“I’m sorry Egbert, you’re going to have to run that one by me again!” Sputtered a flabbergasted Miss Hecate Hardbroom at the Great Wizard himself, when it seemed none of the other teachers who were all sat in the staff room of the renowned Cackles Academy in various degrees of completely unhelpful silent shock, were going to speak up.
“Its quite simple Hecate” The pompous buffoon of a man, who Hecate was quite certain at this particular point in time was not only the epitome of the sorriest excuse of a human being ever but, also in her completely unbiased view – the absolute Worst Wizard imaginable!
“Your Greatness” Ursula Hallow simpered as she shoved past Egbert Hellibore to stand directly front and centre of the, well she supposed they called themselves “Teachers”, she would have preferred “Idiots”, ”Morons”, “Do-gooders”, “The people who were going to pay for that unspeakable incident that had happened to her darling Esmeralda......” “Perhaps I could put it in terms these ....... people ...... might understand.”
“Of course Ursula, thank you.” Egbert shuffled backwards, perhaps a little quicker than proper decorum should really have allowed, however he no longer wished to be under the hostile and rather incensed scrutiny of that Hardbroom woman. Really witches like that were why he was very happily single thank you very much!
“As you well know, the Council is dedicate to...”Ursula began.
“Eh, why are you speaking for the Council?” Dimity Drill, Gym-Mistress extraordinaire, not to mention THE Star of Sky, finally decided to speak up. “Last I heard you got thrown out in your bath robe and all - for what you did to our Miss Cackle!” She bravely added – she was THE Star of the Sky after all!
“Quite.” Hecate added, raising one eyebrow in agreement, somewhat amazed that she was actually seeing eye to eye with the over zealous young sports teacher.
“Now, now Hecate.” Egbert piped up, feeling a great deal safer now that he was hidden behind the Hallow woman. “Ursula has apologised to the council, and promised not to do anything like that again. So we have naturally decided to reinstate her to her old position.” He finished, with a self important nod added in for good measure.
“I’m sorry – you what?” Hecate spat out as she began to advance on The Great Wizard once more. “THAT woman just ....... apologised for fraudulently trying to frame Ada Cackle and ruin not just Cackles Academy, but the reputation of one of the finest witches I have ever known – and you thought what? Oh she’s apologised she must mean it? Egbert Hellibore you are a fool of a man!” The Potions Mistress growled, waving a pointed finger at the Great Wizards face.
“Actually Miss Hardbroom” Ursula interrupted, waving a piece of paper between Hecate and The Great Wizard “I’ve been to see a Witch Doctor, who kindly wrote me this nice wee certificate explaining I was suffering from a bout of hysteria over what happened to my darling Esmeralda when this whole nasty incident with Miss Cackle occurred.” She smirked quickly tucking the piece of paper, covered with large flashy handwriting that one might be forgiven for thinking was actually her own rather unique not to mention obnoxiously extravagant penmanship, back into her handbag. “I’m ever so sorry about everything Ada” She continued in the most insincere voice she could summon, turning to face the kindly Headmistress “I was just so sick about what had transpired with my first born, that I simply cannot be held responsible.” She added, making sure to squeeze out a couple of tears for good measure. After all any Hallow who was worthy of carrying the family name was able to produce tears when a situation required it.
“Of course Ursula.” Ada consoled, getting up from her seat to hug the clearly upset witch. “You must know none of this was your fault” she kindly added. After all any Cackle who was worthy of carrying the family name, and of course didn’t have a first name that was say Agatha for example, was well known for first and foremost being kindly. “Nobody here at Cackles Academy blames you for what happened, and I know I speak for not just myself but all the staff here as well when I say that we absolutely support the Council’s decision to reinstate you fully.”
“Really Ada! I must insist...” Hecate choked, starting to hope that this day was really just some horrid nightmare caused by one of Mildred Hubble’s potions gone wrong again. Actually that last thought wasn’t that far fetched ....... maybe they weren’t all as doomed as she was beginning to think they were.
“Hecate we really must show our fellow witches the upmost kindness when it is required.” Ada explained to her deputy as she sat back down intent on giving Ursula Hallow her full attention. “And now that Esmeralda has her magic back I really cannot see how this could turn out at badly at all.“ She added, after all she was pretty confident that all her years as Headmistress of Cackles Academy had taught her to be a very good judge of character, and despite her previous history with Mrs Hallow she really felt that she could now fully trust the obviously remorseful and genuine witch.
“Of course Ada.” Hecate sighed, not even bothering to roll her eyes like she really, really wanted to, as she returned to her seat with the other teachers. No she decided, they were all as doomed as she had originally thought they were.
“Yes thank you Ada.” Ursula spoke as she once again put herself in the centre of the room, really the only place a witch of her esteem should be. “As I was saying - The Council is committed to providing young witches and wizards with a balanced education. While there is always a place for a more traditional education, we must make sure that our children also learn modern witching and wizarding practises.”
“Of course you were right Ada.” Hecate loudly whispered to the witch beside her “This couldn’t possibly turn out badly at all!” This time she allowed herself one good solid eye roll. “Modern magic indeed!” She harrumped unhappily.
“Thank you for giving her a chance Hecate.” The headmistress smiled at her deputy affectionately as she patted her knee to emphasis how glad she was with her for at least trying with Mrs Hallow.
