Half a House Brick in a Sock
Harry made his way through the castle and out the large double doors in the Entrance Hall. Descending the grassy slope, he could see a plume of pale smoke emanating from the chimney of Hagrid’s cabin, indicating that he was in. As he approached, Harry smiled to himself thinking with fondness of all the times he and his two best friends had spent in the company of the Hogwarts groundskeeper, and even though he had been going to see Hagrid for six years now he still knocked to announce his presence. However, the person who answered the door was definitely not Hagrid, nor Ron, nor Hermione.
It was Professor Weatherwax.
‘Oh, hello Professor,’ said Harry, clearly surprised to see her. ‘Is err…is Hagrid in?’
‘He is,’ nodded Granny. ‘You comin’ in or what?’ Harry stepped cautiously into the cabin, wondering what the new Professor could be doing down here but when he saw Ron and Hermione sitting at the large wooden table and Hagrid bent over his cooking pot he knew all was well.
‘Hi Harry,’ said Ron, smiling.
‘Hi guys, Neville said I’d find you here.’
‘Harry my lad,’ exclaimed Hagrid cheerfully. ‘Yer just in time, sit yerself down.’
‘Just in time for what?’ asked Harry, as he clambered into one of Hagrid’s enormous chairs and looked at the distorted image of Ron through the large jug of ice water that had been placed on the table.
‘Lunch apparently,’ said Hermione, eyeing Hagrid’s cooking pot with what looked like mild concern.
‘We’re not eating in the Great Hall?’ asked Harry.
‘Not today Harry,’ beamed Hagrid.
‘’Cos it’s not everyday you get the chance to try something like this.’ Clutching the massive cooking pot effortlessly in one hand, Hagrid plopped a strange, steaming round thing into each plate on the table, except for his own, into which he dropped three of the curious looking objects.
‘Are you sure about this, Hagrid?’ asked Granny. ‘These things pack a wallop if you’re not used to them.’
‘They’ll be fine,’ said Hagrid. ‘With all the joke sweets these young’uns buy in Hogsmeade this’ll be a walk in the park.’
‘If you say so,’ said Granny, clearly not convinced.
‘What’s are they?’ asked Ron, as he prodded his lunch with a fork.
‘These Ron are clootie dumplings,’ said Hagrid with audible pride. ‘Courtesy of Nanny Ogg, bless ‘er heart.’
‘They’re what? From who?’ asked Ron, looking in puzzlement from the dumpling to Hagrid.
‘Nanny Ogg is part of the Lancre Coven, which Professor Weatherwax here is pretty much in charge of,’ said Hagrid as Granny allowed herself a slight smile. ‘And clootie dumplings are one of her specialities.’
‘Among other things,’ said Granny dryly.
‘And it’s been ages since I had one,’ smiled Hagrid. ‘They’re right bloody lovely, I tell you that.’
‘But weren’t you just cooking them yourself?’ asked Harry.
‘Oh no,’ said Hagrid. ‘I was just warming them up, it’s a long way to Lancre so Mrs Ogg froze them for me, she’s such a dear.’
‘If you like them so much why don’t you just ask her for the recipe?’ asked Hermione.
‘She’d never give it,’ said Granny. ‘About the only thing Gytha won’t give up freely are her cooking secrets.’
‘Which is why they’re such a treat,’ said Hagrid, slapping his gigantic hands together and rubbing them gleefully. ‘Now tuck in everyone.’ Harry, Ron and Hermione waited for Hagrid and Professor Weatherwax to start eating before tentatively trying this bizarre new food, but when they saw how happily Hagrid was chomping away they decided they must be good. Taking small initial bites, Harry, Ron and Hermione looked at each other in approval, they were indeed good. Ron was the first to notice what Professor Weatherwax was talking about, although the so-called clootie dumpling was definitely tasty there was something building up inside him that was making its presence felt. Exhaling deeply, Ron looked to Harry and Hermione who had similar expressions on their faces, there was definitely something up with these dumplings.
