Chapter 3 : The Test
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The good news was that Rose was taking her test the same day, since she had only just turned seventeen. She would pass and everyone would congratulate her while Albus lurked by the broom shed, trying to stay out of the way, and not wallow too much in his inevitable failure. He also half hoped one of his cousins would make some huge announcement and distract everyone. Georgia was usually good for that. Or, perhaps everyone would be focused on James.
“You’re going to psych yourself out, Al,” Rose said as they waited by the fire in Grimmauld Place for the time to arrive for them to floo to the Ministry.
“That’s impossible, since I’m going to fail again anyway,” Albus said. “You have to be able to Apparate to psych yourself out and I can’t-“
“Oh, shut it,” Rose interrupted, rolling her eyes. “You’re better than you think.”
“What do you think the record is for most failures of the Apparition test?” Albus asked.
Rose groaned. “I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do,” Albus said. “I know you looked it up.”
“Fine. It’s 76. You won’t beat that.”
Albus winced. “Of course I won’t. I’ll give up long before that, resigned to use the Floo Network for the rest of my life.”
“Oh, give it a rest,” Rose said shortly. “Gabriella failed three times. You’ve got a ways to go before you can complain.”
Albus said nothing, but instead checked his new watch for the tenth time. They had ten minutes before Rose’s test. Albus’s was right after Rose’s.
“We should go,” Albus said.
“Isn’t Aunt Ginny going with us?” Rose asked.
“I’m here!” Mum said as she hurried into the room. “Sorry. James needed help with opening his potion bottles. Ready?”
“No, but I haven’t got much of a choice,” Albus muttered as he reached his hand into the pot of Floo Powder.
A few dizzying minutes later Albus emerged in the atrium at the Ministry of Magic. Rose and Mum were right behind him. They had their wands checked with the wizard manning the sign-in desk, then joined a small queue at the lifts. The Apparition Test Center was located on the sixth level.
Albus grew steadily more nervous as the lift descended lower into the Ministry. Rationally, he knew plenty of people failed their test, even failed it twice, but he didn’t want to face his entire family later that day without passing. For some reason it felt like everything was riding on this test and even though he was already seventeen, it felt like he wouldn’t be a qualified wizard until he passed.
The doors opened on the sixth level and Albus followed Mum and Rose into the corridor. He realized his hands were shaking and shoved them into his pockets. There was no way he’d Apparate successfully if he was this nervous, but that thought only made him more nervous. How had Matt remained so calm for his test? He was nervous for everything else.
“You’ve got to look confident or they’re going to fail you on a technicality,” Rose muttered as they neared the Test Center.
That didn’t help. Albus nodded numbly, but didn’t say anything. He felt like he needed to vomit, even though he hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast.
Mum opened the door to the Test Center and held it for Albus and Rose. Albus followed Rose in and signed in on the clipboard at the front desk after her, then joined her in the waiting area. The fact that he’d done this before and knew what to expect wasn’t helping at all.
A tall witch wearing her hair in a bun who reminded Albus of Professor McGonagall emerged from the door behind the front desk, carrying her own clipboard. She glanced down at it, then looked up. “Miss Weasley?” she asked.
Rose stood, grinned at Albus, then followed the witch through the door.
“Take a few deep breaths,” Mum advised Albus.
Albus did and his heart seemed to settle down a bit, but he still felt jittery. “If…if I fail,” he began, “and have to wait until Christmas to take it again, I’m going to get rusty.”
“Dad will take you to Hogsmeade to practice,” Mum assured him. “Don’t worry about that now. Just focus on staying calm.”
That was a lot harder than it seemed, Albus thought. He tried to take a few more deep breaths, but kept getting distracted by the witch behind the desk, who was scratching her quill on parchment louder than seemed necessary.
Just when Albus thought he was going to crawl out of his skin with nerves, Rose returned, the grin on her face even larger than before.
“I passed!” she exclaimed. “I mean, I knew I would, but there was a tiny part of me that knew there was a slight possibility that I wouldn’t. But I did! And oh, now I can drive James mad with constantly Apparating in and out of rooms like he did last summer!”
