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Mildred's Monstrous Misadventures

Chapter Text

Admittedly Mildred hadn't made the best first impression at her new school. Not only had she inadvertently upset one of her new class mates. *(and Mildred would learn later what a big mistake it was to get on the wrong side of fae royalty!) And been late for the gate and roll call. But now she'd crash landed her broom in front of the whole school on her first day. And landed into the bins as well!

Her first coherent thought (as she sat up and tugged a banana skin off her face) was that vampires were supposed to burn in the sun. And yet here one was, towering over her, clad in black leather with fangs long and bearing down on her. Mildred thought she was a goner.

Instead of biting her throat out however the vampire clapped her hands and ordering the other 'girls' back in to line. And started shouting. Mostly at or about Mildred.

"And I think I should add to Miss Cackles …Inspirational remarks that girls must remember the importance of punctuality," Miss Hardbroom said coldly, even as Mildred was helped to her feet by-

Mildred did a double take and almost stumbled back so had to helped to her feet twice even. but the chubby little wolf girl with bunches, and pair of spectacles on her muzzle, didn't seem to mind.

"Deportment and, deceased or not… the need for dignity. At all times."

All first years would learn in time that Miss Hardbroom's figualtive bark wasn't as bad as her literal bite. But it was horrid enough. Especially to be on the receiving end of it.

"That is, of corse," the vampire continued with a fanged sneer, mostly directed at Mildred. "if they are sure they intend to remain long at this establishment. And, Alive…"

Mildred gulped. And wasn't sure at all.

Chapter Text

In retrospect, sending Mildred, a normal perfectly extremely ordinary human girl to Cackles might not have been a good idea.

Mind, Mildred and her parents had only accidentally discovered Mildred wasn't really ‘normal’ at all. But a Witch.

A normal perfectly extremely ordinary human witch; But a witch all the same.

A Witch whose powers had come out of nowhere and along with her normal clumsiness were causing accidental havoc in the small comprehensive. To the point Mildred’s parents were advised by the head and a doctor that getting her a magical education would be more beneficial then her current year eight sats scores. And to the heath and welfare of both playground foundations and a local bullies medical records too.

With both parents and the rest of the family being without magic, Homeschooling was out. And an apprenticeship with a local crone, who now lived in a retirement home, didn’t sound at all suitable. So they looked for alternatives.

There was a huge place in Scotland that would have been ideal. Apparently half the students were from non magical backgrounds. But trying to get hold of anyone from the school proved near impossible. So then did getting Mildred a transfer in at age thirteen rather then eleven. Something about missing records.
“Hogs wash,” Mildred’s dad had called it and moved on.

Pentangles only took witches who either had exceptional lineage or with exceptional talents, and had an even more exceptional bank account. None of which Mildred had as yet.

Salamanders and a couple of other small witch schools said she would be welcome. But they were all day schools and too far away, even on broom or boarding some days, to travel back and forth. The Hubbles could have moved house of corse, but decided that would be a back up plan and come back to it.

Then Camelots and Moonridge High, while both excellent, only took on boys and wizards. Mildred did argue that she could be a wizard rather then witch if she really wanted too. Not that she did but it was more the printable of the matter. So they were out of luck there.

Bottom of the pile had been Cackles.

 

The lady (witch) from the local council (coven) who’d popped over to see what Mildred could already do spell wise (not a lot) and to advise them on such matters, had been very hesitant to suggest it.

Why it’d been bottom of the pile the Hubbles couldn’t under stand. The fees weren’t unaffordable. Decent even, for a boarding school, and the holidays seemed fair. And, while it was nearer to Cardiff then it was closer to home, it wasn’t even extremely far away so if they ever need to come to the school for emergencies or parents evening, her mum would only be on the road a few hours.

All right, the castle looked a little creepy and sad in the brochure. And it was odd where all the other school leaflets had had students smiling in posed pictures, this one didn't show any children at all. But there were rave reviews from both Ofstead and something called The Witches Guild, with emphasis on the “control over their magic and other abilities" girls would learn. And it was second joint top in the magical school league table for exam performance. It seemed perfect.

So a few telephone calls, and a reference form her current school later; Mildred was on the entry list for a scholarship that coming September.

Miss Cackle the headmistress even sent a personal letter of welcome. And said Mildred if she so wished may join the school into the first year despite the slight ages gap, so she could learn to be a witch from scratch. ‘You’re not our first girl to ever do so.” She wrote, which was very reassuring to a nervous Mildred. Only Mildred had assumed Miss Cackle had just meant the first girl to go back a year or from a non magical family.

 

It was only in August and after they’d read the more-in-depth-then-the-pamphlet-welcome-pack that Mr and Ms Hubble realised that it wasn’t just a school for well, … ‘normal’ witches.
Normal here meaning perfectly extremely ordinary human witches.

Normal perfectly extremely ordinary human witches like Mildred.

 

Because Miss Cackle’s international academy for young Witches was advertised as ‘a school for monstrously talented young ladies’.

And they had underestimated the monster bit!

Chapter Text

Which is all how Mildred (a normal abet magical girl) came to be at a school for witches, monsters and others of other magical persuasion. By the time the intake mistake was noticed it was too late to change schools again. Despite the arguments it lead to in the Cackles staffroom.

 

On that first of September, Mildred’s mother drove her up to the school in ‘BoBo’ the car. Or at least as close to the castle as the thick woodland tracks would allow. Then dropped her off with lots of hugs, kisses, promises of writing and a “Try it love, you might like it” attitude. as well as two weeks worth of sweets, socks and undies, and spare uniform bundled up in her new school bag.

 

Mildred had headed toward the haunted looking castle. Only twice looking back towards the car and her mother’s cheery encouraging wave. Mildred wished she’d asked her mum to walk up with her, despite what the rules said. (First year girls were to fly to the gate, but Mildred hadn’t even tried out her broom yet.) It was only when her mum was out of sight Mildred felt like turning back for good.

but then she heard the faint grumbling of twelve point turn being executed. And a beep beep of the horn wishing her good bye and good luck as her mum drove away. So Mildred swallowed down her nerves and tried to be brave.

In the daylight the castle didn’t look too gloomy, she thought as she tried to encourage herself. And if everyone was a witch she wouldn’t be labeled a freak for being magic. She could make friends again. it wouldn't be too bad.

She could be brave.

But that was before almost half an hour of trudging and getting nearly lost. And becoming Ethel Hallow’s Arch nemesis. And crashing. And seeing as the ground wouldn’t comply in opening up and swallowing her, Mildred stood in the yard with the other girls and ghouls, with a faint whiff of bin water about her and cursed trying to be brave. Maybe the vampire should have just bitten her after all . Or someone else had eaten her and saved her the embarrassment.

 

Although apparently eating another pupil was against both the school rules and the witches code.

So was, Miss Cackle droned on, informing the first years and reminding the older girls: unauthorized magic. being out of bed past curfew. Weapons. joy flying. taking body parts without permission.
And weirdly, whoopee cushions.

Miss Hardbroom also made clear how the various school systems and punishments worked, as the headmistress hovered next to her. several inches off the floor to be exact. Mildred couldn’t get a good look at her new headmistress other than the bob haircut and kind face. She was fuzzy and a bit hard to see in grey light. but became more of a specter when the occasional brief ray sunshine broke through the ominous clouds.

 

It was all very distracting. Mildred tried to take it all in without staring or gawping too much. Not that it stopped others staring at her. she could feel eyes everywhere looking at her. And not just on the one kid with at least twenty of them.

Harriet kept glancing over her shoulder at Mildred, her fish eyes swivelled at her curiously. Mildred heard hooves on cobbles behind her, fidgeting almost. she saw green skin, deathly blue skin, extra limbs, fur, slime, even a girl with bolts and stitches in her neck (Said girl was smoldering at the ears, the occasional spark frizting too). And that was just amongst her own form. and more ghosts, wolfs, a giant, a troll, and variety of other girls all peeked out of windows and doors to gawp at the fresh meat. And Mildred felt the oddity of being the only certified one hundred percent human amongst them…

Eventually they were dismissed free to enter the castle. Monsters at the main door parted to let the head mistress float on in. HB stormed in behind her barking out orders. She seemed in bad temper. and not just because she’d begun to smoke at the wrists towards the end of welcome speech, despite the large black umbrella being held out for her by a lurching zombie in overalls. Inside first years were very quickly given timetables, maps and books by a lady in very normal sporty clothes, as well as matched up with an older girl as chaperone.

“I hope my girl is nice.” Mildred thought as she was directed to a pale blue second year.
Or girls’ , second years and chaperones, as it turned out to be in Mildred's case…

Chapter Text

“Hello. Fenella Feverfew,” Introduced one head. “Delighted to meet you.”
“and I’m Griselda Blackwood. Hi!” said the other, “Griz for short.”
“Welcome to Cackles.” They chorused offering out their hands. Mildred had to cross her arms over to shake them both at the same time! “How do you do?”

“Hi, I’m Mildred.” Mildred offered timidly. “Mildred Hubble.”
Had they not given different surnames or bluish skin, she might have thought they were not a ‘monster’ at all but just Siamese twins. Fenella and Griselda were both a taller than Millie, perhaps half a foot. And they stood not quite as wide as two individuals would be, but not as narrow as one person either. Mildred couldn't tell they were two heads sharing one body or if they were simply joined at the hip and sharing a skirt and a leg. There maybe a vague suggestion of linked arms under the double blouse, large gymslip and cardigan? But they had very different faces, hair and voices...

Never mind. Both girls seemed pleasant enough. If a little cheeky. 

“Oh, we know, Mildred. Mildred Hubble.” The brunette said, as the blonde winked, both faces splitting into twin Cheshire cat grins. 
“Yeah, I think the whole school knows now.” Mildred blushed.

“Oh, only those nearest the court yard actually saw the whole thing! Come on.” The blonde smiled kindly as the brunette patted Mildred on the shoulder. “Like the teachers have said, we’ll be looking after you while you settle in.”

“Thanks Fenella.”
“No I’m Gris. That’s Fenella.”

“Fenny, please.” Fenny smiled over Mildred apologies for the mix up. “Relax it happens all the time. We’ll show you to your room first I think?”

Around them students were splitting off in all different directions as they too were shown around.

“That was a smashing entrance by the way.” Gris smiled and bent down to help with Mildred’s mere luggage. Mildred’s broom however gave up the ghost and fell apart at the splinter. “Woops. Quite literally.”
Mildred could only try and not to get upset about a new broom in two bits on top of everything else. “I don’t suppose you know a spell to fix it?”

“I’m sure it’s nothing a bit of spell-o-tape can’t fix.” Fenny assured her as she and Gris examined it. “We’ll get some from Mr Blossom for you later.”
“Mr Blossom?”
The girls nodded, and Fenny summoned a candle to light their way as they set off up the stairs. “He was the zombie in the yard. Our handy man, Gardner- “ 
“Cleaner, mechanic,“ Gris joined in. “Ambassador of mankind to HB as all men must perish at her feet.”

“What?!”

“Trap setter, mad inventor.” Fenny continued as though Mildred hadn’t squeaked. “He’ll try anything he can turn his hands too. And he has a few of those to spare.”
“Don’t worry. He’s harmless, just undead.” 

Mildred thought back. Mr Blossom hadn’t gawked at her and was quite smiley for a zombie. not she’d ever seen one outside horror movies. He had sprouts and greenery in his body gaps for one thing. And he was missing one side of his face so maybe he hadn’t seen most of her entrance.

“I see. and Miss Cackle. She was defiantly a ghost, right?” Mildred asked, still in a bit of a daze. And she was beginning to suspect that while not untruthful, Fenny and Gris seemed to find teasing her and telling slightly tall tales amusing.

“Headmistress and head ghost.” they corrected.

“The one you flew though on the way to the bins.”

“Oh Cripes.”

Chapter Text

“Oh cripes.” Mildred suddenly felt a bit sick, having realized what that sudden sharp icy sensation had been moments before the crash.
“Cripes indeed.” Gris parroted. “Excellent barrel roll and swan dive in that bit of the routine.”
“I don’t think you could have done that again if you’d tried. Bonus marks for not dismounting there and then.” Fenny complimented.

“Has anyone else ever flown though her?” she asked faintly. The pair frowned.

“Well… we climbed through her office window once. And she was behind her desk. If that counts?”
“I don’t think it does, Fenny. Oh, don’t worry Mildred! You’re not the first around here to go through a ghost. The first to fly through Miss Cackle yes, but she gets walked through a lot.”
“Yeah she’s been teaching forever so she’s probably used to it. And she drifts through walls all the time as well so accidents are bound to happen.“
“That’s a relief.” Mildred said, as they turned off one stair way up another then down a corridor.

“This is your form. Well most of it, I think one of the girl’s is outside and another’s downstairs. And yes, don’t fret. Ghost girls fly through or get flown though a lot during practice too.”
“and Even HB’s stormed through a student by accident. twice that we’ve seen.”
“just look where you’re going and don’t do it on purpose to Cackle or any of the other ghosts, it’s very rude.” Gris said. “Its normally a mark of respect to move out of their way if you can, ah here we are. this is you. say hello room.”
“Hello room.” Mildred smiled feeling a lot better after Talking with the gruesome twosome.
“Excellent! you’ll be mad as us if you make it to second year.” Fenny smiled back. 
She hadn’t been paying much attention to where they were going and Mildred hoped she could remember how to find it again. Like the castle itself, her room was creepy and dusty but somehow homely; with minimal furnishings, complete with bats hanging upside down on the ceiling and her name on the old door. There was no glass in the windows either, much to Fenny and Gris’s amusement.

“A window pane?!”
“Fresh air. Part of the great cackle tradition.” They mocked in bad impersonations of their deputy’s snappy tone and headmistresses’ drone. Before breaking into sniggers. Twin sniggers, even as they sat down on the edge of Mildred’s new old creaky little bed.
“Along with cold feet runny noses and goose bumps!”
“and forming icicles if you’re a mostly water baster creature. Watch the stairs for frozen slime come winter.”
“I heard one time was so bad there was frost forming on Cackle! Every time she went through a wall it was like a tiny snowfall!”

“Wow. Has Miss Cackle always been here then?” Mildred asked, setting her bag on the bed and taking off her hat and cloak before joining them on the bed. The hat had bent on impact of her crash and try as she might she couldn’t straighten it. “if the school’s in her name.”

“Oh, yes she was here a student. But the school was set up by one of her great great great great great great Grandmothers.” Fenny grinned as though eager to spill the historical gossip. “Our Miss Cackle went away, became a teacher and had a family. By then the school became a real school and moved into the castle.”

“you missed two greats off Fen. Then when her husband died she came back to Cackles. Then took over from her Granny as headmistress. and then stayed on after she and her sister died. Quite tragic really.” Gris said, with the same enthusiasm. Then causally dropped the ghost story. “Don’t be offended if she calls you the wrong name. Or muddles up what class you’re in. Or what year it is.” 
“She’s just been teaching for so long. A lot of them have actually.” Fenny shrugged. “Some of the adult folks are well into triple digits’ age wise. But a few weeks into term and the old cloggers normally have got it down.” 

“That said,” they wickedly said in unison. “You might have made a big enough impression on them already…Mildred, Mildred Hubble.”

Chapter Text

Mildred listened as she quickly unpacked her school bag, leaving in just the map and time table with her for now. She even shared some of her sweets with the pair. They graciously took one each but worked together to unwrap them one at a time with both hands.
“So, Mildred,” Fenny asked as Gris’s mouth was full. “Would you like to settle in first and we come get you later? Or would you rather go for a tour before it gets to dark?” Mildred opted for the tour and hoped she wouldn't get too frightened.
“Excellent.” Gris said with a crunch. “It’s normally not as dark in the corridors this time of day, by the way. It’s just where the lamps haven’t been lit yet. They’ll assign hallway monitors from the third year tonight.”

The pair stood up, dusted off their skirt and then the three of them headed back into the corridor together. Fenny however looked Mildred up and down critically and asked, “Are you alright though? If you don’t mind me saying so you look a bit- Ow!”

Gris had suddenly swatted Fenny with ‘her’ hand in the chest. Or at least Fenella’s side of their chest? And there was something like a barge or a nudge in the shoulders under the uniform. Whatever it was it threw them both off balance and stumble too much to be subtle.
“Gris, what the-!?”
“Don’t be rude!” Griselda hissed, glancing at Mildred almost apologetically. Then back at Fenny: “We can’t just ask her if she’s- she’s that.”
“I was going to say a bit peaky!” Fenny retorted as they carried on walking. Well striding and wobbling a bit. Now as they walked out of step of one another, Mildred could see between them Fenny and Gris had four legs. Well four leg she could count. But sometimes their switching step made the thin middle legs made it look like Fenny and Gris only had three.

“She looks scared! I wasn’t going to say- well you know.”
“No I didn’t know! I was trying not let you put your foot in it.”
“Charming. You still didn’t have to hit me like a barbarian and make it look worse!”

Mildred followed them, fairly certain if she was supposed to be offended at something. But had no idea what.

However, the bickering and sulking was over as soon as it started. Possibly because they came within sight of the library. Fenny and Gris both brightened up, showing Millie the study areas, the big book of spells and the front desk. Or at least there was a desk somewhere underneath the huge pile of unsorted returned books. Somewhere in that pile too, someone, someone big and someone gruff, was snoring. It was a Liberian called Caspian DerBloom (or Casper for short) was asleep at the desk. Mildred couldn’t see him under all the books that had been piled on top of him. She hoped he was friendly.
“Oh I wouldn’t say friendly. he’s grumpy a lot and rude. But don’t worry he only eats doughnuts.” Fenny shrugged when asked. Gris agreed.
“Just don’t ever do anything stupid like write in a book or rip pages out.”
“Why?” Mildred asked. Did their librarian get awfully cross? The pair looked at her as if she was the one with two heads.

“…Because it’s just common decency?”
“Who even does that to books?”

Chapter Text

It soon became clear that if given the choice, Fenny and Gris would have happily given the tour just in the library. But with just a little bit of pestering on Mildred’s part, they moved on. Once the pair had checked themselves out a small stack of books.
“New term, new reading material.” Fenny explained.

They sort of explained the time table to her as well, although it still went over her head. Mildred had sort of gathered some year groups were staggered in their lessons, and that breakfast was more towards when she’d normally have dinner.
And only ‘The Vampire’ was on time for anything during the first week.
And that while going to bed at 2am most nights seemed fun, the scheduled dawn ingredients gatherings often happened four hours later so that took all that fun out of it.

As for the tour, the trio started at the bottom of the castle, and worked their way up. And by ‘starting at the bottom’, they meant underground.
Or at least to the bottom of a very dark wide spiral staircase that led to hallways that then led further underground. In one direction were the kitchens. where lots of noise, sounds and smells, (not all of them pleasant,) wafted up to them.

“Foods always cold because it takes ages to get upstairs. Especially if you’re Tapioca.” Gris explained as they walk past the doors. As if that made complete sense. Some other paths led to storage space, and places for drying ingredients, or where lost and confiscated bits and bobs were kept.

But in other direction were dungeons. Dungeine-dungeons. It had old castle cells, with bars, tiny slit high windows. They had locks, stocks, and chains, and hay on the floor, the lot. Fenny warned her not to come down here without permission. Mildred said she wouldn’t like to come down there even with permission thank you.
“Good.” Gris nodded. “We’re fairly certain there’s a crypt down here somewhere too. But we haven’t found it yet.”

They certainly hadn’t mentioned this in the brochure Mildred thought. She’d find out why soon enough though.

But for now, she followed her guides back upstairs. Past the staff room and Miss Cackle’s office with its chairs out front. Around the potions lab and the class rooms. The tallest tower and the smallest; (there were only two be fair so that bit didn’t take long). The Great Hall, the bathrooms and the sick bay. The battlements and archways that lent out over the caught yards. Anywhere that they could think of. Mildred just knew she was going to get muddled even with the map provided.

In the photos she’d seen, the castle seemed small as if there was only a handful of rooms. Like a fake castle film set almost. It hadn’t seemed intimidating just a bit rundown and gloomy.

But in real life, the castle was much bigger. Especially on the inside. It was gloomy rundown castle sure, but still a fully functional school building with damp creepy corridors a plenty, and most open enough to accommodate those girls of a more unusual size. Bats and the odd crow fluttered about the rafters. Cats slinked and lazed about, glad to be out of their baskets and able re explore.

And all the while, girls and students filled the hall ways.

Mildred and her chaperones had passed a few in the corridors. And there had been one or two others in the library. But now in the main hub of the school, everywhere Mildred looked, there were monsters. Or creatures. Or beings. Or…ones she didn’t even know how to describe. Here, there and all over.

They were coming in from or going out to the yards, choosing to spend their free time outside. They stood about in groups, catching up with friends and pinning things on notice boards.
Some in full uniform right up to the pointy hat. Some only had on certain items of uniform, as if unable to find a blouse or boots that fit. Or, like Fenny and Gris, wore altered gymslips. Some already in their pyjamas.
Some big some small. Some scary looking some not. Some looked fairly normal, till you saw something very un-normal.
Hellos roars squawks shrieks and laughter filled the air. Shouts of names filled Mildred’s ears.
“What did you do over hols?” “So good to see you!” and “Have you got your project done?” bounced around the place.
And Mildred saw showing off spells. Of sending bags to their rooms and brooms to the sheds. Sparks of magic and tricks. Fur. Stone. Wings. Eyes. Teeth-!

Monsters everywhere. And Witches, all of them.

Chapter Text

Mildred tried to be brave. And not to panic. But once the shock wore off, it wasn’t as bad as she thought it might be.

Monsters every where, other students everywhere. Just like normal big school.

There many second years who greeted Fenny and Gris, and swapped a few titbits of gossip with them. Most the older girls they past were either aloof or were civil as they passed by the first year. but there was also some smiles and reassuring nods from kinder girls. Some were friendly. Some sniggered and made rude comments about Mildred flying behind her back. One girl did so a tad too loudly and was rounded on by Fenny, with withering looks from Gris.

“Two faced little witch, that one.” Mildred heard Gris mutter as they moved on, without a trace of irony.

But then a fourth-year dwarf with braids in her beard complimented Mildred on her long plaits. Which was nice. She had an axe blade built into the handle of her short broomstick. Which was cool. But probably not entirely legal.

Speaking of probably not entirely legal, soon after that another second-year, (a girl with huge spidery lower body and extra eyes), stopped in their path in one hallway. From her cloak, she quickly drew a little parcel wrapped in spun silk. Then clattered on past in her eight boots without a word.

This it turned out was because of a secret betting ring scheme some girls had on hidden away from the teachers. For predicting a both late-for-gate first year AND a broom stick crash, the two joint second-years had won a joint jack pot of three pounds, four toffees and a jar of something green. With Mildred being both, Fenny and Gris decided to split the winnings with her, giving Mildred a pound and the sweets. She decided not to ask about the jar or where the spider silk had come from.

And among the upper years, some fellow first years getting their own tour with their chaperones. She didn’t see the wolf cub who helped her in the yard earlier again. But Mildred did accidently bump into someone in her year in the class room corridor. A large cat like on fours with a human-ish face someone that might have been a sphinx. They bowed to her when Mildred apologised. Mildred saw a flash of first year sash around their waist and a shiny black swishing tail. But then Fenny and Gris called for her to catch up. And when she turned back, the might-have-been a Sphinx had already set off the other way.

Judging from the rooms on her floor and what Fenny and Gris said, she figured all together there must be nearly nineteen other first-years. Despite the slight age gap, she did want to get along with her class mates. So, hoping they didn’t find her too odd, (either for her entrance or her scholarship) Mildred smiled or waved to anyone she saw from her form. Or smiled back and waved back if they greeted her first. Like the older girls, they were a mixed bunch. But the ones she saw seemed friendly or at least civil.

