Chapter 17

The competition finished with a Ball which was at least a little less oppressively heavy than the Yule Ball; Madam Bacsó presumably wished to avoid having it brightened up the way Jade had done to the last one. The dance music was fairly innocuous.

Hedda Schrempf was also conspicuous by her absence.

Perhaps the Durmstrang head had ordered her not to attend to make sure that there were no incidents. Lionel would not have put it past Jade to engineer an incident to be rid of a nasty piece of work; and claim airily that it had been for shits and giggles.

There was no suggestion that Anett Breuer was to defect; she seemed in reasonably good odour with her head, despite dancing with Mort Bane; and even with the aristocratic looking junker Von Frettchen, to whom he had been introduced by Anett, who appeared to be someone official; a member of the ministry perhaps, or a school governor.

It was however good to get back to Hogwarts.

Where he would finally say goodbye to it, reflected Lionel sadly.

And how wonderfully typical of the pupils – the Belle Marauders he had no doubt – to rig up the sixth form common room doorposts to blow raspberries and drop a deadfall of rubber spiders on him.

He had no study of his own any more – that had been ceded to Fran – but on his desk were cards and letters of congratulation such as the children had sent to David; himself among those that had done so. And Lionel was crying with pleasure that he had perhaps been able to be an inspiration to some of his juniors even as David had been to him.

There was time for a few more impromptu quidditch matches before they left school for the summer; and Me-First Murray was flying well and seemed determined to put his disastrous start behind him.

The MSHG had done much for the boy; and what Lionel did not know was that Murray had finally approached Gorbrin and blurted,

"I'm sorry I called you a cheat and said stuff that was wrong about your mother."

Gorbrin was a big hearted lad.

He held out a hand.

"Behind us then; and a new start" he said.

"Thanks" said Murray.

He was a boy who believed in his own abilities; but he loved quidditch more than he loved himself and was able to acknowledge Gorbrin's virtuosity on a broom.

They would never be friends; but they could now be civil towards each other and work amicably enough in the MSHG if they had to stand together against external threats.

And truth to tell, Murray actually regretted that Odessa had run out of Huorns; he would not have minded working with Gorbrin to deliver weedkiller to their roots as the ultimate test of broom control. And he was more than ready to learn combat flying to fight any foe.

If Viktor Krumm could do it so could he.

And if he envied Sekunder Singh for being scouted at so young an age, he was also able to appreciate the boy's skill.

They had some pretty supreme seeker types in the school at the moment; it was almost a waste that they were not to face Huorns!

Amos Leroy loved nobody and nothing more than himself; but as he had a goody box from home he managed to find enough in himself to offer to share with the Belle Marauders as they had fixed up Achille so good and proper.

With Achille's falsetto babbling the whole of Ravenclaw tower knew of the curse on him – and of his ludicrous underwear, for as that was uppermost in his mind he had babbled freely about that too and all the juniors and middles had crept up to look. And Ming Chang – who was old enough to have a better sense of responsibility – 'borrowed' Lakshmi Indrani's exotic scent that Ming had described as 'eau de goblin brothel expensEEve' and sprayed it liberally on the lingerie while Achille was having his final interview with Dumbledore and so they had seen him off under what Ming described as a 'cloud of opprobrium and brothel-scented fug'.

The smell was still hanging around the tower after the Triwizard was completed and Lakshmi had boxed Ming's ears well and demanded that he contribute towards some more.

Ming beamed, told her he could do better than that, asked for a sample, roped in Gorbrin, and proceeded to use potioneering and transfigurational skills to produce her a gallon demijohn of it.

Lakshmi forgave him on the spot and treated both boys to the stickiest tea they desired in Madam Rosmerta's 'Three Broomsticks'.

And then Ming, Gorbrin, Meliandra and Erica were invited by the Mad Marauders to be part of the blood group.

"We know you don't maraud" said Lydia "But we thought you were the staunchest warriors and were likely to be ready to back us – as well as being prepared to do your own thing."

"I'd add Jardak and Jazka to us if you want staunch warriors to take wounds for the primaries" said Gorbrin "Which is what it's all about, isn't it? People fighting Odessa and there being enough to bounce unforgivable curses."

"Yes" said Leo "That is what it's about; or about any one of YOU ending up as the principal if need be. You plan on social reform; and you'll run against the unscrupulous who will try to bump you off to stop their profit margin being cut into. It's all part of the same thing. Nip and get the other two then if you think they'd join."

A blooding was more exhausting than they might have guessed!

And once they were joined to so many whom they could feel Gorbrin was glad they had said yes for more reasons than a sense of duty to support those who needed it.

And he smiled at Meliandra; and knew more than ever that they were destined for each other; and wondered if Ming and Erica were aware how well they complemented each other.

And Jaska and Jardak for that matter!

And Ming and Mei – who always showed a united front to outsiders anyway – understood each other a little better, and Ming was overjoyed to be trusted by his sister at last to be a part of the important work she was involved in. He had often felt wistful that he had never been invited to be a Marauder and had wished that he had been in a year when others he liked so well had felt a desire to Maraud. This however was the next best thing!

