Chapter 10 : X: Legacies
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‘Just because Voldemort is dead doesn’t mean his ideology died with him.’
Morgaine’s voice was steady and composed, but she could feel a miniscule twitch in her right eyelid. She wasn’t as calm as she pretended to be. Up until an hour ago, she had actually played with the thought of holding her peace. But she had responsibilities. Not of the kind Lucius Malfoy had been talking about, however.
What a way to start the new term! The Heads of Houses would have met that morning anyway, just as they always did on January third, to go through the preliminary list of students who would be admitted to Hogwarts in eight months’ time. But Morgaine had asked Minerva to call everyone to the meeting, and so the Headmistress’ office was crammed with teachers, staff and ghosts. Even the portrait of every single old Headmaster and Headmistress was occupied. The only ones concerned who had not been invited were the school governors.
Morgaine felt anything but comfortable with everyone’s eyes on her. She hated being the bearer of bad news. And this certainly was bad news. ‘There are still wizards and witches out there who firmly believe in the superiority of Wizardkind,’ she continued. ‘And they are raising their children with those beliefs.’
A murmur went through the room. No one had been so naive as to believe that the propaganda Voldemort and his followers had spread for decades had just gone up in smoke after the Final Battle. But they had hoped.
‘The surviving Death Eaters have been rounded up and imprisoned,’ Pomona Sprout started. She, too, was hoping that Morgaine was wrong.
‘Like after the first war, you mean?’
Pomona fell silent, and Morgaine felt the need to apologise to the older woman. She had not meant to snap. Really not.
She had already opened her mouth to speak when she was interrupted as well.
‘I do not need to remind you of how many people were lured into a sense of false security after Voldemort had supposedly been defeated by baby Harry, do I?’
Everyone in the room turned to face the portrait of Albus Dumbledore. The old Headmaster had risen from his chair and was looking down at his old staff, his friends and his great-granddaughter. The look on his face was unusually severe, and his blue eye weren’t twinkling.
‘We went out onto the streets to celebrate. “Rejoice,” we shouted, “for You-Know-Who has gone at last!” Many of us hoped he would never return and were taken by surprise when he did.’
‘It is different this time,’ Filius Flitwick piped up. ‘Voldemort is officially dead. We all saw his body.’ Also he was hoping that everything was over.
Dumbledore’s eyes wandered to his great-granddaughter. ‘Morgaine, tell them what you have heard at Malfoy Manor.’
‘There are those who believe that the Da... that Voldemort left someone behind, that the Heir of Slytherin will soon lead Wizardkind to greatness.’
‘The heir?’ Several people in the room asked the question at the same time. ‘A child?’
‘Not necessarily,’ Dumbledore took over, and the shocked voices died away. Once more, all eyes were on him.
Morgaine glanced furtively at her great-grandfather’s portrait and bit her lips not to gasp when she heard his voice as clearly as if he had been speaking aloud. But his lips were not moving: They don’t need to be told more, child. The innocent need to be given a chance to choose their own destiny. Just as you did.
‘Some of Voldemort’s old followers indeed believe that Voldemort left an heir behind,’ Dumbledore explained, ‘someone who will finish what he has started.’
‘What was that, Professor Riverbed?’ Dumbledore asked politely.
Everyone in the room turned towards the young Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, who promptly blushed. He had obviously not meant to speak aloud, but his mere whisper had been clearly audible by everyone.
‘I ... I’m sorry,’ he stammered, eyes firmly on his shoes. ‘I didn’t mean ...’
Morgaine’s eyes travelled from the embarrassed man towards the window where Severus had positioned himself. His ghostly shape was barely visible in the morning sun, and his face was an inscrutable mask. One could almost believe that he had not heard Riverbed say his name. But Morgaine knew better.
‘Well, Professor Riverbed?’ Dumbledore wasn’t giving up.
‘I didn’t mean ...’ Riverbed repeated. ‘I have the greatest respect for Professor Snape. He ...’ He lifted his head and looked straight at the ghost by the window. ‘You are a hero, sir.’
Severus merely lifted an eyebrow. ‘But?’ he asked in a tone that didn’t betray any of his feelings. There was no way of telling if he was offended, angry, amused, or simply didn’t care.
‘There are rumours, sir.’
