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Millie is Finished

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There were only two things at Miss Melchior's Finishing Academy that Millie didn't hate. One of them was Sunday and the other was getting a package from home, which might happen on any day at all. Sundays were best because there were no classes, and if Millie was very quick and got back from church first, she could sneak into the senior common room and climb up among the rafters by the fireplace, where it was warm.

The rafters were large enough to hide Millie almost completely, she didn't even have to turn herself invisible. And as long as she got there before anyone else was there to see her climbing up the sturdy bookcases to either side of the fireplace, she'd never been spotted. It was precarious, but Millie was used to it, and a whole afternoon without shivering in the cold Swiss climate was worth it.

Or maybe it was the gleeful thrill that she got every time she pulled something over on the rest of the girls at this school that was worth every risk she took.

Receiving a package wasn't as good -- it didn't let her disappear -- but it did make all the other girls a little bit nicer while they were sharing out all the goodies from Millie's package. Millie got the very best packages because when she was younger, she'd explained to her guardian just what went into a proper school treat, and her guardian was the sort of man who never forgot. He also employed an excellent pastry chef who liked challenges such as packing pastry for travel to Switzerland.

But even amazing pastries perfectly preserved at the peak of freshness by magic couldn't make up for the sort of day Millie was having today, and when Millie came upstairs after having been denied any dinner for something that wasn't nearly as important as everyone here thought it was, and saw the package on her bed, she almost burst into tears.

It reminded her of home -- Chrestomanci Castle, the only home she had -- and the people there who enjoyed her company. Even Gabriel de Witt, the Chrestomanci and her guardian: the man who'd sent her here and refused to consider any change was also the man who never forgot to send her a care package every two weeks.

Millie knew exactly what would happen with that care package as soon as the other girls returned.

"Millie wants me to have all the chocolate cream pastries," Sylvia would assert, and all the other girls would defer to her. Even Veronica, who was almost as popular as Sylvia, would let Sylvia pick first, sniffing like she was above pastries. Then she'd claim a handful of sweets and maybe one of the paperbacks. The others would all claim their share in accordance with their ranking, fighting it out with cruel words and disdainful glances. Millie would be lucky if they left her with a piece of hard candy or a paper rose.

The urge to open the package and stuff as many pastries as possible into her mouth before the other girls got back was strong, but Millie knew exactly what they'd say if they came upstairs and found her eating her own pastries -- Millie could too easily imagine it. She'd be called fat and greedy, and that was just the start.

Even her nearly empty stomach couldn't persuade Millie to risk the ridicule of the other girls, so what good was having a parcel at all?

Before she could change her mind, Millie grabbed parcel by its string and hurried out of the dorm. Dinner was nearly over; she could hear conversations drifting up the main staircase already, but the upstairs hallway was empty as Millie rushed down past the other dorms and up the half staircase into the classroom wing. She hid the package in the witchcraft classroom and was back, her head dutifully bent over a dull gardening book -- nothing that anyone could object to -- by the time Sylvia and Veronica entered the dorm, arm in arm, squabbling over who was going to wear what for the family day party tomorrow. Veronica was losing, and she'd been grumpy for weeks besides, all because her family wasn't one of the ones being specially honored on family day.

Millie was glad she'd gotten rid of her parcel; Veronica spent the whole evening taking any excuse to argue with Sylvia, and Millie didn't want to get anywhere near either of them until family day was over.

Late that night, Millie sneaked out of the dorm and back down the hallway, her mouth watering as she thought about all those pastries, and all of them for her. No squabbling, just enough sugar and chocolate to fill her stomach. If she got caught, she wouldn't eat for a week.

She wasn't going to get caught.

The hallways were elaborately decorated for family day, but the floorboards creaked underfoot. The school was pretty but in poor repair. When she reached the staircase, Millie walked near the wall, even though the runner carpet only covered the middle of the stairs. Her slippers were quiet on the hardwood, and she'd learned from one of her friends at a previous school that the floor was less likely to creak there.

She opened the door of the classroom slowly, fighting the stiff hinges, and closed it slowly behind her, and only then did her breath come normally.

For family day, the witchcraft classroom had been decorated in honor of the Swann family: Sylvia, Jessica, and Mary. Millie had spent the entire afternoon in this room, pleating bits of magic into illusions and hanging snowflakes from the ceiling, while the other girls put together the tableau of the three snow-white swans. She'd gotten so bored she tacked bits of magic to the ceiling and pleated snowflakes into fans.

