The Sugar Quill
Author: Storm (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Plus ça change; The more things change  Chapter: Default
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Plus ça change; The more things change

Plus ça change; The more things change

Author - Storm

Summary - Salazar Slytherin wanted to keep Muggle-borns out of Hogwarts and 1000 years later his heir opened the Chamber of Secrets. But there are many other stories to be told from those thousand years and this is one of them. In 1796, a time of opportunity, bigotry and change, an ambitious Slytherin sets his sights high. Watch out for politics, prejudice and interhouse rivalry as he uses any means available to achieve his ends.

Keywords - Slytherin, Mudblood, History, Politics, Power

Disclaimer - This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author’s Note - Neither Grogan Stump nor Elliot Smethwyck is my own invention. They can be found within the pages of Amazing Beasts and Where to Find Them and of Quidditch Through the Ages respectively. The other characters are original, but the whole world belongs to JKR. I do not believe that either your character or your opinions are predestined to make you a carbon copy of your great, great, great grandparents, so I make no apologies for my characterisation of the ancestors of various canon characters.

Many thanks to Honeychurch for the beta.

 

 

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The more things change, the more they are the same.

 

 

Hogwarts, 1796

 

The sun shone brightly as Grogan Stump made his way through small clumps of students on the grassy lawns towards a single figure lying surrounded by books and rolls of parchment next to the lake.

 

There were vast differences to be seen between the different years. The O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s had finished so the fifth and seventh years had little to do but enjoy the summer heat and try to relax as best they might until the results would be announced at the end of term. Many of the younger years were still mainly in the library; their exams were of course less serious, but would not begin till next week.

 

Grogan did walk past a small group of Hufflepuff third years who had evidently decided that transfiguration revision could be done as well outside as indoors. Judging by the broken crockery that surrounded them and the odd looking creature that a scrawny blonde girl was peering at in a hopeless looking manner, the change of scenery was not improving their ability to turn teapots into tortoises.

 

Being a sixth year, Grogan’s own exams were nearly over. He was very pleased with the power of the Patronus he had produced in the morning’s Defense practical and felt perfectly entitled to take an hour or so off.

 

He was pleased to see that Lewis Morgan had chosen a shady spot for his revision. Many of the students had loosened their school robes in the heat or even rolled up the sleeves, but as a prefect and a Slytherin at that, Grogan had a certain image to maintain. Moreover certain plans that he had worked on for at least two years now would succeed or fail in the course of the next few weeks; he would not put them even slightly at risk by appearing in public with less than perfect dignity no matter how uncomfortably warm his robes were.

 

As he approached it became clear that while Lewis might be surrounded by books, he was not studying for any subject currently on the Hogwarts syllabus. He was muttering to himself as he took notes from what looked like an ancient volume of Statutes of the Wizarding World. He was also far too deeply engrossed to notice Grogan’s approach.

 

“Jarveys can speak therefore they are beings…. they don’t walk on two legs… have a nasty bite… mer people… centaurs… merpeople…. some things should surely be self evident…” Lewis broke off to suck the end of his quill, not noticing as Grogan raised his wand and aimed a carefully chosen hex.

 

“Mmphhrrr!” Lewis suddenly was choking and spluttering as he discovered he had a mouth full of seaweed. He looked round furiously, reaching for his own wand, only to relax again when he saw Grogan was alone.

 

“What did you do that for?” he asked. “That was a perfectly good quill until you transfigured it into salty green mush!”

 

“Be thankful it was me,” Grogan retorted. “Smethwick and Weasley wouldn’t have been so kind. You could have found yourself eating a Bundimun. What has you so worked up that you couldn’t hear a wizard approaching at ten yards? That doesn’t look like exam work to me.”

 

 “No,” Lewis said. “My last exam was this morning. This is something I’ve been wanting to read up on for a while.”

 

“Not three quarters of an hour after you finish your exams and you’re already doing extracurricular study. How very Ravenclaw of you!”

 

His friend and cousin fingered the blue prefects badge at his collar and grinned. “No, seriously Grogan. Did you know that British wizarding society says merpeople are animals because they can’t speak English but jarveys and trolls are technically beings with full legal rights? The Wizards Council made some laws a few hundred years ago, discovered they didn’t work then just abandoned the whole idea – and left the mess unchanged on the statute books.”

 

“Well that sounds like the Wizards Council,” said Grogan. “It was no great loss when that collection of amateurs was replaced with a proper ministry. Do put it aside for a while though. I need to talk to you.”

 

Lewis swung himself up to a seated position and obligingly tucked his parchment away. “What is it? You have one or two exams to go, is that right?”

 

“Just the one. But that’s divination. If I can’t bluff my way past old Finnigan I don’t deserve to pass. What? Don’t look at me like that. You had the good sense to drop the subject after the O.W.L.s. I actually need that fine brain of yours to consider whether there are any angles I’m missing about my chances of becoming Head Boy. The headmistress will be taking the decision soon…”

 

“…and the least little thing this week could make all the difference.” finished his friend. “I take it you’ve established your dominance over the Slytherins satisfactorily.”

 

“Of course.” Grogan had taken good care that those of his year mates who might one day challenge him should be bent to his leadership early in their school career. Ambition would always mean a cutthroat attitude to one degree or another, but he had not wanted major factions competing with him within his own house. There had been one point at which Peregrine Potter had seemed likely to be a danger, but a carefully laid plan involving joberknoll feathers, three of the castle ghosts and Potter’s underrobes – and which of course had no sign of Grogan’s involvement – had left Potter only too glad to be second to Grogan Stump in all the ways of Slytherin House. Arabella Hawthorne might still be a threat under certain circumstances, but right now the girls were in their own contest of will and image for the position of Head Girl.

 

“The Hufflepuffs can be disregarded,” Grogan continued. They usually could be – unless of course all the other prefects managed to rule themselves out. “Either Smethwick or Weasley could be in the running from Gryffindor. Of course my greatest competition should be from you.”

 

Lewis snorted. “Except that we all know that Headmistress Richardson would rather have a flobberworm as Head Boy than Davy Morgan’s son. She could be minister of magic by now if Father hadn’t exposed her mandrake root futures scam.”

 

Grogan very deliberately kept his face impassive but some emotion must have shown through in its very lack of movement because Lewis’s face softened. “Oh Grogan, don’t feel like that. It’s all right, it really is. My father is a man of integrity. I’d rather know that than have any number of honours.”

 

And the strange thing was that it was true. Lewis had been Grogan’s best friend since they were both seven years old, their sorting into separate houses had simply let them meet on neutral ground - for Grogan at least, Lewis was someone he could trust more than any member of his own house – and their loyalty to each other was unquestionable, but there were some points on which they each knew they would never truly understand the other. Grogan was deeply thankful not to be competing with Lewis to become Head Boy, but he himself would never have been able to accept being denied his due because of a grudge against his father.

