“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “I’ll miss having Friday mornings off.”
“You should have spent at least part of the time studying your Potions textbook while you had the opportunity,” Hermione reprimanded. “Then you wouldn’t have as much catching up to do when classes resume. I think we ought to be glad that they found another Potions teacher so soon, especially with our OWLs coming up…”
The other students in the Gryffindor common room groaned and rolled their eyes, and Ron waved his finger in the air in time to the words. “Really, Hermione, believe it or not, there is more to life than OWLs,” Ron grumbled sarcastically.
“Button it, Ron,” Hermione retorted, and she punched the redhead lightly in the shoulder. “But on the other hand, I have to admit I agree, Seamus; I don’t like the things I’m hearing about Karkaroff.”
“No one does, Hermione,” said Dean Thomas as he looked up from a sketch of a lion pouncing on a cowering snake. “Everyone who’s already had him is saying he’s no improvement over Snape. In fact, depending on who you talk to, he might even be worse. I didn’t believe it at first when I heard about that disastrous Potions class earlier this week.”
“You mean the explosion?” Ron said, and Dean nodded. “Yeah, I heard about that. And what happened afterward. McGonagall was so furious that she threatened to go and demand that Dumbledore send him back to Durmstrang on the first train out of Hogsmeade.”
“Who told you that?” Seamus wanted to know. “I didn’t hear that part!”
“Er…” Ron stalled, reluctant to reveal his source. The fact was, he’d overheard Harry telling Neville about what he’d overheard from some of Jaspine’s friends. According to them, Jaspine had witnessed part of the blowup between McGonagall and Karkaroff Monday afternoon. Ron was spared from having to answer as the flow of the conversation moved on.
“If it hadn’t been for that Slytherin girl with the ponytail, the one who’s good at Potions,” Parvati Patil chimed in, “the whole classroom could have been incinerated. How could anyone be stupid enough to mix dragon scales with those other ingredients, anyway?”
“Lockhart. Cornish Pixies. ‘Nuff said,” Ron grumbled under his breath.
Hermione and Parvati glared at him, while Dean and Seamus snickered.
“So anyway, you’re talking about Jaspine Greggs, the Slytherin Potions whiz,” Lee Jordan said, “yeah, she saved the day, so the general gossip goes. Got some nasty burns for her trouble, though. Wouldn’t count on Draco to do the same if something goes wrong in our class, that’s for sure!”
“Unless it involved saving his own skin,” Hermione remarked with a sour look.
“Hunh,” Ron muttered acidly. “A Slytherin? Actually trying to clean up a mess instead of making one? Never thought I’d see the day,” and he shot a venomous glare in Harry’s direction.
Harry, who had been sitting apart from the others reading Quidditch Through The Ages while keeping an ear trained on the conversation, snapped the book shut and glared back at Ron. But before he could say anything, Fred and George came bounding into the room wearing worried looks.
"Where have you been?" Ron asked, shifting his attention away from Harry. “You’re missing the latest news about the new Potions teacher!”
"Oh, we’ve been a little preoccupied, you might say,” George replied.
“We were delivering a bit of cheer to a poor soul who needs it," Fred clarified. “Besides, we know all about Karkaroff’s exploding cauldron. Old news.”
"But we’ve got some bad news about Karkaroff you all haven’t heard yet," George continued. "We overheard him talking to Dumbledore."
"Good thing these weren't confiscated," Fred said as he pulled out his Magic Ear from his robe pocket.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You’re lucky Angelina isn’t here right now," she muttered. "Well, go on then, let’s hear your bad news."
"Karkaroff isn't writing the year-end exams," Fred said. "He's just using Snape's stuff."
There was a collective groan from the Gryffindors, particularly the younger students.
"Bloody hell!" Ron croaked. "Someone wake me, I’m having a nightmare! How are we ever going to pass a Snape test with Karkaroff as a teacher? Neville's so lucky he gets to skip the Potions part of the OWLs!"
“What are you complaining about?” Hermione said, “Hogwarts professors have little if anything to do with the OWLs and NEWTs. The Ministry writes and administers them. And if anything, Snape always said that they were too easy!”
