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Chapter 5: And So It Begins
I’m leading the way down to the Hub shortly after ten, pretending I’m not still exhausted from yesterday’s escapades. Amber’s the only one who’s heard that story so far, and I’m pretty sure its entertainment value will grow exponentially once we’ve all had a couple of drinks.
It seems everyone’s in a meet-and-greet mood, and within an hour we’ve had a number of Greek, German, Italian, Swedish, French, Russian and Dutch students coming up to us and attempting to get past the language barrier. Such interactions usually involve an exchanging of names, nationalities and degrees before they disperse to meet more people. Sometimes I wonder if they’re competing to see who can talk to the most strangers in a night.
Marama’s probably the most friendly of them all. Cheerfully explaining that everyone in New Zealand gets along with everyone else, she goes on her own personal crusade to turn everyone in the Omega bar into her new best mate. I go along with her on a couple of her ventures, but end up feeling bad about leaving Amber with boys when she’s spent the last seven years not talking to the fearsome creatures.
I miss Abby. We’d be right in the thick of it, doing shots with the large cluster of guys in the middle of the bar, asking everyone’s names, making up fake identities, probably dancing on the tabletops – she brings out the best in me. Or the worst, depending on who you talk to.
Luke, Nathan and Marama apparently spent their morning asleep and their afternoon talking and playing cards, so they haven’t even set foot outside Plato Hall since they arrived yesterday. I mention that we’ve chosen all our papers.
“I should probably get onto that,” Nathan says.
“Ha, you have to choose your papers,” Luke says gloatingly. “Mine are all sorted.”
“Only coz you’re doing a dumbass degree,” Nathan says dismissively.
“Not even a degree, a diploma,” Luke corrects. “But while you’re sitting there slaving away, sitting exams and writing reports, I’ll be all finished and playing Quidditch for Australia. And beating New Zealand,” he adds with a sly grin, which earns him a punch from Marama.
“What position do you play?” I ask.
“Seeker,” he says, which surprises me. He looks more like a Beater. “Do you play?”
“I did at school, I was a Chaser for five years.”
“You any good?”
“I’m all right, yeah.”
Luke nods. “We should have a social game sometime. Marama’s a Keeper, and Nathan can Keep too, sorta.”
“Such flattery,” Nathan mutters.
“Hey Lily, what did you say your last name was again?” Luke asks suddenly.
Oh no. I’m going to be Harry Potter’s Daughter again. I briefly contemplate changing my name. I could be a Weasley.
“I didn’t. It’s Potter.”
“Potter?” Luke repeats, his eyes widening. I knew it. “Potter, as in—”
“Harry Potter, yes,” I interrupt before he can finish.
He looks at me, puzzled. “Who’s Harry Potter?”
Never in my almost-nineteen years on this Earth have I heard those words. “Uh, just my dad. Never mind.”
“As I was saying, are you related to Ginny Potter?”
I gape at him. Some Aussie kid knows Mum, but not Dad?
“Quidditch player?” Luke prompts. “Seeker for England in the 2016 World Cup final? Caught the Snitch?”
“Oh, yeah, right,” I say quickly. “Yeah, that’s Mum.”
“She’s your mum?” Luke asks incredulously.
“I knew you looked familiar,” Luke continues. “You look a lot like her. Wow. Reckon you could get her autograph? She’s like, my little sister’s hero.”
“What’s your little sister’s name?”
“Steph. She’s fifteen.”
“Sure, I’ll owl Mum tonight if you want.”
“That’d be great,” Luke says happily. “It’s Steph’s birthday in a few weeks, and I was going to get her some Muggle souvenir or something, but an autograph from Ginny Potter would be amazing.”
One day, I would love to meet a group of people and have none of them ask me for my parents’ autographs. One day.
We don’t get back in to Plato Hall until 2am, clattering noisily into the foyer and earning glares from the grumpy receptionist who dissed Hogwarts’ staircases.
“Good night, folks!” Luke says loudly, and he and Nathan clamber onto the staircase. Before we can stop it, the boys take off to the first floor without us. I roll my eyes, waiting for the stairs to return and trying to ignore the receptionist glaring daggers at my back. I have a feeling she doesn’t like me much.
“You. English girl,” she barks at me.
“You, Greek woman,” I return, because I’m a smartass and I’m slightly intoxicated.
