Chapter 28: Ordinary Wizarding Level Examinations
Harry stretched out under the window in the common room and lifted his charms book over his head to read. The beginning of May had brought somewhat of a panic among the fifth and seventh years; it meant that O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. tests were just around the corner. Professors had started reviewing from previous years and everything was focused on tests. Harry was handling it pretty well he thought; the emotions of others were easily blocked and he often spent the time after dinner studying on his own in Sirius’ office where no one would bother him. Ron was spending most of his time trying to decipher his sloppy notes and Harry helped him when he could and often quizzed him on the things that he knew Ron needed help on. It was Hermione that was the real problem. She had taken over an entire corner of the common room and two tables each piled high with books. Anyone who distracted her, even without meaning to, was on the receiving end of a ranting tirade; she was not handling the pressure very well.
Sirius had been stuck grading papers and so Harry had elected to study in the common room after dinner. He and Ron had finally made it to reviewing from their third year and Harry was letting his friend try on his own.
Not even five minutes passed before a frustrated screech came from Hermione’s corner and Harry sat up to watch with everyone else as she came out of her seclusion.
“Will the two of you stop that!”
Fred and George hadn’t even tried to study for their tests and were instead testing their newest product on first years again.
“Stop what?” the twins chorused. “It’s just some harmless fun.”
Harry closed his book and set it aside. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
“What?” she rounded on him ready to bite his head off and Harry slapped her firmly across the cheek. It wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t leave a mark, but it was enough to force her to stumble a step and stand there blinking and holding her cheek.
“Get a grip Hermione, you’re not handling this very well.”
There was a minute of silence and then cheers and whistles rose up from the others in the common room. Hermione looked back at him with tears in her eyes, but she wasn’t sad, instead she was angry, furious even. She raised a hand and slapped him right back, though it wasn’t nearly hard enough to hurt him and he stayed put. Harry watched her spin around and storm out of the common room and he waited a minute until the last of the applause had died before he followed her.
Hermione had found an empty classroom and she was sitting on a desk facing away from the door.
She turned and faced him, anger in her eyes. Prongs leapt to a desk out of the way and watched the stand off from a safe distance.
“I won’t leave Hermione.”
“I said get out!”
She drew her wand and pointed it at him and he shoved his hands into his pockets and waited, he wasn’t going to leave her.
Harry’s legs jolted out and he crashed into a desk. He had to admit, he never actually expected her to curse him. With his legs flailing wildly he had a hard time getting a grip on his wand, but once he had it he quickly countered the effects and his legs calmed and he stood again.
“Harry Potter you’re a rotten git!”
Hermione walked over and started hitting her fists against his chest. He hadn’t really realized how tall he had grown, but he was a few inches taller than her now. After a minute of being hit Harry grabbed Hermione’s wrists and she stomped on his toes.
“Ouch! That’s enough Hermione!”
She stopped struggling but glared up at him, the tears were back in her eyes.
“I came to apologize for slapping you. You can’t keep biting people’s heads off, most of us are just as stressed as you are about exams.”
“You certainly aren’t.”
“I just hide it better than most. I’m nervous about the O.W.L.s too but I know that I’m doing what I can to prepare and panicking isn’t going to do me any good. Relax Hermione, take a few deep breaths and just relax. Don’t forget that you get the best grades in our year, even over the Ravenclaws.”
When she had calmed down a bit Harry let her go and she sat on a desk.
“If you want, I can start quizzing you on the subjects we both take.”
“Can I ask you something Harry?”
“Are you empathic?”
“It’s a blood gift, people who have it can know what those around them are feeling. You’ve been different since you came back at the beginning of the year. And now it’s like you know what people need to hear. So are you?”
“Yes, I am.”
She stared at him wide eyed and he sat beside her.
“What? You didn’t think I’d admit to it? I’m not ashamed of my ability or anything like that, I didn’t tell you because it would put me at risk. There are those out there who hunt people like me, people with obscure abilities that no one really understands. If the wrong person should find out, then I’d be in even more danger than I am already. Besides, it’s kind of like a hidden weapon with the war at hand.”
“So, you really can feel the emotions of the people around you?”
“Every living thing in three kilometers, or there abouts.”
Hermione stared at him.
“You can’t tell anyone about this, you know that right? Not even Ron can know.”
“I know you’d be in danger if the wrong person found out, but why won’t you tell Ron? He’s your best friend.”
“I know Ron’s my best friend, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, but he can’t keep a secret very well and you know that as well as I do. When the time comes I’ll tell him myself.”
Harry must have spent at least two hours after that quizzing Hermione on the things that he could remember and even without her notes or books she could answer them to the extent that he was impressed. When they returned Hermione vanished inside her circle of books and Harry went to Ron who had been left to fend for himself and was on the verge of a break down. True to her word, Hermione kept Harry’s empathy a secret.
The first week of June was the start of the testing and for the fifth years it was theory in the mornings after breakfast and practical exams in the afternoon. Once they were done eating the fifth and seventh years waited in the entrance hall until the Great Hall was empty and when they were allowed to enter again the four house tables had been replaced by single desks all facing towards the Head table. When everyone was seated their tests were passed out and a gong sounded that they could begin.
