As the two youngsters approached the gnarled old stumps thorny vines whipped out.
Without gloves this would be agonising.
Jade gave a yell of inspiration.
"Call yourself a witch, Snape!" she upbraided herself and conjured a pair of gloves. Lionel laughed and copied her.
"NOW we have a fighting chance" he said.
Jade was still worrying about her baby. Albus did not know of course; else he might have used something else.
"Hold one… quick chant laddie and we can set up a physical shield spell too…. Three, two, one…."
They began chanting and moved in perfect synchrony down the thorny passage, tying the thorny appendages together.
Jade absently extracted a snargaluff pod or two from the holes formed in the knots, and shrugged.
Lionel understood; you never knew when you might need such, and having flesh-devouring pods might actually come in handy. It would be just like Albus to have provided a means of protection in the very traps of his maze. He pulled a couple out too.
And they were through.
Jade grinned and sang an appropriate verse from 'Thomas the Rhymer'
"Don't you see yon narrow, narrow road, sae thickly set wi' thorns and briars
Yon is the road tae righteousness though afther it but few enquires."
They sang together the chorus,
"Harp and carp, come along with me, Thomas the Rhymer…"
Jade pointed ahead and commented in song, continuing the theme
"Don't you see yon bonny, bonny road that lies across the ferny brae
yon is the road tae fair elfland where you and I this night must gae"
"I believe you're right" said Lionel. "And I bet we get attacked by something…."
He was right too.
The half dozen Redcap-like fey burst out of the bracken, wielding clubs.
The two youngsters promptly threw their Snargaluff pods at four of them – and as fine quidditch and cricket players both, their aim was good – and took one of the remainder each. Jade turned hers into a giant hovering woodlouse and Lionel stupefied his. They had not broken stride. The four empodded ones fought with the obscene green pods that were busy trying to engulf their heads.
Shortly after this the brae opened up; and there was a Sphinx.
"Two of you?" she said. "That's irregular"
"Eccentric" said Jade "Not irregular. We're English; being eccentric goes with the territory."
"Well I shall ask a riddle; first to answer it goes on, the other must answer another riddle" said she.
"Fair enough" said Lionel.
The sphinx said,
"A greedy worm in youth I then devour
until of greed I slumber like the dead
when I awake I sup from every flower
and clad in rainbow hues fly forth instead."
Lionel and Jade looked at each other and pronounced in one voice,
The sphinx looked faintly outraged.
"You'd better both go on" she said huffily.
Jade curtseyed and Lionel bowed.
Sometimes good manners were wise.
Past the sphinx there was a pedestal on which was written
"When I am solved you will know what state
to turn me and shift me to orientate."
There was an arithmantic equation.
"Albus just HAD to have asked Filius Flitwick to come up with some of this nonsense" said Jade "I know that as Gryffs go he's a devious old so-and-so but really!"
"Well you Prince Peakers stole Severus so he has to pick someone else almost as tortuous" said Lionel "Looks easy enough."
They solved it out loud in their heads; took hold of the pedestal together and turned it.
There was that horrid feeling of shifting as they set it down and they appeared, pedestal and all, in front of the judges.
Albus Dumbledore was beaming at them.
"You are one sick puppy, sir" said Jade curtseying to him.
"Seconded" he said.
"I'm so glad you enjoyed my maze" said Albus grinning impishly.
"Enjoyed…. Well I could think of a few other adjectives but let us let that go sir" said Jade. "Where are the others?"
"Lost I fear in the realms of a lack of arithmantic education" said Dumbledore.
"You mean we were the only ones who read the first clue aright?" said Lionel aghast.
"I fear so my boy" said Dumbledore "Marshals are now collecting them."
"Crumbs!" said Jade with feeling. "The whole thing was Arithmancy…. If you count the Waffling logic NAND calculation of the Telamone columns. THAT was nasty."
"You did rather mess with my goblin clockwork clashing rocks inside there though so you had your revenge, my dear" said Dumbledore cheerfully.
