Chapter 11
Afternoon Grill

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

The day was much like any other. When Margot was done with classes, she then had club activities for an hour or two and then she made her way home. The sun was just starting to touch the horizon by the time she got there. Her mother would have supper ready soon.
"I'm home!" she announced as she came in the door and started to take off her shoes in the vestibule.
She donned her house slippers and made her way to the kitchen to check in on her mother. Instead of her mother at the stove, she found her father sitting at the kitchen table. He should have already left for work, but there he was.
"Margot," he said. It wasn't really a greeting, but that was about as much as she could expect from him.
"Yes, Papa?"
Her father nodded to the chair across from him.
"Sit down. I want to have a talk with you."
A talk with her father was about the last thing she wanted. He had always been awkward with her and it only got worse as she got older. He was the sort of man who needed a son, but instead he got three girls.
"I really need to do my homework," Margot said, hoping that would get her out of it.
"Sit," her father said. "It's important."
"Okay, fine," she said, doing her best to convey how put out she was by it. She took her seat and then asked him bluntly, "What?"
Any other day and that kind of response would have earned her a rebuke, but whatever important matter her father had to discuss was more important than the rules of etiquette he imposed on her.
He leaned forward a bit, maybe in an effort to make the conversation more intimate, but before he could even say the first word, he straightened back up. The last time he had been this awkward with her was when he tried to give her his warning about boys and what they were going to want from her when she started to go through puberty.
Fortunately, this was not a continuation of that topic, but it did not prove to be much better for her.
"I'm sure you've heard the stories," he began, "about girls your age playing around with witchcraft. These things called Witch Crystals and such."
Margot could feel the hairs raising up on the back of her neck. She did her best not to let her rising unease show. While she would hardly call herself an expert at keeping things from her parents, she was as well-practiced as any teenager about playing her cards close to her chest.
"Sure, I've heard about it," she said casually. "It's just a game, though."
"Are you mixed up in it?"
"What?"
Her father repeated himself.
"I said, 'Are you mixed up in it?'"
"No."
Her reply was almost reflexive. It was important not to hesitate, but her father was a policeman and he had seen just about everything. It was not so easy to pull the wool over his eyes.
"You lying to me, Margot?" he asked.
Again, she said, "No."
She was not sure she could hold up to more intense questioning, but rather than press her, her father took up a different tack.
"Look, baby, this isn't a game and isn't a joke. Last week the Witch-hunters brought in three girls from the Lyc´e Jean Potriu. These Witch Crystals are real. They react to people with magic potential and a lot of the pocket grimoires have real spells in them. That hair of yours isn't purple for no reason. It's a sign you have it. If it wasn't for the Mage Ban, you'd be training at the Mages' Academy right now."
His concern was genuine, about as much vulnerability as she had ever seen him show anyone. It made her feel all the worse about lying to him, but she was not going to condemn herself and sell out her friends. It was too late for her to change course now.
Reaching out across the table, she put her hand on his and reassured him, "Papa, you don't have anything to worry about."
Her father glanced down at her hand and then looked back up to her.
"All magic is illegal, Margot," he said. "The Witch-hunters don't care if you're a child or if you're just playing around with your friends. If you have one of these Witch Crystals, grimoires or anything else, give them to me now and we'll say nothing more about it."
Fortunately for her, it was Bernie who kept the group's Witch Crystal and grimoires, so on this point at least, she was not lying when she told him, "I don't have anything like that."
Her father frowned and said, "I'm going to ask you one last time."
Margot had to raise the stakes to keep the bluff going.
"If you don't believe me, go check for yourself."
"Alright then," her father said, "I will. Your mother and I will go through your room right now."
She crossed her arms and looked away, a sulking display that was only partially faked.
"Fine. I just can't believe you don't trust your own daughter."
"I'm a policeman," her father said. "I'm not supposed to trust anyone. Stay here until we're done."
"Alright. Whatever."
Her father then rose from the table and called her mother, who had apparently been hiding out behind the door the whole time.
"Come on, Marthe, let's go."
Her mother went along in silent submission, giving Margot only a brief concerned look before they left for Margot and her sisters' room. They would not find anything they could use against her. If she had anything worth hiding, she would find a better place than her own room.
While she had nothing to worry about from her parents' search, she was worried about her friends. None of them had a policeman for a father, but if the Witch-hunters rounded up some girls at Jean Potriu, it would not be long before they started sniffing around Margot's school too. She needed to warn the others, but going out now would only be suspicious. She had to wait until tomorrow and hope that nothing happened until then.
As excited as she was when she learned that she had the potential to be a witch, she was starting to wonder if it was really worth it. Would the others agree with her?