‘Good morning, Miss Parkinson.’ There was one less name she would have to learn, Morgaine thought. There was no mistaking Pansy Parkinson’s little sister: dark hair, just as hard- faced and proud as her older sibling.
‘Good morning, Professor duLac.’
‘Miss Zabini.’ Yet another baby-sister. That one, Morgaine had recognised by her high cheekbones and slanting eyes. She was the spitting image of her older brother. Hopefully, the girl did not share his biased believes.
‘Good morning, madam.’
Morgaine gave a friendly nod to the Slytherin students who were leaving the dungeons in order to get to the Great Hall for breakfast. Some of them resembled their older siblings so much that Morgaine wondered if she had been travelling back in time. And she could not help but wonder if those little mirror images shared more with their older siblings than just their looks. Blaise Zabini had, for example, never been very silent about his prejudices against Muggle-borns, and Pansy Parkinson had been closer to Draco Malfoy than had been good for her. So had Vincent Crabbe, whose little brother Morgaine had spotted among a group of seventh-years as she had entered the Slytherin common room. She would keep an eye on those.
Not much had changed in the dungeon-like room that made up the Slytherin common room. Naturally, the furniture was still mostly green: the chairs, the lamps, the carpets. Even the hideous skull-chandelier was still there. Morgaine had never understood the point of that special piece of decoration. Except for the Dark Mark, there was nothing in the history of Slytherin that justified skulls in the common room. Not that Morgaine considered the Dark Mark worthy of being remembered.
She tore her eyes from the chandelier and focused instead on the first-years who were waiting for her. Fourteen in number, all looking excited, some of them slightly scared and all of them most probably eager to get to breakfast and explore the castle. She wouldn’t keep them long.
‘Good morning, first-years,’ she addressed them, surprised how her voice echoed from the low ceiling. She had never before spoken out loud in this room. ‘As all fourteen of you are sitting right in front of me, I assume that you have all made it through your first night at the castle without any bigger problems.’
Her eyes fell on Melvin, the blond-haired boy Peeves had chosen as his first Slytherin victim last night. He was sitting with his head bent, holding his cat close to his chest. He was obviously determined to make sure that the little animal would never escape the common room again.
‘Now, I assume that you all found your schedules on top of your textbooks as you returned to your dormitories last night,’ Morgaine went on, and the students nodded. ‘Good. Then you know what awaits you today. After breakfast, your prefect is going to give you a tour of the castle and show you the way to your classrooms. I suggest you be attentive. Your teachers may show lenience for tardiness due to you losing your way around the castle during the first week. But after that, you will lose House points if you come late. And I’d rather you didn’t lose any points. The House Cup has been standing in the Gryffindor common room for far too long. It is time Slytherin House reclaimed it.’
Quite a few of the first-years sat up straight when the House Cup was mentioned. No Slytherin had ever avoided a challenge, especially not one that included beating Gryffindor House at something. And Morgaine knew very well what means Slytherins were willing to use in order to get what they wanted.
‘I want you to win the Cup fairly,’ she added warningly. ‘No cheating, no tricks. Work hard and play fair. It will be rewarded.’
‘Yes, professor.’ Some of the students gave their affirmation a little more silently than the others, but for the time being Morgaine was content.
‘If there are no further questions, I will take you to the Great Hall for breakfast now,’ she announced.
Promptly, a hand shot up in the air. ‘Professor, is it true that the dungeons are haunted?’
Morgaine raised an eyebrow. ‘I believe you met our House ghost at dinner last night, Mr Makdoumi.’
‘I ... I didn’t mean the Bloody Baron, ma’am,’ the boy clarified. ‘I meant ... him.’ He pointed quickly towards the portrait that was hanging over the fireplace and then lowered his head as if he were afraid that the portrait would yell at him.
