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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.
The next three weeks pass in a whirlwind of organisation. I have to apply for a student visa from the Ministry of Magic, and I also find out I have to fly in a Muggle plane to Athens, which means getting a Muggle passport and asking Aunt Hermione all about air travel. Dad may have been raised by Muggles, but he’s never been on a plane and is therefore pretty much useless.
Aunt Hermione suggests I use an Undetectable Extension Charm on my bags, because I have to fit almost all my wordly possessions in them and I have a 30kg weight limit. Apparently seeing me off at the airport is going to be a massive family affair, and Mum’s busy arranging for every Potter and Weasley in England to fit into our magically expanded Toyota Camry.
I’m getting a scholarship from the Ministry because it turns out I did really well in my NEWTs and not many British wizards go to EUS, so I’ve got a handy thousand Galleons to take with me. Apparently the rest of wizarding Europe has followed the Muggles’ lead and all have one common currency made up of drachmae and obols (Greece is the major power in wizarding Europe, hence, I suppose, why the university is in Athens).
Time flies by (as time is wont to do in a whirlwind of organisation) and I’m now facing four days of partying with all my cousins, their friends, and everyone I graduated with, which is essentially half the British wizarding population under 25. It should be…interesting.
We start out in the Three Broomsticks, spending a lively evening drinking, reminiscing about Hogwarts, talking about our respective futures and generally getting rowdy. James starts a drinking game in the street after Madam Rosmerta suggested he take his ‘drunken antics’ outside, Scorpius Malfoy is getting into interpretive dance, Lorcan and Lysander Scamander are sitting in a corner giggling hysterically at each other, Lucy Weasley is charming her hair bright green and Albus is philosophising with Rose Weasley.
I feel tears prick my eyes at the thought of leaving them all behind. What was I thinking, going to Greece? I belong here, my home is here, my family is here, my loser friends are here…
“Oi Lily!” Theresa Finch-Fletchley yells. “If you’re thinking, you’re not drinking!”
“And if you’re drinking, you’re not thinking!” Rose adds, bouncing up from her seat. “‘I think, therefore I am.’ So by that logic, when you’re drinking, you cease to exist.”
“What does it mean to exist?” Al muses.
“What does it mean to not exist?” Rose counters.
“Stop being smart!” Theresa cries, fleeing to the other side of the room.
Al exchanges startled looks with Rose. I don’t think he’s ever been called smart in his life.
“You’re such a Hufflepuff!” Lucy yells at Theresa.
And just like that, I start crying. “I can’t do it!” I wail. “I can’t go to Greece, I can’t leave you guys, what am I thinking, there’ll be no other idiots like you around, I can’t even speak Greek…”
“Ten Galleons!” Hugo yells at me.
Al pats me on the shoulder. “There there, little sis. Did I tell you I’m moving in with James? His flatmate lost his job and moved back in with his mum, so he’s got a spare place. Actually, he’s got two, and if you move in with us we can keep the rent down.”
“I’m going to Greece!” I wail.
“You just lost me ten Galleons, Potter!” Hugo shouts.
The day before I leave is Family Day, where I’m not going out, and I’m going to have dinner with my parents and brothers. To be honest, the reason for that isn’t an overwhelming need to spend my last night with my nearest and dearest, but rather a way to ensure I won’t be hungover on the plane tomorrow, which is always good. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m moving to Greece, it means I won’t ever go drinking with my cousins again.
“You have to owl us every day,” Mum says at dinner.
“Poor owls,” Al says.
“It’s kinda far for an owl,” James agrees.
“The owl can deal with it, I want to hear from my daughter.”
“You’ll hear from me,” I assure her. I have mental images of myself closeted in a small room in my student hall, with no friends, endlessly writing letters to Mum and everyone else back home. It’s a depressing thought.
“She can Floo if there’s a fireplace,” Dad suggests.
“Good plan, Dad.”
“Do Floos work internationally?” Mum asks.
James shrugs. “You’re the pureblood.”
“That means nothing,” Mum replies.
“I’ll find out for you,” Dad assures me.
“So, have you learned Greek yet?” James asks.
“The best way to learn a language is through immersion,” I reply primly.
“You’re just being lazy,” Al interprets.
“Yeah, I am.”
“So, what papers are you doing as part of your degree, Lily?” Mum asks, attempting to steer the conversation in a more normal direction.
“No idea,” I say cheerfully.
I think Mum’s slowly coming to realise exactly how directionless I am.
“You mean you don’t know what you chose, or you haven’t chosen them yet?”
“Oh, I haven’t chosen them yet. There’s a week’s orientation, and during that I can have a look at the papers and choose which ones I want to do. Wizarding Studies is pretty much anything.”
“Keeping your options open, then?” Dad asks. He seems to be trying to cling to the notion that I know what I’m doing.
“Yeah, let’s go with that.”
Mum wakes me up at some uncivilised hour of the morning. Groaning loudly, I squint through the predawn darkness. “Must I get up before the sun does?” I mumble.
“It’s 9am, Lily, stop being so dramatic.” She pulls open my curtains and obnoxious sunlight floods the room.
I grumble some more, shuffling through my room and finding the T shirt and jeans that more or less form my Muggle wardrobe. My room is almost empty, with nearly everything I own sitting in a small suitcase on the floor. Aunt Hermione did the Undetectable Extension Charm for me, and I’m still marvelling at how it actually works.
I trail down the stairs to breakfast, where Mum presents me with a large feast that gets even Al and James out of bed. She often did this before we’d all head back to Hogwarts after the holidays, but this time I’m actually leaving home. For real. Leaving the country. And the worst thing is, nobody else is doing the same thing. Even when James moved out, it was just to a flat in Hogsmeade and he was home scrounging food quite often. I doubt I’ll have that liberty, and I’m certainly not flying all the time. The more I fly, the more I increase my chances of dying in a plane crash. Not a fan of that prospect.
I don’t know how Muggles do it all the time.
“Now, Lily, I’ve got some Muggle money for you, just in case you want to buy something to eat at the airport, or if you need to catch a bus or a taxi to campus—”
“What Muggle taxi is going to take me to a university of sorcery?”
“I don’t know how they do it over there,” Mum says, flailing her hands. “Do you?”
“Uh, no.” A cold wave of dread washes over me. What do I do when I get to the airport? Will anyone be there to pick me up? Of course not, they don’t know when I’m flying in. Uh, maybe I could send an owl? I won’t have an owl with me, mine’s flying straight to Athens. He left yesterday.
Straight after breakfast, Weasleys begin converging on our house, chattering excitedly away and milling around the house. I’m the first person they’ve ever heard of to go to wizard university, so naturally it’s a pretty big family event. I wonder what the Muggles will think of dozens of loud, redheaded people swarming into the airport with me.
Suddenly, it’s time. My suitcase is loaded into the boot and aunts, uncles, cousins and friends pile into the car with me. Uncle Ron insists on driving – he’s had his licence since before I started Hogwarts, but apparently the novelty still hasn’t worn off.
“So you’re inviting me to come stay with you sometime right?” Abby asks.
“Sure, if you want to risk your life on the plane.”
“It can’t be that bad,” Rose says.
“Have you ever been on a plane?”
“No, have you?”
“People always fear the unknown. I am no different.”
“I don’t fear the unknown,” Uncle Ron says from the front.
“You’re an Auror, Dad, you don’t fear anything,” Rose calls. She turns to me and adds in a low voice, “I’m kinda low on cash right now, and I want him in a good mood.”
That’s the thing about this family. We’re never nice to each other without an ulterior motive. James has offered himself as a sympathetic ear for all my I’m-leaving-the-country-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing freakouts over the past few weeks, but I know it’s only because he wants a model of the Caryatids to put in his flat so girls will think he’s cultured.
