Molly was all of nineteen years old when she discovered she was a witch. It was a charming coming out story, really, involving her girlfriend and ex-girlfriend coming to blows at her birthday party in an Applebee’s. Molly was embarrassed by both of them and their dramatics. She closed her eyes and wished desperately to disappear.
And she did.
She materialized back in her dorm at the University of Wisconsin, disoriented and confused. There was a bang and a flash, and a woman in a black uniform appeared before her—a magical safety officer, she would later learn.
Molly was given an ultimatum: give up her powers immediately, or agree to transfer to an academy of magic.
The officer answered her questions. Yes, this was all real. No, she didn’t miss her letter from Hogwarts. Yes, she can probably do more than teleport from place to place—but they’d only know after a full evaluation. The school would be in the United States, on the East Coast—the only campus training witches over the age of eighteen. And don’t worry, they are old professionals at making the transfer smooth and sensical to the mortals in new witches’ lives. No one will think you strange for running off to a new school. Oh, yes, witches live in the mortal realm. Always have. They just keep a low profile.
Molly agreed to make the transfer, despite feeling dizzy and spellbound, because truthfully she always felt like something wasn’t right. She thought it was the gay thing for most of her life, but even after coming out, she felt perpetually othered.
The officer, who never offered her name, filled her in on basic magical history as they prepared to make the journey. Witches have been around as long as anyone else. Anyone accused of witchcraft in history? Definitely a witch—but usually one who broke one of the basic tenets of magical life. Even the most skilled and well trained witch cannot always control her powers, and when societal power mixes with magical power, chaos ensues. So it was decided long ago, by the Universal Guild of Magical Women, that witches would only occupy roles as healers, advisors, and right hand women to those who held political power in the mortal realm. Witches are not to ever use their powers for fame or political gain. There are slip ups, of course, almost every bad man in history had a woman by his side, and she was usually a devient witch.
The Guild does its best to prevent this from happening—they’ve figured out a mix of magic and technology that allows them to monitor magic usage, and they aren’t above stripping witches who won’t follow the rules of their abilities. But every once in a while someone slips through the cracks.
Hollins Harper Hall has a less than sterling reputation. You see, budget restrictions had the United States Magical Cooperation Board trying to cut corners wherever they could, so three years ago Harper Hall—the reform school school for wayward witches—was combined with Hollins Hall, historically a place for witches who came into their powers later in life.
It is already difficult for the late bloomers to gain their magical footing, and being housed and taught alongside witches convicted of mild criminal behavior can make their situation more difficult. Still, the faculty at Hollins Harper Hall pay little attention to the way the rest of the community views them. They work diligently to educate all of the witches under their care, and truly, they don’t get enough credit for the results they produce.
Molly likes the small campus so far. She has made a few friends, and she joined the flying team. Soaring on a broomstick is a surprisingly athletic feat, where form and core strength are important if you wish to go fast. Molly attended her mortal school on a basketball scholarship, so she is happy to get to continue her active lifestyle.
The professors and other students are friendly enough, though she can’t help but be wary of witches with the glimmering amber “P’s” imprinted on the inside of their wrists. The “P” stands for prison, penance or penalty, —depending on who you ask, but it is definitely the mark of a witch under reform.
“I like to think it stands for punishment,” a reform witch says, when she catches Molly staring at her glittering wrist. The girl is seated at the desk beside Molly, and she winks with a chuckle.
That word makes Molly’s cheeks color instantly, and she hopes the other witch doesn’t notice. In her reading about witching history, she learned that the culture was originally quite punitive—witches needed to be humble, given their powers, and they were kept that way using strict corporal punishment. While she is happy they have evolved, Molly can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be switched while naked in the woods, or to stand in the corner of a classroom with her pants around her ankles, like witches in the past.
Especially if it was by her magical defense instructor and dorm mistress, Professor Hollow, who appears to be in her late thirties, has an indiscernible Eastern European accent, and has already featured heavily in some of Molly’s fantasies. Still, the slight crush wasn’t enough to get Molly to diligently complete the reading for Hollow’s class.
