Shadows of Persephone

As students began arriving Friday evening for the Sorting Ceremony and start-of-term announcements, the faculty and staff of Avistrum seemed pensive and worried. Professor Aberfoyle and a satyr — Professor Avarra, the new History of Magic professor — were huddled in conversation. Professor Kobiyashi, Professor Greywolf, and Headmaster Dowling were nowhere to be seen.

Aleator Boudreaux, the Colubrae house ghost, a poltergeist with a booming southern drawl, burst into the common room with a stack of copies of The Morning Oracle, shouting, “Extra! Extra! Secretary Falstaff Assassinated! Killer still at large!”

As the students began reading the Oracle, they learned of the terrible news: Filbert Falstaff, Secretary of Magic, was assassinated in the confines of his own office, with security guards posted at his door! The Department of Magic was not naming any suspects, but Headmaster Dowling wasn’t shy in telling the paper whom he thought was responsible – the deadly Persephone!

The article only made the atmosphere in the castle more tense. Finally, Professor Kobiyashi came flying into the foyer, where she was greeted anxiously by Aberfoyle and Avarra. Avarra spoke first. “Glad to see you’re safe! Were you able to discover anything?”

“We figured out how Persephone infiltrated the Sorcery Secret Service — Polyjuice Potion. She had two followers masquerading as guards for weeks.” At this, Aberfoyle’s eyes narrowed. The SSS was supposed to test regularly for Polyjuice; clearly security had grown lax.

“Where did you last see the Headmaster?” Avarra asked her.

“At the Hexagon. He was in a tirade against Chief Auror Brugman,” was Kobiyashi’s reply.

“Not that he didn’t deserve it, I’m sure,” chimed in Aberfoyle.

“I’m not saying he didn’t. But I thought he would have been back by now,” Kobiyashi said.

“No, he sent a message that he and Professor Greywolf had been summoned back to the Hexagon. The council is holding an emergency summit to elect a new Secretary,” Professor Avarra replied.

Professor Aberfoyle turned to him. “When did you get that message?”

“About 3 hours ago or so,” was Avarra’s reply. Aberfoyle and Kobiyashi exchanged looks.

“I’m sure we would have heard by now if something…” Aberfoyle began, but trailed off as he continued to frown. “I pray there haven’t been more breaches. Think of the havoc Persephone could cause if she infiltrated Congress!”

“It’s been hours, Polonius,” Kobiyashi said, and they nodded to one another. “Adante,” she said, addressing Professor Avarra, “get the students ready and begin the sorting. We’re going back to Salem.”

As Kobiyashi and Aberfoyle turned to get their cloaks, Headmaster Dowling and Professor Greywolf strode into the foyer. “Clark! Greywolf! Glad to see you made it back in time,” Aberfoyle greeted them.

“Congress is an absolute mess. I thought politicians took a long time under normal circumstances,” Dowling grunted.

“Was a new secretary chosen?” Aberfoyle continued.

“Yes,” the Headmaster replied, shooting a strange look at Greywolf. “Speaking of which, I need to speak with you privately, Professor Kobiyashi.”

“What’s going on, Professor?” Avarra asked Greywolf keenly. Greywolf only smiled cryptically and held out his hand in a way that said, “Be patient.”

After hurried conversations amongst several of the professors, the Headmaster instructed the Head Boy and Head Girl to usher the returning students to their seats in the Great Hall, while Professor Kobiyashi lined the unsorted students up to be sorted.

Proceeding into the Great Hall, Professor Greywolf, with Professor Avarra’s accompaniment on drum, chanted in the Lakota tongue to summon the Great Eagle spirit and begin the Sorting. Each Head of House activated the light for their house with a flick of their wand, and the Great Eagle began to speak. He told the students of the history of the Lights of Sorting, and called upon Professor Kobiyashi to call each student forward to be sorted.

When the Sorting was complete, the Headmaster began his start-of-term remarks.

