Here is this week's new chapter, not many more to go now. Enjoy.
First There are OWLs…
Harry stood in front of the group that included the second and third years. He had got a few new members for his Defence Group after the Christmas break, as some members had convinced friends that it would be a good idea. While they couldn't talk openly about it, giving hints that they knew a way to learn the subject better mostly got the ones that didn't like Umbridge to come. And the same precautions were then enacted as with the others that had already been part of the group for the first term of the school year.
"Welcome to the first meeting of the DG for the new year. Most of you already know what we are doing in this group, namely making up for the lousy teaching that Umbridge calls conducting a class. We cover practical means of actually defending yourselves against both dark creatures and dark wizards. For the ones that are here for the first time, I will have you demonstrate a number of spells that are part of what you should have learned in class by now to see what we need to work on most.
"I personally don't care if you believe me about my declaration that Voldemort is back. I stand to what I said, but I won't force anybody to take my side in this. But I will tell you that you need to be capable in this subject, as unpleasant wizards and creatures don't really need a dark lord to be nuisances. If your main goal for being here is just doing much better in your class and actually having a chance at passing the end-of-year exams, that's perfectly alright with me.
"For the ones that already know the drill, pair up and practice disarming and shielding charms. I want you to have one of you disarm for five minutes, while the other one tries to shield. After that time, switch positions. The ones shielding will have their back to the walls, the ones disarming to the middle of the room," Harry instructed, and the group quickly built pairs, while he went over to the three that were here for the first time. Two Ravenclaws from Third year and one Hufflepuff from second year.
"Alright, let's go over to the shooting range and you can show me how far you are in the basic spells of your year. I will call out a spell and I want you to give it your best shot. It doesn't matter if it isn't perfect, that's what this group is for after all, giving you assistance in getting proficient," Harry told them, "I also need your names."
"Okay. That doesn't sound too bad," The Hufflepuff boy nodded and stepped towards the range, "I'm Alec Ivory."
It was mainly a dummy at the end with a target placed onto the torso and Alec took out his wand to begin.
"We will start simple. A disarming charm please," Harry started while holding a clipboard with a piece of parchment that had a list of spell names on it.
He had created the list after the first few sessions with his groups to have an idea what he needed to work on most. Once he got the idea, he let everybody perform the spells to get their level and then put them into groups to work on the same spell. After all, it would have been stupid to let a group work on stunners if they hadn't even mastered the disarming spell, which was much easier. He let Alec perform all fifteen spells on his list, before he continued with Angela, the girl from Ravenclaw, in the same way. Of course, he had created a list for each year, otherwise it would have been unfair.
Once he had a solid idea of their level, he added them to different groups to practice with the others. He went around, demonstrating spells and correcting the groups in their performance, also giving advice how to improve their spell casting. The three newcomers were quickly more at ease when they saw how Harry conducted the group sessions and at the end they were convinced to stay as regular members and signed the agreement after Harry told them the consequences of going against it, also giving the reasons why things were done this way. They had enjoyed their time here and told Harry that he was a great teacher, which he was quite pleased to hear.
Hermione was in a frenzy. OWL exams were the next week and she was cramming every bit of information she could into her mind. She had stopped following Harry too closely a month before the exams would begin, telling the headmaster that Harry could hardly cause too many problems when he had to prepare for the OWLs as well. Thankfully the headmaster had agreed with her in that aspect and she and Ron could concentrate on their own studies, as the OWLs were immensely important for their future. Even if Hermione thought that only she among her group truly understood how important.
She fully intended to become the top student of her year again. She had cleared with Professor McGonagall that she could simply sit the Muggle Studies OWL without having attended the classes for the past two years. To her surprise, it had been easily permitted. She hadn't known that you could apply for any kind of subject to take an OWL in, even beyond the normal twelve subjects that Hogwarts offered. She wasn't too happy that she had only found out about magical language courses on her last birthday last September, when Harry gave her the one for French for a birthday present, telling her that he had only recently found out about it and thought it perfect for her, as she had told him and Ron that her parents liked to go on vacation in France.
