I do NOT in any way, shape or form own the Worst Witch, it belongs to Jill Murphy and I am not making any money out of this.
AN: Well here we are folks, the sequel to Gold Awakening and my second story for the Worst Witch. Thanks to Restless Seas for beta-reading this fic and a super special thanks to NextChristineDaae my new best friend :)
As always please read, review and enjoy.
Chapter 1 – Darkness Falls
Three months. It had been three months since Hecketty Broomhead's visit broke down the very foundation of safety that they had all been living in. The remnants of such an event still in the minds of many, as fresh as the day it occurred. From the outsider's lens there was nothing wrong inside the schools walls. The students and staff were never in danger, Mistress Broomhead didn't visit, Imogen wasn't possessed; but from the insider's lens, the facade that they had all put up was easy to see straight through.
Constance knew the truth, it was written in the eyes of her colleagues and those of her students, they were still rattled, still scared. The odd pang of guilt that reflected in Imogen's eyes whenever they made eye contact; the way Davina's hands shook whenever Miss Drill called her outside in the middle of one of her classes; the way Amelia treated every letter she received like a poison, threatening to penetrate through her skin and burn her fingers to cinders... and then there was Constance; the impenetrable force that had been beaten down in more than one way that day. The woman who now took every opportunity she could to stay awake, afraid of the nightmares that would invade her mind's eye if she ever took a moment to rest. Cackle's Academy was her home and it had been in danger.
Though now as she stood outside the castle, looking at the full moon above and listening to the odd hoot from an owl, she felt safe, as if everything was going to be okay...how wrong she would be.
Turning around she surveyed the brook flowing quietly and enjoyed the sound of crickets as the water washed against rock after rock. The moon light shone brilliantly before her eyes, hitting the water and reflecting back like a mirror. She allowed a small smile to grace her lips. Constance always did enjoy the night, not only because it meant that she had a moment of peace to herself but because that was the time she felt the most comfortable.
She could read for hours at night in her bed with Morgana sitting next to her, the cat too had become accustomed to its owners nocturnal habits and eventually decided that sleeping during the day and awakening at night would grant her more attention.
Yes, Constance Hardbroom's favourite part of the day was everyone else's worst and the groan that sounded on her left reminded her of that very fact once more.
Tonight the girls had been roused from their slumber in order to pick ingredients and be taught how to gather. Ordering supplies from Hogs and Horrocks had worked well in the past but, after all the repair work Mr Blossom had to do with Mrs Bat's chanting classroom, the staffroom windows and the odd corridor or two, they simply couldn't afford it all. Using magic to fix everything was possible but what was the point of having a groundskeeper and repairman if he never had anything to repair?
Asking Mr Hallow for money on repairs that he had never heard of, and that the academy was not willing to admit to, was definitely not an option. So Constance created a quick and easy solution. The girls would collect ingredients once a week for potions to save the headmistress ordering and paying the delivery fees. Sure the ingredients needed a good wash afterwards and some of the girls picked inferior plants that Hardbroom deemed useless anyway, but it was working and slowly they were learning which were appropriate and which ones weren't.
Mildred Hubble located a bush that held the ingredient she had been missing and, after consulting her textbook for confirmation, she carefully walked down the bank to collect it, Maud following along. Millie walked forwards and took a hold of a branch with one hand before moving a pair of scissors to cut her sample free. "Ouch!" She yelped, dropping the scissors and her basket.
"Millie, are you okay?" Maud asked.
"Yeah I'm fine," Millie answered, looking down to the small cut on her knuckle. "It's just a little cut that's all."
"Come along girls you should have everything by now!" Miss Hardbroom called making them group together where she was standing. "The last thing we need to collect are morning dew drops," she explained. "The best way to do this is to take one of the leaves from your basket, then cast a simple enlargement spell." The students watched as she put her lantern on the ground and lifted a leaf, demonstrating. The leaf enlarged to about the size of her slender hand. "Lay it on top of the grass but brace it with a rock to make sure that it won't blow away."
"Just before the sun rises, the change in temperature creates dew drops that moisten the ground. Each of them reflects a single piece of moonlight at the very centre. When the sun rises the power disappears. So, early in the morning, before the sun rises, we will all collect them and take them back into the castle to shelter them. Spread your leaves but don't make them too large or obvious to attract attention." The girls did as they were told, Ruby Cherrytree managing a leaf the same size as her potions teachers.
Mildred began casting the spell when her mouth widened and she covered it with her hand, causing the leaf to fall to the ground unchanged. "Mildred!" Hardbroom barked. "Focus girl we don't have all night!"
"I'm sorry, Miss Hardbroom," she sighed before another took control of her body making Constance roll her eyes and walk away.
Funny, Mildred hadn't been feeling tired. In fact she was convinced that she had passed the point of tiredness half way from the castle. The others certainly were. These midnight treks for ingredients always left the girls exhausted in the morning but at night they had never been more awake and alert. Maybe it was the fact that, without Miss Hardbroom's lantern to light their path and the moon up above, the grounds surrounding the castle were scary and they felt the need to stay alert should anything happen.
Mildred was usually more awake than others. She had admitted to Maud that she was afraid of the dark; though that was only a half truth. It wasn't just the darkness she was scared of but what lay beyond. What was hiding out of the eyes reach? Why was it there and when would it strike? Would it strike at all?
