Disclaimer: Don't own her.

A/N: As always, constructive criticism is more than welcome and greatly appreciated.

Behind the Shadow

The candle's flame was dancing. Its shadows were flickering across the parchment The light barely reached the ends of the table that was covered in files.

Constance sighed and massaged her temples. It was really late. She had already checked the girls' rooms and had graded most of her papers. There was nothing that kept her from going to bed. Absolutely nothing. But still she didn't move. Her gaze wandered across the bare, unpersonal room, her eyes betraying her, showing her exhaustion. If anyone had seen her, they would never have recognised her, staring around the room, with an air of hopelessness and defeat around her.

The wandering eyes fell upon the candle, and Constance lost herself in the depths of the flame. In there she could see nothing and everything. Her mind was flooded with images, memories of the day.

It had been the usual struggle against ignorance, and it had been the usual defeat. Constance felt like she was walking the school under water, awake but sleeping. Her harsh behaviour was nothing but a mask, a mask that had never failed, a mask that no one had ripped off, ever. Not even Amelia knew that the strict, yelling woman that walked the school at day was not really Constance Hardbroom. It was a shield she had built up against to protect herself against the constant failure of trying to interest the girls in knowledge.
How the real Constance longed for a sign of victory that would allow her to glimpse past the mask. How she longed to escape her cold, lonely prison.

Constance tore her gaze away from the candle and pulled the last piece of homework towards her. It was Mildred's. She started to correct it, the red ink soon predominating the black scribble.
While she worked, her face became closed and strict again. The candle's shadows danced across the parchment.