“Here we are,” Aunt Hermione announces. “Heathrow.”
I lean over Abby, Rose and Lucy to peer out the window. “Ohmygod, Muggles.”
“You’re part Muggle, you know,” Rose points out calmly.
“You’re more Muggle than me,” I respond.
“Let’s not start with the blood status thing,” Mum says tiredly. “It wasn’t much fun with Voldemort.”
“Yeah, Lily,” Al says smugly.
“Are you eight or twenty?” I ask exasperatedly.
“You’re all acting like children,” Dad says.
“Fine, I’ll just move to Greece then.”
“The sooner the better,” Al adds.
“Burn,” Hugo contributes.
I roll my eyes as we all pile out. A couple of passing Muggles stop and stare as twenty people emerge from a five-seater car. Dad Confunds them.
I stick close to Aunt Hermione as we head into the airport, mainly because she’s the Muggleborn in the family and she knows all this flying stuff.
“Now, Lily, you’ll have to put your wand in your suitcase,” she tells me. “They’ll get suspicious if you take it in your carry-on.”
“But what if the plane crashes or someone tries to kill me?” I ask sensibly.
“That’s about as likely as the Chudley Cannons winning the league.”
“Hey!” Uncle Ron protests.
“Honey, you know it’s true.”
Hermione accompanies me to the check-in desk, handing me the ticket she printed off her computer.
“Uh, hi,” I say, handing the woman behind the desk my ticket.
She takes it, taps away at her computer and gestures at my suitcase. “You checking that in?”
I glance at Hermione for confirmation. She nods.
“Yes. I am.”
She takes it, puts a tag on it, and sends it trundling off on a long moving surface. I watch it curiously.
“Here’s your boarding pass, and your gate. Enjoy your flight.” She dismisses me.
Hermione takes the pass, glances at it, and immediately sets off through the airport, dragging me and twenty Weasley-Potters in her wake. I feel like a child, staring bug-eyed at the bright, shiny shops and the swarms of Muggles.
“Lily, you’re staring,” Mum says quietly.
“I know,” I whisper back.
We reach an area labelled Security, which is also Passengers Only, and the Weasley-Potters gather around me.
“Have fun, Lily!” a number of them chorus.
“Study hard, Lily!” a further number of them say.
“Keep in contact!”
“Let us know how you’re going!”
“Don’t die on the flight!”
“I’m gonna cry!” I warn them.
“You’re not the only one!” Abby cries.
It’s an almost spontaneous bursting into tears and hugging all around. I lose track of who I’m hugging, but make sure to save the biggest ones for Abby, Rose, Mum and Hugo.
“I’ll miss you,” Abby says miserably.
“I’ll miss you more,” I counter.
“I’ll miss her most,” Hugo says, a rare moment of sentimentality. “What? We’ve been best friends since we were babies.”
“Don’t remind me, I’ll cry harder,” I say miserably.
“You’ll be back though, Lil,” Mum says, smiling through her tears. “In the summer holidays.”
“I dibs her for the first week,” Abby says.
“We can sort that out later,” Dad says, clearing his throat. “Lily, you have a plane to catch.”
I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. “Yeah,” I sniffle.
“Come here,” he says, holding out his arms. I hug him, pulling away before I can start really crying on his shoulder.
With a final embrace from Mum, I walk through Security and leave my family behind.
I get through Security and Passport Control by prefacing every encounter I have with ‘I’ve never been on a plane before.’ Strangely enough, I don’t get as many weird looks as I thought I would, and at the end of it I’m in my departure lounge and I haven’t been mistaken for a terrorist, so that’s always a plus. I know I have to listen out for when they announce Flight WhateverNumber’sOnMyBoardingPass to Athens and join the queue that will form immediately outside the gate. I’m just looking forward to getting on the thing, knowing I won’t be left behind, and that’s one less thing I have to deal with.
It’s weird being alone. I’ve only been out of Hogwarts two months, and at Hogwarts you’ve got hundreds of people in your face all the time. And even at home, having a family like mine means solitude is pretty hard to come by. I always used to lament my lack of privacy, but I’ve gotten used to it now. It’s like spending your life wrapped in a warm, comfortable blanket and eighteen years later having it ripped away from you without warning. I shiver.
And then my boarding call comes.
“First time flying, love?” a kindly middle-aged woman sitting next to me asks. The plane is taking off and I’m gripping the armrest with all my strength. I have no idea what my expression is like, but I have a feeling it’s similar to what Dad looked like when he took that Avada Kedavra in the Battle of Hogwarts.
“Yeah,” I manage.
“It can be a little scary at first.”
You’re telling me.
“I remember when I flew for the first time I was about your age – was a much smaller plane, mind. The bigger planes are better, of course – you don’t feel the bumps so much.”
She has this smile on her face, like she’s revisiting fond memories. Muggles are weird.
“So what are you doing in Athens?” she continues.
Time to break out the lies. “Uh, I’m going to university there.”
Way to lie, Lily. That was phenomenal.
“Really? What are you studying?”
“Um, archaeology.” There we go. Nice lie, right there. Please don’t make me follow it up.
“Archaeology, fascinating. Do you know anyone else going?”
I shake my head. “Just me.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a Gryffindor.” Oh no, I just said that aloud.
“Nothing,” I say quickly.
“What’s your name anyway?”
“Tracey. I’m just heading over for a holiday. I’m catching the ferry to Santorini, actually. Spend a couple of weeks there, just get away from it all. My husband just left me, so here I am. Free as anything, do what I want.” She forces a smile, and to my alarm she starts crying. Awkwardly, I offer her a tissue.
“Thank you. God, I’m sorry. I’m not usually such a mess.”
“It’s okay, you didn’t see me earlier when I was saying goodbye to my family. Bawled my eyes out.”
She gives me a feeble smile, and for some reason I feel like crying again. No, Lily. Get a grip. You don’t want to arrive in Greece snotty-nosed and puffy-eyed.
“Quite a pair, aren’t we?” Tracey asks, seeing my swimming eyes.
Nothing like crying with a stranger on a plane. I’ve been in the Muggle world barely three hours and already I’ve decided it’s ten times weirder than anything the wizarding has to offer.
I pass the entire flight talking to Tracey, swapping life stories – well, the Statute of Secrecy-approved version of my life story anyway – and when we land I tell her to have a good time in Santorini and forget about her loser husband for a while.
I’ve made friends already. Fantastic. Never mind the fact she’s a Muggle, I’ll never see her again and now I’m in Athens and I have no idea where the hell I’m going now.
I go through passport control again, follow the signs to baggage collection and emerge into a large arrivals area while entertaining the vain hope that university staff will be standing there holding a big sign with my name on it.
I sort of had this assumption that things would just sort themselves out once I got here, but it’s beginning to dawn on me now that it hasn’t, and it won’t. And I would love to send an owl to the university, but I don’t have an owl, and I can’t exactly infiltrate the Greek wizarding society from the Muggle one.
Great work, Lily. You’re stuck in Muggle Athens and you’ll probably be sleeping in a doorway tonight with a whole lot of creepy homeless drug users.
I dig into my bag for the Introduction to EUS booklet and flick through it, trying to find anything about ‘Getting to the university from Athens International Airport.’ Funnily enough, there’s nothing.
I find the best, clearest picture I can of the university itself—a big, white marble building with an exterior colonnade, shut myself in a toilet, focus as hard as I can, and Apparate there.
“What the hell, man!” a distinctly un-Greek voice yells.
I don’t dare open my eyes. Oh God. I’ve Apparated to America. After all that.
Carefully, I risk a peek around. I’m on a large, arid hill surrounded by people with cameras and flanked by tall, crumbling, slightly yellowing buildings with columns and no roofs.
