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“Excellent Harry!” Professor McGonagall said to Harry quietly as he walked out of his practical Transfiguration exam on Wednesday afternoon. He had already taken his written exam and he thought he had done rather well on that, added to McGonagall’s rare-to-the-point-of-nearing-extinction praise then you had at least Exceeds Expectations NEWT in Transfiguration.

He glanced back to see his examiner smiling as he ran his eyes over the desk, looking for any hint of a tail and listening for a tell tail ‘oink’ but there was none. Over the last few months they had been transfiguring bigger and bigger things up until they were actually transfiguring their desks into things. Coupled with animating the desk into a live pig was proving to be the hardest part of the task however and Harry had seen Neville’s examiner looking quite disappointed with him. He had looked quite promising until his desk had turned into a pig, it just wasn’t alive and was somehow halfway through decomposition.

Charms the next day was a similar success. His written work wasn’t very good but he more than made up with it in his examination. He could have laughed aloud when he entered the Great Hall the next morning to be directed into a small room off the side.

“Now, this may seem a little unorthodox but we would like you to decorate this room for us.” The small examiner said to Harry who raised a questioning eyebrow.

“My exam is decorating a room?” Harry asked him, feeling quite incredulous of the exam.

“Exactly.” The examiner said, “You can use only charms, no conjuring pots of paint of anything and you will receive points on the complexity of the spells you use.”

“All right.” Harry said, his mind already wandering over the possibilities, “How long do I have?”

“Four hours.” The professor told him. Harry nodded and smiled; this was going to be a very interesting exam.

Four hours later the small examiner walked out of the room, his eyes were wide and there was a slight hint of a smile on his face as he watched Harry leave. Professor Flitwick was the first to walk into the room after Harry had taken his exam and almost laughed aloud at what he saw: The floor had been charmed so that goldfish swam underneath it, fed by magical means in the water. The ceiling on the other hand had a simplified spell similar to that of the Great Hall upon it and would show the mood of whoever was in the room through the weather (Snape had been struck repeatedly by lightning upon his entry into the room and Minerva noted with a smile that the examiner had given Harry another five points for a defence system against anyone who had ill will to the charmer of the room). The walls had been charmed to be plain white, similar to his own at home so that he could better concentrate on charming the rest of the room around him.

In one corner of the room he had drawn out a small sofa from thin air and then enlarged it before altering it’s colour and placing it with his wand. He had made a small coffee table with chairs and then gone on to pull Fairy Lights from his wand for the lighting and, levitating himself up to the ceiling with wandless magic (something he didn’t mind doing in front of the examiner) he bound them onto a sort of candelabra made out of golden bubbles for the lighting.

All in all, the professor was highly impressed with his work and there was no doubt about it: Harry would be achieving an Outstanding NEWT in Charms if he could just manage to Charm things to the same degree in the year after.

“So how was Care Of Magical Creatures?” Harry asked Ron as he sat down for lunch after they had taken their Defence Against The Dark Arts written paper.

“It was alright actually. We had to look after all these different creatures and explain to the examiner the best way to look after them and how to feed them and show them what they wanted to eat.” Ron said, “Then we had to look after some unicorns for an hour, they were difficult though.”

“Why?” Hermione asked him.

“Mine kept trying to run off. I think I lost marks because it tried to impale me.” Ron said as he grabbed a bag of crisps from the bowl in front of him. “Still, at least we’ve just got one more exam today and then that’ll be it!’

“Yeah, then we can start on next year’s work.” Harry said, failing to see the bright side.

“Suppose.” Ron said, sounding defeated. “Still, Defence Against The Dark Arts – shouldn’t be that bad.” The other two murmured agreement as their nerves started to get the better of them.

“Don’t make me go!” Seamus begged as Dean and Neville dragged him down the corridor towards the Great Hall some time after lunch. They had spent some time in the Common Room, most of them needlessly trying to get some last minute revision in before their practical exam, the rest of them just wanting somewhere calming to relax before they took their last exam.

“I feel sick.” Ron muttered as he walked behind Seamus who was clinging onto the walls and Hermione gave her wand a quick flick which soon got Seamus off the wall, although he was laughing hysterically on the floor, which Neville didn’t consider much of an improvement. Harry walked along with his eyes fixed on the floor as the possibilities of just what they could do in a practical exam for Defence Against the Dark Arts wandered through his mind. He attempted to second-guess their task but nothing obvious or ingenious came to mind so he soon gave up, devoting his attention to helping get Seamus to the exam instead.

