Chapter 16: N.E.W.T.
“Today is our last meeting, for you all have exams to pass and your revisions to do. It’s in three weeks. I wish you all ‘Good Luck”, said Harry at the end of the D.A. training session.
“We’d like to ask you a favour”, Ernie McMillan said. “We are all members of Dumbledore’s Army. It’s not to play that we are here, it’s to fight against You-Know-Who. And we know that surely, one day or another, perhaps tomorrow or after tomorrow, when you decide to confront You-Know-Who, then, promise us that you’ll call us. We know that we are far below your level in the matter of magic power, but you’ll deal with You-Know-Who, and we, we’ll deal with the Death Eaters around him. We’d like to contribute to the success against Evil.”
“Yes, promise us”, Michael Corner added
“I have never wanted to keep the work of fighting against Evil for myself,” said Harry. “Everybody is entitled to fight against our common enemy, the Absolute Evil. But you must know that it’s not a game, it’s a very dangerous operation, and that you should not commit yourself light heartedly. First, you’ll come on your own accord, and in no way am I imposing it to you. Secondly, I recommend you to call Voldemort by his name, because if you dare not call your enemy by his name, you are embarking in an already lost battle. Fearing a name incites you to fear the thing itself. Third, our Magic Galleon remains our way of communication. Fourth, I accept to take with me only those who have got the Apparition licence. Those who haven’t got it yet will remain at our base; it’s also a way of contributing in the fighting against our enemy. Fifth, keep our planning strictly secret. Even among you, don’t speak, for the walls have ears. Now, Good Luck to you all for your exams.”
“Good Luck, Harry, for your fight against Voldemort”, said Gabrielle.
“Thank you, Gabrielle, for calling Voldemort by his name. Your wish will give me double chance. And Good Luck to you for your O.W.L.s’, said Harry. … “And congratulations, Ginny and Luna for your Apparition licence”, Harry added.
“I’ve read again carefully the books on Hogwarts, but the mirror of Erised was mentioned nowhere”, said Hermione when all the other D.A. members had left.
“It doesn’t matter, thank you, Hermione”, replied Harry. ‘I think that I’ll simply tell McGonagall that I’ll have to destroy it on Dumbledore’s express recommendation. Because, I think, for the final battle, we’ll have to ask them to come with us. The three of us alone can’t face Voldemort with all his Death Eaters around him, in his den !”
“And you are sure where his den is!” asked Ron.
“Yes”, replied Harry. “I’m sure that it’s in Gloucester. Because I’ve seen again and again the same country site. These last days, I’ve been focussing my attention on Nagini, its habits, where it goes … But for the moment, concentrate on the revisions. Keep Voldemort and his Horcruxes out of your mind, until the exams are over … McGonagall just informed me that my application to sit at the exams as a free candidate was accepted by the Ministry.”
“Brilliant !” exclaimed Ron and Hermione together.
Harry had no difficulty in his revisions. He had only to read once again his old notes, and everything was back in his memory. The three friends revised together every evening.
The Seventh and Fifth years took their exams on the same days in the Great Hall. The four house long tables had been removed and replaced instead by rows of small tables for one person each, all facing the examiners’ table, leaving a large alley in the middle to separate the two classes.
Harry’s place was about the middle of the hall, near the central alley. Ron was three rows behind Harry, on the wall side, and Hermione, three rows in front of him. Gabrielle was among the first rows near the central alley, but on the Fifth year side. So Harry could easily see Hermione, Gabrielle and Ron. He just had to turn himself a little to see Ron, diagonally. He was very pleased with his place, for he liked to look at his friends from time to time to see whether everything went fine for them.
Mrs Marchbanks was there as usual. Harry wondered how old she was, because she has said that she herself had examined Albus Dumbledore at his N.E.W.T.!
The exams lasted five consecutive days, for Ron and Harry. The mornings were spent for the theories, and the afternoons, for practice. As for Hermione, she had one more day for Ancient Runes and Arithmancy.
The first day was reserved for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry thought that he had well answered all the questions. The afternoon was for practice.
The students were called one by one to appear before the examiners in a classroom. When his name was called out, Harry entered the classroom to find himself face to face with Mrs Marchbanks and Mr Tofty who had questioned him at his O.W.L. two years ago. In the middle of the class, there was a life-size puppet with a wand in the hand.
“Ah ! Mr. Harry James Potter … Er … Could you please show us how you would ‘Incarcerate’ this chap ?” said Mr Tofty pointing at the puppet.
And Harry, with a smooth wave of his arm, without pronouncing the formula, pointed his wand like a flash on the puppet, and the puppet was solidly tied up from head to foot in a rope; it let out a cry like a doll which has been pressed hardly...
“Very well, Mr Potter ! Do watch out ! The chap will attack you !”, warned Mr Tofty removing the rope to release the puppet, with a wave of his wand.
And the puppet suddenly came into life like a living adversary. It held up its wand and pointed at Harry. Instantaneously, by reflex, Harry stepped aside, blocked the puppet’s curse by a wave of his wand and cast right away a non-verbal curse of Anti-Apparition that nailed the puppet onto the floor. Mr Tofty again liberated the puppet. Harry jumped up to avoid a curse of the puppet aiming at blocking Harry’s feet, and cast back at it the same curse that made the puppet’s feet whirling uncontrollably, then Harry cast immediately another curse that disarmed the puppet. Its wand flew to the end of the class room that Harry, with a wave of his wand, made it fly back and caught it in mid-air.
