Series/Canon: Witch Week
Warnings: Post-book speculative story, so massive spoilers for the ending of Witch Week. Picks up about 4-5 years following the conclusion of the book. Also, SLASH.
Summary: Charles Morgan found himself inordinately fond of treacle pudding, or he wrote in his journal.
Portway Oaks Comprehensive was a nice school. In fact, adults were liable to call it a "very good school" and preferred their children to attend it rather than some of the other schools in the area. It was comprised of primary and secondary school classes, was noted not only for its all-around curriculum but for its special tutoring for the magically gifted as well. But when all was said and done it was not a school of magic. The government had decided long ago that magical schools often tended to skip normal education and since magic-users were almost always in some kind of influential position, this was potentially disastrous. Instead, magically-talented persons were to be sent to ordinary schools and take supplementary lessons in magical studies.
By dint of its location, being in the center of one of the oldest magical oak groves in the British Isles, Portway Oaks had been long associated with famous witches and enchanters. Parents often sent their children to the Oaks hoping that even if their offspring never actually came into magical power they would at least be hobnobbing with the upcoming generation of prominent witches. But even without the lure of good social connections, the Oaks provided an excellent education boasting some of the most modern methods in teaching. One of these methods was journal-keeping. From the time they could write up until the last year of secondary school Portway Oaks students wrote in their school journals a half hour every school day.
Class 11B was no exception.
Teddy really ought to give up on courting Miss Hodge, as I do not think she ever intends to marry him, scribbled Estelle Green. I feel rather sorry for him as he a very nice person. I hope to fall in love with a powerful enchanter, I think enchanters are rather dashing.
If asked Estelle could never tell you why she thought enchanters were dashing as she could never recall meeting any in person and the only ones you ever heard about on the news were usually very old. It was very likely she had gotten this notion from Nan Pilgrim who had been writing an ongoing novel about enchanters and witches ever since she had transferred to the Oaks.
Over the Christmas holidays I went to see a magic show in London, Nirupam Singh wrote. I shall now recount the various tricks I saw, however I shall not reveal the secrets behind them…
Nirupam was always of the opinion that secret thoughts and feelings were secret for a reason and that to write them in a journal that the school admitted to having teachers read was simply absurd. To fill page space he often wrote lengthy discourses on topics, often sleight-of-hand tricks and feats he had seen on stage.
Brian Wentworth only ever wrote the barest descriptions of his daily life, for two reasons. The first being that as the Headmaster's son his entries would be subject to a great deal more scrutiny by teachers (along with the fact that his father might be reading them as well) and secondly he was usually busy passing notes with Simon Silverson during journal time. Because of all this note passing, Simon's entries were correspondingly short but usually related to his progress in his magical tutelage.
(For you see, Simon was the only magic user in the class, but often turned to Brian for help with magical theory as the other boy seemed to possess quite a knack for it. This was chiefly the main subject of their frenzied note-passing, although that is not to say that was the only reason and only topic of their notes.)
January 5th I got up this morning and couldn't stop thinking about treacle pudding, Charles Morgan adjusted his glasses and continued writing. I think I've lost my running shoes again. We had rice pudding with cinnamon at lunch. This afternoon will be crackers again. Mr. Crossley probably won't give us homework because of the upcoming geography bee. Don't think I'll ever feel hot again.
Charles always wrote in code and he had since he was quite young. He figured that the Headmaster or the other teachers were more liable to skip his entries if they seemed dreadfully dull. When he said I got up, he meant that he was happy to come to school. Most days he genuinely liked the Oaks, as much as a sixteen year old boy could be expected to like school.
Most of the people in his life were referred to in his code by various food terms, which made it seem to those reading his journal as if poor Charles Morgan was on his way to an eating disorder.
When he wrote rice pudding he was referring to Nan Pilgrim, while cinnamon was her best chum Estelle Green. Estelle and Charles had been neighbors since they were toddlers and got fairly well, like amiable cousins. Cinnamon described the brown color of her curls and eyes. Nan was rice pudding on account of her being a tad heavy, warm, and somewhat pleasant. She had a genius for description and a knack for making up stories. Thankfully she had become Estelle's best friend when she transferred to their class in Year Six, which had lifted Charles' burden considerably. Estelle had been very lonely at the time as she had no close female friends and they had just entered that age where it's quite impossible for a boy to be best friends with a girl. Besides Charles had been preoccupied by the other new transfer student to their class—Nirupam Singh.
That was treacle pudding or rather treacle pudding was Charles-code for Nirupam. Perhaps it was because Nirupam's skin was the same rich hue as the dessert and his eyes the same shade as golden treacle syrup. Or maybe it was because treacle pudding was Nirupam's favorite dessert of all time. Charles could never remember because it had been ages since he made that code word up.
