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Chapter 1: Exam Day
The first indication of anything being a bit out of place was that Cedric Diggory was there.
Cho Chang had been studying for her Care of Magical Creatures O.W.L. quite peacefully in the library, nearly hidden by stacks of dusty, moldy books: Caring for Your Hungarian Horntail, A History of the Chinese Fireball, When Your Blast-Ended Skrewt Might Need a Friend. She hadn’t remembered pulling out so many, but there they were, all the same.
And then he had appeared, looking flustered and anxious, and all pretense of studying had been dropped at once. He had called her name, evidently anxious about something, and slid into the chair across from her.
“Cho!” he gasped, sounding as though he’d run a mile. “Cho, you’re late for your task!” Cedric splayed his hands on the table in a rather odd gesture of eagerness, already half out of his seat again. “Come on, you have to go!”
Cho frowned. “I… where did you even come from, Cedric?” She was not about to move, not when she had become so engrossed in reading a theory on spine widths of Norwegian Ridgeback dragons. She looked down at the book in her hand for a moment, bemused. Would dragons even be on the O.W.L.?
Cedric looked annoyed. “I came from the prefect’s bathroom,” he said, tossing his hair arrogantly. “And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy getting out – I nearly got caught by Filch, had to knock him out with a quick Sleeping Draught –“
“Where did you get –?” Cho started, but at that moment somebody barged into the library, which she suddenly realized was painfully empty.
“Miss Chang!” It was Professor Flitwick, inexplicably enough, who was tottering over to them as fast as his small legs could carry him, beaming widely. He was followed by, of all people, Mr. Ollivander, the man who had sold Cho her wand years back.
“Are you ready for your task, then? Your task for your Care of Magical Creatures O.W.L.?” Professor Flitwick inquired. Cedric was looking expectantly at her; Cho was rather seriously considering running away to the Hospital Wing at that particular moment.
“I don’t –“
But for what seemed like the millionth time that day, she was interrupted. Flitwick waved his wand at the stack of books on the table, all her studying materials, and they vanished at once. “Mr. Diggory, are you to be her adviser?” he asked politely. Cedric nodded.
“Can I even ask what I’m supposed to be doing?” she cried hotly, stamping her foot on the ground. Ollivander seemed frightened by the action, and scurried away, climbing one of the tall ladders to the top of a bookshelf and perching on top of it.
Flitwick laughed happily. “Why, Miss Chang, I thought you read the memo! Today, you are going to be fighting” – and he pointed his wand at the set of double doors behind him – “this! It's an Egyptian Paper-Lizard! The strangest of all dragons, to be sure!”
Cho blinked at him. “You have got to be kidding me.” Her eyes slid over to Cedric, who still wasn’t supposed to be alive, but he had apparently done a rapid change of clothes, and was now wearing something that looked like robes make of leather.
“What’s her wand again, Garrick?” Cedric called up to the wandmaker, who was swinging his feet back and forth from his spot on top of the shelf still. Cho idly wondered when he and the old man had become good enough friends to maintain a first-name basis.
“Fig, unicorn hair, ten inches,” Ollivander screamed down. “Well-balanced and rather good for Charms, if I’m remembering correctly, and I always am…”
Cho looked down to find that, somehow, she had changed into leather robes as well. “Egyptian Paper-Lizards hate leather,” Cedric informed her helpfully. She was about to open her mouth and inform him of many things – namely, that he was dead, and Egyptian Paper-Lizards didn’t exist – but before she could, there was a tremendous bang, and the library’s double doors flew open.
A massive dragon launched itself into the room – but it wasn’t like any dragon Cho had ever heard of, nothing like the ones in her textbooks. Its skin seemed to be entirely made up of pages from books, which fluttered off at odd times, spiraling dizzily down to the floor. It opened its mouth and bellowed angrily.
“Your time starts now, Miss Chang!” Flitwick squeaked over the dragon’s angry yells. Cho squeezed her eyes shut and screamed, not sure if that was what she was supposed to do, but it was the only thing she could think of at the moment.
“How am I supposed to kill it?” she hollered, just as Cedric grabbed her arm and yanked her behind one of the tall bookshelves. He looked down at her with a horrified expression on his face.
“You don’t kill it!” he said. “We can’t waste all that dragon blood, can we? It’s great, you can use it to clean ovens or get spots out of clothes, or to heal injuries, and sometimes you can see the future in it, and it makes a lovely red hair dye –“
“CEDRIC DIGGORY, SHUT UP BEFORE WE GET EATEN!”