It was a very thoughtful gift and she had loved learning another language perfectly in just one year. Had she known the option existed before, she would have done more languages over the years and could have taken the language OWL as well, which required proving that you were fluent in two languages. Well, she would remedy that next year. It was possible to sit OWLs for unusual subjects a year later, if you had the qualifications. Now she understood better how Percy managed to get twelve OWLs. Ron, when she had asked about it, told her that Percy had taken Care of Magical Creatures in self-study, thanks to how much Charlie had always told about his favourite subject at home, he didn't have too much to cover, and also took the language OWL, as he had earned the money for buying the courses himself.
It cleared up how he had managed that, when she had tried to go that path in her third year and realised in the end that even with a time-turner, it was too much work to do. But with just having to learn two languages with magical support, well, that was much easier. Well, eleven OWLs were still a very impressive result, especially as she planned to ace all of them. DADA was a sore point for her, as, with all of her other studies, she didn't feel properly prepared for the subject, as their teacher this year was horrible. She felt that if Harry had only agreed to her plan of teaching an underground study group, it would be much better.
But Harry had refused to do something that could come to bite him in the back. And soon after, she had been too busy working on these things on her own. At least, so far, Umbridge hadn't totally taken over control at the school, even if she was working towards that goal. Her inspections of classes had been horrible, but most teachers managed to prove their competency. And the only one that had been put onto probation was Trelawney. Hagrid had just managed to avoid that fate, even if rumour had it that it was only on insistence of Dumbledore that Umbridge couldn't just declare him unsuited based on one lesson where he didn't have much forewarning and his part-creature heritage.
Dumbledore, rightfully in Hermione's opinion, with the backing of the Department of Magical Education, had insisted that Umbridge had to inspect three classes in different years, including all houses. Meaning, she couldn't just go to the ones where the Slytherins would give her biased comments, she had to attend more of them. Dumbledore also had given her some guidelines that he demanded to be fulfilled before he would accept a teacher being put on probation and following that, if the teacher still failed to meet the standards, fired.
According to what the headmaster had told her and Ron during one of their meetings with him, Umbridge had to ensure that all observations were objective and could be proven with pensieve memories. The ones to ultimately decide the probation of a teacher would be Umbridge, as the High Inquisitor, Professor Marchbanks, as the head of the DME, the Minister of Magic, as he insisted on being involved, Professor Tofty, a long-standing member of the Wizarding Examination Committee and regular examiner for OWL and NEWT exams at Hogwarts, and Headmaster Dumbledore himself.
With five people making up their mind about the quality of the teachers, it was more balanced than just having the extremely biased opinion of Umbridge as the base. Trelawney got the negative marks from four of the five, with only the headmaster supporting her, not too surprising for Hermione. She also knew that Professor Binns would only teach until the end of the school year, a compromise that the headmaster had worked out after he got the promise from the Minister that the Ministry would cover the additional costs for the new teacher by increasing the budget they gave Hogwarts each year.
He had fully accepted the conclusions Umbridge had come to in the subject, but he could counter the demands by pointing out, with proof, that he had tried to get the increased budget permitted for ten years by now and had always been refused. Thus, if they wanted to show some success with their educational reform, they would have to cover the bill for it. Madam Marchbanks and Professor Tofty fully agreed with Dumbledore in that area and, as Fudge had been boxed into a corner, he had given in, as he wanted to use the opening for one of his cronies. The main problem was that they were all mostly brainless idiots and Madam Marchbanks would conduct the interview, as the Minister and Umbridge didn't want Dumbledore to do it, stating that he was responsible for the current situation as headmaster.
