Rectification @lumity
Chapter 17

Just as Amity had predicted, the Construction Coven was on the Hexside scene by that evening, and the school looked as good as new by Monday morning. For the better part of the week after the fire, a strange tension filled the hallways of Hexside as whispers were passed around the student body and the mental images of dark licking flames sat at the forefront of every student’s mind. 

Grom was that Saturday, but for a few days, the excitement surrounding it was passed up in favor of rumors about the fire. The two most popular that Amity heard included one that Boscha had started the fire with a rogue Grudgby shot (Boscha absolutely basked in these rumors, Amity noted) and one that twenty-three kids in total had died. She felt bad for thinking the way she did, but she was a bit relieved that Luz wasn’t the center of the rumors. (Though if she were, they wouldn’t be rumors, they’d be true.)

Only once Friday rolled around did Grom decorations start appearing in the hallways and the student population turned their attention to the truly important matter at hand. By the time Amity made it up to Hexside’s front door on Friday morning, she’d already seen five elaborate Gromposals, three of which had ended in joyful tears from both parties. She was slightly regretful that she wouldn’t be able to do the same for Luz, but the fact that she was going with Luz at all was all that mattered.

That was, if her plan for the morning actually succeeded.

She’d been putting it off all week out of nerves, but today was her last shot. As far as she knew Grom dates from outside Hexside were not permitted, so she needed to get Luz in as quickly as possible or risk going to Grom alone and having her dreams crushed. So, here she stood, heart pounding wildly as she reached a fist up to shakily knock on Bump’s office door.

Centuries seemed to pass before there was an answer from within.

“Come in.”

Amity pushed the door open. Bump was seated at his desk, papers and file folders scattered all around. He pointed to a chair across from him. “Sit.” 

Amity did as she was told. “I-”

“If you’re here to tell me to cancel Grom just like the other twenty students that have stopped by for a visit this week, save it,” Bump interrupted.

Amity hesitated. “I… wasn’t here to talk about that, but okay. There are two students I’d like to talk to you about- well, one, I guess. The other hasn’t been enrolled yet.”

“Go on.”

“My friend Willow Park,” Amity began, feeling a bit odd finally referring to Willow as a friend, “is in the Abominations track with me right now but she really ought to be moved to Plants. She’s an incredible plant witch, and she deserves to study what she loves and is good at.”

Bump nodded. “That can be arranged, provided she comes in to request the switch personally. I have heard she’s quite good with plants for someone who isn’t actually studying them. And the other?”

Amity took a deep breath. She felt like asking about Luz was a huge risk- Luz had lit the entirety of Hexside on fire, and honestly, she wasn’t sure if she would want a student who had done that running around a school she hypothetically was in charge of. Still, she had to try. Luz’s biggest dream was to study magic. Amity had to play her part in helping her girlfriend. And we have to be Grom dates. “Luz, the human who-”

“I was scared you’d say that,” Bump sighed.

Amity clamped her jaw shut. Maybe if you’d let me finish…

“I’m guessing you’re going to ask for her admittance into Hexside despite the tragedy she caused. I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m sure she told you, seeing as you two are very close friends… she cast a fire spell and it went awry, first catching the curtains and then spreading to the rest of the school faster than we could magically contain it. It’s a wonder there were no casualties. According to reports from the Bonesborough Hospital, you were in the second-worst shape next to her- though can’t say she didn’t deserve that.”

Amity bit back a cry of horror. That was an awful thing to think!

“She’s very talented magically,” is what she said instead. “And she showed you two spells, didn’t she? Technically those are the only requirements!”

“I’m sure an exception can be made for a human who endangered thousands of people.”

“She’s a really good witch,” Amity went on helplessly. “She’s been trying so hard to learn magic even though she isn’t biologically wired for it.”

“You’re one of the top students in the freshman class, Amity,” Bump growled. “I would expect more out of you than the undeserved sympathy you’re giving the human.”

“But-”

“No buts. Luz will never be a student here. Now please go to your first period class. I’m getting ready to pick the Grom Royalty anyway, which is a process you can’t be here for.” Bump waved his hand at a large bowl on his desk that held hundreds of glowing slips of paper. One of those slips bore Amity’s name, and that was the one Bump would draw as soon as she left the room. 

Amity stood up and pushed her chair in. She stared down at the floor for a moment. She was unwilling to accept defeat. She didn’t want to imagine the distraught, defeated look on Luz’s face when she found out that it had been officially decreed that she’d never be a Hexside Banshee. 

If it weren’t for her meddling, Luz would already be a Banshee, studying happily with Willow and Gus, and making her mentor Eda proud with her quickly improving skills.

I’ve caused more problems than I’ve fixed, haven’t I?

Amity needed at least one small victory to bring back to Luz. “I just want to ask a favor,” she said. “I want Luz to be my Grom date.”

