Samara the Witch

Chapter Thirteen

Samara ducked from another snowball.

"Hey!" she cried, grabbing up a handful of snow from the ground and shaping it into a snowball of her own. She felt another snowball hit her back as she was doing so, little bits of snow going down under the collar of her cloak and freezing her skin. She hurled her own snowball in the direction of her assailant. It didn't get very far. Samara hadn't been very active for the last several years, spending a lot of time stuck in the barn. As such, she wasn't particularly good at throwing. She never had been really. No other kids would have played with her even when she was allowed to go near them. They all hung back, being afraid of her, afraid of the things she could do.

Lucretia giggled. "What was that?"

Samara narrowed her eyes. "I can't help it. You're distracting me."

"How am I distracting you?"

"You keep throwing snow at me."

"Well, yeah. That's what you do in a snowball fight."

"It's still distracting," Samara said. "Can we go back inside now? I'm cold. And hungry."

"Yeah, okay. I'm starving too."

They walked back to the castle. If felt strangely quiet without Mallory there. Mallory had gone back to her home for the Christmas holiday. Samara hadn't. It was too far, and there was nothing there for her anyway. Hogwarts was becoming far more her home than her real home had ever been. There were people here who genuinely cared for her, who weren't constantly wondering when she would try to kill them. They were her friends.

Samara didn't know why Lucretia had chosen to stay at Hogwarts during Christmas, and she didn't ask, but she was grateful. She wouldn't have liked to be alone again. There were other kids who had no family to go home to, or whose family couldn't talk care of them now. Samara saw them. All alone, so vulnerable. Samara didn't envy them. She felt safer when she wasn't alone. For a long time, being alone in her barn had been her only safe refuge, but now, everything had changed.

When they arrived at the Great Hall, they sat down beside each other. The house tables had been forgotten about since there were so few students still there.

Natalie came over and sat opposite them.

Samara clenched her fists. She simultaneously wanted to attack her, run away and just ignore her, all at the same time. She wasn't sure which of those options was most appealing.

"You okay, Samara?" Lucretia asked.

Samara didn't respond. She glared across at Natalie.

"You're being quite immature, you know," Natalie said. Samara didn't pay attention to her. she decided ignoring her was probably the best option. She still needed food. She wouldn't be able to eat lunch if she ran away. And if she killed Natalie, she probably wouldn't even be able to keep going to the school. She'd have to go back to the barn, and that wouldn't be any fun at all.

"What are you doing here, Natalie?" Lucretia asked.

"Eating lunch," Natalie said. And that was all she was doing. But somehow Samara couldn't help but want her to go away. Every time she looked at her, she was reminded that she was a traitor. She'd sided with Artemis instead of her. She didn't even know why.

The lunch was quite uneventful. Samara was tense the whole time, ready to attack, to defend herself, but nothing happened. Natalie really was just there to eat lunch, same as they were. Samara and Lucretia went to the school's library after that. They couldn't go to the Ravenclaw common room; Natalie might be there, and anyway, Lucretia was a Slytherin.

"You okay, Samara?" Lucretia asked.

Samara was about to lie and say she was fine, but she really wasn't. "I just... I don't like seeing her. We were friends at first, but then she started talking to Artemis... I can't trust her now. I can't trust anyone."

Lucretia frowned. "Samara, what are you talking about? Can't trust anyone? Maybe not her, but you can trust me and Mallory. We'd help you. If she wouldn't, then she doesn't matter anyway."

Samara smiled shakily.

On the morning of December 25th, Samara woke up as usual. It was Christmas. On some level she knew that, but Christmas hadn't really meant much for her these last few years. So when she got up, she wasn't expecting to see the stocking by her bed.

At first she thought it had to be a trick. Who would get her presents? But she unwrapped them excitedly all the same.

The first was a doll, from her Richard Morgan. She was caught off guard by this—he hated her, why would he get her a present? But she appreciated it all the same. She put it down by her pillow. The second thing was from Mallory. It was a spellbook, which Samara was glad of. She could never have too many books. And there was something from Lucretia. It was another book, this one a history of dark wizards. Samara put the books in the trunk with her others and then ran downstairs.

This was the first time she'd got any Christmas presents in... a while. The last time was back when her Mommy was still there, and she hadn't been sent to the hospital for sad people. That was a good four years, maybe five. Samara would have been seven at most. She'd almost forgotten what getting presents was like. How fun it could be... She'd almost forgotten that other kids had completely different lives to her. They had things like Christmas and birthdays, and didn't have to live in a barn so that their parents wouldn't go insane.

Samara sat beside Lucretia again at breakfast. Neither of them spoke, but they didn't have to. Natalie didn't show up this time.