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Southern Cross by ad astra
Chapter 14: Classes
I’m woken up by a strange, lively little tune at some unidentified hour of the morning. I peer through half-closed eyelids to see what appears to be an alarm clock with arms and legs dancing merrily over Larissa’s unconscious form.
I flop back onto my pillow. Dancing alarm clocks. I’ve seen it all.
“Larissa, if you don’t turn that damn thing off I’m throwing it out the window!” Lucy bellows, and throws a pillow for good measure.
Larissa grunts, stirs, and gropes for the wand on her bedside table. Seconds later the alarm clock is silenced and hurled across the room, where it lands almost right beside my bed. Seven forty-five.
“What time do classes start?”
“Eight forty-five,” Jessie replies, already pulling the curtains around her bed.
I suppose I should probably get up then. With a sigh, I drag myself to my feet, rummage around for my Southern Cross uniform and Hogwarts robe, and clamber up on my bed to get changed. I’ve never really thought twice about it – Wearing My Uniform With Pride wasn’t a school policy anyone followed very much – but this time I find myself grateful that we get to keep our uniforms. It sets me apart – well. It’s a better way to set me apart than an unintelligible accent.
The others are packing their school books and things into their bags to take down to breakfast, so I assume we go straight to class from the Great Hall. That makes sense; it’s a bit of a hike to get back to Gryffindor Tower. I pile in my new books, not sure what subjects I have today, and some parchment and quills. I really hope we get our timetables at breakfast, otherwise I missed a very important memo.
I’m feeling pretty smug when I manage to get to the Great Hall without a single wrong turn or native Hogwarts guide, and my good mood is assured when I see the famed Professor Badass handing out timetables. I seize mine and scan it eagerly.
Defence Against the Dark Arts first. That’s with the scary one, isn’t it? Fun fun. Then Charms, Potions, Divination, Transfiguration, a free period, and finishing with History of Magic.
Wait a minute.
That’s seven lessons in one day.
We only have five back home.
Good Lord this country’s out to kill me.
Defence Against the Dark Arts is a big class. Really, really big. I sidle into the classroom in full view of the twenty-five or so students who have gotten here early, and Rose seizes my arm and pulls me into the seat beside her before too many people can stare openly at me.
“How many people take Defence Against the Dark Arts here?” I ask in wonder, glancing around the room.
“Most of seventh year, to be honest,” Rose says. “But don’t worry, they split the classes so we only have thirty-eight in here. It’s done by houses, and Gryffindor and Ravenclaw are the biggest for our year group. The other class is a lot smaller, maybe twenty-eight or twenty-nine. Transfiguration’s the other class that gets split because it’s so popular.”
“Wait, you lost me at only thirty-eight. That’s all of Year 12 at Southern Cross.”
“Same size as your Defence Against the Dark Arts class, right?”
“Well, yeah, but we don’t have another class of twenty-nine waiting in the wings.”
The other students slowly trickle in, and a quick check of my watch shows that everyone’s seated and behaving themselves before eight forty-five. From what I’ve seen and heard of Professor Rutherford I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s somewhat unsettling. A class of thirty-eight seventeen year olds should not be this orderly.
Five minutes later, the famed Professor herself walks into the classroom, and a hush descends over everyone in the class.
“Good morning,” she says quietly. “Welcome back to Defence Against the Dark Arts for your seventh and final year. I need not remind you that you will be sitting the NEWT examination at the end of the year, which will determine the options available to you upon leaving Hogwarts. The curriculum level for the second year of NEWT Defence Against the Dark Arts is also significantly higher than last year. Therefore, you will be required to give this subject your utmost attention all year. Everyone in this classroom is of age, and therefore you have chosen to be at Hogwarts and chosen to take Defence Against the Dark Arts. If you are not willing to work, I strongly encourage you to leave now.”
Silence reigns in the classroom for several long moments. I get the impression Professor Rutherford is actually waiting for someone to walk out.
“Right, now that’s out of the way, I’d like to welcome our exchange students from New Zealand’s Southern Cross School of Magic, Henry Greenfield and Adelaide Crosby. They will be joining us for classes until early November before returning to New Zealand to sit their own exams.”
I stand up and wave to the assembled masses. Henry just raises a hand in acknowledgement.
“Here we have an outline for this year’s course. The spells required for the practical examination are extremely complex. You will not, I repeat, will not, pass if you just read the incantation and try it in the exam. Consistent practice of spells year-round will be required.”
She hands out the sheets of parchment with the course outline, allowing us a few minutes to read over it. I stare at some of the spells on the list, quite certain I’m in over my depth. We really don’t learn anything useful back home.
“Now, just as a bit of revision,” Professor Rutherford continues, holding up a hand for silence, though it’s not exactly necessary – “We’re going to do non-verbal blocking practice. I know this is pretty basic stuff, but it’s always good to start off slow after a long holiday.”
I shoot a panicked glance at Rose, who pulls out her wand with relish. “I love the duelling stuff, don’t you?”
Miss Compton taught us the theory of non-verbal spells earlier this year for Charms, so I’m really hoping I can somehow pull it off now, when I wasn’t able to before. Something tells me I’m being more than a little bit optimistic, however.
With a flick of her wand, Professor Rutherford sends all the desks flying to the back wall, where they folded themselves up and pretty much melted into the wall. She doesn’t even bat an eyelid, and suddenly I find myself missing Miss Compton, who, if she had done something like that, would turn to us with a massive grin on her face and be like, “Did you see that? See what I just did? Wasn’t that cool?”
“Done much duelling?” Rose asks.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be nice,” she assures me. “The worst thing that’ll happen to you if I hit you will be uncontrolled dancing.”
