At the end of the Welcoming Feast the food vanished as expertly as it had arrived, and Hermione got up and cleared her throat. "Students, if you would follow your prefects to Gryffindor tower?"
Rose and Donna followed her and Ginny as they led the students out of the hall and up the staircases. Donna was watching Hermione curiously. "Aren't you a prefect this year?"
Hermione glanced back at her and blushed a little, brushing her hair back over her shoulder. A golden badge gleamed on the shoulder of her jumper. "I'm Head Girl this year, actually. Jeffrey Llywelen from Hufflepuff is Head Boy."
They arrived at the portrait of the Fat Lady, and Rose gasped. The Fat Lady was still there, but her canvas had been mangled. She sat on the floor, glaring up at the tear in the fabric. At the sight of the students, she blanched and hurriedly checked her hair in a small mirror. "Oh, lord, is it that time already? Hermione, dear, couldn't you do something about getting me patched up? This is no way to start the year."
Hermione shrugged. "Sorry, ma'am, but the Headmistress wanted us to focus on structural repairs before we started on more superficial ones."
"Superficial? Oh, where is Minerva? I'm going to give her a piece of my mind, I really am—"
Hermione raised her voice to carry to all the students. "Arma potentius aequum."
The Fat Lady sniffed. "Fine, if that's how you're going to be." With a creak the portrait swung open, and the Gryffindors filed into the common room. Donna stretched, yawning. "Y'know, as great as it is to be back, I think I'll head off to bed. What about you, Ginny?"
She nodded. "I'll be up in a minute. We were doing some last-minute repairs this morning—I never thought I'd find a better workout than one of Charlie's Quidditch practices, but this summer proved me wrong." She rolled her neck and sighed. "I've got sore muscles that I didn't even know existed."
Rose spoke up. "I think I'll head off to bed, as well." She grinned. "Might as well meet my roommates sometime."
Donna chuckled as she went up the stairs. "G'night, Rose."
"'Night, Donna." Rose opened the door to the fifth-year dormitory and walked in. "Hello? Anybody here?"
There was a rustle, and two girls came into view—Rose gulped. They were the ones who had accosted her on the train. The brunette girl was petite, with long, straight hair and blue eyes; the blonde was taller and rather gawky, with wide-set green eyes. They glared at her, and she smiled nervously.
"Hello. Guess we're going to be roommates, yeah? I'm Rose, Rose Tyler."
The brunette spoke up. "Genevieve Burgoh." She nodded at the other girl. "And this is Rebecca Fleming." She stepped closer, looking Rose up and down. "Well, well, won't this year be interesting. You don't have a pet Slytherin to protect you in here."
Rose backed up, diving into her pocket for her wand. "He's not my pet—that was the first time we'd met."
Genevieve sneered at her. "D'you think I care? Blimey, you must be as stupid as you look." There was a hiss from her feet, and she looked down to see Captain Jack growling at her. "How cute. He's protecting his mummy."
She roughly kicked him aside and Rose whipped out her wand, her voice raised angrily. "What the hell is your problem? I wasn't here like you were, so you get to treat me however you like? I don't think so."
Genevieve's eyes lit with a manic spark and she leveled her wand at Rose, settling into a dueling stance. "So dueling's the way you want it, huh?"
The door slammed open and Hermione stood in the doorway, panting a little from the stairs. Her hair was bristling with magic, and her eyes were blazing. "What in Merlin's name do the two of you think you're doing?"
Genevieve sneered at her. "Oh, look, it's another one who ran away." Rebecca's eyes widened, and she backed up.
Hermione turned to her, her expression gone eerily blank. "What was that?"
The brunette fifth-year stepped forward, her jaw thrust out angrily. "You heard what I said. You're this great big hero, just because you stepped in at the last minute. Some of us didn't have the luxury of staying away, you know."
"The luxury?" Hermione glared down at the shorter girl. "I'd suggest you close your mouth. If you keep talking, soon everyone will know exactly how much of an ignorant fool you are." Genevieve was breathing heavily by now, her eyes narrowed. She jerked her wand up, but with a silent gesture, Hermione disarmed her. She watched Genevieve, considering. "You need to talk this out with someone, Miss Burgoh. Headmistress McGonagall has selected Professor Smith to be the interim Gryffindor Head of House. I'd suggest you set up an appointment." She glanced over her shoulder at Rose. "In the meantime, I believe there's an open bunk in the seventh-year dorm. If I can't trust you lot to be in one room together, it might be better to have you separated. Do you mind?"
Rose looked at Genevieve and shook her head. "No, not at all. Let me just grab my stuff, and I'll be out of here."
Hermione shook her head impatiently. "No need. The house elves get insulted if you try to do their work for them." She snorted a little, a small smile quirking her mouth. "Took me long enough to figure that out."
"Right." Rose bent down, holding out her arms, and Captain Jack leapt into them. She followed Hermione out of the room and up the stairs, settling on her new bed with a sigh. "I don't know what her problem is, but I bet it's hard to pronounce."
Ginny left the bathroom, hairbrush in hand, as Hermione went in. "What happened?"
Rose grimaced as she changed into her pyjamas. "One of my roommates seems to have a grudge, not to mention some serious issues."
Donna frowned. "How can that be? You just got here." She raised an eyebrow. "Unless something happened your first year."
"Not that I can remember, no. I got along pretty well with my classmates, before I dropped out."
Ginny set down her hairbrush and plopped onto her bed, curious. "So, who is it?"
"Genevieve Burgoh. I met her on the train earlier—that's actually how I met the Doctor, Donna. He warned 'em off before they could make more trouble."
Ginny winced. "Ooh. No wonder she's mad. The Slytherins really had it out for her, last year—her dad's the Carrows' cousin, you see, but he married a Muggle. As soon as they were hired, they went after her."
Rose scowled. "But the Doctor wasn't even here last year, an' neither was I."
Donna nodded vigorously. "Not to mention he'd never hurt someone like that."
Ginny sighed. "I didn't say it made sense." She shrugged, her eyes losing focus. "Some people just don't know how to deal with what they've been through."
Hermione left the bathroom wearing a baggy jumper that hung nearly to her knees. "I'm going to tell Professor Smith to keep an eye on her." She sat down on her bed and pulled her hair up into a loose ponytail. "This year's going to be murder on the Heads of House. The war may be finished, but for some of these people it'll never be over." She sighed and slid under her covers, yawning as she closed the curtains. "G'night."
There was a chorus of good nights and Rose closed her curtains and curled up in her bed, staring at the top of her canopy. A sudden pang of homesickness surprised her. Captain Jack leapt up beside her, warm and purring, and she pulled him into her arms. "Oh, Jack. What have I gotten myself into?" Sure, she wasn't able to do magic on the estate, but at least things were simple there. Simple and boring, she reminded herself. She tightened her jaw. I can do this. I can.
Arma potentius aequum: "Justice is more powerful than weapons".