"Meh, transfiguration is my main thing" said Jade. "It's supposed to test the way you use your strengths and minimise your weaknesses, right?"
"Quite so, my dear; quite so" said Dumbledore.
The other three contestants were led out of the maze. Judging by the cuts and abrasions and the fact that Anett had horribly lacerated palms they had met Snargaluffs at other points in the maze; and Timothée looked distinctly ill.
Jade looked at Lionel.
"Acromantula?" she asked the French boy. He nodded.
Jade and Lionel started chanting and the boy's colour started returning to normal, and he flexed fingers that had feeling returning.
"You'll want to nip out of sight for a pee any time now" said Jade "We cleared it through your bladder."
Timothée grinned shakily
"Sank you very much" he said.
Anett had been healing her own cuts; and was shaken as the blood song hit her to aid her.
"Did you have aid from that during?" she asked Jade. Jade looked surprised.
"Of course not!" she said "Nor did you! It's not done – unless either of us was likely to die. Any more than Lionel had help from HIS group; and I don't even have to ask him that because his honour is impeccable!"
"I am sorry…. I wondered if, to make sure….."
"We are not like the German ministry to cheat" said Jade quietly. "And I would relish winning by cheating as much as you; in other words not at all. You missed the clue on the gate; about prime numbers."
"What are prime numbers?" asked Anett.
"Lumme, you never even had THAT much Arithmancy? They're numbers that cannot be divided by anything except themselves and one. There's an infinite number but you rarely need them past fifty three. After two itself of course, they're all odd numbers or they could be divided by two; but not, of course every odd number. Fifty one for example is divisible by three and seventeen….it's immensely important for some ritual and goblins set great store by prime numbers…..look, you'd better take a course in Arithmancy when you're teaching with us. It's the basis of all higher magic."
"Can I mention that you said that of it when talking to the Herzog? It'll really make him sit forward to hear a phrase like that, higher magic; and then he'll give me a blessing to teach in Prince Peak, in fact I guess he'll urge me to go."
Jade grinned back.
"Go for it, sister mine; great idea. Amazing, isn't it, that these Odessa types can't find the secrets of higher magic the way we did – by poking around old tomes and doing it by trial and error. It's all been written about; it's just a case of extracting, extrapolating and putting together ideas that sound like they ought to be combined."
"Not some secret, long held ritual of information passed from headmaster to headmaster?" Anett was amazed.
"Nope. A load of stuff put together by one adult wizard who had taught himself chanting out of books – dad – and half a dozen teenage witches and wizards and the odd suggestion by us babes and the eleven year olds who were all young enough to cut through complexity and have the odd bright idea" said Jade.
"Well!" said Anett. "However, very talented and flexible teenagers."
"Granted" said Jade "Hermione and mum vie for being the brightest witch of their age; Neville and Ron are steadfast and true; Harry IS the quidsats hadarach and Draco is the reserve. And I'll explain THAT old joke another time as it's too long an explanation for now, and here comes your noble friend" she added.
Herzog Von Frettchen came and clicked his heels. Anett curtseyed and so did Jade.
"Herzog Von Frettchen…..Fraulein Jade Snape" Anett introduced them
The Duke kissed Jade's hand as she extended it.
"Jade was explaining to me the meaning of the clue" said Anett "I had never heard of Prime Numbers for I never took Arithmancy as an elective. She says it is the basis of all higher magics."
The start of surprise was almost covered. Almost.
Jade permitted herself a small, rather superior smile.
"Of course in the better English schools we consider it essential to give an arithmantic grounding in the basics before electives are chosen; nobody who has failed to study Arithmancy can truly say they are a student of magic; for without the basis of all the theoretical background, how can any who are thus deficient be anything but dabblers? It is a shame that this has not been made clear in Durmstrang when the electives were presented to the students, that they make clear sighted choices. Why, ritual is virtually impossible without Arithmancy; and without ritual, magic is little more than a pretty toy."
