David really was telling no more nor less than the truth when he said that he wanted to concentrate on his NEWTs; he resented Odessa for interrupting his schooling. He was to teach; and he needed good grades for that. Training the young was more important than the petty irritations of a bunch who had shown themselves not even particularly professional.
The New Marauders were on the job of watching out – along with Prongs Potter - and he could leave matters safely in their hands. Even as they would leave it to the Junior Marauders next year for the taking of their own NEWTs.
David was taking six NEWTs; far more than average, and hoping to get good grades in a majority. He did not feel like risking taking a seventh; besides he did not need to prove himself the way Hermione had needed to prove herself, nor did he fall headlong into doing them for sheer fun as – he suspected – Krait had done.
He would however have taken an OWL in chanting; had it been offered as anything but a voluntary subject. Severus had applied for the exam to be formalised but the ministry could not find an examiner. There was another English teacher of chanting, who taught in the select continental girls' school but Severus viewed her efforts with some contempt as little more than was used in enchanting items.
"Being self taught in a subject for want of tutors does rather set it as a minority subject" he said regretfully "And yet it has immense applications!"
Severus was also writing a book – and had asked David to write a foreword to it – on the applications of blood magic in light magic. David had read the introduction and was struck by its powerful message. Severus had written,
"A muggle once said that one should, to get on in life, be guided by faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love. He was correct. Without love, blood magic is either useless or corrupt. Without faith in each other, those who enter into a blood pact, there is very little chance of success. And hope is ever a mainstay of why we undertake any path. Still, love may overcome any glimmers of despair or disbelief; and so it is the greatest. And love in its purity can make blood magic unintentionally, as Harry Potter's mother did, when she died for him and in her blood sacrifice caused him to be the boy who lived. Much is whispered about blood magic being evil; and blood magic can be used for evil, and in its crudest forms by evil people. Yet one might just as readily say that wands are evil because Voldemort used a wand. There is a culture of fear around that which is not understood; and it is the intent of this book to present to the world some greater understanding of both the uses and the inherent dangers in blood magic to permit a clearer view and a way to enable those who feel they have no other choice – to save the life of a loved one, perhaps – but to engage in blood magic, without becoming entangled in unnecessary dark ritual to the detriment of their souls and conscience. Blood magic should never be engaged lightly. Its consequences are far ranging and still not entirely calculable over generations. But it need not be dark magic.
Please note; no unicorns have been killed nor virgins sacrificed in the research for this book.
I bet some of you thought they had been and were looking for a cheap thrill.
And now back to serious matters for those of you who were actually interested and were not prurient little voyeurs….."
David had laughed over that; and was more than willing to write a foreword – when his exams were over.
The Potions exam was first as it so often was. David suspected someone in the ministry of education arranging it that way with a tiny glimmer of sympathy so that the students might feel liberated from the stern Professor Snape. Erich was taking this as well, indeed most of the MSHG had done well enough to take the class, even Elizabeth Searle of Hufflepuff who had Weasley connections. She had negotiated very fast with Severus and declared she would be more than happy to scrape an 'A' grade.
Two people not in the MSHG were also taking Potions, Selina Bell in Slytherin, whom David thought more a Ravenclaw type; and Cicely Bern, a fairly decent Ravenclaw. Byron Beckard had joined the MSHG late, but he had joined, and he and Cicely grieved over the reputation Ravenclaw had acquired and encouraged the less wild exploits of their younger elements. With five Gryffindors, two Ravenclaws, four Slytherin and a Hufflepuff, Severus was actually rather pleased. Twelve was a good sized class for NEWT students. And all had a good chance of passing.
That the exam had been set by Horace Slughorn was immediately apparent. The preoccupation with Felix Felicis told its own story; and the fact that it was little more than a rearrangement of the exam Harry had sat, that David had worked through as part of his revision. As everyone else had access to that paper this was an absolute gift! There were also questions on acromantula venom and its uses and on the rules concerning antidotes for combined poison. David wrote cheerfully about the sum of the antidote to a blended poison needing to exceed the sum of the poisons, hesitated, and added
"When in doubt use a bezoar that cures all known poisons"
He had answered the question fully after all; and it was worth showing that he knew what a bezoar was in the hopes of bonus marks.
