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Night Terrors by Karaley Dargen

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I sit up in my bed with a start the next morning. As usual, I’ve been woken by a squirt of water in my face, courtesy of the plant that grows on my bedside cabinet. Professor Sprout has had one put next to every student’s bed, so that we don’t oversleep. Not many people need them, and a short glance around the dormitory tells me that everyone else is already at breakfast. I, however, have built a somewhat personal relationship with my bedside plant, since it wakes me at least once a week. It needs about three times as much water as the others’ plants.

As much effort as it takes, I have to get up. I get dressed quickly, and take my books for the day with me as I head down for breakfast. There probably won’t be time to get them later; I can’t be late for Potions.

Professor Snape has never really liked me. Of course, I doubt that he really likes anyone, but the way he despises me in particular didn’t really show until after OWLs. That look on his face when he saw me in his NEWT class said more than a hundred of his piercing insults. I don’t know exactly what it is that he has against me. I sometimes knock over phials, or drop pickled newts, but I always produce a good potion by the end of the lesson. Charlie thinks that my succeeding at Potions actually makes it worse. Either way, I hate being picked on in front of everyone, so I can’t give Snape a reason to single me out -- and that means I just can’t be late.

I’m still chewing on my last bit of toast when I skid to a halt in front of Snape’s classroom in the dungeons. To my relief, the door seems to be locked, and a group of students is waiting in front of it. As the only Hufflepuff in NEWT Potions, I have no one from my house to naturally flock to, so it is with great relief that I see Charlie’s red head of hair in the small crowd.

–Glad to see you’ve listened to me and showed up,” I say as I sidle up to him.

–Miss Tonks,” Charlie says with a fake sneer, looking down his nose at me. –How kind of you to join us after all.”

–Oh, ha ha. Watch your back, or he might overhear you,” I retort, and Charlie instantly throws a look over his shoulder at the door, which remains closed.  

–So, did you study all night?” he asks.

I bite my lip before I answer. –I wish... I did work for a bit, but I didn’t want to be too tired during Potions today. You know how I mess up when I get sleepy.”

–You must be sleepy a lot,” Charlie says, and at the sight of my glare quickly adds, –I’m just joking. You know I’d be lost without you around.”

It’s true -- well, it’s not like Charlie has no talent for Potions; he did manage to get an O on his OWL after all. It’s just that Potions is a bit different on NEWT level, and Charlie doesn’t have a lot of patience with it. He wants to do something with animals, probably dragons, so it’s not like he needs Potions for more than a few ointments and simple draughts. But he does need a fourth NEWT subject -- apart from Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures, and Herbology -- to have a shot at that all-expenses-covered Beginner’s Romanian summer course he wants to take. We made a deal at some point during last summer that I’d help him through his Potions practical examination and he’d make sure I studied Transfiguration theories.

Suddenly, the door flies open. –Enter,” Snape snarls, and we file in silently.

When we’ve all taken our seats, he taps the blackboard with his wand, and the words Practical Application appear. Beneath them is the chalk outline of an hourglass.

–You will work in pairs,” he says needlessly -- we’ve been working in pairs for the past month. –I will not assign you a potion today. You will choose it yourselves, and I expect you to hand in a twenty inch essay explaining your choice of potion and how you might make use of it in your day-to-day life by Friday. You have ninety minutes.”

As much as I despise Snape as a teacher, I actually appreciate tasks like this one. We’re only a handful of months away from leaving Hogwarts, and learning things I can use in the real world makes a lot of sense. I pull my Potions book, padded with instructions I’ve copied from library books, from my bag and am about to drop it on the table with a flourish when I hear a horrible ripping sound. The spine and front cover have torn right off the heavy book, and the pages are flying everywhere in a two feet circle around our table. Instantly, I lunge after them, scrambling to gather them together before Snape sees me, but I’m not fast enough.

–Well now,” comes his voice from above me, and I freeze for a second. –Miss Tonks seems to think that reorganising her notes is a better use of her time than starting on that potion.”

