“Maeve, my dear.” The voice was mellow and comforting. She immediately recognised the compassionate tone of the headmaster. “I hear you have had a visitor.”
“How did you know?” she asked through the gloom.
“Severus came and spoke to me during the night. He told me everything he knew,” Dumbledore replied. He took out his wand, flicking it at the candle that stood by her bed. Instantly they were surrounded by a guttering glow that flecked her hair with gold, illuminating her tired face; Dumbledore was still half in shadow, but she could see that his face bore a sombre expression.
“Severus seemed to know a lot that no one else did,” she said.
“He did, and he kept his own counsel for all the right reasons, Maeve. I am sure your father will have told you this himself. Severus carried a burden around with him for a long time, one he could easily have shared, and yet he didn’t.” She could hear admiration, tinged with a touch of regret, in Dumbledore’s voice.
“Surely I had the right to know. I suffered with my…” Maeve hesitated. She had been about to say ‘my father’ when she realised she no longer had to call him that. “With that man, and I didn’t need to.”
“No, however, Niall did keep you safe for many years when he could easily have handed you over to Voldemort. As it was he waited until you were here, and until he had the deeds to Abbeylara within his grasp. Had you been attacked at Abbeylara I don’t think we could have saved you.”
“My father saved me,” she said, allowing a touch of irritability to creep into her voice.
“I appreciate that,” Dumbledore said, not knowing what else to say to appease her bruised spirit. “Who can say why the gods act when and where they act. They are a race unto themselves, and we are not always aware of their reasons for behaving as they do.”
She looked a little satisfied with this, although the loss of those years was still a raw wound, one that she had to force herself to stop picking at. The thought that people knew, yet still allowed her to go through that, was one she couldn’t yet face with any degree of clarity or understanding.
“And I share my real father with Lily and Alice,” she said in a slightly incredulous voice. She had changed the subject assuming that Dumbledore knew; his surprised expression told her that she was wrong.
“Lugh Lamfada was Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom’s father too?” Dumbledore asked quickly, his eyes glittering behind the lenses of his glasses as his mind began to calculate the implications of this news.
“Yes,” she nodded. “Did Severus not know that?”
“No, he most certainly did not. Well, well.” Dumbledore sat back and exhaled slowly. “I am not sure what to make of this information. You have a connection to all of them, including young Harry and Neville.”
Maeve told him the little her father had passed on to her, the reason he had fathered the three girls. Dumbledore looked even more surprised as the story took shape. He stood up, slowly pacing up and down the ward, making Maeve feel very uneasy indeed.
“You realise that I must now keep you and Harry close, and Neville, what is Neville’s true role in all of this?” He stopped abruptly, pondering aloud. “And you are the power behind Harry, what can that imply?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a quick shake of her head. “I am having a difficult enough time just putting all these pieces together in my mind without worrying about Voldemort and who has the power to defeat him.”
“I am sorry,” he said, as if realising for the first time how confused she must be. “Perhaps once Madam Pomfrey has had a look at you we can get you back to your rooms. You can have some time to yourself to think about what you have discovered. Of course, there is no need for you to return to your post immediately because Remus has kindly stepped in to help.”
“Remus?” she asked, looking up at Dumbledore with shining eyes. “Remus is here?”
“He came to take over your classes after you were attacked. It took some persuasion of both the Ministry and the governors of the school, but we made them see sense eventually. He will, of course, want to see you.”
Dumbledore had been very worried about Remus Lupin’s state of mind these past few weeks. With Severus standing guard over Maeve’s unconscious form he had felt powerless to intervene and allow other visitors. Perhaps he had sensed the bond between her and the Potions master should not be broken at such a crucial time. But this decision had been very hard on both Remus and Harry. They had complained fervently about it on many occasions.
“How long have I been unconscious?” She looked dazed, astounded that she had been out of the world for so long that they had had to bring in someone to take her classes.
