Avery was bored, and Laelia wasn't helping. She was tapping the desk with her pen absentmindedly, as their Chemistry teacher told them the importance of balancing equations. It wasn't that Avery wasn't interested - he was, of course, that was why he was here - but that he already understood what he was to do. Dr Roland had been repeating the exact same thing for the last half an hour - has to be the same number of ions on each side for each element, change the big numbers, the little numbers stay the same. Honestly, Avery didn't think it was really Chemistry so much as simple common sense and mathematics.
Of course, Laelia just didn't care at all, and was going to get them both in trouble if she made it any more obvious.
"Did you speak to Rune yet?" she asked him in a whisper, the tapping on her desk stopping. "You know, about talking to her after school."
"Of course I did, Laelia," he said, shaking his head slightly. "She sat next to me in maths. She's coming."
"Have you told her why yet? Like, actually, truthfully why, not just an excuse that coming from your mouth probably sounds completely and utterly ridiculous, and possibly even more so than 'I saw you creating fire out of nothing and that's really rad, hey don't worry, it's all chill with me, if you know what I mean." She laughed, as Avery rolled his eyes.
A glare was thrown towards Laelia from the teacher, but she just smiled and sat up straighter on her lab stool, making a show of gazing at the board like it was a holy divine spirit. Dr Roland sighed a little, but she ignored Laelia's clear rudeness. The girl was daughter to a millionaire, and despite her PhD, high school teaching still wasn't the best paying job in the world. She had no desire to be sued.
"You're going to get seriously in trouble for that one day, Laelia," Avery warned. "And yes, I said it was about last night - just not very specific. Did that sounds stupid to you?"
"Not as stupid as I expected, no, but it's still you, Avery. As a rich white girl, I have to inform you that I am most definitely better than you in every way possible."
Avery snorted. "Thanks, Laels."
"Mr Thompson?" Dr Roland called, as fifteen faces swivelled towards him. "I don't suppose you can work out this equation for me, can you? Seeing as you clearly have enough time to speak with your friends, but not listen to me." She smiled sweetly, as Laelia chuckled.
Although Dr Roland had had Laelia in her class since her third year, Avery was a new student for her - she didn't know him. He was still getting to know her, to work her out, as he put it. She was tricky, but not too difficult. Kind of like Rune.
"I'm sure I can try, miss," he said smoothly. "I have been listening, and I'd hate for you to think I was trying to be rude." He took the whiteboard marker from Dr Roland's fingers, and strode to the board, a grin spreading over his face like syrup. This equation was easy - took him just about half a minute to balance. He stepped back, biting his lip as he looked at Dr Roland for approval.
"That is correct, Avery," she said, smiling almost proudly. "And rest assured, I will believ you when you say you were not being rude."
Grinning to himself, a pleased Avery went back to his seat, smiling at the teacher's words. Thirty five minutes to work her out. Not bad.
At the end of their drama class, Avery went over to Rune, who had been chatting with another girl from their class - Liu something, Avery thought her name was - and whispered to her, "You coming?"
She jumped slightly, and glared at him. "Sorry, Liu," she laughed, "Ave got tae go. A'll make sure a text you, right?"
Liu nodded, and sashayed around the corner, just as Giselle came the other way. "Hey," she said to the two of them. "How was your drama class? Did you meet that new teacher, Mr Wills, or have you got the young one, Miss Fair? I heard Mr Wills is a right bore, but I don't think id like Miss Fair either; everyone says that she's really strict, and drama isn't really the right kind of class for that, don't you think?"
"Well, we had Miss Fair and I think she's lovely," Avery said. "Henry wasn't in our class by the way, in case you were wondering."
"I know that!" Giselle laughed. "I came here looking for you, Avery. Now that were actually dating, I think it's pretty important to get to know each other better. Anyway, I like talking to you, considerably more than I like talking to the idiot I have to refer to as my brother." She laughed again, and Rune faked a smile.
"Oh." Avery laughed uneasily, as if he'd only just realised this was his girlfriend he was standing in front of. "Yeah, I mean, sure, but I said to Suzanne and Laelia I'd meet up with them, and with Rune here, so I really need to go there just now, I'm really sorry, but they said just us - I think its kind of personal. But I'll talk with you later, I swear - what room number are you."
Rolling her eyes, Giselle said, "Four one seven. Either meet me there soon, or I'll talk to you at dinner, whatever's easiest." A sigh escaped her lips, as she left them, and Avery dragged Rune around the corner.
"Suzanne's gonna kill us for being late," he laughed, pulling Rune down the corridor, as she stumbled, trying to keep up with him. "Hurry up!"
