To The Honour of the Mother

Chapter 1: The Green Lady

Susan Dowd: Had I not seen it with me own eyes, I would not have believed it.

It was the first day of the beginning of the term after summer holiday. The luncheon hour was almost over, and only a few lingered at the long tables: students discussing lessons or giggling over gossip. One master sat alone, at the very end of the master's table, with his nose in a text, picking now and then at his food with one hand while he made notes in a book with the other.

Samuel and I had checked the condition of the tables; not much to do, as the serving elves clear them after a meal, when in comes a lady dressed all in green. The new Runes Mistress, I supposed, too late for luncheon. I hastened over to her.

"Welcome, madam," I said. "I am Susan Dowd. My husband Samuel and I are in charge of the kitchen elves. Have ye eaten, and how shall we name ye?"

She was neither too tall nor too short, slender, with an oval face, and a fine Gaelic map to that face. For the rest of her, she wore her green gown and cloak to her ankles, and a thin green gold coronet holding her wimple and veil to her head in the old style.

"Good day," she said in a musical voice. "I have not eaten. I take only a little soup at midday, with some bread and fruit. Ye may call me what ye will as long as it is kindly. Some call me Angharad." It is an old Irish name I had not heard in many a year.

"Soup, bread and fruit it is, Dame Angharad, " I said, conducting her to a seat. I bespoke Samuel, who came bustling out of the kitchen, beaming, bearing a tray with a bowl of hot lentil soup, a small loaf of dark bread with a wee crock of fresh butter, a goblet of water, and a dish of cut fruits. He knelt before the lady, his face glowing. "Welcome, druid mistress, Green Lady," he said. The lady smiled and laid her palm on his forehead. "Blessed be," she pronounced, "and thanks for food and drink." She bowed her head and uttered a prayer, and then she began to eat, praising the food, and she beckoned me to sit with her. "Who is that at the far end of the table?" she asked, pointing towards the lone master with her little finger. "That's Master Snape, the potions master. He is a solitary man, and prefers to eat alone and not at luncheon, which is the noisiest meal of all," I told her.

Her brows knit and she studied him for a long moment. He must have felt her gaze, for he looked up briefly, then returned to his study.

"The man's too t'in," she said. (Trust an Irishwoman to see what's to be seen straightaway).

"Aye, thin he is," I agreed, "and ill-tempered, and sharp-tongued, and an expression to him like his britches are too tight in the arse. A nasty piece of work, he is."

The lady considered, biting off a piece of the crisp bread-crust with small sharp white teeth. "Say you, this is a teacher? How shall the children learn from him if he is wretched?"

"The children are afraid of him, but they learn their potions, they do. I don't know where Master Dumbledore found him, but there is not his like for potions in any of the worlds, they say."

"Have ye been given a House, Lady?" Samuel asked. He had hovered near to see if she should need anything.

"I have not," she said. "I shall go where they put me." The lady finished her soup, passed her hand over her bowl and it bloomed with fresh, fragrant thyme. She put the crumbs of her bread on the floor beneath the table for any creature that should be hungry. She smiled, and her green eyes crinkled at the corners. "Thanks to the cook for the good food, and to you for the kind welcome," she said. She looked towards the end of the room, where Master Snape crouched at the end of the table like a black spider crouched over a fly. I have oft wondered what he would look like if he were not as sour as spoilt milk, with that greasy black hair falling over his blazing eyes.

The Green Lady rose. "Sometimes folk don't know what they need, though they sicken for needing of it," she said. She laid her palm on my forehead, and I smelt fresh herbs and new-cut grass. "Blessed be," she said. She walked with measured tread towards the end of the room, and behind Master Snape, who took no notice of her passage. A wave of her hand, and a small dish appeared next to his right hand. Without thinking, he took the spoon and fed himself some of what was in that dish. He seemed not to know what he did, but ate steadily as he worked.

When next I looked up, Master Snape had gone. He had left bread-crumbs beneath the table, and a small brown mouse was eating them. That was the first ever of generosity I saw from himself. ***