Dawn noticed that Dr. Everson was returning to the stage. Had she known ahead of time that this announcement was being planned? She must have—but Dawn wondered whether she had known about the existence of faeries before the announcement was discussed. She might well have just had the biggest shock of her life. She was perfectly composed now, though.
Professor Lal was still speaking. “We believed we had done everything possible to keep you safe. It is clear now that we had not. We understand if you are angry or afraid. We understand if, knowing that the college has participated in this deception, you do not wish to return.”
Dr. Everson had reached the podium. Professor Lal nodded to her and stepped aside; Dr. Everson stepped up to the microphone.
“For those who wish to transfer to another institution, we will be making extra efforts to accommodate you,” Dr. Everson said. “That applies to anyone who has already left as well. We are assigning extra resources to transfers, and any fees relating to a college transfer are hereby waived. We will also pay any fees charged by the other institution.”
She paused to let the students react. This time the murmurs were quieter, but people obviously weren’t satisfied. Dawn distinctly heard a few people say “that’s not good enough.”
“In addition,” Dr. Everson continued, “the entire campus will be closed during the summer to everyone other than certain professors. There will be no summer classes; members of the environmental co-op will meet with the magic professors to ensure that their garden and orchard are cared for. Student workers who plan to continue working over the summer will be given the location of a local office building where they can perform their job duties.”
She and Professor Lal swapped places again. Professor Lal said, “The magic department will work hard over the summer to ensure that the campus is safe again. The precautions we have taken in the past have obviously been insufficient, but we need time to come up with new and better ideas.”
There were more murmurs. This time someone stood up in the middle of the auditorium and shouted at Professor Lal. “And what if that’s not good enough?”
Professor Lal gave a short nod as though she had asked for questions and expected that one. “If we cannot be certain that we have found a way to keep all students safe, campus will not reopen. After this summer, it is possible that Chatoyant College will close forever.”
This time her words were greeted with a shocked silence. Dawn was pretty shocked herself. Close the college? Because they couldn’t make it safe? Not that she had any argument with making the college safe, but… it wasn’t as though it had been safe before, and they’d never brought up closing it.
Her hand found Rico’s and squeezed. He gave her a reassuring squeeze back, but for once it didn’t really make her feel better. After so many awful things had happened to students at Chatoyant College—at the very least, she knew that a few students had been turned to stone and several had been kidnapped to play music for the faeries—why was this the thing that had finally made them stop and do something?
Corrie and Edie were whispering to each other. Dawn caught the name “Elrath” and realized what was going on. Elrath had changed the way the campus magic worked—he had taken away the mental protection that it had always given to the human students. It was no longer the case that people just forgot about those who had been killed or gone missing. The faeries’ actions could no longer be hidden.
Dawn swallowed hard. She just hoped the magic professors were really going to do something that would make campus safe—and not just fix the magic so the faeries’ activities would be hidden again.
Dr. Everson had returned to the podium. “You will all be informed via both mail and email whether or not the school will reopen in the fall. This will be sent out no later than the second of August. If the school does not reopen, we will, of course, expedite all transfers as with those who choose to transfer. Any prepaid tuition will be reimbursed. We hope to see as many of you in the fall as possible, but our options remain to be seen.”
She managed a smile. Dawn thought it looked strained. The possibility of the college closing must be even harder on her, of course—this was her livelihood.
“We are not taking more questions at this time,” Dr. Everson continued. “If you have specific questions regarding your transfer, please contact the administration via either phone or email. We will be available during the usual hours. Thank you. You are dismissed.”
The faerie professors left the stage, Dr. Everson following behind them. Dawn leaned back in her chair, overwhelmed.