Arrhenia Fawley - 1 December 2030 Arrhenia leaned against a support pillar, gazing out over the Black Lake. Her view from the bridge connecting Hogwarts to the other side of the loch was unobstructed, and, to the untrained eye, gorgeous. Of course, hers was not quite untrained. To most, the sight of wild birds skirting the surface of the murky water, cast in reds and grays against the rising Sun, were as beautiful as the reflective water itself, a deep, black mirror that gave the loch its name. This time of year, ice had begun to creep around the edges, and cool mists crept our over the heart of the Black Lake. The very earth seemed to sparkle like diamonds as light reflected off the frozen dew on the grassy banks around the loch. To most, a masterpiece of Mother Nature. But to Arrhenia? It was a ticking time-bomb. Merfolk had developed a vast underwater cityscape at the deepest levels of the Black Lake, a veritable masterpiece within a masterpiece whose inhabitants would kill or capsize any wannabe divers or sailors on the surface or at the bottom. Along with their larger masters, swarms of Grindylows would kill anything that the Merfolk missed, and were significantly more messy about it. And one should not forget that "domesticated" Giant Squid... A stiff breeze swept over her from behind, blowing her chocolate hair into her eyes. Concentration broken, she ceased to stare into the depths of the Black Lake. Arrhenia's eyes sought something else to contemplate, the silence of her mind too uncomfortable for her tastes. In the distance, she saw a speck flash across the great disk of the Sun. At first, she dismissed it as a trick of the eyes (Did she need glasses? God forbid...). But as it grew larger and larger, she began to realize exactly what it was. The compact shadow slowed as it approached the bridge before alighting on Arrhenia's shoulder, one taloned foot held outwards, clutching a thin, white envelope. The bird, a raven, to be specific, gave a loud squawk that made Arrhenia want to clap her hands over her ears. But by now, she was used to his antics. This raven was, by the standards of its breed, rather small, only slightly larger than its lesser cousin, the crow. He frequently took it as a great insult, however, if his size was brought up in conversation, and considered any misrepresentation of his character as being said lesser bird as a direct challenge of his honor. He also felt, as a matter of dignity and courtesy, that all messenger birds should announce their presence upon arrival. Honestly, Arrhenia thought to herself. More a Gryffindor than a Ravenclaw, with all his talk of propriety and honor. The raven gave out a second, almost choked, squawk. It sounded half like the bird was clearing its throat. Arrhenia waited a moment, half hoping that he'd just get on with it. But as the silence continued, she grew annoyed. Ultimately, Arrhenia gave in to his goddamned sense of servile propriety. "You may speak, Huginn," she practically sighed. Her words, to an eavesdropper, would perhaps sound like a series of clipped squawks and chirps. To Arrhenia and Huginn, however, it sounded just like proper Queen's English. The bird fluttered a bit, internally pleased that his mistress had accomodated him. "The Headmaster Poliakoff sends his regards, Ms. Reen." He held out the envelope, sealed with the double-eagle of Durmstrang, not seeming disturbed in the slightest at being balanced on one leg. Arrhenia eagerly grabbed it, barely heeding the delicate position of her messenger. She broke the wax seal with ease, momentarily marveling that such envelopes still existed in the age of the Mollybox*. Unfolding the thick paper within and rolling out the crease on the pillar next to her, Arrhenia began to read. ****** Dear Ms. Fawley, Having received your outstanding prior history at Hogwarts, and your exceptional recommendations from a multitude of your teachers there, I am deeply regretful to inform you that your request for transfer to the Durmstrang Institute has been denied. While my sympathies go out to you, Ms. Fawley, I'm afraid that your credits earned while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry do not qualify for placement in the Fifth Year at Durmstrang Institute. Your obvious lack of education in proper spellcraft, an assumption based off of the curriculum of Hogwarts School, leaves you at a serious disadvantage when compared to other students of your level at Durmstrang. Furthermore, you would be, at most, qualified to begin education at Durmstrang Institute as a mere First Year, a situation that I believe would be most undesirable for you. Sadly, you cannot be admitted into Durmstrang Institute at this time. If, at the end of your current school year at Hogwarts, you persist in your attempts to gain acceptance, you may be considered to begin at First Year level with tutoring, at best. However, this is all that I and my fellows at Durmstrang can offer a young witch in your position. Sincerely, Gregor Poliakoff, Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute ****** Arrhenia rested her head against a pillar, gazing out over the Black Lake. Against her better intentions, the supposed beauty of the loch began to sink in. But to her eyes, the birds dancing across the water, the murky depths, the frigid edges, and the cool mists only seemed melancholy, a sad remnant of a wild world. "Durmstrang was it, Huginn," she sighed. The bird hopped up and down on the cold wooden handrail to get a better look at her face. "Ms. Reen. You are a lovely young witch. Just because life doesn't satisfy you now doesn't mean it won't later on. And, pardon my tongue, to Hell with that rotten old fart at Durmstrang! He doesn't know the half of what he's saying. If my opinion were worth a cent, I'd say you're better off here than in his hands. Ever since they made the fat slob Headmaster, the whole institution's gone downhill..." She waved him off, too deeply immersed in her own self-pity. "I learn nothing here. Nothing, Huginn. What is the point of school if nothing is to be learned?" She lost herself in the dark waters again, and started idly tracing her finger across the length of the handrail. "What's the point, Huginn? Of all of it? Without knowledge, without the power it gives people over the world, what are we? Just apes groping for a light in the dark, without knowing that the fire dwells within us." Huginn squawked in protest, getting Arrhenia's attention again. "It's not so bad as all that, Mistress, and I suggest you put those thoughts out of your head! I've known you since your First Year at Hogwarts, and I know for a fact that you're the kindest witch in the wor-" The bird's carefully thought out motivational speech was cut off by a grating screech from the other end of the bridge. "Reen! What are you doing? We're gonna be late for Herbology!" Huginn gave her a sympathetic look. "That awful Hufflepuff again, eh, Ms. Reen?" She cast him a glare of acid before taking a deep breath. As she exhaled, her trademark composure returned to her. "Go to the old Owlery, why don't you? I hear the caretaker still keeps it clean, even though the only owls there are just for the students who want their own outside communication." Arrhenia lost herself in contemplation again. "Strange that so many stick to the old ways just because they don't want to wait their turn on the school Mollybox." Turning on her heel, without even waiting for Huginn's response, Arrhenia took the path back to Hogwarts proper, glaring at the girl who was supposedly her best friend as they walked to Professor Longbottom's class. It kind of hurt the poor girl's chances when Reen didn't even know her first name... *Mollybox: A magical device, reminiscent of a large, bulky Muggle computer, that allows for nearly instantaneous communication with anyone else who possesses another Mollybox. Named by creator Arthur Weasley after his wife, Molly.