“Yes well” Ursula continued. “I think you will all agree with me when I say Cackles Academy is the embodiment of the old, stale, traditional ways of teaching. We need to bring this Academy kicking and screaming into the modern era.” She added, punching the air to overly dramatize her statement.
“Well I suppose....” Ada began, nodding her head in consideration.
“Ada!” Hecate exclaimed, really quite scandalised at this point.
“Traditionally” Ursula Hallow continued on, ignoring the spluttered outcries of some of the teachers or the agreeable mutterings of that doddery senile old fool of a headmistress. “Witching and wizarding academies have been taught by sad unmarried witches or wizards. As such it is The Councils view that at least one teacher at all Academies under The Council’s control must be married. In this modern era we cannot have our darling children growing up thinking that their only option is to be a pathetic miserable old unmarried school teacher. We must allow them the obviously superior option of a nice modern marriage.”
“I’m sorry!” Hecate exclaimed, shooting up from her seat in consternation “ Your idea of modern magic is marriage?! Are we living in the Dark Ages here?........And I thought I was a traditional witch!....... By Merlin’s beard if Pippa could hear your take on modern magic!” She declared, thinking in retrospect that her best friend and thoroughly Modern witch Pippa Pentangle simply wouldn’t have believed her about this. But really you apparently couldn’t make this stuff up.
“Now, now Hecate.” Egbert added from the safety of the other side of the room “I wouldn’t expect a traditional witch such as yourself to understand the finer workings of more modern magic. No I’m afraid you will just have to leave it to The Council to decide what does and does not constitute modern magic.”
“Thank you your Grandness, so eloquent as always.” Ursula smiled fakely at The Great Wizard. “As Cackles Academy currently has no married teachers ........” Ursula paused for dramatic effect “...... I have volunteered my services as the new Modern, Married teacher.” She finished with a flourish, waiting for the expected clapping and cheering.
Unfortunately the only clapping that came was from the simpering fool of a Great Wizard behind her. And while he did say “Yes – thank you Ursula. The Council is happy to put forward Mrs Hallow as the new Modern Married teacher for Cackles Academy.” He did not cheer her, which in Ursula’s view was simply unacceptable! Not to mention he was drowned out by a chorus of “You What?” “Well I’ve never heard of any thing like it in all my days” “A married teacher? – well I’m not too sure on that one my dear.....” “....I wonder what Agatha would have thought of all this....maybe it could work...” “A married teacher.... might know her way around a kitchen....could do with a hand at dinner time.... I like it.” and “Miss Tapioca! Really!”
“As the new Modern Married teacher here at Cackles....” Ursula began.
“You – “ Hecate exclaimed horrified, as she rounded on Mrs Hallow “A Teacher? – And what kind of ridiculous Modern Married magic will You be teaching?!” She queried, finger outstretched and pointing in emphasis once more.
“What our girls need to learn is the art of Housewitchery.” Ursula smugly added as she stood her ground, she’d be damned if she let that sad grumpy old maid of potions mistress scare her - a Married witch!
“Housewitchery?!” Hecate spluttered completely gobsmacked. Housewitchery indeed! “My girls will not be learning something so asinine as how to keep a home for some fool of a Wizard. Its the 21st Century not the days of King Henry the 8th! Witches have rights today – and I will not see those rights trampled on and besmirched by your witless Housewitchery in fact I will not stand for it!” She declared, coming face to face with “Mrs” Ursula Hallow. Stretching herself up to her tallest most imposing height as she stared the simpering witch down. She’d be damned if she let that overbearing pontificating excuse for a witch scare her.
“Be that as it may Hecate “ Egbert softly approached the two angry witches. Unfortunately he supposed as The Great Wizard it was probably up to him to keep the peace, or in this case make sure everybody went home in one piece. Maybe he should change that – make it part of The Code that he didn’t have to deal with scary squabbling witches, make someone else entirely have to deal with these sort of situations – someone that wasn’t him. Unfortunately he hadn’t changed The Code yet, so deal with it he must. “Be that as it may” he repeated a bit louder to garner everyone’s attention. “There are currently no married or soon to be married teachers at Cackles Academy. As it is now a curricular requirement under The Council to have at least one such teacher at each school, and quite frankly Mrs Hallow was the only witch who would even volunteer to go anywhere near Cackles, there really is nothing that can be done about it.” He said. This whole situation was really out of his hands. Why people couldn’t simply do as they were told he would never understand.
“Soon to be married?” Hecate asked, turning to face Egbert suddenly as her quick mind saw a slim chance at saving Cackles from the horrors of Housewitchery. Surely even another senseless art class would have been better than that! “You said soon to be married Egbert?”
“Well naturally Hecate - if one of Cackles staff were already married or engaged to be married then there would be no need for Mrs Hallow to have to have to demean herself to teach here.” Egbert replied. And people honestly thought Hecate Hardbroom was one of the smartest minds of the magical community? The woman obviously couldn’t even follow a simple conversation. But then she was only a witch, and really how smart could any witch be. They had smaller brains than wizards after all, he was sure he had read that somewhere once. No someone must have told him that he decided, he really didn’t like reading when all was said and done. No intelligent wizard did you know.