“Take a seat along the wall.” Dumbledore instructed them calmly once they reached the doors to the hall. All of them sat in silence as they waited to hear what would come next and it was only when all of them arrived that they were informed as to what would be happening.

“Is that all?” Seamus asked, almost delirious from relief. “Fight some dark creatures in an assault course.”

“Did I mention you have to duel with an examiner at the end of it?” Dumbledore asked him good-naturedly and Seamus became silent and next to him Neville whimpered. “And part of the course will be underwater so Bubble-Head charms all round I think.”

“So we go into the Great Hall and into an assault course where we fight Dark Creatures on the way–” Hermione said.

“No, you will be attacked by Dark creatures along the way.” Dumbledore corrected.

“And then we have to do an underwater section using a Bubble Head charm and then duel with an examiner?” Hermione asked and he nodded. The students sat outside the Great Hall looked rather upset at the prospect.

“And did I also tell you that there will be another examiner setting off five minutes after you whose job is to catch up with you and potentially force you into a duel partway through the exam?” Dumbledore asked and there was a collective groan.

“The Defence Against The Dark Arts NEWT has really gone all out this year, hasn’t it?” Remus said lightly as he appeared by the side of Dumbledore and smiled encouragingly at his students, most of whom only managed to look close to tears in response.

“I agree, I don’t remember standards being so high in previous years.” Dumbledore said.

“Just our luck.” Ron muttered, burying his head in his hands and Harry was beginning to see what Remus meant by revision being of little use in this exam. “Any advice, Professor?” He asked Remus who looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Speed, I suppose.” He mused, “If you go too slowly the other examiner will catch you and although they’re five minutes behind you the course is quite long. Don’t be hasty though, just as quickly as you can sensibly go to try and get to the examiner at the end before the other examine reaches you.” He told them and they nodded, all of them looking utterly terrified of the task at hand. Harry was quite nervous and knew that he must look almost as terrified as some of those he was sat alongside, although surely not as nervous as Neville who was looking like he was about to be sick.

“Abbot, Hannah.” A female examiner said from the doorway and Hannah got shakily to their feet, casting one last worried look back at her friends before she passed through the door into the Great Hall.

“The exams are likely to take between ten and twenty minutes each so I would suggest a walk or perhaps just a wait back in the common room for those towards the end of the register.” Dumbledore said to them cheerfully and they nodded, Harry and Ron getting to their feet once he had said so but Hermione stayed put.

“Aren’t you coming?” Harry asked her and she shook her head.

“Hermione, your name is a third through the alphabet; it’s probably going to be about an hour, at least, until you’re taking your exam.” Ron said to her but she refused to move. “Fine!” Ron sighed and sat down next to her, Hermione resting her head on his shoulder causing everyone around them to glare in their direction as Harry got up and wandered away from them and down to the dungeons.

Snape had told him that he would have enough time in the morning to have an Occlumency lesson before his exam but Harry had strongly disagreed and argued that there was no chance he would be able to have an Occlumency lesson and then go on to take his exam, once again Snape had disagreed but allowed him to leave his presence unscathed.

Harry wondered just how Snape would take his presence in his office when unasked for but that didn’t stop him as he knocked on the potion master’s door and entered upon the command of them man within.

“So you decided that you would have the time now, Potter?” Severus asked coolly as the student entered his domain. He had known of course that he would easily have the time the way that the Defence Against The Dark Arts exam had been structured and with a few revitalising potions, Potter should easily be able to complete the exam with no repercussions from Occlumency.

Harry didn’t answer Snape as the man cleared the room using magic and stood across from him. Harry cleared his mind as best he could, although he knew that his nervous feelings about his exams were still showing through.

Legilimens.” Harry had been expecting the attack and held out well as Snape pressed into his mind for almost three minutes until his strength wavered and the slightest glimmer of his OWLs shone through his mind. Snape took a firm hold on it and pulled the memory of him taking his Potions OWL was dragged out of him, bringing along a stream of other memories which Harry tried to block out but Snape was just too strong.

“Could have been better.” Snape told him as Harry pulled himself up from the floor, previously unaware that his legs had failed him until Snape finished the spell. Severus was mildly impressed by the length of time he had managed to hold out before he had finally caught a memory but he wasn’t about to tell Harry that by any means.

Their lesson went on again and again until Harry finally managed to reverse the spell and get inside Snape’s mind but not for long as Snape reversed it again and returned to his mind. By this time Harry was beginning to tire and flung all the power he could at Snape in an attempt to get him out of his head, causing the two of them to be flung across the room from each other.