“A month, Maeve. It is the first of December tomorrow,” he said. “I must confess, we were beginning to give up hope. I have had some of the best Healers here from St Mungo’s to have a look at you, but none of them could offer a solution. It seems your father’s intervention saved you. At what cost to him, we cannot know.”
Dumbledore knew that the immortals Lugh shared his existence with would take a very dim view of one of their kind interfering with events in the mortal world, and he wondered what censure he would face.
“Indeed,” she said, “it would seem I have a great deal to thank him for. Even though he is like some figment of my imagination. I can’t contact him and I have no idea if we will ever see each other again.” She gulped hard to prevent the soft sorrow from bubbling up in her throat.
Standing up, the folds of the white hospital dress fanned out around her feet, and she felt the rough material on her bare legs. She walked steadily to the window, watching as the first red rays of the sun fought against the dark of the night. Maeve smiled. She couldn’t contact him, or even see him in his human form, but she could always feel his kiss when the sun rose. Its warm light would always find her, and this thought gave her some comfort.
“I think I would like to get changed now, Professor,” she said. Maeve turned her back on the dawn, feeling the sudden thrust of life flowing back through her. “I am afraid my father warned me to shed my disguise. If, as it now seems, Voldemort knows my true identity via the betrayal of my… of that man… then there is little point keeping up the pretence. I will understand if you want to keep Remus on in my place, but I am sure the students would understand if we told them the truth.”
“I think you should allow Poppy to take a look at you,” Dumbledore said, taken aback by her swift change of attitude and confident words. He would mull over her decision to drop the carefully-crafted disguise later.
“I feel perfectly well, Professor. I don’t think we need to disturb Madam Pomfrey.” Her voice was steady. She gave him a look that suggested she was not prepared to negotiate the point.
Dumbledore reluctantly nodded his assent, offering to escort her to her rooms. He had no idea quite how he would explain this to the students. He could tell from the tilt of her jaw and the resolute look in her eyes that she would not be dissuaded from casting off the persona of Selene Lupin. It was as if Selene were an old dress that Maeve had grown tired of and wished to discard.
“Thank you, Professor,” she said. “I would also like to see Remus as soon as he is available. Will that be possible?”
“I am sure Remus will see you immediately,” Dumbledore said as he opened the doors of the ward, ushering her out onto the quiet corridor. “Let’s get you to your room before the school comes down for breakfast. I hardly think you will want to run into the students at the moment.”
She looked down at her plain shift dress and grinned.
“No, it’s hardly the most flattering garment, is it?” she agreed as they set off hurriedly for her rooms.
Word flew round the school within minutes of the first student noticing that Professor Selene Lupin was no longer lying in the infirmary. It reached Professor Snape’s lesson as the sixth-years trudged reluctantly into his classroom. Blaise Zabini was late. As he came running down the corridor he brought with him the fact that she was gone. The news spread through the class like wildfire. As a weary Professor Snape took his first class since Maeve’s attack, he narrowed his eyes and demanded silence from the chattering students. They immediately quietened down; the fact that Professor Snape was once again taking lessons indicated that the rumours about Professor Lupin were true. In Severus’ absence a younger man, Professor King, who had been sent by an agency in London, had taken the lessons. He had been a welcome relief from the harshness of Professor Snape, but even Ron had to admit he wasn’t as knowledgeable.
Severus waved a disinterested hand toward the blackboard.
“All the ingredients are before you, the instructions are there and… what is it, Zabini?” he said snappishly as another, quieter, rustle ran through the Slytherin half of the room.
“Sorry, Sir.” Blaise dropped his head, trying to look apologetic. Severus was on the verge of issuing a further reprimand, but a shadow passed across his face. The class got the impression he couldn’t summon the energy.
“Now, you will make up this potion and we will be testing it at the end of the lesson. If you have done it right then you will be able to… RIGHT!” he roared at the Slytherins. A burst of laughter had just come from Draco Malfoy, and despite Severus’ natural tendency to favour the boy, this disobedience was really too much.
“MALFOY, HERE!” he bellowed, his face burning with sudden ferocity.
