First time

OWLs

Chapter 13

OWLs

After a long run from the dungeons to one of the upper floors of the Hogwarts castle, Elizabeth was completely out of breath, but at least she had managed to reach the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom in time; Mrs. Figg wasn’t even there yet. Panting, she dropped down into her seat between Jane and Hermione, and while quickly pulling her things out of her bag, she excitedly began to tell the Gryffindor about her recent experience with Snape. She had barely got to the scare the Potions master had given her before deducting points for the second time when Mrs. Figg marched in, but Elizabeth was too eager to get on with the story to pay her teacher much attention; she merely lowered her voice and went on. At first, it seemed as though Mrs. Figg didn’t care (or perhaps, being the old lady that she was, she just couldn’t hear the quiet chattering; Elizabeth didn’t know), for she happily took the register and then started the lesson without giving the blond witch a single glance, but when Elizabeth reached the point in her story where she had told Snape how glad she was to see him, and described the awkward pause that followed while Snape was trying to sort her words out, making Hermione (as well as Jane, who had by then also become interested in Elizabeth’s narrative) burst into a not-so-silent set of giggles, she just couldn’t overlook it any longer.

“Girls,” she said, giving all three of them a disapproving look. “If you haven’t noticed yet, the lesson had already begun, and since it’s the last one before your OWLs, I advise you to pay attention. Now, as I was saying...”

But Elizabeth was no longer listening. The OWLs. She had almost forgotten about them during Potions, since her mind (as well as her eyes) was on Snape the whole time, but now...

“Hermione,” she whispered desperately, “you’ve got to help me! I’ll do anything, absolutely anything ... I just want an ‘Outstanding’ in my Potions OWL.”

“Shouldn’t you have thought about that before you quit studying Potions two weeks ago?” Hermione asked in a reproachful tone.

“Er ... well ... yeah, but at that time I didn’t know Snape’d come back, did I?”

“I don’t really think you should study something just because of the teacher, and not because of the subject itself ... because you enjoy it,” opposed Hermione, but noticing Elizabeth’s pleading look, she quickly added: “That doesn’t mean I won’t help you, of course I will, although I’m convinced even I would have a pretty tough time learning five years of Potions in a week ... but I’m sure we’ll work something out, don’t worry.”

“Thanks, Hermione! I knew I could count on you. I-”

“Miss Woodhouse, you have been warned,” said Mrs. Figg angrily. “Five points from Ravenclaw and come over here – I will test you.”

Elizabeth grudgingly rose from her seat and slowly made her way towards the front of the classroom. Mrs. Figg didn’t wait for her and went on, this time turning to the whole class: “As I’ve said at least a hundred times this year – there is no counter-curse against the ‘Avada Kedavra’ Unforgivable; the only way to avoid it is to dodge it. Generally, dodging a spell isn’t as effective as using a counter-spell, since it doesn’t inflict any damage to your opponent, but at least it gives you a second or two to draw out your wand.”

And then, all of a sudden, she whipped out her wand, pointed it at Elizabeth’s chest and shouted: “Stupefy!”, causing a beam of red light to shoot out from its tip. But Elizabeth, even though she hadn’t expected this at all, was quicker, and had managed to dodge her teacher’s spell, take out her own wand and disarm Mrs. Figg with the ‘Expelliarmus’ – all at the same time and in less than two seconds.

“Well done, Miss Woodhouse,” said the old lady as she picked herself up from the floor. “That was an excellent example of dodging, and also a perfect display of fast reactions and quick thinking. Thank you, you may sit down.”

Elizabeth obeyed and, handing her teacher back her wand, hastily made her way through the rows of desks towards her seat.

‘It wouldn’t have killed her to actually give me some points for my “excellent” performance,’ she thought bitterly as she sank down into her chair.

Almost as if she had read her thoughts, Mrs. Figg suddenly added: “And if you can manage to stay quiet for the rest of the lesson, I might even make Ravenclaw ten points richer by the time it ends. Now ... Mr. Weasley – I think your Quidditch discussion with Potter has lasted long enough, so if you’d like to come here and demonstrate the Shield Charm...”