The witch with the bun, whom Albus had assumed was strict, smiled a bit at that, and shook her head as she handed a piece of parchment to the witch behind the desk. The desk witch then stamped the parchment with something, and handed it to Rose, who beamed.
The door to the corridor opened and Emily Rhodes from Ravenclaw walked in, followed by a wizard who looked so much like her he could only be her father. She looked nervous, but not nearly as nervous as Albus felt. His stomach churned, now realizing he’d have to face Emily Rhodes after he failed as well. He didn’t know her well, but knew enough that she was very rational and would most likely pass.
Emily signed herself in, then sat next to Albus. She seemed unable to sit still, bouncing her left leg up and down. It was very close to Albus’s right leg, which gave him a very different set of nerves. Her father sat down on her other side.
“Hi, Albus,” Emily whispered. “Rose.”
“Hi, Emily,” Rose said, still beaming. “I just passed.”
“Congratulations,” Emily said, without any excitement.
Albus was unable to say anything. He was afraid if he opened his mouth, he’d vomit.
“Didn’t you turn seventeen months ago?” Rose asked as she poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the counter. “Yeah, I remember you showing everyone the earrings your parents got you for your birthday in February.”
Emily’s cheeks turned red and she stared down at the floor, her curly brown hair obscuring her face. “Er, yeah. I…I already took the test.”
Albus’s eyes grew large. Emily Rhodes failed her Apparition test? But she was one of the best in the year. Albus chanced saying something. “I failed, too. In June.”
Emily looked up and offered Albus the tiniest of smiles. It made his stomach do another flip.
The witch with the bun had returned. She did the usual double take when she read his name.
“You can do this, Al,” Rose assured him.
“And it’s not a big deal if you don’t pass,” Mum said as she squeezed his shoulder.
Albus nodded and shakily rose from his chair.
“Good luck,” Emily said quietly.
“Thanks,” Albus said thickly.
Albus followed the witch with the bun through the door behind the desk and into the testing room. It was deceptively large and set up to look like a fake street. There were fake shop facades, benches, cars, garbage bins, and even fake people. Most of it looked like Diagon Alley, but there was a bit on the far end that looked like Muggle London (that’s where the fake cars were). Albus knew from last time that he would be asked to do a general Apparition and then the witch would give him specific parts of the room to Apparate to.
“Begin when you’re ready,” the witch said. “Start with a general Apparition to anywhere in the room.”
Albus nodded and took another few deep breaths. He’d done this part successfully last time. Like last time, he chose to Apparate to the second bench. He closed his eyes, thought about the three Ds, and focused until he felt the uncomfortable sensation of being squeezed through an impossibly small hole. When it stopped, he opened his eyes and saw the bench in front of him.
“Good,” the witch said as she peered down at the spot where Albus had previously stood, checking for bits of him left behind. “Next I’d like you to Apparate to the pub facade, right in front of the fake door.”
Albus nodded. This was the part he screwed up on last time. He hadn’t focused enough and left his left pinky finger behind. The evaluator (last time it had been a wizard) had to reaffix it to his hand. The test was then over. He hadn’t been given a chance to redo it.
“Take your time,” the witch said.
The three Ds, Albus thought. Destination, determination, deliberation. He closed his eyes and saw the fake door of the fake pub in his mind’s eye. Determined to get there (and not leave any body parts behind), Albus Apparated.
He opened his eyes and checked for his fingers. They were all there! Smiling slightly, and breathing a huge sigh of relief, Albus turned to the witch, who made a note on her clipboard.
“Excellent,” she said. “Two more to go. Next, you need to Apparate onto the green square in front of the fake bank.”
Albus craned his neck, but couldn’t see the green square. He supposed that was what made it difficult. Closing his eyes, he pictured the fake bank and imagined a green square in front of it. A few seconds later, he reappeared with a crack in front of the bank. He hesitated, then opened his eyes and looked down at his feet, which were planted in the exact center of a green square.
“Beautiful,” the witch said. “Last one. You need to Apparate into the alley between the office building and the hospital, and far enough back that the fake Muggles on the street can’t see you.”
