Chapter 20

It was a year for babies, especially in the Malfoy family.

Charlotte had presented Lucius with twin daughters a month before Edward's dramatic arrival, the joy of the event rather swallowed in worry over Grace; but Honor and Hope were made much of by their older siblings and Bella; and would doubtless, by the time they got to Hogwarts be insisting that poor Edward called them both auntie, as Draco laughingly said. Narcissa too was pregnant for the second time since her own relationship with Lucius was rekindled, and due a little after Wendy Malfoy who was expecting another pair of twins to join Avice and Alienora in her nursery, almost as if Hawke and Abraxus had started something, she laughed. Dione Parnassus, expecting also in August, might also be loosely described as a Malfoy. The other crop of friends for the excess Malfoy children to start Hogwarts with in a decade were Ellie's unexpected triplet siblings, born the day before she started her OWL exams; to her delight and relief! Harry, Ronald and Ishbel – Chelsea Devlin baulked at landing a child with a name like Hermione and so picked the Scots variant of Isabel that she had found in a novel – were all healthy and happy and Chelsea and Grutch were as proud as punch, especially when Ellie had checked that their names appeared in the Hogwarts book as of right.

Cho Diggory was also expecting some time that summer, as Cedric had been proudly boasting at the Triwizards final, and nobody chided Draco too much for murmuring

"Poor little sod" concerning the said child.

Emma Lestrange–Symond (as was) had meanwhile left Crassus Prince and was sueing for divorce; and Severus had been able to apply for custody of the child Tarquin – whom she had also abandoned – on grounds of Crassus Prince's already poor record, his own relationship to the child and the relationship through his adopted son Romulus to the child's mother.

Tarquin, rising four, was between Lilith and Richard in age; he was a quiet introverted child with a habit of cowering that told its own story. And since Lucius had been keeping a closer eye on his sister he removed her youngest daughter from her since Ludmilla was still crying for Sephara. Lucius had spoken to Sephara before taking this drastic step; and with the self confidence she had learned, she was happy to be a big sister for Ludmilla if Severus and Krait would have the child as their ward under the main care of Hilary Arbuckle and Mimette, who adored having children to care for. Krait spoke seriously with Sephara about not letting Ludmilla have her way, because of it being bad for her; and Sephara had learned enough to have the strength to deny her little sister and to walk away from her when she threw a tantrum. Sephara was not taking her OWLs this year, but was to repeat a year to make up for the time she had lost so she had a little more time than her class mates to indulge her sister with time: even so she was working hard enough that the time was still precious and withholding it for Ludmilla's behaviour was a real punishment.

Tempers and tensions were high for the exams; at least amongst many. Bethan Price, the part leshy, was nosily asking others how much revision they were doing and got tearfully upset when Abraxus said "None whatsoever" and had to be calmed down by Sephara, who could have done without a hysterical friend. This was not helped by Myrtle saying,

"Well he don't need to, he put in the work during the last two years."

Considering the reputation – not entirely deserved – of the marauders for mucking about this sent Bethan into hysterics and Sephara had to dose her with glumbumble juice in careful enough quantities to deal with the hysteria without making her depressed.

The Marauders did in fact hold to the tenet that if you hadn't learned stuff during the course, cramming before the exam was hardly going to help; and stuck, with Ellie and Myrtle, to a regime of revision that really was just that; reading through notes to remind themselves of things. Consequently they had time to help Elisa Mourne, Dione Parnassus and Francis Davenport to revise as well; which aid did them no disservice either in their own revision. They made up little rhymes and wrote down for the edification of their classmates along the lines of:

"A cheering charm

should do no harm

and to the spirit bring only balm"

"Which means" said Abraxus "You can't count the tickling charm because some people don't like being tickled – like David's pogrebin for example, and people who've had it used to make them laugh so they appear happy to outsiders when they're really being badly treated – yeah, I know a case similar – and you can't either count medical charms 'cos they pep up the body not the spirit. And you can't either count jinxing other people like Derwent even if it cheers YOU up 'cos it does harm to somebody. Still, I need cheering, so I'm going to do it anyhow" he added, hoisting Derwent in the air by his ankle.

