Kings and Pawns

Right from the outset, the tension was palpable in the air. Only weeks before, Persephone had sent a very ominous letter to all of the students. Headmaster Dowling gripped the podium as he began to address the students. “Welcome to another year at Avistrum. It has not been the easiest of times…”

“Clark!” rang Polonius Aberfoyle’s voice as he strode purposefully into the Great Hall, hair a little disheveled, still wearing his traveling cloak. “They passed it! The PRETEND Act! They brought it to a vote!”

“What?” Clark exclaimed as he came to meet Aberfoyle.

“I wasn’t even allowed to speak! Teaching Transfiguration is now illegal, and they wouldn’t even let me leave Salem until they put a magical trace on me! What a debacle!”

Clark’s face was a mixture of rage and confusion. Suddenly he flicked his wand toward the students with a quick “Muffliato!” As he fumed, using all of the choice words he couldn’t allow the students to hear, Groundskeeper Maldraco Davante entered the Great Hall carrying a stack of newspapers.

“Wow,” Maldraco deadpanned, either impressed or shocked. Clark quickly regained his composure and canceled his Muffliato charm. “So, a bunch of owls just dropped these off. If you’re done with your sailor impression, I gotta go clean up owl… stuff.”

Aberfoyle moved to the stack and grabbed the top copy of the Morning Oracle. “It was Kensington!” he exclaimed. “Kensington sold us out!”

“I thought he was your greatest supporter in the Senate?” Clark asked incredulously.

“So did I. I don’t know how this happened. Where does this leave us?”

“I believe it leaves you looking for work, Aberfoyle!” came the voice of a new visitor from across the Great Hall.

“Oswald, what are you doing here?” Clark demanded of the unwelcome guest.

“That’s Senator Kensington if you don’t mind, Headmaster,” Kensington replied in a cool tone of warning. “Allow me to introduce Winifred Waspernum, who is here from the Department of Magic to implement the provisions of the PRETEND Act of 2007. This new law bans the teaching of Transfiguration, necessitating the removal of the animagus referring to itself as Polonius Aberfoyle from the Faculty of Avistrum.”

“There will be no need of that,” Clark retorted. “You have no right to dismiss any of my staff. Professor Aberfoyle is still the head of Parador House, and a Professor at Avistrum.”

“You may want to make some staff cuts, Headmaster. You wouldn’t want to be shut down for teaching an illegal subject, would you?” The two men stared each other down, seemingly dueling with their gazes.

“On whose authority are you here, exactly, Mrs. Waspernum?” Professor Aberfoyle demanded of the red-haired woman who had entered with the Senator.

“You may call me Ms. Waspernum,” she replied, clearly unhappy with his tone. “I am a liason from the Department of Magic’s Oversight and Compliance Division. I am here to insure that student and teacher alike adhere to the new ban on Transfiguration.”

Aberfoyle started to protest, but Clark placed a hand on his shoulder, to calm him down. “Very well, Ms. Wapsernum,” he replied as cordially as he could manage. “Students, please welcome our guests.” After a smattering of half-hearted applause, he continued. “I would conjure seats for you, but the law is the law.”

“No matter, I have business elsewhere,” Senator Kensington replied brusquely. “You will keep me informed, Ms. Waspernum,” he said to her, more command than request, and with a curt nod swept from the Great Hall.

“Well, shall we continue?” the Headmaster asked the students, as he returned to the podium. “I have a few announcements to make as we begin this term. First, Professor Moffat informed me this morning that she will be unable to teach Potions this term due to a family matter. And as we are now forbidden to teach Transfiguration, we will have to make some adjustments to your class schedules. Prefects, please distribute the course booklets to the students. As the prefects came up to receive the booklets, he turned to Professor Aberfoyle. “Professor, did you have any ideas on what you might like to teach this term?”

