Bell started and looked around her bedroom, ascertaining her surroundings and shaking off the vision before picking her violin back up from her lap and continuing to practice as though nothing had happened.
The bright red steam train huffed its way between the late summer trees that had stayed lush and green as though they hadn’t noticed the cooling air and grey sky. Lily leaned through the open window trying to see through the trees as she had been told there were pixies in these woods.
“I don’t know where you got the idea from. To be honest I don’t even know if pixies live in woods or how many can actually be found outside of Cornwall,” Tom spoke from the seat opposite, watching her worriedly over the top of a muggle studies book.
Megan pulled her head back in for long enough to smirk at him.
“I thought you knew everything.”
Tom swatted at her with his book.
“Lily, you’re going to take your head off. All it will take is an overhanging branch and you’ll be decorating the side of the train a slightly different shade of red,” Tom looked at her imploringly and stuck his bottom lip out, smiling when Lily laughed at him and sat back down.
She reached out her gloved hand to pinch his cheek.
“Aw, anything for little Tommy-”
She was cut off by a snarl as Tom swatted her hand away. She shrank back in her chair slightly.
“I’m only teasing, in fact you did it first, I didn’t mean to-”
“It’s fine,” Tom snapped and sat still for a moment glaring angrily into his book until his face softened and he looked up at Lily sheepishly.
“I’m sorry,” his voice was much gentler, “I just didn’t get much sleep again.”
Overlooking the fact that she knew that sort of outburst wasn’t caused merely by a bad night’s sleep Lily focused on the matter he had mentioned as the train continued to chug along soothingly. She leaned out of their compartment door and looked both ways then, satisfied that there was no one too close and the food trolley was still in the other carriage she slid the door closed and sat back in her seat. She shuffled forwards to lean close to Tom and speak in a low voice, tugging her gloves further up her wrists as she did.
“You’re not still thinking about telling a teacher are you?” She looked at him sternly, conveying her distaste for the idea with her tone and expression. “They’ll either think you’re mad or that you’re doing some sort of dark magic.”
Tom looked down and furrowed his eyebrows. “Well it is dark magic isn’t it? What else could something so awful be? I mean I’m doing this in my sleep and this is not normal at all Lily so stop trying to act like it is. Maybe it’s just me. It’s in my blood.”
Lily sighed. “You are not your father Tom and this isn’t your fault. We can sort it out, just don’t tell any of the professors, they’ll only assume the worst just like you’re assuming.”
Tom reopened his book and settled back further in his seat. “If anyone else dies I have to tell someone. This can’t go on.”
The door to the compartment slide back.
“Anything from the trolley?”
Sophie looked nervously around the large, high ceilinged room as she made her way towards the armchair to which Mrs Riddle had gestured. It was gloomy with shadowed corners as only the light that snuck around the edges of the curtains and through the open door had managed to enter.
“Well go on then, sit down.” Mrs Riddle snapped and Sophie quickly dropped herself into the seat.
Mrs Riddle sat on the sofa opposite and turned to her maid who was hovering next to a second doorway that led not to the entrance hall but to another dark room. “Drinks and cake Lee. You should have a few slices of that cake left if you haven’t been eating my food again.” This last comment was emphasised with a raised eyebrow and a sharp look.
Sophie thought that Lee was a rather strange name for a girl.
“So my dear,” the woman’s voice was high pitched and careful, “You would like to know about your sister.”
Sophie started to reply but then stopped abruptly as a thought struck her.
“I didn’t say she was my sister in the letter I sent.”
Mrs Riddle just laughed.
“I looked into it as soon as I received your message of course. You did take a while to reply though.”
Sophie had chosen not to reply at first. She had seemingly randomly found a letter under her pillow that looked like some sort of advertisement. It stated that if you sent a letter back to the address stated requesting information about someone whom you suspected may be more than human you would be sent the details needed to see a person who knew all about these things. It had seemed rather untrustworthy and Sophie had hidden it away so she could think on it for a while but had eventually come to the conclusion that it couldn’t be a trick because how else would someone know to put the letter under her pillow and it definitely wasn’t Bell’s idea of a joke as, when Sophie had hinted, she had seemed clueless and Sophie could tell when her sister was lying.
