September 1st, 1997

"Shit!" yelped Carolina, as the contents of her backpack tumbled to the floor of the train after it gave a sudden, violent lurch. The book she was currently reading had painfully hit her, right on the knee, on its way down.

Her inkwells, thankfully, were packed tightly in her trunk, wrapped in socks – if they weren't, she would be dealing with some very stained luggage. Which was never an ideal situation, and certainly not one she was currently in the mood to deal with successfully.

Carolina was not particularly adept at packing, and was also not particularly adept at the shrinking spell. It was difficult carrying all her things, as her cello case was strapped to her back, leaving her to carry both a backpack and owl cage in her arms as well as making sure her levitating trunk didn't hit anyone in the face, which would be unfortunate, depending on the person. She hadn't yet mastered the un-shrinking spell, and so didn't want to risk shrinking her luggage, which was more expensive than she could afford to lose.

A boy, short for his age, leaned against the door of his compartment, grinning at her. "All right there, Leonetti?" he asked her in that tone of voice she absolutely hated, mocking but still kind, somehow. It drove her up the wall because she couldn't reasonably be mad at him.

"Eat dung, Jones," she snapped at her friend, regretting her harsh reaction a little. But not a lot. He talked that way on purpose because he knew it annoyed her. Carolina sighed. "Sorry, Matt, it's been a long morning. Good to see you."

"Nice to see you too, Carolina."

"See you later," she mumbled, stumbling down the hallway, nearly dropping her Barking Owl, Kevin. He woofed (yes, woofed) in annoyance and beat his wings against his cage.

"Don't you want to join us, Leonetti? Goldstein, Smith and McConaughey are in here too."

She slowed down and looked at him, giving a dry little laugh. "I'm pretty sure Althea would kill me in my sleep if I didn't go find her."

"She probably would," he said, nodding, seeming slightly disappointed. "We don't want to risk that. See you later?"

"Yep," she said, giving him a nod, and hurried down the corridor as quickly as her legs would take her. She was a bit annoyed he hadn't offered to help – she wouldn't have let him, of course, in the name of feminism, but it would have been nice of him to at least ask her, in the name of chivalry.

She and Matthew Jones had a… complicated past, to say the least. She had gone out with him the previous year for a couple of months but had dumped him because she had soon learned that she didn't actually like him all that much, at least in a romantic way. Now in their sixth year, Matthew was still almost sickeningly nice about it. Just be pissed off like a normal person would be, Jones, for crying out loud, she couldn't help but think every time she saw him.

Needless to say, she did not particularly want to join him and his friends, as nice as they all were. The awkwardness of that situation would probably age her prematurely and to be completely honest, Carolina did not really want to look any more like her mother than she already did.

"Oi! Lina!" someone shouted from down the corridor. Her best friend, Althea Clearwater, was waving from the compartment, along with one of their dorm-mates, Isobel MacDougal.

"Hi!" Carolina greeted her friends, struggling in with her luggage. They jumped up to help, and finally Carolina could sit down. Kevin hooted from his cage, and Carolina shot him an annoyed glance – the damn owl never shut up. "Thanks, ladies. How was your summer?"

"Rubbish, to be honest," Althea frowned, and scratched her arm. "Dad wanted me to stay home, but luckily for me Mum put her foot down."

Carolina smiled. "I love your mum."

"Great, you can have her."

"Nah, my mum would flip her lid. What about you, Isobel, how was your break? Where's Anise, by the way?"

"Quite boring. Anise went to see if she could find Sue, said she'd come back though."

"What about Padma or Lisa? I had a look on the station but didn't spot them. I do hope they're here," said Carolina. She knew it was a possibility that the Patil twins might not return – they almost hadn't the year before, and Carolina felt that a lot more people wouldn't be showing up this year.

Isobel nodded, looking bored. "They were with Parvati, Sabrina and Lavender. Padma said she'd see me at dinner."

"Oh, okay," Carolina said. Isobel went back to looking out the window.

"Can you believe Snape's the headmaster this year?" Althea remarked, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Honestly? No," said Carolina.
"I wonder what it's going to be like," wondered Isobel, chewing on her hair and gazing out the window thoughtfully.