Polonius snorted. “Basket weaving?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Professor. Changing straw into baskets? That sounds an awful lot like Transfiguration to me.” As Aberfoyle and the other staff members stifled a laugh, he said piously to Ms. Waspernum, “We should probably steer clear of anything like that, shouldn’t we?”

“Divination was always a favorite of mine in school,” she replied stiffly.

Clark grunted. Then a thoughtful look crossed his face. “Well, the position is open,” he murmured, turning back to look at Aberfoyle again.

“What, I should teach Divination? Good one, Clark,” Aberfoyle replied derisively.

“I’m serious, Polonius. Maybe you should try your hand at it.”

“Absolutely not!” Aberfoyle thundered. Remembering the students’ presence, he quickly composed himself and walked up to the podium. Attempting to keep his voice to a whisper, and failing, he said, “Divination is nothing but a bunch of absurd hocus-pocus and mumbo-jumbo. I had no problem telling Kraven Bloodthorne that when he was here, and I have no problem telling you that now.”

“Your thoughts on Divination have been well known, as have mine, for quite some time,” the Headmaster replied reassuringly. “That’s why I think you should try your hand at teaching it. A healthy dose of skepticism is just what the position needs.”

“Clark, we have been friends for years. If you think I am going to teach a subject for which I have absolutely zero respect,” rejoined Professor Aberfoyle, “you are sadly mistaken. My mind is made up on this.” With that, he turned to return to his seat.

“Polonius,” Clark intoned seriously, and the Professor stopped in mid-stride. He turned and faced the Headmaster. “This isn’t up for discussion. I need you to teach Divination this term.”

Professor Aberfoyle stood, considering his options, clearly debating whether to push the matter any further. He finally said, reluctantly, “Very well, Headmaster,” and returned to his seat.

“Thank you, Professor,” Dowling said, and returned his attention to the students. “So, as I said, I will need to have you pencil in the following changes to your schedules. Where it says ‘Transfiguration,’ please cross it out and write ‘Divination.'” Hearing no writing, he looked out to a sea of confused faces.

Aleator Boudreaux, the Colubrae house ghost, drifted over and looked over the shoulder of one of the new Colubrae students. “Headmaster,” he drawled, “the schedules already have Divination in place of Transfiguration.”

Dowling consulted his own copy. “Professor Aberfoyle, you had these printed last week?” he asked.

“Yes,” came the perplexed reply.

“Professor Moffat only spoke to me this morning, and the ban on Transfiguration passed mere hours ago, yet the schedules already take this into account.” A mischievous smile came to his lips.

“What are you smirking at?” an already annoyed Aberfoyle asked him impatiently.

“Nothing. I’m just impressed at your… foresight, that’s all.”

“That’s not the schedule I gave the printer,” Aberfoyle groused, walking up to the Headmaster’s podium yet again. He looked at the copy the Headmaster showed him, shaking his head. “No, I’m positive that’s not what I gave him.”

“Whatever you say, Professor,” the Headmaster replied, obviously still amused by the “coincidence.” Aberfoyle once again stomped over to his seat, grouchier than ever.

“Well, students, since the schedules are correct, we’ll continue. Second, as you see from your schedules, you will be having a field trip tomorrow, so make sure you are on time to receive instructions. Third, Quidditch. Coach d’Medici will be conducting qualifiers during the day tomorrow. The highest score from each house will represent their classmates in the finals tomorrow at 6:00. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Muggle device known as the PlayStation 2, Coach has them available for practice this evening. So, for the remainder of the evening, we will have refreshments and board games in the classrooms, so please…”

Signa, the new school nurse, appeared at the Headmaster’s side, looking very nervous. She tapped him tentatively on the shoulder. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Headmaster, but this just arrived for you. It says it’s urgent.” She handed him a small, ornate wooden box.

Puzzled, he took it from her, and opened it. He picked up a small white chess pawn, tied with a red ribbon to tiny blue bottle. Attached was a small note, which he read with interest. He blanched at its message, grabbing the podium for support. Professors Kobiyashi and Aberfoyle came up to the podium, worried. Professor Kobiyashi took the piece from him and read the note aloud. “Queen takes pawn.” Distressed, she asked in a choked voice, “Professor Moffat?”

