Astoria opened the cell door, watching the boy closely, as if he would jump out and attack her any second. She placed the tray, holding a chipped bowl of soup, a bent metal spoon and a crust of bread on the table and left him there closing the door, and locking it. She stood there observing his every move. He looked at the plate, eyeing the soup. He looked at her again and back at the food. He made a grab for the food, hunger winning him over, wolfing it down. He ate messily, yet soundlessly. He was done scarfing it down greedily within meager minutes. He wiped him mouth with his sleeve, staring at her carefully. She ran her eyes over his face. He was quite handsome with his narrow blue eyes and mop of thick dark hair. There was small stubble forming along his cheeks and strong jaw. There were a few moments of silence, the only noise coming from a leaking pipe, where water was dripping onto the cold cobblestone ground. Astoria cleared her throat, wanting to get this over and done with. He cocked his head at her waiting for her to begin speaking. Astoria frowned for a second. How was he so calm at times, but so vicious and ferocious at others? Septimus had indeed told her it would be so, but it was extremely strange to her, nonetheless.
"I'll call Septimus. He'll deal with the interrogations." She decided last minute. Because of course, there was nobody better than Septimus for interrogating. He looked at her questioningly. She ignored his lost look and called out.
"Septimus!" there was a muffled thumping of feet on carpet, and it became sharper as he swiftly made his way down the steps. The boy became alarmed, tensing up, his jaw twitching. Septimus came into view, standing in front of the boy, with a kind smile set on his face. He seemed to be holding a neatly folded pair of garments in his arms. Astoria turned to him, beginning to speak.
"You deal with him. I'll be heading up and I'll see where I'm needed."
"They're starting supper, so you best hurry." Septimus informed her. Astoria nodded and spun on her heel, sparing the blue-eyed boy a last glance, heading towards the steps which lead to the ground floor. She climbed them noiselessly, the voices of Septimus and the young man fading as she neared the top of the stars. It was quiet, with the occasional hum of chatter in the next room. She looked down at her choice of garments and shrugged, making her way to the dining area.
As soon as she stepped in Natassia surveyed her appearance. Astoria didn't seem to pass her standards, as Natassia threw her a disapproving glare.
"Astoria, what on earth are you wearing?" At this exclamation, everybody turned to look at her.
"I don't see anything wrong with it."
"Well, of course you don't. All you do is stroll around the forest in those immodest clothes, killing Zepharites. You'd think Septimus had raised you like a savage." Natassia snapped. Astoria sighed quietly. As she looked around at the table, it seemed that others were attempting to stifle their laughs. She sent them piercing looks, before attempting to take a seat. Natassia stopped her. "You won't be getting supper, not until you get dressed properly. Come with me." Astoria resisted the urge to roll her eyes, following Natassia out of the room and up the narrow stairs.
Turning the brass knob, she entered the slightly large room, maneuvering her way through the maze of four beds. Unfortunately, space in the house was limited and Astoria was forced to share her bedroom with three other girls, much to her distaste. Natassia opened the mahogany wardrobe, and pulled out her faded dress, looking at her expectantly. She reluctantly stripped down, allowing Natassia to bustle around her, helping her pull her underskirts on.
"Go on. Sit down." Natassia urged her onto the small stool in front of the vanity. She sat down, facing the dirty mirror, one of her green eyes blurred by a cloudy smudge. Her emerald pendant stood out amongst the faded material of her dress. She winced loudly as her chestnut brown hair was pulled back tightly. Natassia continued to tug at her hair for a few long minutes, before giving it a final pat.
"We just wasted several minutes of supper for no reason." Astoria pointed out. She was silenced by a cold look from Natassia. Annoyed, Astoria stood up and clenched her jaw, breathing in slightly. Natassia looked pleased with herself, gripping Astoria's elbow lightly and leading her out.
They soon emerged from the room, descending the creaky steps, making their way into the dining room. Astoria seated herself at the end, as far away from any of the others as she could. She helped herself to the food that was laid out on the lacy table cloth. She began to quietly eat her food, listening in on the conversations. Aiyana was conversing about wedding plans with her fiancé, Xavier, whom Astoria never took a liking to. The two other males, Andrew and Benjamin were conversing lightly about mortal women they fancied whilst Hannah and Alice, were giggling girlishly at a remark that Natassia was making about her. Natassia looked at her, eyes wide as if she suddenly realized something.
"Why Astoria," She began.
"You forgot to change out of those dirty work boots!" Astoria rolled her eyes.
"You'd think I've been walking around without any clothes on! Does it really matter on what I'm wearing around here? After all, we are only here for one main purpose." She snapped. Hannah giggled behind her covered mouth. Astoria heard Septimus' familiar chuckle, turning towards the door. She nodded at him. Natassia opened her mouth, starting a conversation with him.
"Septimus, we really must discuss Astoria's habits."
"Habits?" Septimus furrowed his eyebrows.
"Why, yes." Natassia told him. "Completely unladylike,"
"She's just fine!"
"She really must start acting like the lady she should be if she wants to marry." Astoria scowled.
"My sole reason on this earth is not to marry and bear children. I am here for one motive. I am fulfilling my mission here just fine." She said. Natassia snorted at the statement.
