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"Wait, but you said Mrs. Thorne was using black magic for this spell, right?"

Mrs. Casnoff nodded. "Yes. Truly terrible stuff, too. Alice was very lucky she wasn't killed during the transformation. Mrs. Thorne was not as fortunate."

I suddenly felt like I'd swallowed a tray of ice cubes, but even as my stomach froze, beads of sweat broke out on my forehead.

"So my . . . my great-grandmother was made into a witch by black magic? As in, the worst, most dangerous kind of magic ever?"

Again, Mrs. Casnoff nodded. She was still looking at me very closely.

"Your great-grandmother was an aberration, Sophia. I'm sorry. I know that's a very ugly word, but there's no way around it."

"How"--my voice came out as a croak, and I cleared my throat--"what happened to her?"

Mrs. Casnoff sighed. "She was eventually found by a member of the Council in London. She'd been committed to an asylum, ranting and raving about witches and demons. The Council member brought her and your grandmother Lucy to Hecate."

"My grandmother?" I looked down at the photo in my hands.

"Yes. Alice was pregnant when she was found. They waited until your grandmother was born to bring them both here."

She poured herself another cup of tea. I got the feeling that she didn't really want to say anything else, but I had to ask. "So what happened then?"

Mrs. Casnoff stirred her tea with the sort of concentration usually reserved for brain surgery. "Alice did not adjust well to her transformation,"

she answered without looking at me. "After three months here at Hecate, she somehow contrived to escape. Again, no one is sure how, but Alice had some very powerful magic at her disposal. And then . . ." Mrs. Casnoff paused to take a sip of tea.

"And then?" I repeated.

Finally she lifted her eyes to mine. "She was murdered. ll'Occhio di Dio."

"How did we know it was--"

"They're very distinctive in their disposal of us," she replied briskly.

"In any case, Lucy, who had been left behind, stayed here at Hecate so the Council could observe her."

"What, like a science experiment?" I didn't mean to sound so angry, but I was beyond freaked out.

"Alice's power had been off the charts. She was literally the strongest Prodigium that had ever been recorded. It was vital that the Council know if that level of magic had been passed down to her daughter, who was, after all, half human."

"Had it?"

"Yes. And that power was also passed to your father." Her eyes met mine. "And to you."


After our little meeting, Mrs. Casnoff gave me the rest of the afternoon off to, as she put it, "reflect on what you've learned." However, I didn't feel like doing much reflecting. I marched straight to the third floor. In the small alcove off my hallway, there was a bank of bright red telephones that students could use. They were dusty with non-use since most of the Prodigium at Hecate didn't need telephones to communicate with their families. Vampires could use telepathy, but it wasn't like Jenna was calling home. The shapeshifters had some sort of pack mentality thing going on, and the faeries used the wind or a flying insect to deliver messages. I'd seen Nausicca murmuring to a dragonfly just that morning.

As for witches and warlocks, there were supposedly a bunch of different spells you could use to talk to people--everything from making your words appear in writing on a wall, to making a cat channel your voice.

But I didn't know any of those spells, and even if I had, they were only useful for communicating to other witches. Since Mom was human, human communication it was.

I picked up the phone, grimacing at the gritty feel of it in my sweaty hand.

A few seconds later, Mom picked up.

"My dad is the head of the Council," I said before she could even finish her hello.

I heard her sigh. "Oh, Sophie, I wanted to tell you."

"But you didn't," I said, and I was surprised to feel my throat constricting.

"Soph . . ."

"You didn't tell me anything." My eyes stung and my voice sounded thick. "You didn't tell me who my dad was, you didn't tell me that I'm apparently the most powerful witch, you know, ever. You didn't tell me that Dad is the one who . . . who sentenced me to go here."

"He didn't have a choice," Mom said, her voice tired. "If his daughter were exempt from punishment, how would that have made him look to other Prodigium?"

I wiped my cheek with the heel of my hand. "Well, I certainly wouldn't want him to look bad," I said.

"Honey, let me call your dad, and we can get this--"

"Why didn't you tell me that people want to kill me?"

Mom gasped a little. "Who told you that?" she demanded, and now she sounded even angrier than I was.

"Mrs. Casnoff," I answered. Right after she'd dropped the bomb about my powers, Mrs. Casnoff had told me one of the reasons that my dad had sent me to Hecate--to keep me safe.

"You can't blame him," she had said. "ll'Occhio di Dio killed Lucy as well, in 1974, and your father has had numerous attempts made on his life.

For the first fifteen years of your life, your father was able to keep your existence a secret. But now . . . It was only a matter of time before ll'Occhio di Dio discovered your existence, and you would have been defenseless in the regular world."

"What . . . what about those Irish people?" I'd croaked.

Mrs. Casnoff's eyes had slid away from mine. "The Brannicks are not a concern at this time," was all she had said. I knew she was lying, but I'd been too shell-shocked to call her on it.

"Is it true?" I asked Mom now. "Did Dad put me here because I'm in danger?"