"Ach, so?" said the Duke, assimilating. "I studied Arithmancy at school; but of ritual little."
Read, none, thought Jade.
"It is the different approaches I suppose; I have noticed that in our own history, the ministry was inclined to limit what was taught because the fools feared the headmaster at Hogwarts and his most stalwart pupils. Now we have an oligarchy drawn from the powerful and some of those of popular choice and not control by the inept, self-seeking puppets of the rich who seek only to cover themselves with glory and avoid losing power, there is no need to act repressively out of fear of the people, goblin, human or otherwise. When power is in the hands of an hereditary few it is honour and family honour that shape their actions; and as they need not fear losing office they do not have to scrape around for popular votes regardless of the ah, greater good. Horrid phrase; so easily abused, don't you think, but I cannot think offhand of a better one."
The Duke actually agreed with her sentiments on hereditary; and was surprised to hear such thus expressed. The concept of fearing goblins or the common herd made him uncomfortable. As did her comments on the Odessa motto 'for the greater good'.
He murmured a few polite words and begged Anett to introduce him to the other champions so he could congratulate the other joint champion and commiserate with the others.
And then there were formal presentations; and Jade and Lionel grinned cheerfully and told the wizarding wireless and wizarding wireless vision that with so little to pick between them good sportsmanship had dictated that there had been no choice but to go on together.
"I picked up the time on the bezoar in the second task" said Lionel "Jade is better than me really; but I can't express too often how delighted I am to have had the chance to follow in the footsteps of my hero, David Fraser; now, like him I have been head boy and Triwizard Champion; though unlike him I do not intend to referee quidditch. I have too healthy a respect for my own skin! I am going to be an auror, if I pass my training."
"Pratt" said Jade amicably "Talking about respecting your skin in one breath and then admitting to auror training in the next? Anyone would take you for a Gryffindor like David!"
"Hey, there's no need to be THAT insulting!" grinned Lionel.
"As the good people of the wizarding world can see, Lionel and I are on good terms" said Jade "And there seems less age between us now, for when I was in the middle school he was a much respected junior prefect and woe betide any of us he caught at mischief; I have always liked and respected Lionel."
"And I have always liked and been awed by the capabilities of Jade" said Lionel "And though at the time I was not pleased with Professor Snape for taking away our seeker who also looked to being a luminary of our House, I am glad now because it gives us the chance to BOTH take this trophy; rather than, had we been together, the Goblet of Fire choosing one of us. And I fancy" he added "It would not have been me."
"Glad neither of us has to know that" she said. "Though I am only sorry that the other schools are deficient in even basic Arithmancy so we didn't get a better run for our money – through NO fault of the other candidates. It is extraordinary to think that such basic background theory was missed from their curricula. Why, attempting to do magic without a grounding in Arithmancy is like going out without underwear on!"
"She gets her graphic similes from her mother" quipped Lionel "I'm not touching a straight line like THAT, Jade, for all the tea in China."
"And what are your plans for the future, Fraulein Snape, after leaving school?" asked a German reporter.
"Oh settle down to marriage and raise babies" said Jade "And maybe go back to teaching when my little family grows up a little. And in my spare time I shall be doing research into music in magic; I should like to see it established as a proper subject on the curriculum, separated from, albeit allied too, chanting. One may excel at chanting without being musical; but there are subtleties and nuances in the use of music in magic that need to be explored. The hypnotic song of Veeli for example; and the fabled Elf-King's tune. It's been a hobby of mine and now I get the opportunity to truly explore it."
"Errr, I see" said the reporter who plainly didn't.
It was however a point that would endear her to many traditional Germans, that she wished to settle down to married life; such was in ordnung for a lovely Fraulein!
An English reporter, a woman, asked,
"Will you then be considering taking a year at Corbin's Higher Academy for Ladies?"
