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The Rise of the A.W.L. by MargaretLane
Chapter 10 : Reignited Fears.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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Disclaimer: Everything you recognise belongs to J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

Apologies for the long delay in getting this chapter up. It just wouldn't work out for me. I have divided what was originally meant to be this chapter up into two though and the second part is nearly finished, so you shouldn't have to wait too long for the next chapter.



Quidditch practice might not have taken up quite as much of Albus’s time as Rasmus had predicted, but it was certainly eating into a good chunk of it. With Ravenclaw’s first match only weeks away, Hilda was scheduling practices whenever possible, aiming for a bare minimum of two a week.

“And she’d organise more if she could,” he told Rose after the second practice. “But the other teams need the pitch too. She’s really annoyed Gryffindor have been allowed to book it so often, when their first match isn’t until November. She thinks the teams playing first should get priority.” He sighed. “I wish our first match wasn’t until November actually. It’d give me so much more time to practice.”

“More time to worry, more like,” she said. “Anyway, it’s the same for everyone.”

“No, it isn’t. The rest of our team have been playing at least a year.”

“So? You’ve been playing practically since you could walk.”

He threw his arms up in frustration. “But not with this team and not against other Hogwarts’ teams. It’s completely different.”

“OK, calm down. Panicking isn’t going to help. Quite the opposite. If you’re nervous, you’re more likely to make mistakes.”

“I know that!” He took a couple of deep breaths.

“Look, the match isn’t until the fourteenth of October. It’s only the eighteenth of September now. That leaves you almost a month to practice. You’ll be fine.”

“But what if I’m not?” he asked quietly. “What if I make a fool of myself? Everyone’s going to be watching. Even James.”               

“Then it’s one match. You’ll have the rest of your career at Hogwarts to redeem yourself. Remember your dad’s stories?”

“What about them?”

“Well, his matches didn’t always exactly go to plan, did they?”

“I suppose not.” He bit his lip.

“And look at my dad. He just about made the team one year. You know he always says how lucky he was that guy, McLaggen or whatever his name was, completely messed up one of his saves. I think there was something more to that actually,” she added thoughtfully.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, but your dad gave my mum a rather strange look one time when Dad was talking about it. I’ve a feeling they know something he doesn’t.”

Albus shrugged. “They’ve loads of references like that.”

They did. There were so many jokes between her parents and his, and with their other uncles, that you couldn’t begin to figure them out if you tried forever. She’d have liked to though. It was annoying when people didn’t explain.

“Anyway,” she said, “the point is everybody messes up in a match occasionally, so if you make a mistake, just do better next time.”

“The problem is if your Seeker, then messing up can lose your team the match and it isn’t easy to ever make up a hundred and fifty points.”

“It can be done though, right? Otherwise, there’d be no point playing more than one match.”

“I suppose so.”

“So there’s no point in assuming the worst. You won’t mess up anyway, but even if you do, the situation’s redeemable.”

He smiled. “Thanks. Will you come and watch our next practice? It’s Thursday.”

“I will if we don’t get too much homework.”

So on Thursday, she once again accompanied him to the pitch and watched from the stands as he and his teammates flew back and forth, tossing the Quaffle to one another, dodging Bludgers and, in Albus’s case, trying to catch the tiny Snitch.

This time, however, she was only half watching them, having had the foresight to sneak a copy of the Daily Prophet down with her. It was boring just watching the team practice, especially in those long intervals when the Seeker hadn’t much to do.

She flicked through it as the Chasers practiced their passing.

Hogwarts refuse to reveal precautions for next week’s full moon screamed a headline on page fifteen.

She sighed. Not this rubbish again. Clearly the precautions were working, since it had been a year before anybody’d even realised there was a werewolf on the staff.

She skimmed the article quickly, glad she was alone in the stands. The last thing she wanted was to draw anybody’s attention to it. The more people who missed it, the better.

Just reading it made her uncomfortable actually. It didn’t deserve to be read. By anyone.

She turned the page quickly without finishing it.

She couldn’t help thinking about it though and wondering if Blackburn had seen it. She hoped she hadn’t. It’d be horrible to think papers were publishing articles about how people needed to be protected from you.

