Dumbledore had summoned their cloaks, and was now leading Elizabeth on a promenade around the lake.
'I'm sorry, Albus, but, she just… I know I have to hold my tongue, but she's foul – '
'I know, Elizabeth, I know. Considering how you feel about this, you did marvellously. I was quite amazed you did not shout at her when she questioned your abilities in a classroom.'
'I was very close.'
'I know. Which is why I intervened. She is trying to bait you, Elizabeth. Please ensure she does not succeed. You know how the Ministry is attempting to meddle in Hogwarts' affairs, in my affairs. I do not wish for you to be expelled if I am.'
Elizabeth's mouth widened a little, and she said, 'But… they can't! You're hired by the previous head, and there you stay until you resign!'
'You're not as naïve as that, Elizabeth, surely.'
'No, I'm not,' she sighed. 'But really, Albus, what could they do to remove you from Hogwarts? You are Hogwarts!'
Dumbledore chuckled, and said, 'Thank you, Elizabeth. But you know as well as I that when Cornelius and the Ministry want something, they are quite… determined. They will do almost anything to get it done.'
'Indeed, they will… like implanting a Ministry member as a teacher, for example.'
'Precisely. Now, be good. I don't want to hear about any troublemaking from you. And if you could try to convince Harry…'
She snorted in contemptuous laughter, and said, 'He's not exactly thrilled with me at the moment. If I said duck, he would jump. Or just ignore me completely.'
'It's not as bad as that. I'm sure he's more disappointed in me than you.'
'Yes, that's true, but I mean, I'm supposed to be there for him, and yet I allowed him to stay at Privet Drive for ages, all the while keeping him secluded from our world.'
'Do not take this onto yourself. I am the one who told you not to write to him. You were simply keeping a promise.'
'And yet, here we are, with him having to recover from a Dementor attack in the middle of Little Whinging, and a full trial to see if he gets expelled from the only real home he has ever known.'
Dumbledore sighed and placed an arm comfortingly around Elizabeth's shoulders. He knew that she was applying the same dangers to her future, but with more serious consequences; if the Ministry somehow expelled him from his place as Headmaster, and they wanted to expel Elizabeth, it would certainly be within their right. She was not an underage student with parents who could lobby for her. She was an employee – and if the next head decreed Hogwarts was no place for a student teacher, she would have to move away from the only home and family with which she had been safe. 'Even if they succeeded in expelling you, it would not be for long. You would go stay with Sirius, and then when I was reinstated at Hogwarts, so would you be.'
'Promise?' Elizabeth asked quietly, her head resting on his side.
'Yes, I promise.''You've yet to break a promise, Albus. Please don't start now.'