Nope, I’m on the Acropolis.
I’m on the freaking Acropolis.
I’m even more screwed than I was before. I’m in the middle of a massive Muggle tourist destination with a suitcase. This would be funny – if I knew I’d be getting out alive. Seeing as I don’t know that yet, I’m not seeing the funny side.
After a couple of hours milling around not being sure what to do and trying unsuccessfully to look casual and blend in, I decide on my plan of action, running into the Parthenon, Confunding the Muggle who tries to stop me, hiding behind a column and sending a Patronus message to Mum.
Hey Mum, uh, I’m kinda stuck on the Acropolis. Don’t ask, just find out for me how I’m meant to get to university from here. Thanks!
Five minutes later I get a message back, and I have to Confund some more Muggles.
You’re on the Acropolis? Why doesn’t that surprise me? Just owled the university, someone will come and get you from there.
I wonder how long it would take for an owl to get from England to Athens. I sit in the Parthenon, brooding. It’s starting to get dark, and the tourists are leaving.
“You in there!” a scary looking security guy bellows at me.
He wanders off again. Thank you Dad for teaching me that one.
It’s late. Really late. And cold. I pull my bedding out from my suitcase and curl up into a ball. First night in Greece and I’m camping out in the Parthenon. This is ridiculous.
Hurry up, owl. Get here.
I’m really, really tired. Might just close my eyes for a bit.
“Good evening,” a heavily accented voice says. I leap to my feet, heart racing.
“Who’re you?” I demand.
“Are you…” he pulls out a piece of paper, “Lily Potter?”
Greek Guy smirks. “We just received an owl from your mother.”
“This is not the usual way we receive our students,” Greek Guy continues.
“I can imagine,” I mutter. I’m tired, cold and embarrassed, and in no mood to be friendly.
“We will Apparate to the university,” Greek Guy continues, holding out his arm. Feeling slightly awkward, I take it. I hate Apparition. Whoever invented it should be AK’d.
We arrive in a grassy area and I glance around to notice a whole lot of white marble buildings that look like they were designed in the Classical Period, but it’s dark and I’m tired and I don’t really take much in other than that. Greek Guy leads me to one of the bigger buildings, where I can see a few lights and therefore signs of life, and takes his leave. I walk through what I assume is the main entrance, and approach the desk where a grumpy-looking Greek witch is listening to Celestina Warbeck.
“Hello,” I say in what I hope is a friendly tone.
The woman grunts.
“I’ve just arrived,” I prompt.
“I can see.”
“Where am I, exactly?”
“This is student accomodation. You stay in student accomodation?”
“You have been accepted?”
I nod again.
“What is your name?”
“Lily Potter,” she repeats. “You are in room two hundred fourteen. Here is your key. You are upstairs.” She gestures to a marble staircase. “Staircase moves.”
“Like Hogwarts,” I note happily.
She looks at me. “Staircase in England go nowhere. Staircase in Greece take you to your room.”
Feeling slightly affronted, I pick up my bag and head for the staircase. Just because the Hogwarts staircases have minds of their own. It made life more fun. Hogwarts is quirky. I miss it.
Don’t cry, Lily.
I step off the staircase as it deposits me in front of the door labelled 214, slip the key into the lock, step inside and cast lumos maxima.
It’s small, with white marble walls and a large window on one side. There’s a bed along one wall, and a desk and shelves along the other. The window is open and a cool breeze comes in, rippling the white curtains. Everything’s too white. I’ll do some Colour Change Charms tomorrow.
Feeling suddenly exhausted, I pull my bedding out of my suitcase, dump it on my bed and collapse, grateful that I don’t have the chance to dwell on how alone I feel.
I wake up at 11am with no idea where to get food or to shower, which I must admit are my priorities right now. Shower. Shower shower shower. I poke my head out, peering down the corridor and shuffling out. Aha! Shower! I bolt back into my room, gathering clothes and other shower essentials and cautiously opening the door.
There’s a long row of shower cubicles, magically expanded inside with separate showering and changing areas. Though at this point I would be happy with a fountain outside, because I smell, and I feel gross.
Half an hour later, with my will to live restored, I decide to go for a bit of a wander, hoping that I’ll come across some people because the place seems so empty and quiet.
As I head down the corridor I can hear a babble of voices somewhere below me. Maybe they’re in the dining room. I could so do with some food, and with this in mind, hop onto the staircase without knowing where it would take me.
It takes me to the dining room. I could get used to the staircase.
I feel slightly apprehensive walking into the room crowded with students and not knowing a soul, but I keep my focus firmly on the food being served at the front and take a seat in a nice, inconspicuous place in the corner.
“Hey,” a girl with a distinctly American accent says. She’s tall, a bit plump, with strawberry blonde hair and a nervous smile. “Mind if I sit here?”
“Not at all,” I say agreeably. “What’s your name?”
“Amber. Amber Fullman.”
“You’re from the UK?”
“Sure am. You’re American, I take it.”
“Yeah, I’m from Montana.”
“What brings you here?” I ask. “I thought America would have its own university?”
“It does, but I wanted something different. Can’t get much more different than this.”
“I know, right? I’ve just come from a thousand-year-old castle.”
“I’ve just come from Salem Witches’,” Amber says wryly. “I haven’t even laid eyes on a boy – apart from my brothers – for the past seven years. So yeah, this is different.”
“Really?” I ask incredulously.
“Really,” she confirms. “I actually have no idea how to talk to them. And I don’t know anyone here, because all my friends went to Leonard Kleinfelt. That’s our university, by the way.”
“I’m in the same situation. Well, we don’t have our own university, but nobody knows about this one either. I mean nobody. Everyone just goes straight into their careers.”
“So what are you studying?” she asks.
“Bachelor of Wizarding Studies. You?”
“Bachelor of Magical Politics, probably majoring in Muggle Relations. Should be interesting.”
“Hey, I heard you guys speaking English, mind if I join?” A girl with dark skin and an accent I can’t place smiles at us and takes a seat. “I’m Marama, by the way. Where are youse from?”
“I’m from the States,” Amber says.
“England,” I add.
“Sweet. I’m from New Zealand. What are youse guys’ names?”
“I’m Amber, and this is Lily.”
“Oh, awesome. So what are you lot studying?”
We just manage to swap information about our respective degrees – Marama’s doing a Bachelor of Magical Sciences, which is basically Potions and Transfiguration – when two guys approach us.
“Hey, can we join you guys?” the first guy, tall with shaggy blond hair, asks.
“Sure,” I say. “Why don’t we just go round the table and say our names, degrees and countries of origin, it would make things easier.”
“Well, you’re obviously British,” the first guy says.
“Well spotted. My name’s Lily, and I’m doing Wizarding Studies.”
The boys introduce themselves as Luke and Nathan, studying Magical Sports and Wizarding Studies respectively, from Australia.
“Oh, nah,” Marama says when she hears this. “I’m a Kiwi, youse can’t sit with us.”
“Just coz we beat you in the Quidditch,” Luke says with a grin.
“Oh, don’t even bring that up. Painful memories, man, painful memories.”
Amber and I exchange glances.
We continue talking until long after all the other students have left the dining room, swapping stories about our respective schools. Marama went to Southern Cross School of Magic, the guys went to Snowy River Wizarding College.
“So there were no guys at your school?” Marama asks Amber.
“No, just girls. Seven years of bitching, catty, hormonal girls.”
“I know where I’m going in the holidays,” Nathan declares.
“Honestly, you don’t want to,” Amber assures him.
“Two thousand chicks in the same place,” Luke agrees, nodding. “Awesome.”
“Two thousand chicks who would like our accents,” Nathan says. “Amber, American girls like our accents, right?”
“You both sound horrendous,” Marama says.
