As none of the Blood Group were involved with divination they had a day off. They had all wished good luck to Euphemia Bennett, who had the dubious honour of having shown up early in her career as a seer.
Euphemia, a Gryffindor, was fairly down to earth and was a member of the MSHG and when she failed to have a vision in the crystal ball – such things not being available to order – decided to follow the OWL candidate Tamsin in warning against Odessa. She had a bit more knowledge than Tamsin and let her breathing sound shallow and panicked before crying out 'beware the sons of Grindelwald! In the darkness of ignorance and oppression they come with fire and death!" before swaying and falling on the floor.
This kind of confirmation was what the ministry needed, especially as Euphemia took her written exam a lot more seriously than Tamsin had and unlike the younger girl resisted the urge to make up things like Mars in the house of Draco meant that Grace Snape Malfoy had bought a new rolling pin.
Enchanting was the next examination and that involved Abraxus, Willow and Kinat.
Hawke and Ellie had finished with Charms their last exam; Dione, Sephara, Myrtle, Romulus and Willow still had Herbology to come.
The enchanting paper covered gates, doors and wizarding space in the first half and the importance of matching wands to wizards in the second half. Willow was purring audibly as she wrote about wands and had to be asked to desist by the invigilator.
As a known cat animagus she was given a little more leeway that would otherwise have been the case.
Enchanting doors was, Abraxus thought, a sight easier than writing up the theory.
The practical – for which Willow was almost late because of the dietary requirements of her infants – involved making a muggle shopping trolley fly with perfect control; and coring a wand. The wands the students made were fairly standard and were to be used as school wands to be borrowed by those students who had broken their own wand; they consisted mainly of hazel, ash and oak with unicorn hair, augury and hippogriff feathers as cores.
Naturally Willow shone at the second part of this, though she had no trouble with the first half. Abraxus performed he thought creditably; and Kinat'sshopping trolley handled like a racing broom.
The examiner gave him a strange look at the Biggles-shooting-down-the-Hun noises,
The five taking Herbology were some of the best in the school; and for Sephara it was the one subject she hoped to take an 'O' in. Romulus was the weakest; he was taking it purely to back up his potions. Herbology was a popular choice because Madam Sprout was lenient about who she accepted and until students discovered the nature of the final exam it was often seen as a soft option. It generally had around a fifty per cent fail rate accordingly.
The practical, which was first, was fairly standardised at least in one part; and as it had a high fail rate it was felt unnecessarily cruel to make those students who could not handle the practical aspects sit a written exam only to pass out with the practical.
It involved uprooting a mandrake; and for safety reasons each student went alone.
The students wore earmuffs to prevent themselves from certain death if they muffed it, but the screams if they failed to disable their mandrake properly could still knock them out.
There were two general methods; the brute force method involving banging the pot hard enough to stun the Mandrake, whipping it out quickly and cutting off the leaves to render it inert; and the gentler method reckoned to produce better mandrake juice of easing the earth in the pot, gentling out the root and earth and as the earth fell away stupefying the root as it opened its mouth to howl.
Romulus took the brute force method with a quick diffindo to cut off the leaves.
Myrtle felt experimental. She eased open the earth, cast a tickling charm on her mandrake and pulled it up giggling.
It was not a pleasant noise but infinitely better than screaming. Diffindo killed it quickly and, Myrtle hoped, relatively happy. Myrtle was soft hearted about things like that.
Willow used the classic gentle method; her feeling for potions was perhaps deeper and more born in than Romulus' were.
Sephara did the same as Willow just because she knew it was best; and Dione came up with a new spell that was all her own that was a deep subsonic hum that both stunned the mandrake and shook the soil off it in the pot.
The other task was to re-pot devil's snare plants; a risky business and the students were protected by several invigilators with wands at the ready.
The plant disliked warmth and was repelled by fire. Several students were using bluebell flames to keep their plants under control while they nervously repotted them – a few sustaining burns as they did so – but the Bloodgroup and a few other members of the MSHG created a warm dry zone, especially around the pot so the plant was glad to be removed and snuggled happily into cool wet earth in a new pot.
One then stepped back quickly.
Even Romulus had no trouble with that though he doubted he would get above an 'E' for his brute force method with the mandragora.