The remainder of the lesson then passed in similar fashion, with Mrs. Figg calling out the noisy students and asking them to show her and the class some spell or other. Elizabeth decided that the best way to keep herself from talking would be to bury herself in a book of some sort, which she immediately did, spreading her copy of Most Potente Potions on the desk in front of her and attempting to memorize various brewing procedures right until the very end of the lesson. And by the time the bell finally rang, she had actually managed to learn as many as seven extremely difficult potions.

“Miss Woodhouse!” Mrs. Figg called over the commotion as all the students were noisily filing out the door. “Since I haven’t heard another word from you all lesson, Ravenclaw now receives ten points.”

“Thank you!” Elizabeth called back before being pushed by the crowd into the corridor outside.

Hermione was already there and Elizabeth quickly joined her, closely followed by Jane, who had by then also succeeded in forcing her way through the classroom door.

“So ... how do you expect me to help you with your studies?” Hermione asked. “I was thinking that perhaps I could work you out a timetable of some sort – something to give you an idea of how to organize your time this week. And if you follow it, there’s a good chance you’ll manage to learn most of the stuff you want.”

“That’d be wonderful!” beamed Elizabeth. “I’m absolutely terrible at organizing my time! But ... I’m sure you also need to study; won’t it be too much trouble for you to do this extra work?”

“No, of course not,” Hermione assured her. “I do it for Harry and Ron all the time. Would it be all right if I gave you your timetable tomorrow morning at breakfast?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll just continue studying Most Potente Potions until then. And I think the sooner I start, the better, so I might just as well get down to it right now. See you at dinner!”

And with that, Elizabeth disappeared in the direction of Ravenclaw Tower.


The last week left until the OWLs was over even faster than the one before it. Hermione had kept her promise and came up with a very large and very colourful timetable, but even though Elizabeth had tried her best to follow it, her attempts often ended in disaster. Mostly because she kept falling asleep far before the timetable allowed her to, later waking up to find herself slumped in one of the armchairs in the common room and aching all over, but sometimes the reason for being so badly behind Hermione’s carefully prepared schedule was a lot more shameful: since instead of learning how to transfigure a spider into a hairpin, she used the precious time to fantasize about Snape. That’s why when the fearfully awaited Day with a capital D made its much quicker than expected appearance, Elizabeth hadn’t managed to learn nearly as much as she had intended to. And that’s also why when she slowly walked down to the Great Hall for her first exam, Transfiguration, she looked much more like a prisoner on his way to the electric chair than a student about to write an OWL test.

The Great Hall looked a little different than usual that day: the four house tables had been removed and replaced instead by a large number of tables for one. Elizabeth picked a seat right at the back of the Hall (as far from the teachers’ table and the piercing eyes of Professor McGonagall as she possibly could); a seat which also happened to be right behind Hermione, who had promised to lean slightly over to the side and let Elizabeth copy some answers in case she’d be having too much trouble coming up with her own. And Elizabeth had agreed to do the same for Jane who was sitting on her right.

“You may begin,” said Professor McGonagall as soon as all the seats were occupied, and then went on to turn over a huge hour-glass standing on her desk.

Elizabeth stared down at the paper which had magically appeared on the table in front of her.

‘Question one: Which incantation would you use to turn a turtle into a teapot?’

‘Eeeaasy,’ thought Elizabeth cheerfully and wrote down the answer.

‘Question two: Describe what happens to an animal after using the Vera Vertum incantation on it.’

Elizabeth couldn’t help but grin. ‘Oh, come on. If all the questions are going to be like this, I might even get full marks.’

Obviously it wasn’t to be; for as the test went on, the questions were getting more and more complicated, forcing Elizabeth to spend more and more time poring over the answers. But even as she reached the end of the last page, something was still telling her an ‘Outstanding’ Transfiguration OWL might not yet be completely out of the question. And she didn’t even need Hermione’s help; although there were times when she had to use all of her will to resist the temptation to look, but usually she had just figured the correct answer out on her own in the end, and those few questions that had remained unanswered she simply ignored, coming to the conclusion that a perfect test strongly resembling Hermione’s would look rather suspicious, especially to somebody as experienced as Professor McGonagall.

“End of test!” the aforementioned lady called as soon as the last grain of sand in the giant hour-glass fell through. “Please go outside for five minutes to give us time to return the Hall to its original state; then you may come back for lunch.”