“Emily,” Hollow says to the reform witch, from the front of the classroom, “get your feet off your desk.”
“Anything for you, M’lady,” Emily replies, letting her boots land on the ground with a clomp.
Hollow lectures for a bit on the mindset aspects of blocking a blow with magic, and Molly closes her eyes and tries to practice the headspace described, based on the lecture—since she barely skimmed the chapter before class.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Emily whispers, “it’s easy to knock yourself out like that.”
“Shhh,” Molly says, not opening her eyes.
“I’m serious, little witchling.”
“I’ll take my instruction from Miss Hollow, thank you.”
“Alright class,” Hollow says, “Emily has graciously joined us to help practice some of these techniques for defense. Would someone like to volunteer to give it a shot?”
Molly looks at Emily, confused. Why is a witch in reform assisting in a classroom?
“She did,” Emily says, pointing to Molly, “she is very eager.”
Molly glares, but Hollow looks so pleased by her initiative that she vows to try her best. She walks to the front of the classroom with Emily.
“Looks like you’ll be taking your instruction from me,” Emily says with a grin.
Hollow takes Molly by the shoulders, adjusting her posture, before beckoning for Emily to stand across from her.
“Just a mortal blow to start,” she says, “Emily will move to strike you, and you’ll use the simple blocking technique to stop her.”
Molly doesn’t remember the exact incantation for the technique from her reading. Something with the latin word for block—oblitero?
Emily looks so smug, with her shoulders squared up for a fight. The fact that Molly towers over her doesn’t seem to phase her in the least.
“Slowly, Emily,” Hollow says.
Emily raises her fist, with unnecessary dramatic flourish, and throws a half-hearted punch towards Molly.
Molly chants the part of the spell she remembers in her head, focuses with all her might, and promptly sets the floor underneath Emily on fire. Molly gasps and jumps back, but Emily simply rolls her eyes and flicks her wrist.
Water falls, seeming to come from the ceiling, and the fire is out as quickly as it started.
“Oblitero, right?” Emily says.
Molly doesn’t respond, jaw too slack to form words.
“That means to obliterate, Sporty Spice,” Emily pokes her.
“Obstructionum is the word you were looking for,” Hollow says, “as stated in the chapter—and the study guide.” She looks stern, and unimpressed, and Molly looks away, feeling ashamed.
“Take your seat please, Molly, and stay back after class.”
Molly retreats to the back and sinks down into her desk.
The next girl who spars with Emily, Agatha, blocks her slow-moving fist easily—and gets to progress to stopping a magical blow. Emily conjures sparks between her fingers easily, with such control. Molly wonders what that feels like.
After Hollow dismisses the class, she sits at her desk and motions for Molly to move closer to her.
“I’m going to ask you something, and I’m going to ask you to be honest with me,” she says, folding her hands, “and if I suspect you are lying, I’ll cast a lie detection spell, and you won’t like what happens if it reveals that you did.”
Molly’s stomach flutters, her mind flashing to the image of herself bent over the desk, Hollow yielding a cane. Silly, she admonishes herself, those practices are outdated.
“Okay,” she says softly.
“Your marks in flying and your physical sparring classes are good. But you aren’t doing well with me, or in your potions class. I want to help you, but I need to know if this is an issue of genuine struggle, or if you simply aren’t trying.”
Molly sighs, looking at her tight-covered knees. “I’m not totally not trying.”
“I’m not a native speaker, please don’t hit me with a double negative.”
Molly thinks there is a hint of a smile somewhere in Hollow’s hazel eyes. “I’ve been doing the reading, but not taking notes or anything. Honestly, I didn’t have to work to get passing grades at my mortal school. I figured it’d be the same here. I could try harder.”
“I appreciate you admitting that,” Hollow says, “I know the transition cannot be easy, and we expect a lot of you—but it is because you are powerful, Molly. You set my classroom floor on fire today—”
“Sorry,” Molly says quickly.
