Chapter 15

The exams were on the students of Hogwarts and all was disruption with examiners in the school. Freya Tuthill and Mei Chang were the two OWL students who were taking eleven OWLs. In fact, Mei was actually taking twelve as she had been part of the group learning Chanting on their own time.

Ross Tuthill was also taking this exam, raising his number of OWLs to ten; and Godfrey Goodchild, Jade Snape's friend and protégé whose parents had refused to let him transfer to Prince Peak with Jade to improve his music; though he did at least have an external music coach paid for by Lucius on a scholarship having heard the boy play. Severus had promised the lad tutorials to take his chanting to NEWT level; indeed he was hoping to work with Lionel Dell in the Head Boy's extra year on that. Godfrey's ambition was to research music in magic under tutelage after school at Prince Peak, paying for it with lower level coaching in chanting and music training with a view to teaching it as a new subject for the Austrian School where Severus intended to have such obscure and specialist subjects available. Which being so, Godfrey already had a fan in little Sara Barbary, niece of Heathcote Barbary of the Weird Sisters. Sara was a musical child herself and eager to use her skills in the halls of academe rather than as a pop star; and Godfrey's ambitions to do research fired her own ambitions too! Sara had managed to talk her way into the informal chanting classes too and was tolerated for her hard work and obvious seriousness over the subject.

Two of the sixth were also taking this extra OWL, Lionel and the Ravenclaw boy Tony Queach who hoped to study HIS extra year at Prince Peak; but he intended to return to Hogwarts to teach chanting and give ordinary music lessons on the side for extra income if anyone wanted rather then have a variety of external teachers disrupting the school curriculum.

The first five exams were the compulsory ones, Potions, Charms, Transfigurations, DADA and Care of Magical Beasts.

The top potioneers were Arjelan and Ross; with Mei coming close, though she admitted freely to Freya – who worried about these things – that HER brother Ming surpassed her in talent with a cauldron. Freya was capable of taking an 'O' grade on a good day; and they all thought the exam had gone well. The practical had been a departure from the more common single long paper, as it had been the year before; they were set to choose three useful medical potions and brew them – they might use a spare cauldron to set more than one at once – within the time of the exam, with clear notes about why they had made their choices. They had to brew from memory and the ingredients were laid out in alphabetical order not for the three potions most expected; and three were suggested, as the test was of potioneering not merely of imagination, the Pepperup Potion for colds, the bruise-healing paste, and the cough-curing potion. Extra credit would be given for more individualistic choices assuming they were not considered silly.

Everyone chose pepperup potion as the single most useful potion against minor ailments. Cholaka, prone to chilblains, chose a chilblain curing ointment as one of her others, with the note that this was a personal problem; Freya, with painful periods chose to brew a potion that cured this problem, including ginger, fennel and powdered moonstone. Ross brewed a stomach settling potion because, as he wrote, first years throwing up on the train were a pain and needed a counter to their overindulgence in the sweeties from the trolley. Mei brewed the hysterics potion under the explanation that any prefect needed the threat of something like that to deal with certain weevils who seemed to think that throwing temper tantrums was acceptable and they needed treating for more than just hysterics. Glumbumble juice was one of the ingredients in the Hysterics draught, which was the potion Severus also used for coughs to cover excessive laughter, and any other bad behaviour that might be loosely interpreted as hysteria. It was not a potion from the book; but the Marauders had reverse engineered what was left of Severus' supplies when poisoning Amos Leroy with it. Dimsie Burke chose a sleep encouraging draught slightly altered to include some of the effects of the Elixir to produce Euphoria; she explained that since having been subject to a cursed item she sometimes had nightmares and needed a little bit of help with sleeping and the euphoric ingredients gave good dreams to dispel bad ones and left her waking feeling fine rather than feeling heavy for a merely drugged sleep with a full sleeping draught. Professor Snape had devised it for her and showed her how to brew it; and that the Elixir to induce Euphoria was a NEWT level potion never occurred to her.