This was it. One Apparition stood between him and having his Apparition license. Regardless of the outcome, he’d at least made it to the end of the test this time. Albus closed his eyes once more and envisioned the far back end of the alley. With a crack, he disappeared.
When he reappeared, he stumbled a bit and had to catch himself on the wall of the fake office building. The cobblestones in the alley were very uneven. He hoped the witch hadn’t seen that.
“Good,” she said as she entered the alley. “I don’t take off points for clumsiness. So long as you’ve got all your fingers and eyebrows, I don’t care how you land. I am going to qualify you for an Apparition license.”
Albus nodded, his cheeks reddening. “So…I passed?”
“Yes, you passed,” the witch said.
Albus felt like he was floating as he followed the witch back into the waiting area. He’d never have to take another Apparition test again, and now he could Apparate whenever he liked.
Mum and Rose stood as soon as Albus returned, both looking nervous.
“Passed,” Albus said, grinning.
“I knew it!” Rose shouted. “I knew you’d get it this time!”
“Congratulations, Al,” Mum said as she pulled him into a hug.
“Mum!” Al said, glancing at Emily. He didn’t need to be hugged by his mother in front of Emily Rhodes.
“Congratulations, Albus,” Emily said, smiling. She was still bouncing her left leg up and down.
“Well, let’s go!” Rose said. “Al and I can Apparate home now. And I can bug James.”
“Rose,” Mum began, “I don’t know if that’s the best…” she sighed, “oh, forget it. After last summer, you can bother him as much as you like.”
Rose laughed. “Good, because I was going to do it regardless.”
Mum opened the door and Rose followed her out. Albus hung back, looking at Emily, who was now chewing her lip nervously.
“Good luck,” Albus said quietly. “And…let me know…if you pass.”
“Thanks, Albus,” Emily said. “And I will. I’ll see you on the train.”
Albus nodded and followed Rose and Mum out of the center, thinking about Emily…and how she wanted to see him on the train.
“Auror? Well, can’t say I’m surprised,” Uncle Percy said as he and Albus stood in the garden of the Burrow a few hours later. He’d already answered questions about his post-Hogwarts plans from numerous aunts and uncles and had had enough of it.
“Er, yeah,” Albus said, nodding. He took a sip of his pumpkin juice in the hopes that Uncle Percy wouldn’t continue the conversation.
“Can’t say I’d like to see you working under Auror Johnson,” Uncle Percy continued, “‘course, I suspect he’ll be gone by the time you’ve qualified as a Junior Auror.”
That got Albus’s attention. “Have you heard anything?”
“Nothing I can tell you,” Uncle Percy said pompously. “Let’s just say things aren’t looking good for him. He used some shady tactics while investigating those deaths. And the interrogation tactics he used on Stuart Boone.” Uncle Percy shuddered. “Mind you, I’ve just heard rumors, but all rumors have a bit of truth to them, don’t they.”
Albus nodded. He needn’t have been worried about his family’s reactions to his Apparition test. Only one or two of them had inquired about it and most were far more interested in what Albus was planning on doing after he left Hogwarts. Most of them knew he’d been thinking of applying to the Auror Academy, but they all were very impressed now that he was actually going to do it.
“Well, I’d best find out what Samantha and Lindy are up to,” Uncle Percy said, then downed the last gulp of his beer. He set the empty bottle on a nearby table. “Make sure they haven’t broken anything inside.”
Albus nodded again, grateful for his twin cousins’ tendency to make trouble. Otherwise, he could’ve been stuck discussing Ministry politics with Uncle Percy all night. He wouldn’t have minded if Uncle Percy were likely to let something slip, but he never did. All he did was discuss what was widely known.
Setting down his now empty glass, Albus meandered across the garden, stopping to say ‘hello’ to various family members as he went. He wasn’t sure where Rose had gone. They had arrived together, Apparating to the nearby empty field, but she’d disappeared once they reached the Burrow.
Albus turned and saw his cousins Bradley and Cedric sitting with James at a table near the broom shed. Deciding he would find Rose later, Albus sat down next to James. Their table was littered with bottle caps and empty bottles, the three clearly taking advantage of the fact that they could drink legally.
