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Southern Cross by ad astra
Chapter 2: The Hogwarts Kids
At breakfast the next morning, Mr McMahon, head of Kemp House, passes out our timetables.
“Adelaide,” he says, handing me mine, “I was pleasantly surprised with your exam results.”
“So was I,” I tell him. I got a merit for the theory paper of Defence Against the Dark Arts, and excellence for the practical.
“I expect you to do well this year,” he tells me, turning to Ella. “And you too, I want to see another two excellences from you come January next year.”
“No pressure,” Ella mutters, scanning her timetable. Not that there’s a lot of pressure on Ella anyway; she’s one of those people who could get straight Excellences in all her subjects without even trying.
“What d’you have first?” Georgia asks, peering over my shoulder. “Herbology?”
“Yep,” I confirm. “What about you guys?”
“Magical Theory,” Corwin says with some trepidation. “The teacher’s listed as a Professor—Professor Castell. A Professor. This is going to be a tough subject.”
“What is it, exactly?” Josh asks.
“What it sounds like. Looking at the science of magic, sources of power, wandlore, incantations…”
“Bro,” Josh says. “They expect you to be the Einstein of the wizarding world or something?”
“Probably,” Corwin says glumly.
“Oh, cheer up,” Ella says. “It won’t be that bad. I know a girl who got Level 3 WEKA Magical Theory with Excellence last year. For all her exam papers.”
“And where’s she now?”
“Studying Healing at St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Injuries and Maladies in England.”
“So, a genius.”
“No more than us.”
“You guys are geniuses,” Georgia says. “And meanwhile, I’m taking Care of Magical Creatures.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Josh says. “I’m taking it too.”
“Yeah, coz you can’t be stuffed with anything harder,” Henry points out. “God knows why you were put into Kemp.”
“My determination lies on the Quidditch pitch,” he replies airily.
“So does your brain,” Ella says.
I have History of Magic after Herbology, and Georgia and I select for ourselves seats near the back of Mr Muller’s classroom. The class is big, like last year, and we spend five minutes catching up with everyone who we haven’t seen since last November.
“Good morning!” Mr Muller calls, entering the classroom and clapping for attention. “Welcome to WEKA Level 2 History. You’ll be pleased to note, we’ve finished with New Zealand wizarding history. Feel free to throw something at me if I mention the Founders at any point this year.”
There’s a loud cheering at this; we’ve been getting NZ history for the past several years, and of course most of us are full of Gallipoli and the Treaty of Waitangi from our Muggle primary schools.
“Instead,” Mr Muller continues, “We will be looking at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Britain. We’ll start off with their Founders, then we’ll move into the First and Second Wizarding Wars with the infamous Lord Voldemort. And, it may please you to learn, that this year’s student exchange will be with Hogwarts. Two Hogwarts students will be arriving here at Southern Cross in two weeks’ time, and will stay here for three months. When they leave, they go with two students from Southern Cross, who will stay there for three months. Furthermore, those two students from Southern Cross will be from Year 12 History of Magic.”
The room erupts into talking at this, and Mr Muller does nothing to stop it.
“How do you choose who goes?” someone calls, asking the question we all want the answer to.
“Well, of course, class performance does come into it,” he says. “But we’ll be asking for applications from you closer to the time, and it will mainly come down to that.”
“Are you gonna apply?” Georgia asks me.
“Definitely. I probably won’t get in, but it’s worth a try, right?”
“Worth a try,” she echoes.
By the end of the week, it strikes me that Year 12 is going to be a tough year; for the first time in my life, I actually need the recommended 2 hours-a-day homework time.
“And it’s only the first week,” I grumble to Georgia as we sit in the common room taking notes from the three pages about Snargaluffs that Mrs Appelhof set us.
“It could be worse,” she says, nodding at Corwin and Ella, who are poring over a thick, frightening-looking textbook and looking incredibly frustrated. “Last I saw, they were calculating differences in potential magical energy and when it’s released as a spell. It’s like wizardified physics.” She shudders. “You finished this page? We should get started on the History of Magic stuff.”
“We have History of Magic homework?”
“You mean I remembered and you didn’t?”