The classroom froze as a reluctant Malfoy left his seat and approached Severus, who stood with his hands firmly embedded on his hips like some dark, avenging angel.
“What is it that you find so amusing?” He lingered over the word amusing as he gripped Malfoy by the shoulder with a claw-like hand.
“Nothing, Sir,” Malfoy muttered, not daring to look his Head of House in the eyes.
“Clearly it is very much something,” he drawled. Despite his mind being elsewhere, he still retained his acerbic tongue. “Out with it.”
“Professor Lupin…” Malfoy began, before trailing off.
“Which one?” Snape asked coldly, his grip tightening on Malfoy’s flesh. While he would have welcomed unfavourable news about Remus Lupin, he was dreading hearing something that his heart knew was already true.
“The female one.” There was a hint of bravado in Malfoy’s voice now, despite the fingers clutching at his shoulder. “The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who couldn’t even defend herself.” He gave a slight smirk in the direction of his classmates. Some of the Gryffindors complained loudly and Harry, who had been back in the class since Severus had started his vigil over Maeve and whom Severus hadn’t noticed yet, stood up with fury in his eyes.
“Malfoy, shut your filthy mouth,” he said in a shaky voice. Hermione grabbed at his arm and tried to pull him back down.
“Potter!” Severus couldn’t help but notice him now. Harry expected a barrage of insults, but instead Severus merely told him to sit down.
“Malfoy, do you have something to say about Professor Lupin?” Severus asked, turning his attention back to the boy that he still had clamped in his vice-like grip.
“She’s dead, Sir.” Malfoy couldn’t keep a note of triumph from his voice. He was most surprised to find himself suddenly being flung across the room by his professor. He stumbled, trying to regain his balance, and in doing so hit his head on a desk. A small trickle of blood began to run down his forehead. Severus didn’t even notice. He didn’t notice that Harry Potter had just shot up from his chair shouting something. He didn’t hear Malfoy yelling at him that his father would get to hear about this. He didn’t notice the spontaneous outbreak of crying from some of the Gryffindor girls or the pale-faced looks of horror of the boys. His own face had become ashen. He strode past the chaos that had become his class and he threw open the door. Percy Weasley was the unfortunate person who happened to be walking past when Severus entered the corridor.
“You!” Severus barked at the flustered Percy, who dropped several clipboards in alarm. “Come here.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly,” Percy said hurriedly. The last thing he wanted was to get into a discussion with Professor Snape. As far as Percy was concerned, the Potions master had lost it somewhat since Professor Lupin had met with that unfortunate accident in the forest. “Far too much to do, I’m afraid.”
“Get here now,” Severus commanded, and his black eyes made Percy feel so unsettled that he tottered across to him, much against his better judgement.
“Is there something I can do for you?” Percy asked nervously.
“Yes, you can get in there and watch that class,” Severus said, waving a waxy hand at the doorway to the classroom from which a white-faced Harry had just emerged.
“Where are you going?” Severus asked, putting a hand out to stop him. Harry slipped beyond the restraining hand that attempted to grasp at his robes and continued down the corridor.
“I’m going to see Professor Dumbledore,” he shouted back over his shoulder.
“Wait, Potter,” Severus called after him. He turned back to Percy, who jumped slightly under his piercing gaze and looked instantly terrified. The teacher pointed a slim finger at him.
“Get in there, Mr Weasley, and watch that class,” he said in a low voice.
“But I’m not a teacher,” Percy stammered as a sudden roar came from the room, the sound of a fight breaking out.
“NOW, Mr Weasley,” he insisted, propelling Percy through the door with a sudden push before turning on his heel and heading off in the direction that Harry had taken.
Percy was hopelessly unprepared for the brawl that faced him. His weak shouts for order fell on deaf ears. Hermione turned to Ron and was disgusted to find he was joining in the melee. She slipped from the room and ran off in search of Professor McGonagall before the Gryffindors and the Slytherins killed each other. Already several hexes had been thrown. Her last glance at the classroom revealed a bewildered Neville, whose lower half had been turned into a llama.
