Chapter 13 – Hope

It was Sunday. The Dansons had just dropped off the four Iris Academy students that stayed with them over the Thanksgiving holiday. After the first night, the weekend had continued without much excitement, at least for Viola. There was good food, some laughs, and some good times shared at the Danson residence, but there was always something nagging at her.

Of course, the first night had remained the first thing on her mind the whole time. She decided it was best to keep it unknown to the rest of the Dansons what had transpired. When the sun came up, William apologized for dropping the bomb on her, as he had only assumed something was going on between herself and Donald. This did very little to ease her mind, as, at least on her part, she did have something for Donald. This new found knowledge seemed to be another roadblock in what she already knew was an impassable route. She couldn't bear to be another girl that hurts him.

Now that she was alone in her dorm room, the emotions that she kept bottled up all weekend overflowed. She immediately laid on her bed, and cried herself to sleep. The sounds of her roommates returning did not stir her.

The next few weeks were the same roller coaster of emotions. In public, she tried her best to be bubbly and enthusiastic. She placed all her focus on the tasks at hand, at the latest gossip being passed around, or on the latest activity she was invited to attend. Then, in the comfort and safety of a deserted dorm room, she would just let it go. By the second week her tears had dried up for this emotional funk she was in. She would mostly just sit or lay quietly, just letting herself be engulfed in her own mental turmoil. Even though she was surrounded by friends, and people she knew truly cared, she felt so alone. Because none of her peers knew about what she really was. They didn't know what really happened before she made "The Choice." And she wanted to keep it that way.

On the penultimate day before Winter Break, Serena, Rita, and herself were giggling over Rita's latest tryst, there was a knock on the door. Serena got up to answer it.

"Oh, Hello Headmistress." Serena almost gasped in surprise. "How are you this evening?"

"Very well thank you." Was the chipper response. "Is Viola available?"

Rita and Viola looked at eachother, and Viola shrugged. "I'm here, Professor." Viola called from within the room.

Serena opened the door wider for the Headmistress to poke her head in. "Oh Viola. Good evening." she smiled. "Grab your cloak, and join me for a walk."

Serena and Rita looked concernedly at Viola as Viola nodded to the headmistress and did as was instructed. She walked out the door while fitting her heavy green cloak over her shoulders, and followed the professor out of Horse Hall.

As the heavy wooden doors creaked shut, they proceeded down the stone steps. Viola finally spoke up.

"Is everything alright?"

Potsdam simply smiled at her. "All in good time dear. Let us get a little more privacy."

It was a chilly December afternoon. Clouds filled the sky like gray cotton overhead. There was no snow on the ground, but the barren trees were evidence enough that winter was in full effect. The two strolled along the cobblestone trails of the school grounds with only the occasional crunch of dead leaves underfoot breaking the silence between them.

Eventually they reached what looked to be a greenhouse. The moderately sized glass structure was in a fairly secluded corner of the academy, surrounded by tall evergreens and the remains of rose bushes that were long dead. Right next to the greenhouse entrance was a simple wooden bench. Viola followed Potsdam to this spot.

"Sit" Potsdam commanded and patted the spot on the bench beside her. Viola straightened the back of her cloak as she sat on the cool wooden surface.

The two sat in silence, as Viola waited for whatever the headmistress wanted to discuss. It seemed like they had been sitting there for several minutes before Viola heard the rare chirping of birds in the distance. She couldn't help but smile to herself at their songs.

Viola had been looking away from the cobblestone trail when she heard someone approaching. She looked over, and held her breath in surprise. Donald and Luke heading towards them.

Donald immediately smiled when he saw Viola looking at them. Luke started laughing for what Viola thought was no apparent reason.

"Ah, just the two we were waiting for." Potsdam clapped her hands in excitement.

The two boys bowed elegantly to the professor, and Potsdam nodded her head in response.

"Donald, please open the door for us, will you?" The professor asked, sweetly.

Donald nodded, and approached the door with a silver key he retrieved from the pocket of his robes. He turned the key and a distinctive click alerted the door had been unlocked. Donald stepped back from the door.

"Anything else, ma'am?" Donald snuck a quick look at Viola that made Viola's heart flutter and her cheeks burn.

"Yes. Please wait out here. We will be done in a short while." Potsdam waved her hand for them to go.

"As you wish." The boys graciously stepped to the side.