“Yeah, he said that they wouldn’t take his suggestion to poison us as part of the test seriously enough,” Lee added.
“What a shame!” Ron quipped acidly. “Well at least he won’t be around to encourage them to change their minds this year, will he?”
Harry glared furiously at Ron, but the redhead pointedly ignored him. When Ron caught a glimpse of Hermione’s scowl, however, the malicious look on his face vanished, and the tops of his ears turned pink.
“Say,” Seamus asked, “where is Neville, anyway? I haven’t seen him since class.”
Dean shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe he got caught in that trick step again.”
"By the way, what's this 'cheer' you were spreading earlier?" Hermione asked, her arms crossed over her chest. "You aren't trying to start another Grudge Match, are you?"
Fred and George exchanged looks.
"It was for Professor Deveroux," George said. "We're worried about her. She hasn't been the same since that greasy-haired git left. And I never thought I'd say this in a million years, but I sort of miss Snape too. At least he knew the subject. And Karkaroff isn’t going to be nearly as much fun to prank.”
"Anyway, we left Deveroux a small gift," Fred added. "She always laughed at our practical joke stuff in the past…"
"Oh no! What did you do?" Hermione asked anxiously.
"Nothing major," Fred replied. "No Weasley Whoopies, or Oozeballs, or anything like that. Just one of our smaller gags. One she always laughed at before. Maybe she'll laugh again. She's been so down lately, crying all the time..."
Hermione gave them a slightly quizzical look, but didn't say anything. Crookshanks, surprisingly, started purring. Hermione noted this with no small amazement.
"Well, I suppose it’s a good idea," Hermione said at last. "She has seemed awfully depressed lately. With…everything…" her voice trailed off.
“Is she still so upset over Snape?” asked Lavender Brown. “Sure, it was scary how the You-Know-Whats got him so close to the school, but that was almost two months ago, and there hasn’t been any trouble around here since.”
“Yeah, old news,” Ron said caustically. “She ought to shake it off and forget about him. It’s not like he was ever worth…”
“Shut up, Ron!” Harry suddenly snapped.
“What is your problem?” Ron exploded. “You’ve been acting like this ever since he left, and I don’t get it! Weren’t you the one always complaining about how miserable he made your life?”
“What do you mean ‘acting like this’? Haven’t you stopped to consider what will happen to him? Don’t you have any sympathy at all for Voldemort’s victims?”
“Harry, he hated you! You hated him! Then he messed up and got himself captured and killed, and suddenly you’re feeling sorry for him. I just don’t get it. You ought to be glad he’s out of your life.”
“Yeah, Harry,” Seamus said, although not with the same heat as Ron. “I would have thought you of all people would have been glad to see him gone.”
“So you think I should be happy like the rest of you?” Harry queried bitterly. “Well, you can think again! Because I’ve seen the bigger picture. I’ve seen…”
Your fault! Your genocide! Your war, not mine! I killed on your command! She hated me after she learned the truth about her brother. I killed him. Because your ‘loyal servants’ insisted. Your fault! Your orders!
“Never mind, you don’t understand. How can you?”
Harry threw his book down in disgust and strode rapidly out of the common room and down the corridor. He pushed open the portrait door, walked through, and slammed it shut behind him.
“Temper, temper, lad,” the Fat Lady scolded peevishly as she straightened her necklace and pink dress. She picked up a vase that had toppled over, and fixed Harry with a reproving glare.
“Sorry,” he muttered insincerely as he went down the stairs.
Harry was soon lost in his own thoughts as his feet carried him through the corridors of the castle. Why couldn’t he get Ron and Hermione to see? Why wouldn’t they listen when he tried to tell them about the dreams? But maybe they were right and he was wrong. After all, Snape had been nothing but cruel to Harry, to Deveroux, to the elves. Maybe he ought to suffer. Maybe…
No, no one should be tortured like that, not for any crime.
What about Voldemort, though?
Harry sighed miserably. One of the main goals of his life had been to repay Voldemort for what he had done to James and Lily Potter. But now…
Harry had tasted revenge upon a hated enemy, and to his disappointment he had found that it was not as sweet as he had expected. Instead, it was very bitter indeed.
