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Lion, Eagle, Badger, Snake by Sheriff
Chapter 26 : Answers
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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‘Well,’ Professor McGonagall slipped behind her desk, having conjured enough chairs for the students that she had summoned, and calmly healed the wounds that still bled. ‘I believe there is some explaining to be done.’

‘Is my Dad going to be alright?’ Joshua glared at the headmistress.

‘Mr Tregeagle,’ McGonagall’s eyes narrowed. ‘I assure you that he has the best care available this side of St Mungo’s. May I also remind you that I am the one who is asking the questions, and I do expect you to provide the answers.’ Her stare moved piercingly from one boy to the next, waiting for a sign of weakness. ‘Mr Jones,’ she settled on the Hufflepuff, who sat stiffly, hiding his still-raw hand away inside his robes. ‘Would you care to begin?’

Glyn swallowed uncomfortably, but said nothing.

‘Mr Jones,’ McGonagall repeated, calmly. ‘Please do begin.’

‘W... Where?’ he stuttered.

‘How about explaining what the “Blood of Glyndwr” is all about?’

Glyn shivered, the little colour left in his face draining to a deathly pale as the Headmistress held her stare. ‘I... I don’t know...’

The professor was unmoved. ‘Mr Jones,’ her voice carried the same firm tone as it did when it faced a misbehaving classroom. ‘I will find out what has happened here. It is not in your interest to hide anything from me that I later find out to be true. Do you understand?’

‘Yes, Professor. I’m sorry, I, I...’ Glyn snatched for breath. ‘Do you know who Owain Glyndwr was?’

‘I have heard the name,’ McGonagall nodded. ‘Although I cannot say I am familiar with his story.’

‘If I may, Minerva?’ A prim voice called out from the back of the office, startling some of the younger boys.

‘Phyllida?’ The Headmistress answered as the figure of a middle-aged woman in dark green robes shimmered inside a gilt-edged portrait frame.

Lucas, the closest boy to the speaker’s picture, turned to read the inscription underneath. ‘Phyllida Spore. Headmistress, 1393 to 1408.’

‘Indeed I was, young man,’ the witch’s eyes twinkled, ‘and I knew Glyndwr,’ she recalled. ‘A fine wizard, and a proud, proud Welshman...’

‘I’m named after him,’ Glyn supplied. ‘Glyndwr Jones. Gran says we are related to him, but it’s so long ago...’

Spore’s portrait acknowledged him with a nod. ‘I saw what happened in the Hall.’ Her voice was steady and measured, and it was easy for the children to imagine her as she would have been at the school. ‘Owain’s skills as a leader were legend: never before had the people of Wales come together as they did under his banner.’

‘Nor since...’ Glyn sighed.

‘He was more than just a great leader, though,’ the former Headmistress continued. ‘I knew wizards who fought both with and against him, and they all agreed on one thing. He always knew how to make the most of the country around him: where to station his armies, where to mount his attack, and where to lie in wait. Some even said that the weather fought with Glyndwr. He was one with the land, one with nature, one with the elements.’

‘The Four Elements?’ Greg interrupted, trying to keep up with the contents of the conversation. ‘Earth, air, fire and water?’

‘The very same,’ Spore smiled. ‘The Four Elements whose powers were united against the Wild Hunt this evening. I have not seen the like for many years.’

‘Since Glyndwr...’ Greg thought out loud, and Spore nodded again.

‘I see you still teach them well here, Minerva.’

‘Thank you, Phyllida,’ Professor McGonagall’s cheeks flushed for a brief moment, ‘but I must make sure I too understand. Are you saying,’ she steadied herself, ‘that Mr Jones here is indeed descended from Owain Glyndwr?’

‘I believe it would explain a great deal,’ the portrait replied.

‘That it would,’ McGonagall’s face creased into a frown, ‘but how would it possible to prove?’

‘I know,’ Oscar offered, before hurriedly excusing his manners. ‘Well, I think I know, Professor.’

‘Mr Symons?’ McGonagall peered down over her half-moon spectacles.

‘The Sorting Hat.’ He glanced to the battered old headpiece, currently perched on top of a glass display case to the Headmistress’ left.

‘Very well,’ McGonagall agreed, and an excited flicker of whispers quickly gave way to a nervous silence as the Headmistress guided the Hat onto Glyn’s head with an easy flick of her wand. The brim slipped over the twelve-year-old’s eyes, and the other children found themselves waiting for the second time that night.

