Elizabeth did not care for the body double of the love of her life to be lying on the ground, unresponsive. It ripped at her heart in a way she never thought was possible. She watched the proceedings as if in slow motion, Percy throwing himself over his brother's body to shield him from the curses that were being fired through the hole in the wall. Ron, on his knees, his face streaked with tears that tracked through the grime that seemed to coat all of their skin.
"Percy," Elizabeth begged, pulling Hermione to the ground beside her. "Percy, we've got to move."
Ron took his brother by the shoulders and pulled, but Percy would not budge. "Percy, you can't do anything for him! We're going to—
Hermione screamed, and Elizabeth, turning, saw a massive spider trying to climb through the hole in the wall.
Elizabeth and Ron cast a spell in unison; their spells collided and the monster was blown backward, its legs jerking horribly before falling to the dark ground below. Elizabeth raced to the edge and looked down. More giant spiders were climbing the side of the building. Elizabeth fired Stunning Spells down upon them, forcing them back.
"We've got to move. NOW!" Hermione yelled.
"Wait," Elizabeth said, pointing her wand at a piece of loose parchment, blasted out of one of the classrooms, and transfigured it into a white sheet. She knelt and wrapped George in it before levitating him into a niche in the wall. She cast protective spells around the body, before turning back to the group. "Alright," she nodded. "Let's finish this."
Percy ran off, ready to kill anything to avenge his fallen brother. Ron went to go after him, but Hermione yanked him back. "Ron, we're the only ones who can end it! Please Ron!" She shook him, but his eyes were murderous, his body shaking with rage and grief.
"Ron, we've got to kill the snake," Elizabeth said. "We will fight. We'll have to, to reach the snake. But we have to get to her. We're the only ones who know how to end this."
Ron looked at her. "You need to find out where Voldemort is, because he'll have the snake with him, won't he? Do it, Elizabeth. Look inside him!"
Elizabeth closed her eyes and did what she'd never attempted to do. She entered Voldemort's thoughts voluntarily.
He was standing in the middle of a desolate but strangely familiar room, with peeling paper on the walls and all the windows boarded except for one. The sounds of the assault on the castle were muffled and distant. The single unblocked window revealed distant bursts of light where the castle stood, but inside the room it was dark except for a solitary oil lamp.
He was rolling his wand between his fingers, watching it, his thoughts on the room in the castle, the secret room only he had ever found, like the Chamber, that you had to be clever and cunning to discover… He was confident that the girl would not find the diadem. Although, Snape's mudblood-spawn had come much farther than he had ever expected.
"My Lord," said a voice, desperate and cracked. He turned, seeing Lucius Malfoy sitting in the darkest corner, ragged and still bearing the marks of the punishment he had received after the girl's last escape. One of his eyes remained closed the puffy. "My Lord…please…my son…"
"If your son is dead, Lucius, it is not my fault. He did not come and join me, like the rest of the Slytherins. Perhaps he has decided to befriend Elizabeth Evans?"
"You must hope not," Voldemort sneered. "But he was close to Snape, wasn't he? Clearly your whole family's loyalty is suspect."
"Wouldn't it be more prudent, My Lord, to call off this battle? Seek out Evans yourself? Assure that she dies at your hand?"
"Do not pretend, Lucius. You wish the battle to cease so that you can discover what has happened to your son. And I do not need to seek Evans. Before the night is out, she will have come to find me." A sense of excitement surged through his body. "But if you wish to expedite the process, go and fetch Snape."
"Snape, my Lord?"
"Snape. There is a service I require from him. Go."
Elizabeth pulled back and opened her eyes, at the same moment she was assaulted by the sounds of the battle.
"He's in the Shrieking Shack. He's just sent Malfoy to find my dad."
Elizabeth wriggled into the earthy passage hidden in the tree's roots. It was a much tighter squeeze than the last time she had entered it. As a flat-chested third year she'd been able to slide right in. Her new body posed significant challenges.