The practical involved brewing Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in the world; and an antidote of their choice to a love potion.
David disapproved of love potions on principal; though he made it scrupulously, and noted with pleasure its pearly sheen and the characteristic spirals rising. To him it smelled of new baked bread, fresh grass at dawn and Ellie's hair. He decanted it carefully; and chose to make the strongest possible antidote, a tricky little potion called Liberamore Major, involving powdered moonstone to balance the emotions and requiring great precision. Most of the rest of the class, he noted, were brewing the hate potion which was rather a brute force method of cancelling the infatuation; though Erich had picked another, more standard antidote. Lysistrata was trying to make the same potion as David, got in a muddle early on but without time to start again, wrote it up and collected a bezoar from the cupboard to hand in as an alternative on the principle that it was an imbalance and therefore a poisoning of the body and mind, as she told David afterwards.
"Does that work then?" asked David.
"Haven't a clue; I was panicking, I overran doing my first Amortentia anyway so I couldn't think how else to get any credit at all. I hoped at NEWT level I might at least get sympathy marks for logical woffle."
David laughed sympathetically.
"Still, at least the written paper was a gift" he said.
"You mean it wasn't quite such a beast as it might have been" said Lyssi.
Erich and Wido Mordaunt had enjoyed both written and practical; but most people seemed to concur with Lyssi that it wasn't such a beast as it might have been.
Wido had prepared the hate potion.
"I wrote up that hate is easier to overcome because most hatreds are illogical and so it was by comparison to a love potion safe; because love or infatuation do not have to be logical" he said "Not so elegant as the eyeopener potion of Erich or your Liberamore Major you brewed old boy; but you know me, I dislike everyone at the best of times"
"Idiot" he said affectionately.
Defence against the Dark arts was also a gift, or so it seemed. Again the MSHG were taking this as a body; they had had rather a lot of practice of actually defending against the dark arts.
The written exam covered descriptions of the unforgivable curses, and cursed wounds, all of which David knew plenty about. He wrote boldly that a cursed wound might only be healed by blood magic and only where love lies between the one who would cure and the wounded; and cited as examples the restoration of Alastor Moody's leg and the curing of a cursed wound to the hand of Albus Dumbledore that had also required much dedicated chanting. He had seen Moody since Abigail's determined healing of the man and could therefore write with confidence that the results of both instances had been witnessed personally though he had been present only at one of them. The healing of Grace's hand by Draco after the bullying of the Ravenclaw girls was none of their business; Grace was too shy to inflict with examination board oiks if they wanted to check up.
He might lose marks; but it was time to speak out that blood magic was not dark per se. And then he grinned and added that another instance he might cite was the curing of Harry Potter of death by his mother's blood sacrifice, though that had required the greatest of love since it proved fatal for her.
They could not deny THAT one.
What David was not aware of until much later was that the paper was being marked by Alastor Moody who had muttered rather about being cited as an example, but had not been prejudiced against blood magic as such.
The practical was a cinch.
Non verbal spells were a feature of NEWT level DADA; the which David had been casting since he was fourteen. The exam took the form of a duel with an examiner permitted to use the two non fatal unforgivable curses and David absently blocked before they were even spoken each time; and one cast non verbally at him before the thought was fully formulated; then cast a simultaneous expelliarmus, silencio and levicorpus on Professor Tofty, having discovered that most silenced, wandless wizards dangling by the ankle were capable of very little else. He then went and politely retrieved the Professor's pince-nez that had fallen off, and gently restored the elderly wizard to his feet, offering his glasses with an apology.
"I – I wanted to show how I'd deal with a deatheater for collection by an auror" he said.
The little wizard was beaming, if rather red in the face from being dangled head down.
"Excellent, excellent, countered beautifully throughout, barely even used your wand either! Stuck it in your belt to finish me off, gadzooks and you still combined three spells at onces non verbally! Splendid work!" he quavered. "What would you do if your wizard was still capable of casting silenced and wandless?"