"What, those crass amateurs?" scoffed Jade "Never met a Corbin yet who knew a quarter as much as they thought they do; they teach nothing there but a few pretty theories that dabble at the edges of ritual and higher magic. It's a funk house for girls still enamoured of the safety of school who want to learn useless but high-sounding twaddle because they can't manage to get a man."
The reporter laughed.
"Well sweetie, your views tally with mine, but my sister went there so I wondered if someone as academically inclined as you might like it."
"Anyone as academically inclined as me would eschew it" said Jade caustically "I take learning seriously. Any one of the candidates for the Triwizard from Prince Peak or Hogwarts could chew up and spit out the ladies of Corbin's. After all, he couldn't teach his own daughter simple magic; it was left to a classmate of hers when she got to Hogwarts. And the moment her father disowned her and she got adopted her grades improved. He's a grade O class one prize prune and top of the leader board of lackwit failures."
"You know this girl?"
"I'll say" said Jade "She's my adopted sister; 'cos dad gave her confidence and the tools to be a very competent witch. She didn't take many OWLs, only seven, but she got straight 'O's across the board. And she never bothered with NEWTs because she preferred to get married. Ill treatment in early life has an effect on academic attainment you know. And her husband, who has six 'O' grade NEWTs reckons her clever enough to hold serious discussion with so sucks to Branard Corbin and his delusions of adequacy."
The reporter, Jonquil Seaman, who had made comments in similar vane to her younger sister Lara, a year older than David Fraser, was delighted.
"Is it true too that Professor Snape intends to bring in specialist subjects of study at Prince Peak like the use of music and art in magic?" she asked.
Her sister was an artist who rather fancied herself.
"Yes; art may be used in cosmetic transfiguration in a gentler way than a spell, as well as proving very useful if the artist is also a seer, since there is then a record of visions" said Jade "You need to talk to dad about it in more detail really; he'll explain it all. The idea is that as Hogwarts provides all round academic excellence we would aim at providing a base for more esoteric subjects. Without of course compromising excellence in basic subjects. We have six compulsory OWL courses, dad adds Herbology to the Hogwarts mandatory studies, but with more specialist skills available it would be open to negotiation to drop one in favour of developing a true talent if need be. In a small school it is easier to concentrate on the needs of an individual; and dad is not in favour of letting Prince Peak grow too large. It would take away the nature of it; bear in mind it's about the size of one of the houses at Hogwarts" said Jade. "Everyone knows everyone else; and so there's the opportunity for us all to bring each other on with encouragement. I guess it's suit those who needed remedial lessons too because of that; and already we've seen its benefit – that and the good mountain air – to delicate children who would never overcome ill health in the rough and tumble of a pile like Hogwarts. Me, I sometimes miss the rough and tumble; but it isn't for everyone."
"Well thank you for that" said Jonquil Seaman with thoughts of how she could publish as much as possible of what Jade said without the Times being hit by a libel suit from Corbin.
Seagh meanwhile had found Heinrich Nachtigall in the spectators and sang,
"Two world wars and three triwizards, doodah, doodah
Odessa defeat stuck in their gizzards, oh doodah day"
He stood and laughed in the face of attempted curses and jinxes with his shield secure, enjoying their growing frustration.
This was to be the class his sister would be joining; and it would be as well to know their capabilities and signature spells to pass to Jade.
He only wished he knew what had happened about Nachtigall's dirigible backside.
Jade should have no trouble with them; they seemed all of them quite inept at casting curses, even the ones who tried the cruciatus curse.
It was tempting to let fly simultaneous jinxes at all seven, Nachtigall and his half dozen cronies; but Severus had suggested that it was better not to jinx them at all. He would gain as much satisfaction out of knowing that they knew he did not need to retaliate.
"My!" said Seagh, with simulated astonishment "Ye're a sorry bunch o' wee jessies so ye are. Gin ye ivver learn ony spells, ye ken fine where I can be lookit up; Ah'm sick o' yer inept havers the noo."
And there was a ball to round off the competition.
Jade managed to grab Anett on her way down.
"What happened about Nachtigall's floating bum and the swooping cursers?" she demanded.