All bar Ethel Hallow, who wasn't either. As the two groups passed each other on opposite sides of the inner court yard, she sneered and gnashed her Straight white baby like teeth at Mildred. And Mildred was sure something tugged her plait hard at the same time.

But couldn't prove it.

Chapter Text

“That’s the new Hallow’ed girl, isn’t it?” Gris asked. She and Fenella frowned after Ethel and the third-year yeti she was following.

“What was that all about, Mildred?” Fenny asked.

“I don’t know. So, who are the other teachers?” Mildred lied and fishing out her welcome pack.

“Well. you met Cackle.” Gris started, confused about the change in subject. Mildred ignored the exchanged ‘look’ between them and opted instead looking through her timetable.

“And Miss Hardbroom.” Mildred reminded. “What about her?”

“We’ll come back to HB.” Fenny said a smirk flickering across both their faces. “What lesson do you have first?”

 

It was very odd how the time tables went right through one twelve o'clock to the next. Even her rest was scheduled. Mildred made a note to ask which was which midnight. Back to the task at hand however and she saw the first lesson after her first tutorial would be Chanting. With a Miss:

“Baton.” Gris said. “But she goes by Miss Bat most of the time nowadays. It’s her favourite transformation. So is now Bat by name and fruit Bat by nature. She’s a vegetarian vampire, with an odd sense of humour.”

Fenny screwed up her face in disgust. “And odd sense of taste. Seriously. Don’t eat anything she offers you. I’ve heard her snacks have taken out girls whose normal diets would consist of an environment risk.”

 

“Gross.” Mildred winced with a giggle. “Then I’ve jewellery, charms and sigils making with- oh. There's two names here.”

 

“Ah yeah. Miss Mould and Ms Nightingale. They’re our sort of crafts and art teachers.” Fenny said.

“Don’t you mean arts and crafts?” Mildred asked.

“No.”

Gris smiled, “They do art but then they do a bit of everything too, like spell theory and craft stuff.”

“Though everyone says Nightingale’s trying to get Bat’s chanting job.”

 

They headed back toward the main stairs. Mildred still with her nose in her welcome pack, listening to Fenny and Gris’s chatter.

 

“Or Bat’s a bit paranoid Nightie’s after her job?” Gris continued. “We’re not sure. But Nightingale is a wonderful singer.”

“But apparently, they’re both MUCH better then Granite, the old teacher.”

 

“Any way Mould and Nightie work in tandem. One of them,” Fenny explained. “Moldy by the way. She’s a Gargoyle. And turns to stone during the daytime.”

“Complete with lichen. She’ll be you’re spellings teacher in third year too. Well, part-time obviously.”

“And the other, Night’gale is a bird at night. We’ve had her most last year she’s really nice. But Cursed, poor thing.”

 

“Like the swan princess?” Mildred asked.

“Exactly.” Fenny and Gris agreed.

 

“So is she Miss Nightingale because she becomes a Nightingale? Like Miss Baton is Miss Bat?”

 

“Oh no. She turns into a huge raven, weirdly.”

“Right. Of course. So, Daytime lessons Nightingale, Night time ones are with Miss Mould?” Mildred said, trying to get it right way around. “And it depends when your lesson is to who you have?”

“You got it. Both are a bit vague and obsessed with being one with your …materials...”

 

“Who’s you’re favourite then?” Mildred asked, not noticing the trail off. “And if it depends on daylight, does one do work more in the winter and then they swap for the summer?”

She too trailed off at no response, and turned back to them. Fenny and Gris had stopped in their tracks. Actually, no. That wasn’t accrete description.
The older girls hadn’t just stopped.
They’d froze, half way up the stairs. Two feet pausing misstep then landing heavily with a jolt. And a sort of hush had fallen over some of the girls milling about in the hall way. All at the sound of squeaky footsteps thudding their way. Some students turned a little hesitantly turned towards the sound; There was a restrained slightly panicked look on Fenny’s face and Griz was gnawing on her lip a bit.

And Mildred realized she’d never thought that monsters might get nervous too.

Chapter Text

And she wouldn’t have thought any one would be nervous of who rounded the landing corner at a jog. Being nervous to see Miss Cackle, that was understandable. Being nervous to see Miss Hardbroom, well Mildred certainly terrified to do so. She was not however in the least bit made nervous by the sight or sound of this new adult in bright active wear with squeaky trainers. And maybe that wasn’t a good thing? Mildred had seen her earlier perhaps. But try as she might she couldn’t think where from...

“Come along Griselda, Fennella. Don’t dawdle.” The lady (this teacher, Mildred corrected) called as she approached. “The others are nearly all done and dusted! And I’m sure- Mildred isn’t it?- could do with a rest by now.”

“Y-yes Miss,” they chorused. And smiled when she smiled at them. In fact, the very air relaxed as fast as it had quieted, the chatter and the noise returned to its near deafening hubbub. With a lot of giggling. And Fenny blushing. 

Ah Mildred realised. It wasn’t a scared sort of nervous. It was the other one, the one with butterflies.

“It’s not like you two to be parted from your books for too long.” The ‘Miss’ teased in a light-hearted way.  But then, with just the briefest glances to check there was no one underneath her, she hard and fast vaulted over the banister.

 

Mildred didn’t see her land. But there was a THUD, along with the sound of bone losing to stone. Several girls (including Gris) gasped sharply and one yelped. Then silence so Mildred ran to the banister to fetch help.

But instead of a crumpled heap of a person below, the teacher was on her feet with a bounce like a jack in the box. none the worse for wear.

 

“Don’t be late for supper now.” Miss called back up to the joined pair. As if there was nothing out of the ordinary about parkoring over high drops down. Or the possibility of shattering both legs all the way up. Rather than just, you know, taking the stairs? Mildred watched her go as she weaved in and out of other girls; greeting them and small talking as she went not, all fazed by anyone’s appearance.

Speaking of appearance what had that teacher looked like? Mildred suddenly couldn’t remember.

 

As this unknown adult jogged out of sight down another corridor Fenny and Gris  Shared a squeal between them. Well Fenny squealed as they started back up the stairs. Gris rolled her eyes affectionately clearly used to her bosom buddy’s obvious crush and grabbing of hands.

“Isn’t she daring? That is- well was, -Miss Drill.” Fenny said with a sigh, answering the question before Millie could ask. 

“Daring? More like dangerous.” Gris affirmed and turned back to Mildred. Now there was something wicked in her grin. “She’s the youngest teacher here.  P.E and school guidance counsellor... And Fenny’s absolute patch if you hadn’t noticed.” 

Fenny blushed lilac again but didn’t take offence.

“Just because you like them centuries old, tall, sharp and handsome.” She teased back. Gris now blushed a dark purple but Fenny continued, “Darlin’-Drilly also takes the ‘how to blend in’ lessons for those who want to live among common folk. And she’s evasive manoeuvres trainer, even though she’s not a witch.”

 

“Not a witch?” Mildred brighten. “So, is she totally normal then? She’s like my mum and dad?”

 

But where Mildred had brightened at the idea of some normality or a link in this crazy new environment, both Fenny and Griz’s faces’ darkened.

 

“No…you saw that jump.” Gris said exchanged a look with the other head. “She’s most defiantly one of us.”

“She just can’t use magic in the sense we can. And none is allowed in her classes bar broomstick flying.” Fen continued, suddenly very serious.

“What, none at all?” Mildred said. she thought  it  seemed odd that in a school full of spells. “So, she’s not a witch but can she use magic?”

“Yes.” Gris insisted. “Well, No.”
At the very same time as Fenny said, “No. I mean yes.”

 

The off  sync  of their answers threw Mildred. And she wasn’t sure to what question they meant yes and no too. “But how can she work here if -”  

 

“She just does.” Gris sighed, took Mildred's timetable from her and changed the subject.  “Speaking of cover-.”

“We weren’t.” Mildred said.


“We were. Earlier.” Fenny said back with a shrug.
 “ Anyway, Miss Crotchet. She also does chanting so you might get her for lessons if Bat is- well, elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere being sulking in the staffroom cupboard.”

“Grissy, I was being polite for once!”


“It’ll be easier for Mildred to find Bat if
 she  needs her.” Gris shrugged.  “Crotchets’ half harpy on her mother’s side. But you’ll like her.”

“She’s nice. Sweet even. More rock and roll musicality wise, but much less wild then Batty or Nightingale so you actually have to study in class. But it’s worth it.”

“She teaches mostly the upper years, the bands, and the school choir.” Gris said. “Doesn’t like her name being misspelt though so remember it’s Crotchet as in the musical sort not knitting. Or else you really see the Harpy side of her. Now for English- Oh dear. Looks like you’ve got the dragon. Hope you like the smell of smoke.”

 This place is mad, Mildred thought. And wondered what on earth was in store next…

Chapter Text

“- And she’ll then take you for maths and spell science in year four.” Fenny and Gris had continued listing through the faculty all the way back up to her room, skimming over ones Mildred wasn’t likely to get in her first year. “Right cow that one. And very boring for a skeleton actually. I’ve never known one so dull!”
“Yes, always droning on about health and safety in the lab space… Then for history, you’ve- ugh. Professor Gimlet.”

“What does she look like?” Mildred asked as they neared the first-year’s corridor.
“Hard to tell, under all that dark- I wouldn’t call it hair. bur it’s not fur either. And has glasses. but she’s invisible most of the time. Sort of. We think.” Fenny said, then thought, “or just likes hiding in dark places.”
“No one’s sure. I’m not convinced the rest of staff know either and that she isn’t just a shadow with glasses that came with a PHD attached.” Gris shrugged. “Professor Grimm-let doesn’t show up to class a lot.”
“Or she is there, just lurking. Or asleep under the desk. And doesn't say anything until you do something like get up to use the bathroom. And then the Prof screams at you and gives you detention.” Fenny sighed, with an air of someone who’d made that mistake one too many times.
“It’s easier just to get on with whatever exercise or reading passage is set out on the board.” Gris suggested. “Oh, rats!”
(“Where?!” shrieked a passer-by.)

“What is it?” Mildred asked as she opened her room door, letting the duo in behind her.
Gris sighed and shook her head turning to Fenny. “I just realised, we’re second-years now right?”
“Yeah. So?”
“So, Gimlet’s now our Form Mistress.”
“Fantastic.” Fenny said, her nose wrinkled in distance. “Well I guess it’s only for ten months. we managed alright last year with-! ”

Fenny stopped. And Looked at Gris. Gris looked at Fenny. Then winked at one other.

“What?” Mildred asked again. Because they both then smiled at Mildred; slowly, wickedly.
“Well, it’s just. Speaking for form teachers…” Gris said the pair advancing on her. Mildred backed up but her legs hit the bed and she sat her down on her bed, the gruesome twosome laughing over her.
“Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.” Fenny intoned, “But are you brave enough to listen, Mildred?”

Mildred nodded, trying to be braver then she felt. Again. “Listen to what?

“Because Finally for you our little first year,” Gris said sweetly. They’d leaned in close now, one hand holding the candle the other on a scared Mildred’s shoulder. Was it getting darker? Or did it just seem it, as they grinned like Cheshire cats at her, starting to pass dialogue lines between them, “our little fresh meat. Allow us to introduce,”
“The Real Monster in The Laboratory.”
“The Shadow in The Corridor. Oh, I hope you kissed your folks’ goodbye?”
“Your Worst Nightmare.”
“The true fear of all first years.”
“The Witch that scares the Bump in The Night.”
“Are you scared yet, Hubble?”
“Because that Ice Queen has a Hot Cold Fury!”
“Lady of The Night!”
“The Vampire Victorious.”
“Have you got your affairs in order?”
“The Real Head Witch Bitch in Charge.”
“The Deputy Undead Herself-!“
“The One!”
“The Only-!”

“Miss Hardbroom?” Mildred asked (Completely unaware merely saying her name or initials might sometimes cause HB to appear out of spite!). And momentarily knocked all the wind out of the second years wind up. “Is that who you meant?”

“Tsk! Spoil-sport.” Gris complained clucking her tongue.
And Fenny said with exasperation, “Of Corse we do! We said we’d come back to her.”
They straightened up. And whatever spell they’d used to mess with the light in the room lifted, changing the room from sinister back to its gloomy but homely self. Mildred got the sense they’d been waiting for the right moment to spring on her with the stories and the theatrics. If they had separate bodies they might have sat one either side of her for extra effect.

“Anyway, you don’t need to be afraid of Hardbroom-!” Gris continued, putting the candle down on Mildred’s nightstand.
“No, be very afraid!” Fenny said with a cackle giving Millie a playful shove. “She’s the strictest sharpest teacher here, Mildred.”
“Even Casper’s got nothing on her bad temper. Which she’s always in.” Gris said. “They say she has a nearby town all under her spell and at her beck and call so she can drink blood whenever she likes.”
“We know her whispering even frightens the oogie-boogie students! And they eat nightmares for breakfast. (Literally, it’s gross.)” Fenny said, also picking up the spooky tone again. “HB’s the lady with lamp-.”

Mildred however, despite already fearing HB, decided they might be twisting her arm a pinch. And trying to scare her maybe, just because she was new. And normal too.
“But with an awful bedside manner.”
“More like bedtime manner.”

“Don’t ever, ever let her catch you up past lights out.”
“Not unless you value your life. Or school record.”

“I hear the last girl she caught up out of bed is still lost somewhere in the woods.”
“Cursed to wander like she did the corridors that night by she who must be obeyed.”

“There’s a ghoul in the attic being forced to write out a trillion really long lines.”
“She was alive when she started but it’s been so many years!”

“And there’s another at the bottom of the pond. Didn’t hand her homework in or something.”
“Now can only croak!”

“And then of course, there are all the horrible sort of things that happen to horrible little girls who spread horrible little rumours.”

“Yeah,” the pair agreed. Then Fenny and Gris, and Mildred jumped.
Because that last sentence came from behind them. And in a very cold, unimpressed voice.

In the open doorway, she stood: The Real Monster in the Laboratory, The Shadow in the Corridor, and the Witch that scares the Bump in The Night. The Ice queen, the Lady of the Night, The Vampire Victorious. The True Fear of not just first years, but All Years. Mildred’s form mistress and Worst nightmare: She Who Must Be Obeyed, the Deputy Undead herself; the One and thank goodness Only…

Miss Constance Hardbroom.

Chapter Text

 

“How long had she been stood there?” Mildred thought, as the joint second years fumbled to turn around; each girl trying to her own way then the other. And how much had she heard?

 

Enough, judging by the steady glare HB was giving Fenny and Gris as she stepped into the room and drew out every word. The very temperature seemed to drop around her.

 

“Well, well, well. Griselda Blackwood. And Fenella Feverfew. I might have known it be you two causing mischief.” The Vamp sneered at them both. Before her eyes fell on Mildred and she amended. “You Three now, I suppose.”

“Yes Miss!” “No Miss!” Fenny & Gris stammered fiddling with their year sash, (it was really two-year sashes tied together to make one.)

 

“We were just-“

 

Miss Hardbroom held up a finger to silence them, not looking away from Millie. Looking, with those dark red eyes, in which something awful flickering behind the distain. Once again that hard stare put such a fright up Mildred. But a look she couldn’t blink at, let alone tear herself away from meeting. Even as the Vampire witch moved closer to her.

 

“Just filling the new Scholarships girl’s head with stories.” HB finished in a tone that sent a chill down Mildred’s spine. “Am I to assume given the three of you are in the one room this tour has very nearly concluded?”

Mildred, not sure if she was the one being addressed nodded.

“Good.”

 

With that the Vampire stopped suddenly turned snappish. “Not even Three Hours into this new term and I have to remind you again the need for Deportment?” she said the chin jutting angrily. “We run a very tight ship here at Cackles and I do not take kindly to Any tomfoolery. Regardless of species. And you two-!”

She barked turning back to Fenny& Gris. Well more rounding on them, her voice near a shout.

“What a surprise! When will you learn, this is a school not a just a playground for your gossip and pranks!”

(It might be awful to say but Mildred was glad HB had turned on them. A little bit. She Could finally breath and blink again for one thing.  And get a better look at the severe HB now Mil wasn’t under her scrutiny. Not that there was much information to gather in this light. Nothing she didn’t see earlier in the yard. Chalk white skin and Tall. Midnight black high collared long dress. Hair in a large bun set tight and far back. keys on a tight belt. Dark lips. And sharp, sharp teeth-!)

Miss Hardbroom folded her arms, once again cool and measured, eyes narrowing dangerously. “Miss Cackle warned you last year about what would happen if you continued these shenanigans. You might have fooled everyone else into thinking you’ve turned over a new leaf and thrown yourself into your studies. But I do not buy it. So I suggest you finish up this little ‘tour’ in an orderly fashion. On your way. No more stories or trying to scare the likes of…”

She turned back to the new scholarship girl, and paused as if encountering something unpleasant she didn’t wish to name.

“Mildred Hubble.”

 

Even The way she said her name made Mildred quake in her boots. But with that, and a final glance at the second years Miss Hardbroom turned on her heel and swept out of the room; short heels clickclacking on the floor. The door closed behind her with such a snap that blew the candle out.

 

Mildred made to speak, something unkind on her tongue. But the second years held up a hand to her to stop, the other a shushing gesture. To right too, as suddenly- HB’s voice boomed and Echoed about the room. “And you two can report to the staffroom afterwards! IMMEDIATELY!”

 

+++++

 

 “She won’t last a week.” Constance growled nearly an hour later. Once she’d given (unfairly according to the others) Fenny and Gris a break time indoors for ‘filling the school with rumours’.

“Who won’t?” Miss Cackle asked.


“I’m sure those two second years could have found you a bookie if you want to have a flutter on how long she’ll last.” Miss Nightingale suggested. “Get the odds on for a week.”

 

It was a bit of a sore point that all the staff knew vaguely about the black market of contraband and little gambling rings that took place in the school. But even in all her years teaching not even Constance had been able get rid of them completely. They were as much a part of the school traditions as midnight feasts and the occasional invasion of evil sisters. 

So Ms Nightingale got a hard Hardbroom glare for her remarks.

 

With either perfect timing or coincidence suddenly there was Poof of sparkles and feathers. And a raven perched on the back of a chair where Ingra had been.A few members of staff jumped. More at the sound then the usual occurrence.

“Blooming Sundown.” Miss Gullet scowled pulled a stray feather out of her mug and swatted a laughing Nightingale the Raven with a skeletal hand.

Miss Cackle nodded. “Would some on get a coffee for Marigold? I expect she’ll be up in a minute or two.”

“Oh, is she here? I haven’t seen her.” Lavina said.

“Got in early this morning.” Imogen told her.

“She came in the daylight? How?”

“By post. Mr Blossom and I put her in the art room out the way.”

 

“Well that’s her accounted for. I don’t suppose anyone’s seen Professor Gimlet, Mr De Bloom or Miss Bat have they?” Miss Cackle asked. No one had. “Hmm. Anyway you were saying Miss Hardbroom? Who won’t last a week?”

“The Scholarship girl.” The distrust in her voice was almost on par with the way she discussed things like Art and sports.

 

“It’s been a while since we had one of them.” Lavina chuckled.

“Nineteen years to be precise.” Constance said. She put her fang friendly teacup down and dabbed at her mouth. “And that girl had been bright and from a witching family. But still on lasted three terms. This Mildred Hubble won’t manage here.”

“That’s a very defeatist attitude Miss Hardbroom.” Miss Drill said. “Even by your standards.”

“Agreed.” Gullet said. “I reckon it’ll be at least a fortnight before she jacks it in.”

“Ah.” Miss Cackle disagreed with them and said so. “Well I’m afraid I disagree with you both there I think Mildred will be quite-!“

 

The head mistress and head ghost was interrupted however. There was a large crash above them. It must have been very large to be heard from two stories down. And HB’s sharper hearing picked up the caterwauling of mischief and broken glass. From the first-year corridor.

Chapter Text

 

Mildred made to speak, something unkind on her tongue. But the second years held up a hand to her to stop, the other in a shushing gesture in the space between their heads. To right they did too, as suddenly HB’s voice boomed and Echoed about the room:

 

“And you two can report to the staffroom afterwards! IMMEDIATELY!”

 

“Yes, Miss Hardbroom!” The pair chorused.

 

There was a beat.

 

Then the room settled; like one might breathe a sigh. The three bats who’d squawked, disturbed by the shouts, returned to sleep. The cool room seemed warmer, lighter than it did before. If that were possible of course.

(“It is?” Mildred remembered. “Magic, duh!”)

Fenny and Gris cracked the door open, looking up and down the corridor at the same time. Then opened it wide, making extra sure they were alone again and breathed a collective huff of annoyance. Now there was more light, Mildred relaxed just a little. But she opened one of the shutters just to be okay.


“I hate it when she does that! It’s okay. She’s gone.” Fenny said then turned back to their first year. “Well done Mildred. You must be stronger then you look.”

 

“Yeah, well done on not fainting or crying. Ottoline in our year nearly wet herself when HB first so much as looked at her like that.”

 

“Just Ottery?” Fenny snorted. Gris squawked and pushed her - which also pushed herself- so sent them both falling over, thankfully landing on Mildred’s bed. but whatever the in-joke was it went over Mildred’s head. Because Mildred was too busy thinking about what had just happened. It wasn’t an improvement to how HB had spoken to her after the crash landing.

 

“Is she always like that?” she asked. The pair stopped scuffling and sat back up. “All as angry and scary if she’s going to bite your head off?... No pun intended.”

“Ah, yes. HB’s like that with everyone more or less.” Fenny reassured, sounding not at all sorry. “But, I suppose, not everyone gets off to a flying start like you did.”

Mildred, despite herself, gulped.

 

“Oh, leave her alone Fen,” Gris sighed, despite filling Mildred’s head with just as many horror stories. “It isn’t Mildred fault she inspires some blood lust.”

 

“And she’s my form tutor?”


“‘Fraid so, first year.” Fenny said. “As well as your potions mistress, theory teacher and will be taking most of your first year flying bar rare occurrence in summer in where it’s far too sunny. You know Grizzy, I’m actually glad we’ve got Gimlet now.”

 

“Hmm We might be able to have some fun again without HB appearing over our shoulder. Especially if she’s got Mildred to keep an eye on.” Gris smirked, with a wink at Mildred. “Don’t go eating garlic now.” 

“And no taking pointy sticks to class.” Fenny said wagging a finger. “Remember Cackles Number One Rule: Don’t Anger the Vamp.”


 “I think I already have.” Mildred pointed out. “Is she the sort to bear a grudge?”

 

“Ah. Er-Gris?”

“Hmm. Maybe watch your neck then?” 

“Oh, great help that is.”

 

Mildred laughed a little unable to help herself. She wasn’t sure if it was funny or shock. The pair took her hand in theirs and gave it a sympathetic squeeze.


“Hey. Don’t worry about HB. She might be a vamp but she wouldn’t hurt a student.”

“Just shout at them. You’ll be okay Mildred. You just might get lines a bit.”

“Yeah. And if she does go for your jugular we’ll nobly jump in front of her for you.”

“She won’t know which of us to bite! But you’ll have to do our homework for a month.”


“Thanks!” Mildred laughed, properly that time. “But if she does get me, I’ll make sure I leave you both all my sweets and books.”

“You’re on!” They said.

Then with a wink the pair stood up. And reeled in the silliness back in, giving the illusion of two good young girls who were always impeccably behaved.

 

“So That’s Cackles.” Fenny shrugged “Any questions?”

“Yes.” Mildred had lots. But settled on, “Now what?”

 

“Now, well you’ve this evening free to do as you please. So now just relax, rest and mingle with the other students I guess? It’s a been a long day so I recommend catching a few hours’ sleep at least.”