The sound of voices coming from a nearby classroom suddenly caught his attention. Puzzled, he peeked into the Defense classroom and saw a small group of students, including Neville, Ginny, Colin, Dennis, Javier Kenrick, and several of the first and second year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs huddled over half a dozen boxes. They were chatting excitedly amongst themselves, but a sudden hush fell over the group as Ginny looked up and spotted Harry.
“Harry!” Ginny gasped in alarm. “What are you doing here? You aren’t supposed to see this!”
“What am I doing here?” Harry asked with a hint of irritation. “What are you doing here? Does Professor Deveroux know you’re here? And what are you working on?”
“Professor Deveroux…er…she said we could come here to practice our lessons as long as at least one of our house prefects knows we’re here,” Neville said. “And as long as at least one fifth-year or older student is here to supervise.”
“But what are you…?”
“And we’re very busy, and we don’t have time to explain,” Colin said defensively as he and Dennis exchanged glances, then approached Harry.
“Its a surprise for the whole school,” Dennis blurted out. “For the next Quidditch…”
“DENNIS!” Ginny scolded. Dennis blushed and closed his mouth with a snap.
“What kind of surprise?” Harry wondered suspiciously, a knot forming in the pit of his stomach. The looks on the faces of the students in the room made him wonder momentarily if he might be better off not knowing.
“The surprising kind,” Colin said as he and his brother started shoving Harry backwards out the door. “Don’t spoil it by asking about it. Just trust us. You’ll like it.”
Harry caught sight of a scrap of black fabric in Dennis’ hand. On it was embroidered the green serpent of Slytherin house.
“Does this have something to do with Slytherin?” Harry asked as Dennis, belatedly realizing his mistake, tried vainly to hide the cloth behind his back.
“No!” Dennis said vehemently, shaking his head. “Please, just go, Harry! And forget you saw us!”
Colin and Dennis gave Harry a final push out of the classroom and slammed the door shut in his face. Behind the door Harry heard voices whispering, but it was almost impossible to make out what was being said without a Weasley Magic Ear. The only thing he caught was Colin chewing out his brother: “Nice going, Jobberknoll! We’re going to have to let Angelina in on this now, just in case he tells her what he saw.”
Oh, great, Harry thought as he stared at the door. They are planning to do something to Slytherin during the match, and they think I will enjoy whatever it is. Maybe I should tell McGonagall…
But she’d punish them…and they’d know for sure it was my doing…and do I really want Neville and Kenrick to stop speaking to me, too?
Harry sighed, turned, and headed down the steps to the main floor…where he nearly ran into Jaspine. The Slytherin was heading from the Hufflepuff area toward the dungeons, and was balancing two stacked boxes in front of her. Harry deduced that she had just been to visit her older brother in Hufflepuff, probably to either borrow the boxes, or more likely to lend him more potions supplies. From what Jaspine had told him, Harry would bet good Galleons that Matis would never have earned his potions OWL without his sister’s help, nor would he currently stand a chance of getting his NEWT.
“Brew?” Harry called in surprise as the Slytherin’s head poked out around the boxes. “What are you doing out here? And…” he stifled a gasp as he looked at her face, which still had angry red burn marks. “What happened to your face? Is that from the Potions accident I heard about?”
“Hi, Harry,” Jaspine replied with a small grin. “I was just going to ask you the same thing…about being here, I mean. As for the burns, yeah, that’s from the ‘accident.’ Madam Pomfrey said if I put the ointment on every morning and evening like she told me, it will heal up completely by the middle of next week. I won’t even have a scar. I’m almost disappointed.”
Harry made a face. “Trust me, scars are nothing but trouble, Jaspine. I wish I could get rid of mine.”
“Wanna trade?” Jaspine asked facetiously. “It wouldn’t solve all your problems, but it might help.”
“Why do you want to trade? Are you jealous of my scar?” Harry teased. “Hmm…I don’t think there’s any potion in the world that will cure scar-envy. You’re out of luck, Brew.”