Charms was the first exam and Harry, while he knew he had gotten a few wrong, didn’t feel bad at all about how his exam had gone and he was feeling quite confident about it. Harry didn’t bother paying attention to the others around him, he could see with his eyes alone that they were nervous and he blocked them off from the start. The practical exams in the afternoon were given in alphabetical order and upon learning this Ron groaned. Harry didn’t really mind it that much, it gave him just a little more time to review in his mind what he had gone over that morning. He relaxed against a wall and closed his eyes to concentrate and the next thing he knew his name was being called.
Professor Tofty was Harry’s examiner for the first practical exam. He was old and bald and looked somewhat fragile to Harry, in fact, all of the examiners were pretty old.
“Harry Potter? The famous one?”
Harry looked at the old man and smiled. “No sir, I’m the other Harry Potter.”
After a moment to think on it the man laughed. “Quite the sense of humor you have Mr. Potter. Alright then, let’s get on with it.”
The practical was quite interesting and there was a wide range of spells that Harry had to perform but when he left at last he felt quite confident about it.
The second day of exams was Transfiguration. It surprised Harry that there wasn’t much on the written exam about human transfiguration, there were only an odd few things like changing hairstyle or other simple things. When he made it into the practical he was again disappointed by the lack of human transfiguration questions. He felt he did really well changing his teapot into a tortoise and he didn’t have any difficulty at all with the other tasks he was given. Then, towards the end, the little witch who was testing him leaned forward and he followed her example.
“I hear you’re quite talented at human transfiguration.”
Harry smiled, he had hoped he could show off his skills, he was proud of them and he had worked hard at them after all. He lifted his wand and tapped his head and his features shifted and shrunk until he was an exact copy of the witch standing before him.
“I hear I’m quite talented at human transfiguration too.”
“Oh very good!”
The little witch applauded and the others in the room looked around at the commotion to see Harry mirroring his proctor quite efficiently.
“Excellent! Quite excellent!”
Harry tapped his head once more and his spells reversed. He was proud about this one, if he didn’t get an outstanding then that would surprise him.
Harry spent the night reviewing with Sirius, he didn’t ask for help, and he certainly felt confident about his Defense test the next day, but he needed a break from studying with Hermione. Prongs had been pouting a corner ever since Harry arrived and any attempt at trying to get through to him was brushed off with an irritated twitch of his tail. It had been decided that Prongs wasn’t allowed to attend the exams with Harry and as a result he had been sulking with Sirius for the past two days.
Defense was an easy exam and he had Professor Tofty again for his practical portion. At the end he cast his patronus for a bonus point and again he left the exam feeling confident that he had done well. That night was spent with Neville; Herbology wasn’t one of Harry’s strong subjects so he asked the other boy to help him out. Neville was more than happy to help; it was the one subject he was confident in after all. As to the test on Thursday, it could have gone better, but Harry felt he had at least passed if nothing else. Friday was a lucky break; because it was the day for those testing in Ancient Runes, Harry and Ron had a day off which left that much more time to study for Potions on Monday. Prongs had finally returned to Harry after nearly four days ignoring him and his presence put Harry at ease more than anything else could have.
Monday’s Potions exam was hard; the hardest one Harry had had so far because of all the ingredients and instructions he had to remember. In the end he felt he had done well, but it was nowhere near the level of satisfaction he had gotten from his Transfiguration and Defense tests. On the other hand, without Snape hovering over him, he hadn’t felt so pressured.
Tuesday was a relief. Because he was taking the Care of Magical Creatures Exam Harry had decided that even if he wasn’t allowed, he was taking Prongs to the practical in the afternoon. The proctor didn’t complain at all, he was actually quite pleased to have the fox there and Prongs was so happy that he scared all the bowtruckles away. Thanks to Harry’s empathy he didn’t have to try very hard on many of the given tasks, it was the things that didn’t require contact with the creatures that he struggled with. He was pretty sure at the end that the proctor had been sufficiently distracted by Prongs to give him a fair grade, though he wished he could have remembered more than he did.
Divination the next day was a joke; it was a good thing that Harry really didn’t care much about continuing the class because he was sure he didn’t pass either portion of the test. Astronomy was held late that night and Professor Tofty was one of the examiners overseeing the whole group of them as they filled in their star charts. They were given enough time, but about half way through the exam Harry’s head started to pound and he got drowsy fast. He finished without incident but if he passed he would have been surprised.
Are you all right Harry? Prongs could feel Harry’s discomfort and was waiting for him when he got up to the dorm. None of his roommates bothered with anything more than taking off their shoes, but Harry forced himself to change into his pajamas, then he just collapsed onto bed and Prongs curled up beside him.
One more exam and all of this is over. I need sleep.
Harry woke up in a cold sweat with his heart racing. Prongs stood over him looking worried and he let out a low whine.