Severus, meanwhile, had caught up with Harry at the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. Harry was desperately shouting passwords at it to try to get it to open, but none of them worked. As he approached, Harry’s calls became even more frantic.
“Blackberry Wine,” Severus said smoothly, and the door opened to reveal the wooden spiral staircase beyond it.
“After you, Mr Potter.” Severus waved his arm in the direction of the door. Harry stared at him, wondering why the normally spiteful professor was being even vaguely tolerant of him. He stepped onto the staircase without saying a word to the black-robed figure who followed him. The staircase took them swiftly to the door that opened into Dumbledore’s office, and Severus moved ahead of Harry to knock sharply with his white knuckles on the solid wood. A muffled instruction to enter was heard. Severus opened the door, once more allowing Harry to go in first. His grief was palpable, and for once he couldn’t think of a good enough reason to be nasty to the boy. Judging by the look on Harry’s face, they shared the same misery, and some loyalty to Maeve made him hold back from hurting Harry any further.
“Ahh,” was all Dumbledore said as they entered. He had been nibbling at something that looked remarkably like a Christmas pudding. He hurriedly swept away the crumbs as they approached him.
“Just sampling the festive treats for this year’s Christmas dinner,” he said by way of an explanation. “Never too early to start the preparations.”
Severus and Harry stood side by side, facing the smiling headmaster. Both of them looked like they were about to burst with fury at Dumbledore’s apparent insensitivity and the serene expression on his face.
“Headmaster,” Severus began, his teeth clenched together so hard he was barely speaking at all, “I am amazed to find you so composed after our discussion last night and the events that followed it.”
Harry looked from Dumbledore to Severus and wondered what he was talking about. He knew he had missed something important. He couldn’t believe that not only had Dumbledore neglected to tell him about Maeve’s death – the thought caused him such a wave of grief that he had to clutch the chair beside him to steady himself – but he also sat there eating Christmas puddings in the face of such a tragedy.
“One must always look on the bright side, Severus,” Dumbledore said, brushing a few more crumbs from his robes. “Please sit down, both of you.”
“Maeve is dead,” Harry exclaimed, causing Severus to wince as if he had been physically struck, “and you’re sitting there as if nothing had happened! How can you?”
For once Severus couldn’t find anything in what Harry had said to disagree with. He kept his piercing black eyes on Dumbledore as they both waited for a response. To their continued astonishment, Dumbledore’s face crinkled into a laugh.
“Now, now. Perhaps we should calm down a little.” His tone lowered. “Please sit down and I will explain as best I can.”
Once they had both reluctantly sat down Dumbledore surveyed them with eyes that took in their pale faces and anguished expressions. He was sad to see that it took the death of a friend to make them put up a united front. Sadly, he knew that once he had cleared the matter up they would once again be bitter enemies.
“What have you heard?” he said, looking to Severus. It was Harry who answered him.
“Draco Malfoy told us that she was dead.” He swallowed his grief quickly before continuing. “They are saying her body has gone from the infirmary.”
Severus was gripping the arms of his chair so tightly that his knuckles threatened to break through the paper-thin skin that covered them. He leaned forward slightly to catch every nuance of what Dumbledore was about to say.
“Well, young Draco has been under a lot of pressure this term, Harry. One should take what he says as unreliable until you have had it confirmed by other sources.”
Dumbledore drummed his fingers softly on the desk as if he could hear a tune that they could not.
“Are you saying,” Severus broke in with a chilly pitch in his tone of voice, “that Maeve is not dead?”
“That is exactly what I am saying.” Dumbledore lifted his fingers from the table and watched as the impact of his words hit the two people in front of him. Disbelief, amazement, relief, bewilderment and finally joy crossed their faces. “Maeve is, at this moment, in her rooms with Professor Lupin. They are trying to make sense of what has happened, and her new circumstances.”
The joy on Severus’ face turned to envy as he realised Maeve must have asked for Remus before him. He was about to speak when Dumbledore, understanding his feelings, stopped him.