“Drat!” Jaspine complained with a grin, playing along. “I was really hoping I could talk you into trading. It’s not the scar-envy that bothers me so much as going around looking like I’ve been locked in a broom closet with a Blast-Ended Skrewt.”
“Hmm…you could try ordering Lockhart’s Cosmetics from Speedy Owl.”
Jaspine sighed. “I wish. But in the first place, it would never arrive in time to make a difference. And in the second, I’m not supposed to use anything that might interact with the burn ointment. Given the fact that I got this from a botched potion in the first place…”
Harry winced. “I get the picture.”
“So, what are you doing out here anyway?” Jaspine wanted to know.
Harry shrugged as he and Jaspine continued walking down the main hallway toward the steps leading to the dungeons. “I just needed some fresh air and some time to myself, I guess.”
“Another quarrel with Weasley and Granger?”
“No, it’s the same one, actually.”
“I thought as much. You look ready to wrestle a Blast-ended Skrewt yourself.”
“I’ve had better days,” Harry observed, the anger and resentment toward his friends creeping back.
“They’re just being stupid, you know,” Jaspine said matter-of-factly. “When they realize that, they’ll come around and apologize.”
Harry snorted. “I don’t think so. Not this time.”
“Harry, I’m really glad you’re here right now,” the Slytherin said suddenly.
“Er…why’s that?” Harry wondered.
“Because I’m being stupid, too. I just realized that I hadn’t thought ahead as to how I’m going to get these boxes down all those steps to the dungeons when I can’t see where I’m going.”
“Er…swish and flick?” Harry suggested.
“That would be an excellent idea if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of this stuff is fragile, and I have trouble keeping things level when I levitate.”
Harry grinned. “Me too, especially when I’m having trouble concentrating on my work.”
“So, would you mind too terribly…?”
“Not at all,” the Gryffindor agreed eagerly, carefully easing the top box from its perch and bringing it close to his chest. “Merlin, what have you got in here, the Gringotts treasury?”
“Hardly,” said Jaspine. “But with the price of potions supplies these days, it might as well be. So be forewarned, if you break anything, you’re reimbursing me. And you’re paying the current market price, not what I paid six months ago when I bought the stuff.” She turned toward the stairs and said, “Here, you’d better let me go first. Can you hold the railing with one hand and the box with the other?”
“Yeah,” Harry grunted, shifting the box so he could take the Slytherin’s suggestion. “Sure, no problem. Jaspine, if my arm falls off before we get there, I’m not responsible for anything else that breaks as a result.”
“Oh, it’s not that heavy! I was managing both of them quite well before you showed up.”
“Uh huh,” Harry murmured skeptically. “So where are we going, anyway? Classroom, office, or storage?”
“Potions classroom. Want to stick around for the workshop?”
“Workshop? Er…I don’t have a cauldron or any of my supplies. I hadn’t planned on a trip to the dungeons tonight. I didn’t even know Karkaroff had a class this late.”
“He doesn’t. This is my study group,” Jaspine said proudly. “And since you’re here at my invitation tonight, don’t worry about not having supplies. You can partner with Matty and borrow whatever you need from him. Merlin knows, he’s always begging stuff from me.”
“Ummm, Jaspine…does Professor Karkaroff know about this?”
“Well of course he knows! I couldn’t very well come down here, Magic Drain the door, and pick the lock two nights a week without getting caught eventually, now could I?”
“I guess not! But what about the prefects?”
Jaspine shook her head. “No way. They’re Malfoy’s friends. I’ve only invited the people I trust.”
“So, how did you get Karkaroff’s approval?”
“Oh it wasn’t hard. I just groveled a bit, told him that I thought the spoiled potion was my fault, not his. And I promised to be more careful in the future.”
“But Jaspine, it was his fault, not yours!”
“Well of course it was his fault, and he knows that! And he knows that I know that.”
“Well then why on earth would you…?”
“Harry, it was important for me to let him know that I ‘regret’ showing him up in front of the other students. Though, of course, it also reminded him of the fact that the entire class could have ended up wearing that potion, or catching on fire, or worse—not to mention what it would have done to the classroom!”
