Departures and Farewells
As Fred and George flew into the sunset, Elizabeth whooped with the rest, and laughed as Peeves gave his salute. But when she chanced a look over to Professor Umbridge, Elizabeth's face fell, and her blood went cold, to see the look of extreme fury cast in her direction.
That evening, as everyone was filing into the Dining Hall, Elizabeth pulled Snape aside into a secret passage, and muttered, 'We need to talk.'
'What is it?' he asked urgently, noting the panic in her voice.
'She's going to do it tonight. I'll miss you, Severus.'
'Elizabeth, what –'
'She's going to kick me out. Tonight or tomorrow morning. To make an impression on the students. I'll be gone within the next twenty-four hours.'
'How do you –'
'I saw it in her eyes, in her mind. She was imagining it, and I saw it all. And she knows it. In her mind, I was a wreck. Crying and begging, throwing myself on her mercy. But she just laughed, and kicked me out. And all the students were terrified. If I could be thrown out, the last link to Dumbledore, then… then they're going to have to follow her. Or, that's what she thinks, anyways.'
'But you're not going to give her the satisfaction.' It was a statement more than question, and his lip curled in anticipation of what she intended to do.
In reply, she smiled and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. 'Keep in contact, alright, Severus?'
'I will, of course. Do take care. I assume you're to live with Black at headquarters?'
'Yes, I am. Or, I think I am. I'll talk to Albus when I get there.'
'Are you going to say goodbye to Potter?'
She was silent for a moment, and said slowly, 'I… I don't want to worry him. But I suppose I'll have to. He'll be even more worried if I say nothing, and then just get kicked out. He'll hate me either way, though... he'll feel so abandoned…'
For the umpteenth time in his life knowing Elizabeth, he was stunned with her selflessness. She was being evicted from the only stable home she had ever known, and she was thinking about the ungrateful little brat of an adopted brother who had been almost steadfastly refusing to talk to her for the past few months. He simply replied with, 'If you're going to say goodbye, you should do it now. Shall I pack for you?'
'Would you? It'll only take you a moment. The trunks are out already. All you would have to do is shrink everything to fit it in. There's not that much. Besides, I'll be back, so I don't need absolutely everything. Just some clothing, some photographs, my cauldron…'
'Leave everything to me, Elizabeth. Go say goodbye.' He allowed her a moment's head start, and then he exited the passageway. To get to her room, he had to pass the Dining Hall, and when he did, he saw her leaning over Potter and Granger's shoulders, and pulling them and the remaining Weasleys out of the room.
'What do you want, Elizabeth?' Harry asked briskly when the stepped out into the Entrance Hall.
'Are you okay?' Hermione added, noting how pale Elizabeth looked.
'I… wanted to say goodbye.'
There was a shocked silence where Ron's face went abnormally pale, and Hermione let out a small gasp, hugging Ginny to her side.
Harry, however, didn't move until he asked slowly, 'What do you mean, goodbye?'
'Tonight or tomorrow morning, Umbridge is going to get rid of me. She wants me gone, and I wanted to tell you now, so that when she does kick me out, you won't worry. And I wanted to give you something so that you can get a hold of me. Just use this.' She handed Harry a piece of parchment with a beautifully ornate Elizabeth in the top right-hand corner. 'Just write on it, and I'll reply. And don't worry; it's impossible for anyone but me to use the other end. If anyone else tries, another name will appear in the corner. I have another piece of parchment like this one. Likewise, if it's not you that's writing, the name will change on mine.'
'Elizabeth… Dumbledore's gone, and now you? What'll we do without you?' Hermione asked, her face pale.
Elizabeth smiled apologetically, and said, 'McGonagall is still here. And as for me... just write and it'll be like I never left. Besides, I'll be back, don't you worry. Once everything is out in the open, once everyone believes, we'll all be together again. I promise.' She turned her eyes to Harry, and said, 'Harry, I promise. It'll all be okay.'
He stood stock still for another moment, but then stepped forward, and still clutching the piece of parchment, wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders. 'Visit,' he told her. 'And write.'
'I will,' she promised, squeezing him back. 'And if you think that the twins' departure was good, just wait until you see mine…'
The next morning, all the students came from their common rooms expecting breakfast, but finding a large pile of steamer trunks and carpet bags instead.
In front of the pile stood Elizabeth Holmes dressed in all her glory in striking black robes, and Professor Umbridge, dressed in her fluffy pink cardigan. Elizabeth was a good foot taller than Umbridge, so she made quite the impression standing there with a steely look of defiance on her elegant features.
'You've been expecting this, haven't you, Miss Holmes?' Umbridge cried, trying to sound intimidating. 'You knew you couldn't stay here forever!'
There were muffled cries of dismay from both students and teachers, and Harry was slightly revolted that he could distinctly hear Snape consoling Professor McGonagall.
Elizabeth, however, stood firm. 'Yes, I knew,' she said quietly, though her voice carried over the entire room. 'I knew that one day you would evict me from my home.'
'Your home?' Umbridge snorted derisively. 'Miss Holmes, this is a school, not a home. And it is time for you to accept that.'
'I believe that everyone here would disagree,' Elizabeth said. 'Every single student here considers this place a second home, as do the teachers. Or, at least, they did until you came and destroyed it.' Her voice was angry now; powerful.
'Destroyed it? My dear, I've made this school a better place for everyone!'
'Oh, really? Then why are students skipping your classes? Why are they afraid to speak their minds for fear of persecution? Why have you taken away the rightful Headmaster of this school?' At her final words, there was an explosion of cheers from the crowd.
'The rightful Headmistress, Miss Holmes, is me!' Umbridge shrieked.
'Never!' Elizabeth shouted back in response. 'I have watched you turn this sanctuary of learning into a horror in which to reside! You thought you could push me out, Ms Umbridge; that you could intimidate me? You are nothing to what I am, to what these students are, to what these teachers are, to what Albus Dumbledore is! You want me to cry and beg for your forgiveness? For me to grovel at your feet for my home? For a chance to redeem myself? I have nothing to forgive, for I have done nothing wrong. I have cared for these students more than you could ever imagine. I have taught them things that are useful, not what Ministry wants them to learn so they cannot rise up against injustice! You, Dolores Jane Umbridge, are a disgrace to the name professor, and are no more Headmistress than I am the Giant Squid!' Her voice resonated off the flat walls of the Hall, and all in attendance cheered. Every single student was screaming; the ghosts were whooping; the professors were clapping. Even Peeves added his approval. She raised her hand, and swished her wand so that all her luggage tucked safely into her pocket. 'To all of you, I wish you the best of luck getting rid of this old toad! Nobody messes with Hogwarts! And remember - you may not be able to apparate inside these walls, but I can!'
And with one final bow, Elizabeth transformed into a mighty Phoenix, red and gold plumage gleaming in the daylight. She swooped around the great hall, and began to sing. The noise in the hall was deafening while all the students cheered and followed her out the door and onto the grounds. And when she had reached the centre of the lake, she performed a final pirouette, and disappeared with an echoing crack.
Harry, Ron, nor Hermione had taken part in this chase, however. They had been distracted when, as Elizabeth crossed them in the air, she dropped a fiery red-orange feather in their path.She would be there, no matter what.