“Thank you for that, Potter.” Snape scowled, “Accio.” He muttered and his wand leapt into his hand but Harry barely noticed as he pulled himself to his feet and took his own wand back. Harry glared at Snape for a moment before the Potions Master dismissed him. “I believe we have done enough for this morning, now I would suggest making at least the vaguest of attempts at being on time for your Defence Against The Dark Arts exam.”

“But you told me to come here!” Harry argued and Snape gave him an icy look which made Harry want to run from the room, but instead he only walked quickly out of the room and up to the Great Hall.

“Parkinson, Pansy.” Dumbledore said and the Slytherin got up from outside the room and entered, looking rather nervous as she did so.

“How did Hermione do?” Harry asked Ron as he sat down next to him.

“I dunno.” He shrugged, “The course doesn’t end here, or at least no one’s come back out through this door.”

“Can you hear anything through it?” Harry asked, moving as if to go and put his ear to the door but Ron pulled him back.

“Don’t bother trying, there’s some sort of spell over it since Malfoy tried to hear through it.” He grinned and motioned towards Malfoy who was sat nursing his ear and lamenting his singed hair.

It was a nerve-wracking ten minutes for Harry when Ron told him lightly that he would be going next and he rather wished that he wasn’t or at least hadn’t known but soon enough he was on his feet and walking through the door into the room beyond with the examiner.

“You know what you have to do, correct?” The woman asked him on the other side of the door and Harry nodded. “Good luck then. I will follow you in five minutes time.”

Harry nodded once more and glanced around him. It no longer looked like the Great Hall he had eaten breakfast in that morning, now it had become a thin pathway which he could see twisted and turned, with plants and trees along the section that he could see and he could only guess at the types of creatures that were inside it waiting for him. He took a deep breath and walked boldly forwards, down along the path.

As he walked he realised just how silent it was and the way in which the lighting seemed to dim the further he walked. He heard a slight crack as he walked along and glance down to see numerous twigs in the path on which he walked. There was a screech from somewhere close by and in a fraction of a second Harry realised just what the twigs were.

Incendio Contego!” Harry said quickly and fire shot up around him, held together into the form of a shield which quickly burnt away the Bowtruckles which launched themselves at him en masse. After a few moments, all of them had been burnt to cinders, adding to the pile of them on the floor but one or two had broken through his shield around the bottom and scratched at his legs, cutting him in places. Ignoring the slight stinging he felt, Harry carried on walking, quite quickly, down the long and winding path. Remus’ words reminding him of haste repeating themselves in his head when he wanted to slow down and give up.

Slowly the feeling of hopelessness increased to the point where Harry was tempted just to sit down and give up. With a jolt he realised that he was feeling the effects of the Pogrebin and quickly sped up, knowing that if he stayed close to the creature which disguised itself as a harmless stone then he would not last long. The quicker he walked, the sooner he found the feeling wearing off although from some burnt leaves around the area he got the feeling that other people had actually stopped and been caught by an examiner at this point in the course.

When almost five minutes had passed, Harry could hear a trickling of water somewhere in the distance and realised that he must be nearing the underwater section of the exam. As he walked forwards he kept his eyes ahead and occasionally glanced up at the dimming light in the ceiling. It was for this reason that he didn’t notice the Crup until it had almost bitten off his leg. The small dog resembling a bull terrier leapt at his left ankle and managed to sink it’s teeth considerably far into his flesh before he had the chance to remove it with a few quick hexes and paralyse it before anyone else had the chance to get caught. He bent down and muttered a healing charm over the wound, taking some of the pain away although it was still bleeding.

Leaping quickly out of the way of a flesh eating slug before hexing it and continuing onwards gave yet more distraction as a wave of iciness swept over Harry, causing the feeling of panic to rise inside his chest, quickening his breathing as he felt the effects of a Dementor. He slowed his breathing, forcing himself to realise that it was just a Boggart; Dumbledore would never allow another Dementor in the castle again after his third year. Still, it was the Patronus Charm that he spoke and he watched the Dementor stumble slightly as his Patronus charged at it. After a moment of watching he uttered the incantation to rid him, at least temporarily, of the Boggart.

Ridikkulus.” He said and quickly passed on. Ahead there appeared to be no light at all which caused his nervousness to increase, especially when he looked through his mind and saw nothing but darkness there also. There appeared to be nothing ahead of him. Hoping that he would soon find his fingers brushing against a wall of some kind, Harry walked with his hand stretched outwards to prevent him walking into anything and his wand raised at the ready. Behind him he heard footsteps, although he could tell that they were not close; the examiner was gaining ground on him, he realised as he glanced down at his watch and saw that he had been in there for ten minutes.