"HEY! I never done nothing!" said Derwent, injured.

"You exist" said Abraxus, letting him down relatively gently "And just reminding you I exist before you try sabotaging other people for the OWLs; I know you Derwent. Hang on…." And he treated Stroulger the same way. "And YOU promise me not to play your usual tricks of putting people off or I'll leave you there AND do an Erich to your clothes. Pale lavender, I think – it SO will do nothing to your complexion – with silver lacing and a nice tight corset."

"I promise, Malfoy, honest, put me down please!" said Stroulger hastily.

"Good man" said Abraxus, letting him down, and even rotating him the right way up. "What?" he said looking at Hawke's raised eyebrow "He's a Gryffindor; so I give him more courtesy than you Slythers."

"I don't give Derwent any courtesies even though we are both Slytherin" said Hawke.

"Well, yeah; but then he's Derwent" said Abraxus.

"You have a point" said Hawke. "'K, Dione, let's go over those switching spells again; 'from left to right and concentrate, then you will have the proper state'."

Madam McGonagall demanded a copy of the rhymes as soon as she found out the authors and uses.

"Och, It's absolutely brilliant" she said in the staffroom "It's awfu' cleverly done, simplified but wi' a' the basics there. I've a mind tae ask one o' the publishing houses tae print them oot in wee pamphlets tae hand out in future years."

"Pity there's no OWL for ingenuity" said Sirius "The New Marauders would get an 'O' grade in it."

"If they were in one house I'd be able to give enough points for such generosity of spirit to win the House Shield" put in Dumbledore "I'll credit the two houses at tea though for their efforts; thank you Minerva for bringing it to my attention."

"I don't know if it's relevant" said Severus "But could you maybe make a special award to those kids for all their work for inter-house co-operation and general do-gooding? They took care of Uschi Heinz and protected your good name and they stamp on bullying where they see it, even if it's not always conventionally done. They care about the school as a whole, not just about having a good time."

"Yeah; they make us original Marauders look rather childish prats" said Sirius ruefully "And even so they still manage to have a good time – there's nothing priggish about them even though they do act for the general good of the school!"

Dumbledore nodded.

"I will certainly think about that" he said.

Dione, thanks to the help she was receiving, actually hoped to pass all or at least most of the eight OWLs she was taking; and maybe even get good marks on some. Krait had given her some remedial potions time, including an introduction to chemistry as it had helped Lionel Dell. There was every chance Lionel might do well; and every chance now that Dione might even pass.

"You and Professor Snape have been so kind" said Dione.

"If you'd only come to one of us earlier, you silly brat, we could have had all this sorted out long since" said Krait. "I knew you were unhappy; I didn't know why, I hoped sewing in a calm atmosphere might get you talking. I'm sorry it didn't work; Elisa broke through all her own resentments early, I suppose being jealous of her finding something to be happy about made it worse for you. Was I wrong not to just use legilimensy on you?"

"I – I don't know, Madam Malfoy; I – I think I would have resented it, and you, as yet another way people were just controlling and using me. And I guess then I might not have wanted….."

"Wanted to be nice?" said Krait. Dione nodded.

Krait put an arm around her.

"Most people who are naughty are making some kind of a plea for help; sometimes it's difficult for them to put into words so they act up to draw attention to their unhappiness" she explained "Some people are naughty just to let off steam because they feel a bit trammelled; but that's usually more mischief than naughtiness. Sometimes the mischief can turn – unintentionally – to bullying when jokes get out of hand. And some people are naughty – I'm thinking mostly real bullies here – because they know no other way. If you have seen nothing but violence all your life, you will grow up violent. If you have seen nothing but blood snobbery, you will grow up a bloodsnob like the older families often are. If you grow up repressed but know that you have or ought to have rights, you will tend to be lippy; like a lot of goblins. Most kids, you know, would be just fine, if only their parents had to pass an OWL in parenting before they were let loose producing and spoiling innocent children."

"Teach me to be a good mother, please?"