"Did YOU do that to him? It was hilarious! The potion to restore his weight didn't work and he swore – actually SWORE – at Herr Rebet who told him that if he was going to act like that he should beware of anything else he ever ate and drank at school because there were worse things a potioneer could do to a man than merely poison him. And then suddenly he fell to the floor with an almighty crash. What did you DO?"
"It's a jinx that encloses your farts and turns them to hydrogen in a bubble until you float" said Jade "How long before it burst under its own pressure?"
"About two days" giggled Anett. "And what else did you ask? Was that the things like snitches that follow Madam Schrempf around that she is not fast enough to catch?"
"That's right; swooping cursers. Crumbs, you mean she hasn't even transfigured them into birds to get rid of them?"
"I don't think she thought of that….she burned her own bedcurtains blasting them I believe, but they still follow."
"Still? Gosh I must have had a bargain batch….either that or I accidentally extended them when I souped then up. I wanted something a bit more complex that the usual short sentence or selection of random swear words. Is that why she's not around?"
"Yes, Madam Bacsó said that if a teacher of the Dark Arts could not even get rid of mechanical irritants she had no right to embarrass the school by being seen with her attendant nymphs in public."
"Attendant nymphs? I like that. Madam Bacsó is a grade O bitch but she has her moments."
"She can be decent enough at times" said Anett "It is a shame she supports Odessa; she is an opportunist you see. Though actually, though she likes the ideals I think she now less supports Odessa for they have brought her nothing but failure and embarrassment; as in Herr Hesse challenging Professor Dumbledore. What happened? Do you know?"
"He slung the killing curse at Albus who decided that he would make a nice baby. So he made a total transfiguration mind and all, into an infant. Hesse's followers could not, or would not attempt to reverse it; and my sister has since surreptitiously made it irreversible by using Finnish magic."
"Excuse me? Finishing magic?"
"No, the magic of Finland; using true names. It's easy enough, I never formally studied comparative magic even to OWL but I can pull a Finnish chant out of the bag to do it. Lydia's actually studying comparative magic so she should be better than me with that. She's a canny chanter, that I DO know. Anyway, she used the ritual to really change his name to Perceval Filius Harry Dumbledore – Albus adopted him – so he isn't Helmut Hesse any more so all the mandragora in the world won't change him back even if brewed using his true name. It was a tough little ritual; I'm dead proud of my sister for thinking of it" she added.
"You people really do think of magic on a different level to everyone else" said Anett, awed.
Jade quite enjoyed this ball; the thought of Hedda Schrempf still being tormented by swooping cursers was sweet.
Also, Madam Bacsó asked her as in passing, about a girl called Nephrita Malfoy.
"She is lower sixth" said Jade as though without enthusiasm "Her birthday fell outside the competition date. She is not with the other candidates."
"Do you know her well?"
"Because I am her technical cousin? It does not always follow that cousins should like each other at all let alone be friends" said Jade coldly "I try not to know her; her attitudes are not such as I approve. What do you want with Nephrita. Madam Bacsó?"
"Would it surprise you to learn that she has applied to transfer to Durmstrang?"
Jade did a well simulated double take of surprise.
"I – no, actually on reflection it should not….. she has been on warning for certain comments, perhaps she prefers to leave and go somewhere where her attitudes are not considered shameful rather than be expelled. She can afford the extra fees if that is what you are concerned about; her mother left her well provided for having invested wisely with what Uncle Lucius' family paid HER mother off with. You look surprised; but Lucius is not abashed by his byblows even those by his wife's sister. Which would have been a scandal had it come out at the time I suppose; but he was only about thirteen when he was boffing Cassiopeia or whatever she was at the time calling herself. She changed her name I think. There's a big family tree in the Black family house with wand burns on the ones disowned, and the joke is that one of them is the head of the family now. Sirius had pencilled in all the ones he remembers of course. Some were disowned for things like supporting muggle rights or marrying a muggleborn wizard if you can actually believe attitudes so medieval in their profound stupidity!" Jade rattled on in apparently artless tactlessness just to watch Agata Bacsó seethe.