Carolina didn't want to think about what it would be like. Dumbledore had been the perfect headmaster – wise, clever, and wonderfully loopy. Snape was none of these things, and Carolina was no fool. She had believed Harry Potter when he said that the Dark Lord was back, and she knew that now, more than ever before, he was truly and wholly back – he was ready to take over the wizarding world. Snape was the Dark Lord, Hogwarts Edition, in Carolina's opinion.

"Ten galleons that it's the worst year of our lives," Althea said.

Carolina widened her eyes. "That's a lot of galleons."

Althea gave a dry little laugh. "Well, I'm not worried that I'm wrong. It's Snape, for crying out loud, of course it's going to be terrible." Carolina nodded in agreement.

"Do you think it's true?" Isobel said. "That he killed Dumbledore?"

"If it is true," said Althea darkly, "then I'm going to go home."

The compartment door opened suddenly, and all three of them jumped. Anise winced. "Sorry," she said, sitting down next to Isobel. "Hi, Carolina."

"Hello, Anise, good to see you. Good summer?" Carolina asked warmly. Although Anise wasn't her best friend, the two had grown quite close over the years. After all, Anise was the only one in their dormitory who got Carolina's references to Muggle pop culture, as her father was a Muggleborn.

Anise shook her head sadly. "Not really. Dad's gone on the run." From the unsurprised looks on Isobel's and Althea's faces, Carolina guessed that they already knew.

"Oh no, Anise, I'm so sorry, that must be really hard."

"Yeah, Mum's a wreck. But we were a little prepared for it at least. He was even thinking about it last year, but just about the second Scrimgeour died, he went as fast as he could. It's all quite hush-hush, I probably shouldn't be telling you… our excuse is that he's visiting family in Norway, though I doubt anyone actually believes that." Carolina stood up and gave Anise a short hug, not knowing what to say. Anise leaned into her gratefully, and Carolina sat back down.

They lapsed into silence, Isobel and Anise staring out the window, Althea reading, and Carolina staring off into space. The compartment was so quiet that Carolina could hear the rustle of pages every time Althea so much as moved her hand. One thing that Carolina truly loved about being in Ravenclaw was being able to sit in silence with just about anyone without it being uncomfortable, as they all had one thing in common – they were all thinkers.

"Did you find Sue?" Isobel asked Anise after a while, who looked away from the window and shook her head.

"No. I looked, but I assume she's in a different carriage. Probably with Morag and Mandy, though."

There was another brief pause, and Carolina's stomach rumbled loudly, to her mortification.

"I hope the Trolley witch gets here soon," she said, laughing, hand on her tummy.

"Yeah, she's late. She has one job," Althea exclaimed, and then frowned. "Well, I assume she has one job. Does anyone actually know anything about her? How old is she? What's her name?"

"I've no idea. I've never really thought about her being anything else but the Trolley witch, to be honest," Anise admitted.

"I do hope she actually turns up," said Carolina.
"Why wouldn't she?" Isobel asked, looking away from the window.
Carolina shrugged. "Well, it would be just like Snape to sack the trolley witch. He doesn't seem to be very fond of joyful things."

They all laughed. Carolina started looking through her trunk, cursing herself for not packing her things tidier. "I have biscotti, if anyone's interested? Nonna seems to think that I'm going to starve whenever she's not force-feeding me."

"Well, she may actually be correct this time, if the trolley witch doesn't show up," said Anise. "And I would gratefully accept some… what was it? Biscotti."

"No, it's biscotti," said Carolina.

"Sorry. Biscotti?"
"Biscotti."

"Yes, that," Anise said sheepishly, and they all laughed. Carolina finally found the large container of biscotti that her Nonna had insisted she bring, sharing it around the compartment. Soon, there was no noise but the occasional crunch.

"Mmm," said Anise, closing her eyes. "Is that almond?"
"Yep. And vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon, too."
"Lina, your Nonna is my saving grace," Althea told her. "Next time you see her, tell her that I love her very much."

"You've never met her!"
Althea shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Anyone who can make biscuits this good, I love."

"Biscotti," Carolina corrected her, not really minding.

"I'm British, and they're biscuits," Althea told her, and Carolina laughed.

The nice moment soon came to a stop as the train jolted to a stop suddenly. Kevin screeched in alarm, as did Isobel's owl, and the cats both hissed in their carriers. Carolina didn't like the way the animals had reacted – they had probably sensed something nasty in the air, and from their agitation, it had to be something especially nasty.

