A Stranger Life

The Loophole

Galen looked at her, aghast. "How could you not know how to get out of this?" he asked. "You always go on and on about how your parents told you every detail about how this little foray into the past was going to pan out. You can't be drawing a blank now."

Elina lifted her eyes from the arm of the sofa. "I might have exaggerated a bit," she admitted. "Mum's so cautious about preserving time as it is that there's no way she'd tell me everything."

"Wonderful." Galen let out a breath and collapsed next to her on the sofa. "So is it safe to say that no matter what we do now, there's a risk that we'll change history?"

Elina nodded glumly. "It is safe to say that. We can't leave Hogwarts because Mum took my wand away and is going to take my books." Suddenly, her expression became crafty and her lips turned up in a mischievous grin. "But notice that she didn't tell me to take the spell off Grandmother Narcissa and Grandfather Lucius. The plan can still go on. Next time he stops by, I'll just tell Grandfather Lucius I'm ready to come for the visit."

"What about your parents?"

Elina shrugged. "A few weeks without me will be good for them. It will let them act like teenagers again instead of having to constantly act like my parents. And we can't leave them a note, because then, they'll only try and stop us."

She then stood up and strode from the common room. Galen watched her go, shaking his head in disbelief at Elina's conviction that this plan of hers would work out.

Elina had Transfiguration with Hermione that day and found it was incredibly difficult to meet her eyes without feeling like she'd give something away. "So," Hermione said in cheerful tone as the two of them entered the Transfiguration classroom, "I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for being so short with you this morning. I know that you're a mature, responsible young lady, but as your mother, it's my responsibility to make sure you don't hurt yourself or anyone else. You do understand, don't you?"

Elina nodded. "Yes, I understand. But could you do me a favor? Stop acting so much like my mother and act more like yourself, all right? Listen to yourself talk! You're still a teenager here. And I have one more question: Does this new sense of my responsibility and maturity mean that I can keep my magic books and have my wand back?"

Hermione stopped for a moment. "No, it doesn't. I'll keep your books for a week, and you'll get them for classroom purposes only. Same thing for your wand."

"All right, but you have to admire me for trying." Hermione gave her a small grin and the two of them entered the classroom and sat next to each other, waiting for Professor McGonagall to show up. After that occurred, they didn't talk for the rest of the day, and Elina didn't see Draco at all, which she considered a good omen; it might be easy to hide her plots from Hermione, but she had a feeling that Draco could read her like a book, and if that was the case, he would be a considerable difficulty.

That night, she made sure to give her books to Hermione before she went to bed, and when she got back to the dormitory afterward, she got up in bed and fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Her sleep was sound and untroubled, except for one strange dream where she found herself in a long hallway, with several mirrors on either side. As she walked down the corridor, she looked at her reflections. Every once in awhile, the expression of the girl in the mirror changed. In the first couple of mirrors, she looked indecisive and worried. She was wearing a strange robe in these first reflections too. One sleeve, the right, as well as the right side of the robe, was red, and the left sleeve was green. The rest of her robe was blue. As she walked further and further along, her robe became more and more green and her expression more mischievous until finally, when she opened the door at the end of the hall, she found herself looking into a grand bedroom. What she could see in the darkness was mostly green and the sheets and blankets on the canopy bed felt heavenly when she put her cheek against them.

Suddenly, she heard a sound. She looked up and saw a person standing in the doorway of the room, concealed by the darkness staring at her. "Hello Elina," they said in a taunting voice. "Welcome to Malfoy Manor." Before she could ask how they knew who she really was, however, she felt herself wake up.

As soon as her eyes were open, Elina sat up in bed and took several deep breaths. The dream was strange and very unnerving, it was true, but did it mean anything? And who was that person in the room with her? Did they symbolize someone who knew about her plan and would be at the Manor to give her away? The spell she'd put on her grandparents was a good one, but there was always the opportunity for something to go wrong.

Because things had to be perfect if she didn't want to get caught, Elina spent the next three months adjusting and readjusting the plan until she was absolutely positive nothing could go wrong, and that meant she had to leave much later then she'd originally planned. Of course there was the fact that Draco would be spending the holidays at the Manor as well, but she could handle that. She spent the last day of classes before Christmas holidays in the library researching really good transformation spells. If she was going to fool her own father into thinking she was a completely different person that would take a lot of work. And there was the other matter: if she wanted Hermione and Draco to act more like teenagers, she'd have to start treating them like her peers, which meant that she would need to stop thinking of them as Mum and Dad and start thinking of them as Hermione and Draco.

She looked up from the spellbook she was leafing through and sighed. That would take some work, but it could be done. It wasn't as if she'd ever called Draco or Hermione mum or dad in public. If she could conquer that, she could conquer her thought process as well. Another plus for complete transformation was that it would stop Draco from worrying. She realized that he'd been there when she'd introduced herself to Grandfather Lucius as "Evie Gossamer," and he seemed to think that she'd appear on the Manor's front step looking as she did now.

And then she remembered that her grandfather thought of her as Evie in her natural appearance. She'd have to compromise: look enough like herself that her grandparents would recognize her, yet be different enough that Draco would have no worries that she'd give herself away. As soon as she got her looks under control, she paraded in front of Galen. "What do you think of my new look?" she asked.

Galen looked at her. "I don't know. I never pictured you as a brunette," he admitted. "But short hair does look good on you. And how did you make your eyes a different color?" Elina pulled a small mirror out from under her bedcovers and surveyed herself. "I got the blue eyes from a muggle store," she told him, grinning as his eyes widened fractionally.

"They sell eyes at muggle stores? I have to see that!"

Elina shook her head. "No, silly. They don't sell eyes at muggle stores. They sell these things called contact lenses, for people who have bad eye sight but don't want to wear glasses. They're teeny lenses you stick right in your eye. You can get them in different colors. These contacts just happened to be blue."

Galen frowned. "But what will your grandparents say when they find out you're using muggle stuff?"

Elina put the hand mirror away. "They aren't going to find out. I'll just tell them it's the result of potion experimentation or something."

The next day, Elina and Draco waited for Lucius outside the school. Draco did a double-take when he saw Elina for the first time in a few weeks. "What did you do to yourself?" he asked her.

She grinned. "It's my disguise, so you don't have to worry about me giving anything away. Do you like it?"

Draco looked heavenward, then back at Elina. "It will do." Lucius's arrival prevented him from saying anything else.

The ride to the manor was pleasant, but there was one point where Lucius caught her gaze. Suddenly, a chill went through her as she looked into his gray eyes. The dream came flooding back to her. She'd have to be on her guard. It would take more then a disguise to fool whoever was waiting for her at the Manor.

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