Archer and Elodie were sitting up front and to the left of me. Elodie looked pale, and there were still tears streaking down her face. Archer had his arm around her, his lips moving in the hair at her temple. Then, like he knew I was watching them, he turned and looked at me. I dropped my eyes, my hands fisted in my skirt.
After Anna and Jenna, I'd nearly forgotten about me and Archer, but now our encounter from last night came flying back at me, slamming into my heart.
Thankfully, Mrs. Casnoff stood up and raised her hands for silence, so I could turn my eyes to her and not Archer.
"Students," she began, "as I'm sure you know, there was another attack last night. Miss Gilroy is going to be all right, but as this is the third attack in less than a year, we obviously have had to take some drastic measures. As I'm sure you've all noticed, Lord Byron is not here. Nor is Miss Talbot. Until the Council can get to the bottom of these attacks, vampires are no longer welcome at Hecate."
My heart sank as everyone around me burst into applause. I thought of Jenna, how happy she'd been last night in her pink dress, and felt tears prick my eyes. Where had they taken her?
Mrs. Casnoff said a few more things, mostly about being careful and aware of our surroundings, and that we couldn't drop our guard until we knew for sure what had happened, but I barely heard her. It was true that Jenna had been back up in our room when Anna was attacked, but I'd seen Jenna after she came back from a feeding at the infirmary. She was always worn out and almost drugged. Last night, when Casnoff came to get her, she'd just looked scared.
I didn't realize that the assembly was over until a shapeshifter boy stepped on my toes, getting out of his seat.
Numb, I stood, only to hear Mrs. Casnoff say, "Sophie, Elodie, please wait a moment."
I turned back. Elodie looked as confused as I felt.
"If the two of you would kindly go to my office."
Archer gave Elodie's arm a quick squeeze before leaving. His eyes met mine as he passed me. He gave me a smile, and I tried to smile back.
Whatever had happened between me and Archer last night had been a freak incident, one I knew would just be easier to pretend had never happened. He was clearly with Elodie, and I couldn't blame him. Not only was she gorgeous, but now all her friends were gone. What kind of jerk would break up with a girl the day after her best friend had had nearly all her blood drained?
Not that it was a situation that came up often, I guess.
Elodie and I walked to Mrs. Casnoff's office, our shoulders brushing in the narrow hallways.
"I'm really sorry," I started, but Elodie cut me off with a glacial stare.
"What, that your best buddy nearly killed another one of my friends, or that you tried to kill me with my own dress?"
I was too tired to even give my crappy lying skills a shot. "The spell wasn't supposed to hurt you. It was just going to turn your dress a different color when you put it on."
Elodie was silent, and when I glanced over at her, I saw that she was watching me with an appraising look. "That was some pretty powerful magic," she said. "And while I don't appreciate nearly being strangled by clothes, it might be a cool spell to learn."
"I'll teach it to you if you'll teach me the curse you put on my dummy," I offered.
Before she could reply, Mrs. Casnoff ushered us into her cramped office. "Come along, ladies."
Once Elodie and I were seated in the tiny chairs, Mrs. Casnoff moved behind her desk. "I'm sure you both know why I wanted to speak with you."
She sighed as she sat down. If it had been anyone else, I would've said she flopped into the chair, but Mrs. Casnoff was way too formal to flop. It was more like a graceful collapse.
"I'm sure it's occurred to you that all these attacks have been exclusively on members of your coven, girls."
Confused, I said, "Oh, I'm not a member of their coven."
Now Mrs. Casnoff looked puzzled. She glanced over at Elodie, who I now noticed was looking anywhere but at either of us.
"You joined Sophia to your coven without her knowledge?" Mrs.
"What?" I yelped. "How is that even possible?"
Elodie blew out a long breath that ruffled her bangs. "Look, we didn't have a choice," she said, still looking down at her lap. It was weird to see Elodie so subdued. Normally she would have rolled her eyes a bunch of times and said something dripping with contempt.
But now she looked downright guilty.
"We needed her," Elodie said to Mrs. Casnoff, her tone pleading. "She wouldn't join with us willingly, so we did the joining ritual without her."
Mrs. Casnoff was glaring at Elodie. "And what did you use in place of her blood?"
"I snuck into her room and took some hair from her brush," Elodie muttered. "But we didn't think it had even worked. There was just this big black puff of smoke when we threw her hair in the fire. That's not supposed to happen."
"Oh my God!" I exploded. "You can't just do something like that! I can't believe I felt bad about putting that stupid bone in your dress."
Mrs. Casnoff's glare swung back to me. "You did what?" she asked in a voice so frosty, I was sure I was about to be flash-frozen like a wooly mammoth.
Elodie saw her chance. "That's right! She's the one who nearly killed me last night by putting a charmed bone in my dress!"
"Only because you put a curse on my dress," I fired back.
"Only because you're trying to steal my boyfriend!"
That was apparently the last straw for Mrs. Casnoff.
