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Southern Cross by ad astra
Chapter 17: Decisions and Departures
I find it miraculous that we don’t get hauled in to someone’s office the next morning to explain our absence, but apparently Henry befriended the right prefects and took all the right measures to ensure we didn’t get caught, which makes me realise exactly how much effort he put into the whole night.
After the game, general revelry continued in town until the wee hours of the morning. I got chatting to a few people, having to invent a hasty cover story about being an exchange student (it’s sort of true, except I told them I go to university, not a school of magic – what’s a little white lie here and there?) and generally spent the night shouting, cheering and acting like my hand was superglued to Henry’s.
Luckily the next day is Sunday, so I sleep in till lunchtime and spend most of the day lounging in my fat pants and hoodie in the common room, feasting on biscuits and hot chocolate (it’s beginning to get cold outside, and that’s all the excuse these Brits need to get snug and cosy and full of comfort food) before I decide to go find Henry. I briefly contemplate getting changed, before I decide that if he has a problem with me wearing fat pants I have a problem with him, and depart for the Hufflepuff common room.
The Puffs have a similar idea to us, except they’ve taken it a step further – they’re actually roasting marshmallows over a massive roaring fire by charming them to hover just above the flames until they reach the desired crispiness. I feel a strange rush of fondness for the country that’s adopted me for the last eight weeks.
My original intention was to take Henry for a walk round the grounds and figure out whether we’re in a relationship or not, but he’s sprawled out in front of the fire, evidently very comfortable, and waves me over to join him. The Puffs, typical Puffs that they are, just smile at the Gryffindor in their midst and make room for me beside the fire.
I’m not entirely sure where I stand with Henry yet – yeah, we kissed, and yeah, he took me out on what was essentially a date last night and was perfectly fine with me holding his hand all night, but there hasn’t been the asking out process and until the asking out process has happened, the rule is that you’re not Together. You just have a Thing.
I take a seat on the floor next to him, but he puts an arm around my shoulders and pulls me closer, so I’m leaning against him.
I’m good with this. I’m very good with this. Henry is warm and smells nice and I am very, very content.
“Marshmallow?” he offers, summoning one from the fire.
“I need to marry you,” I respond, taking the marshmallow.
“Is that a proposal?”
“Nah. You don’t get a choice in the matter.”
A girl I don’t recognise walks past, furrowing her brow at me. “Who’s the Gryffindor?”
“Henry’s girlfriend,” one of the guys sitting in front of the fire responds.
“Oh,” the girl says. “Hi.”
“Hi,” I return. Henry’s girlfriend? Well, that’s new.
Not that I’m complaining.
I can be Henry’s girlfriend.
Fine by me.
About two weeks before we’re due to leave Hogwarts, three things strike me. Number one: We have two weeks left at Hogwarts. Number two: We have three weeks until WEKA Level 2 external exams. Number three: I kinda want to fly home.
I inform Professor Badass of this at first, who transfers me to the Headmistress, Professor Sprout.
“You want to fly home?” Professor Sprout repeats, looking at me quizzically.
“As in, Muggle airplane flying?”
I shrug. “I dunno. I just want to come home the way everyone else does.”
“All right,” Sprout decides. “We’ll get your flight booked…what about Mr Greenfield?”
“Um, I’ll go ask him.”
I expected our departure from Hogwarts to be teary, but Rose has promised to come to New Zealand again soon (I have a funny feeling a certain brother of mine is a contributing factor in this) and Scorpius is under some kind of oath to spend Christmas in the Sounds with Georgia, so I know I’ll be seeing them again soon. I’ll miss the Gryffies, especially Larissa, but I’ve already extracted a promise from her that she’ll come to New Zealand as well once she’s finished seventh year – “I’m just going to be pissing around anyway, so I might as well piss around in New Zealand,” – and they’re the cool ones so that’s okay.
Henry agreed to fly home with me, so we’ve sent our suitcases ahead and are just taking small overnight bags as carry-on. Our flight plan is Heathrow – Dubai – Melbourne – Auckland, where we’ll be met by one of the Southern Cross teachers – I’m hoping it’s Mr McMahon – and taken back to Southern Cross to start our exams in a week’s time.
It’s Professor Badass who goes with us to Heathrow by Portkey. We emerge behind a convenient row of empty rental cars, and Badass leads us to the Air New Zealand check-in counter, where I merrily hand over my ticket and passport.
“Off home?” the woman behind the counter asks.
Henry and I receive our boarding passes, say goodbye to Professor Badass, and go off to explore all the shops. I buy a few British chocolate bars and keyrings for my friends – halfarsed I know, but they wouldn’t expect any more – and generally have a really good poke around. I’ve flown in planes before – visiting relatives up north – but never internationally, so this is an experience and a half.
“You realise how long we’re on that plane for, right?” Henry asks. “A very long time.”
“No, we’re in several different planes for a very long time.”
It’s weird going Muggle for everything – we even left our wands in our suitcases, and won’t see them again for about three days, in order to get through security. But to be honest, that’s actually part of the reason I really wanted to fly home – a reason I’m not quite prepared to admit to yet, because I’m still trying to get my head around it.
We board the plane – it takes forever, I didn’t realise how long it takes to board an international flight, and then you’ve got the people milling in the aisles while they put their bags in the overhead lockers and pick up their headphones for the movies and argue about seating arrangements. Henry and I are in the middle row of seats – me in the aisle seat and him next to a middle aged lady who takes one look at us, puts her eye mask on and goes to sleep.