Mandragora made Romulus nervous; even knowing that he could stop a dark wizard's spell before the words formed did not give him the confidence to use the gentle method.
When those who had passed out had been taken away to the sick bay, and those who had been burned had equally been treated and lunch had been eaten it was time for the written exam.
The questions covered self motile and semi-sentient plants like screechsnap, Mandragora, Devil's Snare, mobile trees and Huorns.
One question required the candidates to list the self motile plants they knew in order of intelligence labelled 'n' for non-intelligent, 'r' for rudimentary intelligence, 'ss' for semi sentient and 's' for truly sentient.
Mandragora had a rudimentary, animal level intelligence and so came between the two non sentient plants, Devil's Snare and motile trees and Screechsnap, that had some abstract thoughts. Naturally Huorns were sentient.
"And a lot rarer than they used to be before they came poking around at Hogwarts" Romulus wrote "And a jolly good job too."
It was a breeze; and so the blood group all agreed.
Not all their fellows agreed; but then not all their fellows had fought huorns even once let alone twice.
And the exams were over; and the blood group of the upper sixth would be teaching their own school next term; and the junior marauders would be the school's senior marauders.
"And that's a scary thought!" grinned Hawke ruffling Lynx's hair as they lounged around outside with their younger counterparts.
The last excitements of the term were the last Qudditch matches to be played – Slytherin against Gryffindor and Hufflepuff against Ravenclaw – and the visit of St Jodoc's glad to come north for a cooler match.
Gorbrin was excited to play against Gryffindor. Their team was young, but some of them were talented, like Lydia Snape.
It was a close match.
Hawke and Abraxus as opposing keepers were showing off a little at each other; and as Abraxus was marginally the better keeper, the chasers must keep him busy and try to confuse him.
The score stayed neck and neck; the experience of chasers like Romulus and Ed with Gorbrin's speed offsetting a little Abraxus' skill as a keeper and the young Gryffindor chasers not giving Hawke quite as much trouble. The scores crept up, first one team scoring, then the other, never separated by more than thirty points at any time. And the competition for the snitch was between sisters Jade and Lydia Snape.
Jade had the extra year's experience; and, as she later claimed, longer arms and a crazier style. With a wild shriek of excitement both girls dived for the snitch and Jade crashed as her hand closed around it. Game over.
Slytherin would have the cup; played three, won three. Gryffindor had played three won one – Ravenclaw had beaten them through Mei Chang's spirited work as seeker – and the match between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff was to see if there were three in second place or if Ravenclaw would take second position.
Not that there was a great deal of doubt. The Huffers were not a great Quidditch team; and Ravenclaw took them apart, actually managing to look like a great team by comparison as Hawke said unkindly.
The cricket teams played up too. Willow had recovered remarkably quickly from birthing and was positively buoyant. And as she and Ross Tuthill both played inspired games and took a century apiece the first eleven had a well-deserved victory.
The second eleven ended up with a draw when hail stopped play.
"I say, do you often have hail up here at the beginning of July?" asked the St Jodoc's Captain of Games, a freckled youth named Kenneth.
"Only when it isn't foggy" said Willow facetiously. "Out of a clear sky too. Bizarre, but it happens."
It has to be said that the second elevens of both schools were somewhat assuaged in their disappointments by the excellent spread of food the Hogwarts elves laid on.
Next day the 'Daily Prophet' carried another spread, creeping sycophantically about the efficiency of the auror service. This one was about Dimsie Burke's father and his associate Mr Borgin. Burke had been found guilty of trafficking cursed items to unsuspecting people and he and Borgin were standing trial accused of facilitating goblin coursing, kidnapping, and crimes against sentience, a catch-all charge to cover the crimes too bizarre or loathsome for any normal person to even imagine them, as Frank Longbottom had put it when he proposed its implementation.
As Frank Longbottom had suffered one of the worst crimes against sentience anyone had ever heard of – being tortured into insanity with the cruciatus curse – his word was taken seriously.