“The start of year welcoming feast and assembly is tonight at midnight. Then a few hours lessons before your proper bed time,” Gris added. “But you know what, we’ll come by at about ten too, and make sure you’re up.”
“Don’t go getting lost now either. It might be easier if you stay on this floor.”
“Oh yeah, your toilets and wash rooms at the east of the corridor. I knew we forgot something! Any dirty washing stick it in the big hamper by the bathroom door.”
“Towels and face clothes are provided but don’t leave your sponge bags in there. All clothes, uniform and undies need your name and form in but I guess you knew that from the uniform list.”

 

Mildred nodded, as embarrassed as any preteen would be to have your dad sewing labels on ALL your clothes. Including under things.

 

“We’ll leave you too it then. Best go see what HB wants.” Gris sighed, trying to be unbothered. “And get it over with.”

“Yeah. Anyway, we’re on the second landing up from you.” Fenny said. “Give us a scream if you need anything, Mildred.”


“Thanks. It’s been good to meet you.” Mildred said honestly. “I was worried it would be really really scary here.”


“As opposed to totally terrifying?” Gris teased. “Night.”

“You’ll be fine, fresh meat.” Fenny assured. “Night.”

“Goodnight.” Mildred said back.

“Sleep tight, and watch the bats don’t bite!” they finished, closing the door with a twin chuckle. And left Mildred debating what to do next and all alone in the near dark…

 

Chapter Text

 

Not for long though. Before Mildred had time to start missing home too much, there was a timid knock on the door.

“Come in?” Mildred said as she fumbled to re light the candle with matches. (She’s worked out over the summer how to make fire appear in her hand if she concentrated. But she had already also worked out that wasn’t a good idea.)

 

The latch lifted and the door opened. Just a little. A familiar little muzzle poked though the gap, followed by a peek of a little round furry face and even rounder glasses, still half hidden by the door. 

“Hullo. Mildred, isn’t it?” The visitor said, in a very quiet voice that had the blurs of a northern accent. It might have been husky if it hadn't been mousy. “It’s me…”

 

“And who’s me?” Mildred encouraged, pushing down her own nerves. “I didn’t catch your name before, sorry.”

“Oh er-! it’s Maud. Moonshine.” There was a nervous little chuckle and Maud the little WereWolf cub emerged properly. She was already in her night dress, a wee fluffy tail poking out the back of it.  “Are you alright now Mildred?”

 

“Yes I think so. And thanks for helping me up in the yard by the way.”

 

The lovely little wolf relaxed a little. “You’re welcome. HB is really scary, though isn’t she?”

“The scariest thing I’ve seen here so far!” Mildred agreed, patting the bed for Maud to sit down next to her.

“She makes even Mum nervous for parents evening! Most of the ladies in our pack came here too. Did yours?”

“No I’m the first from my family here.” Mildred said in awe. “But they came here? And HB taught your mum?! Cool!”

Maud beamed and told Mildred a little about it. How the Moonshines were a clan who for the past four or five generations had sent all their witch girls to Cackles (the boys were home schooled or apprentices). How one of Maud’s older cousin (a Spellbody) had been head girl the year before last. How her little sister would be starting in a few years. And how the youngest cub of the pack was set to be on the register as soon as her magic came.

 

“She’s only two. But I bet HB will still be here for her! Have you had your tour?” she asked. Mildred nodded, explaining what had happened with Fenny and Gris. And HB.

 

“Were they just stories?”

“Oh no it’s a real castle alright! Really old and mysterious.” For someone so timid Maud was very bubbly once you got to know her a little. “The school kitchens are down in the dungeons, you know?”

“I saw.” Mildred nodded, “I’m not sure I want to ever go down there. It looked so dark and the kitchens were so noisy!”

 

“Me neither. Everyone in pack says they aren’t that bad once you get used to them. But I’m not looking forward to it.” Maud shuddered. Mildred meant to ask what she meant. But was distracted by the way Maud’s ears flicked back. Maud perked up though and gleefully continued, “How was your tour? Otterline said there’s places down there even the teachers dare not go. And you mustn’t wander at the corridors at night or you might never come back! And there’s ghosts everywhere. Isn’t it exciting?”

 

 “What? Oh y-yes.” Mildred said, hoping she sounded excited rather than horrified.

 

“…Is- is something the matter?” Maud said, suddenly becoming nervous again. “You’re staring.”

Mildred jolted, caught out. “Oh! No. I mean yes but-!”

 

She had been enthralled by what Maud was saying yes. But also by Maud herself. Maud still looked very much like a young girl more than beast. She looked more like a human Corgi then a wolf, with peach fuzzy skin; the way it blended with fur and the hair on her head. At first Mildred had been startled but now:

 

“S-should I go?”

“No please don’t! I like your ears. They’re very pretty. That’s what I was staring at.” Mildred blurted out. Maud gawped at her. “Sorry! was that the wrong thing to say?”

“No. no it wasn’t. Not everyone’s comfortable with Were-things, even other monsters. I thought maybe- Thank you though.” Maud stammered totally thrown. But there was a pinking of her inner ear that Mildred took for a blush. Maud fiddled with her glasses then cocked her head to look back up at Mildred. “So, what are you by the way? If you don’t mind me asking.”

 

“Me? Oh I’m not a-”

A Monster, Mildred nearly said. Then wondered if she could use that word. So she amended, “I’m not anything. Just a scholarship girl.”

 

Maud blinked. “Just a scholarship girl? But it’s really hard to get a scholarship here!”

“Is it? Oh. I think mine was accidental.” Mildred sighed.

“Well you must be something special then?” Maud persisted and gave a little excited wag of her tail.  “Are you a shapeshifter? Or a wrathmonk? You’re no wolf or cub. Or at least you don't smell like one.” She sniffed the air and her muzzle wrinkled a little. “Actually Mildred…you still smell a teeny bit like the, well like the bins.”

 

“What? Oh no really!?” Mildred yelped. “Today had already gone wrong so far without walking around being smelly as well!”

“Not excessively!” Maud reassured her and explained. “And my nose is a bit sensitive then even most here, so I don’t think anyone else will have picked up on it. It might just be your cardigan?”

 

Mildred took it off and held it up away from her, as Maud gave it a couple of sniffs.

 

“Yuk. Yep there it is. You got something on your sleeve. Now you’ll smell like you!” Maud beamed and leaning over took deep over exaggerated sniff of her that made Mildred laugh. But then Maud drew back surprised. “Mildred you smell – you smell human.”

 

Mildred gulped, and Maud continued cocking her head again. “Really human, not just humanoid. Ordinary even… What- are you?”

 

“Er… Sort of ordinary? Like a lot.” Mildred winched, waiting for the other shoe to drop. For Maud to look at her like Ethel had. Or snarl at her like HB.

But Maud looked more confused than anything else, so Mildred cautiously explained, “When I said I’m the first from my family to come here- well My Mum and Dad are human. But aren’t magic. At all. But I’m a witch. But we only found out recently when my powers appeared. And we weren’t in the catchment areas for any day witch schools.”

 

“Oh! So that’s why you’re a scholarship! Why didn’t you just say so, silly?” Maud smiled kindly. “You know I thought you seemed a bit old for a first year.”

“Hey, only a year and two months! I was the second youngest in year eight at my old school.” Mildred said.

“But your name wouldn’t have been down for any of the other schools then? If you’re powers came in so late?” Mildred shook her head. “Wow Mildred, you might be the very first in your family to go to any magical school ever! That’s really cool. Even for a common witch!”

“Yeah, I guess so! But I’m not ‘anything’.” Mildred said. Then grinned at her new friend. “Except in need of a change and a wash if your nose is to be believed.”

“Defiantly!”

Chapter Text

Maud explained she’d been on her way to the bath rooms anyway, but had seen HB coming from Mildred’s room and hid in her own till the coast was clear. Mildred didn’t blame her. She took her pyjamas, the dirty cardigan (and her cloak just to be certain) and her wash bag and followed her to the east wing of their corridor.

 

The Bathrooms zigzagged around itself and was the only place in the castle Mildred had seen that was brightly lit. After a day in the gloom it almost dazzled her for a second. It were already steamy, condensation forming on the tiles and mirrors. It also seemed to be the place to hang out, as most of their form were already there, freshening up after their day.

Mildred said hello to anyone they passed and introduced herself and Maud to the others. Or Maud introducing Mildred if she felt brave enough. As was the case with:

 

 “Hey Jadu!” Maud being so small had to wave to get attention over people’s heads. ‘Jadu’ stopped brushing her hair in the mirror and turned then seeing who it was she dropped on to all fours. No onto front paws, Mildred realised, as suddenly there was a something that vaguely resembled a big cat in front of them.

 

“Jadu, this is Mildred.” Maud introduced as Jadu trotted over weaving in and out of the crowd of other girls. “Mildred, Jadu Wali. She’s in the room next to you I think.”

 

Jadu stopped standing up right in front of them and morphing back to the almost-girl form they’d seen a moment before, not quite as tall as Millie nor as short as Maud. But she stood as easily on two legs as she did on four.

 “Ullo. Uh ang un Swwry” Jadu said taking her wash bag out her mouth and smiled. Like many of Cackles residents, Jadu had teeth. Pointy teeth. Lots of them. In fact Jadu had three rows of them if you’d counted including two that stuck up a bit at the bottom like little tusks. But Mildred was getting used to the diverse dentistry about her. and though very full of teeth, Jadu had a nice smile that lit up her serious looking face. “Hello! Mildred The Human right? We passed in the hall earlier during the tours.”

 

“Oh! Hello again.” Jadu’s words drew a few curious glances to Mildred as she shook Jadu’s offered other hand like paw (or paw like hand depending on your perspective.) . But Millie was too please having put a name to the face of the maybe a Sphinx from earlier. The one who’d bowed to her.

 

(Well actually Jadu wasn’t a Sphinx but Mildred wasn’t too far off. Mildred would learn later that Jadu was Manticore, Of Persian decent. A Manticore will forgive you for such a mix up. A Sphinx however will take great offence if it is mistaken for a Manicore, and quite possibly eat you out of spite.)

 

“Sorry, I didn’t recognise you stood up! And sorry about bumping into you.”

“Oh bother that, I was more worried you’d been stung.”  Jadu laughed giving a jokey flick of her shiny black scorpion tail.

 

Mildred yelped in fright-(“How did I not notice that before?!” she thought.) -And Maud jumped with a squeak.

 

“I thought you said you had no poison in it yet!”

 

“I don’t. yet. but it’d still hurt wouldn’t it?” Jadu said giving the teardrop a shove back behind her. Her tail relaxed hung loose down to her long ankle. “I had a cork on the end but I’ve already lost it.”

 

Bar the freight, the ice was broken. And the girls slipped into nattering about their first day, where they were from quite easily with Jadu and some of the others. Until Mildred swapped which arm she carried her things under, bringing the cardigan to close to Maud’s face.

“Ew, Mildred. Please can you put that cardie in the wash already?”

“What wrong?” Jadu asked.

“The bins. Sorry. I’ll go get washed up actually.” Mildred said.

“I’ll warn you now, both bath tubs are taken and there’s a bit of a queue at the sinks. Ruby’s busy stitching her ears back on.”

 

Mildred heeded Jadu’s advise and headed for the showers instead. A mermaid in a nightdress was just easing herself out of one cubicle and into a waiting bath chair. Mildred said hello as the mergirl wheeled past her, and Harriet gargled back a response that sounded like a slurring cement mixer.

Bemused by what that meant Mildred undressed under her towel, took the cubicle the mermaid had vacated and had a shower. A very quick shower.

Despite the steam in the air, no matter which way she twiddled the odd-looking dial, the water barely got above lukewarm. So she opted against washing her hair and Dried off at the bench then dressed in her night things under her towel. Privacy Mildred realized wasn’t something you’d get here at Cackles. There were cubicles for the toilets obviously. and then There were curtains around each bath tub and there were little ‘cubicles’ for the showers too. But they were only fabric. There very much a changing room attitude about the place. As her old PE teacher would have said “You’re all girls here together.” Like it helped.

 

Gloria for example was soaking her scaly skin in a tub, chatting to Harriet, Maud, Jadu and another girl at the sink and not caring a jot at being naked in front of them. (Despite Maud’s pink ears and Jadu’s pointed focus on the ceiling.) Then again, some girls didn’t wear uniform at all. Or just bits they could get that fitted them. Harriet couldn’t wear shoes for example.

 

The bath room seemed to have quietened down in the time Mildred had been in the shower. You couldn’t have a private discussion here either the sound carried. Especially Harriet’s. She spoke in that gravelly sort of way that Mildred couldn’t understand as of yet, but the others didn’t seem to have any trouble.

“Harriet said Hello.” Maud translated around a mouth of tooth paste, as Mildred came over. Harriet waved and rattled something off to Maud. “She said she told you not to bother with the shower ‘cos there was no hot water. But didn’t realised you couldn’t understand her.”

“Oh right. Thanks anyway.” Mildred said, wondering how one goes about learning mermaid and how the other knew. She’d ask Maud later.

“My bad about the water.” Gloria smirked, sinking back into the tub, the water nearly sloshing over the sides. “I hate it when my scales get cold.”

 

Harriet shock her head and carried on chatting to Jadu, lamenting something.

“I know. they said I can’t wear mine either. Because it counts as jewellery not treasure.” Jadu complained in response. “Oh hey Millie, this is Ruby by the way.” She back handed the monster next to her in the shoulder. A monster still stuck at the mirror and struggling.  “Ruby! Have you met Mildred properly yet?”

 

 “OW! Watch it and no, hiya! Great landing by the way.” She smiled at Mildred’s reflection, fiddling with a needle and thread near her an ear as one might be trying to get a tricky earring in its piercing.

 

Ruby despite her name had a more emerald undertone to her stitched together black skin. She was pretty and there was white strike in her curly hair that stood on end, giving her a very rock and roll look. On the sink in front of her was a melted mess of wire pink rubber and bobbins.  Along with a jar of several spare ears, all floating in liquid. Mildred tried not to be sick at the sight of them.

“Nearly done. I’ll be with you in a mo.”

 “Okay. Mildred, we’ll be in the north corridor if you want to come?” Jadu said. “Bryony went and got some empty milk bottles from the kitchens to play skittles with. and this humidity’s getting to Maud’s fur.”

Chapter Text

Mildred shoved her dirty uniform cloak and all in to the laundry shoot then rushed to join them.

 

The castle seemed very dark and draftee after the bathrooms. Bryony, an invisible girl who looked like a floating empty uniform and a hair clip, was setting up skittles back up at one end of the corridor. At the other and in the queue, were an angry red haired satry-like kid, and most the other first year’s bar Gloria. Drusilla Paddock was clearly losing. There were a few older girls too; a second-year girl with leathery wings and horns, another Newt that could be Gloria’s older sister, and third year Ogre. Worryingly Ethel was there too. Even though she pretended to ignore Mildred, looking like the queen of England sat on the ancient radiator and hogging the only real heat in the place. She wasn’t playing either. Bryony kept score. Mildred completely missed her first shot. Maud only got one down. Jadu tried pingponging the ball between the corridor walls but only succeed in accidently knocking on three bedroom doors. Harriet scored an almost strike but also almost fell out of her wheelchair doing so. Something Drusilla was not very happy about.

 

“What happened to Ruby’s ears?”  Mildred dared to ask after a while as they waited for another go, still feeling a little green.

“HB happened.” Maud frowned. “Didn’t you see it?”

“Oh dear no you hadn’t ‘dropped in’ yet had you Mildred?” Ethel sneered loudly, clearly ear wigging. It was the first time she’d addressed Mildred since the incident in the woods. Mildred cringed at the laughs Ethel got.

“Neither was she.” Maud muttered quietly. Not enough to call Ethel out but enough to make Mildred feel a bit better and make Jadu snort. She turned back to Mildred “Sorry I forgot. Just before you both ‘arrived’ Ruby had our groups first run in with HB.”

“Oh cripes!” Mildred said, in sympathy. She’d had two HB clashes today herself. But at least her ears had been left intact!

“Cripes indeed. One moment Miss is calling the register. Then she suddenly picks on Ruby. And Ruby ends up with the plastic all melting and her stiches torn!”

“To be fair Ruby had her ear phones in and her music on. I don’t think she realised they were still playing. Loudly.” Jadu said. With a pointed look at Ruby as she joined them in the corridor.

“Yeah yeah. It helps me concentrate when I’m flying. She didn’t have to zap them.” Ruby said. She rubbed the newly stitched lobes. “I think she’s fried one my bolts too! I keep getting shocks from it. See?”

She tapped Mildred on the shoulder. Mildred yelped and felt static ran up her arm. A spark jumped from her to Maud, sending Maud’s fur on edge like a fluff ball much to everyone’s amusement.

“My hair’s going to be a nightmare to re-do.” Ruby complained ruffling her black and few white curls.

“you don’t say.” Maud sighed and huffed, trying to flatten her fur back down. “And I thought the humidity was bad!”

Before Mildred could say something kind like “it still looks nice”, there was suddenly a smash.

 

A big smash, the sort you get off several glass bottles being hit far too hard. Along with the shrieks and explosion of fragments and a beat silence before the third-year Ogre said “Oops”. And then footsteps rushed up and down stairs towards them!

On instinct, the first years fled the scene (bar Bryony). Harriet about wheeled. Ethel, wings a blur, took to the air zipping away overhead. Mildred grabbed Maud who grabbed Ruby, with Jadu running on all fours behind them. Drusilla galloped past shoving them aside and very nearly clipping Mildred's toe with a hoof but they didn’t stop.

Somehow the four of them ended up in Mildred’s room, barrelling in and snapped the door behind them. All four stayed perfectly not even daring to breath. Just listening. Backs and ears pressed against the wood.

It sounded like the poor ogre who’d caused the crash hadn’t got very far. She was very apologetic, but there was still an awful lot of telling off from an out of breath prefect. A teacher whose quiet voice Mildred couldn’t yet place was bandaging up poor Bryony. And then a dark and thunderous voice of HB. Mildred joined Jadu in lying on her stomach, peeking through the gap between the door and floor. She caught a slither sighting of the vamp but then Miss Hardbroom was gone with a “And Clean This Mess Up!”

 

Then silence. Before the four of them broke into fits of giggles.

 

Chapter Text

The four new friendly fiends stayed in Mildred’s room for the rest of evening. They decided against risking going back outside yet; bar a very important run to their own rooms for pillows and sweets; as well as more candles to light up the room. They made the little bedroom very cosy.

 

Ruby ended up sprawled one end of Mildred’s bed, Maud at the other. Mildred sat on the floor against the bed on multiplied cushions and blankets the others had made with very basic magic. Jadu was next to her, alternating between laying on the floor, and sitting like a girl and somewhere in-between the two. They chatted and laughed, each pooling a ration of their tuck together while playing cards with the minor of a tarot set. Mildred was just about to tell Maud to go fish, when something Screeched and squawked making them all jump.

 

It was the bats. Now it was dark outside, the three larger ones seemed to be getting ready to get up. Except the smaller one, (with grey fur and larger ears) pulled a wing over its head, clearly wanting more sleep.

“Wow, you got bats in your room?” Ruby asked.  

“Lucky!” Jadu said. “All I got was a damp patch that looks like Italy.”


“Yeah they’re really cute!” Mildred said, ever the animal lover. She clambered on to the bed and standing up on the mattress, began to gently stroke the nearest awake one. It sniffed her finger and shied away at first but then wriggled into the touch chirping happily. “And I think those second years were teasing me, I don’t think they bite at all. Bats sleep all day and hunt at night, like cats you know.”


“They’re beautiful. I bet it’ll be busy in here at night though.” Maud agreed. “Do they have names?”


“Not yet. I thought Winky, Blinky, and Nod.” Mildred said, pointing them out. “But there’s four of them now. That grey one wasn’t here earlier. I don’t know what to call that one.”

 

“Actually, my name is already Davina.” Yawned the grey bat, making them all girls and bats alike jump in surprise again.  ‘Davina’ stretched yawned again and flapped a wing vaguely at the other bats. “But Winkey, Blinky, and Nod seem a good choice for these three.”

“Oh. Thanks?” Mildred said looking at the others for help. But the other looked as confused as she felt.

 

“You’re welcome.” The grey bat opened her eyes and blinked at them. Then realized where she was and nearly dropped off her perch.

“Woops-a-daisy! Do excuse me I thought I was in my cupboard. I must have taken the wrong turn at the other tower. Goodness is it night time already?” She flustered and flapped. Mildred realized the bat was also wearing tiny little glasses on its snout. “Oh, but look at you all! New first years, aren’t you?” They all nodded. “How lovely. And making friends already too, isn’t that nice! Now, would of you mind opening the shutters? I best get off to the staffroom.”

 

Maud scrambled off the bed to do so. The bat dropped off her hangings properly this time. She flew about the room once, getting her bearings.

“Thank you dear.” she said. And with that shot of out the window. “See you first lesson girls!”

The four crowded the slit window watching her fly off into the dark. They saw the bat bank and circle the small tower. But then even Maud and Jadu lost sight of it after that.

 

“What… just happened?” Ruby asked after a pause.

“First lesson…I think…” Mildred said, realisation dawning. “I think that was Miss-.”

 

But it dawned on Maud much faster.

“Miss Batty Bat! She’s a vampire. She’s been here ages! She taught mum, and my aunties, AND granny.” She squeaked happily. “But wow I didn’t know she was a Bat like a real bat!”

 

++

The reason they’d lost sight of her in the dark, was that Miss Bat had circled round the tower into a dive.

 

By coincidence, just as Miss Cackle and the others were speculating her where-abouts and whether Lavina would need to cover her already she flew through the (thankfully open) staff room window as fast as she’d flown out of Mildred’s. And landed with rather spectacular fashion into a (thankfully empty) teacup; Before transforming back into a more upright form, with baton at the ready.

 

“Have I Missed anything?” Miss Bat asked, as if she hadn’t missed the entire arrival of the girls or was currently sat in the middle of the table.

++

 

“You mean that bat was Miss Baton? Our chanting teacher?” Jada. Mildred nodded.

 “It is Baton but she goes by Miss Bat. And she’s vegetarian mostly. Fenella told me that bit. Or was it Gris?” Mildred said. “but ‘Batty by name, fruit bat by nature’ they said.”

 

“So, does that mean Bat is quite batty?” Jadu pondered. Maud groaned.

“Some school! More like The Castle of Doctor Doom!” Ruby crunched a few Smarties thoughtfully. “I thought rival vampires were territorial?”

“Are they?” Mildred asked.

“Normally.” Maud said. “Then again, normally vampires, they don’t mix with wolves. But they don’t seem to mind teaching us here. How do you think that work with two on the staff then? Her and HB?”

 

“Maybe they’re friends?” Mildred shrugged; at the same time as Miss Bat shut her herself in the cupboard. All because HB complained about the noise in the first-year corridor, caused the first staff room argument of the year and said how none of it would have happened if Bat had woken up and bitten it in the bud. The other teachers gave them both a wide berth after that.

 

“Or family?” Mildred added unaware of the drama.


“Vampires normally don’t really have families Mildred. Not in the same sense most monsters and people do.” Jadu said.

“Unless they turn their own family after they’ve been bitten.” Ruby pointed out.

 

“Vampires have ‘houses’. Sort of like bloodlines of who bit who. Or like the clans like we- well like werewolves do, where it’s a family or a group of linked families.” Maud supplied. “But Vamps don’t tend to live together in a castle or a school. Or even stay near other vampires after they’ve been around for a while.”

“Especially not near other vampires from a different set.”

“Don’t they get lonely then?” Mildred said. Oh poor things.

