Chapter 2: Professor Marie Lal
Dawn jumped when all six doors to the classroom closed and audibly locked at once. A woman--obviously the teacher--stalked in from one of the aisles to take her place in the center of the classroom. "I hope everyone is here," she said dryly. "I don't tolerate lateness."
Several people around the room giggled, including Corrie. Dawn couldn't: she was too busy staring at the woman. When she'd walked in, Dawn had only gotten a vague impression of cinnamon skin and a mass of curly dark hair. But now that she was standing in the middle of the room, turning slowly to survey the students, Dawn could see her clearly. And what she saw surprised her more than almost anything that had happened to her at this school so far.
Her body shape was ordinary enough, from what Dawn could see under her skirt, tall boots, and dark blouse. There was no tail or misshapen legs. But there were long, delicately pointed ears sticking through those curls; the fingers were unnaturally long, ending in dark points; and when she turned and faced Dawn's direction, her eyes were nothing but a huge expanse of black, the tiniest bit of spark shining in the center. She tried not to show her shock, but the teacher raised one eyebrow, then smiled slowly before turning away.
Dawn looked around the classroom wildly. Had anyone else seen what she just had? They looked interested, but not surprised or frightened. She forced her breathing to slow and her heart to stop racing. So far, the teacher didn't seem to be any threat, for all that she'd locked all the doors with seemingly no effort. If there was any threat, she knew how to go about dealing with it, at least.
"Welcome to Introduction to Magic," the woman announced. "I am Professor Marie Lal; you may call me Professor Marie or Professor Lal, whichever you're more comfortable with. As you can see, I know what I'm doing, and I don't have patience with those who refuse to learn. If you're taking this class, you had better be prepared to do what is needed." She smiled, softening her hard visage. "Now, why don't you all introduce yourselves to me? Start here," she slapped one of the desks nearest her, making the thin, pale boy seated in it jump, "and go around in an increasing spiral. Tell me your name and why you're taking this class."
The boy cleared his throat nervously. "My name is Brian," he said, "and, well, I want to learn magic." Several people laughed, which seemed to give him confidence; he smiled. "It's a really unusual skill and I think it would be more helpful in the real world than most other college degrees."
The introductions went on. Just like when the people living in Gilkey had introduced themselves, Dawn found it difficult to keep track of them all. The blonde girl sitting in front of them was Roe, and Corrie whispered that she lived down the hall from them. That would be where Dawn had seen her before, then.
She and another girl, Lin, who was Asian and had very short, shiny black hair, had something unusual in common: both were taking the class, and indeed had made the decision to come to Chatoyant College, because they had magic talents that they hoped would be trained here. Roe said she had random prophetic visions; Lin shifted uncomfortably in her seat and asked if she could talk to Professor Marie about it later. She nodded agreeably at both of them and told them that the college could certainly help them, and they'd receive as much training as they wanted.
Dawn wondered whether she should tell about her Sight when it came her turn. But she decided against it. The professor surely already knew that she could see her true self; no one else really needed to hear about it. Besides, the question was why she was in the class, and she'd signed up for it long before she even knew faeries existed. "My name is Dawn," she said when the introductions reached her, "and I'm in this class because my aunt Pru went here and learned magic, and she loved it. She's an artist and her magic helps her with her work, so I figure I can learn something useful, too."
Professor Lal's eyebrows shot up when Dawn mentioned Pru. She nodded slowly. "I believe I knew your aunt when she was a student here. Hmm. Would you also speak to me after class, Dawn?"
Startled, Dawn could only nod, though her stomach churned in anticipation of the discussion that was to come. Professor Lal, not seeming concerned at all, nodded to Corrie to go next.