Chapter 1

The ritual in Hogwarts had gone well; and Severus was glad. Now he might concentrate on his own school and building it up as a school of special talent without any further worry, whether over a friend's anxieties as Albus had obviously been anxious over the returning of the child ghost to a body; or over Odessa. There would be the irritation of having to be involved in the tenth anniversary celebrations of Voldemort's death; but it was to take place at the end of the Easter holidays and he would merely open the school a little late. That would, too, permit any of his pupils who wanted to do so, to attend the celebration at Hogwarts School.

It SHOULD be a good year; all the werewolves belonging to Odessa had been cured; Durmstrang was tentatively making alliance; and the German Ministry was more or less coming into line with civilisation.

Something was bound to go wrong; and Severus had no intention of rejoicing too soon. Still, he smiled in grim satisfaction, there were few things that they could not weather; they had after all had rather a lot of practice!

Next year would bring a few problems; but ones he might in a way be pleased about. For Albus Dumbledore was standing down as headmaster of Hogwarts and had named David Fraser as his successor. Severus would need a new teacher of Care of Magical Beasts; and too someone to teach Comparative Magic as David's wife Ellie would, obviously, go with him. And a new teacher of Geomancy too; since David taught that as a voluntary subject.

Severus brightened.

Ross Tuthill and his girlfriend Heather Burns might take over the care of beasts and geomancy respectively; and Ross's sister Freya might teach Comparative Magic. She would do so with the sort of efficiency that imparted more facts than style, but they might work on that gently in the staff room. Last he heard, Freya had become an Unspeakable, working in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry. Well give her nearly a year round and even the irrepressible Miss Tuthill should be screaming up the wall at the lackadaisical attitudes and reactionary outlook of the researchers of the wizarding world. She had already sent one of her superiors to Lucius to uncurse an item that had been troubling the ministry for four hundred years, and Lucius had told Severus that all it required was forty minutes of concentrated chanting and another four hours of consolidating chanting and that nearly-ten-year-old Lilith could have done it. Knowing Lucius he probably compared the ministry unfavourably to Lilith's skills to the fellow who had asked him if he could uncurse it; he had certainly picked it up and tossed it at the poor man – because he had chuckled wickedly to Severus about that – and the look on the face of the ministry man as he automatically caught what had been too dangerous to handle. Lucius had a warped sense of humour; and Severus grinned to himself. Yes, given such pedestrian attitudes, Freya would be ready to almost beg to come to a school which also had a post-NEWT annexe for individual research guided by the staff, almost all of whom had done post-NEWT levels of research while they were studying for OWLs because the consequence of failure meant Voldemort winning; and that was rather worse than facing the sternest parent with a sheet full of 'T' grades.

They were to have several new teachers this year.

Valerie Burdock, of Obscura Alley, and educated in the free school, was to take on the teaching of Herbology. She was replacing Annett who was sorting out a new school for Jade to teach German goblins and those of a blood status not yet to be welcomed into Durmstrang. Valerie was enthusiastic and was not about to let her background cow her when teaching what she might once have termed 'posh kids'; she declared she was looking forward to the experience of travelling and passing on the subject she loved. She had also come highly recommended by Myrtle, who considered her potentially one of the most talented herbologists of her age.

Godfrey Goodchild would be teaching Music; he was not from a wealthy family either, and was a protégé of Jade's. His twin older siblings were musically talented in a rather pedestrian sort of way; and their parents had lavished all their attention on them. They did not know enough to realise that of their four children, Godfrey was by far and away the most talented. He had, by his own desires, ended up in Slytherin House not the traditional Ravenclaw since Jade had befriended him in Diagon Alley. Such things can change lives. Jade had conned Lucius into paying for extra music lessons for the boy and now he was simultaneously to research music in magic, alongside Seagh, and teach the musical in school. And he would have a ready made class in the fourth, with Julian Finch, Silvina Brewer, and Sara Barbary, transferring from Hogwarts for the purpose. It was an acknowledgement that music, whilst used in chanting, should be a separate subject too.

