Lizzy passed the weeks with only a few moments of melancholic longing to return to Hogwarts. Following the assembly, she had gone to Lucas Lodge with her mother and sisters. While she, Jane, Mary, and Charlotte attended to the conversation of their mothers, Kitty and Lydia wandered around the garden with Maria Lucas, giggling and generally being ridiculous.

Mrs. Bennet had insisted that Jane and Lizzy go with her to call on the Bingleys. Lizzy had been torn between being pleased and concerned when Mr. Bingley continued to show a definitive preference for her sister. Jane, however, was very receptive, and so she could only be supportive. Mrs. Bennet took every advantage she could fathom to throw the two together. Several more calls and dinners were exchanged.

Eventually, Jane was invited to tea by Miss Bingley. Despite the weather being poor, Mrs. Bennet insisted Jane ride the family horse, resulting in the family receiving a note from the Bingleys conveying Jane's illness.

Lizzy stated her intent to go to Netherfield the next morning, much to her mother's dismay. Just before she intended to leave, her father pulled her into his study.

"Have you your wand, Lizzy?" Mr. Bennet asked lowly.

"No, Papa," Lizzy answered. "It's locked away, as it has been all summer. Imagine if Kitty or Lydia got their hands on it, or if Mama were to see what we were capable of! Jane and I haven't passed the proper exams yet, anyway. We can't use our wands outside Hogwarts."

"Yes, I remember you explaining this all to me before," said Mr. Bennet with a slight twitch of his lip. "If I remember correctly from previous experiences, however, strange things tend to happen when you girls are ill. I should hate for there to be an incident between the two worlds of which you are a part because of your mother's foolishness."

Lizzy bit her tongue and considered her response. Her impulse had been to state clearly that her father could have curtailed her mother, if he had so wished, but she refrained. Before Hogwarts, she had believed her father to be without fault. After seeing what good the diligent care of her professors did for herself and her classmates, however, she had begun to see how indolent her father was. She still loved him very much, but had gained more experience in the world.

"Very well, Papa," Lizzy said after a moment. "I shall retrieve my wand, but will only use it if something happens and I can think of no way to explain it away."

"There's a good girl, Lizzy," said Mr. Bennet with a twinkle in his eye. "Off you go, now."

Lizzy smiled at her father's tone and kissed him on his forehead before hurrying to her room, securely locking the door, and fishing the key to her trunk out from beneath a loose floorboard in the corner. She lovingly took her wand from its case and, resisting the urge to do a spell – any would do – she carefully stuffed it up her sleeve.

After locking her trunk back up and dawning her outerwear, Lizzy finally set out for Netherfield, her thoughts running wild as she went.

Lizzy considered Jane's growing attachment to Mr. Bingley. What would it mean if her sister were to marry a Muggle? Lizzy felt no fear that Jane would be unhappy. Her sister was so much more the Muggle-worthy lady than herself. Jane could live the life with hardly a regret, so long as she and Bingley were truly happy. What Lizzy did fear, however, was how much a part of each other's lives she and Jane would be able to be. They would be members of separate worlds: she the magical, and Jane the Muggle. Lizzy was practical enough to know that would strain their relationship immensely.

Soon, Lizzy decided she did not like to think of such a painful prospect that might never occur. To truly turn her mind from the unpleasant idea of losing her sister, she aimed her vitriol at an easy target: Mr. Darcy.

The man had done nothing in the weeks since the assembly to at all counter Lizzy's first impression of him. She had seen him several times at various functions, most recently at a party held by the Lucas family. Mr. Darcy had barely spoken a word to anyone outside his group and did nothing but scowl and prowl the entire evening. To his other faults, he had also added staring unashamedly. Lizzy scoffed as she remembered his dark gaze focusing on her, waiting for her to put her faults on display.

"Miss Elizabeth!"

Lizzy stopped abruptly and vaguely wondered if she had somehow conjured the object of her thoughts. Mr. Darcy was not five feet directly in front of her path and she had not noticed. If she had continued, she would certainly have rammed right into him.

"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said with cool civility. "Forgive my inattention."

"Good morning," was what Mr. Darcy chose to reply with.

"I have come to see my sister," said Elizabeth after Mr. Darcy failed to elaborate.