“I still don’t understand.”
“It was necessary to salve his ego, to let him know that I respect his position, even though I don’t really respect him. Karkaroff is like Snape was in that respect; he’s a real sucker for flattery, though he isn’t as perceptive. Snape would have known soon enough that I was up to something and asked what it was I wanted. And more likely than not he would have granted my request…”
“Such as a pass to the Restricted Section in the library?”
“Yeah, so anyway I buttered up Karkaroff and asked him if we could borrow the Potions classroom a few nights a week, in order to put in some extra study time.” Jaspine grinned. “He said as far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t care what we do in our spare time, as long as we don’t make anything illegal or dangerous, and make sure we clean up after ourselves. And he said he wanted to talk to Dumbledore before he gave his permission for the workshop.”
Jaspine sighed. “Well, Dumbledore must have agreed, because Karkaroff gave his approval. But I have the feeling that there will be a price tag attached. Last night, when he stopped in to check on the workshop, he gave me a list of things he wanted me to brew either during the workshops or on my own time.”
“Oh no,” Harry groaned. “I think I can see where this is going…”
“Yeah,” Jaspine grumbled. “You’ve reached the same conclusion, haven’t you? Karkaroff won’t lift a finger, if he can help it. He’d rather pawn his work off on someone else, particularly someone he can trust to do it right.”
“And you’ve proven yourself worthy to be his house-elf. Congratulations, Jaspine, or should I say, condolences?” Harry quipped sarcastically.
Jaspine grimaced. “I rather think it’s the latter, but the hippogriff’s away, and I can only hang on for the ride. It’s too late for me to back out now.”
“So why teach the workshops at all, if this is how it’s going to be?” Harry asked.
“Because I feel it’s my responsibility to save our grades,” Jaspine replied in a lower voice as they reached the dungeon level and proceeded down the dark, dank corridors. “Listen, Karkaroff doesn’t know squat about practical potions, though his knowledge in destructive potions and poisons seems pretty solid. I, on the other hand, can offer a helping hand to those who want some real training, and a chance at passing their finals. I can make anything that might be on the tests, even the NEWTs. Last summer, my brother, Truman, showed me most of the NEWT level potions he thought Snape might have us learn—particularly the ones that involve powdered dragon horn and scales, and other dragon ingredients. He uses that stuff daily at his job on the Hebridian Reservation, you see, and he’s something of an expert. Anyway, between his instruction and my own independent study, I could maybe even take my NEWTs this year and enroll at the Allee this fall…”
“Gee, you’re so ambitious, you put me to shame,” Harry observed.
“I’m a Slytherin. I’m supposed to be ambitious,” Jaspine retorted with a grin. “Or so that battered old Sorting Hat reminds me every year. But even I wouldn’t be ambitious enough to take on a dragon or a Basilisk, or a Dark Lord.”
“Don’t go there,” Harry warned sharply. “I don’t feel like a hero, and I never wanted to be called one. I did what was necessary, nothing more. And I don’t like talking about the past.”
Jaspine merely shrugged. “Right. So anyway, this is something I feel obligated to do right now, since…” and she dropped her voice, “since I’m the reason we have that troll-brain teaching here in the first place.”
They entered the Potions classroom, where several students were already assembled. Harry recognized Gloria Hyran, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Ernie Macmillan, Hannah Abbott, Blaise Zabini and Malcolm Baddock. There also were two other seventh-year Hufflepuffs, assorted first, second, third, and sixth-year Slytherins, and a fourth-year Ravenclaw whom Harry didn’t know.
“Hey, guys,” Jaspine said as she and Harry placed the boxes on one of the unused tables. “Sorry I’m running a bit late. I had to stop by Hufflepuff to see Matis on the way here. So, what would you like help with tonight?”
While the Slytherin was speaking, the aforementioned older Hufflepuff strode in through the doorway and grabbed an empty work station.
“Sorry, Sis,” he apologized lightly, glancing around at the other students who were taking the interruption with varying amounts of amusement, annoyance, and disinterest. “Couldn’t find my scales and measuring cups again. I forgot I’d let one of the second-years borrow them this morning, and they never came back. So I had to borrow Winnie’s, just until I can track mine down.”