The room beyond was dimly lit, but she could see Nagini, swirling and coiling like a serpent underwater, safe in her enchanted, starry sphere. Elizabeth could see the edge of a table, and a long-fingered white hand toying with a wand. She raised her head, careful not to uncover herself. A disembodied foot wouldn't be a good thing.
"I'd offer you tea, Severus," Voldemort's voice was chilling, even after hearing it over and over. "However, that's hardly a last meal, is it?"
"You might as well kill me now," Severus said, his voice tight. "I won't call her."
"She'll come on her own," Voldemort said. "Your presence here has another purpose." He rolled his wand back and forth between his fingers. "I have a problem, Severus."
Severus was silent.
Voldemort raised the Elder Wand, holding it as delicately and precisely as a conductor's baton. "Why doesn't it work for me, Severus?"
"You've spilled enough blood with that wand," Severus said.
"No," Voldemort said. "I have performed my usual magic. I am extraordinary, but this wand… no. It has not revealed the wonders it has promised. I feel no difference between this wand and the one I procured from Ollivander all those years ago." Voldemort's voice was calm. "I took the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's grave. But it has failed me. Why?"
Severus did not answer.
"Perhaps you already know. You are a clever man, after all. You could have been so valuable to me, had you been properly chastised for your betrayal." Voldemort paused. "The Elder Wand cannot serve me properly, Severus, because I am not is true master. The Elder wand belongs to the wizard who killed its last owner. You killed Albus Dumbledore. While you live, Severus, the Elder Wand cannot be truly mine."
Elizabeth closed her eyes and cast a silent spell. Protego Maxima she thought, pushing a barrier between her father and the Dark Lord.
Voldemort pointed his wand at Nagini's magical ball of protection. "Kill," he hissed, and the ball floated toward Severus.
It was then, as never before, that Elizabeth saw her father for what he was. A warrior. He stood, unflinching, as the ball floated within a yard of his face. "I regret only that I won't see my daughter end you," he said calmly. "And as you die, I'd like you to remember that it is her mother's blood that runs through her veins."
Nagini's bubble made contact with the shield Elizabeth had erected. The explosion was deafening. The sphere of protection around the snake shattered, and Nagini fell to the floor. Voldemort swore loudly, spinning around, searching for who could have cast the spell, then looked back to Severus. "Kill me, Severus. If you're going to wordlessly cast a spell, at least make it count."
Elizabeth pointed her wand at the massive snake. She couldn't kill it with a spell. It wouldn't destroy the Horcrux. The protection over Severus would only last for a little while longer, and with the Elder Wand, Snape stood little chance of making it out of the Shrieking Shack alive.
She desperately wished that she could get him to Apparate. To get away.
Malfoy appeared in the shack. "We've killed the your son-in-law, Snape."
"Good," Voldemort said, his wand still pointed at Severus. "That alone should make your brat reckless."
Elizabeth took a deep breath. It was time. If she was lucky, she could kill Nagini before she died. But even if she didn't, Severus knew that Nagini needed to die.
The long game was ended, the Snitch had been caught. It was time to fulfill her destiny.
The Snitch. Her nerveless fingers fumbled for a moment with the pouch around her neck and pulled it out.
I open at the close.
Breathing fast and hard, she stared down at it. Now that she wanted time to move as slowly as possible, it seemed to have sped up. This was the close. This was the moment.
She pressed the golden metal to her lips and whispered, "I am about to die."
The metal shell broke open.
The black stone with its jagged crack running down the center sat in two halves of the Snitch. The Resurrection Stone had cracked down the vertical line representing the Elder Wand. The triangle and circle representing the Cloak and the stone were still discernible.
She understood without having to think. It didn't matter about bringing them back, for she was about to join them. She was not really fetching them: They were fetching her. She looked at Lucius. We've killed your son-in-law. There was a moment she was glad. Fred would not have to live without George, and she would be joining him soon. She nodded to herself. She was going home. To be with him. Forever.
She stood, still under the cloak, and turned the stone over in her hand.