It was still on her mind when practice finished and Albus walked up the stands to join her.

“Hilda thinks I fly well. Did you hear her say that? And she says I’ve a good eye for the Snitch, but that I need to be more aggressive. Do you think…”

“Have you seen the Daily Prophet?” she interrupted him.

“What? Why?”

“I guess you haven’t, then.” She glanced around to be sure nobody was paying attention to them. “There’s another article about Blackburn.”

“What is it this time?”

“The full moon’s coming up apparently and they’re trying to insinuate Hogwarts haven’t any precautions in place. I think. I was too disgusted to really read it.”

He stared at her. “But Blackburn’s been teaching here a year. They’d have to have precautions in place by now. Wouldn’t they?”

“Obviously. And it’s not as if there’s any great secret as to how werewolves keep from biting people anyway. Everybody knows about Wolfsbane. It’s just Skeeter stirring things again. She’s obviously got no real scandals to horrify us with, so she’s making a big deal out of absolutely nothing. Even by her standards, this is scrapping the bottom of the barrel.”

“Do you think anybody’ll pay any attention to it?”

“Oh, some people will. Those idiots who were hexing Remus’s memorial, for a start.”

“Oh!  John and Mark have Charms with them and while we were waiting for Hilda to start practice, John said they were going on and on about how they’d had to spend their detention helping Filch and he had them cleaning these old portrait frames that were probably as old as Hogwarts itself. Apparently he wouldn’t let them leave until they could see their faces in them.”

She laughed. “Serves them right. Hope their second detention’s even worse!”

The conversation turned to other things and Skeeter’s article was temporarily forgotten.



Entering the Transfiguration classroom the next day, however, Rose was quickly reminded of it. She no longer had any doubts as to whether or not Blackburn’d seen it. The wary look in Blackburn’s eyes alone convinced her she had.

“Hi Professor.” Rose smiled at her.

Blackburn looked up, but didn’t quite meet her eyes. “Hi Rose. Er, hi everybody.”

Rose noticed she was twisting a quill around in her fingers.

“OK,” she began once they were sitting down. “Erm, we were looking at the transfiguration of plants in the last…our last few classes. Could anybody tell me what advantages we’d have if transfiguring dandelions into daisies?”

It was an easy question and almost all the hands in the room went up, Dora’s being the only exception. She probably wasn’t even listening, Rose thought.

Dora’d been paying less and less attention in Transfiguration lately, taking advantage of the fact Blackburn seemed reluctant to call on her. It’d serve her right if she failed her Transfiguration O.W.L. Rose would have been hoping she would if it wasn’t for the fact it would probably give Dora’s stupid father more ammunition against Blackburn. As if it was her fault Dora wouldn’t listen.

“Because they’re both flowers,” Nathan replied to Blackburn’s question.

Blackburn nodded. “Very good, Nathan, yes, Transfiguration is easiest when the two items are similar to one another.” She paused and took a deep breath.

An awkward silence filled the classroom before she continued.

 “Now, right, does anybody know which plants are most difficult to transfigure?”

She glanced around the classroom, still not meeting anybody’s eyes.

Rose, Rasmus, Albus and Nathan raised their hands.

“Rose?”

“Transfiguration of plants is most difficult when working with plants with magical properties, as it is particularly difficult to add magical properties the original item may not have. Unless the spell is performed by an especially talented witch or wizard, it is likely that any powers the transfigured item should have will either fail to work or work imperfectly.”

“Very good, Rose. Ten points to Ravenclaw. Now, if you could open your textbooks please and we’ll look at the chapter on transfiguring plants.”

She picked up her copy of the textbook and fumbled though it awkwardly, accidentally dropping it on the desk.

For a moment, Rose thought she saw tears in the teacher’s eyes.

“Are you OK, Professor?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, Rose, I’m fine, thanks.” She forced a smile and picked up the textbook. “OK, we were going to look at chapter three.”

