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Chapter 1: Directionless Losers
Seventh year was awkward for me. Not for any romantic or social reasons, but because hundreds (that might be an exaggeration) of well-meaning people came up to me and asked what I was doing next year.
The thing is, I had no idea. Professor Longbottom had done the careers-advisory thing in fifth year, got nowhere with me, tried again in sixth year, and gave up. I myself had decided to take a gap year, which would mean mooching around at home and probably getting a job in Uncle George’s shop. There wasn’t a lot to do if you weren’t interested in Gringott’s, St Mungo’s or the Ministry, and I wasn’t.
When I hit NEWT exams I panicked. Not because of the exams themselves, but because it dawned on me that as soon as I finished, that would be the end. Hogwarts would be over. I’d never return to the place I had called home for seven years – unless I became a teacher, and let’s face it, that didn’t hold much appeal. My friends weren’t particularly sympathetic. There were always a few people who, at the end of seventh year, didn’t know what they wanted to do. Besides, they had their own futures to worry about. Jobs to find. Apprenticeships to get. Training to apply for and get accepted into. And, we were Gryffindors. We could just wing it, my friend Abby Longbottom told me. Don’t worry about the future. Do what you want, things will work out.
I went to talk to my brother James in his flat in Hogsmeade a week before my first exam.
“Don’t worry about it,” was his advice. “I had no idea what I was doing when I left Hogwarts. I still don’t really know, but I have a job, I have a flat, and I have a life.”
I took one look around the room, filled with empty bottles, unwashed clothes and a comatose flatmate asleep on the couch, and hightailed it back to Hogwarts yelling something incomprehensible about needing direction or I’d end up like my loser brother.
Halfway through exam week, during which I was fondly referred to as the Pressure Cooker of Gryffindor, I was flicking through the Daily Prophet when I saw a tiny advert in the classifieds section, right at the back, for something called the European University of Sorcery. Feeling desperate, sleep deprived and more than a little impulsive, I scribbled off a note of inquiry and sent an owl winging its way to God knows where, before turning my attention back to Transfiguration, Potions and History of Magic.
There was one week of blessed nothingness after NEWTs were over, and most of seventh year spent it entirely inebriated. Technically we’d finished classes, technically we were of age, and so technically there was nothing wrong with sneaking off in droves down to the Three Broomsticks every night. The rest of the school viewed us in something akin to awe. Or fear. Even the Prefects joined us on our escapades, and because it was an accepted rite of passage, the teachers did their best to ignore the whole situation.
One morning, feeling slightly sorry for myself, I shuffled into the Great Hall in my pajamas, accompanied by my best friend Hugo, and was greeted by a massive pile of parchment dumped by three struggling school owls onto the table beside my breakfast.
“Holy shit,” Hugo had managed. “That is a lotta stuff.”
I began flicking through it. Introduction to European University of Sorcery was the first booklet. I put it aside. Introducing Our Degrees was the next. Accomodation Guide. Guide to Scholarships. Where Do My Subjects Take Me? Guide. Guide for International Students. And a tiny little one that was last updated in 2006 – twenty-one years ago – entitled From Hogwarts To EUS: What You Need To Know.
I’d always thought university was a Muggle thing, and as I flicked through the brochures I became more and more intrigued. The pictures showed smiling young adults chatting animately over textbooks in large grassy fields, fantastic white marble buildings, huge, bright libraries that weren’t inspired by the Dark Ages, and sunshine. I was sold. Without really knowing what I was doing, I filled in my application forms for the university itself, accomodation on campus, and various scholarships and student living allowances, and decided I would do something called a Bachelor of Wizarding Studies, which would allow me to study more or less anything I wanted.
Then I came home, armed with my brochures, and Dad asked me in a friendly tone if I’d thought any more about what I wanted to do now that I’d finished Hogwarts. I nodded, handed him the Introduction to European University of Sorcery booklet and sat back.
“Ginny!” Dad yelled after reading the first page. “Ginny, Lily wants to move to Greece!”
“Wait, what?” I asked, startled.
“The university. It’s in Athens,” Dad told me patiently, pointing to the first page of the booklet.
“It’s not in England?”
“Did you even read this?”
“I was sorta hung over,” I mumbled.
Which brings me to where I am now.
“What’s this about Lily moving to Greece?” Mum asks, bustling into the kitchen.
I fight the urge to say ‘Lily’s not moving to Greece,’ instead deciding to wait and see how the situation unfolds.
Dad hands her the brochure.
“I’ve never even heard of the European University of Sorcery,” she says with a frown. “What would you study?”
“Bachelor of Wizarding Studies.”
“And what is that?”
“Bit of everything, really.”
“Where would you stay?”
“They have student accomodation on campus.”
“You won’t know anyone.”
“I can make friends.”
“You don’t speak Greek.”
“I can learn it.”
“You haven’t thought this through, have you?”
“Not in the slightest.”
“You’re not really going, are you?”
“I’ve already applied.”
Three weeks later I receive a letter from the university informing me they’ve accepted my application to study. Three weeks later we also get a slightly unwelcome visit from Aunt Audrey, who sits down with her cup of tea, smiles sweetly and says, “So what are you doing now you’ve finished Hogwarts, Lily?”
“I’m going to the European University of Sorcery in Athens to do a Bachelor in Wizarding Studies,” I reply crisply, before sauntering into the kitchen and reflecting on how cool that sounded.
Mum, who heard the whole exchange, gives me a wink before continuing her conversation with Audrey. I can hear snippets of their conversation.
“Oh, yes, she’s off to Greece in August…it’s a very prestigious university, of course, we’re very proud of her…”
Feeling the need to gloat further, I head off to the Weasleys’.
“Guess who got into univer-sity?” I ask in a singsong voice, emerging from the Floo and straight into the kitchen.
“Which university?” Aunt Hermione asks from the bench.
“European University of Sorcery. It’s in Athens.”
“You’re moving to Greece?” Hugo asks, looking incredulous. “You suck!”
“Thanks, best friend. Knew I could count on you.”
“You’re abandoning me,” he says sulkily.
“You could always come too.”
“I’ve had enough of education, thanks.”
“Your loss. Anyway, I’ll be back in the holidays.”
“It’s not the same. We were going to be directionless losers together.”
“I’m still a directionless loser,” I assure him. “I’ll just be a directionless loser in Greece.”
“You don’t even speak Greek,” he points out.
“They’ll have stuff in English,” I say confidently. “It’s the European University, not the Greek University.”
“You’ve never been overseas.”
“Stop being such a downer, Hugh.”
“You’re scared,” he says smugly.
“Whatever. How are you getting there?”
I shrug. “Apparate?”
“You’ve never seen the place, you couldn’t Apparate there.”
“I’ve seen pictures,” I say, but I know I’m floundering. All I’ve really seen are big white marble buildings; I’d probably end up on the Acropolis.
Hugo shakes his head. “Ten Galleons you’ll wimp out.”
“You’re on,” I say immediately.
We shake on it, Hugo looking smug and me thinking about what to spend my ten Galleons on.
“Wait a minute,” I say suddenly. “What currency do they use in Greece?”
Hugo shrugs. “Go ask at Gringott’s.”
I add this to my mental to-do list. I’m leaving in a month, and in that time I have to pack all my stuff, figure out how to get to Athens, sort out money, sort out scholarships, sort out everything else I need to sort out that I don’t know about yet, say goodbye to my friends and family, and get there.
And, uh, maybe picking up a bit of Greek wouldn’t go amiss either.