It was really pretty stupid, in Rhiannon Taren’s opinion, to use a Portkey to get to Rocky Mountain International. She lived with her aunt only a few hours away by car, and much less time than that by broom or even Side-Along Apparition. Although she didn’t know much about Portkeys, she did know that you had to set them up in advance, and she imagined that was someone’s job, and that it was quite tedious. Rhia hated busywork - one of the reasons her parents had quickly decided that homeschooling was the best option for her - and she didn’t see how inflicting it on someone just because they were getting paid was any excuse. On the other hand, she mused, sitting on her aunt’s couch with one hand on her trunk and the other hand holding the black dreamcatcher, if you couldn’t get a better job than that you probably weren’t very smart to begin with.
The clock in the hallway began striking, and Rhia was whisked off to the exotic land of “underneath a Muggle strip mall”.
Landing in a large hallway with what appeared to be an elevator shaft in the middle, the eleven-year-old promptly fell down, still positioned to be sitting on a couch. She hadn’t thought of that. Her gray sweatshirt and baggy cargo pants were none the worse for wear (fashion was for imbeciles) although she did check to make sure the paperback in her cargo pants pocket hadn’t been injured in the fall. It was a Muggle fantasy book, her favorite genre. Muggles were so fascinating, especially when they thought up things about magic. They were usually completely off the mark - this particular series thought that magic was divided up by gender, which was so archaic that it had swung all the way back around to amusing - but studying culture was one of the things that Rhia had done quite a bit of since her parents had sent her off to her aunt’s five years ago. Aunt Tabitha was very equipped to teach. She had two Master’s degrees - one in biology and one in anthropology - a PhD in cultural anthropology, and an EdD, and ran an internship program for prospective doctoral students at Mesa Verde studying the Anasazi. Plenty of people thought that homeschooling was just for too-Christian drones, but Rhia had done an entirely secular program and left to her own devices (and Aunt Tabitha’s direction) she had already completed some high school courses by the time she got her letter from RMI. Her goal was to be able to sit the GED exam when she turned 16, which was the earliest you were allowed to.
Brushing herself off, Rhia stood up and noticed that older students were pushing their trunks against the wall, and so did the same. He trunk was heavy, having been magicked to be able to hold all of the books she wanted to bring with her to school. She was pretty sure that the school library was not nearly as full of fun reading material as the public library in Colorado Springs, so Rhia had packed approximately a third of her personal collection, mostly scavenged from library book sales and neighborhood garage sales, before Aunt Tabitha reminded her that she would still have schoolwork to do.
There was only one door (there was also a staircase, but even if everyone weren’t going through the door, it would have been nonsensical for the school to transport them to an inexact location) so Rhia went through it, only to be stopped by a man she recognized from the school pamphlet as Deputy Headmaster Bellamy Fell. So she lined up against the wall with the rest of the first year students, making note of them at the same time as she scanned the room. One girl in particular caught her attention, mostly because their hair looked to be the same color, at least in the light of the five bonfires in the room. It was easy to figure out that the colored bonfires had something to do with the Houses - Cetus, Draco, Aquila, and Lyra - and that the regular bonfire was probably for staff.
It wasn’t too long before a Welsh man stood up and introduced himself first as Toby, then as the Headmaster, which seemed an unusual order to Rhia. Then they were instructed to take out their dreamcatchers, although Rhia hadn’t actually put hers away yet, and the little Portkeys - oh!
Hers was now red and gold. Draco. She walked over to the Draco fire, noting that she wasn’t the only first year to be heading that way. There weren’t any chairs, so she sat cross-legged on the floor. The Toby-Headmaster continued to talk, introducing the Head Students and Prefects for the year. Rhia did her best to note who those students were, but the uneven light provided by the bonfires and the actual configuration of the bonfires didn’t do a whole lot in terms of helping her see who actually accepted whatever the Headmaster was handing them. Although there would probably be ample opportunity later to learn who was who, that little lack of knowledge made Rhia feel a little unsettled. The pop of house-elves appearing with a variety of foods shortly after didn’t really help her unsettled feeling.
Instead of taking any food, despite an elf offering some sort of potato dish to her, Rhia looked around and then pulled out her book, opening it to page 406 - she preferred to memorize page numbers, rather than use a bookmark or worse, dog-ear pages. There wasn’t enough time to read even a few pages before she heard a noise that caused her to look up.
“What did you say?” she asked, although she wasn’t entirely sure the noise had been either actual speech or directed at her.