The Let's Play Archive

Magical Diary: Main Route

by CommissarMega

Part 20: In Her Thoughts...

Chapter 16: In Her Thoughts...

"I don't know..." Ellen replies. "I think I'll have to get a new one."

"A new one? Why?" I ask. "I thought you said the professors gave it back."

"I just can't!" Ellen says. "I can't wear something that- I just can't. It just feels... I don't know, dirty."

You bra isn't the only thing in the school that feels dirty, trust me. "...hey, look, tomorrow's Saturday, right?" I ask, as cheerfully as I can manage. "We can go to the food court, try out someplace Virginia hasn't eaten out of business yet- don't worry, it'll all be on me, so you don't have to worry."

"Thanks, Mary," Ellen says, her gentle smile like a punch in the gut. "But I have treasurer duties every Saturday, remember? That said, thanks for the offer."

She pulls away from me, and gives me a sickly (though maybe that's just me) grin. "You're a good person, you know that, Mary? Don't ever change."

"I'll try my best not to," I respond, trying for all the world to seem like I'm joking.

The plastic smile is still on my face when I walk into the Grognarde Grottoe that Saturday, but it seems Abbott isn't fooled- or maybe he knows a little more than it seems. Wouldn't be out of place around here. "You're really not going to use these for... 'nefarious purposes', are you?"

"Wow, look who's got himself a dictionary," I snap, the smile on my face turning into an angry grin. "No, wait, sorry," I say, taking a deep breath and trying to think of an excuse. "I... look, one of my friends had a really nasty prank played on her yesterday, and it's really stressing me out, especially since she- she doesn't have a lot of friends to start with."

"Yeah, I'd heard about it," Abbott says. "My little brother's in Iris, he saw the whole thing. Er... he thought it was hilarious. But I don't!" he adds hurriedly.

I smirk a little. "And that has absolutely no connection to the fact I'm wearing these protective gloves, right?"

The scowl he gives me in return is completely sincere; I certainly don't need White Magic to see that. "Hey, that's not fair! Look at me, Mary- I'm a nerd! If you think bullying's bad enough when you're a normal nerd in a regular school, you should try being a nerd when the bullies don't have to be anywhere near you to dunk your head in the toilet."

He's not shouting, but his voice is steadily rising, and a few patrons are looking at us curiously. Abbott waves them off; now it's his turn to sigh. "You think a 30-year old man would be able to leave this behind," he groans. "Sorry about that, Mary."

"N-no, I'm sorry," I say, making a few more excuses and walking out the door. Only when I'm sure I'm out of earshot do I add the obligatory "More sorry than you think."

It's cliche, yeah. But the thing about cliche is that it's like... it's the bread and butter of description. Not very nourishing, not very tasty, but when you have nothing else, it'll do. In this case however, I'd rather starve, literally and literarily.

Abbott's 30, and he still can't forget what happened to him at Iris. Will Ellen be like that?

I look at the gloves in my hands. They're supposed to help you channel destructive forces away from you- but surely there has to be a way to use them to redirect those powers, right? Especially if you get into a fight with someone a bit more skilled- someone whom you could never protect yourself against, but might throw off-balance with a few unexpected spells, especially ones that were supposed to be above you.

Someone experienced with hiding in the shadows, and probably had a lot of dirty tricks up their sleeve, because they weren't used to playing fair- and if there was one thing a bully hated, it'd be someone who fought as dirty as he did.

Maybe I did have something after all.

Though Sunday proved that I had other somethings to worry about, and sometimes they were someones. I'm just about to leave my room when I hear someone knocking. "Coming!" I yell out.

"Hey there, Damien," I say. "What's up?"

"I was wondering if I could spend a little time with you," he grins. "My roommate got a new set of flowerstones- think of them as magical dice- and he gave me his old set, and I thought you'd like a game."

"Not today, sorry," I tell him. "I've got a meeting with Virginia at the Sports Club, sorry- maybe some other time?"

"Ahah, aheh," he says, smiling sheepishly. "The only reason I came over today is because I saw your friend in the gym, and I thought..."

"Sorry, Damien," I say, petting him on the cheek. "You're a friend, but not that kind of friend."

"You forgot to add the 'not yet, anyway' at the end there," he grins.

"Hmmm- nope, don't think so," I smirk at him back, and go off to my Sports Club meeting with-

I turn back to Damien. "Now that's a strange question. Why do you ask?"

