Chapter 3 : Dragon Dung and Geraniums
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“I just have absolutely no idea,” Will kept saying. Understandably, he was rather offended to have been accused of some unknown crime by a pair of brothers he had barely even spoken to before. “I mean, what can we have done? It’s been Christmas, we’ve been on holiday for the last few weeks. We don’t speak to those Macmillans much anyway.”
“We,” David said pensively. “That’s what’s really strange. You and I, Will. What could we both have done?”
“Well, you are related,” I pointed out. “A family matter, maybe?” My family were always being blamed for something one of our many relations – all right, James – had done.
“There’s a point...” Will mused. I tried not to appear as amused as I felt. As he had clearly decided to get worked up over this I would be a caring, supportive girlfriend and not laugh about how this was the kind of thing that would only, only happen to him.
Well, maybe once or twice, when he wasn’t there.
Rose waved us farewell at the bottom of the marble staircase; Will, David and I had Herbology while she had Charms (she didn’t like getting her hands dirty). “If anything else happens, tell me,” she told me firmly as she left.
The three of us trekked on down to the greenhouses, Will chivalrously casting an impervious charm over the two of us when the January morning’s drizzle became apparent. (David spent a moment manfully pretending he didn’t mind getting wet, before giving in and casting a charm of his own.)
Having arrived, we settled down at our tables, Will and I together, David heading across the greenhouse to where his empty space next to my cousin Albus was waiting. Those two could have been separated at birth, I’d often thought – both tall, lanky, bespectacled, and a little inclined towards that greatest of afflictions, know-it-all-ism. They were quite a riot in lessons, constantly trying to beat each other (and the rest of the class) in questions answered, tests aced, house points collected, you name it.
Nathaniel Macmillan and his posse entered the greenhouse a moment later, which, bearing in mind breakfast’s experiences, was slightly unfortunate. I glanced at Will; he was pretending not to notice the looks Nathaniel was shooting him.
“This is weird,” I said under my breath. People were meant to come back from the Christmas holidays depressed that it was over, or having acquired a new significant other due to a drunken snog under the mistletoe, or having become morbidly obese due to excessive mince pie consumption, but forming a sudden violent hatred for people for no apparent reason was a new one for me.
“Tell me about it,” Will muttered back.
Professor Longbottom entered a minute or so later, an ominous pile of parchment clutched in his hands. “Morning,” he said happily. “Good holiday, everyone?”
There was a minute or so of awkward conversation, while we all tried to get the balance right between being polite and not looking too much like we actually wanted to chat with the teacher.
“Anyway, I’ve got that assignment to give back to you!” Longbottom said, his jubilant tone suggesting it was the best news we would ever hear. “That little revision activity on fanged geraniums?”
Little revision activity my arse. Eight page essay more like. Bloody geraniums.
Professor Longbottom could be extremely adorable at times, but he was one of those teachers so devoted to his subject that he had apparently forgotten what it was like to be seventeen and to only be taking it because you have to do something to fill your timetable.
Oblivious to the hostility reverberating around the room, Longbottom charged Martin Bletchley, a dim-but-harmless Slytherin, with distrubuting the essays, while Longbottom himself turned his attention to the Venomous Tentacula we would be facing that lesson. Little did we know that this would be the start of three very unfortunate Herbology-related incidents that would play a significant part in shaping the course of things to come.
The first was directly to do with the essays. Perhaps Bletchley hadn’t been paying proper attention when he handed them out. Perhaps there was some gum stuck to the bottom of Nathaniel’s essay that fortuitously attached it to Will’s. Perhaps we shall simply never know. Whatever the cause, when Nathaniel unexpectedly received both essays, saw both grades and turned an unpleasant shade of purple, I think we all knew things were about to take a turn for the worst.
“I’ve got your essay, Elward,” Nathaniel snap-whispered, not wanting to attract Longbottom’s attention, tossing the parchment across the small space between our two desks. “Got an O, did you? Well done, geek.”