Glyn lifted the Hat off his head a few moments later. ‘‘It’s true,’ his voice dropped to a whisper as he passed the Hat back to his Headmistress. ‘We are related.’

‘As you suspected,’ McGonagall deduced, ‘but who told you of his connection to the Four Elements?’

‘Nobody,’ the Welsh boy murmured. ‘I never knew that would work. I don’t know why I tried it,’ he swallowed. ‘I don’t know what made me do it, but I did know Josh was going to die if no one stopped the Hunt.’ His speech quickened, the words almost tripping over each other as he stumbled into a confession. ‘I knew blood was important in old magic, and I knew the elements were old magic, and I guessed the Hunt must have been old magic too, because of Tregeagle’s spell that sent them away... I just thought that, if there was any chance at all, I had to try... I just c... I couldn’t leave him...’ He looked away as his eyes started to water.

‘I understand,’ the Headmistress smiled kindly as Jai reached out to comfort his friend. ‘I think Helga Hufflepuff herself would have been proud,’ McGonagall sighed. ‘Nonetheless, I do not believe we still teach the Four Elements. You may not have known of their connection to Glyndwr, but you must still have understood something of their significance.’

‘It was the Welsh,’ Neal Kennedy spoke out. ‘When Tre... Professor Tregeagle sent the Hunt away, he spoke Welsh, and of course Welsh magic is some of the oldest magic in existence.’

‘You told them?’ McGonagall questioned the seventh-year.

‘They worked it out themselves,’ Neal answered honestly. ‘Glyn knew the Welsh. I wish I could take some of the credit, but I really can’t.’

‘You figured out it would come back tonight,’ Greg argued. ‘You knew about the sunset.’

The Ravenclaw shrugged. ‘Only because you found out so much about the Wild Hunt in your Christmas holiday project.’

‘I see,’ The Headmistress nodded, as a thin smile crept over her face. ‘I learned long ago that one of the first rules for working at this school was never to be surprised by anything,’ she took a steady breath. ‘There are times like this, though, when that’s an awfully difficult rule to follow: Gryffindors, Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, first-years and seventh-years, all working together for a common goal.’

‘Fourth-years, too!’ Oscar objected, and the tension that had gripped the Headmistress’ office vanished as the other students laughed.

‘Of course, Mr Symons,’ McGonagall acknowledged the boy. ‘Of course.’

‘Actually, Professor,’ the blond boy continued. ‘I wondered if I could talk to the Hat, too. I want to know why it’s started putting muggle-borns in Slytherin.’

The Headmistress hesitated, running her palms over the leather that covered the hat as if it were a docile house pet. ‘Well,’ she considered, ‘what could it hurt?’ She held the Hat out to Cameron, who passed it back to the fourth-year.

‘Why did you sort me into Slytherin?’ Oscar deliberately asked his question aloud. ‘Only because of resourcefulness and cunning? He reworded the Hat’s answer as part of his reply. ‘What about my blood? I thought that Slytherin only wanted pure-blooded wizards?’

A slow smile spread across Oscar’s lips as he listened to the Hat’s answer, before lifting it from his head as he spoke again. ‘Slytherins haven’t always been pure-bloods,’ he revealed. ‘Voldemort himself was only a half-blood, and so was Snape. Above everything, Slytherin is about self-preservation, about being there at the end... and being full of muggle-borns is a much better option than sitting empty, waiting for pure-bloods who might never arrive.’

A murmur of consent echoed across the Headmistress’ office. ‘Well said, Mr Symons,’ McGonagall agreed. ‘I may well have some more questions for you in due course, boys, but now is not the time. Go back to your dormitories,’ she smiled. ‘Some of you have got NEWTs next week.’

‘The dungeon,’ Greg whispered in Glyn’s ear as the first-years stood up, before raising his voice to answer the teacher. ‘Goodnight, Professor McGonagall.’

‘Goodnight.’

*

Only the low crackle of the lanterns on the walls of the Slytherin common room broke the quiet that hung over the dungeon as the evening turned into the early hours of the morning. The older students had gone to bed, leaving seven first-years – four Slytherin and three Hufflepuff – still awake, although several minutes has passed since any of them had spoken.

‘Are you going to sleep in the fifth-year dorm again?’ Greg could bear the silence no longer.