Bump shook his head. “No outside Grom dates. It’s been a rule since I was a student here.”

“But I already asked Luz, and she said yes. Please, just let us go to Grom together.”

“No outside dates, and especially not that troublemaking human!”

“Please!” Amity begged. She hated herself for pleading, but she knew she had to. She hated sounding desperate. She hated sounding like she was whining. And she especially hated asking for things from others. She was a Blight, the top of the top. Other witches were supposed to be asking her for things. But this was Luz, and Luz was special, and Luz was worth a slight social slip-up. More than that, actually. Luz was worth the whole world, and status was only a small part of Amity’s. 

And yet, Bump’s cold expression was set in stone. “No.”

Tears sprang to the back of Amity’s eyes. Without another word, she stormed out of the office. She wasn’t sure where her feet were carrying her after that, but she knew it wasn’t toward first period.

Since class hadn’t yet started, the common area near the lockers was still packed with students. Amity spotted the forest-green hair of her sister leaning casually against a locker, speaking with a witch wearing a telltale fishhook earring. She normally would have paused to ponder about how grateful she was that Viney had taken her advice and befriended Emira, but today she was far too bitter to think about it.

Just before she reached her sister, the loudspeakers turned on, and the hubbub of the atrium was brought down to a silence almost immediately.

Amity stopped and waited with bated breath.

“Attention, Hexside students. This is your principal speaking.”

Whispers spread through the gathered witches.

“This is it!”

“Who’ll it be?”

“Please not me. Please not me.”

“Please me! I wanna show everyone what a great warrior I am! Not really, though. Being Grom King sounds kinda terrifying.”

“This year, I have the privilege to bestow our highest Grom honor to…” the speaker said. Amity thought she might faint. Please let me do something right for once. Please let me have somehow altered this decision. I can’t go up against Grom. Not again.

“Amity Blight, our Grom Queen!”

Amity stood in stunned silence. So she hadn’t changed things. I should have just… given the bowl of names a shake while I was in Bump’s office. That would have changed things, right? And it would have been so easy.

Now the whispers were changing.

“Amity.”

“It’s Amity.”

“She’s right over there.”

“A freshman? We haven’t had one of those the whole time I’ve been here!”

“Yeah, she’ll never make it against Grom.”

Amity deflated, and she rushed to Emira, who was standing just a few feet away. As soon as Em saw her, she opened her arms wide for her little sister, and Amity crashed into them. 

“I don’t wanna fight Grom,” Amity sniffed, not caring who heard her. “I can’t do it again.”

Em didn’t question the again. “I’m sorry. That’s rotten luck. Can you ask Bump to switch with someone else?”

“No.”

Em’s embrace tightened. She rested her chin on Amity’s head. “Would you like to skip school today?”

Amity hesitated, unsure what to say. She’d never skipped a day in her life. Being a straight-A student came with a simple price, and that price was that she could never join her siblings on their escapades. But now, the idea was so, so tempting.

“I want to see Luz,” Amity said quietly.

Em nodded. “Then we’ll go see Luz.” She drew a circle in the air and an identical copy of Amity appeared next to her. This version of Amity  was the spitting image of the real thing, albeit with the trademark faint blue border of an Illusion. The Illusion waved and smiled. Clearly it didn’t have the real Amity’s demeanor.

“Thanks,” Amity sniffed.

Em gave Viney an awkward goodbye wave and dragged her little sister away from the gathering crowd. Just like every year, the Grom Royalty’s reaction to being given their title made for a perfect video to post on Penstagram, and students were already gathering around with their scrolls in hand. Pushing through all of them was a chore.

Em walked Amity all the way to the Owl House, though the walk took them several minutes. (“If Ed were here, he’d insist on illegally obtaining a staff to fly, but he had a history presentation today he couldn’t really get out of,” Em explained.) She hung back when they arrived, intending to let Amity speak to Luz in private. It was a little strange for Amity to see her older sister acting so kind and considerate, but maybe it wasn’t so weird considering Amity had basically just received what she was sure was a death sentence.

Luz answered her knocks immediately, just before Hooty could open his beak, as if she had been sitting around and waiting for Amity all day. (That was a very far-fetched thought, though, right?)

“Amity!” Luz didn’t wait for Amity to explain her visit. She grabbed Amity by the hand and dragged her inside as if a Slitherbeast were after them. “I’m so glad to see you! Wait, you’re supposed to be in school, aren’t you? Did the twins bring you? If they did, it was sweet of them to come all the way here. Oh, of course- did you talk to Bump about getting me back in?”

Amity tried to keep her expression neutral. “Yeah, I did.”

Luz’s face fell. Perhaps Amity hadn’t been as impassive as she hoped. “Oh, no,” Luz whispered. “He said no, didn’t he?”