Dowling motioned for them to return to their seats, and began addressing the students in a slightly quavering voice, which strengthened as he continued. “Tyrants only know one method to gain power: by instilling fear. Fear is the only thing they know – it consumes them. That is what this chess piece is meant to be, an attempt to frighten all of us into submission. I have always found my greatest strength in my family, my friends, and now, my students. So let this piece represent something else; let it be a rallying point, around which we will all gather and stand as one. I stand before you resolved that I will not give in to fear. Professor Moffat will be found, and all of Persephone’s threats will come to nothing. Let the would-be tyrant cower in fear. We will not. Enjoy your evening, students. You are dismissed.”

The students spent the remainder of the evening becoming acquainted with their Professors, and enjoying a dessert feast – candies, eclairs, cream puffs, cookies, and hot apple cider. They also played board games, and many tried their hand at the Quidditch World Cup game by which the Quidditch Cup would again be decided, the school falling under a flying ban due to its proximity to a Muggle city again this year.

Another visitor arrived during the evening’s festivities, and Professor Dowling introduced him to the students and faculty alike as “Dr. A.” He was, until recently, Dowling explained, an arcaneologist working at the site of a dig near Stonehenge. He was hit by an errant Memory Charm as part of his duties protecting the site from Muggle detection, and could not recall anything of his own life. The Headmaster explained that hoped “Dr. A.” would regain some of his memory as he observed Defense Against the Dark Arts the next morning, in which Dowling would be discussing the dig.

As the students trudged off to their dormitories to get some rest for the busy school day ahead of them, many of them glared disapprovingly at Ms. Waspernum, who had lingered all evening, shadowing Professor Aberfoyle and scribbling copious notes in her ever-present notebook. She appeared oblivious to their hostility, however, as she continued to write.

Saturday began for Parador and Enigmus with a very interesting Defense Against the Dark Arts class by Professor Dowling on the study of Arcaneology, and the finds of a recent dig at Stonehenge. He showed them two stone steles which were found within the ruins, carved with an unfamiliar set of runes. The students were permitted to help sift some of the dirt from the dig, and uncovered a bevy of ancient artifacts, from seemingly very different parts of the globe. Meanwhile, Mistress Craefter taught a very interesting hour on weather knots in the neighboring classroom to the Colubrae and Lobostro students.

Immediately after class, the whole staff stood with Professor Dowling as he gave the students their instructions for Muggle Studies in the larger classroom. “You will be going on a field trip today, students. You have all been issued, as part of your course booklet, a passport allowing you access to the Muggle event known as MileHiCon. We would like you to attend panel events at the convention, and record your observations in the booklet. Since you will be venturing out among Muggles, you will need to disguise yourselves. So, please go through these Muggle clothes which we have for you…”

“Headmaster,” Maldraco interrupted, coming in from the side passage holding a box identical to the one which had arrived the previous evening. “I just came across this sitting on a wall near your office. A raven was perched on it, and flew away as I came near. I thought it might be important.”

“Thank you, Maldraco. I just need to finish up here. Professor Aberfoyle, if you could, please,” he asked. Nodding his head, Aberfoyle walked over to take the box from Mr. Davante. “Now, as I was saying,” the Headmaster continued.

As Professor Aberfoyle took the box from Maldraco, he snapped rigid as though struck by an electric current. Eyes glazing over, he began speaking in a chant-like voice,

“Daughter of the pomegranate and the wheat,
By no person shall you meet defeat.
It is written in stone.
Standing between them, alone,
Your purity and innocence we greet.”

He continued to stand rigid, eyes unblinking. Clark came to him and pulled the box from his grasp. Like a puppet with its strings cut, Polonius slumped toward the floor, and was caught by Maldraco. “Get him to the nurse’s station,” Dowling commanded, and Maldraco and Signa carried the unconscious professor out through the side passage.