"Why Millie, what a dunce you are," Veronica had said, drawing attention to Millie's mistake. Miss Runge, the witchcraft teacher, had come to look, and the upshot was that Millie had spent half of dinner fixing her mistake and the rest hiding parcels amidst the decoration.

She grudgingly admitted that the room was pretty; the moonlight streaming in through several large windows lit up all the glittery decorations, and it would be even more impressive in the morning sun.

It was quite a departure from normal; the witchcraft classroom was usually the plainest classroom in the school. The girls whispered -- and Millie had overheard -- that Miss Runge only cared about two things, her fiance and the theatricals that she was also in charge of for the school. Witchcraft was taught only because a well-bred girl ought to know what could be done with magic to revive drooping flowers or remove wrinkles from a dress, and be able to see through simple illusions. Miss Runge taught witchcraft through playlets and theatre games, and knew no other kinds of magic. Millie knew more about magic than Miss Runge.

But that meant that classroom itself was a blank stage, capable of being transformed into anything.

But no one would really want to live in a room like this, she thought, brushing past a paper cut-out of a snow-dragon to the cascade of icy lace tablecloth that hid her care package.

Before she ripped it open, Millie paused to listen to the silence and savor the moment. In the silence, she heard footsteps. She whirled like an animal at bay toward the door -- it was moving. Golden candlelight spilled through the opening, a long thin line of gold spilling across the silver moonlight.

Millie pushed her package back under the table and dived after it, her hiding instincts well honed by almost two terms at this school. She held herself very still, listening to the footsteps moving around the room.

Peeking out through the lace, Millie could see that the intruder was a student too, because she was wearing a student's plain nightgown. Her hair was pale in the moonlight, but Millie couldn't make out her features. After a few minutes of moving around, the girl came to a stop in front of the biggest of the three swans in the tableau, the one that was meant to move and dance to mark the opening of the reception.

Tomorrow, Sylvia would stand under that swan during the reception in this room. Tonight, the shadowy figure prodded at the feathers until a gap formed, and then inserted something that Millie recognized -- it was a firework from one of her earlier care packages -- one of the special ones from Christopher that was meant to make her laugh.

They were also meant to be set off outside, with a little dab of magic in just the right place.

"That's dangerous," Millie said.

"Who is it?" the other student said, looking around wildly, then honing in on Millie with a quickness that was almost magical. "I can see you down there. Who is it? Is that you, Millie? You'd better come out." Millie recognized her voice and her stomach instantly twisted into knots; it was Veronica.

With no other choice, Millie had to squirm out from under the table, ungracefully entering Veronica's dainty presence. She tried not to mind, tried to keep her sense of purpose. "You're going to hurt someone with that," Millie said, advancing on Veronica with as much grandeur as she could summon up. Clumsy grandeur at best, and inside she was quaking.

"Don't play the goddess with me," Veronica said scornfully.

Millie winced. She'd told Veronica about her childhood stint as the living Asheth last term, before she'd realized what a malicious, calculating person Veronica was. The rest of the girls had gotten over it, but Millie knew, and Veronica knew, that if Veronica ever wanted to make life even more miserable for Millie, all she had to do was bring that story up again. Veronica had a way of telling a story that was perfectly guaranteed to capture all the laughter of anyone listening, and bring it to bear on her victim.

"I don't care," Millie said. "Give me back my firework, it was a gift."

She was setting herself up for months of misery, but she had no choice. Veronica looked at Millie's set expression and changed tacks. "Oh please. Don't tell me you care about Sylvia Swann," Veronica said.

"Even if I didn't, you're going to get me in trouble," Millie said. Everyone would know that was her firework. Even Millie hadn't remembered that Veronica had taken it.

Veronica tittered. "Oh, Millie, you're not that important, no one will remember that some boy sent you a present," she said. "It's not like it was anyone important. Or if you're really worried, just change it so that it's just a normal firework. I know you can do that. You're good at magic."

Millie shook her head stubbornly.

Veronica leaned in closer, and whispered conspiratorily, "Don't you want to see Sylvia's face when her swan explodes?"

Millie had no love for Sylvia, who was almost as bad as Veronica. The only reason Sylvia was a tiny bit nicer was because she could afford to be. Sylvia was the school's darling; no one crossed Sylvia. She was above all that.

"It's so unfair," Veronica said, voicing Millie's thought. "She doesn't deserve to have everything while we have nothing."

