Chapter 16

It was indeed a treat to watch from feyspace the solemn five first years shadowing Lothar Dunkelwald.

They weren't doing too bad a job of it; and the muggle marauders a better one; but he WAS a professional after all and his senses were attuned to noticing being noticed.

It was however quite fascinating to watch his face and follow without even need of legilimensy the thoughts that wondered first if this was coincidence, then to progress to the realisation that they were watching him seriously and to wonder whether it was just a game, when overreacting would not be good; or whether it was something about him that they wanted to stare at, a jinx or hex someone had put on him that was fascinating enough to make small children peer fixedly at him then be rapidly engrossed in checking shoelaces or something when he turned around and to run away to be replaced by another small boy. Surely they could not have seriously worked out the truth about him? Little boys of eleven?

He had an uncomfortable feeling that they might.

Little boys of eleven were remarkably perspicacious.

It had been at such an age that he had himself made himself indispensable to Eduard Von Frettchen, then in the fifth form. Fagging was not institutionalised at Durmstrang, but older boys and girls of impeccable family often demanded – and got – the drudging services of younger ones; those of the best families had younger ones queuing up for the job as drudge, because though it was hard, often thankless and cut into homework time it could give incalculable interest in the future. Von Frettchen, heir to a dukedom, had had plenty of volunteers, but none so good at finding things out as young Dunkelwald. And his actual drudging duties had been light – he had picked another couple of boys to do that – he had passed on all he had learned. And Von Frettchen had been able to build up a network of people who owed him favours from it and had been duly grateful. It accounted for the loose way he let Dunkelwald talk to him; though it was never mentioned they were close to being friends, though of course Dunkelwald would feel no compunction over betraying Von Frettchen if it was in his best interests.

Successful causes were good to be involved in. Unsuccessful ones were to be stepped away from. Dunkelwald was wondering if it was time to step away from a cause led by an obsessive individual who was fixated on besting a ruddy schoolmaster. A snide, nasty tongued schoolmaster at that who looked at you as though he knew all your darkest and innermost secrets.

Had he set small children to spy?

Probably not.

If he had doubts about Herr Schmidt all he had to do was sack him.

He would not give children such power.

In this of course Dunkelwald was wrong; the only reason Severus drew back from using small children was their vulnerability. He too had every respect for their perspicacity!

Jade picked up a lot from almost unintentional legilimensy; Dunkelwald hid his emotions and body language but his thoughts roiled up in reaction and it was almost inevitable that she find things out.

She felt a brief pang of pity for Herzog Eduard Von Frettchen who might even be a sincere man with belief in his prince; and who almost certainly believed in the loyalty of this dodgy friend of his.

Well, when the chips were down, he would find out; and he might too find out before it was too late that the Prince was as sincere a friend as Dunkelwald.

Jade was not as preoccupied with exams as the years above and below her; her end of year exams were only a guide to how well she was doing. Save one.

Lucius Malfoy blew in with the usual examiner, some acidulated Ravenclaw type, Jade reckoned, named Madam Trewkettle and a second, male examiner with hair long enough to be untidy and a manner of trying to keep up with YOUTH. Jade disliked both on sight.

Lucius was to advise them on testing the practicals of the chanting exam though he would himself mark the written work, as was often done by experts in a particular field.

Jade had no qualms about either half.

The written paper asked for the definition of chanting and an explanation of where it differed from a more standard charm.

Jade wrote,

"If one might use the analogy of painting, a charm might be seen as a thick blob of paint, obviously producing the required colour but rather at risk of being chipped away and without any subtleties of shade. Chanting, on the other hand, is more akin to the old method of building up layer upon layer of thin paint, each layer affecting the perception of the layer underneath, giving a depth and subtle effect that cannot be duplicated in any other way. This effect too may be utilised in reverse; in stripping away, say, a curse, layer by layer rather than by risking additional adverse effects such as can accrue by attempting to neutralise a curse by more brute force means. A skilled chanter can feel the essence of the curse whilst chanting and change and tailor his or her chant to more effectively deal with the problem. The skilled chanter can hear the resonance and echoes from the very substance of the spell being broken. Equally laying a charm or curse with a chant gives the opportunity of many layers being introduced and such subtle effects as a time delay before a spell is released such as the mildly cursed replica diadem certain Hogwarts students used to drop a babbling curse on sundry Ravenclaws to begin at breakfast though it is doubtful anyone noticed the difference" she added snidely. It would amuse Lucius anyway.