The people standing between Severus Snape and Alek Riverbed stepped automatically out of the line of fire, and ghost and man came to look at each other without anyone obscuring their view. There wasn’t a sound to be heard in the office. Even the fire in the grate seemed to have stopped crackling.
‘Go on,’ Severus said calmly, his arms crossed in front of his chest and his eyes boring into his opponent’s forehead.
Riverbed cleared his throat. ‘My nephew has been sorted into Slytherin House. You met him at the start of term. Melvin, Melvin Riverbed.’
Morgaine frowned. Nephew? Why had she not picked up on that? Riverbed wasn’t that common a last name. She should have understood that there was a relation. But then again, the boy was fair while his uncle was dark. One would never think they were related. Still, as Head of House, she should have known.
Her musings were interrupted by Severus’ voice.
‘What, Professor Riverbed, has your nephew to do with any rumours you might have heard about me?’
‘Melvin heard them, in the Slytherin common room,’ Riverbed explained. ‘He was very upset. You made a very good impression on him, you’re his hero. When he heard the rumours ...’
‘I will ask you once more only, Professor Riverbed,’ Severus interrupted, now using the voice that had scared hundreds of students over the years. ‘What are those rumours?’
‘The rumours are ...’ Severus’ voice seemed to have the same impact on the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher as they had on Severus’ old students. The man was by now just as pale as the ghost he was talking to. ‘You are said to have been loyal to Voldemort until the very end. You are said to have been chosen to carry on what he started.’
Severus snorted. ‘For your information, Professor Riverbed, Voldemort had me killed.’
‘I know that, sir.’
‘We all know that,’ Minerva interrupted and positioned herself between the ghost and the man. ‘We also know that those rumours about Severus have been going around for quite some time. Unfortunately, they seem to be winning ground, not at least in Slytherin House. The question is: what can we do about it?’
‘What we always have done, teach the children the truth. History. Facts. Cold, hard, verifiable facts.’
Professor Binns’ wheezy voice had taken everyone in the room by surprise. And despite the seriousness of the situation, many were unable to keep themselves from smiling. Who would have thought that the ancient History of Magic teacher had been awake through the whole meeting? Or at least long enough to be able to have an opinion?
‘I fear Cuthbert is right,’ Minerva pointed out. ‘Presenting the children with the truth is about all we can do. We cannot control what they are taught at home. We cannot control their parents’ beliefs. We cannot force them to believe the truth, but we can present it to them.’
‘What are we supposed to do about those students who are spreading rumours?’ Filius enquired. ‘And I don’t just mean rumours about Severus but about the war and V-Voldemort in general? We cannot let them continue.’
‘I have the names of the worst troublemakers,’ Morgaine announced. ‘They weren’t as successful in their recruiting as they had hoped. It was only too easy to have their House mates tattle on them.’
All it had taken was the little threat to question every member of Slytherin House individually. After that, it hadn’t taken more than a couple of hours for anonymous notes to appear on Morgaine’s desk, pointing out the culprits. Trust Slytherins to be loyal only to themselves and save their hides, even if it meant betraying members of their own House.
‘They know that I know,’ Morgaine went on. ‘And they know that Severus knows. For the time being, they are keeping a low profile.’
‘Keep your eyes and ears open,’ Minerva stressed once more. ‘I want to be informed about anything your students do or say that can even remotely be connected with Voldemort and his ideas. We cannot make them or their parents abandon their beliefs. What we can do, however, is make it very clear that no form of Dark propaganda will be tolerated within these walls. And now I believe we have all earned some tea. The elves have been baking crumpets all morning. In half an hour, I expect all the Heads of Houses to be back here in my office. The lists of the new students arriving in September is ready.’
Swiftly, the staff left the office for the Great Hall. Promising freshly baked crumpets was always an effective way to make the staff move quickly. Professor Riverbed was one of the last ones to leave, lingering for some moments by the door, his eyes on the ghost by the window. Severus looked straight at the man but did not invite to any kind of interaction. He had no desire whatsoever to talk to Riverbed at the moment.
‘I’m sure it just slipped out,’ Minerva pointed out as even the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher finally had left the room. ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.’
‘Whatever do you mean, Minerva?’ Severus asked innocently, his eyes still boring holes into the door Riverbed had closed behind him.