It always puzzled Mildred that Miss Hardbroom could remain awake during their trip outside and then still be fresh, early the next morning. Then again, she did have that bottle of Wide Awake Potion she found in her bag when she had been turned into a frog. She cringed at the thought of being turned into that again.
One yawn, then another, and another made her widen her mouth as tears of tiredness filled her eyes. "Okay girls let's start heading back!" Hardbroom commanded as she watched Mildred release another yawn. With her lantern guiding their path, the students followed their teachers quickening pace back to the castle. Jadu pulled her cloak around her shoulders tightly, her teeth chattering as another cold gust of slices straight through her uniform and cloak. "W-why d-d-does it always have to b-b-be so c-cold?"
"Not that going back into the castle will make it any warmer," Ruby added, walking beside her friend. It was true; in many cases it was actually colder inside the castle than out. The girls weren't walking into a warm room with a fireplace, marshmallows and hot chocolate; but a cold and dark room with the bare necessities, a cold hard bed and sheets that refused to warm who lay beneath them no matter what position they curled into.
Mildred walked, trudging behind the group before her foot slipped and she landed forwards into the Earth. Maud quickly helped to steady her back onto her feet while Enid slowed her pace to join the two who had recommenced their walking. "Are you okay Millie?" She asked.
"Yeah I'm fine...just tired that's all." Another yawn interrupted the silence between the two.
"Girls! Will you hurry up?" Miss Hardbroom called, pivoting on her heel to look at those lagging behind. "Although I am sure that you are enjoying the night sky and cool temperature your other class mates are eager to return to their beds."
"Yes Miss Hardbroom," they chorused at once before walking up the hill and toward the castle doors. Constance reached the ancient oak and slowly pushed it open, counting each student as they passed and ticking off the invisible roll located inside her head. "Leave your ingredient baskets at the bottom of the stairs and go directly to your rooms girls. I will see you all first thing in the morning to collect the dew drops!" Her commands echoed off the walls as girls moaned goodnights to each other before half walking, half stumbling up the stairs.
Constance turned her gaze from the stairs and back out the door noting that three of her students were yet to return. Then she heard two voices, slowly growing in volume as they reached the castle. "Maud, Enid! Hurry to bed!"
"But Mildred is still behind, Miss Hardbroom," Maud explained when she reached the doors, the light from the lantern reflecting in her glasses.
"Go to bed I will wait for her," she sighed, a little exasperated. Why did Mildred always have to be the last back into the castle at night? Sure the moon and the stars were beautiful but all girls needed their sleep. It would make the following lessons less hazardous if they all had a few good hours of rest, many of the schools most memorable mistakes occurred when a student fell asleep at their desk or slurred their spell incantations.
If she had been given the opportunity to rest at Witch Training College she would have taken it with both hands. Lying in bed and savouring the slow beating of her heart, while her body was offered a chance at recovery, was something she wished she had been able to have in the past. Though she never had the chance and didn't understand why students would wonder the halls at night - deprive themselves of sleep willingly. Though, who was she to lecture? She hadn't slept a wink in the past three months and the only moments that she did allow herself to rest were interrupted with Mistress Broomhead's taunts and the memories of people she would never be able to see again.
Perhaps if the older witch had been easier on her then Miss Hardbroom wouldn't have developed such a habit. But she wasn't going to let any of her students end up the same way, they deserved better.
Maud and Enid didn't bother arguing; partially because there was no point, Miss Hardbroom always got her way, and the rest because they didn't have the energy to respond.
Waiting for another ten seconds she still saw no sign of the girl and with a huff; took her lantern and returned to the abyss waiting outside.
"Come along Mildred!" She called to a distant figure, noticing the way that she swayed from side to side on her feet. Quickening her pace Miss Hardbroom walked back down the hill to meet her, carefully moving past rocks as her boots heel entered the somewhat soft earth beneath her feet.
There she was. "Miss...Hardbroom-"her voice sighed into nothingness as her body began plummeting to the earth making Constance spring into action. Her feet rushed to her student's aid, carefully taking her falling form into her arms and lowering her to the ground carefully. "Mildred! Can you hear me?" No response, she had a fever, her forehead was red hot and her pulse was incredibly fast. "We need to get you inside," she muttered before using her magic to transport both Mildred and her ingredients back into the school. After using magic to lock the doors she transported the potion ingredient baskets to her room for sorting later the following day before helping Mildred to her room.
Carefully she levitated her body onto the bed and propped her head on top of a pillow. Once she was satisfied that the girl would be alright for the time being she crossed her arms and disappeared.
Imogen Drill had been enjoying her dreams; she had just managed to hike one of the highest mountains in the world. The snow has crushed beneath her feet; she had jumped athletically over chasm after chasm and save the life of both herself and her fellow climber, Serge, on more than one occasion. Though, just as their lips were about to meet in a triumphant show of both their achievement and new grown affection there was a knock on the door.
Miss Drill's eyes snapped open though she groaned and closed them again. Who on earth would need her help at this time of the night. Lifting herself up into the seating position and putting her bare feet onto the cold floor boards beneath, she wiped the sleep from her eyes. "Who is it?" she droned before adding 'this had better be good' in her thoughts.
"Who else do you think is awake at this time of night," Constance answered and Imogen knew she wasn't going to go away. Lighting a candle by her bedside she walked to the door and opened it to see the stoic woman standing before her. She was tall, as usual, clad in her famous black dress, her bun in its usual position, but her eyes were telling her something wasn't right. Something had changed.
"What is it?" She finally asked.