In some other, terrible, tragic world, the Hogwarts school year of 1990-1991 would have been entirely unremarkable. The school year would have concluded without note, students would be sent home with their exam marks (except for the fifth and seventh-years, who would be left hanging on the edge of a metaphorical cliff until about a month later), the professors would head off to Hogsmeade for a few drinks before heading home, the search for a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher would begin, and everything would have been entirely ordinary (for a given value of normal, since this was Hogwarts) until Harry James Potter showed up in September with the new batch of first-years.
But in this world, everything took a drastic left turn that absolutely no one was expecting, and the end of the school year was a lot more exciting than a lot of people had bet it would be. Most people had assumed that the most dramatic thing that would happen was Oliver Wood’s much-anticipated and dreaded breakdown at Charlie Weasley’s graduation, not that the Aurors would show up.
It started like this:
Percy Weasley, Gryffindor fourth-year and straight-O student, was becoming increasingly frazzled as exams approached. No one was surprised at this, because Percy was a very frazzled person in general and it happened every year, but this year was the most stressful yet by at least twofold. He was extremely frazzled.
While the fourth year exams were hardly as important as the OWLs or the NEWTs in most people’s minds, to Percy they were as crucial as the end of the world. These exams could be the deciding factor in him making prefect next year, which Percy was very determined to see happen. After all, if he didn’t make prefect, then he wouldn’t make Head Boy, and if he didn’t make Head Boy, then his entire twenty-year plan for becoming Minister for Magic was absolutely ruined. If he didn’t take these exams seriously, he could end up unemployed and living with the ghoul in the attic for the rest of his life!
What made things worse was that Charlie was not around to help and make sure Percy didn’t drop into a spiral of stress, as the seventh-year was preoccupied with his approaching NEWTs and a dream job interview coming up. This also meant that Charlie was not around to help curb their twelve-year-old brothers, Fred and George, who had only gotten worse since last year and apparently had no interest whatsoever in getting decent grades and not becoming absolute embarrassments to the family!
((Percy fondly remembered the days when Fred and George were too young to attend Hogwarts. Those had been the days, with Bill, prefect and Head Boy (and so smart and popular and talented at everything!), sharing studying tips and generally watching out for Percy, while simultaneously keeping Charlie from doing anything too idiotic in Care of Magical Creatures or Quidditch. Bill had been so cool and good at stuff.
Percy even sort of missed having Charlie having no exams to worry about and hypocritically smothering Percy with attention, which happened because Charlie was secretly a mother dragon and Percy had been the only younger sibling in the vicinity for Charlie to exert nesting tendencies upon. Ugh. At least Charlie kept his grades up, tried to his best to help, wasn't as silly as the twins, and didn't show any interest in dating.
Unlike Bill on that last thing, who couldn't have been left alone for five minutes without some inane, giggling girl or guy attaching themselves to Percy's too-friendly and too-nice-for-his-own-good elder brother like a leech! Percy worried what his elder brother was doing in Egypt now without any supervision.))
Anyway, Percy was being run ragged! His study plans were being constantly adjusted to cope with all the madness around him! The library closing hours were unreasonably fixed, teachers kept telling him that he maybe ought to take a break, and his roommates kept on dragging him outside and to meals and to go to bed in the middle of study sessions! Whether it was midnight or not was hardly important!
Oliver was the worst of them. Especially when he hypocritically obsessed over Quidditch as much as Percy did their extremely important future careers. Percy really did dread the coming breakdown that would happen when Charlie graduated, having already suffered through many fearful rants on what would happen come next year when the Gryffindor team without a Seeker.
Charlie had some strange obsession with deadly creatures, but Percy privately believed that his elder brother had made no decision as foolish as prematurely telling Oliver Wood that he would be the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain next year. Surely this could have waited until Percy was not in the immediate vicinity and sharing the same room with the boy and his many Quidditch collectibles, and did not have to listen to Oliver’s overjoyed shrieking and even more frequent ranting.
The week before exams, Percy was very, very stressed and very, very tired. Fred and George had played a massive and destructive prank yesterday, Charlie had nearly died in Care of Magical Creatures class again, and Oliver had spent all night alternating between desperately coming up with plays for next year’s Quidditch Cup and praying for the deliverance of a Seeker as brilliant (death-wishy, Percy interpreted) as Charlie Weasley.
It was the afternoon of Wednesday, June 19th, and Percy was blearily existing his way through Transfiguration with the Ravenclaws, taking more nonsense than notes however hard he tried to pay attention. He spent more time stifling yawns than digesting a lecture he’d already thoroughly studied several months ago, which was embarrassing but ultimately harmless. Percy had already started studying for his OWLs.
Professor McGonagall, who had noticed his poor state immediately, was actually hoping that he’d end up napping and get some much-needed sleep. He'd have been mortified if he knew.
When it came time to Transfigure a teacup into a pot of tulips, however, Percy was still somehow awake and determined to finish the lesson. And everything ceased being harmless when he raised his wand, yawned, said the incantation and made the right flick, and missed the teacup.