"Nut him in the crotch sir" said David without thinking.
Tofty cackled in delight.
"Nut him in the crotch! So simple! So effective! So lowering to a dark wizard! Lateral thinking my boy; an excellent thing when fighting the dark arts, lateral thinking!"
Most of the MSHG had done well, though few were as practised duellists as David; Erich too had enjoyed his duel – since it had a purpose – and had performed solidly, blocking well and using Stupefy.
None of the others had suggested physical violence.
"You'll either get an'O' for cheek or a 'T'" said Lissa Crabbe cheerfully when they discussed it.
"He will an 'O' assuredly get" said Erich "For I overheard Professor Tofty telling Professor Dumbledore that he thought the head boy a most excellent and practical young man."
David went red but grinned.
Charlie Weasley was testing David on the practical in Care of Magical Beasts; and David was the only one taking the exam.
He had written a detailed essay on the differences between the different kinds of Dragons and how best to avoid trouble with them – and had resisted the temptation to write that one should avoid known dragon country to best avoid dragons, writing instead that if one could not avoid dragon country one should perform the following acts, listing the best ways of avoiding trouble with each kind of dragon. He ran out of inspiration over the Norwegian Ridgeback and just wrote 'apparate someplace, anyplace else'. It might give someone a laugh anyway.
For the practical Charlie – Professor Weasley as he must call him – took David through a magical gate to the seashore.
"You'll need to collect for me the murtlaps to remove their back tentacles" he said. "Good luck."
David looked about him; the wishing of luck made him recall another seaside creature, the Mackled Malaclaw, which had a bite that would give its victim bad luck of up to a week, a kind of anti-felix felicis.
Sure enough, the shoreline was stiff with Mackled Malaclaws.
"May I ask a technical question unrelated to how I solve this sir?" said David.
"You may ask; I may not answer it." Said Charlie.
"If I get bitten by one of these lucksucking lobsters can I be sequestered and take the rest of my exams when the bad luck has worn off?" asked David "Because if not I'm not risking it. I still have three exams to go after this. I'd rather fail one than three."
"A reasonable question. If you are bitten you are permitted a balanced dose of Felix to counteract the effects as based on your blood-state as measured by your school potioneer."
"Open to abuse I suppose but as fair as possible; I think this exam should be put last."
"It would have been but I've an expectant clutch and I want to get back to it. I negotiated the compromise."
"Fair enough sir" said David.
"The secret is, don't get bitten" said Charlie cheerfully.
Easier said than done; the mackled malaclaw was well disguised on the shoreline. And the community of murtlap were visible grubbing about beyond them.
They did not like fresh water however.
David got out his wand.
"Aguamenti" he said. He sprayed the wand in front of him; and the lobster-like creatures scuttered out of the way.
The murtlap, rat-like creatures with a sea-anemone like growth on their backs were busy grubbing after crustacea. The growth on their backs could be pickled to promote resistance to curses; and murtlap juice from the same source could ease even cursed wounds and cure lesser wounds. There was an art in harvesting the growth to leave enough behind to regrow to avoid having to kill these useful little creatures; and only licensed murtlap harvesters were supposed to do so. Presumably the ones David was collecting would then go to a licensed harvester. One might presume that they had developed this – gland, he supposed – as a defence against the bad luck from the bite of the Malaclaws with which they shared their environs. He scooped some sand into the bottom of the basket he was to place them in to make them feel at home; and used his wand to quickly lift and deposit as many as possible inside before the rest took fright and either ran away or tried to attack him.
They broke and ran and he returned carefully, spraying any Malaclaws that had returned.
Cleaning a firecrab was far less stressful.
Killing a manticore was far less stressful come to that. He handed the basket to Charlie who opened it and counted.
"EIGHT?" he said.
"Best I could do" said David waspishly.
"Bugger it, boy, a pro hopes to get six or seven as a general thing" said Charlie, impressed. "Nice work; and they seem fairly happy – well, not too unhappy, too. You got a nice lot of crustacea in that sand you dug, they're starting to root again."