"I don't even know if I know, Dione! I try; and I think that's the best you can do. Once you have children, those children come before anything else. I hope we haven't caused any harm to our younger ones by putting the fight against Voldemort first; in a way it was for our children, everyone's children, in the long run but if Lilith resents it I hope she will feel able to tell us…she seems happy enough, especially with Tarquin to teach how to be happy as well as two brothers to gently bully but you never know what a small child picks up. And your baby can hear, in the womb; and that includes picking up on tones of voice in quarrels. It was for her sake as well as yours we wanted your father to be judicious in building a relationship with you, so there would be no quarrels."

"I see; it's an awful responsibility, isn't it?"

"And once you understand, and accept that, you're more than halfway to being a good parent" said Krait.

The new Marauders were for the main taking ten OWLs, though Myrtle was sticking to nine and Willow and Kinat were both taking eleven. None of them expected to get good marks in Muggle Studies, since they actually knew far more about muggles than their teacher or any likely examiners and therefore did not answer the questions according to the accepted views but according to the truth; and Severus was fighting to have this changed. He postulated the idea of having an actual muggle to teach muggle studies, even as most muggle schools tried to get someone French to teach that language; since Charity Burbage really was old enough to be retired off and would be an excellent addition as a ministry advisor in muggle affairs since she was at least sympathetic to muggle causes. Nobody expected Kinat to get a good grade with History of Magic for the same reason, as his views of the Goblin wars were equally partisan to those put forward in the history books, but diametrically opposed. Kinat was taking the subject by way of peaceful protest, however, rather than in the expectation of even passing, since he felt the examiners should have other viewpoints run past them. Professor Lector was supportive in this view merely warning Kinat to be careful not to be too obviously frothing that would merely leave his work ignored instead of starting trains of thought.

"You can fail for not putting the conventional answers but still win in a way by not putting the conventional answers in a way that makes people think" he said. "Do NOT get carried away by thoughts of unfairness; write it as objectively as you can. Even if you fail, I'll talk to you about taking it to NEWT if you like."

Kinat thought about it.

"Thank you sir; but I think it would just be too soul destroying. I'm a pioneer, I'm making my point: maybe one of my siblings can go on to NEWT in an atmosphere where extra research is actually listened to. My mission is to put ideas into heads, not to then build on those ideas too soon."

'Hannibal' nodded.

"You may be right at that" he said.

None of the group were especially interested in the Care of Magical Beasts, though they got on well enough with Hagrid; so that was never going to be a top mark either; and as Comparitive Magic was such a new study, it was probable that the examiners would hold the marks down until it was better established how well it was possible to do; as had occurred with Geomancy the year before.

"It'd be nice to get half our OWLs at 'O' grade but it ain't going to happen" Hawke spoke for them all "If we hope for mostly 'E' we'll be doing well. We mustn't get disheartened by those high flyers like David Fraser and Hermione Granger-Weasley. And certainly not by geniuses like Krait. It's not reasonable. Especially as we have chosen to have fun as well."

"I'll be very happy to get any 'O' grades at all" said Myrtle "I never was tipped to when I was first at school; so associating with you lot has improved my grades no end."

They were all fairly confident of gaining an 'O' grade in DADA. The whole group had already an 'E' grade awarded for their work against Voldemort; but anticipated doing much better.

After all, in the practical they were asked if they could produce a corporeal patronus – which they considered child's play by now – and the questions had been, in their view, quite childishly simple. The long question had been to list, and briefly describe, those humanoids who might be described as dark creatures and the features thereof. Most people would do well on that question; in addition to werewolves, vampires, hags and redcaps there were the fey, that all the class had seen in rather closer detail than perhaps some might have liked! True, the unseelie court were hard to describe, though Hawke was pleased by the phrase he used 'typified by their mutability of specific form and generalised only by a certain lack of true substance in all the true, that is not halfbred, fey'.

When he revealed this phrase to the others they all thoughtfully jinxed him for being a smart arse.

Myrtle considered that she had an absolute gift in the Charms written exam, since there was a question worth a high number of marks on water-affecting charms.

Nobody understood watery magic like Myrtle.

The Potions exam was quite stiff; the practical involved brewing the Draught of Peace.