"I want you to put Mrs. Casnoff on the phone right now," Mom said, not answering my question. There was a lot of anger in her voice, but there was fear too.

"Is it true?" I repeated.

When she didn't answer, I shouted, "Is it true?"

A door somewhere in the hall opened, and I glanced over my shoulder to see Taylor sticking her head out of her room. When she saw me, she just shook her head slightly and closed her door.

"Soph," Mom was saying, "look, we'lll. . . we'll talk about this when you're home for winter break, okay? This is not something I want to get into over the phone."

"So it is true," I said, crying.

There was such a long silence on the other end that I wondered if she'd hung up. Then she gave a long sigh and said, "We can talk about this later."

I slammed down the receiver. The phone made a jangly sound of protest.

I slid down the wall to the floor and drew my knees in so I could rest my head on them.

For a long time I stayed that way, breathing slowly in and out, trying to stop the steady flow of tears. There was a little part of me that felt weirdly guilty, like I should be super pumped about being a kick-ass witch or something. But I wasn't. I felt more than happy to leave the glowing skin and floating hair and smiting to Elodie and those girls. I could just run a little tea shop or something, where I could sell books about astrology and chakras.

That would be fun. I could maybe wear a floaty purple muu--

I lifted my head and cut off my mental rant. That weird goose-bump feeling was back.

I looked up and saw the girl from the lake standing at the end of the hall. Up close I could see that she was about my age. She was frowning at me, and I noticed that her green dress was flapping around her calves as though a wind were blowing.

Before I could open my mouth to ask her who she was, she turned abruptly on her heels and walked off. I listened for her shoes on the wooden steps, but there was no sound.

Now the goose bumps weren't just on my neck, but everywhere. It probably seems weird to go to a school populated by monsters and still be afraid of ghosts, but this whole thing was getting ridiculous. This was the third time that I'd seen this girl, and every time she seemed to be studying me. But why?

I slowly stood up and walked down the hall.

I paused before rounding the corner, afraid she might be standing there, waiting for me.

What's she going to do, Sophie? I thought. Yell "Boo"? Walk through you? She's a ghost, for God's sake.

But I was still holding my breath as I hurried around the corner.

And ran into something very solid.

I tried to scream, but it came out more of a breathy "Urrrgh!"

Hands reached out to steady me. "Whoa," Jenna said with a little laugh.

"Oh. Hi," I said, out of breath from the collision, and overcome with relief.

"Are you okay?" She studied my face with a look of concern.

"It's been a long day."

She smiled a little. "I'm sure. I heard about what happened with the Vandy."

I groaned. What with the family secrets and assassins and ghosts, I'd forgotten all about my more imminent danger.

"It's my own fault. I never should have listened to Elodie."

"No, you shouldn't have," Jenna said, twirling her pink streak. "Is it true you have cellar duty for the rest of the semester?"

"Yeah. What is that, by the way?"

"It's awful," she replied flatly. "The Council stores all its reject magical artifacts here, and they're all just jumbled up in the cellar. People who get cellar duty have to try to catalogue all that junk."


"Well, it's all crap, but it's magic crap, so it moves around.

Cataloguing it is pointless because it doesn't stay in the same place."

"Great," I muttered.

"Careful, Sophie. The Leech is looking kind of hungry."

I looked over Jenna's shoulder and saw Chaston standing at the end of the hall. I'd never seen her without Elodie and Anna, and the effect was a little jarring.

Chaston sneered at us, but it looked more like an impression of Elodie than a genuine expression.

"Shut up, Chaston," I said irritably.

"Witch: It's what's for dinner," she said with a nasty laugh before disappearing into her room.

Next to me, Jenna looked even paler than normal. It could have been a trick of the light, but for just a second I thought her eyes flashed red.

"The Leech," she murmured. "That's new."

"Hey," I said, giving her a little shake. "Don't let them get to you.

Especially not that one. She's not worth it."

Jenna nodded. "You're right," she said, but she was still looking at Chaston's door. "So, you coming to Classifications of Shapeshifters?"

I shook my head. "Casnoff gave me the day off," I said.

Thankfully, Jenna didn't ask why. "Cool. See you at dinner, then."

After Jenna left, I thought about going to my room to read or lie down, but instead I went downstairs and into the library. Like the rest of the house, the room now looked a lot less shabby to me. The chairs looked less like fungi ready to swallow me, and much comfier.

I only had to scan the shelves for a little while before I found what I was looking for.

The book was black, with a cracked spine. There was no title, but a large golden eye was stamped on the front.

I sat down in one of the chairs and pulled my legs underneath me, opening to the middle of the book. There were several glossy pages of pictures, most of them reproductions of paintings, although there were a few grainy photographs of a crumbling castle in Italy that was supposed to be the headquarters of ll'Occhio di Dio. I flipped through the pages, stopping when I came to the same picture I'd seen in Mom's book. It was as horrible as I remembered: the witch on her back, her eyes wild with fright, and the dark-haired man crouched over her holding a silver knife. The Eye tattooed over his heart.