Rionach Steward (b. 1600s) was an American half-blood witch and the younger twin daughter of Isolt Sayre and James Steward. Isolt and James were the founders of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rionach would later become one of the school's first Defence Against the Dark Arts instructors, teaching there for many years.
Rionach chose not to marry and remained single. There was a rumour she was born with the ability to speak Parseltongue, and because of this was determined not to pass on Slytherin ancestry into the next generation, thus her decision to never marry.
Rionach Steward was born in or around 1634 at Ilvermorny in Massachusetts, along with her older fraternal twin sister, Martha. Her parents, Isolt Sayre, a pure-blood witch, and James Steward, a No-Maj, were the founders of the school. She also had two older brothers by adoption: Chadwick and Webster Boot. She was named after her late maternal grandmother.
Rionach was born with magic powers, whereas her elder twin was born a Squib. It was also rumoured — though it was never confirmed by the family — that she was born a Parselmouth, a frequent trait in her maternal family, descendants of Salazar Slytherin (sometimes known to his contemporaries as "Serpent-tongue").
When she was a baby, her great-aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt, attacked the family due to her prejudice against Muggles. Her parents had been put in a deep sleep by Gormlaith, but the cries of baby Rionach and her sister Martha woke them, since the curse took no account of the power of love. The family were saved by William, the Pukwudgie her mother had befriended several years earlier.
Rionach went on to become the teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Ilvermorny. She never married or had children, determined not to let the Slytherin and Gaunt bloodlines to continue (which was ultimately fruitless, since the American branch of the family was unaware that Gormlaith was not the last of the Gaunts in England).
Magical abilities and skills
- Defence Against the Dark Arts: Rionach was very talented in defensive magic, as she went on to become a professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, showing her considerable proficiency and knowledge in this field.
- Parseltongue (possibly): Rionach was rumoured by some, but never proven, to have possessed the rare ability of Parseltongue, the ability to speak to snakes. Some alleged her supposedly being a Parselmouth led her to not have any children in her lifetime, but whether or not she actually was a Parselmouth in reality, is unknown.
- Rionach is a variant of the name Ríoghnach, derived from Irish ríoghan meaning "queen". In Irish legend this was a wife of the Irish king Niall.
- The surname steward comes from Middle English steward, from Old English stīweard, stīġweard meaning “steward, housekeeper, one who has the superintendence of household affairs, guardian”, from stīġ in the sense house, hall + weard “ward, guard, guardian, keeper”.
Notes and references
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)