Elizabeth made a dash for the double doors, and before all the students had started pushing and shoving themselves in order to get out into the Entrance Hall, she, Jane and Hermione were already standing in a quiet corner, heatedly discussing question nine b.

“The cat changes into a handbag!” was Jane’s opinion.

“No, it doesn’t,” opposed Hermione, searching her bag for a copy of Transfiguring Animals to prove it. “I’m absolutely sure it turns into a slipper ... and here you are, you can have a look for yourself.” And she confidently shoved the book under Jane’s nose.

Jane gave it a thorough examination, but finally sighed and admitted her defeat. Just then, Harry and Ron suddenly appeared at Hermione’s side, both wearing huge grins.

“It’s over!” Ron exclaimed. “Just the practical exam to go this afternoon, and then it’s no more Transfiguration for the rest of the year!”

“How can you be so happy?” Hermione asked incredulously. “There are still two weeks of OWLs left, and you look as though it was the last day of them! How did you do on your test, anyway? In question thirteen, did you say that-”

“Hermione, we did fine!” Harry interrupted her. “But it’s over, so why talk about it when we don’t have to? Really, I’d rather have a chat with Malfoy over there!” And he jerked his head in the direction of the blond Slytherin standing only a few feet away from them, animatedly describing his successful attempt at cheating to his two overgrown companions, Crabbe and Goyle, who were laughing stupidly.

“Anyway, it’s time for lunch,” said Ron, and immediately started making his way back towards the Great Hall. The others followed suit, unsuccessfully trying to keep up with the readheaded boy’s hunger-powered pace.

After a small break following lunch, Elizabeth was again back in the Great Hall; this time for the already mentioned practical exam. And once more, she did well: successfully managing to turn her toad into a perfect frying pan. Ron, though, who was being tested at the table on Elizabeth’s left, was having a lot more trouble changing his rat into a plate: it still had a tail, ears and also legs, which it kept on using to run around in circles, escaping all of Ron’s desperate attempts to rectify his mistake. Elizabeth smiled and made a mental note to once again thank Hermione for her timetable, since without it she’d never have known how useful practising ways of turning animals into kitchen utensils half an hour a day could prove. But apart from glancing in Ron’s direction, Elizabeth didn’t waste any more time in the Great Hall than was necessary, and as soon as her examiner gave her permission to leave, she rushed off to the common room to study for the next day’s exam, Charms, at rocket speed. And it had paid off, too, for the stuff she had managed to learn that afternoon and evening helped her to answer as much as almost a fifth of the questions included in the written test. Her practical exam didn’t go as well, though, since despite her best efforts, Elizabeth’s over-studied mind simply refused to levitate the required object (in her case a very heavy sculpture) for more than four minutes, even though the ‘Outstanding’ OWL required five. Still, she was convinced her performance was bound to earn her at least ‘E’.

The third day of the OWLs, Wednesday, was taken up by Defence Against the Dark Arts – the subject Elizabeth was probably looking forward to the most, or at least the practical part of it. And she had a good reason to feel that way, too, since especially for the past year, her performance in class had been very close to perfect. As were, in the end, both her written and her practical exams, except for a small error in the sixteenth question where she had, for reasons unknown, mistaken a Boggart for a Dementor.

“I really don’t think you should continue studying during the OWLs,” Hermione told her when she had heard about it. “You’re overdoing it-”

“And that’s saying something since it had come from her,” Jane chimed in.

“-and I’m sure you’d never have made that mistake if you hadn’t been spending every single minute of your free time surrounded by books. You’ve got Potions tomorrow, and I know just how much you want to succeed there, so why don’t you take a break this afternoon? We could go for a walk around the lake-”

“And Potions is exactly the reason why I’m going to study harder than ever this afternoon,” Elizabeth cut her off impatiently. “You two can go for a walk if you like, but I’m going to the library. See ya!”

And she took off so fast Hermione didn’t even have time to invent another argument to stop her.

“She’s mad,” Jane declared as soon as her friend was out of earshot.

“That’s what love does to you,” sighed Hermione and set off in the direction of the lake.