“She needs to cope with a lot of new information, Severus. If you will permit me to say it, you are rather too close to the events of last night for her to speak freely with you at the moment. Give her some time with Remus; he will bring her around in less time than any of us can.”
Severus sat back, not entirely placated by what Dumbledore had said.
“What new circumstances and events?” Harry asked, aware they were talking above him. He wanted very much to know exactly what had happened.
“Maeve has discovered that her father is not who she thought he was,” Dumbledore began, but Snape shot forward in his chair and interrupted him.
“I really don’t think this is for Potter to know, Headmaster.” He looked at Harry with a flash of the accustomed animosity.
“Harry has a right to know this. I believe Maeve would want him to know, Severus,” Dumbledore said gently. “Now is not the time for personal difficulties. Now is the time to help a friend by swallowing things we might ordinarily say. Let us be a little more charitable.”
Severus slumped back again; he was desperately trying to get a grip on his emotions and was feeling like a train that had become derailed. It wasn’t just Maeve who had been on a frightening journey that night; he had also faced several personal demons, the most prominent of which were death and love. He feared them both in the same all-consuming way.
“Who is her father, then?” Harry asked, ignoring the venomous looks from Severus
“Have you ever heard of the Lugh Lamfada, Harry?” Dumbledore asked, raising an eyebrow as Severus got up from his chair and left the room in a cloud of disapproval. The door snapped shut behind him and Dumbledore turned his attention once again to Harry.
“No,” said Harry. “Is that her dad?”
“Yes, he is an Irish Immortal, a God of the sun and light. He came to Maeve last night to save her from the fate that Voldemort’s followers tried to inflict upon her. She is luckier than she can ever know, and yet she is also under a prophecy in the same way you are. Your fates are intertwined, Harry, more than I knew.”
A knocking on the door interrupted them. A flushed Professor McGonagall rushed in without waiting for an invitation.
“Albus, I really think you should come. Draco Malfoy has taken leave of his senses and has hexed several students. He has barricaded himself in the Potions classroom and is using some powerful magic to keep us out.” She hesitated, as if there were something more.
“And what else, Professor?” Dumbledore asked kindly.
“He attempted to use an Unforgivable curse on Mr Longbottom, but the boy deflected it superbly. Obviously this is serious cause for concern. I can’t find Professor Snape anywhere to help talk to the boy, and no one else can calm him down.” She spoke with such urgency that Harry was quite startled, his green eyes wide beneath his glasses.
“Professor Snape was with us a few moments ago, Minerva. I am surprised you did not pass him on your way up,” Dumbledore said. Professor McGonagall shook her head, insisting she had not seen him.
“And do we know what precipitated this outburst from Mr Malfoy?” Dumbledore asked calmly as Harry continued to goggle.
“Ronald Weasley appeared to say something about his father that Mr Malfoy did not take too kindly to. Unfortunately he attempted to hex Mr Weasley, which resulted in more hexes than you could shake a wand at being thrown around. Madam Pomfrey will have her work cut out for her today sorting all those students out.”
Professor Dumbledore stood up slowly, as if he felt a weariness he could not bear.
“And so it begins, Minerva. The division that could cause our downfall. The Sorting Hat knew and tried to warn us, but still partition creeps in slowly. It’s a subtle force, and one that does no one any good. ” He shook his head as he followed her out of the door.
Harry was left sitting there looking around the room, surprised by his hasty abandonment. Fawkes was resting on his perch with his head cocked to one side, looking thoroughly disinterested in the conversation that had just taken place. The portraits were also unusually silent. He got up and began to walk around the room. He had been here many times before, but never ceased to be impressed by the huge number of magical items that Dumbledore had amassed. As he passed a lectern, he noticed that the large, leather-bound book it held began to move slightly. Its pages fluttered to and fro as if caught by an unexpected breeze. He watched engrossed as the book finally settled on a page and its gilt-edged leaves rested gently open. Stepping up to the book, he peered at the pages and felt a flash of recognition. Looking up at him from the page was the man in his dream.
