A/N: This chapter is a little shorter since it was originally one but turned out to be too long, so I cut the long one into two chapters. Hope you enjoy!
May passed in a flurry of studying, panicking, reviewing, homework-doing, and angry-teacher-mollifying, and one particular conversation with Annalise.
I had been sitting in the Gryffindor common room when Annalise walked in, looking extremely upset. “Hey, Annalise. What’s up?”
“I just finished one of my detentions,” she spat, glaring at me.
“You know, I didn’t think it was you. I still don’t.”
“Save the sob story, Rose.”
“Seriously. Professor Thomas checked and saw that both my wand and Melody’s were clean, and asked if we knew who else might have done it. I, honestly, couldn’t think of anyone besides Melody – ”
“I’m sure,” Annalise snorted.
“ – but she said that you had a grudge against me and were angry at Scorpius because he rejected you when you asked him to Hogsmeade.”
“Melody dared me to ask him! It wasn’t because I wanted to, I fancied James!”
“If you fancied James, why didn’t you just say no?” I asked curiously. Annalise blushed heavily.
“Rather not say, if you don’t mind…”
“She didn’t… blackmail you, did she?”
“Well, let’s just say that I… owed her for… a spot she helped me out of.”
“Not that Transfiguration test?”
“Look, my mum would have killed me if I hadn’t done well.”
I nodded. “Well, anyways, I was trying to find something to pin Melody down – I think she’s completely capable of taking your wand. I sleep with mine under my pillow, so she couldn’t have gotten it. Blaming you was probably Plan B. I went to the library to look up creative ways of incriminating innocent people and uncovering heinous plots – ” I was interrupted by a chuckle from Annalise, “ – and I did find something, actually,” I finished in a dignified manner.
“You did?” Excitement colored her voice.
“Well, there’s this spell that can check the recent holders of the wand – meaning, who has physically touched it besides its owner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t give times of touching. Would you mind…?” I trailed off.
“Yeah, of course! Here,” she handed her wand to me.
“Donorum revelio,” I muttered. Professor Thomas’ face appeared from the wand-tip and then Melody’s did! And then… mine? “What?” we muttered together in confusion. “I’ve never held your wand,” I said.
“Maybe in your sleep? If she picked it up with a handkerchief or something?” Annalise suggested tentatively. “And for Melody’s face earlier, she did borrow my wand to accio hers the day before the incident,” she sighed ruefully.
“Damn, you’re probably right. I hope no one else tries that charm. I really thought we could get her! I just can’t think of how to prove it, you know?”
“Yeah, s’pose. She probably did it because of that case your mum’s building against her dad.” The Daily Prophet had, of course, duly published details of the top-secret case. “She told me about how she would make sure you regretted it. Unfortunately, I don’t have those conversations recorded,” she sighed.
I had a sudden idea. “Annalise, what if we staged a conversation between you and Melody in which she told the truth? Like, you could say you know that she didn’t suggest your name, and that I’m so horrible, etc., for trying to pin it on you or something?”
“No good. She hasn’t been talking to me since the thing,” Annalise replied gloomily. “She’s probably scared I’ll try to get back at her. Anyway, thanks for trying, Rose. ’Night.”
“Anytime,” I murmured, my head in my hands. How do you pin down a girl that slick? It was a matter of principle to catch Melody – not a matter of revenge. I would leave her alone if she returned the favor, but two can play her game. As long as one of them isn’t me, I thought sardonically. The fine points of bullying weren’t exactly part of my repertoire.
Later that evening as I pored over Transfiguration, all thoughts of Melody banished in favor of getting an O, I realized that I had been extremely lucky to be able to say the truth to Annalise and be believed – it didn’t usually happen, especially when evidence pointed to the contrary.
Besides that shebang, Scorpius was no less confusing, Adara and Jonathan were still going strong, and I’d convinced James that Annalise was innocent, so they were happy together too. Even Frank seemed to have gotten over his crush on Adara and was now eyeing Sandra hopefully (it was an ill-founded hope, considering she fancied Alex Thomas, a Slytherin and Scorpius’ best friend).
