I love Cornish pasties. I always have, and always will.
I am in love with this Cornish pasty.” I announced to the Ravenclaw table. Every single person on it ignored me. “I want to marry this Cornish pasty.” Ari gave me a look that clearly told me to shut up, but I never pay any attention to those looks. I see them as a challenge; how far can I push her before she confiscates my profiteroles again? “I want to have little pasty babies with this Cornish pasty.”
“Yes Miss Gardenia?”
“Please be quiet now.”
“Of course Miss Gardenia.” I sat and twiddled my thumbs for a minute, contemplating how much trouble I would get into if I broke into the kitchens and create a profiterole pasty. I concluded it would taste absolutely fabulous and that I would probably get a week’s worth of detentions, but that it would so be worth it. The new fish had been sorted into their houses now, so the important part of the feast was over now. It was the only entertaining part; Ari and I played a little game we liked to call “Dork, Dweeb, Hufflepuff”, where we judged the dorkiness of the new students. You can guess which end of the spectrum Hufflepuff was on.
And speaking of Ari, I was on a mission to irritate her. I had to get revenge somehow for the whole ball debacle.
I searched through my robes, magically altered to contain many hidden pockets with TARDIS-like proportions, until I found a quill, some ink and a piece of parchment. Scribbling down a quick message, I blew on the ink until it was dry and then waved it in front of her face. She grabbed it, scanned it, scrunched it up into a ball and threw it at me.
I have named the pasty Severus.
“That’s it. I forbid you to communicate with anyone in any way at all.”
I widened my eyes, trying to make myself look as innocent as possible, and fixed my gaze on Ari. She shifted uncomfortably, but determinedly ignored me. I gave her ten minutes.
After six minutes she kept glancing nervously my way.
Eight minutes and her eye started to twitch.
Ten minutes. She was holding out incredibly well. It seemed that her willpower was stronger than my attention span was long, so I changed tack.
“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!” This sudden outburst of song attracted some attention from people sat nearby. I’d always thought that life would be so much better if it was one giant musical, but Hogwarts was no East High. “We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villians and knaves. Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.” Some Slytherins at the next table looked up and snickered. I imagined I was frying their brains with the Force. Something about the look in my eyes made them look away nervously, so while (unfortunately) no brain frying actually happened, it was a rather successful gesture. “We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.”
Ari continued to ignore me, but she looked slightly bemused.
“Yo…ho…yo…ho…a pirate’s life for me.”
“I thought I said ‘no communicating’.” Ari turned to a timid second year next to her. “I did say that, didn’t I?”
I wasn’t allowed to communicate, so I mouthed random words and gestured wildly.
“I give you permission to speak.”
“Don’t drag the poor firstie into it!”
“I’m a second year…”
“Don’t care. You’re short, so you’re a firstie. And anyway, singing isn’t technically communicating.”
“Is too! You can sing words.”
“That is generally what you sing.”
“No, I mean…like…” She turned to the firstie-who-wasn’t-a-firstie. “Like this! Please can you pass me the sweetcorn?”
I blinked. “What tune was that? And what did I say about dragging the firstie into it?”
“I’m not a firstie.”
“Don’t encourage her. And my singing skills aren’t up for discussion. You get the idea!”
“I get what you mean, but I’m going to have to say that you are incredibly, unbelievably, exceedingly, amazingly, extraordinarily, exceptionally, really, really incorrect.”
Ari blinked. “Are you hiding a thesaurus under the table?”
“Don’t be silly. I don’t own a thesaurus. I do, however, own a book that tells you different words you can say instead of a word.” I could tell Ari was about to correct me, but I cut across her and turned to Firstie. “Hey, Firstie, who do you think is right?”
“What happened to not getting the firstie involved?”
“Can it Gardenia! I’m talking to Firstie.”
Ari gasped. “You did not just Last Name me!”
“I did Gardenia, and I will do it again if you don’t stop interrupting Firstie.”
“That is not my name!” Firstie scowled.
“It’s called a nickname dear. Deal with it and answer the question.” I was losing my patience. I don’t think it had ever taken this long for me to win an argument.
“I agree with that girl,” he said, pointing at a smug Ari. “because she doesn’t call me Firstie.”
“Thank you Firstie!” Ari exclaimed, clapping her hands. Scowling, Firstie grabbed his plate and moved to a free space far away at the end of the table.
“Such a nice boy.”
“I won the argument! This is a historic event!” Ari was extatic. “Gwen McKee lost an argument!” she squealed.
“Ah-ah-ah! Technically not.”
“Huh? But Firstie agreed with me!” she pouted. “Don’t ruin this for me McKee.”