 

“Maybe. But it’s still odd to see two vampires about together.” Jadu said.

"I suppose even by monster standards, Cackles is a bit odd.” Maud giggled.

“Is it?” Mildred asked.

 

“Yeah it is.” Ruby said. Then with not much if any tact at all asked, “Speaking of odd. What are you then, Mildred?”

 

Chapter Text

“I’ve already asked her.” Maud started. “Mildred is-!” but she was cut off from explaining.

“You’re not a vamp or Halfling, if we had to explain houses to you. Or a Franken.” Ruby said. She talked a bit loud, especially compared to Maud’s quiet little hush sadly. and Mildred wondered if it was that loud music or the reattached ears might have made her slightly Deaf to quiet things like Maud. “and you’re not fae or you’d be all over that Hallow girl. So what are you? And why Cackles even? You don’t look scary at all, you could easily pass for a human.”

 

“She is Human.” Jadu and Maud reiterated. Unfortunately, at the same time Mildred got quite sick of hearing about Ethel and said over them:

“Why would I want to be friends with Ethel? She’s not very friendly!”

 “Don’t you like Ethel? Everyone else is already charmed by her.” Jadu scoffed. “Drusilla’s started ‘fawning’ over her on sight.”

The others three groaned and batted her with cushions. Ruby even threw a skittle her head.


“Jadu, that was awful. No I don’t like her much. And even if I did, Ethel really doesn’t like me. In fact, she hates me.” Mildred said. Then explained what had happened in the forest.

She hadn’t thought much of it, but the others clearly did.
“Withershins, first the bins then HB now this?” Jadu gaped. “Wait no so first Ethel then the bins then HB? What a combination.”

“Oh dear! And you introduced yourself? And gave her your name?” Maud fretted. She was on her feet pacing. “On your first day too!”

 “That’s never a good thing.” Ruby said seriously. “You better be careful around her from now on.”


“Why? What’s so special about Ethel?” Mildred asked. Maud, Jadu and Ruby goggled at her.

“Mildred she’s fae blood...” Maud said in a hush.

 

“Royal fae blood too! That’s even more dangerous.”

“She’s nearly as much a fairy as she is a witch.”

“And a Hallow well. they’re like a really powerful family.”

“I hear her father’s one of school governors here.”

“He is. And her mother’s advisor to both the witches’ council and the fairy court.”

 

“Fairies. Right.” Mildred took in the frowns about her. “And I guess they’re not like the sort in picture books?”

 

“Not unless the Commoners have started paying more attention to the Irish tales than to Disney movies.” Ruby said. “How do you not know that? The vampire houses I could get not getting but I thought every monster-”

 

Jadu coughed.

“She’s no monster, Ruby. Mildred is a Human.” Jadu said in very plain terms with no malice, giving Mildred’s hand a squeeze. “She’s here on a scholarship. aren’t you, Mil?”

 

Mildred nodded with a grin.

 

But then Ruby said. “Oh. So, you’re a Common witch then?”

And suddenly Mildred felt like she’d been smacked in the chest.

“As mud.” She said quietly.

“Cool.” Ruby said and went back to her cards.

 

Common.

 

Ruby had said it twice. Maud had said it earlier. And Ethel too when she’d declared war had called her a 'filthy commoner'. And now Mildred wondered if that was the word Gris had stopped Fenny using. Her mum was a nurse and her dad worked in the office in the same factory he’d been at since he’d left college. Not on the council or governors or advisers, or head of any clans. There was no big ancient witch family behind her. And then Mildred wondered if even if at a school for monsters she was a little too rough for a boarding school…

Especially if some monsters had real blue blood.

 

Chapter Text

Mildred tried to not let it bother her. Especially on top of everything else that had happened today. But often, the more you try to pretend that everything is okay, more obvious it is that you aren’t…

“Cool.” Ruby had said and she had gone back to her cards. For a moment. But then she glanced up and saw the look on Mille’s face and gaped. “Sorry I just wondered what you were! I didn’t- I meant it’s cool you’re C- you’re a scholarship girl? Just magic? Sorry sometimes dad says I’m being rude and don’t realise it.”

Maud and Jadu now both frowning. “Millie what wrong?”

“It’s nothing- I just!” She didn’t want to cry in front of her new friends or upset anyone. But couldn’t leave her own room, maybe she could go to the bathroom. But trying to be brave won out, so Mildred wiped her face and blinked back her tears as much as she could and asked, “Cackle’s isn’t super posh like Oxford or story book schools are, is it?”

 

“No. Millie, I don’t get what you mean?”

“Cackles is so not a posh school have you seen this place? None of us are what you call posh. Bar Ethel.”

 

“I think that C word I said upset her.” Ruby hissed in distress.

“What? Common?”  Jadu asked. And got not just another pillow thrown at her head, but a whole pile of them magically dumped on her! “Ow!”

 

“Oh!” Maud said then flustered upsetting herself. “Oh, I’m so sorry Millie I didn’t mean- earlier. Your sort like that or you know Common as in Common -common! I meant Human Common.”

“Human common?” Mildred gulped.

“Wait no that sounds worse-!”

“Okay!” Jadu said disentangling herself from the pillows turned back to Mildred. “Right I think I get it. I suppose your sort would say normal Mil.”

It was now Mildred’s turn to look confused.

 

“That sort of common, it’s not a class thing. Is that what you thought it was?”

“…Yes?”

“Well it isn’t.” Jadu said.

“Common is what Monsters use to say totally non-monster humans.” Ruby said awkwardly explained scratching the back of her bolts.

“I didn’t think.” Maud mumbled polishing her glasses, and apologised again. “Because there’s more of you then there is of us. And even with magic your normal isn’t our normal. Does that make sense?”

 

“Oh.” Mildred relaxed. That wasn’t as bad then. “Human common. I get it. Maud it’s okay! So, am I ‘common’ then?”

“You are. Well, generally speaking.” Jadu teased giving her arm a squeeze. “Not in here though. In here you’re so ‘normal’ you’re the oddity!”

 

Mildred laughed feeling a lot better. Maud and Ruby relaxed a bit too.

“Just be a bit more careful yeah? Like what happened with Ethel? Some people get a bit well tetchy about commoners. So they might be tetchy about you before you even meet them. All the past hunting, b movies and persecution stuff.” Ruby said passing the smarties over. Mildred promised. “Don’t take it to heart though.”

 

“Okay. So some girls here look common but aren’t? And that’s passing? Like how you said I wasn’t scary looking.” She asked, dealing Maud a new card.

“Yes sort of. Passing monsters could go to ‘normal’ schools. Or common-witch schools if they have magic and use shielding spells if they wanted too.” Ruby said. “But you know using them every day that’s hard work even for just day schoolers. I live in a town and just use them to go outside. But it’s like wearing a second skin. Well not second hand skin I mean-!”

The others laughed in disgust.

“Ew. (Got any threes?)”

“It’s true!” Ruby said handing them over. “And it’s so hot in the summer. So if you’re a monster and a witch you’re better coming here or another monster school. (Jadu got any kings)?”

“(Go fish). Shield spells are a pain. I mean I can without them but it’s so exhausting. and all that walking upright so much too,” Jadu said. “I can’t imagine wearing one in a classroom for a whole day! Maud any twos?”


“Same. Most older wolfs can shift to look very nearly passing but it’s an effort. Some girls here don’t really identify as witches either, but they still need to learn how to use their magic.” Maud put in. “Mostly fairy students and ghost students. Some of the monsters here aren’t ‘girls’ either.”


“That happens in normal schools too.” Mildred said. “Well sort of. A girl in my old schools 6th form became a boy changed his name and cut his hair. And it was fine but some parents made such a fuss over the toilets and a lot of people still called him Liz.” 

 

“Huh.” Jadu considered this putting down another pair. “Good on him. Some girls don’t like being called monsters either. We just get lumped in all together. It’s nicer then Peculiars I think personally, but some call themselves ‘different humans’.”

She made a face.

“What’s wrong with different humans?” Ruby asked.

“Nothing! But some of them then make out all other monsters are less important of a person- well less of a being. Some of them.” Jadu stressed.

 

“Oh yeah, those ones suck.”

 

 “It’s like when grandad calls Were’s who’ve been bitten ‘part timers’.” Maud agreed. “It’s so rude. And if anything, they’ve more problems! And not everyone has a clan or magic to help or shield.”

 

“So there’s monsters as well as witch monsters?” Mildred asked still learning. “And Common means human. Plain human. You’ve commoners, magical commoners and monsters and then you’ve magical monsters?”

“More or less. There’s also the argument where demons, genies and ghost ort to fall. But never mind that now.” Jadu shrugged. “Someone really should have taught you this beforehand though.”

 

“How? With a leaflet? I didn’t even know magic was real till February.” Mildred pointed out. “or that Monsters-! Wait can I say things like monsters and common?”

The others shrugged unsure themselves. So, Mildred erred on the side of caution.

“You were all real not just stories. Or this school wasn’t just a Witch school till three weeks ago. I didn’t know magic schools were a thing until my old school asked my parents to transfer me.”

 

“Would you go back to your old school?” Maud asked, quietly.

“No it’s just…I was odd there for having magic. now I might be the odd one again here for being Common…Does that make sense?”

 

“Well it’s true.” Maud said.  And then more firmly. “But even though you’re ordinary human, Mil you’re also a witch. And Cackle’s is a witch school just as much as it is for monsters, so regardless you still belong here.”

 

“I hope so.” She said.

“Oh you’ll be fine Mil.”

 

“I hope so” Mildred thought again later, as she and her new friends eased back in to gossiping and playing cards. “I really hope so.”

Chapter Text

 

Soon though it wasn’t just the deck of cards that had been exhausted. The temporary extra cushions had faded with the spell. The candles were burnt low, the bats had flown, the castle was quieter and somewhere a clock chimed nine.

“I thought it’d be later than that.”

“Hmm. Maybe we better get some rest before assembly?” Maud said sensibly, pushing up her glasses to rub her eyes.

“I’m not tired!” Ruby protested with a yawn. And it was contagious.

“Yeah sure you aren’t. We’ve still got a few hours to get some sleep in.” Jadu stretched out her front legs and slunk off the cushions, not bothering to walk upright. She bundled her things into her pillow case and dragged it along in her mouth. “Nhibt Mal.”

“Night gals.” Ruby said following her out, her steps even more stiff and clumpy.

“See you at midnight Mildred.” Maud nodded as she left, yawned again exposing her canine teeth. Something an owl screeched outside making them all jump. “I hope.”

“So do I.” Mildred said, and wished them goodnight. Then went to sleep.

 

Or tried too.

 

It wasn’t that far off Mildred’s normal bed time. But she slept fitfully those few hours, the day had left her exhausted and lumpy bed in a strange place making for some real crazy dreams of fangs and sweets, of bins filled with bubble bath and newts…

In fact, Mildred was half convinced she’d wake up at home in her bed and this whole thing would all be some crazy dream. Instead she woke to Clanging of bells.

 

The rising bell, her brain supplied as she stumbled out of bed to get dressed again. The candle had either been blown out by a breeze or it had burnt itself at some point and she had to relight it. Even then it was a struggle to see and dig around in her unpacked bag for the extra uniform.

 

Had her door really opened in the night? and had she seen the silhouette of Miss Hardbroom standing in the door way? or if it had been a nervous nightmare?

“Come Mildred, you’ll be late.” Maud said she chivvied Mil to get a move on. The corridors were lit now, not that deep shadows the lanterns caused helped to see anything.

And how come everyone was already awake and dressed so quickly? So unfair, Mildred thought. She was still half asleep when Ethel elbowed her out of the way in the queue for the bathroom. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if Mildred’s laces hadn’t been undone causing her to trip into the rest of the queue. 

 

Ruby didn’t seem to have hadn’t learnt her lesson yesterday, and came out her room with a blue pair of ear phones jammed in her ears, booping her head to music.

“How many sets of those did she bring?” Mildred asked.

 

“I don’t know. I hope she brought enough ears to go along with them.” Jadu said. “I’ll make sure she turns them off for assembly.”

 

Fenny and Gris checked on Mildred as promised at least, and accompanied them downstairs. They told her and her new first year friends where to wait. They’d also got a thick roll of spellotape for her with instructions on where to leave it after wards.

“Food’s not always a great as it will be tonight. It’s rather basic after this. And colder. And you’ll have to tidy up after yourself tomorrow.” They warned before everyone filed into the hall. “And teachers only eat with us on special occasions. Human’s never on the menu though, don’t worry. School Policy.”

 

School policy also included a school song and being packed like sardines into the rows of wooden seats. The headmistress smiled as they sat down, the first years at the front.

“Good morning everybody!”

“Good morning Miss Cackle.” The school droned roared and screeched back.

“And a good midnight too. My, it doesn’t like two minutes since the last term ended yet here we are again. And I am so glad to see you all here today and your eager faces new and familiar...”

Mildred was fairly sure she might have slept during Miss Cackle’s thankfully short speech. She knew it had been about welcome and settling in and how the fourth and fifth years would have to share a bathroom because of a blocked sink. nothing important. Maud still gave her an elbow as her head started to droop forwards, and HB glared at their direction.

“Now that aside.” Miss Cackle said. “Time for the most important part of this assembly. Cackle’s annual Welcome Midnight feast!”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

There was a roaring cheer from the older girls and some of the less reserved teachers. With a clap of her hands and a flex of her see through fingers, Miss Cackle turned assembly hall out into a banqueting hall!

 

“Tuck in!”

The rows of chairs the girls were sat in were now parked around gingham covered tables. Plates bowls cups and cutlery started popping into existence, along with enough food to feed monstrous amount of witches. And the assembly gave way to the oddest tea party Mildred had ever been to! It was almost catering for everyone. And what couldn’t be found on your table could be passed over.  Tots of tea, juice and sludgy stuff.  Sandwidges of all sorts, whole little fishes, dishes of eye balls, spuds, bugs, soups, salads, puddings and cakes, fruits, sweets, meats-! Lots of meat actually.

 

“That’s ham. So’s that. That looks like slime but it’s actually jam. That’s squid I think. That’s chicken. That looks like jam but it’s actually slime. That’s lamb.” Maud said, her sense of smell picking out bits Mildred could eat.

“What’s this one?” Mildred asked, poking the plate of something experimentally with a serving spoon. It looked like rice pudding but-, “AH!”

“What?”

“It Moved!”

 

The plate of something did indeed move. Then it opened an eye. Mildred yelped, Ruby shrieked and everyone turned to see what the fuss was. Whatever it was leapt off the table with SPOOT and made a run for it. Well a scuttle for it out of the door. With someone’s cat chasing after it…

 

“Well…I don’t think you’ll want any of that.” Maud said apologetically and returned to daintily eating a large leg of something. HB ordered them to settle down and the older girls seemed to think it was perfectly normal occurrence. Mildred decided not to ask what certain things on the plates were after that! There was now a top table on the stage where the teachers sat. The first years kept a not so subtle eye on them, putting Names and rumours to faces and wondering things aloud. Like; if and how Miss Cackle ate? and why was there an empty seat? and whose bird was that? Mildred mostly nodded and listened feeling the witch equivalent of jet lagged.

 

“Does anyone know if cobweb bread is gluten free?”

“I once convinced my cousin shepherd’s pie had actual shepherds in.”

“Pass the slimeade please?”

“Can you move the crisps, some of us are allergic to salt!” 

“Those second years said they’d be squashed frogs for breakfast.” Grumbled a girl at the end of the table with at least a dozen eyes, and whose name Mildred had missed and felt silly to ask again.

“Really?” Jadu asked. “…Have you tried maybe on one of the other tables?”

“Yeah. But I can’t see any.” The girl nodded looking put out. Gloria on the other hand looked ill at the thought.

 

Some tables got a little rowdy as the feast went on. The odd shout, bark of laughter. The occasional plate being levitated or bun being thrown rather than sensibly passed over the table. Some of this resulted in loud telling off from the top table or a teacher getting up to have a quiet word till it settled down again. She spotted Fenny and Gris giving an over dramatic recount of some story, and got a wave when they spotted her. Mildred waved back. Maybe a bit to enthusiastically. As she accidently knocked some one’s skull spinning.

“Hey! Watch it!”

 

Miss Gullet had a very nasally voice for someone who didn’t have a nose. She took hold of her head to stop it spinning like a plate. Then snapped it right way around and put her jaw back on with a glower and much grumbling. Everyone else found it hilarious.

“You’re posing a hazard doing that. Waving isn’t on my risk assessments and it’s against the rules to physically assault staff!” She scowled at Mildred. Mildred blushed and apologised. Miss Gullet was thankfully more interested in the third year she’d seen swinging back in her chair before Mildred had accidently walloped her. So Mildred got away with a scold. The third year? Two days detention.

 

“Anyone would think she’d never been up for a witching welcome before, first falling asleep now attacking skeletons.” Ethel sneered. Thankfully everyone else was busy with their own conversations Ethel wasn’t really heard this time. She got a glare from Jadu but was otherwise ignored. Mildred decided Ethel really needed to work on her insults.

“No, I haven’t. thanks for noticing.” She said sweetly with a grin and a bite of the drop scone she’d been eating. And felt a little victory when Ethel huffed and turned back away.

“Don’t Mildred, she’ll-! Ew. Mildred.” Maud grimaced.

“That?”

“That’s literally a squashed fly biscuit!”

“Oh. Is it? It’s not bad actually.” She’d already eaten half of. Against spitting it out at the table, Mildred took another bite. “Tastes like raisins. But crunchy.”

She added, Much to the others’ gross amusement.

 

All too soon the feast drew to a close. The food and scraps vanished, and plates were stacked at one end of the table. There was another few inspirational words from Miss Cackle. Then the girls gathered their school bags, before leaving table by table.

“Quietly!” The deputy reminded them. not that it stopped the noise starting up once the groups left the hall. At last the first years were dismissed. They filed out in a pack. What happen next Maud would later describe as the second half of the Walker’s Gate.

 

Almost all the older girls stood lining the corridors, hung about in doorways and on the stairs, waiting. Some on the ceilings! As the first years walked past them, these older girls stood aside; whooping and hollering and shouting all sorts of things. About mummies and learning to fly and tears and things going to get you.

 

Fenny and Gris winked at her but Mildred didn’t find it reassuring. Especially as Fenny yelled, “Have fun first years!” and Gris added, “last one to cry in class is a rotten egg!”

 

 They got worse the closer to the Potions Lab they got.

“First Formers Never last!”

“Bet you had garlic for breakfast!”

“Hope it doesn’t SUCK!”

 

A few girls even started an impromptu song going.

“Who’s afraid of Miss Ha-Hardbroom, Miss Hardbroom Miss Hardbroom? Who’s afraid of Miss Ha-Hardbroom? Tra la la l-.”

 

“That will DO, girls!” A familiar disembodied voice barked. “Too your own lessons forthwith!”

 

The older girls scattered, leaving the first years lined up in front of the door in terrified silence. Well… silence, with a hint of tinny pop music playing on a contraband device turned up far too loud.

 

This time Ruby’s ear phones were not zapped in her ears. They were yanked hard out of her collar. Along with the attached Walkman that nearly clipped her nose as it shot away.

“Hey!” She started. But stopped short.

A disembodied hand to match the disembodied voice had appeared and snapped the device out of the air. The hand was Followed by an arm and the scowling head along with the rest of Miss Hardbroom’s figure.

And Mildred realised what Fenny and Griz had meant when they'd said about HB ‘appearing’ over their shoulders.


 

 

Chapter Text

“Confiscated.” Miss Hardbroom said, as she turned Ruby’s Walkman over in her hand with distain. And then turned it into dust.
Ruby made to protest but again, stopped short and quailed at the look.
“Inside girls. Fill up from the front.” Miss Hardbroom instructed. And added, as she followed them in, “I have never, seen such in my decades of teaching have I seen such a poor effort in uniform standards on a first day!”

As if she had just been waiting to give out a detention (she might have) Miss Hardbroom stopped in front of Mildred and picked on her snapped, “You look as though you’ve been up all day and slept in your uniform. Write out five hundred times, ‘I must take more care of my personal appearance’. I want them by the weekend.”

Mildred felt a bit miffed. She had been up all day! And She’d only missed SOME strands when she’d plaited her pigtails! But she accepted the punishment with a yes miss. To be fair, her spare uniform was all scrunched up from being in the bottom of her bag. She wasn’t the only one at least to get assigned those lines as Miss Hardbroom inspected them, making sure ties were up to top button, hands and paws were clean, and such.

HB had a point, they did make a pretty unpolished bunch.

Ruby, already in the bad books for the gadgetry, had tamed her hair into two bunches but they kept occasionally standing up strait little bolts of lightning between them. Maud’s fur still fluffed up from her static charge from last night but flat on one side where she’d slept, despite attacking it with a brush. Gloria before the feast had gotten straight out another soak into her clothes; so now her uniform was dark with damp patches that hadn’t dried off. Jadu forgot she ort to have boots on if she was going to walk about upright, not just bare paws and was sent to go fetch them. Having unable to find another cork, she’d also had a sock full of tissues over her tail end. Which made it safer as a stinger, but inversely turned the tail end in to as HB called it a ‘ridiculous looking club’. Invisible Bryony must have missed her mouth at some point down the fount of her shirt, and had floating plasters where the skittle shards last night had nicked her (although that wasn’t really her fault). And poor Harriet had chosen to use crutches rather than the wheelchair today, but must have leant against a wall for support at some point and now had dusty whitewash down her back. The others looked tired and ruffled too.

Only Ethel looked perfect. Typical.

One dressing down about dressing right later, Miss Hardbroom took the register and gave them all reminders of everything they’d already been told about. As well as then finally explaining the time tables where all about.
“All year groups are split in to two, denoted as Year One A and Year 1 B on your timetables. If I call your name, you are group A and your lessons are from dusk till early morning. Which leaves the rest of you in group B, affectionately known as …day walkers,” she said, in a way that made it clear she did not agree to that term. Mildred made a mental note to take a highlighter to her timetable. “You will notice the majority of your lessons are more spaced out from early afternoon too late at night; but in your free time you are extended to be continuing your studies and you will on occasion have dawn herb gatherings.”

And just like that Mildred’s class went from nineteen to nine. While most of the day walker girls she already knew, she was glad she was with Jadu and Ruby, and especially happy to be with Maud too. Unfortunately, Ethel was also joining them.
“Any questions?” HB asked.

Izzy from group A raised her hand. And nearly bumped a hanging bunch of herbs on the ceiling. Despite being an almost six foot high x three feet across, the mountain troll was petrified to speak aloud in class.

“Isobella?”
“Miss, w-when are blood sacrifices due for? “
“The blood What?” HB barked. Izzy jolted and nearly upturned the entire row of desks, before the penny dropped and HB scowled in general rather at Izzy. Or at Mildred. “Oh for goodness sake. What have those older girls been telling you?”
All sorts by the sound of it. There were mummers of a lottery to pick a victim weekly. Of bodies used like capri-suns with straws out of jugulars. Of students’ head on pikes. Even Maud came out with a story. Mildred was surprised; Fenny and Grisses tales now seemed quite tame in comparison. Miss Hardbroom raised eyebrow vaguely unimpressed.

 Mildred wondered if she had to go through this every year. And felt a tiny bit sorry for her, scary as it was. Even other monsters seemed afraid of her, enough to say and make up horrible things about her eating habits. It wasn’t nice to be talked about after all…
There were no other vampires in her class Mildred noted. Or at least any she recognised immediately as vampires? and she wasn’t certain she’d seen any about the school, other than Miss Bat. Did that mean Vampires were rare? Or Was it something to do with the houses and territorial thing they’d chatted about? Could you even get young vampires if they didn’t have families?