Nobody in the MSHG had any excuse for failing to do reasonably well in either Charms or DADA. Transfigurations took more talent; but they were all well practised. Godfrey's friend Gerald Purbeck shone here; a muggleborn boy who had been cured of a hole in the heart by medical magic he had applied himself wholeheartedly to the study of transfiguration with the intent of being a healer himself on leaving school. The Dell-Tuthill bloodgroup shone at Care of Magical Beasts; their blood link to Hagrid brought instincts beyond what they might have otherwise achieved. There were no surprises there; the de-doxifying of a room, dealing with Chizpurfle infestations and feeding Bowtruckles covered the practical with a stiff viva voce on the care of a sick unicorn. The written was tougher and tending more towards care of domesticated and semi domesticated beasts than dealing with wild ones.

And then it was time for the electives.

Most people were taking eight or nine subjects over all; the MSHG generally managing nine.

Grigs and Freya were both taking Divination; for Freya it was an eleventh exam that she thought less of a soft option then Muggle Studies; Grigs thought it all quite fun. He laid out tarot cards for the examiner and told him happily that he would marry a black dog before being hanged; or maybe he would just get a dog and get divorced.

From the examiner's point of view it was no worse than the usual rubbish using the crystal ball.

Freya took it very seriously and informed the examiner sternlyS that he should take care of his health as his heart was not as healthy as it might be and that he should get more exercise.

That she confessed later to basing that as much on his complexion as on palmistry in no way, she declared firmly, invalidated the good advice.

Heather had no such qualms about taking Muggle Studies as a soft option; nor did Grigs; and Dimsie was taking it because she had become interested. They were able to answer a long question on what things muggles expected to fly and what things that flew really upset muggles. Heather went briefly into the ambiguities of UFOs that muggles half believed in; even if it was only a belief in Government experiments being covered up. She pointed out that large scale sightings of things improperly disillusioned might be better covered up by leaking in Muggle newspapers the news of a laser projector being tested for military counter espionage purposes.

In point of fact, the examiner passed Heather's paper to the Ministry for perusal and suggested adoption of this idea as much easier than mass confundment. And Arthur Weasley liked it.

Several of them were taking Herbology; some as a softer option like Dimsie and Heather; others to help with potioneering like Mei, Freya, Ross, and Arjelan.

It was a good year for Arithmancy too; Mei was taking it to help with everything and in fact the marauders tended to consider Arithmancy a core subject for anyone who could manage it. Freya, Ross, Arjelan and Cholaka were also taking it, an unprecedented number of Gryffindors. Godfrey too was taking it, the only Slytherin in their rather denuded year for the want of Jade, Harmony and Seagh. It was in its content no big surprise; the matching of couples according to numerologically calculated matters; the calculation from one's own name and birth date of the best day in the year this year to undertake any endeavour; the best date for a couple to get married based on their names and ages – and Ross worked hard at this question as well as having added the rider that before their first child was born was usually considered a better date than after. Geomancy and Comparative Magic too were well represented, Freya, Cholaka and Heather taking both, Mei, Dimsie and Grigs taking Geomancy and Ross and Arjelan taking Comparative Magic. Ancient Runes too had risen in popularity being a basis for much chanting; and Mei, Freya, Ross, Arjelan, Cholaka and Grigs were taking that, and moaned much about the Ogham passage. Enchanting too went with chanting and Mei, Dimsie, Freya, Arjelan and Cholaka were taking that. It was a standard sort of exam in enchanting ink and pens. The written exam included a question based on the fairy tale about the Brothers Peverell – the tale was printed in full of how they met Death and asked for a different gift each- and the question was to choose in the mind of the candidate which was the most useful item and why, both in the context of the story and in the context of real life.

For a Marauder like Mei and for backup to the primary Bloodgroup like the Dell-Tuthill blood group the answer was obvious.

The cloak.

Who wanted to bring people back from the dead – and if they loved them so well, they'd not subject them to such discomfort anyway even if they wanted to – or have a fancy wand that was no real substitute for efficient spell casting? As Mei said, the wand was only a focus and you had to have something there to focus with. Whereas a cloak that rendered you invisible was useful for so many things that grown ups had no business being told about.

The Marauders knew that the Peverell type cloak had now been duplicated; because Jade Snape had worked out how to do it.

And that was a craft secret too but one they hugged to themselves.

