First time

The Torture lesson

Chapter 6

The Torture lesson

Professor Fletcher was a small, elderly man with grey hair and twinkling blue eyes, who spoke in a very high-pitched voice, somehow making the students feel as though the classroom was full of him. In other words, the exact opposite of Professor Snape. But the worst was still to come – soon it became clear that Fletcher didn’t know the first thing about Potions. As Elizabeth had once put it – even Hagrid would’ve made a better Potions teacher. Unfortunately, Professor Fletcher wasn’t aware of his incapability, and so again and again he tried to demonstrate the preparation of some potion or other, his attempts mostly ending either by an explosion, or at least a melted cauldron. Although most students found his experiments amusing, and constantly kept talking about how wonderful Fletcher was, Elizabeth was disgusted. She had come to Hogwarts with the desire to learn something, but with lessons like these, she didn’t stand a chance.

As the time went by, however, she had slowly come to accept the fact, deciding that if she wasn’t to have proper practical lessons, she’d at least try and gain as much information as she possibly could from books. There were the OWLs coming up at the end of the year, after all, and also, if Snape had returned unexpectedly... Thinking of Snape, Elizabeth had suddenly realized just how much she missed him. She missed the clear explanations, delivered in his typical, nearly-whispered fashion, she missed his sarcastic remarks ... come to think of it, she even missed his twisted smiles and ability to unexpectedly appear behind someone’s back, scaring them out of their wits. Then she thought of Fletcher and almost felt like crying. If only they’d got somebody more suitable for the job, maybe she wouldn’t have minded Snape being gone so much.

When their first lesson of Potions (or Torture, as Elizabeth had decided to call it) with a new teacher was finally over, the Ravenclaws moved on to another first – Defence Against the Dark Arts with Mrs. Figg. However, when they reached the classroom, closely followed by the Gryffindors, it was empty, their new teacher being nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, the students eventually took their seats, muttering various assumptions on the possible whereabouts of their teacher as they did so. Hermione had just suggested that somebody should go and look for her, when, all of a sudden, there was a loud “pop” ... and a thin old lady with piercing dark eyes appeared behind the teacher’s desk.

“Good afternoon, darlings,” she said, reminding Elizabeth of Professor Trelawney, their Divination teacher, who was also in the habit of calling her students pet names. “I apologize for my unusual ‘entrance’, but with invisibility being one of my specialties, I just couldn’t restrain myself from giving you all a little surprise. So, Harry, no, I did not have an encounter with Peeves, nor did I get lost trying to find this classroom.” And having said that, she gave the boy (who’d gone slightly red in the face) a mischievous look.

“Hey, Harry, how come she knows you?” asked Elizabeth curiously.

“She is my neighbour,” Harry muttered, the colour still not gone from his cheeks.

“This year, we won’t be doing much theory,” Mrs. Figg continued, “as in these dark times it would be of little use to you. We will be concentrating on the practical part of this subject instead – counter-curses, especially. In fact ... Harry, come over here.”

Harry obeyed, giving his teacher a puzzled look.

“Now, I want you to take out your wand, that’s right, and on the count of three, I’d like you to try and prevent the one spell I’m going to cast on you. Is that clear?”

Harry looked slightly shaken, but eventually nodded yes.

“All right, here we go. One ... two ... three ... Petrificus Totalus!”

Expelliarmus!” yelled Harry at exactly the same time, causing the two spells to cancel one another.

“Excellent!” beamed Mrs. Figg. “Anybody else willing to give it a try?”

Elizabeth gathered up all her courage and raised her hand, just as a satisfied-looking Harry plopped down into the seat next to her.

“O.K., Miss...?”

“Woodhouse,” said Elizabeth, rising from her chair.

“Yes, Miss Woodhouse, same thing, though, of course, I shall use a different spell this time. Well, are you ready? One ... two ... three ... Rictusempra!”

But Elizabeth had managed to yell her “Expelliarmus” a fraction of a second earlier (and duck her teacher’s spell at the same time), causing Mrs. Figg’s wand to fly out of her hand as Mrs. Figg herself was thrown against the wall.

“Terrific!” cried the slightly dishevelled teacher as she pulled herself up, wandering off to retrieve her wand. “You certainly don’t lack talent, my dear, I must say. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, I expect all of you to be able to use a great deal more defensive spells than just the ‘Expelliarmus’. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself ... as for today, I’d simply like all of you to have a go at what Harry and Miss Woodhouse have just done, for I want to see how fast each of you can react. All right, who’s first?”

