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The New Headmaster

 

The main street in the little fisherman’s village lay quiet on an early afternoon. Tourists searched the souvenir shops; others indulged in chit-chat or sat in a small street café. Leonor exited the bus, Eileen carefully wrapped in a baby-sling on her front. She walked in jeans and t-shirt down to the harbour, drinking the colourful maritime life in the summer sun. The cool weather of the past week changed again to bright sunshine. The village was indeed cosy as Severus explained, the traditional cottages carefully painted, most windows and doors decorated with multi-coloured flowers.

 

Leonor forced a smile to her face, the nagging thoughts about Severus’ whereabouts always present in the mind. The Daily Prophet held no news about Potter’s relocation nor anything about the Dark Lord. The papers appeared dull with the repeated warnings for the households and held no real news. Leonor’s bracelet sometimes tickled, and she had no clue what it meant. For now, she decided to ignore it and explore the area to get a focus on other things than just the cottage and waiting for Severus.

 

“Your daddy bought that much food that we have time to visit Whitesands Haven today. Isn’t it a nice place?” said Leonor and stroked gently Eileen’s cheeks who slept peacefully. The village was larger than Leonor expected it, almost a small town with a nice centre around a lovely marketplace.

 

Leonor walked to a free bench on the mole right opposite the cutter ‘Emma’, an old ramshackle boat with light blue railings. Right above the harbour wound a narrow lane through small shops. A single guest sat in front of The Royal Oak” and a waitress served a pint of beer. Next to the pub displayed the outfitter all sorts of muggle cloths on hallstands, beach wear, shirts, rain jackets and hoodies. Before her was the small fishing port, some cutters and a few sailing boats tied to the mole. The sea was blue and calm and a green island visible in the distance.

 

I’ve got to do something thought Leonor after observing the centre of the village for a while. She had no idea how to organize baby and work, the travelling with Eileen an unresolved challenge. Once more Leonor settled in a new area, she’d done it many times before but always alone. Contacts to local people became important and she straightened her back, walking determinedly to the vivid shopping street. She walked along several shops and finally browsed through the hallstands of the outfitter enjoying the light and airy feeling of the beach outfits when a chubby faced elderly woman spoke to her. Leonor pushed the wand deeper into the waistband.

 

“New here?” said the woman with thick grey hair tied back in a tight bun.

 

“Yes,” replied Leonor a bit bewildered.

 

“You visited the corner shop. I saw you the week before already, though without that beautiful little new-born. How old?”

 

“Ten days,” smiled Leonor and Eileen yawned stretching the small arms slightly.

 

“Fancy a tea? Not many young people settle here.”

 

Leonor shook her head in agreement. “I don’t want to make inconveniences.”

 

“The tea is ready, come in.” The woman gestured to the shop and Leonor followed curiously.

 

All sorts of clothes, hats and shoes were stuffed in the sales room, it appeared larger than from the outside.

 

“I’m Heather.” The older woman gave Leonor a mug with steaming golden tea.

 

“My name is Leonor. And that is Eileen.”

 

“Oh, such a nice name. And that fine dark hair, the little nose, lovely,” said Heather delighted.

 

“Have you been looking for something special today?”

 

“No, just a walk,” said Leonor truthfully.

 

“No problem, we have a little chat than,” said the woman with a wink. “My husband Thomas and I have no grandchildren. I enjoy seeing the young folks here. Loads of tourists though,” grinned Heather.

 

Leonor was heavily reminded of Alma, Helen and Rosmerta. They all knew nothing about Leonor’s pregnancy. But not before long they would see. She’d to return to Hogsmeade one day soon.

 

“So, where do you live?”

 

“Scotland,” said Leonor unsmilingly hoping that she hadn’t to explain more. She looked reflectively through one of the windows and across the harbour to the sea, sipped the tea and caressed Eileen who was about to wake up.

 

“Oh, not voluntarily here?” questioned Heather, the smile gone from the round face.

 

Leonor didn’t answer.

 

“Come, I show you something.”

 

The situation appeared suddenly sinister and Leonor felt trapped. She hesitated to follow, battled with the insides. Eileen made feeble sounds of unease.

 

The old woman glanced carefully round and then whispered, “Your wand, you are a witch, aren’t you?” She pointed at Leonor’s waistband. “Last week I thought you’ve never been inside a muggle shop before, though that might not have been evidence of being magical. Some tourists behave very clumsily,” chuckled Heather.

