The Great Hall was all set for yet another Sorting Ceremony. Elizabeth sat in her usual place, only half-listening to what Jane was telling her. She felt like singing! She was finally back at Hogwarts ... despite her grandmother, despite her parents, and even despite Voldemort’s regained power.
The Ceremony went on as usual. The Sorting Hat sang its song (which was, again, a little different, as the hat changed the words every year), the new students were sorted, and Elizabeth was just starting to wonder why Snape wasn’t present at the Ceremony, when Dumbledore stood up.
“Welcome to another year at Hogwarts!” he said, his eyes twinkling. “There are a few staff changes I’d like to announce – firstly, I’m sure you’ll all be sorry to hear that Professor Snape has temporarily left us, so, until he returns, Professor Fletcher has kindly agreed to fill in.”
The Headmaster then had to make a pause in his speech, as the cheering coming from all sides was too loud for him to continue. Even some of the teachers couldn’t suppress a smile – Professor Snape obviously wasn’t only unpopular with the students, but among his colleagues as well.
The clapping and whistling seemed endless, and eventually Dumbledore had to shout “Silence!” to calm the excited students down. Then he went on with the interrupted speech, introducing their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher – Mrs. Figg. This time there was no cheering, especially the Slytherins had become rather quiet when Dumbledore had announced that Mrs. Figg would also become the new Head of Slytherin. Snape might have been unpleasant, but at least he always favoured his own house. What if Mrs. Figg was going to be like Professor McGonagall – and actually take points off her house ... something the Slytherins certainly weren’t used to?
When Dumbledore had finished his little speech, food appeared on the tables, and conversation resumed.
“Looks like I’m the only person here, apart from the Slytherins, who’s not happy to see Snape gone,” Elizabeth told Jane, while stuffing her plate with food. “After four years of doing my best to please him, he just leaves... Anyway, I really hope that Fletcher guy is at least half as good as him.”
Little did she know that Professor Fletcher would turn out to be her worst nightmare, as she was to discover the very first lesson they’d have with him. But for now, the world seemed a happy place for Elizabeth, and she cheerfully led the Ravenclaw first-years to their dormitories, climbing into bed herself a few minutes later.
Their first lesson the next morning was Care of Magical Creatures with Hagrid – and the Hufflepuffs. When Elizabeth reached Hagrid’s hut, located near the edge of the Forbidden Forest, the giant was already there, standing next to a huge cage covered by a cloth. As soon as the rest of the class arrived, Hagrid, without saying a word, pulled the cloth off, revealing the animal inside. Immediately, the air was filled with a number of “Ooohs” and “Aaahs”, for the cage was entirely occupied by a fully grown hydra. Which, indeed, was a sight most students didn’t get every day, and Elizabeth strongly suspected Hagrid of getting the hydra merely to impress them on the first day of their school year. One look at the giant was enough to tell her she was right.
“Now, don’t get too close to that cage! It might bite yeh!” he shouted, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. “And it hurts a bloody lot too, I can tell yeh,” he added thoughtfully, stealing a look at his left hand, which, Elizabeth had noticed, was all covered in bandages.
When all the students had had a good look at the hydra, Hagrid decided to tell them a few facts about this ‘wonderful creature’. However, he had barely got to the secrets of hydra mating, when a piercing scream filled the air, freezing them all to the spot. But when they turned around, expecting the worst, they saw nothing more than Jamie, whose right hand was bleeding heavily. Obviously he’d wandered too close to the cage, as one of the hydra’s heads was still stuck through the bars, eyeing them nastily.
After Joshua’d offered to accompany his friend to the hospital wing, Hagrid decided to cut the lesson short, and when Elizabeth, along with the rest of the students, had set off for the castle, she heard him mutter something that sounded suspiciously like: “Bad hydra! How many times have I told yeh not to do that?”
‘Some things just don’t change,’ Elizabeth thought bitterly as she and Jane slowly walked to their next class, Herbology.After Herbology, they had lunch, and after lunch finally came the eagerly awaited double lesson of Potions – for the first time without the dreaded Professor Snape. Only Elizabeth dragged herself down to the dungeons somewhat reluctantly, her wishes regarding their new teacher being the exact opposite to everybody else’s, as she, unlike the others, wanted him to be as Snape-like as possible. Which was not to be.