On the one hand, failing a year of school had been humiliating and something that Dakota was not looking forward to explaining on the college applications she would be doing at this time next year. She didn’t know where she would be applying to yet, but she knew that her grades weren’t good enough to get into any of the Boston schools. Not that she really wanted to, actually. Rose was her big sister and Dakota loved her, and Dakota was in constant awe of Holland, and Jenna was like a second big sister in ways that Rose couldn’t be, but Dakota was also kind of ready to be her own person. She wanted to be her own person in a place that didn’t necessarily know her as ‘that trans girl’ or ‘that girl who set the school on fire’ or worse, ‘Connor Farnon’s brother’. Very few people fell into that last category. probably, but Dakota was ready to be in a place where nobody fell in that last category, for sure.
On the other hand, it did mean that Dakota could Apparate to Pearl Street, since she was seventeen. Apparition was much more pleasant than Portkey, although Dakota still wouldn’t call it a good time. She had spent more of the summer Apparating to Pearl Street than not, honestly. She spent some time with her friends in Boston too, but Dakota had wanted to keep working at Lighthouse Books over the summer, mostly because she really needed the money and okay, partly because there this guy who came in once every week or two and usually during her shift, who she really liked seeing and maybe had a tiny crush on. Plus she’d spent some time in the LGBT center, mostly playing old-timey Muggle arcade games with other kids her age.
Changing her medication early on in the summer had made her feel really sick for awhile, but overall Dakota was feeling much more - real - than she had in awhile. Things still got a little weird sometimes, but she hadn’t had anything major happen since last term at least, so she was hopeful.
The mix of hopeful and done-with-this-shit was something that usually came with seventh year, Dakota was pretty sure, and she wasn’t looking forward to having to do this twice, but it was going to be nice to see her friends again after the summer. It was with only a little hesitation that she dragged her trunk into the hidden elevator in Lighthouse Books and rode it down to the entrance hall of RMI. She levitated her trunk to its place against the wall instead of shoving it like most of the younger students, then took a deep breath and walked into the Finer Diner.
Of course, the Finer Diner was the same as it always was - bonfires, students talking increasingly louder over the loud chatter of their friends and housemates - but for the first time, Dakota didn’t have to worry about either Connor or Claudia. It was a wave of relief that she hadn’t anticipated feeling, but one that hit her rather emphatically as she walked over to the Cetus fire. She didn’t immediately see Drew but also wasn’t immediately in need of a conversation, honestly, so Dakota just sat down at the fire and gazed into it, waiting for the Headmaster to give his speech and for the food to come out. She was really craving pickles, for some reason.
JD Daegan, from the year below them, showed up like 2 seconds later and spread out a picnic blanket before taking a seat and Dakota resisted the urge to roll her eyes, choosing to pointedly ignore him instead. She’d seen an article in Teen Witch about JD over the summer where Headmaster Toby had called him an ‘outstanding young man’ which was complete bull. Half the students in the school knew by now that JD was a narcissistic opportunist, mostly because Kit (initially a superfan) had loudly denounced him for some reason that had been explained in Kit-incoherence that Dakota genuinely didn’t care about. Kit was nice enough, Dakota would admit if pressed, but the girl made absolutely no sense the majority of the time and Dakota rarely cared enough to decode the Kit-isms.
The beginning of term announcements happened and Dakota cheered for Remy as she made Head Student (Alena less so - Dakota didn’t strictly have anything against her, but anyone who was a friend of Connor’s was not a friend of hers). Then it was time for food and while Dakota was eagerly looking for pickles, JD actually deigned so talk to her and oh Merlin why hadn’t she moved earlier. Gritting her teeth and about to tell JD what he could do with his ridiculous question about cutlery (why the hell was he asking Dakota? There were a million house-elves around.) she suddenly noticed that he wasn’t even eating something from the Feast. He had little containers of - gross, was that salmon? And brussel sprouts? Was this kid even human?
“You could ask a house-elf,” Dakota pointed out, icily. “Or you could just eat food from the Feast and stop pretending you’re better than the rest of us.”