The rest of the lesson consisted of making notes from the textbook. It may not have been the most interesting Transfiguration class they’d had, but Rose reckoned that was the only fault anybody could find it and after all, Binns had been getting away with teaching far more boring classes for centuries.

Blackburn did still look stressed though, and Rose paused before leaving the classroom, wondering if she should say something to her.

Before she could decide, a group of fourth year Slytherins barged in past her.

“At least we’ll have a break from Transfiguration on Tuesday,” one of them commented.

Flint and his pals laughed.

Rose glanced around, wondering if Blackburn’d heard them, but it was rather hard to tell. The teacher was flicking through a textbook, apparently trying to find a page.

She looked up.

“Could…could you all sit down, please?” Rose could hear the tension in her voice.

It was definitely too late to say anything now, so she slipped out of the classroom and hurried to catch up with her classmates.



The pressure on Blackburn, however, showed little sign of abating and the following day, the Daily Prophet published a letter from Lucius Malfoy on the issue. According to him, blame for the entire situation rested firmly on the shoulders of Albus Dumbledore.

It was he who began the policy of firstly allowing werewolves to attend Hogwarts and then to be employed as members of the staff. Before he was appointed Headmaster, such a thing would never have been allowed. I think we must all ask ourselves why so many generations of respected Headmasters and Headmistresses considered it too dangerous to allow werewolves attend and only two, so far, have acted in opposition to this policy.

We all know how close to Albus Dumbledore Minerva McGonagall was and I think it fair to question how willing she is to admit her mentor could ever have been mistaken.

Rose slammed the paper down on the table in front of her.

“I wonder what Scorpius thinks of this,” she wondered aloud.

Albus shrugged. “I’ve hardly spoken to him this year actually. Have you?”

She shook her head. Although they obviously saw Scorpius in lessons and he even sat with them occasionally in Potions, she’d seen little or nothing of him outside of class and the few times they had exchanged a few words, Blackburn and the issue of werewolves hadn’t come up.

Now she thought about it, that was ever so slightly odd. Most people were full of the subject, though of course with their families firmly on opposite sides of the issue, he might have been reluctant to discuss it with them.

Maybe she’d ask him what he thought the next time she was talking to him.

Or maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she should just be pleased at least one person wasn’t making a big fuss over it, at least not where she could hear him.

The first years seemed particularly obsessed with the subject, presumably because they hadn’t been at Hogwarts during a full moon before this.

“I heard there was a werewolf here before,” Rose heard Felicity say fearfully, “and when it was the full moon he nearly attacked some students and had to leave.”

“That wasn’t how it happened,” Rose interrupted.

The two first years looked up at her.

“How do you know?” Felicity asked.

“’Cause my parents were both there. And my Uncle Harry. And it wasn’t like that at all. There was a Death Eater hiding out here at the time, disguised as a mouse.”

They both gasped at the words “Death Eater.”

Rose ignored them and continued. “He was an Animagus, you see and nobody figured it out until Remus Lupin came to teach here. You remember, Remus Lupin, who was a war hero.”

“We know that,” the other first year said.

“Then you should know better than to believe silly rumours about him! He was here for a whole year and nothing happened during most of the full moons. The only reason there was a problem was because he was trying to capture a Death Eater and didn’t get a chance to take his potion. That really isn’t very likely to happen again.”

“But the potion doesn’t always work,” Felicity said. “My mum says it’s really, really difficult to make and it sometimes goes wrong.”

“Any potion can go wrong,” Rose said, “but the Ministry has trained people specially to make this one, so it doesn’t happen very often anymore.”

“But if it did…” Felicity’s eyes grew wide. “She could come and attack us all.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Even apart from anything else, have you forgotten the eagle’s question? How could a werewolf get into Ravenclaw Tower?”

She wished there was some other way of phrasing that, without using the word “werewolf.” It sounded dehumanising somehow.

“She could wait until we came down to breakfast. We’d enter the Great Hall and then she’d pounce and…”

“The sun would have come up by then,” Rose interrupted. “And this conversation is stupid anyway. The potion isn’t going to fail. Why would it?”

A look passed between the two first years and she could tell they weren’t convinced.

