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Chapter 36 : O.W.L.s
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Cedric disappeared from the castle for a full day in order to give testimony to the Wizengamot. Albus supposed Elsie had done the same, but since he rarely saw her outside of his tutoring sessions in the library, he wasn’t sure which day she went. When he returned, Cedric refused to talk about what had happened, claiming he wasn’t allowed to disclose details. He did, however, tell Albus that Young looked awful, Azkaban apparently not agreeing with him. Albus wasn’t surprised; Azkaban under dementors would give even the most sane person a nervous breakdown.
On the night before O.W.L.s were scheduled to begin, Professor Young’s trial was the furthest from anyone’s mind. At dinner, the doors to the Great Hall opened, revealing an assortment of elderly witches and wizards, all of whom looked incredibly intelligent. Albus recognized two of them as Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick, professors his parents had had in school.
“Are those the examiners?” Rose asked anxiously as she craned her neck over the whispering crowd. “They must be! I see McGonagall and Flitwick. Mum told me they became Ministry examiners after retiring from Hogwarts.”
“Who are the others?” Albus asked.
“I don’t know,” Rose said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a piece of parchment. All the fifth years had been given identical parchment at breakfast that morning. It was their examination schedule. “Transfiguration first. Theory in the morning and practical in the afternoon.”
“I can’t remember any Transfiguration!” Matt said. He had gone very pale.
“Yes, you can,” Albus assured him, although he himself couldn’t think of a single Transfiguration spell at the moment.
“We’ve still got tonight,” Amanda reminded them. “We’ll study, go to bed early, and be ready for tomorrow. We’re going to be fine.”
Albus turned to John, who hadn’t said a word, which was very unlike him. He was staring at the examiners, who had reached the staff table and were now sitting down and beginning to eat, chatting pleasantly with the professors.
“John?” Albus asked.
“Our futures depend on them,” John whispered. “How weird is that?”
“Our futures depend on us,” Rose corrected. “All they do is mark our exams. We’re the ones who have to do the magic. So let’s go study.”
The rest of the fifth years seemed to have the same idea. The arrival of the examiners seemed to unearth a frantic desire for last minute revision amongst the fifth and seventh years, who were leaving the hall in droves. Kaden elected to remain at the Gryffindor table, not having had his fill of pudding. Albus, Rose, Matt, John, and Amanda hurried to the Marauders’ Den, where they’d left their books and notes from earlier. They decided to spend the evening there, assuming the library would be too full and the common room too loud to concentrate.
However, Albus soon found it difficult to concentrate in the quiet of the Marauders’ Den. Sighing, he set down his quill and glanced around the room at his friends. Rose sat rigid at the table, across from him, her mouth moving as she read her Arithmancy notes. Apparently she felt prepared for Transfiguration. Amanda sat next to her, resting her head on her left hand while she read her Transfiguration book. John was sprawled out on his stomach, on the floor, furiously copying Rose’s Transfiguration notes. Matt was laying on the couch reciting various Transfiguration spells.
Albus returned his gaze to his Transfiguration notes. What John had said at dinner kept replaying in his mind and he was unable to stop thinking about it. Rose had been right when she said the examiners weren’t deciding their futures, but John had had a point as well. Their futures did depend on these exams. What if Albus failed one of them and was unable to move on to N.E.W.T.s and thus unable to train as an Auror? What would he do then? He didn’t have a backup plan. Even if he redid exams the following year, he’d be behind. Suddenly Matt’s plan of just ignoring the future and concentrating on the remaining two years of Hogwarts seemed tempting.
He checked his watch. It was eight-thirty. Albus knew already that he wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. The more he thought about how much he needed a good night’s sleep, the more nervous about the exam he got.
“Anyone want a break?” Albus asked.
John rolled onto his back and sat up. “Yes, please.”
“Want to wander the castle?” Albus suggested.
John nodded. Rose, Matt, and Amanda decided not to join them, not wanting to waste a minute of time they could be revising. Albus and John left and Albus immediately felt better. The walk helped, despite the fact that he and John hardly said a word as they meandered about the castle.
Albus managed to study for another two hours after returning from his walk with John, but after that he gave up, and returned to the common room with Matt and John. They went immediately to their dormitory, where Billius and Ethan were already preparing for bed.
None of the boys spoke as they climbed into their beds and turned out the lights. The air was thick with nerves and Albus knew every one of them were thinking the same thing. What if they failed?