“Fucking hell, Percy!” Oliver exclaimed next to him, which woke Percy up immediately and drew the sharp-eyed attention of Minerva McGonagall from across the classroom.
“Language, Mister Wood!”
Percy looked down at what was on his desk and gasped, letting his wand clatter to the tabletop and putting his hands over his mouth. “Oh no!” he wailed, voice breaking. “Scabbers!”
Percy’s pet rat had, at some point throughout the lecture, wandered out of his bag and onto his desk before the old and fat thing had fallen asleep there. Out of a combination of not being a teacup and Percy’s tiredness, the rat had been partially Transfigured. Scabbers’ feet had been turned into terracotta and the rat now had a lovely bunch of tulips growing out of its back.
To poor Percy Weasley, this was just one wrong thing too many. He felt as though he was being pulled in too many directions and now he’d hurt his pet because he hadn’t been paying enough attention! He didn't know how to fix the rat either!
The fourteen-year-old boy tried to swallow the block in his throat, felt his breath hitch instead, and ending up bursting into tears. He tried desperately, but he couldn’t stop crying, and ended up bright red to the tips of his ears, with his face in his hands from embarrassment while Oliver patted him awkwardly on the back and Scabbers squeaked with panic on the desk. The terrified squeaks and heat of people’s stares just made him cry more. This awful, hideously embarrassingly moment was, so far, the worst experience of his fourteen-year-old life.
Oliver raised his free arm. “Professor? Can I take Percy down to the Infirmary?”
“I think that’s an excellent idea, Mister Wood,” McGonagall said, already gliding over.
She turned a fierce stare on the rest of the room. “I don’t see enough wands waving at the moment,” she said, and everyone suddenly became very interested in Transfiguration as she reached Percy and Oliver’s desk.
“I d-d-don’t n-need to-” Percy tried, but he was swiftly interrupted.
“You need rest, Mister Weasley,” McGonagall said firmly, drawing her wand from her robes. “I know you have had a very busy week and I will be seeing you after class to discuss it and fix the issue, but in the meantime, I believe Madam Pomfrey would like to have a word with you, too.”
Percy, who knew better than to go against a determined Professor McGonagall even in his tired state, nodded helplessly. His cheeks felt soaked through and his ears were still burning, but the idea that everything could be fixed helped enormously. And Oliver’s awkward pats on the back helped some too; it was almost like having Charlie or Bill around to help him again. Oh Merlin, he missed having Bill around.
“Now, let’s return your rat to his original state, shall we?” McGonagall said kindly, raising her wand and waving it with an expert flick before pointing it at Scabbers.
On one hand, Scabbers’ terracotta limbs and spinal tulips disappeared. On the other hand, Scabbers very unexpectedly turned into a fat, balding man in a patched suit, who seemed to be imitating a rat as he appeared on the desk, squeaking and scratching.
Percy and Oliver’s teacups were knocked off the desk and smashed loudly into the floor in the dead silence. The entire class stared in shock and horror. McGonagall’s face was the most stunned and bewildered that any of them had ever seen it.
Percy screamed and the classroom exploded with action. The fourth year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws screamed and yelled and leaped out of their seats in panic; one poor Ravenclaw fainted into their tulips. The man seemed to realize that he was no longer a rat and scrambled clumsily off the desk, unused to the sudden loss of two walking limbs. Students scrambled over desk and chair to get away from him. Percy and Oliver flung themselves backwards and away from the stranger, clinging to each other and shrieking as the stranger tried to run.
He didn’t get three steps. McGonagall pointed her wand and screamed a curse that none of them had ever heard of before, and the bright red spell hit the pudgy man in the back with a flash that sent him sprawling towards the floor and the students screaming even louder. He crashed into the floor with a heavy smack, knocking over several desks and chairs, and he did not get up again.
The screaming and the panic quickly slowed to a stop, and there was an awkward moment of silence as Minerva McGonagall glared at the unconscious figure with her wand outstretched. Her students peered out from under desks and plastered to the walls, some brave few taking a couple steps to get a closer look at the man who had used to be Percy Weasley’s rat. They all held their breath as McGonagall approached the stranger.
Then one girl screamed and they all jumped in panic. Many turned to stare at her in disbelief, because the Ravenclaw girl was known for being fairly collected, and stared in further disbelief at her horrified face and shaking finger pointed at the unconscious man.
“Miss Clearwater, calm yours-!” McGonagall began.
“Professor!” interrupted the girl, who had an excellent view up the man’s disheveled left sleeve. “He’s got the DARK MARK!”
Sure enough, nothing about that sentence calmed any of the students down. And through the screams and general chaos and McGonagall trying to quiet the panic while tie up the Death Eater while send the most coherent student off to fetch the Headmaster, Percy’s redness had disappeared and now his freckles were standing sharply out on his face. He felt like he was about to be sick in the nearest pot of tulips.
Definitely, by far, the worst experience of his fourteen-year-old life.
“I’d l-like to go to the Infirmary now,” he told Oliver.
“Yeah,” Oliver said shakily. “Okay.”