Thinking of Chanting, Severus was glad to be freed more time to teach the senior classes; Lee Nuffield had wed Dimsie Burke, and she was to take over the teaching of junior potions. Miss Bat would continue teaching the junior classes for one more year and then, thankfully, she would retire. She had learned a lot, which proved that she was a game old biddy for an aged witch; but she was becoming physically frail. She would continue to pursue her own researches as his pensioner and would play the piano if required so she still felt part of the school. Severus smiled ruefully; understanding more clearly how Albus had felt about that silly old fool Trelawney. At least the Bat was not dangerous to her own pupils though with spurious fortune telling – and moreover actually had the wellbeing of her pupils at heart! And their own Miss Gimlet was not too bad and was at least down to earth, not given to sighing, mooning about, and declaring doom in the tones of a dying duck in a thunderstorm like Trelawney. Yes, Miss Bat was all right too; and deserving of a rest when Lydia had finished school and took over all the chanting classes. Lydia was capable of teaching to the little ones as well as to the most advanced. After all, she had been responsible for the first few candidates who had taken the exam at Hogwarts! Not to mention fuelling the enthusiasm of the Belle Marauders to pull any number of complex japes. At least the Prince Peak Marauders were not quite so…..effervescent as those at Hogwarts. Though what influence Lydia might have in firing their enthusiasms had yet to be seen. She would be marrying her Viktor Krumm next year; and he was already to be teaching full time this year, having retired from playing international Quidditch on the high note of a winning season for his unpronounceable home town as well as a good record for Bulgaria in the few matches played towards the next World Cup. But there were faster seekers now; and Viktor preferred to quit while he was ahead and coach future players. He too was to be responsible for arranging some school matches against local Austrian and Swiss teams, to give the professional teams some practice as well as helping to hone the skills of the school children; some of whom would be developing quidditch as their special talent. It was not a talent Severus would have considered for his school; had not Lydia fallen in love with Viktor and suggested it. And Viktor had jumped at the chance to continue to be involved with quidditch; and was, like David, planning on taking referee's exams in addition. David indeed would arrive back when he arrived back; he was refereeing a match between the Gorodok Gargoyles and the Beauvais Broomwonders starting the day before term began; and might or might not be ready to return to school in time. Last time these teams had met the game lasted four days. Severus was happy to be flexible about such things, because the children loved the kudos of having an international referee as a teacher. And for David it was a hobby he loved; and he did his best to make sure all the matches he covered were in the school holidays. And he and Ron and Viktor all got on well together; which was as well. Quidditch could cause ego problems. But Ron and David had been on Gryffindor's team together as well as flying against Bulgaria for the friendly; and both admired Viktor and now loved him as a brother since he was also of the Blood Kindred.

And academe would not be neglected; Jade had done some original translations when she was in Durmstrang and had sent her conclusions to Hercule Maxime to look over as well as to her father. It was exciting; and relied on Jade knowing improvements he, Severus, had made to potions to work out some very early logograms in the earliest Bactrian writings, some of the first writings wizardkind had!

It would be nice to get a big symposium of professors together to exchange ideas over a couple of weeks; perhaps NEXT summer holidays!

It had been sweet that Ritter Nachtigall turned up with his son Heinrich, and some Dutch boy and his father named De Witt begging Severus to break curses on the boys. The German boy made sounds like a train shunting, including uncontrolled whistling, and the Dutch boy appeared to have become a half troll. Apparently after trying all the German curse breakers the men had taken their sons to England and were told that Severus Snape was the greatest curse breaker in the world. Severus readily recognised the work of Jade; and calmly informed the men that it would cost them – ten thousand galleons each, that would be enough, he explained with unholy glee, to put four impoverished goblins of talent through school.

Nachtigall started blustering at this point; and Severus smiled, steepling his fingers.

"Well, you can always ask Nefrita Von Strang to do it instead" he murmured mildly "I expect she would charge you a similar amount; she's planning on starting a free school for goblins and muggleborn. I AM the greatest cursebreaker in the world, but you could try another I suppose. And for every swear word, the price goes up a thousand galleons; you now owe me eleven thousand. I am a personal friend of your brother Friedolf so your personal discomfort is as nothing to me."

De Witt paid up; there was no way his son could marry looking like a troll and his line was important to him. And as he had NOT sworn, being wiser than either his friend or his son, his fee had not gone up and he looked surprised and pleased when Severus handed back the extra thousand that he thought had included him too. Klaas was soon restored to his normal, rather porky form. Nachtigall was impressed, despite himself; others had performed rituals to no avail, but Severus made undoing the curse look relatively easy. Grumpily he too promised to pay up – to Heinrich's distinct and whistling relief – and Severus walked round the boy chanting in English until the shunting noises stopped and Heinrich said

"I'm cured! NOW we'll see about dealing with that bitch!"