"What's going on?" Anise asked nervously. Isobel silently put an arm around her.

"I don't know," Carolina stood up. She went to the window and peeked out. Seeing nothing, she went over to the door.

"No! Sit down, Lina," Althea hissed, her voice trembling. Carolina was surprised at the disappearance of Althea's usually stoic exterior, but realised that though her friend was tough, she wasn't immune to fear even though she often pretended to be.

Carolina ignored her and strained her neck, trying to see down the corridor. She thought she had seen movement, but it was too far away to tell. "I can't see anything," she said. "I'm going to go see if Padma knows anything."
"No! Carolina, leave the courageous idiocy to the Gryffindors!" Althea exclaimed, and grabbed Carolina's arm. "Sit. Down."

Carolina gently peeled Althea's fingers from her forearm. "Althea, I want to know what's going on. I'm not asking you to come with me. Now, if somebody could point me in the direction of Padma's compartment…"
"I'll show you," said Isobel, to Carolina's surprise.

"Okay," she said, and Isobel stood up. Leaving Anise and Althea to huddle together in fright, the two girls hooked arms and slid open the door. Althea quickly closed it behind them, and Isobel led Carolina down the corridor to Padma's compartment.

Isobel opened the door, quite loudly, in Carolina's opinion. Sabrina nearly fell off her seat in fright, and Padma jumped to her feet, pulling them inside and slamming the door closed as quickly as she could. "Isobel! Carolina! What are you doing here?"
"We came to see if you knew what was going on," said Carolina, again peeking out the window.

"Why on earth would we know?" Lisa asked irritably, shredding a scrap of parchment with her nails which was the only hint she gave that she was nervous.

Shrugging, Carolina turned away from the window, Isobel still wordless and attached to her arm. "Well, we didn't know, and it's better to hunt down answers and not get them than to sit and wait for them to arrive."

Padma sighed. "I agree, but-" she was cut short as she gasped. A sudden cold arrived in the air, warmth leeching away, and Carolina remembered the horrible feeling of the Dementors lurking around the school some years ago.

As if reading her thoughts, Isobel said "It feels like Dementors."

"I hate those horrible things," Parvati said, hugging herself and leaning into Sabrina.

"Who doesn't?" Lisa asked her. "Sit down, you two, for heaven's sake. You don't want to go out there now."
Carolina sensed Lisa's bad mood and thought it best not to disagree with her, even though she wouldn't have disagreed anyway. Parvati moved over to make room, and they squeezed in gratefully.

"Ordinarily, I would ask how your summers were, but now doesn't quite seem to be the right time for that," Padma said, her teeth chattering.

"Does anyone know how to cast a Patronus charm?" Isobel asked suddenly, and Lavender looked gleeful.

"I know how! I learnt in my fifth year, from the D.A… Parvati knows too."
Parvati confirmed this with a nod. "It's incorporeal, but-"

The door slid open once more, but it wasn't anyone they were happy to see. Two ministry officials stood in the doorway, one holding his wand up as if ready to defend himself. Carolina hoped it was because he was ready to defend himself, anyway – she'd rather not think of the other possibility. Heart beating quickly, she held Isobel's arm even tighter.

"Have you seen the Undesirable Number One, Harry Potter? Or his fugitive Mudblood friend, Hermione Granger?" asked the one not holding a wand. He had a thick Irish accent, and Carolina had to concentrate on his words so she could understand.
"No," said Parvati stiffly, jiggling her knee.

"We are concerned that he may be in contact with some of the people on this train… nay, this very compartment…" said the man, eyeing Parvati's scarf and the lion patch ironed onto Lavender's bag.

"We know him," Lavender said, "but he's not here. And I haven't seen him since the end of sixth year."

"Nor have I," said Parvati, "so you can stop looking at us so accusingly, please."

The two men eyed the girls suspiciously. The Irish one let his eyes linger uncomfortably longer than his associate did, and Sabrina let out a terrified little squeak when he looked at her. When his eyes got to Carolina, she suddenly became very aware that she was still in her Muggle clothes. She slouched, willing him to look away and move on down the train.