‘You mean Professor Snape?’ Morgaine did not look up at the portrait. It was too realistic, the dark eyes too bottomless for her to dare look at them lest she’d lose herself in them. ‘Professor Snape was Head of Slytherin House for almost two decades. As his ghost is still in the castle, it is only natural that it resides in the dungeons. Don’t you agree, Mr Makdoumi?’
‘There ... there are rumours, ma’am,’ the boy went on.
‘Rumours? What kind of rumours?’
‘That Snape was the true heir of Slytherin. That he never abandoned the Dark Lord. That his ghost is still here because ...’
‘Enough!’ Morgaine’s voice echoed from the dungeon walls like thunder and made several first-years flinch and huddle closer together. The Makdoumi boy was still looking at his shoes.
‘Severus Snape has been Dumbledore’s man through and through!’ Morgaine started, desperately trying to keep her voice calm. ‘He gave his life to bring Voldemort down. I will not allow his memory to be sullied by vicious rumours like those.’
She stepped closer towards her first-years and drew herself up to her full height. There must be no doubt that what she was about to say was serious. ‘Fifty points will be taken from Slytherin should anyone ever again use the term Dark Lord within these walls. Furthermore, I want to know who is spreading those rumours about Professor Snape. Those of you who have any information will report to me personally, and no one else but me will ever know. If I have not received any information by the end of the week, I will call a House meeting. And I intend to interrogate every student until I know the truth.’
The look she gave her first-years could have made the sun freeze to ice. And some of them actually seemed to have shrunk a couple of inches.
‘To breakfast with you now!’
She swirled around and left the common room, her robes billowing behind her and the first-years following in her wake. This was not how Morgaine had wanted to start her first day as Head of Slytherin House.
Forty-five minutes later, Morgaine let her eyes wander over her NEWT class. There were five Ravenclaws, two Gryffindors, one Hufflepuff and three Slytherins. Those children had come to Hogwarts when Severus had been Headmaster, and Morgaine remembered most of them, though not all by name. She especially remembered one of the Slytherins. The girl was Muggleborn, and two weeks into her first term, she had beseeched the Headmaster to be allowed to transfer to another House as she had felt threatened by some of her House mates. Severus had refused and instead demanded to know the names of the bullies. How he had dealt with them, Morgaine did not know. But the girl had never been bothered again. And there she was now, one of the best achieving students in her year, and the pride of Slytherin House.
Slytherin ... Morgaine had expected a challenge, but she had not been prepared to discuss the Dark Lord and Severus’ loyalties already before breakfast, especially not with first-years. They were supposed to be untainted still. But the seed of evil that had once been planted in the mind of Slytherin was obviously still growing. Morgaine had informed Minerva as soon as she had escorted the first-years to breakfast, of course, and the Headmistress had given her a free hand on how to deal with the situation. For now, Morgaine was hoping that someone would come forth and inform her who had started the rumours. How she would deal with them, however, she did not yet know. Part of her wanted to consult Severus, but another part was reluctant. She did not want Severus to know that he – despite his death and despite Harry Potter washing his name clean – was still suspected to have been loyal to the Dark Lord. If possible, she would avoid telling him. As for now, she had a class to teach.
All eleven NEWT students worked well, and as Morgaine weaved in and out between their work tables, a strange feeling of melancholy crept into her heart. Those children had been taught Potions by Horace Slughorn. None of them had ever seen what Severus Snape had been able to do with a cauldron. None of them had ever seen his passion. And they had no idea what they had missed.
Halfway into the lesson, the Hufflepuff student dropped a whole phial of Acromantula venom into his potion which made it hiss and boil over, and when Morgaine had frozen the corroding liquid with a flick of her wand, she smiled at the boy’s flushed cheeks and the mortified look on his face. None of those students had ever seen Severus Snape lose his patience in the classroom either. And for that, they should be grateful.
The first-year Slytherin and Ravenclaw class arrived after lunch, filing into the classroom with big eyes and curious expressions on their faces. The Slytherins looked slightly more confident than the Ravenclaws, certain that their Head of House teaching Potions would give them some kind of advantage. But any trace of smugness disappeared from their faces as Morgaine split them into groups of four, each containing of two Slytherins and two Ravenclaws.
