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The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 2]

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Chapter Twenty-One

A New Headmaster

Over the next few days, the Dark Lord’s coup at the Ministry of Magic resulted in many varied and drastic changes of policy.

Harry Potter’s face was splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet, wanted for questioning about the death of Albus Dumbledore.

Severus hoped that Potter had managed to find a safe haven somewhere, musing that the boy was again indebted to the Granger girl for her forward planning skills, superior intellect and talent.

He still held the opinion that Potter was a mediocre wizard, but he could not deny the importance of the boy in relation to the prophecy. Severus merely hoped that Lily’s son had gained sufficient knowledge from his private lessons with Dumbledore before the Headmaster’s death.

Now, Severus had to trust in the former Headmaster’s judgement, and attempt to help Potter from afar.

Contessa had not made any progress in finding goblins willing to make a copy of Gryffindor’s sword and was exploring wizard-made alternatives and, as it stood, there was no way for Severus to procure the original sword.

It was becoming increasingly important for Severus to win the Headmastership, in order to be in the best position to assist Potter, and deliver his promise to Dumbledore. When the Dark Lord summoned Severus to discuss the next steps at Hogwarts, Severus knew he had to give his best performance to secure the promotion.

Kneeling at the feet of the Dark Lord, in the opulent drawing room of Malfoy Manor, Severus awaited his master’s instruction with a degree of tension.

“Arise, faithful servant,” the Dark Lord hissed softly.

Severus stood respectfully as the Dark Lord sat down in an armchair next to the fireplace.

The inclement weather had continued for a few days and the lack of sunlight outside gave the room a cold and murky feel. The Dark Lord raised his wand and lit a fire in the hearth, beckoning Severus to sit in the armchair opposite.

The fragrant aroma of burning pinewood rose through the air as Severus sat quietly, waiting for the Dark Lord to speak.

“I shall be abroad for a while,” the Dark Lord began. “I must try to discover the reason why my wand failed me again in the presence of Harry Potter.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“The Ministry is under my control, with my people in place. I must now turn my thoughts to Hogwarts.”

Severus waited in silence, his heart beating steadily in his chest.

“I have established the Muggle-Born Registration Commission and they will oversee the student list for September. All students of Hogwarts will require Blood Status to enter. We will weed out all the Muggle-born witches and wizards ahead of the start of term.” The Dark Lord paused for thought.

Severus felt a hollow form in his stomach; he had known this was coming, but that didn’t stop the wave of revulsion. Had the Dark Lord come to power earlier, Lily Evans would have been one of those expelled and hunted down.

Outwardly, Severus’s composure was calm and mask-like. He nodded his head in agreement.

“So, Severus, tell me what you would do if you were to be placed in charge of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”

Severus contemplated the question carefully.

“I would be inclined to preserve the school’s traditions and values, and retain the current teaching staff, my Lord. This would be in line with your strategy to control the Ministry of Magic, whilst maintaining an outward charade that nothing has in fact changed.”

Severus’s voice was smooth and steady as he continued, “I believe the illusion of the smallest amount of change will allay public opinion, ensuring a seamless transition for the students of the school.”

The Dark Lord considered his reply. “And you believe the teaching staff would accept you as Headmaster, knowing of your involvement in the death of Albus Dumbledore?”

“I do, my Lord.”

“And how can you be assured of their loyalty? How can you be certain they will not undermine you and lead the Hogwarts students in a rebellion against you?”

“I believe the staff to be intelligent enough to know what is good for them, in the long run,” Severus replied confidently. “I also have a useful tool to ensure their compliance to my regime.”

The Dark Lord returned Severus’s steadfast gaze with a hint of surprise. “Elaborate,” he instructed.

Severus took a deep breath. “Contessa Marchbanks, my Lord.”

The Dark Lord looked bemused. “How is she going to ensure their loyalty?”

“Marchbanks was due to join the Hogwarts staff in September, my Lord. Dumbledore recruited her to assist Horace Slughorn in his teaching of Potions.”

The Dark Lord showed his first signs of interest. “And you are hoping she can remain your plaything when you return to Hogwarts?”

Severus paused; the Dark Lord had misinterpreted the subtle implication.

“That is part of it, my Lord. Marchbanks has certainly bestowed me a captivating summer so far.” Severus inclined his head towards the Dark Lord in gratitude. “However, she will be of much more use to me at Hogwarts, where she will act as a spy amongst the teaching staff.”

The Dark Lord raised his hairless eyebrows in recognition.

“Marchbanks will work alongside the teachers, who believe she is loyal to the Order of the Phoenix. She will secretly furnish me with information on illicit or disloyal activities.” Severus felt his trump card had been well played and he awaited the Dark Lord’s response.

“I can see the potential, Severus. She could prove a valuable asset.” The Dark Lord nodded his head with comprehension.

“Marchbanks will also have an interface with the students, who will see her as a friend rather than a superior. The intelligence she can provide will be of significant value,” Severus said with conviction. “I believe it would place me in the strongest position to control the school and root out disloyalty.”

The Dark Lord was silent for a while as he assessed the implications.

“And when would you propose to be named the new Headmaster?” The Dark Lord asked.

Severus felt the tide turning in his favour. “At the beginning of the school year, my Lord. There will be no time for those loyal to Dumbledore to react to the news. By then, attendance at the school will be compulsory.”

The game seemed to have been won. The Dark Lord arose suddenly to his feet. Severus stood deferentially and awaited his decision.

The Dark Lord extended his white snake-like arm. Severus sank to his knees reverently and kissed the proffered hand. In the silence that followed he remained kneeling before the Dark Lord.

“Congratulations, Severus,” the Dark Lord said softly. “You are the newly appointed Headmaster of Hogwarts.”

“Thank you, my Lord.” Severus stood and bowed to his master. “It is my pleasure to be of service.”

A thin smile played out on the Dark Lord’s lips.

“May I begin recruiting for the vacant teaching posts in Muggle Studies and Defence Against the Dark Arts?” Severus asked respectfully.

“There is no need,” the Dark Lord replied. “I shall appoint Amycus and Alecto Carrow to the Dark Arts and Muggle Studies respectively. Both subjects are in need of an overhaul and I want my people involved.”

Severus’s heart sank in disappointment. The news was not, however, unexpected.

“As you wish, my Lord.”

The Dark Lord glided out of the room, leaving Severus standing alone with his misgivings.

The Unconditional Vow by Agnus Castus [Reviews - 2]

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