 

Leonor nodded hesitantly; of course, Severus must have felt awkward outside his body and not used to a muggle live for years.

 

“Come, you’ll see. We are witch and wizard too.” A previously invisible door opened in a crammed shelf, and they both walked through it.

 

Heather called, “Thomas, we’ve a new witch in town. The one I saw at Mary’s last week already.”

 

The shelf sealed itself behind, and they stood in a round office, a wooden desk in the middle and a short man with lopsided glasses in an overlarge chair behind. A typewriter echoed loud clangs as if invisible hands hammered them like piano keys. The wizard jumped to his feet and stretched the arm over the desk shaking hands with Leonor. A stack of parchment lay next to the typewriter and the page on top showed the seal of the ministry of magic.

 

Thomas yelped happily, “You mentioned it, Heather, and I didn’t believe you.”

 

“As always,” grunted the grey-haired witch in response.

 

The wizard didn’t listen and continued with delight, “Welcome! Welcome to our Welsh Community! I’m Thomas Walsh, Public Servant of the Ministry of Magic and Representative of the Welsh Wizarding Community.”

 

“Pleased to meet you,” replied Leonor politely, caressing Eileen who wailed now desperately that Leonor couldn’t concentrate on any signs of danger in the small room full of files. Her mind reeled through memories finding the purpose of a Public Servant but couldn’t remember to have heard of it before. Neither room nor the old couple showed evidently anything ambiguous, but Leonor had just trapped herself with the ministry. She looked at the bracelet receiving no hint or whatsoever.

 

Thomas sat back in his leather chair. Heather lowered on a stool in a corner and gestured Leonor to sit in what looked like a visitor chair opposite Thomas. Eileen calmed a little when Leonor rocked her on her knees.

 

“She’s frightened, all new to her,” whispered Heather. She and her husband smiled genuinely at the baby. “We do nothing bad; we are not one of those, well You-Know-Who supporters.” Heather almost shook with bile and her husband made a face of clear dislike.

 

“And what are you doing as a Public Servant?” asked Leonor quietly.

 

“Right now?” squeaked Thomas.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Hiding, doing my job in secrecy since that Potter boy reported about the return of You-Know-Who.”

 

“But all the files here?” Leonor looked at the typewriter who spit another ready parchment to the stack.

 

“Copies, preserving changes of the wizarding community without involving the infiltrated ministry, for example mixed marriages. Everything is valid and recorded but invisible to the Muggle-Born Registration Commission for example. I wipe the commission’s memory.” Thomas rummaged in a pile of papers and pulled out a birth certificate without showing Leonor the details.

 

Now, Thomas’ voice appeared dangerous; he rolled his wand unflinchingly on the desk. “Born two weeks ago to a muggle and a witch. It raises the wrong attention if the ministry gets information about it. We don’t want strange people sneaking in Whitesands Haven.”

 

“I did not ask to reveal yourself,” said Leonor pulling her wand from the waistband and clutching it tightly.

 

“Leonor, we need to make sure nobody delivers the community to … well you know to whom or Whitesands Haven will not exist for long. Too many families depend on it, and we have to make sure that you are trustworthy if you live here.”

 

“Wouldn’t it be better to keep your mouth shut instead of inviting a stranger to that office?” snapped Leonor. She was angry about herself. Severus warned her to be vigilant, and she’d been too careless running to that outfitter.

 

Heather gave a sharp look to her husband and he stopped playing with his wand and then she whispered, “You looked lost last week, and I understand why now. We want to help; perhaps you’ve fled like many others.”

 

“I won’t betray you,” said Leonor firmly and leaped to her feet, Eileen quiet in shock from the abrupt move.

 

“Don’t try to wipe my memory or confound me. I assure you; your secret is much safer with me than with anybody of your community. I’m a gifted witch,” said Leonor coldly and opened the shelf with a swish of her wand. The Walsh’s had not expected that and looked a bit shaken.

 

“Wait,” called Heather. “No harm meant! We’d really welcome you here and if we can do something for you then let us know.”

 

“Thanks for the tea, you’ll hear from me,” said Leonor indifferently. The bus just turned around the flower beds in the middle of the market and Leonor headed for the bus stop returning to the cottage. She had to work through what she wanted from that community.

