A New Term, A New Class
Speeding through the English countryside was the Hogwarts Express, ferrying the current student body of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to a new term. The low-slung clouds hung grey and wet across the horizon, dappling the train windows with the occasional bout of early autumn rain. As the outside world went happily about its business, completely oblivious to the steam train passing close by, Hermione Granger, a sixth year pupil at Hogwarts was checking the compartments for her friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. After checking a couple of compartments she finally found her Gryffindor housemates.
‘Have you heard?’ she asked, as she sat herself down opposite Harry and Ron. ‘We have a new class this term.’
‘Yeah, got an owl about it the other day,’ said Ron, fishing a folded piece of paper out of his trouser pocket. ‘What is Headology anyway?’ he said, reading the letter that had arrived at his house a few days earlier.
‘I’ve no idea,’ said Hermione. ‘But the reading list for it leaves something to be desired.’
‘Like what?’ asked Harry.
‘Well, a reading list for one,’ she said. ‘There aren’t any books on it all.’
‘You say that like it’s a bad thing,’ said Ron, leafing through his latest chocolate frog cards.
‘Honestly Ron,’ said Hermione, rolling her eyes. ‘I don’t know how you made it this far with an attitude like that.’
‘I just don’t believe in overdoing it,’ smirked Ron.
‘In order to overdo it you have to do something in the first place,’ said Hermione sarcastically, causing Harry to stifle a laugh.
‘Good one Hermione,’ said Ron, who was slightly surprised that she had cracked a joke. Even the famous witches and wizards that featured on Ron’s chocolate frog cards were chuckling quietly to themselves.
‘Anyway,’ said Hermione. ‘My point is that how can we possibly prepare for a new class if there isn’t a reading list?’
‘She’s got a point Ron,’ said Harry. ‘We don’t know what to read up on and we’ve no idea what to expect.’
‘Well I’d imagine that it had something to do with… You-Know-Who,’ said Hermione rather hesitantly.
‘Oh you mean Voldemort,’ said Harry flatly. To his irritation both Ron and Hermione shuddered at the mention of the Dark Lord but he decided not to say anything else about it. After all, they had not had to deal with him as many times as Harry, and while he knew all too well of the power that Lord Voldemort could wield whenever he thought of the Dark Lord these days all he could feel was blinding hot hatred. This was the man, if you could call him a man anymore, who had murdered Harry’s parents all those years ago and was responsible for the deaths of many others, including Harry’s godfather Sirius Black. Harry felt a lump creep its way into his throat as he thought about his recently departed godfather who had died at the hands of Voldemort’s servants and he probably would have dwelled on Sirius’ death had Ron not snapped him back to reality.
‘Did you hear me Harry?’
‘Hmm? What?’ asked Harry, realising he had been daydreaming again.
‘I said get your robes on, we’re nearly there.’
‘Oh, yeah right,’ said Harry, shaking himself back into the present. He got his robes out of his trunk and pulled them on absentmindedly, his thoughts still lingering on Sirius’ death.
‘You alright mate?’ asked Ron.
‘What? Oh yeah, fine,’ said Harry, straightening his glasses.
‘Well come on boys,’ said Hermione. ‘I’m dying to find out about this new class.’
‘She just never changes, does she?’ sighed Ron.
‘Nope,’ smiled Harry. ‘Come on, lets go say hi to Hagrid.’
* * *
As the Hogwarts Express was pulling into the school grounds a mysterious figure was emerging from a modest thatched roof cottage somewhere far, far away. The figure reached up into the thatch above the front door and pulled out a broomstick, shaking the bristles free of loose strands of straw. Walking down the garden path, past several rose bushes, the front door opened once again and a much smaller, rounder figure trotted out into the night air after the broom-wielding individual.
‘It’s a cold one for sure,’ said the shorter, rounder figure. ‘You sure you know what you’re doing Esme?’
‘Stop fussing Gytha, of course I know what I’m doing.’ Esmerelda Weatherwax, more commonly known as Granny, secured her goggles about her keen eyes and stamped her sturdy boots on the frozen Lancre ground. Thin, bony fingers gripped the broomstick but the one she had referred to as Gytha was still standing there with the same concerned look on her aged face.