‘I guess,’ Jai answered on behalf of his housemates. ‘We can’t really go back now, can we?’

‘No,’ Cameron shook his head. ‘We’ll have to stay here,’ he concluded, yawning. ‘I’m shattered.’ The Hufflepuff dragged himself to his feet. ‘See you in the morning.’

Jai copied his housemate. ‘You coming, Glyn?’

‘In a bit.’ The Welsh boy’s reply was barely louder than a whisper.

‘Okay,’ Jai nodded, turning to follow Cameron towards the staircase. ‘See you.’

‘I think I’m gonna go, too,’ Isaac stood up. ‘Night, guys.’

‘Night,’ Theo echoed, watching his friend head for the staircase as he stifled a yawn of his own.

Greg looked across to his friend. ‘Go if you’re tired, mate.’

‘I’m not,’ Theo answered back.

‘Right,’ the other Slytherin smiled. ‘You’ve never been any good at lying. I don’t know how you got Slughorn to believe that about the Four Elements in Potions...’

Theo managed a smile. ‘Zac helped,’ he admitted, sheepishly.

‘I can’t believe it’s all true,’ Lucas murmured.

‘I wish it wasn’t.’ Glyn shivered.

‘Glyn...?’ Greg stood up, moving to sit alongside his friend. ‘You alright?’

The Hufflepuff shook his head.

‘That was awesome, what you did today.’

Glyn shrugged.

‘It was,’ Theo insisted. ‘I don’t know what would have happened if you weren’t there.’

‘I don’t think you’d be here now to tell us about it.’ Lucas pointed out, grimly.

‘I guess not,’ Theo winced at his friend’s suggestion, but Glyn didn’t react. ‘Thanks, Glyn,’ the blond boy added. ‘You probably saved my life.’

The Welsh boy couldn’t hide a shiver. ‘Wish I knew how.’ He shrunk back into the black leather of the sofa, his eyes burning.

‘Glyn... It doesn’t matter...’ Greg reached an arm out onto his friend’s shoulder, only for the Hufflepuff to shrug it away.

‘You don’t get it, do you?’ Glyn snapped. ‘I remember what I did, but I don’t remember doing any of it!’ He glared stonily at the three Slytherins, as a cross of surprise, concern and fear crept across the other boys’ faces.

Lucas was the next to speak, his voice wavering as he fought to keep it steady. ‘You don’t mean... you can’t mean...’

‘What?’ Greg was alarmed. ‘What doesn’t he mean? What’s going on?’

Lucas took a deep breath, watching Glyn as the Hufflepuff sunk backwards in the sofa, hiding his reddened eyes behind his hands. ‘If he doesn’t remember doing it, maybe it wasn’t him. Maybe it was someone else.’

‘What?’ Theo blinked, echoing the question his friend had asked only seconds before. ‘What do you mean someone else?’

‘Someone else – not me!’ Glyn was almost yelling. ‘Maybe someone was inside my head!’

Greg bit his lip, uncertain as he offered a tentative response. ‘So... isn’t that something that happens to wizards...?’

‘No!’ The Welsh boy shouted this time. ‘It doesn’t! It means you’re going mad, like your mind’s ripping itself apart, and you can’t, you can’t...’ Glyn hunched himself into a ball, shivering violently despite the still-present summer heat.

Theo stared back at the Hufflepuff. ‘How can you be sure?’ He questioned. ‘Okay, you don’t know what happened, but what’s the difference between that and the accidental magic that me and Greg did as muggle-borns before we came to Hogwarts? I made one kid end up on top of a cupboard once. I’ve no idea how I did it, but it wasn’t cause someone else was inside my head.’

‘You weren’t using blood magic, though,’ Lucas countered. ‘This wasn’t just a harmless spell, it was life and death. That doesn’t happen by accident.’

‘Accidental magic happens when you’re scared, doesn’t it?’ Greg recalled. ‘Scared, or frightened, when you’re out of control of your emotions.’

‘Yes...’ Lucas supplied, ‘but...’

‘How much more scared are we ever going to get?’ Greg insisted. ‘It looked like Tregeagle was already dead, and Josh and Theo were going to die, too! And isn’t accidental magic something you’ve got to be capable of anyway?’ He turned to Glyn’s still-hunched form. ‘You know you’re related to Glyndwr, however long ago that was, but bits of his old magic must still exist in your blood – that’s how the Hunt knew about Josh, because of his blood.’ The Slytherin took a deep breath. ‘Besides, I don’t care how it happened, whatever you say about it. All I know is that you did it: you saved their lives, when I was too scared to do anything about it.’ He forced a thin smile onto his lips as he felt the edge of a tear trickle onto his cheek. ‘If you hadn’t have done it, I’d have lost my best friend...’

