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The Rise of the A.W.L. by MargaretLane
Chapter 1 : Professor Blackburn's Secret.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11

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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise, including The Standard Book of Spells and The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

Rose Weasley stretched out on the grass, a copy of The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 2) in front of her.

She hadn’t received her second year booklist yet, but The Standard Book of Spells had been in use since her parents were at school, so she and her mother had decided it was worth buying when they’d been in Flourish and Blotts a few days earlier.

 “And even if they do change it, it’s always good to have supplementary reading,” her mother’d said. She browsed through the volumes on wizarding history. “We should get a couple of these too. You should never take the word of any one source. Particularly with History. Did I ever tell you how Hogwarts: A History completely ignored the school’s use of house elves?”

“I think you may have mentioned it,” she’d replied.

Her mother’d continued anyway, telling her the same story she’d told numerous times before.

“At least they’ve more rights nowadays,” she’d concluded.

It had been good to talk properly with her mother, Rose mused, as she flicked through the spellbook. She hadn’t had much opportunity to since she’d started Hogwarts.


She sighed as she looked up. Although she’d only been home two weeks, her little brother was already beginning to get on her nerves.

“What is it now?” she asked.

He flopped down beside her.

“What’re you reading?”

“Textbook,” she said shortly.

He reached out and flipped it over so he could see the cover.

“Oh wow, a spellbook. Can I try out some of the spells? Hey, can I?”

“No, you’re not allowed perform magic yet. Even I’m not.”

“So? Come on, Rose, let’s have a go.”

“I said NO, Hugo.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Don’t you ever have any fun? Nobody’s going to know. Mum and Dad aren’t watching and the Ministry can’t tell who’s doing magic, not when Mum and Dad are home.”

“I know that, Hugo, but that isn’t the point. The law’s there for a reason.”

She wasn’t entirely opposed to breaking rules; there were times when it was necessary, but this clearly wasn’t one of those instances and she really didn’t think it was a good idea for her nine year old brother to be performing magic. Not when he hadn’t the slightest idea what he was doing.

He turned his back on her and she settled back to reading. If he was going to sulk maybe she’d get a bit of peace.

Some hope!

“Rose?” he began a few moments later.


“You never told me about the Quidditch final.”

She stared at him. “Yeah, I did. Ravenclaw won and we received the Cup. Then we’d a party in the common room.”

“That’s not really telling me about it though. How many points did you win by? How long was the match? How good were the players?”

“I don’t remember,” she snapped. Then she relented. “Gryffindor were ahead of us, so we needed to win by a largish margin in order to win the Cup, but Hufflepuff needed an even higher margin, so the game went on for a while.”

She struggled to remember what else had happened. Quidditch matches weren’t that exciting in her opinion. You won or you lost. What was the point of remembering every last detail? It didn’t change the result.

“I wish I’d been there.” He sighed. “What house do you think I’ll be in when I get to Hogwarts.”

“I don’t know, Hugo.”

“Dad says I’d better be in Gryffindor. He says with you in Ravenclaw, I’m his last hope. Mum says that’s silly. She says it doesn’t matter what house I’m in, so long as I work hard and do my best. I think I’ll be in Gryffindor, don’t you?”

“Gryffindor or Hufflepuff,” she replied, almost without thinking.

His eyes widened. “I’m not going to be in Hufflepuff.”

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with Hufflepuff.”

“Oh, come on. Gryffindor are known for being brave.” He jumped up and pretended to start boxing. “Ravenclaw for being intelligent.” He pointed at the spellbook still lying on the ground. “Even Slytherin are supposed to be cunning and ambitious. What are Hufflepuff known for?”

“Being loyal, kind, not boasting about their achievements, treating everybody equally. There are worse traits.”

“Boring,” he sang.

The arrival of an owl carrying the  Daily Prophet distracted her from arguing with him.

She sighed. The rare heat made even getting up an effort, but she supposed she’d better get the paper. Hugo certainly wasn’t going to.

Once she’d paid the bird, she flopped back down on the grass, lying the paper in front of her.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to read it,” Hugo moaned.

“That is  what people usually do with papers.”

“But it’s boring.”

She ignored him and turned to read. To her surprise, Hogwarts had made the front page.

The ‘Monstrous’ Secret Hogwarts doesn’t want Revealed.

Eagerly, she began to read.

As Headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore made many questionable decisions when choosing his staff, including a werewolf, a half-giant and a presumably retired Death Eater, writes Rita Skeeter. (For further information about the controversial Headmaster, see my book, The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore.)

