Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Vituperative Vipers

Mallory Chambers and Drusilla Wormwood were sitting outside, comparing Herbology projects. Mallory proudly displayed her work.

“A chapstick cozy?” Drusilla wrinked her nose duboiusly. “I mean, it’s in the shape of a Dirigible Plum, and I love the little winglike leaves at the top, but how exactly does that defy gravity?”

“Watch!” Mallory waved her wand languidly, then tossed the container in the air, where it hovered, leaves beating in a blur of motion. “See? It’s like that Muggle trick of applying your lipstick without using your hands.” She made a moue, and the Plum darted in to swipe lip balm on her mouth. Drusilla laughed.

“That’s great!” But then she frowned. “I don’t know … isn’t Professor Undine Harkiss leading  that team this term?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So she’s supposed to be kind of … well, harsh. As a teacher, I mean.”

“Oh, as opposed to the marshmallow she is in the Snake Pit?” Mallory shivered, even in the warm sun. “The marshmallow with the stainless steel coating and venom-dripping spikes.”

“It’s just … a chapstick cosy. You know. It’s awful small. Disrespectful. Has she ever forgiven Spike for turning in that bookmark last term?”

“She must have. Isn’t that Professor Harkiss and Spike over there, by the greenhouse?”

“I think so. It looks like they’re talking about class. She’s helping Spike get into position on the scaffolding so she can craft upside down. Harkiss really does have a softer side!”

Mallory grew pale, and the Dirigible Plum cozy fell at her feet. “Oh no. That’s the scaffolding Hagrid was putting up over the …"

Drusilla’s eyes grew wide. “Over the pit of Vituperative Vipers the seventh-years are working with next week.”

The students looked at each other.

“So …” said Mallory, with a weak tremulous smile, ”Vivian, then?”

“I was thinking Blackberry Cabled Cardigan myself. Worked from the top down. I’ll need to re-chart the whole thing, of course.” They winced when Spike dropped her crochet hook, and dropped out of sight to fetch it. “But I think the end result will be worth it.”

The next morning, Spike limped into class, clutching a blanket square with an interestingly reptilian color scheme.

Professor Harkiss smiled and nodded as she accepted the square.  "Was it a challenge to create defying gravity?"  she asked, with a knowing twinkle in her eye.

Spike shrugged, and the sleeves of her robe fell back from her bandaged hands.  "Defying gravity was the  . . . least challenging aspect of this assignment, Professor."

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