"We're coming in," the matron called.
I jerked off my hoodie sweatshirt and quickly handed it to Lissa. She had just pulled it on when Dimitri and the matron entered. He raced to our sides in an instant, and I realized that in hiding Lissa's wrists, I'd forgotten the blood on her face.
"It's not mine," she said quickly, seeing his expression. "It...it's the rabbit..."
Dimitri assessed her, and I hoped he wouldn't look at her wrists. When he seemed satisfied she had no gaping wounds, he asked, "What rabbit?" I was wondering the same thing.
With shaking hands, she pointed at the trash can. "I cleaned it up. So Natalie wouldn't see."
Dimitri and I both walked over and peered into the can. I pulled myself away immediately, swallowing back my stomach's need to throw up. I don't know how Lissa knew it was a rabbit. All I could see was blood. Blood and blood-soaked paper towels. Globs of gore I couldn't identify. The smell was horrible.
Dimitri shifted closer to Lissa, bending down until they were at eye level. "Tell me what happened." He handed her several tissues.
"I came back about an hour ago. And it was there. Right there in the middle of the floor. Torn apart. It was like it had...exploded." She sniffed. "I didn't want Natalie to find it, didn't want to scare her...so I-I cleaned it up. Then I just couldn't...I couldn't go back..." She began to cry, and her shoulders shook.
I could figure out the rest, the part she didn't tell Dimitri. She'd found the rabbit, cleaned up, and freaked out. Then she'd cut herself, but it was the weird way she coped with things that upset her.
"No one should be able to get into those rooms!" exclaimed the matron. "How is this happening?"
"Do you know who did it?" Dimitri's voice was gentle.
Lissa reached into her pajama pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. It had so much blood soaked into it, I could barely read it as he held it and smoothed it out.
I know what you are. You won't survive being here. I'll make sure of it. Leave now. It's the only way you might live through this.
The matron's shock transformed into something more determined, and she headed for the door. "I'm getting Ellen." It took me a second to remember that was Kirova's first name.
"Tell her we'll be at the clinic," said Dimitri. When she left, he turned to Lissa. "You should lie down."
When she didn't move, I linked my arm through hers. "Come on, Liss. Let's get you out of here."
Slowly, she put one foot in front of the other and let us lead her to the Academy's medical clinic. It was normally staffed by a couple of doctors, but at this time of night, only a nurse stayed on duty. She offered to wake one of the doctors, but Dimitri declined. "She just needs to rest."
Lissa had no sooner stretched out on a narrow bed than Kirova and a few others showed up and started questioning her.
I thrust myself in front of them, blocking her. "Leave her alone! Can't you see she doesn't want to talk about it? Let her get some sleep first!"
"Miss Hathaway," declared Kirova, "you're out of line as usual. I don't even know what you're doing here."
Dimitri asked if he could speak with her privately and led her into the hall. I heard angry whispers from her, calm and firm ones from him. When they returned, she said stiffly, "You may stay with her for a little while. We'll have janitors do further cleaning and investigation in the bathroom and your room, Miss Dragomir, and then discuss the situation in detail in the morning."
"Don't wake Natalie," whispered Lissa. "I don't want to scare her. I cleaned up everything in the room anyway."
Kirova looked doubtful. The group retreated but not before the nurse asked if Lissa wanted anything to eat or drink. She declined. Once we were alone, I lay down beside her and put my arm around her.
"I won't let them find out," I told her, sensing her worry about her wrists. "But I wish you'd told me before I left the reception. You'd said you'd always come to me first."
"I wasn't going to do it then," she said, her eyes staring blankly off. "I swear, I wasn't going to. I mean, I was upset...but I thought...I thought I could handle it. I was trying so hard...really, Rose. I was. But then I got back to my room, and I saw it, and I...just lost it. It was like the last straw, you know? And I knew I had to clean it up. Had to clean it up before they saw, before they found out, but there was so much blood...and afterward, after it was done, it was too much, and I felt like I was going to...I don't know...explode, and it was just too much, I had to let it out, you know? I had to - "
I interrupted her hysteria. "It's okay, I understand."
That was a lie. I didn't get her cutting at all. She'd done it sporadically, ever since the accident, and it scared me each time. She'd try to explain it to me, how she didn't want to die - she just needed to get it out somehow. She felt so much emotionally, she would say that a physical outlet - physical pain - was the only way to make the internal pain go away. It was the only way she could control it.
"Why is this happening?" she cried into her pillow. "Why am I a freak?"
"You aren't a freak."
"No one else has this happen to them. No one else does magic like I can."
"Did you try to do magic?" No answer. "Liss? Did you try to heal the rabbit?"
"I reached out, just to see if I could maybe fix it, but there was just too much blood...I couldn't."
The more she uses it, the worse it'll get. Stop her, Rose.
Lissa was right. Moroi magic could conjure fire and water, move rocks and other pieces of earth. But no one could heal or bring animals back from the dead. No one except Ms. Karp.
Stop her before they notice, before they notice and take her away too. Get her out of here.
I hated carrying this secret, mostly because I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't like feeling powerless. I needed to protect her from this - and from herself. And yet, at the same time, I needed to protect her from them, too.
"We should go," I said abruptly. "We're going to leave."
"Rose - "
"It's happening again. And it's worse. Worse than last time."
"You're afraid of the note."
"I'm not afraid of any note. But this place isn't safe."
I suddenly longed for Portland again. It might be dirtier and more crowded than the rugged Montana landscape, but at least you knew what to expect - not like here. Here at the Academy, past and present warred with each other. It might have its beautiful old walls and gardens, but inside, modern things were creeping in. People didn't know how to handle that. It was just like the Moroi themselves. Their archaic royal families still held the power on the surface, but people were growing discontent. Dhampirs who wanted more to their lives. Moroi like Christian who wanted to fight the Strigoi. The royals still clung to their traditions, still touted their power over everyone else, just as the Academy's elaborate iron gates put on a show of tradition and invincibility.