‘Bloody hell, I’m on fire!’ exclaimed Ron, as he reached frantically for the jug of ice water and began to pour himself a long glass. He barely had time to put the jug down before Hermione was reaching desperately for it as well, followed closely by Harry.
‘What’s in these things?’ breathed Hermione heavily, as she chugged down mouthfuls of ice water.
‘No idea,’ said Hagrid, looking concerned at his three young friends. ‘Why, don’t you like ‘em?’
‘They’re lovely Hagrid,’ said Ron, as he fingered his collar in a vain attempt to cool himself down. ‘But if you could stop them from burning the arse out of my trousers I’d be happy.’
‘Told you they pack a wallop,’ said Granny, as she finished off her dumpling.
‘A wallop?’ said Ron, a little more easily as the heat began to subside. ‘It felt like I had a live dragon in my belly.’
‘You get used to ‘em,’ smiled Hagrid, as he dabbed up the last of one of his dumplings with some crusty bread.
‘How?’ asked Hermione incredulously, as she poured herself another glass of ice water. ‘That has to be the hottest thing I’ve ever tasted.’
‘It’s always hardest first time,’ said Granny. ‘I was on the privvy for about a week after I first tried ‘em.’
‘I could eat ‘em all day,’ smiled Hagrid. ‘But I didn’t realise they’d be so tough on you, sorry.’
‘It’s okay,’ said Harry. ‘But aren’t you going to finish that last one?’
'Nah, this one’s for Grawp, I told him I had a surprise for him so I’d better be off before it gets cold.’
‘Be careful Hagrid,’ said Hermione concernedly. ‘We don’t want you getting attacked anymore.’
‘I’ll be fine,’ said Hagrid, as he busied himself with packaging the last remaining dumpling. ‘Ol’ Grawpy’s been a lot better lately, hardly even takes a swing at me.’
‘Well just be careful,’ reiterated Hermione.
‘I will, now off you go, you don’t want to be late.’
‘Late for what?’ asked Ron. ‘What have I forgotten now?’
‘Class with me,’ said Professor Weatherwax, as she stood up. ‘Afternoon, Hagrid.’
‘Nice to see you Professor, see ya Harry, Ron, Hermione.’
‘Bye Hagrid,’ chorused the three students, as the groundskeeper exited through the back door.
‘Nice lad,’ said Granny. ‘He really likes those dumplings. Now, I’ll see you three in class.’
* * *
The sixth year Gryffindor and Slytherin students filed into the newly appointed Headology classroom and waited for the arrival of Professor Weatherwax, who appeared not long afterwards carrying a large heavy looking sack.
‘Right,’ said the Professor, as she slid the sack off her shoulder and let it hit the floor with a loud clunk. ‘Today we’ll be learning about a different way to defend yourselves.’ She sat at her desk and surveyed her class once more. ‘You’re going to have to learn to defend yourselves without your wands, you can’t rely on them all the time. What are you going to do if some vicious bugger nicks it from you?’ The contemplative frowns that creased the brows of her students told her that hardly any of them had considered the possibility of losing their wands, just as she thought. With a slight nod to herself she continued.
‘I thought that’d get your attention, knowing all the spells in the world is all fine and good if you’ve got your wand but it doesn’t look like any of you have thought about that, have you?’ Some members of the class looked dejectedly at their desks, realising that Professor Weatherwax was indeed right, whereas others sat in either defiance or rapt interest of what their new teacher had to say. ‘So what I want first is a brave volunteer…anyone?’ A few seconds passed before Seamus Finnegan raised his hand.
‘I’ll give it a go.’
‘Finnegan, Seamus Finnegan’
‘Right Mister Finnegan, if you’d come and stand up here the rest of you can move your desks back and clear a space.’ While Seamus went to the front of the class the rest of the students pushed their desks towards the walls and created a roughly circular space that Professor Weatherwax was now standing in.