Lionel Dell was to be given one next year before going to Durmstrang; and he would be told about it then.

And then the exams were over for the OWL students – save chanting.

They had done the written paper relatively early; and asked for a definition of chanting and how it differed from a more standard charm. There were questions on established, well known chants; and several questions where a situation was postulated and a chant required to be designed. Having designed the chant to heal Viktor on the fly with Lydia, Mei for one felt no qualm with any relatively easy theoretical situation!

All the chanters were also skilled Arithmancers and knew the importance of the rhythm and length of line; and where they had the knowledge proceeded to pick suitable languages to optimise this. Mei had knowledge of ancient Chinese; and Lionel and Ross knew Latin. Godfrey Goodchild and Tony Queach must needs improvise in English. Their notes at least as to optimal lengths would aid them even where they had to fudge results a little for the actual chant. Having vocabularies broadened by Severus Snape's snippy outbursts gave an advantage too! And then they might finally take the practical after all other exams were over.

Lionel had the longest list of exams with seven NEWTs and his wild card OWL in chanting. Callum was taking six, Cynner five, Melody four, as was Severus' cousin Pete Thomson; and Tim, Tamsin and Mary-Anne sticking to three to go for good grades rather then higher numbers. Few Hufflepuffs ever took more then three anyway, Myrtle Carmichael's five being an exception. Many indeed were only taking one or two, such as would further their careers and give them a slightly higher position; a potions NEWT for example to work in an apothecary's shop or as a potioneer in St Mungo's; a Transfiguration NEWT gave a start to an apprentice healer. In the Ministry too, a single NEWT gave a slightly higher starting grade in the appropriate office.

Potions was first; and the practical required the brewing of the draught of living death.

Lionel knew he could do this reasonably well; and relaxed slightly. He had dreaded having to brew Amortentia and its antidote! The Draught of Living Death required concentration; but he was also one of the people privileged to be permitted to read Severus' own notes on the Draught and hence crushed his sopophorous beans with the flat side of his silver knife rather than cutting them up as suggested in the original instructions. He also added the clockwise stir after every seventh counter clockwise stir that optimised the brew. Blue steam arose appropriately from the initially blackberry-juice purple; and as he stirred it lightened.

It was not so pale a lilac as Callum's nor Pete's nor Tim's; but it was a respectable colour. Lionel rejoiced. He had done it! Tamsin's was about the same colour as his; and they were among those who had by far and away the best colour in the class. Some people had thick blackish-purple steam arising and appeared to have produced a bit of a sludge; though Ivy Underwood of Gryffindor had as good a colour as his at least; and Adam Delcourt of Ravenclaw had a fair colour. Lionel tried not to feel smug that his was better; Adam was a bit inclined to be a Ravenclaw's Ravenclaw.

Amabel Trant, Bethany Friend and Vadim Milos were struggling rather. Still, there was at least some purple to their cauldrons; and a pass was still a NEWT.

It was only if you were crazy enough to want to be an Auror that you needed five NEWTs at grade 'E' minimum and Potions one of those recommended.

The written was no real trouble; it was on everlasting elixirs – which Lionel knew he had not covered as well as an 'O' grade candidate ought to – and Golapott's laws which was the really easy part. He compared notes with Callum; and felt fairly confident that he had probably done enough for the required 'E' grade.

For someone who had been described in his first year as 'death in the dungeon' by Madam Malfoy that was pretty good.

Defence against the Dark Arts was next.

Naturally the unforgivable curses featured in the written exam; and a variety of dark creatures to be described and counters to their natures suggested. The handling of cursed items was another section and Lionel resisted the urge to write 'try not to' as his answer. He wrote about the danger of even a small portion of the skin touching a cursed item since it was attuned to living flesh; and suggested destruction by enchanted goblin steel, enchanted silver or a magical artefact such as the tooth of a basilisk, and postulated that some cursed items might be neutralised by the application of the tears of a phoenix or the freely-given blood of a unicorn as well as by ritual and chanting to unravel the curse layer by layer. Having the chanting knowledge should give him bonus points.

This was an exam all his friends were taking; except Pete who was sticking to those things that would improve his potioneering. And they all knew about the theory of chanting even if they were not studying it.