"Touch the Von Strang girl – either of you – and the curse will return" said Severus "I left inside both of you the curse seed that will re-install it if you seek revenge in ANY fashion. I know your sort; you doubtless deserved every minute you have spent being cursed."

"I'm not paying up if it's not fully gone" said Nachtigall.

Heinrich suddenly started shunting and whistling again.

"Have your own way" said Severus shrugging.

Heinrich actually knelt to beg him, having no other more articulate means.

"The price went up another thousand" said Severus.

This time Nachtigall came through with the cash; and Heinrich had the sense to say nothing but a muttered and unwilling word of thanks.

Severus smiled on him.

"See how much nicer it is to be a nice polite young man" he said "And I shouldn't wonder if you apologised to Fraulein Von Strang she might even let you take your ZH's at her free school when she has it up and running. She's a prickly piece but willing to go the extra mile for those who see the error of their ways."

It was NOT going to happen; but he wanted it made clear that Jade was likely to go out of her way for them if either did change his ways. Severus had placed an extra curse on Klaas de Witt as he cured him of being a troll; for Jade had told him about the boy, and now the youth would feel sick revulsion of any sadistic ideas he had; which might perhaps make life better for those around him even if it did not cure him entirely of being nasty.

The post-NEWT annexe was opening formally for the first time, and Severus had asked the students for that to arrive a full day before the body of the school, to settle in, in peace before, as he put it, the screaming hordes arrived. Three of his own students were staying on; Seagh was to be joined by Angelica Hellibore pursuing medical transfiguration, curse breaking and chanting and Alison Plank wished to take her Arithmancy further. She had only taken 'E' in the NEWT – having gained 'O' at the other four NEWTs she took – and also wished to pursue potions with a view to improving existing potions. Severus wondered how far she might get; she was academic and ambitious but he wondered if she had the imagination. Still, she had blossomed over her sixth form years and had lightened up considerably so there was a chance she might well develop.

Miles Grant would too be following in his brother's footsteps; he had pulled up his game in his last year at Hellibore's with aid from the Snapes during holidays, and wanted to study more esoteric subjects like Comparative Magic and Geomancy; and he planned too to study Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. His brother Cenric was to teach Ancient Runes at Hellibores this year, so that at least the students there had a grounding. Miles would, too, be joining in the more esoteric post-NEWT discussions; Cenric had picked up a lot informally the year before and continued to visit socially too.

There were none this year from Hogwarts; of those students likely to be pursuing education past NEWT level, Freya Tuthill had trustingly believed that a Ministry research department would research; Mortimer Bane was studying on a practical level, brewing potions alongside Pete Thomson Prince; and Mei Chang was volunteering in a free school in Birmingham that taught three subjects to OWL. Having seven NEWTs at 'O' grade, Mei was cheerfully teaching both DADA and Arithmancy in a school that had managed Charms, Potions and History. Mortimer was more likely to be teaching in a school in Germany when he married Annett Breuer. As the German school would take goblins and part goblins his status as part goblin would be reassuring for the pupils that such heights might be achieved. And to that school would also go, to teach, Volodya Potishev, one of the friends Jade had made in Durmstrang, who was to be another post-NEWT student also studying intensively in Chanting, to bring it to a level at which he might teach it; and Volodya would also join Seagh and Godfrey researching the use of music in magic since he was almost single-mindedly musical. Severus had every intention of warning him to shrug off the vicissitudes of having tone deaf stupid pupils and live with the fact that nine children out of ten were dunderheads and of the rest only one in ten was in any way talented. It helped him in not losing his temper too often after all to just sigh and accept statistical evidence. That was five research students or those pursuing extra knowledge, not counting Godfrey who was teaching as well; and that was enough. Up to ten might be considered as the course became better known; but really for some of them he was but providing them with the subjects they had not had the advantage of at their own school.