“And that is only a fraction of what you are capable of.” Hollow picks up a file, thumbing through it. “Your strengths are physical, so it makes sense that potion and incantation-based magic wouldn’t come easy to you—but you have to learn the theory if you are going to control your powers. And so you need to put in the effort.”
“I understand,” Molly says.
“Good,” Hollow says, snapping her fingers.
“What is she doing here?” Molly asks.
“Well, hello to you too, Sporty Spice.” Emily perches herself on the edge of Hollow’s desk.
“I’m assigning you to apprentice under Emily,” Hollow says briskly.
“What does that mean?” Molly sputters.
“I’ve got this.” Emily leans towards her. “Little witchlings apprentice under more experienced witches—I’ll be watching out for you, making sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and I’ll help you practice and study.”
“But you’re just a student too!” Molly’s skin feels hot—the idea of apprenticing under this smug witch, who couldn’t be more than a few years older than her, infuriates her.
“Emily will graduate soon,” Hollow explains, sounding far too sensible, “in fact, she may become a teaching assistant as soon as next semester, and she is very gifted. You are lucky.”
Molly doesn’t feel lucky.
“How is she allowed to have an apprentice, or be a teaching assistant, she is a…”
“Go on,” Emily says, holding her chin high, “say it.”
“She is a witch under reform!”
Hollow clears her throat. “Molly, listen to me.” She takes Molly’s hands gently in hers. “Yes, Emily is still technically under reform, but I would not be doing this if I didn’t trust her. She is more than qualified to tutor a level one witch. You will be in good hands.”
“Emily doesn’t seem very contrite or sorry, Molly thinks, not with the way she struts around campus. “But she is a criminal.”
“I am,” Emily responds, “and there are things in my past I’m not proud of, but I’ve done everything required of me to repair that. I don’t dwell—I’m moving forward, and I will help you move forward too. You’ve got a lot to learn.”
“Molly,” Hollow says, “did you know that Emily will have those P’s on her wrists for the rest of her life?”
“No—why?” Molly asks.
“Because the witches who founded our justice system cast a spell that leaves anyone convicted of a crime with that mark, and no one has figured out how to reverse it. Emily will continue to pay for her mistakes for the rest of her life—no matter how hard she works or how much good she does, because some witches cannot see past the mark.”
“Always the optimist, this one,” Emily says, gesturing to Hollow.
Molly has to admit that a lifelong mark hardly seems fair. Especially because the witches sent to reform schools are considered to be rehabilitatable.
“Be a witch who doesn’t judge,” Hollow says, eyes seeming to stare right into Molly’s soul.
“How long will this be for?” Molly’s voice softens.
“At least until you master the skills to progress to level two,” Hollow explains, “and how long that takes is entirely up to you.”
“You can call me Mistress,” Emily says.
And Molly really, really hopes she is joking.
Molly has been on her best behavior for the last couple of weeks—she figures that the best way to avoid Emily exercising her newly given authority is to do everything right the first time. This has required long hours studying, and it has been difficult to balance that with her time on the flight team, but the long and late hours have been worth it.
Emily clearly wants to tutor her, or tell her stop messing around, or do anything teacherly, and she hasn’t been able to.
“Recite the spell for stopping a bullet,” she says, lounging on Molly’s bed in her dorm room. Molly hates the way Emily acts like she owns everything.
Molly starts to recite the latin perfectly, but finds herself yawning in the middle of the incantation. She closes her eyes as a wave of exhaustion falls over her.
“Are you getting enough sleep?” Emily says, and she sounds genuinely concerned, which somehow makes Molly even more irritated.
“Of course,” she says, “I’ve just been up late because the three hours of practice eats up a lot of my study time.”
“Let me help you,” Emily says, “I’ll come by this evening—it’ll go faster with me, I promise.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Molly says, “I’ve been doing fine.”
“Sure,” Emily agrees, “but you could be doing better.”