‘Welcome to Potions,’ she addressed the class once they had settled down. ‘This subject will demand uttermost precision, thoroughness, concentration and caution. There is little room for chattering and drawing doodles on a spare bit of parchment. Potions is a dangerous subject, and there is a reason why the fireplace in the back of the classroom is directly linked to the hospital wing. However, I hope we will have no need to use it today. And if you do as you’re told and follow the given instructions, you will find that a cauldron can hold just as much power and magic as a wand.’
She paused and let her gaze wander over her class. No one was talking, no one was doodling. And Morgaine continued:
‘There are potions that can bewitch the human mind in a more effective way than the Imperius Curse. There are potions which can kill you in a blink of an eye. And there are potions which can cure illnesses that cannot be cured by any spell. But as in Transfiguration and Charms, there are rules in Potions, rules of physics and rules of magic, and those rules cannot, must not be breached. You will learn those rules along with your potions. And maybe, one day, you will be able to bottle fame, brew glory or even stopper death.’
A collective intake of breath told Morgaine that she had caught the children’s interest, and as she gave them their first task, she remembered her first Potions lesson at Hogwarts and the man who had coined those words that had made students gasp for two decades: bottle fame, brew glory, stopper death. That man had never sought fame or glory, and he had never even been given a chance to stopper his own death.
‘I see that the joys of teaching Potions has revealed itself, Professor duLac.’ Sever sneered as he drifted towards Morgaine’s desk and caught sight of a light blue potion in her cauldron: a Headache Potion. One of the first potions she had ever brewed for him.
‘It wasn’t that bad,’ Morgaine murmured, absentmindedly rubbing her neck with her free hand. ‘All cauldrons are still intact, and no student needed to be sent to the hospital wing. I’d say some of them are rather talented, actually.’
‘Talented?’ Severus cocked an eyebrow. ‘I doubt it. The gift of Potions is a rare one. You have it. You proved that during your very first lesson.’
Morgaine snorted. ‘Hard work and a studious mind. I wanted to impress you.’
She added some drops of the potion to a goblet of water and downed it, putting the goblet down with a sharp intake of breath.
‘That bad?’ Severus enquired.
‘It’s not the classes.’ Morgaine sighed and once more rubbed her neck, wincing at the pain that shot from her stiff muscles right up into her skull. She might just as well tell him. Severus would find out sooner or later anyway.
‘It’s our House,’ she started, not sure where to begin. Did she want to tell Severus the rumours she had heard about him?
‘You forget that I am a ghost, Morgaine,’ Severus interrupted. ‘I hear and see things without being noticed. I have heard the rumours. I know the mood in the common room.’
Good, Morgaine thought. At least, she would be spared having to tell him that he was suspected of being the true heir of Slytherin.
‘I do not want this, Severus,’ she declared. ‘Slytherin House has been through enough. I do not want my students to be fed old propaganda about power and glory. And I refuse to watch another generation of Death Eaters being fostered in my House!’
Severus nodded pensively. He knew only too well what Morgaine was talking about. He had been in the same position while he had been Head of House.
Despite the rumours, he had never propagated the Dark Lord’s ideals in his House. On the contrary. The use of the word Mudblood in the common room had been punished with the deduction of fifty House points. And whenever he had heard one of his students talk about the Dark Lord or the Death Eaters in enthusiastic tones, he had made sure to convey that being a follower of the Dark Lord was not all about power and glory but about mostly lies and murder, torture and betrayal. All this very much to the annoyance of his fellow Death Eaters. Severus could not remember how many times the likes of Lucius Malfoy had tried to backtalk him in front of the Dark Lord, saying that he was losing his touch, that he wasn’t loyal to the cause. And each time, he had been forced to wriggle himself out of that situation by telling yet more lies. Surprisingly enough, the Dark Lord had always believed him when he had said that everything was for show, that he was just trying to convince Dumbledore that he, despite all evidence talking against him, was loyal to the Light.