The practical was a duel against an examiner permitted unforgivable curses.

Lionel had a speculum spell up before the examiner had pronounced 'crucio' and turned him into a woodlouse with a simultaneous disarming spell and tarantallegra curse.

His friends did well too, though Tim, Tamsin and Mary-Anne were a little slower on the piste and lost a few points.

Charms theory asked for a long essay that covered those charms that sealed or prevented passage; and Lionel wrote about anti apparition charms, the anti dis-apparition jinx, colloportus to seal doors, the fidelius charm and the imperturbable charm. Lionel also mentioned the muffling charm and suggested that the impediment charm could be set up to use in a similar way. He also wrote about repelling charms like muggle repelling charms and charms to prevent people peering too closely at something to be hidden in plain sight. He thought he had done quite well; especially as he hastily scrawled a line about age lines and their ilk just before the bell went to end the exam.

The practical was a standard confundment of muggle walkers to believe that they had not in fact seen the Hippogriff that the examiner had showed them; confundment was an important part of keeping the wizarding world safe and it seemed a sensible skill to emphasise.

Cynner, Melody and Pete also took this exam; and none of them had any problems at all.

Only Lionel and Melody were taking transfigurations of their group; and they had no trouble with that either.

As had become tradition they refused to return their cats to being violins. Melody had produced a pretty lilac point Siamese; and Lionel, who could never resist being contrary, turned his violin into a handsome Kneazle with outsize testicles.

The theory was easy enough, commenting on the theory of similarity as an essay question and fairly well expected questions on Gamp's law and its exceptions.

Lionel, Cynner, Melody and Peter were taking Ancient Runes; and the examination asked one question. It read, 'translate the following three passages and comment in a brief paragraph on the similarities and differences in the subject matter'.

The passages were in Hieroglyphs, Ogham and Nordic runes.

It was soon apparent that each covered something of a ritual of burial; the hieroglyphs taken from the book of the dead, and fairly easy to translate because of the number of repetitive ritual phrases that always occurred; and asking for the spirit of the dead person to be given thousands bread and onions – meaning much or many – whereas the Ogham was no more nor less than a curse to anyone who profaned a grave and the Nordic runes wished mead and much fighting in Valhalla.

It was an interesting little work and made one think more deeply than the precise meaning of the words, which of course at NEWT level was only proper.

Arithmancy followed; and although it was a series of short questions they were all tough. Only the Cynner and Lionel were taking Arithmancy; the only two in the whole school this year. They wanted to do well of course!

Lionel took a deep breath; and applied himself.

The questions were complex but not too bad if one worked them methodically. Mostly they covered the ideal conditions to break curses; the best siting of new houses; and the number of stirs for a potion tailored to specific persons. Lionel had no trouble with potion theory; only with some of the brewing.

The last question was scary. It was a long equation with complex number terms in it.

The question was 'explain'.

He worked it methodically. It was an equation of place, a description of an entrance into wizarding space; and it faced….

He almost jumped out of his seat.

It was the entrance to platform nine-and-three-quarters.

He wrote steadily and finished with enough time to spare to check through his answers. Cynner was sitting grinning.

He asked her as they were let out,

"Platform nine-and-three-quarters?"

"Yup" said Cynner cheerfully. "Good exam,"

"Not bad" said Lionel "Could have been worse anyway."

History was Lionel's last exam. It was a standard sort of written exam, four hours, and four essay questions to be picked from a list of eight. Lionel picked 'Discuss the reasons leading up to the goblin rebellion of 1612'; 'Outline the development of wizarding governance from early informal movements to the formation of international agreements'; 'The hiding of the wizarding community and magical beasts from 1692 was a direct result of changing muggle beliefs; debate'; and 'discuss the degree of Roman tradition left in our society of today'.

