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Tabitha woke to Theo’s shouts of, “Tabs! We’ll miss breakfast!” as he shook her shoulders aggressively. The previous night she had crumpled into the armchair in the corner of the room to sleep. Now she was regretting it. Her muscles groaned with each movement.

 

“Okay, I’m awake.” She grumbled, rising from the chair, cracking her back.

 

Theo was wide awake and ready in his nicely kept uniform. Tabitha’s uniform however was crinkled from being slept in and now covered in a layer of short orange hair. Plucking one from her sleeve, she inspected it closer.

 

“Does someone in your dormitory own a cat?”

 

“Yeah Clarke, sorry. But I hear Tico wasn’t too happy about you stealing her favourite chair.”

 

“Well tell Tico that I’m certainly paying for it.” She tried to brush the hairs from her uniform but this only seemed to spread them out.

 

Giving up on the hairs, she turned back to Theo. “Did I hear something about breakfast?”

 

His eyes glinted at the mention of food. He was more than happy to lead the way up to the Great Hall.

 

The Hall was scarce when they arrived, most people had already eaten and started making their way to the first classes of the day. While scarfing down toast and eggs, Tabitha scanned the remaining students in the Hall. There was no sign of Sophie. She didn’t think she could handle the embarrassment of seeing her yet. A few Gryffindors shot her questionable looks from across the room. Word of her meltdown had no doubt already been spread around the school. Theo however, was oblivious to any tension. A slice of bacon hanging from his mouth, he checked his watch.

 

Tabitha could just make out through all the food when he said, “Oh rats, we’ve got to go. Defence Against the Dark Arts starts in ten minutes.”

 

Making sure to grab another piece of toast, Theo hurried out of the Hall, with Tabitha close behind him. They reached the classroom just as the other students were taking their seats. Cecilia smirked wickedly at their entrance, her pointed nose held high in the air.

 

“Well Hadria I guess you win.” She sneered loud enough for Tabitha to hear as she and Theo found their seats. “Looks like she didn’t drop out.”

 

Her equally rat faced friend snickered back, “I told you, we’re not that lucky.”

 

“Miss Ingrum, Miss Moloch, do quiet down. Two points from Gryffindor.”

 

Professor Wilmot entered the room with a flourish. His long black cloak rippled with his determined pace towards the front of the classroom. His hair however was unmoving. The glossy maroon curls were locked in place, today adorned with a deep navy fedora, the colour of which matched perfectly to his blue pinstriped suit.

 

“Professor it wasn’t us! It was Treacherous.” Cecilia whined, her face slightly pink.

 

“Again, Miss Ingrum, I would suggest you hold your tongue or I will take more than two points.”

 

Cecilia huffed, pouting her lips as she slumped back, her arms crossed tightly. Her eyes were shooting daggers across the room, but Tabitha fixed her gaze ahead onto the blackboard.

 

Behind his rounded glasses, Wilmot’s eyes twinkled as he addressed the class. “Open up your textbooks to page 353.”

 

A flick of his wand lit up the projector, filling the room with a cool glow. The hair on the back of Tabitha’s neck pricked up. Illuminated on the board in front of her was the gaunt outline of a pale figure, its scarlet eyes glinting brightly.

 

“Can anyone tell me what we’re looking at?”

 

At the table next to them, Clarke raised his hand. “A vampire, sir.”

 

“Correct Mr McCarthy. A point to Hufflepuff.”

 

A vampire. The word echoed through Tabitha’s head. Instead of the blackboard, all she could see was her mother’s face, crying out in pain, the long fangs of that ghostly creature pierced into her neck.

 

Professor Wilmot continued his description, “A vampire is a dark magical creature known for living off the blood of others. They are classified as Beings by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and have been given a five-egg categorization.”

 

Tabitha remembered the blood dripping from its teeth; her mother’s blood.

 

“I want you to read the first paragraph from your textbooks, taking note of the key identifiers for spotting a vampire.”

 

While Theo began to read, Tabitha sat motionless, her textbook still closed on the desk in front of her. Out of the corner of his eye, Theo noticed the closed book.

 

“Tabitha?” He whispered. “Why aren’t you reading?”

 

Her gaze did not change. “That killed my mother.”

 

“What?”

 

“That’s what killed my mother. A vampire.”

 

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” She gulped. “It had eyes just like that, and it ... it drank her blood.”

 

“What was a vampire doing in Twickenham?”

 

Before she could even attempt an answer, their whispering was interrupted by Professor Wilmot.

 

“Miss Helder, Mr Ainsley, I hope you’re discussing your reading. Anything you’d like to share?”

 

“No, sir.” Theo quickly replied, a hint of fear in his voice.

 

Tabitha remained silent. “Miss Helder?” Wilmot pressed.

 

“No, sir.” She echoed.

 

While Wilmot went back to his books, their conversation had recaptured Cecilia’s attention.

 

“Talking about how much you love vampires, Treacherous?” She hissed. “You do have a lot in common. You’re both killers.”

 

“Ignore her.” Theo whispered like Tabitha’s outer conscience.

 

A devilish smile spread across Cecilia’s face. Although Tabitha did her best to block her out, Cecilia’s tormenting was relentless. As she continued to hound her, Tabitha locked her hands around the edge of her desk, gripping it until her knuckles were white.”

 

“You could almost be a vampire, you know? That would explain why you killed your mum.” She leant towards them, a vicious gleam in her eye. “It’s just in your nature, Tabby.”

 

“Cecilia, shut up!” Tabitha shouted, slamming her hands onto the desk as she sprang to her feet. The whole class, including Professor Wilmot, turned to look at her.

 

“Miss Helder, five points from Gryffindor for your continued disruption. Sit down.”

 

“Nice going, Treacherous.” One of Cecilia’s cronies jeered.

 

“Another point for that Miss Moloch.”

 

“What?” She said, feigning ignorance.

 

“See Treacherous, this is why no one in Gryffindor likes you. You’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

 

“Cecilia, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Theo retorted, rising to join Tabitha.

 

Cecilia’s response was cut short with a wave of Professor Wilmot’s wand. Silence fell over the classroom.

 

“Everyone sit down!”

 

Tabitha did not move. Her eyes were fixed on the projector. The vampire’s blazing red eyes shone out from its pale skin, slicing into Tabitha’s soul. She ignored Theo’s gentle tugs on her hand, as she grabbed her textbook and ran out the door.

 

“Miss Helder!” Wilmot called after her.

 

But she was gone.

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