The Gift

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The Witch without Magic

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"I am afraid, Miss Mole, that this cannot go on any longer."

The woman in question was not much more than a girl. Her hair was a mousy brown and curled untidily around her shoulders. Freckles dotted her cheeks – they stood out more than usual due to her paleness, no doubt partially induced by the words now being spoken to her.

"Given that you are now sixteen and mature enough – or I would hope – to understand the situation, I feel that I can speak frankly with you."

She sat in a plush Victorian antique chair across from a man with dark skin and hair. His nose was slightly hooked and he wore dark brown robes over an expensive and Italian made suit. A large mahogany desk scattered with parchment paper stood between them. A quill was scratching along a piece of parchment, pausing every once in a while to dip itself into a bottle of ink nearby. Everything was all too calm and she wanted to slam her hands upon the table and command it to stop.

"I have watched you over the last two and a half years, Miss Mole, and have seen little to no progress from you. You remain incapable of performing some of the simplest incantations and charms. You are unable to draw forth even a spark of magic from your wand on command and you passed your Year One and Two exams by mere fluke. I have some suspicion, as well, that your professors have taken pity on you due to some vague and misled hope that you would live up to their expectations."

The girl sank deeper into her chair with every word. The office seemed to be closing in around them. The shelves of books loomed dangerously over her. The great clock behind the man was ticking too loudly; at this time, its hour hand was far past supper and nearing dessert.

The quill continued to flitter across the page.

"I am guilty, as well, of this crime. I confess I have kept you in this school longer than I should have due to your parents wishes. They are both great at what they do and I confess I have been wishing the same from you. Thus, I am truly sorry, Miss Mole, that this meeting is partially my own fault. If I had sent you away earlier perhaps you could have gotten the help you needed. Alas, I fear it is too late for that now." He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. "Having failed more than half of your mid-term examinations, I am forced to take action."

Miss Mole's heard thudded hollowly in her chest. She felt like an invalid: unworthy of being here. She felt inferior. She thought she would be used to it by now, but this stung more than the usual taunts. His bluntness penetrated deep and she feared she would hear these words echoing around her head for years to come.

"P-professor Abernethy…" stuttered the girl uselessly.

Professor Abernethy sighed deeply and sorrowfully. "Thalia Mole…I regret to inform you that your place at Inquam Academy for the Magically Gifted is herewith withdrawn. I regret to inform you that by the end of this week you must vacate the premises."

The quill halted its scratching and deposited itself into the tube of ink. The paper it had been writing on then proceeded to fold itself neatly and fit itself into an envelope that drifted lazily up from Abernethy's desk. It then fell lifelessly in front of the wizard.

Thalia watched in horror as Abernethy took a stick of wax and melted it over a nearby candle. He dripped the wax over the envelope's opening flap, and with his right hand he stamped into it his ring-adorned knuckle. He then picked it up carefully.

"To Mr. and Mrs. Mole, then. Off you go," he addressed the envelope, and it vanished a moment after, leaving a small cloud of lavender-scented, purple smoke in its place.

Thalia fought back the burning of tears in her eyes and fixed her gaze on the top of the desk. She felt shamed and hollow inside. She dreaded her parents receiving that letter, and dreaded telling her friends that she would be leaving them very, very soon.

"There…it is done, Thalia," said Abernethy heavily, "and it is best that you return to the hall for dessert. Your parents shall be arriving soon, I suspect."

The chair Thalia sat upon slid away from the desk, and she stood up on shaky legs. Without a word, she turned to leave the Headmaster's office.

"I am very sorry, you know." Abernethy's voice rang out as her hand touched the brass doorknob.

"I know," muttered Thalia, and the door swung open, ushering her out.

--

Thalia's footsteps were heavy. They echoed in the deserted hallways.

After leaving Abernethy's office, she could not even bring herself to want dessert or to return to the girls' dormitory. Instead, she resigned herself to aimlessly wandering Inquam's dark stone hallways. They were almost strangely quiet tonight. She ran across no ghosts or malevolent doorways that sprung open attempting to frighten her. She supposed the magic was avoiding her now, as well.

Thoroughly depressed, she sulked her way down the set of stairs that led to the abandoned underground wing of the school. A portion of it had collapsed several years before, believed to be the work of a rare stone-eating mould. Classes had since been moved upstairs when the pile of rubble had refused to move under the influence of magic. They had been saying for months now that a special team was going to come clean it up, but no one had come.

Here, neglected and rusty suits of armour lined the hallways, their swords replaced with broomsticks and spatulas – jokes no doubt played on them by bored students. Archaic ever-burning torches lined the walls instead of magic lights on the ceiling.

The tears finally came, and she sank down beside a particularly decrepit suit of armour that was missing its left arm. She sobbed pitifully. She'd always known that this day would come but hadn't realized that it would be so sudden. Surely someone could have given her a proper warning in advance? It had come out of no where after dinner that night. Her home room teacher had called her from her table and led her solemnly up to Abernethy's office on the top floor. She wondered how many people knew - the whole school, probably.

Not that they would be surprised.

Thalia had been born into a family renowned for extraordinary witches and wizards. They had been the leaders of revolutions in the past and politicians more recently, negotiating peace treaties and commanding respect with their mere presences alone. All her aunts and uncles and grandparents and second cousins had been expecting great things from her as well. It had become clear from a very young age, however, that Thalia was no great witch, and though her parents had enrolled her in one of the most prestigious of magical academies in the country with high hopes for a turn around, it did her little good.

