"I'm not entirely sure that would be a good idea." Mal frowned at the Head of Faculty.
"Why not? We usually encourage third years to take an interest in the process, and since you're a new member of staff you might like the help."
"I do not need help to perform my job." Mal replied, holding back the urge to glare at Dr. Henry Pollock. "Has my work been unsatisfactory?"
"Not at all Dr. Moore. But the students tend to appreciate having this kind of opportunity, particularly if they're considering teaching or further education."
"But what you're suggesting sounds like something she might enjoy; I thought you wanted a punishment?" Mal didn't know why she was pushing for a punishment. She didn't really think Rory deserved it, but she didn't want to have the girl around her more than needed. Their conversation had proved to her that she felt a little more for the young woman than she had thought, and that she was struggling to remain impassive.
"Dr. Moore, Miss Rose has done very well in this University. This is very out of character for her. I don't want to mar that reputation with a punishment to obvious. If she believes she is being punished, even if she enjoys herself, then at least the other students will too. Do you see?"
"Yes." Mal sighed. "Very well."
"Excellent. Shall we call the girl back in to tell her?"
"I suppose so." Mal agreed and went to the door. As she opened it Aurora looked up from the table she was leaning on, awaiting her fate. She actually looked nervous and Mal hurried to give her a small reassuring smile.
They explained that Aurora would be Mal's new student assistant; one of the extra-curriculars that the University offered to third year students. Aurora looked relieved and threw Mal a grin, which she did not return under the eyes of Dr. Pollock. Once the man had gone, Rory's smile widened, if that were possible.
"So my punishment is that I get to help you? I mean... does he not know what the word punishment means?"
"Miss Rose if you are under the impression that I'm going to go easy on you, you are mistaken." Mal smirked, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh come on. You can't be serious; I was defending your honour." Aurora laughed.
"I don't need any help with that thank you very much." Mal leaned forward at her desk, looking up at an excited Aurora. "Now, don't you have somewhere to be?"
"Sure boss. Just let me know when you want me."
Mal rolled her eyes.
"Give me a copy of your schedule and I'll work around it. Your education comes first and foremost."
"Yes ma'am, thank you ma'am."
"You cheeky..." Mal began to rise and Aurora ran to the door, laughing.
"Bye!" She called, still giggling. Mal sat down in her seat and shook her head. Rory would be the end of her, if she wasn't careful.
"Is that essay really that dull Miss Rose?"
"Yes." Rory stifled another yawn.
"Oh dear. Well, whoever it is must not have done a very good job."
"No, no... it's very good it's just... it's the tenth one I've read on the same subject. I know half of the quotes off by heart now."
"The life of a lecturer Miss Rose." Mal smiled briefly and looked back at the essay she was reading. Rory was making notes on the essays on sticky notes, and handing them to Mal, who would then add them to her own comments if she approved. Two sets of eyes are better than one, after all. "Is this what you were planning to do?"
"I would love to write." Aurora admitted. "But I know that you can't just do that. And I do love teaching, and learning... I thought continued study and then eventually lecturing would be perfect."
"And Stephan is paying for that?" Mal mused. Aurora was silent. Mal glanced up at the girl, who was staring stiffly at the paper in front of her. "Excuse me, I didn't mean to pry."
"No, it's okay. He pays as long as I stay and look after Phillip and the house."
"Did you ever consider a loan?"
"I would need a signature of a guarantor and he is the only person I could turn to for that."
"And he won't...?"
"Did you ever consider having a party, like we did, to get everyone to know you?" Rory changed the subject so fast that Mal stared at her for a moment before frowning, and looking back at her pile of essays.
"It has been suggested. And I would like to show off my new fairy lights."
"They look beautiful." Rory replied, prompting Mal to glance at her again. "I saw them last night."
"I wanted to stay in the garden longer and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try them out." Mal admitted.
"I think they'd be beautiful to dance under. That's what I imagined with ours, but Stephan didn't want dancing at the party."
"I think that is a lovely idea." Mal replied softly, not looking up from the essays. She imagine Rory's responding smile.
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in." Mal cried. David appeared at the door, two friends that Mal recognised from her class with him. Zak Thacker, the boy she'd thrown out during Jane Eyre, was one of them.
"Sorry Dr. Moore, just wanted to ask if we should do secondary reading for Jekyll and Hyde."
Mal raised an eyebrow, and Rory looked surprised. The boys were the worst students in the class; constantly talking about anything but the book and never having read it properly.
"Well, Freud, as I said, and there are a couple more essays on the topic. I can send out a group email with attachments if that would make it easier?" Mal said. Benefit of the doubt Mal, she told herself.
"Great, thanks." David said and then looked at Aurora and smirked. Ah, the real reason he was here? "Enjoying yourself there Rory?" His friends chuckled.
"As a matter of fact-" Rory started but Mal cut in.
"Miss Rose! I said no talking while you're here. Get on with your work; this is a punishment, not something to enjoy."
Rory took only a second to catch on, and put her head down again. David's friends looked amused but David himself was frowning, looking between the two women.
"Getting her to do your work huh Dr. Moore?"
"David if that is your only question, you and your friends can get out. I'm busy." Mal glared. "I'll get that email up."
David shrugged and left with his friends, but Mal had seen the thunderous look on his face. She'd made an enemy and she wasn't impressed by him. Foolish boy.
"Thanks," Rory murmured.
"Don't mention it."