"You a Mudblood?" demanded the man rudely, looking her up and down in a rather lewd manner, taking in her Muggle dress and Doc Martens. Carolina wished that she had picked a more conservative dress, but it was unusually warm for early September, and so she had thrown on a summer dress, not thinking of whether or not it was revealing. But I shouldn't have to worry about that, she thought.

"N-no," she said. Isobel squeezed her arm comfortingly, and she huddled as far back into her seat as possible, grateful for Parvati and Isobel on either side of her, feeling a bit more protected. She slipped a hand into her pocket and clasped her wand, not intending to use it but comforted by its mere presence.

"Then why're you wearing Muggle clothes?"

"I'm not. I mean, I am, but I'm not a Muggleborn. I just like these clothes because they're cool," she told him, conveniently leaving out the fact that her mother was a Muggle.

He leered at her, and she shivered. "Well, if I were you," he said, not even trying to hide the fact that he was staring at her chest. Carolina crossed her arms over her breasts, and the man grinned. "if I were you, I would stay away from filthy, Muggle apparel. Things aren't the same as they used to be, girl, and you'd best remember that."

With one last sweeping look around the compartment, the man and his associate left, and the girls collectively let out a breath.
"Are you alright, Carolina?" asked Padma in a concerned voice, leaning across Parvati to pat her on the arm.

Carolina shook her head. "That really freaked me out, Padma."
"He was blatantly sexual," Lisa said, shaking her head in disgust, her eyes full of sympathy. "Just disgusting."

"You poor thing," Lavender said, and hugged her.

Carolina smiled. She didn't know Lavender very well as they were in different years and different houses, but she appreciated her warmth after the coolness of that horrible man. She knew Parvati a bit better as she often spent time with Padma, but she'd never really had much to do with Lavender. "Thanks, girls," Carolina said, feeling extremely grateful for their warmth.
"You two are staying right here until the train starts moving again," Padma said, and Isobel and Carolina nodded.

Sabrina shivered, rubbing her hands together. "I can still feel the dementors." Lavender put an arm around her, and the girls sat in scared silence.

"Have you really not heard from Potter and Granger? And Weasley?" Isobel asked Parvati and Lavender.

They both shook their heads. "Truly, we haven't. I was being honest," Parvati told her, hand over her heart as if she was making an oath.

"Me too. Besides, we weren't incredibly close. I mean, we were friends, but not like best friends, you know?" Lavender said.

"Oh," said Isobel. "I didn't think you would have heard from them, I just thought it was a possibility, I suppose."

"Why didn't they ask about Ronald, I wonder?" Lisa said.

"Oh, yeah," Parvati said. "Ginny told me that he has a bad case of Spattergroit, and that he's at home on bedrest. Whether or not that's true, I don't know, but that's what she told me."

"I bet that's a lie. He's got to be with them, right? I mean, they were inseparable," Padma said.

"Yes, wherever Harry goes, Ron and Hermione go with him," Lavender agreed.

A thought struck Carolina suddenly, and she started giggling uncontrollably. Everyone turned to her, mildly shocked.

"Um, are you alright, Carolina?" Padma said hesitantly.

"Yes! Oh, I'm sorry, it's just… do they really, truly think that Harry Potter would be on the train? Do they really think he's that stupid?" she snorted. "I mean, he killed You-Know-Who when he was a baby, and they somehow think that he'd be dumb enough to be on the train?"
Sabrina started giggling too. "Well, they might as well be thorough, and check The Leaky Cauldron, too," she said, and that set them all off, even though it wasn't super funny.

They laughed and laughed, bordering on hysterics, and Carolina was glad that she would never have to doubt her friends – there would always be laughter, regardless of the war. Less, maybe, but she supposed there would always be things to laugh at if you wanted it enough.

They laughed the fear away, and the cold not long after that, and soon they had laughed the train back into motion again. Wiping tears from her face, Carolina stood up, pretending as though her knees weren't shaking, pretending as though she didn't feel dirty all over from the way that horrid man had looked at her.

"Thank you for your hospitality, ladies," she said sweetly. "Isobel and I really must head back now."
"Let's do it again sometime," Lisa said pleasantly, as though they'd merely been having tea.

After exchanging goodbyes, Carolina stuck her head out the door first to make sure that the Ministry officials really had left and weren't standing outside the door waiting for them. She knew that this wasn't likely, but she checked anyway.