Angelica arrived with her two younger brothers in tow, apologising for dumping some of the horde on the school – and the noisier ones at that – but declaring that she hated to think what they'd get up to left at home another twenty four hours. Severus grinned. AHHa was a Marauder and BaHH was likely to be; and he actually had to think to remember that their proper names were Angel and Bellamy. They might be banished to get into mischief with other residents of the castle and the Zorn twins, Sandalla and Svetlana who had also come a day early just in case of trouble, because of their status as effective princesses of the tiny magical country of Zorn. Which meant seven children of AHHa's age. BaHH had only Reinulf Grindler and Yrdl Breuer to get into trouble with in his age group though there were a further seven from the year below! Sarah Elliot had been escorted by her father the week before because he was being sent to Basra; a nervous appointment. The diplomat had been taken aback to arrive in the middle of an impromptu quidditch match, not having any idea that his daughter was a witch, and thinking it merely her artistic ability that had won her a scholarship; and Sarah had dragged him in to see the talking moving paintings that she was learning to paint for herself. Donald Elliot was much disturbed and taken aback to see magic demonstrably working; and Severus had shaken his hand heartily and praised his forethought in grounding Sarah so well in Mathematics as it was almost identical to wizarding Arithmancy but merely with a different emphasis, spoke with enthusiasm for the child's mother's talent and showed Elliot around, explaining firmly the parallels with muggle subjects and emphasising how the laws of physics applied if in a somewhat different aspect. He had even persuaded a bemused Donald Elliot to leave a lock of his hair for their Divination teacher to check from time to time as he was in a rather risky place, for Sarah's peace of mind.

"Of course, Miss Gimlet is not quite good enough to be an insurance diviner" Severus explained "They require sixty per cent accuracy of course; as one might expect. Miss Gimlet just fails; her average is fifty seven per cent on lifespan predictions. The teacher at Hogwarts has a better than seventy per cent rate, and only took up teaching when she was widowed as she and her husband ran a firm of insurance wizards. But Miss Gimlet has an eighty one per cent accuracy with weather prediction and a better prediction rate over safety and life expectancy over the families of those she knows personally. It's a fuzzy study at worst; but we teach it for the few – the very few – talented and true seers. Frankly, it's a class not pursued past the second year save for those looking for a softish option to increase their qualifications and for those with the odd wild talent – dowsers for example. And dowsing is a well paid job, so I'd be unfair not to offer the option for those rare people."

"Are you telling me prophecies actually WORK?" scoffed Elliot.

"Between you and me, my personal theory is that a prophecy only becomes fulfilled if one of the people named in it goes out of their way to force the issue, either by going along with it or trying to negate it" said Severus "The Department of Mysteries is full of recordings of unfulfilled prophesies. To my mind it's largely bunk. Plenty of people have had public visions; but in such case, they have been fulfilled because those who have heard them have ACTED on them. If I may quote Star Wars, always in motion is the future; and we don't as yet really have a wizarding equivalent of the Chaos Theory to make sense of it. A young cousin of mine goes into trances and draws things that are imminent; and those I believe in because he picks up on trains of events already in motion. The kind of stuff that runs 'the child who is born as the seventh month dies whose parents have defied the Dark Lord three times shall be marked by him as his equal and neither can survive if the other lives' is dubious at best; but because the dark lord believed in that the prophesy became self-fulfilling and he picked which of two children that might mean, making my Ward into the prophecy to the great discomfort of the poor lad. Voldemort; a wizarding Hitler. We killed him ten years ago. Nasty type; torture, werewolves, that sort of thing. We have politics, diplomacy, power-mad would-be dictators and so on like muggles – non wizards. People are people. Most of them are stupid and a significant percentage of the rest are nasty. You know one of our diplomats, my wife's uncle, Lucius Malfoy; snide bastard but very good. I like him because I know him under the snide armour; and I'm snide too."

"Good God!" said Elliot. "Lucius Malfoy? Well he does dress strangely…. But he knows Margaret Thatcher!"

"Yes, she promised to lend us some SAS if we needed them to defeat Voldemort" said Severus calmly "She had retired from office as Prime Minister by then but she had the contacts still. We'd have issued them with enchanted bullets. Only we didn't, in the event, need them, which was as well; best not to involve muggles in our affairs. We, after all, don't interfere in yours. At least, those of us who are scrupulous don't; the manipulation of the SS and their mysticism was an aberration."

"Good God!" said Elliot again.

"You aren't going to be silly about it are you daddy?" said Sarah "It's why I can see fairies; 'cos I WASN'T lying about that. There's magical spells inherent in the genetic makeup of some magical beasts and others have to have them cast on them to make muggles not see them. Like Godrica, the griffon; she's Professor Fraser's pet."

Once Elliot had seen Godrica he had to believe; because, as he said, no puppet would SMELL like a er, flying lion with er, other stuff.

He left shaking his head in wonder and planning a long discussion with his wife – AND Lucius.