“What in the samhill was that?” Boudreaux asked the Headmaster, bewildered by the scene.

“It sounded like he just made a prophecy,” Professor Kobiyashi replied. “Something about the pomegranate and the wheat.”

“It could be a reference to Persephone. The greek goddess,” added Mistress Craefter. “She was the daughter of…”

“Zeus and Demeter,” chimed in Mordecai Argiletum, the school librarian. “She was forced to spend a third of the year every year in Hades after eating pomegranate seeds.”

“Makes sense,” Dowling murmured as he continued to inspect the box, wand out and muttering counter-curses.

“What are you thinking, Headmaster?” Professor Kobiyashi inquired, trying to stir him from his preoccupation.

“I’m thinking I should give him a raise,” he deadpanned.

“Clark,” she chided him.

“I know. We need to see what’s in this box. It doesn’t appear to be cursed.” He lifted the lid, and withdrew another chess piece, this time a black knight attached to a small crystal orb. The note alongside once again caused him to stagger a bit in shock. He handed it to Kobiyashi, seemingly at a loss for words.

“White bishop becomes black knight. Your dark seer now gives me his Sight,” she read aloud. “Bloodthorne?” she gasped.

“Oh Kraven, you poor boy,” Mistress Craefter muttered, shaking her head sadly.

Mordecai approached Dowling quietly. “Headmaster, I found this in the ruins at Timmernak,” he said, handing him a small leather bound volume with a rose embossed and painted on its cover. “It belonged to Kraven. The enchantments sealing it are too strong for me, but perhaps you might be able to open it. It could be important.”

“Thank you, Mr. Argiletum,” the Headmaster replied, taking the volume. “Mister Boudreaux, could you finish up here? I need to examine this.”

“Of course, Headmaster,” the ghost drawled. With a curt nod, Dowling headed for his office.

After the students had chosen appropriate Muggle disguises, they were sent forth for their field trip. Upon their return, it appeared that Professor Aberfoyle had recovered without ill effect from his earlier episode, as he was on his feet and prepared to begin his attempt at teaching Divination to the Paradors and Lobostros. Aleator Boudreaux was making his debut as an instructor teaching the Colubraes and Enigmii about lucky charms next door.

“Divination is bunk,” Professor Aberfoyle began. “Hokum, hooey, balderdash, bilge, and tripe. Nonetheless, since the Headmaster is requiring me to teach it to you, we are going to do things my way. I’m not going to stand here in front of all of you and claim to have some mystical connection to the universe, or pretend that I sense the presence of a messenger from beyond the grave…”

He once again went rigid, but this time with cold as Lady Viola Fey placed a hand on his shoulder. “What?” he demanded impatiently of her.

“The Headmaster would like to speak to you after class,” she replied sweetly, and drifted off.

“Fine, whatever. Now, shall we continue, class? I went through Professor Bloodthorne’s office last night, and came across a half-finished lesson plan on the I Ching, so we will begin with that.” He spent several minutes explaining the use of the ancient Chinese text for fortune-telling, after which he proclaimed, “Now that we’ve gone through that, we will turn our attention to what I wish to teach.” He spent the rest of class guiding the students through an experiment testing the Divination powers of the Magic 8-Ball, demonstrating that the objects are no more reliable than random chance, and encouraging the students to ponder that point when presented with claims of the power of Divination.

Charms followed for the Paradors and Colubraes, while Enigmus and Lobostro attended Mordecai Argiletum’s debut as an instructor teaching Arithmancy.

Following afternoon classes, the Quidditch championships took place. Andrew Harcrow of Parador easily dispatched Sage Greenleaf of Colubrae, while Trent Voertigern, the Lobostro prefect, edged T.J. Howell of Enigmus in the semifinals. After a tense, back-and-forth match, Parador repeated as Quidditch Cup champions with Andrew Harcrow’s capture of the snitch.