“Welcome to our new students! Returning students, welcome back. I am sad to say we begin this term in dark times. As many of you now know, Secretary of Magic Falstaff was murdered last night. The Dark Witch Persephone is responsible. This afternoon, our Wizarding Congress met to elect a new Secretary of Magic in his stead. I am pleased to say that Congress was successful. And so it both my duty and pleasure to introduce to you your new Secretary of Magic, Secretary Greywolf.”

Amid a mixture of gasps and applause, the newly-elected Secretary came forward to the lectern. The entire staff, except for Professor Bloodthorne, stood to applaud him. “Thank you Headmaster,” he began. “As I take up my new position as Secretary I leave you in extremely capable hands. My replacement as your Potions professor will be Madam Grasella Moffat, one of my most talented former students, and now a respected colleague. Lobostro, your new Head of House will be Professor Avarra. I want to reassure you that I am not leaving Avistrum; this is my home, and always will be. I am doing what I can to make this a better world. As I look into the eyes of the students before me, and the professors alongside me, I know that we will persevere through these dark times.”

“Thank you, Secretary,” the Headmaster said, coming back to the podium. “It so happens that the Secretary is retiring from Avistrum on his 75th anniversary. Congratulations, Secretary, on an unprecedented achievement. There will be a dessert social in your honor following these announcements. Now, I am sure many of you are interested in playing Quidditch for your house teams. For the rules on that, I will now turn it over to our Quidditch coach, Professor Bloodthorne.”

As Bloodthorne strode toward the podium, he screwed the cap back on a flask from which he had been drinking, and set it down on the lectern. Dowling, Aberfoyle, and Kobiyashi all exchanged curious glances at this. “Due to FAA regulations, we will not be playing Quidditch on brooms this year, but rather on a device called the ‘PlayStation 2.’ Each of you will have the opportunity to qualify as the champion for your house by putting up the best score on the game during the day tomorrow. The four champions will play each other in the finals tomorrow night. House points will be awarded based on the order of finishing; 100 points for the winner, 75 for second place, 50 for third, and 25 for fourth place, because we don’t want them to feel bad.” He said this last bit in a high, girlish voice, and giggled a little afterward. Once again, the other professors exchanged perplexed looks. With a slight shake of his head, Bloodthorne continued. “For those of you with questions, or who want to know how to play…” Shrugging his shoulders in contempt, he turned and walked back to his seat.

“Thank you, Professor,” Dowling said, eyeing him carefully as they crossed paths. “Remember, your actions are being watched,” he continued, as though speaking to both the students and Bloodthorne. Turning his attention firmly back toward the students, he went on. “You decide who wins the House Cup. Now, I would like to mention that Professor Tyler Ward is not with us this evening, as he is playing with the Toledo Terrors tonight in game 6 of the NQL Championships. Mistress Craefter will assume his duties as Head of House for Enigmus until his return. Now, on to the usual, boring school business.”

During the Headmaster’s remarks, Professors Avarra and Moffat both had what looked like some sort of earpieces in their ears, and appeared to be listening intently to something. At this moment, Professor Avarra jumped excitedly out of his seat and pranced around, shouting, “Yes! Yes! Now that’s what I’m talking about, baby! Terrors catch the snitch!! 300-150! Game 7 tomorrow night! Yeah!”

The Headmaster remarked drily to the students, “I have just been informed that Professor Ward will be playing in Game 7 of the NQL championships tomorrow, and will be unable to teach Care of Magical Beasts. Not to worry, the class will continue as scheduled, with a substitute. Alright, now is as good a time as any to introduce your Prefects for the year. First off, for Enigmus, Ms. Audrey Deserand, better known to many of you as ‘Trouble;’ for Lobostro, Mr. Trent Voertigern; for Colubrae, Ms. Sabina Concita de Medici; and it is my distinct pleasure to introduce your Prefect for Parador, who has resumed her school career after a very, very, very long absence, Ms. Estel Leeds.” A murmur rippled through the crowd of students – Estel Leeds was the Parador house ghost! “Alright, I hear stomachs beginning to rumble,” the Headmaster concluded, “so you are dismissed for dessert.”