They were neither ghost nor truly flesh; she could see that. James was taller than her. And Fred… no, not Fred. It was George. George had come to meet her. Why was that? Was she not to be surrounded by the people she loved the most?
And suddenly she saw Tonks, her hair white, standing beside George.
And Lily. She pushed her long hair back as she drew close to her daughter, and her green eyes, searched Elizabeth's face.
"You've been so brave."
Elizabeth could not speak.
"You're nearly there," said James. "Very close. You've been… you're so much bigger than last time I saw you."
It was such an odd thing to say under the circumstances that Elizabeth almost laughed.
"Does it hurt?" Elizabeth couldn't stop the question from falling out of her mouth.
"Dying?" George grinned. "Not at all, little sister. Easier than falling asleep."
"And he will want it to be quick. He wants it over," said Tonks.
"I'm so sorry, Tonks," Elizabeth said quietly. "Right after Teddy—
"He'll have Remus," Tonks said gently. "And Severus, if he gets his arse out of here," she looked at the rest of the Shack. It seemed frozen, like they were in a bubble of time all alone.
"You'll stay with me?"
"Until the very end," another voice said, and Elizabeth turned to see Sirius standing beside James. "Until the very end. I promise."
"Sirius…" Elizabeth bit her lip. "Sirius…"
"No regrets, sweetheart," Sirius shook his head. "We're going to end this now, standing together. You show me what I taught you, now."
Elizabeth nodded, blinking back tears. "I'll make you proud."
Black smiled. "You couldn't make me anything else, beautiful."
"They won't be able to see you?"
"We're part of you," Lily said. "Invisible to anyone else." She looked at Severus. "He looks tired."
Elizabeth nodded. "He's had a bit on his mind." She took a final deep breath. "Stay close to me."
She drew her sword. And pulled off the cloak. She slashed the blade down, but it struck only stone. Nagini was pulled roughly toward Voldemort.
"Elizabeth Evans," Voldemort said very softly. "The Girl Who Lived."
Elizabeth stood, raising her chin like her father's.
She saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone.
There was a small, naked child, curled on the ground, its skin raw and rough, flayed-looking, and it lay shuddering under a seat in the pure white King's Cross she'd fallen into.
She was afraid of it. Nevertheless she drew slowly nearer, ready to jump back at any moment. Soon she stood near enough to touch it, yet she could not bring herself to do it.
"You cannot help."
She spun around. Albus Dumbledore was walking toward her, sprightly and upright. Perhaps a hundred years younger than he'd been when he died.
"Elizabeth." He spread his arms wide. "You wonderful girl. You brave, brave woman."
"You're dead," Elizabeth said quietly.
"Oh yes," said Dumbledore.
"And I am dead."
"Well, that's not necessarily true," Albus said conversationally.
"No?" Elizabeth frowned. "But I should have died. I meant to let him kill me." She brushed her hand over her forehead, surprised by the lack of pain.
"That, I think, have made all the difference," Dumbledore said. "But you, my lovely warrior, are not the traditional sacrificial lamb."
"Explain," Elizabeth said shortly.
"But you already know," said Dumbledore.
"I let him kill me," said Elizabeth. "Didn't I?"
"You did. Go on."
"So the part of his soul that was me… is gone?"
"Oh yes," Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, he destroyed it. Your soul is whole, Elizabeth, and completely your own."
"But then…" Elizabeth looked at the small creature. "What is that?"
"Something that is beyond our help," said Dumbledore.
"But if Voldemort used the Killing Curse," Elizabeth started again, "and nobody died for me this time, at least in that moment… how can I be alive?"
"I think you know," said Dumbledore. "Think back. Remember what he did, in his ignorance, in his greed and his cruelty."
Elizabeth thought back, her gaze wandering.
"He took my blood. In the graveyard."
"Precisely!" Albus smiled as if she'd just earned an OWL. "Your blood is in his veins. Lily's protection is inside both of you. He tethered you to life while he lives!"
"I thought we both had to die."