Elizabeth didn’t get much sleep that night, as she’d spent most of it either revising potion ingredients in her head or imagining what she’d do if she failed to get an ‘Outstanding’ in her practical exam (she didn’t worry too much about the written part, since Hermione had again agreed to let her copy should the need to do so arise), and therefore wasn’t too surprised to, after finally falling into a deep slumber at six in the morning, wake up at seven feeling like she had someone using a large hammer stuck inside her head, especially in the area somewhere behind her eyes. She was also incredibly nervous, more than she’d been before all the other exams put together, causing her stomach to feel like it was floating on water. It was driving her crazy, and she felt almost relieved when Professor McGonagall had finally let them into the Great Hall for the written test.

She sank down into her usual seat at the back of the Hall and waited, impatiently tracing patterns on the wooden table in front of her. At last the paper appeared there, and Elizabeth hungrily focused her eyes on the first question.

‘What is a bezoar?’ it read.

‘Hmm, I think I know, but I’m not entirely sure,’ Elizabeth muttered silently. ‘Let’s just leave it for later. Next...’

‘Name all the ingredients used to make a Forgetfulness Potion.’

‘I knew that yesterday, so how come I can only remember one ingredient now? Maybe it’ll still come back to me. Next...’

‘What colour is the Shrinking Solution?’

‘Um ... next.’

But the test continued in much the same way, and by the time she reached the last page, Elizabeth had only succeeded in answering fifteen questions out of the total of thirty. And going over the paper once more didn’t help much, either, as raising the number of answered questions to seventeen wasn’t exactly something she’d call success.

Hermione was now her only hope, but to Elizabeth’s absolute frustration, she seemed too absorbed in her own paper to notice the silent signals to lean over she was giving her.

Elizabeth felt the tears form in her eyes. She could say goodbye to Snape’s NEWT class now, because even if she managed to make a perfect potion during her practical exam, it still wouldn’t be enough to get her an overall ‘Outstanding’. In fact, she’d be lucky if she didn’t fail.

She looked at the giant hour-glass. There was still about an hour to go, though what was time good for when she had nothing to write?

But she didn’t give up yet, and desperately darted her eyes around the Hall, searching for something – anything – to help her. And that was when she saw him. There, on her right, half hidden in the shadows, stood Snape, apathetically gazing into empty space, evidently lost in thought. Elizabeth’s heart was breaking at the sight; was she to never set foot in his classroom again? To never watch him brew another potion? To never hear his silky voice...

And suddenly, as if by magic, that was exactly what she did hear, only this time the beautiful, mesmerizing voice existed solely in her head, even if it sounded as though Snape was standing right next to her.

‘A bezoar is most certainly not a plant, Howard,’ the voice was saying, ‘but a stone found in the stomach of a goat. And could you tell me how you expect to know it the next time I ask you when you haven’t even written it down?’

Now Elizabeth understood. This was no magic; she was simply remembering one of the lessons she’d had with Snape in her first year. It seemed as if it were yesterday when the Potions master stood towering over the plump Hufflepuff, his lips curled in a triumphant smile; and suddenly Elizabeth knew exactly why she had remembered this particular scene – it held the answer to one of the test questions.

She felt like laughing, singing and dancing, all at the same time, but instead she just scribbled down the correct answer and hoped for another helpful image. She didn’t have to wait long, for as soon as she finished writing the last word, a new scene forced its way into her mind.

‘Enlighten me, Mr. Tweedle,’ Snape was saying in that dangerous, but ever so enchanting silky voice of his, intently gazing down at the poor boy’s bubbling cauldron as if it were something utterly revolting, ‘as to what exactly is the name of this ... thing you’ve so hopelessly been attempting to make here for the past hour?’

‘It’s a Shrinking Solution, sir,’ peeped Jamie.

‘I see,’ nodded Snape and then asked, suddenly changing the tone of his voice to something one would probably use to speak with a particularly dimwitted three-year-old: ‘Now, tell me, what colour is it?’

‘Pink.’

‘So it is. And what colour is it supposed to be?’

‘Green.’

‘Exactly. And why isn’t it green?’

Jamie was looking downright terrified by now. ‘I don’t know, sir.’

‘Because you forgot to add the daisy roots, that’s why,’ Snape informed him. ‘Now, be so kind and get rid of it before it becomes even more dangerous than it already is. And, as usual, Tweedle – zero marks.’