 

“Besides,” Lewis continued in his more normal carefree tones, “I can’t for the life of me understand why you want to be Head Boy. Interviews with the press, dinner with the governors, formal meetings with the headmistress – you know that the only way to manage her will be to agree with everything she says at very great length. I’m quite content to be your trusty right hand man among the prefects. I only hope your relationship to the Morgans won’t damage your chances against the Gryffindors too much.”

 

“It shouldn’t do. It’s a bit too remote.” Lewis could probably tell he was still trying to convince himself, but that was all right – he had sought the other boy out as a sounding board after all. “It might even work in my favour. There are a few of the senior staff who will be highly annoyed that you aren’t in the running; it could turn them into my advocates even if I am a slimy, devious Slytherin. The problem is that we don’t really know how it works or how much influence anyone except the headmistress will have. And unfortunately your head of house would see straight through any attempts I might make to ingratiate myself with him.”

 

“So it comes down to Gryffindor versus Slytherin.”

 

“Yes – and the worst of it is that both Smethwyck and Weasley have a profile I lack. Two stars of the Quidditch team,” Grogan sneered, “most of the school doesn’t know them personally, but show the mob a sporting hero on a broomstick and they start imagining all sorts of moral worth to go along with it.”

 

“Smethwick must surely be more dangerous than Weasley.” Lewis was focussed and calculating now. “Weasley really is the follower in that little relationship. The staff aren’t stupid  - they must recognise that.”

 

“You would think so, but Weasley’s the seeker and that does strange things to people’s minds. Even on the Quidditch pitch Smethwick has ten times the brains – not that that’s saying much – but the glory goes to the seeker not the strategist who enables him to win. And that’s just what I’m so concerned about. Merlin!” Grogan was angry now. “How can I be forced to pitch my ability against two gormless lumps just because they fit some ludicrous stereotype of sportsmanship and bravery on the Quidditch pitch? Quidditch! The ability to fly and to dodge heavy objects. How can they make that Head Boy?”

 

“Oh I don’t know,” said Lewis mildly. “I’m very partial to well played Quidditch myself.”

 

“You follow the Holyhead Harpies,” said Grogan with the sudden unguarded grin that only those closest to him ever saw, “for reasons that have rather less to do with talent and rather more to do with seven young witches in flying robes.”

 

“Ah, but what robes….” His friend smirked. “And what athletic bodies under the robes. And even you must admit they do have talent; three of them are in the current Wales squad. And if my fantasies should lead in the direction of their changing room after a league match, well every learned man of letters needs a little diversion from time to time.”

 

“That’s my point exactly,” said Grogan, although he was still smiling. “Diversion, fantasies, I’m not against Quidditch per se, but it accomplishes nothing. And now the greatest threat to me is from fantasies and diversions and I can’t quite see what more I could do than what I’ve done already.”

 

“I think you’ve done enough,” said Lewis, “but I’ll keep my eyes open and my ear to the ground for the next few days. You can count on me.”

 

“I know.” said Grogan gratefully. “It’s nearly lunchtime, let me give you a hand with those books.”

 

So the two prefects walked slowly back to the school building, the lanky Ravenclaw once again the picture of a dedicated scholar and the composed Slytherin supercilious and vaguely intimidating, his face giving away none of his inner thoughts.

 

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

The boys each ate at their own house table, but once the main course was over Lewis wandered casually over to the Slytherin table and rested his hand on Grogan’s shoulder. There was nothing significant in that; two friends with no immediate cause to be elsewhere, why should they not pause after lunch to talk?

 

But seen from another angle, Lewis was demonstrating his support for Grogan in front of half the students and most of the professors. “Grogan Stump as Head Boy would unify the school” was the unspoken message. “He can already pull together support from other houses and he would lead the prefects as a single body.” Lewis, of course, knew exactly what he was doing and Grogan was grateful.

 

They held the tableau, discussing minor school gossip and plans for the summer until the last members of staff left the high table for afternoon classes. Most of the students had also made their way out of the Great Hall although a few others were also taking advantage of the opportunity to chat with members of other houses and some of those who had desperately brought revision even to lunch continued to pour over their textbooks.

 

There was still a Ravenclaw fifth year seemingly holding a forum to discuss the O.W.L.s, a noisy group of Quidditch stars at the head of the Gryffindor table (Grogan scowled at the sight of Smethwyck’s stocky figure and Weasley’s flaming red hair) and towards its foot two Hufflepuff first years were watching an older girl practice – just what was she practising? At this distance it looked like a memory charm and Grogan’s eyes narrowed.

 

The spell was definitely not one that was on any Hogwarts syllabus below N.E.W.T. level and even at that level use of memory charms outside of class was strictly forbidden, but as he identified the girl his brow cleared. The witch in question was Elizabeth Harringay, fourth year, Gryffindor and Muggle-born; and although she was practising the wand movements she was doing so without the incantation. There was no chance of her accidentally obliviating her young admirers and no doubt she had been given special permission to learn the spell in case of accidents in her Muggle home over the summer vacation.

 

Since its foundation, Hogwarts had always accepted witches and wizards from Muggle born as well as pureblood families, but different eras had required different ways of making the arrangement work. In the more enlightened times of the late eighteenth century there was less of the anti-magic superstition that had once meant would-be students had to disappear from their Muggle villages without trace; on the other hand the 1692 International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy had made it more vital than ever that no hint of the existence of magic be allowed to leak out through a witch or wizard’s Muggle family.

 

Some Muggles of course were easily able to come to terms with their children’s abilities and were happy to support them in their unconventional education, but many more were not. The standard practise now was an initial interview with the parents to gauge their receptivity followed by careful use of memory charms where discretion could not be guaranteed.

 

There were witches and wizards who found this all a ridiculous amount of effort to put into the education of students already tainted by their Muggle blood and there were even a few who murmured uneasily about the ethics of deceiving parents about their children’s education, but on balance the system seemed to work and work well.

 

Elizabeth Harringay was something of a special case. Coming from a much higher social class than the majority of Muggle-born witches, it had not been possible for her to simply leave home aged eleven with a story of finding employment at the other end of the country. Through Lewis’s father Davy, Grogan was aware that her selection for Hogwarts had caused a minor political incident.