 

XXX

 

2nd of August 1997

 

Severus sat in a comfortable Chintz chair, amid delicately arranged chandeliers and paintings. He had been here a few times whenever Lucius’ wife required something ‘private’. The colour of the walnut tree furniture tinted the place in a warm light, so much different compared to the rest of the house where furniture had been carelessly moved aside and bright large windows were covered with thick dark curtains. The usual bouquet of roses was missing on a small side table and all personal belongings, photographs of Draco and family heirlooms had obviously been put away — a tribute to the present. Malfoy Manor underwent a profound change since the Dark Lord dwelled here and Narcissa preserved the last retreat remembering the family of more influential times.

 

Lucius poured Narcissa, Draco and Severus a goblet of elf-made wine and stood up, “I raise my glass to the Dark Lord, the new ministry and the headmaster of Hogwarts!”

 

He bowed slightly towards Severus and then clinked glasses with him, wife and son, a weak smile on the unshaven face. He aged visibly and the always carefully dressed hair fell limply down to the shoulders, the pointed chin more prominent than ever.

 

Draco grinned bravely, it was not hard to guess that he preferred Severus to Amycus and Alecto Carrow. Narcissa examined Severus with a silent plea in the reserved eyes to look after her son. The delight about the Dark Lord’s victory remained cautious in the small party, at least nobody showed anything on the outside, and they sat silently back to the golden shimmering seating.

 

“The quality at Hogwarts will significantly improve with you, Severus. It’s more than time that a Slytherin leads the school,” said Lucius smugly. “A pity that it comes late for Draco. Amycus will show the pure bloods what is important in the Dark Arts.”

 

Severus only nodded and watched the boy carefully. He looked rather frightened by his father’s suggestion. Narcissa glared at Lucius before an almost apathetic expression returned to her eyes.

 

“I hope you sack the oaf of a game keeper,” sneered Lucius.

 

Severus tilted his head and circled the red wine in the glass. He waited before answering Lucius’ question.

 

“You heard the Dark Lord; I have to lie low until the ministry is stable, and then he expects to avoid rush actions. I assume, the official announcement will be late, short before term start. Good new staff won’t apply voluntarily. We must be patient until the new regime spreads the wings further. Though, Dumbledore’s giant lap dog will likely sack himself. I’m sure we get rid of him soon without lifting a finger.”

 

“You must know it,” replied Lucius indifferent, the mind already somewhere else. He’d never been much interested in details of the school except for personal advantage or influence. Lucius emptied the goblet and smirked enviously, “Unlike you who’s blessed with the Dark Lord’s honour, I still have business to do, Severus. Draco, come!”

 

Draco shot up, intimidated and sending a pleading look to his mother. The same shook her head almost imperceptible and took Draco’s hand like in encouragement. The request to follow his father was clearly not debatable. Father and son hurried out of the room before Severus started for the door too.

 

“I will leave, Narcissa. Thank you for allowing me to stay here last week. I value your hospitality very much.” Severus arched his back slightly.

 

“I wonder if you return to that muggle place, Severus,” said Narcissa acidly.

 

“Well, we all have our hiding holes, haven’t we, Narcissa?” replied Severus discreetly. Narcissa wrinkled the nose.

 

“Severus, may I still have a word,” said Draco’s mother in the usual important drawl.

 

“Of course, Narcissa.”

 

“Leonor Scott’s apothecary is closed since about two weeks.” Narcissa wrung her hands, concentrated on Severus’ expression and waiting for a reaction. When he just raised an eyebrow, she continued as if he’d not understood the suggestion.

 

“I wonder if she made a bunk?” said Narcissa snidely.

 

Severus replied matter-of-factly, “If so, then she wouldn’t involve me in the plans, would she?”

 

Narcissa said smugly, “I suppose you are very much involved.”

 

“I reckon you will tell me about your observation,” replied Severus coldly, his eyes narrowed and the mind alarmed.

 

“Severus, we’ve been friends for long, even if Lucius tends to forget that recently. You’ve helped my son numerous times, defended him against Dumbledore’s whim and the Dark Lord’s revenge. I shall know when you have an affection for a woman. I am not wrong about you and Leonor.”

 

“And what does it add to the situation?”