Five minutes follow of the guys and Marama insulting each other’s accents, during which Amber and I quietly slip away to collect more water for the table.
“Is this going to go on forever, do you think?” Amber asks.
I shrug. “I’ve never met Australians or New Zealanders before, so I can’t really tell you.”
“First time overseas?”
“Same here. How did you get here?”
“Flew. Muggle style.”
“Do you do that often?”
“First time in my life.”
“Are you a pureblood?” she asks curiously.
I shrug. “My grandmother was Muggleborn, so whatever that makes me.”
“Close enough to pureblood,” she decides. “I’m a half blood, I guess. Dad’s a wizard, Mom’s a Squib.”
“Your mum’s a Squib?” I repeat.
“Yeah. She still lives in the wizarding world, though. She runs the university bookshop.”
“What ’bout your dad?”
“He lectures Dark Arts Resistance at the university,” she says with a small smile.
“I can see why you came here instead.”
“Yeah. What about you? Just wanted something different?”
“Actually, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left Hogwarts, so I just kinda…came here.”
She bursts out laughing. “Good a reason as any, I suppose.”
We return to the table, where Marama and the boys are engaged in a lively debate about the merits of their respective national Quidditch teams.
“Well, it’s no wonder you guys suck, you have such a small population to choose from,” Luke’s saying when we sit down.
“Must be super embarrassing that we beat you for five years straight, then,” Marama retorts.
“The team wasn’t as strong as they are now,” Nathan says with a shrug. “But now we’re gonna kick your ass. Australia for the Cup this year!”
“You wish,” I interject. “You might beat New Zealand, but there’s no way you’re beating England.”
“Wait and see, Pom,” Luke says ominously.
I decide to take this opportunity to leave, remembering my stuff is still in my suitcase and my room is still shiny white marble.
“Where’s your room?” Amber asks, accompanying me out of the dining room.
“Two fourteen, what about yours?”
“Two ten, I’ll be pretty close to you.”
“Awesome. How long have you been here?”
“Since yesterday afternoon, you?”
“Since one o’clock this morning,” I admit.
“Why did you get in at one o’clock this morning?”
“Long story,” I begin, arriving at my room and unlocking it, “But I ended up on the Acropolis.”
I’m pretty sure my Acropolis escapade has travelled right around the wizarding world back home, a suspicion confirmed by the arrival of my owl—I’ve never bothered to name him so I generally just call him Owl—bearing letters from Hugo, James and Abby.
Did you actually Apparate to the Acropolis? That’s amazing. I’m in awe of you. Though I’m annoyed you’ve lost me ten Galleons, I bet your brother you wouldn’t do anything phenomenally stupid on your first day. Anyway, hope you’ve made it to the university okay now, let me know how it is!
Lily, you just won me ten Galleons. I owe you. Figuratively speaking, that is, because I’m broke.
Aunt Ginny came round last night telling us you were stuck on the Acropolis. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. In all seriousness though, you’re an idiot. High five!
At this point a hand that Hugo drew on the parchment comes to life, waiting for the aforementioned high five. Shaking my head, I high five the parchment hand and it subsides back into the letter.
I love Hugo.
I spend the rest of the afternoon unpacking and arranging my room. I’m especially proud of my feature wall, where I’ve created a giant mosaic Gryffindor crest with the words the Sorting Hat sang in my first year at Hogwarts: ‘Your heart may truly lie in Gryffindor, along with the hearts of the heroes of war.’ I nearly cry again when I look at it.
I never used to cry, honest.
Amber comes into my room while I’m arranging the few books I’ve brought with me on the shelves.
“What’s Gryffindor?” she asks, looking at my feature wall.
“My house at Hogwarts. My entire family was in Gryffindor, and my grandparents on both sides – it goes way back,” I explain.
“How do you pick your houses?”
“We get Sorted. We have a Sorting Hat, which reads your mind, I suppose, and it puts you in the house that suits you best. Gryffindor is for courage.”
“What are the others?”
“Um, Ravenclaw is for intelligence, Hufflepuff is for kindness and justice, Slytherin is for cunning and ambition.”
“We didn’t have houses,” Amber says. “We were just separated into grades, first through seventh. Everyone got really close in senior year, I miss them so much.”
“I know the feeling. So there are no other Americans here?”
“Not that I know of. I mean, there might be some guys, not that I know them.”
“What’s the boys’ school called?”
“Lincoln Wizards’ High. We used to run a Quidditch exchange with them.” Amber roams around my room, looking at the photos I have plastered on my walls. “This your family?”
“That’s about half of them.”
“Yeah, I have a pretty big family. Mum had six brothers.”
Amber’s eyebrows shoot up. “I feel sorry for your grandma.”
“Believe me, so do I. What’s your family like?”
“Pretty small,” Amber admits. “Mom and Dad have a few siblings, but when they were married Squibs didn’t have many rights or social standing, so they both kinda lost contact with their families. But I have two brothers, and then all the girls I graduated with are like sisters to me.”
“I have two brothers too. Are yours older or younger?”
“One older, one younger. What about yours?”
“Both older, and both with about as much direction as me.”
Amber picks up a photo of me with James and Al. “This them?”
“Not meaning to be creepy, but the one in the middle is kinda good looking.”
“Al?” I ask incredulously. “Wow. You’re welcome to him.”
Amber grins. “You’re forgetting how starved I am of male company.”
“Good point,” I concede. “I wonder if there are any pubs around the neighbourhood? We should go out for drinks before lectures start next week.”
Amber shrugs. “Should we go explore? We’ve still got ages till dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The EUS campus, I discover, is much bigger than I initially thought. There are three halls that house students, arranged around a large field with an elaborate fountain in the centre. The hall complex is on the corner of two roads, Thinkery Road (seriously, that’s the main road through campus) and Hestia Ave. The whole complex is like a giant rectangle, with Thinkery Road running straight down the middle and a number of little side streets separating the various faculties. Amber and I have a good explore, finding the Faculty of Magical Sports, Dark Arts Studies, Magical Arts, Magical Sciences, Wizarding Studies, Magical Politics, Education, Astrology and Magical Flora and Fauna. The latter is the biggest, with massive paddocks housing all manner of magical beasts, a large greenhouse, a couple of lecture theatres and three impressive-sized barns.
None of that really matters, however, because we’ve found the most important place: The Hub. Halfway down Thinkery Road, it’s basically the nucleus of student life, with a quadrangle, a library that looks bigger than the whole of Hogwarts, the university bookshop, a student health centre, seven bars , five cafes and a sweet shop that looks like a massive Honeydukes. All my uncertainties about coming here flee at the sight of it.
“I think I’m in heaven,” I declare.
Amber nods slowly in agreement and tows me into the nearest café. Even though Orientation Week is only for first-year students, there are people milling around everywhere. Seized with Gryffindor courage, I wade into a large group of students and introduce myself.
The group, I find out, is from Iceland. They’re staying in Socrates Hall (We’re in Plato Hall, the other is Xenophon Hall – sensing a theme?) and come from the Fgdfivjnervu School of Magic – I just made that up, I couldn’t make out what they said - and ask me where I’m from, where I’m staying and what I’m studying. The last question vaguely reminds me that I should go choose my papers, and a number of colourful posters inform me I can do that at the Student Support and Admin Centre (this particular name is given in about eight different languages.)
“Come with me to Student Support and Admin?” I ask Amber.
“Sure, what for?”
“Need to choose my papers.”
“Oh yeah, same here.”
The Student Support and Admin Centre is a large, round, whitewashed building with a blue domed roof, crowded with students and filled with information displays from various faculties. I find the Wizarding Studies display and pick up a list of available papers.