"I don't like animals to be distressed" said David "Even Norwegian Ridgebacks. After that though I might not be too concerned over cruelty to examiners though."
"You'll do fine!" he said.
It was Arithmancy next; only a written exam, thank goodness, though it was a massive four hour one. There were five of them for that exam; Fenella, Wido and two Ravenclaws, Orla Quirke and Hugo Moonin. Fenella and David had performed best in class; Fenella had needed to learn that there were things she did not know, but had soon pulled level with David in most arithmantic disciplines once she had moved into Gryffindor House and settled down. They had a friendly rivalry now.
David found the exam stiff but stimulating. The paper was a series of examples to solve, such as how to calculate when and facing which direction to break a particular curse; to give a geomantic location to find the splinched leg of a wizard, given certain apparating conditions; the calculation for the shortest route from A to B for apparating; the calculation for the best time to harvest puffapods knowing when the seeds had been sown and the state of the moon.
David added that this calculation had left out such other variables as weather, but that dependant on how quickly the weather permitted harvesting added two further calculations for arithmantically favourable times to take in hotter drier conditions and wetter colder conditions. He might not have been taking Herbology but it did not take a NEWT level education in herbology to know that plants needed a sight more than good will and calculations to grow, and moisture and sunshine were two of them.
The siting of various new buildings was child's play on the whole, though having looked at some comparative magic he did cite the example of Eastern traditions giving slightly different starting criteria.
The last question was a very tricky formula without explanation; the question being to work out what it represented.
It was a place equation containing terms of i cubed with a very nasty looking piece of integral calculus. Heh, he knew what that was, it was a calculation of wizarding space; and he wrote that down hastily so he would be credited with knowing that much even if he got no further. If he could solve a portion of it that would help…
David scribbled hastily, then breathed a sigh of relief. It was in London; which gave several possibilities, but only one on that orientation.
It was the equation for the setting up of Diagon Alley.
And that was the last question.
He had half an hour in hand; had he missed something?
Scrupulously David checked each question to be sure he had not left out all or any of a question; in a multipart question it was easy to read over a second – often higher marked – part in the stress of an exam. He found no omissions, and could think of nothing more to add anyway. And there were no other pages for he checked the numbers on each and the last question was on page four of four.
He sat back and relaxed.
After the exam Hugo Moonin smirked and said
"I see the last question defeated even the great Mr Fraser."
"No" said David "What gave you that idea?"
"You were sitting there for a full quarter hour doing nothing!"
"I'd finished" said David.
"David: I hate you" groaned Wido "That blasted place equation was somewhere in London, but where the hell was it?"
"Diagon Alley of course; it runs from east to west" said David.
Wido smote his brow.
"Bother" said Fenella "I got the east to west but I'm not familiar with London, and I get confused as to what direction I'm facing."
"You WERE at a disadvantage" said David "Most of us are there every year, starting with the sun at our backs going in, fetching up with the sun at our backs going out after a long day's shopping."
"Why the hell didn't I think of that?" said Wido. "So how far did you get with it Moonin?"
Hugo Moonin glowered.
"I got as far as it was a wizarding space equation" said Orla Quirke "I'm afraid I wasn't sure where so I made a wild guess it would be somewhere we all knew well so I said London, Platform Nine-and-three-quarters and hoped if I was right I'd get some marks even if I couldn't substantiate my reasons. I don't suppose Hugo actually got any further."
Hugo Moonin was fuming. He had relaxed when he thought even Fraser could not do the question; it never occurred to him that he sat doing nothing because there was nothing more to do. He stormed off in a royally Ravenclaw huff.
Nobody missed him.
David was a lone entrant again for his penultimate exam, Geomancy.
The written was quite tough, involving filling in a world map with key nodes; and marking on another map the usual routes from London to various other locations. Then two routes from one place to another were described – mercifully both places were in England – and he had to discuss the pros and cons of each route. The final question called for stops on the Knight Bus to be listed in order with a brief explanation. David hated this question. The route of the Knight Bus used similar reasoning to transfiguration convention of similar names being easy to associate; and though it generally went according to the alphabet this was not always so. Consequently he listed 'Aberdeen – Abergerveny – Brent Eleigh – Monk's Eleigh – Caterham – Mousehole – Chesterton' reasoning that the two ending in 'Eleigh' would be magically associated and that a town beginning 'cat' would be followed by one beginning 'mouse'.
