Spike was playing a game of exploding snap in the Common Room, but her heart wasn't in it. She was waiting to find out if her OWL had been approved. Every time an owl flew in, everyone would watch out of the corner of their eyes to see if it carried a purple-bordered message from an Examiner, informing the student that their OWL did not meet the required qualifications.
Was it really kinder this way, to cull the herd first, to clear out anyone whose work didn't measure up privately, and then to invite the remaining students in for the oral part, where they would defend their OWLs to the board of Examiners? She wasn't sure.
On the one hand, how awful would it be to go in, thinking you might just squeak past with a brilliant defense, only to be rejected at the eleventh hour and sent right back out to face the gauntlet, with everyone knowing you hadn't even had a chance to start. On the other -- a barn owl flew uncomfortably close, executing a barrel roll on silent wings -- on the other, the tension was driving her absolutely mad. "Every owl a harbinger," she muttered, as three cards in her hand blew into confetti. This deck was over-used, the explosions were hardly more than poofs; the hearts were shading from crimson into black, while the clubs had taken on a reddish tint. The cards reassembled slowly, like an old man getting out of bed in the morning to face a long and empty day.
Munificent took three cards from the pot. "No news is good news, think of it that way."
"I wish I could be so complacent."
"But by midnight tomorrow, if you haven't got notification that you failed your OWL outright, then you get to go to the Hall and defend your work."
"That's what I'm afraid of." Spike explained about the parchment that she'd been working diligently on, that suddenly bore no relation to what was in the skies. How she'd had to start from scratch just before mid-terms, picking a whole other swath of stars to plot from the very beginning. "I'm not sure I'd know where to begin explaining my work, never mind defending it."
The game ended when the deck disintegrated one last time, leaving shred of confetti swirling in the air. Spike looked at them in dismay. “That was the last deck! And it’s lights-out; there’s no way to leave the dungeon to fetch a fresh pack. The game ended when the deck disintegrated one last time, leaving shred of confetti swirling in the air. Spike looked at them in dismay. “That was the last deck! And it’s lights-out; there’s no way to leave the dungeon to fetch a fresh pack. How are we going to kill the hours until--" The chiming of the clock cut her off, and Munificent stood up and stretched.
"It's midnight. There's no more time to kill; we've neither of us failed outright. So I am going to bed, where I can finally sleep, and that's how I'm going to pass the hours until dawn. I suggest you do the same." She turned at the head of the stairs that led down into the bedrooms. "You'll need it, what with that OWL of yours."
Spike occupied herself for a little while levitating and vanishing the shreds of playing card, but when the house elves' night shift came in, the sidelong dirty looks put her off her game, and so she went to bed. Lying there, wide awake in the dark, she was certain that she would spend the entire time tossing and turning . . . until she was awakened by the tapping on the ceiling that was the giant squid alerting the house that it was time to get up and make ready to face the day.
She grimaced at the mirror as she brushed her hair and fought to contain it in its customary bun. Her green-tinted mane was sensitive to magic, attempting to climb the currents like a morning glory vine climbing strings. At home it wasn't so bad, but in a school devoted to learning magic, the temptation was apparently too much for the locks. And this being OWL day, there was more in the air than usual.
She finally got it all tied down out of her face, and followed at the tail of the line as they trooped up to the Great Hall for breakfast. Oatmeal, toast, and fruit, a mellow bland breakfast for nervous stomachs. Spike toyed with her bowl of porridge gloomily, then deigned to nibble some toast and fruit. She'd celebrate or drown her sorrows at lunch.