First Year Wizarding Studies (Papers offered in English)
-Apparition 101: Techniques, Innovations and Advanced Practice
-Magic of Music 101: An Introduction
-The Light Arts 101: Introduction to Charmed Portraits
-The Light Arts 102: Introduction to Wizarding Photography
-History of Sorcery 101: Muggle Mythology and Magic
-History of Sorcery 102 Special Topic: Voldemort, Death Eaters and Britain’s Magical Civil War
-History of Sorcery 103: A History of Eastern Magic
-Ministry Studies 101: The Statute of Secrecy and the Birth of the Ministries*
-Muggle Relations 101: An Introduction to Wizard/Muggle Relations in the 21st Century*
-Muggle Relations 102: Witch Burnings and Fairytales: Muggles and Magic Before the Statute*
*Can also form part of Bachelor of Magical Politics
These are more interesting than I thought. At the next table, Amber is poring through her own course list.
“Witch Burnings and Fairytales,” she mutters to herself. “Lily, check this one out, it’s a Muggle Relations one.”
“It’s offered in my degree as well. Should we do it?”
“Sure,” she says, pulling out a quill and circling it on her booklet. “At least I’ll know someone in one of my lectures. There’s a History of Sorcery one here as well, ‘Voldemort, Death Eaters and Britain’s Civil War.’ You’d know all about that, I guess, being English.”
I pause to consider her words. She doesn’t even know who my dad is. It occurs to me that here at EUS, nobody knows me as ‘Harry Potter’s daughter.’ It’s…liberating.
“Yeah,” I say in response to her comment. “That’s another Wizarding Studies paper, I might do it. It’d be nice and easy.”
“And you can help me,” Amber says. “I might do it as an interest paper…So I need a couple more Muggle Relations.” She lapses into a concentrated silence.
Half an hour later, we’ve decided on our papers. Magical Politics and Wizarding Studies have a number of subjects in common, so we’re both doing Muggle Relations 101 and 102 and History of Sorcery 102. In addition to those, I’ve chosen History of Sorcery 101 (I find that ironic, because I hated History of Magic at Hogwarts – everyone did) as well as Apparition 101 and Light Arts 101, the portrait painting one, for fun.
And that’s my year sorted. I fill out my choice of papers form, having to go up to the desk to find out my student number. Said student number is made up of my initials, the year I enrolled, the international code of my previous school, the number student I am from that school and the code of my hall. So I’m no longer Lily, but LLP2027HSWW02PH. Amber is ACF2027SWI01PH.
“Wait a minute,” I say, comparing mine and Amber’s student numbers. “Why am I HSWW02? That means there’s someone else from Hogwarts here.”
Amber shrugs. “There are thousands of students here, there’s bound to be at least one other, right?”
“You’re the only one from Salem,” I point out.
“Yes, but we have our own university.”
“I wonder if I can find out,” I muse. “Who this mystery fellow Hogwartian is.”
We return to Plato Hall for dinner, where Marama, Luke and Nathan beckon us over. I don’t think they’ve moved since we left them; there’s a pile of cards sitting in the middle of the table.
“What have you two been up to?” Nathan asks.
“Having an explore,” I reply. “Found the bars.”
“Bars?” Marama asks, perking up. “Do you guys wanna go for drinks after tea?”
“After tea?” I repeat, puzzled.
“I mean dinner,” Marama corrects herself. “We call it tea back home.”
“You guys are weird. But yeah, drinks sound good.”
“Where are the bars?” Luke asks.
“The Hub. It’s this massive place with all the cafes and the library and the bookshop and everything. It’s amazing.”
“Awesome,” Luke says cheerfully. “What floor are you guys on?”
“We’re on first,” Luke says, encompassing himself and Nathan, “And the Kiwi’s on fourth. If we all meet outside our rooms? I’m 118, Nate’s 119.”
“Good plan,” I say approvingly, and with this sorted, we collect our food and lapse into silence as we eat.
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.
“You know what I hate?” Nathan grumbles as we make our way to the university bookstore. “Course outlines. They never fail to scare me.”
“I’m glad I’m not the only one,” I say gloomily. “I’m going to fail this year.”
“Same,” Amber says in a tone that almost exactly matches my own.
“Oh well,” I say with forced cheerfulness. “Only two other courses this semester, how hard can it be?”
“What are your other courses this semester, Lily?” Nathan asks.
“The Voldemort one, and the painting one. What about you?”
“Voldemort one, and the Magic of Music.”
“You’re into music?” Amber asks. “What do you play?”
“Violin,” Nathan says, reddening slightly. “Not very manly, I know.”
Amber smiles. “I’m doing the music one as well, as an interest paper.”
“What do you play?”
“Piano. And a bit of violin, but I’m not very good.”
“I could help you,” Nathan suggests.
Suddenly, I feel like a bit of a third wheel.
My morning lecture is The Voldemort One (as I’ve come to call it) but I don’t really mind because it’s the one I’m actually looking forward to most. All of us except Luke are taking it, and he looks slightly jealous that we’re all going off to the same lecture.
“Oh well,” he says with forced indifference, “You guys can go learn about civil wars and stuff, I’ve got a practical lesson today. Means I get to spend all morning flying, eh Potter?”
At least he’s stopped calling me GinnyPotter’sDaughter, because that got old fast. “Have fun flying on your lonesome, Nelson.”
We’re on a last name basis now, I’ve decided.
I feel strangely proud when we arrive at the Faculty of Wizarding Studies, because it’s my degree and my faculty, even though I’ve never actually had a lecture here yet. Wizarding Studies looks shinier, prettier, bigger – or I may just be biased. I don’t care.
We’re a real oddity in this lecture theatre. Four of us, all sitting together, all friends. I can’t help smiling at that thought. Yeah. I have friends. Four of them. In Greece. Ten points to Lily.
The professor arrives ten minutes later, a tall, bald, black wizard in purple robes.
“Good morning,” he says in a vaguely familiar voice.
Why is it familiar?
Because it’s British, Lily, that’s enough for familiarity here.
“I’m Professor Shacklebolt—”
“Ohmygod!” I shriek. “It’s Kingsley Shacklebolt!”
Note to self: Don’t shriek in silent lecture theatre of five hundred people.
There’s only one option when five hundred people are staring at you – make like your eldest brother and ham it up.
“Sorry folks,” I call jovially to the staring masses. “Old Minister of Magic, got a bit excited.”
Amber and Nathan look like they want to disappear under the desks. Marama’s laughing at me.
“As someone has just pointed out,” Kingsley continues, “I was Britain’s Minister of Magic for fifteen years after the conclusion of what we call the Second Wizarding War, but what most of you will know as the British Civil Wizarding War. This semester’s course will cover the autobiographical details of Tom Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort, the rise of the Death Eaters, and the resistance movement, including the roles of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army and Harry Potter.”
This is too good. I won’t have to do a scrap of work.
Wait a minute.
Harry Potter? Damn! Five hundred people are going to learn who my dad is!
Is it too late to start going by the name Weasley?
I should have agreed to marry Lorcan Scamander when he asked. Granted, I was eight, but I wouldn’t be a Potter anymore.
Kingsley runs through the course requirements, and I have to stop myself laughing when I hear there’ll be an exam on Dad at the end of the semester.
I have to owl him about this.
He’ll be horribly embarrassed.
It’ll be great.
It happens quite suddenly and quite casually, the loss of my relative anonymity. We’re sitting in one of the Hub’s cafes when Marama, flicking through her copy of Dark Marks and Death Eaters, puts the open book in front of me and asks, “This your dad?”
“Yes,” I admit with a sigh. “Yes, Harry Potter is my dad.”
Marama, busy reading Dad’s bio, lets out a whistle. “Why didn’t you tell us earlier? That is cool.”
“Eighteen years of being known only by who your dad is, you kinda want to break away from that.”