“Enjoy this moment, it won’t happen again. So what do we have to do?”
Georgia rummages through the pocket in her robes, withdrawing a small, crumpled piece of parchment. “Um…History of Magic…’Test on Founders on Monday, STUDY LIKE HELL.’”
“Monday,” I repeat with a dismissive wave of my hand. “What should we do tomorrow?”
She shoves her textbooks, quill and parchment away from her. “Oh yeah, it’s the weekend. Well, I intend to sleep, for a very long time. Then we could head down to the river or something.”
‘The river’ refers to Mahutonga River, which borders the school and is unknown to Muggles. There are plenty of rope swings over it, and some Year 13s last year spent three days deepening the river bed in front of a massive rock to make it safe to jump off. Some other kids have been known to create a stretch of rapids and head down them on anything they can charm to float.
“I’m keen for the river.”
The next two weeks pass pretty normally; almost every evening we’re heading down to the river because the temperatures are climbing up to 30. All of us except Corwin and Ella, that is. They’re channeling their inner nerd even more than usual this year and spending the warm, balmy evenings in the common room doing truckloads of homework. History of Magic is fascinating; we’ve been studying the Four Founders at Hogwarts, which has led to some lively debates and discussions. I’m not the most brilliant person in the class but I can argue my way through almost anything, meaning I love HoM at the moment. At the moment we’re discussing Salazar Slytherin, the “evil” Founder.
“I don’t get it,” Georgia says. “They have an established evil house? What’s their sorting criteria? Come ye, all who want to murder and engage in Dark magic?”
“Officially, the criteria for Slytherin house are cunning, ambition and pure blood,” Mr Muller says, which leads us to wonder whether good old Bishop Pompallier had been a Slytherin; that would explain the “ambition” criteria.
“Not at all,” Mr Muller says. “Pompallier was a Ravenclaw, the house which prized intelligence above all. He thought, however, that to make a house with that criteria would be to stereotype them as the ‘better’ students academically, or, as you may say today, the “smart kids.” Pompallier felt that ambition was more of a core value than intelligence, and that most students with ambition would be intelligent anyway.”
“So what houses were the other Founders in?” a kid from Marsden asks.
“Ooh, I know this one,” Georgia says enthusiastically. “Well, I know one. James Kemp was a Gryffindor.”
“He was indeed,” Mr Muller confirms. “Henry Williams and Samuel Marsden were both Hufflepuffs. Hufflepuffs, incidentally, have quite a negative reputation at Hogwarts, or so I’ve heard. Helga Hufflepuff was the Founder who accepted anyone into her house, even the…duds. Kindness, I think, was the main criteria for Hufflepuff. Kindness, and justice to a point as well, but to avoid such a reputation, Marsden and Williams made their own criteria more discerning.”
“I have a random question,” Amanda Parkes announces.
Mr Muller looks slightly apprehensive. “Go ahead, Amanda.”
“When are the Hogwarts kids getting here?”
“Tomorrow,” Mr Muller replies matter-of-factly.
“Who are they?”
“What are their names?”
“What houses are they in?”
“What houses will they be in here?”
“Shotgun sitting by one of them!”
“Shotgun sitting by the other one!”
“What time tomorrow do they arrive?”
“Shut up!” Mr Muller cries. “I don’t have seven pairs of ears! Adelaide, in answer to your question, they’re arriving during last period. Incidentally, when we have History of Magic. Haven’t they timed it well?”
“So who are they?” Henry asks again.
“We’ll let them introduce themselves,” Mr Muller says. “Less likely I’ll get something wrong that way.”
The next day passes incredibly slowly, and everyone in my History of Magic class is too busy speculating about the new students to pay any attention in anything else.
“Adelaide!” Ella hisses at me when our cauldron bubbles over in Potions. “You were meant to be watching it!”
“What’s happened here?” Mr Sullivan asks, coming over. “Trying to blow up the classroom, are you? You’re meant to be my prodigies!”
“Wasn’t me, it was Adelaide,” Ella says, already rummaging through the tray of ingredients.
“I think you should find new prodigies,” I suggest, cleaning the table with a wave of my wand and peering into the cauldron.