There were also questions to ask on specific, long established chants; and several more questions postulating a situation and requesting the suggestion of a chant to fulfil the requirements of the situation. With explanations.

This was where knowing Gaelic and Latin so fluently came in handy.

And being a good arithmancer to decide how many 'legs' the chant ought to have. There was a lot to designing chants; one had to understand the construction of poetry to a higher level than most Ravenclaw poets did, as well as understanding the ancient languages of power that were the meat and drink of chanting, and the understanding of musical cadence and rhythm for where that became important.

And Jade was probably in the top ten in the world for understanding and practical application of chanting; her theory certainly surpassed Draco though he was a fine practical and instinctive chanter and capable of pulling off something fairly efficient on the fly.

Jade happily made arithmantic notes first then designed chants appropriately.

She finished well within the designated time, checked through her answers and sat back to await time to be called.

They were released at last.

"That was easy" said Seag to Jade.

"Wasn't it?" said Jade "Looking forward to the practical?"

"Huh, after the rather real practical we did year and a half back should be a cake walk" said Seag.

Eight hours of chanting had been rather challenging.

It had been as much as any of them could cope with.

The marauders and those who had been protégés of Severus all felt they had done well enough. So too did Sylvia Hubble and Esmerelda Jorkins.

The practical involved an hour long chant with ten minutes preparation to review the chant given and loosen the voice. They were to be tested in groups of four, at cardinal points in the great hall, the examiners listening to each voice and measuring its cadences.

"What a GIFT!" whispered Sylvia as she and Esmelda were drawn to go with Jade; she was certain that with Jade as an anchor it would lift their own game.

Less of a gift was having Rosamund Mandrake with them; Rosamund had an individualistic sense of timing.

It would be necessary to shut the ears to her and concentrate on Jade.

Jade took her place so that Rosamund was opposite her and one of the others on each hand; she liked Rosamund well enough but she did not want her pulling the others down.

Lucius counted them in; and Jade's young strong, trained voice rang out. Lucius murmured to the other two as he made a mark on a paper; presumably he was advising them on what to look for.

One of the things was stamina. An hour's solid chant was tough on anyone not used to it; and not easy even if you were. Fortunately it was an easy chant, a simple Latin protection spell.

By the time they had finished, five hour's worth with a large number of candidates, this circle in the great hall would be utterly impervious to ducks and geese.

Jade supposed Lucius had to come up with something innocuous and he could not exclude fey or Seag would be exempted.

It was easiest with a long chant to let yourself go almost into a trance where you became your own voice and let part of your mind rest aside from it.

Rosamund was running out of steam and faltering over words before the end; Sylvia and Esmerelda both had tired little voices.

Jade chanted on powerfully.

She would be glad when the time was up; but she could make herself continue without apparent flagging. And she did.

Lucius had to be away to test practical chanting next morning at Hogwarts where four students were taking the new OWL, Mei Chang, Godfrey Goodchild and Ross Tuthill in the fifth with their other OWLs, and Lionel Dell alongside his seven NEWTs. That at least would be a shorter session for Lucius to sit in on! The written exam had been taken at the same time as the Prince Peak students had and was in the hands of an invigilator; and Jade wished them luck, and sent a blood pulse to Mei.

Having some chanters in the second blood group was also good.

And Mei would know to pass Jade's good wishes to those two and also to Jade's friend Godfrey, whose parents had not let him move with her.

Jade despised the Goodchilds.

At least Godfrey had a music grant from Lucius and a visiting music teacher.

Seag reported that all his exams were a breeze except Comparative Magic, on account of having to carry it on by correspondence course and pestering Ellie occasionally.

Most of the rest declared the Potions practical a veritable pig being the brewing of three very different potions from memory, each one short and easy to make but with all the ingredients laid out not by potion but in alphabetical order several people reckoned their minds went blank. Seag murmured something about this being different to normal how and got shouted at.

They had all had almost a full two years study; and the lowest number of OWLs being attempted was seven by four of the class; and the highest was eleven, which was Seag. Tala and Angelica were taking ten; and the rest either eight or nine.

It was a better average than ever before in the school and Madam Trewkettle was amazed and hoped – rather snidely – that Severus was not encouraging them to overreach themselves.

