Third Years (+ two helping hands + one interruption).
Nine students (+ extras).
Archibald knew when he was close to getting mad and yelling, something which he tended to do about once a term when the pressure of teaching a lot of blithering idiots about life-enriching things that they didn't give a damn about got too much– and come mid January he was getting very very close. Part of it was because Professor Corner had bet him a month's salary that Archibald was a hypocrite who couldn't survive without magic any more than the rest of them – hence during the ill-fated teachers New Year's party (he wouldn't have agreed at any other moment in time, but being dumped on boxing day and having to crawl his sorry self back to Hogwarts for the remainder of the holidays had left him feeling rather reckless) he'd stupidly agreed that unless he made it to the first of February without using magic he would cough up an entire month's pay and wear a T-shirt saying 'The squibs' (which were a terrible band) for an entire weekend.
If he won Michael Corner would surrender both his pay for the month (considerably more than his own, not that he was complaining or anything...) and his wand for the weekend.
Archibald was not going to win.
Michael Corner had managed to enlist the help of Terry Boot (fellow professor) to jump out on him in the middle of corridors, presuming of course that he'd pull out his wand and hex them. He'd stopped carrying his wand around him, but knowing that round the next corner a middle age man might be waiting brandishing some muggle artefact and yelling 'bonsai!' (why, he'd not asked) was beginning to make him jumpy. They'd tried to enlist Neville Longbottom's help too, but he was a little useless and the one occasion he'd attempted to surprise Archibald Neville had wound up in the hospital wing with a purple carrot stuck out of his ear. No one knew how.
"What would happen if you put your hand in a toaster?"
"I don't know, Lockhart, why don't you just try it?" Archibald snapped, before remembering the 'how to avoid lawsuits' part of his three day teacher training course, "you'd probably wind up with a toasted hand and although that might seem all fun and games and first, after the third person has buttered your toasty-palms I am sure it was cease to be amusing. Bringing us swiftly on to... potato peelers. Careful now, as much as I would love to peel off my skin during these lessons I really don't want to have to explain to the Headmistress why several of my pupils seem to think that they are vegetables."
Johnny English took one of the counters and seemed to be testing it on his forearm.
"English, if you really do think you're a potato will you do me a favour and go sit in Hagrid's vegetable patch instead of wasting time in my lessons?"
"Sarcastic much," Kevin muttered, raising his eyebrows for a second as he took his own vegetable peeler and prodded it ceremoniously.
"Detention, don't talk back." Archibald muttered.
"Seriously?" Kevin demanded, raising a challenging eyebrow.
"No, but well... that's your last warning. I hope you learn from it."
"Sure," Kevin said, dropping his potato peeler onto the desk and folding his arms, "like a Ravenclaw on a Sunday."
"Is that my post-final-warning-warning?"
"It's me telling you to shut up, Pips,"
"Are teachers allowed to say things like that?" Tabatha Street asked, blinking up at him.
"It depends how annoying the student in question is, okay – I suppose no one can tell me what you do with a potato peeler?"
"You peel potatoes, sir!" Hugo said, his hand soaring into the air so quickly that he knocked Lily Potter's geek-chic glasses flying into the air.
"Hugo!" She snapped, folding her arms sassily and making him scramble around on the floor to retrieve her glasses. Right on.
"Wouldn't they work for most kinds of Vegetables," Kevin suggested lazily, "sir." he added as an afterthought.
"Yes, Kevin," Archibald said, "well done... and you too, I suppose, Hugo," He added reluctantly. Archibald always felt that he was encouraging Hugo to act like an overexcited geek-show by congratulating him for getting the right answer. He didn't like to endorse these sorts of things, as there were very few positions in life for which the skill was actually useful.
He was in one of them.
"So, what is this?" Archibald said, picking the microwave up from behind his desk and letting it fall heavily on the desk. The loud noise when microwave met wooden desk was gloriously satisfying and seemed to shut up everyone, even Hugo, for a split second. Then Tabatha Street started to cry.
"Tabby doesn't like loud noises." Johnny English said, leaning across the space between her desks and patting her a bit. Last Archibald had heard, Johnny English was been dating 'Tabby' (dear Merlin, her name was terrible enough without the addition of an even more ridiculous nickname) and by the look of the serious sexual tension conveyed through that pat on the arm, young love was still blooming.
It had been the charming charms teacher who'd relayed the happy news to him in the Staff room, excitedly chattering about how she'd had to tell them off for holding hands in her classroom. Teenagers sickened him, as did the charming charms teacher (ish). Really, who cared?
"She shouldn't have picked Muggle studies then, really." Kevin grinned, stretching out his arms and looking far too comfortable. Were you allowed to give detentions for that?
He decided he probably wasn't which was, when you thought about it, a damned shame.