Someone sniggers -- I’m sure it’s that cow Ida Bulstrode from Ravenclaw. I do my best to ignore them both and continue picking up the pages. Just as I reach for the last one, he actually puts his foot down on it. I’m not looking up. I’m not giving him the satisfaction of grovelling at his feet like that.

–Since you seem to have that much spare time,” he continues, –I’m sure you can finish your potion in seventy minutes.” His voice is so cold that I’m surprised that icicles aren’t raining down on my head.

He turns around and walks away without another word, leaving a shoe print on my instructions for a Calming Draught. I get back up and shove my pages into a pile on the table. I’m too angry to even cast a Reparo -- I’d probably end up setting everything on fire. When I look at Charlie, I can see that he’s gazing at the blackboard. Next to the hourglass, the top half of which has been filled with little chalk dots that are falling down one by one, there now is a second one, equally tall, but considerably emptier. Above it, it says Weasley/Tonks.

–I’m really sorry,” I mumble to Charlie.

–I don’t see how it’s your fault.” He wrenches his eyes away from the blackboard and starts rifling through the stack of papers and parchment instead. –So, what do we do? How about the Calming Draught?” he asks, taking the topmost page in his hands. –You look like you could use some of that.”

–Maybe, but if I have to look at Snape’s footprint for the next hour, you’ll need a Draught of Living Death to keep me from strangling him.”

Charlie puts the instructions aside, and continues going through the pile. –Doxycide... I bet my mum would find that useful. I think the ghoul in the attic keeps some doxies as pets...”

–What?” I ask, giving him a bewildered look.

–Never mind,” he replies. –How about this -- Hiccoughing Solution?”

–What would we use that for?” I take the sheet of parchment from him. –Except maybe if we could use Golpalott’s Law to reverse these... Do you think we could make a Hiccough-Stopping solution?”

–Uhm...,” Charlie supplies helpfully.

I throw the page on the other two that we’ve discarded. –There’s no way we can do anything with Golpalott’s Law in seventy minutes.”

–More like sixty-five minutes,” Charlie says with a nod at the blackboard.

–Merlin’s pants,” I groan. –All right, I think we should go for something that has to do with our future jobs... you want to work with dragons, I want to be an Auror. So what do these have in common...”

–Pain!” Charlie exclaims happily. –We’ll both get hurt a lot and probably lose a limb or an eye or something.”

–Excellent,” I say, and start leafing through the pages. –Murtlap Essence is too basic, we wouldn’t get any points for that... What about some sort of Fire Protection Potion?”

We both dig around in the pile of paper for a suitable potion.

–Hey,” Charlie suddenly says, –a Wit-Sharpening Potion! I can make that!”

–That’s because it’s a fourth year potion,” I say, pulling the page from his hands. –Sorry to disappoint you.”

My eyes fall on a page titled Laxative Potion, and I’m just thinking about how many good, practical uses, all of them involving Snape, I could put that to when Charlie finds something we can actually use. It’s a paste that heals heavy burns -- from dragon fire as well as from hexes, so it’s something that we’d both be able to use in our chosen professions.

It’s not exactly easy to make within this limited time frame, since it needs to stew for forty minutes before we can up the heat and stir it into the paste it’s supposed to be. I almost forget the Dittany, arguably the most essential ingredient, but with three minutes to spare, our mixture has reached the perfect texture and just the right shade of orange. I scoop it into a jar and hurry to Snape’s desk to hand it in before he can come to us and make a scene again.

When I set it down on his desk, Snape wrinkles his enormous nose. –Not very inventive,” he drawls after an agonisingly long pause, loud enough for everyone to hear. –As I expected.” He attaches a label with our names to the jar, and I hurry back to our table, quite frankly grateful that nothing worse has happened.

With twenty minutes of nothing to do, Charlie and I watch the others finish their potions. I have no idea what Ida Bulstrode is brewing with her Slytherin pet, but that look of smug contentment on her face as bright purple vapours rise from their cauldron makes me want to punch something.