"I- I mean," he begins. "You'd tell me if she's threatened you or anything, right?"

Forget left field, I'm trying to bat a soccer ball from Mars here. "Threatened me?"

"Well, her family, I mean," Damien shrugs.

"Damien, I don't know where you've got the idea from, but it's the wrong one. Hoo boy, is it ever," I tell him. "You know Donald, her little brother? He pranks her all the time, and she's never tried to beat him up."

"That you know of," he says, but he's smiling so I guess he's just making a joke. "My apologies then. In any case, I shan't delay you any longer; have a nice meeting!" he says, walking off, and as I do the same, I have to admit that my guilt had been replaced a lightheartedness I didn't really want to admit I felt-

-mixed with a little suspicion, and a little more paranoia.

Whew! Getting a bit angsty along with cloak-and-dagger there, so let's segue into the next week with something I know you all really care about- dressing up our magic Barbie! Off to the inventory screen!

...okay, maybe it isn't as climactic as people would like, but eh, it's only one item. Hopefully I'll have enough time and money to show off a few more things. Depending on how this update's final choice goes, we might need it.

Anyway, though we have a load more Red Magic, we don't actually have more spells- for that, we're going to have to go through class. The game does count the increased levels of magic to see whether or not we qualify, though...

I'm in my room later that evening, waiting for Virginia to finish using the shower; she doesn't really bathe all that much, but when she does, she takes her time. Sometimes I wonder if she's molting or something, like a butterfly or moth, and when I consider all the sweat and grime she works up during a Sports Club meeting, I don't think i'm too far off.

Anyway, I decide to spend some time just shaping Red Magic around my new gloves (hey, it's not a magic spell, it doesn't count). I didn't really have a chance to try it out at Abbott's , but now that I've had an opportunity to do so, I find my mind racing with the possibilities. I'd been reading up on combining magics; most of the literature talked about it being dangerous- but...

"But what?"

I jump in my seat, and look back at Ellen, who jumps back herself. "Sorry! Sorry! I didn't mean to scare you!"

"No, no, it's all right," I say, unwilling to put Ellen through even more trouble. "Just wondering about what these gloves can do," I tell her, then give her a light overview on what I'd been thinking.

"Combining magics is difficult," she nods, once I'm done, "and the way you're describing how to do it is, well... a bit, uh, basic. You sure the gloves will be enough to protect you?"

"I'll run things by Grabiner tomorrow," I tell her, "but as long as I keep things small scale, they should be enough to protect me."

"I guess you're right," Ellen replies. "So... what are you doing all this practice for, anyway? Is there going to be another exam before Christmas?"

A towel flumps down behind Ellen, Viginia having finished using it to dry her hair. "I don't think so- we've just had one! Okay, Mary, your turn. Seriously, you stink!" she adds looking at me, and I stick my tongue out at her.

"But it's the end of the semester," Ellen says, as I pick up my own towel and get ready to head to the shower. "Shouldn't there be a final? How do we get our grades?"

"That's the great thing about magic school!" Virginia laughs.


Monday begins normally enough, but that all ends as soon as I take Red Magic class (so, about ten minutes). "Ah, there's no need to cheat today, Miss Sue. This isn't a test," Grabiner says as soon as he sees me putting on my gloves.

"Come on, Professor, I thought you'd be ecstatic at the thought of my endangering myself," I retort.

"Not when I'm paid by the student, no," he says, but lets me keep the gloves anyway. "Now that the customary banter is over and done with, might I ask just why you're wearing those hideous things into my class?"

I explain to him what I plan to do, but I only notice the smirk spreading across his face until it is too late. "I see. So you are volunteering to be the class guinea pig, then?" he asks, before announcing (to general amusement) that if I get hurt during the proceedings, everyone will be getting five merits- yours truly excepted of course.

"But what do I get?" I ask.

If his smile grew any wider, it'd take his head off. "Wisdom."

What happened next was...

...educational. On the upside, if looks could kill, I would have left the class in a jar, so it's not all bad. To be honest, nobody was more shocked or surprised than myself- this gear really is protective! Now that's advertising you can believe in! Mind you, in a world where dissatisfied customers can fireball you, I guess companies really do need to put up or shut up.

As you can see, we've got a whole bucketload of spells, including our very first combo spells with Telepyre and Burn Magic, both of which require high levels of Red and Blue Magic together.

