The Least Odd of the Oddities
(the italic parts are word for word in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and merely inspired this tiny story)
October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. One of the most recent casualties of the season was Argus Filch, the caretaker at Hogwarts. When Harry'd had a run-in with him the day before, he'd looked terrible on top of being even more irritable then usual. Angus Filch had burst suddenly through a tapestry to Harry's right, wheezing was looking wildly about for the rule-breaker. There was a thick tartan scarf bound around his head, and his nose was unusually purple.
There had been other happenings around the school lately that could be categorized as much odder than a simple act of the weather. Doors had been opening and closing at random, paintings (much to their objections!) had been rearranged, and all the young wizard and witch's familiars were ill at ease. It was as if the great castle school were haunted, but these spirits wished to remain anonymous, unlike the resident ghosts of the school including Nearly Headless Nick of Harry's own house, Griffindor. This afternoon, even odder happenings were being experienced. Every so often a rather soft, almost-roaring sound could be heard, and the floors of the castle floor shook just slightly. The students in the Griffindor common room couldn't decided whether it was more likely thunder or an earthquake, but as there was only light snow falling outside and a history of such earth tremors had not happened in their attendance before or anywhere mentioned in the pages of Hogwarts, A History, there was nothing to back up any suspicions. While the others studied, Harry decided to do a little exploring of his own, heading down the tower and out past the Fat Lady picture, who guarded the entryway. She looked a little pale, herself.
He made his way through the halls, steadying himself every time the thunder sounds begun. They were faint from up in the tower, but now they could be heard as definite roars of some sort. A particularly large wounded or angry creature? He rounded a corner, bumping instantly into a large figure.
Dreading it had been Filch, he backed away instead looked up into the eyes of Hagrid, his good friend and gamekeeper at Hogwarts. Hagrid was abnormally large, at least twice the size of Harry, and probably more. He presently wore a large pair of boots, a coat that hung massively to the floor, and a thick scarf around his neck. In one hand he held a small mechanical contraption that looked badly in need of repair. On his face, he wore a bright, welcoming smile below two large, beetle-black eyes. "Harry! 'ow are yeh?" He exclaimed.
Harry made to answer but was stopped to see the look of stunned shock which appeared on Hagrid's frozen face, staring straight over Harry's head.
Harry whipped around, expecting to see what sort of a creature could cause such a look from the man, but saw nothing at all behind him. "What's wrong?" he asked, turning back around.
Hagrid immediately doubled right in half with a monstrous, "ARRRACHOO! EHHTCHOO!" with his pointer finger positioned beneath his nose, seemingly not helping in holding back those particular sneezes. His great hand poked beneath the folds of the coat to withdraw a large, tablecloth-sized handkerchief. Harry had seen the man use it many times when upset. Though Hagrid was big and tough, he was a softy at heart, giving of himself kindly, loving all sorts of creatures, and taking things quite personally at times. He quickly blew his nose and apologized.
Meanwhile, Harry was trying his best to contain a laugh. His arm, which had quickly shot up to anchor himself to the wall as the floor gently shook, snapped back by his side. So that's what they'd been hearing. It certainly didn't explain any of the other phenomena, but at least this mystery had been most quickly solved.
"AAHHHEHHCHOO! AHH-EHH-HEH-HAHHCHOO!" he sneezed again, this time fully into the handkerchief. He straightened back up, eyes watering madly. "'scuse me." He gave his nose another honk and muttered not so quietly under his breath, "Filch…" He dabbed a corner of the handkerchief at his eyes.
Harry, quite unable to inspect the man from his position, cocked his head in query. "You—er—caught his flu?"
With a few characteristic Hagrid laughs, the man shook his head. "Oh no! Not a cold. It's Mrs.Nor… Norris," he explained, unsure of his breath all of a sudden. "EHHH… HUUHHH… " he panted a moment, giving Harry enough warning. "AHHHUSHOO! AHHCHISHOO! AHHCHOOO! AHH… HUHH… HUH-EEIIIHHHCHHHHAH!" He rubbed his nose through the handkerchief, folded it, and did so again. "He's called on 'is blasted cat teh… SNIFF SNIFF, follow me about."