‘Okay Mister Finnegan, give me your wand.’ Seamus handed her his wand and she pocketed it before walking over to the sack she had bought in and retrieving a couple of items from it. The rest of the class either sat on the floor or on desks or on the few reaming chairs that were no longer barricaded by the line of desks that formed the circle, everyone waiting to see what was going to happen.
‘Right, what I want you to do is come at me like you mean to do me harm, think you can do that?’
‘I’ll do my best,’ said Seamus uncertainly. Raising his arms into a classic threatening pose he took a step or two towards Professor Weatherwax but stopped cold when she quickly slipped half a house brick into a sock and started swinging it around her head.
‘What the hell are you doing? You’re crazy!’ Seamus all but fell on his backside as he scrambled to get away from Professor Weatherwax and her makeshift weapon but she did not approach, instead she just lowered her arm and turned to face the class.
‘Now see how easy that was?’ said Professor Weatherwax, placing the crude weapon on her desk. ‘In times of trouble you can’t beat half a house brick in a sock, I even heard tell that a very powerful sorcerer was once defeated by one.’ A quiet murmur of conversation ran through the class as the prospect of non-magical self-defence sank in and as Seamus Finnegan made his way to where his desk had been pushed Neville Longbottom tentatively raised his hand.
‘Yes? And who are you?’ asked Professor Weatherwax, pointing at Neville and making him shrink a little in his chair.
‘Neville Longbottom, Professor.’
‘What is it Mister Longbottom?’
‘What…what if we don’t have half a house brick with us?’ His earnest questioning made Professor Weatherwax laugh, and Neville did not know whether to be heartened or worried by this.
‘It doesn’t really matter,’ smiled Professor Weatherwax. ‘Anything heavy that you can stuff into a sock will do, it’ll all do the same thing.’
‘And what happens if your opponent doesn’t back down?’ asked Hermione, clearly interested but slightly sceptical of this new mode of teaching.
‘Then you whack ‘em on the head, kick ‘em in the ribs, steal their shoes and run like hell.’
‘With that in mind, I bought enough socks and bricks for all of you to give it a try so pair up and be bloody careful. Miss Granger?’
‘Yes?’ said Hermione.
‘Do you know a shield charm that’ll protect people’s heads?’
‘I do actually.’
‘Make sure everyone knows it.’
* * *As Professor Weatherwax’s class proceeded to beat the living hell out of each other, a dark figure was making its way through low passages and gloomy corridors. It stopped at a particular door, knocked curtly and stepped inside. Approaching a large armchair at one end of the room the dark figure stooped in abject deference in the presence of the chair’s occupant.
‘What is it?’ rasped the figure in the chair.
‘News from Hogwarts, Master,’ said the faceless minion.
‘It seems that Albus Dumbledore is now teaching the students the Defence Against The Dark Arts class,’ said the minion, seeming to stoop lower with every word.
‘The old fool,’ spat the figure in the chair. ‘His efforts are futile.’
‘There is more, Master.’
‘They’ve added a new class to the roster in hopes of better preparing the students for…err…you, Master.’
‘Have they now?’ laughed the figure in the chair. ‘I feel I should be flattered. Pray tell me, what is this new class?’
‘Headology, Master.’ The mention of the new class caused the figure in the chair to tense, and when he spoke again his tone was different.
‘Headology you say? And who have they got to teach this unique practise?’
‘Esmerelda Weatherwax, Master.’ Had the minion not been all but prostrating himself in front of his master he may have seen his lips soundlessly mouth the name he had just said.
‘That will be all,’ said the figure in the chair. The minion bowed one last time and shuffled quickly out of the room, leaving Lord Voldemort with his thoughts.
‘Esmerelda Weatherwax,’ he said to himself, exhaling deeply and staring into the fire. ‘There’s a name I never thought I’d hear again.’
- June 2005