I also spent some time trying to write up a battle scene to befit all these spells, but I think this is one instance where nothing I write can match your imaginations. Seriously, just look at those spells!

The next day, all the freshmen are called out to the gym, and I'm wondering if Virginia miscalculated when she said there wouldn't be any more exams when Professor Potsdam walks onto the stage, a couple of seniors carrying a table and a large bowl filled with... looks to be like small pieces of paper. "Good morning, my sprites!" she (Professor Potsdam, not the bowl of paper) says.

"But before that, we have so much to celebrate!" she chirps, clapping her hands together. "First of all, will you come up to the stage and take out a name from the bowl?"

We then form lines, and one-by-one we walk up to the stage and pick out a nams. I have my suspicioins about this, and when I see my slip reads Virginia Danson, I can't help but glance at Potsdam, who thankfully doesn't notice. Something tells me that this contest was rigged.

"That name is the person who you're a Secret Santa for!" she laughs. "It will be your job to find a gift for that person which suits them! Keep the name secret until you give your present to them next week~!"

The name you pull out from the hat is always the person you have the lowest amount of affection with- in our case, it's Virginia. Everyone starts with a 'stock' of 0 affection points, and the decisions we make in the game increase or decrease them as appropriate, though I don't know if they go into the negatives.. In our case, we've done a pretty good job of pissing Virginia off- that decision to tell her the truth about meeting Damien? That's a whopping -2 points to her affection. This whole Secret Santa thing is just your last chance to repair things with your friends.

The next day doesn't do anything to allay my suspicions. Potsdam starts us off by teaching the mechanics of an Awareness spell. It's simple enough, though a little difficult for me since I'm kind of behind. The sensation of extending my consciousness is a lot different than I imagined, though. I thought it'd be like all the stuff I read in paranormal books- floating above my body like a cloud, or something like that.

Instead, I feel myself 'rebuilding' my senses, fortifying them with White Magic. There is a slight glowing feeling warms up my eyes, a smoky scent in my nose, a deepening of sounds in my ears and my skin and tongue have grown a little colder. I prepare my senses-

-and I immediately gasp. As soon as I extend my senses out of my body, I feel a sudden surge of energy- 'surge' being the precise word for the torrent of Blue Magic flowing into my sensory tendrils. I feel my physical eyes twitching rapidly and painfully, but that's only because they're trying to match the 360-degree vision I'm experiencing. My nasal cavities are swelling with the smells of emotions all around the class, and I taste the various feelings around me- some of attraction (bittersweet), some of hate (why is it salty?), and shock and interest from those around me (strangely mouthwateringly tangy).

But that is nothing compared to what I can hear and touch. I hear the thoughts of others in my head in a thousand shifting voices and languages, and my wildly grasping sense of touch feels memories; the touch of summer and the sandwiches of a picnic, the many sensations of hair running through them.

I am vaguely aware of grasping my tables, and through my physical eyes, I see as if in slow motion, my fellow classmates turning around and asking me what was wrong, their voices as dulled as if shouting through water, and as clear as if they were whispering in my ear.

All right, enough of this House of Leaves rubbish. I focus myself, willing my Blue Magic to behave, shaping it from an ocean into a river- all the while feeling like I am being guided. That suspicion is confirmed when I sense my magical energies flowing into one single place, and I hear a voice like the bubbling of a brook talking to me.

"My apologies about that, dearie- I had quite forgotten about your skill in Blue Magic!" Potsdam's voice dances in my head.

"Oh really, you think?" I say, too exhausted to be civil. Ironically, with all my altered senses it took me a second to realize I spoke out loud- in a magically augmented voice and language. On the upside, my Transylvanian accent is hilarious. The experience also unhinges me a bit- or at least, that's how I like to explain the next morning to myself.

Suddenly, I jerk upwards.

The date.

I remember the date.

Virginia and Ellen are suddenly awoken, though whether its due to the lights suddenly turning on or the sound of my fist slamming down on the light switch is anyone's guess.

"...Yaaay!" I add to liven things up.

Virginia responds in her own idiosyncratic way via the forceful aerial redirection of a pillow towards mine own self, which I dodge handily, being soaked in adrenaline as I am.

"Wow, it really is a lucky day," Ellen giggles. "It missed you!"

"What about my luck?!" Virginia grumbles.