The early history really was fascinating and it was thanks largely to Professor Lector that they covered that as much as the traditional studies of goblin and giant wars. Really, history should be split into two subjects, early history which might run up to the medieval period and post medieval period that should include more recent history like Grindelwald and Voldemort. He was interested in answering a question that covered goblin grievances for personal satisfaction but it was the legal aspects that really interested him in preparation for moving one day into the Quaestorium; hence the following of the Roman question, since much Roman law was still enshrined in modern law. That the Malfoys, of which he was a cousin, could trace their ancestry to intermarriage between a rogue Roman soothsayer and Romano-British Celts did add to his interest. The development of international bodies too was important for that; and of course the hiding of magical beasts was a matter of law. And Lionel knew enough to write that it was the beginning of scepticism towards religion in the Age of Enlightement, as muggles called it, that led to the necessity to hide such.

It was almost as exhausting as a practical; and Lionel was glad to get his last exam over and done with. Others of his group still had exams to go; Pete and Tim and Tamsin had herbology, Cynner and Mary-Anne had Geomancy, Mary-Anne also had Comparative Magic and Callum still had Astronomy, Enchanting and Divination to go.

Herbology was mostly a matter of killing mandrake roots; and Pete had learned a vibrating stunning charm from his cousin's young mistress Dione which he used with some aplomb. It would bring up his grade; Pete was only taking Herbology to help with potioneering and cared less about the raising of plants. His written exam was never expected to be of the best.

Tim and Tamsin fell back on the tried and tested method of stunning their mandrakes with a sharp tap and using diffindo to cut of the top.

Their written work was fuller than Pete's.

Pete however was now finished; and delighted to be so. Severus had promised to set him up in business as an apothecary in his own right; and to be a sleeping partner who would be on hand to help with trickier potions if need be. Obscura Alley required a decent apothecary; as the current one sampled too much of his own home brew, or so it was rumoured!

The Geomancers had a written exam involving such things as listing the order in which the Knight Bus would visit a list of places – not necessarily in order of proximity to the muggle eye, nor even necessarily in alphabetical order, though that was an influence. Filling in ley lines on maps and describing the means to make a place unplottable were also covered. The practical involved visiting four places to retrieve objects from them.

Geomancy was one of those subjects like Arithmancy that attracted only the few talented students who were generally rather good at it. And an arithmancer like Cynner found it easy. Mary-Anne thought she had blown the written a little; and was slower in her return than Cynner but was generally not displeased.

"After all, my mother reckoned I'd be leaving school after I did OWLs" she said proudly "Went to see dad, all patronising, asked how many I had. She almost fell over when he told her I had nine, all at 'E' and above. She was going to find me a menial job in her office, the double dyed cow."

"You should have told us before!" said Lionel, angry.

"Oh she's such a pathetic creature it hardly seemed worth it" said Mary-Anne smiling gently "She was so eager to play lady bountiful at me, asking what I intended to do with life after OWLs and had I got any career in mind, and dad saying 'not until she's finished her NEWTs. And in plural. She only got one NEWT in Charms at 'A' you know. If I get decent grades – and I don't see why I shouldn't – I shall have a job in the auror's office for the asking as a guide with geomancy allied with DADA to prove I can protect myself; and as an auror's guide in parts foreign too with my Comparative Magic. If it goes all right."

"Even if it's a pig of an exam having it at OWL isn't common" said Lionel. "Alastor Moody's going to be glad of you my love; and so am I when I get there."

"Yes; people forget that Aurors need a support staff too" said Mary-Anne tranquilly. "And even as an office gopher I should be able to cock a snoot at mother from a superior office to magical transport. Her Wallie – honestly, as if Wallace wasn't a bad enough name without being more of a Wallie than he already is – doesn't have any OWL or NEWT in Geomancy, only what he's learned on the job. In an auror's office I could be sent to give HIM orders" she said with a dreamy look on her face.

With which happy thought she went into her comparative magic exam and wrote screeds on naming magic and the tradition in many cultures that names had power taken to great lengths by the Finnish. She also wrote happily about different kinds of divination, from the use of burned herbs and stellar conjunctions of the centaurs to the recent use of tea leaves in the west, the flight of birds in several cultures and the appearance of entrails with the sceptical aside that this was probably an invention to get the fattest creatures in the village given for divination that would end up on the diviner's table since anyone in their right mind without an ulterior motive would soon have a belly full of entrails.

Callum managed to surpass himself in the Divination practical and went into a trance and drew three babies, one with the placenta around his neck strangling.