The students moved onto the mezzanine for dessert and mingling, chatting and meeting their new professors and classmates. They also met other staff members, including Madam Scriba, the school secretary, Nurse Kayenta, the school nurse, and Mordecai Argiletum, the school librarian Also present was Damien “DJ” Sabre, a former classmate of several of the Professors, who was pitching in to help around the school for the term. The evening passed uneventfully, and the students headed off to their dormitories to get a good night’s rest for classes in the morning.

As the students made their way into the common room Saturday morning, they were greeted by “Wanted” posters featuring a variety of artifacts normally kept in the Headmaster’s office. Renfield, the resident mouse and servant of Lysander, the vampire whose head is mounted on Dowling’s wall, hid the objects in the middle of the night, and the Headmaster posted the notices offering 5 house points for each item recovered.

Classes kicked off with Professor Avarra teaching History of Magic to the Paradors and Enigmii in one classroom, while Care of Magical Beasts began without Professor Ward in the room next door. Avarra talked about the history of wizards and witches in America, the beginnings of Avistrum, and some of the school’s famous Headmasters, including Harry Houdini.

Professor Dowling began teaching Care of Magical Beasts to the Lobostros and Colubraes himself, with Professor Kobiyashi’s assistance. Following Professor Ward’s notes, he taught the class about lizzeons, a magical creature evolved from the Fire Salamander to feast on Muggles’ electric lighting. They prefer neon lighting, which usually imbues them with a fluorescent color. Shortly after he finished his initial lecture, however, the Headmaster was called away by an urgent owl, and left with Secretary Greywolf for a meeting in Salem.

Classes resumed after lunch, with Parador and Colubrae attending Divination with Professor Bloodthorne. Throughout his lecture about dream analysis, and while the students constructed dreamcatchers, he continued to exhibit bizarre behavior, giggling, telling jokes, and even verging on breaking a smile. In the neighboring classroom, Professor Moffat’s first Potions class was a huge hit. The Lobostro and Enigmus students were entrhalled by her demonstration of the properties of the freezing breath of the Yukon Yeti, a North American dragon related to those of the Himalayas. They also learned to make a balm that would protect their skin from the Yukon Yeti’s breath.

In the next block, the Enigmii and Colubraes attended Transfiguration with Professor Aberfoyle. In class, they learned about beginning the process of becoming an animagus, and used a curious device known as the “beastometer,” developed by the Professor along with Lady Viola Fey to help analyze what category of animal they would be most likely to have success with. He also talked briefly about metamorphmagi, and mentioned that, although no one know for sure, in theory, a sufficently powerful metamorphmagus might be able to completely mimic the appearance of another person without the use of Polyjuice Potion. Next door, the Lobostros and Paradors went to Practical Magics with Mistress Craefter, and learned about defensive symbols.

To finish the day’s classes, Enigmus and Lobostro moved on to Charms with Professor Kobiyashi, where they reviewed various charms, learned about the magical properties of earth elements, and made knotted charm strings. Meanwhile, the Paradors and Colubraes attended Defense Against Dark Magic with Professor Dowling, where they learned about Egyptian hieroglyphics, and made shields adorned with the hieroglyphs, and infused with the defensive “reflectus” charm. He taught them how to activate their shields, how to group themselves in Roman formation, and how to cast the charm with their shields. He told them to keep their shields with them, as they would need them for a practice session with the other two houses the next day.

After classes came the Quidditch finals. Gareth from Lobostro, Griffen from Colubrae, Andrew from Parador, and Gambli from Enigmus prevailed in the qualifiers to represent their houses. In the first match, Gareth, the top seed, was upset by Griffen. In the second match, Andrew and Gambli played a close match until the Golden Snitch appeared, which Andrew captured to set up a Parador-Colubrae showdown for the Quidditch Cup. In the finals, Andrew played a stunning shutout, never allowing Griffen to advance the Quaffle past midfield, and winning 170-0 to capture Parador’s first Quidditch Cup in several years. Colubrae finished second, of course, with Enigmus in third, and Lobostro finishing fourth.

