O.W.L.s

chapter thirty-one of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The fifth years get frantic as O.W.L. exams approach and then arrive. They go as expected for Harry, until he watches as Hagrid and then McGonagall are attacked by Umbridge during his Astronomy O.W.L. Then, during his final exam (History of Magic), he falls asleep and sees a vision of Sirius being tortured by Voldemort.
 

Minerva McGonagall, by White Elzora

The four House tables had been removed and replaced instead with many tables for one, all facing the staff-table end of the Hall where Professor McGonagall stood facing them. When they were all seated and quiet she said, “You may begin.”


 

The Trio, by deeterhi

On Friday, Harry and Ron had a day off… and as they had the whole weekend in front of them, they permitted themselves a break from studying.


 

Professor Tofty Looks Helplessly On as the Students Watch the Commotion at Hagrid's Hut, by Drew Graham

“My dear!” said Professor Tofty in a scandalized voice. “This is an examination!”
But nobody was paying the slightest attention to their star charts anymore: Jets of red light were still flying beside Hagrid’s cabin.


 

How DARE You? by salamandersoup

“How dare you!” the figure shouted as she ran. “How dare you!”
“It’s McGonagall!” whispered Hermione.


 

McGonagall Gets Zapped, by Heather Campbell

No fewer than four Stunners had shot from the figures around the cabin toward Professor McGonagall. Halfway between cabin and castle the red beams collided with her. For a moment she looked luminous, illuminated by an eerie red glow, then was lifted right off her feet, landed hard on her back, and moved no more.


 

You'll Have to Kill Me, by Katrina 'RohanElf' Young

“Lord Voldemort is waiting….”
Very slowly, his arms trembling, the man on the ground raised his shoulders a few inches and lifted his head. His face was bloodstained and gaunt, twisted in pain yet rigid with defiance….
“You’ll have to kill me,” whispered Sirius.


 

about the chapter

 

Something You May Not Have Noticed

I’ve always wondered what exactly it was that Umbridge and her Aurors were trying to do when they went to Hagrid’s cabin in the middle of the night. We get an interesting clue when Hagrid yells at Umbridge and her team, “Reasonable be damned, yeh won’ take me like this!” Take him? If Hagrid is simply getting sacked, where would anybody want to take him? One possibility is that they simply planned to remove him from Hogwarts grounds; unlike Trelawney, Umbridge would be sure that Hagrid was evicted as well as fired. On the other hand, you’d think he would still be gamekeeper even if he was relieved of his teaching duties. So what’s she playing at? And why are Aurors around, too? Is she having him arrested?
 

Something Else You May Not Have Noticed

So examiner Griselda Marchbanks is certainly elderly, but Harry has no idea how elderly she really is until he hears her mention that she “examined [Dumbledore] personally in Transfiguration and Charms when he did N.E.W.T.s” and that he “Did things with a wand I’d never seen before.” Now, we know that Dumbledore is about a hundred and twenty years old. Marchbanks of course probably isn’t much older – she could have been just a couple of years out of school when she examined him, after all, and be just a year or two ahead of Dumbledore – so her age isn’t all that interesting in and of itself. But her statement does mean something more interesting, namely that she’s been in the same job for close to a hundred years. She must really, really like working in Wizarding Examinations.
 

Something to Remember

Harry knows that Voldemort and Sirius are in the Department of Mysteries when he sees his vision of them. Yet it’s the middle of the day, and Voldemort also says to Sirius, “We have hours ahead of us and nobody to hear you scream.” Harry doesn’t pay particular attention to the line, but it’s interesting to think about for a moment. Shouldn’t the Department of Mysteries (and the rest of the Ministry) be full of workers? Why wouldn’t anybody be around to hear him scream?
 