I go there. “Yeah?”
“You annoy me.”
“You come in past midnight two nights in row,” she grumbles. “Next time you use back entrance.”
“We have a back entrance?”
“Or you climb in through window, I don’t care,” she continues, ignoring my question. “Don’t annoy me again.”
“She’s friendly,” Marama observes. “What did you do to her?”
I tap my nose and bound onto the staircase that’s just returned.
The rest of orientation week passes in a similar fashion. I go with Marama to Student Support while she chooses her papers – she also chooses Voldemort, Death Eaters and Britain’s Civil War as an interest paper – and Nathan doesn’t get onto his until Friday, when it suddenly occurs to him that his papers aren’t already sorted for him like Luke’s are. I play a couple of games of Wizard Chess in my room with Amber, write a generic letter about how I’m finding EUS to everyone back home, and play an improvised two-a-side game of Quidditch that’s more a competition between me and Luke than anything else. I win, but Luke’s putting that entirely down to genes, rather than skill, and refers to me almost exclusively as ‘Ginny Potter’s Daughter.’ I’m serious. As in, “Hey, Ginny Potter’s Daughter, can you pass the salt?”
At least he doesn’t introduce me like that to other people, because as I am Ginny Potter’s Daughter I’m also proficient at Bat-Bogey Hexes, and I threatened him with one.
I’ve also discovered that the primary mode of transportation around campus is by broomstick—they’re not just confined to the Quidditch pitch. Everything is within walking distance, but we’re students and we’re too cool to walk. An impressive area surrounding the campus is also exclusive wizarding territory, and scungy student flats abound, along with more shops than Diagon and Knockturn Alleys combined. It’s called the Agora, and you have to be careful walking down the street because a number of people enjoy flying at face level and not much higher.
On Sunday I receive my lecture timetable and student ID card, noting with pleasure that I only have one lecture a week that starts before 11am. Pity I don’t know anyone still at Hogwarts, or I would owl them a fantastically gloating letter.
My first lecture is Witch Burnings and Fairytales, or MUGS102. Nathan’s also taking that paper, so at ten thirty on Monday morning I meet him and Amber in the dining room so we can track down our lecture theatre together.
“It’s in the Faculty of Magical Politics building,” Amber says, consulting her timetable. “Lecture theatre three.”
“I love your accent,” Nathan says. “It makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about.”
“Well, I don’t,” Amber replies, turning slightly pink. Poor girl, she needs to hang around guys more often.
We make our way onto Thinkery Rd, which is bustling with students going to or from lectures, and after a few steps we link arms to ensure we don’t lose each other in the crowd.
“Heads!” I yell as a figure on a broomstick flies dangerously close.
“This is chaos,” Amber says, looking alarmed. “Hey, there it is. Magical Politics.”
Magical Politics is another of those massive Parthenon-like buildings, all lovely white marble and surrounded by a grassy square. A large sign at the edge of Thinkery Rd proclaims ‘FACULTY OF MAGICAL POLITICS’ in English, Greek and Latin.
We walk up the marble steps to the foyer, which has an information desk, a cabinet selling various beverages and a number of posters about careers in magical politics. A long hallway runs along the left hand side of the building, doorways opening into the lecture theatres. Ours is right down the end, a massive amphitheatre with hundreds of seats. Everything looks made of marble.
Whistling softly in appreciation, Amber leads the way to an inconspicuous spot towards the back of the theatre and we file into our chosen seats, taking out parchment and quills. I take the opportunity to look around.
The first thing that strikes me is that, as a group of three, we’re a rarity. Large numbers of students are sitting by themselves, something that would have been unthinkable at Hogwarts. Groups of obvious strangers are clumped together, exchanging brief ‘Is anyone sitting here?’ conversation before settling into a content and focused silence.
The professor comes in, a tall, commanding witch with wavy black hair, amplifying her voice and turning to us. “Welcome to Muggle Relations 102,” she begins, with what sounds like an Italian accent. “I am Professor Accardi. Today we will begin with an overview of the semester’s course, including topics we will be covering, textbook requirements, and the assignments and examinations you will be required to complete in order to gain credit for the course.”
Listening to Professor Accardi describe the course, it slowly begins to dawn on me that I’m actually going to have to work this year. I hadn’t counted on that.