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3rd September, 1889 — Hogwarts Greenhouses
@Irene Fudge
He knew this was the year he was supposed to concentrate on classes in order to actually pass his OWLs, but Nelson was also determined this year would be the year he got onto the Ravenclaw team, and after a summer fretting about the former, his first few days back at Hogwarts were resolutely concentrated on that latter.

So if he had been staring dreamily out through the greenhouse glass at the hoops on the pitch in the distance, it was out of strategic planning and not mere laziness, thank you very much. Besides, Herbology wasn’t one of his worst classes - his worst classes were always proportionate to the amount of spell-casting involved, funnily enough - so Nelson thought he could afford not to pay attention for a moment.

Dreaming about quidditch had cost him, though, because the class had been divided off into pairs for the lesson’s project and he had missed his chance to mosey off with one of his friends, and now Professor Skeeter was chivvying the rest off into pairs to squeeze the pus out of some Bubotubers.

And who did he have left as his partner but Miss Fudge? Not the Ravenclaw Miss Fudge, but Miss Irene Fudge, who presumably thought he was as weird as ever. Nelson feigned a roll of his eyes and sigh at her to express his reluctance, a silent just my luck - though he was mostly teasing about that. Snotty as she could be, she was one of the best in the class in Herbology, a year below or not. They’d have the Bubotuber squeezed in no time... which meant there was time, Nelson concluded, for a bit of mucking about.

Instead of beginning to catch the pus from one of their plant’s protruding boils, Nelson decided to give it a furtive prod. And if the tiniest bit of pus that squirted out was aimed at Miss Fudge, well - he was entirely innocent in that.

Irene couldn’t have had more to be hopeful about even if she had been miraculously made a fourth year prefect. Finally, it was time to explore Hogwarts as a proper lady - not only was she forteen and growing taller, the number “14” seemed to have a magical component added to it, as she had never felt so adult. For this year, she would do her best to follow the rules as best as she could, and impress every teacher who had their eyes set on her. She meant to become a prefect in the future, yes, after all, the Slytherins deserved somebody as dedicated as she was. More than everything, she could finally go back to handling magical plants at Herbology.

She supposed life could be perfect if Irene had been paired with somebody other than Nelson Higgs, but alas - nothing she could do about it. Not without risking disappointing their professor. Truth be told, she had thought Nelson was cute enough upon arriving at Hogwarts, aware of his surname, which made him an interesting person to befriend. It was only after she learned he was mute that she turned a blind eye to him, unsure of how a person could communicate if they couldn’t even form words in the first place. She ought to research more, sure, but who even had that time?

It was due to a mistake, of course, being paired up in him. She spent far too long caring for a plant that had grown over the summer, on the side, and when coming to her senses she realized her friends had already paired with each other. Her closest friend made her the favor not to show up for that class, so now she was stuck with Higgs of all people. "What, you think I’m happy?" She snapped right back at his roll of eyes, sighing as well. He was stupid if he thought she was pleased by this partnership. Not at all. "All you have to do is not ruin this, for the sake of our grades and my patience. You think you can do it?" She didn’t look back at him to ‘see’ his reply. As if it would be understandable, however he answered.

She began working on what their professor requested, when her dear partner decided prodding the plant was a great idea. That pus fell on her wasn’t ideal, but that he was losing time with this? "Look." She turned to him, chin slightly raised and eyes kept from rolling because she was, after all, a lady. "You might not understand that plants are also live beings, so treating them with respect is necessary, but that’s how things go. If you want to lose time prodding something, go find an object. This plant- already goes through enough trouble as it is, it doesn’t need you doing experiments. So can we get back to work?"

She hardly paid attention to the pus, it wasn’t toxic or hurtful. Work came first, at least when it came to Herbology. She could worry about appearances later.
@Nelson Higgs
[-] The following 1 user Likes Irene Fudge's post:
   Elias Grimstone

[Image: WCKsUh0.jpg]
Of course she wasn’t happy. If Nelson didn’t know any better - and if he’d had the use of his voice, he’d have said it aloud, too - he would think she’d never been happy in her life. Maybe everyone was just exceptionally good at getting on her nerves.

He didn’t answer her challenge with a nod or otherwise, mostly because she wasn’t even looking, had already turned her attention to the plants again. Apparently plants didn’t get on her nerves so. She and they seemed to have quite a happy reciprocal relationship. The Bubotuber pus he’d squirted her way had only been a drop, anyway, so not dangerous - and she had her gloves on, so it hadn’t been in danger of irritating her skin. (See, he knew enough Herbology not to ruin things for himself or for her, thank you very much.) But even a drop had been enough to fray her patience.

Nelson tried bravely to suppress his grin, sure amusement would only make Miss Fudge more annoyed. That said, nonetheless, whilst he had her attention - Nelson made a motion of clearing his throat (he had become accustomed to clear his throat ‘silently’, in case that sort of noise counted as speaking and he died for it), and held up a gloved finger in a sign to wait a moment, in order to hold her attention while he dug around in his bag to pull out a quill and a scrap of parchment.

He made a show of writing a line down, like it was going to be a Very Important Statement. He passed it over to her primly in response. The parchment read: I’m a live being too. Does that mean you’ll treat me with respect one day?
[-] The following 2 users Like Nelson Higgs's post:
   Chrysanta Ruskin, Irene Fudge

Irene had never done enough research to understand whether muteness affected other components of the brain. Or, could it be that it happened because his most important organ was compromised? This would make a lot of sense and serve as an explanation, which she supposed she could work with - do most of the tasks by herself, perhaps ask him for the easier things. The fact he couldn’t stand still and not play with a plant seemed to prove, in Irene’s mind, that he wasn’t fit for being a partner in Herbology. She ought to give him a chance but instead of guessing he might have a rather maraudish personality, her thoughts flew to imagining he was different than other students.

