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11 December 2012 @ 07:01 am
Fic: Candidate Forty-Six for wasureneba  
Title: Candidate Forty-Six
Author: ???
Rating: G
Length: 1200 words
Character(s): Griselda Marchbanks
Author's Notes: Set in the summer of 1943 (using dates from HP Lexicon.). Thank you to my lovely beta and to wasureneba who asked: What is Griselda Marchbanks' most memorable examination session?


'Lovely, dear. Thank you.' Griselda bestowed a rare smile on the girl in front of the desk. 'That will be all, I think… Aloysius?'

Papers rustled on her right. She did not look round. Eventually, Aloysius Warchbettle cleared his throat. 'Er. Yes. Most definitely.'

The girl's smile faded slightly. She curtseyed to them both - Warchbettle first, as was his prerogative as Senior Examiner - and departed.

'Tea, I think.' Griselda stretched like a cat, acutely aware of Warchbettle stiffening beside her. One of the Yorkshire Warchbettles, if I'm not mistaken. Miserable bunch, the whole godforsaken host of them. Aloud, she said, 'Is this the last one?'

'Last one. Yes. Not a good one, I should say.'

'Oh?'

'Last one never is. They get tired.'

You mean you do. And I've still got all 'our' paperwork to do this evening. 'Let's have her in, then. I must say, they all look jolly young to be doing NEWTs.' She tapped her wand on the desk twice and the door opened. 'Candidate forty-six.'

The girl who walked in had thick dark hair, drawn back in a bun. Under the thick brows, the eyes were anxious.

'Candidate forty-six,' Griselda said again. She gave the girl an encouraging look.

'Oh, yes.' Candidate forty-six handed over an orange piece of card. Warchbettle pulled it towards him and ticked the last entry on his list, clicking his tongue.

'Now then, young lady,' he began, 'Just a simple Transfiguration to get you started. Turn your card into a butterfly.'

The girl raised her wand and hesitated. She bit her lip.

'Come on, dear.' Warchbettle's tone was impatient. 'A simple butterfly. You can do it.' He leaned back in his chair.

You want her to fail, Griselda realised. The last one of the day and you want her to fail so you can go home.

'You can't get many butterflies up here in Scotland?' she enquired.

The girl shook her head. 'Och, no!' Her accent was pure Highlands. 'Hundreds!'

'I've never seen one.' Griselda made her voice deliberately sceptical.

The girl's wand flashed. The orange card exploded into flight. Griselda caught a glimpse of trembling wings and then the butterfly was behind her, flitting just out of reach above Warchbettle's head. Another twitch of the wand and it alighted on the desk.

'A Painted Lady.' Warchbettle was scornful.

The butterfly shimmered. Its wings began to stretch and the orange faded, to be replaced by sunshine yellow, edged in black. Griselda caught her breath.

'A swallowtail,' the girl said to Griselda. 'But you're right. We don't get those in Scotland.' A final flourish and the orange card lay on the desk once more. The room seemed to darken.

Warchbettle coughed. 'Indeed. And perhaps now, something a little more demanding.' He pulled a peacock quill from inside his robe. 'A snake, if you please.'

The girl's lips curled in distaste. She took the peacock quill and turned it over in her hands, staring at it, then let it fall to the floor and stepped back. The wand rose. Fell. Rose again.

A huge green serpent reared above the desk, its golden eyes fixed on Warchbettle. It hissed, once, then subsided. The girl bent down and picked up the feather, handing it politely back to Warchbettle.

'Something of the basilisk in that, I should say,' Griselda commented. 'Do you have a particular interest in Magical Creatures?'

The girl flushed. 'No. I – a friend was talking about them. Not a friend. Someone I used to know.'