The annual Dark Wizards’ Ball took place in the evening. This year’s Ball was a costumed event in honor of Halloween. The dance also saw the debut of each house’s new “theme song” – Hungry Like the Wolf for Lobotro, Walk Like an Egyptian for Enigmus, Burning Ring of Fire for Parador, and Money (That’s What I Want) for Colubrae.

Sunday’s classes proceeded much as Saturday’s had. Professor Dowling’s class continued the work of the previous day, deducing that the steles were part of a International Wizard Court of Justice, and were used to immobilize dangerous defendants during trial. Ms. Waspernum made her re-appearance as well, sitting in on classes and taking notes.

During the course of the day’s lessons, the faculty presence began dwindling. Each professor in turn received an urgent message requiring their attention. Finally, as Charms and Arithmancy began, Professor Kobiyashi was acting very strangely. She kept tossing her hair as though she was unused to its length, and acting as though her kimono was too snug. She and Mr. Argiletum also received urgent messages at the end of their classes, and left hurriedly.

As everyone filed in to the Great Hall for closing ceremonies, the Headmaster stood alone at the podium, looking distinctly uncomfortable. The house ghosts stood at the back of the hall, and no other member of the Avistrum staff was anywhere to be seen. The students took their seats. Just as Clark was about to begin speaking, Winnifred Wapernum tapped him on the shoulder and presented him with a final ornate box. “I believe this is for you,” she said softly.

“Thank you, Ms. Waspernum,” Clark said with a confused smile. He opened the box and drew out a white chess king with a small claddaugh ring tied with a red ribbon. He read the note attached to the king. “Checkmate.”

“Looks like you’re all alone, Clark,” observed Waspernum.

“Excuse me, Ms. Waspernum?” Clark retorted, obviously annoyed.

“Oh, I think we know each other well enough to be on a first name basis now, don’t you? You can call me… Persephone.”

Clark’s eyes grew wide, and he reached for his wand. But Persephone already had her wand out, and disarmed him. “Expelliarmus! Petrificus totalus!” Clark’s arms snapped to his sides, and his legs went rigid.

“Stay where you are!” she commanded the students and the ghosts, who stood with their wands drawn.

“Release the Headmaster!” shouted Viola Fey.

“Or what? You are as insignificant in death as you were in life. You have no magic left in your barely opaque forms,” she responded coolly. “You harbor no threat to me.”

“Now, as for you, Clark,” she said, turning her attention to the Headmaster once again. “You have been a constant thorn in my side for years now. Years! But your entire staff of half-wits and half-bloods has blundered into their own demises. Every one of those ‘unfortunate events’ they had to run off and attend to were perfectly laid traps, designed specifically for them. They will not be able to rescue you – they are probably dead already!” She snapped her fingers, and two black-clad minions entered, wearing black masks. “Clark,” she continued, “you were always so simple. Such a Boy Scout. Such a… waste. Take him away. Dispose of him,” she commanded the minions. They saluted her with a chest pound and picked up the petrified Dowling, carrying him out of the Great Hall.

“Now,” she said, turning once again toward the assembly, “to all my students. Do not be alarmed, do not be frightened. I am not here to hurt you.”

“Just to enslave us,” Estel Leeds challenged her.

Viola chimed in, “Students, don’t listen to her!”

“Run, fight!” Aleator Boudreaux exhorted them. “Get aw-”

Silencio!” thundered Persephone, waving her wand, and his voice was choked off, mid-word. All the ghosts were rendered mute. “Don’t you know it is impolite to speak while the Headmistress is speaking? Now, students, there is a great and wonderful era about to begin here at Avistrum Academy. No more will the faculty at this school stifle and water down the Dark Arts like your previous headmaster. They are not to be feared and shut away, they are meant to be used, to be revered, to be loved. They will be freely taught from this day forward, to any and all who wish to learn!” She lifted her arms in triumph. When the students failed to respond, she furrowed her brow and lowered them. Her two agents returned, having apparently disposed of the Headmaster, and stood flanking their mistress, one on each side.

