Four of the class were taking Comparative Magic; Rory, Randolph, Clementine and Prudence. Prudence was the weakest in the class, though she enjoyed herself; but then Prudence was no academic heavyweight at the best of times. Though Prudence at least had a declared intention of staying on to do at least a couple of NEWTs whereas Clementine, who was also no academic heavyweight, reckoned that as she would be unlikely to gain NEWT results high enough to get an interesting job she might as well pack it in after OWLs and hope to bag a good husband while she was still all dewy and fresh. Clementine's declared ideal as a husband was someone rich and elderly who would die of overexcitement on the wedding night. She laughed a lot and added that she would settle for a dashing young prince providing he was not so dashing he had dashed away with the family fortune.
Pru had her motives for taking NEWTs. She had a rich great aunt who had disapproved of Prudence's mother's choice of husband, and of their choice of school for Pru. And she had said – in front of witnesses – that if that child managed to take any NEWTs and pass them she would make Prudence her heir. It was not about the money; it was about proving the acidulated old biddy wrong and sticking up for her parents. Pru had always hoped to do better than her mother – who had sent her to Miss Cackle's purely because she was unhappy at Hogwarts, as one of the least academic of the Hufflepuffs – since her mother had left school with only five OWLs. Great Aunt Aggie had sniffed when Pru had been about to start at Cackle's and said that if Pipistrelle – Pru's mother, and known as Pippa to any reasonable person – hoped that such a place would improve her daughter's chances she was very much mistaken. In fairness, under the regime of Miss Cackle, Prudence had to admit that she might NOT have done much better; but she had still planned to do her best. And ANY NEWTs meant one or more, and Pru was certain she would have managed to scrape Potions with Madam Hardbroom. As it turned out she was one of the best potioneers in the class and hoped for a good grade at NEWT; and hoped too to take three NEWTs, one more than Great Aunt Aggie. She was taking eight OWLs, and had every chance of passing them all; and was the only one taking Divination because she was good at it not as a soft option. And with comparative magic too she had a broader knowledge base than Great Aunt Aggie even if she was not as good as the others.
The exam involved choosing one essay question out of three; 'Compare and contrast literal numerology with Finnish naming magic'; 'Discuss the dual natures of Voodoo Loa with reference to traditional duality of nature of other theologies' and 'Reference three different magical traditions with comparisons of the importance of written and spoken word.'
Rory and Randolph cheerfully chose the first essay; both were good at Arithmancy to talk about numerology, Rory did Ancient Runes and was fluent enough in Finnish and Randolph knew enough Finnish to chat to Hanna and Antti and to make intelligent remarks about naming magic. Clementine and Prudence both chose to reference three magic traditions as being the broadest and therefore, in their minds, the easiest. Clementine picked the North American Indian chanted tradition, Ancient Egyptian written curses and the English use of incantation. Prudence also picked the English use of incantation, went with Chinese as a tradition using written curses and blessings, and burbled vaguely about African uses of repetitive chants in an illiterate society. She did not differentiate between any kind of African Tribal traditions.
The short paper consisted of questions regarding the way different cultures perceived the fey, shapeshifters, the use of name, music and even magic itself. Prudence covered most of the questions.
Rory was not popular with the girls by declaring that all the essay questions seemed interesting and easy and mentioned that the third one was a gift to the student of Ancient Runes if only the first had not been a gift to the arithmancer and the second just dead interesting. Randolph just smiled and murmured that Rory would have written too much as usual.
This was true enough – he got taken to task over it by Madam Devlin – so the girls calmed down.
This was all the exams over for the Muggle Marauders so they could afford to be laid back and they promptly asked permission to picnic for the rest of the time the exams were going on so long as the weather held. They were given permission to have fairly free rein and private instructions to keep their eyes open for anything that might be considered suspicious in terms of either Odessa or Fey activity. It was nice to be looked upon as essentially adult Marauders now; and the four appreciated their watching brief!
Prudence had little chance to rest from her exams as Divination came next. Clementine and Muriel, the two other original Cackle girls were taking this too. Prudence had to wonder whether it had been purely the teaching; or whether those girls of academically poor achievement had been those sent to Cackle's Academy. Now it was Prince Peak they were achieving more than they would have done under poor teaching but it was noticeable that she and the other two did less well in class and Clem and Muriel had picked Divination as a soft option since it was almost never failed unless one actually made a total farce of the written. But then, six of their number, who had originally started when the school WAS Cackle's, were now at Hogwarts; the six most adventurous who found Hogwarts to their taste and stayed. And it was said that half of them were Marauders too; and Marauders seemed to be drawn from the brightest and the best. Prudence might not be academic but she was at times a deep thinker.