Dumbledore smiled wider. "You were the seventh Horcrux, Elizabeth. The Horcrux he never meant to make. He had rendered his soul so unstable that it broke apart when he committed those acts of unspeakable evil. The murder of your mother, the attempted killing of a child. But what escaped from that room was even less than he knew. He left more than his body behind. He left part of himself latched to you, the would-be victim who had survived."
"And you knew this? You knew all along?"
"I guessed," Dumbledore said happily.
"There's more," Elizabeth said. "There's more to it. Why do I always win?"
"I cannot be sure."
"Take a guess, then," Elizabeth rolled her eyes.
"That, my dear, I can only attribute to your father's blood," Dumbledore smiled again. "What chance did Voldemort have with that much self-sacrificing courage staring him in the face? Voldemort, who would never have sacrificed himself for another, has watched you do it over and over again."
"He killed me with your wand."
"He failed to kill you with my wand," Dumbledore corrected. "I think we can agree that you are not dead. Although I'm sure your passage was not without suffering."
"Well, the whole knowing my father was watching me die thing was rough," Elizabeth muttered. She looked up at the wizard. "You meant Dad to end up with the Elder Wand, didn't you?"
Albus nodded once. "A better master it could not have, don't you agree?"
"But it didn't work out," Elizabeth sighed. "You want me to go back, don't you." It was not a question.
"I think," Dumbledore said, "that if you choose to return, there is chance that he may be finished for good."
"And I suppose, if he kills me again, it wouldn't be as bad. Death is probably something you get used to."
Dumbledore chuckled. "You have less to fear returning here than Voldemort does, my child."
"If you see Fred," Elizabeth said, swallowing hard, "tell him… I'll be back soon."
"Examine your daughter, Snape. Tell me whether she is dead."
Elizabeth felt a hand on her face, then one on her chest. She knew that Severus could feel the steady pounding of life against her ribs.
"She's dead," Severus said softly.
Voldemort laughed a cold, high laugh. "Carry her, Severus, to the castle. I want to them to see their little savior dead by my hand.
Elizabeth felt her father gather her to his chest. Voldemort's icy hand clamped onto Severus' wrist and they Apparated to the doors of the castle.
"Put her down," Voldemort ordered Snape. Elizabeth felt him put her down gently, into the dirt.
"Elizabeth Evans is dead by my hand, and no man alive can threaten me now! Watch!" Voldemort shouted to what Elizabeth could only assume was a crowd of onlookers. "Crucio!"
She knew her body would not be allowed to remain unsullied. It must be subjected to humiliation. She was lifted into the air, and it took all her determination to remain limp. Yet the pain she expected did not come. She was thrown once, twice, three times into the air. When she fell to the ground for the last time, the crowd responded with jeers and shrieks of laughter.
"Pick up your hero, Severus," Voldemort cackled. "We must show the people of Hogwarts what their rebellion has come to." Elizabeth felt herself being picked up again, and then a lurch as Severus stumbled. Had Professor Snape ever stumbled?
Voldemort's voice boomed, magically magnified once more. "Elizabeth Evans is dead. She was killed as she ran away, trying to save herself while you lay down your lives for her. We bring you her body as proof that your hero is gone. The battle is won. Those who continue to resist will be slaughtered. Come out of the castle now, kneel before me, and you shall be spared."
The scream was more terrible because she had never expected or dreamed that Minerva could make such a sound.
Ron's and Hermione's voices were terrible, yet Elizabeth's heart leaped in knowing that they were still alive.
"SILENCE!" Voldemort intoned. "It is over. Set her at my feet, Severus, where she belongs!"
When she was on the ground, she eased her eyes open slightly, just enough to see the crowd. She saw a figure break free of the crowd and charge Voldemort. The figure hit the ground, disarmed, and Voldemort threw the challenger's wand aside.
"And who is this?" he said in his soft snake's hiss. "Who has volunteered to demonstrate what happens to those who continue to fight when the battle is lost?
Bellatrix gave a cruel laugh. "It's the Weasley who wanted to breed with Evans, my Lord!"