"And those of us who are blood group and marauders will be tougher on you in class" said Sirius Black. This was him, Remus Lupin and Assim Khan; and the neophytes nodded solemnly.

It was the same as the MSHG only more so.

And Gorbrin was touched to be brought in to this deeper level; to be thought worthy.

"This is NOT the sort of thing one tells the parents" said Meliandra, thoughtfully. "Not my parents, anyhow. They get upset enough that I knock around with a goblin boy, even one named Malfoy."

Gorbrin grinned ruefully.

"Probably BECAUSE I'm a goblin named Malfoy; Malfoy arrogance is hard enough to take from tall elegant humans like dad, but I bet they resent it in me; and I kind of almost have to do Draco impressions at people who look at me like I'm scum."

"I'm sorry my parents think you're scum" sighed Meliandra "At least mummy says that I have the right to make friends with whoever I choose and that my happiness is what counts; and they love me enough to go with that."

"Then I guess I have to respect them" said Gorbrin soberly "Because it can't be easy standing by and watching a child's friendship when everything you've been taught revolts against it. Mel, do you think they'd be more able to accept me if I can be a straight 'O' student?"

Meliandra considered.

"You know, it's pretty awful but I think it might help" she said "Then they could say that of course you were an EXCEPTIONAL goblin. And I say, thanks awfully for trying to understand them, not just despising them like Narcissa does."

"Mother Narcissa's a bit hasty sometimes" said Gorbrin tolerantly. "And she didn't get on well with your dad at school; Slytherin House was pretty awful then and not likely to bring out the best in people. And I guess it's hard to get over school enmities; when we have kids I'll find it a bit hard to be civil to Zabini in Diagon Alley and I think if any of our kids were friendly with a junior Zabini it'd be hard to be entirely objective."

"Narcissa's been remarkably nice to me though; I have to give her an awful lot of kudos for that" said Meliandra.

"Yes; but you took a ticking off from her in Diagon Alley that first time and took it on board; and she SAW you stopping to think. And Narcissa is as hasty to give credit as to give criticism you know. She liked the fair mind that showed from word go. And you've never been in the least bit racist. Your parents aren't RACIST; just a bit prejudiced because of upbringing. We'll just have to help them overcome it and try to help Narcissa to be a bit less prejudiced against your dad."

Meliandra brightened.

"Sometimes bringing up parents is awfully wearing though" she sighed.

The informal quidditch matches had been fun and something of a close run thing; but over the year, Ravenclaw's well endowed first and second sevens had accrued the most wins, pipping Slytherin by one win.

They would deserve the David Fraser Shield however; and Jack Murray had improved enough to be proud of his house for winning it rather than seeing it as down to his efforts.

He had tried to do as Viktor Krumm had done, reaching past Gorbrin for the snitch; and had almost pulled it off, but Gorbrin got it first, and to little avail since the insane trio of Mad Marauder chasers had already bagged a total so high that Gorbrin's catch could only pull off a draw. But Murray was sufficiently laid back that Gorbrin felt able to tease him that having got that up close and personal he'd be affronted not to be invited to the next school ball.

Murray had blinked; taken on board that Gorbrin was teasing him; and actually managed to laugh.

"At least you're not a ruddy hermaphrodite like Amos Leroy" he said.

"Laugh it up; we get Chrysogon Rufus not this September but next – with his pretty curls and a GIRL's name" said Gorbrin.

Murray pulled a face.

"He's a Lockhart too so he's bound to be wished on us… Mad has to have curls for his mum in the hols though, don't he?"

"Yeah, but I got told he tried to persuade his cousin to have fun and get dirty and the precious poppet turned him down" said Gorbrin gloomily.

"He did indeed" said Mad joining the conversation and picking it up cheerfully.

"No offence, Mad, but you are – or can be – a rather intimidating creature even to someone only two years younger than you like me" said Murray "This sprout's just a babe; maybe he got the wrong idea."

"Well, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt" said Mad grimly "And if he's an oik I'll jolly well see about getting the younger ones to shake him down well. I'm not having another object of derision with my name; my wretched dad is bad enough."

"Because he's insane?" asked Murray.

"No; I'd be sorry for him about that if it hadn't been his own fault!" said Mad "His whole reputation was built on stealing the stories of other people; and he wasn't that scrupulous about the means he used to keep them quiet. He planned to pretend to have arrived just too late to save Harry, Hermione and Ron from the Basilisk – after Harry killed it – and wipe their memories to take the credit, and I guess if he'd had to he'd have murdered them; only he used Ron's broken wand and confunded himself and good instead 'cos it backfired. I'm not proud to have a dad like that but it's not something I can do anything about. I CAN try to save a younger relative from himself. Us sitting on you has turned you out okay after all" he added. Murray flushed. He was not nearly as self absorbed as he had once been and he knew that offhand praise from a Marauder was worth having. "I was a bit prejudiced against you too I have to say" Mad admitted "Because your famous great aunt boasted something rotten that reminded me of dad; and as he was all squeak and no trousers, it made me wonder."

