When I got to the train station, the first classmates I spotted were Sonia and Sergei Orlov, a pair of twins I liked.

"Sophie! You got taller over the summer!" Sonia rushed over and reached up to ruffle my hair. Sonia is a dhampir, so even though she's only a little bit under the average height for humans, next to Moroi she looks like a dwarf. I am much shorter than average Moroi height, so it kind of pleased me that I was taller than Sonia now.

I giggled. "You grew up more than I did." It was true. While I was wearing a simple white dress: sleeveless, a little above knee-length, and fitted to my frame, Sonia was wearing standard novice jeans and easily looked two or three years older than me. Strong features, intense blue eyes, a thick head of long, dark curls, and of course, a full hourglass figure—some girls have all the luck.

Sergei approached, greeting me with a non-protocol bear hug. I happily blushed and gave Sonia a hug too, then the dhampirs saw their teacher and it was time to go.

I wandered through the train, looking for an open compartment. After a few minutes, I saw the bouncing maroon tresses of my friend Brianna Voda in a compartment with a group of royals I knew. Perfect.

"And so anyways," she was saying as I walked in, "then he was like, is your hair real? And I'm thinking, dude, what am I, a—Sophie!" she broke off at the sight of me and leapt over to give me a hug. "Guuurl, how you been?"

"Great," I smiled, feeling a giggle come over me again. I've never figured out how hard Brianna tries to act cool, or what her version of cool is per se. She just kind of explodes. As she pulled me to the seat next to her, I noticed her long legs were adorned with rainbow-striped knee socks and converse. High quality and expensive, but not exactly formal. Brianna was in my year and an energetic fire user. She's tall, even for a Moroi, and has narrow brown eyes and a huge mass of dark red curls. I was once told her natural hair color was blonde.

Looking around the compartment, I also saw Kyle Szelsky, a popular and politically conscious senior. Hanging on his arm was Nicola Badica, a very pretty girl in my year. Next to them was Dave Ozera, a sulky bad-boy also in my year, and a black-haired freshman I could only guess was Dave's younger brother. Self-appointed party queen Hayley Conta was directly across from me, dancing in her seat to the Lady Gaga song playing overhead.

"So hey, did you guys hear about the Dragomir baby?" Nicola's voice was soft, almost raspy in that way that breathy singers sound when they're sick.

I nodded. "Dominick Dragomir, born July 8th. About a month ago."

"So it's legit?" Brianna asked. "I thought the whole the-queen-is-pregnant thing was a hoax."

Dave rolled his eyes. "You think everything's a hoax."

"I do not," huffed Brianna indignantly. "I just listen to the conspiracy theories. You can't trust everything at court."

I smiled, ready for a life-in-outer-space lecture later that night. Well, if we were roomies again this year. "Hey, did you get your dorm assignments?" I asked.

"Yeah, but they didn't send names out this year. You just get your room number at the bottom of your schedule," Kyle answered. "I'm in 301," he said, with a meaningful smile to Nicola. She blushed shyly.

"I'm in 215 in the girls' building," she said. "And Guinevere Taurus said she has 215 too."

"Ooh! Ummm," Brianna rummaged around her bag for her schedule, "286," she said. "Sophie, are you in 286?"

"I think," I said, "Lemme check. Yep." I folded my schedule but didn't put it back in my bag.

"So Devin," Kyle addressed the new boy, "Are you excited to be in the upper school this year?"

He nodded. He was definitely Dave's brother, I could see the similarity in his posture and the same tilt of his lips Dave got when he was physically comfortable but waiting for something to happen. Devin was missing the chains and eyeliner, but otherwise they were dressed alike: nice jeans, white button-ups with band T-shirts visible underneath.

"I'm actually really hungry," he said. "Is there a snack cart or something that comes around?"

Dave checked his watch. "Yeah, the lunch cart should be coming in a few minutes."

"Well, I'm tired," Hayley yawned dramatically. "4:30 is way too early to wake up for the whole day."

I agreed, and we pulled out pillows for a nap.