Althea and Anise looked positively sick with worry when they returned. Anise's face was streaked with tears, and Althea was as pale as Carolina had ever seen her.
"Oh, thank god," Anise said, and jumped up, hugging Isobel and Carolina fiercely and tightly.

"We thought… we thought…" Althea whispered, uncharacteristically quiet.

Carolina sat down and put an arm around her friend. "Whatever you thought, forget it, okay? We're both just fine and dandy, right Isobel?"

"Yes. Fine and dandy, Althea," said Isobel, although she looked as though she wanted to hide under her bed and never come out.

"You've been gone half an hour!" Althea said accusingly.

"When the cold came, we thought it best to stay with Padma and the others, just in case we ran into someone in the hallway. Did they come in here?"

Althea nodded. "Yeah. They asked if we'd seen Harry Potter and Hermione Granger and when we said no, they left. They seemed like they were in a hurry."

"They sure weren't in a hurry when we saw them," muttered Carolina, and Isobel pretended to shudder. Or perhaps she actually did shudder; Carolina found Isobel a bit hard to read.

"What do you mean?" Anise asked worriedly.

"Well. They commented on my clothes, and then they seemed to quite enjoy the view. Not talking about the view from the window."
"Ohhh," Anise said softly, widening her eyes in understanding.

"So, they undressed you with their eyes, you mean?" Althea asked, pursing her lips.

"Yes. Well, one of them, the Irish one. The other one looked quite bored. And that reminds me – I'm going to put on my robes now, and then I'm going to burn this dress."
"Don't burn the dress! You look so pretty in it!" said Anise.

"Well, that awful man certainly seemed to think so, which is my main point," said Carolina. She pulled her robes from her trunk, and the others, realising that it was getting quite late, did the same.

Taking off her boots, Carolina wondered how the year would be. It certainly hadn't gotten off to a fantastic start.

0o0o

"What's McGonagall doing at the teachers' table already? Shouldn't she be with the first years?" Anise asked, as they entered the Great Hall.

They sat down, Althea and Isobel on the other side of the table. "That's odd," said Carolina, scrunching up her nose. She spotted Padma further down the table and waved at her. Luna was sitting at the Gryffindor table with Ginny Weasley and Neville Longbottom, which wasn't uncommon for her to do, but Carolina felt that it was a bit dangerous to do so now that they had a biased, evil, prick as Headmaster.

There was a sudden commotion as the doors opened once again. A dumpy, strawberry-blond witch entered the hall, with a crowd of nervous first years (less than usual) trailing after her. She had an arrogant smirk on her face, and smugly stood in McGonagall's spot. Carolina wouldn't have been surprised if she turned around and stuck her tongue out at the Transfiguration professor, as her smugness was unmitigated.

"That's Alecto Carrow," whispered Anise, tightly clutching Carolina's arm. "She was a Death Eater – wanted until quite recently, I believe."

"Well, what in the name of Rowena Ravenclaw is she doing here, then?" asked Althea, staring daggers at the witch.

"I saw in the Daily Prophet – don't look at me like that, Althea, I just read it for research purposes now- that she's the new Muggle Studies teacher. And her brother, Amycus, is Defense."

"Where's Professor Burbage?" asked Isobel, unusually alarmed. "I liked her!"
"She 'retired', apparently," Anise replied grimly, using air quotes. "I don't believe a word of it."

"It still doesn't explain why she's doing the Sorting instead of McGonagall," said Carolina with a frown. There was not a chance that McGonagall had stepped down from her Deputy Headmistress position. Although, with the increasing political pressure, Carolina could see why she may have backed away. Carolina just didn't imagine that she would have. It just wasn't her style.

"My dad said it was because they're now-" Anise stopped talking in the middle of her sentence, watching Snape warily.

He had risen from Dumbledore's – his – chair, and the Great Hall fell quiet immediately, apart from the occasional whisper. I bet he gets off on the amount of power he now has, Carolina thought, trying not to giggle.

"The Sorting shall now commence," he said, in his usual, nasally voice.

Alecto smiled sickeningly up at him, and then began reading from a list of names, the parchment from which she was reading them worryingly small. One by one, the little first-years went up to the rickety old stool, and Alecto plonked the Sorting Hat on their heads, lacking any semblance of grace whatsoever.

