Chapter 19

The practical for metalwork being essentially already done there was just a written paper and a brief test in front of the examiner, placing a self-sharpening charm on a partially completed knife and completing its tempering. Then they trooped in to write about general smithcrafting; and a long and tricky essay on the nature of springs and the various enchantments that might be used to alter their nature. Drawing the works of a simple musical box to scale was a piece of precision work where Meliandra and big Mischa both fell down; Albert loved this sort of thing, and Gorbrin too was happy with anything precise. Erica might have done better had she been less of an artist and more of a technician. Silvester pulled out the performance of his life to make the neatest working drawing he had ever managed.

A few more short questions on binding enchantments secured within the manufacture process covered the rest of the paper; and the candidates escaped thankfully.

Gorbrin, Hadrian, Darryl and assorted Ravenclaws including Ming and Pearl, were the only ones taking ancient runes; and Gorbrin was glad he had spent so much time on the Nordic runes and the N-rune in particular. He also enjoyed translating the passage in Oghams; the script being a speciality of Lucius. He wondered if Lucius had actually set the exam; particularly with the question "compare and contrast the subtle nuances of the Norse 'galdr' and the Anglo-Saxon 'galan' and their emphasis under the two cultures"; a question which had half the class moaning later was more suited to Comparative Magic.

As only Darryl was also taking comparative magic this was held to be slightly unfair; though Gorbrin argued – backed by Darryl – that the nuances implicit in the translation were sufficient to give an answer, that the Saxons placed more emphasis on a sung or spoken charm and the Norse on a written runic spell.

"It brings home how much overlap there is and how important it is to study runes, chanting, comparative magic AND Arithmancy if you want a cat's chance in hell of getting anywhere post NEWT" said Darryl seriously.

"You always were clever" said Gorbrin "It's why I so resented you hating me; I always thought you could be a good friend with plenty to debate."

Darryl looked pleased.

"Yeah, I 'm now regretting not doing Comparative" said Ming. "I'll nick your books in the hols if I may, Gorbers, and see if I can't catch up on my own to take it in the lower sixth."

"Not if you call me Gorbers" said Gorbrin.

Ming grinned.

"Sorry Mr Malfoy!" he said.

Gorbrin poked him.

Arithmancy had the usual softening up questions about which beau was the numerologically best for a witch and when their best time to get wed was based on their birthdates. The calculation of the maxima and minima of the number of wizards to open a given volume of wizarding space was a tricky little calculation but Gorbrin quite enjoyed it and added a further calculation assuming chanting was used in addition to the usual ritual. As the volume to be opened was a room sixty feet long, twenty feet wide and six feet high, a volume of seven hundred and twenty cubic feet Gorbrin pointed out laconically that this was also six factorial and so a lone wizard using a six line chant in iambic hexameter would do the job in exactly six minutes.

Ming picked up on the same relationship and when they compared notes later there was a quick high five.

Lilith had thought the relationship painfully obvious and had to be rescued from Munin Corbin for saying so; and took the opportunity of sticking out her tongue at him as Ming held onto the boy and informing him she bet he hadn't mentioned that the Mispar Kidmi variant of the Hebrew Gematria used factorial values for the Hebrew letters as she had written in the section on factorial numbers.

"No, brat, and nor did anyone else" said Ming "Beings as how that's out of the sphere of NEWT too and what on earth are you doing reading about the Gematria?"

"I found a book in the library" said Lilith. "I got interested. Because of Seth" she added obscurely.

"Oh, that makes sense then" said Ming "It being a Hebrew name. You don't study the Gematria until NEWT level Ancient Runes you know; because it's so complex it makes most people's hair bleed from the effort of unravelling it."

Lilith giggled and wished she had been sitting Ancient Runes too!

Chanting was what Gorbrin considered his weak subject; he doubted he would get an 'O' in it, which he was sorry about as his dad was so keen; and he felt it important himself. His theory was sound, but Gorbrin had never been musical and his sense of rhythm was never more than adequate.

Nevertheless he threw himself into it with enthusiasm; and the hour-long chant took place with all the candidates at once – there were only seven, including Mortimer Bane from the upper sixth – and Gorbrin was surprised and pleased that he was by no means the least able candidate. Lilith, Mortimer, Ming and Darryl were easily the best and Gorbrin used their sure chanting to lift his own game. And Lilith's sweet clear voice rose unfalteringly for the whole hour as a good anchor that raised the efforts of everyone who was taking the exam to be sure that no slugs would ever invade the circle that they defined.