Potsdam smiled at Viola and motioned for her to open the door. As she did, Viola couldn't believe her eyes.

The room was gorgeous. A bounty of colors and fragrances from the beautiful blossoms that resided within. Viola stepped in and was immediately awestruck. Many plants looked completely exotic, like nothing she had ever seen or heard of before. She began to strip herself of her cloak, as the warm air enveloped her. She found herself strolling around independently, taking in the wonderful sight.

After one round through the room, Viola returned to Potsdam at the entrance. The door was closed, providing a barrier between their indoor paradise, and the bitter cold of winter outside. Viola also supposed that this was the privacy Potsdam had spoke of earlier.

"What do you think, dear?" Potsdam asked sweetly.

"This is..." Viola took a breath to collect her thoughts. "extraordinary."

Potsdam laughed in glee. "I'm glad you think so."

Potsdam coughed to clear her throat before continuing. "Do you know why these plants are so special?"

Viola looked around and tried to think of anything that stood out. She couldn't. She shook her head. "No."

Potsdam chuckled. "They all started as seeds."

Viola raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"Yes" continued the Headmistress. "Every plant you see in this room, was once upon a time a seed. Some of them might even be classified as wild." She winked at Viola. Viola smirked at the reference. What is she getting at?

"Compared to these full grown plants, a seed may seem unremarkable. But that is where most people are wrong. The seed is the most remarkable part of a plant's life. In order for it to even think about germinating, it must first be placed in the right environment. It must be given the gifts of life: water, air, light, earth. Only when these gifts are given in the desired combination, can the seed begin to think of thriving."

Potsdam walked over to a beautiful pink rose. She touched the petals delicately, and began to frown.

"But...that's only a thought, not a guarantee. Whose to say the sun will continue shining? It may cease raining. The earth paved over. Whose to say that the seed will ultimately fail, and the beautiful flower will never blossom?"

Potsdam looked to Viola.

"Do you think the seed thinks of those things?"

Viola remained silent.

"Of course, the seed doesn't." Potsdam continued. "The seed only knows of one thing: Hope. Yes, hope that it will one day break their shelled cage, break through the earth, and begin to blossom."

Potsdam smiled again. "The seed must not lose hope. Or else it will never know it's potential."

Viola looked down in doubt. Potsdam walked up to Viola, and with a gentle hand, cupped Viola's chin to tilt her head back up.

"Despair is the number one deterrent of hope. You must not give in."

"I?" Viola asked innocently.

Potsdam winked at her. "I meant the seed, dear"

Viola smiled at their little analogy. She still remained unconvinced, but she appreciated the kind words the professor had just shared with her.

The professor casually opened the greenhouse door, and motioned for the two boys to come in.

"Please let Ms. Niemi stay as long as she wishes." she smiled at Viola and walked out the door.

Luke closed the door behind him, leaving Donald, Viola and himself alone in the greenhouse. Suddenly he looked down at his watch. "Oh look at the time! I gotta go. See ya!" Then, Luke swiftly departed.

Huh? "What was that about?" Viola looked at Donald, confused.

"Who knows? I'm his roommate, not his keeper." Donald shrugged. "Besides, he's never been one to get his hands dirty." Then he grinned at her. "So why did Potsdam bring you here anyway?"

Viola smirked. It was her turn to shrug. "Life lesson, I suppose." she said, cryptically.

Donald gave her a suspicious look, but didn't push the matter.

"So...What makes you so special to be keeper of the keys?" Viola teased.

Donald laughed. "Because Potsdam loves me, believe it or not."

Viola crossed her arms and smirked. "Uh huh..."

Donald smiled back. "But really, this is how I make up my merits that Grabiner takes away weekly. I volunteer to take care of the plants in here, among other chores Potsdam can scrounge up for Luke and I."

Suddenly Donald stopped smiling. "So..." he began hestitantly. "...Do you want to have some privacy?"

Viola smiled a little, and shook her head 'no'. She began to stroll around the room, admiring the plants thoughtfully to herself. Donald trailed further behind her, remaining silent. When she was finished, Donald locked the greenhouse behind them, and quietly walked her back to Horse Hall.

"Have wonderful break, my magical snowflakes!" Potsdam announced.

The student filled gym began to disperse the evening before break. Gasps from the crowd ahead of Viola alerted that something interesting had happened outside. As she approached the doors, she saw exactly what it was.