'Mark my words, girl, I will force you to marry If you do not take it upon yourself to do so. See what a good girl Aiyana is? She is serving her purpose as a woman. She will be a great wife and bear Xavier strong and healthy children while keeping house. That's what a woman's purpose is. Not wandering around in promiscuous clothing." Astoria turned her sharp green gaze at Natassia. That gaze would silence anybody, even Natassia. Astoria turned to Septimus, changing the subject.
"Did it go well then, Septimus?"
"Yes. It was quite difficult to reach into his mind, but I managed." He took his seat at the head of the table, rubbing his hands together in delight as he studied the evening meal. Astoria went back to her food, picking at it.
"Septimus," Alice started. Septimus looked at her. "Would you mind giving us an explanation?"
"Certainly!" he smiled. "Now, for explanations, Astoria was out on duty, and she found Nikolas, only half transformed. She knocked him out cold, and brought him to me. I then interrogated him." He finished on a pleasant note. Astoria turned back to her plate, raising her eyebrows.
"Is that his name? Nikolas?" he asked. The name rolled off of her tongue. It sounded nice, she decided. It wasn't dull, or too flamboyant.
"There's a new prisoner?" Hannah asked eagerly.
"Indeed." Septimus confirmed.
"Astoria was on duty today?" Aiyana enquired. Septimus nodded. Aiyana turned her gaze on Astoria, finally noticing the gash on her cheek. Her eyebrows raised and she reached her hand over the table. "Oh, let me fix that up for you."
"I'll be fine." Astoria declined politely.
"No, really, it'll be all done in a few moments if you just-"
"I'm alright!" she bit back. She sent a harsh glower at them all. "Honestly you lot! When I say I'm well, I mean it! There is no need to be so insisting" she seethed exasperatedly. Aiyana wore an offended expression, her angelic features twisting into those of hurt.
"No need to thunder like that at all of us!" Xavier snapped severely. "She was just trying to help!" She glowered at him. Xavier turned to Septimus. "Why is she still here? She's always so bitter, causing most of the problems! We're all better off without her, I suppose."
"She has nowhere else to go, her-"
"I don't give a darn! All she does is go around upsetting everybody! Aiyana is only trying to be a help, to be close to her, but she brushes her off! I can't take it a second longer!" He spat furiously, going red in the face.
"She hasn't got a home to go to! She's practically my own daughter." Septimus argued calmly. "Be reasonable, now. She is our best in combat, now without her; we'd all be tucked into our graves!"
"She's a woman." Xavier spat angrily. "How can she be one of the best fighters? We'd be much better without her!" Astoria looked at him glaring. She shook with anger, the ground rumbling dangerously. The cutlery and glasses rattled in their positions. The sound of moist earth breaking sounded, the ground trembling even more. Picking up a delicate china plate, she lobbed it at him, the high sound of breaking sounding the quiet table. The shaking stopped immediately and all was silent. She sent them all a shrill look and stood up, storming out of the room, but not before Aiyana burst into noisy tears.
Not following her rationality, Astoria thundered off down to the prisons and stopped in front of Nikolas' cell. He looked up from under his dark eyelashes, eyes wide in surprise.
"Am I needed now? I thought I was scheduled for tomorrow." He said. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Scheduled? Why whatever for?" she asked abruptly.
"I'm scheduled for your training sessions of course. Weren't you informed?"
"What training sessions? As far as I know, I needn't be trained for physical combat any further. I've been training for ten years. Does Septimus not think me capable enough to take care of myself?" The boy gave her an amused look, angering her even further.
"Not physical combat. He wants me to assist you in the release of your gift." Astoria was furious. Did Septimus not see the dangers of letting him out and trusting him so early?
"Does he not see that this is unwise of him? You are a danger to this institute! It was foolish of me to bring you here in the first place." He eyed her curiously.
"Are you unaware of his gift?" he asked her. She gave him a hawk-like stare.
"Why of course I'm aware. It's still dangerous to have you lurking around only a day after your transformation. It's madness!" His eyes flashed in anger.
"Is it not crucial for you to have full reign over your power? Do you not trust his judgment?" She shot him a withering look, before retreating back to the dining room.
"Septimus," He looked up from his position on the floor, cleaning up the broken china. "A word, please?"
"Why, certainly." He agreed. He got up, walking out into the hallway and closing the oak door. "Yes?" he asked.
"What's all this nonsense I hear about training. Septimus' eyes brightened. "Oh yes! I had the very splendid idea! Just imagine how wonderful-"
"Wonderful?" she cut him off. "Septimus, this is dangerous! It's only his first day, and here you are gaily inviting him to be my trainer."
"It is wonderful! Just imaging the bond he'd make with us all! He'd make a fantastic edition to this institute."
"Are you not thinking logically?" she gaped. He laughed, waving it off.
"It'll all work out. Trust me; I'm always right on my judgment! I didn't get my gift so that it'd be utterly useless, eh?" She sighed loudly, shooting him an irritated look, and for the umpteenth time that same night, she found herself storming away from him. He followed her to the door quickly. "Astoria!" he called as she walked out towards the trees. "Where are you going?"
"Out. Seeing as my opinion is a complete joke and my dedication here is not appreciated in the slightest." She said icily. Her words were like a sting to Septimus' heart as he helplessly watched her walk away from him.