The Sugar Quill
Author: Deborah Peters  Story: It's Not Personal  Chapter: Default
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(Untitled)

It’s Not Personal

Deborah Peters

            “Can anybody correctly identify this?” Professor Grubbly-Plank asked, referring to the overlarge ferret sleeping in the basket at her feet.  As she surveyed the seventh-year Care of Magical Creatures class, the animal gave a little snore.

            Lee Jordan raised his hand.  “It’s a Jarvey, Professor.”

            Professor Grubbly-Plank nodded, a pleasant smile on her face.  “Correct, Jordan.  Five points to Gryffindor.”

            Alicia Spinnet, the only other Gryffindor in the undersized N.E.W.T.-level class, mouthed “good job” to Lee.  He pantomimed buffing his nails on his robes, and she rolled her eyes at him.

            “Now, can anybody besides Jordan tell me something about Jarveys?” Professor Grubbly-Plank asked.

            Keith Wilson, a handsome Ravenclaw, raised his hand.  “I think,” he said carefully, “that they’re gnome-chasers, aren’t they?”

            “That’s correct—but there’s something very interesting about them.  Anyone?”

             Lee was chewing his nails.  Cindy Adams was whispering with her friends, who were eyeing the Jarvey curiously.  Portia Langley-Bramblewaith ran one hand through stringy blonde hair and asked, “Do they have unique magical abilities?”

            Adrian Pucey snorted derisively.  “No, Porky, we’re studying them in a Care of Magical Creatures class for some other reason.”  Miles Bletchley snickered.

            “Pucey!” Professor Grubbly-Plank barked.  “Five points from Slytherin.  Yes, Langley-Bramblewaith, their abilities are quite unique.  Care to take a guess?”

            Portia blushed, shooting a sidelong glance at the Slytherin boys, and shook her head.  The professor gave her a kind smile and said, “Here’s a hint:  it has to do with their communication.”

            The girl squinted in the sun.  “Do they… talk?”

            “Exactly.  Five points to Ravenclaw; the Jarvey is one of few beasts that speak.  Now, here’s another question—why can’t such a docile-looking animal be studied in a lower-level Care of Magical Creatures class?”

            Lee Jordan, who looked as though a light bulb had lit up over his head, raised his hand again.  “I’m not sure, exactly—it has something to do with what they say, I think.”

            Professor Grubbly-Plank nodded.  “That’s right.  Why don’t we find out?”  She picked up the sleeping Jarvey with one arm and pulled out her wand.  Ennervate!

            The ferret-like creature sleepily opened its eyes.  “Wow!” it said, looking up at Grubbly-Plank.  “If you weren’t the ugliest thing I seen today!”

            Portia gave a little gasp.  Alicia looked offended.  Keith Wilson snorted behind his hand.  Adrian Pucey snorted and left the hand out altogether.  Not discouraged, the Jarvey added, “Really!  Me mum would’ve drowned you ‘fore you reached two weeks, a face like that!”

            “On that note,” Professor Grubbly-Plank said, “can anybody tell me what’s unique about the Jarvey’s speech?”

            The animal in question gave a mighty sniff.  “Oi!  Y’know, you lot smell somethin’ awful, you do!  Seems right like a medical condition, almost!”

            Adrian elbowed Miles and nodded in Portia’s direction.  She didn’t notice; she was staring open-mouthed at the Jarvey.  Lee raised his hand and said, “Professor?  Do they only speak in insults?”

            As Professor Grubbly-Plank nodded, the Jarvey looked at Alicia and called, “Oi, you!  How’s a porker like you fit into them robes, eh?”

            Alicia, who was a perfectly slender girl, gave a strangled cry and pulled her wand out of her pocket.  “Put that away, Spinnet!” Professor Grubbly-Plank snapped.  “It doesn’t mean it personally!”

            As if to prove her point, the Jarvey wriggled like a happy kitten and said, “Lousy flobberworm-buggerers!”

            Everyone in the class had a good laugh at this, except Alicia, who didn’t seem to have recovered from the creature’s earlier insult.  The Jarvey excitedly added, “Inbred Purebloods!”

            Miles and Adrian seemed to take particular offense to this.  Lee, however, was almost doubled over from laughing.  “I don’t know, Professor,” he managed to gasp.  “I think it’s great!  Not hard to deal with at all!”

            “Elitist pig-dog!” the Jarvey said, seemingly directing its words at Keith.

             Cindy giggled.  “Are you sure it doesn’t mean anything personally, Professor?”