Unbeknownst to the faculty, the students had a curious item printed on their class schedules for Sunday. There was a Study Hall scheduled in Mistress Craefter’s cottage at 9:15AM. Those students who followed the schedules were greeted at the door to the cottage by Lady Viola Fey, the Enigmus house ghost. She explained the trickery. She and the other ghosts had arranged for the “Study Hall” so they could show the students a memory from the Headmaster’s pensieve, which they had secretly moved to the cottage. They wanted the students to know just how dangerous Persephone was. She led them inside, and the memory began to take shape in front of them.

A plume of flame flashed from a brass cauldron on the workbench in front of Mistress Craefter, as Professor Avarra, clad in a purple lab coat, hastily scribbled notes on a clipboard. At another table, Professors Kobiyashi and Aberfoyle huddled together over a scorched piece of parchment. They were clad in long, black coats reaching to their ankles, reminiscent of a western “duster.” Aberfoyle was wearing a black cowboy hat and boots.

“Excellent! That’s exactly what we theorized would happen,” Avarra said excitedly. “When do you suppose we should tell Clark?”

“When should we tell Clark what?” the Headmaster inquired as he walked into the stone-walled workshop. He was wearing his own hat and coat like those Aberfoyle and Kobiyashi wore, adorned with a myriad of mystical symbols from a host of languages. He was lifting the sleeve and peering through a fist-sized hole. There was a slash cutting all the way across the midriff of the coat, with pieces hanging in tatters. He gingerly slipped the coat from his shoulders, wincing with obvious pain as he lifted his left arm. He poked his left side, and cringed again in pain.

“Oh, hey boss,” Avarra said, oblivious to the look on Dowling’s face. “We were just, uh, experimenting.”

“You’ve been working on my bike again, haven’t you?” he asked them suspiciously.

“Maybe,” was Mistress Craefter’s only reply, a mischievous grin on her face.

“Well, just let me know before I take it out this evening, would you? I don’t want to find out how something works in mid-air again.”

“Just don’t touch the green button, for now,” Craefter said. She noticed Dowling continuing to wince at the pain in his shoulder and ribs. “Are you going to see Robin about that?”

“In a little while. Let’s get to it. Polonius, Sachiko, how did the mission go?” he asked, turning to his friends at the table.

“Not as well as we had hoped,” Kobiyashi began.

“This new threat remains as elusive as ever,” Aberfoyle continued. “This so-called ‘Persephone’ is very adept at keeping her identity a secret.”

“No one has seen her face — not even her closest followers,” Kobiyashi interjected.

“How can that be? Do you have a guess as to her method?”

“Masks?” Kobiyashi offered.

“That’s about the best we’ve got,” Aberfoyle said.

“Well, Dark minds think alike, I suppose,” Dowling replied. “That’s the same thing as happened in England.”

“Not quite,” Aberofyle countered. “There, it was Riddle’s followers wearing the masks. In this case, we’re thinking Persephone’s using them on herself.”

“If that’s the case, we ought to have some clues as to her identity. Height, weight, hair color?” Dowling prodded, trying to find something to work with.

“Nothing conclusive,” Aberfoyle countered. “The reports vary wildly. About all we know is that she’s older. We did maange to intercept a note to one of her operatives,” he said, holding the singed piece of parchment out to Dowling. “We can’t make any sense of the code, but a handwriting analysis tells us she’s left-handed.” He shrugged.

“We may not have much clue to her identity, but we have a good picture of her plans,” Kobiyashi offered.

“That’s right. Priority number one is Avistrum,” said Aberfoyle.

“Oh, there’s a shock,” Dowling said sardonically.

“She plans to use the school as a place to teach the Dark Arts,” Kobiyashi continued.

“After that, she plans to turn the students into an army of the undead, which she can use to turn the whole world into her Underworld Empire,” explained Aberfoyle.

“Hmmm, so we should probably stop her,” Dowling said in reply. “How long has she been planning?”

“A long time,” Aberfoyle said. “She’s very methodical and patient. She spent years placing her operatives in positions of power within the school. Things started to come to a head about a decade ago.”

“When we were all in school,” chimed in Kobiyashi.

“Those were dark times,” agreed Dowling. “I always knew Valenciar was a puppet. I guess we know now who was pulling the strings.”