Unfortunately, I’d had less success with convincing Professor Thomas of Annalise’s innocence. I didn’t have any rock hard evidence to prove Melody’s involvement in the affair, and frankly, with the amount of work I had, I didn’t have much more time to look for it. I did want to prove Melody’s involvement, though, no matter how long it took. I would probably ask mum for help over the holidays. Her case against Melody’s father had been progressing steadily, and it seemed that even with the extensive funds he had at his fingertips, bribing his way out wouldn’t be an option with the strength of the evidence against him. Mum had said in a recent letter that the Daily Prophet’s exposing the ‘scandal of the century,’ as the papers were calling it, was probably for the best since Mr. Simmons was now being scrutinized by the public eye.
Before we were ready, June had arrived, and with it, the OWL examiners. I had seven exams to sit through: Potions, Transfiguration, Arithmancy, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Ancient Runes. These weren’t even like normal end-of-year exams – I literally had to know everything we had ever learned about every subject! I thought jealously of my Muggle friends back home, who complained about a year’s worth of material. A year! Hah! Needless to say, it was stressful.
I’d made color-coded study guides for everything, including a color-coded expandable calendar for keeping myself on track. I hadn’t gone quite as far as mum had in her school days and made similar sets for Adara and Sandra, but I did drag them to the library on a very frequent basis. In Adara’s case, it meant that she had to flirt with Jonathan quietly, and in Sandra’s, it meant that she actually studied a bit. Neither of them were taking either Runes or Arithmancy, which were probably the hardest subjects, so they had a little less to worry about.
Of course, they were both terrified of being murdered if they didn’t get OWLs in their five subjects, but I didn’t actually have that much parental pressure. Despite the fact that mum had done exceptionally well in academics, she and I both realized that I motivated and pressured myself enough that extra pressure was counterproductive. Dad had always been a little laid back, and the only pressure he ever added was his yearly talk to attempt to convince me to play Quidditch. Mum was with him in those talks – she said it would help me make friends. While that made sense, I wasn’t very excited about subjugating myself to an evil Quidditch-obsessed captain, especially if that captain was James.
All in all, May was not my favorite month.
The day of the exams dawned hot and muggy, humid enough that water landed on my skin when I went out, and the sun shone brightly on the Great Hall, outside of which we nervous fifth years were waiting. Transfiguration was first, and we had to sit the written exam. “Come in!” cried a short, white-haired old man as he (with some difficulty) opened the doors of the hall. “I am Professor Mitchkin and I will be administering the exam this morning!” He sounded too bloody excited about exams. We filed in and found our names (Weasley, Rose for me) on the top of the exam parchment rolls. As always with exams, there were several people who took longer to find theirs and ended up pacing between the rows until a kind teacher took pity on them and pointed the way to their scrolls, but thankfully I found mine almost right away.
Once everyone was seated, Professor Mitchkin began in a rather squeaky voice: “Welcome, fifth years! You are currently sitting the written portion of the Transfiguration exam. This exam will test you on material ranging from your first year to this year.” If we didn’t know that by now, we had no bloody chance! “The exam is two hours long. You will be using the preapproved quills and ink that have been provided.” At this, quills, “OWL” emblazoned on their feathers, and ink appeared on all of our desks. “If you need an extra quill or more parchment, please raise your hand and I or one of your professors will come over. Do not leave your seat. If you need to use the restroom, raise your hand and a professor will escort you to the restroom. Cheating is not tolerated, so please keep your eyes on your own parchment. It is now 9:20. You have until 11:20. Time signals will be given every half hour. You may begin.”
There was a rustle of parchment as everyone tore open the exam scroll. I took a deep, calming breath to relax and flipped through the exam, mentally setting aside time for each section, just like mum had taught me. Once I had allotted my time, I chose the easiest section and began. “What is the most effective way to create a porcelain cup?” I let a small smile cross my face as I began to write, the quill gently scratching the paper.