“Hah! Like that would ever happen.” Ursula chuckled to herself. Who in their right mind would want to marry one of these fools? These, what was it her middle daughter – Emma?....Estelle?....Erica?..... she was sure her name began with an E as well..... or was it an S like Sybil..... Oh well never mind. What was it her middle daughter Esmeralda Junior called people..... ah yes – Losers. Who in their right mind would want to marry one of these Losers?! No her new position at Cackles Academy was completely safe.
“Well aren’t Miss Bat and Mr Rowan-Webb pretty much married?” Dimity asked, after all everyone and their tenth cousin knew that they were pretty much married right?
“Exactly!” Hecate exclaimed turning to point a happy finger in Miss Drill’s direction. Anyone who didn’t know Miss Hardbroom better might have thought she even smiled at the young teacher. However everyone in the room knew Miss Hardbroom in some degree and therefore knew she had in fact not smiled at Miss Drill. “As much as I hate to agree with Dimity twice in one day” Hecate stated, quickly turning around to face The Great Wizard and That Hallow woman “Miss Bat and Mr Rowan-Webb are really for all intents and purposes engaged to be married if you will. So - terribly sorry Ursula but Cackles Academy will not be needing you nor your Modern Housewitchery nonsense.” She smirked as she stepped forward to show The Council member to the door.
“Actually Hecate dear” Miss Bat interrupted. “What Algernon and I have is beyond marriage, beyond engagement, beyond all quantifiable things. It is true love, it runs wild and free, and I will not have it sullied. I will not be forced into marriage just to save the Academy from a parent of dubious moral fibre. Isn’t that right Algernon.” She asked that the wizard beside her.
“Of course dear.” Mr Rowan-Webb agreed, as he picked up Miss Bat’s hand and proudly held it in his. “No if Gwen here doesn’t want to marry me, then who am I to ask her to. We are not engaged nor are we married, we are simply a young at heart witch and wizard in love. And that is all we shall ever be.” He added as he smiled tenderly at the only witch who had ever held his heart.
“Oh Algernon..” Miss bat whispered as she kissed the wizards cheek.
“Nice try Miss Hardbroom.” Ursula smirked “But it seems cackles will still be needing my services.
“What about Miss Drill?” Hecate twirled to face the gym teacher in a panic. “Surely Miss Drill knows somebody she could be engaged to?” She tried to subtlety wink at the other witch “ One of your Star of the Sky fans perhaps, or one of your Witchbook friends, or even one of your real friends?.........”Miss Drill really did seem to know a whole lot of people, surely one of them would do. They could get divorced in a few years time of course if it didn’t work out - she wasn’t really asking that much.
“Yeah I don’t think so sister.” Dimity laughed at the idea – her married! “Good one H.B. - but this witch is a free agent, I cant be tied down to one wizard for all eternity – I’ve got to much love to share around. Plus the fan’s would get far to jealous. Can’t be done. Sorry.”
“Right ..... well ..... Miss Tapioca?....” Hecate squeaked, her panicked eyes suddenly landing on the cook in the back row of the room.
“Me? Married?” Miss Tapioca spat out in a huff “And just when do you suppose I’m gonna have time to do that? I got a kitchen to run you know, and kids these days expect Breakfast and lunch as well as tea now. I ain’t got the time to tie me own shoe laces let alone the time to get married I’m telling ya.” She crossed her arms to further emphasis her point as she slouched down in her chair with a practiced ease. She was a very busy witch you know!
“Ada?” Hecate asked dejectedly in a last ditch effort, though she already knew what the Headmistresses answer would be.
“I am sorry Hecate, but the students here at Cackles can be my only focus.” Ada gently let down her deputy.
“Well Miss Hardbroom – unless you have suddenly found someone to marry “ Ursula Hallow almost laughed aloud at that – someone actually agreeing to marry Hecate Hardbroom – what an absurd idea. “I suppose I better start planning my first lesson as the new Modern Married Housewitchery teacher here at Cackles.” She finished with a snide, overly large smirk. After all things were going exactly to plan.
“Actually I have” Hecate panicked and quickly lied. Really in fairness she had tried every other avenue first. A little lie couldn’t hurt that much could it? And she would be damned if she would let Ursula Hallow teach a Housewitchery class at her beloved Academy. No this was really the only correct thing to do she decided with a quick nod to herself. “........ I ah ........ have found someone to marry” She clarified to the room full of stunned teachers and council members – really was it that hard to believe that someone would want to marry her – she was a very powerful witch of great renown you know. Of course had she wanted it she could have had many suitors lined up waiting for her hand in marriage – she had just never wanted that .... well except for that one person she had always dreamed of courting her ...... but that was all in the past and never going to happen so there really was no point in dwelling on that..... “ ..... Ah which is to say that I was already engaged to be married before today that is....” She continued trying to make the whole lie seem less contrived. “We were wanting to keep the engagement quiet for a bit longer which was why I hadn’t said anything yet.” She was going to add on that Ursula and Egbert could be on their way now that this whole business was all sorted out thank you very much, however she was drowned out by a shocked chorus of “Way to go H.B.” “Oh Hecate, how marvellous dear ” “You – Married! Who would want to marry a dried up old hag like you?!” “Oh Algernon a wedding – how wonderful.” “Ah young love my dearest, I remember when we were that young....... well actually I don’t really even remember what we had for breakfast this morning let alone when we were that young.....” “.....ah ..... you married?.....to a wizard?.......poor fellow......” and an “ I suppose you’ll be wanting me to make the wedding banquet then? And when in the bleeding bats am I supposed to find the time to do that?”