To date, the only magical subject she was any good at was potions, and that was because of its limited use of magic.

Thalia burst into a fresh wave of tears at this recollection.

The suit of armour beside her creaked, giving her a startle. She glanced over to it, and noticed that it was handing her a handkerchief, albeit a yellowed and old one, with its remaining arm. She took it gratefully, however, thanking it for its kindness. With some effort, it bent back up into position.

She dabbed at her tears with the kerchief, but they kept coming and she abandoned propriety in order to blow her nose loudly. She was thankful no one was around because the sound echoed loudly.

When her sobs subsided enough for her to breathe with only a slight hiccup, she sat back against the wall and sighed. She decided to move before another fit of tears hit her, and she stood slowly.

She brushed the cobwebs and dust off her robes while clutching the damp handkerchief in her hand.

It was then that Thalia noticed the curious silvery-blue light emanating from further down the hallway. She froze in mid-brush to stare at it. It seemed to pulsate and grow as she watched, illuminating the stone walls and ceiling.

Curious and entranced, Thalia started towards it.

She caught sight of an open door from which the light shone – no, she realized that it seeped like a liquid gas from the room, swirling and curling with a mind of its own. It crept playfully along the floor and up the walls before tumbling back down like vaporous clouds.

Thalia hesitated only momentarily before approaching the doorway. Her recent expulsion made her bolder, and she traded her sorrow in for inquisitiveness. She entered.

Inside was a curious sight. It was an abandoned classroom stripped of desks and shelves, of pictures and ornaments. In the centre of the room was a single wooden chair, and what looked to be a brightly glowing human figure sat rigidly upon it. Streams of the shimmering blue light swirled around this person, and she realized that it was in fact coming from the figure. It curled up and off the person's skin like steam.

Thalia was stunned, and she gripped the doorway in preparation to run if the need came. Nothing she'd ever read about in books or seen in the classroom came close to this strange sight. She was surprised to find herself unafraid. Cautious, but unafraid.

Thus, she hesitantly greeted the figure.

"H-hello…?" Her throat got caught up on the word.

The figure gave a start. It's previously bowed head shot up, and eyes of glowing silver-blue settled on her form. It snarled, much like an animal.

He snarled. It was a boy sitting there, glowing so brilliantly.

The gaseous streams of light began to swirl, echoing the boy's tumulus mood. He was glaring at her, Thalia realized. The shimmering streams hooked into her robes, pulling her forcefully into the room, dragging her forward and onto her knees. Thalia barely felt her hands hit the floor, because a terrible howl of pain was suddenly echoing in her ears. It ripped at her very being and tore at her soul; its suffering immobilized her.

It was the boy, she realized through the haze of light and pain. He was agony, and it was making him wildly unstable. It was tearing at his very being, and he was inadvertently sharing it with her.

Just when Thalia thought she would pass out from the intensity, it stopped.

She was staring at the stone floor, gasping for breath. Blue light swirled around her hands and arms like a calm mist. She lifted her head to gape up at the boy.

He was no longer glowing and had partially collapsed forward. His head was bowed, obscuring his face with shaggy dark hair. He was wearing the school robes, but they were torn and tattered. His feet were bare, she noticed.

Overwhelmed, Thalia forced herself to her feet and began to stumble away from the boy. Her head felt heavy, and she was seeing double. Her knees had been turned to jelly. The horror of the situation still hadn't quite gripped her, but she stumbled from the room anyway, leaving the handkerchief behind.

--

Thalia staggered into the girls' dormitory and up to her room, ignoring the curious stares as she passed. She was still shaking from her encounter.

"Thalia, you're so pale!" exclaimed Claire as she entered.

Claire was one of Thalia's few friends at Inquam. She was tall and slim with dark brown hair and eyebrows that needed a severe plucking. She was also an accomplished witch, and receive regular 'E's' for Excellent in all her subjects. Thalia regularly received 'BS's', which stood Below Satisfactory.

"What the hell did Abernethy say to you?" demanded another girl, Leandra, who short and blonde as Claire was tall and dark.

Leandra was only half-witch, as her father had been magic-less, and often had difficulty summoning the magic to perform spells. They stuck together in that respect.

Unable to recover her voice quite yet, Thalia stumbled forward and collapsed face-first onto her bed in exhaustion. She was no longer panting, but could still here the boy's scream echoing in her head. Similar to Abernethy's scathing words, she wondered if she would ever be rid of the sound.

"Oh no…" moaned Leandra suddenly. "He didn't!"

Claire let out a cry as well, and sank onto the end of Thalia's bed. "He expelled you?? How could he??"

On weak arms, Thalia pushed herself up into a sitting position. "I haven't been expelled, I've been expulsed. He sent a letter to my parents…" she managed to voice.

Leandra and Claire stared at her with twin expressions of outrage and grief.

"I'm to be gone by the end of the week," said Thalia finally. She avoided their gazes, feeling ashamed for her failure once more. No words of her encounter with the boy managed to form in her throat, so she said nothing.

"What a bastard!" screeched Claire. "What a ruddy bastard!"

"An asshole…" muttered Leandra. "Didn't give you a chance, did he?"

Thalia observed her friends solemnly. "I think he gave me two and a half years worth of chances…and I was just never able to do them justice…"

The words, though hollow sounding to her ears, rang true. She had never been able to do much with the time she was given at Inquam.

She was useless.

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