I still had to stay there for a couple of days, but Lissa - and Christian, her new sidekick - almost never left my side when they weren't in class. Through them, I learned bits and pieces about the outside world. Dimitri had realized there was a Strigoi on campus when they'd found Natalie's victim dead and drained of blood: Mr. Nagy of all people. A surprising choice, but since he was older, he'd been able to put up less of a fight. No more Slavic art for us. The guardians in the detention center had been injured but not killed. She'd simply slammed them around as she had me.

Victor had been found and recaptured while trying to escape campus. I was glad, even though it meant Natalie's sacrifice had been for nothing. Rumors said that Victor hadn't seemed afraid at all when the royal guards came and carried him away. He'd simply smiled the whole time, like he had some secret they didn't know about.

Inasmuch as it could, life returned to normal after that. Lissa did no more cutting. The doctor prescribed her something - an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug, I couldn't remember which - that made her feel better. I'd never really known anything about those kinds of pills. I thought they made people silly and happy. But it was a pill like any other, meant to fix something, and mostly it just kept her normal and feeling stable.

Which was a good thing - because she had some other issues to deal with. Like Andre. She'd finally believed Christian's story, and allowed herself to acknowledge that Andre might not have been the hero she'd always believed him to be. It was hard on her, but she finally reached a peaceful decision, accepting that he could have had both good and bad sides, like we all do. What he'd done to Mia saddened her, but it didn't change the fact that he'd been a good brother who loved her. Most importantly, it finally freed her from feeling like she needed to be him to make her family proud. She could be herself - which she proved daily in her relationship with Christian.

The school still couldn't get over that. She didn't care. She laughed it off, ignoring the shocked looks and disdain from the royals who couldn't believe she'd date someone from a humiliated family. Not all of them felt that way though. Some who had gotten to know her during her brief social whirlwind actually liked her for her, no compulsion necessary. They liked her honesty and openness, preferring it to the games most royals played.

A lot of royals ignored her, of course, and talked viciously about her behind her back. Most surprising of all, Mia - despite being utterly humiliated - managed to wiggle back into the good graces of a couple of these royals. It proved my point. She wouldn't stay down for long. And, in fact, I saw the first signs of her revenge lurking again when I walked past her one day on the way to class. She stood with a few other people and spoke loudly, clearly wanting me to hear.

" - perfect match. Both of them are from completely disgraced and rejected families."

I clenched my teeth and kept walking, following her gaze to where Lissa and Christian stood. They were lost in their own world and formed a gorgeous picture, she blond and fair and he blue-eyed and black-haired. I couldn't help but stare too. Mia was right. Both of their families were disgraced. Tatiana had publicly denounced Lissa, and while no one "blamed" the Ozeras for what had happened to Christian's parents, the rest of the royal Moroi families continued to keep their distance.

But Mia had been right about the other part too. In some ways, Lissa and Christian were perfect for each other. Maybe they were outcasts, but the Dragomirs and Ozeras had once been among the most powerful Moroi leaders. And in only a very short time, Lissa and Christian had started shaping one another in ways that could put them right up there with their ancestors. He was picking up some of her polish and social poise; she was learning to stand up for her passions. The more I watched them, the more I could see an energy and confidence radiating around them.

They weren't going to stay down either.

And I think that, along with Lissa's kindness, may have been what attracted people to her. Our social circle began to steadily grow. Mason joined, of course, and made no secret of his interest in me. Lissa teased me a lot about that, and I didn't yet know what to do about him. Part of me thought maybe it was time to give him a shot as a serious boyfriend, even though the rest of me yearned for Dimitri.

For the most part, Dimitri treated me just like anyone would expect of a mentor. He was efficient. Fond. Strict. Understanding. There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that would make anyone suspect what had passed between us - save for an occasional meeting of our eyes. And once I overcame my initial emotional reaction, I knew he was - technically - right about us. Age was a problem, yes, particularly while I was still a student at the Academy. But the other thing he'd mentioned...it had never entered my mind. It should have. Two guardians in a relationship could distract each other from the Moroi they were supposed to protect. We couldn't allow that to happen, couldn't risk her life for our own wants. Otherwise, we'd be no better than the Badica guardian who'd run off. I'd told Dimitri once that my own feelings didn't matter. She came first.

I just hoped I could prove it.

"It's too bad about the healing," Lissa told me.

"Hmm?" We sat in her room, pretending to study, but my mind was off thinking about Dimitri. I'd lectured her about keeping secrets, but I hadn't told her about him or about how close I'd come to losing my virginity. For some reason, I couldn't bring myself to tell.

She dropped the history book she'd been holding. "That I had to give up the healing. And the compulsion." A frown crossed her face at that last part. The healing had been regarded as a wondrous gift in need of further study; the compulsion had met with serious reprimands from Kirova and Ms. Carmack. "I mean, I'm happy now. I should have gotten help a long time ago - you were right about that. I'm glad I'm on the medication. But Victor was right too. I can't use spirit anymore. I can still sense it, though...I miss being able to touch it."

I didn't entirely know what to say. I liked her better like this. Losing that threat of madness had made her whole again, confident and outgoing, just like the Lissa I'd always known and loved. Seeing her now, it was easy to believe what Victor had said about her becoming a leader. She reminded me of her parents and of Andre - how they used to inspire devotion in those who knew them.

"And that's another thing," she continued. "He said I couldn't give it up. He was right. It hurts, not having the magic. I want it so badly sometimes."

"I know," I said. I could feel that ache within her. The pills had dulled her magic, but not our bond.

"And I keep thinking about all the things I could do, all the people I could help." She looked regretful.

Tags: Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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