Hagrid had surprisingly improved a lot for the second inspected lesson and Umbridge hadn't managed to get him put on probation for the first inspected one, which hadn't gone well, what with Malfoy and his ilk giving untrue statements. While Professors Marchbanks and Tofty advised to get Hagrid some more training in how to teach a class properly, something they noticed had been neglected with many teachers at the school, they were convinced that once that was done, Hagrid would be a great teacher, as he loved his subject and knew all there was to know about magical creatures. It was a toad the Minister had been reluctant to swallow, nothing to say about the fury Umbridge showed at being foiled at getting rid of Dumbledore's biggest supporter at the school.
All in all, some suggestions for improvement of classes had been given and the headmaster had promised to see them realised by at least the beginning of the next school year, as long as it was within the means given to the school, meaning the budget. He had pointed out other areas of problems, where the Board of Governors simply refused to free the monetary means to actually do what was necessary. Like buying new brooms for the flying classes. Fudge and Umbridge hadn't liked that Dumbledore had managed to redirect their attacks into places where they were under attack, after all, the Ministry had a seat on the Board of Governors.
Hermione didn't notice that Harry wasn't present at the library or the common room most of the time during her studying. She assumed that he was at the other place to where she was working, similar to Ron thought the same. Actually, as he had lost his two annoying minders to OWL preparation, he was using the Room of Requirement to the fullest, as he would lose that resource once he had left the school at the end of the year. And with the additional study time inside the room, Harry was progressing incredibly fast and he was sure that he would be ready to take his mastery exams once he got out of Great Britain.
Harry watched how the examiners arrived the evening before the first OWL exam would be taken. Dumbledore greeted them, while Umbridge showed a forced smile. It was clear that she had wanted to be the one in the position of headmistress. Good thing that she hadn't managed that part so far. While Dumbledore was a git, he at least didn't torture the students. And Harry had plans what to do with the toad once the whole examination circus was done. He didn't want to disturb his classmates and the seventh-years, as these tests were important for them. And they were also his ticket to freedom.
But he had found an amusing charm that would neutralise the toad without killing her. Though the counter had been lost to normal magicals about four hundred years ago. It would be perfect. Well, tonight he wouldn't use the room, as he wanted to have a normal night of sleep, and the risk of any of the others in his dorm waking up from nerves and discovering his absence was too big to risk. It would be much easier to disappear during the day, in between the tests. Though mostly to relax. He was done with his studies for now, he would resume them to revise for NEWTs and mastery exams after the OWLs were done.
The schedule for the tests was that first the first to fourth years went through their tests, then the OWLs were sat and following that the NEWTs and end-of-year exams for the sixth-years at the same time. The teachers would test the sixth years while the seventh-years did their written tests. Harry knew that he didn't have to fear anything from the OWLs. And he had applied for all OWL subjects Hogwarts offered, next to Duelling, Languages, Warding and Healing. The time to hide his abilities was gone. From now on, Dumbledore didn't have any influence anymore.
He had also made sure that Dumbledore would only find out once the examiners arrived at the school, sending the application for the additional OWLs to Madam Marchbanks. It wasn't unusual for a student to do that, as the teachers at Hogwarts would only fill out the applications for the subjects that were taught here. While he expected to be called into Dumbledore's office after the exams were over, he knew that the old man couldn't get into his head anymore. He would be able to ignore anything he said to reprimand him, especially as he had no right to tell him off for studying more than the normal subjects. And he had very good reasons worked out for learning each of the subjects he had taken.
Interest in foreign languages after his summer vacation in Sweden, next to finding the language packages being sold for a price he could easily pay, then preparation for Voldemort coming after him as reason for the Duelling training, Warding to prevent unwanted visitors like Death Eaters and Healing because he landed in the hospital wing far too often to not know how to heal his common injuries. And if the old man didn't like it, his problem, not Harry's.
Madam Marchbanks looked at the lists of students from the four houses at Hogwarts. About forty students were going to take the OWLs. The one that seemed most ambitious about the number of subjects was Harry Potter. The boy wanted to take sixteen subjects. Well, she knew of course that there were ways to learn languages much faster with magical help. That OWL was easily explained. He had given French and Spanish as the two languages he would like to be tested in. Duelling and Healing, she suspected that he had studied a lot about those areas for the Triwizard Tournament last year, but she was surprised at the Ancient Runes, Arithmancy and Warding applications.