"All this way?" Mr. Darcy asked incredulously. "On foot?"

Elizabeth bit back her savage reply, instead saying, "As you see."

Mr. Darcy quickly looked her up and down, then gestured for her to precede him back toward Netherfield.

Lizzy was greeted by each of the Bingley siblings. Mr. Bingley, as expected, was exceedingly pleased to have Lizzy in his home, and hoped she would find her sister in good health. Mrs. Hurst was polite, but not friendly. Miss Bingley was barely civil. She and Lizzy had never gotten on terribly well, but Lizzy had sensed a shift in the other woman's behavior since the party at Lucas Lodge.

Lizzy was immensely relieved to be rid of the Bingley party and shown to Jane, who was exceedingly pale and looked miserable.

"Oh, Lizzy, I am so glad you have come," Jane managed to croak, giving a sincere, if weak, smile.

"Of course I came!" said Lizzy, an impertinent smile gracing her face. "We are to leave in a mere week! I can't very well have you so ill it prevents us going."

Jane's smile widened, and then she turned her head and drifted into a fitful sleep.

Lizzy bustled about the room, happy to tend to Jane, but dearly wishing she was allowed to use her wand to do so. She would surely have Jane up and out of bed in a matter of minutes. As it was, when Lizzy returned downstairs, she was forced to acknowledge that Jane was not well and beg Mr. Bingley to continue to extend his hospitality to her sister.

When Mr. Bingley insisted that Lizzy stay, as well as Jane, Lizzy felt herself somewhat torn as she accepted. She was glad to be of use to her sister, but very much dreaded being under the same roof as Miss Bingley, the Hursts, and especially Mr. Darcy.

Lizzy penned a note home, asking Mary to pack her belongings. She included several key words to direct her sister as to which books to send on with her clothes. Before returning home for the summer, Lizzy had been sure to disguise several of her academic texts as various Muggle works, which would enable her to study freely at home. Ever since she and Jane had first gone to Hogwarts, they had agreed not to show one ounce of their magical knowledge at home, knowing it would only embitter their younger sisters and fearing their mother's loose tongue.

The next several days were agony for Lizzy. She hated seeing Jane in such a condition, though she was steadily improving. Lizzy was sure to carefully balance her time between caring for her sister and attending to her hosts. Several interesting conversations had occurred, including one where Lizzy had begun to argue with Mr. Darcy with such ferocity she was grateful she had left her wand tucked beside Jane, or she might have been tempted to whip it out.

Mr. Darcy, in addition to all his other less-than-amiable tendencies, displayed a level of observation and suspicion that made Lizzy truly grow anxious several days into her stay.

Elizabeth had been reading one of the many books Professor McGonagall had sent home with her to prepare for her animagus training when Mr. Darcy interrupted her concentration.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Darcy, I was lost in my book," Elizabeth had said. "What was it you said?

"That seems a rather thick volume for a copy of Macbeth," Mr. Darcy had said, gesturing to the title on the spine.

Elizabeth had felt some amount of panic strike her core. Her father, Jane, and Mary knew her deception, and so she had never feared their discovery. Her mother and youngest sisters were so unobservant they presented no threat whatsoever. Mr. Darcy, however, was an intelligent man, and would not be thrown off easily.

"Is it?" Elizabeth had come back with airily. "It is one of few that I have examined. I assumed it to just be a quirk of the publisher."

Mr. Darcy had seemed less than convinced, but had chosen not to press, which caused Elizabeth to release a good deal of tension from her shoulders.

When Jane was finally well enough to descend for dinner, Lizzy was ecstatic. The pair returned home the following morning, and Lizzy felt no shame in explaining to her sister the full extent of her relief.

"I did not make any truly extra work for you, Lizzy, did I?" Jane asked anxiously in the carriage.

"I saw no signs of any accidental magic," Lizzy answered. "Of course you would weather illness without any excessive suffering, conscious or otherwise!"

Jane was pleased to return home to her family. Lizzy was pleased only so much in that she was no longer subject to the condescension of Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy.

"To think, Kitty and I shall have an entire week of the militia to ourselves, once they arrive!" Lydia exclaimed gleefully as she watched her older sisters flutter about, finishing last minute packing.

"Don't crow too loudly, Lydia," Lizzy chastised, "for we are not jealous, and you shall not be allowed to interact with them!"