 

When it became apparent that her parents, would never knowingly accept a daughter who was a witch, several ministry officials had been of the opinion that having her taught without their knowledge was more dangerous than it was worth. A variety of spontaneous magic (including an explosion in her mother’s conservatory, a rain of frogs over the shrubbery when young Elizabeth had a temper tantrum and the unfortunate incident that turned a nursery maid into a hedgehog) soon showed that leaving the child’s natural talent uncontrolled would be even more dangerous and finally an elaborate scheme of fictions was set up so that the witch could be taught at Hogwarts, returning home during vacations, while her family believed her to be at a small but exclusive school for young ladies in a remote part of Northumberland.

 

Harringay was not the only student to return to a Muggle home over the holidays, but as an Earl’s daughter she probably had the highest profile parents among those who were unaware of their children's magic. If she were now at a stage where she could perform memory charms herself when her parents saw small incongruities in her stories, it would be likely to save a lot work for junior officials of the ministry of magic.

 

Her transition to Hogwarts had not been altogether smooth. Brought up to a life of privilege, she had resented having to associate with the children of servants and labourers and she had promptly alienated most of the other Muggle borns in her year. This had not been a particularly wise move, Grogan reflected sardonically – a group of excited eleven year olds had recently learnt that they had greater talent and opportunities than they could have imagined and, although some of them were awed by Miss Harringay’s background, they more likely to admire students who had been practicing magic since early childhood than they were to subject themselves to a girl who was as ignorant as they were about their new world.

 

Harringay had refused to associate with some of her Muggle born year mates and her airs of superiority had been resented by others. Those purebloods who would generally welcome Muggle borns into their midst were indignant about her treatment of the others and the faction that took exception to their very presence at Hogwarts found her as objectionable as any of the lower class children she despised. The school still talked with awe of the first year hex wars of 1792 when a strongly magical, but entirely untaught witch had pitted her abilities and resentment against both those who should have been her natural allies and those who despised her for bringing her Muggle prejudices into their world.

 

One of her few supporters had been Isabel Smith, a Slytherin apothecary’s daughter deeply impressed with Muggle social status and willing to provide the admiration and flattery that the Honourable Miss Harringay had taken as her due. Grogan had been a third year at the time and had maintained an amused distance from his house’s attempts to persuade Isabel that awe of a Muggle born nobody was not becoming behaviour for a self respecting witch. It had taken some time, but she gradually spent more time with members of her own house, eventually becoming one of Arabella Hawthorne’s younger admirers. Isabel’s defection had left Harringay with few real allies, facing the combined wrath of most of her year. Her eventual rout had been inevitable, but she had managed to create a remarkable disturbance over several months before retiring in defeat to lick her wounds.

 

The years had seemed to teach her wisdom and, if her relationships with some of her year mates had never quite recovered, she had still wrought a place for herself within Hogwarts society. Her interaction with the other Gryffindor fourth years was still cordial rather than intimate, but as the third and fourth year syllabus had placed her in more classes with other houses she had appeared to build friendships with Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws who had had less close contact with her prejudices during her disastrous first year and she often showed genuine kindness to younger students. Grogan only recognised one of the Hufflepuff first years sitting with her, but that one was Jason Goyle whose father was a Liverpool chimney sweep and who would have been fortunate in another life to obtain a position as stable boy to Miss Harringay's horses.

 

Now they sat together after lunch and Harringay seemed to be describing what Goyle could look forward to over the summer. Thanks to the difficulties of explaining to his parents why his employers would give an eleven year-old boot boy three months holiday, he would be joining a dozen or so Muggle born students at a safe house in Hogsmeade. Judging by Harringay’s expression she would be just as happy to join him there as to spend the time acting the part of a genteel young lady and demonstrating the improvements in her sketching and performance on the pianoforte.

 

It had been her need to show her parents the accomplishments she had learnt at the fictional select academy that had led to Professor Atkinson approving after school coaching in music and art for any students who were interested. It seemed unlikely that a few evening classes could really enable anyone to convince their parents that they had spent all year studying a full Muggle curriculum, but Harringay had explained that girls education focussed on correct behaviour and etiquette and that so long as she could provide a little high class music no-one was likely to enquire into her progress in geometry or literature.

 

It sounded like a shocking waste of talent of course, but even basic Muggle studies explained that Muggle culture was still highly dependent on physical male muscle for both war and labour – and in either of these arenas a woman was expected to confine herself to a decorative function if she could afford to do so. Grogan, with at least seven generations of wizarding ancestors behind him, would never restrict potential resources so foolishly, but even back in the days when wizarding Britain had been engaging in its own bloody wars it had been clear that a witch could cast a powerful curse as easily as a wizard could and underestimating her because of her gender would not be a mistake anyone had the chance to make twice.

 

As it was, both music and art classes had quickly become popular and had done a lot to make the students thaw towards the Muggle born witch. The music lessons had been hijacked a year or two ago by a group of second year romantics who had taken to enchanting their school robes to play scales when they trailed on the stonework and to join together in Handel’s water music whenever they passed the potions master.

 

The art classes however were still strongly attended. Grogan had never seen the attraction, but Lewis had been an enthusiast for many months, declaring that sketching was another of the diversions befitting a man of letters. His flirtation with the art world had only come to an abrupt end when he failed to persuade Madam Roberta that drawing nudes from life was a vital part of any artistic curriculum.

 

As Lewis and Grogan watched the Gryffindors, the loud Quidditch discussion broke up and its participants started to move down the table’s length and towards the doors. Smethwyck was waving his arms around to demonstrate a theoretical move that would surely knock its perpetrator off his broom if tried in real life and Weasley was continuing a heated discussion with one of the chasers.

 

They paused when they reached Harringay and her youthful admirers. Smethwyck’s eyes swept across her once then looked away as if finding her wanting.

 

“Comparing notes on your filthy backgrounds?” he sneered. “You dirty little Mudblood!”

 

Harringay visibly stiffened, but just said, “Speech is free Smethwyck. We’re not inconveniencing you.”

 

“Oh but you are. Bad enough that you are what you are, but you don’t need to sully decent people’s ears in the Great Hall. And what are these?” His contemptuous gesture took in the two first years. “Bad enough that the likes of you have a right to sit at the Gryffindor table, without you bringing more of your kind over from Hufflepuff.”

 

You see,” Weasley took over from his friend, “Your little friend Goyle there is dirt; he is nothing. His blood is worse than yours and that’s saying something. We may have to endure his presence, but we won’t have you flaunt it in our faces.”

 

“Goyle is a wizard,” said Harringay “And a member of this school. His family may be Muggles but…”

 

“Don’t!” interrupted Weasley. “Don’t discuss your disgusting Muggle background in front of us. Don’t turn a great old house like Gryffindor into a place to fraternise with filth. And don’t talk back to your betters and you just might manage to finish your education here.”