Harry sprinted up and Prongs kept close as he raced down to the common room and out into the halls. They made it to Sirius’ office and barged in.
Prongs ran up to the man’s bedroom without a word and Harry spotted the two-way mirror sitting on the desk and he ran to it and snatched it up.
“Remus! Remus answer me!”
“Harry? What are you doing?” Sirius was as groggy as always when he came down the stairs.
A sleepy Remus appeared in the mirror rubbing his eyes.
“What’s wrong Harry? Is everything alright?”
“You tell me. I had a dream that you had been captured by Voldemort and he was hurting you.”
That woke both men up and Sirius rounded the desk and put a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“Harry I swear to you I’m alright. I’m home at Black Manor and I don’t have any missions right now.”
“You’re you right?”
It was a good question to settle Harry’s fears once and for all and Remus knew that.
“As sure as you feel everything Harry. Do you want me to come to Hogwarts? All you have to do is ask and I’ll be there in seconds.”
Harry forced himself to calm down; Remus had used the code they had come up with so it was definitely him. Even if someone had gotten into his mind it would have been extremely difficult to know what to say in response to Harry’s question.
“No I’m alright now. I was just worried is all.”
“I know, but I’m fine, I’ll stay home all day tomorrow and I’ll keep the mirror with me so you can call any time you want and I’ll be here.”
“Get some rest Harry, you have one last test in the morning.”
Harry smiled and set the mirror down and Remus vanished from the surface.
“Feeling better kiddo?”
“Yeah. This was a dream from Voldemort, he meant for me to see it, I just know it.”
“Why don’t you sleep here tonight.”
“No, Ron and Hermione will be worried if I’m not there in the morning. I’ll be fine now that I know Remus is safe.”
“Alright, hurry off then.”
Harry nodded and picked Prongs up off the desk. By the time they returned to the tower the panic had faded completely and Harry was so tired he feel straight to sleep again.
Harry! Get up!
“Not now Prongs, I have a headache,” Harry mumbled into his pillow, he was awake enough to know that it was still dark out.
Get up! We have to go to Sirius!
“Sirius is fine, let me sleep.”
Sirius is fine, but you aren’t!
“I’m fine too Prongs.”
Prongs’ insistent screaming in Harry’s mind made him give in. He didn’t bother with making himself presentable, he stumbled out of the Gryffindor tower and through the halls in bare feet and his pajamas. It wasn’t too far to get to Sirius’ office and getting up the stairs wasn’t hard either, but by the time he made it to his godfather’s room, he was too tired and his headache was too painful. He fell right onto Sirius’ bed and got comfortable.
“Harry? What are you doing here?”
“Headache, sleeping now.”
Sirius smirked at his godson who was too far asleep to be coherent.
“You should have just stayed here kiddo.”
Harry mumbled something into his pillow and Sirius laughed. It was still dark, but it was late enough that going back to sleep was somewhat pointless so the man got up and headed downstairs.
“Remus, are you awake?”
“What is it Sirius? Is it Harry?”
“He has a headache today.”
“That’s bad luck, a headache like that on the day of an exam.”
“It’s History of Magic, it’s alright if he misses it because he doesn’t need it, no matter what he wants to do. I’m going to talk to Dumbledore at breakfast and see if a make up exam can be arranged for tomorrow.”
“I wish these headaches could be predicted, this is his third one but it’s been five months since the last one and it was three months between that one and the first.”
“If the gap is getting longer I don’t think Harry will mind.”
“I’m not so sure it is.”
“I’ll let you worry about it, I have essays to grade before breakfast.”
Sirius set the mirror aside and got to work. Prongs joined him after a while and when the time came they both went down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Sirius had plans to speak with Dumbledore after breakfast, but Prongs wasn’t waiting. The fox hopped onto the table and wove through the dishes to sit in front of the Headmaster. After a minute of sharing eye contact Prongs returned to Sirius and dove into a big bowl of fruits.
“So it’s a headache like the last one?” Sirius had explained to the headmaster after breakfast that Harry wouldn’t be able to take the exam. “I’ll see what I can do about arranging for him to take the test tomorrow.”
“Thank you Headmaster.”
“I can’t believe I got a headache today of all days! Why during O.W.L.s?”
“It’s alright Harry, Dumbledore arranged for you to take your last test tomorrow instead.”
“I just wish that if I have to have these headaches, I could have them at times that are more convenient for me.”
Harry had finally woken up just before dinner and he and Sirius were in the kitchens enjoying a meal.
Ask Sky about it, she’s dealt with them longer so maybe she has an answer.
The rest of dinner was quiet and Harry left Sirius at his office, he wanted to get some last minute studying in before tomorrow.
How was your day with Sirius?
Boring, younger year classes aren’t so exciting and they’re all taking tests anyway!
Harry laughed as he rounded the last corner towards the Gryffindor tower.
He didn’t recognize the voice and his hand flew up out of reflex to catch the little ball thrown at him. There was no time to realize who had thrown it before the feeling of a hook in his stomach took hold and he was pulled away.