 

“I believed to see her pregnant, when visiting Hogsmeade,” and Narcissa added with disgust, “after Potter attacked Draco”. Then Narcissa smiled, the uppish sneer suddenly gone. “One good turn deserves another, Severus; and you helped me a lot. I keep it to me.”

 

Severus spoke quietly, “Thank you, Narcissa.” Then he turned and left before Narcissa requested more information.

 

XXX

 

A red sunset tinted the cottage and the cliffs in a spectacular glow. Severus strode quickly across yellowish grass and wizened clovers. He reached the entrance, knocked and opened the door eagerly. He could hardly await to see Leonor and Eileen. The time at Malfoy Manor had been lengthy, the frequent calls of the Dark Lord risky, his anger about Potter’s escape as dangerous and unpredictable as the victorious mood after the fall of the ministry. They all received their fair share of torture. Severus sped through the narrow corridor straight to the kitchen where Leonor leaned with her back against the window, wand at the ready.

 

They stared at each other for a short moment and then Leonor crossed the room towards Severus. He moved to enfold her in his arms. Their lips touched softly and then with more urgency and passion. Severus hands moved under Leonor’s shirt and then down the tight shorts to the soft skin on Leonor’s legs. He hauled her up with a groan, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. Then he lowered her on the sofa, sweating and panting in the heaving travelling cloak. She gave him full access to those lean thighs, and he run his fingers over her middle. Severus breathed hard and then stopped pushing Leonor’s shirt upwards. He was suddenly assailed by doubt and fear, insecure and embarrassed. A stranger overwhelmed by his own passion. He pulled Leonor in a sitting position and scrutinized her kneeling down.

 

“Are you and Eileen alright?” whispered Severus hoarsely.

 

“We are,” smiled Leonor kneading her hands in his hair, massaging Severus’ scalp down to his neck. Severus said nothing, just closed the eyes under the soft touch and felt not a bit weak by it. The owls hooted as if they understood and Flint began a wonderful lullaby, low and soothing, the last light of the day gone.

 

“What about you?” Leonor stroked over a scratch on Severus’ temple.

 

“Good,” said Severus averting his gaze and searching for the baby. “Is Eileen asleep?”

 

“No. I switched off the light when you knocked.”

 

Severus waved his wand and the whole floor enlightened. He walked to the baby cod finding Eileen kicking the tiny limbs in delight. She was fully awake and waiting to be carried around. Severus took her in his arms and sat next to Leonor, his little finger firmly captured by Eileen’s fist. Leonor leaned against his shoulder, watching the play between father and daughter.

 

After a while Leonor stood up and set the table. She put a thick soft blanked with a pattern of colourful animals to the floor, some toys and a small pillow.

 

Severus placed the little one down and got finally rid of the travelling cloak and the coat. He loosened the upper button of his shirt and sat opposite Leonor, holding her hand for a moment.

 

She smiled genuinely and helped herself to some food.

 

“Not hungry?” she said.

 

Severus just shook his head; Malfoy Manor certainly held the comfort of hot meals and showers.

 

“Where have you been?” asked Leonor when Severus just stabbed some olives with his fork.

 

“Malfoy Manor,” hissed Severus suffocating the idea of answering more questions and Leonor got the hint.

 

“I visited the outfitter, Heather and Thomas Walsh. He’s a Public Servant of the Ministry of Magic. Walsh still records the changes in the local community without drawing attention of the ministry, for example mixed marriages. He just delivers to them what’s safe and preserves the remaining for better times.”

 

“Never heard of him. Are you sure he tells the truth?”

 

“They told me voluntarily and pleaded to keep quiet. I trust them. When I first visited them, I left, a bit shaken though. But then I returned, and they told me more. Everything Thomas does is valid, like a ministerial decree or approval. It’s a chance to register Eileen’s birth certificate.”

 

Severus moaned, “Register Eileen Scott and ‘born in Hogsmeade’. Nobody will ask if you tell them the story about the stranger in a tavern in Argentina or wherever. They believe you. You are a pure blood witch and you can prove it. That is safe.”

 

“I don’t want that; Eileen is no ‘product’ of a one-nighter, and she has a worthy father.” Leonor spoke agitated and hurt, “I’m not sleeping with stray dogs.”

 

“Well, it was just one first night,” grinned Severus mischievously.

 

Leonor gasped, but said nothing.