Molly’s skin feels hot—in that way that only seems to happen around Emily. “How could I be doing better? I’ve been acing my quizzes—every time you come stop by here to check on me, I’m able to perform all the tasks you give me.”
“Yeah, and if you want to progress to level two at a totally normal pace—you’re doing great. But you’ve got one of the strongest witches at the school to guide you. You can move faster—you just have to let me do my thing.”
“Don’t you have friends you want to hang out with?” Molly knows she is being a bitch, but the idea of giving in, of letting Emily guide her, has the new witch digging in her heels.
“Fine,” Emily stands up abruptly, “I’m going to back off, since you seem to have a handle on everything. I’ll stop coming by. If you need help—you come to me.”
“Great,” Molly says snidely, “I don’t expect I’ll need to, but I’m so glad the offer is there.”
With Emily gone, and no threat of her returning the next day, Molly decides to give herself the night off from studying. She’ll catch up the next day, she thinks, grateful for the space to breathe and sleep.
Emily stays true to her word, and Molly doesn’t see her for the rest of the week. Or the week after. She also doesn’t do much studying, having burnt herself out pretty spectacularly while trying to stay ahead of the curve.
She takes second place in her first flight competition, an accomplishment that makes her popular with some flirty young witches in her physical sparring class. They ask to spar with her, and giggle when she touches them. Molly is so used to being the one simpering that she feels a little high on her newfound effect on women.
The practices, and the girls, and the parties she is invited to take up most of her time. It’s enough to have her forgetting about the first full examination in Hollow’s class—until Hollow hands out a study guide, three days before the day of the test.
Molly can feel like the panic building up in her as she scans the list of theories and terms, which only feel vaguely familiar.
“This examination will be written,” Hollow says, “and in a few weeks, you’ll complete the physical portion.”
Molly knows that she should reach out to Emily, but all she can picture is her self-satisfied smirk when she comes crawling back asking for help. So she heads back to her room to hit the books.
Emily is there when Molly arrives—legs folded under her on the bed. Molly groans.
“How did you get in here?” Molly lets her bag fall to the floor.
“I’m a witch,” Emily says. “Look, I heard you have a test—I thought I’d pop in and see if you need any help preparing. Hollow’s tests are tricky.”
“I don’t need help.”
“C’mon, sporty, let me see your notes.”
“You can leave the same way you came,” Molly says plainly.
“Wait.” Emily’s eyebrows raise in accusation. “You have notes, right?”
Molly flushes. “I’m going to take some, as soon as you leave.”
Emily shakes her head in disbelief. “You really do need someone to keep you on track.”
“I’ll be fine.” Molly opens her bag and retrieves the study guide and her notebook. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“We can talk about your poor decision-making later.” Emily takes the study guide from Molly. “Right now, let’s just focus on getting you prepared for this test.”
“I really don’t think I need to discuss my poor decision making with a former criminal.”
Suddenly, Molly finds herself pinned, face down, against her bed by some kind of invisible force. Emily pushes her knee into the younger witch’s back.
“Break the hold,” she says mockingly into Molly’s ear. “C’mon, chapter four—remember the incantation?”
Molly gasps, trying to squirm out from under Emily, but she is totally prone.
“For an athlete, you are the prissiest princess,” Emily pushes her knee in harder, “and I am so over your attitude. So here is the deal—if you don’t get at least a ninety on the test, you are off the flying team.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Actually, I can.” Emily flips Molly over onto her stomach, using her hands to pin her wrists against the bed. “Like it or not, you are my apprentice—and I decide whether you are able to balance extracurriculars and your schooling.”
“Fuck you,” Molly spits.
“It’s like watching a kitten try to roar.” Emily’s smile is anything but sweet. “Now, are you going to let me help you?”
Molly doesn’t want to be taken off the flying team, and she knows that Emily could help her—but she cannot bring herself to give in.
“The sooner you get out of here,” she says, “the sooner I can start studying.”