“Ironically enough, Persephone is responsible for you coming to Avistrum,” Aberfoyle told him, with a serious look.

“How’s that?” Dowling asked incredulously.

“She thought you could be corrupted,” was Kobiyashi’s reply. “She believed all those newspaper articles about you, and suspected your ego would make you a easy mark. Especially after Matado and the Boogeyman.”

“All those articles in The Morning Oracle,” Aberfoyle said, teasing him.

“My favorite,” chimed in Avarra from back over at the workbench, “was ‘The Boogeyman’s Last Dance.'” He followed this with a raucous laugh, which sounded like a goat’s bleating. The others all joined in, too, until the look coming over Dowling’s face made it clear that further mirth at his expense would be unwise.

“Anyway,” Dowling objected, “what about Professor Godwin? He had a hand in my hiring. You can’t tell me my Defense predecessor was a Persephone follower?”

“No, not all hope was lost,” Kobiyashi agreed. “Godwin and Greywolf stayed strong.”

“See, they were onto Valenciar,” continued Aberfoyle. “They also knew you better than that, Clark. So they played along with the idea that you were weak enough to be corrupted.”

“So Persephone threw a wrench into her own plans — something she planned to remedy when the new Headmaster was appointed,” Kobiyashi explained.

“Something tells me that didn’t go as planned, either,” Clark mused.

“Not really, no. Valenciar had a last-minute change of heart,” Aberfoyle replied, “and put your name forward before he want into hiding.”

“Dare I ask who was supposed to be the new Headmaster?” Dowling asked, as Mistress Craefter handed him back his duster, holes and tears completely gone.

“Let’s just say it was someone who would likely have been easy to corrupt,” Kobiyashi said.

“If that was even necessary,” Aberfoyle added grimly.

“Come along, students, that is all we needed to see here,” Lady Viola said as the memory faded out of the students’ sight. She led them out of the cottage and back toward the castle. Upon re-entering the castle, they saw the “Wanted” posters were back again. Apparently, Renfield was undaunted by the recovery of the items the previous day, and hid them again! They were also greeted with the weekend edition of The Morning Oracle, which had plenty to say about both Greywolf’s appointment and Estel Leeds new role as Prefect.

Sunday’s classes began on the same schedule as Saturday, but with the houses reversed. Colubrae and Lobostro started the day this time in History of Magic with Professor Avarra, while Enigmus and Parador went to Care of Magical Beasts. Professor Aberfoyle began there with an update on the NQL Championship Game 7. The game was now in its 17th hour, and the score was Terrors 1730, Saints 1580. While Professor Ward had been injured by a Bludger in the first hour, the team healer had gotten him back in the game, where he was still defending the Toledo hoops. Needless to say, he was not going to be teaching that morning, but Professors Dowling, Aberfoyle, and Kobiyashi once again proved able substitutes. DJ Sabre, so helpful and friendly the day before, seemed sullen and withdrawn, ignoring everyone’s polite greetings.

The classes for the rest of the day proceeded rather uneventfully, until the final classes of the day, Charms and Defense Against Dark Magic. In the House Cup standings, Parador was holding onto a razor thin lead of 5 points over Colubrae, 520-515, with the two houses about to attend Professor Kobiyashi’s Charms class together. Not to be outdone, Enigmus, which had rallied from a deficit of over 200 points at the end of Saturday, was still in the running at 475. Lobostro was still in striking distance as well with 420. The Cup was literally anyone’s to win or lose. Professor Aberfoyle and Professor Bloodthorne both invaded Charms class, hovering over everything that went on, practically breathing down Professor Kobiyashi’s neck. In his nervousness, Bloodthorne continually could be seen sneaking nips from his flask. Little did they know that over in the Headmaster’s Defense class, Enigmus was quietly racking up substantial points themselves. The two rival Professors reluctantly left class with only a few minutes to go, needing to attend to various matters before the end-of-term ceremonies.

As the two classes were just about to wrap up, a tremendous crash reverberated through the castle. Racing from the faculty quarters, Professor Aberfoyle shouted, “Where did that come from?”