“Yes, well, as you can see......” Hecate spoke up over the din “.....Cackles now has a soon to be married teacher.” She continued trying to look the part of the not to be trifled with Miss Hecate Hardbroom once more. “ So Ursula - thank you for popping by but Cackles Academy will no longer be needing your services, and Egbert nice to see you once again, but perhaps next time we could make it much, much longer between your visits.” She finished, making a swishing motion towards the door.
“Hang on a minute H.B.” Dimity interrupted “ You can’t just drop an exploding cauldron like that and not tell us all the juicy bits.” She added with a wink. “ Who is he? What’s his name” She asked, after all that was surely the most important piece of gossip.
“What’s whose name?” Hecate asked perplexed.
“Eh your fiancé.....” Dimity clarified looking at the Potions Mistress in confusion. “You know – your newly betrothed ?...... The wizard you’re going to marry? ...... Ringing any bells here yet H.B.?”
“Ah.....that’s ah.........we’re keeping it a secret.....because we ah....um haven’t told anyone yet .....or family yet..... ah yes that’s it – we haven’t told any family yet. ” Hecate stalled, suddenly becoming quite flustered. Really this whole lying about being married business was harder than she had first imagined. They hadn’t even given her time to find someone to actually marry before they were hounding her for answers she just didn’t have. Couldn’t they just take her word for it and move on?!
“Ya know who I reckon this fellow is?” Miss Tapioca spoke into the group now beginning to huddle around the supposedly newly engaged deputy Headmistress of Cackles Academy. Quickly getting up from her seat she hurried over towards the other teachers and Council members. “Now I’m not one to spread gossip.” She added, sensing the perfect opportunity to spread gossip “But I saw Miss Hardbroom talking to that Delivery wizard last Tuesday.”
“The one with the twitching left eye?” Mr Rowan-Webb asked the cook.
“No that was Larry – he left last month – ran off with some witch from Mallorca apparently.” Miss Tapioca told the Spell-Science teacher in a very scandalised tone, after all it seemed the sort of thing one should find scandalous she thought. “No it was the one with three teeth - Harold I think.....Well the pair of them seemed quite cosy if you ask me.” She added with a ridiculous wink in Miss Hardbroom’s direction.
“Quite cosy!” Hecate exclaimed in outrage. “I believe I told him that if he had finished delivering his packages then he could stop his incessant lollygagging and be on his way before I made sure he rued the day he had ever set foot inside Cackles Academy.” She explained in a huff. Cosy indeed!
“Mmm” Miss Tapioca nodded her head in agreement with whatever Miss Hardbroom had said. ”All flirty with each other they were. Could hardly keep their hands to themselves.”
“Miss Tapioca that never happened!” Hecate cried completely appalled.
“Of course it never happened.” Ursula Hallow spoke up as she pushed herself toward the centre of the group once more. “Egbert surely you can see what is happening here.” She implored The Great Wizard. “Aside from the fact that Miss Hardbroom seems to have some unfounded issue with me personally,” She carried on over the muttered protest of “Unfounded indeed!” from the witch in question. “She is clearly willing to go to any lengths possible to stop The Council from teaching our darling children the wonders of Modern Magic. Clearly this whole engagement is a sham. She can’t tell you the name of the wizard she is to marry – because not only is this supposed marriage a lie, but more importantly who would want to marry her.” She gestured at the Deputy Headmistress disparagingly.
This unnecessarily unkind remark however was meet with a resounding chorus of “Hey! There’s heaps of wizards that would be lucky to marry our H.B. you old....”, “Madam how dear you - I find it strange indeed that someone married such an impolite witch as yourself!”, “Hear, hear Algernon! Well said. Don’t you listen to her Hecate dear.”, “Well clearly you didn’t see what her and Harold got up to yesterday down in the herb gardens you dried up old biddy.”, “Really Ursula must you be so malicious? I must insist you apologise to Hecate.” And a rather more louder “Miss Tapioca! Really! That also never happened.”
In fact the clamour to defend Miss Hardbroom’s honour was so resounding that The Great Wizard found he had to loudly cough self importantly at least twice before the other occupants of the room paid any attention to him. “Miss Hardbroom perhaps if you could tell us the name of the fellow then this whole mess might be cleared up.” He instructed, after all that was probably the easiest way to see whether or not the reputed wedding was well .......real.....he thought – get the unfortunate chaps name and ask him himself. Honestly he would be much more comfortable talking to another man about this rather than this bunch of women and that old frog. Women were so much more womanly than men ......it was all quite uncomfortable for him really. “Come on then, chop, chop” He directed in a hurry to be done with this whole ridiculous situation. “What’s his name then ...... this ‘man of your dreams’ ?” he added, thinking if he tried talking like women did to each other then this whole thing might get sorted a lot faster. That was how women talked to each other wasn’t it? All giggly over men? Well really who wouldn’t be all giggly over men?!