“Yes, but only because he was biased.” I pointed out. “And you’re not allowed to Last Name me. That right is specifically reserved for me, teachers and my mother.”
“He was biased because you were mean to him. And that’s completely unfair!”
“I wasn’t being mean. I was being extremely nice to him. I even gave him a nickname. He should be honoured by my attention. And the world’s not fair dearie, get used to it.”
“I would hardly call naming him ‘Firstie’ nice. And did you just call me ‘dearie’?”
“What? He’s short! It’s the perfect name!” I indicated his height from the floor with my hand. I may have under-judged it a little, as he ended up being about the size of a leprechaun. “And yes, yes I did.”
“You’re not supposed to point it out though! That’s just mean. And why do we keep starting sentences with ‘and’?”
“Yes you are; just look at the seven dwarves. And it’s because we’re multi-talented mangoes who can have two conversations at the same time.” I glanced at my watch. “Oh snickerdoodles, I’m late!” And with that I slid under the table.
“What on earth is a snickerdoodle? What are you late for? Where are you going?” She let out a shriek as I grabbed her ankle and tugged. After a bit of a struggle, she soon joined me under the table. “Gwen, if this is part of one of your hair-brained schemes-”
I clapped a hand over her mouth. “Shhh…the headmaster is talking.” I whispered, starting to crawl along the floor.
Ari sighed and was about to pop back up into her seat, but I grabbed some of her hair and dragged her along behind me.
“Owowowowowowowowow!” she whispered, which rather defeated the point of her saying ow.
“Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices,” Dumbledore said, starting his usual start-of-year ramble. “First-years ought to know that the Forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to students - and a few of our older students ought to know by now, too.” This warning was given every year, and every year I ignored it. The Forbidden Forest was just too fun to stay away from.
Some inconsiderate falafel had his legs stretched out across in front of us so we couldn’t get past. This was soon sorted out by a swift bite on the ankle. Leaving him to flail and try and catch the imaginary gnome he seemed to think was responsible, I continued on my journey. It felt rather like I was on a quest, and my Holy Grail was at the end of the Ravenclaw table.
“Ludicrous fool! Is that imbecile not aware that these creatures known as gnomes only make their homes outside the hallowed halls of this school?”
“Ludicrous…Gwen, why are you talking like you belong in the fifteenth century?”
“Yay verily, thou hast discovered my ruse. Thou shalt rue the day thou ever crossed thine blade with the Black Knight!”
“Fear not, m’lady, and hurry forth, for the end of our quest is near!”
I think Ari gave up trying to understand what I was saying after ‘verily’.
“Mr Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four-hundred-and-sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr Filch's office door.” I owned at least one of nearly everything on this list. I wasn’t Flich’s favourite student in the world after I managed to blow up a suit of armour last year, but I figured I’d just have to live with that, as much as it pained me to.
“We have had two changes in staffing this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.”
We finally reached the end of the table where the house ghost was floating around.
“Pssst! Grey Lady! Pssst!”
The House Ghost turned around, looking for the source of the voice. Unable to find anything, she gave up. Eventually I was forced to stick my arm out through her ghostly skirts. It felt cold and actually slightly dirty, but not in the muddy sense.
“Guinevere?” I shuddered slightly at the ghost’s use of my full name, but this chick was from the 16th century or something, so I forgave her.
“It’s time. Tell the others.”
The Grey Lady nodded and sank slowly into the floor. One by one the other ghosts followed suit. I hurriedly crawled back to my seat, Ari following in a state of complete confusion. She looked adorable when she was confused, so I decided to keep her in the dark a little while longer. Sliding up into my seat I noted that no-one had noticed my absence. I concluded that I was a ninja and sat happily in a little ninja daze until it was time for the surprise.
“Tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place on the-”
I already had the wearing black down, so I dressed like a ninja.
“Thank you Headmaster, for those kind words of welcome.” a simpering voice replaced Dumbledore’s, but I was too busy debating how amazing I would be as a ninja.
Although ninjas never actually wore black; dark blue was as dark as they got.
“Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say! And to see such happy little faces looking up at me.”
Maybe my dress sense was more befitting a funeral director.
“I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I'm sure we'll be very good friends!”
Or replacing Steve Jobs.
“The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them for ever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.”
Or a Death Eater…
“Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation . . .”
Maybe my first victim could be the source of the irritatingly high pitched voice now talking.
“. . . because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognised as errors of judgement. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”
She could also be my first customer as a funeral director!
My train (choo choo!) of thought was interrupted by a stream of ghostly bodies bursting forth from the floor like a fountain. The students nearby screamed, but I clapped my hands with glee and did my best impression of an evil two year old on LSD. The ghosts swooped down in and arrow head formation and took their places several feet above the tables. The Fat Friar grinned down at me and I drew my wand, finally getting to perform the piece of magic I’d been practicing all holiday; I turned my plate into a CD player. Beaming like I’d just pooped a rainbow, I pressed play.