‘Don’t pretend, Severus,’ Minerva replied in a kind tone. ‘Even you cannot tell me that it doesn’t smart to be falsely accused.’
‘One grows used to it,’ Severus stated drily. Merlin knew that he had been falsely accused and mistrusted for the better part of his adult life.
‘You should never have needed to grow used to it.’
There was an apologetic note in Minerva’s voice as there was so often when they discussed the role Severus had held during the war. Asking him for forgiveness had been one of the first things she had done once she had met his ghost for the first time. And Severus had wholeheartedly accepted her apology. It had not been her fault. He had played his role well. Minerva had not been supposed to trust him.
Silence settled over the office. That, too, happened frequently when discussing that specific topic. Maybe everything that needed to be said, had been said?
Then Minerva cleared her throat. ‘I’d like you to attend the meeting with the Heads,’ she announced.
Severus cocked an eyebrow at her. ‘That was a rather unusual request. Why would you want me to know whose children will come to Hogwarts in September?’
‘Indulge an old woman, Severus,’ Minerva simply said, busying herself with some papers on her desk. ‘Who knows, there might be someone of interest among the new first-years.’
Frowning slightly, Severus promised he would attend. He was certain that he would not be interested in any of the children on the list, but he was very curious about the reasons that made Minerva so resolutely avoid his eyes.
‘Professor duLac, may I join you?’
Morgaine looked up from her cup of tea and eyed the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. ‘It’s Morgaine,’ she pointed out.
‘May I join you, Morgaine?’ Riverbed repeated his question.
Morgaine smiled and picked up her book bag to make room on the bench beside her. The rest of the staff was still laying siege to the staff table, where the breadbaskets were being constantly refilled with fresh crumpets. Morgaine herself had managed to get hold of one of the first batch and had then retreated to the left-hand side of the Great Hall, where one of the benches was bathed in the January sun.
‘Alek,’ Riverbed presented himself and reached out his hand. ‘Looks like you and I are the only ones not addicted to crumpets.’
‘That might be a generation issue,’ Morgaine noted. ‘In a few years’ time, you and I will surely be the ones hogging the breadbaskets.’
Alek laughed and took a seat. Obviously, his plan was to catch some golden rays as well, as he was now turning his face towards the window, eyes closed and his lips curled into a smile.
Morgaine observed the young man beside her. He had come to Hogwarts the year the school had reopened and had held the position of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher ever since. The curse had obviously been broken. He must be four or five years younger than herself, Morgaine thought and suddenly found herself wondering why she had never spoken with him so far. But then again, she had been slightly preoccupied since she had returned to Hogwarts.
Alek’s content sigh ripped her from her musings. ‘Glorious sunlight,’ he murmured. ‘I cannot seem to get enough of it nowadays. I guess that’s because I rarely saw the sun during winter when I was young.’ He opened his eyes and looked at Morgaine. ‘You must remember how disconsolate the winter months are at Durmstrang.’
Morgaine frowned. How did Riverbed know that she had been at Durmstrang?
‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ Alek asked and looked almost disappointed. ‘Why, it doesn’t surprise me, actually. I didn’t take NEWT Potions. I guess you never even saw me.’
‘I’m afraid I didn’t,’ Morgaine confessed, mentally going through all the faces she remembered from her short stay at Durmstrang. No, she didn’t remember him. ‘So you were in your last year when I taught at Durmstrang?’
Alek nodded. Then he grinned. ‘Come on, ask.’
‘What everyone else asks: why I attended Durmstrang and not Hogwarts?’
Morgaine raised an eyebrow. The man obviously intended to make her get to know him. ‘Why did you attend Durmstrang and not Hogwarts, Alek?’ she asked, more in order to please him than out of actual interest.
‘An excellent question.’ He was still grinning. Somehow, he reminded Morgaine of the Weasley twins. ‘Allow me to present myself with my full name: Aleksandr Riverbed Sadowski. My mother was Russian, you see. My father died when I was a baby and Mother moved back to Russia. Hence, Durmstrang was closer.’
‘I see.’ Morgaine sipped at her tea, but she didn’t take her eyes off Riverbed. They had not said more than hello to each other during the whole last term. Why did he suddenly have the urge to tell her the story of his life?
‘I sincerely hope I did not anger Professor Snape,’ Alek suddenly blurted out. ‘His name just ... slipped.’