That sounds pretty bad to me. I try valiantly to remember the incantation for the shield charm – we did it in DADA in Year 11, but I’m pretty sure that was the time I was dating Corwin and was too preoccupied with figuring out ways to tell him I liked him much better as a friend, and all I can remember was that it sounds like prodigy.
Too late. She’s already cast the spell at me, and I stumble as my legs suddenly develop a mind of their own, kicking and jumping all over the place. It’s a most surreal feeling.
“Sorry!” Rose calls, pointing her wand at me, and I regain control of my feet.
“What’s the incantation for the shield charm again?”
“Protego,” Rose replies, giving me a funny look. “Have you not learnt that yet?”
“We did, but I wasn’t paying attention.”
Luckily – or unluckily, I’m not sure yet – I’m saved from more embarrassment by the arrival of Professor Rutherford.
“Adelaide, have you covered non-verbal spells at school yet?”
“No,” I say, feeling slightly sheepish and also slightly relieved that I have a decent excuse for my abysmal spellwork.
“You’re in…Year 12 at home, right?”
“So, our sixth year. And the DADA course in New Zealand is less intensive than ours.” She smiles at me. “When you live in a country that’s gone through two wizarding wars in fifty years, you take DADA a lot more seriously. Rose tells me she noticed the difference while she was over there.”
“You could say that, yeah,” I say, remembering Scorpius’ Boggart and our reaction to it.
“Right. So, with non-verbal spells focus and determination are key. You need to focus on what you want the spell to do, and wand movements are important as well.” She reaches for my wand, presumably to demonstrate something, but instead peers at it, running her fingers over it and tilting it back and forth with a puzzled expression on her face.
“What kind of wand is this, Adelaide?” she asks eventually.
“Kauri and Haast’s Eagle feather.”
“Endemic to New Zealand, I assume?”
“Haast’s Eagle?” Rose repeats. “Isn’t that extinct?”
“According to the Muggles, yeah. Also according to the Muggles, kakapo can’t fly, tuatara are endangered—”
“What are tuatara?” Rose asks.
“Tuatara?” a kid repeats enthusiastically. “They’re a native New Zealand dragon, right? The only wingless dragon in the world, they’re only like, this big—” he holds his hands out to demonstrate the size – “And they live way longer than any other dragon. Have you seen any?” he continues, turning his attention to me.
“We had one in Care of Magical Creatures once—”
“Wow!” the kid says in wonder. “Cool! You’re allowed to have dragons in school? That is awesome.”
“Well, you are if you can hold them in your hands and if the teacher’s right there. And our dragons aren’t very aggressive anyway.”
This conversation about New Zealand’s flora and fauna continues into lunchtime, where the enthusiastic dragon kid, who’s in Ravenclaw, sits with us. After talking about dragons (we have two types, the tuatara and the tarakona, which is known overseas as the Antipodean Opaleye) we move onto wand materials, and are joined, to Rose’s disappointment, by Emilia Rutherford.
“Sorry, I heard you talking about wands,” she says. “I love wandlore, mind if I join?”
“So what’s the core?” Emilia asks, picking up my wand.
“Haast’s Eagle feather. Haast’s Eagle is the biggest eagle in the world and the biggest to have ever existed. The Muggles think it’s extinct, but that’s only because they’re hidden by magic. A lot of our native magical animals have adapted to hide themselves from the non-magical species, so Muggles think they’re extinct, or endangered. The endangered ones are actually like Squibs – if they don’t have magic to hide themselves, they end up cast out, sort of. There aren’t many of them, so the Muggles think they’re endangered. Sometimes, you get two very similar species, and one’s magic and one’s not. The kiwi’s magic, the weka isn’t. But they look pretty similar. There are a lot more of what we call Squib kiwi around, though. They’re more prone to it than other birds, that’s why there are enough of them to become a Muggle national icon.”
“Is there a wizard national icon?” Lucy asks.
“Yeah, the moa. It was the kiwi before the Muggles picked it up, and before that it was Haast’s Eagle, but then the Americans sort of claimed the eagle.”
“Do you make wands out of moa feathers?” Emilia asks.
“Yeah, my friend Ella has a moa feather wand.”
“What about the wood?”
“Mine’s kauri. Kauri are actually endangered, but our wandmaker has his own plantation of every tree he makes wands from. Some of his trees are really ancient – they put Te Matua Ngahere to shame.”
“Te Matua Ngahere. It’s a kauri tree up north, 4000 years old and the oldest in the country – according to the Muggles. Kaumatua Takarewa – he’s the wandmaker – has one that’s seven thousand years old, and he still gets wood for wands from the branches that fall off. Mine came from a tree that was three thousand years old.”
“Three thousand?” Rose repeats in awe. “Your wand comes from a tree that’s three thousand years old? And you’re telling me New Zealand has no history!”
“It’s all natural history, not human history.”
Henry makes his way over to the table at this point, and Jessie immediately asks him what his wand’s made of.
“Uh,” he begins. “Mine’s actually from South Africa.”
“South Africa?” Emilia repeats eagerly. “Are you South African?”
“So what’s your wand made of?”
“Uh, sun bird feather and marula wood.”
This effectively ends our discussion on New Zealand wildlife as Henry settles himself on the bench next to me and begins his explanation of the African wizarding world.
A/N: A nice long chapter (for me anyway) to make up for the short ones I've been posting lately. Heaps of references to NZ wildlife here - sorry if you find that kind of stuff boring :P This will probably be my last chapter for at least a week, I'm off to camp tomorrow. Don't forget to leave a review, and feel free to post in my MTA with any questions this chapter may have raised :)