Elizabeth gave a contented sigh and proceeded to once more write down the correct answer. And still the images didn’t cease to appear; more and more memories continued to float to the surface, and would’ve probably kept on coming right until all the questions on the exam paper had been answered if Professor McGonagall hadn’t announced that the test was over. As it was, Elizabeth still had three questions left to answer by the time the papers had disappeared, but she just didn’t care, for if it hadn’t been for the flashbacks, the result would’ve been much more disastrous. Not being able to resist, she simply had to throw another look in Snape’s direction before having to leave the Hall, but to her endless disappointment, he was no longer there, probably preferring to seek out the peace and quiet of his dark dungeon again.

After finally succeeding in elbowing her way out into the Entrance Hall, Elizabeth immediately started searching the crowd for Hermione, because even though the test had been a success in the end, she still couldn’t forget the feeling of desperation and helplessness that had overcome her when the Gryffindor didn’t react to her signals.

She spotted her soon enough, and didn’t waste any time beating about the bush when she eventually reached the place where the brown-haired witch was standing, already absorbed in another fierce discussion with Jane.

“Hermione!” she said loudly enough to break the two girls in the middle of arguing about the properties of the Invisibility Potion.

“Elizabeth!” Hermione exclaimed. “Sorry, I didn’t see you. How did your test go?”

“O.K., thanks to some unexpected help. But if it hadn’t been for that, I would’ve failed, and you wouldn’t have lifted a hand to stop it. Do you know how many times I have tried to signal you to lean over, and you, being too busy with your own test, simply ignored it?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Elizabeth!” said Hermione, looking so positively ashamed of herself Elizabeth simply couldn’t pretend to be angry with her any longer. “I just got so absorbed in the paper I completely stopped noticing everything else around me. But the main thing is that you have done well in the end, isn’t it? What was the unexpected help, anyway?”

Elizabeth smiled and went on to describe the unusual source of her successful test performance. By the time she had finished, Jane was looking somewhat amused, while Hermione seemed to be pondering over something.

“Well, that certainly is interesting,” she said finally, “and I think it goes to show just how much you love him. It’s a pity he doesn’t know that he isn’t as alone as he thinks; that there’s actually someone out there who really cares for him.”

“To be honest, I think you’re just wasting your time with him,” stated Jane. “And don’t get angry at me for saying this, but in my opinion he doesn’t even deserve to be loved, being the bastard that he is. Do you really believe there’s any chance of his loving you back sometime? I think not. He probably doesn’t even know what love is.”

Elizabeth gave her friend a cold glare but didn’t say anything, because deep down, she had to admit that Jane was most probably right. But never in one thing: for no matter what anyone said, Elizabeth was still convinced that if somebody in the world deserved to be loved, it was Snape. And with that on her mind, she turned around and headed off for lunch.

When she got to the Great Hall, however, which immediately reminded her of the practical exam she was about to endure only a few hours later, all her thoughts concerning food were quickly extinguished. She couldn’t even look at the full plates without feeling her stomach turn over, so instead of eating, she decided to leave for the library to do some last minute revision, and not even Hermione’s insistence that she couldn’t simply skip lunch, least of all before an exam, could stop her.

All too soon, however, the time to return to the Great Hall had come, and even though Elizabeth’s name was among the last ones to be called, the moment still arrived much earlier than she would’ve liked. There was no time to recover, either, for only a couple of seconds later, she was already standing in front of an empty cauldron, all on her own and trembling like an aspen leaf, with the name of the potion she was supposed to be brewing floating before her eyes and an impatient examiner pressuring her to just get on with it before he became angry and simply chucked her out with no marks.

Slowly, Elizabeth pulled herself together and once more read the name of the potion.

‘Confusing Concoction.’

When had she learned how to make that one? A week ago? Then it shouldn’t be too hard to remember...

But no: however much she strained her mind to provide the ingredients and the preparation method, it was of no use – the little she had managed to come up with was definitely not good enough to tell her how she should set about the complicated potion she was expected to make. But as she was about to tell the examiner that he could just write her a zero and let her go, her memory had decided to play another trick on her ... and she remembered something.

The Confusing Concoction – wasn’t that the potion they had been making the lesson Joshua had to be taken to the hospital wing two minutes after the beginning of class? Of course it was! And wasn’t that also the lesson Snape had given her the one point for her antidotes essay? Yes!