As the examiner's wife was expecting triplets he was much shaken; and proceeded to use the floo to tell his wife to go to St Mungo's immediately, and explained why.

As a point of interest he returned to give Callum a big box of chocolate frogs and asked him to be godfather to the small boy whose life Callum's vision had undoubtedly saved; and asked if he might name him after the boy.

Callum was much touched.

It was to be the start of a long friendship. Randall Hopkirk was the son of Mafalda Hopkirk of the Improper Use of Underage Magic office; and a one time Ravenclaw. He adored his young wife and was more grateful than he knew how to say, being a man who came to fatherhood a little late – he was almost forty – and with half a quidditch team at one go as Cal quipped.

Enchanting went well enough for Callum too, producing a charm to be performed under specified conditions, coring a wand and making a muggle shopping trolley fly with considerable aplomb with the addition of speed controls and wand steering.

The written he declared a doddle and then refused to answer any questions on it since it was his last exam and it was now all over and he had firmly forgotten.

And then it was time for the chanting practical.

Lucius came in from Prince Peak with two other trainee Chanting examiners, a Madam Trewkettle, an acidulated female with 'Ravenclaw' written all over her – as Mei described her – and a male examiner with untidy hair too long to stay put and long enough to flop about and he obviously believed – erroneously – that he was in tune with young people.

They endured him as stoically as they endured Madam Trewkettle.

The chant lasted an hour; and strength of voice maintained throughout as well as accuracy of words and rhythm were under test; they had ten minutes preparation with the chant to be used beforehand; a charm to prevent the entry of any ducks or geese as the Latin scholars among them realised, chuckling. With only a handful of entrants they were all tested together and Lucius looked highly relieved. Word was that he had had several batches at Prince Peak; no wonder he looked tired!

It was tough; but this was what they had trained for.

None of them flagged much; and it was the last thing to do.

They endured; and then it was over.

"If you taught yourselves that was a remarkable effort" said Lucius, once it was over.

"Oh we did have a teacher" said Mei.

"Who?" Lucius was curious.

"Lydia Snape" answered Mei.

"Lydia Snape? She's a fourth former!" Lucius was taken aback.

"Yes sir; she's also the best chanter in the school" said Lionel.

"She was the one who devised the chant to save Viktor Krumm and did all the complex stuff while the rest of us followed her lead" said Mei.

"That we weren't involved in because them of the fourth who chant are all more experienced chanters than us" said Lionel ruefully.

Lucius blinked.

"I need to talk to – who else was there, Remus and Sirius?"

"Yessir and Professor Khan" said Mei.

The other examiners made faintly protesting noises.

"There is precedent" said Lucius.

Questioning Remus, Sirius and Assim he discovered that Lydia was chanting for a good hour supported by her cohorts; and summoned her and the other Mad Marauders for a viva voce examination.

Hence the Mad Marauders were all awarded an impromptu OWL at 'E' with Lydia awarded 'O' for devising and leading the chant.

"DADA and Potion grades were awarded thus after the killing of Voldemort" said Lucius to the other two examiners "Sometimes you have to be flexible. Besides it's five we shan't have to listen to next year because the most important examiner of all has already heard them – a dying man who lived thanks to their efforts. I don't think there can be a much stiffer examination than that. And they already took part as supporters in far more serious rituals than that that I know of personally. If Madam Marchbanks protests I will tell her about that too; it's none of YOUR business."

And with that, they had to be content!

With the exams over, the Belle Marauders were able to carry out their plans.

The non Slytherin among them – Maud and Isabel – came through the camphorated cupboard into the passage that exited via the portrait of Ebeneezer Malfoy, also known as Neezer the Wheezer, who expostulated to see non Slytherin invading his domain.

"Stow it or we'll hang up Cornelius Slytherin opposite you to make faces again" said Bella ruthlessly "Or Cosmo Malfoy, our family part-goblin. You're not a proper Malfoy, proper Malfoys are adaptable and take advantage of all situations, you're just a GAUNT you!"

They knew the history of Cornelius Slytherin's painting, of course, that hung in the office of the head of Slytherin House, though Severus was having a copy made as he was Krait's ancestor; and to stay in communication with Constance Hardbroom.

