Three very different girls think about the coming war and the place they occupy within the ranks.

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Hermione stared at herself in the mirror with a frown. These few moments alone in the bathroom before bedtime were coming to mean proper, contemplative thinking time. She could look at herself as she thought, see the evidence in her own countenance. It seemed she was pretending to be strong and competent so often and for so long that she'd forgotten how she really felt, who she really was.

She needed that reminder, especially after all they'd learned this evening.

Padma had been earnest in wanting her to see her position. This Hermione felt very sure of.

But if the Ravenclaw was right, then, it was the one-person Hermione had trusted implicitly who'd been leading her to danger. Not that Dumbledore had ever done anything to stop them walking into danger, she wasn't an idiot, she knew that. She'd just thought the Headmaster would have told her what she was signing up for. Hermione supposed that he'd have considered the implications not only for her and the harm that could occur to her, but how that would make Harry feel.

Hermione rinsed her face and began to brush her teeth. The other thing to ponder was the fact that Padma had been sure that Professors Flitwick and McGonagall trusted Snape. That was true. They were pretty united even though there was House rivalry and so on. And she was close to both of them. She trusted them, far more really, if she was honest to herself than she trusted Dumbledore.

She knew she'd have to talk to Parvati before she went to sleep. Harry would not allow this to rest. He'd badger her in the morning and if she didn't have something concrete to relate, he'd do something she wasn't even really willing in the privacy of her own thoughts to contemplate. Her best friend was so angry. She knew Ron was doing all he could to keep Harry calm, but lately, that hadn't been enough.

Padma was sitting on her bed in her dorm-room after the so-called discussion with Hermione. She was still reeling at Harry's underhand way of interrogating her. But it could have been worse. They were so inept at subterfuge that with a little bit of care she was seeing right through them.

But their ineptitude did not bode well. Harry was supposed to be the Boy-Who-Lived. He was meant to oppose the Dark Lord. At the moment, Harry was like an out-of-control toddler. He had no concept of what Severus was going through on his behalf, and worse, he didn't seem to care about how his actions could jeopardise everything.

Padma sighed and threw herself backwards onto her bed to lie down.

Morag came in, just in time to hear the sigh and see the exhaustion on her friend's face. They'd been friends for long enough that sometimes, explanations weren't required.

Morag smiled wryly at her friend as she took off her heavy cardigan and hung it up in the wardrobe. "I heard Hermione wanted to talk to you."

Padma nodded and patted the spot next to her. Morag slipped out of her shoes and sat cross legged on the bed, her back against the headboard. "So?"

"Hermione wanted to question me. The questions I think were pre-arranged between the three of them. Harry was there, hidden under some kind of magical cloak."

Morag's eyes were wide. "Really?"

"Yes." Padma sighed. "I just wish there was a way to get everyone sitting around a table, talking."

Padma sat up and undid her plait, then stretched out fully so she could rest and still see her friend. "Harry seemed convinced that I'm now a traitor and a Death Eater."

This was sensitive stuff, and Padma had to tread carefully. Morag shouldn't have anything problematic to divulge if it ever came to a situation where her friend was taken before the Dark Lord. Moreover, Padma didn't want to be in a situation where Morag accidentally passed something to her father that caught the attention of anyone who could harm Severus.

Morag nodded, pensive. "It's a lot harder this year, isn't it?" she said softly. "It's like battle lines being drawn. Gryffindors and Muggle-borns on one side with those considered Blood Traitors, and Slytherins, Purebloods and Half-Bloods on the other."

Padma nodded. "And it doesn't matter what we or anyone else wants or thinks. It's as though our positions are pre-ordained. Even if you didn't want to see the death of all Muggles and Muggle-borns and thought the idea of human slavery was utterly repulsive, we are, by being born into a Pureblood family considered to be allied with the Dark Lord. You know we've always been neutral. Just as many families have always been. We have no interest in politics, we are business people. We'd rather have more people to trade with than less. It's just good business."

Morag sighed. "Da feels like he's got no place to go, no action that can lead to anything but death. Summer was awful. It was like my parents were already in mourning for the years they weren't going to have together. My mother's not strong, and this isn't helping."

Morag leaned over and pulled one of the many blankets on the bed over her legs. "I'm so tired," she admitted, glancing quickly to gauge Padma's reactions.