“Right.” HB interrupted Mildred’s thoughts, rolling her R’s and already exasperated with the new term. “First things first, let’s get several things straight here and now. No, I don’t drink from pupils. No, while I do burn under prolonged or strong exposer, I won’t spontaneously combust in sunlight. Nor do I sparkle for that matter. And no, I’m not going to bite you, drain your blood or enslave you in some legion of the undead. That includes those of you who are already undead or technically deceased.”

“But Miss Bat says she sleeps -?” Bryony started.
“I do not sleep in a Coffin.” Miss Hardbroom shot back; Glaring at the space where Bryony’s head might be and punctuating each word like a nail like a- well a coffin.
“And while you are here none of you are required to ‘donate’ blood nor will you be bitten by a member of staff, so I advise you take any tall tale you hear with a pinch of salt and stir it clockwise! Are we Clear?”
“Yes, Miss Hardbroom.”
“Good. Next silly question?” She asked.
Several hands went up. “That isn’t about vampires.”
Several hands went down.
Bar one. “Mildred.”

“When do we get our cats?” Mildred asked.

“When you are ready.” HB said, looking Mildred up and down again, then addressed the class. “Which in some cases might be never. You are not here to play at witches! Regardless of appearance or species, you are all here to study hard, learn discipline and prepare you’re your Witches Higher Certificate. Yes, that includes those of you who’ve passed it in previous life or reincarnation.” Jadu put her hand back down with a scowl. “Under the guidance of your form teacher who will be…”
HB paused, either to draw breath or to contemplate her own rotten luck.

“...Me.”

Chapter Text

Even though they already knew this would be the case, the new first form wasn’t ecstatic about the arrangement. Neither was Miss Hardbroom. Only Ethel seemed pleased. Or was pretended to be. Perhaps seeming pleasant and being perfect on the outside was her natural state of being. Mildred was inclined to think so. Annoyingly the fairy witch got worse.

“This book,” Miss Hardbroom continued, holding up a slim volume, “which Ethel Hallow will give out, is a copy of the Witches’ Code.”

She went on to explain how they were to study and memorise it. And then something about ingraining it in to their magic. But Whatever else the vampire said Mildred missed. Rather than just give her a copy of little book, Ethel dropped Mildred’s hard on her hand. To add injury to insult the book not only leapt open seemingly of its own accord, but gave Mildred a nasty paper cut too. The resulting gasp (or perhaps the resulting blood!) caught Miss Hardbroom’s attention and Mildred got yet another telling off.
“I did not tell you to open Mildred Hubble.”

“I- I thought-!” Mildred was sure it was Ethel who'd opened the book. But again, couldn’t prove it. Not when Ethel was almost finished handing the Code books out. Or when Mildred again found herself under the Miss Hardbroom’s horrible laser focused look.
“So close it girl. And take your finger out of your mouth.” Mildred did so, and wrapped her cut finger up in a hanky as discreetly as she could. “well done Ethel.”

Ethel sat back down simpered her gossamer wings fluttering with the praise. High praise for doing bugger all Mildred’s dad would have put it. Maud caught Mildred’s eye and made a face. Or at least Mildred read it as a ‘Making a face’ face. It was more a crinkle of Maud’s muzzle. So she either agreed on Ethel being Obnoxious, or had an itchy nose. But HB wasn’t done with them just yet.

“Much of your first two weeks will be taken up with practicing and preparation for your Cackle’s Broomstick aptitude test. I advise any girl who fails to pass to simply get on the next bus home.” She said, low and coldly. “Group B, I will see you this afternoon assembled in the court yard at precisely two thirty straight after breakfast and roll call for your first flying lesson.”
Mildred’s stomach dropped in to her boots and knotted with dread. To get back up on her broom stick? In front of the vampire and everyone?

Just then registration and the form period ended. The bell went for lessons and HB dismissed them with a “That will be all.” And a “Group A; I will see you after your… ’Art’ class.”

“That went well.” Jadu dead panned as they left.
“At least we know she doesn’t do any of the stuff that was in those stories.” Mildred pointed out. “And she hasn’t bitten any of us.”
“Yet. I give a week.” Ruby grumbled still upset about her Walkman. “Does my nose look out of shape? I only brought two spare ones with me...”

Chapter Text

There were thankfully no repeats of the earlier yelling and taunting as they left the class room. The older monster girls filled the corridors again, but now also filed to their own lessons so largely ignored the new first years. So the first years, both Group A and the day walkers, trooped off to the music room together without much fuss.

“Mil I know we said to be careful,” Maud said quietly, tugging on Mildred’s arm. “But don’t let Ethel bully you. I saw what she did with the book. You should have told HB.”

“I tried too. But she’s scary. HB I mean.” Mildred said inspecting the paper cut. She hadn’t really though much of Ethel’s little prank. She was more concerned what HB …and the upcoming flying lesson. Ethel did glare at them as she and Maud sat down though. Mildred hoped it didn’t spell bad news for Maud by association now.

Chanting wasn’t too bad at least.  Mildred had braced herself to be totally lost but wasn’t, not completely. She’d hoped it might be like her old music lessons at normal school, and wasn’t too far off the mark.

Miss Bat welcomed them in song, giving Maud, Mildred, Ruby and Jadu an extra cheery hello. Mildred would learn that, for her lack in statue and scariness as a vampire, Miss Bat made up with in exsubriance and personality. She looked a lot different to when they had first met her. But not much.

Even out of her bat form she flapped and fluttered about in a dainty dramatic fashion. Her grey hair was wild as her fur had been and she had a baton stuck in it like a hat pin. She had large sharp ears, lots of sharp little teeth and her spectacles on an upturned little snout of a nose. And double chin as she played the old piano.

After a rousing set of Vocal warm ups and keys, Miss Bat made them go around the room, to introduce themselves and asking what instruments anyone played. She then got each student standing up in turn (bar Harriet who stayed in her seat) to sing the first lines of Eye of Newt or Natures Beauty Blessing, depending on their preference.

Of course Ethel could play a list of instruments and had the most beautiful charming lilting voice that got her showered with praise. Maud had a great singing voice too but very quiet. And had a tendency to accidently howl the longer notes or when Miss Bat tried to push her to sing louder.

Most of others were fairly fine singers- chanters, Mildred corrected herself- too. Jadu could also play a few instruments (but only when she had apposable thumbs) and Drusilla could play the fiddle. Bryony asked her if she could play panpipes too and Drusilla threated to shove a pan in Bryony’s wind pipe.
Izzy said she played base in a rock band.
“Rock music eh?” Miss Bat brightened. “How wonderful. Do you play pop, Modern or classic?”
“Jazz mostly.”
“But… Izabelle dear, I thought you said it was a rock band?”
“No, it’s a Rock band as in we play jazz music on rocks Miss.” the Mountain Troll corrected.
“Oh. Well I’ll have to get a boulder in for you to give a demonstration.” Miss Bat twittered. “Who’s next?”

 

And Harriet. oh, Harriet’s singing voice was WONDERFUL! Even better then Ethel’s! Even better than a pop star’s!
Mildred had no idea what it was she was singing, or how someone who spoke like a stone in a bottle bank could sing like that. But it was lovely, like hearing spun gold in her ears. even if it did leave her head feeling fuzzy afterwards. Harriet blushed blue at the attention, and applause she received had Ethel almost fizzing in jealousy.

Mildred was last and didn’t know any chants at all. So she ended up with the inevitable extra homework to learn some by next lesson. She knew the notes at least. It didn’t get her out of singing unfortunately. Miss Bat made her sing Rock a bye baby and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star instead.  It was very embarrassing.
“Those are very different lyrics to what I know.” Miss Bat said “still, excellent potential there Mildred. And in all of you for that matter. Oh dear is that the time-! See you all again soon!”

Chapter Text

“Jewellery making, Charms, Crafts and Art,” class was weird. Even weirder then art at Normal school. When Form One entered to class room there was no teacher. Just a giant block of grey marble in the center of the room, the seats were arranged in an arch around it.

 

Botanical prints and students previous work covered the walls. Models, plants and tins and pots lined the shelves. Some calming and cheerful was playing quietly on an old grammar phone so music, and an odd haze filled the empty space.  A couple of easels with works in progress were set up to the side.

 

But other than the marble and a stuffed raven perched on the black board, the girls were alone.

 

“Should we go find someone?” Ruby asked after a few minutes.  “Maybe Miss Mould is late?”

“How do you be late to your own lesson?” Maud wondered aloud back.

 

 Suddenly the lump of rock blinked at them.

 

“Actually-” it grinned, then with a twist and a gasp revealed its self to be a gargoyle!! “ - I’m right on time!”

Several girls shrieked or yelled in surprise, but after introducing herself with a party trick, Mildred liked Miss Mould instantly. To look at she was not like the gargoyles Mildred had seen on old churches. Then again, she’d never seen one in a jazzy paint splattered piney. Miss Mould had a friendly face even if it was a little stony, and there a small pair of horns amongst the pencils and brushes stuck absent mindedly both in her hair and her bandana.

 

Mildred was quietly glad Fenny and Gris had warned her about the other art teacher Miss Nightingale though, because Miss Mould seemed absolutely barking introducing the Raven as her co-painter.

 

“But Miss, it’s-!” Gloria started. The Raven suddenly squawked loudly making them all jump. Ot took off from its perch flew in arch over the class, revealing it hadn’t been taxidermied at all, just staying very very still. “..Stuffed…?”

 

“Just a little art joke there,” Miss Mould chuckled, plucking a feather from her hair. “But Miss Nightingale will be taking you for your lessons in the daytime.”

The Raven (she, Miss Nightingale Mildred correcting herself again) eyed them from her nest on a top shelf, set between powder paints and squawked again. Mildred realized it had the same Raven one who’d been at Breakfast.

 

As it was only their first lesson, Miss Mould set them off on some very basic drawing and Sigil making tasks. Seeing her struggling with the magic side of things, the gargoyle patiently showed this new skill to Mildred and allowed her to work alongside Maud.

“But Miss, why do we need signals if witches have spells and potions?”

“Sigils. They can be used for making spells last, in wards and enchanting objects.” Miss Mould explained, correcting Mildred’s spelling on the charm. “I suppose we’ll have to show you how to make a shamble too, won’t we?”

Mildred supposed they would, although she was fairly certain she already was making a shamble of things. She didn’t get a chance to answer as Amii with two I’s and all the eyes from group A raised tentacle and Miss Mould went to help.

“You know those shield spells we told you about?” Maud said. “Sigils help make them stronger. They can look pretty too, and get carved into wood or into metal or even picture. That’s where the jewelry making bit comes in, so you can carry them around.”

 

Then added, “You have to make sure they work first.” Just as Mildred’s paper caught fire. Which was a bit worrying considering it had supposed to be a charm against sunburn. “I think you might have missed a line out somewhere.”

 

Form one went through quite a few exercise sheets actually. One of the reasons the art department had made a very large number of copies. Ruby accidently caused hers to become water logged by invoking the wrong element for fresh air. Harriet’s turned bright yellow when she went to coulour in a sun, so she swapped Amii who’d accidently turned her dyslexic colour copy white. Some papers vanished entirely. Ethel who so far had been perfect at everything, was gently corrected on one thing about her over use of purple and almost snapped her crayon in her grip.

 

Miss Nightingale the Raven flew down to Mildred’s desk at one point, and pecked at her second exercise sheet, tap-tapping it with her beak. Mildred wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. Perhaps ravens disapproved of doodling?  Her circle was a bit wonky even using a compass. but she was certain she’d labelled all the colours on the wheel and differences between different types of shading correctly.

 

Then again it was now almost two in the morning and she was getting very tired.  As much as she liked art she was glad when class ended. Her bed however lumpy, beckoned.

 

With the bell, the student body split up. As Group A slopped off reluctantly for their first flying lesson, Group B, Mildred and the other day walkers, made their way upstairs. Back to the bathrooms the girls headed, a lot quieter than previously. This time Mildred noticed little things like the Notes on the wall reminding them things like ‘Floss Between Your Fangs’ and ‘Leave It Tidy For The Next Girl’ as they cleaned their teeth and brushed their hair fur and or scales.

 

It was getting quite chilly in the corridors. Mildred made sure she kept her socks on as she changed into her nightdress. Maud stopped by to say goodnight as Mildred was taking care to hang all her uniform up so as to hopefully not get any more lines. She was glad for Maud’s quiet chatter. The room was far too still without any bats.

 

Or it was until her door was thrown with a snap making them both jump.

 

“To your own beds, girls.” Miss Hardbroom instructed. How’d she finished her lesson so quick?

 

Maud scuttled out obediently and Mildred got in to bed. But HB was still glaring at her. Mildred gaped back confused until HB nodded at the candle.

 

“Lights out means LIGHTS OUT.” Miss Hardbroom said, well, practically snarled at her.

 

“Please may I keep it on a little longer Miss?”

 

“No, you may not.”

 

It had been a long shot. Mildred sighed, blew it out and scrambled back under the covers before anything in the dark could get her.

 

“Goodnight Miss Hardbroom.”

 

“…Goodnight Mildred Hubble.”

 

Miss Hardbroom vanished slowly, her glare being the last thing to go. The door swung shut and HB moved off to continue her rounds. Normally Mildred was very afraid of the dark (and creepy vampires). But tonight, she was too sleepy to be scared, drifting off before HB’s heels made it down to the other end of the corridor.

 

And just like that, Mildred had finished, and more importantly, survived her first ‘day’ at Cackles.

 

 

Chapter Text

Somehow Mildred got some sleep. Not as much as she probably needed what with the noises of the castle, and the on-going night classes waking her up. Then it was the sound of girls getting up early for a hot shower, or going to bed, and the bats returning. Plus the cycle of the dark the dawn and then the dark again- (Cackles seemed dark even in the day time)- didn't help. But still, she got some sleep.

The afternoon saw her being shaken as Maud, like an excided pup, practically bounced on her bed raring to go.

"Five more minutes…"

"You've had ten!"

 

"Are you coming to eat?" Jadu added slinking round the door and joining in with the bed bouncing , while Ruby laughed in the doorway.
"Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!"

"Come on Mildred, you can't be late for breakfast. It'll be all gone!" Maud said, yanking off the sheets. "Don't forget your school bag either."

 

This whole being Mildred's personal alarm clock thing would in time become both easier and almost routine for Maud. But right now, Mildred had to be bullied into getting up and ready for the day.

She did at least look presentable today, and having packed her bag last night, was ready in record time. The uniform and cloak she'd put in to wash yesterday had also been returned and left hanging on her door handle. It had been starched so much that when she hung the robe and other gymslip in the wardrobe it stood to attention. But the fresh laundered smell broke through the damp musky smell that hung around the place, making Mildred feel more awake. With a fresh blouse, Mildred decided to treat today as a fresh start. Even if she'd had to bend her socks over her knees before she could ball them up into her drawer.

 

It was extraordinary to Mildred that twenty-four hours ago she'd been home. Two o'clock –ish yesterday she'd last minute checking her bags, kissing her dad goodbye and piling into BoBo for a long drive with Mum.

Now she was fumbling with her tie in the bathroom mirror, then catching the remaining first years as they all headed to eat; Mildred's laces trailing behind them.

 

In dribs and drabs, day walkers of all ages strutted, slid, and shuffled into the great hall. It was nosy to a degree but a lot quieter now with only half the school in situ. The long tables had become lots of smaller ones, most already occupied. One long table remained to the side, stacks of plates, cutlery and trays at one end, and Dinner ladies witches (two elf's and a ghoul) serving out from trays of food.

 

"Morning Hubble!" Fenny and Gris said as the remaining first years joined in the long queue behind them. "Morning Hubble's friends!"

"I'm not her friend." Ethel glared, already in a bad mood.

"Suit yourself." Fenny muttered, letting Ethel cut in fount of her while Gris started passing trays down the line. Mildred introduced the others. "Oh spooky, another Moonshine!"

 

"Hi." Maud said in a squeak, her ears going pink at being thought of as spooky. She hurried to pass knives and forks out. Jadu tried to take balance them on the tray in her mouth then gave up and transformed back into her upright form. She still managed to be less clumsy than Mildred, who dropped hers.

 

"Nice to meet you. I think your invisible buddie saved you a table." Gris said. Bryony was indeed waving a sleeve to them, as she and Gloria helped Harriet move a bench over so she could roll her wheel chair up to eat at the table. "Make sure you get plenty, you've a long day ahead of you."

 

"Oh I will. I'm starving!" Mildred said.

"Me too." Jadu agreed.

"And me!" Ruby said.

 

"Staving enough to eat anything Mil?" Gris asked with a wink. But Mildred missed it.

"Anything! As long as it's hot."

"Even fly biscuits?" Maud giggled.

"Even squashed frogs!" Mildred said.

 

But Breakfast, as the second years had warned her the day before, was not the grand affair the midnight feast had been.

Or even half way to a decent breakfast.

Chapter Text

 

Breakfast had not been hot. Breakfast been, at best, lukewarm and greasy. And that had just been the porridge. Despite her promise to eat plenty, Mildred hadn’t been able to stomach much. And she wasn’t the only one.

“They might have warmed up the bake beans at least.” Ruby winged as they sat in the potions lab after wards for register.


“Or drained the oil off the fried eggs!” Jadu agreed.  


“Cold burnt toast should be illegal.” Maud grumbled.

 

 

Monsters, it seemed, still had food quality standards.

 

 

“Do you suppose its leftovers from Group A?” Mildred asked.


“I think it was leftovers from last term.” Ruby huffed.


“I’d rather have had the squashed frogs.” Maud chipped in.

 

“Was there any?” Mildred teased.

 

At that book suddenly cuffed her on back of the head.

 

“Ow! Hey! What was that for?!”

 

The girls behind Mildred denied all knowledge. Just the book fell open on a page about frog dissection.

“Oh ha ha.” Jadu deadpanned. Maud and Ruby gave their best wicked glares at the back of Ethel’s head.


“What?” Ethel said turning around. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to stare?”


“Didn’t yours teach you not to throw things?” Maud muttered.

“I did no so such thing!” Ethel snapped her face going from innocent into the most horrid of looks.

Mildred had a feeling it was most defiantly Ethel. But couldn’t prove it. Again. She was getting quite sick of that. They’d been lots of bullies at her old school but at least you could see them throwing things at you. Mildred rubbed the bump on her head and decided to ignore the fairy witch, unaware it wasn’t a good idea.

“It’s a witch school, isn’t it?” she sulked, going back to the food discussion. “Why couldn’t they magic up a decent breakfast?”

“Yeah!”

“Agreed!”

 

“Because Mildred Hubble,-!” Came a voice that made them all jump and look about.

 

“-Modern witch craft is a serious professional business,” Miss Hardbroom continued as she materialised at the front of the class, ticking off her register. She cast a very dark look over them that lingered on the ordinary worst witch, “And is not to be used for selfish or trivial ends. Is it?”


“No Miss Hardbroom.” Mildred and the class said.

“Hmm. Now girls,” Miss Hardbroom began, her mood brightened. She even almost smiled. Which looked very out of the ordinary on the Vampire. Especially with the grey sunshine through the window. Mildred was completely thrown for a moment!

 

“As I said at your last form lesson, much of your first two weeks will be taken up with practicing and preparation for your Cackle’s Broomstick Aptitude Test. So, we better not waste any time.”

 

She clapped her hands twice sharply, sending her first years all scurrying to their seats. Except for Ethel who, dragging Drusilla along, brazenly walked out of the room!

 

A rather gobsmacked then awkward silence followed.


“…Where are you meant to be heading?” The vampire asked, good mood gone.

 

“Oh!”

Maud and few others got the hint and scurried to the door.  Miss Hardbroom gave Mildred and the rest of them another unimpressed look.


“Outside.” She reminded them. “You have less than ten minutes. Go.”

 

Mildred remembered, her stomach sinking and churning up her afternoon breakfast. But she reluctantly joined the mad scramble to the door. It was twenty past two. Almost two thirty, ‘straight after breakfast and roll call’.

It was time, for Broomstick Training.

Chapter Text

Out in the yard Miss Drill was waiting for them, armed with a badminton racquet. and a large black umbrella, despite there being no rain.

“Come on girls! Get your ‘sticks.” She said gesturing with the racquet. “You’ve perfect weather for training.”

“Miss, my brooms in-!“ Bryony started.

“In the shed. They all are.” Miss Drill corrected. “Put your bags and any cardigans to the side there please, and get your selves ready!”

 

True enough, everyone’s brooms where all propped up in neat rows under the tin shelter. Even Mildred’s broom splinters and all, was out of her room and in the shed parked up with the others. How’d they get there? Oh Magic she remembered.

 

“Broom stick? More fire wood.” Ethel sneered as she collected her own broom. “Are you sure you didn’t just ride in on a pile of twigs and false hope, Mildred Hubble?”

 

She had a point. Annoyingly. It didn’t look good. Mildred’s half a broom, with the snapped off `half wedged awkwardly on top did look a sorry state next to everyone’s else’s, especially the snazzier looking ones. Determined not to pay the fairy brat any mind however, Mildred fished the spello tape she’d been lent out of her bag. And made a start putting the two ends of the broken halves together. Maud helped and between them, they bandaged up the broom as best as they quickly could.

 

“Are you wrapping it up for posting Hubble?” Ethel jeered.

“That doesn’t even make sense.” Maud muttered, and Mildred agreed. But Ethel was still laughing with Drusilla at the mess of a broom as they walked past them on their return from the shed. Drusilla even going as far to give Mildred a shove in the shoulder…as though forgetting a teacher was right there!

 

“Mildred, Drusilla what’s going on there?”

“Oh, Nothing Miss!” Drusilla tried.

“A very funny looking nothing.” Miss Drill said. She then gave Drusilla a mild scold that set the red head scowling and scuffing her hoofs on the cobblestones. Mildred was glad at least Drusilla had got a warning about rough housing; even if Mildred was certain she hadn’t done anything to the Pan personally to warrant any argie bargie.

 

Shame it caused Ethel to pull on both Mildred’s plaits and Maud’s bunches again in the split second before the PE teacher turned back to Mildred and her broom.

“Ow!”

“Owch!”

“Girls?”

“Splinter.” Millie fibbed. Maud looked incredulous but didn’t argue otherwise. Ethel and Drusilla stalked off at least. She held out her broomstick and tested the wobble on it. It held firm at least, even if it had bent. “Miss? I don’t know if my broom will be alright for flying?”

 

“Let’s have a look.” Miss Drill said. She winched sucking air through very normal teeth. “Oh dear…well, it’s holding. That’ll have to do for now I’m afraid.”

 

“Should I sit out?”

 

“No, no. It’ll see you through today well enough. Just don’t do any more speedy dismounts on it.” Miss Drill said with a firm smile. “Come to the staffroom Saturday. We might be able to arrange some way to fix it. Or maybe even get it replaced after the aptitude tests are done.”

 

“If I’m still here after the test!” Mildred thought.

Chapter Text

 

‘If I’m still here after the test’ Mildred thought but said thank you anyway. That settled, Miss Drill shoo’d them into place; Mildred and Maud still fiddling with Mildred’s broom, adding more tape just to be safe.

“Careful! You nearly taped your fingers to mine.” Maud frowned. “What are you doing Mil?”

“Trying to get a good look at her.” Mildred hissed back.

“Who?”

“Miss Drill. Do you remember I said Fenny and Gris were really funny around her? And not just in an older girl way?” Mildred said and explained her puzzle, even as she said it her gaze slid off her teacher. “And I know I’ve seen her about the school and at the feast. But it’s like every time I see her, I can’t quite place her afterwards. Even after she jumped the stairs.”

 

“Oh. That’s odd…Actually neither can I.” Maud said slowly realisation dawning. She joined in with trying to look without looking without looking like they were looking at the Gym mistress.


