Chapter 35: The End of the Beginning
Later Severus told Krait that the talk with the Dark Lord had gone according to plan.
"He enjoyed taunting me about my impatience…..half suggested he should watch your 'education'" he shuddered. "I managed to head him off….he'll want to ask you about it later I dare say."
"I'll be a bit bemused, embarrassed, intimate that you have slightly, uh, exotic entertainments, that you emphasise the teacher-pupil relationship….BDSM and so on."
"What?" Severus blinked. She blushed.
"Bondage, domination, sado-masochism….that ought to please his grubby little soul. I'll also tell him that I have you now exactly where I want you, that you might think you're controlling me but I control you through that…..it's convoluted enough to keep the little creep happy. And I'll be so eager to educate Harry… it'll be all good. What did he say about the girls?"
"He laughed…he likes his Deatheaters to play games and have rivalries providing they don't interfere with his plans….he'll not interfere."
"Good…I can settle to work better for knowing it's going well." She said.
The youngsters were equally hard working in preparing for end of year exams; which led to young David Fraser's involvement in a piece of unpleasantness concerning a Ravenclaw girl his own age called Grace Corbin. Grace did not make the sort of showing generally expected of academic Ravenclaws, and David knew she avoided her older cousin who made unkind comments to her about being a Squib. When the child wrote furiously throughout their Potions exam and then passed out as soon as they were outside, David dragged her back in to Professor Snape – David's hero and mentor – to find out what was wrong, and an ugly tale emerged.
It appeared from Grace's broken and sobbing story that she had been pressed by her cousin Peverel Corbin and his Slytherin friend Orme Squamor to take a potion of their own that they were developing to sharpen the memory in a different way to existing memory potions.
"Which" said Severus, grimly "Since either one of them is barely competent at best is rather a damned cheek let alone risky to this child. Mr Fraser, perhaps you will find the miscreants and deliver them to me as soon as I have this girl in the tender care of Madame Pomfrey."
David had been only too happy to do Professor Snape's bidding; and though firmly dismissed from the Potion Master's office as the two older lads stood sulkily before him, David grinned to himself to hear Snape's opening comments.
"You despicable cowardly creatures, that dare not test your own unwholesome concatenation, you are inept, inutile, incompetent and IN TROUBLE!"
David closed the door with the beginnings of satisfaction.
The boys concerned left the same day, regardless of protest; they were not to be allowed to take their O.W.L.s, but were expelled forthwith.
"And good riddance too" said David to Grace in the school hospital. Grace cried.
"I expect my parents will blame me, and so will his parents" she said.
"Your parents are rotters" said David. He had heard much from Grace about how her parents expected her to do better and rode her unmercifully. Privately he thought that worry caused as much of her lack of performance as any lack of talent and said as much to Professor Snape in the Muggle Studies meeting next day.
"I'll do what I can" Severus promised.
What Severus did was to visit Grace's parents. Her father taught in a small select finishing school for girls over school age who wanted to research beyond N.E.W.T level; he had married his star pupil, and they were more concerned, Severus thought, with researching their own pet spells than with parenting. He put his most sarcastic manner on and managed to goad the pair into disowning Grace as useless; and signing over her care to him!
Grace was in two minds when Professor Snape informed her that her parents had disowned her and he was now her guardian. To be rejected was a shock – but the relief made her both glad and guilty. And Snape had been kind enough to her through the terrible nightmares where she could not forget anything, and had wanted to see to her wellbeing enough to force her parents to give her up to him! She thanked him and silently hoped that it would be all right! At least the incident had won her friendship with David Fraser who was really nice – and Snape was his Guardian, and he trusted the Potions master so…..Grace ran out of thoughts and fell asleep, exhausted from several days of not being able to stop the rush of thoughts and memories through her mind.
David himself had begun to forge a reputation; he had friends ranging through every House, even the bad tempered Wido Mordaunt in Slytherin, whom David had discovered suffered from stress eczema and had arranged a cream from Severus; and when an older Ravenclaw boy had seen fit to tease Wido, David had growled, snarled and bitten his kneecaps – as he said to Krait, 'you had to have been there' – and got the lad quite convinced that he, David, was a werewolf. David did nothing to discourage that belief for it made older bullies think twice about tackling him or his friends! He dragged all his friends with him to the Muggle Studies Hobby Group; and training was beginning in earnest. It kept Harry Potter's mind off the Triwizard competition too, being involved in what was real training to deal with his enemy; and the lad was grateful to David for introducing new subjects that he really had to think about! David grumbled continuously that he could not show training films, even fiction, to give his students some idea.
"Those of us who are muggle born have some idea" said Hermione "Like, my parents always watch 'The great escape' for Christmas. Dad falls asleep in the middle and wakes up as it finishes saying what a great guy Steve McQueen is."
"Yeah, but that's not much help to the wizard born" said David.
"How about using Goblin-made clockwork to turn sixteen mil film?" suggested Hermione. "We could put a candle behind it with a lens…"
"Lux spell on a globe" interrupted Krait. "Brilliant! Severus and I will look into that over the holidays….I'm sure we can get films on sixteen mil, or I can ask my muggle uncle Casimir to get video put to that format. It'll be fine!" she whistled the theme tune of 'The Great Escape' absently to herself. David nodded, pleased. Krait grinned at him and winked. "If we can get 'The Longest Day' you can listen to the bagpipes and take them up…..the Lovat Scouts were formed by the Fraser clan, you know….Black Bear Frrrraser!"
"If I were related, I might just take up bagpipes" he said seriously.
"NOW look what you've done!" she accused Krait!