Ahead of him he saw a faint light and he cautiously walked towards it, hoping that he was not about to be lead into some water by a Hinkypunk. Sadly, that was the case and a moment later Harry staggered as his wounded leg sank knee deep into lukewarm water. He shivered slightly but continued, trying to be as silent as he could so that he would not find himself forced to duel in the water.

Muttering the spell for the Bubble-Head charm, he ducked his head under the water, just before the Dugbogs above him, cleverly disguised as pieces of driftwood had the chance to sink their teeth into him. Once he was fully submerged under the water he could see that it was much brighter down there, and he presumed that merpeople would probably be the cause of that, wherever they were.

He swam downwards so that none of the Dugbogs could swim far enough to get him further and further until he was close to the bottom. A Kappa leapt at him from close by and Harry struggled with it desperately as it’s long fingers closed around his throat, cutting off his air and for a moment he thought that he would find his death in a NEWT exam but his fingers broke the brittle ones of the Kappa and swam off quickly, a bit too quickly however as he swam straight into a Hippocampus. The large sea dweller with the head and forequarters of a horse and the hindquarters and tail of a giant fish looked at him threateningly but Harry took a few strokes back and holding it’s gaze, he held his hands out in a gesture of peace, as he had been taught. The Hippocampus seemed to accept this as he ran his fingers through it’s mane and an idea came to mind.

He smiled and swam away from it and through a small gathering of Hippocampus and their young, Tadfoals, knowing that the same one he had swam into was still following him along with three or four Tadfoals. As he swam further and further away from him, keeping in a straight line towards where he was almost certain he was meant to be, Harry noticed that the Hippocampus and the Tadfoals got closer until the Hippocampus, bored of his slow swimming swam between his legs and swam at a much greater speed with him on it’s back. A glance behind him showed that the same examiner who had showed him into the Great Hall was slowly swimming after him and would probably have caught him had he not taken this rather more interesting mode of travel through the water.

The Hippocampus slowed down, allowing Harry to slide off it’s back. He patted it’s nose in thanks and smiled at it before swimming further on to where he could see the land. The young Tadfoals followed him, swimming around him and making some strange sort of noise which was like an odd cross between mermish and the noise of a horse.

Before long he had reached the edge of the water where there were a series of steps leading back up onto land and he could see the blurred outline of a figure there, waiting to attack him in the final, and most difficult, part of his examination. He patted the Tadfoal closest to him before walking up the steps and removing his Bubble-Head Charm and drying himself with a quick bit of wandless magic which was not unperceived by the examiner.

“Excellent, Mr Potter.” He said to him when he stood opposite him on a long strip which he remembered standing on in his second year at the duelling club. “The fastest time yet, I believe. Did our examiner catch up with you?”

“No.” Harry said, quite breathlessly and the examiner he faced smiled broadly at him.

“Now for the last part of this text I want to duel with you. Obviously the Unforgivables are prohibited, as is the Reductor curse. Are you ready?” He said to him and Harry nodded. He took five steps away from his opponent and turned to bow. The examiner did the same.

Stupefy!” Harry cried, making sure that he would gain the upper hand quickly in the duel and not allow himself to be constantly on the defence.

Protego.” The examiner said easily and then followed it up with, “Impedimenta.

Protegium!” Harry reversed, “Gelotrium!” The examiner, old as he appeared, jumped out of the way with ease and it missed him by a good two feet.

Incarcerous!

Incendio! Harry countered.

Hydratum!” Cried the examiner.

Everriculum.” Harry said and caught the spell quickly in a magical before he could be swept off his feet by the gush of water.

Spoliar Viles!” The examiner cried and Harry found himself almost knocked to the floor by the spell as it sucked his strength from him.

Impugneus!” Harry said before his strength gave out and flung the small man backwards, allowing him to gather his remaining strength.

Lumos Solarus.” The man said and a bright flash caught Harry face on, momentarily blinding him.

Nox Totalus.” Harry countered, hoping that the darkness would improve his vision if he looked through his mind and blind his opponent at the same time.

In front of him his examiner smiled and walked confidently towards him with the air of one who is not surrounded by darkness. Harry realised instantly that he must be encountering another wandless magician, at least the darkness did help his vision.

Stupefy!” Harry cried and the examiner easily dodged it. He could see that Harry was tiring and finished the duel quickly.

Locomotor Mortis.” He said and Harry’s legs snapped together, “Impugneus.” And he fell backwards, unable to get back onto his feet due to the leg locker curse upon him. “Do you surrender?”

Harry, unable to so much as summon the energy to take the spells off him, had no choice but to give in, hoping that it wasn’t going to count against him.

