"How many of them are there?" Pippa exclaimed, trying not to appear too happy about the situation she'd found herself in.
"We've no idea." Ethel stated bluntly. "I think it was a fifth year replication spell gone wrong, they appear to have gotten a cloning spell and an alter-ego spell mixed up."
Miss Pentangle nodded, her eyes drifting. "Well spotted Ethel, top marks." She cleared her throat, "I think I'll just... Go and investigate some more." With that, she dispersed into a pink cloud of glitter.
"Hang on!" Mildred exclaimed, stopping them in their tracks as they weaved their way through the crowd of Miss Hardbroom alter-egos, "That one's got a weird accent." She pointed over her shoulder as the woman drifted away.
"What accent?" Ethel huffed.
"I don't know, I've never heard it before, it's like Spanish but American at the same time."
"It's Mexican, dimwit."
Mildred ignored her. "But how can she be speaking Spanish? HB's not Mexican... is she?" She turned to Maud who shrugged with a resigned expression that told Millie she didn't even want to know.
Millie took note of the one stood anxiously in the corner, her hair short in a bob, a black dress, not too dissimilar to HB's, hung loosely from her frame. She looked the same age if not a little older than her teacher - perhaps due to her lack of makeup - and she smiled warmly at each figure that passed her, not really interacting, more waiting to receive orders. Mildred shuddered, this particular alter was clearly out of her time, if her dress was anything to go by she belonged in the early twentieth century.
Raised voices from behind her soon stole the girl's attention and she turned to see two characters that Maud, Ethel and Felicity were already staring at.
"I just said I think that lipstick was a brave choice, that's all!" The younger woman exclaimed. She was short, very thin, and wearing a bright red dress that displayed a little too much skin for anyone to be comfortable with.
"And I think you're a tarty little slut so I guess that makes us even." The older woman fired back, her power suit clinging to her slight form as she leaned right in to the other woman.
Suit Lady, as aptly named in Mildred's head, took a step back at that, a brief smirk on her lips as she raised her eyebrows. Everyone gasped when they heard the audible smack of her hand around the younger females face and gasped again when she was shoved back in return.
"Alright, children, let's break it up." A tired looking alternative intervened, a sarcastic edge to her tone as if she'd seen it all before. The woman, who was ironically smaller than both of them, reminded Mildred of a teacher from the non-magical world. "Walk away, both of you. Go on." She gestured, flicking her wrists in a way similar to how HB would have.
"Wait, that one's speaking Spanish too!" Felicity stated, bringing the topic back to it's previous subject.
"I thought I heard one speaking French as well." Maud contributed.
"Of cause," Ethel scoffed, shaking her head in dismay, "One of Miss Hardbroom's alter egos is practically having sex with Miss Pentangle and you lot are more concerned about her not speaking English!"
"What?" The girls spoke in unison and followed the blonde's gaze to see The French One pinning the headmistress to the stone wall and kissing her roughly. They stood back in shock for a second, their heads titled to the side, secretly quite intrigued by what was happening before Maud cleared her throat and they snapped out of it.
"Should we stop them?" Mildred suggested in a tone that meant she definitely wasn't volunteering herself as tribute.
"Ur, no." Ethel stammered, "That looks like fairly consensual pinning to the wall." The girls nodded in a mixture of agreement and relief, a moment of disgust flicking across all of their faces as the couple flung themselves into a nearby storeroom cupboard. "They're not going to..."
"I think they are." Felicity laughed, a hand to her mouth in a vein effort to stifle the giggles.
"OK, maybe we should stop them." Ethel suggested, stepping forward before grimacing as she heard something clatter in the cupboard followed by faint giggles.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." An oddly familiar American accent came from beside them. They turned to see one of Miss Hardbroom's alternatives leaning lazily against a stone column, a lovely looking designer blouse gracing her torso where her arms lay folded. She had a side grin that lasted up to her ears.
"Why?" Maud gulped, sensing she most likely wouldn't like the answer.
"Because if you walk in there now, I can't guarantee any of you wont be scarred for life by the sight of your teachers..." The noises coming from the storeroom meant she didn't have to finish her sentence. "Yeah..."
"We should go." Maud suggested, leading them into the potions lab, feeling uncomfortable when The American One waved at her as she walked past.
As they entered the classroom they saw a woman, sporting an eye melting orange jumpsuit, her hair swept back into a smart up-do with her head on the front desk, muttering something into the table. She sat up in a start when she heard them come in before wincing and rubbing her temples.
"Ugh, damned headaches." She murmured, eyes closed, a moment later looking up at the girls with a frown that almost folded her face in half. "What?"