 

“You see,” said Smethwyck, laying one hand on the witch’s shoulder in a way that could almost have been avuncular had less disgust been behind it, “You and your kind bid fair to be the ruin of one of the finest wizarding communities in the world. You sit there with your memory charms and your pride in the way you move between two different worlds and it’s like holding back a flood with a bit of tissue paper and slight of hand. You think you’re so clever, yet you overextend your self just once, one memory charm doesn’t work or one Muggle sees what you are and gets away to tell the tale and you bring our whole world to the brink of destruction. The ministry think they’re clever, managing your integration into our world. Integration! They don’t see that they’re teetering on the edge of a precipice; they’ve sacrificed what is right for politics and expediency and they will destroy us all.”

 

The Ravenclaw fifth years looked uneasily towards the rising noise and started unobtrusively gathering their parchments together, ready to beat a strategic retreat if necessary.

 

“Even if you don’t let the Muggles find us out, you weaken us every day from the inside. Look at what you’ve bought us so far, you personally – Muggle classes in Muggle arts, as if they could buy you a place among us. And one day you will marry a wizard and muddy his blood with your own and weaken his magic until every wizard in Britain is tainted and powerless. Well I wont stand for it. Do you hear me Harringay? I won’t let you and your kind do this to us. There are other right thinking witches and wizards to stand with me and we will defend our freedom, our blood and our way of life.”

 

Goyle and his friend sat in stunned silence as the prefect raged against what they were. Harringay was rigidly still and her eyes flashed with anger, but she made no move to defend herself; the tightness around her jaw said she had heard it all before. As well as being older, more experienced wizards, Smethwyck and his cronies were prefects and Quidditch champions; it was impossible to rise higher within Gryffindor House. They might not have broken Harringay’s spirit yet, but she must know that she had no power to either change their minds or still their tongues.

 

“The authorities may have sold out for now, but I’m a true Gryffindor and I have the courage to do what’s right – and die for it if I have to. Sooner or later someone will stop you encroaching on our society. And in the meantime, you can just keep your dirt mudblood ideas out of my way. I don’t want to hear them again, you dirty good for nothing Muggle whore!”

 

As Smethwyck turned his attention to more personal comments about the older witch who had smoothed his way into Hogwarts and helped him make sense of the strange new world he found himself in, Goyle lost control.

 

“Don’t talk about her like that!” he cried. “Elizabeth is worth a dozen of you!”

 

He pulled out his wand and pointed it at Smethwyck. His arm was shaking slightly, but whether from anger or fear Grogan could not tell.

 

“Launticu…” Goyle began, a hex that should have turned the sixth year’s ears blue and his nose green, but before he could finish the incantation, Weasley and two of the rest of their clan had turned their own wands on him

 

“Suspario!”

 

“Actenius!”

 

“Silencio!”

 

The older students had none of Goyle’s hesitation and the twelve year old was immediately suspended in mid air, his arms held immobile above his head and his legs kicking uselessly. His mouth moved furiously but the spells had taken his voice too.

 

“What have you done to him? Put him down at once!” Unsurprisingly that was Harringay, her posture determined but her eyes betraying panic. Before she could reach for her own wand the chasers had her covered with theirs and she slowly brought her hands back to rest on the table.

 

“Oh, I don’t think I’ll let him down yet,” said Rufus Weasley, leaning back against the table now that his supporters had firm control of the wand work. “What do you think Elliot? Young Goyle here is clearly an impetuous type. Not what you would really expect of a Hufflepuff, even one with his …ah.. obvious disadvantages.”

 

“He really ought to learn to control those impulses,” said Smethwyck.

 

Weasley fingered his wand lovingly. “Helping him learn would be an act of charity really. What do you think Goyle? An act of charity for one of the Hogwarts’ charity cases.”

 

He slowly raised his wand and Goyle’s expression became if anything more frantic. He waited until the boy was white with terror, flinching away from the prefect. Then he lowered his wand with a contemptuous sneer, reached out with his fingertips and almost gently pushed at Goyle’s shoulder so that the suspended body slowly spun in mid air.

 

“A spinning mudblood mobile,” he said, “in its own way, it’s a work of art. We could mount it on a plinth and add it to the portraits.”

 

The Ravenclaws decided enough was enough and fled the hall.

 

The second Hufflepuff determinedly held his ground but was clearly unable to think of anything to help. Elizabeth Harringay looked round desperately and saw Lewis and Grogan at the other side of the hall. Two years younger than them and not in either of their houses, she had never spoken to them before, but any source of help was better than none.

 

“Help us!” she cried. “They can’t do this. You have to stop them. Please!”

 

Beside Grogan, Lewis shifted uncomfortably, avoiding the girl’s eyes. Grogan could not blame him; prefects had a large degree of autonomy in school discipline and neither Lewis nor Grogan could claim house responsibility for either Harringay or the Hufflepuffs. They were now the only other people in the hall; impossible to pretend they had not heard her appeal. Lewis was clearly torn between sympathy for the victims, the knowledge that even if Grogan backed him he could not possibly hope to win a fight against five other sixth years and an ignoble desire to be a long way away where the situation would have nothing to do with him.

 

Grogan sighed and stood up. If anything, his position was more precarious than Lewis’s, but he did have a stronger dislike of Smethwyck and Weasley to fall back on.

 

“Stump.” acknowledged Smethwyck warily as he approached.

 

“An interesting method of controlling the first years.” said Grogan. “Perhaps a little crude for my tastes, but I suppose simple minds must do what they can.”

 

Weasley flushed furiously at the insult, but Smethwyck’s hand laid briefly on his arm kept him from doing anything rash.

 

“Stop them!” repeated Harringay, “They can’t do this. Stop them please!”

 

“Stop them?” asked Grogan, addressing her directly, “Stop them? That would be the problem you see. Young Goyle here tried to hex a prefect, in front of several witnesses. He should be glad he was stopped before he managed to do any harm. I don’t really see how I can intervene; your Gryffindor prefects haven’t actually gone too far -”

 

He saw Smethwyck’s face twist in triumph at the sight of his rival being forced to publicly concede.

 

“- yet.” That one word hung in the air and Grogan let the Smethwyck and his cronies digest its implications. You’re near the line. Very near it. Go just a little further and I will delight in taking you apart.

 

“Now,” he continued, “this is what I suggest. Weasley, why don’t you let Goyle down? I’m sure he’s learnt his lesson. Then he and his little friend – what’s your name?”

 

“Weston.” the first year stuttered.

 

“Well Weston can take Goyle back to his common room and Harringay can run along to whatever it is the fourth years are doing this afternoon and you gentlemen can continue with your very important business.”