According to the file Minerva McGonagall had given her, the boy took Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. There was a remark that he had asked to switch out of Divination, but it had been refused by the headmaster. Ridiculous in her opinion, especially at the beginning of the third year of a student. Well, the boy seemed to have worked around that obstacle and had done the subjects he was interested in in self-study. She was looking forward to seeing how well he would do. His parents had been highly talented after all.
As was common, the examiners from the Ministry didn't get any information about the previous grades of the students. They would only determine the grades for the OWLs by the performance that the students showed in their exams, not things that teachers commented upon. All files only held the basic data of the students that were participating in the exams. The examiners just checked the classes taken against the tests applied for to make sure nothing was overlooked. It had happened in the past that a muggleborn that wanted to simply take the test for Muggle Studies for an easy OWL hadn't been entered into the OWL for the class he had actually taken classes in.
While it was possible to add OWL subjects to your timetable, it wasn't possible to not take one in a class you took. Next to Potter, there were several other students that had added subjects. Most were additional electives, but some had extracurricular subjects too. Those students would be informed tomorrow morning when the subjects would be tested. She would have liked if more students took that kind of subjects, but the quality of the students at Hogwarts had suffered since the time she began examining students for OWLs and NEWTs. She had already been a Ministry examiner when Albus Dumbledore was a student. She didn't know why the quality and achievements varied so much, but she was by now used to it.
Extremely outstanding students appeared every few years. Be it in the academic area or the practical part, the rare few that managed to excel in both. Getting an O in your exams wasn't a sign that you were an overly powerful or smart student, it just showed that you had prepared very well for the exams. The current level of what was tested was barely two thirds of what she had been tested in, back in her youth. But the Ministry had to take sinking magic levels into consideration while setting up the exams, not to mention the accommodation of those students that had previously attended the trade school. In her opinion, closing the last trade school for financial reasons, hadn't been smart. The children that weren't as academically gifted only pulled the others down, as there wasn't any way to put the better students into an advanced program. And you noticed over the years if too many students couldn't perform certain spells anymore.
Those students that proved doing really well in the common part of the exams would then be tested for extra credit. And the examiners always quickly determined those students that had the necessary power levels and the skill to pull that kind of spell off. She would be open-minded for the coming weeks and see how the students would do this time around.
The fifth-years stood outside of the Great Hall, waiting to be let inside. Their first OWL would be taken in Charms. Many were nervous, none more than Hermione. She was whispering all kinds of things under her breath, trying to remember everything she had ever read. Harry was sure she didn't have to worry about anything. Despite her being a spy for Dumbledore, she prioritised her education over everything else. He would have told her how to really make the most of her time at Hogwarts, had she not betrayed him. Nobody but him knew about the Room of Requirement and its incredible possibilities.
On the Voldemort front, Sirius had informed him via the two-way mirror that they had been lucky and had found three horcruxes already. Thanks to Dumbledore's information about Tom Riddle, they had searched all kinds of places that had a connection to the man. Bill's expertise in curse breaking had already prevented a tragedy, when he had prevented that Dumbledore donned a ring that had been cursed. It had been found in the shack that had once been the home of Voldemort's maternal family. The second one was a locket that ironically had been found at Grimmauld Place, after they had gone to a cave with an inferi infested lake. They had torched the whole lake after getting the locket that was protected there out, to take away this possible resource for Voldemort.
It would put the ones whose bodies had been desecrated for that to rest. The locket in the cave was a fake though and Sirius recognised the handwriting and initials of his brother, which led to him questioning Kreacher about the location of the real locket. As a side effect Kreacher became much more bearable after the horcrux was destroyed. The third one was a bit tricky to get, but, as the goblins didn't care about Ministry convictions, Sirius had all the rights of the head of the Black family at Gringotts. He had gone there to get a horcrux that had been entrusted to his cousin Bellatrix out of her vault. Thanks to Arcturus Black entering a clause into the marriage contracts for his granddaughters that the other side probably didn't know about, as it was very well hidden, the head of house Black could access any vault that a member of House Black had access to.