It was practically a blizzard outside. There was at least six inches of snow already blanketing the ground. Some people were cheering in glee, happy to finally see the first snow of the season. Others grumbled under their breaths as they shivered under their cloaks.

As Viola began to descend the short steps from the gym, she was pulled to the side by Virginia.

"Hey! Some Wolf hall boys invited us to a snowball fight? You in?" she shouted over the crowd.

"Um. Sure." Viola said in surprise.

"Great! Tell your roomies. Meet us behind Horse Hall in an hour."

Viola, Rita, and Serena arrived on time to find Virginia and Ellen huddled together to warm up. The snow had let up a little, but it was now darker, and the disappearing light combined with the frozen precipitate intensified the cold air. Despite breathing through their noses, steam was still being emitted as they exhaled. The four girls that could tried Warm spells, but they all wasted their magic in vain. They all hoped they wouldn't be waiting too long for their Wolf Hall opponents.

Then the blob of orange appeared in the distance. As they got closer, the girls saw that their opponents weren't all from Wolf Hall. There was Luke, Donald, and Kyo representing the Wolves. Jacob and Logan, Luke's twin who Viola had only seen on rare occasions, blended in more with the twilight in their dark blue Falcon cloaks.

"Ah, I see you girls didn't chicken out." Jacob made a sly grin.

"Of course not." Donald defended, crossing his arms to the girls. "They're Horses. You shouldn't expect anything less."

"Took the words right out of my mouth, Loser face." Virginia teased. "So how are we doing this?"

"All out war!" Serena exclaimed excitedly, almost grabbing a fist full of snow. Ellen stopped her.

"We need some ground rules first. It's only fair."

Serena nodded with a pout.

Virginia and Jacob diplomatically discussed the rules. No magic, as it would be unfair for the freshman. Boys v Girls. If you get hit in the head or chest you're considered "dead" and have to sit out the rest of the round. Boundaries are from the back of the hall building to the trees. First group with 3 victories, wins.

Everyone prepared their ammunition of packed snow and positioned themselves strategically. Virginia shouted for the match to begin, and snowballs were airborne.

The first match went by quickly. Virginia dispatched three boys in a row, and with no casualties on the girls' side, the other two went down just as fast.

The second match, the boys retaliated with more of a challenge. It was close, a two on one between the two Falcon boys and Serena, but ultimately Logan ended that match with a cannon to Serena's chest.

The third match was probably the most intense of the competition. No one got hit for at least the first ten minutes, until Viola got her first kill with a curve ball to the side of Jacob's head, knocking off his glasses. Ultimately, the girls won, with a dual between Ellen and Luke, where Ellen slapped Luke's own snowball back to his chest with a well performed volleyball spike.

"Alright girls! One more win and we'll be victors!" Virginia cried, like a commander giving her troops morale.

The boys grumbled to themselves, and the fourth match was soon underway.

Serena, Rita, and Ellen were eliminated off the bat, leaving Virginia and Viola to hold their own. Viola played mostly defensively, ducking and diving to avoid being hit. Virginia played aggressively, finally hitting Jacob in the face, and Luke in the back of the head. Viola rolled on the ground, avoiding Kyo's rocket towards her, and while getting back up, threw a wild ball that luckily got him in the sternum. Two on two now.

"Watch out!" Virginia yelled as Logan tried to hit Viola unsuspectingly from her blind spot. Virginia dove in front of her while throwing her own snow toward Logan. Both of them were hit simultaneously. Virginia was hit in the face as Logan was barely hit on his right chest. Everyone decided it was probably best just to call them both out, rather than try to justify who hit who first.

Viola now found herself one on one against Donald. Unfortunately, Donald had been mostly passive during this game, initiating sneak attacks when prompted. Viola looked around her and had no idea where Donald was. Then she spotted a snow drift pile.

Perfect hiding spot. She packed her own ball, and slowly made her way to the pile.

As she made her approach, she tried to extend her neck to possibly view the other side.

"BOO!" Donald suddenly pounced from behind the snow barrier.

"EEEEEEEEK!" shrieked Viola as she was thrown to the ground by Donald. While on the ground, she instinctively smashed her snowball right into Donald's cheek with a loud SMACK. Donald rolled off of her, holding his cheek as he did so. Viola gasped.