“I don’t know,” said Dowling, entering the hallway from his classroom. He nodded at Aberfoyle and Professor Kobiyashi, who had also sped from her Charms class to see what had happened. “Sachiko, please check the main gate. Polonius, please check the passageway. Adante and I will move the students together.” The three split up, and Dowling and Avarra proceeded to shepherd the students from Kobiyashi’s class into the Defense classroom.

Far sooner than expected, Professor Kobiyashi returned. “You’re back already?” Dowling asked her.

“I didn’t go,” she responded. Something about her voice seemed wrong; too cold, too detached.

“What?” Dowling was taken aback.

“I’m tired of you barking orders at me, and I’m tired of being subjugated to your naive beliefs,” Kobiyashi replied in that same cold voice.

“Um, what’s going on?” Professor Avarra asked.

“Adante, will you go check the main gate? Something isn’t right,” Clark replied warily. Adante headed toward the entrance to the castle, as Nurse Kayenta and Professor Bloodthorne came up from the direction of the hospital wing.

“Yes, follow his orders, you disgusting half-breed,” Kobiyashi sneered, her voice now dripping with contempt.

“Sachiko, why would you ever say such a…” Kayenta began, then suddenly stopped mid-stride. “What’s happening?”

“Robin, are you alright?” Dowling asked, a note of serious concern in his voice.

“She appears to be immobilized,” Bloodthorne said.

“But how? Never mind, I’ll undo it,” Dowling said, reaching for his wand.

“Stupefy!” shrieked Kobiyashi, pointing her wand squarely at Dowling’s back. He was sent hurtling across the floor, his wand falling at her feet. She briefly flicked her wand, in her left hand, at Bloodthorne, freezing him too in his tracks before he could draw his own. Picking up Dowling’s wand, she pointed it at him, and coldly said, “Crucio!”

As Dowling writhed on the floor in pain from the Cruciatus Curse, she looked around. “Oh, you all look so shocked!” she said in mock suprise. “How could Professor Kobiyashi ever turn on her friends? Crucio!”

His words coming as gasps in between his cries of agony, Dowling whispered, “Because… you.. are not… her… Persephone!”

She paused for a moment. “How did you know that?” she demanded.

“You are… left-handed… Sachiko isn’t.”

“Ah yes, I forgot. How silly of me. Crucio!” Dowling continued to writhe in pain as she tortured him.

“Release him!” bellowed Professor Aberofyle as he stepped out of the passageway, wand pointed directly at Persephone’s throat. “You alright, Clark?” he asked the Headmaster, who was sprawled across the floor, desperately sucking in air.

“Dandy,” Dowling croaked between gasps.

“How did she do this? Polyjuice Potion?” Aberfoyle pondered.

“She wanted us to think so,” Dowling replied, his strength returning, but too weak to stand. “But she’s not the one who was drinking from a potion flask all weekend.”

From where he stood rooted to the ground, Bloodthorne muttered, “I have a cold. I’ve been taking the potion for that. Giddyness is one of the side effects. Robin was helping me with it.”

“It’s true,” Nurse Kayenta confirmed, still frozen herself.

“Drop the wands, Persephone. You’re under arrest,” Aberfoyle instructed her. Persephone didn’t move her arms an inch.

“Such a strong man. I could use a second like you, once I am in control,” she purred at him.

“Go to Hades,” Aberfoyle spat at her.

“Oh, don’t worry, you will be persuaded, just as others have been,” Persephone said calmly. Her eyes glanced very briefly over Aberfoyle’s right shoulder. As he heard the “Stupefy!” he turned, too late, and was knocked through the air with the full force of the hex from DJ Sabre’s wand. Disarmed, he lay there stunned as DJ picked up his wand and pointed it at him.

“He’s just like you, Dowling — too stubborn for his own good. You will both be destroyed, and so will any of you who refuse to join me,” she warned the students, who had begun to filter out into the hall. She gazed across the growing crowd, but as her gaze fell across the shields of the Head Boy, Maldraco, and Head Girl, Signa, she flinched.

Aberfoyle, his head pounding, saw the twinge. “What’s causing that, Clark?” he said to Dowling groggily.

