It was nearing midnight on the last day of the term, and Spike was in the Common Room frantically working on her OWL. The heads of house turned the traditional blind eye to the need for bed check during the last week of the term to allow students the maximum time to complete their homework. As long as they're in the dorm rooms, we know where they are, and have a pretty good guess what they're doing. After all, they had all been students once.
Her star chart seemed to be taking forever. It grew larger and larger under her hands, each row representing the vastness of space itself. The beads sparkled like stars, slipped and hopped with evil minds of their own as she worked to charm them into the web of spaces and places. Finally, the last bead, the last stitch, all was in place. She pulled it taught for display, and whistled for Gwenhyfar to come and carry her work to her Examiner.
The owl carefully wrapped her claws in the lace, delicately holding it up and peering at the shiny bits in the soft fiber.
"Don't tear it, Spike chided softly, opening the owl-sized door in the wall. It opened up into a shaft, as if for a dumbwaiter. Hogwarts was honeycombed with these shafts, too small for a student, but just about the right size for an owl. They had to be pulled open from the outside, but were balanced to be easily nudged open from the inside. She watched as Gwenhyvar vanished into the darkness, carrying three month's of hard work in her claws.
"Not'ink for eet now," said Totenberg from behind her. She jumped. I should be used to how quietly they move by now. I should know to expect them when I least expect them. But that would become the time I most expect them, and then I'd be expecting them and . . . "Bother," she finished under her breath.
"Time for bed," he advised. "Hyu done all hyu can."
Spike spent a long night tossing and turning. When she woke, Gwenhwyfar was perched at the foot of her bed. She searched the owl thoroughly, checking her legs twice and under each wing until the bird nipped at her fingers. No note. Nothing. Hopefully the owl hadn’t decided to drop her work somewhere in the mazed tunnels before reaching the Examiner.
The days at the end of term, between the last class and the final feast before leave-taking, Spike found, were absolutely nerve-wracking. She found herself taking the long way around in order to walk through the hall of hourglasses, counting and re-counting the emeralds. Comparing them with the sapphires and rubies of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Was it enough? I should have found a way to cram in one more class. I should have started an essay and handed it in for partial points. Too late now.
At lunch, she overheard a couple of students discussing someone who’d received a Troll on their OWL – had actually failed to meet the OWL standards, and she had sat, soup growing cold in the spoon halfway to her lips, ears pricked attentively, hoping for more information. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that one could finish all that work and still be judged unworthy. And a hundred points for the House! That’s six classes and a Detention, she thought. You could catch up with that kind of loss early in the term, but now the points were gone forever.
She couldn’t settle down and turn hand or mind to anything useful. Nothing held her interest for more than a moment, she was floating aimlessly. Waiting for her letter from the Examiner. Waiting to see if she’d passed her OWL.