There was dirt everywhere. Nicolette and Rose had just spent the last half hour wrestling a rogue miniature devil’s snare while pruning it. “I swear,” The dark haired Ravenclaw dabbed herself with her wand, removing sap and dirt from her clothes. “If you ever volunteer us for an in class project again… I will smother you with one of those pink pillows.”
Extinguishing the light from the end of her wand that she’d been using to keep the plant semi-docile, she wiped her hands off on her robes and gave her friend a look of utter incomprehension. “What are you talking about?” Beaming, she looked at the now content plant and patted it absently. “Not just any student gets to help with these, you know. I’m expanding your education and ohhhh…. do you think I should have this looked at?” Her nose wrinkled as she looked down at the impressive cut on her left arm, whether from the plant or from her own clippers during the pruning/wrestling she wasn’t quite sure.
Nic rolled her eyes at the other girl “Probably, unless you like infection I suppose.” She grimaced slightly and tossed Rose a clean towel. Plant parts littered the floor so the brunette picked up the various plants’ leaves and petals. “Some of these I don’t even remember from this class.” She shook her head at the irresponsibility of others.
Rose shrugged and dabbed at the scratch, lips pursed to one side as she tried to decide how bad it was. Madame Pomfrey’s ointments for this sort of thing were always slimy, and had an odor. But since scars were never attractive, she’d head there after they finished cleaning. “Plants drop leaves. They’re not trying to make you work harder… it just happens.” She knelt and swept a bit into the hem of her robes then carried her makeshift dustpan to the trash.
“No, but the other students should clean up after themselves.” She examined a furry leaf, and holds it next to one that is bright orange. “These, for instance, were from a fourth year class.”
“We were much better when we were fourth years,” the blonde answered without a trace of a smile.”Hurry up. We’re almost done. And then we can study for astronomy…” she added with an impish grin.
“Oh yay…” Nicolette groaned slightly. Astronomy. Great. Her other least favorite class. “Just don’t offer us up to chart something after class.” A thin sticky film stuck to her fingers. She tried to rub it off on the towel but it didn’t budge. “This is gross.” Licking her thumb, she rubbed her fingers together and the film dissolved. “There we go.” Her thumb had looked clean but now her tongue tingled slightly. She shrugged, knowing that none of the plants in this class would poison her, and picked up her bag. “Maybe we can work in some Transfiguration lessons while we are at it.”
Rose nodded. “Sounds like a good idea to me. I think we’re all done here. Except for maybe a good hand washing.” She looked down at her arm again. It wasn’t turning any unnatural colors. Yet. “And maybe a side trip down to the hospital wing.”
“See, you and your dirty hobby.” Nicolette set her bag on the table beside the sinks and ran her fingers under the cool water. She gratted her teeth over her tongue, trying to wear away the numbness. For some reason, she felt a little excited about the thought of studying Astronomy. Perhaps it was just memories of sneaking off to the tower with… She frowned as she realized she was bouncing on the balls of her feet.
Luckily, the queen of bouncing was distracted. Running her wound under the water, she began to breathe a little easier as simply being clean worked its own sort of magic. “Which dirty hobby would that be?” she asked with a laugh. “Episkey. There. All better. And you know, there’s nothing dirty about Astronomy…” That time she didn’t even try to contain her giggles.
“Yeah, but I am sure if it were you would love it even more.” Her excitement turned to anxiety, her cheeks flushing red. “Rose… I don’t think I really want to study Astronomy right now…”
Still oblivious, the blonde nodded. “Fine. We’ll start with Transfigurations. But you’re not getting out of this.”
She shook her head, wringing her fingers. “No… I don’t think I want to study at all.” He heart was starting to race in her chest, her breathing quickened slightly.
“Nic?” Now the tiny prefect was paying full attention. Her hand touched her friend’s shoulder softly. “You look flushed. Are you alright?”
Flinching away from her friend’s finger’s, Nicolette’s eyes went wide. “I am fine! Why wouldn’t I be?” She felt the panic rise in her throat. Did Rose know something? “Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“All what questions?” she asked, double checking her hand to make sure there wasn’t anything icky on it. “You kinda don’t seem fine.”