“An excellent duel, Mr Potter.” The man smiled as he lifted the curses and helped a rather fatigued Harry back to his feet.

“Thanks.” Harry smiled as he was helped to the door which, not quite by coincidence, led to the Hospital Wing.

“You probably would have won, were you the only wandless magician, but remember that you cannot just duel to beat those who are not.” He smiled and Harry nodded as he was helped into the Hospital Wing.

“How do you think you did?” Remus asked Harry, relieving the examiner of the latest entrant as he helped him over to a bed.

“I don’t really know…” Harry shrugged as Madam Pomfrey left Ernie Macmillan who was holding an eye patch to his face and also looked as if he could have broken his wrist.

“Well from what I’ve heard, and seen, you got to the duel first and the other examiner didn’t catch you,” Remus said and Harry nodded, not quite catching on to the fact that no one else had managed not to be caught by the other examiner and forced to duel. “How did you manage not to get lost in the water?” He asked curiously, “Only everyone else got lost in there.”

“I sort of got a lift from a Hippocampus.” Harry said and Remus laughed.

“Of course, I wondered if you’d try that although I didn’t think you’d manage.” Remus said, “Did you run into the merpeople?”

“No, I saw them but I didn’t meet them because I was on the Hippocampus by then.” Harry said and Remus nodded, unable to help the smile from crossing his face.

“And what about the duel?” Remus asked.

“Well I lost.” Harry said and Remus rolled his eyes.

“Of course you lost, Harry! Everyone did, I would have done if I was duelling with the examiner. They can’t just examine for nothing, they’re really good.” Remus said and Harry felt slightly better for that.

“I suppose I didn’t do too badly.” Harry said, “He said I could have won if he wasn’t a wandless magician.”

“So you decided to use your wandless magic in the duel then?” He asked and Harry nodded, glancing around to make sure that no one could overhear them but they were quite a way from anyone else near them. “Not much really though, just looking through my mind after I made it dark…” Remus nodded.

“It sounds like you’ve done well.” He said, hiding his smugness that one of his students had clearly achieved Outstanding in their test with considerable ease.

“What happened with everyone else?” Harry asked curiously.

“Malfoy was strangled by a Kappa and had to be rescued by the examiner, Hermione got all the way through and probably got Outstanding, Neville was caught by the Bowtruckles at the start and panicked and the Crup almost took out Ernie’s eye.” Remus summed up, looking around. “A few people didn’t finish and all of them got caught by the examiner for going too slowly, all but you that is.” He said, smiling.

“You don’t look particularly badly injured, Mr Potter.” Madam Pomfrey said after quickly healing his leg as best she could, “The healing charm you used on your leg was quite good and with some reinforcement it should be alright again in a day or so, other than that you’re free to go.”

Harry got up and left the room, Remus following him outside for a word before he left.

“I’m going to tell the Order about the clearing in the forest tomorrow.” Remus told him and Harry nodded, “Just thought I should warn you since Dumbledore might want to question you about it.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Harry said and returned to the common room.

The rest of the day was spent mostly in their written examination which Harry thought he had done quite well on, although he wrote that werewolves were not the Dark Creatures they were portrayed to be and were simply humans who had to undergo something akin to torture once a month. He knew that wouldn’t get him any marks but he didn’t care; he refused to repeat what the Ministry wanted him to.

The end of the day came quickly after the initial comparison of notes between people over the practical and the written examinations when everyone asked the other what they had written for question seven and what they had done about the Bowtruckles which had attacked them.

So the final day of their NEWT examinations had passed and although the sixth years knew that the next week would bring more lessons and the beginning of their seventh year work, they didn’t particularly mind. Harry found sleep quickly and easily that night, making sure that he drunk a dosage of the Dreamless Sleep potion that he had made earlier on that week for his Potions examination.

Harry awoke with a jolt early the next morning in a mixture of annoyance and a strange sort of fear. He remembered only fragments of his dream but he was sure he had dreamt it before. All that stuck in his mind were the wriggling babies in a bag of twisted Jelly Babies which Voldemort had offered him. He groaned, realising that his potion had been far too weak and he would probably only get Acceptable for it and curled back up under his warm and heavy duvet, trying to remember the rest of his dream.

A/N: All the creatures in this chapter are the inventions of JKR and were found on the Harry Potter Lexicon (the most useful site ever...). Next chapter coming in about four days I reckon since it's going to be crammed with revelations, well just one really but it's going to be difficult to write and I've got other things to be doing as well (such as revising which I've cleverly neglected). I shall post again on Saturday or Sunday :o)

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