It was allowed to use such a clause, as House Black was one of the highest-ranking houses of magical Britain. As the wizarding world had never left the Victorian Age, the ideas of nobility trumping everything was still very much part of the way of thinking. Sirius had also used his access to reduce the war fund of the Death Eaters. The main financer of Voldemort was Lucius Malfoy, who coincidentally had married Narcissa Black. And Abraxas Malfoy had been forced to swallow the toad of the clause to even get permission for his son to marry a Black daughter. The standing of the Blacks was what had allowed the Malfoys to rise greatly in the social pecking order of Great Britain.
They were a French house that had moved to England in the wake of the French revolution. While nobility in France at that time, they were targeted by the revolutionaries. And foreign houses only ranked one step above muggleborns, no matter their blood status. Lucius had only risen in standing as much as he did, as his Black in-laws had either died of old age or in the war, next to being thrown into prison. By 1990 there were no Blacks left besides Sirius. And he was at Azkaban for life. That meant, Narcissa was the only acknowledged member of the Blacks that could access the Black vaults.
While her access was limited to a certain amount of gold each year, it had helped greatly in Lucius' plans. They had thought that Draco would inherit the Black title upon his coming of age, but Sirius had made sure that Harry would get it, as soon as he was out of Azkaban and thinking clearly enough. While his relation to the Blacks was more distant, all pureblood houses were somehow related after all, thanks to being Sirius' godson, he was seen as good as Sirius' child, as long as he didn't have biological children. Not that Harry would act on it, but it was useful to know that Malfoy wouldn't get what he wanted. Not to mention that Sirius had taken back all the gold the Malfoys had taken from the Blacks and then some on top, as interest. Officially Lucius couldn't even complain about that.
The Lestrange vault had been emptied fully, as a clause about imprisonment in the marriage contract stipulated it. And the Lestranges hadn't realised that it was in the contract at all. Not to mention that they were another French house originally and had been happy that Rudolphus got permission to marry Bellatrix. In there they had found a cup that was a horcrux as well. All three valuable items had had the soul pieces transferred, thanks to Bill's expertise, and were now free again. Two were founders' artefacts that Dumbledore planned to put into a vitrine at the school once Voldemort was dealt with.
Finally, the doors opened, and the students found the Great Hall's look changed. The four house tables were gone, in their place were numerous single desks. There were parchment, ink and quills ready for their use. The quills were the infamous anti-cheating ones and thankfully they also were enchanted to hold ink for half an hour of constant writing. Otherwise this would have been ridiculous. You only had to place the quill into the ink for a minute to continue. Fred and George had been nice enough to let them know about this part. None of the students had been allowed to take anything with them for the exams, besides their wands, which had to be placed onto the desks to ensure that no student used them for spells to cheat off of others.
Each desk had a name tag on it, which meant the students needed some time to find their seat. There were ten rows of desks in four lines from the front to the back, and the placement was done in a way that there were no students from the same house in one row. Probably because it was quite sure that you wouldn't have an easy time to get help from a student from a different house. Not that they would be able to look at anybody's test with the distance between the desks. Harry was in the third row, second seat from the left. To his left was Justin Finch-Fletchley from Hufflepuff and to his right Anthony Goldstein from Ravenclaw and Millicent Bullstrode from Slytherin. He sat down and made sure to put the quill into the ink well to have it ready for duty. Some others did the same.
At the front of the room was a large sign. 'Ordinary Wizarding Levels / Charms', was written on it.
Professor Flitwick seemed to be the one overseeing the test, next to the Ministry examiners. Madam Marchbanks stepped forward as soon as all students were seated.