It had taken time to uncover the evidence; Mr Borgin had been under investigation since he had tried to foreclose on a loan to Mr Davenport, father of Francis and Ralph, if the man did not have his sons warn the goblins at Hogwarts that they were marked for kidnap and punishment. Lucius had loaned Davenport senior enough to pay off the loan so he was not bound by debt-oath; and the younger Davenports would walk through fire for both Lucius and the New Marauders who arranged it. Borgin himself did not arrange or participate in Goblin coursing or muggle coursing but he knew a suspiciously large number of people that the aurors were watching; and they were stretched due to looking out too for the goblin children at Hogwarts.
Krait's solution for those goblin families that were her friends was simple.
She offered high prices to other people in Orme Court, the muggle inhabitants, and moved Ellie's family and Kinat's family into one of the tall houses there when her importunities were accepted by one of the owners who wanted a smaller, more convenient home. Then she hired a couple of bodyguards and placed them in a bedsit in the basement level. It meant too that Grutch was more convenient for working for her; and as Konal was thinking of going into partnership with Grutch as a financial advisor that also made sense, without even considering the pleasure it would bring the children to have their friends close. Orme Court had already had something of a wizarding community; it was worth judiciously building up and if necessary adding a street in wizarding space there. After all David Fraser would want a home for himself and Ellie, and Abraxus for himself and Myrtle and a home for Myrtle's mother now she was becoming rather frail. There would be time to wait before Hawke and Romulus married their girlfriends, and Kinat as yet had no permanent girlfriend – Garjala's efforts to the contrary. Erich too was waiting for Tala to grow up and there would in the future be numerous young Snapes and Malfoys; and Lee Nuffield was talking of having a London Pied-à-terre. Another block broken into flats would do fine; and Krait coveted the discreet and expensive brothel that must once have been a wizarding house to have a magic mirror in there that they had….acquired.
However, this meant that aurors only had to protect Garjala and her father, and Jardak and his family and the Nottingham families; which helped. Jazka and her family came under the protection of Kordach and he offered to pay for bodyguards for Jardak too, which the Auror office gratefully accepted. Several of Kordach's men were hastily deputised as watch wizards and given a crash course on legal means of restraint without breaking knees.
They were as proud as punch and the half-troll even started washing regularly so as not to let down his new dark blue uniform robes.
The news in the Prophet however was necessarily upsetting for Dympna and brought all the hurt back to her just as she was starting to live it down as a peripheral member of Jade's group. Especially when Albert Jackman, backed by the younger boys Zabini and Crabbe, felt he had to needle by asking what crimes against sentience were exactly and what ones Mr Burke had performed.
The younger marauders in Slytherin House, Lynx, Fabian, Jade and Leo left him stuffed under the sofa of the common room, green, wriggling futilely, his legs stuck together and with tiny tentacles covering his face. A simple 'SCRAM' got rid of his younger sycophants.
Jaska, Clem, Erica, Gorbrin and Meliandra merely filled their outside shoes with jelly and placed slugs in an apple-pie bed for them.
Severus however sent for Dimsie.
"Dympna, my child, this is going to be hard for you" he said "I'm afraid your mother has had a total breakdown over this – and I suspect caused partly by Dawlish, we're having that investigated, he's already under suspension but there might be a case for him to answer as well as overzealousness. But she has had to be taken to the Janus Thickey ward at least for the time being; your brothers, whom at least Dawlish felt too young to go after, have been brought to the Hogwarts orphanage, and we feel that will be the best place for you too, for the time being. You have been invited to spend a significant part of the holidays with the Nuffields; and Mrs Nuffield is willing to have Philip and Cecil for a time as well. Lee is planning on explaining about magic to his parents in the first part of the holidays however, and needs time to get them used to the idea, so you will stay in school and as a pupil you will be allowed the run of the castle as much as in term time and you may show Philip around as he is to start next term. Madam Malfoy-Snape and I are the governors of the orphanage, and in the holiday period as in MSHG you may call us Severus and Krait. We will take you to see your mother as soon as the holidays begin; and we will also be seeing to escorting you and Philip in Diagon Alley for the start of the new school year – when that time comes. You need not be concerned about funds; the law only permits those assets that are accrued from illegal activities to be seized, and there is a sizeable amount from inherited monies and legitimate business. Not that you would not be taken care off even if you were penniless, but it is not a problem that you will have to worry about on leaving school. Have you any questions?"