“Look, how do you think Professor Blackburn would feel if she heard this conversation?”

“I dunno,” Felicity muttered.

“Well, how would you feel if people were saying stuff like that about you?”

“If I was a werewolf…”

“Never mind ‘if you were a werewolf’. You’d still feel the same if people said mean things about you. The only difference is it’d probably happen more often.”

Felicity looked away and didn’t answer.

“Well? Would you like it if people were talking about you attacking them?”

“Leave her alone,” the other first year said. “She doesn’t have to answer if she doesn’t want to.”

“What’s going on here?” Lucy asked.

She’s being mean to Felicity.” The first year pointed at Rose.

“I find that a little hard to believe, Belinda. Rose?”

“Oh, yeah, you’ll believe her, but not us!”

“That’s enough, Belinda. I haven’t said I believe anybody yet.”

She turned to Rose, who sighed.

“They were talking about, well, Monday night and about that night Pettigrew escaped. I was just telling them what really happened. And asking them if they’d like it if everybody was talking about them like that. That’s all.”

Lucy nodded. “So what’s the problem?” she asked Belinda.

“Felicity didn’t want to answer her and she kept asking. She was upsetting her.”

Lucy shook her head. “Honestly, Felicity, if you’re going to get upset whenever somebody asks a question you don’t want to answer, you’re going to have a pretty tough time here. I know it’s hard to leave home for the first time, but you’ll have to deal with a lot worse than that before your years here are out. Belinda, it’s nice of you to defend your friend, but don’t be so quick to accuse people, all right? And Rose.” She shook her head again. “You’re not going to change the world, you know. I know your mum’s making a pretty good attempt at doing just that, but really, you’ve made your point. Let it go.”

For a moment Rose considered arguing. For one thing, she wasn’t sure she had made her point and for another, she didn’t see why being first years meant they had to be treated with kid gloves. She’d been a first year a few months ago after all, and she’d have known better than to start up stupid gossip like that.

But it wasn’t worth arguing about. At least not with Lucy, who probably really agreed with her anyway.

“All right,” she said, sighing.

Lucy laughed. “You are so like your mother sometimes,” she said after the first years slipped away.

“I just think it’s mean the way everybody’s talking about Blackburn and all,” she said. “I think she’s pretty upset about it.”

“I know,” Lucy said. “But I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. And berating those kids isn’t going to help. They’re just parroting what they’ve heard from their parents. Or misheard, more likely.”

“They’re only a year younger than I am.”

“Maybe, but they’ve just started a new school and the first thing they hear is all that A.W.L. propaganda. You can’t blame them for being worried.”

Rose thought she could. It wasn’t as if they were Muggleborns, after all. At least she was pretty sure Felicity wasn’t, having seen her mother’s get-up at Kings Cross. She’d no idea one way or the other about Belinda.

Growing up in the wizarding world, she should have had some exposure to werewolves. At the very least, she should be aware of the use of Wolsbane.

Neither that nor Rose’s reminder that the eagle’s question would make it impossible for a werewolf to enter Ravenclaw Tower seemed to reassure Felicity much though and she spent much of Monday evening glancing at the common room door fearfully, as if expecting something to enter and attack her at any moment.

“Leave it, Rose,” Rasmus said, seeing her glancing in the younger girl’s direction. “She’s not doing any harm.”

“Well, what does she think’s going to happen? Honestly! And it’ll be as bad tomorrow. People will keep making comments about Blackburn being absent.”

“Dora will, you mean.”

“Well, yes.”

“How about ignoring her? I know you’re annoyed about what she did last year...”

She sent Albus chocolates laced with Swelling Solution. They could have done him serious harm.”

“But they didn’t. And he’s not half as worked up about it as you are.”

“That’s because he’s scared of her. I’m not.”

“I figured that much out. Honestly, Rose, there’s not being scared and then there’s looking for trouble. I know you’re not going to like me saying this, but can’t you just avoid her wherever possible.”

She shrugged. “I’ll try. But there’s a limit to how many of her stupid comments I can take before I start hexing her, so she’d better not provoke me.”

He sighed, but didn’t say any more.


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