“What are you two up too?” Ruby asked loudly. And was shushed, Mildred explained quickly to her. And then Jadu who’d overheard, as Maud and Ruby asked Bryony and Harriet; until all six of them having realised they were all experiencing the same thing, and now were trying to look at the PE teacher without looking like they were looking at her.  Thankfully Gloria asking if she could just nip to the bathroom was keeping Miss Drill distracted.


“But I know she was in the yard when we came through the gate.”

“Yeah, she was handing out drinks and snacks to the older girls!”

“And paired us up with them.”

“I’m sure it was her who gave out the welcome packs too.”
“Is it a shielding spell?”

 

“What,  so we don’t know what she really looks like?” Bryony the Invisible asked. “Don’t look at me like that, you know what I Mean!”


“Well it could be a shield.” Jadu shrugged. “But no, then we wouldn’t notice her at all. And why use one here? There’s no pressure to try and pass for human or human-ish.”

 

Mildred shook her head still watching the PE teacher.  There was no long or pointy ears like many of the students had. No horns either, unless they were under that short hair. Bar that impossible jump and this whatever it was that was causing this memory fog, Miss Drill was practically exceedingly ordinary. Or at least Passing for exceedingly ordinary.

But then why come to a magical monster school? Why was she so hard to place? It wasn’t as if she was plain enough to forget in those bright but very modern and non magical clothes. All the other teachers (with exception to Miss Mould’s paint splatted pinny) looked as though they’d got dressed in the Victorian era. Or earlier!

 

“She’s not a witch but she’s not norm- Miss Drill’s not Common either.” Mildred said. “She jumped over the bannister like it was just the one step, not nearly two floors.”

Mildred also thought: “How could Fenny have a crush on someone if she couldn’t remember what Drill looked like? Or does it not affect her and Gris?” but kept that one on the quiet.


“Did your mum ever say anything about her?” Ruby asked Maud. The werewolf shook her head.

“No. So either she started after my mum left or Mum’s forgotten her too.”


“Fenny did say she’s the youngest. Or did she say one of the youngest.” Mildred said.

Harriet laughed like broken dish washer and wheeled her chair over to the bags.

“She said that’s not hard.” Bryony translated following Harriet back across the yard, her empty boots plodding after the mermaid. “I think under eighty qualifies as young here.”

 

“Take your places, make sure you’re ready for a prompt start when Miss Hardbroom get here. That’s right- What are you four doing?”  Miss Drill called. Mildred Maud Ruby and Jadu obediently scattered but Miss Drill split them up so Jadu was at the back, and Maud and Ruby were in the front row with Ethel. Mildred was dead centre, right behind the fairy queen and next to Drusilla. Great.

“Spread out over there, give each other plenty of room.” Miss Drill said and turned away to put up the umbrella.

 

And then Mildred forgot.

 

Not Miss Drill’s face that is. Mildred forgot that. But she also forgot her fear, the anxiety, and even forgot Ethel. Because just then, Harriet gasped loudly pointing at the sky. Mildred and the other girls looked up following the fin-ger.  Above them, from behind the high tower a black shape had appeared, silhouetted against the sky and the sunlight. A most recognisable shadow of a witch on her broomstick. And not just any witch.

 

“This was witchcraft was all about.” Mildred decided watching in awe at the- to her- Incredible display. “That’s how I want to fly!”

 

Mildred had not seen many real-life witches flying, but the others were just as impressed. There were plenty of ooh’s and ahh’s. And they were right to be.

 

 Poised and serene, cloak billowing out around her, while she was a vampire HB was also defiantly a real witch. The broom zipped high over the castle backed then dived back toward the school, before slowing down in a drifting curve that ended sweeping low over the yard, rushing down to meet the ground, the rider unfazed.  Miss Hardbroom made it look so easy too. She wasn’t clinging on to her broom, not even in the dive, ‘driving’ it with just the one finger. There in front of the girls she brought it to a well-executed stop. Then equally elegantly dismounting into the shadow of the awaiting – and hovering- parasol.

 

“Thank you, Miss Drill.” Miss Hardbroom said dismissing the PE teacher. She seemed even paler compared to Miss Drill’s healthy looking tan. With a wink to the girls twirl of her badminton racket, Miss Drill headed back inside.

 

“Now girls. I’d Like to begin by reminding you that There is nothing soft about broomsticks.” Miss Hardbroom started. She’d taken off her cloak and hung it on the handle of the umbrella steadily in place blocking out the poor excuse for a midday sun. It hung more steadily then Mr Blossom had held it for her yesterday.

 “I do not wish to see any stickers or attachments dangling from your brooms. They are a tool of your craft, and to be treated with the respect as such no different to your cauldrons and spell books. Nor do I want to hear anyone giving their broom silly pet names, like some people do with machines and automobiles.”

 

“Like Bo-bo!” Maud hissed at Millie with teasingly grin. She then blanched and her ears blushed bright red at realizing she’d spoke aloud and now had the class looking at her. HB not used to interruptions whipped around too.

 

"I Beg your Pardon.Miss Hardbroom said coldly. With an icy glare at Maud who froze under such a look. And did almost beg, too.

Mildred gulped but took a metaphorical silver bullet for her friend.

 

“My mum calls her car Bo-bo Miss.” She said, smiling awkwardly. Miss Hardbroom’s glare had zipped from Maud to Mildred the moment Millie had spoken up. Rather than become sharper however, it dulled; as if Miss Hardbroom was already done with trying to understand or make sense of common little witch.

 

“Somehow Mildred, that is not surprising.” HB said, no less coldly. And from the row in front, Ethel rolled her eyes so heavenward it was almost audible. 

 Which was about as good as the double lesson got for Mildred.

Chapter Text

 

“Not so eager Maud! That hover is too sharp. Try again.” Miss Hardbroom said. Maud did so. “And be firmer with your commands, or you’ll lose your broom. Good, good… There much better. Now, Up and away, around the yard…”


“It’s like a computer game! All I need is a joy stick-!”

“Come on along Ruby. Concentrate. Show me again.” She instructed with a drawl. “Straighten up, gal. You too, Jadu, Harriet. You’re both pitching.”

“No, Not you Gloria. bring that front end down a touch. Better. Into land... hmm and again. Maud Moonshine, leave a little more space between you. you’re not flying in formation now.”

“Yes, well done Ethel. You can sit down now.”

“… Mildred. Mildred What are you playing at?“

 

Mildred wasn’t playing at anything. She was as the rest of the class were, attempting to master basic flying and had been for almost an hour and a half. Some girls had been on broomsticks before-

(‘Some’ being generous. Every year though their intake was steady, HB felt there was worryingly less and less monsters coming to the school with grasp of the witchcraft basics. Flying included.)

And had moved from perfecting hovers and mounting on to doing circles of the yard. Albeit a little slow and shaky. Ethel had moved on standing up on her broom, like a gymnast on the beam. Something that although was very impressive was not in the lesson plan and Miss Hardbroom was keen to discourage in class. Especially with it becoming a distraction for the others. The other distraction being the common scholarship girl.

If only Mildred would stop panicking and listen and use her senses. Perhaps then the rest of the class would improve.

 

On the whole there was certainly a lot of potential. At least the others had adjusted. And her night class were on similar levels. Jadu had asked for extra lessons. Harriet was surprising quite comfortable in the air, it was the mounting that was the problem. Maud was steadily growing in confidence, unused to flying with non-wolves. And even if she had to repeatedly tell Drusilla to stop kicking off so hard and “stop straddling her broom like a cowboy” for the entire term, Constance felt that at least flying wise her new form would do quite nicely, actually-

 

“Mildred Hubble- Oh for-!”

 

But then Mildred had lost her balance for the eighth time; and let go of her bashed up broom for the third time.  

And Constance wondered how she would put up with this girl for another fortnight-
(a term if Mildred somehow passed her BAT. The year if Mildred Hubble somehow didn’t leave!)

-when she was the back fang of Mildred’s antics already. Or if she should just take up early retirement now at age two hundred and fourteen and let someone else try and teach the girl!

Chapter Text

 

“… Mildred. Mildred What are you playing at? Mildred Hubble- Oh for-!”

Mildred Fell with a shriek. She Might have landed with a thud too, if the ground hadn’t suddenly become so spongy. It still smarted though. And left Mildred sprawled out on the floor rather embarrassed. Worse She felt a terrible sense of Daja vu. HB towered over her again, as she had done on Mildred’s first crash landing just yesterday. Fangs bared, grey sun behind her and bearing down on her student. Mildred thought she was a goner for sure this time.

Once again Instead of biting her throat out the vampire just scowled and beckoning the class down to earth.  

“For goodness sake. Down you come girls.” Miss Hardbroom said. She reversed the spongey soft landing spell with a flick of her fingers -(devil horns! Mildred thought.). And pulled Mildred back on her feet and brought the wayward the broom down. The vampire checked her over, dusting her off. Then seeing there was no actual harm done, Huffed and strode back to under the shade of the floating umbrella.

 

“Alright everyone, back into place. From the top, hover then if you can circle the yard as best you can and bring your broom down gently. I want to see all of you try One more time before break.”

There was a class wide groan. Under which Ethel muttered, “How did she even get into a witch school of any sort?”

 

“And Less of that complaining and whining!” Miss Hardbroom snapped. “One more out of turn mutter and all of you will be spending your break time sweeping the hall.”

Miss Hardbroom paused in her dispensing discipline.  A timid hand was raised, it’s owner hiding behind the broomstick. “Yes, Mildred what is it now?”

Mildred had decided she still did not like broomsticks. Or hers didn’t like her anymore after being broken bundled up and nicknamed a banana. She wished she hadn’t mentioned BoBo. Or more wished HB hadn’t picked on Maud for mentioning Bobo. And wishing she hadn’t fallen off eight time in a row.

And very glad to get out of it for even a moment, asked “Please Miss, I don’t feel very well. can I go get a glass of water?”

 

“Miss!” Jadu ventured before HB could say something more horrible then no. “Mildred had a bad bump on the head earlier.”

There were several pointed glances towards Ethel at this. Ethel met them all with a glance back that felt like little needles or teeth on skin.

“Maybe she should go and see the nurse?” Maud added.

“Are you ill?” Miss Hardbroom asked Mildred, then not waiting for an answer said “Fine! Put what’s left of your broom away Mildred and get you things.”

 

“Miss Should I go with her?”

“Oh if you must Maud Moonshine. But remember girl, Broomstick Aptitude test will be here before you know it…“

HB was not known for letting girls go early. Let alone be accompanied. Mildred tried not to take it to heart that HB was glad to see the back of her. And failed miserably. And added that HB hadn’t mentioned the Broomstick Aptitude test on to her list of wishes. Or reminded her that “For those who fail, the bus home is Waiting.”

Mildred really didn’t feel well after that…

Chapter Text

She had meant to get a glass of water then go back to class. Instead Mildred saw the nurse at Maud’s insistence. Not that it did much.

Nor did Nurse Knighting-Gail the school witchdoctor (no relation to Ms Nightingale). She was stout matronly-sort complete with an old fashioned blue dress and cap. And a mummy. Except the bandages she was wrapped in were fresh and sterile on that morning, rather than rotten and filthy like in the films. Nor did she curse Mildred and Maud for entering the sickbay.

She did however make Maud wait outside in in the small courtyard. Matron then felt Mildred’s forehead and back of head. Then shined a light in each of Mildred eyes (very dazzling compared to the rest of the gloom!) and asked things like did you eat at breakfast and how did you bang your head on a book?

“Ah only your second time on a broom you say?” She said kindly. “Nothing broken! You just have to get straight back on it.”

With that diagnosis, Matron gave her two lemon drops and a cold paper towel to put on her wrist (which didn’t even hurt), and sent her away again.

 

Mildred joined Maud outside on the bench by a busy spells class room. Maud pressed a glass of water into her hand and fussed over her, much to Mildred embarrassment.

“Are you feeling better now Millie?”

 

“Yes but Maud I wasn’t really ill in the first place.” Mildred said and apologised for fibbing. And Gave Maud one of the lemon drop to make up for it, pocketing the other. “It’s not my head either. I only said it because I just wanted for a few minutes, before I had to try flying. It makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. Maybe We should head back…”

“oh. Well Matron’s right, it is only your second time on a broomstick.” Maud shrugged, trying to unwrap the sweet. (while made had opposable thumbs, paws were not very good against waxed paper wrapping.) “You’ll get better at it.”

“I won’t. I’m no good on fairground rides or anything.” Mildred insisted.

“It’s flying not a rollercoaster. You don’t have to any loop-de-loops.“ Maud giggled. “Don’t worry I’ll help you. You might even like it once you get the hang of it!”

“I cant even look down out of my window without feeling sick! I tried.” Mildred said. “Whose ever heard of a witch afraid of heights?”

“There’s bound to have been one!”

“Then I bet she wasn’t afraid of the dark as well!“ Mildred sulked.

 

“Well there’s lots of monsters are afraid of light so there must be some witches who are scared of the dark.” Maud said. adding quietly, “and Full moons.”

“Lots of monsters are afraid of daylight for good reason. Some turn to stone and HB burns up!” Mildred pointed out. “wait- full moons? Isn’t that-?”

“I bet there was lots of witches and monsters who are afraid of heights and the dark and they just pretended to be brave.“ Maud persisted, cutting across Mildred.

 

“How am I going to manage that here when most of our lessons take place at midnight?” Mildred said. This was fast becoming an argument and she didn’t like it. Especially not with Maud. “And when I’ve Ethel throwing books at me and saying things, and picking on you too -.”

“I can manage Ethel’s silly fur and hair pulling trick. Maybe you’ll just have to manage with midnights in the opposite was as Izzy and some of group B manage in times they must go out in sunlight? You won’t burn or seize up at least.” Maud frowned.

 

“and anyway, don’t listen to Ethel! She’s just a bully. And you know what the Fae are like with their mood swings.”

“No, I don’t.” Mildred reminded her.

“Oh. No, you don’t.” Maud realized. “Right well urm… they only tend to feel one emotion at a time. And a lot of the time it takes over them. if they’re happy, their ecstatic. If somethings not right they’re not just cross they’re furious. which is hard because fairies can be tricky too especially if they need something or don’t like you.”

“I thought fairies did nice things. Like grant wishes.”

“That’s genies. And they can be tricky too.” Maud corrected. “I think maybe that’s why Ethel’s so beastly to you. She might have a grudge against you for life, save for when she wants a favour from you.”

“Great. Just what I wanted.” Mildred said, thoroughly put out.
“Oh, I’m sorry Maud but it’s no use! I can’t fly, I’m bad books with the vamp AND a fairy. I’m deadwood, I’m bound to be on the next bus home-!”

“Stop that! Do you want to be a witch and be here or not?” Maud said sharply leaping up from the bench. It was almost a bark. Mildred would swear later even the class room behind them went quiet.

 

“Do you want to be a witch here? With Me and Jadu and Ruby and the others?” Maud repeated. “Or are you going to transfer to a common witch school to learn how to use your magic and have to do your first day all over again and let Ethel and HB win. Or worse get covered in wards and have go back to a human school and pretend to be non-magical all your life?”

Mildred gulped and unsure whether to nod or shake her head to Maud’s impassioned rant settled for a mumbled “Here. Sorry.”

“Good.” Maud huffed, tearing off the sweet wrapper and raver aggressively popping the lemon drop into her mouth. She took a deep breath and sitting back down continued,

 

“Then no more mopping or apologising Millie. You’ll never have to get on a broom again once you leave school, if you don’t want to. We even learn transport spells in forth year. Or You could even drive a bobo like your mum or use common public trains and things.” She said Giving Mildred’s arm a squeeze.

“But right now- ugh how old are these sweets? – right now Mildred We need to concentrate on teaching you how to fly!”

Chapter Text

The bell for break went then, and girls and ghouls filled the hallways in a hubbub. Ruby and Jadu sort them out at the bench, as well as returning Maud's things to her. Mildred asked if she and Maud had missed much of the lesson. They hadn't, bar more of Ethel showing off.

"And Jadu getting told off for her 'ill-judged' dismount." Ruby teased.

"I landed on my feet." Jadu shrugged. "I don't see what was the matter with it?"

 

"It matters Jadu Wali -," HB said, appearing behind her with a whoosh and a flash of magic.

"Because you also landed on your hands as well. Not even your paws! If outside of lessons you choose to jump off your broom from on high and hope you land safely on all fours, that is your prerogative. But pull such a lazy dismount in your broomstick aptitude test, and I will fail you."

Jadu mumbled a Yes Miss. Miss Hardbroom turned on her sensible heel and stalked off with a clickety-clack, Smoking a little at the seams. And added over her shoulder;

"And Maud Moonshine, Mildred Hubble. You will both report to Miss Crotchet at lunch break for detention. I sent you to the nurse not to skive your lessons in the corridor."

 

Maud and Mildred both gasped in unfairness. Which meant Maud nearly choked on inhaling her sweet. By the time, Millie had smacked her on the back, made Maud cough and drink some water to help it down the right way, HB, now snapping at a bunch of third years in her way, was too far down the corridor to argue the sentence.

 

"I told you it wouldn't last a week." Ruby grumbled sticking her ear phones back in. Jadu's tail flicked in iteration and silent agreement. "Hi watch it!"

"Sorry."

"Detention before the end of the first week!" Mildred groaned. Even in her old school she'd never gotten in so much trouble so quickly!

"What's my mum going to think?" Maud coughed.

"That you were helping out a friend?" Ruby suggested.

"And the vamp was in a bad mood?" Jadu added,

"Sorry Maud if it hadn't been for me-." Mildred said. Maybe she shouldn't be friend with Maud if only for Maud's reputation. Or Ruby. Or Jadu's. It was a very sinking ship.
But Maud shook her head.

"Don't be silly, I didn't go back to lesson. Ruby's right, I think mum will understand. I'm sure she must have had one herself. Especially if I explain it was from HB."

 

The small courtyard and hall were deserted now. Most girls had scattered at HB's appearance. And besides now the sun had gone in, it felt like it might start to drizzle.
The four of them were about to get up, when they heard the noise.

A horrid noise. A like nails on a black board scrapping horrid noise. Horrid enough to cause the four little witches to duck in fright.

"What was that!?" Mildred squeaked.

"I don't know-!"

 

It came again, louder this time. Closer. And they hid behind one of the stone pillars.

"But it's coming from there!" Maud said covering her ears against the echo, and pinpointing the noise.
Whatever it was, it came a set of spiral stairs that lead up from the dungeons. And was coming towards them.

Chapter Text

Up from the stair well the horrid sound came again for a third time. A groaning scrape of metal on stone that echoed of the walls.

 

Followed by an: “Mind your backs, both of you!”

 

It was an unfamiliar voice, high pitched and cawing.

 

And then a complaint of “Oi, watch that stone work!” from someone else.

 

A Someone was coming up the stairs. Backwards. Mildred and her friends, still with their ears covered, could see the back of his bald rotten head and scruffy shirt. He was taking the steps one at a time; what with carrying the front end of something bulky and seemed very heavy.

“I just polished them banisters yesterday.” He said.

Then “Woops!” as, having stumbled, whatever he was carrying slipped out of his hands and he dropped The Something Heavy!

There were two no three yelps of surprise.

One being Mr Blossom the Zombie. He half tumbled into view, falling back ward up the stairs and landed on his backside. And another was a lady Mildred had not met yet. She shot up the top steps; as though narrowly avoiding having The Something Heavy dropped on her toe.

 

Whatever the Something Heavy was, it went Thud THUD Thud THUD Thud THUD and Screeeech all the way down as slipped back a few steps. and then stopped.

 

Well the Something Heavy slammed into something else with a crunch.

 

And then it stopped.

 

(…Actually… the crunch noise wasn’t the something at all, but the unlucky someone who’d been carrying the other end of The Something Heavy.

Ingra Nightingale had avoided the accident. Imogen Drill had not. But the girls weren’t to know that! And it was probably best that they didn’t. Besides at least Miss Drill stopped the Something Heavy going all the way back down the flight of stairs they’d carried it up.)

 

Mr Blossom groaned as the curly haired lady helped him up and then brushed him down with a flicker of magic. He shuffled as fast as he could back down the stairs, leaving a ducting of soil and a few leaves in his wake.

 

“Careful! Lift er up the steps,” Blossom said, his voice echoing off the stair well, “not drag it!”

 

“Oh I’m fine, thank you for asking!” shot a third voice from behind whatever it was. A cross familiar voice. Mildred knew she ort to be able to place it. “I WAS lifting, you let go!”

 

“Sorry. Can we try again?” asked Mr Blossom.

 

“Give me a second.” Came the reply. And there was a grim wet dislocating noise. The sort you get when Granma’s joints creak and pop. But worse.

“Ready-!”

 

“One two three? Heave!” said the curly haired lady. Well curly haired witch Mildred supposed. She stood with her back to the girls, hovering at the top of the steps watching on and directing. Unaware four little faces were watching her and Mr Blossom as he began dragging the Something Heavy up behind him, someone else pushing from below.

 

Mildred took another peek at her. The curls were defiantly the most noticeable thing about her; a bouncy mix light blonde and dark brown hair that almost had a life of their own as she fluttered about. But looking past that Mildred saw the pastel clothes under the once black cloak. She had feathers in her hair and on her clothes, as well as smatterings of chalk and paint. And when she turned around and her face came into profile, it was an odd but pleasant face, with black shiny eyes. Very pitch black shiny eyes…

Chapter Text

 

Mildred almost gasped. Almost. Well she did, but managed to keep it very quiet. The others seemed to have noticed what she noticed about the witch they were watching as well.

 “Who is that?” Mildred whispered to her friends, thinking maybe someone had seen her on their first tour of the castle ( Goodness that seemed a very long time ago!) . “And what’s Mr Blossom up too?”

“I’ve as much clue as you do, Mil.” Jadu said not taking her eye off the scene.

“DO WHAT?” Asked Ruby. Loudly.

“SHH!”  

“Ruby take your earphones out!” Mildred hissed.

The witch turned around - at the same time as Maud clapped her hand over Ruby’s mouth- But was almost instantly distracted again by Mr Blossom. The Something Heavy caught on yet another step so He’d said a word too rude to say around little witches. And was scolded for it.

Thankfully by some miracle (or more likely the racquet they were making,) no one realised there were students hiding in the yard behind the stone banister. And so the four first years went unnoticed by the two mysterious teachers and the handy man. Mildred was surprised no one else had come to investigate what was going on. Surly HB wouldn’t have stood for this amount of noise during the school day?

 

 “The witch-  I feel like I should know her…” Maud mumbled as she let Ruby go. “EW! Ruby!”

“You put your hand over my mouth!”

“You didn’t have to lick me!” Maud pouted, wiping her hand on her skirt.

“It wasn’t on purpose-!”

“Shh!” Mildred and Jadu hissed again.

Still not moving from her spot or looking away, Jadu asked, “Maud, what do you mean you know her?”

“Is she another Miss Drill? Have we forgotten he as well?” Mildred frowned. If she was going to start forgetting ALL her teachers faces, lessons were going to be very hard!

“No. I mean- don’t laugh, but she smells familiar.” Maud said tapping her nose. Mildred tried not to chuckle. And failed.
“I’m serious! Her perfume is so strong, even worse then Miss Bats. AND Even with all of Mr Blossom’s smells, it’s there. I’ve smelt it before so we’ve defiantly been in the same room as her.”

“Or at least been somewhere she has.” Ruby agreed.

With one Final shove, the adults got whatever it was up the last step and they set it down on the hallway floor. Miss Drill emerged unscathed behind the Something Heavy. She caught her breath, leaning on it.

 “Almost Time to bring it alive eh, Frank?” she said, much more cheerful now they’d got it up the steps.