“I said I am fine alright?” Her breath was coming faster and faster, bordering on hyperventilating. She grabbed the table with both hands to steady herself. They were going to find out, someone was going to find out. “Oh god… Oh godohgodohgod…”
With a quick flick of her wand, Rose moved a chair directly behind her friend. Nic look about ready to pass out or take off running. But why? “You’re not fine,” she told the raven haired girl firmly. “Now sit down, take a deep breath, and relax.”
Her shoulders shook as she sat down in the chair. “Oh… You should see your face!” Relief washed through her. It was impossible. They had been so careful. And Rose was making a really funny face. Though her behaviour was more positive, it was just as alarming.
Rose was staring at her best friend as if she’d grown a second head. “So you’re fine now?”
“Of course I am!” The laughter came harder. She felt as if she was being so silly but she couldn’t tell what she was being silly about. “Why wouldn’t I be?” She bent over, laughing into her lap.
Completely unconvinced, the blonde took a seat next to Nicolette. “So you’d be fine with leaving the room right now to go study…”
“Why?” Nic hopped up and grabbed her friend by both arms. “Lets stay outside! I bet there are-” Her laughter cut her words off.
Gently removing her friend’s hands, Rose looked past her around the room. “Outside sure is funny. But um… what did you have to eat today?”
The girl’s laughter stopped immediately, her despair back. “What are you saying?” Still breathless, she returned to the near hyperventilation. “Do you think I have gained weight? Am I fat? My mother will be furious if I gain weight! He won’t want me anymore if I am fat!”
Ok. So it wasn’t something weird in her food. But she couldn’t keep herself from asking “He who?”
Tears rolled down her cheeks. “No one. No one will want me if I am fat!” Her sobbing was fighting with the ragged breath.
“No no. You’re not fat at all. In fact, I think your robes are getting looser.” Trying to calm her friend Rose fired off a quick Homenum revelio to make sure there wasn’t someone mean lurking about to cast strange spells on her friend. But they were alone out here. What did that leave?
“Really?” She wiped the tears from her cheeks, though her panic still forced her breath. “Do you think i am too skinny?” She was getting worked up yet again. “What if too skinny is unappealing? What if I am? Am I ugly?!” She grabbed her friend by the front of her robes. “You would tell me if I was ugly right?!”
“Of course I would. I mean, I could never have an ugly best friend.” She was only half listening to her own answers, still trying to figure out this decidedly un-Nic behavior.
At this she absolutely wailed. “I” Gasp. “am” Gasp. “not” Gasp. “your” Gasp. “best” Gasp. “friend?!” What she was saying was not easily understood.
“You’re not?” Rose knew that was the wrong thing to say as soon as the words left her mouth. “I mean, yes. You so are. I’d be lonely without you.”
“You’re just saying that!” Her eyes were so wide now that white was surrounding her gray irises all around. Her slender chest hammered with the panic. “All of you are lying!”
The blonde quickly looked around the room again. “Nic, you know I would never lie to you. Ever.” She had to get her calmed down… somehow.
“Of course not.” She had flipped again. “That is absolutely absurd!” Her laughter erupted again, shaking her small frame so hard it seemed like she would fall apart.
“Say, Nic… can you tell me everything you did today?” she asked as casually as possible, now that her friend had stopped crying. Not that the manic laughter was a great improvement.
“I woke up, showered, had a cup of tea, wrote Orlando’s lesson plan and went to class.” there was barely a pause between her words. “Mostly the same as I always do.” She had settled into shaky constant giggling.
“Oooo-kay. So that leaves…” She began to look around the now nearly spotless room, biting her lip as her eyes passed over several plants. “Um… for fun could you show me exactly where you were cleaning earlier?”
“When earlier? When I was cleaning here or our room or the Great Hall or-”
“Here. We’ll start with here.” She didn’t even want to think about retracing Nic’s steps through the whole castle.
The nearly hysterical girl pointed to the area in front of their table and to the trash she had deposited the discarded leaved into. “There! There alright!!”
Nearly racing to the area, Rose tried to give her friend some encouragement. “That’s good. Thank you. Now let me see here… Harmless. Harmless. Would turn you purple. Harmless.” She continued down the row of plants, identifying as she went along.
“PURPLE!??!” Nicolette nearly screamed. “Am I turning purple?!” She leapt out of her chair and began fervently searching her skin. “Where is it?!” She pulled her robe over her head and began fussing with the buttons on her shirt.