 

He stood casually, waiting for Smethwyck’s response, hoping the Gryffindors could not sense the tension that coiled through him. At this point in time Smethwyck and Weasley had every reason not to be caught fighting another prefect. On the other hand they must know that Grogan was at least as reluctant as they were to start a wizard’s duel in the Great Hall, with all the resultant damage to his image among the staff. Impasse. Perhaps it was time to raise the stakes.

 

“You know,” Grogan continued casually, “my mother’s cousin Cassius Blunt has a nephew who is walking out with a young witch who works in the new Department of Wizarding Secrecy. I remember speaking to Uncle Cassius just after Christmas. It seems that half that department were called out to Gloucestershire in hurry on Boxing Day – your family home’s in that area isn’t it Elliot? It involved a couple of half-naked underage wizards, some highly inappropriate charms, seventeen Puffskeins, two carthorses and half a dozen traumatised Muggle labourers who accidentally stumbled across the sorry scene on their way home from carousing at the local inn. The obliviators were really not happy to be called away from their own family festivities and they became even more indignant after they’d handed out suitable memory charms, filled in the paperwork and discovered that the whole incident was to be hushed up courtesy of a request from the Department of Magical Games and Sports.”

 

Smethwyck’s father was Minister of Sports while Weasley’s oldest sister was a departmental aide. No great difficulties in determining who had applied the pressure or who the underage wizards were.

 

Smethwyck flushed bright red, raised his wand and savagely muttered “Finite Incantum!” at Goyle. The boy dropped heavily to the floor and Harringay and Weston dashed over to check he was alright.

 

“Right. We’re going.” Smethwyck said, glaring at Grogan. “Don’t think this is over, Stump.”

 

He grabbed Weasley by the arm and, gathering up his other cohorts, swept out of the hall.

 

“Puffskeins and carthorses?” one of the chasers asked as they left. Smethwyck’s only answer was another snarl before they were no longer in earshot, but Grogan had no illusions; Smethwyck would also chalk that question up to his account.

 

“Are you all alright?” Lewis finally picked himself up from the Slytherin benches and helped young Goyle to his feet.

 

“Yes thanks, I am now.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

The three younger students murmured thanks to Grogan before leaving the hall. Goyle and Weston just looked genuinely grateful that the attack was over – mingled with some shock that it had happened at all – but Harringay looked more disturbed. Oh she was genuinely glad to be rescued, no question of that, but she clearly knew that this was not over and that her reception in Gryffindor Tower might be worse after this.

 

At last Grogan was alone with Lewis. The enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall darkened as the sun outside passed behind a cloud, and Lewis shivered and sat down.

 

“Alright then. Suppose you tell me what all that was about.”

 

“Someone needed to do something and as you weren’t jumping to your feet and begging to be a true knight errant it seemed the task fell to me.”

 

“Well you were right that Goyle had started the attack, however provoked he was. Hogwart’s own Gryffindor thugs hadn’t done anything to make a professor intervene and I knew I didn’t have anything that could make them back down. It seems you did.”

 

“Uh-uh.”

 

Lewis’s eyes narrowed as he looked at his cousin. “You do know this isn’t over right? Smethwyck may lead the Gryffindor Quidditch team round by the nose, but even he won’t stop Geraint Smith or Prudence Figg telling a story like that to a few friends in strictest confidence. Everyone is going to want to know a story like that – Hell, I want to hear the full version myself; you managed to keep very quiet about it – it will be all round the school by the weekend. You’ve lost any useful leverage it might give you as blackmail and Smethwyck and Weasley will have double reason for revenge.”

 

“Hmm. I know.”

 

“It’s not about the girl is it?” Lewis asked anxiously. “You’ve overextended yourself on this one and no mistake, but tell me it’s not for her sake? She’s two years younger than us, and a Gryffindor to boot… you don’t even know her to say hello in the corridors! Now would not be a good time to lose your head.”

 

“What?” asked Grogan in genuine surprise. “No, I can promise you that whatever this is about, it is certainly not about love of Elizabeth Harringay’s eyes. I have more important plans in mind than that.” He smiled savagely and his eyes lit with an unholy glee that promised nothing good to his rivals. “It might not be the best of times, but I think this may work very well. Lewis, I’m going to need your help.”

 

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

It was nearly midnight, well after Curfew and Elizabeth crept cautiously through the second floor charms corridor. She had another three flights of stairs and several corridors to go, but then she would come to a back entrance to the kitchens where the house elves would gladly flood her with food to make up for her missed dinner.

 

She would never tell her year mates, but when she first came to Hogwarts the castle kitchens had provided a balm for her homesickness and a refuge from the strangeness of the world where she found herself. The house elves’ unconditional welcome and willing service had felt like home and she could almost imagine herself back in the kitchens of her father's country house. Later of course, as she had learnt more about both elves and people, she had become horrified that she would once have considered a child like Jason Goyle as a suitable equivalent to a house elf, but at the time she had needed heartsease and even now the kitchens felt like a place of safety.

 

Tonight they would also fulfil the dual function of replacing the dinner she had not dared to go to hall to eat and helping her to avoid the other girls in her dorm who wanted as little as possible to do with Gryffindor's new pariah.

 

It would get better of course; this level of hatred was too intense to last long, but while it did last her life could be very uncomfortable and the fact that she had been a public witness to Grogan Stump's little confrontation was likely to make things worse. She briefly grinned to herself in the dark and tried to decide whether it had been worth it. It probably had; her mind boggled at trying to imagine the true story behind the puffskeins and the carthorses, but even as someone currently being ostracised she had been aware of at least three salacious rumours beginning in the common room this evening. Elliot and Rufus would not quickly forgive such humiliation, but she considered it worth plenty to have seen it.

 

The castle seemed different at night, larger, older, holding more secrets – and this in a place whose staircases moved and corridors disappeared even at midday. She crept quietly past the statue of Emmeline the Idle, holding her robes in one hand to quiet their rustle on the bare stone flags. She did not expect to meet a professor; she had completed this journey on many other nights, but nor did she expect to be the only student illicitly out of bed. Elliot Smethwyck had been hungering for revenge on Stump all day and he would have no difficulty in persuading the hot-tempered Rufus Weasley to join him. From the intense discussion in their corner of the common room before lights out, Elizabeth fully expected them to also be out of bed and whatever form their revenge might take, she preferred to avoid it.

 

With the ease of long practice, she found the correct passageway in the dark and turned left. Not far to go now; just past the second portrait and she slipped into the back of the balcony to the Jaunty Jester’s gallery.

 

This was perhaps the point at which silence was most important. The Jester the gallery was named for was framed, twice as large as life, in a vast portrait over the room’s fireplace. He was known, among other things, for a running feud of pranks with the poltergeist Peeves and, while not malicious in the way the ghost was, would be quite capable of drawing attention to a student out of bed after lights out.