Crackers was the unimaginative nickname for Charles' younger brother Graham.
The mention of wayward running shoes had very little to actually do with shoes. It meant that he felt confused and annoyed at a situation beyond his control, the code word hearkened back to a time in Year Six when he had gotten into trouble for losing his running shoes. Although the particulars of that incident always seemed a little fuzzy to him it made for good code.
Nearly every entry ended in Don't think I'll ever feel hot again regardless of the temperature or season. Hot referred to how he thought magic or having magical talent felt. For no real reason he could ever fully explain, Charles firmly believed that once upon a time he had been exceedingly magically gifted and that he had to give up his gift in a sort of noble sacrifice but that in exchange he'd be equally gifted in another field. But try as he might he had yet to find his new talent, his replacement magic.
So fully translated Charles' entry really read something along the lines of, I looked forward to coming to school today and I couldn't stop thinking about Nirupam. I think I might be in over my head. Nan and Estelle joined us for lunch. This afternoon I'll probably have to mind Graham again. Mr. Crossley probably won't give us homework because of the upcoming geography bee. Don't think I'll ever find the talent that replaced my magic.
Charles was very proud of his coded journal. Portway Oaks believed that journals helped improve writing skills and let students express themselves as well as help the staff understand their charges. Headmaster Wentworth and a few select teachers read the journals every weekend. If you marked an entry as 'private' the teacher still read it but would not write comments. If you didn't mark it then the teacher might write a passing remark or give some embarrassingly generic teacher-y advice. Charles made it a point to never mark his journal entries as 'private' because it would draw attention to them. Subsequently he almost never got any comments on his bland journal, which he took to mean that the entries were rarely read.
This was both true and false. Most of the journal-reading teachers skimmed over his entries or skipped them entirely as they were more eager to read the gossipy secrets of other students' journals or the next installment in Nan's ongoing novel.
(Nan never wrote about herself or her life in her journal, she wrote a novel instead. This was technically against the rules, but she was never reprimanded because all the teachers were addicted to it.)
However there was one person who actually read all of Charles' entries, Headmaster Wentworth. The Headmaster always read the journals of his son's classmates a little more keenly those of the rest of the student body and he was greatly amused by Charles' in particular. As he had been reading Charles' journal for at least seven years, he was quite fluent in Morgan's Code. In fact he looked forward to when Charles came up with new code-words if only for the sake of a challenge.
But Charles was blissfully ignorant of this. He closed his journal, satisfied with his own cleverness and waited for journal time to be over for the day.
It was indeed crackers that afternoon at the Morgan residence, crackers with some unexpected cinnamon.
"No, no, no. Guy Fawkes lit the fuse but it went out straightaway, Parliament never got blown up," Estelle sighed and crossed out the offending line. "Really Charles, we need to finish our half of the project before the weekend."
Her neighbor shot her a glare across the table and looked positively peeved. "I don't see why we can't work on it on Saturday anyhow."
"Because," came the withering reply, "Nan and I are going to library Saturday morning and her mother is taking us to the ballet later. It's just easier if we work on our half of the project today. Nirupam and Nan will work on their half tomorrow afternoon, and we'll put it all together Friday. That way it's all done before the weekend and ready for Monday."
Another stare was Charles' answer and it looked equally withering, "Girls."
"It's not my fault that we have to study for the geography bee and a math test and do a history project. We knew when we started the project that we all had different schedules this week."
Normally Charles and Nirupam would have done their half together while the girls teamed up on the other, but it was not meant to be this time. Nirupam's mum was having Important People over to dinner today and for some reason that required the other boy's attendance. Meanwhile Nan had an unpleasant appointment at the dentist's office, which left only Estelle and Charles free to work together that day.
"Charles, can I go the Justin's house?" Graham peered into the kitchen.
"Did you finish your homework?" the eldest Morgan boy sighed, more in annoyance with his own schoolwork situation than his sibling's.
"Yeah, all of it."
"Then go and get back before five, or Mum will send out the hounds."
"Thanks! Er, are you okay, Charles?"
"I'm fine. Estelle is fine. And we're doing our history project just fine."
"I was just asking," huffed the youngest Morgan. "Maybe you should have Mum make us treacle pudding tonight, that always seems to cheer you up—"
"Out! Go to Justin's already!"
Graham looked as he was on the verge of saying something else before making a mad dash to the front door.
"You needn't have shouted at him," Estelle chided in a way that fairly screamed 'sisterly concern.'
For the third time in ten minutes Charles gave his worst double blank stare.
"And you have been acting a little odd since New Year's."