"Oh my gods! Donald are you okay!?" Viola crawled over to him. After moment, Donald began to burst with laughter. He turned over so Viola could see his face. His cheek was a rosy pink, but he was relatively unharmed. Viola giggled at him, relieved she didn't seriously hurt him. Donald poked her already numbingly cold nose with a little bit of snow, and winked at her.

"WOOOOOOOO VIOLA!" Virginia cheered, followed by the hoots and hollers of the other girls.

Viola extended her hand to Donald to help him up as the group of girls and guys hurried over to them.

"Good game, Ms. Niemi" Jacob nodded to her. The other guys also nodded and Viola smiled at them as she brushed the snow off of her cloak. "Thanks guys." She bit her lower lip, a little embarrassed from the attention.

Logan punched Donald lightly on the arm. "Just had to let her win, huh?" Donald punched him back with a cheeky grin.

The two groups wished everyone a good holiday, and walked their separate ways. It would be the last time most them saw eachother until the new year.

Room 103 was bustling with the three girls simultaneously getting ready for bed, and doing last minute packing. This was the first time Viola would be returning home since starting magic school, and she was slightly nervous about returning to "normalcy" after experiencing this whole other world. For the first time, she actually felt like a witch.

She was straightening out her desk, when she came across the picture of Cael. She caressed the frame, reflecting on how far she's gotten from that fateful day three years ago. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.

"Who the heck could that be at this time of night?" Rita wondered aloud. Viola looked at the clock next to the picture frame on the desk. It was a little past ten.

Another knock, slightly softer this time. "Viola?" the voice called out.

Serena and Rita looked over to Viola. Viola shrugged and slowly walked to the door to open it.

"Hey." Donald said lowly as Viola slightly opened the door to peek at who it was. His dark hair was covered in snow, while melted precipitate ran down the side of his face. His cheek was no longer as rosy, but it was clear from the pinkish glow from his nose that he had been outside for some time. His look was serious, like he was concerned...or even scared. Viola's eyes widened.

"Donald, is everything okay?" Viola stepped through the door and closed it behind her, leaving Donald and herself alone in the hallway. The lights in the hallway had already lowered to a soft glow, a signal to the residence that it was time to think of sleeping.

"Yeah..." was Donald's simple response. He then revealed a bouquet of flowers he had been holding behind his back. Viola looked down at the beautiful arrangement. Gardenias, blue forget-me-nots, and white daisies Viola recognized from the greenhouse. Donald held them out to her.

"Merry Christmas."

Viola accepted the bouquet with a surprised blush. She touched the soft petals delicately, and could smell the fragrant gardenias without lowering her head to them. She looked up at Donald.

"Thank you." She said, with a smile she couldn't control. "They're beautiful."

Donald briefly smiled at her, which made Viola's smile drop in tandem with his. Donald began to rub his neck nervously.

"Listen..." he hesitated. "I'm not good at this..."

He sighed. "I really like you. And I know that this is horrible timing, since there's a break and all...but...I needed to get this off my chest. I just..."

Viola's eyes widened as Donald's voice dropped with those last words. She was sure her heart just skipped a beat.

"I..." Viola started, shakily. "The seed must not lose hope. Or else it will never know it's potential." "I'm not good at this either."

Viola could feel the heat radiating off her face. She couldn't believe this was happening, or even what she was about to say.

Donald's expression went from defeated, to surprise. "What?"

"I feel the same way about you." Viola finally admitted, and looked down at the floor immediately. Suddenly she began to smile as she felt as if a weight lifted off of her.

"Really?" Donald slightly chuckled as he asked this. Viola looked back up at him with a smile. She nodded, sheepishly. Donald began to blush.

"Wow... Great!" he smiled down at Viola. The two shared a small laugh.

"So... I guess I'll see you in a few weeks?" Donald returned to his normal cheeky grin. Viola's felt butterflies throughout her body.

"Yeah...I'll see you." Viola quietly answered.

She clutched the bouquet tightly, and held it close as she watched Donald walk out the heavy double doors.

Viola fell against her door, and turned the knob. As the door swung into the room, the girls saw what Viola was holding.

"Oh my gods, Viola." Rita gasped. "Who gave that to you?"

Viola, grinned like a Cheshire cat. She closed the door. And her two roommates shrieked at her in glee as she whispered his name.