25 Responses to “O.W.L.s”

  1. Umbridge would probably have Hagrid arrested for being dangerous or something – she could easily press some charges like “endangering students” against him (and wouldn’t be that far off the mark), have Fudge sign it, and chuck him in Azkaban.
    And I LOVE the picture from the DoM, it just looks so creepy!

  2. Re: Dumbledore and Griselda’s ages. The 150-years figure gets knocked around a lot, but JKR revised downward how old Dumbledore is (which fits better with stuff in DH); he was born in 1881 according to her official website, so he would have taken his NEWTs probably in 1899. Griselda has still been at it a rather long time, yes, but “only” at least 97 years.

    (Possibly, also, she doesn’t do it constantly, year after year; perhaps she is on some years and off others.)

  3. Total agreement with the earlier statement–when I first read through the scene I simply assumed Umbridge was having Hagrid forcibly removed due to his “dangerous nature.” It’s to be noted that she seemed to be scheming on this agenda during her review of his class, asking the students if Hagrid frightened them, if they could understand him, etc. It seems like she decided to get rid of Trelawney first, and when Dumbledore intervened in that affair it would have been entirely too much trouble to go after Hagrid directly afterward. But at this point in the book, Dumbledore’s been removed from the scene and Umbridge has had the rug pulled out from under her feet in every area by students, teachers, and a vengeful poltergeist. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her removal of Hagrid was simply something she finally got back around to (nifflers ransacking her office probably didn’t help either), and it would have been just the sort of power display to put on after weeks of pandemonium.

  4. hmm… I never looked at the quote about examining Dumbledore in the way that she is doing her job for SO many years…. I was too amazed by her age…
    I love the fact that salamandersoup and heather campbell’s mcgonnagall look so alike ^.^ She’s very well described in the books…

  5. Actually we never find out if the Wizarding Examinations Authorithy is a department of the Ministry for Magic or if it is an independent organization. If it is part of the Ministry (like the Apparition Test Centre) then JKR forgot to include it in the descriptions given for each level of the Ministry given by the voice in the lift.
    Btw, Josie, the label for the first picture identifies the character as “Proessor McGonagall”.

  6. And we continue with another great McG comment, this time on how the OWL results will reflect upon Umbridge as headmistress: “-however, that is no reason not to do your very best.” Ha ha!

    Has JKR explained about why the students will be informed about their OWL results in July when two years earlier Fred and George got theirs during their fifths year?

    I, too, was only thinking of Prof. Marchbank’s age and not about how long she has done her job. SYMNHN is probably my favorite “about the chapter” part. Anyhow, a little later it says that Prof. Tofty “looked like the very oldest […] examiner.”

    For the practical exams they call in four students at a time alphabetically. Do we know all of Harry’s classmates? Has anyone checked if the names that are given for those two groups can be correct under the given circumstances? A bit nit-picky, I know, but it has crossed my mind and I thought I’d asked if anyone went that deep in their research.

  7. According to the sorting for the first book, the names of the students called for practical examination are correct but there’s one student missing: Perks, Sally-Anne. Maybe she quit Hogwarts…

  8. There are also a couple other students mentioned in the Sorting that we don’t hear from again: Morag MacDougal, Moon, Mandy Brocklehurst, and Lisa Turpin.

  9. Sorry to enter the party late… I didn’t have much computer access while I was on holiday.

    Kim, we can be ALMOST sure of the surnames of Harry’s classmates because JKR wrote a classlist among her working notes. It was only a rough draft, and she changed her mind several times during and after the drafting, but you can draw your own conclusions from http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/sources/source_hpm.html.

    And I’m afraid the standard commentary on that classlist was written by me. See http://www.hp-lexicon.org/essays/essay-secrets-of-the-classlist.html for the original version, now so old that many of the links are broken. I posted an updated (post-DH) version, but without the patient linking, at http://www.sugarquill.net/read.php?storyid=3251&chapno=1.

    My best estimate is that the names (in fours) are as follows.