 

 “Leonor, it’s not about that. Somebody who knows you won’t believe it anyway. Keep the cottage hidden; don’t reveal living on the Welsh coast. It’s about keeping you safe and giving a future to Eileen. She can have a life without prejudice but not with my last name. Nobody knows who will win the war.”

 

Leonor pouted and cleared the table.

 

Severus explained further, “Right now, the ministry is taken off-guard, infiltrated by the Dark Lord. They search no unregistered babies or toddlers, but what if it stabilized in one or two years? They’ll come after you and then you must fake more than a last name and a birthplace. Talk to Thomas to change the birth certificate before he gives it to the ministry just in case the Dark Lord is vanquished for good.”

 

“I don’t know, Severus,” replied Leonor quietly and fell next to Severus on the sofa handing him a glass of red wine.

 

“You swore to care for you first, but you are defending my name, Leonor,” reminded Severus imploringly. “You are not supposed to do that.”

 

As if it explained things better, he continued, “The Dark Lord put a Taboo Hex on his real name trying to catch the Order of the Phoenix. The Snatchers located Potter, Granger and Weasley because of that, but they escaped.” Severus stared gravely to the floor. “The boy never believed me that it is dangerous to take over Dumbledore’s habits.”

 

“What else happened? The Daily Prophet is for muppets meanwhile,” said Leonor softly and a slightly happy navigating away from Eileen’s birth certificate.

 

“You don’t know, do you?” Severus jumped up and emptied the goblet in one swig.

 

“What should I know?” said Leonor insecure and intrigued.

 

“Listen, Potter escaped once more from the Dark Lord despite numerous Death Eaters chasing him and the Order of the Phoenix. The Dark Lord was livid. The ministry has been overthrown. Rufus Scrimgeour died yesterday, and Pius Thicknesse will be the new minister of magic. Potter and the Order was not betrayed by Scrimgeour. The trio is on the run.” Severus cowered next to Eileen, caressing her cheeks.

 

“It’s not been in the papers.”

 

“It will not be in the Prophet before Monday. Only a few people know, like those at Bill Weasley’s wedding. The Death Eaters try to catch as many enemies before that, murder those who fight the Imperius Curse. Greyback leads the Snatchers, and they are indeed successful since the Taboo is active.”

 

“Has anybody been caught whom I know,” said Leonor apprehensive.

 

Severus only shook the head. The dark hair obscured his expression and then he lay down on the sofa with his head in Leonor’s lap, looking up to her dark eyes, knowing that hers were a warm shade of brown while his eyes showed the coldness and despair. Severus frowned; lines appeared on his forehead and unspoken thoughts reflected in his face.

 

“Do you want to talk?” asked Leonor carefully running a finger along the frown lines of Severus’ forehead.

 

“There’s not much to talk about,” snapped Severus. “Alastor Moody is dead, killed during Potter’s relocation. Before, he put an awful charm in the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix reducing me to silence, well I’m not the secret keeper of the place and cannot tell anyway.”

 

“You’ve been there?”

 

Severus pulled a crinkled piece of a photograph from the pants pocket and gave it to Leonor.

 

“I needed to go somewhere in that night, I mean when Dumbledore… “ Severus searched for words before simply continuing, “… couldn’t stay with the Malfoy’s; I needed to remind myself what I’m doing and why I’m not on the way to Down Under with you and Eileen.”

 

“Lily Potter?” squeaked Leonor a bit nauseated.  

 

“Keep it and give it some day or other to Harry.”

 

Severus had still Lily’s letter in the pocket reminding him of love — of the love he received from Leonor and the only reason why he continued. Lily — she was patient with him, and he interpreted it as love. He had been mistaken and obsessed with the loss and grudge.

 

“In the battle of the seven Potter’s I cut an ear off Fred Weasley, saving Lupin. Fred was disguised as Potter and of course they all think I wanted to kill him. Do you understand why it’s so important that it’s Eileen Scott? They’ll never forgive.”

 

“I’ll can have children with whom I want,” braved Leonor.

 

“It’s not worth the fight,” snarled Severus harshly, got up and lifted Eileen in the air. “I hope we don’t need to discuss that for the next two weeks. I can stay here until the new headmaster of Hogwarts is officially announced and I don’t expect it before mid of August.”

 

Leonor beamed at Severus and his face lit up too. It took them not long to prepare for bed and cuddle together, Eileen still awake and curious in their middle.

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