a tale of (less) woe

by renegadekarma

They’d turned their disagreements into a war. There was no room for changing one’s attitude, or opening one’s mind to other viewpoints. And there was most certainly not room to fall for one’s Shakespeare rival.


Hogwarts High School’s Shakespeare club was officially a mess.

It had started that morning when they’d begun to argue if Hamlet’s deception of his mother and stepfather was justified as avenging his father – half of the club (the unromantic side, Tatiana had privately concluded) firmly believed that this was inexcusable, while the other half consisting of herself agreed that it was permissible.

Then someone – Ariel Jameson – had mentioned the controversy over whether Shakespeare had actually written his plays or not, and the club briefly united for a moment to banish her to the corner of the room (“Fare thee well, ye wretch! Off to Mantua you go!”)

Things, however, had quickly escalated when the club had turned to discussion thereafter to the most debated play of all of Shakespeare’s works – Romeo and Juliet.

“It’s simple, really,” Seren Jones explained, sitting with her feet propped up on the chair of the tall, curly-haired boy beside her. “It’s a love story, pure and easy.” She shot the boy a sappy look and half of the club groaned at yet another public display of affection, though it was more subtle now than it usually was.

Quincy Lee rolled her eyes from across the circle of chairs they formed. “Evidently, you didn’t read the entire thing. The whole point of the book is that their love was what brought Romeo and Juliet’s demise and the deaths of so many others. It’s a tragedy, not a romance.”

“If it’s about two people falling in love, how could it be a tragedy?” Benjamin Gray inquired, perplexed.

“Six people died, Benj,” Seth Allen added with a shake of his head.

Tatiana could hold her tongue no longer. “It’s a love story – a sad one, yes – about two people falling in love and how the hate of their families ended up destroying both them and their love. Considering that the families reconcile in the end, it shows that hate isn’t as strong as love. Face it, Romeo and Juliet is a romance.”

“Bullshit,” Chastity Hamilton-Reed spat out, and the young woman’s hazel eyes turned quickly in surprise to the redhead, who was sitting languidly back in her chair with her arms crossed, smirking. “That’s just so naïve. Romeo and Juliet killed themselves because their families couldn’t get over their hatred when they were living. Any huge misunderstanding like that which costs someone lives is, without a doubt, a tragedy.”

As a general rule, the club tended to avoid having people reply to arguments during group discussions; it often ended up in two people going at it while the others watched baffled or attempted (and failed) to get in a word edgewise. This time, however, Tatiana Penvrane felt the need to break the rules a little bit.

“The only reason you’d perceive it as a tragedy is because you’re missing the point. Their love would have been their salvation if their hate hadn’t been their undoing,” the brunette replied, narrowing her eyes.

The redhead laughed, swiftly covering her mouth with one hand. “Being hateful like that at all makes the play a very tragedy from the start, Penvrane. Don’t miss the easy clues.”

“Do you bite your thumb, lady?” the brunette narrowed her eyes more so that they were only hazel slits now.

“I do bite my thumb, lady.”

“Do you bite your thumb at me?”

“I do bite my thumb, lady, but not at you, merely at your misguided ideals of romance,” Chastity replied with a smug smirk.

“That’s rubbish,” Tatiana scoffed before turning to the rest of the club members. “Who’s on my side?” Roughly half raised their hands. “And how about hers?” Tatiana pointed to Chastity, too irritated with the other to even speak her name; in response, the other half of the club raised their hands.

“Looks like there’s only one solution, then,” Chastity replied smugly as she stood. “We have to break into two different groups.”

“Yeah, you take your pessimists with you,” Tatiana grumbled as she and those who believed the play was a romance split away from the others.

“Benj, is it really necessary to paint that on the walls?” Tatiana sighed.

“I’m just sharing my prophecy,” the boy replied absently as he dabbed a paintbrush on the surface of the wall, the lines crisp and sharp.

Two club halves, both alike in study,

In crappy Hogwarts where we lay our scene,

From long-debated grudge break to new disunity,

Where their tainted blood makes our pure hands unclean,

From forth these fatal factions of these two groups

A pair of star-crossed lovers change their life,

Whose idiocies in one piteous swoop,

Do with their love bury their group’s strife.