At any other time, this might have been funny. Rose prayed they’d be able to laugh about it later. Much later. As much as she wanted her friend to keep her clothes on, she couldn’t stop looking through the rows of plants. There wasn’t anything here that would… “Oh no!”
“IT’S SPREADING ISN’T IT?! The normally reserved Ravenclaw wrestled her vest over her head and began rubbing the skin of her face, completely oblivious to the fact that Rose wasn’t looking at her.
“No. It doesn’t do that,” the blonde answered absently, staring at the leafy plant before her. When she did finally look back at her best friend, she gasped. “Nic! Put your clothes back on this instant!”
Stopping in her disrobement, Nic started to giggle again. “I bet I look soooo foolish…” She tugged her vest back down. “Am I purple? If I am that is hilarious!” Her giggles developed into laughter once more.
Rose gave a distracted little smile. “Yeah. Hilarious. Now um… you didn’t eat any of this did you?” she asked, trying her best to ask it in the most innocent way.
“Of course I didn’t eat anything, silly!” She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. “I am not stupid… Nor do I eat!”
“I’m serious, Nicolette. Did any part of this plant make it anywhere near your mouth?”
Nicolette frowned through her laughter. “Why would I… Ohhhhh… .” and she began snickering again.”Oops.”
“Oops? What is oops? Oops is bad!” For a minute she sounded nearly as irrational as her friend. “What did you do?”
She held her thumb up to the other girl. “I did lick my thumb…”
Was it possible to freak out just a little so as not to set her friend off again? Somehow keeping herself calm, the blonde prefect tried to find a bright side. “At least it was just your thumb. Not a whole leaf or anything like that.” She stared back at the plant. Alihotsy. At least she knew what the problem was. Now she just had to think up a solution… and somehow keep Nic from doing anything that would cause her to die of embarrassment later on.
“Oh! Oh! I know that plant from somewhere… !” She laughed so hard she fell out of her chair but luckily caught herself on her feet. “But I can’t remember where!”
“Well Professor Sprout has probably mentioned it a time or two. But we won’t be studying it till next year.” She bit her lip with a worried little frown. “Eating the leaves, or licking them off your thumb, causes hysteria and um…” Rose paused. She knew she knew more about it. Or she hoped she did.
“I am NOT hysterical!” The girl was back to screaming. She picked up a clod of dirt and threw it across the room. Not really at Rose but in her general direction.
“Of course not,” Rose answered as mildly as possible given the situation. “We may have to go back to our room so I can look at some of my books.” But that seemed like a bad idea. This Nicolette, was definitely not the one anyone wanted roaming loose through the halls of the school.
“I can’t go INSIDE right now!! I am PURPLE remember?! If he sees me purple I will never hear the end of it!” She hurried over to the sink and pushed her sleeves up, scrubbing her arms.
“He? Who he? Why would anyone care what color you are?” she asked, studying the Alihotsy plant from all angles as if that would somehow spark a memory of how to fix her friend.
Her face fell. “He wouldn’t…” She was saying too much.
Rose flashed Nic a quick suspicious look but said nothing. “Ok. We won’t leave. And I can’t leave you to go get Professor Sprout… um.” She buried her face in her hands. “I know there’s an antidote to this… I think.”
“Am I poisoned?! Nic gasped. “If I am poisoned I could never be better. My life will be ruined. I could even die! That still isn’t worse than being like this forever though!” She began digging maniacally through the cupboards. “Where is the bottle labeled Antidote?!”
“You’re not going to die. You’re just a little bit hysterical. Not in a bad way though,” she added quickly, trying to keep things from getting worse. “There’s a way to calm you down. It’s on the tip of my brain… I just…”
“Well, I don’t know about plants! I know animals!” She wailed and put her face in her hands.
“Animals!” The little blonde hurried to her friend and put her hands on her shoulders. “It was something about an animal. Something furry…. Think with me here, Nic.”
“A lot of animals are furry!” the brunette cried. “I can’t just list them for you!’
She had to stay positive for Nic. And think clearly for her too. “Okay okay okay. We can do this. It’s furry and… it’s an antidote for hysteria and…” Why were animals so hard to remember?
“An antidote for hysteria?” Her shoulders shook with laughter. “There is no animal that really does that.”