"Welcome everybody to your first OWL. I'm Professor Marchbanks and I would like to give you some basic information about how these exams will be done. For each OWL, you have a written and a practical part, except for the purely theoretical classes, like History of Magic and Arithmancy. The written tests for the mixed classes will take three hours, from nine to twelve in the morning, and will be followed by practical tests in the afternoon. There you will be called by alphabet. The purely theoretical subjects have written tests that last four hours. You will only write with the special quills in front of you. They are charmed to prevent any kind of cheating and hold ink for half an hour, loading them takes one minute, so you better do it now, while I explain a few things," Madam Marchbanks told them and those that hadn't done so yet, put their quills into the ink wells.
"Similarly to the quills, the ink is also spelled that way. All answers are to be given on the parchment that we will be handing out after the general information part is done. There is enough space to give your answers. Write your full name, meaning including all middle names, onto the line at the top right of the first piece of parchment, it will automatically be copied to all other pages you get. You will notice a box at the front of your desks. They are for your wands, as we don't want anybody using his or hers to cheat. If you haven't learned enough by now, it won't help you anyway. And anybody that attempts to cheat is out of the exams, so you better don't even risk it.
"If you need to go to the toilet, you are to use the bathroom that was unlocked at the front of the great hall, behind the head table. We also have small bottles of water that you may take if you need something to drink. All of them just hold mineral water, no potions or anything else, which is why you were forbidden to bring any kind of food or drinks of your own. Additionally, when the examiners hand out the exam papers, they will perform a spell to check for potions or spells you have used prior to the exams. If they are the type that is considered cheating, you are out of here and fail the exam. I know that your heads of houses informed you about this, thus, it shouldn't be an issue, but just to remind you, we will check this every new exam day. During the exams, the Great Hall is locked to the outside. You can only leave it, but not re-enter it before we unlock the doors for lunch break. That means, if you leave, you end the written exams."
All students nodded at the information. Then the Ministry examiners walked along the lines and left a set of exam papers on each desk. Once that was done, they swished their wands to perform the spell, thankfully nobody was caught for cheating. It would have been embarrassing to have that happen on the first exam day. The tests lay top down, which meant the students couldn't read them. Once they were all done, Madam Marchbanks spoke up again.
"The hourglass in front of the hall shows you how much time you have left. Keep the time in mind while working. You may begin, now," She stated and turned the hourglass around, which made blue sand fall down slowly.
The students turned their papers and started working.
Harry read the first question and had to suppress a snort. 'Give the incantation and describe the wand movements to make objects fly.' That was first-year level. He quickly wrote the answer and then continued with his test.
Hermione and Ron were too busy with their OWLs to notice anything going on around them. Every minute that they didn't spend eating, sleeping or in the exams was used for last-minute revision. Harry used that fact to slip away regularly after being done with his practical exams for the day. The first week had held Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, where the practical part was done in one of the greenhouses of the school, Potions, it was a change to brew in the Great Hall instead of the dungeons, that much was sure, and Ancient Runes. The weekend was welcomed by the fifth-years, both to revise and also get some time to not do anything study-related.
Hermione hadn't even noticed that Harry had been in the Ancient Runes exams, as she was in the second row and Harry in the fifth. He had also kept his distance from her before the students entered the room. Ron was glad about the free day. The next week would also be strenuous, as the one after it. Three weeks were set for all the OWL exams. The last week also had the exams for the subjects that weren't taught at Hogwarts. Once those three weeks were done, the seventh-years would be up for the NEWTs.
Harry knew he had done very well in all of his exams so far. They had been really easy in his opinion and he had also shown several spells beyond the normal requirements for the subjects. At first, he had been surprised when the examiners from the Ministry offered him to go over a list with five additional spells for extra credit when he had surprised them with his apparent ease at casting the spells they wanted to see, but by now he understood that it was common to ask those students that showed that they were clearly very comfortable with their casting for additional demonstrations.