"Ah." Elizabeth heard Lucius Malfoy cry out as the Dark Lord released his displeasure. "I don't appreciate being lied to, Malfoy."
Voldemort turned his attention to Fred. "But you are a pureblood, aren't you, my brave boy?"
"So what if I am?" Fred's voice was clear and rebellious- the sound of a man that had nothing left to lose.
"You show spirit and bravery, and you come for noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. Your parents have denied you the power that should have come with your blood."
"I'll join you when hell freezes over," Fred spat.
"Very well," said Voldemort, and Elizabeth heard the danger in the silkiness of his voice. It was like Severus right before he went mental. "If that is your choice, Weasley, we revert to the original plan."
Voldemort waved his wand. Seconds later, out of one of the castle's shattered windows, something that looked like a misshapen bird flew through the rising sun. Was the run really rising? Had this only been one night?
Voldemort caught the item and held it by one corner. The Sorting Hat.
"There will be no more Sorting at Hogwarts School," said Voldemort. "There will be no more Houses. The emblem, shield, and colors of my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for everyone. Won't they, Fred Weasley?"
He pointed his wand at Fred, freezing him, before forcing the hat onto his head.
"Fred is now going to demonstrate what happens to anyone foolish enough to continue to oppose me," said Voldemort, and with a flick of his wand, he caused the Sorting Hat to burst into flames.
It was then, in that awful moment, that everything changed. Grawp, Hagrid's brother, appeared around the side of the castle, leading with him an army of centaurs.
In one swift, fluid motion, Fred broke free of the Body-Bind Curse upon him; the flaming hat fell off him, and he drew from its depths something silver, with a glittering, rubied handle—
It was then that Elizabeth remembered dropping the sword to the ground after she'd failed to kill Nagini.
The slash of the silver blade would not be heard over the roar of the oncoming crowd or the sounds of the clashing giants, and yet it seemed to draw every eye. With a single stroke, Fred sliced off the great snake's head, which spun high into the air, gleaming in the light flooding from the entrance hall, and Voldemort's mouth was open in a scream of fury that nobody would hear.
Elizabeth pulled the invisibility cloak from inside her robes and swung it over herself. She stood, casting a Shield Charm between Fred and Voldemort.
Elizabeth raced into the castle, following Voldemort as he backed into the Great Hall. The room was full. Elizabeth spotted Charlie Weasley, dueling with Yaxley. Molly Weasley had Bellatrix backed into a corner and was shouting some things that Elizabeth wasn't sure her future mother-in-law was capable of. Then the redheaded witch's curse soared through the air and hit the Death Eater squarely in the chest, directly over her heart.
"That was for my son," Molly hissed as the woman fell forward, hitting the floor, lifeless.
Elizabeth saw Voldemort raise his wand, pointing it directly at Mrs. Weasley.
"Protego!" shouted Elizabeth, and the Shield Charm expanded in the middle of the Hall. She pulled the cloak off, jamming it back into her robes.
Then there was silence. Elizabeth and Voldemort faced each other across the room as the rest of the fighters formed a ring around them, like students in a schoolyard fight.
"I don't want anyone else to try to help," Elizabeth said loudly. "It's got to be like this. It's got to be me."
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Fred, being held back by Severus, who was being held back by Remus.
Voldemort hissed. "Evans doesn't mean that," he said. "That isn't how she works, is it? Who are you going to use as a shield today, Evans?"
"Nobody," Elizabeth said simply. "These are no more Horcruxes. It's just you can me. Neither can live while the other survives, remember? And one of us is about to leave for good." She took a step forward. "You won't be killing anyone else tonight," she said, falling into circling with the Dark Lord. "You won't be able to kill any of them ever again. Don't you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—
"But you did not!"
Elizabeth fixed him with her best Snape stare. "If you'd let me finish, Tom, this would go faster. I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you. Didn't you notice that the fire didn't burn Fred? That he didn't stay frozen? That you tried to torture my lifeless body and I felt no pain?" She clicked her tongue. "Honestly, Riddle, learn from your mistakes."