She saw it fit not to proceed with caution, instead calling him out on it and silently hoping it would be the last of his antics. Irene fought hard not to roll her eyes, searching for whichever tools would help make their lives easier. Though she couldn’t threaten him with them during class, she knew holding these devices would guide her focus towards something a lot more productive. She made the unfortunate mistake to look back at him about ten seconds later, cheeks still very much flushed though she showed no other sign of the previous annoyance. Frowned, even - his sign was reasonable, she had no trouble understand it. So perhaps he could communicate just right. It made her wonder why he’d lose time with foolishness.

Her doubts dropped as quickly as bludgers after it spotted a student closest to the ground. Not only did he make a show of writing words that had nothing to do with classes, he passed her a message that at best was unfair, at worst was offensive. Irene took seconds to breathe, controlling herself as her mind forgot of the task to instead answer him. "If you can remember past the last minute, you’ll recall you were the one who rolled your eyes as soon as you saw me. Perhaps I wasn’t the most gentle, but I’m sure you know how easily you can convey a message with simple gestures. Yours, Mr. Higgs, was clear, even before I said or did anything."

Irene made a break, if only to let the words settle between them. "Now, I suppose you agree with me that plants do not deserve your poor treatment? Because if you don’t, then that is gonna be an issue - and not just one between us."
@Nelson Higgs

[Image: WCKsUh0.jpg]
And you wonder why I rolled my eyes, Nelson thought but didn’t say. She hadn’t found him amusing in the least, but that was the thing, wasn’t it? He didn’t have a hope of amusing a fussy young lady like little miss perfect Fudge. He might have a hope of impressing her - or, well, shocking her, if not impressing her - with his fair competence at Herbology, which, judging by her words, would be the lone thing in the world she might appreciate, but...

Well, he was only setting himself up for disappointment, wasn’t he? Nelson was certain she’d find something else to be annoyed about in another minute. He bit his lip at perhaps I wasn’t the most gentle, but didn’t want to make it obvious he was holding back a laugh. Better to make it look like contrition, probably.

So he inclined his head at her thoughtfully, and let the silence swell like he was digesting her words with due diligence. Eventually, he nodded - in agreement that the plants deserved his respect - and petted one of the leaves of the Bubotuber he’d prodded earlier just to demonstrate that. A little teasingly, maybe. But with good intentions.

Thinking of good intentions: well, why not try to surprise her a little? She already thought the worst of him. Maybe being better than she thought would spare him her lecturing for a minute. Slowly, Nelson scribbled over his last line and began one anew, presenting it to her in the form of an apology. (...or possibly a challenge.)

We could always try for a fresh start.

It was a good thing Irene hadn't noticed Nelson's attempt on holding back a laughter. Had she realized what he was doing, not only would she be mad he was actively trying to hide a response, it would be a maddening thought that he found her attempt on an apology amusing. After all, this was an apology - as close as she could get to it, with somebody as... unproper, in terms of how he chose to act near a lady.

His nod, however, was easily read. She smiled quite delightedly, that he agreed with her words of caring over plants. Best to make sure the small creatures had a nice, safe life as they could, instead of spending energy fighting against each other. Even if Nelson was prone to actions that gave her all the reason for annoyance. She waited as he wrote something on a piece of parchment, slowly getting used to having a partner who couldn't communicate with spoken language. For the record, she still found it rather odd, and remained wondering what had made him lose his voice in the first place - even if it was a birth defect -, but she would not bring it up now that they seemed to be approaching a truce.

"A fresh start?" Anyone could see the format of a 'v' forming between her eyebrows, and she read these words twice. There was a splash of color on her face, from their previous argument, but it got better as she considered the start he'd just mentioned; despite the fact she didn't fully understand how he wanted to go on about that. "And how do you suggest we do this? We know each other already...." This was just a tiny bit weird, but she could do it. Right? She was Irene Fudge after all, it wasn't below her level. And it would be for the best. She had to.
@Nelson Higgs
[-] The following 1 user Likes Irene Fudge's post:
   Nelson Higgs

[Image: WCKsUh0.jpg]
Nelson was pleasantly surprised to see that she had taken his suggestion with a fair amount of seriousness; there it was, a wrinkle in her brow as she considered it. It had been half a joke in itself, but the way her face had transformed into a smile of pure sunlight when he’d assured her he cared about the plants made him made him tempted to try and do it again. It would be a sort of secret victory for him, he decided, getting her to smile.

Other people might not think much of smiles; to Nelson, at least, they were valuable currency.

How to make a real fresh start of this, then? He might’ve just let the conversation lie and get to work on their lesson’s assignment, but he decided spontaneously that it would be more interesting to make a thing of it, since she was finding it so difficult to comprehend. So he turned his head away from her, and when he turned it back, his expression had changed into one of sheer politeness. He extended his hand to her, too, and pulled her hand into a hearty gloved handshake, as if they were meeting for the first time. 

He inclined his head at her in the most gentlemanly way he could muster, and once he had released her hand, he bent over his parchment and scribbled his name, Higgs, and a teasing little Nice to meet you. There! If they couldn’t start from scratch now, he’d have no hope for the rest of this class with her. (Maybe she'd only mock him twice as much as she had before.)

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