"If it hit her, she might have thrown it back, and she's too awake to miss!" Ellen grins.

"She's a throwback," Virginia moans. Any further commentary is blocked off when I return her pillow following the precedent she set. Said sleepy cushion then slides off her face, slowly revealing an expression I thought I'd only see on cats that ate lemons.

"Go back to sleep now~!" I say chirpily.

"We can't sleep now!" Ellen gasps. "It's time to get up!"

"No it's not," Virginia says, already sliding under the covers.

I look at Ellen. "So what now?"

"Early breakfast," my blond friend says firmly. Well, she's the expert, and so we head off to the cafeteria for some freshly-baked scones, jam and hot chocolate, my treat. After what I put Ellen through, I think it's only fair. It's a start, at least for me.

I think you get this scene if you have a high Weird, though I'm not really sure about that.

After that day's classes, I head off to Falcon Hall; I have an appointment, after all.

"I can't see why it's so surprising," I smirk. "Who wouldn't want you teaching them how to play with your stones?"

He mock gasps. "Oooh, how vulgar!" he says, immediately breaking into a grin. "Guess I can't invite you to play in my room, then?"

"Hmm, let's see now," I say, making a show of considering my options. "Stuck alone with you, in your room, and my only excuse if anyone asks being something about flowers and stones. Tempting, but I'll pass."

He laughs, and we spend a half-hour practicing flowerstones. It's a game of chance, where the objective is to simply get five or six or a kind by rolling six stones. Apparently, masters of the game turn it into more than chance, trying to levitate the stones in the air where they can be manipulated or brought down by magic, but holding up those little stones with my own skills is harder than I thought; fine manipulation of small objects being a lot harder than simply twisting magic around.

And then there are the rules...

"Okay, this is officially too complicated for me," I laugh.

"Really? But this is the easy version!" Damien replies.

"Huh, no wonder you think you can understand women," I retort, and Damien starts snorting in a very undignified manner. "Is this a popular game for wizards?" I ask. "Can't say I heard a lot about it, but you know, wildseed and all."

"Good point- Virginia's been our major source of magical knowledge outside school stuff," I respond. "If she wasn't interested in this kind of thing, we'd never hear about it."

"Hey, look on the bright side," Damien says. "At least you have me to point things out. When I got started last year, I had nobody."

"You seem to be doing quite well, though," I point out, and he smiles.

"If there's one thing I've discovered," he shrugs. "It's that as long as you look like you know what you're talking about, people would assume that's indeed the case."

"Wow, and here I thought the 'Damien' thing was already over the top," I snort. Damien laughs a little more at my little joke, and we continue playing flowerstones for a bit while I get the hang of the rules, and try a few more times to try manipulate them mid-air.

Had I known what would happen that Saturday, I'd probably have put more practice into things, set up another game. It'd have made the day less weird, for one.

It begins with Ellen's return from whatever she does in the early mornings. "Bad news, guys!"

"But what about Secret Santa stuff?" I ask. "I was planning to go out and buy something! Something for less than $10!"

"Wow, you're that broke?" Virginia asks, temporarily redirected from her despair at not eating outside today.

"Protection doesn't come cheap- wait, that came out wrong. Wait, that came out wrong!" I cry."Maybe I should stop while I'm ahead. Wait-"

"We get the picture," Virginia sighs, muttering 'Weirdo' under her breath. "Go on, Ellen."

"That's it, really," Ellen shrugs. "I don't know about Secret Santa- maybe it'll be cancelled?"

Man, I hope not; Professor Potsdam's cheating aside, I and Virginia do seem to have a rocky relationship (at least, from my point of view), and I really want to mend my fences.

I gird my loins, tense my shoulders, and thrust out a manly chin- if Santa can't come to Iris, then Iris will go to Santa. Or something like that. Okay, it's not really like that, but I've always been a spirit-not-letter kind of girl. This is a magical academy, there's bound to be something I can use to make a gift. I make my excuses, and begin wandering the school, looking for things I can steal nick borrow indefinitely- when I hear people talking.

No, one person talking, though he's definitely holding up his end of the conversation.

"You know they're not good for you. They're filled with electricity. Nasty, nasty. And we can't reach them today anyway."

That voice... it sounds familiar.

"...who are you talking to?" I ask slowly, carefully, and gently.