"Well bagpipes ARE defined as being a weapon of war" said Krait. "I should think it ought to scare off even a dementor if David plays at them."
"Thanks a bunch" said David.
Krait found very little difficulty with her O.W.L.s; the extra drilling in protection spells in the mornings and the question and answer sessions made Defence against the Dark Arts second nature. She wrote fluently about dark creatures – there was a question on dementors which was virtually a gift – and on curses and counter curses. In the practical her iron will, backed by a fitness that came from running saw her holding a shield against both required curses and she dealt easily with her boggart turning Sister Agatha's image into one of the comic crows from 'Dumbo'.
Transfiguration already WAS second nature; and the theory was – to Krait's mind – simple enough. Having read most of Severus' books in his school chambers she absently mentioned the principle of Assimilative Correlation by Association or Nomenclature when discussing cross species switches, which terminology was NEWT level. In the practical she changed her guinea pig into a guinea fowl, vanished dirt, switched the contents of two bottles and summoned a handkerchief absently embellishing it with lace and an embroidered Slytherin House shield. The lace was of intertwined serpents.
Potions was a challenging but enjoyable test, and she had set out to enjoy it rather than worry about results and consequently found it quite easy. The Draught of Peace left her quite relaxed and she happily quoted Golapott's first two laws for the written; that an antidote or counter to any potion needed an equal or greater efficacy to the original; and that any potion which increased in effect over time required an antidote whose efficacy increased exponentially to the time elapsed.
The Arithmancy exam was a stiff one involving differential calculus to work out the maxima and minima of wizards required to ritually open a portion of wizarding space; and would have been trickier had not certain values been given to the students, who had not studied more than the basics of differentiation as yet. There were questions on numerologically good times to undertake given events or rituals, simultaneous equations to cover the nodes where ley lines met and a question requiring the candidate to list the first ten terms of the Wenlock series, known to Krait from muggle mathematics as the Fibonacci series. She had been much impressed that Madam Wenlock had worked this out hundreds of years before her muggle counterpart. Krait worked hard, but still finished ahead of some of the fifth years.
"Which might" she confided in Hermione "Be because I'm good; or alternatively might be that I made some unholy mess of it and missed the point entirely."
"Unlikely" said Hermione. "I think I could have taken Arithmancy a year early if my parents had let me, and we're much on a par. Do you have the paper?"
The subsequent discussion – which drove the boys away in disgust – satisfied Krait that she had done quite well.
"Defence was a breeze" she giggled "Though I guess I might be marked down for blowing the examiner clean across the Hall. He asked me if I was the girl who laughed ministry property to death and I confessed that indeed 'twas I; he seemed fairly impressed so I guess I might score quite well."
"You ought to" said Hermione. "It was a brilliant spell to invent on the spur of the moment."
"You really are generous….mater necessitas inventionis est as they say."
"What does that mean?" Draco had wandered over.
"It means Draco Malfoy doesn't speak Latin…." She quipped. "Actually it means that necessity is the mother of invention. Those Dementors scared me so much, I wanted them destroyed. And we couldn't let them look for Padfoot. I get the impression a lot of people – Dumbledore amongst them – don't approve of the Ministry use of Dementors."
"Too right!" agreed Hermione.
The Triwizard third task came almost as an anticlimax to Krait, knowing what it had supposed to bode for Harry. Harry had enough points to go first into the maze, armed with knowledge from the riddle that he would face spiders; but it was the combined efforts of Harry and Cedric Diggory that overcame the challenge and they staggered out, Harry limping badly, each holding a handle of the cup.
"Hogwarts joint champions! A satisfactory outcome!" said Professor Dumbledore.
"If that had been a portkey and they'd both grabbed it together…." Krait whispered to Severus
"…..Diggory would have died in short order as being useless to the Dark Lord; and Harry might have followed him as a part of the creep's celebrations of a return to a body" finished Severus grimly. "Whether Harry would have survived because of the blood sacrifice of Lily I cannot begin to guess…..at least we averted that piece of mischief."
The end of the Triwizard competition was marked with a ball that doubled as a leavers' ball; many were happy to celebrate Hogwarts' triumph, and the other schools were determined not to show unsportsmanlike conduct . Krait celebrated in sheer relief that the stupid competition was over; and to mark her own happy thoughts of incipient motherhood.
Naturally it was David Fraser, though not participating in the ball, who uncovered the covert gambling and mediated between an angry French boy and the Hogwarts sixth former who was an extraordinarily good card player. The boy, Anthony Quitch, later confided in David, who in turn passed on what he had learned to the Muggle Studies Hobby Group.
"Tony's father works at Gringotts and he's pretty friendly with a Goblin called Grutch. It turns out" David explained "That Grutch met and married a muggle girl – and they have a daughter, a half-breed goblin. Tony reckons she's plenty clever, and thought she ought to go to Hogwarts, so he's funding her with his gambling winnings."
"A creditable goal if not necessarily the best way to go about it" conceded Severus.
"He's studied statistics…..and he's lucky too" said David seriously. "And I kind of promised I'd get to know this girl, Ellie her name is, and see her through the experience of Diagon Alley. And as your cousin's starting next term too, Krait, I could introduce them, couldn't I?"
"An excellent idea!" Krait agreed.
The Holidays were going to be quite as full as the last few terms, it seemed!
No it's not finished yet. This is the first book; if you enjoyed, watch this space. If you didn't why are you still reading after 35 chapters?
Sorry to anyone who had the name change glitch; I think I've fixed it. Again.
Watch out for book 2 'Surfeit of Malfoys' coming soon to a galaxy near you. [hitchhiker's guide reference] [before Christmas because I had some of you making nice to me]