"Don't stare at me, Charles. It doesn't work anymore."
"I have not been acting strange."
"Yes, you have! Nan and Nirupam have been asking me if you've had a row at home and I told them you hadn't…"
It was times like this that he preferred Dan Smith's company. Dan was many things, largely unpleasant and irritating, but he couldn't give a fig about someone's private life (well, unless it was material for a spectacularly good joke).
He pushed up his glasses and sighed, "Look, everyone's always a bit down after winter hols, all right? Maybe it's just a bit longer for me this year."
"Oh, well. In that case, maybe you should go with the Singhs to a magic show. Don't they go every week? I think that should cheer you up—"
"Can we just get back to the project already? I'd actually like to finish it since we bothered starting so early."
"Yes, yes. Now we need to choose two historical figures who influenced magical law, but weren't magic users…"
Headmaster Wentworth always kept a keener eye on the journals of his son's classmates than other classes, but that was only to be expected. He felt a strange affection and sense of responsibility for that class, especially since their Year Six, as if he were their overbearing uncle.
And while many of their entries were commonplace and had little to do with his son, that wasn't to say there weren't a few that stood out as interesting and eminently readable. Nan Pilgirm's fanciful, if a little clichéd novel was one. Many a time he was tempted to write an editorial note in the margins, but felt that might be considered encouragement for her flagrant disregard of the assignment. Ironically, her story gave more insight into her life and thoughts a great deal more than a prose account of her daily routine.
Nirupam Singh also disobeyed the rules, though rather more subversively by writing lengthy summaries of things he had watched. But much like Nan, there was a pattern too to his writings which betrayed his feelings even if he was unaware. Film summaries were often for neutral days or boredom, more emotionally charged days had descriptions of magic tricks and accordingly escape-feats corresponded with high stress and anxiety, saw-tricks for anger, and rope tricks meant issues with friends or family. This was in contrast with Charles Morgan who deliberately wrote in code.
What poor Charles never realized was that the longer one's enemy is exposed to a code, the easier they can decipher it. Wentworth was positive the other teachers found Charles' journal as boring as he intended and missed the fact it was encoded. Which was to his advantage here, as he could dispense some equally coded advice to the boy and no one would understand a word of it. Morgan could use some help, the boy was very likely going in circles in his own head about the matter, and he would never deign to ask for advice.
In fact, considering it was more than Morgan who was tangled up in knots these past weeks it would probably be a good (or at the very least entertaining) idea to write advice to all the students in 11B who didn't mark their entries as 'private.'
Mr. Morgan, it seems to me that you are in agony over something that is at heart quite simple. Ask yourself this: are you a man who is going to go through life worrying about whether he craves and enjoys treacle pudding? Or are you a man who will simply enjoy it and be done with the matter? Of course these both carry their own set of consequences…
By the by, I have read so many descriptions of rope tricks recently that I feel quite confident I could start my own stage show!
And now for the second part of the equation:
Mr. Singh, in your describing so many tricks and wonders I do believe I've begun to decipher the mechanics behind them. Perhaps I could start my own stage show, what do you think?
By the by, I've read so much about treacle pudding lately that I've gotten quite a hankering for the dessert. Does your mother have a good recipe for it?
And since the drama was not limited to the boys of 11B:
Miss Greene, I've never meant any enchanter so daring or dashing as your future husband. Please make sure to invite me to the wedding. Do you really think pink and yellow is a good color scheme for a wedding? My wife is of the opinion it might make one look overly ruddy or sallow…
By the by, sometimes the magical people of all are not magic users. Life is strange like that.
And finally, his fatherly duty.
Mr. Silverson, I would greatly appreciate it if you were to focus on your mundane lessons as well otherwise your magical tutoring may be endangered. I understand that you have great enthusiasm for your supplementary classes, but you must balance your schoolwork and be wary of dragging down the marks of a certain classmate who assists you with your magical theory assignments.
It also might help if you were in fact actually studying during your study sessions.
The missus thinks you should come over for Sunday dinner this weekend. I shan't remind you to be on your best behavior.
A shame he wouldn't be able to see their expressions on Monday when their journals were returned. What he wouldn't give to be in Crossley's place, although Crossley would likely just be puzzled.
And simply for its own sake, he decided to write a comment in every journal whose entries weren't marked "private." After all it wouldn't be fair to ignore the other students…
Teddy Crossley was indeed puzzled Monday afternoon. For no discernable reason at least half of 11B were behaving bizarrely after journals were returned. Which was odd because normally the only comments the headmaster and other teachers wrote were bland platitudes and interchangeable pieces of teacherly advice. He briefly wondered if he had missed something last Friday, true he had been day dreaming a little since Thursday's date with Eileen Hodge had gone so well. But he was positive he would have noticed a shift in their classroom drama.