"Street," Archibald said wearily, "do you need to go outside?" Tabatha's expression, which was still a little crumpled and snotty (ew) disappeared into Johnny English's arm. Excellent. He could deal with that issue. "Lockhart," Archie continued, "what would you call this?"
"Roderigo." Kevin interjected.
"Is your name Goliath Lockhart?" Archibald said, turning his gaze to face Kevin and raising his eyebrows at him.
"No, thank God."
Amen to that.
"Well," Archibald said, "don't answer for him. Particularly with insolent remarks."
This whole discipline thing would be easier if he didn't find Kevin so amusing, because as far as grotty slightly gross teenagers went Kevin's blatant attitude problem was one of the most appealing and smiling-inducing he'd come across – in fact, given Kevin generally had quite good personal hygiene and tended to pick things up a little faster than he let on, usually forcing Archie to questioning him for a good ten minute so on some stupid tangential point before revealing he knew the answer all along, Kevin was usually easier to put up with then some of the others.
It was just on days like this, when he was half expecting one of the teachers to burst in yelling about the blitz trying to shock him into pulling out his wand and hexing their face off, that he really didn't need all theback chat.
"Lockhart," Archibald said, turning towards the boy and trying not to wince, "what is this?"
"A mini drinks fridge!"
"No," Archibald muttered, feeling the oncoming wave of a brutal migraine stirring up in his temple.
"Well," Archibald said, "in as much as it is a kitchen appliance you are correct, although considering that is this week's topic I'm not entirely surprised you managed to guess within the right genre, in terms of function… well, I want you to think of what a drink fridge does, and then think of the exact opposite and then you're there."
"A mini oven?"
"More or less," Archibald sighed, "so, have you all recipe plans to hand in?" He was met by a sea of very vacant looks. "You know," Archie said, "your homework?"
Archibald had absolutely no idea why he submitted himself to such tortures, yet here he was preparing for an hour of pure hell in the name of making his classes more enjoyable for a motley crew of the lazy and the stupid, when they clearly went out of their way to make him as stressed as possible.
"Does anyone know who Jessica James is?" Archibald asked, bored of calling her name off on the register and receiving nothing in response. He'd also asked that question a fair number of times and had spent several hours requesting that she be removed from his register and subsequently his responsibility, but apparently it was more important for it to appear to the governors that she was actually taking the required numbers of courses.
"Jessie's sick." Tabatha said.
"Well," Archibald said, "that's a shame. So as you know, today we have two house elves coming to help you guys with your cookery project and to ensure that you're properly supervised. They've been given strict instructions not to do all the work for you, so it would be nice if you didn't cause a House Elf order-confusion breakdown in the next hour."
"Sir," Franklinstien said, "as I can't make chips," he made a face, "I don't know how you make apple crumble."
It had been a categorical no as to whether Franklinstein, or indeed any of them, would be allowed to use a deep fat fryer – even if the things worked in Hogwarts, for which the burn on Archie's leg was testament to the negative – he wouldn't have let any of his pupils touch one. Not even ones like Elliot Cooper or his forth years, of whom he often had pleasant dreams about them falling into a humungous liquidiser and irritating him no more.
He wasn't even going to let them use ovens. They got to participate in the first little bits of cooking, like peeling potatoes and employing that classic 'rubbing in' method, before the house elves took over the rest.
"Have you looked it up in the recipe book?" Archibald suggested lightly. "It's spelt A-P-P-L-E -"
"- I know how to spell," he muttered irritably, "even if I haven't read Frankenstein I can spell."
"Your essay into the basic principles of the statue of secrecy says otherwise."
"Sir," Hugo said, blinking up at him with a rather blank expression, "are you… okay?"
Archibald wasn't sure what was most disturbing about this. For one, there was the fact that the only person who'd asked about his welfare today was one of his thirteen year old odd-ball students and from the levels of weak-minded conversation evident from his eyes Hugo was genuinely worried about him (concerning both on the level that student thought he was on the edge of a mental break down, and the fact that Hugo genuinely diverted enough attention away from the teenage norms – sex and food – to consider the mental state of hisMuggle Studies Professor) and when someone as utterly dotty as Hugo was worried about you it was fair to say you were screwed.
"Archibald, miss," Dettie, one of the House Elves who'd been so eager to volunteer to help him with his class, said eagerly, "are you hungry, Archibald miss?"
Archibald could feel a little more of his resolve crinkling into nothing.
It had been so long since he'd been too embarrassed to face the Staff Table – probably after last Peer Assessment week, actually – that he'd forgotten that, although Dettie was a really lovely and obliging house elf, the gender confusion issue had come out of nowhere.
Archibald had even grown a beard, last October, to try and assert the fact that he'd rather be referred to as 'Archibald, sir' but the 'miss' seemed to be the sort of thing that had stuck and was difficult to get rid of.
He could feel his pupils preparing the punch lines to a million jokes.