    1. Abbott, Bones, Boot, Brocklehurst.
    2. Brown, Bulstrode, Corner, Cornfoot.
    3. Crabbe, Davis, Entwhistle, Finch-Fletchley.
    4. Finnigan, Goldstein, Goyle, Granger.
    5. Greengrass, Hopkins, Jones, Li.
    6. Longbottom, MacDougal, Macmillan, Malfoy.
    7. Moon, Nott, Parkinson, Patil.
    8. Patil, Perks, Potter, Rivers.
    9. Roper, Runcorn, Smith, Spinks.
    10. Thomas, Turpin, Weasley, Zabini.

    As everyone has already said, Sally-Anne Perks is missing. But someone else – one of the first thirteen names – is also missing. I like to think that neither student went missing permanently. Perhaps they just felt sick with nerves on the day of the exam, so they arrived late and had to be sent into the exam hall last.

  10. Sorry to double-post, but this is on a quite different topic, something that you might not have noticed.

    The Hogwarts system is an exact parallel and parody of the Anglo-Welsh exam system. In fact, Hogwarts functions – not like England today – but like England in 1981, the year when JKR and I both took our fifth-year exams.

    In 1981 the Muggle exams were called Ordinary Levels, which is why the magical equivalents are the Ordinary Wizarding Levels. We sat them in the June of our fifth year, and smart students took nine or ten subjects. There wouldn’t be room on the timetable for more than ten, which is why Hermione needs a timeturner to attempt twelve. However, the minimum standard for university entry was only five subjects, provided they included maths and English, so students like Crabbe and Goyle would have been gently encouraged to drop their workload down to five.

    We didn’t sit practical components to most of our exams, but only for subjects like music and cookery.

    Exam marks came in six possible grades. The universities only considered A, B and C to be passes. However, some employers in non-academic fields looked favourably on D and E grades; the exam board insisted that these were technically passes too. The lowest grade was U (for “unclassified”) and this was a fail by all standards.

    The Muggle seventh-year exams were called Advanced Levels (I can’t quite explain “N.E.W.T.s”), and we only took about half as many subjects at this level. University entrance was based on our A Level scores.

    The exams were, of course, externally assessed. I think we had a stereotype of our faceless examiners as boring, soulless people. While Marchbanks and Tofty come across as quite human, they nevertheless do seem to have been marking exams for 97 years, which implies an extraordinary tolerance for dullness (much like the stereotype of an accountant). I do think JKR intends us to marvel at that.

    BTW, a Brit never “graduates” from school; one can only graduate from university. We simply “leave” school.

  11. As for N.E.W.T.s, I think she was just trying to be funny by inventing an acronym that would go along with another wizardy/witchy sounding thing: owls, bats, frogs, newts (“eye of newt”, “howlet’s wing”, that sort of thing?)…. and maybe “newt” was a top choice because it also had a W in it as a place to stick “wizarding”?

  12. Did anyone else think it was unfair that they didn’t extend the time limit for the astronomy O.W.L. I mean, there’s a huge fight, even the test administrator is distracted eventually, and they still don’t give the kids a time extention? And then the astronomy final started at midnight, went on for what, 2 hours, and they had another exam the next morning, if I remember right.

  13. I just love this chapter, particularly the part about OWLs proper (i.e. before the brouhaha at Hagrid’s).

    I love the descriptions of all the exams, and of how Harry did or didn’t ace them.

    I’ve listened to it many times. :)

  14. Has anyone noticed, as I did for the first time on my umpteenth reading this week, that in the Care of Magical Creatures O.W.L they’re required to know how to safely look after Fire Crabs? Now, there’s been only one mention of Fire Crabs in their 3 years of Care of Magical Creatures lessons – a certain something that’s a cross between them and Manticores. It may be possible that the person who crossed them was not charged for breaking the Ban on Experimental Breeding at least partly because he was putting his own twist on an existing curriculum, perhaps even challenging the students more than they needed in the same area as the curriculum…

  15. That list is interesting. If each house has the same number of students, equal boys and girls, then there’s an extra name on there. Can anyone read the one between Malfoy and Moon?