Two hours, a lot of ink, and two quills later, the “Time up!” cry came from Professor Mitchkin. “Quills down, everyone! Please roll your exams and place them in front of you. They will be collected by your professors. Once your exam has been collected, you may leave.” The room let out the breath it had been holding.
We pretty much sprinted out after finishing the exam. Around me, everyone was discussing the exam in hurried, panicked words. “Did you get number twenty-three? Oh, no, I put a charm down, not a transfiguration spell! I can’t believe they asked about human transfiguration! I bet I failed, mum’s going to kill me!” I had never liked the habit of discussing the exam directly after taking it, the same way I disliked pre-exam cramming. Both were stressful and useless – I mean, if I didn’t know it five minutes before the exam, cramming was more likely to chase the information out of my head than put it in and discussing the exam just made me worry about how I had done, which I couldn’t change, so it was best not to worry. I decided to go outside, away from the noise. Lunch wouldn’t be served for a bit, considering they had to rearrange the Great Hall and everything.
The air outside was hot, but the area around the lake was cooler, especially under the large, shady trees that grew by the shore. A few couples and friends had come out to sit by the lake, perhaps hoping to avoid as much of the heat as possible. In early June, the castle tended to become completely overheated (it was made of stone, after all) and it was too big for cooling charms to really be effective. The classrooms were usually freezing because the professor had gone a bit overboard on cooling charms and the hallways were like ovens. We actually fried an egg in the hallway once, just to prove a point.
I sat down by the lake and discarded my flats so I could swish my feet around in the cool water. It was clear in the shallows, and I could see the pale brown sand under the water and the miniscule fish that were too small to nibble at my toes. There was a breeze, now, playing across the water, dancing through the grass, and singing through the trees as though it was as glad for the coming of summer as we were. The sun twinkled down merrily, flitting across the lake as though it didn’t know the torture it was inflicting on us all. Even the birds were nesting in the trees, barely able to cheep a song, exhausted by the heat. The heat didn’t exhaust teenage love, though. I spotted Adara and Jonathan being all lovey-dovey across the lake. Frank was hidden behind a tree watching Sandra, who was awkwardly talking to Alex (they were absolutely adorably awkward). I was enjoying the breeze and the water and the surprisingly relaxing solitude when Scorpius appeared next to me. I use “appeared” in the most literal sense – I blinked, and he was just there. Strange.
“How was Transfiguration?”
“Not bad. You?”
Our rather pathetic conversation stagnated.
“You going to Hogsmeade after exams?” I broke the silence. The post-exam Hogsmeade trip for those in third year and above had become a tradition a few years before I entered Hogwarts. It was judged as a good way to relax after the extremely demanding exams. The students, of course, concurred.
“Yeah, probably,” he replied. “Always fun, Hogsmeade.”
“Yup,” I agreed, popping the “p.” “Cadence is my favorite.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have pegged you for the club type,” he said, looking at me quizzically.
“It’s not really a club club, you know, it’s a teen club. They don’t serve alcohol and are actually exceptionally good at making sure it doesn’t get in. It’s just like a dancing and hangout place, and they play good music. Practically everyone goes there after exams, and even I like to go a little crazy sometimes,” I grinned. He grinned back at me, his hair falling into his eyes. I was gripped by a bizarre urge to push his hair away from his face, the way a girlfriend (!) might, but restrained myself. I didn’t want to scare him, after all.
“Maybe I’ll join you, then,” he said. JOIN ME?! Just a moment, fainting over here.
“It should be fun. Sandra, Adara, Jonathan and Frank are coming. So’s Alex if Sandra can convince him.” Thankfully, my voice didn’t squeak or crack in my excitement.
As we sat in compatible silence, leaning back on the heels of our hands in the cool grass, I suddenly felt warm fingers on mine. They were gone so quickly that I thought I’d imagined it, but a minute later, I felt them again. I was a bit scared to look at Scorpius in case I broke whatever ‘moment’ we were having, but chanced a peek at him. He was looking out onto the water, casual and unconcerned, but I could feel the pressure of his hand on mine all too well. I had just opened my mouth to ask him what the hell he was doing when the lunch bell sounded and Scorpius disappeared as though he’d never been there at all.