Since his death, however, many parents have mistakenly believed their children were in safer hands. Unlike her eccentric predecessor, the current Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall is responsible and conventional, unlikely to put her students at risk. Or so it appeared.

In a shocking development, the Daily Prophet can now reveal that her latest appointment, Transfiguration teacher, Lydia Blackburn, is in fact, a werewolf, a creature given the classification XXXXX, the very highest awarded by the Ministry.

This will, of course, remind many of us of the events of June 1994, when a number of students, including national hero, Harry Potter, narrowly avoided being bitten by Remus Lupin, a werewolf appointed to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Lupin resigned shortly afterwards, but it appears as if Hogwarts has learned precisely nothing from the near-tragic events.

When questioned on the controversial appointment, sources at Hogwarts declined to comment.

“I am not at liberty to release any details relating to the personal lives of my staff,” Minerva McGonagall snapped when I approached her.

It seems the Headmistress of Hogwarts does not believe parents have any right to information about those they are entrusting with their children’s care and education.

Many in the wizarding world, however, feel differently.

“I’m very concerned”, admits Phyllis King. “My daughter starts Hogwarts in September and I now have grave doubts as to her safety. I believe we should have been informed.”

Her concerns were echoed by a number of other parents.

“I always felt my son was safe at Hogwarts,” says Marcus Flint, whose son, Victor, has just completed his third year . “I truly believed the days when dangerous half-breeds were allowed free reign were over. I was aware, of course, that Hagrid continues to teach Care of Magical Creatures, but that subject is optional and I warned my son to avoid it. It will be another two years before he can drop Transfiguration. I am absolutely appalled at this revelation.”

In a highly suggestive, but unsurprising development, Lydia Blackburn was unavailable for comment.

“My granddaughter isn’t here at the moment,” said Alexandrina Blackburn. “And if you don’t leave my property immediately, I’ll hex you.”

Rose tossed the paper aside.

“Oh God!”

“What is it?” Hugo sounded worried.

“It’s a long story.”

Remembering the malice in Dora’s voice when she’d said Blackburn’d regret reporting her, Rose had no doubt she’d leaked the information. Her only question was how Dora could have known.

Rose couldn’t help feeling slightly to blame. If it hadn’t been for her plan, if they’d even chosen a different classroom, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

She grabbed the paper, jumped up and headed into the house.

“Rose,” Hugo called after her. “You never told me what was wrong.”

He hurried after her.

“Mum!” Rose called.

“What is it?” Her mother came down the stairs.

“The Daily Prophet says Blackburn’s a werewolf.”

“Really?” Her mother took the paper from her and began to read.

“Rita Skeeter,” she said disgustedly, slamming the paper back down on the table. “I should have guessed. That woman takes absolute delight in revealing other people’s secrets. She wouldn’t like it too much if I revealed hers. Bloody blue bottle of a woman.”

“Those with their own secrets seem to be the first to reveal other people’s,” Rose muttered angrily. “I just know Dora had a hand in this. God, how I’d love to let hers ‘slip’.”

“I thought you’d already reported that.” Her mother looked at her sternly.

“What she did, yeah, but there’s something else, something McGonagall said we weren’t allowed to tell. Mum, what’s going to happen now?”

“About Dora or Professor Blackburn?”

“Blackburn. Do you think she’ll be fired?”

Her mother’s lips tightened. “Not if I can help it. And things have changed a lot since I was at school, Rose. Remus Lupin died a hero; people haven’t forgotten that. There's still plenty of prejudice out there and I reckon we’ll have a fight on our hands, but she’ll have a lot more support than he had.”

“Is it true he nearly bit Harry?” Hugo interrupted.

Rose sighed. She wanted to talk about the present situation, not the past.

Their mother nodded. “But Skeeter’s left out a whole lot of background. It wasn’t a normal situation. And he was the best Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we ever had.”

“It’ll be my fault if she is fired,” Rose said.

Her mother stared at her. “How do you work that one out?”

“When we caught her that time...I told you Blackburn walked in on us, right?”

She nodded.

Rose explained the threats Dora had made.

“I guess this is what she was talking about,” she finished.

“It's not your fault, Rose. Teachers have to report things like that, no matter how they find out.”

“But if we hadn’t used her classroom, she wouldn’t have been involved at all.”

“And you really think Dora’d have kept this secret indefinitely? From what you’ve said about her, it doesn’t sound as if she’d be too sympathetic to werewolves.”

“I guess not.”

“So we’ve got to ask why she didn’t tell everybody as soon as she found out. I'd guess it was some form of security. She may not have anticipated this exact situation, but she must have figured it’d come in useful sometime. And that’s assuming she did give the information to Skeeter anyway. Believe me, that woman has ways of finding things out you’d never even dream of.”