Millie could imagine it. The swan -- the symbol that all the girls had put so much effort into creating, so that Sylvia and her sisters could show their father how well Miss Melchior's was treating them -- exploding in her face, getting soot on her beautiful white dress that had come from Paris, and coating her cheeks and ruining her makeup. And it was just a magical firework, it wasn't really that dangerous...

"Everyone will see it, but no one else will know how it happened," Veronica said. "But they'll laugh at Sylvia, I'll make sure of that. I'll invite you to sit with us again. This is the only way you'll ever have a chance to be friends with me again..."

It was one step too far.

Millie hung her head, feeling the heat in her cheeks and the sick feeling in her stomach.

A term ago, Veronica had said something similar: "If you tell me, I'll explain to Miss Runge. I can get you out of trouble, and no one else will know. This is the only way you'll ever be able to get back your part in the play..."

And Millie had believed her, and told her all about growing up as the living Asheth, and it had been a mistake.

"I'm not like that," Millie said. "I don't want..."

Veronica pressed harder, sensing weakness. "No one will ever know that you were a part of it. I promise you, Millie, dear..."

"I can't let you," Millie said.

But while Millie was waffling, Veronica had been unpicking the stitching that held the swan together, and now she pushed the firework in and sealed it with a spell the like of which Millie had never seen before.

"Don't look so surprised," Veronica said. "Our family has a tradition of magic. We don't share it with outsiders."

There was a trap in the spell, if anyone tried to undo it. It would take longer than a few seconds for Millie to figure it out, but she didn't have to. Millie darted in and snatched the entire swan out of Veronica's grasp before Veronica had any idea of what she was going to do. Veronica's face was a slack picture of blank shock; Millie had never seen Veronica so surprised. She laughed at the expression on Veronica's face as she backed away.

"Why don't you ever just do the reasonable thing?" Veronica snapped, sounding so frustrated that Millie paused. "You're nobody special, why do you have to act like--" Veronica lunged toward the swan.

"If you mean that I'm not a goddess any more, I do know that," Millie said, sidestepping easily, feeling like she had some control over what was going on for the first time since she'd arrived back at school. Her feet were light and her voice was under her control. "Why do you have to make fun of me all the time? I never did anything to you."

"It wasn't just the goddess thing, though you have to admit, that was just too funny. You really should have known better. What did you think I was going to do once I knew, bow down to you?"

"I thought--" The subject weighed Millie down. "I thought you'd try to explain to Miss Runge that I was only trying to follow her instructions and draw from my experience to give depth to my acting. That's what you said you'd do."

"You're just too, too unutterably serious, my dear," Veronica said.

Millie couldn't say anything. She felt very small, remembering what had happened.

"You could have laughed it off, admitted that you were really just making things up to be important--"

"It's not funny."

"What makes you the best judge of that?" Veronica asked. "You should have laughed, that's all I wanted, and then I would have taken you back, and I'd have explained, and you would have got your part in the play back. But you wouldn't--"

"But it's true. It's something that really happened to me--"

"It doesn't matter," Veronica said. "My dear--"

A knocking at the door interrupted her, followed by the sound of retreating footsteps. Alyssa, keeping a lookout for Veronica, no doubt.

"It's Miss Runge," Veronica said. The pattern of knocks; Veronica was no fool. She thought of everything. "Follow my lead."

Millie shook her head.

"If you don't--"

Millie didn't listen to anything further. Millie could tell that Veronica still thought that she could win, even though Millie was holding the swan. Once Miss Runge arrived, it would be two against one. If Millie was going to do something to stop Veronica, she'd have to do it now.

"I don't care what happens!" Millie shouted, and raced toward the wall, counting on the fact that Veronica only knew traditional magic. Millie was improvising.

Veronica was too. She tripped Millie, but Millie refused to fall. She made herself lighter, light enough to fly all the way to the window, light enough to float there with the swan in her arms while the window wavered like an illusion--

She stuffed the swan right through the window without breaking the glass, and then before Veronica could do anything, she triggered the fireworks spell. At least it was outside now.

"Now you're really going to be in trouble," Veronica said viciously.

The door opened and Veronica's expression smoothed out, from mean to imploring in less than a second. "Oh Miss Runge, thank goodness, I just found Millie trying to sabotage the swan. Sylvia's lovely swan... I was trying to stop her, but she was too quick for me, and now just look! It's going to wake everyone."

Millie floated down to the ground, feeling deflated. She was going to be in trouble now.