“There is one other matter I need to address,” she continued coolly. “When I said, ‘to any and all’ in my last statement, I misspoke. What I should have said was any and all pure-bloods that wanted to learn, are welcome. Avistrum Academy no longer welcomes pitiful half-blood refuse. How many half-bloods are there in the room today? Raise your hands.” A half-dozen hands went up defiantly. “I feel there are many of you who are lying to me right now. I know it. No matter. You will be sorted out presently.” A wicked smile came to her face. She snapped her fingers, and another nine minions entered the Great Hall and stood behind her. She barked orders to them. “Gather the students and have them follow me out of the Hall. A new era dawns today!” Her henchmen encircled the students, preparing to carry out her orders.

The minion to her right tapped her on the shoulder. “What?” she snapped, bristling at his impertinence.

The lackey pulled the hood from his head, revealing the Headmaster’s face! “Surprise,” he muttered grimly. His compatriot on her other side also removed his hood, showing the face of a man looking very much like the Headmaster.

“Dowling!” she spat, wheeling to bring her wand to bear on the Professor. “Avada Kedavra!”

The Headmaster threw himself violently to the side, narrowly dodging the deadly curse. “Expelliarmus!” he hurled back at her, disarming her.

Persephone retreated toward her followers in the back of the hall. “Get them!” she screamed, pointing at Dowling and his father. “What are you waiting for?”

The other disciples removed their own hoods, revealing the Professors and staff of Avistrum!

Persephone backed away from them, toward the steps once again. Unknowingly, she stepped between the steles from Dowling’s Defense class.

“Students, activate the stones!” Dowling shouted.

Lapides invoco!” they cried as one. Instantly, Persephone found herself trapped in an invisible prison. As she pounded her fists in vain upon the mystical walls, Dowling released the enchantment binding the school’s ghosts.

“What is this?” Persephone seethed at him in red-hot fury. “There is no prison, magical or otherwise, that can hold me!”

“I rather doubt you will be able to break this bond, Persephone,” he replied disdainfully. “The magic contained within these stones is ancient; a much older, stronger form than anything known today. Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective.”

“But my traps were perfect! There was no way that any of you could defeat them, no way you could survive! The prophecy…”

“Have you ever played chess, Persephone?” Professor Kobiyashi interrupted her.

“What?” Persephone bristled. “Of course I have.”

“Then you know about the move known as a castle,” Dowling replied.

“It’s where the king and the rook switch places,” Mr. Argiletum chimed in.

“But as with any game of strategy,” Mistress Craefter continued, “you have to wait for the precise moment to use it.”

“You systematically set traps for each of us,” Professor Aberfoyle explained. “Traps that were designed to take advantage of our specific weaknesses. What you failed to realize, however, was that we were well aware that you had acquired that information, and we ran a gambit of our own in return.”

“I’m sorry, Professor,” drawled Boudreaux, “could you repeat that in English?”

As a look of annoyance crossed the instructor’s face, Lady Viola reprimanded him. “Aleator, hush!”

“Forgive them,” Estel Leeds said. “Please continue, Professor.”

After shooting another stern look at the Colubrae ghost, he pressed on. “So, we did a bit of ‘castling,’ and traded places with one another. Your perfect traps didn’t catch the right people.”

“But how could you have known?” Persephone demanded.

Dowling reached into the podium and withdrew Kraven Bloodthorne’s journal. “Your Dark Seer dropped his insight.”

“But I petrified you!” she protested. “You were helpless!”

“No,” Kobiyashi interjected, “you petrified me, you old bat!”

Persephone stammered, unable to grasp what had occurred. “Then where was…”

“Clark?” Aberfoyle raised his eyebrows at her.

“He was doing what he does best,” Mordecai responded. “Helping those in need; in this case, his father.”