‘What is it Gytha?’ snapped Granny Weatherwax.
‘It’s just such a long way,’ reasoned Gytha Ogg, who was known to most of the world as Nanny. ‘You sure you know how to get there?’
‘Of course I’m bloody sure,’ said Granny Weatherwax, quickly becoming tired of her friend’s pesky questions. ‘Do you think I’d even be going if I didn’t know how to get there?’
‘I’m just worried about you, that’s all Esme,’ said Nanny Ogg, picking her words carefully.
‘Well don’t,’ huffed Granny. ‘I’ll be fine. Now are you going to let me take off or do you plan to keep me gassing all night?’
‘Sorry Esme,’ said Nanny reproachfully. ‘Have a god trip.’ Their conversation was interrupted suddenly by the sound of rustling coming from the nearby rose bushes and emerging from the twigs and leaves came Greebo, Nanny Ogg’s scarred, flea bitten vicious excuse for a cat. He strolled confidently towards the two witches and began twining himself in between Granny’s feet, purring contently.
‘See, Greebo will miss you,’ cooed Nanny. ‘Won’t you snookums?’ Granny rolled her eyes and kicked irritably at Greebo, who meowed throatily and waddled over to Nanny for some sympathetic cuddles.
‘He won’t miss my boot up his backside if he don’t keep out of my rose bushes,’ said Granny sharply. Nanny frowned slightly but was too busy comforting her disgruntled kitty to protest. She kissed and cuddled the foul smelling beast while Granny walked ahead a few paces in order to get a clear run. She nodded her goodbye to Nanny Ogg and shook her head slightly when the portly witch returned her goodbye by waving one of Greebo’s haggard paws. Granny turned her attention to her broomstick and the stretch of path that was to be her makeshift runway. She started down the path at a run, her clunky boots resounding off the cold stone, and just as the broomstick started to lift she swung her leg over and rose shakily above the tree line. Back down on the ground Nanny Ogg watched her oldest friend disappear into the night sky.
‘Goodbye Esme,’ she said. ‘And good luck.’
* * *
Back at Hogwarts the word had already got around that there was to be a new class this term and the Great Hall was buzzing with anticipation as to what this class would entail and just as importantly, who would teach it. The Sorting ceremony had come and gone and all the first year students were now sitting with their respective houses but the new seat at the staff table had yet to be filled. If there had been any curiosity about this strange new class and its mysterious new teacher before then the fact that the empty seat was right next to Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore only served to pique this curiosity.
The start of term feast was proceeding nicely though, new friends were being made and old friends were catching up on summer antics, but there was still no sign of the new teacher. The ceiling of the Great Hall was enchanted as usual to show the night sky outside but no one bar the first years paid it any notice, once the novelty wore off it became just another part of life at Hogwarts. However, when Harry glanced up at the staff table he noticed that Dumbledore was looking towards the ceiling more than his dinner plate. Harry followed the Headmaster’s gaze but all he saw was the pale moon and rain filled night clouds, there was nothing that he would deem interesting enough to have Dumbledore staring as intently as he was. It was not long before Harry staring at the enchanted ceiling caught the attention of Ron and Hermione, who noticed the conversation had lost a member.
‘Harry, what you looking at?’ asked Ron, looking about him to see if he had missed anything interesting.
‘What? Oh, nothing,’ said Harry absentmindedly.
‘It can’t be nothing,’ said Hermione. ‘You’ve been staring at the ceiling for a good couple of minutes.’
‘It’s nothing really,’ protested Harry. ‘I just…what was that?’ His attention was snapped abruptly back to the ceiling when a dark shape flew erratically across the sky. Harry instantly looked to the staff table to see if this was what Dumbledore had been watching out for but the Headmaster had already risen from his seat and was hastily making his way out of the Great Hall. His sudden departure caused a sharp increase in the volume of conversation, so much so that Professor McGonagall had to step in and restore order.
‘Quiet please, quiet please,’ she said calmly but tartly. ‘The Headmaster has merely stepped out for a moment; this should not cause such an unacceptable level of noise. Please continue with the feast.’ The conversation died back down to its normal level and Professor McGonagall sat back down with the rest of the faculty but now the only topic that many people were discussing was where Dumbledore had gone.