“....Man of my dreams?....” Hecate Hardbroom spluttered, forgetting that actually she probably should have been pretending to have some kind of man in her dreams, even if it was a three-toothed Delivery wizard called Harold. “Egbert Hellibore All men are fools!” She helpfully informed The Great Wizard instead “And I can assure you that none of them feature in my dreams!” She finished completely scandalised.
“I’m rather afraid I don’t follow.” Egbert declared, scratching his head as though that might somehow help him to understand.
Though thankfully for poor Egbert he didn’t really need to understand for it seemed that Miss Dimity Drill got what Miss Hardbroom meant straight away. ”H.B. you sneaky toad!” She laughed in a congratulatory tone. “Well you can’t really get a more Modern Marriage than that can you?” She grinned, turning to face The Great Wizard as though they were in on some secret together.
“Huh Yes! Indeed” Egbert agreed. It wouldn’t do for people to think a simple flying instructor knew more than The Great Wizard himself, even if she was THE Star of the Sky. “....Well done Hecate. Miss Drill is correct – What a thoroughly Modern Marriage.”
Mr Rowan-Webb on the other hand didn’t really mind if people thought Miss Drill was smarter than him – she probably was after all he reasoned. “I’m rather afraid I don’t follow Dimity.” He told the sports teacher hoping she might explain what was going on for all those less Modern sorts.
“There is no Man of H.B.’s dreams.” The young Gym teacher turned to inform the rest of the room. “Seeing as our Miss Hardbroom is getting married to another witch!”
Thankfully Hecate’s shocked gasp at being informed of her now far more intriguing upcoming nuptials was unheard over “Oh good for you Hecate Dear.”, “Two witches? ......as in two witches together?......” And a happily remembered “I fell in love with another witch at University once. She had the most beautiful auburn hair, and eyes as green as an emerald sea..... I do believe she’s married to a slug farmer now......”
Not to be outdone however Miss Tapioca decided to add her 2 cents worth to the conversation. “Well I didn’t like to say anything before, but.....” She began trying to and draw her audience in “You remember during that Spelling Bee we hosted here when Miss Hardbroom gave me that Hubble girls mangy moggy to look after? “
“Oh you mean Tabby.” Ada helpfully supplied.
“Yeah well here I was thinking it was so she could spend more time trying to train that ungrateful child. Mind you waste of time I told her, wont learn anything that one - probably dropped on the head as a baby I reckon....” She added trying to stretch out her tall tale. “......Well turns out it was so her and that Pentangle woman could get reacquainted if you know what I mean.” She winked salaciously so that everyone would know exactly what she had meant. “I saw them together in the potions class room as I was walking past one night” She easily fibbed “ Making out like a pair of hor......” She began only to be silenced by a horrified “Miss Tapioca – how dear you! That never happened.” After all Hecate Hardbroom was perfectly sure she would have remembered making out with the one witch she had been hopelessly in love with ever since they were children. The one witch she was still hopelessly in love with today.
Fortunately or unfortunately for Miss Hardbroom no one heard her denials over a mostly happy refrain of “Oh Hecate how wonderful, I had hoped you and Miss Pentangle might patch things up properly.”, “Well I had heard the rumours of course but still ...... obviously Miss Pentangle has less taste than I gave her credit for.”, “The Pippa Pentangle? Nice pull H.B.!” “Oh Hecate, such a lovely girl that Miss Pentangle.” “Yes well done Miss Hardbroom, please give Miss Pentangle my congratulations when next you see her.” And “......but two witches.......as in together...... without a wizard......?”
And that was how one Miss Hecate Hardbroom accidently ended up engaged to be married to THE Miss Pippa Pentangle.
"Tea Miss Hardbroom? " Miss Tapioca bellowed waving a dangerously full, scalding hot cup in front of the now thoroughly startled potions Mistress. "Tea? " she repeated, a little less loudly now that she had Hecate's full attention.
"Um...that would be.... lovely...... I suppose " Hecate hesitantly replied, worried eyes tracking the cup perilously held in the cook’s hand.
"Well the trolley’s over there then." Miss Tapioca huffed as she shuffled over to one of the spare seats in the centre of the staff room of Cackles Academy. "What do I look like - the bleedin Lunch Lady?!" she questioned with a well practised sigh as she sank into the chair and proceeded to loudly slurp from the cup she had just been waving about.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry Miss Tapioca" Hecate replied as she got up from her seat and headed towards the tea trolley "I'm perfectly sure no one here would ever accuse you of being that. " she sniped as she poured herself a cup. Honestly why Ada kept some of these people around she would never know, she thought to herself shaking her head as she took a sip from the teacup in her hand then promptly spat the entire sip back out again. Tea shouldn't be stale, she was almost certain it wasn't supposed to be stale...... How did one make stale tea anyway? Thankfully Hecate was saved from seriously contemplating removing the horrid aftertaste by washing her own mouth out with stinging nettles by the sudden arrival of the Headmistress of Cackles Academy.
"Ah good, everyone's here then. " Ada noted as she hurried through the staff room doorway, making sure to give each of her staff a kindly smile in acknowledgment. “Now with the start of term beginning next week we….” She began only to be rudely interrupted by a slight crack of transference and therefore the unexpected appearance of The Great Wizard himself and the newly reinstated councillor Mrs Ursula Hallow.
“Your Grace, Mrs Hallow…... Well meet.” Ada quickly brought her hand to her forehead and bowed in greeting acknowledging the new arrivals with a kindly smile.