Volodya turned up next, smiled blindingly at Severus and took himself to the music room where he was shortly followed by Godfrey Goodchild, wanting music to pacify him after his parents had been grilling him on just how he came to have a job actually teaching in a prestigious private school. Godfrey had taken only three NEWTs but had gained them all at 'O' which had mightily upset his parents who considered him subnormal for choosing Slytherin House. They tried to belittle his NEWT in Chanting and as Godfrey pointed out that Lucius Malfoy placed a lot of credence in the subject, as he set the exam they were barking up the wrong tree there, unless they wanted to belittle the Ancient Runes exams that Lucius also sometimes set. As his other two subjects were Potions and Arithmancy, definitely academic subjects, his parents had subsided; and wondered how come their idiot younger son had done so much better than any of his siblings who had been in the properly academic House of Ravenclaw. Godfrey never intended to go home ever again.

Miles was last, apologising, because he had seen his brother to Hellibore's and had been asked to stay and look around at the new arrangement to accept limited co-education. Miles though it very silly not to go the whole way but he took Professor Hellibore's point that the parents of some girls wanted to ensure their little darlings reached being debutantes unkissed. Which was equally silly; but there you were. He HAD heard Professor Snape on the subject that most kids would be fine if they had no parents!

Seagh blew in that evening. He had been to Scotland, to the rath where his biological father ruled as chieftain with the main purpose of threatening the fey into staying out of his life as he chose to live amongst humans according to his rights. There had been a brief altercation during which Seagh had turned two of his bodyguard to stone and left most of the rest of the adult fey dangling from one ankle, bound, and with bats pouring out of their noses. His father had started backing off from the threats he had been making around then. Seagh had taunted him that nobody with a choice would live with a bunch of losers; and that even the low fey servants had deserted in droves once the self-punishment curse for disloyal thoughts had been dissolved. Seagh was proud to claim a part in that; to the howls of fury and anguish of the fey. Those low fey too timid to leave but now free to think as they chose gazed on him with awe and surreptitious approval. Perhaps they would learn the courage to escape some day. Seagh regarded them with a kindly eye and a sympathetic smile. Poor little bastards! He thought. Not so unlike house elves that they claimed to despise for their state of actual slavery!

Seagh planned to visit other Sidhe strongholds to learn about sidhe music; and then he would return that knowledge to the world he had chosen. After all, Seagh was fairly certain that the fey were, ultimately, doomed. While they held the strongest wild magic they could gain some concessions, force wizards to give them fresh blood from their own children; now the bloodgroup could oppose any number of fey without difficulty and they had researched magic beyond the understanding of wild, raggedy creatures whose use of magic was as instinctive as and hardly more controlled than the diricawl's ability to vanish in a puff of feathers. He returned with some satisfaction of a job done well; his biological father would not trouble him, or his kin; and was still, as he had ascertained by legilimency, too afraid of Dumbledore and Hogwarts to cause trouble there.

Seagh decided that one person he would look up would be Teague O'Toole of Ballyconny; the boy had left Hogwarts the year before him; and he had seelie court relatives. It was worth meeting them. And any European fey communities he might uncover too.

Severus gave a brief speech of welcome to the researchers.

"Basically you'll be having weekly tutorials with any appropriate professor – save those of you who are sitting in on set NEWT classes to add to your knowledge who will do that as well as or instead of tutorials. We shall also meet probably at least once a week to discuss anything you want to look at, if for example you're dissecting some problem and want to know if any of us have covered ground before or to ask if I know of some obscure book in the library that may not be obvious as a source for your requirements. We don't actually have a librarian I'm afraid; library use for the kids is a matter of honour that they behave responsibly, and though I believe I've catalogued everything fairly well, I don't guarantee to know every paragraph in every book yet. Seagh, Alison and Angelica know their way around the library fairly well and I suspect that Elsie Blackwood – that's Emily's friend, Miles – has read most of them; she's in the lower sixth this year. And if it could be in any way used for nefarious japes, either of Angelica's little brothers will be bound to have found such a book too" he added dryly. "I have an arrangement with Madam Bacsó of Durmstrang to borrow such texts they have that I do not; which is mostly in the matter of Ancient Runes. My daughter did some original research in the Durmstrang library and her findings ARE available to you in 'Translations and Text' and that's also relevant to those of you tracking down potioneering since she used some of MY improvements to help her find translations to previously unknown passages in Bactrian texts. We can also obtain books from Hogwarts; and I have permission for you to travel to Scotland to research in the library there if it becomes necessary with the proviso that you do not do so between the middle of the Spring Term and the Anniversary Celebrations as the school there has to prepare for half the British wizarding world descending on them to congratulate themselves that they survived the time when schoolkids dared fight Voldemort."