“Maybe these Hogwarts students will be better at keeping their ingredients inside the cauldron,” he muses. “Aussie, what would your father say?”
“He mixes half his potions on the floor,” I reply dismissively. “He’d probably be proud.”
“Fair enough,” he concedes, and continues on his rounds of the classroom.
“Accepted that nickname now, have you?” Ella asks.
Since I started in Year 9, Mr Sullivan has insisted on calling me Aussie (You know, because my name’s a city in Australia, ha, ha, ha.) I used to dispute it all the time, but after three years I’ve gotten sick of protesting. It’s not acceptance, it’s more a concession of defeat.
“Wonder if I could skip Magical Theory and sneak into your History of Magic class,” Ella says, changing the subject swiftly. “I wouldn’t mind meeting the famous Hogwarts kids.”
“Tough shit, you dropped History.”
“I’m regretting that now. It looks good on your record of you’ve done WEKA level 2 and 3 History of Magic, coz they’re essay based subjects, and of course it shows you’ve got a good understanding of the wizarding world and everything. That, and I’d kill for the opportunity to go to Hogwarts.”
“I’m going to apply. Probably won’t get anywhere though.”
“Where’s your Kemp determination?”
“Dampened by reality. I’m still going to try.”
We have the flying teacher, Mr Chevalier, come into class for History of Magic.
“Mr Muller and Mr Sheppard are out in the driveway waiting to welcome the Hogwarts students,” he explains. “They’ve told me not to try and make you do any work, just…don’t swing from the light fixtures or anything like that, and don’t make Mrs Doherty next door come in yelling about the noise you lot are making, she frightens me.”
We spend approximately fifteen minutes talking, throwing things and milling around the classroom before Mr Chevalier peers out the window in the door that looks out into the hallway.
“They’re coming!” he announces, and, feeling like little kids, we hurry back to our seats and wait in almost silence for Mr Sheppard and Mr Muller to arrive with the fabled new students.
The door opens and the teachers file through first, followed by a girl with curly red hair pulled back in a ponytail and a tall guy with a pale face and blond hair. They’re wearing black robes with what looks like a full winter uniform underneath, complete with black jerseys and blue ties. Mr Sheppard casts a disapproving eye around the classroom, where most of us are sprawled out on the chairs with untucked white shirts, our green uniform robes thrown carelessly on the floor.
“It’s February, Mr Sheppard,” Clara Mackal says defensively.
“Right,” Mr Muller says, turning to the New Kids standing at the front of the classroom, then back to us. “I’d like to introduce our exchange students from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you could both tell us your names, what house you’re from, and one interesting thing about you.”
“All right,” the girl says. “My name is Rose Weasley, I’m in Ravenclaw House, and…my parents fought Voldemort.”
We look at Rose feeling somewhat awed. Her parents fought the famous Voldemort of the First and Second Wizarding War?
“You don’t think she’s the daughter of whatshisface, do you?” Georgia asks. “Ronald Weasley, he was like, Harry Potter’s sidekick or something.”
“I don’t know, but it’s cool anyway.” I shut up hastily, because now the guy’s talking.
“I’m Scorpius Malfoy, I’m also in Ravenclaw House, and my parents did not fight Voldemort.”
“It’s okay, neither did mine,” Henry calls, and Scorpius grins.
“So they’re in Ravenclaw,” Georgia whispers disappointedly. “They’ll probably be put in Pompallier, then, right?”
“Guess we’ll find out tonight.”
“So what do you think of New Zealand?” Amanda asks The New Kids.
Rose frowns thoughtfully. “Well, I’ve only been here for five minutes—”
“But what do you think?” Brianna Atkinson persists.
“I don’t know,” Scorpius says. “But when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you.”
“Aren’t you hot?” Georgia asks.
“Well, I’m flattered,” Scorpius says. Rose punches him, and Georgia scrambles to explain.
“No, I meant…your winter uniforms…and it’s summer, and…”
“He knows,” Rose interrupts. “He’s just being a git.”
“Git,” I repeat thoughtfully. “That’s a novel insult.”
“You’re such a git, Adelaide,” Georgia tells me.
“Your mum’s a git.”
“Ooh, harsh words.”