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Chapter 10: Exams
Author's note: I would like to thank Double Decker and Mystery madam
for the information they gave me about British schools.
As Christmas approached, a number of the Hogwarts’ teachers were giving their students Christmas tests. After his experiences in Snape’s classes, the Potions exam was naturally the one that was causing James the most worry. Like all of the first years, he couldn’t help wondering if Snape was going to do something like making them drink the potions they made and failing anybody who was poisoned.
It was a suspicion which was actively encouraged by Snape. When one of the Ravenclaws asked him whether the Acne Antidote or the Laughing Potion could be dangerous if brewed incorrectly, he had merely given that worrying smirk and replied that no student who paid attention and followed his instructions was in any danger of being poisoned in his classes. He didn’t say anything about those who failed to follow instructions!
When James mentioned this comment to his cousin Karl Weasley (the elder son of Charlie and Tonks Weasley), he laughed.
“Snape always says things like that,” he explained. “When we were learning about antidotes in 4th year, he told us that he would be poisoning one of us to see if the antidotes worked. Of course, he never did. He just likes frightening people. He’s a bit of an idiot like that.”
However this last sentence was said with a glance around to ensure that Snape was nowhere in the vicinity. James couldn’t blame his cousin. Snape had this nasty habit of appearing when he was least expected…and least welcome. Although, it would have been difficult to find a time when he was welcome. Even the teachers rarely seemed pleased to see the man. If he hadn’t been so horrible, James might almost have felt sorry for him.
Nonetheless, it was good to know that Snape had yet to carry out any of his more horrific threats to his students. James told his cousin what had happened with his Laughing Potion and was relieved when his cousin was still inclined to dismiss the possibility of Snape doing anything any more horrible.
“He couldn’t do anything that would permanently harm any of you, though,” Karl assured him. “I’m pretty sure that would be illegal. And,” he lowered his voice, “even though he is supposed to have been involved in illegal stuff when You-Know-Who was in power, everybody always says that he came over to the right side when it mattered. Nobody knows why, though."
James had heard the rumours about Snape’s past. Even though his father never openly mentioned them to him, he had overheard him talking to Ron and Hermione about their schooldays and they had made occasional references to the suspicions they had had about Snape at various times. However, these had always been wrong, so he supposed Karl was right to assume that Snape would be unlikely to do anything illegal.
He passed his cousin’s assurances onto the rest of his class.
“Karl says that Snape says stuff like that every year,” he informed them. “And as far as he knows, he’s never poisoned a student yet. He says that would be illegal anyway.”
“Well, of course it would,” commented Douglas, who was a Ravenclaw and a friend of Richard’s. “Don’t any of you pay any attention to the rules controlling the use of magic?”
“Not really, no,” one of the Hufflepuffs replied. “I mean I know we can’t magic outside of school, because we’re underage. And that you’re not supposed to do magic in front of Muggles unless you really have to. But I don’t see why we need to know any more than that just now, as we can only do magic in our classes anyway.”
“Well, it’s certainly not allowed to use it to poison your students,” Douglas replied. All the same he had sounded just as relieved as anybody else to know that Snape had never endangered any student's life before. Most of the Hogwarts students had little confidence in Snape keeping the law.
In addition to worries about Snape’s way of testing the class, the first years were also concerned about working out what each grade would mean. Many of them, like James, had been to Muggle primary schools and were used to having an A as the highest grade, as opposed to standing for Average and being the lowest pass grade. Here again, James' cousins were able to reassure him.
“The grades don’t become important until your O.W.L year,” Harriet pointed out. “Until then, people mostly just go by the percentages. And they work in the same way as Muggle schools. You know as in 50% is a pass and all that. From the percentages you can work out what kind of grade you’d get in either a Muggle school or in the O.W.Ls.”
James wasn't all that worried about what grades his results corrosponded to. If he passed everything, he would be happy; well maybe not happy exactly, but he guessed he would have to be satisfied. The truth was that he didn't really believe he could even pass Potions.
He could never have told Harriet he would be satisfied with a pass, though. Like her mother, she was the kind of person who would be disappointed if she only got 90% on an exam. Ron had once told him how Hermione had signed up for every one of the optional subjects in her 3rd year and had used a Time Turner to enable her to attend them all. Over the summer, she had however, told Harriet that there was no way she was allowing her to do likewise.
Why anybody would want to take on more subjects than they had to was beyond James, but he was quite sure that Harriet would have liked to do so, if she had been allowed.
Flying was the only subject in which James really expected a good mark, and he was quite pleased when Madame Hooch awarded him 86% for his progress over the previous few months. The disappointing part was that they had now completed their flying lessons and this was the last mark they would get in it.
Well, in one way that was good. When his results went home in the summer, at least there would be one good mark. On the other hand, it meant he could be pretty sure that he would never get a result that good again, as his ability in other subjects didn’t come close to his ability at flying.
Still he was pleased when Hermione gave them their Defence Against the Dark Arts results. He had achieved 68%.
“Good work,” Hermione said, smiling at him as she handed him back the exam. It may not have been one of the top marks in the class, but she was aware of the effort he had put in to get it.
Those were the only two tests in which he had achieved such good marks. His next highest mark was in History of Magic, where he got 58½%. James felt sure that, if he had achieved that result in some of his other classes, the teachers would have given him the extra mark and a half, to bring it up to 60. It was just typical of Binns not to. In most of his other exams his results were in the low 50s, but he found that he had failed two exams.
To his disappointment, he had received a result of 42% in Charms.
“Not a bad attempt,” Professor Flitwick tried to console him. “If you had just answered two other questions correctly, you would have passed. Bad luck.”
Unsurprisingly, the other subject he had failed was Potions. And Snape was far from being as sympathetic as Flitwick.
“Disgraceful,” he thundered. “I would give that a D- Dreadful.”
He had only managed to get 14%.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Alice. “Snape had given everyone really low marks. He only gave me 30%.”
“That’s still twice what I got,” James replied, depressed. Sure, Snape had given few marks above 60% and even Richard, who always got perfect grades, had only receive a mark of 79%, but few of the class had done quite as badly as James.
How could he tell his parents that he had barely passed most of his subjects and had failed two of them? It wasn’t that they would be angry or anything. They knew he had done his best and would be more sympathetic than anything else. But it was still sort of embarrassing, particularly with Rose around. He could imagine what her reaction would be.
“I bet I could get better marks than that, and I’m only eight.”
She didn’t mean to be unkind, but she was only eight years old and a terrible show-off.
Thinking of having to bring home the news of his results almost blighted the excitement he felt about going home for Christmas.
Author's note. I have changed this chapter, after getting a review telling me that British schools do not differentiate between honours and pass grades. As I am pretty sure that the criteria for a pass are different in different countries, I have made Harriet explain what results are expected.