            “Hey!” protested Keith.  “I’m not an elitist!”

            Cindy and her friends carefully looked away from the indignant Ravenclaw.  The Jarvey turned to the girls and exclaimed, “Where’s the henhouse, then, ye great, noisy, stupid birds?”  Unbelievably, the animal clucked at the giggly Hufflepuffs, who quickly sobered.

“That Jarvey is a riot, Professor!  D’you think I could get a license for one?”  Lee, the only student still laughing, seemed delighted with the animal.  The Jarvey looked him up and down and said, “Blimey!  An elf!  Or are you a leprechaun?  Where’s your pot o’ gold, then?”

Lee stopped laughing and opened and closed his mouth wordlessly for a few moments before sputtering, “I’m—I’m not that short!”

Miles, still smarting from the “inbred purebloods” remark, looked down his nose at him.  “I beg to differ, Jordan.”

Lee’s hand went to his wand, but was stopped by Alicia, who grabbed his arm and gave him a warning shake of the head.  He shook himself free of her grip, but made no further motion of revenge toward the Slytherin boy.

Professor Grubbly-Plank, apparently relieved that her class hadn’t erupted into a brawl, stroked the Jarvey’s back and asked, “Now do you all see the inherent difficulties in dealing with Jarveys?”

The class, quite offended, all muttered a surly “yes.” 

Their professor smiled.  “You may have noticed that Jarveys are somewhat like boggarts—can anyone tell me how?”

Portia raised her hand.  “Boggarts can detect your biggest fears, and Jarveys can tell your biggest insecurities.”

“Ah, you!” the Jarvey said to the girl.  “Nobody likes you, y’know.”

Professor Grubbly-Plank nodded.  “Excellent observation, Langley-Bramblewaith; five more points to Ravenclaw.  Jarveys aren’t really capable of intelligent speech, although they may lead you to believe otherwise.  After all, nobody who sits around insulting people all day long can really be intelligent, can they?  Jarveys don’t have original thoughts; they just pick up on peoples’ insecurities and taunt them—much like some people I went to school with.”  She managed to coax a chuckle out of a few of the students.  “Besides, you’ll notice that sometimes, the Jarveys don’t even come up with proper insults—when they run out of targets, they settle for simple profanity.”  She scratched the Jarvey behind the ears.  “The best way to deal with Jarveys is to keep in mind that being insecure about something doesn’t mean it’s true.  I mean, look at Jordan—he’s really not short at all, is he?  And don’t you say anything, Bletchley,” she added before the Slytherin speak.  “What you need to remember with Jarveys is that it’s not personal.  The Jarvey is not a thinking creature and it does not believe what it’s saying.  It’s a dumb animal that is just as happy chasing gnomes as insulting people.”

The Jarvey was kind enough to add, “Balls!”

Professor Grubbly-Plank rolled her eyes.  “Shush.  Class, Jarveys are an excellent example of a trade-off common in the magical world.  In this case, do I spend an afternoon hurling garden gnomes out of my yard, or do I put up with the Jarvey telling me how bad my cooking is?”  Professor Grubbly-Plank regarded the ferret-like creature in her arms almost fondly.  “A Jarvey is a useful critter, but they’re not for everyone.  Who of you think that you could spend ten minutes in a room with one without wanting to hex it?”

The class, most of whom were still nursing a wounded ego, remained silent.  After the Jarvey had interjected “Festering, excrement-filled morons!” their professor smiled at them and said, “Don’t be frustrated if you find that you don’t have the patience for dealing with them.  Why, even your own professors sometimes have trouble.  For example, I’d left this one in the Staff Room earlier today, and when I came back to get it, I found that Professor McGonagall had turned it into a handbag.  Apparently it called her a ‘stodgy old sheep-biter.’  Why she was offended by that, I don’t know, but it says something interesting about her character, don’t you think?”

The class just stared at their teacher, who obliviously continued, “In any case, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what it called Professor Snape—I won’t even repeat that.”

At this point, the Jarvey took the opportunity to exclaim, “Arse!  Bloody!  Bugger!” and proceed through the alphabet from there.

A/N:  Thanks go to everyone who helped with this story while it was in its infancy on the Lockhart’s Office forum and to everyone who has been reviewing my other stories.  It’s extremely gratifying to see people’s positive reactions as well as helpful to hear criticism.  Also, I thought it was time to confirm the fact that “Teresa” is right; the names of the characters in my story “Severing Charms” are taken from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.  No, ivy & Gracie, they’re not Latina pop stars.  ;)

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