"She has said nothing of her father?"
"She boasts she is the child of some German aristocrat; I do not doubt this. She reckons she is his sole heir and that of course depends on whether his lands are covered by Sallic law; or indeed if it is true that Voldemort wiped out his entire family as she believes. I was too young to take much interest in the foreign adventures of Voldemort. I know he killed Gellert Grindelwald, who had, they say, the honour to refuse information to the megalomaniac little tick, but what else happened…." She shrugged eloquently "Do you know anything of a Von Strang family Madam Bacsó? If any live you will know for I believe all would be in school age."
"No, we have no Von Strangs here" said Madam Bacsó.
"Well she may be lucky then" said Jade dryly "Ah well; it would have been fun to tell her that her claim was useless; but such is life! Let her claim her potty little German estate and turn her back on being a Malfoy; I for one am not happy to have such a cousin. I hope she changes her name to Von Strang if she is truly coming to you; then she will not be an embarrassment on my mother's family by having a name that anyone will recognise as meaningful."
"The name Von Strang is old and respected" said Agata Bacsó.
"So? But not in ENGLAND" said Jade. "Whereas all over the civilised world, EVERYONE knows the name Malfoy."
Madam Bacsó seethed yet again; but it was true.
Anett managed to get a dance with Mortimer.
"I've been dying to talk to you since Yule" she said "But I never had the chance. I did as you suggested about going to see for myself."
"I felt you blood in too" said Mortimer.
Anett went pink.
"It is good not to be alone" she said. "I think that we are much lied to; though I still want to see for myself how high goblins may aspire; pure bred goblins I mean. I am sponsoring a family to school; and we shall see."
"They'll never be able to go back to their old environs you know" said Mortimer "That's almost a cruelty."
"Yrdl is way too bright to leave uneducated!" said Anett angrily. "Besides, there was sickness….Professor Snape had to move them all out anyhow. The baby was dying, Yrdl sent a letter with Jade, it was black goblin fever."
"You're not serious! That's been extinct for centuries!" said Mortimer.
"Not here in Germany" she said "And because it can be caught by humans, they would have been killed."
"It was almost wiped out by a potioneer not long after the statute of secrecy was passed" he said "And only occasional outbreaks, quickly cured and countered after that. How stupid to ignore a potion simply because it's English!"
"I think it is more likely because it is to cure the major sufferers – goblins" said Anett dryly. "Conditions in which goblins live in Munich – my nearest city – are appalling. And I will wholeheartedly fight against that. And" she sighed "I feel nothing inferior in the blood of Senagra or her brother that sing with mine; that I am beginning to think that it is only fear of numbers that has kobbolds designated as untermenschen."
"We have less in proportion to you; but it was still the case until recently in England" said Mortimer. "Some wizards still try to push us around; and some goblins are still stupid enough to get loud and stroppy about it and make passers by believe the stereotypes. It'll take time. And if things are truly so much worse, then I fear it'll take even longer in your country even if you can sweep away unfair laws."
"But if one does not begin, then a long time becomes forever."
"That's very true" said Mortimer. "And we are all beside you."
Anett smiled at him.
It made her feel very warm to know that.
And it gave her hope that her cause was not hopeless.
The ball ended; and they all went home.
And Jade walked into the arms of her beloved Wulf.
And they must endure a party of congratulations got up by the rest of the school who wanted to show Jade how proud they were of her; and the little ones must needs have a story made of how she felt all the time!
And then at last she might go with her Wulf to the quiet privacy of their bedroom where he could show her more personally how proud he was of her efforts; and where they might together feel the movements of their child who would be born in a couple of months and be thankful that Jade had thought of a chant to protect her belly from the Snargaluffs.
And then she must leave their baby to do her duty.
But Wulf would be ever with her from the deep joining; and that would keep her going.