"Now why do I think you disapprove, sir?" grinned Miles. Severus gave him a wintry smile.

"Frankly, after fighting the contumelious little excrescence twice I'd as soon forget the whole business; as, I know, would Harry Potter. It's rather a bitter business for those of us – especially Harry – who were trying to tell the ministry that Voldemort was back and having them go out of their way to have him ridiculed in the press because having to believe he was telling the truth was too scary for them to cope with. He could have been stopped dead and with less trouble and less innocents dying two years earlier if only they had had the moral courage to move. Those of us who had to be undercover unnecessarily because of that do NOT find the air of smug self congratulation particularly edifying."

"That's me dad, me mam, and Lucius Malfoy if there's any of you don't know it" said Seagh dryly. "The ones who writhed under the cruciatus curse for the amusement of the foul little creep. This is why we get to have post NEWT studies; because half the higher magics in the world were rediscovered or invented by them and Harry's friends in order to have a better chance of winning; like developing ways to counter the killing curse."

"There's a way to counter the killing curse?" asked Volodya.

"It requires heavy Arithmancy" said Severus "Still, Jade says Arithmancy is your thing; it requires a specific number of air particles to be hardened and shaped to form a grid to diffuse the spell; I can demonstrate how it works with a lumos spell and a cardboard grill later. We had it in place without the Arithmancy; it was only perfected because my daughter Lilith is a bit of a genius and went tinkering arithmantically."

"But sir, Lilith's only ten!" said Alison, shocked.

"I have to keep reminding myself of that" said Severus. "She is remarkably talented. And her research has also made safer human transfiguration… you know, Alison, how she disrupted the year before you by leaving up an equation to solve that involved Gringott's loo being flushed."

"There is that" said Alison. "I guess growing up around you and Madam Malfoy does rather stretch any kid. And we're grateful, not only that you did what you did for the wizarding world but also for letting some of us reap the benefits by sharing your knowledge with us."

"It is rather nice to have students outside my own family who want to push the boundaries and who are interested in learning for its own sake" said Severus "And frankly, outside the school itself, we of the staff have discussed that it is ridiculous for you to be on any less than first name terms with us. Some of you may end up teaching; some doing further research – this year is designed, as much as anything else, to teach you HOW to research and how to organise your thoughts – or using your knowledge to work in a freelance capacity in your chosen sphere. Volodya will be teaching; Godfrey, you of course already are, and I thank you for that, Alison, you may end up producing high end potions or teaching; Miles, I believe you were thinking of teaching, after perhaps a brief career in quidditch – and having Viktor Krumm here will help you with that if you're still interested – and Angelica, I know you were considering both being a healer and teaching in your grandfather's school."

"I'd like to establish myself as a healer or curse breaker and then move back into teaching after some time out of school" said Angelica.

"It is desirable to have time in the real world rather than going from school to school" said Severus "Not always practical; I needed Godfrey in a hurry. And Godfrey is not so naïve about the real world as some of the more sheltered among you have been. Some of you may elect to stay on more than a year if you've run something particularly juicy to earth; if you're researching on your own without guidance or tutorials we can negotiate the cost of your board and keep then. Three of you are pushing the boundaries of music and there is already little I can teach you in that – save in how it relates to chanting and in chanting itself. Seagh is using the fact that he is part fey to seek fey musical secrets for you; in many ways he is giving you as many tutorials as I. Alison, you will work predominantly with me, with some discussions with Krait; and Krait will also be working with you, Angelica. Miles, you're adding general depth. I'd like you to discuss with Viktor, Ron and David the possibility of putting together a Quidditch OWL that could be a starting point for those who wish to play, or referee or coach. A formal qualification gives something a bit more academic to those who can do little but drive a broom; and may give them an advantage in being accepted for further training."

"That's a jolly good idea sir" said Miles "There's plenty of people who love the game and are no good at playing; but it need not stop them being good coaches just because there are others better than them. And for that matter it might make them better sports reporters; especially if there's to be more matches in obscure places broadcast by Wizarding Wireless Vision."

"Exactly" said Severus.