"Miss Melchior will be so displeased," Veronica said. Miss Runge's round, earnest face was appalled by the display outside the window.

"I didn't do it," Millie said, but outside, a fireworks dragon dived and swooped and then turned into fireworks mermaids capering in a blue fire sea.

"Girls," Miss Runge scolded. "Millie. You must stop this display at once. Miss Melchior must not see--"

And so Millie was convicted, without even getting a chance to say one word in her defense. She gave a vicious twist to the magic and the fireworks stopped, with a sort of bewildered, unfinished residue.

"She ruined the swan we worked on for so long," Veronica wailed.

"I didn't!"

"Millie, fetch the swan," Miss Runge said. "You may use enchantress's magic."

As Millie summoned the swan, as slowly as she thought she could get away with, Veronica sidled up to Miss Runge. "Oh Miss Runge, I'd like to help, but I'm supposed to be presenting a monologue tomorrow, and I've already caught Millie when I ought to be sleeping. May I go back to my dorm?"

"Of course, Veronica," Miss Runge said. "We want you to be your best tomorrow."

"That's not fair," Millie said. Veronica smirked on her way out the door. "That's not fair."

"Oh, Millie," Miss Runge sighed. "What am I to do with you? You were so promising when you first arrived, but you can't seem to do anything right. Why is that?"

She was looking at Millie with such sympathy, it made Millie feel like she was going to cry. It almost seemed like Miss Runge would be willing to listen. It had been so long since anyone had been willing to listen to Millie sympathetically.

"I've tried with you, Millie," Miss Runge said.

"Oh Miss Runge," Millie said. If Veronica had still been in the room, Millie would never have dared to say anything more. Veronica would have found some way to twist it. But Veronica had shown her the way Miss Runge's compassion was through acting. "Are you thinking about-- When I got in trouble for disrupting the play last term?"

"That was the start of the problems," Miss Runge said.

"I never meant to cause any problems," Millie said, feeling a little bit like she was walking off a cliff and a little bit like she doing a complicated kind of magic while walking off a cliff, to make the thin air into a bridge under her feet. She wasn't good at explanations like Veronica was; this could go either way. But Millie couldn't bear this school the way things were any longer. She needed someone to understand. "I was just trying to do what you said."

"But why, Millie? Why did you make the nurse into a laughingstock? She's meant to be a tragic character, and you played her ... there was no sophistication. You played a looming buffoon. A barefoot, looming buffoon. No grace, no sophistication," Miss Runge said wistfully.

"I did not!" Millie said indignantly. "I was playing her like...a woman I knew when I was a child."

Miss Runge sighed. "Yes, that's an effective technique. I often advise the girls in my play to think of someone that they know and admire. What went wrong?"

Millie thought Miss Runge was softening.

"I didn't grow up here," she said. "Mother Proudfoot was a priestess, not a nurse, but she was very respected. She wasn't unsophisticated! She taught me everything, and she saved my life."

"That's all very well," Miss Runge said quellingly.

"She was the only one who cared about me," Millie said pleadingly. "I was trying to-- I think it was a cultural misunderstanding." At home, in Chrestomanci Castle, that could often get one out of trouble. Chrestomanci Castle understood differences. Here, it just slid right past. "Miss Runge, please, couldn't I have another chance?"

"Millie, I want you to know that I'm very glad you told me this. I think the better of you for confessing to your humble origin."

"I'm not humble," Millie said. There was the cliff; where was the bridge? "I was respected too!"

"Yes, Veronica told me about that as well." Miss Runge's tone was sad, not laughing, but she'd been poisoned by Veronica as well. She'd never believe that it was quite an accepted thing for someone to be a goddess. If Millie had had a chance to tell her herself, she could have explained, but it was too late now. No one would ever understand now.

"I had been hoping that you would not try to bring that up," Miss Runge continued sadly. "You must understand, in civilized countries, one does not bring up such things. If you could learn, perhaps you would be allowed to participate in theatre again."

"Theatre! You don't care about me either," Millie said bitterly.

"Millie, you must apologize at once."

"I'm sorry."

"And I will try to help you get along with the other girls. Miss Melchior has discussed this matter with me, and she thinks that you must be kept away from the theatre until you are quite firm in your understanding of your place. It's a pity, you had such promise as an actress, and I really felt like you were connecting with your emotions, even though of course that portrayal of the nurse was quite unacceptable, but of course, I couldn't--"

"Couldn't I have a second chance?" Millie asked. "Please, Miss Runge. I want to be an actress."