"No thanks, Dettie," Archibald said, staring straight back at his students as if his gaze could prevent them from finding this funny, "but Goliath Lockhart looks like he's having some problems kneading his dough."
"Are you, though, sir?" Hugo said, leaning forwards and looking up at him with wide eyes, "just, you've been a bit -"
"Get back to work, Hugo," Archie said pointedly, "a Victoria sponge won't cook by itself."
The last thing he needed, on top of his fellow teachers still ambushing him in more and more creative ways as the month got closer towards the end, and Dettie somehow thinking that he was a female, his current state of homelessness and singleness was his pupils starting to psychoanalyse him.
"He was dumped over Christmas," Kevin said, loudly, "I heard Boot and Corner discussing it outside the staff room."
"Thank you, Pips." Archibald said pointedly.
Dettie the house elf pressed a plate of biscuits towards him with the declaration "for your broken heart, miss."
Wonderful. Now he had gender confused House Elves prescribing him comfort eating in front of a room of thirteen year old brats trying to bake things Muggle Style.
"I think I've cut my finger," Herman Goyle piped up, staring at where blood was indeed dripping from his finger and into Johnny English's cheesecake, "it hurts."
Archibald was just about to suggest that, unless the tip of his finger was not attached to the rest of his finger, Herman had the choice of either manning up or popping along to the Hospital Wing if it was still bleeding in a minute (but either way he was factoring in 'but heaven's sake stop bleeding into the cream cheese'), when something rather remarkable happened.
He wasn't entirely sure why he hadn't expected his fourth year students to burst into his classroom wearing war paint and brandishing their wands, performing what he only assumed could be their interpretation of the Rain Dance, but he had to admit that the whole thing had taken him by surprise.
Tabatha, who apparently still didn't like loud noises and had developed a nervous disposition during Muggle Studies lessons, launched herself towards her heroic 'boyfriend.' Johnny English, with all the heroics and finesse of a thirteen year old boy was taken by surprise and promptly fell off his chair. During the fall his arms began the classic 'windmill' motion of attempting to secure balance (which inherently, it never did) which sent the bowl of crumble flying through the air and raining down that exact mixture of sugar, butter and flour that tasted oh so perfect.
Lily Potter shrieked and dove for cover under the desk, whereas Hugo got a face-full and didn't seem too bothered about it. Dettie and her partner in crime, Winky, switched over to major clean up mode almost instantaneously and through all the commotion Archie was vaguely aware that his forth years were stillprancing around his classroom, that Corner and Boot were stood in the doorway laughing, that he hadn't got a clue what was going on with Lockhart and Franklinstien and that Herman Goyle hadn't noticed anything had happened because he was still inspecting his marginally bloody finger.
"SILENCIO!" Archibald yelled.
Everyone shut up.
It took a split second for Archibald to realise that he didn't have his wand on him. Around three seconds to consider the possibility of him having mastered wandless magic and then discard it, and another two to come to the unsaleable conclusion that, finally, the stress had gotten to him and had caused his eardrums to spontaneously combust.
He had gone deaf. It was the only explanation.
"Er," Kevin Pips said, raising his eyebrows slightly, "don't you erm… need a wand for that to work?"
More astounding than deafness! He'd simply shocked the inhabitants of the classroom into silence.
"Are you a squib?" One his forth years asked loudly.
"No," Archibald said, frowning at him.
"Show us some magic then, Sir."
"I haven't got my wand on me," Archibald said, blessing the fact that he'd had the peace of mind to lock it away in his office in the name of winning this bet.
"Borrow mine," Corner said, grinning as he stepped into the classroom and held out the stick.
"Shouldn't you be in class?" Archibald muttered, not taking the wand and folding his arms over his chest. It wasn't like his wage was really worth all that much, but 'The Squibs' really were a terrible band. Anyway, Archibald would not give in. After such a long month he would not cave.
"It's okay," Hugo said, "if you are a Squib sir, none of us would mind."
That, he very much doubted, he was sure that if he was known as a squib his teacher-cred was sure to drop several more octaves, and it was already in a state so low that deep sea diving equipment was needed to squint at it.
"Is that why you're a Muggle Studies teacher?" Lily Potter asked, flicking her hair out of her face sassily.
"No," Archibald said, "now… get back to work."
"I really think," Dettie said, her eager voice looking up at him, "that you should have a cookie, Archibald, miss."
He could hear his fourth years absorbing this new information (it sounded like a lot more sniggering) and Michael Corner was looking as though Christmas had come eleven months early, but Archibald had reached saturation point: considering, right now, there was almost nothing he could do contain the rumour that he was a Cross dressing Squib teacher (his fourth years were notoriously good at spreading things and with the help of two Professor confirming such rumours, it was practically factual) he thought he might as well admit defeat and eat the cookies.
Sometimes, even cross-dressing-squib-teachers needed to comfort eat.