The written exam involved interpreting dreams and discussing the significance of astrological birth signs and reading facsimiles of tarot cards. Prudence had no very great belief in the kind of twaddle written in such periodicals as 'Witch Weekly' or 'Divination – Tomorrow!' over how one should act according to one's birth sign; one might as well read the muggle magazines with the same astrological signs even though muggles had not kept up with the precession of the equinoxes. However, a skilled diviner could do a lot with the knowledge of precise phases of the moon, astrological conjunctions and time of day of the birth of an individual; especially by taking the Chinese tradition into account as well and so Prudence wrote steadily and knowledgeably. Interpreting dreams was a bit hit and miss too; and Prudence wrote cynically that much depended on the dreamer both remembering everything and telling it articulately and accurately since it was common to leave out any embarrassing bits. Tarot Cards were one of Prudence's favourite means of interpreting the future so that posed no hardship either. Clem and Muriel were doing their best too, resisting any urges to get facetious. They had not so many other chances to gain OWLs that they could afford to muck about.
For the practical they had to choose three different methods of telling the future and do their best; and it was acknowledged as hit and miss and affidavits from the class teacher on the talent of any pupil were accepted as additional evidence.
Prudence chose Tarot, tea leaves, and the rise of smoke from auspicious herbs. She had come across this in a book in the library, said to be developed from the techniques used by centaurs; and found that she was moderately adept with it.
Pru decided to stick to what she knew, unless some great event or catastrophe presented itself; and proceeded with each of her methods to give a detailed weather analysis for the region over the next two months. She was able to add to this the signs any muggle might read of the way the birds flew and how the plants grew; nature had an innate knowledge of the future as was important to growth and there was no sense ignoring that. She gave a date for a massive thunderstorm using the refined methods of magical divination and left it at that. With the thunderstorm likely to break before three weeks were up, her prediction could be checked for real as well as by other diviners.
At worst she would have a future as an insurance diviner – having absently informed the examiner that he really should stop dallying and have that medical transfiguration done- even if she could do no other job. And Pru was not really sure what job she might like to do. The subjects she was good at were so disparate!
Well, getting NEWTs to stick up a couple of metaphorical fingers to Great Aunt Aggie was the first priority.
Prudence was also the only one taking astronomy. It was not offered formally at Prince Peak; but as Pru was capable of getting some substance out of astrology, Severus had permitted her to study it with David Fraser as none of her year were taking Geomancy; so he had a time slot free. It was true that David had studied Astronomy to OWL with a view to using it with his Geomancy, since knowledge of astronomy was helpful to navigation; but he had a good knowledge of the constellations and the movements of the planets and had been happy to set aside time for Prudence, with Ellie along as chaperone, and actually helpful to Pru's understanding of Comparative Magic too since they tended to fetch up with tea and crumpets and chatting about astronomy and astrology in different cultures. And Pru regretted that only one short question on the Comparative Magic paper had dealt with that.
The written exam was in the morning, and consisted of naming constellations from their star patterns and labelling the major stars within those constellations; answering more detailed questions on the stars and objects in the constellation of Pegasus, a constellation Prudence knew well because it was a favourite of David's and fascinated him in that in the dark of the Prinzhorn where there was no light pollution one might see to the furthest object visible to the naked human eye, the Andromeda Nebula, the nearest galaxy, two million light years away. Prudence could not really comprehend such distances, though David tried to explain it; but it was impressive to know that light took so long to reach earth when to all observation light arrived as soon as it was emitted from anything close enough to be considered. It was hard to think that the sun was eight whole light minutes away – and how short a distance was that in comparison!
The last question involved calculating the motion of Mars across the sky; and though Pru was no arithmancer she had at least had the benefit of the first two compulsory years learning it to help out with that.
She went to bed for the afternoon feeling quite optimistic; and went to the practical late at night in a cheerful state of mind to find stars as indicated on a star map using the telescope.
She was quite pleased with herself! And her exams were now over and she might relax!
