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Southern Cross by ad astra
Chapter 9: Welcome to Britain
We have our Formal Debrief at lunchtime the next day, after all of us wake up. Boys are the favoured topic of conversation; I never realised until now how many people’s love lives could change in a night.
“So…Corwin and I are together,” Ella says, staring at her blankets and trying unsuccessfully to hide the smile on her face.
“Bout bloody time,” Georgia interrupts.
“I’m going out with Lester,” Amanda says. “He is so gorgeous. And so polite. He held doors open for me all night. Why have I never dated a prefect before?”
Rose glares at her pillow. “I had an amazing night,” she says, though her tone suggests the opposite. “Best night of my life.”
“Uh,” Georgia says sensibly, “Then why do you look like Christmas has been cancelled?”
“I’m going back to Hogwarts,” she growls, “And I’ll never see him again.”
“Are you talking about Martin?” I blurt before I can stop myself.
“Tactful,” Ella comments, trying to look reproachful, but she still has a goofy Corwin-induced grin on her face.
Rose glares at me. “As hard as it may be for you to believe, yes, I am.”
“He can always go visit you,” I reason. “He finishes school for good in November, he might as well go on an OE to England.”
“You know, overseas experience.” Not in the mood to explain the travel customs of young Kiwis, I press on with the topic at hand. “He could live over there for a bit, you know, find a bit of work, I think he’s planning to do an OE anyway.”
Rose brightens. “Hey, yeah. He could get a job in Diagon Alley, or at Gringotts, there are always tons of jobs there…I might go talk to him…”
I have no idea what Diagon Alley or Gringotts is, but I’ll probably find out when I get to England. I just hope that Martin’s as serious about Rose as she is about him. Then again, his asking her to the formal is the equivalent of a proposal considering how scared he is of girls.
“So what about you, Adelaide?” Amanda asks. “How was whatshisname?”
“Tom? He was a nice enough guy, but I’m not interested.”
“Yeah, same here,” Aroha says. “I mean, me and Henry were only going as friends anyway, but I still feel kinda bad. He’s such a sweet guy, it’s sad that he’s never had a girlfriend.”
“Addie woud change that if she could,” Georgia says slyly.
“I hate you, Georgia Solomon.”
“You like Henry?” Aroha asks, surprised.
“Head over heels,” Georgia says dramatically.
“Head over heels is a stupid phrase anyway,” I say. “Isn’t your head always over your heels? As in, above it? I’d be more worried if it was heels over head. And I’m not madly in love with Henry either. I just…wouldn’t say no if he asked me out, that’s all.”
“I’m sure you’ll get plenty of opportunities to hang out with him at Hogwarts, Adelaide,” Amanda says. “And now for the big news…Georgia. What’s the deal with you and Sexius Malfoy?”
Rose lets out a giant hoot of laughter and collapses on the floor, guffawing and banging her fist on the carpet. “Sexius Malfoy!”
“Hey, none of that,” Georgia says, looking affronted.
Rose drags herself to a sitting position. “Scorpius sexy? I knew him when he was eleven, he had buck teeth…” She subsides into another fit of silent laughter, wiping tears from her eyes.
“He has good teeth now,” Georgia says calmly. “And a good body. And that face…I want to marry him and have his babies.”
“Stop, please, you’re killing me,” Rose gasps.
“I wonder what his parents are like,” Georgia muses.
Rose gives Georgia a strange look. “You’re Muggleborn, aren’t you?”
“As Muggle as they come,” she says cheerfully.
“You going out with him?”
“Yeah,” she says proudly. “I know you guys are going back to England and everything but he’s gonna come back and visit, apparently his parents are busy this Christmas so he’s coming back here, my family’s got a bach down the Sounds and we always spend Christmas there, it’s gonna be awesome.”
“A bach down the Sounds?” Rose repeats blankly.
“You know,” Georgia says, “A bach.”
“Holiday home?” I offer.
“Ohh. And what’s ‘down the Sounds?’”
“The Marlborough Sounds,” I explain. “They’re up the top of the South Island, um…”
“It’s a drowned river valley,” Ella says, not looking up from the book she’s now reading. “Pretty remote kind of area, there are a few farms, a few baches—”
"So yeah, we have a bach in Lochmara Bay," Georgia says, taking over the conversation again. "It has its own wharf and boatshed and the house itself has four bedrooms. It’s real basic though.”