The quartet sighed, if nothing else they were just relieved that this one actually acted a bit like Miss Hardbroom. "Urm, nothing, we just... Needed somewhere to... work- that's all. Can we, use the potions lab?" All four of them seemed to say over each other.
The woman stood up, winced again - another headache clearly brewing. "Do whatever you like." She pushed past them with a vague hand gesture and left the room.
"Felicity?" Ethel called as she watched her friend follow the female out of the lab.
"Hey! Orange lady, stop." To Felicity's relief, and surprise, she did. "Tell me to get lost but... are you a lesbian, or bi, or-?"
"Get lost." She continued walking but Felicity ran round her, blocking her path.
"But are you though?"
"If I say yes will you leave me alone?" Came the pained reply as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Definitely!" The girl replied, excitedly.
"Oh my..." Felicity spun on the spot in a slight daze. "And what about you?" She asked the American one they'd spoken to before.
"Would a straight woman dress like this?"
Felicity grinned, finding comfort in her accent. She took in the crowed of alter egos all either fighting of flirting with each other before sprinting back to the potions lab. "You'll never guess what."
"Is it important?" Ethel questioned, deadpan, her nose deep in the pages of a spell book.
"I think HB is a lesbian!"
"Really?" Mildred and Maud replied with an eerie synchronisation.
"Well all of her alter egos seem to be, or mostly - at least. That must mean she is too, right?" Her face fell. "You guys don't seem so excited."
"I mean..." Mildred stammered, struggling to find the right words. "It is great and everything but, well isn't it kind of sad that she can't be open about it?"
"Yeah." Maud chimed in. "Felicity, you're always super open about liking girls and going to the Pride parades over summer but..."
"Well, HB wont even tell us when she's in a good mood let alone tell us anything about her personal life, and I doubt she's exactly open to the teachers either. At least judging by the comments Miss Drill always makes about her; she doesn't tell them anything."
"Which is odd because most of the other teachers are a bit too open about their personal lives." Mildred added, pretending not to remember the breakdown Miss Bat had almost had that one time Mr Rowan-Webb had stepped on her glasses. "Don't you think that's sad."
"I never thought about it like that." Felicity admitted.
"That is sad." Ethel muttered to herself, accidentally loud enough for the others to hear.
"Yeah." The others hummed in agreement.
The atmosphere suddenly felt heavy, like it was just the four of them holding it up from crushing the school. The sound of the deputy's suppressed personalities having fun and being open and saying what they thought created an odd sort of melancholy eeriness to the room.
A spontaneous silence made them frown in unison, a shared perplexity passing through each of them. Mildred was the first to investigate, sticking her head out the door and looking both ways down the corridor. "They're gone." She exclaimed, turning back to face her three accomplices.
"What?" Ethel responded, stepping forward.
"I don't know how but they've just vanished..." Her face fell from it's relieved smile to a look of dread when she caught sight of their expressions. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Mildred Hubble." The unmistakable voice of their teacher bellowed from directly behind her.
"Miss Hardbroom!" The girl shrieked in delight, spinning around and immediately attacking the angry stick with a hug.
"What is happening..?" She looked up to the three remaining girls with a helpless look in her eye, a look which turned to resignation as she watched them run forwards one by one and join in with the hug.
"You don't need to be a repressed lesbian." Mildred murmured into her teacher's side.
"I beg your pardon?" Hecate stiffened.
"Ur, she just means... We appreciate you as a teacher, Miss Hardbroom." Ethel saved her, pretending not to notice how she was hugging Mildred more than she was the intended recipient. The woman stood there awkwardly for a few seconds, unsure of what to do until, after what felt like an age, the four detached themselves from the hug and left wordlessly.
"By the way..." She stuttered, sheepishly, "I think you'll find Miss Pentangle in a store cupboard feeling..." Don't say horny, don't say horny, don't say- "Excited to see you." She coughed in a way that couldn't be more obviously fake. "Just... be open with her, don't be afraid to... open up." She laughed nervously. "Be yourself... All of yourselves."
"Mildred." Hecate stated just as the girl was about to leave. "I don't know what's been going on, I feel as though I've been in multiple minds today but I do know something's happened, to do with me. Things that are out of my control, so whatever you've learnt, or whatever you think you've learnt, I don't want it to change the way you think about me-"
"Oh don't worry Miss Hardbroom." Mildred grinned, backing away as discretely as she could, "Everyone's more scared of you now than ever." With that, she spun on the spot, very nearly knocking a pile of books over, and sprinted out of the potions lab.
Hecate watched her go and sat at her desk, considered putting her head on it like she would on particularly stress filled days, but decided against it. Instead she wrung her hands and sat back in her chair.
"That's exactly what I feared, Mildred Hubble." She sighed, "That is precisely what I feared."