Apparently he was still living in the 1990s and under the impression that being called a geek was a sizeable insult. The problem with geeks, of course, was that these days they were generally very rich and successful, so the slur had rather lost its sting.
Plus, he was blatantly just annoyed that Will had got a higher mark than him. Blatantly.
Will ignored him, grabbed the essay and shoved it into his bag. “What is wrong with him?” he muttered to me.
The second incident was considerably more high-profile and amusing. Or embarrassing, depending on which side you were on. I personally found it very, very hilarious, though I suspect Nathaniel might not have agreed as he plunged head-first into an open bag of dragon dung, having tripped over a protruding plant root while crossing the greenhouse.
I laughed. Will laughed. I think even Longbottom raised a smile. David and Albus tried and failed to maintain a dignified silence while the rest of class was in hysterics. In hindsight, it was very cruel of us and utterly mortifying for the poor guy. In reality, it was a moment so priceless I just wish I’d had a camera.
“Oh, yes, very funny,” Nathaniel snapped, brushing dung from his robes and wrinkling his nose. As you may have guessed by now, this admittedly reasonable response was directed, rather less reasonably, at Will.
For the third incident, perhaps he had more reason to blame Will. We had moved on to examination of the Venomous Tentacula, horrible plants at the best of times. To summarise, Will was meant to have stunned this particular tentacula with Diffindo. Due to a complicated set of circumstances, he failed to do so. Nathaniel did not realise this and proceeded to try and tackle the plant. The tentacula, evil things that they are, took great pleasure in wrapping its shoots around his neck and attempting to squeeze the life from him.
Is it wrong that I laughed at this too?
“Elward, you idiot!” Nathaniel yelled, having been rescued from the plant’s clutches by Professor Longbottom, whose serene state confirmed that this kind of thing happened in his classes all the time. “You could’ve killed me!”
“Well, much as I would like to, Macmillan –”
I stopped him before he could go too far. “He’s not worth it,” I said, feeling very cliché. “Leave it, Will.”
“Leave it, Will,” Nathaniel mimicked. “Better listen to your girlfriend, Fitzwilliam, there’s a good boy.”
“Right –” Will spun around.
“Boys!” Professor Longbottom looked aghast. “Stop this immediately! I will speak to you both at the end of the lesson. Yes, Mr Macmillan, that does include you. Honestly,” he said crossly, “I do not expect this kind of behaviour from sixth-years.”
“Sorry, sir,” Will said grudgingly. Nathaniel was still glaring. I wasn't sure I could actually remember what his face looked like normally.
Albus, at the back of the greenhouse, was wearing a self-important expression of utmost disapproval. I expected to see the same from David, but instead he looked concerned. He caught up to me once the lesson was over.
“Something is definitely going on,” he said ominously, as though this was some sort of Muggle horror film. “With the Macmillans and us. Will in particular, it seems. But Nathaniel kept shooting me the occasional glares as well, even Albus was commenting on it.”
“The mystery deepens.” I shook my head in bewilderment. “We could always ask them, you know.”
“Just ask the Macmillans what on earth it is that they’re going all crazy over. Then, if they have good reason, you could do something about it. If they don’t, you can just accept that they’re all psychopaths and move on.”
He hesitated, glancing at the huddle of Hufflepuffs only a few feet away – Nathaniel’s posse waiting for their leader. “Let’s leave it until Will gets out, shall we?”
Not much of a Gryffindor, David. I don’t think there has ever been any doubt that he is a ’Claw through and through.
Will and Nathaniel emerged a few minutes later, both looking grumpy and with a pompous Professor Longbottom tottering in their wake. “Just be sensible, boys, won’t you?” he said somewhat patronisingly. “The plants don’t like raised voices, you know. Bad for their growth.” With another reproving tut and shake of the head, he smiled at me and David before striding off up towards the castle.
“You have to confront the Macmillans,” I told Will when he reached us.
“Pardon? I really don’t –”
“Yes you do. David’s too scared to.”