McGonagall was in a quiet fury and seemed to be on the verge of setting the whole Great Hall alight, and she wasn't the only professor to look that way. So many centuries-old traditions had been broken and they hadn't even eaten yet, and Snape was the victim of many a furious glare.

"What about the Sorting Hat's song?" Althea whispered. "Don't tell me he's banned the Sorting Hat's song, too!"

"It would be just like him to. The prick," Carolina muttered back. "Besides, he probably doesn't want it to sing something like it did last year. It was getting rather political."

The seven new Ravenclaw students, four boys and three girls, joined the table quietly, huddling together nervously.

Snape stood at the podium in front of the teacher's table again, and once again the Great Hall fell silent. Carolina half-wondered if he used some sort of spell to make everyone shut up - she wouldn't have put it past him.

"There are many things, this year, that shall be radically different to how this school was run in the past," he said, staring down at them all. "I will not run this school as… frivolously as the previous Headmaster did. I will not tolerate any foolish, time-wasting behaviour or activities. This includes: Quidditch," at this there was an eruption of angry yells, Carolina's included – but Snape held up a hand. "Silence!" he boomed, and silence was what he got.

"As I was saying," he glared, "there shall be no more Quidditch, nor Chess club, nor Gobstones club… any club at all, excluding Homework club, is a waste of time and resources, and shall not be permitted. There have also been changes to staff – if Professor Carrow and Professor Carrow would care to stand up-" Alecto rose, as did a pasty, giddy-looking man.

"Professor Alecto Carrow will be taking on the role of Muggle Studies teacher, after the… unfortunate resignation of Professor Burbage. Furthermore, Muggle Studies shall now be compulsory for every student, regardless of year level."

"Compulsory?" Althea whispered. "That doesn't bode well, does it? What about the subject is so urgent that it needs to be compulsory?" Carolina shook her head, both in agreement and to try to get Althea to shut up – she didn't want to make the year any worse for herself by getting detention on the very first day.

"Her brother, Professor Amycus Carrow, is now the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which is, again compulsory; even if you are an OWL or NEWT student whom has previously dropped the subject. Curfew is 6:00 for everyone, including prefects, and those caught out of bed after that will be punished accordingly."

"Accordingly my arse," Althea muttered, and Carolina nudged her foot under the table. Shut up, she mouthed, and Althea rolled her eyes, but, thankfully, kept her mouth closed.

"In addition," continued Snape, his eyes moving across the crowd of students. "Professor Carrow and Professor Carrow shall also be taking on the positions of Deputy Heads."

Carolina's mouth fell open. She couldn't imagine anyone else but McGonagall as Deputy Head – it seemed wrong for her not to be Deputy Headmistress, and apparently Carolina was not the only student to feel that way. There were more cries of outrage, and McGonagall's obvious fury was now explained.

"I would like to remind you that if you have any information on any students you notice to be missing, please alert either of the Deputy Heads immediately – both for the sake of your own safety, as well as the safety of those missing. That will be all. I do not wish to remind you that I will not tolerate foolishness in my school."

Snape returned to Dumbledore's – his – seat, and volume in the Hall quickly rose, with people furiously muttering to their friends. The food appeared, and Carolina found that she wasn't all that hungry anymore.

She half-heartedly dished up, stabbing her steak and cutting it up viciously.

"I can't believe it," said Anise, shaking her head in bewilderment. "I just can't believe it."

"I can't believe that he's cancelled Quidditch," Carolina said furiously, shooting a glare at Snape which he thankfully did not see. Carolina had joined the Ravenclaw team as one of the Chasers the previous year and she loved it. Flying was very therapeutic to her, and she decided that she wouldn't let Snape decide whether she could fly or not. "But he can't stop me from flying," she said. "He won't stop me from flying – I swear on it."
Anise looked alarmed; Althea merely smiled. "But Carolina, you'll get in trouble!"
"A Disillusionment charm, and he'll never know. Besides, he only said Quidditch was banned, not the act of flying itself."
"Yes, but he probably also meant flying. Or he'll decide when you're up there that flying isn't allowed and wait until you land to tell you," Anise said worriedly, twirling spaghetti onto her fork.

Carolina shook her head. "He's not going to know, Anise. I doubt he really cares what we do, anyway – he only cares about the Syltherins, and that the Gryffindors are as miserable as possible. He's never given a flying fuck about the Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs before, and why should he start caring now that he's in charge? Even more reason for him not to."