For example, Simon Silverson was normally a model student in every way yet today he seemed a agitated and nervous with the focus on Brian Wentworth. The latter seemed taken aback and shot quizzical looks at his friend who only seemed more agitated.
Nirupam, another good student when he wasn't plotting with Morgan and Smith, appeared downright angry with his favorite partner in crime. Morgan in turn looked completely embarrassed, neck and ears a flaming red. Crossley had never seen Morgan look so, it was even more disconcerting that his blank stares. Those were at least par for course.
Annoyed that Charles and Nirupam were utterly ignoring his notes, Dan Smith scrawled furiously on scrap paper what were undoubtedly plans for twice as many pranks as usual. A sure sign of trouble for later in the week.
More peculiarities abounded: Nan was not wildly scribbling out her novel for once, but instead read through what appeared to be notes in the margins and set about writing her own notes next to those. Likewise her chum Estelle was only writing a few lines and otherwise sighing every few moments, glancing around at her classmates until she settled her gaze on Nan and sighed even more.
All save perhaps three students seemed distracted by the journal comment saga, probably because they had wisely marked their entries 'private' and had not been subject to the Headmaster's font of wisdom. Whatever, or whoever, had cast this spell on the class made no difference as long as it wore off soon.
After all, there was a geography bee coming up.
"I can't believe you!" Nirupam's outraged voice cracked the January silence.
At the unexpected outburst, Charles snapped out of the fugue of shame that had clouded his head since noontime. "What?" he demanded.
"You and your damned treacle pudding. Even the Headmaster could figure it out!"
Charles' heart thudded wildly in his chest. "I'm sure I haven't the faintest idea of what you're talking about."
Apparently denial was the wrong card to play, his friend's eyes flared and anger and Nirupam pushed him up against one of the ancient oaks.
"Really, I don't see why you're in a rage," Charles summoned all his bravado to keep his tone cool and steady.
"Instead of talking to me, you write it where all the staff can read of your infatuation," Nirupam was fairly snarling at this point.
"I don't recall ever letting you read my journal." Now Charles was angry.
"The teachers drop them off on the table in front of the staff room Monday morning. If you're there early it's more than easy to read them while they're busy with morning coffee," came the matter-of-fact explanation.
"Well clearly you're not supposed to be reading them," Charles didn't bother keeping the annoyance out of his voice. "You've only yourself to blame if you read something you don't like. Besides if we're going to complain about journals, what about you and your rope tricks?"
"How do you know of those if you don't read my journal?" retorted Nirupam thinly.
"Wentworth says he's ready to open a show. What has you all tied up in knots?"
"A bespectacled annoyance who's so foolish as to announce his, his proclivities so!"
"Are you quite done?" Charles glared and adjust his glasses which had been knocked askew.
"No," came the firm reply followed swiftly by an equally firm kiss. It softened a few heartbeats later and Charles was near melting. But before Nirupam could deepen the kiss, Charles pulled away the slightest bit to ask,
"Then why were you in such a rage?"
"I prefer to conduct my affairs in private," Nirupam replied. If he had been trying for a cool tone it was ruined by his noticeably ragged breathing.
"And the road home from school is private?" Really now, Nirupam had left himself wide open for that one.
"Your insanity must be contagious."
"Then I say we take this collective insanity indoors," Charles tangled his fingers in Nirupam's hair. "Shouldn't be any crackers this afternoon."
January 26th the entry began, Today I got up! Everyone this morning was talking about the nationwide contest to design the new History of Magic Museum building. A hundred different designs are pouring into my head; I finally feel hot.
Also, had treacle pudding this past Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. I fairly gorged myself on it. If I'm lucky there'll be more this afternoon.
A different student's entry read, As a certain person took an interest in my description of various sleight of hand and rope tricks I would like to report that this weekend I finally put my knowledge of the Hobble knot, better known as the Handcuff knot, into practice. However, I shall not reveal the context behind it.
Perhaps an enchanter isn't the only ideal partner, was the thoughtful declaration in another journal, there are some people who are indeed enchanting without possessing the least bit of magical power. And some of these people can even appreciate a tasteful pink and yellow color scheme, unlike others who shall remain nameless!
Headmaster Wentworth rubbed his temples and sighed. For a fleeting instant he wondered if it was high time he should quit reading the journals of 11B.
I had a very pleasant dinner at the Wentworth household on Sunday. Then Brian and I did our mathematics homework and studied for the geography bee, the latest entry of yet another student stated. Nothing unseemly occurred!
Then again a headmaster can never be derelict his duties.