“And I couldn’t be prouder of him!” Samuel Dowling beamed, as he laid a hand on Clark’s shoulder.

“Fine,” Persephone responded sullenly. “You have trapped me here for now, but you can’t keep me here forever! Take me away, lock me up. I will escape, I will return, and I will haunt your lives forever!”

“Yes, that would be a problem,” Dowling conceded. He seemed genuinely puzzled by what could be done to neutralize her menace.

Like a bolt from the blue, Lucas Zeiapher, the Colubrae prefect, shouted, “I’ve got it! I’ve figured out the prophecy! ‘Your purity and innocence we greet…'”

“I know where you’re going with this,” Trouble, the Head Girl, murmured in reply. “But how do we make her pure and innocent?”

“We could use a memory charm,” Lucas replied. “Remember what happened to Gilderoy Lockhart?”

Dowling looked at the other professors. “I think they might be on to something here.”

“But who’s powerful enough to do it?” wondered Mistress Craefter.

“No one,” Persephone replied haughtily. “The prophecy has deemed it so. I knew turning you toward Divination would pay off, Aberfoyle! You didn‘t know true seers ran in your bloodline, did you? Remember what he said: ‘By no person shall you meet defeat!’ You are all playing a fool’s game!”

Aberfoyle, clearly annoyed at the mention of the prophecy once again, exploded. “Will everyone stop with this prophecy business? It’s all a bunch of…” He trailed off, clearly lost in thought, then snapped his fingers in realization. “Wait a minute! The prophecy said ‘by no person,’ singular. But people… that’s different!”

The other professors recognized where he was going at once. “So if none of us are powerful enough to do it -” Kobiyashi said with excitement.

“- all of us are!” Mordecai and Craefter finished for her.

“Students, ready your wands,” Dowling said sternly.

“Don’t listen to him!” Persephone pleaded. “He’ll repress your natural talents in the Dark Arts! Follow me, and I’ll…”

“Shut your wicked mouth!” Estel Leeds snapped at her. “Don’t you know it’s impolite to speak while the Headmaster is speaking?” As Persephone fumed, Estel turned to Professor Dowling. “Professor, may we join in, even though she she says we don’t have a magical bone left in our bodies?”

“Estel,” Dowling said with pride, “you’d be amazed what you can do if you put your minds to it. Of course you may.” Turning once again to the students, he commanded, “Ready your wands and point them directly at her. On the count of three, we will say the spell, obliviate. With any luck, we’ll wipe her memory clean, make her forget who she is and the terrible things she’s done. One, two, three!”

Obliviate!” cried the students, ghosts and faculty as one, and as the Memory Charm washed over her, Persephone crumpled in a heap on the floor. Dowling approached her cautiously, deactivating the steles as he crept closer.

“Is she…” Kobiyashi asked, worried that perhaps they had done the unthinkable.

“No, she’s still breathing,” he assured her. He touched his wand to Persephone’s shoulder. “Ennervate,” he intoned.

Persephone’s head shot straight up, like she had been hit by a bolt of lightning. Her eyes were unfocused, and her face was full of confusion.

“Who are you, and who am I?” Clark inquired of her.

She seemed to fumble for words for a moment, then stuttered, “I… who… uh…”

“Yep, she’s toast,” Professor Kobiyashi deadpanned.

“I’m toast?” the woman no longer called Persephone asked, quizzically. “Toast,” she murmured again to herself.

“Professor Kobiyashi,” the Headmaster said gently, “would you escort Pers- I mean, Ms. Toast here, to the infirmary? I’ll be along shortly to look in on you.”

Kobiyashi nodded, and helped “Ms. Toast” to her feet and led her out of the Hall, as she gibbered, “I’m toast, toasty, toasty toast…”

Aleator Boudreaux sidled up to the Headmaster as they left, and leaned in conspiratorially. “Headmaster, I wonder if you could clear something up for me?”

“I will certainly try, Aleator,” Clark replied.

