For those of you who just can't make it to the 16th, hopefully this will make the wait go by faster. It's my first H/D (I'm a recent convert from Harry/Ginny), and I'm a bit unfamiliar with the territory, so hopefully this hasn't been done before. I'll try to stay in character,keep it grammatically correct, andmake you laugh. Please read and review!

Disclaimer:All characters in this story, as well as the author, areowned byJ.K. Rowling. Don't sue.

Of Love and Creatures - Part 1

by Neverbird

It was freezing out, even for January, which put precisely no one in the mood for an hour-long Care of Magical Creatures lesson. The Gryffindors and Slytherins, huddled for warmth in two distinct clumps, cast desperate, longing glances back toward the castle. Harry would have given his Firebolt to be nestled in front of the Gryffindor common room fire, instead of shivering pathetically outside Hagrid's hut.

Hagrid, of course, seemed oblivious to the cold, as his attention was fixed upon what appeared to be a large wooden box full of dirt. "Gather roun' now," he beckoned, grinning. "I've got somethin' to show yeh."

Harry, Ron, and Hermione stepped reluctantly forward; no one else moved.

"C'mon now, this is fer yer project. No need to be scared, they won't bite yeh – well," he chuckled, "Not in the sense yer thinkin' of anyway." Harry and Hermione exchanged a worried glance, while Ron tried to step backwards discreetly.

Draco Malfoy gave a disdainful little snort. "How about you tell us what they are, and then I'll decide if I feel like moving closer."

"And do they bite, or don't they?" added Dean Thomas nervously.

"Project?" asked Parvati Patil.

Hagrid shrugged, ignoring them. "Suit yerselves." He leaned over the side of the wooden box and plunged his hand into the moist dirt. A moment later, he was firmly clutching what appeared to be a large, white ferret.

"Oh, how cute!" gasped Lavender Brown.

The ferret-like creature regarded the students with large, black eyes. "How tragic," it remarked, in a nasal, American-accented voice. "Merlin's beard, they're uglier than a gnome's backside."

Twenty pairs of eyes stared dumbly at the creature for a moment; the creature stared brazenly back. Even Malfoy seemed speechless.

Ron finally broke the silence. "Hagrid… it talked!"

"And it called us ugly!" Blaise Zabini added, sounding offended.

"What is it?" asked Pansy Parkinson. All eyes fixed upon Hagrid expectantly, as Hermione's hand shot into the air.

"Looks like Hermione's the only one't did the readin'." Hagrid regarded the rest of the class with eyebrows raised. Most of the Gryffindors had the decency to look sheepish – Care of Magical Creatures hadn't exactly been a priority, as they'd had three feet of parchment due for McGonagall that morning.

Hagrid sighed. "Perhaps yeh should fill em in, Hermione."

Hermione nodded. "Well, if I'm not mistaken, the creature you see here is known as a Jarvey. They can be found in Britain, Ireland, and I believe North America, generally underground, where they feed mostly on gnomes and rodents. They're probably best known for their tendency to insult-"

"What an insufferable know-it-all," murmured the Jarvey. Hermione turned scarlet, while Ron bit back a grin. The Slytherins laughed mercilessly.

"Thank yeh, Hermione," said Hagrid loudly. 'Now, I want yeh all to take a look at these Jarveys 'ere, since yeh'll each be takin' care eh one for the next week. They're not quite full grown, yeh see, so they'll be okay above groun'."

Hermione's eyebrows furrowed. "Hagrid, are we really equipped to take care of them? The Ministry of Magic classifies them with three X's, which isn't too bad, but-,"

Hagrid smiled. "Don't yeh worry," he assured her. "They're not physically dangerous, yeh know – just a bit…er…psychologically dangerous, right. Yeh'll be able to 'andle em, no problem. Now, I 'spect I best start assignin' yer partners."

"Can't we pick our partners?" Parvati asked hopefully, inching towards Lavender.

"Er… not this time." Hagrid sighed. "Right. Yer not goin' the like this, but the headmaster seems the feel that…er… interhouse relations have to begin somewhere, so I'll be mixin' yeh up a bit."

Pansy Parkinson's eyes flashed. "So, basically, you're telling me that I'm going to have to work with some idiotic Gryffindor for a week, and my grade depends on it?" The nostrils on her little pug nose flared dramatically.

"Well," said Hagrid calmly. "Hermione Granger's 'ardly an idiot, so I 'spect yeh won' have any trouble at all, Pansy." Hermione grimaced, but said nothing.

"No use complaining, really," Hagrid continued. "Professor Dumbledore's orders. Now, let's see - we'll 'ave Neville an' Blaise… Ron and Gregory…Lavender and Millicent…" Harry couldn't hear half of what Hagrid was saying, as his classmates' grumbles reached a crescendo. "Dean an' Theodore, and finally, Draco an' Harry."

"What!" screeched Draco.

"Hagrid!" Harry exclaimed.

Hagrid shot Harry an apologetic look. "Yer the only one't could 'andle im," he muttered, giving Harry a hearty pat on the shoulder. Harry sighed miserably and chanced a quick glance at Malfoy, who pulled a horrible face at him. He had a feeling it was going to be a long week.

The rest of the lesson was devoted to going over the guidelines for Jarvey care, which Harry found to be fairly straightforward. To Lavender and Parvati's visible relief, the Jarveys were too young to eat rats and voles, so Hagrid distributed sacks of grains and nuts to everyone in the class. "The main thing to member is that yeh've got to keep an eye on yer Jarvey at all times, 'specially when they're this young," lectured Hagrid. "That's why yeh've got a partner – so yeh can switch off, whatever yeh need to do, but yeh need to watch yer Jarvey as if it were a 'uman baby."

Harry tried to imagine Malfoy taking such thorough care of anyone or anything. It didn't seem likely – he'd never seen Malfoy so much as pet a cat.

"All right," Hagrid said finally. "Now line up with yer partners, and I'll give yeh yer Jarvey."

By the time they had all been distributed, there wasn't a glummer looking group of students to be found anywhere. "Amazing," one Jarvey commented, shuddering. "They're even less attractive when they're miserable."

Hagrid beamed. "Aren' they jus' the sweetest?" he said, his voice frighteningly devoid of irony. For the first time ever, Harry wished he had opted for Advanced Divination instead.

Gets juicier and sillier in later chapters. I'm trying not to rush things. :)