“Yes, yes.” Ursula waved away the Headmistresses greeting. They had business to attend to - common decencies could go and get stuffed for all she cared. “Egbert, if you will.” She added wanting to get to the heart of the matter.
“Ah yes……... ah……. Well meet everyone…” Egbert began. “……. Actually, Ada I’m rather afraid we have a little situation.” He finished, turning to face Miss Cackle. Why was it always up to him to have to deal with infringements of magical law, or even magical law at all. This wasn’t what he had signed up for you know. Actually, he had only ever wanted the fancy robes – he had always felt he cut a rather dashing figure in blue, but that was probably digressing……….
“A situation Egbert?” Ada repeated, somewhat unhelpfully.
“Yes Ada, a situation.” Egbert re-repeated with a sagely nod. Mostly he was just stalling again.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake!” Ursula exclaimed, making sure to level a disapproving stare at the Great Wizard.
“Yes, well….um…..you see.” Egbert began again. “Councillor Hallow unfortunately has found evidence that….well…. it might be...."
"I have evidence that Miss Hardbroom's supposed upcoming marriage is a sham. " Ursula interrupted making sure to thoroughly emphasis the "Miss" part of Hecate's title. She had thought it strange that anyone, even Pippa Pentangle would actually agree to marry the strict potions mistress. I mean there were all those rumors about them when they were at school but still surley even Miss Pentangle had some standards.
"Yes that. " Egbert added unhelpfully. really he was just pleased someone else had had to blurt out this unfortunate information.
The stunned silence was soon broken by a chorus of "How dear you Madam!", "I'm sorry are you calling our H.B. a liar?.", "I wouldn't worry Hecate dear, she's obviously just jealous. ", "Really Ursula, must you carry on with this nonsense?" And a "Listen here fancy Councilor Lady - I was there when Miss Hardbroom proposed, really romantic - it was. So I don't know where your getting your information from."
"I'm sorry you were there Miss Tapioca?....." Egbert asked the Cackles Lunch lady, now somewhat confused.
"Mmmm." Miss Tapioca nodded, looking around to make sure she had everyone's attention. "Needed me to make a nice romantic dinner didn't she, insisted I was the only one who could do a proper meal justice." she began, plugging her own mediocre at best abilities. "Had a frog chior humming the most enchanting sounds and the stars all twinkling above. " she told her enraptured audience. "Then she magics the stars to read 'will you marry me?' didn't she. Well Miss Pentangle was all blubbery and saying 'yes, yes of course I will Hecate. Of course I'll marry you!'Then they was kissing and all." she finished rather happy with her story. It was almost like something straight out of one of her wild witch romance books.......Actually maybe that was from the last book she had read and she had simply changed the names to suit.... oh well nothing for it now she thought.
"Oh Hecate how beautiful. " Miss Bat exclaimed, with what looked like happy tears in her eye.
"Way to go H.B." Dimity exclaimed, unnecessarily punching Hecate in the arm to emphasis her point.
"And then...." Miss Tapioca continued, after all she figured she may as well run with her story now. "....Miss Pentangle took Miss Hardbroom ....." Miss Tapioca continued, only to be stopped by a horrified Hecate crying out "Miss Tapioca! that's quite enough!"
"Miss Hardbroom is that what happened? " Egbert asked the deputy head.
"Well seeing as it's not a completely impossible magical feat to move the stars themselves then I suppose it must have happened Your Greatness." Hecate answered with a fair bit of sarcasm, bearly containing the need to roll her eyes. Really how could any of them believe the nonsensical botherings of that woman.
"Really Egbert, you know that's impossible. " Ursula sighed "Miss Hardbroom is trying to stop the council interfering in Cackles Academy and clearly the other teachers are helping her lie. " she explained somewhat exasperated. Surely even the Great Wizard wasn't fool enough to believe this lot.
"Well I don't know..." Egbert muttered, stroking his beard in an attempt to look thoughtful.
"Perhaps if Ursula could share her evidence, then we might be able to make a more informed decision. " Ada helpfully pointed out.
"Yes, I would be very interested in hearing this." Hecate's added smugly, standing up taller and crossing her arms in defiance. She was perfectly sure her lie was infallible, not to mention Miss Tapioca kept backing up everything she said. There was no way they could have possibly found her out.
"Oh Ada I assure you my evidence is irrefutable. " Ursula boldly stated, a snide smile making across her face. "Caroline Star-Robe from the Country Witches Institute just happened to mirror Pippa Pentangle last night - they where old school chums you know..." she explained.
"No they weren't." Hecate argued "Caroline Star-Robe was always a stuck up little bitc..." She continued only to be quieted by Ada's whispered "Hecate that's not helpful. "
"Yes well..." Ursula continued on as though she hadn't been interrupted. "Naturally Caroline asked Pippa about her upcoming nuptials and was most shocked when Miss Pentangle not only seemed surprised to hear about them but vehemently denied that she was even getting married. " She explained. Ha! Try and get out of that one Miss Hardbroom Ursula thought to herself with glee.
"Toads balls!" Hecate exclaimed in annoyance. She knew she was supposed to do something yesterday, but after spending most of the day trying to think what it was she had decided she was worried about forgetting to leave some milk out for the cat. Now she remembered - she was supposed to mirror Pippa to let her know they were now engaged to be married.