"I haven't got an 'O' in that" groaned Kinat "It always was debateable; I hover just around the cutoff in class and I so have trouble with the Draught of Peace at the best of times."

"And yet you're so good at arithmancy, I'd have thought all that precision would be meat and drink to you" said Abraxus.

"Well it isn't" said Kinat "I managed to overdo the ingredients again and produced a potion more likely to send people to sleep for seven years than to enable them to feel calm. At least I realised in time what I was doing – when I had dark pewter vapour instead of silver – and scrawled down my mistake on the accompanying notes. They credit that some, anyway, so I may scrape an 'E' if my written is good enough."

Ellie and Myrtle grinned at each other.

They hoped to get 'E' grades which they would count as a victory; and had certainly done as well as they ever did with the Draught of Peace, which was to say produced a liquid of approximately the right colour without any ingredients left over.

Poor Dione had managed only a sludge; but as much of the class were in similar state she hoped at least to do better on her theory paper.

Indeed, as though to compensate for the practical, the theory seemed to the majority of the class to be relatively easy, save for drawing and labelling a chomping cabbage from memory; though Myrtle, good at Herbology, felt that was an excellent question for her and hoped to improve her mark thereby. Dione too was fairly good at Herbology and sighed with relief that she might scrape a pass. She had already asked Severus if she might retake if she failed; and he had agreed, under the circumstances.

Abraxus, Romulus, Willow, Kinat and perhaps surprisingly Myrtle enjoyed the Transfigurations exam; Myrtle had picked up the whole concept of summoning and vanishing things very quickly, perhaps because of the awful lesson of the Hufflepuff girls who had tried to reverse the vanishing spell for dirt and had succeeded only in summoning a dirt monster. These five also managed to be showy about turning their box tortoises into jewel boxes, and were hoping to gain extra marks for decorative features such as polished tortoiseshell inlay in rosewood, for Myrtle, a hammered silver chrysanthemum, from Willow, a brass box with cloisonné work of a Chinese style turtle and water lilies from Kinat, a heavy mahogany box with inlay work in different coloured woods from Abraxus and a japanned box with golden dragons on from Hawke. Most other people were content to produce a plain wooden or tortoiseshell box and were glad if it did not wander off or open to chomp on lettuces if offered to the opening; Ellie and Kinat went a little further in putting marquetry patterns on theirs and Dione was just pleased that hers stayed put. Elisa's wandered off which upset her somewhat.

Naturally, they all insisted on returning their tortoises to their natural state and feeding them the lettuce they had not eaten as boxes.

Fortunately the examiners were becoming used to the Hogwarts zeal over avoiding cruelty to animals.

Sometimes this was harder than others; as when Francis Davenport's box bit the examiner instead of the lettuce. Francis did NOT improve his case by pointing out that tortoises were actually omnivorous.

Romulus, Kinat, Myrtle and Willow were the ones doing Arithmancy, with the twins and Ellie taking comparitive magic instead. Myrtle was not of the same grade as the others but she reckoned she had picked up enough watching Krait and Severus design rituals to give her a bit of a start! As Myrtle was the first Hufflepuff to take Arithmancy since before she had first been at school, Madam Vector was delighted. As Myrtle was also at least as good as the three Ravenclaws taking arithmancy, every other scholar in the class worked hard with her to help her outshine them; and Myrtle had every expectation of taking a pass, even if not a high one. She was also taking geomancy; the only one of the blood group who was not was Kinat, who had opted for History of Magic instead. Hawke and Abraxus, Ellie and Kinat were all taking Comparative Magic; and the twins found the exam heavy going. Kinat, despite having to fit his lessons in enjoyed it; perhaps a little too much as he confessed to being sidetracked into a discussion of literal numerology in the application of Finnish naming magic. Ellie thought it was an easy exam, and when she ran through her answers, the twins looked at each other, hit each other on the forehead and cried 'DOH!' with one voice.

They were all but Myrtle taking Ancient Runes – more for the use of them in research into abstruse magic in later life than for the purpose of gaining a qualification – and none of them thought the exam especially hard, though one obscure passage was, according to Romulus a pig; only Abraxus, Willow and Kinat had managed to unravel it with any degree of accuracy, as they found out later looking it up.