“Well don’t even think about borrowing mine. You already owe me three Galleons and forty Sickles in supplies and two trips to Hogsmeade. By the way, you can partner with Harry Potter tonight since you’re late, and he’s a new visitor.”
“Harry Potter?” Matis queried, his eyebrows shooting up.
Why does my name always get that reaction, Harry thought in annoyance. He turned away from Jaspine’s boxes and took a seat next to the seventh-year Hufflepuff. Matis broke into a friendly grin and said, “Well, you’re only a fifth-year, but I suppose you’ll want to get a head start on the more difficult formulas, particularly if you intend to stick with Potions your next two years.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to stay in the study group…or Potions,” Harry said, glancing toward Jaspine. “But…I’m worried about passing my OWLs, and Jaspine said she could help.”
“Well, then you’re in the right place,” Matis said encouragingly.
“All right everyone,” Jaspine was saying. “We spent almost a full hour last night talking about Karkaroff, and trying to decide what nights and times we want to meet, and who we’re going to partner with, and other unrelated subjects. I’d like to get some actual work done tonight, and I’d like to extend the length of the workshop to two hours. Does anyone have a problem with that?”
The group exchanged looks, shrugged, and looked back at Jaspine. Harry noticed the looks ranged from mild curiosity to suspicion. Hannah, especially, glared at Jaspine with thinly veiled hostility. Wonder what that’s all about? he thought.
“All right then, it’s settled. From now on, we’ll be getting together from seven to nine on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Now, what would you like to cover? And don’t say ‘everything’ again, because we don’t have that much time until finals.”
“Well, the biggest problem we encountered last night, is that we are all working on different things because we’re in different houses and different years,” Jaspine’s brother observed quietly. “So we’re going to have to work pretty much independently by year.”
“Right. Let’s see…where are my notes from last night?” Jaspine said as she fished around the larger box. “Aha, here it is! Okay everyone, set up your cauldrons, if you haven’t already.”
“Hey Jas,” Matty called as he gave his sister a pleading look. “Do you have any extra parchment? I’m nearly out…”
Harry thought about offering some of his, but changed his mind abruptly as he realized that lending things to Matis would become a lifelong obligation once he started. On the other hand, perhaps Matis could be persuaded to share some closely guarded Dark Cauldron tips and tactics in return for a spare bit of parchment…
But Jaspine was already taking care of the matter with an air of long habit. She shook her head and sighed in exasperation as she reached into the smaller box and pulled out a stack of extra parchment paper. “Let me guess, you gave yours away to your housemates, or you forgot to get it last time you went to Hogsmeade and got Dark Cauldron cards instead.”
“Not this time, Jas,” the Hufflepuff protested mildly. “I sent my order through Speedy Owl last month with a red ‘rush delivery’ envelope, even owled them last week asking them if the delivery owl got lost. But they never replied, and my order still hasn’t arrived. And I had a couple of big essays to do for Mundanus and McGonagall this week.”
“That’s why you should have gone to Hogsmeade when you had the chance. What would you do without me, Matty?”
Matty shrugged and gave a sheepish grin. “Panic.”
Jaspine tsked, then turned her attention back to the class. “Okay, I’m going to read off the list of potions you are supposed to be covering in class right now, and we’ll see what happens. We have two sixth-years, five fifth-years, two fourth-years, four third-years, three second-years and a first-year. Lauren…” She indicated the first-year Slytherin. “You should be working on the Shrinking Solution and Burn Ointment. Are you having any troubles with those?”
“Well,” Lauren said haltingly, “I can do the Burn Ointment, but my Shrinking Solution doesn’t work. Professor Karkaroff won’t tell me what’s wrong with it.”
“That’s because he doesn’t have a clue,” Ernie chipped in. Most of the other students, including Harry and Matis, snickered. Hannah, however, sniffed in irritation.
“Let’s not sidetrack the issue, Ernie. We need to get real work done tonight. Ok, Malcolm, you and Blaise…”
“Well, well, I hear the cooked lobster wants to be a professor,” called a very familiar drawling voice from the doorway.