Glyn’s eyes edged open as he heard the other boy’s confession, and their roles suddenly reversed as the Hufflepuff reached out to comfort the Slytherin. ‘Greg,’ he whispered, ‘I’d never have been brave enough to do it if I hadn’t have met you.’

*

There was barely a space to be had on three of the Great Hall tables the following morning as the first-year boys arrived late to breakfast.

‘Come on, sit with us,’ Greg whispered to the Hufflepuffs as his eyes scanned the unfamiliar faces that were scattered over the other House tables. ‘Who are all these people?’ He asked Oscar as he sat down beside the fourth-year.

‘Aurors,’ he nodded towards the purple robes the auror robes that bookended the staff table, ‘and the media,’ the prefect replied. ‘Newspapers and radio... and people from the Ministry. I guess last night isn’t a secret any more.’

As the first-years settled into their seats, Professor McGonagall chose the moment to rise from hers. ‘Students,’ she announced. ‘Thank you,’ she paused as the room fell silent, with all the assembled heads turning in her direction. ‘It will only have escaped the attention of the least observant of you that there have been... unusual... events in the school this week.’

A number of flashbulbs fired around the Great Hall, but the Headmistress was not distracted. ‘Magic, by its very nature, is a powerful phenomenon. We do not know where it comes from, or how it chooses us as its vessels on earth.’ She glanced down to the notes she had clearly prepared for this event. ‘Sometimes, however, we take it for granted. We assume it is benign, harmless, entirely under our control. We forget there are layers and depths of which we barely know, let alone understand.’

McGonagall paused. ‘Sometimes, we need to witness something extraordinary to remember this. Last night, that was exactly what unfolded in this very room.’ Her eyes picked out Glyn’s own as she continued. ‘Last night, the unflinching loyalty of one boy was enough to awaken magic long since considered lost, and to save the lives of more than one member of the Hogwarts community.’

A series of whispers began to chase one another around the House tables, as Greg flung an arm around the blushing Hufflepuff.

‘It is not for me to speculate on the whys and wherefores of the exact course of events, but it is enough for you to know that the Wild Hunt returned once more. Professor Tregeagle was attacked, and without the actions of a number of children, I cannot be sure that the Professor would still be with us today.’ McGonagall allowed a buzz of speculation to spark and die down of its own accord, before continuing her speech.

‘All involved will receive twenty points apiece for their endeavours,’ she announced, watching the great hourglasses rise up at her words. ‘Children from all houses, I trust you note,’ the Headmistress observed. ‘Without this co-operation, I do not wish to imagine what may have happened last night. It is with this in mind that I wish to award further points: thirty to Joshua Tregeagle, for his courage and bravery throughout his father’s ordeal.’ The Gryffindor table cheered, but the Slytherins noticed the first-year boy blushing as a string of reporters gathered around him.

McGonagall had seen the same thing, and she did not dwell for long before announcing the next set of points. ‘I award thirty more to Theo Forrest, for keeping a calm head in spite of extreme danger.’ The blond Slytherin reddened furiously as the handful of his friends around him yelled in congratulation, but the Headmistress was not done.

‘To Neal Kennedy, I award thirty points for the use of clear logic and calm reason in the most trying of circumstances.’ Theo breathed a sigh of relief as the Hall’s attention turned to the excited Ravenclaw table, where the seventh-year struggled to maintain a level expression.

‘Just Hufflepuff left, then,’ Greg pointed out, ‘which means you, Glyn.’

‘Finally,’ McGonagall’s voice quickly silenced the hall once again, ‘for fierce loyalty, and selfless friendship, I award Glyndwr Jones eighty points.’ A thin smile spread over the Headmistress’ face as a frenzied search broke out along the Hufflepuff table before the Welsh boy was spotted sitting alongside the Slytherins.

‘What are you doing over there?’ A voice yelled out, before McGonagall spoke for a final time.

‘Perhaps, Mr Tiller,’ the Headmistress answered, ‘he is there because he has understood that, whilst a House can be like family, sometimes what you need more than anything is a friend.’’
 


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