 

(Mildred elbowed Maud, as though to say: “So that’s whose voice it is!”

Maud elbowed back: “Oh! Gosh so it is!”

…or possibly “Ow why did you elbow me?”  )

 

Mildred would have like to get a better look at whatever it was now it was practically before them. But the Something Heavy’s true nature was obscured. That is to say, it was under a white sheet. All she could gather was that it was about the size of a large desk; but more oddly shaped and lumpy. And it had wheels, but only because after a rest stop the adults started pulling and pushing along the corridor on its little casters.

“I can’t wait to see her moving around by herself!” Trilled the witch, steering the thing.

( “’Her’?” the four girls mouthed to each other. )

“Aye me too. When I think of the trouble I’ve had finding some of them parts for her!” The zombie replied. Or at least that’s what Mildred thought he said… His voice kept getting stuck on some letter sounds. So, it sounded like “Trrroubllle” “haaad” and “paarrrts”.

 

“Bring it alive?” Mildred frowned and asked the others. “That thing? How?”

“Is it a thing? It could be a someone rather than a who?” Maud pointed out.

“Yeah, maybe it’s a Franken?” Jadu suggested. “Mr Blossom did say ‘her’ didn’t he.”

“Can they do that?” Mildred asked. Maud and Jadu shrugged. They both turned to Ruby for the answer.

 

“How should I know? We don’t all just instantly recognise each other you know!” She shot back, offended. Mildred finally twigged what ‘Franken’ meant. It must be slang for a Frankenstein’s Monster style of Monster. (Or in this case a Cherrytree’s Monster? She made a note to discreetly ask Ruby for corrections when she could.)

“Besides I hope it’s a robot.” Ruby muttered as the Something Heavy and its escorts came to pass in front of them, and trundled on over the stone and wood along the corridor. “also, a Franken’? In a castle? Under a sheet? Seriously?”

“They’ll saying it’s alive next I suppose?” Maud asked. It made Ruby smirk at least.

“No, but what I meant can they make a new Franken?” Jadu added.

“Oh. Well I guess? I mean physically yes… but I don’t think so?” Ruby said pulling on her ear. Something green came away and For a horrible moment Mildred thought Ruby had pulled her ear back off. But she was just taking out her ear phones. Green ones this time. Finally.

 “Not unless they have lightning rods and a hidden lab in the staff room?” she continued. They watched as Drill and Blossom hefted the great lump up the next set of stairs, the witch reaching up and holding the sheet on.
“I mean you can’t just go around making people without proper paper work or everyone one would be doing it- Hey Mil where you going?”

Maud and Jadu looked up to find their scholarship friend gone. Instead she was ducking behind a pillar, glass of water abandoned on the stair.

“Shh! After them. Don’t you want to see what it is?” Mildred asked, her curiosity piqued and already off following the teachers. the other exchanged an unsure ‘what if we get in trouble look. then a shrugged and followed Mildred in following, creeping down the corridor.

Well the others creeped. Ruby sort of slid, not wanting to clomp.

Chapter Text

 

“It’s going to be so fun,” The curly haired witch was saying ahead of them, all in a twitter. “Although I’m still annoyed you two wouldn’t let me and Marigold have a speak peek! We’ve only seen her in pieces!”

As though to emphasis the point she tried to lift a corner of the sheet. But much to her (and the girl’s) disappointment the two other adults stopped her an “Oi!”

“It’s a surprise Ing! For everyone! Wait two minutes and you’ll see it in action.” Miss Drill laughed lightly smacking away the other woman’s hand. “Beside you had your sneak peek flying around to get the footage.”

“That does not count, at all.” The witch huffed. And might have rolled her eyes too, it was hard to tell they were so dark. But she let it go. And go of the something heavy to flitter up the short flight of stairs and open a door. 

“oh good you got our little memo!” she said holding the staff room door open and Announcing to the gathered teachers. “I’m glad you could make it, we’ve got so-o-mething for yoo-ou!”

Mildred checked the coast was clear. Then tapped Maud on the shoulder and beckoned the troupe forward. Jadu brought up the rear, on her paws for extra slinking.

“Now. Wait. Close your eyes.” The heard Mr blossom say, as the door swung shut. “And you’ll get a big surprise!”

Not wanting to miss out the four students snuck up as quickly as they could to the staff room door. They had their ears pressed to it and turns to peeking at the gap in key hole as Miss Drill said:

“On the Count of three. Ready? three!”

And all was revealed…

x

Unlike the rest of staff Constance didn’t close her eyes. She certainly didn’t put her hands over eyes ether like some of the staff. There had been a note on the staff room about a meeting this break time. one she hadn’t authorised and Miss Cackle couldn’t remember doing so etier. She had shown up as asked. (in fact she and most of the staff were normally in the staffroom that time anyway, but HB considered today she was doing someone a great favour in doing so!) but was kept waiting. To the point she’d almost been ready to give up and go prepare for her next lesson, when Ingra Nightingale swept in to the room announcing “We’ve got something for you!”

The other two had lugged the hulk of a thing into the room.

“Now. Wait. Close your eyes, and you’ll get a big surprise!”

 “On the Count of three. Ready? three!”  Then Miss Drill whipped off the sheet with a “Ta dah!”

Which was Pretty daft seeing as everyone else’s eyes were closed? Constance looked. But so far she was not impressed.

“…I don’t see what why you called a staff meeting for an ‘Art Project’.” She frowned.

But what else she said was lost to the noises of surprise and confusion that arose with Mr Blossom, realising the error he’d made, said “Yoou can look now!”

Although some members of staff might have just been squealing for no reason as they were prone too. it was a good thing they were, because it covered the first year’s own comments.

 “It looks- well- !” Ingra started. The art department had painted the base after all and helped with the extras so she felt she had to be positive.

 “Very modern. And trust me Miss Hardbroom this is more than Just an Art Project!”

 Perhaps the overall reaction a little anti climatic then Frank Imogen and Ingra had hoped for. But in good form the other teachers gave the surprise a sporting chance, got up from their seats and putting down their cups of tea. Not all of them polite mind.

 “It’s certainly a piece of work. Belongs in the tate. Modern art stuff.” Mr Casper DeBloom criticised.

“What’s holding it together? Staples or prayers?” Miss Hardbroom sneered.

“Hey giveover now!” Frank protested. But Mr DeBloom had a point... and Jadu had been sort of right.

 It was indeed a new Franken monster… of sorts. More a Junkenstien then a Frankenstein though. The Something Heavy Surprise was a cobbled together contraption.

It looked to the girls and teachers alike like a shortened broom stick. A shawn off broomstick that was strapped to a steel bar. which then fed into a box with cogs, pistons and a Car battery. A tea Box formed the base that was painted with lightening bolts, go faster stripes and hot-rod flames and…flowers.  a hodgepodge of switches and pressure gauges at the other end of the besom seemed to be the controls. A welding Visor, attached to the main body of the thing with wires, sat on the panel.

 “A finale version would be more streamlined an’ fancy.” Frank continued. “She’s only a prototype at the minute.”

“A prototype what?” Constance asked, suspiciously.

“It looks fun! I’m sure I had one of these when I was a girl.” Davina Bat giggled.

“They had soldering back then?”  Lavina asked and got an elbow in the wing.

Unperturbed Davina was already hitching up her skirt and clambering to sit on the broom section. Outside Mildred had to bite her tie not to laugh. Miss Bat Her stockings were showing!

“It does look like fun!” Ameila agreed heartily. “but…what exactly is it?”

“It is,” Frank started with a flourish , Ingra rapping out an impromptu drumroll on the table;

“T’ Blossom & Drill Portable and Virtual Reality Broomstick Flight Simulator!”

 

Mildred looked at Maud.  Maud looked at Mildred, (tugging her tie out of her friend's mouth). A broomstick flight simulator…

 

Constance meanwhile looked aghast.  “A What!?”

“This here is our Marrk Three version! Ooh she’s a real cracker!” Frank continued. He was so excited he was sheading petals.

“Hardly portable if it took three of you to move it.” Miss Gullet commented before HB could rip into him.

“Just wait till you see it in action!” Imogen beamed.

“I would rather not thanks. It doesn’t look safe.” Miss Gullet said.

“I’m sure it is perfectly safe or we wouldn’t have brought to show you all.” Ms Nightingale frowned. “Would we?”

“I tested it myself.” Imogen said in back up, flushing a little.


“That, does not count. What exactly happened to mark’s one and two?” Miss Gullet replied. But was ignored. Unfortunately, at the one time where the other staff should have really listened to the snarky health and safety obsessed skeleton.

 

“The Mark three is just a vast improvement. And it responds to commands, just like a real broomstick-look!” Imogen said. And fired it up.

 

The Blossom & Drill Portable and Virtual Reality Broomstick Flight Simulator hissed. then slowly, the broom shaft begun to bounce and bob, it’s pistons huffing and shunting. Everyone bar Drill and Mr Blossom stepped or slid away sharply from it. Had she not been sat on it Miss Bat might have done too. Instead she Squeaked and clung on to the little broom.

“Only you press buttons instead of speaking!” Mr Blossom explained loudly.

 

“I told you it was a robot!” Ruby grinned and was shushed. Not that anyone would have heard them outside over the racquet the Mack Three was marking. It wasn’t as horrid as the noise that they’d heard when the adults had carried and dropped it up the stairs. but it was LOUD.

 

Mildred heard Miss Drill say something about “And this is the best bit-!” and turned back to the keyhole.

What the best bit was Mildred missed completely. But apparently, it involved the welding visor and something about “Feels like you’re really flying!”

Chapter Text

Davina Bat was not, despite what some thought of her, a stupid woman. A bit batty yes but not stupid. She was normally up for anything and trusted her own judgement where others wouldn’t. But now Davina was regretting her impulsive decision to climb aboard the prototype. And the feeling wasn’t improved by being hand the cannibalized welding mask.

Still, it was quite exciting. let it never be said Lady Davinana several middle names Baton. - (Of the ancient vampidic house of York. Of Third High Witch of the Coven of the Wild Meadows. And once base player slash lead singer of the SkullCrushers.) - wasn’t a good sport nor loyal. Plus it wouldn’t do to let CoNstance HAAARDBROOM see she was afraid.

So rather than hop off the Mark Three when Imogen approached her with the mask, Davina pulled it on as best she could. Her ear still poked out the top.

+++

Mildred saw that the back of a screen to where the eye hole should be, but no idea what she could be seeing. Whether Miss Bat was Squealing in delight or fright was hard to tell. But she was describing what she was seeing on the screen very well. So well in fact:

“Listen to that, it’s flying around the school!” Maud whispered.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure! Nowhere else has two towers, a yard and a view to Dragon’s Peak in the distance. Miss Nightingale must have flown around the school to make it seem real.”

“Like real flying…”

“Mildred, she might have even flown a mock-up of the attitude test!”

Budding ideas aside, it was both fascinating spectacle to watch. and bizarre. They were not able to see what Bat herself was seeing. So it was essential watching a bunch of adults watching someone else in a mask laughing to themselves. Except for the Mark Three’s broom. It was the only moving bit of the equipment, occasionally tipping forward and backwards. it Rose and down Like a merry go round horse…only faster. And faster.

“I’m not the only one who thinks this looks really weird to watch right?” Jadu asked her friends. It didn’t help the Mark Three was still picking up speed.

“Is it meant to do that?” Maud whispered, as it lurched a little.

+++

“I’m not the only one who thinks this looks really weird to watch right?” Ms Scales asked her colleagues.

The dragon personally couldn’t remember a time when she’d seen HB so tense and angry. And Scales’d been at Cackle’s thirty years. Considering she once seen HB catch a fourth year with a fire work potion, this was worrying!

“Is it meant to do that?” Amelia asked. well, bellowed.

“Well- No not really-.” Frank admitted. the machine was getting louder (Amelia hadn’t though t it was possible to be near deafened when dead!) and its movements were becoming jerkier. almost bucking Davina off! In fact, Davina had the broom in a white knuckled grip in one hand and an arm flaying in the other, Like a cowboy on a rodeo bull. Imogen frowned and tried adjusting a didlum on the dial. but Another hiccup and Davina’s manic giggles Turned sharply from delight to dread. (Unlike the first year the headmistress could tell the difference in Davina’s shrieks and squeals.)

“Oh, stop I want to get off! Turn it off! Stop it!”

“What?”

“Turn It OFF!”

Before Imogen or Frank could initiate any form of shut down procedure, Constance sent a sharp bolt of magic at the large red button on the machine. The Mark Three froze. then whined as it powered down. It wasn’t the only one.

“Hey-!”

But Constance ignored any protest as she strode forward and seized the ‘helmet’ off Davina’s head.

“This Is Outrageous!” she said Dropping the visor as if touching technology had burnt her more than a sunny afternoon in June. “Flying is a Skill! Any IDIOT could do this!”

“It’s just for training!” Imogen shot back. Miss Drill was ether very brave or very daft to argue toe to toe with a vampire like that Mildred decided. Even more so given it was HB.

“You mean to put the girls on THAT?!”

“well, yes. When it’s ready. You said this only this morning how less and less of the girls have had had any sort of experience before they come here! In fact, you’ve said it every year as far as I know.”

“it’s why we thought it would help.” Frank injected. He then shrank back when HB’s glare flickered at him. (Mildred felt very sorry for him she hated being on the end of that look.)

“That does not mean we start replace real flying with pretend.” Constance said. It was A low cutting cold remark and it only got lower. “The Broomstick aptitude test to see if the girls have witch craft in their Blood Miss Drill. Not to see if they can perform like trained monkeys.”

Before Imogen could retort, a high c pitched screech cut the argument in half. Davina had remained frozen since the helmet had come off, even when Ingra had waved a hand in front of her face. But having had her fill of the arguing and possibly now suffering some form reality crash, Davina shot off the Flight simulator. And into the cupboard; slamming the doors dramatically so hard it shook. And, dislodging Professor Gimlet who’d been hiding underneath it.

Everyone scowled or huffed-. (Except Frank who didn’t have enough face left to scowl nor had never been a scowly person.) -At Constance for upsetting the other vampire. Particularly Imogen and Ingra. And Gullet, but she was always scowling anyway.

“We’ll be lucky if we can get her out of there before half term.” Miss Cackle said well scolded. She cleared her throat and started diplomatically. “Now, I can see your point- “

(“Whose point?” came a growl from behind the sofa. The Professor was always sour and rude after being disturbed.)

“But following that display, I think it needs a few more try outs and stringent testing.” Miss Cackle continued sparing the sofa a glance. “Cover ‘it’ up again Mr Blossom and return it to your shed.

“The scrap heap would be the best place.” Constance sniffed.

“You may move it into the hall after The Night shift starts and we will give it another trail run. I’ll make my decision later, now if you’ll excuse me.”

“But Miss Cackle-!” Imogen tried.

“Give ‘er a chaaance?” Frank pleaded.

“I’ll make my decision later.” Miss Cackle repeated firmly. “Now if you’ll excuse me. I believe the bell will be going soon, and I have to fetch some paper work from my office.”

With that, she left her staff to their varying degrees of approval or disapproval with the whole affair. And left the room. Via the closed door.

+++

It was very lucky that the girls had the sense to make a break for it as Miss Cackle began to excuse herself. Most teenagers wouldn’t have. Even them Maud, Mildred, Ruby and Jadu only got out of the way and down the stairs and along the corridor just in nick time. Their headmistress floated through the door and though the space they’d been a moment earlier!

They joined with the rest of their class and the other girls. And watched from a distance, as an unsympathetic Miss Hardbroom held the staffroom door open. Miss Drill and Mr Blossom carried the Mark Flight Simulator out again as one might a coffin. Other members of staff followed it out and headed off for the next lesson and HB vanished from sight. Unaware outside the doors the first years had hatched a plan.

One that involved Mildred getting some extra broomstick practice in; without leaving the ground.

Chapter Text

The bell for lessons went. And the four sneaking first years went to their next lesson; a library session watched over by Mr De Bloom and shared with the forth years. It seemed that, although Ms Scales was to take them for English and latin, a fire breathing dragon was not welcome in room full of old paper.

Mildred learnt quickly not to make assumptions or stare at her class mates. even though others goggled at her for being- well, herself. Mildred wasn’t sure if they were staring at here more for her entrance to the school or her being AT the school. Overnight, and over break time, the rumours had spread amongst the student body of Millie, a common non monster witch . With folks like Ethel and some nastier girls adding fuel to the fire. So that first shared lesson or so Mildred the Human faced some odd looks and questions. And that was just between her fellow day walkers.

After the rush of the flying lesson and discovering the Mark 3 the rest of the day flew by in a rather blur. Mildred would never have guessed magical school could be like ‘real’ school in that sense.

Potions, their next lesson, was brilliant…at first.

They filed into the room under HB’s watchful gaze and it seemed such a different place then it had been in form. Little caldrons stood ready on unlit burners. tools and equipment lined their desks. there was a rack for drying herbs that Mildred hadn’t noticed at the back of the room earlier. Now it had been lowered down from the ceiling to an easy reach, the smells wafting around them. The store cupboard unlocked and open revealing all sorts of ingredients and potions. And thin smoke poured out of the bubbly cauldron on HB’s desk. The hints of all sorts of magical potential hung about that lab. Mildred could almost taste it in the air when they responded to Miss Hardbroom’s “Good afternoon girls.”

Even Miss Hardbroom was different. The vampire seemed more at ease with them then Mildred had seen her so far. Less shouty but no less firm. That ghost of a smile even played about her fangs a little at times. Maybe it was because now the Mark three was away? Perhaps she was More at home in An working potions lab? Or HB was always happier to be inside during the afternoon. Miss Hardbroom’s flying was excellent but teaching potions was her thing. She certainly looked the part as she measured and brewed and other witchy stuff involved in making potions. Again looking as Mildred thought a Real Witch. And Mildred was enthralled for at least ten minutes. But then HB went on about Lab safety, Making sure they knew how to correctly hold knives and how to light cauldrons. blah blah blah, All the boring stuff.

They didn’t get to brew a potion that first lesson. (The other girls had had to show their own varying degrees of potion brewing skills in their entrance exams. And they all must have passed to be here? Mildred wondered how she’d have done. An A? for Abysmal. ) But they to test the potion at least. In pairs they were given a sample of colour changing potion from the teachers cauldron, to test on a bunch of leaves. But HB even made that boring. she had them writing things down, working out how much produced what effect on what leaf . And making them answer questions like,
“Who can tell me what is the common name for a Mayweed?“,
“Is that clear Mildred?”
and “Harriet Goodcharm are you chewing gum?”

Very dull indeed.

At Six o’clock they packed up their things and trouped back to the hall for Their dinner. A lunch that was also Group A’s breakfast. Or Prehaps Brunch would be a better label? Like breakfast, lunch wasn’t great. And it took a lot longer to queue up for. Again with the whole school packed into the one hall it was very noisy. But more clatter and half asleep grumblings then the excitable ruckus of the new term feast. HB unfortunately made good on her promise on their earlier detentions. as they put their dirty plates away, a prefect sent Maud and Mildred to classroom two, while everyone-else went out for lunch break.

Once they found it, Mildred was surprised to find the detention wasn’t deserted. She had thought this early in the year she and Maud would be the only ones. They were the only first years true; but there was another seven and a half girls there. and at least four of them were third years. Mildred even recognised two of them. The unlucky ogre who’d smashed up the game of skittles; and the rabbit looking like creature Miss Gullet had caught swinging on her chair at yesterday’s welcome feast.

“You two get one for skiving and I get two days for not sitting on a seat properly?” she squeaked, her fur on end. “Miss Crotchet that’s not fair!”

“Life seldom is, Jessica. Face the front.” Miss Crotchet had said and returned to her spell-duko.

At half past seven, Maud and Mildred raced to their Spell class, worried they were late. but yet the twenty strong class- (group A joining the day walkers for a joint lesson.) -were still waiting for a teacher to arrive. Which teacher they weren’t certain. There was quite a debate going on as Mildred and Maud arrived. There seemed to be a mix up in time tables as groups a and b had different teachers listed for taking the lesson.

“I thought we had Miss Gullet?”

“No Miss Nightingale. Here see- seven thirty Spells.”

“But it’s getting dark?”

“Maybe we have Professor Gimlet and she’s already here.”

So imagine Mildred Maud Ruby and Jadu’s horror when Miss Cackle suddenly floated through the door!

To be fair everyone had jumped a bit at that.

(Actually Harriet even fainted during their first spells lesson with the headmistress! a lot of girls squealed too. Something to do with the spider Miss Cackle would make appear later. who’d have thought monsters would suffer from arachnophobia? Especially when Mildred had seen at least three spider students so far!)

But Mildred had forgotten Fenny’s mentioning that Miss Cackle liked to take a few first year lessons now and then. Instead, petrified they’d been busted for their earlier eavesdropping, she and her friends spent much of the first half of the lesson in a state of nervous waiting. Waiting for her to summon them forward or give them a detention most horrid. but it never came.

Chapter Text

“And all together now- Altma, Agba, Sansiba Calendula!”

“Altma, Agba, Sansiba Calendula,” Echoed the class.

“Easy now and gently down. Well done girls.” Miss Cackle smiled as the class lowered Mildred back to the floor. “Thank you, Mildred. You can stop trembling and return to your seat now…And do up those boot laces while you’re at it.”

Mildred opened her eyes and did as she was told relived to be back solid ground. She would had much rather try squashed frogs for breakfast dinner and tea every day from now on then have that hover charm used on her again. Eighteen hover charms to be precise.

Instead of calling Jadu, Millie, Ruby and Maud, out for their earlier misdemeanour, the head ghost got straight on with teaching a simple levitation spell. Miss Cackle had had the girls at the beginning testing it on some knobbly looking windfall apples first. It took two attempts for Mildred to just to make hers hop an inch up of the desk and hang for a moment. But then it had dropped, rolled off the table bounced off the floor and somehow shot upwards hitting the ceiling with a splat.

“Perhaps performing a joint spell might be in order.” Miss Cackle had said, looking up at pulpy mess. “Much easier for young witches to perform when learning a new spell if working as group.”
and Mildred, sitting unfortunately at the front of the class been volunteered as Guinea pig. Or possibly that was an excuse given her individual attempt was now dripping juice on the floor.

Having only read Spells for Beginners and given The Standard book of Spells a quick glance over in her preparation for staring school, Mildred’s basic Latin currently left a lot to be desired. But, - other than flying again and the not actually being all that good at it (yet), -Mildred found spells to be a fast favourite class.

Getting her head around magical theory without the physical trying out of any spells proved very tricky indeed. Mildred knew the basics of spells. levitation, summoning/vanishing, moving, changing, creating/destroying) etc. But knowing and learning the basics are two different things. Knowing the basics had led to more accidents then before Mildred had known it was magic. If fact Mildred was no longer allowed to deliberately her magic in the house. or unsupervised after the incident with the curtains.

even though the very few spells she had deliberately tried here at Cackles’ had gone wrong or done nothing at all, Spell class made Mildred believe she could be a witch after all.

No one avoided her here for being magic. Not like summer. A summer spent in her bedroom away from anyone Mildred might know from school. Where other kids had ridden past her house as dares. Or a summer sometimes Stood in the woods trying to direct her powers into nature like in the books. With mum stood behind a tree out the way while dad sat with the car ready just in case of an emergency. Or secretly hiding in the garden shed hoping not to burn it down.

Now despite only able to move a pencil (there wasn’t enough apples to have a second go.) Mildred could really feel her magic tuning up, her heart filling in wonder, the static sparks in her bloodstream happy to be put to work. And it felt brilliant, like a cool balm or a warm bath over her.
For the first time since her magic had lashed out and kept lashing out, Mildred felt that the still-new feeling under her skin in her heart was no longer a curse. but a tool. Here was A safe space for it to sing, to be used. To craft and create, to learn and help and have fun with. And couldn’t wait to cast another spell.

