabeth, I loved your mother for a long time. I still love her. I fell in love, married, and had a beautiful child with Lily. That doesn't happen everyday. The fact that it hasn't happened again is not unusual, nor is it your fault." He looked at Elizabeth's disbelieving face and sighed. "I promise. If I meet a woman who interests me, I am perfectly capable of balancing that with being a father."
"Okay," Elizabeth, said, still a little unsure.
"Perhaps you haven't noticed," Severus went on, offering his hand to help her down from the stool, "but I am not what you would consider a 'ladies' man' to begin with. It's a wonder your mother ever looked at me twice, let alone put up with my constantly-brooding manner." He started toward the stairs.
"Weren't you brewing?" Elizabeth followed behind.
"I can finish it later," Severus pulled rolled his shirtsleeves down. "We're having company for supper."
"The Mutt is not considered company," Severus shook his head.
"Who else do we know?"
Severus chuckled. "I think it's time for you to meet the real Alastor Moody." He closed the door to the lab behind them. "Go upstairs and put on something more suitable for visitors."
Elizabeth looked down at her jeans and "Snake Born and Lion Bred" t-shirt Hermione had charmed her for Christmas the year before. "I like this shirt."
"It's an acceptable shirt for sitting in the lab, but you could at least try to look like a lady."
"So you want me to wear a dress?" Elizabeth made a face.
"Not necessarily," Severus pointed to the stairs. "Just put on something nicer."
"I don't have anything nicer except my uniform."
"We went shopping last summer and we bought casual clothes, I remember."
"We got t-shirts and jeans."
"Then put on your uniform shirt," Severus said, exasperated.
"I left it at school."
Severus growled, waved his wand, and handed her the uniform that appeared in his hand. "Change."
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Like Moody cares what I wear."
"That's Professor Moody," Severus corrected.
"He's not a professor anymore," Elizabeth said, stomping as much as she dared up the stairs. "Never was, really."
Severus just shook his head, wondering if there was some kind of countdown to the end of the teenage years.
At precisely 6:30, Alastor Moody stepped through the floo of Spinner's End.
"Your property is expertly warded, Severus," Alastor praised immediately. "Never can be too careful. Especially with precious cargo in the building." His gaze looked around the living room. "Where is our heroine?"
"Upstairs," Severus sighed. "We're having a teenage day, I'm afraid."
Moody snorted. "Children are payback for all our wrongdoings in the past. That's why I don't have any. Too dangerous." He looked around again, as if searching for Dark wizards in the sofa. "Ah, Elizabeth Evans," he said, spotting Elizabeth, dressed in her uniform skirt and the same t-shirt, as she came in.
"Hello, professor." Elizabeth looked awkwardly at the man.
"I don't know so much about 'Professor'," Moody said affably, "never got around to much teaching, did I? Come here and let me look at you."
"You are much taller than I remember you," Moody looked her over critically. "I trust you no longer drool?"
"No, sir," Elizabeth smiled a little.
"You look just like your father," Moody said approvingly.
"Except the eyes," Severus said, putting his arm around her shoulders. "Lily's eyes."
"Where is your wand?" Moody raised an eyebrow.
"My wand?" Elizabeth looked at Severus. "Upstairs?"
"Snape, you let her leave that thing lying around?" Moody looked at Severus sharply.
"It's safer than her back pocket, where she usual keeps it," Severus said blithely.
Moody looked at Elizabeth fiercely. "Wand safety, Evans. Your wand is your greatest weapon."
"Let's eat, shall we?" Severus said, tightening his arm around her shoulders and leaning in to whisper in her ear. "What are you wearing?"
"You told me to look like a lady," Elizabeth hissed back.
"We are going shopping tomorrow," Severus said, pushing her into her seat at the table.
"Are you coming back as Defense professor next year, sir?" Elizabeth looked at Moody.
"I'm afraid not," Alastor said, as Severus waved his wand, leaving food on the plates. Alastor immediately put the food through a series of screening spells before continuing. "Your discovery of Voldemort's reappearance is changing some of our plans."
Severus winced at the name, but Remus, just coming into the room, shook his head. "We all ought to get used to hearing it. It's not going away." He nodded to Alastor. "How are you feeling?"
"Damn eye keeps sticking," Moody grumbled. "But other than that, fit as I've ever been."
"Good," Remus took his seat. "Sirius sends his regards."
"Good boy, that one," Moody took a drink. "Would have made a decent Auror if he could get his temper under control."
"Little chance of that," Severus commented, taking a bite.
"You are both on the same side in this, boy," Moody growled. "You two had better get along or you can spend the war sitting in the corner like spoiled children."
Elizabeth unsuccessfully tried to smother a laugh, which earned her a sharp look from Severus.
"We get along well enough," Severus muttered.
"Really, Alastor, they've been remarkably well-behaved," Remus put in. "I've only had to give them a time-out twice, maybe three times, in the last year."
Severus glared darkly at Remus, but said nothing.
"There's going to be a war?" Elizabeth looked at Alastor.
"Of course," Moody looked at her as if she had grown another arm. "Do you think we're just going to sit on our hands, girl? Or that Voldemort is going to retire to the States now that he's been brought back?"
Elizabeth bit her lip.
"There will be a war," Remus said more gently. "But hopefully, it will be over more quickly than the last one."
"You always were the optimist, Lupin," Moody shook his head and pointed his fork at Elizabeth. "This isn't a game. People are going to die. We all have to be working at top shape."
Severus cleared his throat. "Alastor, she's a child."
"A very powerful child," Moody said calmly. "Which is why Dumbledore is insisting that we move her as soon as possible."
"Move me?" Elizabeth looked at Severus.
"Nothing has been decided," Severus said quietly.
"We can't afford to wait much longer," Moody argued. "Not with public opinion turning the way it is."
"Public opinion?" Elizabeth questioned.
"Nothing. Moody." Severus said warningly.
"Stop shielding her, Snape. She'll find out soon enough." Moody yanked a copy of the Daily Prophet out of his robes and handed it to Elizabeth.
"The Girl Who Lies?" Elizabeth looked at Remus.
"Forget it," Remus said quietly. "Fudge has been using anything he can to discredit the fact that Voldemort has returned."
"Because Dark Lords are bad for business," came a quip from the doorway.
"Sirius," Moody said, looking away from Elizabeth and the paper. "I thought you were trying to make that house of yours livable."
"I suddenly remembered that I had no food," Sirius conjured a chair beside Elizabeth's. "What've you got for me tonight, beautiful?"
Elizabeth handed him the paper and got up to get another plate.
"I thought you'd decided not to show her this?" Sirius looked at Severus. "I didn't agree with that, mind you, I just thought that's what you'd decided."
"Alastor had plans of his own," Severus grumbled.
"For the best, really," Sirius folded the paper and slapped it on the table. "We need to move her, Severus."
"I thought you didn't have food, Black."
"I would have food if I had Elizabeth," Sirius grinned. "Man can't live on eggs alone."
"You would still have to buy food for her to cook," Severus rolled his eyes.
"You can do that!" Sirius grinned.
Elizabeth returned with a plate of food. "No, no, I'm fine. No one who can actually use magic should try to help in anyway."
Remus laughed. "Sorry, cub. I was distracted by seeing your father's blood pressure rise."
"In all seriousness," Moody said, bringing them back to the matter at hand, "This won't be your decision soon. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the Order will show up at your door one day and take her."
"The Order?" Elizabeth looked at Moody.
"The Order of the Phoenix," Moody said seriously. "Welcome to the inside, Elizabeth Evans."