“Makes sense,” Amber agrees. “That’s why I left the States.”
“Are your parents famous too?” Marama asks, temporarily sidetracked.
“No, but they both work at the university back home, and I’d rather not study at the same place my parents work at.”
“So true,” I agree. “My best friend back home – well, one of them – her dad’s a teacher at Hogwarts, and he’s Head of Gryffindor as well.”
“You were both in Gryffindor, right?” Amber asks.
“Yeah.” I smile. “All the cool kids were in Gryffindor.”
“Your name’s in our textbook!” Marama suddenly shouts.
“What.” I’m not impressed. My level of impressed-ness is so low, in fact, that I can’t even be bothered putting the inflection on the word to turn it into a question.
“Right here.” She points to the final paragraph.
Harry Potter is now head of the Auror Office at Britain’s Ministry of Magic. He lives in Godric’s Hollow with his wife, Ginevra, and their three children, James, Albus and Lily.
“This needs updating,” I say lightly. “None of us live at home anymore.”
“Like, Harry Potter is now head of the Auror Office blah blah and lives in Godric’s Hollow with his wife, Ginevra. His two sons, James and Albus, have moved out and his daughter Lily is living in room 214 in Plato Hall at the European University of Sorcery in Athens if you wish to stalk her,” Amber suggests.
We all laugh at that, and Nathan offers Amber a high five. She turns slightly pink, and I swear he does too.
I wonder how their music practice is going.
I toy with the idea of going back to my room and studying, but decide that would be a waste of time considering we haven’t been given any assignments or reading to do yet. I’ll write a letter to Abby. I wonder how early I can get her to come stay for a few days. Maybe she has a job. I doubt it, I’ve only been gone for a week.
“Do you have any classes this afternoon, Lily?” Amber asks.
I check my timetable. “I have Light Arts at four, and that’s it. What about you?”
“Nothing. Hey Nathan, what are you doing this afternoon?”
Nathan shrugs. “Don’t have any plans.”
“Want to do some violin then?”
“Sure,” Nathan says, and Marama and I exchange glances.
When we get back to Plato Hall, Luke’s waiting in the foyer.
“What are you lot up to now?” he asks.
“We’re going to do some violin,” Nathan says, gesturing to himself and Amber.
“Fun,” Luke says sarcastically. “Lily, Marama?”
“I have to Floo my mum,” Marama says, rolling her eyes. “So I have to find the Floo – ”
“There are a few public ones in the Hub,” I offer.
“Oh, good. What will you two do?”
Luke glances at me. “You guys know there’s an inter-hall Quidditch competition?”
“Well, there is,” he says matter-of-factly. “And trials are today, at three, and I’ve signed you both up for it.”
“I have a class at four.”
“You’ll be done by four,” Luke says confidently. “It’s not like there’ll be hundreds of students lining up for a try.”
“Sure, why not,” Marama says, rolling her eyes. “But I still have to Floo my mum. I’ll be back here by two-thirty.”
She departs, and I briefly wonder whether I should make my excuses and do my own thing, or hang out with Luke.
“Shall we go for a fly around campus?” he suggests.
I shrug. “Might as well, I’ve never flown anywhere other than a Quidditch pitch, so it should be fun.”
Approximately ten people show up for the trials, and I systematically go around introducing myself to the assembled strangers. There’s Enrico from Italy (Chaser) Sam from Canada (Beater) Demetrius and Nicodemus from Greece (Keeper, Beater) Margot from France (Chaser) and two giggling Spanish girls, Adelita and Carmen, who are apparently Chasers, but I get the distinct feeling they don’t actually know what Chasers do, or what Quidditch is, or that broomsticks can fly. Maybe I’m exaggerating.
I end up leaving before we find out who got on the team, because I need to get to Light Arts. Well, more specifically, find Light Arts, and get to it.
The Light Arts classes are in a block of classrooms at the back of the main Wizarding Studies building, and there are only about twenty-five people. Even though I’ve only been to two lectures, I’ve now accepted 500 people in a lecture theatre as the norm for university, and it’s weird to be back in a Hogwarts-sized classroom.
There’s also a new crop of strangers to get to know, and for once, I’m feeling slightly shy. I was always really outgoing at Hogwarts – it’s difficult not to be when your best friend is Abby Longbottom – and I’ve always had someone around me this week when I’m going around meeting people, but I’m on my own now.
I take my place at an empty table, sitting nervously and waiting for someone to sit next to me. Eventually a very scary, very arty looking girl with black hair, green streaks, black kohl and black clothes enters the room, gives it a cursory glance, and sits across from me.
I’ve found the other Hogwarts student.
“I didn’t know you were here, Potter,” she says by way of greeting.
“I didn’t know you were here either, Amethyst.” I’m on last name basis with enough people. And by enough, I mean one.
It’s weird. I went through all of Hogwarts with Amethyst, but because she was Slytherin and I was Gryffindor, we avoided each other on principle. That, and I was a bubbly nerdy Prefect and she was…not. But towards the end of last year everyone in seventh year started to be civil to each other, if not friendly. I’m not sure where I stand with Amethyst now.
“What degree are you doing?” she asks, awkwardly avoiding eye contact.
“Wizarding Studies, you?”
“Just a Diploma of Magical Art.”
We lapse into silence again, waiting for the professor. He turns up a few minutes later with dreadlocks, facial piercings and an Italian accent. “My name is Professor Durante, but you can call me Claudio,” he begins. “Welcome to the subject of Light Arts, which I think is a stupid name, but I did not choose it, so…it’s okay. Don’t hate me, hate the university.” He grins, and I think I even see Amethyst crack a smile. “The art of charmed portrait painting is a very difficult one. It’s not about putting some paint on a canvas and thinking it will come to life because it will not. Modern abstract art does not work when you are trying to bring a portrait to life.”
I’m already a fan of this class.
“It also includes complicated magic,” Claudio continues, “So if you think you can come and take Light Arts because it is fun and you failed your high school exams, you should probably leave now.”
“Oh good,” Claudio says happily. “You are not idiots. Shall we get started?”
And bam, just like that, I’ve been to all three of my subjects this semester, and I haven’t even done anything. This year is going to be a cake walk.
And I don’t have to learn Greek.
I think back to my Hogwarts days, where I was holed up in Gryffindor Tower on horribly cold nights, as close to the fire as I could be without setting myself alight, trying to keep my eyes open as I slogged through horrible essay after horrible essay. And this is meant to be higher education? I can so get used to this.
I have one lecture tomorrow, one lecture and art class on Thursday, and I have Friday off. Long weekend! Every weekend!
Until the end of the semester, that is, when my timetable changes. Oh well. Feeling infinitely pleased with life, I saunter across the lawn towards Plato Hall, contentedly admiring the long shadows created by the slowly sinking sun. I have friends, I have sunshine, and I have easy courses. This is the best career crisis ever.
I get a massive long letter from Abby a week later, detailing everything that’s happening in her life and responding to what I told her about mine. She’s working as a Welcome Witch at St Mungo’s, which I have to say is something that suits her down to the ground; she’s such a happy, bubbly person and I’m pretty sure if I was in agonising pain at Mungo’s and Abby was the first person I saw, I would feel better. I might be biased though, because she’s my best friend. Well, her and Hugo, but Hugo’s my cousin so that’s a bit different.
She’s enclosed the picture our cousin Roxanne took of us on the last day of school. Roxanne’s a great photographer – I should get her to come here and do the photography course when she finishes Hogwarts – and the picture’s one of the sharpest and clearest I’ve seen. I look at us – me in the middle laughing at something Abby had just said, Abby with her signature blonde pigtails, screwing her face up and grinning at the camera, Hugo staring wide-eyed at the camera before dropping the face and cracking up; one of his ginger dreads nearly pokes me in the eye.