Emily sighs, and let’s her magical hold on Molly fade. Molly sits up and backs herself up against the wall, as far away from Emily as she can get.
“Have it your way, princess,” Emily shrugs, “and think about what you’re going to tell Coach Greanne when you have to explain why you can’t come to practice anymore.”
She snaps her fingers and disappears.
Molly throws herself down on her bed, grabbing at her sheets in frustration. There is no way she is going to be able to get a ninety on the exam, she thinks. She was hoping for a solid seventy at best—passing, with lots of room for improvement. Now there doesn’t seem to be any point in studying, not when she will be off the flying team no matter how hard she tries.
So, Molly shoves her books and notebook under her bed, and grabs her broom.
Molly doesn’t study. She parties, and flies, and flirts, trying to enjoy her freedom as long as she has it.
The afternoon of the examination, she is exhausted. She can barely hold her head up as she writes out the spells she can remember from those initial weeks of intense studying. But she leaves many of the questions blank, and she cannot meet Hollow’s eyes when she hands the test to her at the front of the room.
“This doesn’t look promising,” Hollow says, eyeing Molly curiously.
“Sit down quietly until everyone has finished, and then we’ll talk.” Hollow starts to mark Molly’s examination, shaking her head in disapproval.
Molly obeys, and the minutes feel like hours as she waits for the last witch to turn in her exam.
“Sixty three percent,” Hollow says.
That’s better than Molly thought she’d do—and it is a frustrating two points away from passing. If she’d studied…
“Tell me this isn’t your best.”
Molly shakes her head, and is surprised to find that her chest aches—Hollow’s disappointed expression is a lot to bear.
Hollow snaps her fingers, and Emily appears. Emily takes one look at Molly and snaps her own fingers—effectively going back where she came from.
Hollow snaps again, and binds Emily in place this time with a flick of her wrist.
“You told me everything was going well,” Hollow says.
Molly should enjoy watching Emily get dressed down. She isn’t sure why she isn’t deriving any pleasure from watching the tense exchange between the two witches. She also wonders why Emily didn’t tell Hollow about their arguments.
“It was—for a little while,” Emily says weakly.
“I do not appreciate being lied to.”
“I know.” Emily looks over at Molly. “I don’t think we’re a good match.”
Molly hadn’t really considered Emily’s position in all of this—that Molly’s aptitude was a reflection on her.
“Do you agree, Molly?” Hollow asks.
“Very well,” Hollow says, “Molly—go back to your room. We’ll discuss your actions at length tomorrow. I hope you’ll have more to say for yourself.”
Molly nods and leaves the classroom and its tense air quickly, feeling guiltier than she ever expected to.
Hollow gave Emily instructions to come to her room at 9pm, ready for bed. Emily tried to focus on her own work for the rest of the day, but it was difficult with her conversation with Hollow impending.
Eventually, she showered and put on the most comfortable pajamas she owned, and arrived at Hollow’s room an hour and a half early.
If Hollow is sympathetic to her nerves, her face belies it.
“You lied to me,” she says, looking too pretty with her light brown hair down, falling in soft waves around her shoulders. “I asked you repeatedly if Molly was progressing in her studies.”
“I know,” Emily says, feeling truly awful about that. “I don’t think I’m cut out to have an apprentice.”
“Oh, so, on the list of all the things I should spank you for, you want to add quitting?” Hollow’s stare is piercing.
“She wouldn’t listen to me,” Emily’s voice sounds whiny and childish, even to her own ears.
“Tell me everything that happened,” Hollow says with a sigh, “and so help me, if you omit anything—”
“I won’t,” Emily says.
“I want to believe that,” Hollow says—and that stings.
Emily tells Hollow about Molly constantly rebuking her attempts to tutor her, and about feeling defeated and deciding to leave her to her own devices—hoping if she faltered a little, she’d realize that she needed help. And finally threatening to remove her from the flying team.