The twins, Willow and Kinat were taking enchanting, which involved a long essay on the importance of choosing the right materials to enchant, and how this may vary. Willow wrote knowledgeably about wands, Hawke chose to dissect the choice of Voldemort's horcruces, as an example of personal significance having as much value as materials; and Kinat and Abraxus remained less specific, though Abraxus brought to his essay the point of view of a provider of magical telesmic materials, since that was what his mother did; and Kinat had the point of view of goblin magic and the enchantment of perfect metal.

The practical involved adding an enchantment of their choice to a quill and to ink, and to using their knowledge of enchanted objects to pick from a dozen random wands the one they felt most suitable. Hawke enchanted his ink to only be legible to someone of his own blood – the examiner had to borrow Abraxus to test if it had worked – and his quill write at his command. Abraxus made a pen to correct spelling as it went along – rather more successfully than that of the Weasley twins who had not studied enchantment as seriously as the Malfoy twins – and ink to flash keywords in different colours on command, a tricky charm that he had only just mastered. Kinat made his quill forge Madam McGonagall's handwriting, not perhaps quite what the examiners were looking for, but a clever piece of work nonetheless, and made his ink speak for those who were visually impaired or for reading under the bedclothes. Willow's ink vanished until a codeword was spoken; her quill wrote what a third party was saying at given direction and distance.

They chose wands appropriately, but the examiners were heard to complain that in testing the other wands, all this batch were so good with any wand it was hard to judge them on their choices.

They all agreed that Willow would outshine everyone after everyone had compared notes.

Myrtle, Romulus, Ellie and Willow were taking Herbology; Madam Sprout had declared that Hawke and Kinat each had a brown thumb and refused them her elective on the grounds that things they looked at withered; and Abraxus had been more interested in Comparitive magic anyway.

Dione was also taking Herbology and knew she came close to shining here. She actually tended to outperform Willow, who had squeezed in a class instead of flying practice to help her with potioneering and for no other reason.

The exam was fairly tough; everyone knew the differences between a flitterbloom and devil's snare; but the uses of each to be listed were tougher. Only Myrtle really enjoyed the exam, though Dione thought she had done all right. The practical, collecting bubotuber pus safely, required several people to need the services of Madam Pomfrey afterwards, and Ellie managed to be bitten by Myrtle's fanged geranium. The examiner had to make a note to this effect since Myrtle had no wounds but her geranium was flushed happily with fresh blood; otherwise Myrtle might have lost marks unfairly.

The last exam was the compulsory Care of Magical Animals and they were all glad when it was over, after the vicissitudes of cleaning fire crabs and de-doxifying a room. Willow got kudos here for remembering Severus' spell Poxydoxytoxin and then dropped all the extra marks she had gained by setting fire to the examiner with her fire crab. Her rapidly conjured jet of water meant there was no lasting damage, but it did rather, as she said dolefully, put a hole in her credibility.

"Still, none of us want to follow it up" said Hawke "And it could have been worse; we might have had to feed blast-ended Pekes."

One of the Pekinese dogs Krait had transfigured to hide Hagrid's illegal experiments still occasionally farted fire.

"It could have been much worse" said Abraxus "They could have had us grooming David's manticore."

"Face it" said Romulus "Given half a chance, I bet Hagrid would have thought that a splendid idea."

"Only Hagrid could manage to be affectionate towards a rabidly dangerous homicidal critter like that" said Willow "Hagrid's great but sometimes he ain't so tightly wrapped."

"And you'd know of course, recognising the state" said Kinat, lazily.

Willow threw books at him; as one of them was the Monster Book of Monsters that broke open on the way, Kinat had his hands too full for a minute to come up with any more too clever comments; which had been, as Willow said, the general idea.

