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Chapter 10 : Parashoot-me-now-please
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Generally, Archibald Penrose thought that Aurora Sinistra was a very good Headmistress. She was really quite fair (although sometimes he wished that she wasn’t so fair, as he might have deserved several of the telling offs he’d gotten as of late, but he certainly hadn’t enjoyed them) and was thankfully very forgiving. She had, after all, seemed to have gotten over the Space Hopper incident, when he’d been the cause of her nearly having a heart attack, the more recent incident when half a year group had threatened rebellion after a rather spectacular April Fool’s day prank and, just two weeks ago, after the events of his unfortunate attempt to make basketball exciting to wizarding children.
And Archibald could probably concede that, this time, he might have pushed her a little further than he should have done (not, he thought wearily, that this is what he’d intended to happen – it was just that he should have known better and prevented the series of events that led to the catastrophe), but the woman was astoundingly ignorant when it came to Muggles.
She was probably the reason that he was in this job, because it astounded him to come across wizards who were so bizarrely ignorant about Muggle culture that Muggles might as well have been alien. To be fair, Aurora Sinistra wasn’t very thick, very lazy, or scarily enthusiastic, so he’d have been utterly shocked if she had taken Muggle Studies; instead she was just a pureblood astronomer come Headmistress, who was staring at him as though he’d grown several extra heads out of his eyeballs.
“I didn’t tell them to jump off the astronomy tower.” Archibald said, sensing an oncoming sense of doom that was entirely connected with Aurora Sinistra’s finely plucked eyebrows – the more expressive they became the surer he was that this time it was, finally, farewell Archie.
He’d had a good run. He could always skip ahead to his retirement plan and actually become a muggle, which would really save him having to do with clueless specimens like his boss.
“Parachuting,” Archibald began again, “it’s… a muggle sport.”
“Sport?” Sinistra repeated. Her eyebrows looked like see-saws. Bad news.
As normal with incidents of this calibre, it was entirely Fred Weasley’s fault.
The Leisure and Tourism module of the seventh year syllabus was turning out to be a bit of a flop, as Vicky was a little too confused by the whole concept of a cinema to move onto any other electronic entertainment and, as far as Archie knew, most Muggles had stopped leaving the house after the invention of the Wii sport (okay, that was a slight exaggeration – there were still children hoping around on Space Hoppers, thank God) and was at a loss of where else to progress.
He wanted to steer away from any sports that any student could feasibly suggest a physical demonstration for after the disaster in May and had ended up chatting on endlessly about National Trust houses and Art museums until Elliot Cooper had kindly informed him that his information was outdated and very, very middle class.
“Well,” Archibald said, his voice slightly strained from all the tension that he would gladly start screaming out into the corridors if only his silencing charms held for noises that piercing (as much as Dionne had attempted to teach him superior silencing charms, it was just one spell he’d always had troubles with: no doubt it was for the best, as if he could adequately silence someone with a flick of his wand then the temptation to shut up idiots like Elliot Cooper or Boris or Hugo would be just so tempting), “as our resident Muggle born, why don’t you tell us what you used to do in your free time?”
“Art Museums and National Trust houses,” He said pointedly, “but then I am middle class.”
Ronald McDonald was absently watching a spider running over his desk, Simon ‘squeaky’ Fawcett was at least looking in his direction and Vicky looked like she was about to ask what ‘middle class’ meant and, frankly, the lesson was going slowly enough without a deviation into politics. He was fed up of Cooper contradicting all his muggle-political views, cohering him into an actual debate and then reminding him that, as a teacher, it wasn’t allowed for him to be biased about politics just as he was about to win the argument.
“What did the peasants do then, whilst you were wondering around the Tate Modern?” Archibald asked pointedly.
“I don’t like modern art,” Elliot Cooper added, and there wasn’t really anything surprising about that, “extreme sports.”
“Okay,” Archibald said, trying to remember if he knew much about extreme sports – he’d been paintballing, once, but he wasn’t entirely sure if that fell into that category – and he knew buckets about break dancing, which he thought was pretty darn extreme, but the look on Cooper’s face didn’t look very forgiving and he wanted to be absolutely sure, “so… say, parachuting.” Archibald said definitely.
“Base jumping.” Cooper corrected.