“Very, very good”, said Mrs Marchbanks, “I think I see the movement of Dumbledore’s hand … We all saw your Patronus in the Daily Prophet. How is it that in two years’ time your Patronus changed its size so spectacularly, Mr Potter ?”
Harry pointed his wand toward the door, and the enormous silvery stag materialized, touching with its antlers the very high ceiling of the classroom. It walked stately, straight in front of it and when it came near Harry, it lowered its head and licked the hand that Harry held out to it.
“I’ve said to myself that if it was to chase a Dementor, a normal stag would do, but if Voldemort ever sent me an army of those monsters, my stag should be up in stature and size to destroy them all. My stag is a creature of Light and the Dementors are monsters from Darkness. My creature of Light should succeed in exterminating those monsters from Darkness. It was by concentration and determination of the spirit that I succeeded in conjuring my Patronus as I want … and … it has only been so since this summer”, added Harry.
“Wonderful, after Dumbledore’s death. I understand”, replied Mrs Marchbanks. I see that you have the willpower of our late lamented Headmaster. It’s a strictly personal work. It’s not at school that we can learn all these things. You’re really Dumbledore’s man …”
“Through and through …, yes, Madame ! That’s what the Minister reproached me several times”, Harry added, suddenly very moved, remembering Dumbledore’s watery eyes when he related his encounter with the Minister in the frosty garden of The Burrow.
“The Daily Prophet said that you did not come back to school this year, is it true ?” asked Mrs Marchbanks.
“It’s true. I’ve learned by myself, and I go in for the exams as a free candidate. I feared that my presence in the school might attract the Death Eaters here and endanger my friends’ life”.
“You have a very beautiful thought for your friends”, replied Mrs Marchbanks.
At that moment, Mr Tofty showed her something he had written on his book note. “You’ve got the note Optimal+++; there are no higher notes than Optimal. Perhaps, I think, that you didn’t know that in all our history of Magic, up until now, there are only mentions of Patronuses that work as a shield to protect you and to chase the Dememtors away, but never yet of Patronuses that exterminate them, Mr Potter” … added Mrs Marchbanks.
“No, I didn’t know”, replied Harry. Thank you very much, Madame, Sir”, added Harry, turning back about to leave the room.
“Normally we don’t reveal the note to the students, Mr Potter” , added Mrs Marchbanks winking mischievously, and smiling.
“Thank you”, said Harry
The news that Harry presented himself at the examinations quickly spread over the school and out of the school. Rita Skeeter watched out for Harry in front of the classroom door with some inquisitive students. Popping his head out of the doorway, Harry saw Rita’s butterfly-framed spectacles hidden behind a student. He, at once, withdrew back in the classroom, threw his Invisibility Cloak over himself and then waited for Ron’s turn to go out.
“ It’s me, Ron ! ” Harry whispered. “Clear a path for me so that I can go out, avoiding Rita.”
And so, behind Ron, Harry went out, slipping between ’Rita’s fingers’, without her knowing it.
“I saw you in the examination room. You were brilliant. I think that this time you’ll get an O”, said Harry, with enthusiasm, giving a friendly slap on Ron’s shoulder.
“Did you think so ? Oh, I hope”, replied Ron, happily.
On the following days, Harry thought he had answered correctly all the questions, and had done well the practices in the afternoon too. For Transfigurations, McGonagall was there, she made him a sign of approbation with a large smile when he went out of the Examination room and passed in front of her. For Potions, Harry thought he would obtain an O too, for his flask showed the most beautiful colour among all the others, and that it was the precise colour it was meant to be. Slughorn was there, and he made him the sign of the thumb up.
On Saturday, Harry and Ron were already free while Hermione had still Arithmancy and Runes to pass. Ron and Harry, under his Invisibility Cloak, went down to the dungeon where the philosopher stone was hidden, but the mirror of Erised was no longer there.
“Where could it be now ?” Harry asked himself..
“We should now check every room and cave of the castle !” said Ron, looking desperate.
“We’ll proceed tower by tower. To begin with, we’ll do the Gryffindor tower, from the basement to the top”, suggested Harry.
When they came back to Harry’s room, Hermione was already there, waiting for them.
“You’ve done well ? Perhaps it’s unnecessary to ask the question ?” said Harry.
“Yes, that’s to say no !” replied Hermione.
“Do explain ! Yes or No ?” said Harry.
“I say ‘Yes’, I think that I’ve done well my paper. I say ‘No’, it’s not superfluous to ask me, I’m touched that you’re worried for me”, replied Hermione.
“No, I’m not worried for you. Not at all. Between us, you are always the one who gets the best note, the best note of the whole class. I ask so that you confirm that you’ve done well.”
“Well, yes, you’re difficult !” replied Hermione.
“No, it was just to relax you a bit !” said Harry, smiling, and all of a sudden forgetting both Voldemort and Horcruxes.
“Where have you been ?” asked Hermione, who had turned a bit pink by Harry’s joke.
“We’ve been to the dungeon where the philosopher’s stone had been hidden to see whether the mirror of Erised was there; but it was not,” Harry replied, a bit disappointed for having to come back to earth. “Then Ron and I went through the entire Gryffindor tower, from the dungeon to the top, but we haven’t found it either. We think we’ll try the Astronomy tower this afternoon.”
“It’s time”, said Hermione looking at her watch. We must go for lunch. This afternoon, I’ll have three hours of Runes, so I’ll be free at five o’clock. We’ll meet again here ?” added Hermione pulling on Ron’s sleeves.
“O.K. and good lunch to you both… And … Hermione, forget the mirror, concentrate on the Runes, and good luck !” added Harry.
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