Hermione raised a trembling hand.

“Excellent!” beamed Lockhart. “Quite excellent! Take ten points for Gryffindor! And so—to business—”

He bent down behind his desk and lifted a large, covered cage onto it.

“Now—be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”

In spite of himself, Harry leaned around his pile of books for a better look at the cage. Lockhart placed a hand on the cover. Dean and Seamus had stopped laughing now. Neville was cowering in his front row seat.

“I must ask you not to scream,” said Lockhart in a low voice. “It might provoke them.” As the whole class held its breath, Lockhart whipped off the cover.

“Yes,” he said dramatically. “Freshly caught Cornish pixies.”

Seamus Finnigan couldn’t control himself. He let out a snort of laughter that even Lockhart couldn’t mistake for a scream of terror.

“Yes?” He smiled at Seamus.

“Well, they’re not—they’re not very—dangerous, are they?” Seamus choked.

“Don’t be so sure!” said Lockhart, waggling a finger annoyingly at Seamus. “Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!”

The pixies were electric blue and about eight inches high, with pointed faces and voices so shrill it was like listening to a lot of budgies arguing. The moment the cover had been removed, they had started jabbering and rocketing around, rattling the bars and making bizarre faces at the people nearest them.

“Right, then,” Lockhart said loudly. “Let’s see what you make of them!” And he opened the cage.

It was pandemonium. The pixies shot in every direction like rockets. Two of them seized Neville by the ears and lifted him into the air. Several shot straight through the window, showering the back row with broken glass. The rest proceeded to wreck the classroom more effectively than a rampaging rhino. They grabbed ink bottles and sprayed the class with them, shredded books and papers, tore pictures from the walls, up ended the waste basket, grabbed bags and books and threw them out of the smashed window; within minutes, half the class was sheltering under desks and Neville was swinging from the iron chandelier in the ceiling.



“Come on now—round them up, round them up, they’re only pixies,” Lockhart shouted.

He rolled up his sleeves, brandished his wand, and bellowed, “Peskipiksi Pesternomi!”

It had absolutely no effect; one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out of the window, too. Lockhart gulped and dived under his own desk, narrowly avoiding being squashed by Neville, who fell a second later as the chandelier gave way.

The bell rang and there was a mad rush toward the exit. In the relative calm that followed, Lockhart straightened up, caught sight of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were almost at the door, and said, “Well, I’ll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.” He swept past them and shut the door quickly behind him.

“Can you believe him?” roared Ron as one of the remaining pixies bit him painfully on the ear.

“He just wants to give us some hands-on experience,” said Hermione, immobilizing two pixies at once with a clever Freezing Charm and stuffing them back into their cage.

“Hands on?” said Harry, who was trying to grab a pixie dancing out of reach with its tongue out. “Hermione, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing—”

“Rubbish,” said Hermione. “You’ve read his books—look at all those amazing things he’s done—”

“He says he’s done,” Ron muttered.


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