He turns to look at me, that maniacal grin not leaving his face. "Why yes, Mary is a silly girl, isn't she?" he asks nobody in particular. I know that for a fact, because I practically exhaust myself casting every spirit-detecting spell I know, and nothing turns up.

Big Steve, of course, has other ideas.

He makes the little bunny wave a little hand at me, and I come to the only conclusion I can- the snow's officially driven him nuts- though come to think of it, all this time I was at the mall, I don't think I saw him whenever I walked past the arcade...

Suddenly, I hear another voice coming down from the hallway next to me.

"...uh, what's going on?" she asks, seeing me frozen there in front of Big Steve.

"Don't make eye contact," I whisper frantically out the side of my mouth, my eyes still fixed firmly on the Pinball Wizard- or who I hoped was the Pinball Wizard. "Just back away slowly and escape while you still can!"

"Do I have a choice?" I ask.

"Oh, Mary," Big Steve says beatifically. "Of course you have a choice. There is always a choice. Our world is full of choices. Some matter, some don't, and some are decided for you by otherworldly goons. But there is always a choice."

"Riiight," Virginia says. "M-maybe we should go back to our rooms-"

The rabbit's ebon eyes stare soullessly into mine own, and I feel myself drawn into their obsidan depths, a tidal wave of pink and black emerging before me, punctuated by the screams of damned pinball machines, dinging and pingins in despair as a giant clawed had comes down from the sky and this is just a freakin' bunny from a freakin' claw machine and there's no way I'm freakin out and I give it a kiss

Me and Virginia are left standing in the hall for a few minutes, until Virginia finally musters up the ability to speak. "What.



The best thing, that's what, Virginia.

"Don't ask me!" I protest- but I have to admit, I do feel a little better, and I have this sensation that everything's gonna be all right- a premonition which isn't exactly proven when I run into Donald later that evening.

"Uh, maybe...?" I say uncertainly. "It's awfully sudden, though. What do you have planned?"

"I wanted to go build a snowman with Luke, but he said he didn't want to get his hands dirty," Donald snorts. "I just don't think he likes the cold much- after all, some of our pranks were pretty messy!"

I raise an eyebrow a little. "So why didn't he say so? It's a weak excuse, isn't it? Snow isn't dirty."

He considers this for a moment, and shrugs. "No, it's not."

" didn't ask Luke anything, did you?" I ask.

"Guess not," he grins. "So, you up for building a snowman or not?"

We go out of the dorms, the winter skies already dark . Most of the students are already nice and warm in their dorms.

The air is clean, crisp, still, and all sounds except our own are muffled under a thick blanket of snow. The coulds have parted, and we are bathed in slivers of moonlight in which snowflakes can be seen glinting like errant sparks of magic. I almost miss Donald waving me over to another spot, ths sight is so beautiful.

"Come here," he says softly, barely audible. "I don't want to pull up a patch too close or it'll spoil the view."

We then work together for a few minutes. We decide to go for the Snowman Classic™; 3 balls of snow, the smaller atop the larger, stick arms, scarf and hat- the works. Donald sticks a carrot on for the nose, a tomato for the mouth and beets for the eyes.

"You're having fun," I smile, my breath fogging in the cool winter air. "I'd have thought you would have built a lot of snowmen during Thanksgiving, what with all the snow at your place."

He turns away from me a moment. "Yeah, well... my family was there. If I'd made a snowman, Urchin would have knocked it down."

"Virginia?" I ask before I could stop myself. "She doesn't seem like that kind of person."

He considers for a moment. "Good point- she'd consider it booby-trapped and have someone else knock it down for her."

"Would it?" I ask archly.

"Heh, maybe," he replies.

I look at Donald a moment, and I recall the two detentions we had together, the questions they raised in me... "So why do you play so many tricks on her?"

Donald's eyes are looking at the snowman, but I suspect his gaze is a long way away at the moment. "...because if I didn't, my family would forget I exist," he says bitterly.

Unbidden, memories of Damien talking about his difficulties with William, and how Virginia idilizes her brother and demonizes Damien rise to my mind. I remember Damien talking about his own 'difficulties'- and I can't help but wonder, how much has William gone through this term?

"And Virginia?" Donald continues, the bitter hurt in his voice deepening. "My earliest memories are of my mother giving her presents and telling me not to touch them," he adds, leaning against a tree and slumping down in the snow. "She couldn't so much as scrape her knee before my parents came running to her, and half the time I'd get blamed even if I wasn't anywhere near her."