 

The room itself was large and circular, its wooden balcony broken only by the huge chimneybreast where the Jester’s picture hung. Apart from that, the walls were bare stone, fluted into fantastical nooks and pillars and carved all over with beautiful flower and leaf patterns that ran into powerful symbols. For it was the room’s shape and carvings that gave it its unique magical properties.

 

The carved walls and domed ceiling acted as a curious magical amplification device. Spells cast in certain places would be recreated, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker at predefined points around the chamber. The range of teaching applications was immense.

 

Early in the study of runes, students were brought here to learn to recognise the difference between powerful signs and purely decorative carving. It was an exercise in advanced arithmancy to plot the three dimensional effects of the chamber from first principles based on the exotic shapes and their constituent magics – and once the plotting was complete it could be used by even more advanced students to test new arithmatical calculations by comparing the theory to the actual effects of casting them here.

 

And it could be used as a practise arena by an expert dueller, the different planes of magical energy acting as mirrors to reflect curses and hexes back on the caster. Elizabeth had seen a demonstration last year by the Defence and Attack teacher who had kept no less than six simultaneous variations of curse and counter curse moving back onto herself for a full ten minutes before stepping out of the arena unharmed. Less encouraging rumour told of overconfident students spending days or weeks in the infirmary after removing their noses or reversing their feet in illicit sessions in the gallery.

 

Tonight though she simply needed to slip in one end of the balcony and out again further round it. She let the heavy door swing silently shut behind her and, falling to her knees, felt her way forward in the dark to peer cautiously round the edge of the bench in front of her at the Jesters frame.

 

He was not in his portrait and Elizabeth relaxed. A cloth lay over his roughly wooden stool in front of an ornately carved screen and painted torches flickered in their brackets giving a ghostly glimmer of light to the room outside the painting, but the Jester himself was elsewhere tonight.

 

Elizabeth rose to her feet again and made her way swiftly round the back wall of the balcony. But she was only half way there when a sudden sound from the main part of the room below her made her freeze.

 

“It’s all right. The picture’s empty.” a voice she knew whispered.

 

“Lumanios!” Another voice lit nine yellowish lights that floated in a ring around the newcomers.

 

Elizabeth shrank back into the shadows, although the chances of them seeing to the back of the balcony must be slim. She had discovered exactly where Smethwyck and Weasley planned to be tonight.

 

Rufus Weasley was unpacking a cloth bundle while Smethwyck paced out a lopsided pentangle, perhaps twelve yards across, leaving five of his yellow lights at the points and marking out the sides in a narrow trail of sparks from his wand.

 

“Illumianare!” He shot a beam of light up to a key marker in the ceiling and sighted along his wand at it, sighing in satisfaction that his pentangle seemed correctly placed.

 

“All set?” asked Weasley.

 

“Yes.” Smethwyck replied. “It’s really a very simple lay out. Afterall, it’s the channelling effect that we want, not extra points in the N.E.W.T.s.”

 

Weasley sniggered his appreciation and handed his friend something small, perhaps an inch or so across, that glinted in the dim light. Smethwyck placed it at the centre of the pentangle then joined Weasley in laying out arrangements of herbs at the five corners.

 

Elizabeth shivered and held herself very still. The exact significance of what the sixth years were doing escaped her, but she could recognise a basic amplification spell. If the chamber would reflect a spell cast at the pentacle’s centre to each of its five points, then it would similarly concentrate spells cast at the points on whatever was placed at its centre.

 

From the herbs they were laying out – fennel, maiden’s bane, nightshade – they seemed to be setting up curses, but why they should want to direct curses onto the small shiny object remained to be seen.

 

“Nearly done.” said Weasley. “You sure this will work?”

 

“Of course.” Smethwyck reassured him. “We’ve been planning it for weeks. Today just gave us the reason to bring it forward that’s all. And Stump doesn’t know we managed to break into his safe in the school office. He won’t even realise his family seal is missing until the end of term. I’m sure he’ll blame us when he spends all night in various types of pain, but he won’t know how we managed to break into the Slytherin dormitories to cast spells on him…”

 

“…and the beauty is that we didn’t have to.” finished Weasley with satisfaction. “Won’t that give him a nice puzzle to worry over?”

 

With a shock, Elizabeth realised that they planned to use sympathetic magic. The shiny object in the pentangle was an old fashioned seal ring, the kind that was passed down from one generation to the next. They must have carried out further charms to bind the ring to Grogan Stump’s physical body, but as the ring was already an intensely personal object, such charms would not need to be particularly strong.

 

The boys finished their preparations and with a quick wave of his wand Smethwyck removed the guidelines of sparks. With the pentangle gone, the layout of herbs looked entirely random; only when the curses were activated would the magic of the chamber take effect.

 

The sixth years stood back and admired their handiwork.

 

Smethwyck grinned unpleasantly. “Do you want to do the honours? Remember start gentle and work up. We can keep this going most of the night.”

 

“My pleasure.” Weasley raised his wand, with the air of an artist who loved his work. “Suertas.”

 

He cast the curse gently and directed it towards just one arrangement of herbs which glowed slightly, followed a few moments later by eight or nine softly glowing spots across the chamber floor as the magnification took effect and a brighter more intense light centred on the seal ring.

 

Elizabeth winced. If the sympathetic spells were working at all then that had to hurt.

 

Smethwyck allowed the lights a few minutes to fade and raised his own wand to cast “Vomitulare!” a spell that should lead to intense stomach cramps.

 

Elizabeth drew in her breath, slipped her wand into her hand and moved forward. She was not sure quite what she planned to do, but she could not stand back and do nothing.

 

She stepped into the light at the front of the balcony. Now Smethwyck and Weasley had only to look up to see her and she still did not know what she would say or do when they did.

 

Here goes nothing she thought, but as she lifted her wand a hand fell on her arm and a very soft voice murmured “Hush.” into her ear.

 

 Stifling her instinctive squeal of surprise, she turned to look up into the shadowy face of Grogan Stump.

 

His eyes were drawn and his cheeks taut with pain but there was a strange look of triumph on his face. “Let me handle this. Just keep quiet and out of sight.” he whispered.

 

With relief and a certain amount of curiosity, Elizabeth returned to her shadowy hiding place and waited to see how this drama would unfold.

 

The Slytherin took Elizabeth’s place at the balcony rail and leant forward slightly.

 

“Don’t you think that’s enough?” he called.

 

The effect on the Gryffindors below him was almost comical. They froze aghast, Smethwyck moving in a futile attempt to block the view of the amplification array with his body. Then, seeing Grogan apparently alone, they relaxed.