God, he was a heinous excuse for a muggle (born). This was the reason for the statute of secrecy – to stop muggles being all superior about all their knowledge. It was really irritating.
“What’s parachuting?” Simon asked.
Giving an explanation made him feel sort of nervous: although he had to admit that he didn’t think this was the personification of knowledge being dangerous, given the lack of get up and go in his seventh years, but it was the sort of thing he’d denied even existed to the likes of Dom Weasley.
As a result, it was a rushed explanation about jumping off buildings with bits of cloth.
“Professor,” Vicky said, when he’d finished and he rather dreaded going into more detail, lest it stick in their brains and they mention it to someone who could possible tell one of his more ridiculous students, “you know how you said… obesity is an epidemic? Well, we can cure lots of muggle diseases, can’t we? So why don’t we just cure all the muggles?”
“What,” Elliot Cooper laughed, “send shrinking spells at them? Incendio all the local McDonalds? Killing curse at their stomachs?”
“Vicky,” Archie said wearily, not even caring that he’d inadvertently dissolved into using first names, “it’s not… obesity isn’t actually a disease, as such. It’s not contagious, it’s just…”
Well. At least he didn’t need to go into any more detail about the parachute.
“With due respect,” Archibald said evenly, “Quidditch is probably more dangerous.”
“More dangerous than jumping off the top of the astronomy tower?” Aurora countered, leaning over the table slightly with an expression of distinct disbelief. “With a bed sheet.”
“It’s… a matter of aerodynamics,” Archibald said weakly, “Muggles… also have a variety of dangerous sports, like Quidditch, and then… release adrenaline and noradrenaline as a…flight or fight instinct and…”
“Archie,” Aurora said pointedly, “explain.”
“Moving away from the physiological response,” Archie said, frowning, “Muggles jump out of planes – ”
“Aeroplanes,” Archibald said, “you know, big metal things you see flying? In the sky? Transport Muggles from place to place? Airports? No, not ringing any bells?”
Archibald mumbled something else about parachutes being used in wars, that story he’d heard about a bloke trying to parachute off a pylon (although that in itself had led to a deviation into explaining electricity, apparently the Head Mistress of Hogwarts thought that pylons –and or transmission towers, depending on how technical you wanted to get about things – were statues to pagan Gods, or something) and terrible impression of an aeroplane. It largely fell on deaf ears, although that was more or less expected.
“Sir,” Kevin Pips demanded when he walked into the classroom, “is karate a form of magic?”
It was a mark of how tired Archie was that it took him a few minutes to pinpoint that it was a martial art, which was a bit like a sport but for some reason described as an ‘art,’ and had flailed a little bit trying to explain how muggles were able to break through brick walls with their arms. Karate was one of the things Archibald often used to make particularly disinterested pupils sit up and listen – everyone had to admit that it was damn cool, really, and he often enlisted the help of snippets of footage from various films and a fair proportion of ‘Kung Fu Panda’ to help solidify the point, but his projector was on the blink (despite the hours he’d spent ensuring it was compatible with magic, overuse meant he still had to acquire a new one every few months).
Then, his world stopped slightly, because he remembered that the last time he’d mentioned karate had only been a few days ago, when a lesson that had started out with extreme sports had ended up with him having a very intense verbal battle with Elliot Cooper who’d confused the whole damn class by claiming there was a huge difference between taekwondo, karate and jujitsu - which may have been true (Archibald wished people would accept that he didn’t know everything – he was a dense pureblood wizard whichever way you look at it), but given that Vicky was still confused about what a TV was after he’d brought one in, shown pictures of one in action and had even offered to take them to the cinema during the Christmas Holidays and neither Ronald McDonald or Simon Fawcett could pronounce ‘jujitsu' he’d deemed it unhelpful to get into the gritty technicalities.
But that had also been the lesson that he’d mentioned parachutes and the subsequent nightmares had haunted him like a vaguely traumatic incident from his childhood, causing him to regularly reassure himself that it hadn’t happened and he was not going crazy by inventing memories.
There were enough incidents of regret without making up potential ones – with a set of students like those in his care, he’d have driven himself into an early room in St Mungos in under a fortnight. More so if he factored in what Dionne was likely to say about the whole thing.
“Pips,” Archibald frowned, “have you been talking to Fawcett or McDonald?”