He was just glad that none of the Hogwarts teachers were there for the practical parts, except for Umbridge, who couldn't help herself and broke an unspoken rule for the exams by watching. It wouldn't do to have Dumbledore catch onto his true skill before he had left for the summer break. While he wouldn't be able to stop Harry going to sit his NEWTs, he didn't want to tempt Dumbledore into putting a 24/7 guard around him that kept him locked up somewhere. While he would manage to get out, it would be much easier otherwise. The results of the OWLs would only be sent to the school around the middle of August. Meaning, by that time Harry would already be gone from the country. And while Dumbledore had connections to find out about results earlier, he would have to ask for it and Harry knew that the time when the OWL results would come in was also the one when the ICW held their most important meeting of the year.
And Harry didn't doubt that by then the return of Voldemort would have been outed in some way. After all, the dark side would be ready by now to act against the Ministry. They had got a full year to prepare in secret. It could only be hoped that the hunt for the horcruxes would be finished before things got too bad. Or that Voldemort's body fell victim to two curses battling for dominance. Harry could live with both results, even if it would be best if by the time his body gave out on him, the horcruxes were dealt with already and Voldemort would simply die. Harry had no intention to ever meet that bastard again.
And even if Dumbledore wasn't reinstated by that time, he had no reason to ask for Harry's results, as he hadn't stood out at all before the OWLs were taken. And the exams in the subjects he hadn't taken were overseen by the respective teachers of the subjects, meaning none of Dumbledore's inner circle. And the additional subjects were only done by the Ministry examiners, as there were only a few students testing for them anyway. Harry was the only Hogwarts student going for Healing, Warding and Duelling, while some others would take the languages exams, and some did Politics and Economy.
Harry just had to keep up the ruse for a while longer. And with the search for the remaining horcruxes and the problem with Umbridge, the old man should be kept too busy until then.
Harry left the Hogwarts Express for the last time. It felt good to have done all his exams and thanks to Voldemort being outed while breaking into the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry, seemingly there had been a prophecy that he wanted to get into his hands, everybody else had been too occupied with worry what would happen now, that Harry could use the Room of Requirement to his heart's content without the spies noticing anything. Hermione probably believed that Harry was off somewhere, worrying too, brooding and being a moody git. He didn't correct her assumption.
The ones he had taught had come to see him, thanking him for helping them passing their DADA exams as well as they did. While the fifth and seventh-years didn't have their results so far, they all felt good, simply because they didn't have much trouble with the questions asked in the papers and then the practical demonstrations. It had amused them all when Umbridge had to hide her fury at them excelling at the practical like they did. After all, Fudge still believed that Dumbledore was after his job and raising his private army at Hogwarts.
He had considered telling somebody about the Room of Requirement, but, in the end, he hadn't done so, as he didn't want to play this card before he was irrevocably away from Great Britain. Once he had managed to get away, he would send a letter to Neville to inform him about the room and its properties, if the war still raged. The room would be great to allow the opposition of Voldemort to hide and prepare unnoticed. And Neville had done very well in the DADA tutoring lessons with Harry. Especially after the Azkaban break-out.
One thing that had surprised Harry was when he had gone to explore the hidden treasures of the Room of Requirement. He had come across a huge room with thousands of things. Among them, he found the lost diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw. A quick check confirmed that it was a horcrux like the diary had been. Bill had insisted that Harry learned that spell, after all, with his luck it wasn't improbable that he would come across another one. Harry had put the horcrux into a bag and sent it to Bill directly. Dumbledore would have asked too many questions where he had found it, which he knew Bill and Sirius wouldn't do. He just wrote he had found the diadem while exploring some places at Hogwarts and that the spell Bill had taught him had come up positive.