Chewing on her hair again, Rose tried to think. “It was like the opposite of hysteria. That’s it! The animal thingy made something that was the opposite of hysteria.”
“Like. . um… Melancholy?” She blinked at the other girl before bursting into laughter again.
“Yesyesyes. That’s it. A fuzzy animal that causes melancholy… somehow.” She gave the taller girl a hopeful look.
“I keep telling you, there is no animal that can do that.” She giggled at the absurdity of her friend’s request.
Immediately jumping on the emphasis in Nic’s answer, Rose looked at her again. “Ok… so this is a fun game. If it’s not a fuzzy animal that causes melancholy what else is it? A fish? No wait, then it wouldn’t be fuzzy. Um… a bird?”
“Nope! But you are getting warmer!” Nicolette covered her mouth with her hands and snickered.
The blonde rolled her eyes and gave it another try. “Not a bird. A fuzzy… um… bug?”
“Bingo!!” She clapped her hands, having enjoyed the game. “That must be where I heard about it before!”
It was so hard to keep smiling. “So. What bug was it again?”
“Glumbumble.’ It was the most sense she had made since all this started.
“That’s it’s name?”
Her mouth turned down at the sides. “You… you don’t believe me?” Her lips trembled again.
“No no. I believe you. I just um… well of course I don’t know animals as well as you do.” Maybe a little bit of flattery would help. “So this Glumbumble causes melancholy? Great. Let’s go find one.”
Her face got even more distraught. “They live in beehives!”
“Beehives that we have here at Hogwarts?” The little blonde crossed her fingers.
“I guess…” The panic was rising yet again. “How should I know?”
“Because you’re good with animals,” Rose reminded her patiently. “And we need one so we can get you calmed down. Not that you’re not a cauldron of fun right now though.”
“But… I don’t like bees.” She looked quite unhappy.
“Bees help flowers. I can handle them. All you have to do is take me to the beehive and I’ll get you your fuzzy bug. Deal?”
She nodded, sniffing somewhat, trying to keep the hysteria in. “Well, lets hurry before I start crying again.” She grabbed the other girl by thw wrist and pulled her out the door. The pair of girls hurried down towards the group of trees just beyond the greenhouses. “They should be around here somewhere.” She was sure her best friend could hear her heart battering in her chest. It was beating so hard. Nic had to rest for a moment with her hand to her chest.
Rose lingered by her best friend’s side for a minute, genuinely concerned about leaving Nicolette alone for any period of time. But she had to find a Glumb-thingy. “Why don’t you rest right there. No one’s around and I’m sure I can find the beehive on my own.” She bit her lip as she looked around. “These bugs don’t like bite or anything, do they?”
“They… sting.” She looked at the other girl. “Do you know… what you’re looking for?”
“Not at all,” the blonde admitted, wincing at the thought of getting stung. “But how many things live in beehives that aren’t bees?”
“In the magic world?”
Rose groaned and walked back over to Nic. “Maybe you better come with me after all. You still don’t have to deal with bees or anything,” she reassured her friend quickly. “Just help me find the right beehive and I’ll do the rest.”
“If I have to.” Her lips trembled as she walked into the tiny grove with her friend. “They’re gray. ,” she offered to help them find one as fast as possible.
“Gray. That sounds cute… sorta. Do you see any of their hives yet?” She didn’t want to sound too eager. But then again, she couldn’t seem like she wasn’t trying as hard as possible. It was so hard to know what would set Nic off.
“I don’t know how to tell the difference!” The brunette kept ducking and weaving to avoid the tiny little monsters buzzing about.
“Then we’ll try them all. Fumodormio!” Light gray smoke began to billow from the tip of Rose’s wand. Waiting an appropriate amount of time for the bees to relax, she approached one hive at a time, looking for any sign of fuzzy gray bugs.
“BE CAREFUL!” Nicolette screamed as the other girl got near her chosen hive.
Placing a hand to her chest to slow her now racing heartbeat, Rose let out a long sigh. “Don’t do that. I’m totally being careful.”
“I just don’t want you stung by the Glumbumble! I would make you gloomy for weeks!!” She put her hands on her knees and bent over to try and relieve stress.