Harry groaned inwardly and turned to the door to see Draco Malfoy sneering in at the group. And Malfoy had brought his posse with him. Crabbe, Goyle, Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls, and at least a dozen other younger Slytherins pushed their way into the room behind Malfoy.
“Having a party, Greggs?” Malfoy drawled. “Pity we all misplaced our invitations to the clam bake, but we don’t really need them now, do we?”
“You are not welcome here, Malfoy,” Jaspine hissed, and the unburnt portion of her face started to redden. “This is a study group, for those of us who want to study.”
“Right, Greggs,” Malfoy drawled as he casually took a seat behind one of the desks and placed his well-polished black loafers on top of the desk. “Well, don’t worry, I haven’t come here to study with the likes of you. I’ve got better things to do. And anyone else here with a grain of sense will realize that this is a complete waste of valuable time, and leave now.” He turned a cool, contemptuous look toward the Slytherins and said in a low voice, “In fact, it could even be hazardous to your health if you continue to study here.”
Jaspine’s whole face turned as scarlet as the potion burns. “If anyone comes in here wishing to learn, I’ll teach them,” she snapped. “But if you come here wanting to fight, you’ll have to wait till I’m done teaching. Come back after nine, Malfoy.”
Draco laughed heartily. “You really think you’re something, don’t you, Professor Psycho? So, what, are you going to teach everyone how to be a nut like yourself, is that your plan?” Draco’s cronies sniggered.
The sixth-year Slytherin slammed her hand on the teacher’s desk and stormed over to Malfoy. “I’ve got permission from Dumbledore and our Acting Head of House to help other students with their potions from now until finals, and that’s what I intend to do. Now get out, Ferret Face, or I’ll throw you out.”
Draco’s surly amusement vanished, and was replaced now by real anger as he got up from the desk. “You don’t tell me what to do, Lobster Face, and you don’t threaten me unless you want real trouble.”
“If I have to throw you and your toadies out myself, you’ll find out what real trouble is. And you’re going to find a half dozen pa-trolls around the door the next time, when you try to barge in. I guarantee they’ll show you even less courtesy than I have.”
Draco glared. “You’re not good at bluffing, so don’t try it. You’re not a teacher or a prefect. You don’t have the authority to call for security.”
“I will if Dumbledore hears about this!”
“You will lose the workshop altogether if Dumbledore hears about this, Greggs. It’ll be your word against mine…and Karkaroff’s, and the prefects.”
“Why you filthy little…” she started to say as she drew her wand.
Matis sprang to his feet, and he placed a restraining hand on her shoulder.
“No, Jas, think!” he whispered. “If he can goad you into attacking him here and now, he wins.” The Hufflepuff then turned and glared at Draco. “If this goes as far as Dumbledore’s office, we’ll all back Jaspine, and he’ll listen to us. You may have Karkaroff, Madora and Ulger on your side, but they don’t run this school. You lose, Malfoy, now get out.”
A standoff ensued between Draco’s group and Jaspine’s. Matis removed his hand from his sister’s shoulder and reached for his wand, while Harry and several other workshop attendees did likewise…just in case. But Malfoy’s gang also drew their wands, and they outnumbered Jaspine’s group nearly two to one.
Malfoy whispered something to the two Slytherins nearest him, and they grinned evilly. Suddenly, Malfoy made a flicking motion with his wand, then pointed it at one of Jaspine’s boxes.
“Evertere!” Malfoy shouted, and to Jaspine’s outrage, the box tipped over and fell off the table, spilling its contents all over the classroom floor. Bottles, beakers and jars shattered, and Galleons worth of valuable potions ingredients were ruined. Harry groaned, for it had been an effort carrying that box down here and trying to keep it level, and it was all for naught.
“You evil little weasel! I’m going to curse you from here to the next solstice for that!” Jaspine shrieked.
“No, Jas! Let it go!” Matis threw both of his arms around Jaspine to hold her back.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Jaspine struggled against her brother in an effort to get her wand on Malfoy, but Matis hung on doggedly.