"Well you will have to judge that by yourself, will you not?" said Severus. "I'm not expecting the grades they'd have got if they had had all this time at Hogwarts; but at least they get a broader education base and we are being flexible about negotiating NEWTs based on how hard they have worked more than on results; as I have occasionally done at Hogwarts too in exceptional circumstances."

"I heard that the exceptional circumstance was one you were boffing" said Madam Trewkettle.

"Not, however, at the time" said Severus "Her hard work after the tragic circumstances of the rape she suffered at fourteen that led to her low grades brought her close to my wives and me; and ultimately she joined our household. And I only bother to tell you rather than withering you with a look because I don't want you spreading poison about her. I accepted her low grade in the light of how well she was working after I had discovered where the problem lay. It's not easy to have a baby when you're only fifteen and that the result of a creep who forces himself on you; I think she did exceptionally well to go on to take four NEWTs at good grades."

Trewkettle flushed.

"That must have been extremely tough for her" she said. "I didn't know you had that much sympathy in you, Severus."

"There's probably a lot of things about me that you don't know" said Severus "Generally I like to keep it that way."

Madam Trewkettle was also pleasantly surprised by the number of NEWTs being taken. The one boy was attempting six; but two girls were going for five, one for four and two for three.

The two ambitious girls were Katarina, taking the maximum permitted at Durmstrang, and Hilda Hubble who had blossomed under good teaching. Katarina was in many ways the class star; though Edward was taking one more subject than she, it was generally reckoned that she was the better student. He outshone her in Charms and they vied with each other in Arithmancy; but otherwise Katarina sat ahead of him.

Edward of course had the opportunity to sit an exam of DADA; which Katarina had not studied and despised the idea of studying Dark Arts as such.

Jade planned to for her year at Durmstrang, as local colour and to use the study to make up more counters to any dark arts they learned.

The Potions Practical was the draught of living death; and only Katarina's turned out a light shade of lilac. Edward's at least was a lightish purple as was Hilda's; the others completed it with more or less purply shades and no sludge which was as Morgana said in relief was better than she might have hoped.

The written exam covered everlasting elixirs and Golapott's laws in the main which Katarina declared a beautiful paper and earned herself thereby several hard stares.

Charms, Transfigurations and Enchanting were all considered to be 'all right' to 'quite fun' by various students except Morgana who managed to turn the examiner into a fiddle.

Severus rescued Madam Trewkettle and took her away to get herself back to a reasonable level of sangfroid before she was to tackle those who came after 'Fairchild' in the alphabet which was all but Edward.

Morgana was run to earth sobbing in the loo by Krait who told her she should apologise to Madam Trewkettle on general principles of courtesy but that it was only the end of the world if she had already mucked up the written as she could still achieve a pass grade if she did well enough.

Morgana knew she had not and sobbed afresh.

"Look, no harm done; Professor Snape unfiddled the examiner" said Krait and then had to breathe deeply not to giggle at her own description "You can always re-take as an external next year. And you have three others you are taking; that's a good average. Professor Fraser's examiner almost got EATEN; he let his mind drift and turned his fiddle into a Bengal Tiger of all things!"

"Did he fail?"

"No….fortunately the examiner both liked tigers and had a sense of humour. But these things happen. I was the first to disconcert them by refusing to turn my cat back on humanitarian grounds. Most Hogwarts kids do now."

"Oh!" said Morgana who had never considered it.

Krait disliked Morgana; but she was still a child in her care after all.

Hilda, Katarina and Amy were the others taking transfigurations and the first two at least performed with panache, summoning flowers and turning their fiddles into a Siamese and a Persian cat respectively. Amy's cat had a curly tail that resembled rather too closely the end of the fiddle stock but she got through the test.

She had only Divination to go, which she was taking as a softish option.

She did however create a sensation when she leaped up over the crystal ball and shrieked that the gardener was trying to murder Professor Luytens.

Jade already knew and had apparated directly to Wulf's room the moment he exuded concern, rapidly joined by other blood group members.

They were staring at each other, wands out.

"So" Dunkelwald was saying "Where is the real Wulf Luytens?"

Jade, who had a sense of the dramatic growled, as she arrived

"Behind you!" as she changed into wolf.

He could not tell the difference between werewolf and real wolf; and he screamed as Jade leaped.