That was indeed the way to reach Miss Runge. She softened visibly now. "If you work very hard, I don't see why not--"

There were footsteps in the hallway.

Miss Runge began to talk more quickly. "Which is to say, if it were up to me, Millie, I would say yes. But I have discussed the matter with Miss Melchior, and she has stated quite firmly that our little theatre productions must not encourage questionable behavior."

"All I did--"

"You must not think that any position you held in another world makes you interesting. Miss Melchior is very clear on that."

"When I told Veronica that, I wasn't trying to get attention!" Millie said.

Miss Runge looked at her sadly. It was worse than when everyone had been arrayed against her. Now she understood why, and there was nothing she could do to change their mind. Millie bowed her head in the face of Miss Runge's sadness.

Miss Melchior arrived then, wearing what she would probably describe as 'night attire': a heavy flannel nightgown with lace at the neck and sleeves, though it was mostly covered by an embroidered robe that reminded Millie, absurdly, of Christopher. It was elaborate enough to be worn during the day -- at least by Millie's standards.

Veronica followed Miss Melchior. As soon as Millie saw her, she knew that instead of going back to bed, she'd gone to fetch Miss Melchior, just to make sure Millie got into enough trouble. Millie glared at Veronica; Veronica smiled sweetly.

"Thank you, Veronica," Miss Melchior said. "I see that you have informed me correctly, and I am grateful to you."

Veronica's smile became triumphant.

"There is no need for you to stay," Miss Melchior continued.

"Can I stop by my reception room for tomorrow and make a few minor changes?" Veronica asked, and her smile was so wide it looked like she'd swallowed all the cream in the biggest breakfast jug. "I want to make sure it's as impressive as when my sister was here."

"If you wish," Miss Melchior said.

So Veronica had tattled, and now she was getting exactly what she'd wanted the whole time -- a reception room for her and her family, to prove her importance to the school. Millie wondered which of the rooms had been appropriated, but not for long, because as soon as Veronica had left, Miss Melchior went on the attack.

"Now, Miss Runge, what is the meaning of this?" Miss Melchior asked.

"I was just having a little chat with Millie, Miss Melchior. I was telling her the things we've talked about. All of the wise things that you've said about her and her behavior. I thought it would do her good."

"Ah, yes, Millie. One of our problem pupils."

"We've had a productive little chat, Miss Melchior," Miss Runge said.

"Miss Runge, the issue under discussion is destruction of property. I see that the swan that was to be the centerpiece of our celebrations tomorrow is lying in front of you like a dead duck."

From her start, Millie saw that Miss Runge had completely forgotten about the swan. Miss Runge only cared about theatre.

"I've told you before, focus, focus, focus, Miss Runge," Miss Melchior said. "If you can't, we will have to reconsider our theatre curriculum to refocus on the truly important things at this school."

Miss Runge blanched. "Miss Melchior, we were just about to discuss that," she said. "But perhaps you would rather talk to her yourself?"

"Yes," Miss Melchior said. She looked at Millie, who looked down. Miss Melchior had a powerful glare. "You're the one who thinks she's a goddess," Miss Melchior said.

"I used to be a goddess," Millie said, looking up and pushing back against the glare. She was getting tired of having to defend herself about something that was perfectly normal and entirely respected, even if it wasn't normal for here.

"Most inappropriate," Miss Melchior said. "No, do not speak. I can see that you have something to say, but you must learn not to say what you are thinking. Do. Not. Speak. I am thinking."

Millie looked at Miss Melchior's dressing gown and thought about Christopher.

"I have a solution," Miss Melchior announced. "You have deprived us of a swan, so you must take the place of the swan."

It had been a very long night already, and Millie didn't immediately understand what Miss Melchior was suggesting.

"I can try to fix it," she said, though there was really only a few charred feathers and a bit of fireworks spell fused to the wire that had been the spine of the decorative bird.

It was only when Miss Runge protested that Millie realized what was actually intended.

"You want me to transform myself into a decorative bird to make your celebration look more impressive?"

"Do not take that tone. It is very singular that you would take that tone with me. You must be very careful, Millie, you must be humble and immaculately well-behaved, or you will never be accepted by the best people," Miss Melchior said.

"Perhaps there's some other way..." Miss Runge said. "It does seem hard on Millie, Miss Melchior."

"Are you questioning me?"