Finally, everyone’s seated and the safety briefing comes on as the plane begins to move. As the roar of the engine fills my ears and the plane begins hurtling down the runway I’m seized by a sudden mistrust in physics, and grip the armrest as if it would somehow save me from certain death in the event of a crash. Henry, with a brief glance at me, covers my hand with his own.
“I’m not scared,” I say immediately.
“Maybe I just want to hold your hand,” he replies.
See why I like this guy. Willing to cover up my embarrassing fear of flying with unmanly sentimentality. I think I might keep him.
Two hours out of Dubai, Henry asks what subjects I’m taking next year.
“Um.” Well, I’m going to have to tell somebody pretty soon, and it might as well be Henry. “I’m doing NCEA.”
“Yes. NCEA. NCEA Level 3. National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Yeah.”
“Because…” I falter a bit. “Because I’m going for university entrance.”
“What made you decide that?”
“Being here. Well, not here here because we’ve left, but Hogwarts. England.”
“Because there are no opportunities in the wizarding world back home. Only the best students get into the Ministry or the paper or anything professional, there are no jobs around unless you want to work in a shop in Kororareka all your life. Especially when you compare it with what they can do in England, think about it. We share a bank and a hospital with Australia.”
“And let me guess. You don’t want to leave New Zealand.”
“I was thinking about doing university too,” Henry admits.
“Wait, you were?”
“Yeah. There are so many more opportunities in the Muggle world than the wizarding world. I’d be interested in studying International Relations.”
“I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet.”
“You’ve still got all year. So, my question still stands. What subjects will you do next year?”
I sigh. “I have no idea. I need Level 2 English for starters…Maybe Media Studies or Geography or Graphics, I don’t know. I’ll talk to McMahon when we get back.”
Now that I’ve actually said it, it becomes so much more real. I’m leaving the wizarding world behind. I’ll still be able to use magic, but only around home and never around any Muggles. And I’m going to university, and I don’t even know what I’ll be studying.
But for some reason, it just seems right. It’s not like I’ll be the only one in that situation, going off to classes next year with the Muggle secondary school Southern Cross partners with for Muggle subjects. I’ll still be living at Southern Cross, of course – I might even keep taking Potions or something, just so it’s not all new and unfamiliar. I’m already thinking about the subjects I might do next year, and what I want to study at university – university. I couldn’t stay in a hall of residence, it’d be impossible to hide my magic around so many people for an entire year, so I’ll need to get a flat with some people…
“Hey Henry, wanna flat with me at uni?”
“Sure,” he replies. “Which uni?”
“Okay,” he says agreeably, and goes back to his Air NZ magazine.
We get into Dubai sometime in the afternoon, but because we’re transferring flights don’t get out until evening. Lucikly for us Dubai Airport accepts most major currencies, and we both had a few Muggle pounds left over, so we bought Maccas (how very cultured of us) and took photos of the obscenely expensive stuff on display in the luxury shops. Although I’m beginning to feel a bit tired and a bit gross from the travelling, just being with Henry and walking around the airport with his hand in mine is pretty much enough to make me happy.
What has England done to me, I’ve become sappy.
Our transfer at Melbourne sees us on a smaller flight, more or less jam-packed with Kiwis returning home. I’m not ashamed to admit I nearly cried when I heard someone behind me say “Looking forward to fish and chips with the whanau tonight eh!”
“The Kiwiness!” I cry to Henry. “The Kiwiness! Honestly, there’s like no one on this flight who isn’t a Kiwi…”
“Unless Johannesburg has suddenly relocated to the central North Island, I think you’re sitting next to someone who’s not a Kiwi…and dating him, I might add.”
“You have New Zealand citizenship, that’s Kiwi enough for me.”
Henry folds his arms stubbornly. “I am not claiming association with the country that beat the Springboks.”
“Stay in Australia then.”
“Too many spiders.”
“Giving me reasons to love you.”
Oh jeez. Tell me I didn’t.
“Wait. You love me?”
I squirm in my seat. “Hey look, I think I can see land.” I fix my eyes to the window.
“I think I need to change my name,” I muse. “Adelaide’s in Australia, I mean, I wasn’t named after the city, of course, I was named after the New Zealand company ship my ancestors came out on in 1839, you’d think that’s pretty Kiwi, but no, everyone associates it with Australia and that’s really not on…Oh look, I’m babbling, I must be overtired. Really, really overtired, I’m not making any sense at all, don’t pay attention to anything I say.”
“Of course,” Henry says. “Overtired.”
I spend the remainder of the flight with my eyes glued to the window, watching land approach, then Auckland beginning to take shape, then the individual cars and buldings becoming visible, then the airport, and finally…
The plane erupts into spontaneous applause as we touch down at Auckland Airport. I glance out the window, seeing the New Zealand flag flying proudly in the wind, and feel like I’ve just regained a part of me that I didn’t realise was missing.
“Just so you know,” Henry says, yawning, “I love you too. And I’m, uh…really overtired.”
A/N: So, more or less a full year and seventeen chapters later, it's finished. That's it, folks. *wipes tear* Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed, and particularly those who have stuck with this story from the very beginning - Snapdragons, I'm looking at you - and you Kiwis who have shared my enthusiasm for this story and who have found in it some piece of home. Thank you to you all, and keep an eye out for a sequel because I don't think I'm done with Adelaide yet :)