"I do," Elizabeth nodded. "I know things you don't know, Tom Riddle. I know lots of important things that you don't. Want to hear some?"
Voldemort growled and prowled in a circle. "You must believe that you have magic that I do not, or else a weapon more powerful than mine?"
"I believe both," Elizabeth said, standing straighter. "I have my mother's sacrifice coursing through my body, and my father's courage. The very fiber of my being knows nothing else but defiance toward you."
"I hold the Elder Wand," Voldemort crowed. "And now, I'll kill it's master and then kill you," he swung his wand toward Severus.
"He's not the master," Elizabeth said calmly, not needing to look to know that the crowd was protecting her father. "He was the true master. But someone disarmed him."
"You lie!" Voldemort hissed, turning back to her.
"Maybe," Elizabeth shrugged. "But at Malfoy Manor, the night I defeated three of your Death Eaters and escaped, I disarmed Severus Snape as he came through the door, thinking he was you."
The room was silent.
"So it all comes down to this, doesn't it?" Elizabeth whispered. "Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does… I am the true master of the Elder Wand."
The end of dazzling sun appeared over the sill of the nearest window. Elizabeth heard the high voice shriek as she too yelled her best hope to the heavens, pointing her mother's wand:
Elizabeth saw Voldemort's green jet meet her own spell, saw the Elder Wand fly high, dark against the sunrise, spinning across the enchanted ceiling, spinning through the air toward its master. Elizabeth, with the unerring skill of the Seeker, caught the wand in her free hand as Voldemort fell backward, arms splayed, the slit pupils of the scarlet eyes rolling upward.
Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken. Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse. Elizabeth stood with two wands in her hand, staring down at her enemy's shell.
Fourteen Years Later
"Mummy? Mummy? Mummy?"
Elizabeth Weasley rolled over and poked her husband in the shoulder. "I think your son wants you."
Fred snorted. "He is clearly calling your name."
"I don't have a name before seven," Elizabeth said, burying her face in her pillow.
Fred pushed himself up on his elbows to look at the clock and barked a laugh. "7:02," he said, falling back down. "You lose."
"Come in, baby," Elizabeth called.
"Gramma is here."
Elizabeth sat up, looking from Fred to the four-year-old on the floor. "Where, Orion?"
"Kitchen," Orion said affably. "She says no cookies."
Elizabeth groaned. "Why is your mother here this early?"
"She has a grandchild addiction," Fred said, sitting up again. "Orion, go wake up the big girls."
"Georgia bit me," Orion said, holding up his hand.
"Never mind," Fred sighed. "I'll get them." He put his feet into slippers and pulled a t-shirt over his head.
"Come on, munchkin," Elizabeth said ruffling Orion's dark mop of hair. "Let's go get Lily, okay?"
Fred knocked on the bedroom door at the end of the hall. "Time to get up, girls."
"Go away, Dad!"
Fred smirked. Georgia was feisty on her best day, and her best day did not include a premature wake up call. He opened the door, looking at the twin beds, each hosting a curly red head.
Fred steered clear of Georgia, the biting was not something to play with. Instead he sat down on the other bed and stroked the buried head.
"Sevannah," he said gently, shaking her shoulder a bit. "It's a big day, love. Time to get up."
Sevannah rolled over and opened her brown eyes. "Hi, Daddy."
Fred smiled, and looked over at the other bed. "Georgia Ann. Up."
The covers moved, and a Sevannah look-alike popped out. "Is Grandpa here yet?"
Fred shook his head. "Grandma's here to take Orion and Lily for the day. Grandpa will be here later."
Georgia hopped out of bed and stretched. "I'm hungry," the eleven-year-old declared.
"Go downstairs, I'm sure Grandma is making breakfast."
He watched the girl run out of the room before turning to his other twin. "You're quiet this morning, thinker." It wasn't unusual. Sevannah had inherited her namesake's quiet manner.
"I don't think I should go to Hogwarts," Sevannah said, pulling the blankets around her.