And so the rest of the lesson passed rather noisily, as students pushed and shoved each other in order to be the first to have a go at knocking out their teacher. But nobody else (not even the ever-perfect Hermione Granger) had succeeded in being faster than Mrs. Figg, most students ending up being quite the opposite, and therefore having to suffer the effects of their teacher’s wide range of curses.

The rest of the week seemed to go on forever, but eventually the weekend did arrive, along with one of the chances to visit Hogsmeade. Even though Elizabeth had originally no intention of going, she was forced to change her mind in the end, as Jane’s persistency on the subject was unbelievable and the chances she’d take no for an answer were next to none. So, as it were, Saturday afternoon found both of them seated at the Three Broomsticks, with large glasses of Butterbeer in front of them.

“So, what do you think of Mrs. Figg? Don’t you think she’s a bit batty?” asked Jane, sipping her Butterbeer.

“No, I like her. She’s definitely less batty than Mad-Eye Moody, or Barty Crouch, or whoever it was we’ve had last year, I’m sure of that. And if anyone’s a candidate for St. Mungo’s around here, it’s Fletcher.”

“You still on about that, are you? Well, I’m not saying he’s a genius or anything, but still better than Snape.”

Elizabeth gave her a ‘you-know-I-don’t-agree’ look, before wandering off to look for the waitress, Madam Rosmerta, in order to pay for their drinks. However, when she’d finally succeeded in finding the lady in question, and pulled out her purse with the intention to pay, she was shocked to discover it was empty. Muttering apologies, she quickly retreated back to her table, where she received an inquiring look from her friend.

“I ran out of money,” Elizabeth explained. “Could you possibly ... I mean, I know it was my turn today, but...” she trailed off, looking somewhat embarrassed.

“Sure, no problem,” said Jane, slightly amused by her friend’s uneasiness, and waved at Madam Rosmerta who was passing.

A few minutes later, they were walking back to Hogwarts, the outline of the castle dark against the setting sun.

“I think it’s time to send Wilma home,” Elizabeth declared. “I’ve been putting it off until now, giving my parents time to recover from the shock, but I really can’t wait any longer. I’ll write them a letter right after dinner.”

She was as good as her word, and five days later, her owl was back, carrying a small package tied to her leg. As soon as she rewarded the bird with a piece of toast, Elizabeth pounced on the parcel. Eagerly, she tore off the wrapping, revealing a letter, a packet of Muggle sweets and a small bag filled with golden Galleons. Elizabeth, wishing to have the worst behind her, decided to read the letter first. It took her slightly longer to open it, though, for there was nothing she could do to stop her hands from quivering. But having read the first few lines, Elizabeth almost squealed with joy.

Eli, (the letter said)

Your father and I are furious with you! Have you any idea how worried we were when you’d left? We’ve even tried sending a letter to Hogwarts via Muggle mail! Which, of course, didn’t work, so when you’d finally decided to send Wilma back to us, we immediately wrote to your Headmaster, asking him to send you home as soon as possible. Fortunately for you, he had kindly explained to us that the story about Voldemort attacking your school is completely fictive – and we had no reason not to believe him. So you can stay where you are ... AND we forgive you, but don’t you dare ever do such a silly thing again, or you’ll really face the consequences.

Anyway, I’m sending you some money (as you had asked ... although I don’t really think you deserve it), for I’m sure you wouldn’t have much left by now – if any. Unfortunately, I couldn’t send you any clothes, as I don’t know how to. I don’t think Wilma could carry as much as a single sweater. So you’ll just have to last with what you have until Christmas (and I hope you ARE coming home for Christmas!).

Well, I’m running out of paper now, sooo ... don’t forget to write soon – and if there is any chance of Voldemort even coming near your school, make sure you catch the train home right away.



“Well, that was rather silly of me – I forgot to shrink my clothes before I left,” Elizabeth muttered partly to herself and partly to Jane when she’d finished reading. “But what does it matter, the main thing is that my parents aren’t angry with me anymore. Still, I’m glad Mum doesn’t know how to send Howlers. I’m sure she wouldn’t have missed this opportunity to try it out.”

And with that, she tore open the packet of Muggle sweets, cheerfully sharing them with everyone present in the Great Hall that morning, even the Slytherins.
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