He doesn't look at me as I sit next to him, but he does lean against me as he continues quietly, "Nothing was ever her fault. Once she figured that out, she'd do whatever she wanted."

He pauses to wipe away his tears before he goes on. "She's lazy, she's spoiled, she's not smart, and she wasn't going to get anywhere near the Olympics. She wasn't even state-ranked! There's nothing special about her!"

"Whoa, hold on there," I say. "I agree, Virginia isn't perfect-"

"To say the least!"

"-but don't you think you're being a bit harsh?" I finish.

He gives me a bitter grin. "Mary, you don't know the half of it."

Okay, new light. Whole new Sun, actually. "What, really?" I ask, incredulously.

"Well, not for a few hours, anyway," he grins, before waving it off. "Anyway, William's the successful oldest son, Urchin's the baby, and I'm the troublemaker. It's better than... better than being nothing." He looks at me again, his bitter features having softened into a resigned amusement. "Besides, it's fun figuring out how much fun I can get into and still not get expelled for it."

He turns away from me to wipe away his tears before they freeze, when his eyes open wide and he bursts into laughter. "Will you look at that, Mary!" he says, pointing at the snowman.

I turn to regard our creation, and I couldn't help but horrified laugh either. The beets are leaking juice, giving the impression that our snowman is cryng blood. "Oh my God, Donald- I swear, if that thing wakes up in the middle of the night, thristing for the blood of the innocent, I'm coming for you first."

"Sorry, no can do," he says through his own laughter. "Someone's gotta be the hero, after all- and who better than the plucky comedic relief?"

"But that's the guy who dies first in a horror movie!" I counter. "That, or the black guy, and considering that whole 'blood of the innocent' thing, I'm not sure how you'd get it."

"First off, that's racist- I think," he says. "And like you said, I'm both the black guy and plucky comedic relief, so I loop right around to being the hero."

"I guess you're right," I concede. "William can be the guy who dies first then."

"Sounds good to me," Donald replies.

We look at each other a moment longer, then collapse into laughter. It's a funny joke, at least to us, but later that night, I wonder- for all his detentions and escapades, for all his acting up, it's like Donald was always the one to volunteer for extra merit work; was it because he needed it to not get expelled? Maybe, but he does seem to grasp enough magic to not actually need that merit work. People might think of Donald as a joke- but if that was the case, then maybe he's also the punchline nobody ever saw coming.

Or maybe It's late and I'm still not good with metaphors. Time for bed then.

Monday morning sees us back in the gym, with Potsdam back on the stage. "Hello, my little choir of angels~!" she announces.

"So I've decided on a little change to this year's Secret Santa event!" she adds. "Something to showcase the triumph of goodwill and imagination over money! Something I know you can all place your heart and soul in!"

We're going to make presents?!

"We're going to make Christmas cards!" Potsdam exclaims (eh, close enough). She then claps her hand, and a few seniors enter the gym, carrying several large boxes. "In here are materials like construction paper, glue, glitter and a selection of colourful magazines!" she says. "Of course, they won't match up to the quality of a store-bought item, but isn't it the thought that counts?"

There is a quiet muttering in the gym, until Potsdam's next words. "And of course, to allow you time enough to make these cards, all classes today have been cancelled, and we're ordering pizza for lunch!"

The whole room erupts in cheers, and I make my way to the supplies while the going's good. I suppose we're a little old for collages, but I think Potsdam, creepiness aside, actually has a point here. If I want to make a proper gift for Virginia, it'd have to be something special. And I have the perfect idea...

I like the 'nothing wrong with being sparkly' line- I hope it was intentional

As everyone else is working on their Secret Santas, I marvel at the mess the gym is becoming- I certainly pity the people who have to clean that up! I also can't help but wonder if someone out there is making a present for me.

Bah, that can wait. I have a card to make and deliver!

Riiight after pizza. In my defence, they have the Hawaiian sort with lots of pineapple.

In any case, once pizzas are done, I go off to find Virginia and deliver my card. She barely gives it a first glance before smiling at me, when a light goes on in her head, and she looks back down at it.

The card isn't one of my better works, but from the way Virginia's looking at it, I might as well have handed her the Mona Lisa. It's a large-ish red card, with a white border to give it that Christmassy feel. On the card, are all the pictures I can find of rock stars. It took some finding, but I had the good luck to find a music magazine talking about music's greatest musicians. Elvis and Sid Vicious, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee, Janis Joplin and Queen, Motorhead and Oasis- they're all there.