"Shall we also learn general higher magic stuff like you wrote about in 'Blood Magic, Love Magic'sir – uh, Severus?" asked Angelica.

"That will be within the scope of general discussion" said Severus. "Much of what we devised in the Voldemort years was in discussion group; admittedly terror of death was inclined to concentrate the mind wonderfully, but when a subject has been chewed over by several brains, inwardly digested and – dear me, I'm starting to put together a rather unsavoury analogy – er, regurgitated in several different forms it's amazing what may come out of it. Apologies for that."

"Too used to the unwholesome concatenations of first years dad" grinned Seagh. "Lumme and not just first years; which Tugwood was it you told off for growing an inflorescence of feculent and fetid fecundity?"

"Amy" said Severus "we reprised the Strengthening Solution; and after maturing for the weekend, hers was growing more mould than a first year's brain. It was her twin who produced a draught of living death more akin to the night of the undead. And let me tell you young people that if any of you take to teaching, the only way to remain sane is to remember that eight out of ten kids are dunderheads, a further eight out of ten don't listen and only a blessed few fall outside both those sets. If you expect eager intelligent faces every year you're doomed to failure; though the brats here aren't too bad" he added.

"You're a fraud, Severus" said Volodya dreamily "Your face softened when you mentioned the ones here; you mean merely that we should not have too high expectations. As I already know that most people have limited musical ability and plenty are tone deaf I know what you mean. But those who can be drilled into proper practise, chanting or potioneering, can make a creditable showing if you can persuade them to listen, yes?"

"Yes; and sometimes easier said than done" said Severus "Which is why I let the rumour go about that I poison fourth years; at least then they concentrate on their antidotes! But some kids…."

Seagh chuckled.

"Well perhaps I might chant up their crystal balls to give them a vision of poisoning themselves; they're taking Divination as a soft option and I swear they're only taking potions because it was one of the subjects they already knew" he said.

"I don't want to know" said Severus hurriedly.

Seagh grinned.

It was an idea to consider; if those lazy brats had something to think about beside the adornment of their persons and the pursuit of poor Victor Crabbe it might be good for the school at that! Amy was taking just three NEWTs and Ellen four, having added Care of Magical Beasts at the last minute in order to moon about over David Fraser.

They spent the evening chatting and getting to know each other. Seagh and Volodya were drawn together for both being of the blood group as well as sharing a love of music in common; and Godfrey, a friend of Jade's, was easily drawn to them to. Both respected Jade's judgement. And Volodya was full of sympathy that the Goodchilds had decreed that their younger son should not learn an instrument as the oldest two were the ones to invest in. To not be allowed music would have been terrible! Seagh told the Russian boy and Godfrey about Silvina Brewer, whose parents considered music as 'low' and who was a talented composer as well as potentially a very able musician; and both agreed to take an interest in her.

Angelica was in a similar position to Alison; she was taking further the subjects she was less able with, feeling that at Cackle's they had missed out so much an extra year would fill in gaps in their knowledge; and both planned to retake their weaker subjects. Alison knew there was more to be got out of Arithmancy, and more ways to apply it to her beloved potioneering; Angelica knew she could get more out of chanting than the fuzzy ideas instilled at first before Miss Bat had been given any real direction. As she had also taken an OWL in Arithmancy she would be studying that to NEWT too; and as one of the subjects she was good at was DADA Angelica was also seriously considering working for a while as a freelance curse breaker. It was a profitable field and would give her much real experience that she could then apply if she came back to teach in Hellibore's school for posh but not very bright witches and wizards –as the new form of the school was rather reprehensibly known to the youths of Prince Peak. She knew that she could be an adequate medical transfigurationist; and her ambitions on those lines were purely because of Jade having healed her own deformed spine; but she could never be among the best. Whereas with application to her chanting she COULD be among the best curse breakers – with insights from Severus Snape who was reckoned by rumour to be so good that even the famous Professor Dumbledore came to him for aid.

As Severus had reinvented chanting as a better means to break curses than more brute force methods he might well be considered the best in the world; Severus was a subtle man which was why such arts as potioneering and the dark arts and chanting appealed to him.

And why there were few enough who were subtle enough to learn well enough to be able to do half as well.

And Severus thought Angelica had a good chance of being one of those few.

He had dithered several times over inviting her into the bloodgroup; and now he had another year in which to decide. Or, in group discussions, to see if she sought him out to ask.

To declare an intent to aid and support meant that one was worthy.