It was all coming back to her now: the enormous satisfaction and pride she had felt, the wrong amount of bat wings she had almost added to her potion after thinking more about her essay than about her cauldron...

“Miss Woodhouse, are you going to make any attempt at the potion or should I just write you a zero?” the examiner asked testily.

With a start, Elizabeth returned to reality. “Yes, yes, I’ll give it a try,” she said quickly, and immediately started naming the ingredients she knew she’d need, while her examiner pulled out his wand to conjure them up for her. Sometimes she stopped to check her memory to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, earning an impatient glare from the man in front of her every time, but she simply ignored him; getting all the ingredients right was far more important. And only after going over them several times to make certain she really hadn’t missed any did she finally get down to making the potion itself.

Half an hour later she was done, and although she knew the potion was far from perfect, since her hands were shaking too much to cut the ingredients properly (and her examiner wasn’t making it any easier, either, with his constant reminders of how much time she still had left until the end), she simply didn’t care about it at that moment; she was just happy to have it over and done with, having been able to produce at least something to hand in for marking.

‘Just one more important exam to go – I don’t give a damn about the rest,’ she thought cheerfully as she headed up to Ravenclaw Tower. ‘And I have the whole weekend to study for it, too.’


Elizabeth thought she’d sleep well now that she had Potions behind her, but as she soon found out, she was badly mistaken. Every night she woke up at least once, torturing herself with endless thoughts concerning the outcome of her exam, but at the same time dreading the day she’d find out. Sometimes she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to know, because now she could at least hope for an ‘Outstanding’; afterwards even the hope could well be snatched away.

All her other exams passed by in a blur: Herbology, where she had stuffed up absolutely everything that had been there to stuff up, but since it was one of her least favourite subjects, she didn’t really mind; Care of Magical Creatures, where she got stung by a Blast-Ended Skrewt before finally managing to feed it a dead mouse; Muggle Studies – at least one subject she was sure to get an OWL in without giving the textbook a single glance all year; Divination – why she hadn’t followed Hermione’s example and dropped it like any other sane person would’ve done was beyond her; Astronomy and, lastly, History of Magic. This one subject, now back again to being her second favourite after Snape’s return, had at least somewhat improved her gloomy mood, since she was almost sure she had managed a perfect score in her test, having had so much time to study for it.

Now there was only one thing left for her to do (not counting overeating herself at the feast celebrating the end of their exams) – attempting to obtain her Animagus licence. And although she was by now sick of exams of any sort (and even a mention of anything to do with them was enough to drive her mad), she still thought she’d be better off undergoing the short test now, rather than leaving it until the beginning of the next school year. At least she could show off at home.

So, as it was, instead of spending the last day of school outside, enjoying the beautiful summer weather that was simply inviting students to go for a swim in the lake, she and Hermione were standing in the middle of the Transfiguration classroom, waiting for orders from not only Professor McGonagall, but also two other, rather important-looking women, who had most probably come from the Ministry.

“All right, girls,” their Transfiguration teacher said finally. “There’s only one thing you have to do to get your licence: change into your animal and stay that way for half an hour. But beware: you must also behave the way your animal does – the whole time, because if we see as much as a shadow of anything resembling human manners, all your chances of obtaining a licence are lost, and you’ll just have to try next time. And don’t think you can simply pretend to be asleep the whole half-hour, you won’t get away with that either. Well, that’s about it, I’d say. Are you both ready?”

The girls nodded, giving each other a reassuring smile.

“Right then. Start ... now!”

‘This should be fun,’ Elizabeth thought as she easily changed into an exact copy of her neighbours’ cat. ‘I’ve watched Mitzy in action often enough.’

And so she did what she’d seen the black and white cat do: she stretched, yawned, brushed against McGonagall’s feet and purred, jumped onto one of the desks and gracefully walked back and forth a few times, let out a quiet “meow” ... and before she realized it, the half-hour was over and McGonagall, looking very pleased, was shaking her hand while handing her a brand new Animagus licence.

Hermione, as expected, had also succeeded, and so a couple of minutes later, the two girls were walking down the dark corridors of Hogwarts, both with huge grins lighting up their faces.