The thrilling passage of their lesbian love,

And the continuance of their faction’s rage,

Which, but the lovers’ demise, no hater could remove,

Is now the several weeks’ traffic of our stage.

That which you listen to even if you know the end,

What here shall follow, our toil shall strive to mend.

“Did you see what Benj did in the name of prophecy?” Seth gestured to the verse written haphazardly in purple ink on the wall in front of them.

Chastity gaped at it. “He mutilated Shakespeare. This means war.”

Rather childishly, neither group wished to abandon their organization room. While Chastity’s Realists (or pessimists, as Tatiana continued to refer to them as) took one side of the room, Tatty’s Romantics (also known as the idiots in Chastity’s opinion) took the other.  Despite Benj’s prediction that the leader of each group would eventually fall in love with the other, they remained on frosty terms and refused to speak to each other.

Or at least, they did until one winter morning when Tatiana arrived and realized that the Romeo and Juliet playbooks were nowhere to be found. Although Tatiana suspected that someone in the club had eventually gotten tired of the rivalry and merely burned the lot to end the chaos, she set about looking for them anyway.

The door opened and Chastity entered, unlooping the scarf around her neck slowly as she peered in cold amusement at the brunette under a desk. “What are you doing, Penvrane?” she asked after a moment when her amused looks could no longer suffice.

Tatiana wiggled out with a huff. “All of the Romeo and Juliet copies have gone missing.”

“What?” Chastity gaped at her and then ducked under a nearby desk, mimicking Tatiana’s position from just a few seconds ago. “We’ve got to find them,” she replied, her voice muffled, “Did someone steal them?”

“That was what I was thinking,” Tatiana admitted as she ducked below another desk in search. “Probably someone who’s tired for all of the in-fighting. Weren’t we supposed to move on to talk about Hamlet this week, anyway?”

“Last week, actually, but we’ve all been quite fixated on Romeo and Juliet for a while,” The redhead replied, weaving around another desk gracefully as she checked the basket under the chair for any stray plays.

“To be honest, I haven’t read this play in months,” Tatiana added sheepishly, “My group and I have mostly just been discussing the logistics of the romance in it.”

“Romance,” Chastity scoffed under her breath before she replied louder, “I guess we’ve just been so caught up in this argument that we’ve forgotten what this club means.”

“I agree – oh –“ Tatiana rubbed her head ruefully from where both her and Chastity had collided head-first as they scrambled under the desks. For a moment, she merely stared at the redhead.

“This is another tragedy,” Chastity grumbled, and the brunette burst out in laughter. Chastity’s lips curved downward in confusion. “What?”

“Everything’s a tragedy to you, isn’t it?”

“And what, does this look like a romance to you?” The redhead snapped back in reply, but her own tone was softened by the other’s continuous laughter, and infectious as it was, she soon found that she was not immune and pressed a hand over her mouth to try and stifle a laugh (she failed).

“We could call it a Romeo and Juliet AU,” Tatiana replied.

“Oh, now you want to write fanfiction about me, Penvrane?” Chastity quirked an eyebrow at the other girl who laughed harder.

Tatiana was about to reply back, a quip for a quip, when the door opened and Seren entered. The girls sprung apart and continued their search for the plays, Tatiana’s cheeks pink and Chastity’s lips drawn into a thin line.

They’d turned their disagreements into a war. There was no room for changing one’s attitude, or opening one’s mind to other viewpoints. And there was most certainly not room to fall for one’s Shakespeare rival.

“Tatiana?”

The brunette snapped back to the discussion with a start, nearly hitting her head on the back of the plastic chair she was sprawled in. “What?”

“Did you have anything to add about how quickly Romeo moved on from Rosaline?” Benj repeated, slowing his words down to better convey the question.

“Oh, er,” her mind scrambled for any sort of foothold, “He wasn’t a great lover. It’s tragic.”

The group gaped at her.

“You’re starting to sound like one of, you know,” Seren, instead of finishing the sentence, merely jerked her head in the opposite direction to where Chastity’s group was gathered.