Two boys from Slytherin are struggling a fair amount more. Judging by the number of different ingredients on their table, which can barely hold them all, they picked something far too complicated. Potions under Snape is definitely not the right place to take risks. When Snape calls for everyone’s samples, they spoon a gooey, mud-coloured mass into a phial. It looks almost as miserable as they do. The final pair, two Ravenclaws who aren’t quite as infuriating as Bulstrode, hand in a milky substance, and then at last we’re all free to clean up and go.

–We should have made that Wit-Sharpening thing,” Charlie says once we’re heading up the stairs out of the cold, damp dungeon.

–What for?” I ask, stuffing my loose collection of Potions pages back into my bag. I’ll fix the book later.

–Bet we could make some money with that right now,” he says and grins at me.

–Yeah, if we could have smuggled it out of there. I doubt any student has ever left that room with a potion.”

Charlie stares at me with round eyes. –Do you really believe that? You’re such a Hufflepuff sometimes, Tonks.” At that, he pulls a jar the same size as the one I just handed in from the pocket of his robes, and it’s filled with that same bright orange paste.

–What are you even going to do with that?” I ask, completely baffled. I never noticed Charlie swiping that, and Snape can’t have seen it either. He’s very protective about his Potions ingredients and there are actually very strict regulations about brewing potions at Hogwarts. We’ve handled Veritaserum before, which is always monitored by the Ministry, and of course something like a Wit-Sharpening Potion or Brain Elixir would be forbidden at Hogwarts outside the Potions classroom.

–Kettleburn wants me to help him handle the Ashwinder eggs he’s showing some fourth years,” Charlie says. –So it’s perfect timing, really.”

–Have you taken potions before?” I ask, still not quite believing that he managed to pull this off.

–Sure,” he replies, –but only when I knew that they’d work. It would be a bit stupid if I poisoned myself with my own potions. Lots of people nick samples -- the stuff we make can be really useful. And it’s our own work anyway, most of it done with ingredients we bought ourselves. So the potion is basically ours to take, too.”

I’m not entirely sure yet how I feel about this yet, but at first glance it sounds like a reasonable logic. And now that I come to think of it, those Calming Draughts and Sleeping Potions that some students have been taking behind Madam Pomfrey’s back have to be coming from somewhere. A lot of the stuff that gets sold between students during these exams is potions or based on potions, and they have to be brewed somewhere. So unless someone is setting up a private laboratory in their shower, they need ingredients from Potions classes.

Charlie heads outside to Professor Kettleburn’s creature enclosures way behind the greenhouses, while I return to the Hufflepuff Den for my free period. After fetching my books, which a house-elf has gathered from around my bed and put into a neat stack, I sit down in the common room with my quill and parchment. My current approach to memorising this stuff is to write my own summaries and then study those -- I have high hopes that my own words will be easier to remember than the waffle in these books. Sadly, this means I have to gain a basic understanding of what the books are trying to tell me first, and that’s really the worst part.

It doesn’t help that there’s a ton of other things I should be doing as well. Like that essay for Snape, which he wants the day after tomorrow. The git -- he could easily given us until the next Potions lesson on Monday. I also have to finish an essay on Dementors for Defence, which is due on Friday, too. And then there’s the long Quidditch practise tomorrow afternoon, which means that I won’t get anything done before dinner.

With a groan, I slam my forehead down on the book in front of me. It’s no use -- I’m just not going to make it. When I look up again, I see a piece of parchment sticking out between the book's pages. Even as I pull it out, I know what the writing on it is going to be.

Couldn't you just pull out your hair over these exams?

Isn't it sometimes just so hard to take a deep breath?

When's the last night you've really slept?

Why is it so easy for your classmates, while you struggle?

Things don't have to be this hard. Rise to the top of your year in your sleep.
Just ask the dancing trolls for Andrew.

That guy again. He does get points for persistence, I suppose.  And right at this moment, if I'm honest, I understand the temptation. Just take a nap, not worry, and have everything fall into place...