I sit in my room, watching the moment replaying over and over, and feel a twinge in my gut. I miss them. Hell, I even miss Hogwarts. Amber, Marama and the boys are great, but it’s not the same as the people you went to school with for seven years – or the family you’ve grown up with.
“Hey Lil,” Amber says, coming into my room. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say, trying to make myself sound chirpy, but my voice catches.
Amber takes the photo from me. “These your best friends from school?”
I nod, swiping an annoying tear from my eye and leaning over her shoulder. “The girl on my left is Abby, that letter’s from her as well. She’s mental…and the guy with the dreads is my cousin Hugo, we’ve been best friends since we were babies…”
“You miss them, huh?” Amber asks sympathetically.
I nod. “I’ve only been away from them for three weeks, I shouldn’t miss them this much…”
“It’s leaving school as well,” Amber points out, taking a seat on my floor. “Even if I was still in the States, I’d miss the Salem girls like crazy. Knowing you’re not going to go to class with them anymore…” Her voice trails off and she smiles ruefully. “Now I’m the one crying.”
“It’s okay, we can cry together,” I say, and we do, sitting on my floor, conjuring tissues and reminiscing about our schools, our friends, and all we’ve left behind.
Luke’s the only person in our group who I don’t have any classes with, but I see just as much of him as anyone else with hall Quidditch practices and random flying expeditions around campus. He convinces me to come along to one of his practical lessons when I don’t have any lectures, and I’m astounded at the complexity of their flying. I’m pretty sure my brothers would sell Nana Weasley to come to one of these lessons, especially considering James’ latest letter saying he was thinking about joining Puddlemere United, and had gotten off his ass to go flying every day.
I wonder if I can invite my brother to come to a lesson that I’m not even enrolled in. I crash lectures all the time – I’ve been to more Magical Politics ones than a lot of the people majoring in it – but Magical Sports classes are about the size of Light Arts and I stick out like a sore thumb when I go there. It’s always worth asking Luke.
“Reckon I could take my brother to one of your classes?” I ask casually as we wander back to Plato Hall.
“I don’t think so. At least you’re enrolled in EUS, they kind of turn a blind eye. Your brother might be pushing it a bit, sorry.”
“Get your brother to enrol next year.”
“Nah,” I say, shaking my head. “He’s looking to join a league Quidditch team back home, so he’s not about to take two years off to come here.”
“S’pose. He must be good, though.”
“Probably better than you,” I say with a teasing grin.
“Bet he’s not,” Luke replies, rising to the bait. “I’ve been on a broom since I was five.”
“So has he.” I can’t believe I’m gloating about my brother’s Quidditch skills to an attractive Australian guy, but being away from home will do strange things to you.
“He hasn’t been on a Magical Sports course though,” Luke says.
“No, but you’ve only been on one for a month.”
“I’ve learned shitloads here though.”
“Dude, our mum is Ginny Potter,” I point out, and he concedes defeat. I’m still not used to pulling the ‘famous parent line’ with regard to Mum, not Dad, but Luke’s endearingly oblivious to any international matters outside the Quidditch pitch. Ask him to name the full 2020 World Cup team from Slovenia and he’d do it, but ask him who Voldemort was and he’ll look at you quizzically and wonder what language you’re speaking. When Nathan informed him that my dad was pretty much wizarding England’s biggest war hero and his name was all over our History of Sorcery textbook, he said, and I quote, “Cool, good for him,” and asked me if I was ready for the weekend’s game against Xenophon Hall.
I’m starting to realise that university’s not going to be the cake walk I thought it would be, having had to turn in a number of essays, research reports and paintings by this point, but so far I haven’t had atrocious deadlines or killer workloads. Marama has though; her courses are probably three times more intense than the rest of ours and we only see her at dinner or in the Voldemort lecture; the rest of the time she’s in her room or in the library. I never realised she was such a dedicated student.
“Work hard, play hard,” she told me during one of our increasingly rare conversations. “You should have seen me at the end of Year 13.”
“I can relate,” I told her. “I applied for here while hung over the week after my final exams.”
I spend most of my days with Amber and Nathan, and things take on a pretty normal routine. Depending on what lecture we have first, we’ll meet for breakfast and head down to campus, and either go to our individual classes and meet up at the Hub for lunch, or go to our lecture, then to the Hub for lunch, before filling our afternoons with other classes (the arts tend to be in the afternoons) and our chosen hobbies. For me, that means flying with Luke (he’s introduced me to a number of different sports that can be played on broomsticks, including Sputch and Karrilan – what is it with broomstick sports and weird names?) and for Amber and Nathan that means being music geeks in the practice room on campus.
I’ve got an A+ average for the Voldemort course so far, though I can’t really claim that’s because of any academic ability or effort on my part. I have an A- average for the Muggle Studies paper and for painting, which surprises me because I’ve never really thought of myself as artistic before. A lot of it is to do with the charms, though, and I got an O in my Charms NEWT, so it sort of makes sense.
Something weird happens one Tuesday afternoon, though. It’s raining, so I’ve decided to stay in the art room and work on our assignment, which is to paint a portrait of someone from memory and animate it, like a photo. I’ve chosen Hugo – I figure I’ll give it to Aunt Hermione for her birthday which is coming up – and am working on his mass of orange dreads when Amethyst speaks to me from across the empty room.
“Lily,” she says quietly. “Can you…help me please?”
I look over at her in surprise. Amethyst and I have maintained a steady but civil silence since we first spoke at the beginning of the course, and considering the work I’ve seen from her, I can’t help but doubt that she needs any help from me. Nevertheless I shrug, put down my brush, and go over to her. “What’s up?”
“I can’t do it,” she says, running a paint-spattered hand through her hair and blinking away tears.
“What are you talking about?” I ask, looking at the painting. It’s almost finished, showing a big, smiling, blonde girl with gleaming eyes. She’s surrounded by an almost ominous looking darkness, but even by looking at it I know the girl in the painting is some kind of glimmer of hope. It’s amazing. I wish I could paint like that.
“The charm,” she says. “I can’t do it, I’ve tried, but I can’t even do a simple animation charm, I’m going to fail as an artist.”
“No, you’re not,” I say, taking the paintbrush from her before she can put more strange colours in her hair. “What were you like at Charms at Hogwarts?”
“I gave it up after OWLs,” she says miserably. “I didn’t think I would need it.”
“No problem,” I say. “Charms is just like any other type of magic, it requires focus. Remember what Claudio said, you’re painting from a memory, a moment frozen in time. You have to remember that moment, remember the person you’re painting. And start small to begin with.”
“How small?” Amethyst asks.
“What was she doing in this moment?” I ask, gesturing at the painting.
“Walking down the hallway at Hogwarts,” Amethyst says with a frown. “She was turning around to talk to me, I was slightly behind her. And she was laughing. She’s always laughing.”
“So there’s movement? Say we start with the Hufflepuff crest on her robes. You’d want it to shift slightly, maybe become partially obscured by her robes, and blurred a bit from the movement.”
She nods determinedly and points her wand at the canvas. It takes a few attempts to get it perfect, but the crest is now animated, and Amethyst sets to work on the rest of the robes, painstakingly animating each fold. If she doesn’t get top of this class, I will eat my broomstick.
From then on, Amethyst and I start talking, swapping stories about the people we’re painting. She’s painting Liz Davidson, the round, happy Hufflepuff in our year, and I must admit I’m surprised. I couldn’t think of two more different people – even I have more in common with Amethyst than Liz.
“I hated her at first,” Amethyst said bluntly, swapping from wand to paintbrush again, “And by ‘at first’ I mean for the first six years I knew her. She was the antithesis of me, you know? But I went through some shit in sixth year. More shit than before, anyway. You probably remember my dad being sent to Azkaban.”