Murray flushed.

"Well I guess it's not her that's credited with the fastest ever snitch catch…. But I think it was just that she spoke out without thinking, not boasting" he said.

"Well I'll think kindlier of her then" said Mad "Because I'm guilty enough of that…well, your juniors thrashed ours so I make that Ravenclaw's shield. Try not to grope Gorbrin too much in public."

Both young seekers were moved to hurl hexes at him for that; which Mad laughingly countered and made his escape.

And term was pretty much over bar the loading down of the students with massive holiday assignments to 'catch up what was missed with the Triwizard and ending term early' as it was generally put.

There were those who would have preferred to have had an extra week at school and done the work then; but as Bella said,

"It's part of a CUNNING PLAN on the part of the staff to get more time off."

The Belle Marauders and Gorbrin's set of newly blooded planned to spend the first week of the holidays together at Malfoy Manor and get ALL their holiday tasks done the better to enjoy the rest; and they invited Mafalda Prewett, the Monk boys, Jack Clements Venilia Cornfoot and Avice Crawford to join them and on a sudden whim, Jack Murray too, 'to celebrate you joining the human race' as Bella said but with such a beaming smile it robbed most of the offence from the comment. With the various relations, the entire first of Slytherin house of their year would be there as well as sundry others from other houses.

Gorbrin, in a spirit of generosity, also invited Albert MacMillan; who could do with help, more in the department of not panicking than in doing the essays. Albert was a hard worker and was finding a sense of self worth but if he could go home to his rather sceptical family with the pride of having completed his holiday work, and not got in a stress about it he could have a much better time of it.

Albert was delighted; not so much for the kudos of staying at Malfoy Manor – which excited his parents when he wrote – but to have the chance to have help from celebrated scholars like Gorbrin and Ming.

It was as well that neither of the boys knew that Albert's father said,

"Well, well, I suppose Lucius likes his adopted Goblin boy to have a squib to be friends with, shows him up less I imagine."

It would also have rather hurt Albert had he known that, on receiving his end of year report, his parents contacted Dumbledore to ask if they had been sent the wrong child's report as several subjects here showed an 'E' average and only two at 'P'. Albus managed to hide how angry that made HIM and pointed out that some children were just late developers and that Albert was a perfectly adequate scholar and a fine sportsman too.

The sport involved was cricket; and there was that at the end of the term too, matches against St Jodoc's and Henderson's Ladies' College, the two muggle schools they customarily played. The Hendys' second eleven pulled off a fiercely fought win this time and the senior match was rained off half way through; the first eleven beat St Jodoc's for a change and the second eleven was beaten by one run, being all out one run short.

St Jodoc's were however taking up hurley, after several years of hearing Hogwartians wax lyrical about it; and a fixture was to be played on the muggle school's half term in the autumn term and Gorbrin joked that both teams were to provide their own coffins for players who perished in the line of duty.

It is to be said that some of the St Jodoc's hockey team had refused point blank to play hurley on grounds that it sounded worse than playing girls at hockey which was dangerous enough.

And then it was back to school for the end of year feast and celebrating Lionel's joint win with Jade in fine style and too much to eat; which was the school child's way of celebrating most things.

Lionel had still to complete his training as an Auror; but Alastor Moody was persuaded to stand up and make a few comments to the effect that he seemed to be shaping up adequately enough so far so long as such excess of praise did not make him cocky.

Lionel grinned.

Alastor was good at making sure his protégés did not get cocky.

The David Fraser Shield went, as anticipated, to Ravenclaw; and the House Cup by the slightest margin to Slytherin and Dumbledore delighted to announce that once again the points for all the houses lay within seventy of each other across the board. The Marauders Shield was awarded to Mei, Mortimer, Freya and Ross for being the team that chanted to save the two wounded boys at the triwizard, working not only across house but across normal groups, and indeed across schools since Prince Peakers were involved as well.

He also had a further announcement to make.

"I expect the first at least recall Walter Crabbe who had to be sent to St Mungo's for his unfortunate sickness of the mind. It was determined that this had been caused by a cursed book he had been given as a small child, from a wicked individual who wanted to hurt the family; aurors have THAT well in hand. Because the book could be studied the healers at St Mungo's have every expectation that Walter will make a full recovery; but his progress will not be rapid. The healers think that he will be able to re-enter school not the next academic year but the one after, and what class he is in will be determined by whether he has been able to do any study at home. When he does return, I trust you will all be ready to give him a new start; as he should, effectively, be a different boy. I leave you to reflect on your own good fortune not to be in that poor child's shoes; and wish you a happy and productive holiday!"

It is to be said that Bella muttered rather about it being tactless to include a word like 'productive' when they had so much holiday work to do; but generally, the head was met with cheers and shouts of joy for the holidays!

And in the spirit of getting stuff over and done, the group of self-help homework hustlers managed to get one and a half of their essays done on the train.

There was, after all, nothing else to do except jinx Zabini and Crabbe and such simple pleasures palled after a while.

And in getting holiday assignments done, every little helped!