“You switched places with Professor Kobiyashi, correct?”

“That’s right.”

“You used Polyjuice Potion, correct?”

“Yes,” Clark replied warily, sensing where the conversation was turning.

“Does that mean you’re wearing her…”

“Yes,” Clark muttered through clenched teeth, as Boudreaux floated away chuckling. “I’m not taking this robe off. Students, you are dismissed for a short break while we get ready for closing ceremonies. Again.”

A few minutes later, the faculty and staff were once again attired in their own outfits, and everyone took their seats once again for the Closing Ceremonies. Professor Dowling’s father sat with the staff on the dais, as the Headmaster cleared his throat and began, “Well, students, this was a most eventful term, to say the least. I would like to thank all of you for your help in finally bringing an end to Persephone’s reign of terror.

“I would also like to recognize our Quidditch Cup champions for the second year in a row, Parador house, and their standard-bearer, Andrew Harcrow!” He gestured at the young man as the rest of the student body applauded.

“And now, the moment you have awaited so eagerly – the awarding of the House Cup! Once again this year, we had an extremely close finish. He gestured to the scoreboard as it sat in the back of the Great Hall. The shroud was pulled away, revealing the total scores. “In fourth place, with 210 points, Colubrae house. In third place, with 325 points, Lobostro house. In second place, with 410 points, Parador house! And your new House Cup champions, with a total of 420 points, Enigmus house!”

As the cheers of “Game over! You lose!” came from the Enigmus students, drawing a disapproving frown from Professor Aberfoyle, the Parador head of house stood and shook Mistress Craefter’s hand, congratulating her on behalf of her students. Almost unnoticed in the commotion, Senator Kensington approached from the main entrance and walked up to the Headmaster. As he was about to tap him on the shoulder, Dowling whirled and grabbed his wrist.

“Can I help you, Senator?” Dowling asked icily.

“Actually, Dowling, I’m the one helping you,” the Senator replied smugly. “I’m giving you an opportunity to say goodbye to your students.”

“What are you talking about?” Dowling demanded, clearly annoyed.

Kensington raised his voice to announce gleefully to the whole assembly. “The board of governors has sold Avistrum! I’m here to meet with the new owner. The first thing we’ll be discussing,” he added, turning once more to Clark, “is the matter of a new Headmaster and staff.”

“What?” the room exploded in confusion and fury. Dowling raised a hand to calm them.

“It is your honor to hand over the deed to the new owner,” Kensington continued triumphantly, handing Dowling a scroll of parchment. “I imagine he’ll be here shortly.”

“Actually, Senator,” Clark’s father said dryly, rising to his feet, “he’s already here.” He walked over to Clark and took the scroll from his hands. “Thank you, son.”

Kensington, apoplectic with rage, grabbed the scroll once again and unfurled it. Gaping at the signature on the bottom, he choked, “Samuel Dowling?!? YOU bought the school?”

“That I did,” Samuel smiled at him. “Now, if I may, Senator?” he said solicitously, holding out his hand for the deed. Kensington handed it back to him once more, clearly sick to his stomach.

“Thank you,” Samuel said graciously. “Well, no time like the present, I suppose,” he said, half to himself. Turning to Clark, he beamed at him. “It is with great pleasure that I present this deed to Avistrum Academy of Sorcery to you, son,” he said, pressing the deed into the astonished Headmaster’s hands. “I know you will always have the best interests of this school at heart.”

Overcome with emotion, Clark embraced his father tightly. Then, he turned towards Kensington, drawing his wand. “Senator?” As Kensington reluctantly came toward him, Dowling pointed his wand toward the students and said, “Muffliato.” Safe from the hearing of any sensitive children, he then proceeded to dress down the Senator in what must have been absolutely appalling words, for Kensington quailed, turned, and showed himself out with a great deal of urgency.

Turning back to the assembly, Clark said simply, “Well, students, there’s only one thing left to be said. You are dismissed!”

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