Enchantment came next and the written exam engendered a quarrel between the only two taking the exam, Leneli and Milos, normally good friends.
They had been given the story of the 'Three Brothers and Death' and had been required to write an essay on which of the three Hallows was the most useful and why. Milos considered the Elder Wand to be the best to get one's retaliation in first and harder since one needed every advantage against the enemy; and Leneli felt that the cloak was best as one could then hide and assess; and she called reliance on wands stupid as goblins had existed without wands until very recently and the best wizards did not bother with them anyway.
The Marauders intervened; and pointed out that the reliance on any artefact was laziness, but that in their opinion the cloak meant that you could better sneak up on the enemy and stick a poisoned knife in him, introduce him to the offspring of Tovarisch Kalashnikov, jinx him into a ball or merely hit him over the head with a skillet according to how the fancy took you; but that if Rose Hubble sat on the Elder Wand it would probably create even more disaster than a normal one.
This made Milos laugh at least; and he and Leneli made up. As Rory said, there wasn't a right answer, the way he understood it, they just wanted debate from it.
The practical called for them to enchant a candle, a book and a plate in a way they felt appropriate. Leneli made her candle light and extinguish on command, her book shout abuse at a borrower who held on to it too long, and her plate to hover on command at the height she desired it. Milos, less skilled, enchanted his candle to light on command, made the book spine fluoresce on command to be more easily found and the plate to never hold crumbs or dirt. As Leneli said, that was a boy solution. Milos grinned and agreed.
Leneli and Milos were the only two to be taking History of Magic too, which as Percy said was a bit of an irony since they were the only two who were not English and the exam was essentially about English history. It was however a valid exam – neither of them counting divination as valid – that was not fiendishly difficult – like Arithmancy or Ancient Runes – that required no wand work. And they had thought it, rightly or wrongly, easier than Comparative Magic.
The history exam consisted of a long essay question to be chosen from three, and a paper of paragraph-length questions. The long questions set were 'the goblin rebellions were caused more by misunderstanding than wilful malice of either side; discuss with examples'; 'the Roman tradition of magic largely replaced Celtic traditions and is still our primary tradition; discuss'; and 'the rise of Voldemort could have been avoided; discuss."
Milos chose to write about Voldemort; because the history had been told by the whole staff as well as taught as part of the syllabus. And as such he probably did better than he might have otherwise done because it was an almost personal history. Had Leneli stuck with that because it was easy she too might have surpassed herself; unfortunately as a half goblin, Leneli felt it behoved her to write about the Goblin Rebellions. And even so this might not have been a problem had Leneli been an English goblin writing of English goblin uprisings; but unfortunately she interpreted the situation with her own emotional response and from the point of view of a European, despite the relatively enlightened attitude of the modern Swiss wizards, in that she wrote a rather biased essay.
The short answers bogged Leneli down less but she had forfeited a good mark in her essay.
And then the exams were truly over!
"I'm looking forward to getting home to see my new bed!" said Rose Hubble "I've had an old sofa bed but it's been getting lumpy so dad said he'd get me a new one from the goblin-made Ikeaa-charm self assembly range. We took my old bed apart to get it small enough for the department of disposal to take away, and guess what we found in it?"
"Seven frogs, several chocolate wrappers and an infinite number of bent wands?" suggested AHHa.
"OY!" said Rose "I'm not THAT bad about wands! There were six pairs of knickers, twenty three socks and eleven knuts in it and assorted dice and exploded snap cards."
"Sounds like the sort of thing you cook up in your cauldron, Rose" grinned Albert "A cauldron full off hot strong socks!"
After Albert had put his ears back on and got rid of the tentacles, Granville said,
"Reckon you dad can handle a self assembling charm, Rosie Posie? Only I have visions of you using a self assembling bed and ending up inside the mattress!"
"You are rotten to Rose!" said Hanna-Leena.
"Only because we're fond of her, Hanna" said AHHa "And she DOES have a track record of being accident prone and so does her whole family."
"I'm afraid that's true" said Rose mournfully "But even DADDY can't fail to assemble a self-assembling bed; all he has to do is say the word that assembles it and how hard is that? Granville Jorkins you shut up!" as Granville whispered to his twin that it presupposed that Mr Hubble had not mispronounced it or sworn in the middle because he dropped a hammer on his foot and said something like 'IkeeOhMerlin'spantseeaa'
"Well if daddy HASN'T managed it I shall when I get home" said Rose with what she fondly hoped was dignity "And if you rotten lot don't stop falling about laughing I shall stop talking to you."