She cast a combination of the jellied furnunculus curse, avocado kedavra and the full body bind as she leaped.

Bound, green and covered with wriggling tentacles it was up to Severus to decide what to do; and she shimmered back into her own form to hug Wulf as the others arrived just seconds behind her.

Severus regarded Dunkelwald.

"Hmm" he said "WHAT am I going to do with you? Azkaban for attempted murder? Let you run and hope the natural wolves of the peak do my job for me? Hang you? No, I know."

He released the man from all the curses; regarded him for a moment and started chanting.

Jade and Seag and Krait roared with laughter and joined in, dancing around him as they did so.

The man shrank as they chanted, and changed proportions, his clothes falling away from him as he turned into a house elf.

He shrieked.

"I will be turned back and then you'll see!" he squeaked.

"No actually I doubt anyone can" said Severus "You just got hit by a chanted curse by four of the greatest chanters alive today; it having been a dying art I revived. Durmstrang graduates can make chanted curses; which they learn more or less by rote, but I doubt they can uncurse you. Not with the layers and twiddly bits my wife and two of my children added."

"Twiddly bits; technical term for twiddly bits" murmured Krait. "Don't say it Hermione."

"I was only going to remark that one rarely sees Severus at a loss for sesquipedalian and verbose descriptive periods" said Hermione mildly.

"And now" said Severus "Come with me" and he seized the wriggling elf that suddenly complied, with a look of horror on his face.

"Lumme" said Ron "He's still got the compulsions, hasn't he?"

"Not feeling sorry for him are you?" asked Jade.

"No, just shocked that Severus would…."

"No control" said Jade "That's the true-form of house-elf here; didn't you hear the Finnish we stuffed in to make it true-name controlled?"

"Are you sure SHE's not the Quidsats Haddarach taken over from Harry?" said Ron.

"No; I'm Allia and darker like her too" said Jade "Only I have the strength to fight it."

Severus did an elf-style apparation to the feyspace tag; and dropped the elf in front of Gerhardt.

"Your murderous little spy" he said "And for that….." he summoned a switch into his hand and advanced on the astonished Prince and started to lay about him with the stinging ferrule.

Gerhardt whinnied with fear and his bodyguard let fly with wands at Severus.

He was expecting the attack; and smiled grimly that all went for the killing curse.

One of which only narrowly missed the writhing Gerhardt.

The Prince's look said THAT one was in for a hard time.

Severus ignored it as the rest of the group dissipated it for him.

"There; six of the best for a very naughty boy" said Severus "I warned you!" and he apparated away, creeping back in feyspace.

There was hubbub.

Gerhardt felt a need to assert himself and see someone else in pain; the wizard who had nearly killed him writhed under the cruciatus curse.

"WHAT IS THIS DAMNED ELF?" roared Gerhardt.

All his aides, naturally, denied knowledge.

"I'm not really an elf he turned me into one, I'm Lothar Dunkelwald!" squealed the elf.

"Oh? I don't think I believe that" said Herzog Von Frettchen.

"I am! Eduard, they used chanting and Finnish naming something!" said Dunkelwald.

"Get him mandragora potion; that'll show if he's telling the truth or not" said Von Frettchen.

Severus grinned.

"Not with THAT combination of curses old boy; only if it's brewed using his own true name" he said.

But he said it to himself.

Back at school it was almost anticlimactic with the two who were taking the DADA exams to go.

It was the practical that would drop the marks of both; Edward manfully resisted the imperius curse and got a protection up to the cruciatus curse; Hilda had more trouble.

But they did not have the range and variety of corridor curses either that they had learned to resist or to cast that a Hogwarts' student would have; seven years of train journeys and inter house rivalries honed the duelling instincts wonderfully!

And the train journey at least should start to emerge as a tradition for Prince Peak.

They needed a duelling club to replace inter house rivalry thought Severus.

It would give them more chance too against outside incursion.

And then it was the end of another year; and a last night feast and making sure they all got on the train with everything they were supposed to have and nothing they were not supposed to have.

Which was accomplished even for Rose Hubble.

The Marauders would take Sandalla home to Zorn and next year she would apparate directly to the train station in the care of an elf.

It had been a busy year; but then, that was the way of schools.

Never a dull moment!

The end of another year! I can't handle the next two at once so I'll pick which one should go first... I believe the consensus is on the Hogwarts story