‘Do you think Horace took care of them?’
Severus raised his eyebrow. He had not really been listening to Morgaine, so absorbed had he been in his thoughts.
‘After the war, after Voldemort had fallen,’ Morgaine clarified. ‘Do you think Horace took care of those students whose parents had been loyal followers? Those students who were believers themselves? Those students who suddenly stood there with everything taken from them? Did Horace take care of them? Did anyone?’
Severus had no answer. After the war, Horace Slughorn had, like everybody else, probably been so relieved about Voldemort’s demise that he had not cared. Well, maybe he had cared. But like so many others, he had hoped that the Death Eaters, their beliefs and their teachings would disappear along with their master.
Morgaine sank onto a chair and buried her face in her hands. ‘I didn’t care either.’ She sighed. ‘I knew that those children needed help, and I deserted them.’
‘Don’t you dare blaming yourself, Morgaine,’ Severus exclaimed. ‘You had other things on your mind.’
‘I should have cared.’
Severus cringed. He knew the tone in Morgaine’s voice. Guilt, self-blame and regret. He knew that tone only too well himself.
He floated towards her, wishing that he could take her hands into his and cup her chin to make her look up. But in his ghostly shape, he was unable to. ‘Morgaine, please, look at me,’ he asked instead. ‘You have always cared. You have always cared much more about others than yourself. Do not blame yourself now for once having put your own needs first. There is still time. Take care of those children that are in Slytherin House now. Show them that there is a choice between the Light and the Dark. Teach them that the choice is theirs to make. But never be fooled into believing that you can make their choices for them.’
‘There are rumours in Slytherin House, you know.’ Morgaine was looking straight at him now, her blue eyes filled with a pain that made Severus flinch. ‘There are rumours that you had never abandoned the Dark Lord, that you were his most loyal servant until the very end.’
‘You know that this is not true.’
‘Yes, I know. But do they? The children, do they know?’ Then the look in her eyes changed. Suddenly, there was a flash of fighting spirit, of determination. ‘I will not have anyone believe those rumours, Severus.’
A smile played around Severus’ lips. He was so proud of Morgaine, so impressed by her willpower. ‘My reputation has always been tarnished,’ he pointed out. ‘I do not care about those rumours.’
‘I refuse to let those rumours sully your memory, Severus Snape. You died for the Light. No one should ever have reason to doubt that.’
Dearest Morgaine. She would never stop caring about him, Severus knew that. And she would keep on fighting until his name had been cleared once and for all. What he did not know, however, was that Morgaine in that very moment had someone else on her mind. Someone whom she kept closely hidden away from him in the most secret corner of her mind.
It was only hours later, in the depths of night, that Morgaine allowed herself to think about that person, about Demeter. Today, she had had a chance to tell Severus about their child. Today, she could have told him that his reputation was important to her because she wanted their daughter to know that her father had been a hero. She could have told him, should have. But she had not. Once more, she had been cowardly and held her peace, and had hated herself for it.
With every day that passed, things became harder. With every day, the lie grew bigger and threatened to suffocate her. And worst of all was that Morgaine did not really know anymore why she did not tell Severus about their child. He would not be angry with her, she knew that. He would be surprised of course, probably shocked for a moment. But he would understand her reasons for keeping silent. He, too, would not have wanted their child to be in danger. But still, a dark, almost irrational feeling of fear kept Morgaine from coming clean.
But the lie was consuming her. The mental bond between her and Severus was becoming stronger, and it grew increasingly more difficult for her to keep parts of her mind shielded off from him without him noticing. And there were days when she considered opening up to give Severus a glimpse of the girl that was his spitting image, and then watch his reaction and eventually tell him the whole truth.
But when it came around to it, Morgaine did not dare that either.
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