“Wonder what his parents will say about that,” Rose comments.
I can’t help but feel there’s something significant about Scorpius’ parents and the fact Georgia’s a Muggleborn, but she appears to be in a sort of trance and hasn’t noticed a thing.
Mum and Dad Floo into Mr Sheppard’s office the day Henry and I are due to leave to see me off. Mum’s eyes are huge as she steps out of the fireplace, clutching Dad’s arm so hard her knuckles have turned white. With Dad working in Kororareka during the day and us kids at school for most of the year, she lives an almost completely Muggle life and spends most of her time pretending magic doesn’t exist. I love these moments when she realises it does, and she has to engage with it.
“Good luck,” she says firmly, trying to hide the fact that the wizarding world terrifies her.
“Have fun,” Dad says jovially. “In the old country.”
“Oliver, nobody says that anymore,” Mum says.
“Wizards do,” he replies. “We live in a time warp, dear.” Seeing the look on her face he adds quickly, “Hypothetically speaking of course.”
“Your bags?” Mr Sheppard asks, and takes our suitcases from us. He throws some Floo Powder into the fire, tosses the luggage inside, and calls, “The Atrium, British Ministry of Magic!”
They vanish from view, and Mr Sheppard turns to Rose and Scorpius. “Your turn. It’s been a privilege having you at Southern Cross, and I wish you all the best in the future.”
He hands them handfuls of Floo Powder and they vanish through the Floo. Mr Sheppard turns to us.
“Now, the International Floo Network is slightly different to the domestic. New Zealand to Britain is an incredibly long way and cannot be covered by a single connection, therefore you will have stopovers in a number of different places. This simply means you’ll arrive in the fireplaces of different New Zealand embassies around the world. It will take a few seconds for the Floo to connect you to your next destination, then you’ll be off again. You don’t need any extra Floo Powder, nor to state your destination again.”
“What is our destination?” I ask.
“The Atrium,” Mr Sheppard says, careful to enunciate every syllable, “British Ministry of Magic.”
“You can go first,” I say generously to Henry. He shrugs, hugs his mum, shakes his dad’s hand and walks into the Floo, throwing the powder into the flames and calling, “The Atrium, British Ministry of Magic.”
I feel nervous. What if something goes wrong and I’m stuck in some foreign embassy in Beijing or whatever? Feigning confidence, I say goodbye to my parents, shake Mr Sheppard’s hand and throw the powder into the fire. “The Atrium, British Ministry of Magic!”
I count eight stops, but when the Floo finally stops I swear it’s only been about thirty seconds. Hoping this is the right place, I step out into a massive, cavernous hall filled with witches and wizards walking around, all wearing robes. I look around, feeling slightly panicked, and see Rose, Scorpius and Henry standing nearby. Oh good. I got the right place after all.
I start towards them, but a tall, thin, balding redhaired man approaches with his hand outstretched.
“Welcome to Britain,” he says, in a really posh English accent. “I am Percival Weasley, Minister of Magic.”
I shake Percival Weasley’s hand. “Adelaide Crosby.”
I wonder if he’s related to Rose.
He gestures me towards Rose, who’s now standing with another tall, balding redhaired wizard, a woman with brown hair in a messy bun, and a redhaired teenage boy. “Your host family,” Percival Weasley says.
The woman steps forward, gives me a quick hug – that was unexpected – and says, “Welcome, Adelaide, it’s good to have you here, Rose has told us so much about you, you can call me Hermione, this is my son Hugo and my husband Ronald—”
“Ron,” Rose’s dad corrects.
“Uh, hi guys.”
“See you on the train!” Scorpius calls to us, and I watch as the Malfoy family fan out and walk into three different fireplaces. Henry shrugs at me, mouths good luck and follows Scorpius through the Floo.
“We’d better get you two home,” Hermione says. “You must be tired, international travel is always hard, even by magic…Have you got the Portkey, Ron?”
Ron reaches inside his robes and pulls out an old shoe. I resist the urge to wrinkle my nose. “Right here.”
“We’re not connected to the Floo Network,” Hermione explains. “Ron’s an Auror, so it’s safer if people can’t just Floo into our house without warning. There’s also an anti-Disapparation jinx on the house, so don’t try it...”