"Hmmm," Fred said, pretending to contemplate the idea. "Alright, but you understand that I can't feed you during the school year, right? It's not in the budget."
Sevannah rolled her eyes. "Daddy!"
"Are you scared?" Fred asked, brushing her hair off her forehead.
"No," Sevannah said indignantly.
"Georgia will be there," Fred said soothingly. "And Grandpa, and Uncle Remus."
Sevannah nodded. "And you will write me…"
"All the time," Fred promised. "And if you need me or Mum, we're there. Right?"
Sevannah nodded again. "Okay."
"Okay," Fred echoed. He stood up and opened his arms, pulling his little girl close to him. "I'm going to miss you, Sevannah Rose."
"Miss you too, Daddy."
"Hello?" Severus Snape stepped out of the floo.
In the kitchen, Elizabeth turned to Fred. "Listen, let my Dad drive to the station, okay?"
Fred grinned. "Fine by me."
"In here, Dad!" Elizabeth called. "Kretcher," she said, looking at the House Elf who was laden with winter weather gear. "It's September."
"Mistress is trying to freeze Master Orion," Kretcher grumbled. "Wants to freeze his little fingers off." He scuttled over to Orion's booster seat and began covering him with mittens, a hat, and a scarf.
Fred shook his head. His son, apparently, bore a vague resemblance to Regulus Black, something that was probably passed through the Weasley part of the family tree. From the onset, Kretcher had been the boy's biggest protector.
"Good morning," Severus said, appearing in the doorway.
"Gampa!" Lily shouted from her high chair, holding up her chubby arms.
"There's my baby," Severus beamed, scooping the redheaded, green-eyed child into his arms.
Elizabeth smirked. Sometimes Severus looked younger now than he ever had in his thirties. He held Lily on one hip and ruffled Orion's hair though his hat. "Are we taking you to Hogwarts, young man?"
"Grandpa!" Orion laughed.
"Oh, that's right," Severus nodded. "I'm going to have to wait on you. Where are my first years?"
"Getting dressed," Fred said, then dropped his voice to Elizabeth. "Sevannah is doing that thing again."
"We just have to get her on the train," Elizabeth said, putting the breakfast dishes away. "She'll be fine."
"We'll never get to the train if they don't get down here." Fred went to the foot of the stairs. "Georgia! Sevannah! Let's go!"
Elizabeth and Fred stood on the platform, each with a hand on the shoulder of one twin. Severus surveyed the crowd. "I think that's the rest of the Weasley clan now."
A group of four people emerged from the mist, standing alongside the very last carriage.
"Parked all right, then?" Ron asked Fred. "I did. Hermione didn't believe I could pass a Muggle driving test, did you? She thought I'd have to Confund the examiner." He had one arm around Hugo and the other hand holding Rose's. The girl was already wearing her school robes.
"He did," Hermione whispered to Elizabeth as she hugged her. "But we'll pretend he passed it."
"Fred too, that's why Dad drove," Elizabeth whispered back.
"Georgia Ann!" Fred clicked his fingers at her and then held out his hand, palm up. "Hand them over."
Georgia rolled her eyes and handed her father four Stinky Stickers she'd been trying to stick on Rose's luggage.
"All of them," Fred said, raising an eyebrow.
Georgia gave a long-suffering sigh but handed over two more stickers. "Dad!"
"You didn't get up early enough this morning to get stuff like that by me, miss." Fred ruffled her hair.
"Mum! We're going to get a seat, alright?" Georgia said excitedly.
"Alright," Elizabeth sighed, putting her arms around her daughter. "Be good, hear me?"
"Okay," Georgia rolled her eyes. "Bye, Dad."
"Bye, Firebolt," Fred hugged her and kissed the top of her head. "Be good."
"Geez," Georgia scowled. "I'm not that bad. Come on, Sevannah."
Sevannah nodded and hugged her mother, holding on a bit too long. Fred put his arms around both of them. "We'll write every day if you want," he said, kissing her forehead. Sevannah bit her lip. "Not everyday… well… maybe at first. Bye, Daddy."