“Emily,” Hollow sighs, “Molly sounds like a challenging apprentice—I’ll give you that. But you made some very basic mistakes in the way you’ve handled her, and if you’d been honest with me, I could’ve helped you avoid that.”
“It’s too late now, isn’t it?” Emily asks.
“I don’t think so. Not if you respond to this situation appropriately. You set her up for failure in your frustration, Emily. And I’m sure she is expecting that you’ll remove her from the flying team and then abandon her at this point. If she comes to understand that you aren’t going anywhere, she might open up a little. Sound familiar?” Hollow finally smiles, just a little, and Emily feels lighter.
“My situation was totally different,” she says.
“Yes, you were tangled up in a far bigger mess. But that’s why I know you can handle a slightly defiant witch. It’s important that you do well at this, Emily.”
Emily nods, because she knows. Hollow has been advocating for her to move up the ranks at the school for two years now, because she knows that the world will be harder on a witch with an amber “P” on her wrist. Her hope is that Emily can become employed at the school, and secure her position in life that way, instead of starting at the bottom upon release.
“It’s been awhile since you’ve been over my knee,” Hollow says casually, “and I suppose I don’t have to tell you that you’ve earned yourself quite a spanking.”
Emily blushes. These discipline practices aren’t out of date for a certain subset of witches—those with the inclination for it, and they have a way of finding each other.
Hollow moves from her couch to a straight back chair—much to Emily’s chagrin. The angle of the chair makes her feel so much more vulnerable, and it stretches her skin tighter, making the swats sting more.
Emily allows herself to be guided over her mentor’s knee, marveling at the mixed emotions: dread, comfort, familiarity.
Hollow doesn’t waste any time. She begins spanking Emily crisply with her palm, letting the swats fall onto her cotton pajama pants. She warms the witch up quickly.
“You’re already pink,” she says, drawing her thumb along that skin just below Emily’s shorts. “Stand up.” She pats Emily’s ass.
Emily groans, because Hollow could just pull her shorts down while she is over her knee. But Hollow likes to draw everything out—make it as embarrassing as possible
Emily doesn’t have any choice but to stand.
“Put your hands on your head,” Hollow says, looping a finger into the elastic of Emily’s shorts, and Emily does.
Hollows tugs the shorts down to Emily’s knees, and Emily shivers, feeling so very exposed. Hollow, like a true sadist, chooses this moment to lecture about honesty and responsibility. Emily squeezes her eyes shut, but Hollow smacks her inner thigh hard enough to make her yelp.
“Look at me,” she says, continuing to outline all of the opportunities Emily had to inform her about the situation with Molly.
“Please,” Emily says, and Hollow looks amused.
“Please what?” She asks.
“Just…” Emily can’t bring herself to say it.
“Just spank you?” Hollow smiles. “Oh, I intend to. Long and hard, until sitting down feels like a distant memory.” With that, she yanks Emily back over her knee, and begins to spank her in earnest—hard and fast.
Emily tries to stay still, feeling ashamed that she is tempted to kick under a simple hand spanking, and she manages for a while. But then Hollow goes for her thighs, spanking her all the way down to her knees and back up again, and she cannot help but squirm.
“I want you to materialize two things for me,” Hollow does not stop spanking as she speaks, “a hairbrush, and a cane.”
“Both?” Emily wiggles. “No! C’mon.”
“Yes,” Hollow keeps spanking, “and for that little outburst—make it a hairbrush and a switch.”
Emily goes limp, defeated, and tries to focus on repeating the incantation for materializing objects while the stinging swats continue to fall.
The hairbrush and switch appear on the table, and Hollow finally stops spanking when she notices them.
“I want you to put your palms flat on the seat of this chair,” she explains, “I’m only going to give you ten with the switch—you’ll live.”
Hollow helps a wobbly kneed Emily to her feet, and Emily bends over the chair while Hollow goes to fetch the switch.
She taps the light, whippy piece of wood against Emily’s ass, and then she brings it down five times in quick succession. The pain is intense and shocking, and Emily dances from foot to foot.