I sat on the lakeshore for a few more minutes, completely bemused, excited out of my mind, and nervous as hell. Taking a few deep breaths, I got up and put my shoes on (forgetting that my feet were still wet) and began to walk to the Great Hall. Sandra and Adara met me halfway there, and we cheerfully trooped to lunch together. I really hoped they couldn’t see the tumult that was taking over my mind, although they may have gotten suspicious when I laughed like a hyena a few times. They were kind enough to preserve what was left of my sanity and not ask questions.
The next several days were a haze of exams – written and practical exams for each subject made fourteen exams total! And those silly Muggle schoolgirls complain about six exams, I thought scornfully before reproaching myself for being scornful. I had been rather high-strung and on a cocktail of hormones, according to Adara, for the last few days. I was apt to start singing and skipping and end up crying about D.A.D.A on the floor of the girls’ loo a few minutes later.
The potions practical, in particular, was rather trying. I had to brew the Elixir of Euphoria, not a difficult potion in itself and particularly nice as I went away feeling quite cheerful (we had to taste our own potions). However, my examiner, a stern-looking woman of about fifty named Professor Stistle, was indeed the most nerve-wracking part of OWLs. I was called with “Wembley, Nicholas,” “Thurston, Stanley,” and “Urviel, Alena.” As we walked into the room, our personal examiners each called our names and we walked to our cauldrons. Beside each cauldron was a set of standard ingredients, plus some others that were often used but not necessarily standard. Ground thestral hoof was the most rare of the lot, and we had never used it in any of the potions we had made. I started to feel nervous.
“You are to make an Elixir of Euphoria,” Professor Stistle said coldly. “You may choose whichever of these ingredients you feel is necessary. You may not write anything down. You have one hour. Begin.” She kept her frigid gaze on me for the full hour. My hands shook, which almost never happened, and I cut a few pieces of smitherroot larger than they should have been – everybody would make mistakes if they were stared at like that!
“Your hour is up,” intoned Professor Stistle in her arctic manner as I threw in a bit of peppermint for good measure. She then conjured a small vial and siphoned a tablespoon of my potion into it with her wand. “To test Elixir of Euphoria, we ask the students to taste it. We have antidotes on hand if the potion has been brewed incorrectly.” With that rather ominous statement, she handed me the vial. I tipped its contents into my mouth, fairly confident that I had gotten it right (the sunshine yellow color was exactly the desired shade). My heart stopped for a moment when I didn’t immediately feel joyful, but realized it was probably less than a fraction of a second. Thankfully, I began to feel ecstatic – on top of the world! I felt a grin spread across my face. “Please do not attempt to mimic the effects of a successful potion,” said Professor Stistle disparagingly. Not even that could sour my euphoria – my grin remained in place. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Professor Stistle smiled! Not even a little mouth twitch, but a genuine smile. “Excellent, Miss Weasley. An O, I think. The peppermint was a nice touch. You may go.” My grin grew even wider as I skipped (yes, skipped) out of the Great Hall.
Finally, finally exams were over! OWLs were done and gone! We wouldn’t get the results until July, unfortunately, but they were OVER! After our last exam (Charms), Sandra, Adara and I ran out to the grounds whooping and cheering. It seemed appropriate, somehow. Adara wouldn’t let us be for long, though. “Come ON, you guys, we have Hogsmeade this evening and we have to start getting ready!”
Sandra and I let out hollow groans. “Adara, it’s not even noon yet! Bloody hell, at least let us eat lunch,” I whined. “I’m dying of hunger!” I was met with a cruel, unsympathetic glare from Adara, girly-girl extraordinaire.
“Adara, she’s right – we’ve got to eat,” said Sandra reasonably.
“Fine,” Adara huffed, “but you’ll regret it when we only have three hours to get ready.” Sandra and I shared a synchronized eye roll.
A/N: Is Scorpius being more obvious than ever? Is he finally going to man up and do something about his crush on Rose? What do you think?I'm going to be shameless here and beg for reviews: please, please review!