 

“Invictare!” ground out Weasley viciously at a different point of the pentangle.

 

Elizabeth saw Stump wince in pain, then heard a soft sound from the other end of the balcony. Lewis Morgan, as hidden in shadow as she was herself, was quietly casting the countercurse. It was no accident that had brought Stump here tonight. He had clearly come prepared.

 

“Now that was foolish,” he said. “Just giving me more evidence. Tonight you have finally overplayed your hands.”

 

“What evidence do you think you can produce?” challenged Smethwyck, kicking some herbs aside. “See? No more array, just your word against ours. Do you really want to bring the staff into that kind of discussion Stump?”

 

“My word against yours? Maybe, maybe not. Would you like to see my other witnesses?”

 

Elizabeth stiffened. If she were brought into this she would certainly tell truth, but by this time half the school must know she had been involved in some kind of altercation with Smethwyck and Weasley after lunch. Would her word and Morgan’s really count for much?

 

But Stump seemed to have grander ideas than other students as his witnesses.

 

“Jellicoe!” he called, “you can come out now.” and a large yellow and red figure lumbered into view in the picture frame on the chimneybreast. The Jaunty Jester had not been away from his frame at all, but rather hiding behind his carved wooden screen. Grogan Stump had indeed planned tonight in detail.

 

“Did you catch all that?” he asked.

 

“I’sooth sir, I did.” the Jester replied, looking grimmer than Elizabeth had ever seen him. “Every word, every spell. And I will bear testimony should the Headmistress ask me.”

 

“The Jaunty Jester has been a part of this school for centuries.” the Slytherin explained. “His word is inviolate. And tonight he has seen two prefects use a stolen ring of some value to cast dangerous curses on a rival.”

 

He paused, giving his adversaries time to take this in.

 

“And then there is the matter of the theft itself. No doubt you thought yourself very clever, finding a way to break into another student’s safe, under the school’s protection. And that alone could be grounds for expulsion. But did you really think the safe protections were the only ones on the office? The gargoyles over its door are as sentient as any of the school’s guardians. If commanded by the faculty they will come to life and I am sure they will have seen you breaking into steal my ring. It’s only a case of someone telling Headmistress Richardson the correct questions to ask.”

 

Smethwyck and Weasley were pale now. The confrontation in the Great Hall may have been an impasse; this was starting to look like disaster.

 

“And all my belongings in that safe are warded.” Stump continued. “It comes of being a suspicious Slytherin. I’ve known someone had my seal from the day you took it; it was just a case of working out what they could plan to do with it. Of course I didn’t know for certain that it was you or that you would be here tonight, but it seemed like the kind of revenge you might choose. Accio Ring!”

 

His sudden cry took Weasley by surprise and the redhead made an abortive jump for the ring as it soared overhead into Stump’s hand, a hand that was now covered by a large white handkerchief. Smethwyck did not even try to capture the ring. Perhaps he had realised that being caught with the ring would be every bit as damning as letting its owner have it back.

 

“You’ll see that I’m avoiding touching the ring myself.” said Stump. “An expert thaumatological analysis should yield some very interesting information about the sympathetic spell binding it to me and about whose wands might have cast that spell. Game over, gentlemen. I win.”

 

For once the Gryffindors had nothing to say.

 

“Now this is the way it’s going to work. I have been shocked and horrified to discover what my fellow prefects would sink to in the name of petty spite.” The grin Stump flashed at them was in fact delighted rather than horrified. “But I stop and consider that the Headmistress is choosing the next Head Boy even as we speak. And much as I hate to see your crimes go unpunished I can’t bear the thought that people might think I have impure motives in exposing you.” He even managed to hold his soulful look for a full ten seconds.

 

“Just get on with it Stump.” called Smethwyck. “What do you want?”

 

“I want your compliance. You will return to Gryffindor Tower and confine your energies to the Quidditch pitch. You will stop interfering in my concerns and, above all, you will stop harassing Muggle borns. I will hold my silence for now, but if I hear that, in any way, you are making life difficult for any student on the basis of their parentage, my conscience will get the better of me and I will place my evidence before the Headmistress. And believe me she will listen to me. Do you understand?”

 

Weasley’s eyes turned to Smethwyck, his leader in all things, but for once Smethwyck had nothing to offer. “I understand.” he said sullenly.

 

“You had better. I know you’re very embarrassed by the information I accidentally let slip at lunchtime, but none of the staff are likely to take action over a student’s bizarre behaviour out of term time. If you force me to go public on this, you’ll find it a very different matter. Now go.”

 

Smethwyck held Stump’s eyes for a few more minutes, but he had no threats left and both boys knew it. He turned round angrily, cast conflagrento to burn up the remaining herbs on the bare stone floor and pulled Weasley out of the room.

 

 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

The next afternoon, his last exam over, Grogan once again sat with Lewis beside the lake, watching a pair of Joberknolls swooping and dipping over the water in the distance.

 

“Well I’ve been very patient.” Lewis said. “I backed you up and cast countercurses and didn’t ask for information. But now I do want to know just what was going on.”

 

“Hmm?” asked Grogan, rolling over onto his stomach and trailing his fingers in the water.

 

“Information, Grogan Stump. The enigmatic act is growing old.”

 

 “What do you want to know?”

 

“How did you know what Smethwyck and Weasley were planning? How did you know we needed to go to the Jaunty Jester’s gallery at all last night, much less set old Jellicoe up as your secret witness?”

 

“That was easy. I’ve been preparing for that ever since I realised they’d taken my family ring.”

 

Lewis just lifted an eyebrow.

 

Grogan sighed “I suppose I may just have accidentally left a text about sympathetic magic in among Weasley’s books in the library.”

 

“You set them up?” asked Lewis.

 

“Let us say I put the idea into their heads. I wasn’t forcing them to go ahead with it. I just didn’t think they had any real plans when they stole the ring and I had rather know what to defend myself against in advance.” Grogan smiled at his most angelic. “They might have used it at any point between now and next year, but once the puffskein story became public knowledge it seemed likely that they would want revenge at once.”

 

“I don’t actually understand why you got involved at all. Smethwyck and Weasley were truly obnoxious at lunch yesterday, but you were right when you said they hadn’t quite gone too far. If you’d left them alone they might have done Goyle some serious damage; they were really getting carried away.”

 

“And you approve of injuring first-years?”

 

“Of course not! But Madam Malaclaw would soon have patched him up. And if they had damaged him it would have become a disciplinary matter. All you had to do was give them enough rope and you would have been virtually certain to become Head Boy. I’m just surprised you didn’t, that’s all.”