They brewed their noxious gas under a fume cover in the common room while The Neezer watched in offended silence; and cast bubble head charms on themselves to take it up to the upper sixth boys' dormitory. They decided to put all of them into a deep sleep since Lionel would be almost bound to tick them off if he awoke; and it was safer this way.

It has to be said that applying singing trolls to the forearms of Jackman was not accomplished without some giggling, and the conspirators had to hide briefly under the bed when a female head poked round the door and told the unconscious boys to shut up.

It was Cynner Strong; someone on whose mercy they could probably safely throw themselves if she noticed that anything was amiss; but Cynner was preoccupied by her own thoughts and noticed little.

Cynner had just had a marriage proposal and a business proposition from Callum – the second a long time after she had accepted the first and they had actually come up for air – and was considering the possibilities of publishing a reliable almanac and wondering if they might poach the services of 'Agnes Eagle' the nom de plume of the two sixth formers – doing NEWTs next year – Annis Shipton and Gabriel Adler who wrote for 'Divination – tomorrow' to supplement their meagre pocket money. Her arithmantic skills allied with Callum's divination abilities might well be enough for a very successful little almanac indeed.

Consequently, though the gas made her yawn she put it down to having sat up late with Callum canoodling; and went back to bed oblivious to the mischief under her very nose.

The conspirators wriggled out, finished their enchantments and pulled down Jackman's pyjama sleeves quickly before the trolls could begin their basso profundo protestations of Jackman's jerkship.

It was handy being real Marauders and having access to the invisibility cloaks!

They had to hide in a corner on their way back down; then the three Slytherin slid off into their own dormitory while Maud and Isabel went back through Ebeneezer Malfoy, sulking huffily at them, and so to Gryffindor tower with delightfully guilty consciences.

Lionel – who guessed the culprits – told them privately that it had been the funniest thing he had ever woken up to. Or rather, had seen some time after he had woken up because Jackman was a bit of a slugabed. Jackman had howled in horror and anger and promised all sorts of retribution on the perpetrator.

"I told him if he was so childish that he couldn't take a harmless joke, perhaps I should ask the head to hold HIM down a year to repeat" said Lionel "And that did NOT suit his fancy! I had to help him remove it I'm afraid; he has NO sense of humour at all and I really think if I had not he would have attacked to maim anyone who giggled. However, Tycho and Ralph and I enjoyed it and so did Cynner and Melody because they came in to see what the noise was about" he grinned "I'd watch out for him out of school if I were you; once he's recovered from his fury he'll start to put two and two together and remember the singing woodlice. He's clever enough for all that in some ways he's so stupid. Either avoid him on the train or sit with the Mad Marauders."

"Thanks Dell; warning appreciated" said Bella "It was mostly to give YOU a laugh anyway because you're a sport."

He laughed.

"Then I appreciate it very much!" he said.

The quidditch shield was presented to Ravenclaw; the Marauders shield was presented jointly to the house heads of quidditch and to the scratch interhouse quidditch team that had played Bulgaria for helping to keep a fighter against evil safe and for putting together a four-house team in short order and without a single quarrel. Tamsin Clintock volunteered information that it was largely down to Kate Rosier who had sorted it; and Dumbledore promised to have her name underlined for emphasis. Gryffindor won the House shield on general principles, but the girls of all four houses maintained that it was largely because the Gryffindor girls had variously nutted, insulted and slapped Victor Crabbe.

And another school year drew to a close.

There had been ups and downs; but that was life.

And next year was the Triwizard again; and much to look forward to!

On the train home, Jackman thought he was in heaven when he came upon Bella looking alone, forlorn and unsupported on the train; and proceeded to tell her how he was going to punish her.

Whereupon all the other Belle Marauders emerged from under the invisibility cloak they had asked to borrow for the purpose and jinxed him firmly, leaving him dangling by one ankle in a purple silk ballgown with spider legs growing from his face from Gorbrin's aracnonuncular curse. And Lionel left him there until they pulled into King's Cross. After all, it was none of his business; he was no longer head boy!

The end of another year