The title of the page, set in illuminated letters, was ‘Lugh, Lord of the Light’, and he read both pages over several times as he learned about the man who was Maeve’s father. It all felt strangely surreal, and yet the more he thought about it the more he realised it made sense. Maeve herself had the quality of sunlight; she lit the room up with her presence and could dispel fear and misery with a laugh. Yet there was also a fiery side to her, one he had experienced to his cost. A fiery side that meant anyone who angered her could get burned very badly indeed. He wondered what Dumbledore had meant about their futures being intertwined. Could she also be related to the prophecy about Voldemort, and was that why Voldemort wanted her dead? Could she in some way be destined to help him defeat that evil that now seemed to lurk everywhere?
The book, sensing he had finished reading, snapped shut with a thud, and a cloud of brown dust rose from its ancient pages. Harry moved towards the door, still pondering his connection to Maeve. He made his way down the stairs and out onto the corridor where he ran straight into Hermione. She had been crying and he placed a tentative arm on her shoulders. He was surprised by this curious behaviour on the part of his friend; Hermione very rarely cried. He could hear shouts and screams from a distant classroom then the roar of Dumbledore’s voice followed by immediate silence. Hermione leant her head on Harry’s shoulder for a moment before looking at him with accusing eyes.
“Where did you run off to? If you hadn’t left maybe none of this would ever have happened!” she said.
“I came to see Professor Dumbledore,” he replied. Harry didn’t believe for a minute that if he had stayed in that classroom he would have been able to prevent the pandemonium that had ensued. “You don’t seriously believe that I could have stopped Draco going crazy do you?”
“You could have stopped Ron going mad though. He was like a thing possessed.”
Hermione shuddered as she recalled how Ron had said some terrible things to Draco, most of which had been true. Draco had responded by raining down a torrent of abuse on Ron about his own family, and then Percy, who had been unfortunate enough to be there, sided with Draco. This had made Ron purple with rage and caused him to throw a Forked Tongue Charm at his brother with the result that Percy’s tongue grew long and green with a nasty split down the middle.
“It’s as if the dark power Voldemort has is seeping into the school,” she said. “There are more arguments between the girls, Draco has become even more unpleasant, Ron jumps down everyone’s throat, and you’ve seen the Quidditch games; they have never been nastier.”
Hermione was right, Quidditch had become something of a blood sport of late with the amount of broken bones caused by the increasing number of malicious fouls committed. Harry had thought the rise in unease and short tempers was caused by the attack on Maeve. He had felt numb for the past month and so assumed everyone else must be feeling a degree of that. Hermione was making it sound like there was something more insidious going on. Her hand flew to her mouth as she remembered the circumstances that had caused both Harry and Professor Snape to leave the Potions class.
“What about Professor Lupin?” she asked. “What happened?”
“She’s not dead,” Harry said, his heart giving a little leap as he allowed fresh hope to envelop him. “It’s a very long story, but she is alive. She’s with Remus now.”
“Thank goodness.” Hermione’s relief was evident. “With a bit of luck we will get to keep both of them.”
“Well, you might not recognise her when you next see her,” Harry said with a smile.
“Why?” Hermione looked horrified, her mind immediately beginning to imagine all sorts of terrible injuries.
“Because she never was who she said she was. Let’s find Ron and I’ll tell you both everything. The whole school will know soon enough anyway.”
They hurried off in the direction of the now silent Potions class. Neither of them noticed the slight shadow that crossed the window as they moved away, but Argus Filch, who had been standing behind a statue eavesdropping, noticed it. He crept to the window, keeping a watchful eye on the two disappearing students. He was just in time to see the flick of a long black cloak as it flapped swiftly away over the trees, the broomstick just visible beneath the folds of fabric.
“Interesting, Mrs Norris,” he said slowly, “very interesting that is.”
With a twisted grin, he walked off in the opposite direction to Harry and Hermione, his cat weaving her way in and out of his legs as he walked.