It was true; there WERE weird connections through the ley lines and other almost wizarding space connections. But he didn't have to LIKE the logic.
The practical was not unlike the OWL practical only a little more complex. He was given a list of places, and objects left in those places and it was up to him to pick a best route to travel them and return with all the objects.
The examiner had wised up after the last exam and had asked for his cup of tea to be brought into the grounds this time.
David was not quite so quick this time; but the examiner was only just draining the last drop and he arrived back with a hat from Harrowgate, a teddy bear from Bridgend, a quill from Avon and a book from Reading.
David had his own priorities and whilst they may not have meant anything to a muggle geographer, they did not always accord with the priorities of the wizarding world either. However, the main thing was, as David had discovered, to believe in your connections firmly.
Only one to go.
Transfigurations was the exam David was dreading. Not the practical; he had no fears about that at all. He just loathed some of the theory.
Fortunately most of the written paper involved the two things David was happy with; summoning and banishing spells and human transfiguration. He wrote happily, and was amused that one question was the definition of an animagus. He had mugged up the five exceptions to Gamp's law of transfiguration and scarcely had to nibble the end of his quill to recall them. He did have a question on the theory of transfiguration by name and appearance but took Madam Marchbanks' advice and commented that similarities were subjective not objective and the similarity had to be in the mind of the witch or wizard casting the spell for the changes to occur, such that to one of a muggle upbringing Linnaen taxonomy might appear more appropriate. He gave examples using Latin names as well as common names to illustrate his point; suggesting that one might transfigure an English oak tree into a holly bush by going through the Holm oak; from Quercus Robur to Quercus Ilex to Ilex aquifolium. Equally that holly bush might now become a fountain since its secondary name, aquifolium, was distinctly watery.
He quite enjoyed his arguments and hoped they would be relevant enough to get him a pass on the written paper.
The practical was taken by Madam Marchbanks herself.
"My goodness, Mr Fraser!" she said "How nice to meet you again… well we hardly need deal with the summoning part of the exam since I have already seen your most excellent efforts on that subject; still the most comfortable chair I have ever had, nobody ever takes the effect of the shape of the legs into account. And I have short upper legs, a terrible affliction. Now Mr Fraser, I hear you are a dog animagus?"
"Yes ma'am" said David.
"Do you mind showing me? For extra points" she said.
David shrugged into dog, played dead, begged, and wagged his tail before shifting back again.
Madam Marchbanks nodded.
"Excellent! And you can I believe do …unusual transfigurations?"
"Well being a Gryffindor, it's a matter of belief to be a Gryphon" said David. "Did you wish me to…"
"If you do not mind"
David made sure to make it look harder to shift form. He had a strong suspicion it was supposed to be harder than he found it so concentrated quite obviously, changing a bit at a time. He returned to human form.
"Quite excellent!" said Madam Marchbanks. "Now the last thing is the fiddle to cat transformation…. I suppose you'll refuse to change it back again?"
"I'm afraid so Madam Marchbanks" said David.
"Well better an excess of sentimentality than callousness" she produced the violin. It was a cheap model, stained wood and the top had faded though the sides were richly coloured and well striped.
David was thinking too hard about the colour, and how like Assim Khan it was with his pale fluffy tummy when he was transfiguring the violin; but he did not intend to make it into a tiger.
"Oh my goodness!" said Madam Marchbanks.
"I'm sorry" said David "It was the colouration. The pale belly…." The tiger was a trifle nonplussed too; and before it could decide that it was nonplussed and hungry David rapidly changed it into a red tabby cat with a pale tummy and outsize testicles. The ginger tom prrr'ped and jumped on Madam Marchbanks' lap where he started making affectionate kneadings.
"Well this one appears to have decided where his home is going to be" she said. "Mr Fraser, you are a very talented, but sometimes rather unexpected transfigurationist."