Morgaine put her tea cup down on the bench between herself and the Defence teacher and fixed him with a blue stare. ‘Prof... Severus Snape has been well aware of the rumours circulating in Slytherin House for quite some time now,’ she pointed out. ‘You didn’t tell him anything new.’
Alek blushed, just as he had in the Headmistress’ office. ‘I’d hate to be on his bad side. Do you think I insulted him?’
‘Wouldn’t it be easier to ask Severus personally?’
The colour on Alek’s cheeks turned from pink to deep crimson, and Morgaine had to fight hard to suppress a grin. She could just imagine Severus staring at the young man until he was reduced to a puddle of tears.
‘My apologies,’ Alek mumbled. ‘I thought you might ... know.’
Any urge to grin Morgaine might have had disappeared. ‘Me?’ she enquired. ‘Why would you think I knew if Severus Snape felt insulted?’
Alek had already opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by Professor Sprout. ‘Morgaine, come on. We wouldn’t want to keep Minerva waiting, would we?’
‘Of course not, Pomona,’ Morgaine replied and got up. She would find out later why Alek Riverbed assumed that she knew how Severus felt.
Severus had once more positioned himself by the window, where the sunlight almost turned his ghostly body transparent. He doubted that any of the Heads would object to him attending the meeting, but he did not need to make his presence too obvious, no matter if the Headmistress herself had invited him or not.
Morgaine arrived last, looking slightly flustered. No wonder, Severus thought. She had had a rough morning, accusing and defending her House and her students at the same time. And once more, she had been forced to listen to the accusations that were made against him. As little as Severus himself cared about his reputation nowadays, he knew that Morgaine cared a lot.
‘There will be sixty-three students arriving at September first, twenty-seven of them Muggle-born,’ Minerva opened. ‘It has been a while since we received such a high number of students with no Magical background. I would therefore like to introduce a new subject: Wizard Studies.’
‘Wizard Studies?’ Filius’ eyes were glittering as if he had just been presented with another plate of crumpets. ‘That sounds delightful.’
‘I suggest that Wizards Studies is to be a mandatory course for all Muggle-borns during their first term,’ Minerva continued. ‘This should be enough time for them to become familiar with the way of living in the Wizarding world. Unwritten rules, etiquette ...’
‘Etiquette?’ Pomona giggled. ‘I know quite a few of our students who have been raised by Wizards and still do not have the foggiest about etiquette.’
‘Maybe the course should be mandatory for all students?’ Filius suggested.
The Heads engaged into a conversation about today’s youth, and Severus inwardly rolled his eyes. He could not figure out why Minerva had insisted on him attending this meeting. This was duller than dishwater. And when the Headmistress finally called her Heads to order and started going through the list of the new first-years, Severus was so bored that he could not make himself listen properly. Instead, he kept his eyes on Morgaine.
She seemed distracted. She had participated in the discussion about the degeneration of the youth but had not once delivered one of the biting remarks Severus knew she was capable of. One could have thought that the topic didn’t interest her at all. It wasn’t like her.
Davies, Peter. Delamay, Josefine. Dobbs, Andrew.
Severus heard Minerva read the names on the list of students. Some of them he recognised as younger siblings of students he once had taught. Other names he had never heard before. But he did not care. Morgaine was all he cared about at the moment. She was sitting rigid on her chair, her eyes resolutely on her hands that lay folded in her lap. While her cheeks had been slightly flushed half an hour ago, she now looked pale, and her teeth were once more working the inside of her lower lip. Something was wrong.
Severus spun around to face the Headmistress. Had she just said ‘duLac, Demeter’?
Then his eyes darted back towards Morgaine. Her shoulders had slumped, but only slightly, and Severus wondered if anyone except him had noticed. Then he realised that he was not the only one who was staring at Morgaine.
‘I didn’t know you had a daughter, Morgaine,’ Pomona finally said in a soft voice.
‘Not many people do,’ Morgaine answered in a voice so shaky that Severus almost didn’t recognise it, and he felt the urge to tell everyone to get out of the office and leave Morgaine alone. But they all stayed seated, they all stared at her, and Morgaine kept staring at her hands. Only Minerva was looking at Severus instead, a knowing expression on her face.
So was the portrait of Albus Dumbledore.