Albus awoke the next day surprisingly rested. Judging by the amount of tossing and turning he did, he only got a few hours’ sleep. He wasn’t the only one in his dormitory to have spent most of the night awake, either. Billius’s snoring had been strangely absent, wand light appeared from John’s bed around two in the morning, and there had been a lot of creaking of bed springs.
“Did you get any sleep?” Albus asked Matt and John as they walked to the Great Hall for breakfast.
“Not much,” John said. “I got up to study around two and must’ve fallen asleep at some point, because I woke up with my wand nearly shoved up my nose.”
“I had another nightmare,” Matt mumbled. “Woke up around four and I’ve been up ever since.”
“I doubt even Rose slept much,” John said.
Albus managed to eat a few pieces of toast before everyone was herded out of the Great Hall so that it could be prepared for the morning theory examination. The fifth years waited in the Entrance Hall, talking in small groups or furiously looking over notes. Albus noticed that Scorpius Malfoy looked paler than usual and averted his gaze when he noticed Albus watching him.
“I think Amy may have scared him off for good,” Albus commented, nodding to Scorpius.
“Good,” Matt muttered.
“I think it’s best having the theory exam before the practical,” Rose said, ignoring them. “That way the incantations will be fresh in our minds.”
“Can we not talk about the exams?” John asked. “It’s bad enough we’re going to have to do-“
The doors opened and John immediately closed his mouth. Professor McGonagall stood in the doorway, commanding authority in a way that even Professor Kendrick never seemed to manage. The crowd quieted without her saying a word.
“When you enter the hall, please find the seat with your name on it,” McGonagall began. “Do not turn over your examination until told to do so.”
McGonagall stepped aside and the first few students walked tentatively into the Great Hall. Albus, Rose, John, Matt, and Amanda joined the queue and Albus soon saw that the four long House tables had vanished. In their place stood fifty or so small desks, each containing an exam, a quill, and a pot of ink. Albus and his friends soon parted, the exams having been arranged in alphabetical order.
Albus found his seat in between Patrick Porlan of Slytherin and Olivia Price of Hufflepuff. He turned around and saw that of his friends, Amanda was closest, only two rows behind him. Rose was two seats down from her. John was in the front row, Matt in the row behind him.
“The most stringent anti-cheating charms have been placed on your examination papers,” McGonagall said once everyone had sat down. “You have two hours. You may begin now.” She waved her wand at a large hourglass sitting on the staff table. It began to release sand.
Albus flipped his paper over and read the first question. Explain the wand movement and incantation necessary for the Geminio spell. He breathed a sigh of relief. He distinctly remembered reading the answer for this question in Rose’s notes a few days ago. He scrawled down the answer and moved on to the second question.
By the time Albus finished his exam and turned his paper over, he felt much better. The exam had been tough, but he had known the answers to most of the questions. Only two or three completely stumped him, and surely he could still scrape an Exceeds Expectations after missing a few points.
Once the sand in the hourglass ran out, Professor McGonagall summoned their examination papers and they were released until the practical exam, set to begin after lunch.
“That was rather easy, don’t you think?” Rose asked as they walked upstairs to the Marauders’ Den.
“Speak for yourself,” John muttered. “I’ll be lucky if I got an Acceptable.”
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Albus said.
“It’s the practical that will be really hard,” Matt said. “Can’t muddle through that by making stuff up and hoping it’s right.”
And with that, the group hurried off to practice as many Transfiguration spells as they could before their afternoon exam began.
Only five people were able to take their practical exam at once, since there were five examiners. Everyone else had to wait in an antechamber off of the Great Hall. John was among the first five to be taken into the Great Hall and Albus was jealous. He’d rather get it over with, but since his last name happened to fall in the middle of the alphabet, he was forced to wait. He supposed he was better off than his cousins, though, given that all their last names were Weasley. Rose looked horrified when she realized she would be one of the last one to go.
After an hour Albus was called into the hall, along with Garth Octavius, Patrick Porlan, Olivia Price, and Elizabeth Quincy. Albus was summoned by Professor McGonagall, which was both relieving and terrifying at the same time.
“Nice to see you again, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall said, giving him a small smile. “To start, please turn this porcupine into a pin cushion.”
Albus took a deep breath and pointed his wand at the porcupine, which was trying to escape, muttered the incantation, and the porcupine immediately turned into a rather ugly pin cushion.