"Papa cannot watch us always," Lydia argued, "and Mama will surely wish to entertain!"

Lizzy chose rummaging through a drawer over answering her younger sister. She was rather hopeful for the upcoming year. Lydia and Kitty would be removed from the influence of their mother, which could only work in their favor. The pair would have attentive adults to watch over them, in addition to their older sisters. Furthermore, Lizzy was hopeful the girls would be sorted into different Houses, and so be removed from even their own influence.

"Jane, can I put some of my gowns into your trunk?" Lizzy asked frustratedly after trying to close her trunk. "Mine aren't fitting."

"That's because you've got so many books," said Kitty, scrunching her nose in disgust.

"I can fit perhaps two," said Jane distractedly as she looked over her letter from her Head of House. "You'll have to ask Mary about the rest."

Lizzy knew Mary would be tighter on space than she was – Mary had her own cache of books to transport – and so she put two of her favorite gowns into Jane's trunk before hanging the other back up and sternly warning her youngest sisters against touching her belongings.

"We could bring your gowns for you, Lizzy," Kitty tried.

"Do not touch my things," Lizzy insisted. "I will do well enough without them!"

"Jane! Lizzy!" Mary called from below stairs. "The carriage is here!"

Jane gave a slight yelp before pocketing her letter. "Oh, I hope I've managed to remember everything Professor Sprout asked me to bring!"

"Oh, my girls!" cried Mrs. Bennet when Jane and Lizzy appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "I think it ever so cruel you are not allowed to come home every night, for surely there exists such a way!"

Jane and Lizzy exchanged a quick glance. There were, indeed, multiple ways by which they might return home on a regular basis, but they chose not to go through the hassle. Besides having to get various permission forms taken care of and being continuously subjected to Mrs. Bennet's nerves, it would interfere with their studies.

The oldest Bennet daughters exchanged goodbyes with their mother, then their sisters, and finally their father as he handed them into the carriage.

"Be sure to write, on the rare occasion that you think of your poor papa," said Mr. Bennet with good humor as he shut the carriage door.

"Only if you promise to reply," said Lizzy cheekily.

Mr. Bennet chuckled, then nodded to the driver to head off.

Lizzy released a great sigh as she and her sister pulled away. "It feels so good to know we are finally on the way."

"Yes," said Jane noncommittally, staring out the window.

"You are not pining for Mr. Bingley, are you?" Lizzy asked teasingly.

Jane blushed furiously. "I am happy to be going back to Hogwarts," she said, "though I admit I will miss Mr. Bingley's conversation."

Lizzy laughed openly for almost the first time since returning to Longbourn. "Come, Jane! We are free of the Muggle constraints now. Speak plainly."

"If only he were also free of Muggle customs," Jane sighed. "Then we could write each other."

"Was it very difficult to say goodbye?" Lizzy asked with real concern.

"He is going away himself," Jane answered dully. "It seems we were not meant to be."

Lizzy was sad for her sister, but supposed it was a good thing Jane and Bingley had not become well and truly attached to each other, and that each would have their own supply of troubles to keep them from becoming distressed over their separation. In time, Lizzy was sure, Jane would meet someone else suited to her, and hopefully that someone would be a wizard.

The girls' journey continued at an easy pace, the pair completely comfortable as they went. As night was beginning to fall, they stopped at a coaching inn and paid for a room. Once night had truly settled and most of the clientele were asleep, Jane and Lizzy snuck out of their room and into a nearby wooded area, where another carriage was waiting for them.

"Ready, Miss Bennet and Miss Bennet?" asked a gruff, yet pleasantly familiar voice.

"As ready as always, Piper," Lizzy chirped. Piper was an older fellow, though still quite spry, that lived nearby and kept thestrals. Ever since the girls had first left for Hogwarts, Piper had seen to their transport to the gates of Hogwarts.

Jane pulled out her coin purse and paid Piper as she enquired after his family.

Piper updated Jane and Lizzy on his grandchildren as he loaded their trunks, then declared it was time to go.

Lizzy smiled as she stepped into the carriage. Small things such as entering and exiting a carriage of her own, autonomous power pleased her immensely. She did not possess much patience for the pomp and circumstance of the Muggle gentlemanly class.