Dimsie shook her head.
"I really don't know where to start asking questions, sir" she said "Everything's just too much of a muddle."
The naturally harsh face of her House Head softened.
"You poor child, you have had many terrible blows lately; if it is any consolation, I think you have come through them both a stronger and a nicer person; the lessons have been hard but you have studied them diligently. I could wish that it did not take misfortune to show the way; but you tread the path bravely. It is easier, is it not, when you have friends to guide your steps when you falter?"
"Yes sir, it is. I – I had to share with my brothers of course but I was the eldest and the only girl. Daddy always has rather doted on me" she said "I wish he hadn't been involved in those things – whatever they are."
Severus reflected that if Mr Burke had not been so callous about the feelings of others he would not now be facing up to life in Azkaban and nor would his daughter have come to school such a spoilt little bully, taught that might made for right and that money could buy anything even people. However he kept his thoughts on that to himself; she was too young mentally to take that message on board. And there might be too the hope of salvation for Mr Burke if he truly loved his children; love was such a powerful emotion to tap. Severus intended petitioning to see Mr Burke and urging him to cling to the thought of his children to help him through his time in gaol, assuring him they were being well cared for. Hope was a great teacher as well. He smiled at Dimsie.
"At least there are no more Dementors in Azkaban; it will be hard for your father but not soul destroying. That evil is long since put to rest. And the government is resisting the petitions of the governor of Azkaban to bring in pogrebin instead. And with the reforms you will be permitted to write to him, and he to you. Once again the muggles have a lesson to teach us, that reform is sometimes possible and is as important as punishment. Your father loves you; that means that he is not a wholly bad man, merely a little careless of the feelings of others. And you have been brought up a little the same, haven't you?"
"You mean… I might have ended up a criminal for not really understanding what I was doing was so bad? I mean, I never thought of goblins as people, but Jazka has been so kind…."
Severus smiled gently, and touched her face.
"And so you have averted the chance of falling into the same traps as your father" he said "When you write perhaps you can tell him of Jazka's kindness, and the kindness of a muggle family taking you in for part of each holidays; and show him that people are people and that kindness is what really makes things happen, not money or power. Money and power can help to make things happen; but without kindness the only things they can make happen are negative things which leads to misery and resentment and ultimately violence. Grow in knowledge my child and help to make the world a happier place; and you can begin by welcoming your brothers and help them to see the real truths of life."
"Thank you sir" said Dimsie "May I go and see them now?"
"Yes; you have been excused all end of term exams you have not yet taken; you have already chosen your electives for OWLs so you do not have to convince a professor to take you! Cecil has two companions his age, my cousins, half-brothers, the sons of Madam Ermin, that's Oliver, and Cassius who is the son of Madam Arbuckle who is matron of the orphanage. My ward, George Ingate is also the same age, Jem Ingate's brother. There is a muggle child a year younger; and two muggle girls a year older than Philip, rescued by David Fraser after the disgraceful behaviour of the German sports ministry as I'm sure you remember. Vasilica, the other orphan in the first here is to be adopted by David Fraser on his marriage to Ellie Devlin in a month or so. He takes an interest in the muggle children but it is easier for them growing up alongside a mix of children than in a wizarding family. You will need to be sure your brothers are properly courteous to these young muggles."
Dimsie nodded her head.
"They will not know at first that they are beings" she said "I never knew that muggles could be counted as beings until I stayed with the Nuffields."
"So much casual racism through ignorance; and much of the ignorance through mental laziness" he said "On the part of the authorities as much as individuals!"
"I am trying not to be ignorant"
He laughed softly.
"My dear child, you've been making up ground very well. I don't believe I have any more worries about YOU" and he sighed softly "And I trust you to help us to show your brothers the way forward too. Slytherin house has less mindless, bullying blights upon Salazar Slytherin's honour now; and that is a victory even if I cannot reach all of them."
"Porteous, Jackman, Parkinson, the younger Crabbe and Zabini" said Dimsie.