Cedric had the decency to look affronted. “You’re supposed to read it,” he said sniffily, as though the pair of them didn’t have a paper dragon looming down upon them. Cho could hear it snuffling around, wondering where they’d gone.
“I’m not going to get anywhere near close enough to read it!” Cho shrieked, bordering on hysterical now. “I’m going to bloody Avada Kedavra the thing as soon as it –“
“No!” Cedric said hotly. “Haven’t I just told you you’re not supposed to kill it? Just get close enough and read out a word or two –“
With another mighty roar, the dragon rounded the corner, and Cho screamed again, cutting off whatever else Cedric had been about to say. It opened its wide mouth, its pages rustling as it did so, and let out a great stream of fire – except this wasn’t fire –
“INK! AARGH!” Cedric, who had managed to cover his eyes with his leather gloves in time, looked a bit like a raccoon as he blinked confusedly at Cho. She was absolutely drenched in the stuff, and looked mightily put-out to realize it.
“Five minutes have elapsed!” Flitwick’s voice rang out through the library; he and Ollivander had mysteriously disappeared. Cho swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Fine! Blooming fine!” she raged. “Cedric – distract it, do something, I can see a bit of Moby Dick down there on its foot.” The sooner she could get close enough to read it, she figured, the better her O.W.L. grade would be. And after that, she’d have to write a strongly-worded letter to the Ministry, asking just what they were thinking, allowing Hogwarts curriculum to stray so far as this…
“Right!” Cedric hollered, and fumbled about in the pocket of his robes for his wand. “Accio Footstool!” A tiny wooden stool zipped towards him, sloshing more ink Cho’s way in its wake. Cedric picked it up and held it like a shield in front of him, prongs out.
“What are you doing with that?!” she cried, already hunched over, preparing to dive for the dragon’s toes. “No help at all, that! Make it dance, or something!”
Cedric looked temporarily abashed, although he apparently still found it within himself to argue with her. “That seems a bit foolish, don’t you think?” he said mildly.
“We’re fighting a paper dragon that spits ink! Of course it’s foolish!” Cho yelled, as the dragon let loose another torrent of sticky black, thickly coating the spot where Ollivander had been sitting earlier. Cedric seemed to consider this, nodded, and set the stool back onto the ground, pointing his wand at it.
And where the stool had previously sat, a small dachshund now wagged its tail, looking curiously about itself and seeming confused as to why it was up to its small paws in a pool of ink. Cho rolled her eyes, but the dragon seemed to have the same reaction; at the very least, it raised its paper eyebrows in an expression that might have been derision, crinkling loudly.
Cho seized her moment; she dived forward, stomach skimming across the floor, and seized one of the dragon’s large paper talons in both of her gloved hands. “Call… me… Ishmael!” she yelled triumphantly.
The scene dissolved; dragon, ink, and the yapping dachshund all faded away, and Cho stood up from the floor, now quite dry, although still breathing heavily from her exertions. Professor Flitwick was padding over to them once more, looking quite pleased with her.
“Excellent, Miss Chang, excellent!” he sang happily. “An outstanding accomplishment in the face of adversity – and such a lovely book you read from, too. The boy before you read out a passage from Joyce, and goodness knows, he nearly put me to sleep…” He wiped an invisible tear from his eye. “Ah, me. But yes! Well done! An ‘Outstanding’ for you, I should think!”
Cedric cheered, and Cho grinned tiredly, a sense of relief flooding through her. She had passed her exam!
Cho awoke with a start, her legs and arms all twisted up in the sheets, and very nearly tumbled out of bed. The sun was just beginning to peek through the windows dotting Ravenclaw Tower. She had been dreaming.
What a strange dream – the dragon, and her examination, and Cedric… She felt her throat close up, and hastily shoved down the emotion. She had done enough crying in the past week to last her a lifetime, and now was not the time to start again.
She slumped back onto her pillows, trying to calm her heart rate. Examinations were still days away… she would not have to fight a made-up dragon… there would be no reading from Muggle books… And with these quiet, calming thoughts in her mind, she fell back asleep to somewhat normal, ink-free dreams.
A/N: Well, I was originally going to take this story down after the House Cup... and then was convinced to leave it here! I did rather have a lot of fun writing this story, and it is, I think, a decent show of my lighthearted side, so here it stays. If you're just now reading it for the first time, thank you, and I hope you have enjoyed it!
The line "Call me Ishmael" comes from Moby Dick; I do not own it.