“Yeah,” Kevin said, shrugging his shoulders out in that casual way of his that was entirely too full of swagger for a thirteen year old male – he should still be trying to pick on girls he fancied and out man his peers by eating competitions, “and what?”
“And did they tell you about Karate?” Archibald asked, feeling the beginning of what would likely to a really long headache, which would no doubt require at least a week of pain medication from the hospital wing.
“That it’s not the same as juditsu and that is less extreme than parachuting but more extreme than crazy golf.” Archibald could feel the moment coming on, creeping towards him like a train snaking its way down the line; his eyes connected with Kevin Pips, and internally he was begging him not to ask that question and Kevin must have understood the utter desperation because… “What is a parachute,” there was a beat in which Archibald’s heart stopped working altogether, “sir?”
“I’m not interested in a he said she said bonanza, Archie. I want to know why six students jumped off the astronomy tower holding their bed sheets and expecting not to die thanks to some muggle mumbo jumbo.”
And that, really, was the whole question of the thing.
Except the answer to that was, really, the names of the students in question: Fred and Dom Weasley, Lily Potter, Kevin Pips, Scorpius Malfoy and one of the Scamander twins (who really cared about which one it was – all three of them were blonde twits anyway). It was a surprising moment of unity from the general population of his students – had he known that they could all band together in such a way he’d probably have been dealing with the disconcerting fact that a mutiny was actually possible, but he supposed it didn’t matter now as having a large quantity of his students making death defying leaps of the castle turrets didn’t scream promotion. There’d been spectators, too, and several other brave volunteers who’d been just as ready to jump after the first round.
“They didn’t… die.” Archie said, his mouth feeling slightly dry.
Freddie Weasley was looking ominous. Normally, he was fairly intimidating due to his bizarre uniqueness – the ginger hair and dark skin seemed to suit him a little too well and Archie was always mentally questioning whether or not he dyed it ginger or not – but when his eyes possessed their most mischievous glint Archie could feel his blood threatening to clot.
Call it a premonition, or maybe he just knew life too well, but Archibald Penrose was entirely sure that something was going to happen, that it was going to be in some way related to a parachute and that he was definitely going to get into trouble for it.
“So,” Freddie said, his fingers tapping merrily against the wood of the desk, “what’s a parachute?”
The room seemed to be able to sense the tension: Boris looked up from his notes, Gina looked slightly less moody than before (although still very much the picture of teen angst), Shelly – who’d been applying more mascara than Archie had previously thought possible – glanced up from between her very thick lashes and Dom was almost shaking with the anticipation of the thing. Spencer, of course, was still asleep, but even he seemed slightly less unconscious than he normally was.
Archibald was mentally trying to decide whether he was blaming Hugo or Lily for the relaying of this information – Hugo was more likely to just ramble on about how interesting he found the whole thing and accidentally drop Archie into the depths of a boiling cauldron, whereas Lily was more likely to have suggested the whole thing in an attempt to ensure she’d received a bit of positive attention from her frankly much cooler, older family members.
And so Archie had to tell them. And he had to explain how the parachute worked in detail because, otherwise, if they tried it they’d definitely die.
“The only reason,” Professor Sinistra began, “that your students are still alive is Dionne Scrivenshaft.”
He was glad that none of his students were dead, as it would probably be difficult to find another teaching position with manslaughter penned across his resume in blood, but he did wish that someone else could have seen James Potter wondering around the grounds with his broomstick. And he wished that James Potter might have said something other than “I’m the back-up system if Freddie’s Muggle Studies experiment doesn’t work out.”
And then, when questioned, it would have been really really convenient if James hadn’t said “oh, well, Professor Archie told them about this muggle sport called parachuting, so Fred’s about to jump off the astronomy tower.”
Instead, he hadn’t worded it differently, Dionne was as charming and quick minded as ever, signalled that there was a serious emergency and was able to cast several cushioning spells that were slightly more efficient than James Potter circling below this his broom.
Fred had assured him that his parachute worked perfectly, which had made him feel better, until he’d added the fact that he’d enjoyed floating towards the ground whilst seeing two blurs of blinding platinum blonde hurtle towards the ground. Still, the whole thing wouldn’t have had an entirely dreadful mortality rate.