The fourth had just finished their end of term exams too and Rose had done better than she might have hoped and was decidedly confident that she had every chance of jinxing her friends if they teased her too hard even if she had caught Albert by surprise!
They were a friendly class, the fourth; there was not one that did not get on with the rest now Silvina was sorted out, and Sara Barbary had fitted in extremely well, delighted and surprised that there were no problem children in the class at all. Even Kate, who was too quidditch mad to be interested in anyone else if they were not of a like mind was not pushy about her hobby; and passed the time of day being polite enough to those she considered sad enough not to eat, breathe and dream quidditch.
And Silvina, discussing holiday plans, was delighted to be able to say that she would be spending the holiday with her family; because now she had one.
Holiday plans for the family did include keeping an eye on the Ukrainian Odessa and checking out what other Russian cells there were and deciding exactly what – if anything – to do about them. Russians, said David Fraser, were good plotters, dedicated terrorists, and terminally inefficient because they were secretive about the things that made them less able to function as plotters in the long term and inclined to boast about such things that should be kept secret.
Darryl was looking forward to being able to return to England without being beset by reporters; his brother had been placed in Azkaban and his mother had gone into a secure ward in St Mungo's where they had both vanished from the public eye and thence from the public mind; or at least the sort of mind, as Severus put it, that followed the 'Daily Prophet' with any level of belief in its puerile utterances which was the only paper likely to be any real trouble. And as they would probably have an extended visit to Malfoy Manor for the various weddings of the year, that would show the world that Lucius Malfoy was willing to receive Darryl Zabini.
And if Lilith Snape was to be believed, the whole point of having big public weddings was for the entertainment of juvenile marauders to jinx those guests who had no manners.
Darryl liked being part of the Snape family too; like Victor he was essentially a son of the family even though he did not change his surname. Victor and he had become quite close over the year; and that was like having a proper sort of brother. And Seagh too; who looked out for his more fragile brothers in blood. Victor was friendly with Ulrich of course; but there was nobody quite like blood kindred.
Severus decided to hold the end of term feast in the courtyard by moonlight, sending youngsters to lie down in the afternoon beforehand. The courtyard was decorated by myriad small coloured lights and fairies with tiny diadems bearing a lumos charm were persuaded to join in too as it was lit up. Ismenia had painstakingly taught some of the cleverer ones to fly in patterns that made words, the light remaining by optical illusion in persistence of vision like writing with sparklers. The fairy dances would hopefully wish the children 'happy holiday' though one fairy was still firmly writing 'holly hadipay'.
"Oh well, close enough" laughed David, finding a frustrated Ismenia "The intent is good and the kids won't care."
"I think she's just perverse because she's the cleverest" said Ismenia gloomily.
"More than likely; that's why we fought Voldemort" said David "Those of us who are the brightest are the most perverse; it goes with the territory."
Ismenia digested that.
"That makes it good then" she said "That she's er, asserting her independence."
"Something along those lines" said David.
Ismenia nodded; and after having stopped haranguing her fairy discovered that she could spell as well as the rest once they joined the party.
The party was a buffet and barbeque; there were seats and tables but nobody made a fuss about small people mingling and wandering about whilst eating, and that was a treat enough. Sausages, kebabs, and burgers all went into rolls – delicious locally baked ones that were still warm from the special baking of them – and were variously adulterated on the part of most of their small consumers with tomato ketchup or mustard. Rose Hubble of course managed to get at least as much tomato ketchup outside her as inside; but that was Rose and at least the uniform was readily washable. Fruit and salad sat in bowls, all protected with a fly-repelling charm, with pastries and sandwiches; another table groaned with sweet comestibles involving the most indigestible kinds of pastry, apples, cinnamon and almonds according to the custom of the country of Austria. And as always the staff were overcome by amazement at the capacity for demolishing food that young people had.
And after the feast, while everyone digested, Severus made a brief speech thanking them all for being hard working and making the lives of the staff a delight – generally speaking, apart from forays into competitions over whether pattern magic or chanting worked the best, he added.