And not perhaps such a silly thing to exclude in light of Kevin Slugworthy's psychedelic streelugs.

The written exam was easier – to Gorbrin's mind – asking first for a definition of chanting that must include how it differed from enchanting and charm casting. The list of curses to be removed and the list of poetry forms to match to them was an interesting and challenging test; and Gorbrin had to think quite hard, writing all down on scrap and drawing lines between them. The silly jinx had to match the limerick; and the lovelorn curse had to be matched by the ode. And then the rest gradually fell into place. Sometimes a warped imagination or black sense of humour was more use in matching appropriate chants than logic and Arithmancy; though of course Arithmancy was vital too.

And the final section was to write a brief chant in appropriate language with credit given for arithmantic calculation to a number of situations, from removing curses to setting up minor wards.

That was easy!

Lilith totally confused Lucius when he came to mark HER paper for having written one chant in Parseltongue using Herpo the Foul's notation; or rather, the expanded notation the Marauders used! Lucius had to ask Draco to translate for him, for though he knew the famous passage by Herpo, as any student of Ancient Runes worth his salt did, he knew he was no Parselmouth. But Draco, of course, was. Lucius was much impressed by the logical expansions on Herpo and kept a note of the whole chant to increase his own knowledge of at least written Parseltongue.

Gorbrin liked Comparative Magic and enjoyed Professor Khan's laid back and laconic style in teaching it, in which they absorbed an awful lot of knowledge from what seemed little more than chats in class and the odd essay. There was a long essay and several short questions; and this year there was a choice of three essays. Gorbrin chose 'discuss the impact of the fey on three different magical traditions' which meant he might write about the Norse Huldrafolk, the Indian Apsaras and the English Fey with reference briefly into other traditions. The other titles 'discuss the impact of shapeshifters on three different cultures' was also a nice question and 'pick three magical traditions and trace the importance of the spoken and written word within their spellcating pratices' was also interesting.

Having one of one's mothers being fey however, Gorbrin felt the question something of a gift especially as there was also a half apsara child in the school in the person of Mohini Malik.

The short questions covered everything from use of drums as a magical rhythm to Finnish naming magic and Gorbrin thought he had answered all of them fully. He grinned at Jardak as they came out; this was one of Jardak's favourite classes, and the boy hoped to teach it in the free school some day.

"Cor, piece o' cake" said Jardak "Like we haven't got a rakshasa or several and an ex werewolf for a good start and Bjorn back in Umbrous Alley as three exemplars!"

"You did that one? I picked the fey" said Gorbrin.

"I did the word and spell one" said Darryl "I felt it went nicely with that question in ancient runes."

"They were all nice questions; I wouldn't have minded having a go at all of them" said Gorbrin.

"Now that's TOO swotty, mate" said Jardak, casting the arachnonuncular curse at his friend. Gorbrin laughed and brushed it away with a gesture as though it was so many cobwebs.

One had to let off steam after all!

Enchanting had a fairly easy – Gorbrin thought – practical involving the enchanting of a quill and ink separately to perform some purpose. Gorbrin enchanted his pen to be unjinxable – considering the number of people who had tried to play tricks on him it seemed an excellent enchantment – and the ink to glow brightly on designated words to make key words stand out for easy revision.

The examiner was Fred – or George – Weasley, the normal examiner being down with dragon pox and the Weasley twins being indisputably good at enchantment.

"Crumbs, Malfoy, we'll enter into negotiations for you to sell the use of both of those to me later" said George – or Fred.

"Stick your fee into a good charity and feel free to use them both" said Gorbrin. "I'll not profit from things to help schoolkids."

"Well, tell you what, I'll put half the mark up into helping the free school as well as a designers' fee" said Fred – or George.

"Done" said Gorbrin.

The other test of the practical was to place a warming charm on slippers which was easy enough.

The written posed an essay on the importance of teaming the right enchantment with the correct materials; and Gorbrin wrote about certain quills taking some enchantments better than others, the necessity to have the right woods for a good broom and the possibility of making something barely acceptable a better matrix for an enchantment by changing its nature using chanting with Finnish name magic to rename it.