Not great, but they’d probably have only been one death max. And James might have caught that body. And surely someone would have thought to immobilise the crap out of the falling body. And wizarding bodies were stronger than muggle bodies (although, saying that, he wasn’t really sure if half of them were actually muggles for all he’d seen them perform magic).
The fact remained that Dionne would likely be defying the title ‘charming’ for a little while and Archie was completely in the dog house as far as that was concerned. As much as he liked to think that it was something that they could laugh about one day (‘remember that time when six of your students jumped off a really high building?’ ‘I never thought my lessons were that bad), but it seemed quite a long way off.
And he felt terrible.
There was this outside chance that someone could have died and it would have been almost-sort-of-his-fault. He’d told them not to try it. Flat out forbid them from even thinking about it, but he’d know they would and now…
Archibald was going to be fired. Surely. He’d fire himself. If he was Sinistra, he wouldn’t have wasted the past three hours trying to understand what a parachute was.
“So,” Sinistra said, eyebrows thinning further, “a parachute is some sort of muggle game.”
“Yes.” Archibald said.
“Which you told your students to try.”
“No,” Archibald countered, frowning, “I told them not to, which more or less accounts for the same thing anyway when you think about it – the result was the same.”
“And they… strapped their bed linen to their robes and…?”
“No, no, muggles don’t usually use their bedding. They have special equipment and it comes in a backpack.”
“It’s like a pack you… wear on your back.” Archie finished, somewhat lamely.
“Really?” Sinistra said. Ah, sarcasm. Bad sign.
“They do it in controlled... I mean… they don’t just… look, Aurora, I’m really -“
The door burst open and Archibald breathed a sigh of relief. The explanation was, frankly, getting a tad ridiculous. He just wanted to be fired and put out of his misery. Then he could go home – oh, wait, he used to live with his girlfriend who then exploded his microwave and became an ex-girlfriend – so, he was technically homeless and one tiny interruption away from being unemployed too.
And, judging by the look on Dionne’s face, he wasn’t quite thirty minutes away from being a bit dumped (again), but it was more or less a close run thing. Forty minutes? She might help him pack up his novelty pencil sharpener collection before washing her hands of him. Actually, that was a stupid idea; it would take at least an hour to sort out his novelty pencil sharpener collection.
“There was a levitation charm on the bed sheets,” Dionne Scrivenshaft said, smiling slightly with a hint of her usual charm gracing her face, “and four different cushioning spells already on the ground.”
“What?” Archibald asked, feeling his brain kick into a less depressing gear.
“As it turns out,” Dionne Scrivenshaft continued, “it was all a big ploy.”
“Sorry?” Aurora asked, turning towards Archibald with her eyebrows so expressive they were practically an expression all on their own.
“Elliot Cooper just came to confess; turns out, after Archie’s April fool’s day prank they’ve all been plotting. They were never in any danger. It was just…a prank.”
“A prank?” Aurora asked.
“Freddie Weasley says he’s sorry for almost making you lose your job. Again.”
“Right.” Archie said, still feeling mildly stunned but feeling his stomach thaw out slightly. So, he hadn’t actually been the cause of a group of his brainless students accidentally committing suicide – or he had, but not quite in the way he’d thought. “That…” Archibald thought back to the almost seamless way ‘parachute’ had become a buzz word, the fact that he’d thought he could hear people whispering it I the corridors (with Dom around, it was likely he had) and the all too smug Elliot Cooper, “that actually makes a lot of sense.” Archibald conceded, pressing his fingers to his forehead and considering booking himself in for some counselling sessions.
Forget danger money, at this rate he’d need compensation for a job related break down by the end of next month.
Sorry for taking such a long time to post the next chapter! I have three half chapters of this written and just haven't polished any of them off (the January, the April and the July), but Deeds 'Muggle Studies' challenge meant I had to get this one written. For the record, 'Kung Fu Panda' belongs to Dreamworks and not me and the summary for this was vaguely based on Cheryl Cole's 'parachute' just for the sake of my own amusement.
Also, if you didn't noticed there was a new chapter added out of order before (chapter three) which currently has a lower read count than the others significantly - so, if you didn't see it before, just to let you know it is there. And, finally, I wrote a spin off for this story agggesss ago too but I haven't updated since.
And sorry for rambling!
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