Harry nodded, understanding at once. Mrs.Norris was Filch's cat, who acted most like a deputy in the halls, exploring and reporting being only the beginning of her menacing attributes. Harry had had a few unpleasant run-ins with her as well over his few years there. Hagrid complained many times of how Filch would joking set Mrs.Norris out to follow Hagrid around, making it nearly impossible to navigate through some halls without stumbling over her or having her pounce right in his work. As for the second half of the problem, this was something Harry remembered Hagrid mentioning to him early on in their friendship. Hagrid had invaded the home where Harry had been staying with his Muggle (non-magical) aunt and uncle to give him the news about being accepted into Hogwarts, and had taken him to buy supplies for his first year. As it was around the time of Harry's birthday, Hagrid had insisted upon buying a present. And as books, cauldron, wand, and supplies had already been purchased, Hagrid had bought Harry a pet. First years were allows a Frog or a Cat or an Owl and as Hagrid had reasoned, frogs were ordinary and out of fashion, while cats made him sneeze, and owls were terribly loyal and useful. So there it was, and Hedwig the snowy owl became Harry's second ever friend.
As Harry looked up at his first, eyes tearing, nose running, a bright red look in the face, he felt sorry for the man. "Mrs.Norris making you sneeze?"
He nodded woefully, burying his nose in the handkerchief again for another blow. Pointing out his direction of interest down the hall, the two started walking while they talked. "She usually doesn' stick around long enough the do this much the me. Bu' I've been working here since this morning an' she won' leave me alo… al…" a look of panic and shock crossed his face once more, with a bit of frustration mixed in. "AHHH… EHHH… AHHIHHSHOO! ARRRCHHHOOO! AARAHHTSHOO! AHHKISHOO! SNIFF SNIFF!" He paused, half bent over, face in his handkerchief, then let out one more massive, "AHHTCHOO!" before it had passed. He still had an unpleasant look upon his face, nose twitching, but the sneezes seemed to be gone again. Hagrid sighed with relief and tucked the handkerchief away again.
"Bless you?" Harry offered timidly, wishing he could do something. Perhaps a healing spell of some sort?
"Thanks…" With a thicker air of frustration, he stepped forward only to fall back on his rear as Mrs.Norris meowed a fierce screech. She'd been just in front of him, looking to rub against him to purr leave her mark, and directly beneath his boot when he stepped. She looked quite flustered, and startled, and stood still as Harry watched the two foes face off. Hagrid stared at the cat through quite watery, itchy eyes, as the cat, hair on end and tail in the air, stared back.
Hagrid made a sudden snap to his coat's inner pocket to seize the cloth handkerchief, his sizable nostrils flaring and his mouth dropping with a pant. "AHH-EHHH—"
It was all the cat needed to scare her, and she darted off down the hall and around the corner to the stairs, presumably toward the dungeon where Filch had his office.
Hagrid, however, was not so easily stopped. With a great, deep breath, he let loose yet another strong barrage of sneezes. "AHHHIHHHSHHH! ARRRFFTCHOO! ARRRACHOO! AARRRRCHISHHH!! EEEHH-HEHHH-HIACHOOO! AHHHCHISHOOO! AHHHCHOOO!" He groaned and quickly took a second deep breath to clear his nose into the handkerchief. Then looked over at Harry.
Harry smiled back as sympathetically as he could, genuinely sorry for his friend's state. The young wizard student picked up the fallen oily, geared device, holding it as tightly as he would a golden snitch on the Quiddich field. He patted Hagrid on the shoulder with the reassurance, "I doubt she'll be back for a long while after that. How about I join you for tea later today at your place when you're feeling a bit better?"
Hagrid nodded, sniffling only slightly still as his nose continued to tickle a little and his eyes continued to itch. "I'd like that. I'll send an owl. Alrigh'?"
Harry nodded and as soon as the man was back on his feet, handed back the device. He watched as Hagrid made his way down the hall and around the corner as well, wondering exactly what that had been. It resembled something he had seen before… perhaps in the Muggle world when his cousin used to take important things apart when he was bored and wanted attention. But such feats as dish washing or car driving were accomplished without machines and electricity in the magical realm. What could it have been? And did it have any connection to the oddities that were happening around the castle lately? With renewed curiosity he headed down to the library to find his friend Harmione and some Muggle Studdies books.