“It must be the shields. Students! Raise your shields! Activate them! Get in Roman formation!” As the students hurried into formation, he screamed to them, “Prepare to cast! Now!”

“Reflectus!” the students shouted in unison. Persephone began to crumple. Dowling’s wand fell from her right hand. Kayenta and Bloodthorne’s fingers began to move.

“Now disarm her! 1… 2… 3…”

“Expelliarmus!” came the shout from the students, and Persephone’s wand was sent flying. DJ crumpled in a heap. With a scream, she ran for the passageway. Bloodthorne, suddenly able to move, attempted to pursue her as Aberfoyle and Dowling struggled to their feet, unable to get to their wands in time. Persephone ran around a corner and disappeared, apparently familiar with some secret passageway unknown to the staff.

Aberfoyle tried to get to his feet, stumbled, and struggled finally to stand. “Are you alright, Clark?” he asked his friend as he picked up his wand and lowered it to cover DJ, who was still passed out.

“I will be,” Dowling replied, as Nurse Kayenta helped him gingerly to his feet. “We need to find Professor Kobiyashi.”

As he said this, Avarra shuffled in, supporting a nearly-unconscious Kobiyashi, her face covered in bruises.

“Sachiko, who did this to you?” Dowling asked her as struggled to stand.

“DJ. He wasn’t himself.”

“My guess is the Imperius Curse,” Professor Aberfoyle said grimly. “He was acting peculiarly all day. We’ll need to run some tests to be sure, though. Ennervate,” he said, casting a Reviving Charm on DJ, who struggled to his feet, with Aberfoyle’s wand trained on him the whole time.

“Students, you have truly saved all our lives. The school owes all of you a great debt. I believe all of the staff could use a trip to the hospital wing before we begin the closing ceremonies. We shall see you shortly.” With that, he had the house ghosts and Prefects escort the students back to their dormitories to prepare for the end-of-term meeting as he and the other Professors shuffled off to Nurse Kayenta’s infirmary.

A short while later, when all the injured were made well again by Nurse Kayenta’s skills, the students were escorted by their Prefects once again into the Great Hall, where the entire staff stood in their best robes to mark the conclusion of another term.

“Students, this has been a most eventful term,” the Headmaster began as he looked out among them. “In addition to your bravery in the face of danger, you have been part of history in the competition for the House Cup.” He indicated for the shroud to be removed from the scoreboard, revealing the final scores: Lobostro in fourth with 475, Enigmus finishing barely in third with 560, and atop the standings stood Parador and Colubrae, both with scores of 575! “Yes, it appears we have a tie for the House Cup points. This has happened only once before in school history. After consulting the rules, we have determined that the tiebreaker in this situation is the house that placed higher in the Quidditch Cup standings. That means that, as Quidditch Cup champions, Parador house wins the competition for the House Cup!”

Professor Aberfoyle extended his hand in consolation to Professor Bloodthorne, who sullenly glared at him, spurning the gesture. Undeterred, Aberfoyle happily shook the Headmaster’s hand, accepting his congratulations.

Over the cheers of the Paradors, Headmaster Dowling attempted to continue. “I want to make it clear exactly how special this year’s competition was. Not only did Colubrae come within a hair of winning, Enigmus rallied from one of the largest mid-term deficits ever to come very close to the upset themselves. And lest you feel discourage, Lobostro, remember that your score of 475 is nearly as much as the 495 you scored to win last year. You did admirably in defending your title.”

The Headmaster continued with his remarks, recognizing those students who had located the missing artifacts from his office. As he prepared to conclude, he told the whole assembly, “You have seen first hand the sort of evil that faces our world. All of us, not just here at Avistrum, but throughout the whole of wizarddom, owe you all a debt of gratitude for your bravery and determination in the face of mortal danger. Thank you for your help, and I look forward to seeing all of you again next year. Dismissed!”

As the students headed for the gates to leave the school until next year, no one realized that the Headmaster had forgotten to mention the final score in Game 7: Toledo 2250, Salem 2240, in 23 and 1/2 hours.

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