He flung them out of the school back doors, into the gleaming sunlight dancing from behind the trees. There were already two figures standing at the edge of the forest, and Avery took off sprinting towards them, leaving Rune to follow him as fast as she could, laughing. "How dae yae sae fast?" she yelled over the wind. "A thoat yae liked the school!"
Avery tripped over a stone, laughing, and Rune dragged him to his feet as she ran past him, nearly with Suzanne and Laelia now. They stopped suddenly, panting and out of breath, as Suzanne raised a perfect eyebrow.
"Someone was in a rush, I see," she teased, smirking to herself
"Wonder if they took any detours," Laelia agreed. "Maybe Rune needed a little initiation to become Avery's 'friend'."
Rune wasn't stupid - she knew when people were trying to say making out without actually saying the words. "Dae they no know yet?" she barked at Avery with a laugh.
"Know what?" Laelia wiggled her eyebrows, as Avery ground his teeth together.
"Giselle asked me out," he told them, hanging his head as though it was held in a noose. "And being the confused little I maybe sort of kind of said yes and now. Yeah. Also, Henry fancies you, Rune, thought you might want to know."
He thought it was funny, actually, how startled Rune looked to learn this information - as if it was implausible as the stars not hanging in the sky night after night. "Oh," she said. "That's... Cool. That - that isnae all that yae brought me here tae tell me, right, because if it is this is been a major disappointment, nae offence."
"Oh, no, no," Suzanne laughed. "That's not why we brought you here at all - that was new information to us just as it was to you, don't worry. Although, the reason why you're here, it's not just to tell you something." She exchanged a cautious lance with Laelia, who nodded with a smile. "We also needed to show you something."
Rune frowned, looking quite perplexed, as Avery took a shaky breath. It wasn't every day that they showed things like this to people, after all - but he'd seen her fire last night, and he'd seen it in her eyes the whole day long, burning itself out slowly. He'd known what she was from the moment he met her - he had a gift for that kind of thing - and he knew he was right.
She was one of them.
Taking a deep breath, his head spinning, he let his hand grow cold. Ice crept across his hand, like a spiderweb, and Rune began shaking, staring at him in fear. "What are yi daeing, Avery?" she asked - even though the answer was pretty obvious - in a shaking voice. "That's - that's weird."
A smile spread over his face, as the day began to darken, the trees behind them turning to grotesque monsters. Suzanne laughed, as the wind began to pick up, and it was like the four of them were encased in their own little bubble of madness, as their feet began to lift off the ground. A bark of laughter was wrenched from Laelia's mouth. "Suzanne," she laughed. "That's nothing."
The very earth beneath them began to shake and tremble, flowers sprouting from each crevice and crack, birds cawing overhead. Rune's heart leapt, soared, beating in time to the music of the madness that was dancing in the air around her, a symphony of strangers and stranger things. She shuddered, as it fell down around her, the world turning back to normal, like nothing had even happened.
"We know what you are, Rune," Suzanne said.
"You're one of us," Laelia told her, eyes begging and wide, as if she really needed to beg.
"There's fire in you, Rune - I saw it last night. Smoke and fire and crumbling ashes. I saw it last night. And I know you aren't totally welcoming to it."
"Which is fine, by the way," Suzanne put in. "If you want, you can swear yourself to secrecy and walk away right now and pretend that you're normal and this never happened and you can find a different group of friends and we'll never bug you about it again, or talk to you about it again, if you don't want us to."
"But if you do.." A sly smile crept across Laelia's face. "We'd be more than happy to give you a proper little welcome to our lives."
"But only if that's what you want."
Rune blinked, shoulders slumping. "What?" she laughed. "Am - am no like that, a swear, a mean a kin do that, well, things like that, but a swear, you dinnae want me tae. Am a freak, seriously, fae me, daeing that shit is really, really dangerous." Her voice was trembling, and she was shaking like the stars being snatched from the sky by the sun's scorching hand.
She remembered a fire. A scream. Smoke filling the air, clogging up her lungs, Taylor and Chantelle screaming at her to run, run, run, but she couldn't. She remembered being consumed by the flames, being lost to them like a wolf to the moon, and she remembered
Rune was back in the present, as if nothing had changed, staring at Avery, Suzanne and Laelia.
"Are you in, Rune?" Avery asked.
"Uh, yeah," she said. "I guess I am."
"Good. We're all going into the village on Saturday - we get to go there on weekends, now we're in the senior school. Laelia and Suzanne are having a little date of their own, but you and I could go to the library and meet them later, if you wanted. They've got loads of books on magic in the back."
They waited with bated breath for her reply. "Yeah," she said, forcing a weak smile. "Sounds awesome."