Jane and Lizzy slept through most of their travel. The thestral-drawn carriage though air, while not entirely smooth, was a much better ride than the horse-drawn carriage on the rough roads of the ground. When the sun had risen and awoken the girls, they changed into more appropriate clothes, each happy to exchange all their layers for their less cumbersome Hogwarts robes.

Lizzy eagerly pressed her face to the carriage window as she felt the beginning of their descent. "What a sight for sore eyes," she said happily as Hogwarts came into view.

Almost as soon as the carriage touched the ground, Jane and Lizzy tumbled out of it. While Jane exchanged final pleasantries with Piper, Lizzy gave each of the thestrals an appreciative pat.

"Come along, Misses Bennet!" called a voice from the Hogwarts gates.

Lizzy turned her head and grinned at her Head of House. "Good morning, Professor McGonagall!"

"Good morning," McGonagall replied. "Quick now! There's much to be done." She flicked her wand. Jane and Lizzy's luggage disappeared. "Always good to see you, Piper."

"McGonagall," said Piper pleasantly, doffing his hat. He wished Jane and Lizzy luck before climbing back onto his carriage and taking to the sky.

"Miss Bennet, Professor Dumbledore is expecting you in his office," said McGonagall, turning from the gate and heading toward the castle. Jane and Lizzy easily fell into step with her. "Diggory's set to arrive in an hour. You and he will welcome the rest of the prefects when they arrive tomorrow."

Lizzy could not stop herself smiling as she crossed the grounds. She found herself impatient as Jane asked a few more questions of McGonagall. She was eager to receive orders, to feel of use. All summer long, she had felt more like her mother's plaything than a free-thinking young woman.

"Miss Elizabeth, you and I will have our first session after dinner. Until then, Madame Pince expects you in the library," McGonagall stated.

Lizzy's grin grew larger. Many students of Hogwarts feared and avoided the librarian, but Lizzy's easy manners and love for reading had endeared her to the woman, and so she was always welcome in the library and often helped restore and repair books.

"Day after tomorrow, our Beauxbatons transfers arrive," said McGonagall as she pushed open the door to the castle. "We professors will be busy testing their abilities and figuring out which classes they will best fit into. A week from today, the prefects will be escorting them to Diagon Alley. Miss Elizabeth, though you are not a prefect, I trust you will be able to keep yourself in check well enough to help with this excursion?"

Lizzy met her professor's half-stern, half-amused expression without fear. "Of course, Professor! When have I been anything less than an exemplary student?"

"Well, you have improved marginally since your sister was made a prefect," McGonagall conceded.

Jane and Lizzy exchanged amused glances around their professor. Lizzy was not a troublemaker, exactly, but she did often find herself in curious situations that were avoidable.

After being given a time for lunch, the girls gleefully went their separate ways: Jane to the headmaster's office and Lizzy to the library.

Lizzy enjoyed her time with Madame Pince immensely. When Lizzy left for dinner, Pince had been sure to send her off with several fascinating and often-sought books.

Dinner was a small, pleasant affair. Lizzy, Jane, and Silas Diggory, the Head Boy and a Ravenclaw, were the only students currently in the castle. They sat at a single table with several of their professors, exchanging anecdotes from the summer and discussing responsibilities and changes for the upcoming term.

After dinner, Lizzy followed McGonagall to her office, where the professor spent a full two hours quizzing Lizzy to determine her understanding of her assigned reading from the summer. When McGonagall dismissed her student, it was with a pleased smile.

The rest of the prefects arrived in time for dinner the following day. Lizzy again engaged in highly academic discussion with McGonagall, and then returned to her dormitory, where she was excessively glad to let loose with her housemates.

"Well, let's see it, Lizzy!" said Josephine Prewett almost as soon as Lizzy made it through the door. Josephine was one of Lizzy's roommates, in addition to the female prefect of their year in Gryffindor.

"See what, Jo?" Lizzy asked.

"Your Quidditch Captain's badge!" Josephine cried. "I can't imagine anyone else would have gotten it!"

Lizzy cracked a grin. "It's up in my room," she said. "I haven't even told Jane yet! I tried to forget about it most of the summer, or I would have spent my time planning drills instead of studying!"