“You’re going to keep your feet still for the next set,” Hollow says. And then she brings the switch down again, fast and hard for another five strokes.
Emily moans in agony, but manages to keep her feet still.
“I’m sorry,” she says, feeling as if this is as good a time as any to apologize.
“I know.” Hollow pats the welts softy. “And we’re almost done here, but we have one more task ahead of us before we’ll put all of this behind us.”
Hollow unties the removable cushion from the seat of the straight backed chair, leaving the hard wood exposed, and Emily closes her eyes, knowing where this is going.
“Sit,” Hollow instructs, and Emily does, wincing as her skin comes into contact with the wood. “A ninety is a difficult score to achieve even with studying,” she lectures, “so let’s see how you like being tasked with something nearly impossible.”
Emily bites her lip as Hollow places some lined paper and a quill in front of her.
“You will write “I will not lie,” three hundred times, neatly, in the next fifteen minutes—with this enchanted quill.”
“Enchanted to do what?” Emily asks, fearing the answer.
“To write sloppily, and jerk about—but if you try really, really hard—you’ll be able to control it. You’ll receive five swats for every line you don’t complete, five for any lines I reject for being too sloppy, and one swat for any small instances of sloppiness in any otherwise acceptable lines. Missing any words automatically disqualifies the whole line.”
Emily sighs. “Okay.”
“I love you, Emily,” Hollow places a kiss on the younger witch’s forehead. “Good luck.”
She starts the timer, and Emily begins—and that quill is a bitch! She has to press it hard to control it, but if she presses too hard, it slips and draws a line down the paper—ruining the piece and requiring her to start over. Not to mention the distraction of her throbbing backside. By the time the timer goes off, she genuinely isn’t sure how many lines she completed.
Hollow snaps up her completed pages and begins grading them, “hmming” as she goes.
“I must say,” she finally says, “you did better than I expected—being the most stubborn witch at Hollins Harper Hall does have its benefits, I suppose. You managed to write two hundred and seventy five lines. So, that’s one hundred and twenty five swats you’ve earned for not completing the three hundred. Now, I’d say two of these just are not acceptable—so I’m crossing them out. That is one hundred and thirty five swats with my hairbrush. And there are some small sloppy instances throughout. I’ll be nice and round down to twenty. So one hundred and fifty five swats total.”
Emily swallows hard.
“I’d say that amounts to another good spanking, doesn’t it, Emily?”
Emily nods, wondering how this professor, who advocates for her and has been so instrumental in her journey, can so gleefully doll out these creative punishments.
“Must be a gift,” she says out loud. And Hollow raises an eyebrow, but says nothing, instead pulling Emily up by her wrist, and then over her knee as she sits on the chair. She rubs the cool wood of the brush against Emily’s skin.
Hollow is an absolute fiend with the hairbrush. Emily remembers this when the swats begin to fall. She is grateful that Hollow doesn’t expect her to count, because it takes all of her concentration not to swim off her lap as the punishing strokes keep coming. Hard, slow, light and stingy—she alternates between all of them, and they all hurt.
Emily loses control around the hundredth swat, legs kicking and arms flailing. Hollow pauses to adjust her position—pinning her against one knee with her other leg, so that she can really drive the lesson home.
“Please, please,” Emily begs, “I’m sorry—I’ll never lie to you again. I’ll never do anything ever again, just stop!”
Hollow delivers the last set of swats and turns the brush into thin air. She rubs Emily’s back, and burning skin, and whispers soothing words. Once her breathing slows, Hollow pulls her up onto her lap.
“It’s okay, Emily,” she says, holding her tightly. “We’re done.”
Emily melts into the contact, feeling serene and warm.
“What am I going to do about Molly?” She asks sleepily.
“Let’s talk about that tomorrow, yes? We’ll figure it out, Emily. I promise.”
Emily falls asleep on Ms. Hollow’s couch that night, not feeling up to returning to her own room. She drifts off thinking about Molly and her defiant eyes and athletic legs.