“That was the most enjoyable exam I’ve ever done,” Elizabeth said happily, still examining her licence.

“Yes, it was great,” agreed Hermione. “But I think Charms was even more fun.”

Elizabeth gave her friend an incredulous look, but she soon saw the Gryffindor was only joking.

“Do you know I almost believed you?” she laughed.

“It’d sound like me, wouldn’t it? But I’ll try not to be such a terrible bookworm next year; I’ve realized it’s just not worth it. I think I’ll devote my time to discovering ways of how people can get good marks even without spending all their time buried in textbooks.”

“Hermione, are you joking again or are you ill?” Elizabeth asked, alarmed.

“I’m serious. Why not do something for the future generations?”

“No, you didn’t understand; I think it’s a wonderful idea, it’s just that it doesn’t sound like you.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “But I’ve realized that up till now, I’ve been using all my knowledge entirely for my own purposes, so maybe the time has come to use it to help others as well. And ... wait a minute, where are you going? Aren’t you coming outside with me?”

Elizabeth, who had turned towards the staircase on her right, shook her head. “No, I still need to pack. I’ll see you later, O.K.?”

“Well ... all right,” Hermione agreed reluctantly and, giving her friend a small wave, disappeared down the stairs leading to the Entrance Hall.

Elizabeth slowly started making her way to Ravenclaw Tower, thinking about her conversation with Hermione as she went. She still couldn’t believe what the Gryffindor had told her. What could have happened to make her suddenly want to spend her time not studying, but making studying easier for others? Not that she thought it was a bad idea, not at all, it was just ... strange.

Being so lost in thought, Elizabeth didn’t notice Snape coming in her direction until he was standing right in front of her. She stopped with a start and blushed.

‘Oh no, not again!’ she thought angrily.

Since the time the Potions master had returned, she seemed to be running into him everywhere. She wouldn’t even have been surprised to find him waiting for her in the girls’ toilet. And every time, since their meetings were always so sudden she never had a chance to prepare herself for facing him, her reaction was the same: a jolt going through her body, followed by a blush. She was surprised he hadn’t noticed yet. And then, when she succeeded in pulling herself together enough to know what she was doing, all she could usually manage was to produce a weak smile, bid him a quiet “Good day, Professor,” and then quickly disappear. But this time, it was to be a little different, for Snape had decided to speak to her.

“Miss Woodhouse,” he drawled. “Is there any reason for your not being outside, enjoying the sunshine together with the rest of the Hogwarts student population?”

Elizabeth was suddenly absolutely calm. ‘So you want to be annoying?’ she thought amusedly. ‘All right, but I bet you know as well as I do that spending a nice day in the castle is definitely not against the rules. And what’s more, I do have a reason for being here.’

“Yes, Professor,” she said, looking him straight in the eye (‘if only his eyes weren’t so beautiful ... one could get lost in them forever’). “I was getting my Animagus licence.”

But Snape wasn’t about to give in so easily. “I see; but then you’re going in the wrong direction. The Entrance Hall is the other way.”

“I’m not going to the Entrance Hall. I’m on my way to Ravenclaw Tower.”

Snape raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? And why, may I ask?”

‘And what business of yours is it? You’ve got a serious problem, Professor – you see trouble even when it’s not there. Well, fine, I’ll tell you, and let’s see what you can make of it.’

“Because I want to finish my packing.”

“Well, in that case, I won’t keep you,” Snape said with a sneer, and although the words held no special meaning, the way he had said them made Elizabeth feel like she was about to go and do something dirty, like scrub the floor or clean the toilet. “Good day, Miss Woodhouse.”

And he brushed past her, swiftly making his way down the dark corridor towards the stairs leading to the Entrance Hall, his black robes billowing behind him.

‘Coward. You didn’t know what to say to that, so you backed off. You just have to have the last word, don’t you, Professor? Well, not this time.’

“Sir?” Elizabeth called before he had even managed to reach the top of the staircase.

Snape stopped and turned around, looking somewhat irritated, since she had dared to ruin his grand departure. “Yes, Miss Woodhouse?”

“Have a nice summer, sir.”

And before Snape could wipe the surprised expression off his face and respond, Elizabeth had swept from his sight, and was already halfway up the next staircase by the time he had finally moved.
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