“I don’t want to get stung either. Don’t worry, Nic. I can do this.” Though she’d used her bare hands for most of their cleaning, Rose never went to Herbology without her gloves. Pulling them from a pocket, she slipped them onto her hands and tiptoed nearer to the hive. “Come here you fuzzy, gray problem solver,” she called out softly.
With a scream Nicolette pointed at Rose when she had her back turned back. “EW!”
As was totally natural, her friend’s scream made Rose scream too. “Ohmygosh! What?”
“On you! ON YOU!” Her thin hand shook as she continued to point.
“Ooo… really?” Chuckling softly, Rose reached over her shoulder to gently scoop the little helper off the back of her robe. Holding it lightly in her hands, she talked to it the way she talked to pretty much anything nearby. “Don’t be scared. You’re going to help me fix my friend here. Then I’ll put you right back. I promise.” Feeling confident for the first time since Nic had started freaking out, she held out her hands. “So um… now what?”
“Get its… fluid?” Nicolette examined the thing in Rose’s hands. “It sure is… funny looking.” She sniggered.
“How am I supposed to do that?” It didn’t exactly look like the sort of thing she could milk. “Can’t we just let it sting you?”
The laughter stopped cold. “Sting!?”
Rose winced. “How else do you suggest we get its fluid?”
“Squeeze it?” Even she looked skeptical at her own answer before she began giggling again.
“That might hurt it.” She pulled her hands away from her friend and held her cupped hands against her chest. “Can’t we get it without being mean or… hey…” She opened her hands slightly, staring at her gloves. “Look. Its leaving a slimy trail!”
Nic peered into her friend’s glove. “Ew. That is disgusting.” She looked up to meet Rose’s eyes and began laughing again. “Better you than me!”
Rose sighed, knowing the laughter would soon stop. Maybe the screaming would begin again. “Nic… this is the fluid…” She waited for her friend to get the hint.
“Ew, that’s gross.” She pulled her head back and made a face. “You can keep it!”
This was never going to be easy. Or fun. Rose looked down at the insect in her hand, trying to appear as harmless as possible. The Glumbumble, she was sure, was trying to do the same thing. “Yeah. Maybe I’ll keep it.” Transferring it to her left hand where it would be safe, she gave her friend a brief sympathetic look then decided it was now or never.
“I’m so sorry!” She was moving before the apology had fully left her lips, reaching out to Nicolette and smearing the slime on her glove across the girl’s mouth.
“GAK! ACK!” Nicolette spat and sputtered and swiped her hands down her face. “Rose! How could you?! That was filthy! That was-” She stopped short. “Oh god…” Her face immediately flushed red as the fluid permeated her skin.
Letting out a huge sigh of relief, Rose put the helpful insect back in its hive before turning to face her friend. “I really am sorry for the slime.”
“Oh no. You have nothing to apologize for.” She was frozen to the spot in embarrassment. “I should thank you.”
“Maybe we could just pretend it never happened… except for when I need to tease you, of course.”
Some of the girl’s usual self began to seep back in. “You wouldn’t! I didn’t pick on you about the thing with that bizarre Scottish girl and I don’t say anything about Bobby anymore!”
Laughing weakly, Rose threw her gloves to the ground and gave the dark haired girl a hug. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to stay calm when someone’s freaking out like that?”
“Well, you did the job wonderfully.” Nicolette patted her friend’s shoulder next to hers. “I would have trusted it to no one else.”
Green eyes sparkling with a sudden wickedness, Rose gave her friend a grin. “No one? Not even him?”
“What?!” Her eyes almost bugged out of her head. “Who?”
“The him you were so worried about impressing. So afraid he wouldn’t like you anymore…” She gave a little laugh. “And don’t even try to tell me it’s still Laun.”
Her heart froze in her chest but years of the stone mask kept her from showing it. “Now that is really peculiar. I can’t think of who I could have been talking about…” She went to tap her teeth in through but thought better of it.
“Mmm-hmmm.” It was clear from the expression on her face, she didn’t believe a word of it. Careful not to touch any of the leftover fluid, Rose knelt to retrieve her gloves then looked around at the still quiet hives. “Let’s get out of here. I think we both need to wash up. And I really have no interest in being here when all the bees wake up.”
“I agree.” She looked around warily. “Wholly.” She began to slowly back out of the trees. “Out of all the animals… I can’t stand bees…”