Dumbledore had in fact made his way to the main entrance of Hogwarts castle and was descending the stairs as the dark shape that Harry had seen circled the grounds. He stood at the bottom of the grassy slope and waved cheerily as the shape flew once more over the Forbidden Forest before heading towards the expansive Hogwarts lawn. The shape grew and grew until the dark of the night revealed it to be an elderly witch on a battered old broomstick. She landed unceremoniously on the slick grass, her boots digging deep gashes into the wet ground as she skidded to an uneasy halt. As soon as she had stopped moving she dismounted and shouldered her broom and began walking towards Dumbledore, who awaited her with a warm smile.
‘Ah Esmerelda, delightful to see you again,’ he said brightly.
‘Albus,’ nodded Granny Weatherwax, as she lent her broomstick against her hip and removed the goggles from her eyes.
‘Welcome to Hogwarts,’ he said, gesturing to the main entrance. ‘So, how was your trip?’
‘Fine,’ said Granny Weatherwax. ‘I think I buggered up your lawn though.’
‘Not to worry,’ smiled Dumbledore. ‘I’ll have Hagrid attend to it in the morning. Shall we?’ They started up the grassy slope and on into Hogwarts castle, leaving a pair of deep skid marks in the otherwise pristine lawn as evidence of Granny Weatherwax’s arrival. When Dumbledore re-entered the Great Hall with Granny Weatherwax at his side all conversation dissolved in a matter of seconds and head after head turned to see the strange new addition to the staff table. For once Dumbledore did not have to call for quiet as he showed Granny to her seat and stood in front of his. He surveyed the Great Hall in silence for a second before finally speaking.
‘I am sure I do not need to tell you that these are dark days we are entering into. Lord Voldemort has returned to full strength and he is even now consolidating his followers. For what we do not yet know but we can be assured that it undoubtedly spells misfortune for the entire law abiding wizarding community.’ Dumbledore paused for a second to once again survey the body of students under his care, he knew long ago that one day he would be making this speech but that did not make the task any easier.
‘It is up to all of us,’ Dumbledore continued. ‘To ensure the safety of ourselves and those around us, and now that the Ministry of Magic has finally acknowledged the return of the Dark Lord I can say with confidence that every available measure is being taken to prepare ourselves for whatever Lord Voldemort has planned.’ A murmur of conversation rippled across the Great Hall before Dumbledore raised his hand for quiet. Silence once again gripped the students of Hogwarts as they awaited further information.
‘It is because of these dark times that I have ordered a new class be taught here at Hogwarts in conjuncture with your usual Defence Against The Dark Arts lessons. I am sure you have all seen the addition of Headology to this term’s timetable, I feel what you will learn in this class will prove invaluable in the fight against dark forces. I therefore give you your new teacher for this class, Professor Weatherwax.’ A fresh wave of mumbled conversation coursed its way through the students as Dumbledore gestured for Granny Weatherwax to take the floor. She stared hard at the Hogwarts Headmaster before rising stiffly.
‘Professor Weatherwax?’ she asked in a whisper.
‘Think of it as an honorary title,’ smiled Dumbledore.
‘Hmm,’ replied Granny tartly. Before her sat row upon row of fresh-faced youngsters all of who were looking at her in confusion and curiosity. She had not been prepared to make a speech on her first night in this strange place and she made a mental note to give Dumbledore an ear bending about it later. Nevertheless she had a job to do and she was going to do it right. She looked out across the sea of faces, choosing her words carefully.
‘Eat up, your dinner’s getting cold. I’ll see you all in class,’ and with that she promptly sat back down. Not expecting the speech to be so short, Dumbledore was caught slightly off guard but he quickly regained his composure.
‘Err, thank you Professor,’ he said, returning to his feet. ‘Indeed, eat up, there is a full day of classes ahead of you tomorrow.’The students of Hogwarts went to bed that night wondering what their new class would entail and what kind of teacher Professor Weatherwax would be. Curiously enough, the kind of teacher she would be was also concerning Granny, she had never taught on this scale before and inside the privacy of her own mind she did admit to some trepidation. It was not a question of her teaching skills that were giving her cause for concern, she knew her stuff. It was whether she could put up with so many kids that she was worried about, how did Gytha do it?
- June 2005