This referred to the final jape of the year of the Muggle Marauders who had been arguing desultorily with Randolph over whether he could make a pattern be as powerful as a chant, which had led to a short stretch of corridor briefly turning people green – the chanters – and then making them find themselves walking on the ceiling – Randolph – before returning them to their natural state, which had been a combined effort.
The muggle marauders grinned happily. They had caught the headmaster himself who had heard their explanation over the debate and the serious spirit of thaumotergic enquiry in solemn silence before setting them each ten repetitions of Kipling's 'I have six honest serving men' to cure them of an excess of enquiry before fleeing to bury his head in a cushion so he could laugh unheard.
And after the speech wherein he adjured them to have a good holiday and forget work outside of their various assignments – which he reminded them went much easier if got out of the way in the first week or even on the train journey – he told them to sit back and enjoy.
And there were fireworks; fireworks from the Weasley Twins deluxe range in a splendid display. Ismenia had returned all the fairies to the greenhouse and made sure they were screened from the fireworks, since they either got scared or – more often – tried to compete with the fireworks, which could lead to accidents. The children gasped with awe at the splendid fiery concoctions, flying dragons and phoenixes, rockets with stars, rockets that exploded into fourteen tiny figures on fiery brooms who played quidditch until they dissipated, and one – which had been crafted lovingly by hand just for Severus – with a flying blue-flame Ford Anglia.
And Krait handed out sparklers and the children played with them until Severus and Krait gently shooed them in to bed.
They should be tired enough to fall straight into bed and to sleep without the usual last night chatter half the night; and any of Hermione's suggestions about remembering to clean their teeth fell in at least nine cases out of ten on deaf ears.
"A ruddy flying Ford Anglia! Those twins take the biscuit!" said Severus.
"And it's because they've come to love you dear" said Krait equably. "Is it still living wild in the forbidden forest do you know?"
"Last I heard" growled Severus. "Weasleys! Who'd have them?"
Two Weasleys and their wives threw a variety of jinxes at their stern headmaster now the children were safely out of the way and Severus laughingly extracted himself from an ingenious selection of curses which had managed the uncomfortable accumulation of dancing with jellied legs on backwards.
It was good to feel able to lighten up and relax with friends!
And then the staff finished off THEIR evening with the post NEWT students with a glass of elf made wine in Severus' study.
And next day the children were all going home and Rose trailing half her trunk behind her as usual for not having bothered to even try and pack it properly.
"I say, Victor, I am going to miss you being a big brother for me" said Crow Langstaffe.
"I was planning on staying on a year to study deeper" said Victor "And we ARE blooded; and, incidentally, so is my little brother, through the Hogwarts Marauders."
"That WILL be nice" he said "I say, I should like to meet him! If he's a Marauder, he's right over the cursing, right?"
"And how!" said Victor. "I'll see if I can ask if you can't be asked to the Malfoy Manor beanfeasts over whoever's getting hitched this year; Lucius invites random kids, mostly prospective first years, but others too. If you Bee Marauders all came you could meet the younger Hogwarts Marauders; they've had large groups three years running which is pretty unusual!"
"Maybe we'll be needed to fight Odessa when it comes from Russia" said Crow. "I'd really like to come and meet others; and my parents would be well flattered! I say, would you and Walter come and stay with me for a few days? I can get my dad to write to your parents formally for Walter and I can write to you to say if he says yes?"
"That'd be great" said Victor. "And though Crabbes aren't the top echelon, we are sort of in there with those he'd probably think worth knowing?"
"I'm afraid it does work a bit like that" said Crow sadly. "But dad has been listening about when I've managed to drop in about some of the things Malfoys say and do. And he might be just as snobbish – not that I don't love him 'cos I do – but he is kind of trying to be more not pushy if you know what I mean."
Victor nodded. He knew what the boy meant.
"I'm really glad you do love your dad, faults and all" he said softly "I don't really know either of my parents well enough to know if I like or dislike them; but as my dad has made it fairly clear that he thinks I'm probably to blame for everything from the invention of the blunt instrument by ape men to the spawning of Voldemort just my existing I guess the dislike is the greater feeling. Severus is my dad really."
"Well I'm glad you have someone; and Severus really is rather fine" said Crow. "Oh well, cheers then; see you sometime in the hols!"
And then he was on his way, and the Snapes and their wards left alone in Austria to make their own quieter way back to England for the holidays at their leisure.