The exams were over; the Triwizard was over; and Dione might quietly drop out of the last few days of school to avoid anyone noticing her now visible pregnancy now that her class were not too preoccupied by their own troubles. Severus and Krait would foster her child and she would have birthed by the beginning of the new school year that would be a new start in more ways than one. Professor Dumbledore had decreed that as there were so many children under wardship, that Hogwarts would have its own orphanage wing, to be run by Hilary Arbuckle and such other deserving witches the Malfoy women of the Society for Marginalised and Indigent women could find. Sirius immediately proposed Christie and Margaret from his apartment block; but Dumbledore wanted women who had experienced motherhood. Krait proposed Cynner's mother; but Narcissa and Charlotte pointed out that she had a home with Callum's mum and that they had several widows on their books, one with grown up children, and another who had lost all her children and her husband, when he set light to their home in a drunken orgy of wand use while his wife was at work to feed her children and feckless spouse. Hilary interviewed both – with Krait's support – and liked them.

Severus and Krait were not to withdraw from being involved with the children, and those who were their wards might continue to think of themselves as such, but they would no longer feel that they had to take on unwanted children. The Romanian orphans without magical skill would also come under the orphanage though David wanted to sponsor them, and to have Vasilica, the talented child as his actual ward.

Next term he would be doing some teaching; he had written a syllabus for the introduction to the magical world and would go to Rowan House for one period a week. He would also be taking the children there on a field trip to Diagon Alley just to see an example of wizarding space. It was very exciting! Exciting too was that Fenella Fenwick had shown an interest in the comparison between Arithmancy and Mathematics and had volunteered to teach both when she left school to the Rowan House children, to the horror of her father. Fenella however stood firm in pointing out that muggles with talented relatives deserved an education too. It is probable that her father had no idea that muggles had ANY kind of education at all and almost certainly had a vague idea of them running around unwashed and illiterate, instead of that only being the state of most chavs, as Hawke unkindly said.

The end of term was rounded off by a visit to St Jodoc's for a cricket match; the first eleven remained unchanged, but they fared better this time, with Willow making a century and a half, staunchly backed by Ross Tuthill as her batting partner who made sure to get her back on bat when he was facing the bowler with carefully chosen runs, since Willow was playing as though she was on fire. Ross himself made a respectable thirty seven runs, half of them between Willow's excellent efforts; and though it was a tough battle, Hogwarts won by a run and one wicket.

The upper sixth players, the Strellands and Ian Kell, left vowing to get cricket leagues going in their own villages.

Lionel Dell had made it into the second eleven – not to play this year but likely to next year – and was hoping with the three oldest ones leaving to get into the first eleven next season! He also pointed out that Hockey resembled hurley closely enough that keeping that up was advantageous in case they had to play the Fey again at games; and David requested that Slytherin be awarded ten points for this piece of wisdom.

The final feast came; and the awarding of various shields. The Quidditch shield had not been contested this year because of the Triwizard, though a number of friendly games had been played; and the shield would have been won, had it been fair to offer it, by Slytherin House as Professor Dumbledore announced.

Romulus Snape as quidditch captain was well thumped on the back by friends and class mates and other players; and so was Jade, whose performance as seeker had been partly instrumental in the string of victories the house had amassed. Romulus, Ed Dinalt and Lionel Dell made a fairly formidable team of chasers and Hawke young Kate Rosier were very efficient Beaters. Romulus had excluded Baddock and Pritchard from the team as Beaters on grounds that they played to cause pain rather than to help the house win points – which was true – and moved Hawke to Beater, bringing in Lionel as a chaser and Kate as beater as well as using Jade as seeker. Slytherin had suffered from the loss of Draco Malfoy and nobody had quite managed to pull it off as well though Ed had done his best last year.

"The name of Slytherin House is to be put on a new, informal shield that will be used during those years when the Triwizard contest is played or any other matter keeps us from formal contest" the Head announced "And as this is at the request of David Fraser, who wanted to see that Quidditch is not neglected during such times, I propose to call it the David Fraser Shield, in recognition of this, of his Triwizard win and of something many of you may not know, that David qualified as a national level referee over the Easter break" he paused for a spontaneous cheer to break out "And I'm sure we all know how much David regretted giving up his own Quidditch playing for the Triwizard; which he only entered, incidentally, because he was asked to by Madam Spikenard who had a premonition he would be needed. David has rescued Romanian Orphans, helped protect little Uschi Heinz so her brother could defect, got rid of a manticore and in addition to that has managed to win the Triwizard; and I have to, for all his achievements, award two hundred points to Gryffindor. Which I believe leaves the House Shield well and truly in the possession of Gryffindor."