  16. That list distracted me and I forgot to post about the other points I was going to make.

    I didn’t realise Michael Corner was in Harry’s year, I thought he was in Ginny’s. Not sure if I thought I’d read it or if I assumed it.

    I think Umbridge would have sacked Hagrid as gamekeeper too. If one of her stated reasons for the sacking was the nifflers then it would make sense to get rid of him entirely. Besides, she wants him out because of her own prejudices, merely taking away his teaching post but keeping him around as gamekeeper wouldn’t satisfy her.

    I love that McGonagall came running to Hagrid’s rescue, shouting, “How dare you!”

  17. @ elizabethauthor: I think the name between Malfoy and Moon must be Macmillan, Ernie.

  18. No, Macmillan is the name above Malfoy’s. Alphabetically it should be and it certainly looks like it. The one between Malfoy and Moon looks like Malone.

  19. elizabethauthor, the name is Malone, but it has probably been crossed out. In PS7, no name is mentioned between Malfoy and Moon.

    We can’t be certain that the Malone character was scrapped. (1) The apparent cross-out is so faint that we might have imagined it. (2) The narrative in PS7 is broken up in such a way that JKR might have glossed over an extra character who didn’t rate a real mention.

    Nevertheless, I think we are supposed to infer that there were five students in each of the eight dormitories. We know that there are ten Gryffindors (eight named, plus two other girls whom JKR briefly mentions in one interview). They share twenty broomsticks with the Slytherins and twenty pairs of ear muffs with the Hufflepuffs.

    Of course it’s implausible that the forty students should divide up so neatly. But it’s magic!

  20. I know this has already been said pretty much, and explained very neatly, but I think they were definitely about to arrest Hagrid for some trumped up charge (of which I can only guess at), and Ron seems to be thinking along the same lines, as he tells Harry, “at least they didn’t get to take Hagrid off to Azkaban”. And I’m not sure he’d be able to stay on as gamekeeper if he was only sacked, because Umbridge hates part-humans that much to want to see him gone for good. Which is why I think it was easier for her to just arrest him. Why else would you need Aurors?

    Think about how fun Wizarding Examinations would be. You’d get the chance to see each and every young witch and wizard strut their stuff during and right after school. These are witches and wizards that have the potential to do amazing things later on in life. Imagine being able to say you tested Albus Dumbledore when he was in school. Definitely some great dinner conversations!

    Also, how would Voldemort himself get into the Department of Mysteries, seemingly alone, in the middle of the day? Even he couldn’t take on the Ministry of Magic at this point. He doesn’t have enough followers yet, I would assume. I guess Harry could be thinking he’s so powerful he *could* do that, but logically I don’t think he could do it at this point.

  21. I just noticed that Hermione said that she ‘didn’t do herself justice on Cheering Charms’ after the Charms part of the examination, but in The Prisoner of Azkaban, after she punches Malfoy, she skips the Charms class, when they worked on Cheering Charms. Is that a coincidence or not?

  22. Yes, as I recall she goes to Flitwick to apologize and he intimates that cheering charms will be on the final, and then when they are, she doesn’t ace them.

  23. I also like how JK slips in a line from Harry about his Astronomy practical saying that he definitely knows that one of Jupiter’s moon is NOT infested with mice. I can’t remember if it was this book or the last when Hermione is looking over his Astronomy homework and says it’s “ice” not “mice”. Very cute and clever reference.

  24. @Ari, this one. “Harry, yours is okay except for this bit at the end, I think you must have misheard Professor Sinistra, Europa’s covered in *ice*, not mice–Harry?” (OotP, Ch 14, Percy and Padfoot)

  25. I just have to say this: Hagrid Smash puny Ministry wizards!

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