“I am not!”
“He is. But this is just getting ridiculous,” I said. “You’ve clearly ticked off Nathaniel in one way or another, and I know he’s a total git so it’s rather easy to do, but the sooner you get this over with, the better.”
Will paused for a moment, clearly struggling to decide which was worse: a confrontation with the Macmillans, or looking like a wimp in front of his girlfriend. He glanced over to the huddled Hufflepuffs, Nathaniel in the middle of them, none of whom were looking at all happy. Eventually he seemed to decide the former was the lesser of the two evils, and promptly approached the group, possibly deeming it best to act before he lost his nerve. David, after a second’s hesitation, hurried after him, apparently trusting in safety in numbers. I stood back, preparing to watch, unable to deny my interest in the outcome.
“Macmillan,” Will said loudly, being all male and last-naming again.
Nathaniel turned. “Elward.” He smirked. “Elward.”
“Macmillan,” David replied curtly.
“What is your problem?” Will demanded. “That whole business at breakfast, Herbology just now? Do you have any excuse for your behaviour, or is it just that you can’t help being a total prick?”
Unfortunately, when Will gets angry he gets even more posh, which rather spoiled the effect. Thankfully the Macmillans were also rather upper-class, so Nathaniel probably didn’t think anything of it. Hogwarts was so full of blue blood that I was used to feeling unpleasantly common by now.
“As I think I’ve said, you – know – full – well.”
“We don’t,” David said.
“Then I’ll spell it out for you, shall I?” Nathaniel was turning purple again. I was starting to wonder whether perhaps this hadn’t been such a good idea after all, but calculated I could probably make a run for it if things turned nasty.
“Please do,” Will said.
“My sister,” he said. “Your. Effing. Cousin.”
Stupidly, my eyes flew instinctively to David. Yes, he was Will’s cousin, but if there was anyone on the planet less likely to have done something to Nathaniel Macmillan’s sister, whoever she was, it was him.
“My cousin?” Will repeated.
“Yes. Both of yours. Leopold Elward? Ring any bells?” He snorted. “I somehow doubt there are two of them floating around.”
Will and David glanced at each other, still none the wiser. I couldn’t say I was really following either. So far I had sniggered at the name ‘Leopold’ and that was it. Perhaps it was a requirement in the Elward family to bestow the most absurd names possible on your offspring. Leopold. Fitzwilliam. David, who wasn’t actually called David. But that’s another story.
“What on earth does your sister have to do with Leo?” Will asked.
“She was supposed to marry him,” Nathaniel said slowly, emphatically, addressing them as one would very dim children.
Will, David and I all yelped, “WHAT!?” in unison. The three boys then turned to me, looking surprised.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m not involved, I know. Doesn’t mean I can’t listen, though. So she was going to marry him?” I prompted eagerly.
“Yes. She was.” Nathaniel was positively violet now. “And then –”
Perhaps I possessed previously unsuspected Seer powers, but I had the strangest feeling I knew what he was going to say next.
“And then he ditched her,” Nathaniel finished, chest heaving, fists clenched, radiating fury. “Broke off their engagement after a month, broke it off publicly and humiliatingly. No one treats my sister that way, Elward, no one.”
Will seemed to be struggling to digest all this sudden information. “Hey, Macmillan,” he said awkwardly, “if that is the case then I’m awfully sorry about that, but let’s try and be reasonable. I didn’t ditch your sister –”
“I know. But Leopold isn’t here, is he? You are.” He glared at them both. “This is a family matter. You Elwards are going to pay, understand that? This is war.” With that he stormed off back up to the castle, his cronies hurrying after him.
“This is war?” I said to Will and David, in an effort to make them pick their lower jaws up from the floor and normalise the utterly bizarre situation. “Not a cool catchphrase.”
For once, despite my undeniable hilariousness, they didn’t laugh.
A/N: So here's chapter three! If you've got this far then thank you so much for reading, and I'd luuurve a review if you've got the time :)
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