"Hecate really!" Miss Bat exclaimed in shock. "I know that you're a more modern witch now but some of us more traditional types aren't used to that sort of language."
"Of course Gwen, my apologies. " Hecate placated the chanting mistress. "It was just a poor attempt at a joke. " she quickly lied "Ah... as was Pippa's denial of our upcoming fully legitamate wedding. Such a joker Miss Pentangle. Mind you a more traditional witch like Caroline Star-Robe probably wouldn't have understood such a modern joke. " she finished, stretching for any excuse no matter how lame.
"Plus didn't you say you were keeping the wedding secret H.B.?" Dimity added in Hecate's defense. "Till you had told family....?"
"Yes! Exactly - that's right!" Hecate exclaimed happily. Honestly if she had have been anyone other than Hecate Hardbroom she would have kissed Dimity Drill right there and then. However she was actually Hecate Hardbroom so she naturally did not do anything of the sort thank you very much.
"Oh come on, surely you don't believe that Egbert?" Ursula sighed in annoyance. Knowing Egbert Hellibore as she did he probably was going to fully believe that.
"Well I'm not really sure...." The Great Wizard helpfully stated.
"Well why don't we just summon Miss Pentangle here. " Ada suggested. "I'm sure she'd be more than happy to confirm what Hecate has said. "
"No!" Hecate blurted loudly. "I ah.... just.... you see.... Miss Pentangle is a very busy witch. We needn't really bother her. " She hastily added as she walked over to one of the armchairs and tried to sit down as nonchalantly as possible so as not to look like the rather large liar she was.
"Actually Ada I do believe that's one of the best ideas you've had yet." Ursula quickly commented. Maybe she would still get her revenge yet.
"Well I suppose..." Egbert agreed, nodding to himself as if that decided it. "Yes, yes Good idea Ada." He added, supposing that he aught to really agree to something - he was The Great Wizard after all.
"Really I must insist...." Hecate began in a panic. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you looked at it really, Hecate was too late, for Egbert Hellibore had already snapped his fingers and one thoroughly startled Miss Pippa Pentangle, headmistress of Pentangle's Academy and thoroughly Modern witch, was suddenly falling through the air and landed with a small thud on Miss Hardbroom's lap.
"Pippa" Hecate squeaked, grabbing the witch so as she didn't fall.
"Hecate! You know I hate it when you do that. " Miss Pentangle sighed somewhat peeved "...Although I must say I much prefer the landing this time. " She muttered to herself with a growing smile as she noticed exactly where she had landed.
'Miss Pentangle ...... Pippa.... well meet." Egbert tripped over his words in the presence of the glamorous witch.
"Egbert darling, well meet." Pippa greeted the Great Wizard, making absolutely no effort to shift from her seat on Hecate's knee.
"Pippa dear," Ada captured the younger witches attention when it appeared the Great Wizard was going to do little more than stare at her like some infatuated fool. "I believe Egbert and Ursula were wanting to talk to you about your wedding. "
"Oh for Glinda's sake not this again. " Pippa sighed "For the last time I am not getting married. " she huffed, honestly what was wrong with these people? They needed to get better hobbies clearly. "I'm not getting married Hiccup." she turned and told the other witch. She couldn't have Hecate thinking she would ever marry anyone else.
"Ah....no.... yes you are Pippa....remember..." Hecate loudly whispered at the pretty pink witch seated on her knee, as she tried to subtly wink at her so that she might get the hint to just go with what Hecate was saying. Unfortunately for Hecate her wink wasn't subtle in the least and in fact looked like a tick caused by some nasty medical malady. Naturally this simply served to confuse Miss Pippa Pentangle even more.
Ha! What did I tell you Egbert." Ursula triumphantly shouted, pumping her fist in the air in celebration.
"I....." Pippa muttered in confusion, quickly looking between an madly celebrating Ursula Hallow and a weirdly ticking Hecate.
"Hecate I can assure you I'm not marrying anyone. Honestly I have no idea what they are all talking about. " She told her best friend, somewhat hopeful that the slight medical emergency she seemed to be under was due to being so upset and jealous at talk of this ridiculous marriage. Really that Caroline Star-Robe was a right stuck up little bitc..... she thought somewhat unkindly, sure that this was all her fault.
"So.... ah.... Miss Pentangle, what your telling us is that you're not actually about to marry Miss Hardbroom then? " The Great Wizard asked. Honestly at this point he was beyond confused. He had only just began to wrap his head around the idea of two witches getting married to each other, and now they were apparently not doing that at all.....
"Hang on? Marry Hecate?" Pippa suddenly exclaimed, wildy looking around the room as though that might make everything make more sense. "I didn't know that was an option...." she explained "Is that still an option?" she turned to face the witch whose lap she was still sitting on. "Because my answer is definitely yes if It's still an option.....Oh Bats! Im not too late am I? " she loudly whispered to Hecate.
"Of course it's still an option, because I already asked yo...." Hecate started to hint to the blonde witch, although she was beginning to think that perhaps Pippa had already caught on. Plus she had forgotten how good an actress Pippa actually was - she was almost selling the whole being madly in love with Hecate thing. And Merlin knew it was going to be a big ask for anyone to believe that Pippa actually had a thing for Hecate, let alone wanted to marry her.