"I suppose you're right," Anise said hesitantly. "Just be careful. We don't know yet what the Carrows are capable of… but from the sounds of it, they aren't going to be merciful with their punishments."

"I think you're right about that, Anise," Althea commented, sipping on her pumpkin juice. Carolina wrinkled her nose; she had always hated pumpkin juice. "If they're as ugly on the inside as they are on the outside, which I think they probably are."

Before long, dessert appeared, and Carolina found that her appetite had mysteriously returned.

"Thank Merlin," breathed Althea. "I was half-scared that it wouldn't show up."

"Why?" asked Carolina, with a mouth full of apple crumble.

"Well, as we established earlier, ol' Snapesters doesn't like joy very much, and I can't think of much that brings me more joy than dessert."

Althea was, in a way, correct. There was no dismissal from Snape. He simply waved his hand and dessert disappeared when he felt that it should, regardless of whether or not people had managed to eat any.

"Is that it?" Althea exclaimed, looking at her wristwatch. "That was barely five minutes! The bastard."

"Bastard indeed," Anise agreed, and Althea pretended to faint.

"Anise Peasegood, swearing? Surely not. Isobel, pinch me, for surely I am dreaming."

Isobel pinched her.

Anise was one of the prefects for their year, along with Matthew Jones, and soon had to leave them to join the other prefects in escorting the first years to Ravenclaw tower. "There's really no point all of us going this year," she said as she left. "There's hardly any of them."

"There really is a tiny bunch this year," remarked Althea, crinkling her brow.

"Yeah. Makes me wonder how many there would be if Muggle-borns weren't banned…" Carolina frowned. She herself was a half-blood and had jinxed many a prejudiced Slytherin in her time, as her mother was a Muggle. She was lucky that her father had managed to fake documentation for her mother, claiming that she was a half-blood that had been educated at home, to explain away the fact that nobody had ever heard of her. It also helped that Carolina's father wasn't well-known in the UK's wizarding community, as much of his magical education had taken place in one of Italy's magic schools.

They had arrived at the moving staircases, and Althea looked gloomy all of a sudden. "I do wish the Trolley witch had come," she grumbled. "I was going to buy so many cauldron cakes… enough to last at least a fortnight."

"Well, I can't help you with cauldron cakes, but I do have a Kit-Kat in my trunk if you're interested."

Althea scoffed. "If I'm interested? And you call yourself my best friend…" Carolina grinned, and promised that when they arrived at their dormitory, she would find the Kit-Kat.

When they finally arrived at Ravenclaw Tower, they didn't hang around the common room, where some of their peers were catching up. After waving to Mandy and Sue, they headed straight up to their dormitory, exhausted, and Althea immediately flopped onto her bed. "I missed this bed," she sighed. "If I could take it with me everywhere, I would."

Carolina smiled, and rummaged through her trunk searching for the chocolate she had promised her friend. "Aha!" she exclaimed, holding it up triumphantly. "Head's up," she exclaimed, and Althea sat up, hands out to catch the sweet.

Carolina chucked it at her, and Althea missed. It hit her bedside table, and she huffed. "Some Chaser you are, you can't even throw."

"I am not the problem here, Thea, it isn't my fault that you can't catch." Carolina had introduced Althea to Kit-Kats, along with other Muggle sweets, in their first year, and Althea had remained a big fan ever since.

"Oh, hi, Luna," said Carolina, as Luna, Isobel and Anise entered the dormitory. Anise and Isobel went straight to their beds and began unpacking, but Luna wandered over to Carolina, a small smile on her pale face.

"Hello Carolina," she said, as softly as ever.
"Did you have a good summer, Luna?" Carolina asked.

"Yes. I was fortunate enough to attend a rather beautiful wedding, and even more fortunate to be bitten by a gnome… look, you can still see the teeth marks." Luna showed Carolina her hand, on which there was a few very faint tooth markings.

"Wow. That's, um, cool. I like your earrings, by the way. Very… individual."

"Thank you, Carolina. Daddy shrunk a copy of The Quibbler and I turned it into an earring. It even opens, look," Luna unhooked the earring from her ear and showed Carolina that the tiny magazine did, in fact, open. "And how was your summer, Carolina?"