"Bye, Angel," Fred kissed her again. "Stay with Rose."
"I'll go on with them for a minute," Severus said. "Remind our upperclassmen about acceptable train behavior."
"Whatever you need to tell yourself, Dad," Elizabeth smirked.
Hermione and Ron said goodbye to Rose, who was bouncing in place. "I read in Hogwarts: A History…" she said to Sevannah as they climbed onto the train.
Ron shook his head. "More like Hermione every day, I swear it."
Elizabeth leaned into Fred's side and let him put his arm around her.
"Three future Gryffindors," Ron continued, looking at the train.
Elizabeth sighed. "Maybe. Georgia… but you know Sevannah. What if they get separated?"
"It might be good for her," Hermione said. "Give her a place to be her own person."
"That's what Fred says," Elizabeth shook her head. "I just worry."
"I'm worried about this train ride," Fred said, glaring at the train windows. "There are entirely too many First Year boys."
"You don't need to worry about the train," Elizabeth smirked. "You didn't start chasing me until dinner."
"We're willing to do an arranged marriage type thing right now with one of your girls and Hugo," Ron laughed, ruffling his son's hair. "Except we probably don't need to keep the bloodlines that close."
"Well, he's going to have to grow a little bit to handle Georgia," Elizabeth laughed. "And Sevannah spent entirely too much time at Malfoy Manor this summer for my liking."
"Speaking of that," Fred said, nodding to a point across the platform. "Look who it is."
Draco Malfoy was standing there with his wife and son. Draco caught sight of their group and nodded curtly.
"Scorpius," Fred said under his breath. "Maybe I should encourage other boys."
"At least she'd be marrying rich," Ron joked.
"Uncle Fred," Hugo said, gesturing impatiently for his uncle to bend down to listen to him.
Fred obliged, and the eight year old whispered loudly, "We saw Teddy when we came in and he was…" Hugo's eyes widened, "snogging Victoire!"
He gazed up at Fred, evidently disappointed by the lack of reaction.
"Teddy was snogging a girl!"
"Ew, gross," Fred said, realizing a little late what his reaction was supposed to be. "I'll make sure to talk to him about that."
Severus returned. "It's nearly eleven, they should be heading off soon," he said. As if he'd summoned it, smoke began to pour in earnest from the train, and the wheels began to turn.
Elizabeth waved as the train pulled away, trying to keep a smile plastered on her face while gripping Fred's waist with all her might.
"Congratulations," Severus said. "You've made it to school."
"Congratulate us when you haven't had to suspend Georgia for something this year," Fred grimaced.
"We talked to her about behavior, but I don't think she believes that you'll do anything if she doesn't behave. Please make sure—
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Elizabeth Rose, did I ever let you get away with anything at school?"
Elizabeth sighed. "No, but you're my dad, not my grandfather."
"Georgia will become well-acquainted with detention, I would imagine," Severus assured her. "Don't worry, hatchling. Between Remus and I, she won't get in too much trouble."
Elizabeth nodded, and Severus brushed a hand over her head. "I have to go. It wouldn't do for the train to beat me to school now, would it? I'll make sure the girls send an owl after the Sorting."
"Thanks, Dad," Elizabeth smiled and waved as he walked toward the Floos against the wall.
"Let's go home," Fred said, kissing her temple.
"Okay," Elizabeth said quietly. "They're going to be fine, right?"
"We made sure of it nearly twenty years ago," Fred reminded her. "And just think, we don't have to do this again until Orion is eleven."
"Maybe that's why we spaced them so wide," Elizabeth smiled, letting him lead her back toward the car.
"We spaced them out because it took us that long to recover from the twins," Fred laughed. "And then we had Lily so quickly because we didn't know what to do with only one baby."
"What were we thinking?" Elizabeth laughed too, leaning on him.
"That life worked out just fine," Fred grinned. "And it would be a shame to waste all this peace on just us."