"Sorry I couldn't find any good pictures of Olympic medallists," I say quietly. "Potsdam didn't include a lot of sports magazines."

This is a bit of a tricky one to get, and can trip up a player who thinks s/he might know the system- as it is, we gain affection with Virginia, but if we didn't have the post-gym conversation way back about her wanting to be a rockstar, we would have lost affection instead.

Virginia is quiet for a moment, and I'm beginning to fear I did something wrong, when she places her arms around me and hugs me tightly. "Thank you," she says, through a voice thick with emotion. "Thank you."

I place my own arms around her and return the embrace. "Hey, it's the least I could do," I tell her softly. I can't reconcile the Virginia I knew with Donald's Urchin, nor vice versa. I wonder how long they have gone without seeing those sides of each other, and if there was anything I could-

Hah! I knew Potsdam rigged the draw. Virginia's the first to pull away, letting me have a look at what Ellen's brought me. "It's... a library?" I ask, looking at the pop-up hall of books her card opens up into.

And this is why I suspect the 'sparkly' line was entirely intentional .

Later that evening, as I'm planning my weekly classes, Virginia pops in. "Hey there, Mary."

"Hey, Virgnia," I respond. "What's up?"

"Well, there's a chorale performance tonight," she says. "It's a charity thing, so you don't need to buy tickets or anything. Ellen's singing, but..." she makes a face, "so is Donald. Do you want to go?"

"Now, now, Virginia," I say, waggling a finger. "I know you and Donald don't get along, but even you have to admit he's a good singer," I tell her. It's not a big start, but a start nonetheless. "Seriosuly though, I'd love to go."

"Great!" Virginia says, clapping her hands together. "And for what it's worth, I guess Donald's pretty okay," she sighs resignedly. "Anyway, I guess we also have to support Ellen."

"That's the spirit!" I say before snatching up a towel and heading to the bath.

And of course, there are refershments, which Virginia definitely appreciates. Later, we head backstage, where we mingle with the chorale members and meet up with Ellen. Things are going fine, until we bump into Donald.

"Urchin," he says coldly.

"Donald," she replies frostily.

In any case, I'm the one getting the chills- when an idea hits me.

"Believe it or not, Donald, Virginia liked your singing," I say impishly. It has the desired effect; both Dansons are alternating disbelieving looks at each other- and most importantly, me. "Sorry, Virginia," I tell her. "I know I promised not to tell, but I couldn't resist!"

She looks at me mouth agape, but it's enough to convince Donald. "Oh, uh... thanks, sis," he says, blushing furiously. "Say, come on, I'll introduce you to the rest of the club."

As the two of them walk off, Ellen turns to look at me archly. "So... what did you do?"

I turn to look at her smugly. "I don't know about you, Virginia, but I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," I grin.

The scene was all of two frames in the original game, but I thought this bit might be needed, especially considering future *~choices~*

Black Magic class the next day is somewhat uneventful, though I do manage to surprise the class (myself included) when one of my errant sneezes accidentally transfers a stirring enchantment on the spatula Professor Potsdam left inside her cauldron onto the cauldron itself. Nobody got hurt, and Potsdam was amused enough to let me off the hook, but we were the talk of the hall when we entered the gym later that afternoon. In my defence, the potion's effects would wear off in half an hour- also, glowing red noses are perfectly in the Christmas spirit

In any case, I think it's a perfect send-off for my first semester here. For her part, Professor Potsdam is perfectly professional as she gives us a final blessing before we set off for the holidays. "Hello, my young students," she begins.

"But while you are gone," she continues, "don't forget who you are. Do not forget what you share with your brothers and sisters in magic."

Is it just me, or does this sound vaguely sinister, especially considering all we know about Potsdam's magics- or what happens next?

"Think of those whom you care about, those who matter to you. If the person you choose is thinking of you as well, you can feel that connection, that affection being shared. Think about that person..."

Okay then, goons! It seems that someone might be on Mary Sue's mind! Who could it be? Choose carefully- this is one of the most important choices in the game, and depending on who we choose, it might even be THE most important!

-Our parents
-Professor Grabiner
-Big Steve

Voting will continue for a day, until 1800 hours on September 26th 2012!