Miss Runge took a deep breath, and for a moment, Millie dared to hope, but Miss Melchior's glare was too much for her. She looked down. "No, Miss Melchior."

"I am pleased. You will help me with the magic?"

Miss Runge hesitated, but Millie knew better than to hope for anything from her at this point.

"I would hate to have to tell that fiance of yours that you had not met my standards after all," Miss Melchior said.

"Yes, Miss Melchior," Miss Runge said, not even holding out for long enough to give Millie a chance to think of anything to do. She bolted for the door, but it slammed in her face before she got there.

"Come now, Millie," Miss Melchior said. "You have destroyed the decorations we worked on so hard, you must face the consequences."

"I didn't do it!" Millie said. "You never once asked me, but if you had, I would have told you that Veronica did it."

Miss Melchior shook her head. "No, don't try to evade your punishment. Veronica is one of our best pupils, even you must see that it's hardly plausible. You must take responsibility for your actions. You wouldn't want to ruin the day for the other girls, would you?"

"What about ruining the day for me?"

"Remember what I said about being humble and well-behaved." Miss Melchior was gathering a large amount of magic, and Millie knew that she would have to do something about it soon.

"No," Millie said.

"Ungrateful pupil," Miss Melchior said. Magic was gathering in front of her like an unpleasantly colored soap bubble.

"If I was a pupil," Millie said angrily, "I would have learned something. I've never learned anything here at all."

"Then let this be a lesson to you," Miss Melchior said. "If you will not cooperate, then I have no choice." But before she could do anything with the bubble of magic she'd taken from Miss Runge, Millie reached out and popped it.

Bits of magic went flying. Millie sidestepped one of the bigger bits, but two of them hit Miss Melchior and turned her neck and head into a swan's, and gave Miss Runge wings.

"You can't make me into something I don't want to be, I'm an enchantress. You only have power if I let you," Millie said, feeling nervous and powerful at the same time. She couldn't believe she'd dared to do that.

"Millie, you must not..." Miss Runge said. "Miss Melchior is angry."

Miss Melchior honked as loud as she could, which was extremely loud with a swan's beak and human lungs.

"I've run away from situations that I thought were going to kill me before," Millie said, realizing as she said it that it was true. "You want to kill the real me, make me into a puppet, and I won't let you."

Miss Runge spread her wings and ran at Millie as if she would knock her out with a blow from those wings. "Please listen to me," Miss Runge said. "You have to understand, you have to accept, this is the way the world works, and if you want to--"

"No," Millie said. "Mother Proudfoot sent me to this school, but Mother Proudfoot would never have wanted me to learn that lesson. She was a kind woman, and she cared about other people. That's the only lesson I want to learn."

"But Millie--"

Millie put such a strong invisibility on herself that even a wizard couldn't have seen her, and stood in the moonlight while Miss Melchior honked and Miss Runge sat down on the ground and started to cry.

Millie was shaking.

She wished she hadn't done that, but now that she had, she really had no choice.

She was glad that she hadn't let them make her into a swan, not even for a day. Fiercely, gleefully glad, like she'd finally gotten the best of the whole school and everything it was trying to do to her. It made her want to stay, so she could do it again. And again. And again and again.

The school needed someone to get the best of it. She could be the invisible poltergeist, spreading random acts of justice. She was an enchantress, after all. Surely it was time she used that.

With only a little more magic, she could prove to everyone exactly how little Veronica deserved to get her way. She could expose all Veronica's little tricks, and turn Veronica into a swan whenever she deserved it.

And then she could make Miss Melchior stop bullying the rest of the teachers, and encouraging the girls to do anything to remain one of her favorites.

She could get revenge on every girl who'd ever slighted her, and repay their cruelty. She'd felt so helpless, but she wasn't really helpless.

She could...

"No," Millie said, out loud. Miss Melchior was honking and pecking at Miss Runge and didn't even hear her. Miss Runge was trying to undo the spell, and would probably get it soon. Millie felt sorry for Miss Runge, but invisible Millie didn't have any answers. If she became the school poltergeist, then she'd become one of them. Just another bully.

Maybe there was some way to fix the school, but Millie didn't know what it was. The only thing this school could teach her was what not to do.

"I'm finished here," Millie said softly, and picked up the bit of Christopher's firework for good luck, then ran for the window. It didn't take much of a twist to run through the glass, and then she was running across the muddy field toward--

Millie looked up and picked a star to follow and kept running, and if anyone had asked her where she was going, she would have said, "Away."