There were short questions on wand woods and cores, and the charms on brooms to make them more comfortable and on enchanted cauldrons to make them more useful. It is to be said that Gorbrin wrote rather snippily that such travesties were of no use to a true potioneer and were best used by the featherheaded sort of fool who would read Witch Weekly in a style that made both Fred and George roar with laughter and say.

"yup, he's a disciple of Professor Snape all right!"

Divination was being taken by Stacey and a selection of Hufflepuffs as a soft option and by Albert because he was good at it.

Albert took his practical by laying out all the tarot cards and using divining rods to explain to the examiner that whatever it was he had lost was underneath somewhere people had sex so probably under the bed.

As the examiner had been looking high and low for a ring that his grandfather had left him he was quite impressed.

Albert's theory was good too, and he interpreted signs accurately; it did not particularly interest him but as he had the skill with Dowsing, he needed a qualification to back the skill.

With Albert's ability, Sirius was talking about having dowsing skills moved in with Geomancy to be taken as a second practical for extra marks; but anything that came out of the negotiations would not materialise for several years. Madam Spikenard had pioneered the use of other means than crystal ball and tealeaves to predict the future in the exam; and would like to push that further to have a practical commensurate with the different skills lumped in with divination, like divining – in all its specialities – and other rare abilities like being able to tell information about someone by handling their possessions. Madam Spikenard's view was that unless and until it was recognised that some people were highly talented but only in a limited, narrow, and specialised field, Divination would continue to be a soft option study taken by children with no talent at all because since a seer could not perform to order, no fail could really be given for a lack of result on the practical. And that made a joke of it and moreover devalued the qualifications of those who WERE highly talented.

Albert and Ming were the two taking Geomancy; and were all alone in the class. This had meant that most of their lessons had involved wandering around Scotland and had taken in a number of teashops and cafes into the bargain where with a muffliatus up they had covered theory over cream teas, doughnuts or whatever else had come their way. Padfoot was a good sort and quite happy to be informal so long as his pupils buckled down to produce homework.

Since the two he had were really keen, he had no problem over that!

It was perhaps indicative of small boys that their mental map of the ley lines of Scotland and northern England were defined by particular food types that were the specialities of the cafes Padfoot took them to.

Since Ming was taken to a place he defined as 'bacon butty with homemade mustard' and Albert to 'mint choc chip ice cream' they both got home in double quick time, resisting any urges to stop for a snack.

They wrote knowledgably about unplotability; drew a map of the principle ley lines of Britain; and answered questions on ley lines as a means of travel, portkeys and the floo network. Albert absently wrote about node shift transference which was a NEWT level answer because Sirius had been sidetracked over kippers on toast in Arbroath.

Ming wrote,

"It is by bacon butty I set my mind in motion; it is by the juice of coca-cola that the thoughts acquire speed; the thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains; it is by bacon butty I set my mind in motion."

The examiner had not a clue what he meant; but did not mark him down as it sounded like a very obscure and arcane mantra that was beyond his own knowledge.

Gorbrin was taking Herbology as an aid to potioneering and Stacey was taking it because her mother thought that gardening was a nice genteel occupation.

Gorbrin confunded his fanged geranium before it had a chance to bite him - a spell out of his supposed age ability – and Stacey got bitten twice. Her comments on 'genteel occupations' made the examiner blench.

Collecting bubotuber pus and pruning shrivelfig presented no difficulty nor picking out the devil's snare from amongst flitterbloom in a viva voce.

The written exam concentrated heavily on manures and mulches and the correct times to prune various plants and whether they required light or heavy pruning. It was important and Gorbrin concentrated on it quite hard. He had no real desire to pursue the subject; he knew enough about repotting mandrake, the only NEWT level skill he was likely to need and preferred to leave it to others. He knew enough to know if a supplier knew enough!

It was Gorbrin's last exam; and he heaved a sigh of relief!

Several of his set were taking history and a couple took muggle studies; but he was well over the lot!

And as soon as the rest were done, Ming and Albert took them by ley line to celebrate in one of their favourite cafes where they ate sausage and mash with baked beans followed by ice-cream sundaes.

"Crumbs Ming, looks like there is something to this geomancy lark after all!" laughed Gorbrin.