“I know she did,” Rose said. “It’s too much of a coincidence otherwise.”

“You might be right, but it’s out now anyway. There’s nothing we can do about that.”

“I could hex her.”

“You know better than that, Rose Weasley! I hope you’re not making a habit of going around Hogwarts hexing people!”

“Of course I’m not, but I’d make an exception for her.”

Her mother sighed.

“She isn’t the problem here, Rose, not anymore anyway. The information is out. What we’ve got to do now is deal with it."

“How do we do that?”

“You leave it to me. The first thing I’m going to do is to write to this rag, put them straight on a couple of points.”

She opened a drawer and took out a quill and a sheet of parchment.

The following day, her letter was referenced on the front page of the  Daily Prophet under the heading  Department of Magical Law Enforcement plays down Risk to Hogwarts Students.

The title alone gave Rose the feeling it wasn’t going to be good.

In a letter to the Daily Prophet, Hermione Weasley, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement played down the risk posed by Lydia Blackburn, who we revealed yesterday in this paper, to be a werewolf.

According to Mrs. Weasley, werewolves are only dangerous one night a month. This, of course, is indisputable, but how many lives have been ruined in that one night? To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t take longer than a night for somebody to be bitten.

Shockingly, she proceeds to justify Remus Lupin’s near-attack on herself, her current husband and Harry Potter in their own school days, with a long story about an escaped Death Eater, a story which may well be true, but which doesn't change the fact that their lives were endangered by the presence of a werewolf in their school.

There is no doubt Lupin has an impressive war record and it is quite possible he was also a reasonably effective teacher. When in full control of himself, he may well have possessed a great many virtues and would almost certainly have refrained from deliberately harming a student.

The concern being expressed by many in our community, however, is that a werewolf is not always in full control of him or herself and in fact, the example of Remus Lupin only serves to underline that a werewolf, no matter how brave, kind, accomplished and loyal it may be in its human form, is a dangerous Dark Creature when transformed.

The Ministry may seek to convince us otherwise, but it remains to be seen whether this will help to alleviate the fears of parents throughout Britain and Ireland.

“Mum is a parent,” Rose cried indignantly. “Didn’t include that, did you?”

An abbreviated version of the letter followed, many of its main points either missing their context or removed altogether.

Rose wondered if her mother'd seen the paper yet. She wouldn't be pleased. Rose wouldn’t be able to show it to her until that evening, when she returned from work, but Rose guessed she’d probably get hold of a copy in the Ministry or on her lunchbreak.

How could Aunt Ginny bear to work for that paper? One thing for sure, Rose was never becoming a reporter, not if this was the kind of rubbish the papers printed.

She flicked to the letters page, surprised to see it was a good deal more balanced. Opinions seemed to be pretty much equally divided. There were a number of letters echoing the words of Marcus Flint and Phyllis King, but an equal amount seemed to support Blackburn.

I was a student of Remus Lupin’s in the 1993/1994 school year, one began. I took my O.W.L.S at the end of that year and due to the constant changes of teacher and the spectacular incompetence of the previous teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart, was particularly concerned about my Defence Against the Dark Arts exam. By the end of the year, however, I’d improved enough to receive an E in the exam and I attribute this completely to the gifted teacher I had that year.

It has been suggested in this paper that Professor Lupin put his students at risk. All I can say in response is that his replacement was a disguised Death Eater, who caused a student’s death and brought about the resurrection of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I for one, certainly felt safer when we were taught by Remus Lupin.


Alicia Spinnet.

Rose wondered why they’d printed that in its entirety and not her mother’s. Because her mother was an important Ministry official and hero whose words were likely to be listened to, perhaps. Or maybe because she was one of those Remus was supposed to have attacked and her version of events shed doubt on Skeeter’s.

She supposed she should be relieved the paper wasn’t censoring every letter supporting Blackburn, but she couldn’t help being annoyed on her mother’s behalf.

Her mother, however, seemed far less concerned.

“Good show of support already,” she said that evening.

“But did you see what they did to your letter?” Rose asked indignantly.

That wasn’t ideal, I’ll admit, but I’ve still made it clear Skeeter’s version of events isn’t the only one. This is only getting started, Rose. We can’t expect them to admit defeat this quickly.”

Rose knew her mother meant to be reassuring, but to her, the idea that things were only starting sounded pretty ominous.

Please let me know if you see anything that could be improved in this chapter, particularly with regard to the articles and letters, which caused me some difficulty. Thanks.

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