“Did you pass this time?” James asked.
“Yes,” Albus confirmed.
“I knew you would,” James said. “And have you seen Rose?”
“No, not since I got here,” Albus answered.
James groaned. “She’s been Apparating right next to me for the past half an hour and it’s driving me mad. But she’s disappeared. I think she’s trying to lull me into a false sense of security.”
Albus laughed. “She’s only getting you back for last summer.”
“I know,” James muttered. He took a swig of his drink and set the empty bottle down.
“Another?” Bradley asked. “Al, can I get you something?”
Albus suddenly realized he could now drink legally as well. He hadn’t drank beer since Teddy’s stag night and that hadn’t been enjoyable. But this was different. He was surrounded by his family. But he wasn’t sure what his parents would think.
“Mum and Dad won’t care,” James said, grinning slightly. “And yeah, I could go for another.”
“Allow me,” Bradley said as he picked up his wand from the table. With a quick flick of his wrist, he jabbed his wand toward the house and thirty or so seconds later, four bottles came soaring through the air, high above everyone else’s heads. They landed on the table with three distinct thuds. Bradley then distributed them.
“Nice,” Cedric said as he tapped the cap with his own wand, causing the cap to jump off.
Even though Albus had been of age for two months now, he still got a thrill every time he got to do magic outside of school. Smiling to himself, he pulled out his wand and removed the cap from his own beer, successfully managing to do the spell silently.
“See, Al?” Bradley said. “Isn’t being of age grand?”
“Yeah, it really is,” Albus said before taking a swig. The beer was good. It had a hint of chocolate, which was something that definitely would’ve improved the beer he’d had at the Muggle club months earlier.
“Al,” James said, holding his beer out to Albus.
Excited once again to use wordless magic, Albus removed the cap from James’s beer as well.
“To being of age,” Cedric said as he lifted his beer.
“To being able to drink at family functions,” James said.
“To being done with school,” Bradley added.
“To almost being done with school,” Al amended.
The four cousins clinked their bottles and drank.
There was a loud crack and Rose appeared right next to James. James, who had been mid-drink, choked, spat out his sip, and dropped his beer on the table. It landed with another dull thud and fizzing beer spilled out of it, dripping onto both James and Albus.
“Watch it!” Albus exclaimed, glaring at Rose. “Haven’t you had enough of that?”
“Sorry!” Rose said. “I didn’t mean to do that. Here.” Rose drew her wand and pointed it at James’s wet t-shirt. It dried instantly.
James glared at Rose. “Seriously? Can you be done with that now?”
“We’re even now,” Rose said. “And I’m sorry. I’ll go get you another drink.”
Rose disappeared into the crowd. Albus dried his own shirt and looked back at Cedric and Bradley. They were both grinning. James still looked pissed off.
“Rosie, Rosie, Rosie,” Bradley said, shaking his head. “Always thought she was smarter than us. But she just went off to fetch drinks, rather than summon them.”
“You know, most people get up and get their drinks,” James pointed out. “Hardly anyone summons them.”
“I think we deserve a night of laziness,” Cedric said. “It’s been an exhausting week.”
“How’s training going?” Albus asked. Cedric started training to become a Magical Law Enforcement officer at the beginning of the month.
“Good,” Cedric said. “But tiring. More tiring than homework.”
“And what have you been doing?” Albus asked Bradley.
Bradley shrugged. “Avoiding Dad, mostly. He wants me to work in the shop if I can’t find anything else, but I really don’t want to.”
“What do you want to do?” Albus asked.
“No idea,” Bradley said, then took another swig of his drink. “Dad doesn’t think that’s acceptable.”
James, who had begun peeling the label off his now empty bottle, looked up. “Let’s change the subject. Al, how do you think Gryffindor are going to fare in Quidditch this year?”
Albus jumped on the subject, all too happy to distract James from his lack of employment.
A/N: Sorry this is a couple days late! I was out of town without my laptop. Thank you for all the reviews so far! If you haven't already seen it, take a look at the awesome banner I now have for this story, made by nancy drew. @ TDA!
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