And then it was the end of term and cup presentations; and Slytherin just managed to pick up the quidditch shield and Gryffindor and Slytherin shared the House Shield; with Ravenclaw only boosted to a half decent fourth place because Dumbledore awarded points to is house head in the person of Mei Chang for doing her best to scotch unpleasantness and in squashing thoroughly the miscreants once their unfounded malice was proven.

The Marauders' shield was awarded next.

"And this prestigious little prize goes to the not-marauders of the upper fifth; Gorbrin, Erica, Jardak, Jaska, Ming, Meliandra and Darryl and, so I believe, Albert; who have gone out of their way to help others of their year as well as younger ones with vicissitudes – and I don't just mean Pearl's smashed work – across all house boundaries. It's been an odd sort of year but the calm good sense of those I understand are pledged to aid and support the more serious ideals of the marauders without themselves having the er, dubious prestige of marauding has been a vitally calming influence through times of some trauma."

Gorbrin and the others went up to collect the shield.

"I say, do I count yet?" whispered Albert.

"If you don't old boy you'll have a rotten mark for your Arithmancy" drawled Darryl.

Albert poked him.

"You count for being such a staunch aid through the Amos Leroy crap" said Gorbrin. "You stood by what was right."

Albert was mollified; as he had not blooded he wondered if he was permitted!

He had heard all about Seth and was determined to do his best to help the child; the more because his own parents had let him down. Albert had had a long chat with Seth – the bloodgroup had let him in on the fidelius charm on Myrtle's loo – and had managed to show the lad that other people have bad parents too. Albert also persuaded Darryl to talk about his mother; and Seth asked Darryl wistfully if he would be a big brother to him and his sisters.

"Sure I will kid" said Darryl "I got taught crap about muggleborn; if I can be your big brother that might cancel that out."

And then they were off for the holidays; and on a noisy, happy train journey home with nobody jinxed; for without Darryl Zabini's cleverness to spur him on Wilfrid Crabbe was a poor enough creature who would not initiate any trouble out of sheer terror of the various levels of marauders.

And Michelle Makepeace was lying low too since she had made such a fool of herself urging her own hate campaign against Zabini onto the Ravenclaws.

"All summer long to plan pranks in!" said Lilith happily "And not the most despised in the school any more; we'll be warts!"

"Yeah, with 'Chrysogon Rufus is feeding the gnomes'" said Maud.

"Oh we'll give him every chance" said Lilith "And if he's as snotty as Amos Leroy THEN we jinx him into a ball."

That was voted fair enough!

Bella was already missing her Stripes as she went further away from the castle; but she knew she must be patient. And he loved her; and he loved her for HER not wanted her for any sick, warped reason. And she would grow up a normal woman without compulsion or sickness of the mind; and be a normal sort of wife and rear lots of cubs.

Bella purred suddenly at that thought.

Mimi spent the journey home on Darryl's lap and Meliandra and Gorbrin put a repelling charm on their compartment door and spent the journey in mussing each other thoroughly.

And as everyone thought that the year's drama was over because then they were in London and various parents there to pick them up, as Darryl emerged from the train with Mimi by the hand the flash of green light came from the wand of the tall handsome young black man waiting there.

Darryl gave a brief cry more of shock than pain as the blood group dispersed the killing curse and the zig-zag scar burned bloodily on his head and on Mimi's; and on all the not-marauders and younger ones.

Gorbrin recalled that he was to be an auror and leaped at the caster of the killing curse; he would NOT let another one get away with it, he would NOT freeze in fear!

And Blaise Zabini was hoisted in the air by one ankle, disarmed, bound, langlocked, tickled and had bats pouring out of his nose.

"Lumme, Gorbers old boy, nice combination!" said Lydia "Hardly need the rest of us!"

Gorbrin stared.

"Did I do all that?" he said.

"Apparently" drawled Mortimer. "A bit more dramatic than our solution of turning everyone we don't like to stone, but I don't say he doesn't deserve it."

Darryl flexed his fingers and drew on the power of the group and did a half transfiguration on his brother to make him partly feline.

"I suppose there's a reason to that?" asked Lydia.

"Oedipussy" said Gorbrin "Right?"

"Spot on – my brother" said Darryl draping an arm around Gorbrin's shoulders.

They left the older Zabini there while he was reported to the auror's office; a fine July evening on the first night of the holidays was not to be wasted on murderous half brothers. And Darryl went back to Orme Court realising that this felt more a home than anywhere he had lived with his mother.

Finis

I'll try to get 12a up soon