And yet the others seemed to find the class boring! like maths in a common school. Their homework was to practice the spell for next lesson and pick another beginner spell any of their choosing to learn or improve upon. Mildred couldn’t believe it when everyone groaned! Why would any one complain about such a task?
But they did, under their breath.

“Please Miss Cackle-,”

And As well as complaining she already knew all those spells, Ethel had some other gripe that the words not matching what she’d been taught. Only she said that aloud to the headmistress.

“And then in the standard book of spells here It says here ‘Zanista Tartra’ not ‘Sansiba Calendula’!”

“Yes, well I was taught one way, you another. and the witch who compiled that has published a third version. All of them work. Possibly one version is better for some then another.” Miss Cackle replied.

“My cousin couldn’t use ‘Calendula’.” Maud shrugged. Then because everyone was looking at her now said in a rush, “she used Sansiba Tartra in her exams.”
“But- but then the Latin is wrong completely.” Ethel said puzzled. (it was the first time Mildred had seen the fairy with an expression that wasn’t mean in some way. Ethel was very pretty when she wasn’t looking smug or angry. And it struck Mildred as a shame because that was the only expressions the fairy so far seemed to wear.) “If the spells directions aren’t straight forward how can that work?”

“Indeed. Spell are not like potions you know.” Miss Cackle said. “They’re an art yes, but not so written down. They are a verbal tool with a verbal history. And like accents and verbal history so many of you will be told different spells for the same effect.” She paused, going through the front desk to sit on the chair.
“Someone, I forget who now, once defined flying as ‘falling, but missing the ground’. Spells are a bit like that...”

“Like an accident miss?” Mildred asked trying to understand. And then Mildred felt a bit silly for asking because there were a few sighs, and someone tittered. But Miss Cackle took her seriously at least, much to many girls (but mostly Ethel’s) surprise.

“Yes Mildred, what a good analogy. As if you’re encouraging a very particular accident to happen!” Miss Cackle beamed, “the right word Ursula-.”

“Ethel. I’m Ethel Hallow Miss Cackle.”

“Oh, yes - Ethel of course you are, My apologies. The right words are sometimes not as important as the right feeling! Or else we wouldn’t have wordless spells. A spell is merely a spring for your magic to be directed from. A spell from the heart is much more effective than one just read aloud. So, you put your emotions and needs into your spell and you will encourage that particular ‘accident’ to happen.”

Seeing a sea of somewhat confused faces Miss Cackle got up and explained, a wave of a hand causing chalk to write and illustrate on the board. “So perhaps compassion, the want to help another, if one is perhaps evoking a healing chant? Your own Happiness into wishing someone some good luck. Or just simply by being peckish one might use that feeling in levitating the biscuit tin off a high out your reach shelf.”
The last one got a giggle from the class.

“So, do good feelings make for good magic then Miss?” Tansy asked.

“But then you’d have to be happy ALL the time.” Drucilla countered.

“Yes. And no.” Miss Cackle answered. Rather vaguely.
“It is good to focus on the happy but all those feelings ‘bad’ as they might be are important. Feelings and how you use or act on them makes you what you are…”

Chapter Text

“Feelings and how you use or act on them make you what you are…”

Miss Cackle paused, moving around the desk and leaning back against it. Forgetting perhaps she could just go through it as she had done earlier.

“You girls are, after all, the stuff of legends and folktales in the mortal world. You know how the world writes your stories, how that makes you feel and the feelings you may cause others. Others who don’t understand you for what you are or your magic. As monsters in a mostly human witching community or as witches with the world…” She said.
“And that can easily drag one down if you think about it too much. And while you are at school you will face exam stress, sadness and joy, growing pains. Not every day will be a ‘good day’. But you have to harness those feelings, not bottle them up. Put them to work as it were.”

Speaking of feelings Mildred right now felt a little lost. And a bit confused as how to quite exactly ‘Put feelings to work’. But a glimmer of an idea forming. Her Plan A to improve her flying was to try and get a go on the Mach 3 broomstick VR. But there was No harm in trying out a plan B as a second option?

“Miss,” she said raising her hand. “If someone was really afraid of something, can that be used in a spell? Or channel it into another magic?”
“Yes, quite so Mildred.”
“But would it still exist?” Mildred persisted, “Can it be magicked away?”

Miss Cackle frowned at her, mulling Mildred’s question over.
“Do you mean the fear as a feeling Mildred? Or a particular fear of something”
“A particular fear Miss.” Mildred started. “Like if you were scared of the dark or flying-!”

Again, came the few sighs, and someone muttered, “afraid of the dark!?” causing Mildred to falter.

(Unknown to her, however Maud and Ruby twigged what Mildred was getting at, hastily scribbling out a note that popped into Jadu’s work book. All now three paid extra attention to the exchange and Miss Cackles response)

“or spiders?” Mildred added. there was something about Miss Cackle’s very knowing look too. “big spiders. Say if you had a fear of big spiders If you put your feelings of would all fear of the thing go? Would you have to do it lots? Or could a potion that could get rid of it?”

 

Mildred’s plan B was if she could put all her fears and phobia’s about flying heights and falling into a spell either all at once or bit buy bit magic then she would have no problem getting on a broom, bar her clumsiness. And the dark wouldn’t be an issue if she wasn’t scared at all. And then she’d be a real witch a proper witch like HB and not afraid of anything.

But Fear unfortunately was useful too. At least according to Miss Cackle.

“Not really no. Besides fear can be very useful too.” Miss Cackle said slowly gliding across the space between her and the front row. “Fear can keep one away from real danger. Fear can become adrenaline. Or become different strengths to keep one safe. And if you magicked away fear what would make bravery? It’s the facing fears that is in courage and helps you grow...”

“You just learn how to cope with your fears.” Miss Cackle continued gently. She held out her old hand for Mildred’s young one. Mildred gave it. and was surprised to find the ghost’s hand solid and gentle, and her own hand not going through it at all. It was a cold sensation but, in this moment, not icily so. Not even when Miss Cackle’s other hand brushed against her knuckles opening her palm to hold Mildred’s hand out flat.
“And have to practice such things as flying- or being around spiders - until you get used to them. Sometimes you’ll find you’re bigger than your fear and they’re more afraid of you then you are of them.”

With a wave of magic and a wink Miss Cackle summoned a tarantula into Mildred’s hand stretching its fuzzy legs. And that’s when everyone bar Mildred had freaked out. Also, there was a thud.
“What was that?” Miss Cackle asked over the chaos of squeals.

“Harriet, Miss. She’s passed out!”

 

“Oh, Poor thing!” Miss Cackle gasped. Harriet had indeed fainted. She lay out over her desk like a fish on ice until Tansy and Izzy pulled her upright and sat her backup in her wheel chair. The headmistress Floating over (and though a few students in her hurry!) and helped steady Harriet as the little mermaid groggily came too. “there you are, child. Easy does it. Harriet isn’t it? Easy now are you back with us? It’s alright my dear… Esmerelda could you, - “
“Ethel.”
“Ethel, could you and- which Newt are you again my dear? Gloria- oh like your nana, Wonderful would you two be so kind as to help wheel Miss Harriet out and take her around to the sick bay to recover, thank you. take her bag for her too. There there dear, never mind.”

“Goodness I’ve never had a fainter.” She muttered, once they had left. “Now the rest of you. apples- and pencil- at the ready and let’s try that again one more time. From the top now. Altma, Agba-!”
And Miss Cackle continued the lesson. Ethel and Gloria returned, (Harriet was fine but spending the rest of class with Matron). Mildred’s pencil went the same was as her apple. And Bryony still refused to be at the same desk as the tarantula. She didn’t sit back down until Mildred had put the spider on the window sill, no matter how many times Miss Cackle insisted the spider would do the invisible girl no harm.

Mildred had actually thought the spider rather cute. and hoped to keep it as a pet. (she’d sort of had tarantulas before, her uncle had let Mildred pet sit his sometimes). But just as it had appeared, Mildred was startled to find when she went to pick it back up as the bell went, with another wave of Miss Cackles hand the spider ‘Blew away’ is a shimmer of golden fragments.

Magic, she thought still looking about to see if it had really gone as the class packed up. (Miss Cackle in fact was packing up the class room and her own things up with magic, perhaps unable too physically.) So, did Miss Cackle create that spider or just borrow it from another place and then send it back? Or was it an illusion spell and didn’t really exist?

“Actually, Mildred Hubble.” Miss Cackle called over the din, jolting her from her thoughts, “a word if I may?”

Mildred hung back as asked. as did Maud Jadu and Ruby. Had Mildred been seen outside the staff room after all?

“Run along you three, she will catch you up. If one of you could be so kind as tell Miss Bat- or Miss Crotchet- where Mildred is, and she will be along behind you.” Miss Cackle instructed.

“Don’t look so worried, Mildred.” She said as Mildred’s friends reluctantly slunk off and they were left alone.
“I just wondered how are you settling in? I know restarting at a new school can be tough and this is all rather a fast learning curve. Especially with miscommunication in regard to your scholarship.”

“Oh.” Mildred relaxed a smidge. “Well yes, thank you. I’m settling in. And I’ve making friends.” And enemies, she thought. But left that bit out.

“And all these questions about fears...?” Miss Cackle said, looking over the top of her glasses for a moment before pushing them back on her head.

“So far, it’s not as scary here as I thought it would be, Miss Cackle. It’s more erm…well.”

“More what Mildred?” Miss Cackle Pressed. Mildred decided to be sort of honest. And with a sigh repeated her concerns about not fitting in at either comprehensive school; once for being magic and a ‘danger’. and now the other for being ‘common’ and slow and behind in her learning.

“Ah I see you’ve started to pick up ‘the lingo’. I never liked the use of that word even in my day-!” The headmistress scoffed, bobbing a little in the air.
“But anyway- My dear girl, I wouldn’t have offered you a place if I didn’t think we could help you to control your new powers! We’ve had many many girls who are late bloomers start here and gone on to be fine witches. All sorts are welcome here.”

“I know Miss. But I’ve never flown before- well before coming here! And I can’t seem to get the hang of it. What if I never do?”

“It is only your second day here.” Miss Cackle reminded her.

Mildred wanted to point out it seemed a very long two days. and that in fact it felt almost a year since she’d landed in the yard! But she didn’t.

“I’m afraid one is naturally good at it, flying is one of the hardest skills to grasp at first. but You just have to get straight back on your broomstick.” Miss Cackle continued, almost repeating Nurse Knighting-Gail advise. Can you do that for me Mildred? Or at least try?”

“I can try Miss.” Mildred gulped.
“Once one has learnt to fly is like swimming the arts or riding a bicycle, it’ll come naturally with a little practice. You must preserve with it as you do any other magic.” The headmistress encouraged. “and turn that nerviness about a new school into courage. Now off you go Miss Bat will be wondering where you’ve got too.”

“I guess…” Mildred started, thinking about what Miss Cackle had said in class about using feelings, what Maud said, and what her mum had told her.
“I guess then I just have try and get used to flying, learn magic, and be brave then don’t I Miss?”

“You do. But that is only three or four things.” Miss Cackle pointed out, leading Mildred out of the class room. “Two if you consider being brave as part of everything you do.”

“I’ll try miss.” Mildred repeated.

“That’s the spirit.” the ghost said, laughing at her own joke and floated off down the other hall way; shimmering as she passed in the patch of evening sunlight coming through the window. “Just, no more crashing into the bins please!”

Chapter Text

Mildred would find out through Fenny and Gris later that (- bar the odd moments they’d gone off topic with Mildred’s questions) - Miss Cackle had taught almost the same lesson more less every year on the dot, since the year dot.

Outside of lessons, Mildred was slowly getting used to navigating the social jungle of school life. She’d started to notice with the older girls the Cliques that had established, who took what tables at meals and which groups hung out where. It was more pronounced the higher up the food chain you looked but even on the first year’s fresh meat level there were a few patterns forming. Ethel and Drucilla for example had begun to hover with some older fairies. Fae tended to stick to fae, and fish to water sorts. Or amphibian to water sorts in the case of Gloria and Harriet’s friendship.

But plan A (or Operation Find the Broomstick as it had been unofficially named) was going as well as Mildred’s plan B. that is to say it hadn’t taken off at all.

The first attempt was on that same day as spells with Miss Cackle. Mildred had tried when she went to give Mr Blossom back his spellotape after lessons. She found him outside his shed sat on the yard steps polishing the brass on what looked like door name plates.

“Claw maarks already. Only put them up lar-st week.” He complained gesturing at them with his rag. “Oh ta. I did hope it should come back. Useful stuff is spellotape. Can hold a leaky pipe for weeks.”
“It was, thank you.” Mildred said edging around to see what was behind him in the shed. That was where Miss Cackle had told him to take it. There was something under a white sheet, but she couldn’t see around the door. Having no luck, she Asked straight out but very very politely if she could have a go on the Blossom & Drill Portable and Virtual Reality Broomstick Flight Simulator: Mark Three Prototype.

“how’d you four know about thaaaat?!” the caretaker gasped then shook his head so hard you could see his brain wobble through the crack in his skull. “Never mind; no, no you can’t! T’ ‘ead mistress said none of you girls are to go on it till she knows it’s safe. And wot t’ eadmistress says goes. Besides it’s supposed to be a surprise!”

“Please! we’ll keep it secret!” Mildred assured Backed up by Maud Ruby and Jadu. The other three had hovered behind uncertain of the zombie. But now practically crowded him.
“Honest.”
“Please Mr Blossom!”
“We only want Mildred to have a go really!”
“Please sir!”
“Pleeease.”

But while Mr Blossom was the sweetest zombie one could imagine, He wasn’t a complete push over. He stood up, shut his shed door with a snap and a very stern warned to the first years “not to go a-meddling and the like” then shooed them off.

operation Find the Broomstick didn’t get a chance the next day. Or the next. Mildred still struggled with her body clock adjusting to the almost nocturnal hours of the so-called day walkers. She slept in too late to try anything before breakfast. And she had so much homework and catching up to do even from the first few days of term her free time wasn’t really free to explore at all. Even with Maud’s help, especially on the witch history and legends homework.

History was hard because Mildred didn’t know any of it. just she’d been taught in her old school. Henry the eighth was nowhere near as important for one thing. Divorced Beheaded Died Divorced beheaded survived was not going to her in a pop quiz about the first witch to the north pole in 1300s. the same applied with chanting. Despite practice, she was still messing up Eye of Newt.

PE was hard because super peppy survival of the fittest attitude Miss Drill seemed to have about everything, even with just the warm up.
Maths was hard because Mildred hated numbers. English was hard because words hated Mildred. and because once they had HB covering it last minute.
Spells were hard. Potions were hard. both in a good way at least.

But Flying was defiantly the hardest and worst of all. The first years had a flying lesson every day and would do so up until the BATs. And every day they were also encouraged to practice during breaktimes, under the watchful eye of whoever was on playground duty. Poles had been put up to act as to weave between or fly around. and a high jump beam borrowed from the PE shed to fly under.

“The only good use for it.” HB had muttered. Before adding loudly, “Mildred if you could do it without the screaming and dramatics that would be a step in the right direction!”

Mildred tried but was still awful at it. Miss Hardbroom had taken to keeping Mildred in one area of the courtyard where she could keep both an eye on her and the ground soft enough for a landing. But this and HB’s insistence on repeating the same maneuverers with them, made Mildred and friends all the more determined to get at the Mark Three.

But there was now no sign of the Mark Three being introduced to training. Or any news of it in assembly. Or any signs of any further testing going on under their noses.

Mildred hoping to find out more had let Fenny and Gris in on Operation broomstick. only if they promised to keep it top secret mind. but even with their ears to the ground the second years didn’t know either. Ottoline the yeti had told them that Penny the 3rd year poltergeist had said that Soini had told her when she’d been coming back from the bathroom, she’d heard Miss Drill- (or at least she thought it was Miss Drill) talking angrily with equally frustrated Miss Mould about something Miss Hardbroom and Miss Gullet had said in some meeting. but Fenny and Gris wasn’t a hundred percent on the cause being the Mark Three. Or if it was Miss Drill, Soini had seen after all. It didn’t help that apparently Soini was both a malleolus gossip and was supposed to also wear four pairs of glasses not just the one.

And on Thursday, there was no sign of it in the shed at all.
“Maybe Mr Blossom had to get rid of it after all.” Maud said after another unsuccessful sneaking about. They’d Snuck a peek though the shed window one break while Mr Blossom was in the castle fixing a sink. Well Ruby Jadu and Mildred did. Maud refused a leg up so her feet dangled her nose pressed against the glass for all but still didn’t see much.
“Maybe he’s moved it?” Jadu said. “I think he was getting suspicious about us hanging about.”
“I hope so.” Mildred sighed.
“maybe we could get hold the plans instead and make a Mark Four?” Ruby suggested. “I bet if I got some help from dad and Igor, I could build it.”

But Mildred was beginning to find the situation a bit hopeless. She was Only just managing a sort of stalling stop start kind of flying when Miss Hardbroom had that lesson introduced hoops of magical light in to their training. These would float in every changing point that would mark out the course. Going in the wrong order or Missing one entirely would result in a penalty.
“As will completely missing out any obstacle. Three penalties or more on the actual BAT’s will result in a fail.” She informed them. which seemed fair. Mildred had yet to perform a run with less than four. And even then, that had only been because the bell had gone when she was half way around the circlet.

By the end of Friday’s broomstick practice, Only Ethel was getting consistently perfect marks. which Mildred didn’t think was fair given Ethel had wings anyway so didn’t even need a broom to fly.
“She can’t fly with them yet.” Bryony pointed out. Mildred privately thought she could. Ethel used them well enough to hover a few inches off the floor, (or from the ceiling with a good jump,) and zip over very short distances. But she mostly just fluttered them enough get on everyone’s wick, as one might toss their hair.

“Show off.” someone muttered as the fairy landed with no hands on her broom. and deliberately too close, forcing the other girls to shuffle back to give the handle end space.
“Just practice that’s all.” Ethel smiled as she dismounted. but not nicely with a pointed look at Mildred, tuning Mildred’s own mantra on her. “I’ve been flying before I could walk. Then again some witches are just more natural on broomsticks then… others.”

Mildred had never been a particularly violent person. But the urge to wallop Ethel with her own broom stick over took her ever time Ethel was uppity with her.

“at least you can get off the ground now Millie.” Maud said brightly once Ethel’s back was turned.
“not for very long- Ow!” Mildred scowled. Jadu had Clubbed on the the back of the leg with her sock wrapped tail.
“negative thinking won’t get you anywhere.” Ruby reminded her, as Miss Hardbroom called them to stop dawdling and resume their hover practice. “especially not around the Vamp or the BATs!”

Chapter Text

After breakfast on Saturday afternoon just as Miss Drill had suggested too Mildred, with Maud in tow, took her banana broom to the staff room hoping there might be a way to fix it.
(While it might be a dream for fixing pipes and leaky cauldrons, the tape wasn’t alas good with holding a broom together. It was beginning to become fluffy and unstuck at the ends. And Mildred was a bit worried about flying it in practice. Not that she’d worked up the courage to tell that to HB!)

The girls knocked, and the door opened the door to them, of its own accord when someone said “Enter” in a singsong voice. And Miss Crotchet stopped arguing with the cupboard a moment. Or maybe she was arguing with someone in the cupboard. Or under it.

“Yes?”
“Err hello Miss. Miss Drill said I should- “
“Miss Drill? I’m afraid she’s running late. Literally. She took the Running club on a cross country while it was a nice day and isn’t back yet. Even though it’s her turn for-!" Miss Crotchet Twittered. Then realised the first years shouldn’t really be privy to staffroom grumblings.

“What is it you need dears? Perhaps we can help.”

She said ‘We’ because, along with who or whatever she’d been arguing with, Miss Mould was there too. Albeit still as stone at the table while her face scrunched up against the feeble sunshine coming through the window.
Mildred wasn’t sure if on the etiquette on greeting statues so just gave her a nod hello. And explained the problem to the other chanting teacher.

“Hmm. We have broomstick maintenance kits for the display team, perhaps there’ll be something in there that can help. Come with me,” Miss Crotchet said taking a ring of keys off the wall.

“I’m going out! Don’t let anyone take the Witch Weekly, I’m not done reading it yet. No doing the crossword in pen either.” She warned to seemingly no one as they left. The cupboard gave a creak in reply.

While they hadn’t had any lessons with her, Mildred decided she quite liked Miss Crotchet. She was scatty but sweet, (a trait that seemed to be shared with quite a few members of staff!) With features that might have been sharp if not for her soft eyes and kind smiles. She was a very petite woman too. Most of the more average sized students stood a head taller than her. Even Maud was nearly on par with her. And she carried herself a slight hunch at her shoulders making her seem even smaller.

Small did not mean quiet though. Miss Crotchet chattered happily with them and asked them about their first week and asked after Maud’s family. She also granted the same curtesy to many students they passed so the short walk took a while, her claw like hands flapping if she was stuck on a word or lost her train of thought. How Miss Crotchet could play piano or the organ with such hands Mildred would never know.
It was only because she noticed the teacher’s hands actually Mildred realised Miss Crotchet’s dress had capped not full sleeves and her arms were covered in feathers. Feathers of iridescent blacks, deep greens and blues like a magpie with the odd tiny flash of reds and bright greens. What she’d Had previously mistaken for puffy shelves were actually wings of a sort, with hands at the tip! They looked so soft to the touch Mildred shoved her hands in her cardigan pockets to avoid being tempted to do so.

Instead she followed the teacher, taking in the Birdlike way of walking, and a click of Claws sounding from somewhere under her long skirts.
“Half Harpy on her Mother’s side...” She remembered Fenny and Gris mentioning it. She’d have to find out what a harpy was though, she’d never heard of it before coming to Cackles.

Finally, Miss Crotchet Led them a store room at the back of the hall behind the stage. With a muttered spell a ball of light conjured in her hands floating up up up above them illuminating the shelves of indoor gym equipment, files of old paper, drama props, and spare boots and uniform.

Maud elbowed Mildred and made a face.

“Let’s see what we can find.” Miss Crotchet said, Unlocking a big cupboard at the back and riffling through it.

Maud elbowed Mildred again. Mildred elbowed Maud back, as though to say: “Ow why did you elbow me?” And got A real Jab in the ribs this time for her trouble. Then Mildred realised Maud wasn’t making faces. Well she was but not the sort Mildred had thought. She blamed it on the gloom. Maud had been making ‘look at that’ faces and nods but gave up.

“Look. Over. There.” She mouthed, and pointed Trying not to catch Miss Crotchet’s attention. Mildred followed the paw. And gasped.

“Are you alright Millicent?”
“yes miss!” Mildred said, pretending to cough, not bothering to correct her. “It’s just a bit stuffy in here!”

 

At the far side of the store room behind a gym horse and under the sheet collecting dusk and netball pinnys, a familiar shape sat shoved in a corner. A sign saying DANGER KEEP OFF in big letters had been hung on it then forgotten about.

But it was defiantly the Blossom & Drill Portable and Virtual Reality Broomstick Flight Simulator , Mark Thee.

“Oh dear, this will have to do for now.” Miss Crotchet sighed Jolting Mildred from her thoughts and leading them reluctantly back out of the cupboard.
The best Miss Crotchet could find was a splint of stiff leather. And together they braced Mildred’s banana broom. It held it much firmer but all it really did it did make the bend more obvious.

But Mildred had other things on her mind. Or, one thing in particular.

“I’m going back there after our lights out…” she told the others at lunch. “I’m going on the Flight simulator. Tonight.”