Meanwhile Harry and several others sprang to their feet and pointed their wands at the Slytherins, who all raised their wands in return. A battle seemed almost certain, despite the fact that Jaspine’s group was decidedly outnumbered, when suddenly the most unexpected thing happened.
“Let’s go,” Malfoy ordered as he lowered his wand slightly and turned away from Jaspine. “I’m through here. Just remember…” And again he turned to throw a contemptuous look at the Slytherins in the room. “This is not a good way to spend your evening. You’ll regret it if you keep coming here.” With that he marched out the door, and the other Slytherins followed. Crabbe lingered for a few seconds by the door, watching as Jaspine’s wand came down and Matis released his sister at last. Then he turned sharply and followed Malfoy, last in line behind the other Slytherins.
Harry pocketed his wand and sat down, and he stared open-mouthed at Vincent’s back as the Slytherin departed through the doorway. Did anyone else notice that Crabbe’s wand had been pointed not at Jaspine or her friends, but at Draco the whole time? Did anyone else see the word “Placidus” form on his lips? Probably not! Crabbe had been at the back of the group, and everyone else’s attention had been on Draco and Jaspine.
The aforementioned Slytherin put away her wand, curled her fingers into fists. “That bloody little Voldemort-loving maggot!” she growled, breathing fury.
There was a ripple of disapproval and unease around the room at the mention of He-Who-Was-Generally-Not-Named-In-Public, but it was brief. Most of the others seemed to share Jaspine’s sentiments about Draco.
“Blow him off, Jas,” Matis urged. “I’ll talk to Professor Sprout tonight after workshop about borrowing some of Filch’s trolls on workshop nights. I’m sure she’ll be willing to put in a word for us.”
“We’ll tell Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall what happened as well, if you’d like,” Harry offered, indicating himself and the other older students. “They’ll make sure he pays you back and apologizes for the damage.”
“No, Harry,” Jaspine said firmly. “I appreciate your offer, but that won’t do any good, and might cause more trouble in the long run.” She didn’t need to add that she and Harry were already an inch from expulsion, and they didn’t need to give the headmaster any reasons to rethink his decision.
Harry got the message, nodded, and looked away.
Jaspine turned her attention to her brother. “Don’t ask Sprout about the trolls until I’ve tried Karkaroff, Matty. I really don’t want the cockroaches to come crawling back next workshop, but I’d like to keep this in Slytherin House if possible.”
Matis shrugged. “If you change your mind, you let me know.”
“We could close the door and put a repelling charm on it next time,” Blaise suggested.
“Karkaroff wouldn’t like that if he came by to check on things,” Malcolm pointed out.
“Good point,” Blaise replied. “If we lock him out of his own classroom, he’ll be furious.”
Jaspine pondered for a moment, anger giving way momentarily to calculation. “Okay, here’s what we’ll do. Fellow Slytherins, go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow morning, we’ll get up early and go to breakfast as a group. But first, we’ll catch Karkaroff on his way to the Great Hall and tell him we need to talk. Maybe if we get to him first, we can encourage him to do something about Draco’s bullying.”
“And in the meantime, we’ll salvage what’s left, get more supplies, its no big deal...” Matis was saying as he began applying Reparo spells to the broken jars and vials.
Harry and some of the older students took their cue from Matis and helped out, casting Reparo, Accio, and Scourgify spells until everything was back in the box, broken or repaired, and the floor was clean. With all of them working together, the process took less than five minutes.
“Thanks, guys,” Jaspine said. “I really mean that. Now, we’ve still got an hour and a half left. Let’s get back to work.”
Jaspine turned back to her “class” and resumed the lesson, making do with what was left that Draco hadn’t managed to ruin.
A/N: For those of you who may be wondering, the Magic Ears are NOT the Extendable Ears described in Order of the Phoenix. My co-author and I started this story more than a year before OoP came out and coincidentally enough, wound up "inventing" something similar. The Magic Ear, as described in Part 1 of Grudge Match, is shaped like a small pyramid and fits in the ear like a hearing aid. The ear, thus enhanced, is pressed to the wall or door.