Warchbettle snorted. 'How interesting. Moving on…'

The rest of the examination was routine by comparison. Candidate forty-six turned Butterbeer into baskets and ashtrays into aspidistras ('We have a lot of those in Scotland. They're hard to kill.') For her optional demonstration she produced a stream of gold coins from the tip of her wand, turning them into goldfish as they fell and collecting them in a water-filled crystal bowl which had been Warchbettle's hat only a second before. Each fish performed a tiny, perfect backflip as it fell. Griselda stared at the girl with narrowed eyes.

'Well. Thank you.' Warchbettle retrieved his hat and tipped it out ostentatiously. It was quite dry.

The girl curtseyed and left.

'I don't think so.' Warchbettle reached for his tea, his voice emphatic.

Nothing to be discussed. I see. Griselda straightened in her chair. 'How do you mean?' she asked, keeping her voice neutral.

'Silly little showgirl. Coins and fishes! The elephant and the piano, now that was Transfiguration.'

'Except, of course, candidate nineteen couldn't turn the elephant back into a piano.'

'Details, Miss Marchbanks, details. And speaking of details, what about that flourish at the end?'

'The gold coins? Ah, now that was interesting. They were chocolate, of course.' She waited a full minute before putting Warchbettle out of his misery. 'I've always wondered about that. Neither money nor food, so they don't seem to be one of the five Exceptions. Not even a teenager can live on chocolate. But it's very obscure. Candidate forty-six has done her reading.'

'I was aware of that.' The Senior Examiner's voice was testy. 'I was referring to that foolish little gesture with the wand.'

Griselda leaned back in her chair and met his eyes. 'Yes. That was even more interesting. Obviously an examiner of your experience would pick it up at once.'

'Completely unnecessary.'

'I disagree.'

Warchbettle's fingers curled around the brim of his hat. He stared at her.

Griselda continued smoothly, 'Insofar as it wasn't necessary for the goldfish to backflip, I agree with you. But if you take that point of view, how much Transfiguration is really required at all? No. What I meant was, I've seen that flourish before. It's one of Albus Dumbledore's embellishments.'

'Exactly!' Warchbettle nodded. 'A charlatan and a showman.'

'And a rather good wizard. Very few people can manage wandwork like that.'

'Even so –'

'I can't manage it.'

Warchbettle's eyes widened. Griselda nodded. 'And I'm the Special Examiner for Transfiguration.' She took the hat from him. 'You're going to ruin the felt if you don't stop twisting,' she said gently.

'She was nervous –'

'She was. But when she got going she was Outstanding.'

'Hmph.'

Griselda knew she had won. 'I'll post the list,' she said. 'They might as well know right away.' She drew her wand along the list of numbers in front of her. 'Hmm. McGonagall. One to watch.' Gryffindor. Yes. I thought she might be. 'Where does it appear?'

'In the quad.'

Griselda walked to the window and looked down. Two floors below, a group of young women in robes were clustered around a stone pillar, scrutinising a parchment. As she watched, candidate forty-six appeared in a doorway.

A cheer went up. 'Minerva!'

Minerva McGonagall tore her hair free and cartwheeled across the grass. As she landed, for a moment the girl vanished and a grey tabby crouched in her place. Griselda caught her breath. Then the cat was gone and there was only the girl, racing towards her friends, long hair streaming behind her in the wind.

--

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Feather Quill: McGonagall bunfeatherxquill on December 11th, 2012 08:19 am (UTC)
This was lovely. Boo to cranky old Warchbettle, and yay for Griselda standing her ground. Wonderful study of both women.
Angel... Dark Wings Descending...angel_in_tears on December 11th, 2012 09:28 am (UTC)
I really loved this, it was beautiful! I enjoyed all the things Minerva did as well, and how the Wizard was so cranky about it!
minervas_eule: my Minervaminervas_eule on December 11th, 2012 09:55 am (UTC)
Ooohhh, just WONDERFUL ! How diplomatic Griselda overrules Warchbettle's "bad form". The short appearance of the tabby at the end ;-) ... "One to watch", indeed :-))
mama_pyjamamama_pyjama on December 11th, 2012 10:17 am (UTC)
That was lovely, what beautiful details. I loved the chocolate coins and how well Griselda managed her colleague.
primeideal.dreamwidth.orgprimeideal.dreamwidth.org on December 11th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of having the scores posted by magic right away. And excellent twist having Minerva not need to show off to the examiners but do it on her own time--I hadn't seen that coming but it was a very well-structured stopping point.
emagdnimwemagdnimw on December 11th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I really loved this:::::
#!/usr/bin/girl: HSU ITdelphipsmith on December 12th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Oh, what a treat! A young Minerva, so confident and capable :) I loved this:

'The gold coins? Ah, now that was interesting. They were chocolate, of course.' She waited a full minute before putting Warchbettle out of his misery. 'I've always wondered about that. Neither money nor food, so they don't seem to be one of the five Exceptions. Not even a teenager can live on chocolate. But it's very obscure. Candidate forty-six has done her reading.'

As has the author of this fic ;)

And that last scene, where she becomes a cat for just a moment and then runs to meet her friends, hair flying -- such a sense of youth and joy and freedom there. Lovely on all accounts.

Edited at 2012-12-12 12:21 am (UTC)
tt: xmastwisted_twister on December 12th, 2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
Perfect.

You should post it to minerva_fest
忘れな草: reading and researchingwasureneba on December 15th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Mystery Author! Griselda's interactions with Warchbettle were fantastic. I loved the power dynamic (woman~man, younger~older, junior~senior), and how Griselda both works with it and bristles against it. I also loved the comparison in examining (what we might think of as teaching) styles. There is something both very kind and honest about Griselda here---she may be tired, but she'll keep plugging along, and the last student gets the same consideration as the first. That was a beautiful thing to see.

I also thought it was incredibly interesting and excellent that it was McGonagall, not Dumbledore, who was her most memorable examination. It's a nice twist on the idea that it's only the student and their brilliance that we remember---it's often not just that, but their personalities and the situations that they persevere through. Wonderful, that.

I also really loved the details about the chocolate coins and about McGonagall's turning into a cat only after the examination. The first is such a nice twist on canon, and the second is a wonderful character moment for McGonagall. She's reserved, not given to showing off, and that moment just encapsulates that part of her character perfectly.

(and yes, what a wonderful attention to minerva_fest!)
mollywheezy: Gryffindor Womenmollywheezy on December 16th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
I ADORED both Griselda and Minerva in this! And all of your little details like chocolate not being an exeption were just brilliant! Excellent story! :D
alicia.: pic#110903092aliciadances on December 22nd, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
I loved this--what a happy, phenomenal ending!
kellychambliss: Xmaskellychambliss on December 23rd, 2012 05:21 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this fascinating look at young Minerva -- you do a fine job of creating her youthful determination and joy and skill. I'm a sucker for Griselda fic, too. Loved this line: One of the Yorkshire Warchbettles, if I'm not mistaken. Miserable bunch, the whole godforsaken host of them. Ha! Love the voice.
DoraeAzure: Shinydoraeazure on December 27th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Oh this was lovely and brilliant and wonderful! I *love* this look at a young Mcgonagall knocking the socks off the examiners. And Griselda was absolutely fabulous; I love the way she gently but firmly stood her ground. You've got a lot of good detail in here that adds realism. Marvelous job!
therealsnape: snape defaulttherealsnape on January 4th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
Wonderfully IC, and I love the voice you give Griselda. As to choosing Griselda in the first place, ♥!

Minerva's Transfigurations are inspired, whatever Warchbettle has to say about them.
starduchess: believestarduchess on March 10th, 2014 05:36 pm (UTC)
Over here from crack_broom. Lovely read. :)
bongyorka: pic#114550933bongyorka on March 12th, 2014 08:59 am (UTC)
Wow, I loved the idea. Young, talented Minerva, could have impress them by being animagus, but she just transfigured chocolate :)