"I'm not about to comment to another pupil" said Severus "But it is my experience that other children always know who to avoid. Besides, it is not your problem; Dimsie in the stories is good at interfering but she is fictional of course, and I fear if you try to emulate her you may get hurt. If you wish to take her path, influence younger children who come in by example, by equal courtesy to all and by showing displeasure towards those who are bullying or racist. As both are a form of selfishness often they go hand in hand; but be aware that some people bully to get their retaliation in first because they are used to being bullied. Not all people have loving parents; in that you are fortunate. Some people bully because they lack understanding of exactly what they are doing or how much it affects people, or cannot understand that others have feelings. You fell into that category; and in some respects so too did a man I have learned to respect; James Potter, wealthy, clever, good at lessons, good at quidditch, unable to understand quiet introverted children and swots and thought they needed shaking out of what he saw as aberrant behaviour. Find out why, where you can, new children might bully. Then you are half way, in many cases, to solving it."
"Should I try to form an Anti-Soppists League?"
"Well you can if you like but generally we call it the MSHG" said Severus. "I'd stay in Jade's gang for now until you are certain you have found your feet; is she or is she not the bossiest in the dormitory?"
Dimsie laughed at the literary reference.
Really, Professor Snape was not that stern underneath!
And then the holidays were upon them all, some returning to loving homes, some to homes less happy than their school and some to remain with the orphanage. The Snapes' wards spent some of the holidays with their guardian but with so many adoptive children and children of their own it was easier on all if they also spent time with other wards and orphans; and Dympna was at least to know Harmony Bloom and her older sister Melody amongst those who stayed for a few weeks to give Severus and Krait something of a break. Melody and Harmony would later go to London to spend time with the Snapes and Melody, as part of Lionel's Bloodgroup, had obtained permission to be a part of a big camp that Lionel was organising for all his friends including little Pearl Brocklehurst to invite her into the Bloodgroup; and Vasilica and Mischa too. They would be missing Alice and Hagrid, Alice having the more pressing matter of her imminent birthing to attend to! Alice and Hagrid were to blood with Vasilica and Mischa before they joined the full group to carry their blood by proxy for Pearl.
None of this, however, did Melody tell Dimsie; the blood group was a private matter. Even her sister did not know for certain; Harmony was Jade's follower through and through and any other group would take second place.
Blood magic would hopefully soon have a better image with the book Severus had written in his dryly humorous manner to explain how blood magic need not be dark magic; with the disclaimer that no unicorns nor virgins were harmed in the research for this book.
David Fraser had written a forward in which he had said that there was no more dedicated a fighter against evil than his former guardian Severus Snape for whom he would willingly lay down his life; which might itself be interpreted as a primitive form of blood magic. He added that despite the customs of those who had participated in blood rituals the consumption of large quantities of cocoa, crumpets and marshmallows were not necessary to a successful outcome but in his opinion that they helped.
The title had been finalised as 'blood magic, love magic'; and Lucius had published it as one of the first offerings from the new publishing house, now almost ready to issue its first newspaper after training reporters to look for facts not speculation. The companion magazine 'Witch and Kitchen' was to be launched with 'Wizarding Times'
Other books had been issued; the exciting school stories by Krait, 'Cassie goes to school', 'Cassie moves up' and 'a muggle in the third'. They were set in a remote wizarding school on a small island in the Irish Sea where Cassie and her friends got up to the sort of mischief that was quite familiar to any Hogwarts student! Not, reflected Dimsie, half way through the first book, that anyone at Hogwarts had ever had the temerity to knock Professor Snape on the head and stuff him half dazed into a cauldron and lock him in a cupboard in mistaking him for a dark wizard as happened to the thinly disguised and lovingly drawn caricature of Professor Snape in the book!
The orphanage had all three books; and Dimsie was looking forward to reading the other two before she went to see the Nuffields with her brothers.
Perhaps happiest to return home – a new home – was Gorbrin, to see the changes wrought on his mother and siblings by plenty of good food, fresh air and freedom from worry. Tanjela, lovely before, looked younger and even more beautiful; and his siblings were no longer scrawny.
And there was baby Cosmo; the tangible proof of the love between stepdad Lucius and his mum. Nobody would replace his real father; but you could love more than once, as Lucius proved with his three wives.
And Gorbrin turned to Lucius and said,
"Oh Dad, I do love you!"
the end of another year...