“Go on then,” Mrs Riddle impatiently pulled Sophie out of her thoughts.
Sophie took a moment to look into the woman’s face and to gather herself before she began.
“My sister, Bell, she’s not normal. Sometimes strange, unexplainable things happen when she is around and she has a serious superiority complex, she thinks, or rather knows, that she’s special.” Sophie took a moment to think and her face became more concerned and serious looking before she continued. “And she sees deaths. Many of the people that we know she has seen. When she sleeps she often dreams of the deaths of her friends and even when she’s awake sometimes she just gets lost in her daydreams and when she gets the chance she’ll draw and paint scenes of people dying in lots of different ways. I’ve had to dispose of a lot of them as having them would seem suspicious . . . when they come true, I mean. And the fact that they contain real people. Well it’s just a bit morbid.”
Mrs Riddle continued to watch her face intently for maybe a minute after Sophie stopped speaking and then she nodded. “I have some ideas but I don’t want to give you false hope or bad news that isn’t necessary. I will need to know more information about this girl and any people she might associate with. I’ll need to know what she does and what she tells you and others before I can make an informed conclusion.”
Sophie knew straight away that she shouldn’t agree to this. It was a violation of Bell’s privacy and Mrs Riddle could be up to something. She didn’t like all this magic and intrigue and worrying situations. She had always liked things to be carefully organised and things that were so far out of the ordinary did not fit into her idea of organised. She stood up and Mrs Riddle stood up with her.
“I’m afraid I can’t be doing that. It simply isn’t fair on Bell and I can’t be sure what your actual intentions are.”
To her surprise Mrs Riddle put up no argument.
“I understand,” she said with a smile, “Do let me know when you change your mind.”
Sophie couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
Bell glared at the paintbrush that sat on her bed as though it had committed some terrible act against her. Her face was screwed up in look of intense concentration and her lips moved as she whispered to herself.
“Move. Come on you stupid thing I’ve seen you do it before. Come here.”
She held her hand out as though she expected the brush to jump into it and stared harder. Shutting out everything else but the paintbrush and what she wanted it to do Bell focused on nothing but that she needed that paintbrush to be in her hand. In the past things like that had happened, objects throwing themselves into her hands or simply disappearing but only when she had been in a situation where she direly needed them to.
Focusing so hard that she thought her brain might start leaking out of her ears she kept on thinking about how much she needed that paintbrush to come to her outstretched hand. If it didn’t she was useless and her power was just a delusion.
The paintbrush twitched, rolled over then jumped into the air. She concentrated harder and it started to move slowly towards her, jumping and hesitating as though being forced against its will.
The door crashed open and the paintbrush dropped back to the bed. Bell jumped as though caught doing something bad, whirled around and was greeted by the sight of a red faced Sophie with a stormy face and clenched fists.
Sophie marched over to her bed and flung her coat down with an ‘ungh.’ This wasn’t like her usual kind, thoughtful and calm temperament.
“I am furious – absolutely fuming,” she said the words ‘furious’ and ‘fuming’ as though they were underlined, slowly with the first sounds emphasised.
“I can see that,” Bell nodded towards the previously flung coat and the slammed door, “Both of those words start with ‘fu’ – I wonder if that’s a coincidence.”
Sophie ignored her.
“I should break up with him, I really should,” she sat down on her bed.
Bell looked disinterested, as though she’d had this conversation many times before.
“Yes you should. You should leave him right away,” Bell said distractedly while she rummaged through a pile of stuff on the floor looking for her laptop charger.
Sophie laid back onto her bed.
“But I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave him.”
Bell turned to a different pile and continued rummaging.
“Why ever not?” her tone was almost mocking.
“You wouldn’t understand,” Sophie sighed.
“Nope, I certainly don’t,” Bell emerged from the floor triumphant with a charger in her hand and grabbed her laptop to plug it in and sit on her bed with it.
Sophie rolled over to face her.
“You don’t understand anything to do with boys.”
Bell laughed, “Of course I do. Did you know they have this thing and it’s not like what we have, it’s shaped like a-” her words were cut off by a flying cushion.
“You think you’re so funny,” Sophie tried not to laugh.
“Did you just throw a throw cushion at me?”