Amity nodded solemnly.

Luz’s eyes shone with the beginning of tears, but she blinked them away. “It’s alright. You tried your best.”

“It’s not alright!” Amity was shocked at Luz’s complacency. “Studying at Hexside was your dream. It’s not right of Bump to just- shatter your dream like that. We have to get you in.”

“Oh, don’t worry. We will.”

“I can’t believe he- huh?”

“Tomorrow night.” The devastation had drained from Luz’s face and was replaced by a grim determination. “At Grom. I’ll prove myself.”

“That’s the thing!” Amity groaned. “We’re not allowed to go to Grom together, either.”

She expected Luz to be anguised at this as well, but the human was anything but. “So?” she asked, a playful grin crossing her features. “Why do you think that’d stop me?”

“If they see you, they’ll kick you out.”

“Kick, schmick.” Luz waved her hand dismissively. “Who cares as long as we get to dance?”

Right. The other bad news Amity had to break to Luz. The third punch to the bile sac in a series of brutal punches. “We may not have time for that. I…” Suddenly her throat felt clogged, like she couldn’t get the words out. “I’ve been chosen for Grom Queen. So I… I have to be the one to fight Grom.”

Luz’s gaze softened. “Oh no.” She held out her arms, but hesitated. “Hug?”

Amity nodded. Luz’s gentle embrace was fifty times as magical as Em’s had been. Luz’s fingers found their way into Amity’s bob and she gently combed through it for a moment. Only when Amity felt totally steady again did she pull away.

“Come sit down with me,” Luz invited. 

Amity followed Luz to the couch. “Where’s Eda?” The house was strangely quiet, lacking the usual yelling or clattering or indignant squealing from King.

“Errands.” When they were both sitting Luz laid her head down on Amity’s shoulder. “She trusts me to stay here alone now. Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah.”

“So do you know how you’re going to fight your fear?” 

Wow, she gets right to the point. Amity didn’t answer right away. Truth be told… she didn’t even know what her fear was going to be.

“I’m sorry,” Luz apologized quickly. “I get it if you don’t want to talk about it right now. It’s scary stuff.”

Amity sighed. “No, it’s fine. Might as well talk about it. It’s inevitable. I need to fight my own battles, you know?”

Luz mhmed empathetically.

“I'm gonna be totally honest with you. I don’t actually know what my greatest fear is. There are so many things I’m scared of, Grom will have trouble picking just one.”

“I hope it doesn’t pick all of them.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“How about spiders? Are you scared of spiders?”

“No.” Amity allowed herself to laugh. “Not more than the average witch, anyway. My fears go a little deeper than spiders.”

“Hm. What about milk?”

“Milk?”

“I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Ice scream is my favorite food.”

Luz scrunched her nose up in a way that would have been totally adorable if Amity hadn’t been scared out of her mind trying to dissect her brain and figure out what her greatest fear was. “Remind me to never date you.”

Amity elbowed her girlfriend. “It’s a little too late for that.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t worry about it right now,” Luz suggested. “We’ve got a whole day. Grom isn’t until tomorrow. Let’s talk about something less… morbid. Do you know what you’re going to wear?”

“Um.” That’s been the last thing on my mind. “I’ve got a pretty nice green suit I haven’t worn in a while. Maybe I’ll wear that.” I’ll mix it up a little. More people will be looking at me this time, anyway, so I have to be confident. “What about you?”

“Otter onesie!” Luz cheered. Amity raised an eyebrow. “Just kidding. I’m actually not sure what I’ll wear. I don’t think I can be as stunning as you in a suit no matter how hard I try.”

Amity stared at Luz for a moment. Her? Amity? Stunning? Luz thinking she was stunning? Luz thinks I’ll be STUNNING? STUNNING???? Has that girl EVER looked in a mirror? “No-no way,” she stammered. “You’ll be- you’ll be gorgeous. You’re Luz.”

“See?” Luz grinned, lopsided, and threw one arm around Amity’s shoulder. “There’s more to Grom than fear and horror and death and fear and blah blah blah. We’ve got time to figure everything out still. The dance isn’t until tomorrow!”

Yeah, Amity thought. She intertwined her fingers with Luz’s. Not until tomorrow.

~

Grom is definitely today.

Amity stood at the entrance to the underground arena, gripping the hilt of her sword so tightly she thought it’d slip from her hands and clatter to the ground. The darkness of the arena yawned back at her, and the stares of hundreds of classmates burned her skin from all directions. Somewhere in those bleachers sat Luz. She wondered if Luz was half as nervous as she was. 

One day of training wasn’t enough. I still have no idea what I’m going to see down there.

The amorphous form of Grom writhed in the dirt floor below, and Amity’s stomach squirmed right along with it.

She took a brave step forward. 

But whatever it is, it’s going to be horrible.

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