Next to the diadem, he had found many valuable things, which he had taken for himself. After all, these things hadn't been missed for ages, meaning finder's keeper's. His secret compartment in his trunk, which he had bought the summer before his third year in Knockturn Alley while wearing a glamour, was filled to the brink with valuable magical artefacts and old books. He planned to make copies of the books and send them to the bookstore in Espen Alley. He was fully for screwing the purebloods that would want to keep that knowledge to themselves. And Harry could relate to the muggleborns that had found ways around the oppression and despicable treatment they got from the ones in power. Harry fully planned to make a trip to Espen Alley to have the Runes expert examine the things he had found. Probably he would be able to replicate them and be giddy about the challenge.
As long as Harry got to keep his ones, and perhaps get a little money for supplying the original device, he would happily allow the man to replicate the production processes to make more profit. After all, Harry had got his pensieve thanks to that man's efforts. And while at Espen Alley, he would also stock up on language courses to work on while away.
Madam Marchbanks was shocked. There was no other word for it. Never in her by now over a century old career as an educator had she seen results like these. Oh, she had seen powerful and skilled students excel in their specialties, but never somebody that managed to get results like these in all subjects. Even the ones where it was known that the teachers were horrible and had animosities with the student's family. But Harry Potter had just done that. Sixteen OWLs he had applied for. Sixteen OWLs he had aced. Outstanding all over the board with distinction in all subjects. Even History of Magic.
She had tested Albus Dumbledore, but even he, who had got twelve OWLs, thanks to self-study of languages, in both human and magical creatures languages, which replaced the OWL subjects Divination and Care of Magical Creatures for him, hadn't managed to get all Outstanding grades. Albus got Exceeds Expectations in Arithmancy and Astronomy and an Acceptable in Herbology. Albus would be the first to admit that he had no talent for plants. He knew all the theory but didn't do that well in the practical. Tom Riddle, another exemplary student, who had then suddenly vanished from the wizarding world when he was in his early twenties, had got ten OWLs, nine Outstanding and one Exceeds Expectations in Care of Magical Creatures.
Sixteen Outstanding with distinction. She was still digesting that shock when a snowy owl flew through her home's window. She took the letter automatically while the owl took off again. She opened it and read through it quickly. Well, after the results she had just seen, results that Potter would also have got today, she wasn't the least surprised at his request. She had got the full list of results earlier this afternoon, as it had only been compiled after the results were sent to the students, like every time. While taking the NEWTs early was unusual, he would think himself not challenged enough at Hogwarts and requesting sitting the NEWTs at the earliest convenience at the Ministry was only logical.
She had known about the law that allowed any student that had passed his OWLs to request sitting the NEWTs in secret at the Ministry. It hadn't been used in ages, but there hadn't really been a reason for it. Madam Marchbanks believed Dumbledore when he said that You-Know-Who was back. Fudge was a fool to waste time for preparing for the inevitable war that would come once the enemy was ready to show his hand. And thanks to his stubborn refusal to accept even the possibility, they had already lost a year against the dark side. She had lived through the Grindelwald and Voldemort wars. She knew what dark wizards could and would do to their victims. Harry Potter now requesting that his taking the NEWTs early was kept secret until he was finished with them was only logical.
She looked over the list of subjects he wanted to take, and he had only taken Divination from the list of his previous subjects. Not surprising when he hadn't wanted to take the subjects after the first week. Even if he had done extremely well in his exams. Well, she would send the reply tomorrow morning and arrange for the NEWTs to be set up in her department's testing room three days later. She would have the home-schooled NEWT students then as well. And except for the additional subjects, everything else was already prepared. The NEWT exams for the home-schooled students were always the first thing they held after the grading of the OWL and NEWT exams from Hogwarts was finished.
NEWTs were always done first, then the OWLs. After all, the seventh-years needed to know if they had passed their classes to apply for jobs or finalise getting the job they had already got tentative agreement for with the employers. Most students from wizarding families went to job interviews and tests during the Easter break and had pre-traineeship contracts set up before they had their NEWTs. Passing the classes they took was of course mandatory for the contracts to become active. But it saved the employers a lot of time in getting the trainees and apprentices that they wanted, and they could directly start once the students graduated.