“Don’t worry, no points are awarded for fashion,” McGonagall said as she scrawled something on her clipboard. “Excellent work. Now please add some sort of pattern to this tea cup. It does not matter what pattern you choose, so long as it is consistent.”
Albus nodded and turned his wand to the plain white teacup sitting in front of him. He jabbed at it with his wand and a few minutes later it was covered in an odd assortment of different sized and colored polka dots. McGonagall examined it and wrote something else on the clipboard. As she did so, Albus wondered whether he lost points of the inconsistency of the polka dots.
“And lastly, please vanish this vase,” McGonagall said, gesturing to the large, purple vase wrapped in a pink ribbon on the table.
Albus pointed his wand at the vase, said the incantation, and it vanished, leaving the pink ribbon behind.
McGonagall smiled. “Very good, Potter. Exit through the-“
She was cut off by a loud bang. Albus jumped and turned to see a very large cloud of smoke engulfing Professor Flitwick and Garth Octavius. Flames were shooting up from the desk. McGonagall rose and hurried over to their table, where Flitwick was dousing his robes with water from his wand while Garth stood staring at the table, looking utterly confused.
Albus got up and crept closer, figuring no one would notice. When he got within a few feet he saw that Garth’s vase had caught fire. McGongall had put it out with water from her own wand.
“You can leave, Potter,” she said. “Right through the regular doors.”
Albus left, feeling much better about his own practical exam now that he’d seen Garth set fire to Flitwick. Whether he lost points on his tea cup or not, he definitely did better than Garth.
As the week progressed Albus and his friends fell into a daily routine. They sat their theory exams in the morning, studied for an hour, ate lunch, sat their practical exams, studied for another few hours, ate dinner, and spent the evening studying until bed. Albus, John, and Amanda often took breaks in the evenings to play Exploding Snap or go for walks around the castle, but Rose and Matt usually remained in the Marauders’ Den, their faces buried in books.
Rose had developed the annoying habit of discussing every examination question at length following the exams. Nobody, not even Amanda, wanted to join her. Albus tended to ignore her, nodding and mumbling ‘uh-huh’ every so often without actually listening. Matt, on the other hand, had essentially stopped talking. When he did speak, it was to ask Rose a question about some obscure piece of magic. Albus suspected he wasn’t sleeping much, since he looked nearly as exhausted as he did around the full moon and since Albus had heard him having nightmares almost every night.
By the time the weekend arrived Albus wanted to do nothing except sleep, but exams were only half over and he knew he’d have to spend the weekend studying. As if wanting to mock the students, the weather had decided to cooperate, with sunny skies and warm temperatures on both Saturday and Sunday.
Regular school exams were set to begin on Monday, meaning Kaden was now forced to give up his gloating over Albus and the others and revise alongside them. He did convince them to give up the Marauders’ Den on Sunday in favor of studying next to the lake. Albus was very happy to oblige; the fresh air somehow made studying more bearable.
“Jupiter has too many moons,” John announced, setting down his notes. He picked up a large rock and tossed it into the lake. “How do they expect us to memorize the names of all of them?”
“I don’t think they expect us to know all of them,” Albus said. He certainly hadn’t memorized the names of all 67 moons. “But if they ask for a list of 20 or so, you should know enough to give an answer.”
“I know them all,” Matt said, without looking up from his Astronomy book.
“That’s because you know an insane amount of Astronomy,” John said. “The rest of us aren’t capable of memorizing the names of a hundred moons.”
“Sixty-seven,” Matt corrected. “Rose probably knows them all.”
“I don’t,” Rose said, looking up from her notes. “That’s why you should go into Astronomy research.”
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Matt muttered. “I’ve told you that.”
“I know, but you’d be good at it, and surely somewhere would hire you. You’re smart, and you’re going to get an O on your Astronomy O.W.L. and your Astronomy N.E.W.T. It’s not going to matter that you-“
“Leave it alone, Rose,” Matt interrupted.
“I said, leave it alone!” Matt said. He sighed and got up. “I’m going back inside. I’ll see you at dinner.”
“Nice, Rose,” John said once Matt was out of ear shot.
“I just wish he’d realize he’s got a better chance than he thinks,” Rose said.
“You know it’s not only about that,” Albus pointed out. “And exam time isn’t the best time to bring it up.”