"It was very nice; we went to Italy to visit my Dad's family." Carolina would give anything to be back in Calabria with her father's family, tanning on the beaches and eating prosciutto and running wild with her cousins.
Luna nodded. "Yes, I was thinking to myself that your accent had a much more prominent Latin tinge."

"Hey, Carolina," Althea interrupted loudly from across the room.

Carolina turned her head, slightly annoyed. "Yeah?"

"Do you think you could help me with my Transfiguration essay? I need someone to proof-read."
"Yes, of course, in a moment," said Carolina. She turned back to Luna, but she had already made her way over to her bed by the window and was brushing her long hair dreamily, as though she'd simply forgotten that they'd been having a conversation. Carolina gave Althea a look, and Althea merely raised her eyebrows in return, as if she were saying 'What? Don't look at me.'

"Do you have to do that?" Carolina hissed at her friend, as she sat at the end of the bed.

"Do what?" Althea asked quietly, tilting her head innocently.

Sighing, Carolina rolled her eyes. "You know what I'm talking about, Althea. You're so rude to Luna. She's not that bad, you know. If you just tried to get to know her, you'd like her."

"I wasn't being rude, and I do like her, Lina; I simply haven't the time to talk about Nargles and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks all day," Althea said, as she rummaged through her trunk. Carolina couldn't help but think that Althea was avoiding her gaze.

Carolina scowled. "You are being rude, and Luna is a lovely girl. Now give me that essay so I can go to bed." She was exhausted, and they had Muggle Studies second period. Carolina had a gut feeling that she would need to be well rested to deal with the class – she didn't like the look of Alecto Carrow. Not one bit. Nor Amycus, for that matter, but there was just something about Alecto that particularly put her off.
"Here, found it," Althea said, rudely shoving the essay in Carolina's direction. Carolina frowned, at Althea's lack of manners, but said nothing.
"I don't even know why you want my help; you write half my essays for me," she said with a sigh.

"Yes, well, I just need you to proof-read."

"Can't you do it?"

"Two sets of eyes are better than one."

Carolina sighed, again, and started reading. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, Althea," she said.

"Good!" Althea said brightly. "Thank you. I just wanted to make sure it was perfect. You know how McGonagall gets."
Carolina scoffed. "Please, I think you're McGonagall's favourite student. How many times has she smiled at you, in your whole Hogwarts career?"
Althea made a big show of counting out on her fingers, and brightly held up one of her hands. "Five. But she likes Hermione Granger more than me."
"I think everyone likes Hermione Granger more than you."
Althea pretended to be offended. "Rude."

Carolina laughed. "Yes, but I don't see you denying it. I'm going to bed, and if you bother me again, I will kill you in your sleep."
"Sure you will," said Althea, sticking out her tongue.
"I will. I'm going to go shower," said Carolina, rising from the end of Althea's bed.

"Kay."

Carolina's bed was next to Althea's which was both a blessing and a curse; the two often talked late into the night, which Carolina loved, but it was also a bad thing as they were both constantly tired. However, it wasn't uncommon for members of her house to be tired. A good portion of Ravenclaw students were night owls or insomniacs, and there was usually always someone awake at any given hour.

Carolina made her shower almost blisteringly hot and scrubbed until her skin was bright pink. She still felt dirty from the Irish man's look – he hadn't even touched her, but the way he had looked at her, as though she was a piece of meat and nothing more, turned her stomach. She felt sick at the memory, and didn't think that there was much chance of a good night's sleep tonight.

After a brushing her teeth, washing her face, and changing into pyjamas in the bathroom, Carolina returned to her bed, yawning.

"Goodnight, everyone," Carolina said to the dormitory in general, and pulled the curtains around her bed.

Turning off the lamp next to her bed, Carolina stared up at the ceiling, listening to her dorm-mates and wondering what on earth the next day would be like. Rowena Ravenclaw, what will tomorrow bring? she asked the ceiling.

She received no answer.

Hello. I know that a lot of people dislike reading OCs, but I like to write them, and so I shall. I've had this fic in my head for a while now, and on my computer files even longer, as I've been quite hesitant to post.

If you read this, I would love to hear your thoughts, and any feedback you may have is very much appreciated. I'm still learning, and so I love constructive criticism.

Have a good day/night!
-audreyoctopus :)