Padma touched her friend gently on her arm. "Morag!" she said cautiously.

"I know I shouldn't say anything, but I can't keep quiet anymore. I need to talk to someone, and we've always been there for each other. I was so strong for everyone at home, and I work so hard here, doing my best to get the best grades I can as if that will somehow save them. But I don't want my Da to die. I don't want my Ma to die either. And she will. I know she will. As soon as he goes, she will. They are soul-mates. They are so linked that I know she won't be able to live without him!"

Padma didn't know what to do, what to say. She was so afraid, especially now that she'd entered this duet with Severus and this great game with Draco, Pansy and the others.

Padma sighed. She seemed to have done nothing but sigh this whole evening. "I feel so helpless, too," she said softly. "I don't want to see members of the family killed just because they married the wrong person. I really don't want to be married off to some letch on the make from India, just to avoid the confrontation here. I don't want my friends to die. Imagine what they'd do to poor Justin. He's a berk, but we've known him since our first year."

Morag nodded. "And I know Da has said that Muggle-borns are seen as those who have stolen the rightful magic that should have gone to Squibs. And," she lowered her voice, even though they were still utterly alone in their dormitory, "gossip says they are planning a kind of registration system."

"Like with Hitler and the Nazis?" asked Padma, horror obvious in her voice.

"Probably. I had to go back and re-read that book, Fatherland, you sent me by owl that you had found in that Muggle Charity Shop you'd gone into over the summer holidays when I heard that bit of news. Da thinks he might have that as part of his workload because where we live is so isolated. It would make a good, correction facility. It would be like that, wouldn't it? They'd quietly try and kill all the Muggles and Muggle-borns, and have odd treaties with the rest of the world and we'd be an isolated little island; Pure, broken and alone."

Morag and Padma loved Muggle fiction. Whenever they could over the holidays they'd go look for books in charity shops in the closest Muggle villages and towns to where they lived, and then exchange them via owl. Mostly, because they were reading novels, no one in their respective families looked into their reading. As the only Ravenclaw in her family, Padma had managed to read the oddest books and not have her mother even question her.

"Draco and Pansy, Theo too, aren't bad eggs," said Padma, with feeling. "I don't think they'd want to live in a world like that. Not if it they truly understood what was being planned."

Morag shook her head. "What choice do they have? What choice do any of us have? Do you really think my Da wants the dubious honour of managing a correction facility of that sort?"

Padma tried to imagine Angus MacDougal running the British Wizarding equivalent of Auschwitz, and understood Morag's fear.

"We need Hermione, Ron and Harry, especially to see that," said Padma. "We've got to convince them that Draco, and the rest of them aren't evil. Not like that. Never like that. How can the Gryffindors imagine that we would want to have things like that happen?"

Morag shivered, and Padma realised it was getting colder as the other girl's emotions grew more extreme. She pulled her coverlet over them both and cocooned them under yet another blanket as well. "Whatever happens outside these walls, within it, we're just students."

Padma had to be so careful about what she said. However much she trusted her friend, she couldn't forget that Morag's father was a Death Eater, too.

Morag shrugged. "What you need, is an old-style meal around a round table. One in which by entering the circle you leave all protestations of enmity aside for the common good. Like in the old tales of how Merlin got the Knights of the Round Table together. You'd need thirteen though."

"You're a bloody genius," said Padma, seeing the possibilities in the image her friend conjured up. "But it isn't going to be easy."

"Nothing worth having ever is," said Morag sagely.

Padma giggled. More because the tension was getting to her than for any real sense of mirth. "Now you sound like my sister-in-law."

Morag sighed. "I know you can't, and really, you shouldn't tell me too much even if you could organise something like that. But things are getting worse. This I know from what I can glean of talking to Ma and Da."

Padma nodded. "I'm scared, Morag."

Her friend nodded as well. "I am, too. I think I've been quietly scared since I started to understand what it meant that He really was back, and that His vision was becoming more and more a possibility."

Morag slid down onto the bed and looked up into the dark, velvet canopy of the fourposter. It was obvious she didn't want to face her friend's too knowing gaze. "I don't want my Da to die. I don't want to –" she stopped and sighed. "We're all so bloody afraid. I don't want to be afraid any more. I want to do something. Take back some kind of control. I don't want to be powerless anymore."

A/N: Love it or hate it, please let me know what you think.