"Passed you OWL, huh? Atyets be proud of you."
Spike flashed a weary handsign from where she sprawled in the chair. "Atyets, maybe, no so sure about the doctor." She waved at her project, flying lazy circles, executing an occasional barrel roll to hiss and flail its wingpit tentacles at the giant squid, who was turning to examine it with one slit-pupilled eye the size of a dinner plate and then the other. "At least it looks like an owl. Mostly. If you ignore the tail."
"Is a rough draft. Practice for next term, yah?"
"Mmmm. Yeah, I have some refinements in mind. I'll want to run them past Wolfie --"
"Herr Doktor Wolfgang, the sherblocker, the bonecutter."
"Yah, but . . . Wolfie?" One creeping eyebrow of suspicion and mistrust. "Awful familiar."
"He's not so bad."
Dimo's silence was eloquent. "So. OWL all good, even by the skin of you teeth. What about dot . . . thing we agree never to mention out loud?"
Spike sat bolt upright in her chair. She'd had to throw every waking moment not actually spent in class into her OWL to pull it off; she hadn't thought about the Order in . . . well, weeks, honestly. She hadn't been wearing her pin, it was just one more thing to keep track of, and remembering to comb her hair and put on a semi-clean robe each morning was about all she had room in her head for. She'd go to bed just ahead of final bedcheck, then sneak back out to the lab, work most of the night, then get up early to keep going before the gong rang for breakfast. Where had she put the thing?
The last time I saw it, I was . . . She got up, began turning papers over on her desk, scanning notes and laying them in three piles, one to transcribe verbatim into her grimoire, one to glean from and refine later, one to burn soonest. She had hit naked wood in several places before she turned it up, and groaned softly.
She held it up. The stones were flashing and winking, lights chasing each other around the brooch. "I wonder how long Philandra's been calling me?"