However Hecate's half finished sentence was quickly interrupted by a squealing crying Pippa hugging her while spluttering "Yes, yes of course I will Hecate. Of course I'll marry you!"
"See I knew I was right! " Miss Tapioca exclaimed, eagerly pointing at the newly engaged witches. "That's exactly how Miss Pentangle answered her last time. " she sighed in delight. Of course she hadn't made the whole thing up based off one of her books. No now that she thought about it she distinctly remembered the whole thing happening. She could see it as clear as day.
"I'm sorry? ... the last time I answered you?.... Hiccup?..." Pippa asked in confusion. Hecate better not try to weasel out of this one. She had already accepted, and a deal was a deal after all.
"Yes Pippa surely you must remember the first time I asked you to marry me..." the Potions Mistress choked. Why wasn't Pippa just going along with this. Why did she anyways have to one up Hecate.....?
".... the first time... Hecate.... have you been trying out different potion ingredients again? She whispered to her friend in concern.
"....And it was quite fortuitous that you and I had recently become engaged." Hecate carried on tryng to explain the situation fully to Pippa. "As the council just passed a proclamation that at least one witch or wizard teacher at each school must be married or the council would appoint a married teacher of their choice to the school. " she concluded.
"A married teacher..... but why?...." Pippa asked. And she had thought she was confused before!
"It's the council's way of ensuring that our young witches and wizards learn modern magic. Of course you being such a modern witch would understand that." Egbert helpfully clarified, puffing up with pride at the council's thoroughly modern stance.
"Marriage is hardly modern magic!" Pippa replied in a huff. "Modern magic is about lights and prettiness and happy things" she continued only to be interrupted by Hecate finishing her earlier explanation.
"...and so the council were going to put forward Ursula Hallow to teach at Cackles Academy as none of the other teachers were married or would agree to get married, which was when I remembered that I had just asked you to marry me." Hecate finished.
"Ah I see." Pippa nodded to Hecate. And thankfully finally she did see. Having Ursula Hallow forced on you would make anyone do some very crazy things. She couldn't really blame Hecate, and in fact she may just be able to turn this whole situation in her favour. Leaning towards the deputy head of Cackles Academy Pippa whispered in her ear "This would be a fully legal marriage of course? " she clarified.
"Unfortunately I can see no way around it." Hecate whispered back to her best friend in apology.
"Good, good." Pippa muttered to herself "And you can't take it back of course." She added for good measure "Pinky promise you won't hiccup." She almost pleaded holding her little finger towards Hecate.
"Hang on - you agree?" Hecate spluttered in surprise as she automatically joined her little finger with the witch in front of her.
"Well it's not exactly how I imagined it happening Hiccup. " Pippa whispered in answer "I was thinking something more like a beautiful dinner under the stars, a nice 10 year old witches brew, being serenaded by an enchanting frog choir...." she continued with a sigh "but beggars can't be choosers - so I'll take this. " she concluded, giving Hecate a fond nose boop.
"Haha!" Hecate chuckled in reply. This was clearly some modern witches joke that Hecate didn't understand being that she was a more traditional witch. There was certainly no way Pippa had meant what she had just said. But at least she had agreed to go along with Hecate's half baked plan to save Cackles Academy.
"ahem..." Egbert Hallibore interrupted the two witches. "So you are getting married to Miss Hardbroom then Miss Pentangle? " He asked the far less scary of the two witches. He rather hoped they were - he had seen the most perfect artichoke green robes in a quaint little shop in Upton Snodsbury last weekend that would be just perfect for a wedding.
"Yes absolutely Egbert darling." Pippa replied "I'm so sorry about the confusion before - I had thought you were asking if I was getting married to someone other than dear old Hecate." she said, making sure to squeeze Hecate's shoulders in an obviously affectionate hug between two madly in love fiancee's.
"Your Greatness surely you are wise enough not to believe this. " Ursula implored in a last ditch effort to keep her well manicured claws firmly attached to Cackles Academy. "They hatched this fake marriage plan right in front of us. " she sighed in annoyance.
"Ursula I'm inclined to believe them. I'm afraid that's my final word on the matter. " Egbert declared. Actually what Egbert had decided was that he needed those robes, therefore he needed Miss Pentangle and Miss Hardbroom to get married so as he had an excuse to wear them. But really Ursula Hallow didn't need to know that.
"Really Ursula, ever since we were little children I've always known I would one day marry Hecate - so I fail to see how you could say it was some scheme we just brewed up. "she told the frowning councilor. "In fact just the other night Hecate was telling me how she can't wait to become Mrs Pentangle. " she slyly added.
"...... Mrs Pentangle.....?! Hecate choked. That would happen over her dead body!
"Yes. " Pippa smirked at the affronted witch. If Hecate wasn't going to ask her to marry her properly then Pippa was going to make sure to get her payback where she could. " I distinctly recall you saying that Hiccup, unless you'd like to discuss the details of our supposed marriage again?" she asked the other witch with a gleefull laugh.
"No, no. No need." Hecate hurriedly exclaimed "Now that I think about it I can definitely remember saying that." she finished with a grimace.
And that was how one Miss Hecate Hardbroom learned that she was to become Mrs Hecate Pentangle.