"Mary knows, of course," said Zebulon Thomas somewhat sullenly. He was Josephine's counterpart.

"Would you care to check your tone, Zebulon?" Lizzy asked with false levity.

"I like Mary well enough," Zebulon defended. "I just don't think she needed to start delving into Legilimancy, is all."

"You're just upset because Mary wouldn't tell you whether Bernice Bode fancied you or not," Josephine said, brushing off Zebulon's negativity.

Lizzy smiled appreciatively at her friend. Conversation flowed much more easily between the classmates after that.

Lizzy was happy to stay secreted away in the library the next day. The Beauxbatons transfers would be arriving at various times, and Lizzy did not particularly care to see their first reactions to her beloved school.

About three generations back, some wizarding families of pure blood and great wealth began sending their children to Beauxbatons instead of Hogwarts with the excuse they wanted their children to be seen as just another student, rather than a member of a particular family. Lizzy found this excuse incredibly flimsy, and rather thought it was a way for the snobbiest of the British magical community to maintain their inflated egos and space between themselves and a "lower" class of witch and wizard. Now, with relations between Britain and France being rather unpredictable, many of these families were bringing their children back to British soil while the opportunity still existed.

"No dinner for you today, Bennet?" Madame Pince asked, coming to inspect Lizzy's latest work.

"I'm just working this delicate repair, Madame Pince," said Lizzy as an excuse. "I would hate to stop in the middle of it."

Madame Pince stared intently at Lizzy for a moment before the corners of her lips twitched. "Very well," she said. "I'll have a tray sent here, and you can get something down once you've come to a stopping point."

Lizzy thanked the librarian truthfully and set back to work. It did not take her long to finish her task, but as she sat down to eat at one of the library tables, she could not find it within herself to regret avoiding the Great Hall. Instead, she appreciated the rare moments of silence before heading to McGonagall's office.

"Miss Bennet," McGonagall greeted somewhat tiredly when Lizzy knocked and entered.

"Professor McGonagall," Lizzy politely replied as she took a seat. "How was the first day of assessing the transfers?"

"Interesting and taxing," McGonagall candidly replied. "Speaking of taxing, Madame Pince must have had you very busy today," she said knowingly.

Lizzy had the sense to blush. "I just didn't want to deal with them yet, Professor," she said quietly.

"You'd best get over it, Miss Bennet," said McGonagall pragmatically. "They're not going anywhere and alienating them won't do anyone any good."

Lizzy sighed slightly as she acknowledged the truth of her professor's assessment and then promised she would not avoid the transfers any further.

The pair had hardly started their academic discourse when a knock sounded.

McGonagall's lips thinned slightly. Lizzy supposed her professor to be annoyed with being interrupted. She felt the same way. Nonetheless, McGonagall invited whoever had knocked to enter.

"Professor McGonagall, I hope I am not causing you too much of an inconvenience!" Professor Flitwick greeted with both joviality and contrition. "I had thought I might ask a favor of our shared student."

"I suppose a single delay will not upset the timeline I've set up," said McGonagall. "She's yours to command."

Lizzy smiled at Flitwick. She had spent a good amount of time the year previously studying dueling with him. "Good evening, Professor! What can I do for you?"

"I've a transfer that's expressed interest in dueling. I had hoped you might be willing to go a few bouts with him so I could assess his skill level," said Flitwick.

Lizzy looked back to McGonagall, trying to squash any pleading that might be showing in her eyes. She so longed to engage in a duel after months of playing at being a perfect lady, though she would respect whatever decision McGonagall made. Afterall, she was only at Hogwarts early by McGonagall's design.

McGonagall rose from her seat. "I confess to being eager to see Miss Bennet's progress," she said, heading for the door.

"Excellent!" Flitwick exclaimed.

Lizzy popped out of her chair and rushed into the hall, where she stopped cold in her tracks and felt her joy instantaneously evaporate.

"Miss Elizabeth Bennet, this is – "

"Mr. Darcy and I are already acquainted," Elizabeth said coldly, interrupting Flitwick's introduction.

By the hard set of his eyes, Mr. Darcy seemed no more pleased to see Elizabeth than she was to see him.

Author's Note

Yay for two chapters on the first day the story is available!

But for real. Please review and let me know what you think so far! Have a fabulous, fabulous day, my lovelies!