“There’s never a good time,” Rose said. “And the next two years will go by faster than you think.”
The following day was the day of their Astronomy exam. The theory was scheduled for the morning, like usual, but the practical wouldn’t take place until ten at night, on the Astronomy tower. Albus felt fairly confident about Astronomy as he walked to breakfast with Matt and John, knowing he would pass, but probably not do as well as Matt. Astronomy didn’t worry him since he wouldn’t need to continue with it the following year.
When Albus entered the Great Hall a few minutes later he noticed everyone, even the teachers and examiners, were talking in hushed whispers. Copies of the Prophet were exchanging hands, the eyes of their readers wide. Albus hurried to the Gryffindor table, where Rose and Amanda were whispering with each other, their heads bent low over their own copy of the Prophet.
“What happened?” Albus asked as he sat down next to Rose. Matt and John sat down across from them, only John bothering to fill his plate with food.
“The Wizengamot reached a verdict late last night,” Rose said quietly, handing Albus the paper.
Albus took the paper and saw that, once again, Professor Young’s face filled the front page. This was a newer picture, taken at his trial, and he looked gaunt and haunted, just like Cedric had described. But the headline hit Albus worse than the picture.
ELLIOT YOUNG CONVICTED BY WIZENGAMOT
The Wizengamot emerged from its three-day sequestration late Sunday
night in order to deliver the verdict on Elliot Young. Young, former
Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry, was charged with the murder of Michael
Sheldon, 41, of Hogsmeade, Scotland. Former Head of the Auror
Department, Harry Potter, took over Young’s teaching responsibilities
for the remainder of term.
Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Tiberius McLaggen, delivered a
guilty verdict at eleven-fifteen Sunday night. ‘On the charge of murder
we find the defendant guilty,’ McLaggen said to Young and his team of
solicitors. Minister Laurentis was present and spoke to Daily Prophet
correspondents afterward. ‘This trial and verdict speak highly of our
justice system. I applaud the Auror Department, under Head Auror
Robert Johnson, for conducting this investigation efficiently. The
trial moved swiftly, allowing a murderer to be removed from
Young will be sentenced today, and is expected to receive a sentence
of 30 years to life in Azkaban. Investigations by the Auror Department
will continue in order to see if there is any connection between
Sheldon’s murder and the murder of Quidditch Player Thomas Cousins.
Albus set the paper down, his hands shaking. How could the Wizengamot have convicted him after Cedric’s testimony? How could Laurentis be so smug in the decision?
“They’re all in Laurentis’s pocket,” Albus said.
“And Laurentis only wanted him convicted because otherwise it’ll show that her Auror Department is pathetic,” Rose added.
“Can he appeal?” Matt asked.
Rose snorted. “He could, but what would be the point? As long as Laurentis is around, he’s got no chance.”
“Unless the Aurors find who really did it,” Albus pointed out. “My dad and yours will figure it out.”
“They’re under Johnson’s control and therefore Laurentis’s!” Rose reminded him. “They’ll have a hard time getting around them.”
“Rose, since when do our dads play by the rules when justice is involved?” Albus asked. “Remember all the rules they broke while in Hogwarts?”
“Those were school rules, Al,” Rose said wistfully. “These are Ministry regulations and laws.”
“Yeah, and look what happened to my dad when he disobeyed the Australian Ministry,” Matt said as he read the article. “This is mad, though.”
“I guess we’ll be getting a new Defense teacher next year,” Amanda said. “Unless you think your dad will stay, Albus?”
“Probably not,” Albus said. “Only if Kendrick can’t find anyone else.”
“Young would’ve been sacked anyway,” Matt reminded them. “But I suppose getting sacked is a better alternative to Azkaban.”
The food vanished from the golden plates before Albus had a chance to eat anything, but he wasn’t hungry. Only John had eaten anything. Professor Kendrick asked everyone to leave the room without saying a word about Young’s conviction.
Kaden left for his first exam while the rest of the group waited for the Great Hall to be prepared for their Astronomy theory exam. The fifth years were very subdued as they waited, and then as they filed into the hall and waited for instructions. Albus noticed that Professor McGonagall looked upset as she repeated the usual instructions, leading Albus to believe that she didn’t believe Young was guilty.
Albus turned his exam over once McGonagall tapped the hourglass with her wand. He read the first question and attempted to push all thoughts of Professor Young from his mind.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews
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