The Gryffindors cheered; and the Slytherin and Hufflepuff too clapped in congratulation. David HAD distinguished himself rather after all; and one could hardly honour the Triwizard winner without honouring the house. It was noticeable that only Mei Chang and her gang gave wholehearted cheers on the Ravenclaw table who otherwise confined themselves to a minimal polite clapping.

Dumbledore raised a hand for silence.

"The last few years have seen an increase in inter-house co-operation; fighting Voldemort concentrated the mind wonderfully and I have to say how pleased I am that this spirit is continuing. One of the members of staff suggested the presentation of a further trophy to a group or individual who did more than most in promoting inter-house co-operation and in helping out their fellow pupils; and I have to say that I liked the idea. As the staff member involved wishes to remain anonymous, but was backed by a certain other members of staff I intend to name this after a club in which they were involved during THEIR time at school – and so I have here the Marauders shield. The Marauders included James Potter who gave his life to fight Voldemort; and those members who had quarrels with other youths, subsequently members of staff, have spectacularly made up their differences over the fight against evil, and so I consider this a most appropriate name; and I have inscribed on it as first winners – for members of staff should be credited too – the nicknames Scales, Padfoot, Moonie, Prongs and Whiskers."

"Whiskers isn't a member of staff" muttered Willow "And Prongs is dead."

"But Peter is indicative of forgiveness" said Hawke "And I think Scales borrowed the resurrection stone from Krait in the hols to talk to Prongs…."

Dumbledore just motioned silence to them.

"The choice of winner was debated fiercely" he said "There was a case put forward for both Gryffindor and Hufflepuff house to hold it for the welcoming of new older people amidst their ranks, and in the case of Gryffindor for David Fraser's untiring help of everyone: but that of course is what a head boy should be for. And I think one almost has to be ashamed of those people who do NOT help new older children to find their feet. Besides, this is not a House shield but for work across houses. I have to say, I also looked closely at Lionel Dell and his three-house wide gang of reprobates who have helped each other and been prepared to put themselves out and even at risk for the safely of others; and may I say they only came a very close second. The winners are the New Marauders, Hawke and Abraxus Malfoy, Romulus Snape, Kinat Gan Konal, and Willow Prince. These young people have done much to keep the peace in the lower school of course; and such is the duty of prefects of course as there are among them; they were also instrumental in the extraction and care of Uschi Heinz in such a way as the staff were unable to be blamed by the German authorities, they have always kept the honour of the school in the forefront of their minds and have even, so my spies tell me, gone out of their way to help disadvantaged children during the holidays. But the main reason I am giving this shield to them this year is for their ingenious revision notes in rhyme which they made freely available amongst all the OWL candidates, even though I believe some were not prepared to take them up on this" – there were scowls at the Ravenclaw table – "And in fact on Madam McGonagall's suggestion the school is having them printed as a pamphlet as official revision aids for subsequent years. As well as these notes they worked through revision with students in house and out to make sure they felt as ready as possible for their exams. And so, I give you – The New Marauders!"

The new marauders came to receive their shield and everyone looked at Hawke to make a speech.

"Well, Professor Dumbledore had made us sound a right little bunch of Gooders I must say!" said Hawke "And I guess we are always willing to help people out but we're no prigs, and if anyone makes an issue of it I have it on good authority that a combination of the jelly-leg jinx and the furnunculus curse leaves you with tentacles all over the face that require a visit to St Mungo's, so don't go thinking we're nice, ok?"

There was much laughter!

"What's more we haven't got exams next year to take up our marauding time!" added Kinat.

"Headmaster, will you accept my resignation now?" said Severus with a hollow groan "I'm not sure I can survive that!"

"I'm sorry Severus; I need you too much to permit that" said Dumbledore, twinkling. "And here's to the next school year when it arrives and continued co-operation!"

The cheer almost lifted the roof!

The End

The next book is 'A few Furry little Problems' and will go up in a couple of weeks.