 

“Maybe I had a compassionate impulse?”

 

“Maybe you did. I know you’re kinder than you want anyone to know. But you still usually have all the angles covered. And that you let them go last night really surprises me. I suppose you do hold them pretty much in your power now, but if you had involved the staff last night, the job would surely be yours this morning. Even if Smethwyck and Weasley weren’t expelled, no one could appoint either of them Head Boy after something like that. You held them in your hand and you chose not to crush them.”

 

Grogan sat up and turned to face his friend. Lewis’s eyes narrowed in the expectation of a real answer at last.

 

“You said it yourself Lew, I think I’ve done enough to become Head Boy. And if I haven’t then I’ll take that risk. But I have my sights on something bigger now.”

 

“And?” asked Lewis curiously. Grogan had never spoken of this before.

 

“I aim to become the youngest minister of magic ever appointed.” said Grogan in a rush. “Not just the youngest since the ministry was formed, but the youngest there ever will be.”

 

His eyes focussed on a possible future as he put words to his dreams for the first time.

 

“We’re in a time of change Lewis, we really are. It’s well over a hundred years since the last Goblin rebellion and Britain hasn’t been involved in a wizarding war since. Even the goblins now seem to want to coexist with us peacefully; in the last few decades they’ve been coming out of hiding, setting up businesses. Backward looking fools like Smethwyck and Weasley will probably oppose them till their dying breath because of the old wars, but one day they may be properly integrated into our society and if they are then their businesses will help to make us strong.”

 

“And I know that I’d rather have the goblins as my partners than turn them back into my enemies because we haven’t left them any alternatives.” Lewis put in quietly.

 

“Then there is the ministry. It really does have a lot more potential than the old Wizard’s Council or Warlock’s Convention. The International Convention of Wizarding Secrecy was a lot more than any old treaty. It means we have to have regulation of just about everything witches and wizards do; the question is whether we do it in a way that destroys us. The last hundred years of secrecy have been about the obvious things, hiding Quidditch pitches and stopping Muggles seeing dragons. It’s the next hundred years that will decide what our society in hiding will become.”

 

Lewis was listening intensely.

 

“Wizarding Britain is at a crossroads. For the first time in centuries we have peace, prosperity. The convention of secrecy gives us strong obligations, but it also gives us the chance to become great without worrying about the Muggles fearing us. Think about it, Lewis, Britain could become a wizarding power to rival the great old nations of India or Mongolia. We’ll never have their advantages of vast open unplottable spaces but we could become the commercial and cultural centre of Europe if not of the world. Or we could become paranoid about our own regulations, so proud of our own purity and so scared of the wider world that we wither and die. That’s what Elliot Smethwyck and his like would have us do if they were in charge. Well, not if I have anything to do with it.”

 

Grogan paused to draw breath. He was rarely this passionate about anything, but this was something vitally important if only he could make the world see it.

 

“We’ve a limited opportunity.” he said at last. “If we don’t move now, Switzerland or the Netherlands will or somewhere like Oslo will become the great European centre that Diagon Alley could be. All of Northern Europe has been held back by the goblin wars; all of us now have the same opportunity. I intend that Britain should take it – and I plan to be there at the helm.”

 

Lewis was watching him soberly. “That’s quite a vision,” he said, “and it’s certainly bigger than becoming Head Boy. How did last night fit into the plan?”

 

“If we’re going to become great,” answered Grogan, “we need every resource we can find. A witch like Harringay who can cast memory charms in her fourth year isn’t just a Muggle born curiosity, she’s got talent that I need. I don’t suppose she was ever going to support someone who insults her and thinks her very blood is dirty, but she might well withdraw to the sidelines. Now I think she’ll be on my side. Even Goyle and his friend Weston are important. I’ve not seen any more than average talent in either of them, but there are so few of us. Every wizard counts if we’re going to make Britain great.”

 

“Go on.” Lewis urged. “There’s more isn’t there?”

 

Grogan raised one hand, acknowledging a hit. “There is.” he said. “Before anything happens on the international stage, the first battle will be fought in the hearts and minds of the witches and wizards of this country. Do they want a great place in world affairs or do they want to spend their time and energy creating magical hiding places so well hidden that no Muggle will ever dream the old stories about us could be true? And we have a whole generation here at Hogwarts. That was the real issue last night. It wasn’t just a question of winning the support of a few Muggle borns like Harringay, Weston or Goyle; it was about determining the culture of the next few years here. My influence and opinions will be heard next year, even if I am not made Head Boy, and Smethwyck and Weasley will not dare to oppose me. That may count for a lot when I’m looking for a power base in a few years time. And that’s why I chose to keep my power over the Gryffindor prefects rather than crushing them and having them replaced. So tell me Lewis, my voice of reason, is my ambition possible or have I overreached myself this time?”

 

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Lewis admitted, “but for what it’s worth I think you’re in the right. Smethwyck’s ideal society would be a dreary and restrictive place to live.”

 

Grogan smiled. “Well don’t lose those notes you were making on beasts and beings. I may just need them one day if I get to draft the legislation that takes Britain into the nineteenth century.”

 

“The workings of the Slytherin mind are vast and unfathomable,” said Lewis, “not to mention twisted beyond belief. Though I have to admit that knowingly setting your enemies up to practice sympathetic magic on you must have taken quite a chunk of courage too. Maybe the hat should have put you in Gryffindor.”

 

It was meant to be a joke, a lightening of the mood, but Grogan replied seriously. “Quidditch and bullying; the kind of bravery that can perform high speed manoeuvres on dangerously uncertain brooms but doesn’t have the imagination to see beyond the nose on your face. I’ll pass on that, thanks. Elizabeth Harringay was the one to show true Gryffindor courage yesterday. She faced the most appalling bigotry in the Hall and she must have been dealing with that kind of thing ever since she arrived at Hogwarts, yet she still stepped forward to defend me in the gallery when she thought I was helpless against amplified curses. Now that’s really valiant. And if blackmailing her prefects buys a respite for her and those who come after her then I think I did some real good yesterday, no matter what my other motives were.”

 

“You might just be right,” said Lewis. “I’ll agree with you on that.”

 

 

 

The End

 

 

Note for the curious –

 

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learn that Grogan Stump became Minister for Magic in 1811 and for the first time the ministry laid down generally acceptable definitions of what was a being and what was a beast. Lewis’s information about merpeople and jarveys comes from the same chapter.

 

Quidditch Through The Ages tells us that in 1820, Elliot Smethwyck invented the cushioning charm that first made broomsticks comfortable and led to the development of the modern racing broom.

 

Did you like it? Did you hate it? Could you believe in this version of Hogwarts 1796? Please leave a review and let me know.

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