For once, Dakota was actually ready for the opening feast. Her summer had been amazing. Admittedly, she still felt like warmed-over pygmy puff droppings a few hours after taking her medication, but at the suggestion of one of her new friends, she had changed things around so she only took it at night, which had helped.
A lot of things had changed over the summer, now that Dakota had uncomplicated friends. She didn’t realize how complicated everything at RMI was until she had met Arkadia, Jackie, and Steph. Kit was a walking tornado and Drew’s cousin, and Drew was friends with both Dakota and Remington and Remington was somehow friends with both her and Claudia, who Dakota had kind of set on fire once, and who was, as far as Dakota could tell, the sole object of her brothers interests and/or affections. The most complicated thing about her Muggle friends was that they were Muggles. Dakota thought it might be a problem, but they’d believed the story she’d told about going to some posh school in London. They were going to keep in touch with some thing that the other girls kept on their Muggle hand contraptions they used to write messages. Smartphones? Anyway Dakota had used some of the money she made at her summer job to buy one. There was some way that you could make it work wherever you wanted, but you had to be eighteen or have an adult do it for you, and there was no way Dakota was going to tell Rose what she was doing, so she was just going to use it at the library, which Arkadia said would work. Dakota suspected that she’d need some help with that but hadn’t wanted to seem like too much of an idiot.
So Dakota was feeling better. She was feeling more confident and grounded and she also had a bunch of clothes that she liked a lot because of her summer job. When she arrived in the hall outside the Finer Diner, it almost even seemed like things were more brightly colored than they had been, and that probably wasn’t even a side effect of the overwhelming nausea that always hit her after using a Portkey. Using her wand, she moved her trunk to the wall with everyone else, then tucked the wand in the pocket of the red plaid skirt she was wearing and walked into the Finer Diner.
It was business as usual there, and it wasn’t until Dakota got to the Cetus fire that she started feeling anxious. But Connor and Claudia were nowhere to be seen, mercifully, so she sat down. A decision she immediately regretted because despite the fire, the floor of the Finer Diner was still very cool-approaching-cold and her skirt was not long enough for that. She probably could have used her wand to lengthen the skirt, but it was Dakota’s personal opinion that it would diminish the effect of the fishnets and platform boots she was wearing so that was out of the question. Instead, she reached into her other pocket and with a whispered apology to Peppermint, pulled out the fleece cozy that the rat had been snuggled up in. Peppermint didn’t seem to mind, taking the opportunity to scramble up Dakota’s arm and perch on her shoulder, standing on two legs and looking around. Dakota pulled out her wand again to enlarge the fleece cozy, making it big enough to sit on.
A minute later, someone sat down next to her but she didn’t have time to say hello (thankfully they were on relatively good terms and it wasn’t someone trying to start trouble on the first day back). Headmaster Morgan had gone ahead and started the speech he gave every year. This year, Dakota only paid attention long enough to see that neither Claudia nor Connor had managed to get a Head Student role before returning her attention to Peppermint. The slight, mildly malicious smirk on Dakota’s face was unsurprising, even though she didn’t catch herself making the expression.
Then that was over and the elves were out with bunches of food.
“Hey,” Dakota said. There was a pause, and then she tried a tentative, “so how was your summer?”