"Sorry ma'am" said David, again.
She patted his arm.
"I think you are very instinctive" she said "And I should not be surprised if you had children who turn out to be metamorphagi. It's been a pleasure to examine you."
"Thank you ma'am" said David.
Naturally he was teased by the others of his class about managing to get a tiger out of a violin.
"And not even a tiger CUB" said Wido "But a full size honest to goodness Bengall Tiger! WHAT were you thinking of?"
David grinned weakly.
"Can you believe, Lynx Weasley's comments about Professor Khan'a fluffy white tummy. Uh…he's an animagus" he temporised for those who knew nothing about Assim's tiger form. "All the animagi hunt together…."
"Well I think it a most improper and undignified thing for the head boy to do!" said Ravenclaw's Stewart Ackerly.
"You can THINK Ackerly? You amaze me" said Wido.
"He was a very fine tiger" said Erich "But I think happier will be as Madam Marchbanks' pussy cat."
"Oh I agree" said David. "Teach me to let my mind wander, won't it? Do you think I'll get horridly penalised?"
"I think you'll get a 'T'" said Ackerly.
All the students had been in the great hall together; and David suspected the sudden appearance of a tiger on the next alphabetical station to him had upset Ackerly; and took this with a pinch of salt.
"It does not specify domestic cat in the rules actually" said Thierry. "And a tiger is a cat. One is given credit for markings and pedigree on one's own choice of cat."
"That's me a few down then" said David "I made him into a fairly ordinary domestic mog."
"But you should be credited on the fine markings of a most splendid Bengal Tiger" persisted Thierry.
"We shall see when I get my results whether she liked his stripes or disliked his teeth. I think I did enough with everything else to pass anyway; and I never had any great hopes of doing well on transfigurations anyway"
Ellie at least was on hand to hug David and murmur soothing words about how Lucius and Severus and Krait knew his worth to have him teaching next year full time; and David was comforted. He chuckled.
"What?" said Ellie.
"You know that poem by Tolkein, about fat cat on the mat, who dreams about being a big cat? I was thinking of Ginger Mog, and wondering if he will remember his moment as a tiger, thinking about the last line; fat cat, on the mat, kept as a pet – he does not forget."
"So long as he doesn't try eating big dogs that try to chase him."
"Y'know I reckon most cats DO believe they have a tiger's head (four feet from his tail) because most cats act like they're at least twice as big as any dog they meet. Speaking as a dog, meeting a dog-hating cat is actually a pretty scary experience. Like Calvin says of Hobbes, five of their six ends are pointy."
Ellie hugged him.
"Well, he'll be spoiled rotten" she said.
And it was all but over.
There was the end of term feast; and Dumbledore thanking David, and all those prefects who were leaving, for doing such a good job; and he had to settle down the ovation David was given.
"And we all wish our leavers, perhaps especially David Fraser who goes on to teach at Rowan House, all the best" said Dumbledore. "And now the shields; the Quidditch shield was won officially this year by Slytherin; a solid performance from Gryffindor but not quite enough to take those last few points. And the House Shield; fourth, Hufflepuff; third, Ravenclaw, who have made up in enterprise what they lost in mischief; and joint winners for the first time ever, Gryffindor and Slytherin. All houses won points over the defence against the Huorns, and I have to say this year's shield points stand closer than I have ever known them, so really congratulations are due all round. The marauders shield this year again had very close runners up in Lionel Dell's group; but for the sheer gall of all-house japes, jinxes and concerts, this shield goes to Mei Chang, Mad Lockhart, Chad Fenwick, Leo Black-Weasley and Lydia Snape, who I believe are known as the proto-marauders?"
"We're promoting them to the Mini Marauders, sir!" called Hawke.
"Then the Marauders' shield goes to the Mini Marauders!" said Dumbledore.
Mei led her group to collect it.
"Shall we sing the cauldron monster song sir?" she asked.
"Why not!" enthused Dumbledore, who liked his music lowbrow.
And so they did.
And it was the end of term; and the end of David's life as a pupil.
And the beginning of his life as a professor.
Sorry this was a short one. They start getting longer again though.