Paola had been very excited to receive a new telescope for Christmas. It was lightweight, had its own self-stabilizing charm built in, so that Paola could keep it aimed at whatever she was looking at even while adjusting the magnification and so that she couldn't tip it over, and it was much more powerful than her old "Beginning Stargazer" telescope that Dad had gotten her when she was eight and which possibly had a few missing screws. Paola had suffered through trying to use it as a handheld telescope and had eagerly taken the new one out to the embassy roof the very first night she had had it. Tunis still had too much light pollution to spot many stars, but Paola had made out a few that were new to her.
And now she was back at RMI, where the magic that created the underground outdoors somehow also prevented light pollution. Paola waited eagerly for the weekend, when she wouldn't have to get up early for class, to use her telescope. Friday night came, and after enough time to make sure the sun had well and truly set (productively spent drinking spicy hot chocolate and reading her new book), Paola headed out to the Outdoor classroom, where she encountered a stream of older students headed for their Astronomy lesson. Paola rerouted with a wave at the few older students she recognized from Draco and made her way to the Quidditch Pitch.
Which was somehow wet, despite the air temperature being cold enough that her breath formed clouds in the air. Paola squelched her way down the grass, far enough that she'd have an clear view without the goalposts or stands in the way. She set up her telescope, carefully locking the legs into place and making sure it was stable (of course it was, this wasn't her old junk telescope) before lining up the scope with the moon. Paola bent to the lenses and adjusted the focus until the dark blurs on the moon's surface crisped into the mares and craters she knew so well. They'd never been so clear before.
Paola loved her new telescope so much.
She swung it to find Orion, with Betelgeuse in his shoulder, and Auriga. Gemini to the side of those, and then east to Ursa Major and north to Ursa Minor and Polaris in its tail. Paola frowned thoughtfully and stared up at the sky with her naked eyes. Jupiter and Saturn were supposed to be very visible tonight, but how late was it and where in the sky would they be?
Paola spotted them finally, an hour or so above the eastern horizon. Saturn's rings gave that planet away, and Paola spent time marveling at how well she could see them with her new scope. Jupiter was even clearer, and Paola couldn't help cooing in delight as she dialed in the magnification enough to spot four of its moons.
Paola thought she heard someone nearby, but it was probably just the wind, since Paola wasn't sure anyone else would be crazy enough to be out here for fun. She started to turn her scope up to find the Pleiades, which were her favorite celestial objects. It was nice to think that the stars had company.
But suddenly a loud torrent of language she couldn't understand burst out of the night, and Paola straightened from her telescope to look around in confusion. Someone else was out here?
That was when the giant flash of light flared up out of nowhere, burning her vision white. Blue and purple afterimages stinging her eyes, Paola stumbled back in surprise, tripped over on of her tripod legs, and fell on her bottom in the mud.
"Ay, dios mio, I'm so sorry!" came the voice again. Paola shoved herself partially upright on her elbows, staring in the general direction of the voice. She couldn't see who it was at all, nor if they were holding out a hand to help her.
"I can't see!" she couldn't help saying. It came out slightly more panicked than she would have liked, with maybe a hint of tears, but she hadn't gotten to see her favorite Pleiades and wouldn't until her eyes recovered. And while she'd been sun-dazzled before, just from Tunis being a sunny place on the coast with a large body of water to throw the sun back into the eyes of girls who forgot their sunglasses, that hadn't been like this.