The brunette hastily shook her head. “Don’t worry, I’m not one of them.” The nervous laugh that followed wasn’t entirely sincere. “But don’t you think we should move on and read something else? Hamlet? Macbeth? Love’s Labors Lost?”

“We’re not done discussing Romeo and Juliet,” Seren replied flatly, and that was the end of their conversation.

Slender fingers turned a page in a play, pausing to trace a finger under a line. Chastity wrinkled her nose as she continued reading. “Is it me, or does Laertes have a weird thing for his sister?” she questioned aloud.

Beside her, in the deserted room, Tatiana pulled the play closer to her and frowned at the indicated line. “I think you’re right,” she returned in disgust.

“Lovely,” Chastity added under her breath as she pulled Hamlet back to her. “This is a love story, you know,” she chipped as she continued reading. “Hamlet obviously loves Ophelia; he just doesn’t know how to make any time for her after all the business with his father’s death and trying to avenge him.”

Hazel eyes blinked at the redhead. “Hamilton-Reed, did I just hear you call something a love story?

“I can be romantic if I want to be,” The shorter girl shot the taller one a saccharine smile sideways and then closed the play as she noticed the time. “Same time, same place, tomorrow?” Chastity asked for confirmation.

“It’s a date,” Tatiana nodded as she stood, her cheeks faintly red.

Several weeks later, Tatiana was awakened by the sound of someone sighing.

Opening one eye, she sat bolt upright and then knocked her head against Chastity’s, effectively waking the other up. They’d been leaning together over one of Shakespeare’s other plays when they’d been reading it earlier, their heads touching as their fingers brushed while they flipped pages. She could have sworn that she’d only sat back for a moment, but judging by the arrival of all the other club members, she could guess it had actually been a few hours.

It was Seth who had sighed. “You betrayed us,” he informed Chastity mutinously.

“I did nothing of the sort,” she returned icily. “We need to wake up and move on. Romeo and Juliet is a romance and a tragedy – and now we have to get back to discussing the other plays.”

“She’s converted you,” Quincy decided, her voice a hiss as her eyes turned from the redhead to the girl sitting against her.

Instinctively, Tatiana glared back, but she quickly turned her gaze to her own half of the group, who were looking at her in just as much disbelief as the rest. “They’re not so bad,” she added after a moment. “They were our kinsmen once, remember? Do not lose thy friends, anyone remember that?”

“I knew it,” Benj sighed unexpectedly. “I predicted it, remember?” He gestured to the verse he’d painted on the wall, and everyone turned.

“It happened,” Tatiana admitted, her voice small. “I did fall for her.”

Chastity shot the brunette a surprised look that quickly shaped into a grin in response before she turned back to the club. “We have to end this.”

“Or we could just kick you out for fraternizing with the enemy,” Quincy suggested.

“This is the demise part,” Benj whispered loudly.

Tatiana rolled her eyes. “No, this is the part where the Montagues and the Capulets make up.” She gestured between the two groups. “So go. Become friends again. Agree that we have our differences in opinion and move on. If I have to endure one more discussion about how cute it was that Romeo went to watch Juliet on the balcony, or another debate on how stupid teenagers in the medieval times were when it came to faking their deaths, I will throw the entire textbook of Shakespeare’s work at all of you.”

This was a sufficient threat. With great reluctance, the club halves turned to each other and conceded that perhaps there was merit to both viewpoints and, with another sideways grin at Tatiana, Chastity rose and picked up another stack of plays.

“Come on, now we’re reading Julius Caesar,” she informed the club as she began handing them out.

Waiting until the redhead had finished, Tatiana finally slid her fingers into the other’s grasp. “I can’t wait to discuss how Brutus loved Caesar even if he betrayed him,” she sighed contentedly.

Chastity froze. “You think what? No, Brutus was a horrible person to do that to someone he trusted.”

“He was misguided,” Tatiana returned.

“Misguided doesn’t cover it. You don’t just kill your friend because – oh, bloody hell, stop arguing with me and kiss me already.”

Tatiana did as she was told.

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