“I can’t Apparate anyway,” I tell her.
“Are you not seventeen?”
“Not till October.”
“You’re nearly a year younger than Rose,” Hermione comments. “She’s eighteen in December.”
“What’s an Auror?” I ask.
“Dark wizard catcher,” Rose’s brother Hugo says, giving me a strange look. “You don’t know—”
“Don’t be rude, Hugo,” Hermione admonishes.
“We don’t have Dark wizards in New Zealand,” I explain, “Hence, we don’t have Dark wizard catchers.”
“She’s not kidding,” Rose says. “They don’t cover Boggarts till sixth year, they don’t have Dementors in the country, they don’t know what Unforgivable Curses are…”
“Hey,” I say, affronted. “That’s not a bad thing. What are Unforgivable Curses?”
“Just what they sound like,” Ron replies. “The Imperius, Cruciatus and Killing Curses. Cast them once and you get a lifetime in Azkaban – our prison – as punishment.”
“Pretty bad, then?”
“Yeah, pretty bad.”
“Portkey,” Rose says warningly, and I notice it’s glowing blue. “Grab it, Adelaide.”
“Just me?” I ask, confused. I feel like a Muggle.
“All of us,” Hermione says, and we reach for the gross old shoe. I feel myself falling forward, but the Ministry of Magic has disappeared and the world becomes a spinning nothing. I’m still swearing by the time we arrive in an unceremonious heap on the carpet of what I assume is the Weasleys’ house.
“Can we not do that again?” I ask, getting to my feet and glancing around for my stuff. It’s lying a few metres away against the wall, and I take the opportunity to look around the room. It doesn’t seem too much different from my house; we’re in the lounge and there’s a couch and a couple of armchairs, a table, framed photos of Rose and Hugo on the mantlepiece above the fire, and a display cabinet.
Then I notice all the little differences. The photos of Rose and Hugo, and their parents on their wedding day, are moving – wizard photos. I’ve seen them before, Dad has a couple of them hidden in the shed, but it’s weird to see them sitting on display like that. The display cabinet has more photos, as well as what looks like a cigarette lighter, a very tattered book with symbols on the cover instead of words, two medals engraved with “Order of Merlin, First Class” and two framed certificates, one of which is Ron and Hermione’s marriage certificate, and the other presenting what looks like Rose’s exam results from ‘OWLs’ which I think she said was the equivalent of Year 11.
“Would you like to show Adelaide to her room, Rose?”
“Sure. Follow me.” Waving her wand, she levitates my bags and sends them floating up the stairs ahead of us. I stare.
“Yeah.” I shake my head and follow her upstairs, trying not to feel too inferior that I don’t know non-verbal spells and certainly wouldn’t be so casual about using them if I did. Stupid Brits having two years more magical education than us.
My room’s across from Rose’s, a pretty normal-looking spare room with a cupboard, bed and bedside table. There is, however, a portrait on the wall, and I sincerely hope it won’t start talking to me. Seems weird, having a portrait in a bedroom. What happens when you’re getting changed?
“Uh, hi,” I say to the haughty old woman in the portrait. “How’re you?”
“Speak up, child,” the portrait snaps. “I’m a hundred and fifteen, you know.”
At least it does speak, or I’d look pretty stupid talking to a painting. “How are you?”
The portrait huffs. “Bloody awful, I’m a portrait. Can’t you speak properly? I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
“It’s my accent, I can’t help it.”
“Accent!” the woman snorts. “Are you from the colonies?”
“I’m from New Zealand.”
“Part of Australia, isn’t it?” The portrait sniffs. “Full of convicts.”
“Part of Australia?” I repeat in horror. “Australia? I’m not Australian.”
“Don’t talk to her,” Rose whispers in my ear, having come into the room. “That’s Dad’s Auntie Muriel, she’s horrid.”
“What are you whispering about?” Muriel barks at Rose. “You young people, no respect. And brush your hair, for the love of Merlin.”
“This is how we usually deal with her,” Rose says, pulling out her wand. “Silencio.”
“You can do that to portraits?”
“Of course. Never tried it?”
“That’s nothing,” she says, rolling her eyes. “Wait till you meet Severus Snape, he’s in the Headmistress’s office at Hogwarts, and he hates everyone.”
“isn’t he a hero?”
“Yes, but he’s still a git.”