Change your mind
Like a girl
“Gwen! What are you doing?” Ari protested, but I just excreted more imaginary rainbows as the ghosts launched into the dance routine I’d spent so many hours imagining.
“GUINEVERE MCKEE!” my Sevvy-poo bellowed, sweeping down the Great Hall dramatically.
I should know
That you’re no good for me!
Snape reached our table just as we reached the chorus and grabbed me by the collar, hauling me to my feet.
“Miss McKee.” He hissed. “I had a feeling you would be up to something this year, though I never imagined that you would dare-”
“OOOOH! WATCH THIS! THIS IS THE BEST BIT!” I squealed. The sight of the Bloody Baron dancing to Katy Perry was just too good to miss, even if it was for Snookums Snape.
‘Cos you’re hot then you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
“I demand you stop this foolishness. Right. Now.”
You’re in then you’re out
I glanced at Ari, who was sat agape at the sight of Nearly Headless Nick doing the splits, caught her eye and winked.
You’re up then you’re down
Luckily, my telepathic powers proved true and she understood, reached over and surreptitiously turned up the music.
You’re wrong when it’s right
“MISS MCKEE!” Snape was having to bellow to be heard now. “TURN THIS MUSIC OFF THIS INSTANT!”
It’s black and it’s white
I glanced over at Dumbledore. He was having a whale of a time, clapping along and…singing? I wasn’t sure whether I should be worried that he knew the words or just accept it.
We break up
The Fat Friar did a cartwheel past us down the aisle.
We make up
Snape pulled out his wand and blew the CD player into dust. The ghosts looked a little confused; they’d just been forming an ex-human pyramid and didn’t appreciate the loss of music. They floated away, grumbling among themselves.
I felt my collar being tugged as I was dragged out of the haul by an extremely furious and extremely attractive Professor Snape. I loved it when he was angry. He smouldered when he was angry.
I was hauled into his office, which had become even more like home to me over the years than the Ravenclaw common room, and shoved into a chair. The Professor paced, muttering words like “outrageous”, “complete disregard for the rules” and “cartwheels”. I felt left out of the muttering, so I began whispering to myself phrases like “spontaneous combustion”, “hamburger” and “Chinese water torture”.
It was in this situation that we were found by Professor Dumbledore and Professor Flitwick. I noticed that Dumbledore was still humming, which bode well for me. Unfortunately he was then followed by what looked like a blob of pink on legs, which took its position in the corner of the room to observe. I’d been too excited about the dance routine to take much notice of her, but Ari later told me she was Dolores Umbridge, the new DADA teacher, and she was from the Ministry of Magic. She looked highly disapproving, but from what I’d seen of her so far that seemed to be her general facial expression.
“Headmaster! This girl needs to be punished; she has disrespected some of the most important traditions of Hogwarts-”
“My dear Severus.” Dumbledore smiled. “I do believe that this is simply down to high spirits at the beginning of the year. And what’s wrong with a little song? Music is one of the greatest forms of magic.”
“Professor Dumbledore sir?” I piped up. “I organised this with the ghosts last year. I gave them the music and told them to choreograph the routine over the holidays. I heard the Fat Friar complaining about how bored they got over the holidays, all alone in the castle, see, and I felt so sorry for them I had to do something.”
“See Severus? Miss McKee here was simply keeping our ghosts entertained. That’s no mean feat either; I do believe I saw even Peeves joining in. That is quite an achievement. I think this young lady ought to be rewarded, not punished. Twenty points to Ravenclaw!”
Snape did an accurate impression of a goldfish. An extremely attractive goldfish.
“You see, she has succeeded in not only providing entertainment for our ghost, but also for the entire school. That has certainly started the school year in high spirits, do you not agree Filius?”
“Oh yes!” Flitwick squeaked. “In fact, it has got me thinking; I really ought to teach our school choir more muggle music! Would you mind writing down the name of the song the ghosts were dancing too Miss McKee?” I nodded and scribbled down the song on a piece of parchment I found in my pocket.
“Now Miss McKee, you’d better make your way to your common room. And thank you.” Dumbledore smiled and swept out of the office, followed by Flitwick and the pink blob.
The blob gave me what was supposed to be a fierce look, but looked more like she was slightly constipated.
It looked like I’d made a new friend.
What delights does the next morning hold for Ari and Gwen? Will Firstie ever be rid of his new nickname? (Hint: no.) What on earth is a snickerdoodle? Find out all this and more in the next instalment of…Two Girls, One Snail!