“How did you find the taster day?” she asked as we sat on opposite sides of a table in the middle of which sat a plate of biscuits. Her eyes twinkled gently, expressing kindness.
“It was quite different from schools I’m used to,” I told her, purely referring to the actual lessons to avoid thoughts of my relationships with some of the pupils. “It’s interesting to have those twenty minutes free at the end of the lesson. Oh, and I found Moon Child Law really interesting.”
“And the other lessons?”
“English was good. Maybe I’ll get a bit more into Flora after a few lessons of it.”
Miss Steel nodded, smiling.
“So you’d like to come here.”
Now. This was the chance to be sane. A simple answer in the negative and I would never set foot in the academy again. Never again would I have to see Don or the disappointment in Ed’s eyes; never again would I break Lor’s heart.
“We should be very glad to have you,” Miss Steel said warmly.
Change the answer? Express uncertainty?
I remained silent.
From a crimson handbag Miss Steel produced a timetable which had some blank squares and some filled in squares. The lessons printed across the four days were Flora, Moon Child Law, Music Appreciation and Games, of each of which there were two.
“What are the other twelve?” I asked curiously.
“Choices,” Miss Steel answered. It appeared that we would be moving through the starting process very quickly.
Next she proceeded to help me through said choices. Each blank box could accommodate one of two or three options, which in some cases was a free period. I could choose whatever I wanted as long as I had no more than six free periods in my week.
Personally I was keen to choose as many new subjects as I could: I might as well get something positive out of an experience I should really be avoiding.
When we’d finished, my timetable contained the following lessons:
Monday: Flora, French [well, while it worried me that I’d be alone with Don, I didn’t want to let him stop me learning a subject I enjoyed], Moon Child Law, English, Games
Tuesday: Maths, Science, Music Appreciation, Latin, Free
Wednesday: Flora, Italian, Moon Child Law, English, Games
Thursday: Maths, Science, Music Appreciation, Psychology, Free.
Miss Steel tucked this edited timetable into her bag and then pulled out another sheet of paper, this one turning out to be a short list of things I’d need to bring as well as clothes and toiletries as such so that I could board here.
- loose T-shirt/ polo shirt for Games
- 1 pair of loose shorts/ tracksuit bottoms/ jogging trousers for Games
- 1 pair of trainers
- stationery (including sort of any writing instrument)
- calculator and ruler for Maths/ Science
- torch for weekend activities
I thanked Miss Steel for the sheet and left it lying on the table while she moved onto her next subject. It was at this point that I wondered what had happened to the poetry books I had been carrying around with me all day. Were they still in the English classroom? I made a mental note to ask Miss Steel to let me in the room after this talk so that I could return them to the library where they belonged.
“You can start as soon as Thursday, Penny,” she told me. “We’ll ring your school this afternoon; you can have two days to pack and maybe spend some time with your parents so that you don’t start missing them too quickly, and on Thursday all your teachers should be ready to teach you and give you the necessary textbooks and exercise books.”
I was amazed.
“As soon as Thursday? This Thursday? And I won’t have to go to school tomorrow or Wednesday?”
Miss Steel smiled.
“Yes,” was her simple response.
“Wow, you work fast.”
“It’s at the headmaster’s insistence,” Miss Steel informed me. “The quicker it’s possible for you to start attending Lupin Scuela, the faster you have access to the opportunities being a student here brings.” She smiled. “So, do you have any questions? Have a biscuit”
She pushed the plate across the table.
“I can make some tea if you like.”
“Oh, I’m not thirsty,” I told her, “but I’ll have a biscuit. I don’t have any other questions, though.”
I took a chocolate one and tried to eat it as neatly as I could.
Miss Steel took a custard cream and paused before putting it in her mouth to say, “Has anyone told you about your initiation into the pack?”
Confused, I shook my head.
Miss Steel laid her biscuit on the table before her and looked intently into my eyes.
“Well, that needs to be arranged too. Perhaps we’ll do it this weekend.”
“What exactly does it entail?”
“There’s a precious stone called moonstone. This has a strange effect on werewolves. When you place it against the skin below your neck, the skin becomes blue - which is a totally harmless change, I assure you. The headmaster here chose a small triangle for this pack’s symbol, and we use the moonstone to put this symbol upon you. One of the wolves will lick the skin to make the mark permanent - but if you really wanted to remove it, there is a way - and that’s the initiation.”
“Oh, right. Well, that’s interesting.”
Miss Steel nodded, picked up her biscuit and ate it.
“Can I choose which wolf licks my skin?” I blushed a little, even though this was a ceremony natural to the wolves.
Miss Steel smiled understandingly. She finished her biscuit before replying.
“It’ll be one of the girls - you’ve not met them yet. But if one looks scary, we’ll understand if you want the other.” She grinned and I chuckled.
“It’ll be all right,” Miss Steel assured me. “One simple ceremony and you’ll never have to think of it again.”
“Thanks,” I told her.
The rest of that time was spent idly chatting. At the end of it I received a letter for my mother and Miss Steel let me into the English classroom so I could retrieve the library books and return them to their rightful place. I didn’t get a chance to see any of the sport-engaged boys before my mother picked me up to go home. In a way, that was probably for the best. I didn’t want to see Don or Lor, even though coinciding with each on Thursday was inevitable.
I told my mother the things I had told Miss Steel and hoped that attending Lupin Scuela really was the right choice, that it would bring me at least some happiness, and that it would prove an interesting experience. I didn’t dare to imagine a scenario in which I hated the place.