"Girls!" she yelled, standing up and slamming both of her hands on the desk. "The time for bickering about dresses and boys is over. Two of your sisters were severely injured, and another is dead."
"But . . . you've fixed it," Elodie said softly. "You kicked out the vampires."
Mrs. Casnoff sat down in her chair and rubbed a hand over her eyes.
"We can't be sure that Jenna or Byron was responsible. Both claim their innocence, and last night neither showed signs of having recently fed."
I thought of the picture in the book about ll'Occhio di Dio, the one with the witch drained of blood, and Alice saying that The Eye saw me, even here.
"Mrs. Casnoff," I ventured, "do you think . . . Do you think it's possible that ll'Occhio di Dio has gotten into the school?"
"Why would you even think that?" Elodie asked, but Mrs. Casnoff held up her hand.
"It's just that I saw this picture of a witch they had killed, and she had two holes in her neck and hardly any blood, just like Holly and Chaston and Anna. I mean, maybe it's possible--"
Mrs. Casnoff interrupted. "I've also seen that illustration, Sophia, but there is no way ll'Occhio di Dio could infiltrate Hecate. There are simply too many protection spells. And even if they could somehow get past those, what would they do? Hide out on this tiny island for months waiting until they could sneak into the school?" She shook her head. "It doesn't make sense."
"Unless they were already in the school," I said.
Mrs. Casnoff raised her eyebrows. "What, as a teacher? Or a student?
Mrs. Casnoff's voice was gentle, and her eyes were sad as she said,
"Sophia, I know you don't want to believe that Jenna is responsible for this.
None of us do. But I'm afraid that at this time, it's the most plausible explanation. Jenna is being transported to Council headquarters now, and she'll have a chance to plead her case. But you have to accept that she may be guilty."
My chest tightened at the thought of Jenna, scared and alone, on her way to London, where she'd probably be staked. Maybe even by my own dad.
Reaching across the desk to pat my hand, Mrs. Casnoff said, "I am sorry." She looked over at Elodie. "I'm sorry for both of you. But perhaps this will give you an opportunity to put aside your differences for now. After all, you're the only members of your coven left here." She looked back at me and gave a wry smile. "Whether you like it or not. Now, I'm excusing the two of you from classes today. Until we get the results of the Council's inquiry, I want you to keep a close eye on each other. Understood?"
We both mumbled yes and then shuffled out of Mrs. Casnoff's office.
I spent the rest of my day in my room. Without Jenna, it felt big and lonely, and it was all I could do not to cry when I looked at her stuffed lion, whom we'd named Bram as a joke, and all her books. They hadn't let her take anything with her.
I stayed in bed through dinner. Sometime after night had fallen, I heard a soft knock on my door, and Archer saying, "Sophie? You in there?"
But I didn't answer, and after a while, I heard him walk away.
I lay awake until midnight, when the soft green glow of Alice's spell crept through my windows.
Throwing off my covers, I jumped to my feet, eager to get out of this house and into the sky, and wanting to tell Alice everything that had happened.
I didn't even bother being quiet on the stairs as I walked to the front door. My hand had just turned the knob when I heard a voice hiss, "Busted!"
My heart in my mouth, I turned around and saw Elodie standing at the foot of the stairs, her arms crossed, and a smirk on her face.
"I knew it," she said, louder now. "I knew you were up to something.
When Mrs. Casnoff finds out you've been doing a spell on the whole school, you're going to join your little leech friend in London."
I was still frozen at the door, the knob half turned in my hand. Of all the people to catch me sneaking out, why did it have to be the one person who hated me the most? I stood there thinking of something to say that would keep her from running to Mrs. Casnoff right then and there.
Then I remembered the look on her face when she'd asked me about the bone spell, and an idea occurred to me. I just hoped Alice would go with it.
"Okay, you caught me." I tried smiling sheepishly, but probably just looked deranged, because Elodie moved back a step as I came closer.
"Since my magic was going so badly--no thanks to you--I've been taking, um, private lessons from one of the ghosts here."
Elodie rolled her eyes. "Oh, please," she said. "A magic tutor? Who happens to be a ghost? You must think I'm completely brain dead."
Her eyes narrowed. "Who are you really meeting out there? A guy?
Because if it's Archer--"
"There is nothing going on between me and Archer," I said, which wasn't technically a lie. I mean, I was pretty sure I was in love with the guy, and I think he might've kissed me at the ball if Elodie hadn't rushed in, but it's not like we were meeting for secret trysts in the woods. No matter how much I wished that might have been true.
Now I smiled at Elodie and held out my hand. "You wanna learn some awesome magic? Come with me."
Just as I'd hoped, the thought of learning new magic was too seductive for Elodie to pass up.
"Fine," she said. "But if this is some trick that ends up getting me killed, I'm so haunting your ass."
Alice must've known Elodie was coming, because there were two brooms waiting outside.
Elodie's eyes widened like a kid's on Christmas morning. "You ride brooms?"