Yeah, it was my dad who sent him there. Awkwardly, I add some shading to Hugo’s nose.
“But yeah, things were pretty shit for a while there,” Amethyst continues. “Having no family and all that. Liz started talking to me. Of course, I told her to fuck off, but she didn’t, and she was the only person who didn’t. She was the only person who cared.” Amethyst shrugs. “So she’s, you know, a pretty awesome chick.”
I start spending more time in the art room with Amethyst, and notice with some pride that my painting’s getting better with the extra time and Amethyst’s expert guidance. I keep helping her with the charms, so it’s a fair trade-off. That, and I’m actually becoming friends with her. Who would have thought it?
Amethyst lives in Xenophon Hall, so I don’t tend to see her outside of art, but out of the blue she asks me if I’m doing anything next Friday night.
“Probably getting drunk,” I tell her matter-of-factly. “I have two assignments due in that afternoon.”
“Plus the portrait,”Amethyst adds.
“Plus the portrait,” I echo, and yelp. “Plus the portrait!”
“Exactly,” Amethyst says, nodding. “It’s D-Day for photography as well. So who are you drinking with?”
“Amber, Marama and the boys, probably,” I say. I’ve talked about them enough for her to know who I’m talking about. “Well, I’m not sure about Marama. Depends how much work she’s got to do.”
“She wouldn’t have too much,” Amethyst points out. “It’s mid-semester break after that, so all the professors are making Friday their deadline. Can I come drink with you guys?”
“Sure,” I say, effectively masking my surprise.
The last week before mid-semester break is just cruel. I spend my afternoons in the art room, my spare time during the day in the library, and my evenings holed up in my room. I have unanswered letters from Mum, Hugo, Abby, James, Al and the Scamander twins regarding my plans for midsemester break littering my floor, and have taken to buying vast amounts of energy drinks to keep myself awake late at night. Procrastination, how I hate thee.
Even Luke’s retreated into study mode, so I’m not tempted to go play stupid flying games with him in the afternoons. He has a big theory assignment to do, which he hates, and often shows up in my doorway asking if I can proofread the latest paragraph of his report. Why he can’t ask Nathan is beyond me, but he explained that last time he asked Nathan he was threatened with a kick to the crotchal region and I’m much more benevolent when I’m stressed.
“I’ll decapitate you,” I inform him cheerfully.
“As long as you don’t threaten the family jewels, I’m fine,” he replies, giving me his winning smile.
“I’ll castrate you.”
He departs to ask Amber.
On Wednesday afternoon I finish my Hugo painting and skip all the way back the halls in triumph.
“What did you do, rob Gringotts?” Amethyst asks me suspiciously as I pass her sitting by the fountain with her camera.
“No, I finished my painting.”
She brightens considerably. “Good for you!”
“I know!” I crow, and resume my skipping.
“LILY!” Amber shrieks when I get to the second floor. I jump; I don’t think I’ve ever seen Amber so animated, and wonder what, exactly, I’ve done.
“Yes?” I ask timidly.
“You gotta help me!” she wails, seizing my wrist and towing me into her room. “I don’t get what Dumbledore’s Army is, I thought the resistance group was the Order of the Phoenix…”
“Dumbledore’s Army was the student resistance group,” I explain patiently. “In the year Voldemort actually reigned, Mum, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood were in charge of it.”
“I know that bit, they took heaps of kids into hiding and stuff, but what’s this stuff about 1995-1996? It says that was when it started, but it says that Voldemort wasn’t even out in the open. How could they resist if they didn’t know he was there?”
“Coz my dad saw Voldemort return,” I say, “And my dad’s awesome and everyone listened to him.”
“Then who was Umbridge?”
“The DADA teacher from the Ministry of Magic who didn’t let them learn practical magic. Dumbledore’s Army was originally an organisation to learn DADA from Dad.”
“So Dumbledore’s Army started out as like, a DADA club,” Amber summarises. “And your dad started it. Then Umbridge left so they didn’t use it, then your mum and her friends restarted it in 1997, where it was actually a student resistance movement against the Death Eaters?”
“You’ve got it.”
“So hang on, it was your dad, so, Harry Potter, and, uh, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, they started it to begin with. Then the new one was started by Ginny Potter, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood?”
“Weasley,” I correct. “Ginny Weasley, she wasn’t married back then.”
“You’re a lifesaver, you know that? You’re actually amazing.”
“I do try,” I say with a grin.
I return to my room and find Luke lounging on my bed.
“Evening, Potter,” he says, grinning at me.
“What are you doing here, Nelson?”
“Well, I figure, seeing as you’ve finished your painting and it’s really not too difficult for you to get A pluses in your Voldemort paper coz your family was all important and whatnot…give my paper a final read over?”
I roll my eyes, snatching the parchment from his hand. “Fine. You better love me for this.”
He waggles his eyebrows. “Oh, I do, Lily.”
“Wait, what did you call me?”
“Just checking to see if you’re awake,” he says innocently.
I shake my head, leaning against the wall and skimming over Luke’s paper. He gets up from my bed, coming to stand beside me and peering over my shoulder.
“Hey Lily,” he says quietly.
There’s something in his voice that makes me nervous. Not a creepy, he’s-standing-beside-me-about-to-slit-my-throat kind of nervous, but a he’s-attractive-and-standing-really-close-calling-me-Lily-instead-of-Potter-something’s-different kind of nervous.
It might be worth mentioning around this point that I’m nearly nineteen and I’ve never kissed anyone before. Apart from Lorcan Scamander, but that doesn’t really count because we were like, twelve and only went out because it was the done thing to do. I’ve dated Lorcan a lot, if I think about it. First when we were five, then when we were eight (that was when he proposed) and again when we were twelve.
I’m pretty clueless when it comes to boys.
If we’re being honest.
Case in point: it’s been a good thirty seconds and I’ve given no indication of having heard Luke at all.
I’ll just pretend I was too busy reading his report.
“I want you to have my babies,” Luke informs me.
I splutter. “What?”
He shrugs. “Things were getting a bit tense back there. Thought I’d lighten the mood.”
“You spelled ‘establishment’ wrong,” I say, pointing to the parchment. Jeez, Lily, what a line. No guy would be able to resist that.
He shuffles closer, leaning over my shoulder to peer at the parchment. For once, he doesn’t smell like gross sweaty Quidditch boy. He smells like clean, knows-what-a-shower-and-deodorant-is boy. Nothing like nice-smelling boys to make your stomach do flip-flops.
Not that mine’s doing flip-flops or anything. Luke and I are just mates.
Okay, there’s some attraction in there too.
“Have I ever told you about the girl of my dreams?” Luke asks me conversationally.
“No, you haven’t.”
“She’s pretty much exactly like you,” he continues. “But the girl of my dreams, being, you know, from my dreams, doesn’t exist, and you do. So you kind of have the advantage here.”
Maybe not so one-sided after all.
Say something, Lily. Something incredibly witty or romantic that will just seal the deal.
“Oh yep,” I manage.
“No idea what to say to that?”
I shake my head.
“Okay, I’ll make it easy for you. If you feel the same, nod. If not, shake your head.”
“Good,” Luke says, turning me around to face him. He’s smiling. He has a really nice smile. The universe moves in slow motion as he puts a hand on my shoulder and leans in closer. Do I close my eyes? What do I do? This is about the point where one of our friends will burst in, I guarantee it. That’s just how my life works.
Omigod he’s kissing me.
Omigod I like it.
Omigod I’m nearly nineteen, I’m such a loser.
Amber does indeed burst in, but luckily not until after Luke and I have finished kissing (holy hippogriffs I kissed a boy) and asks for my help with some other aspect of her report. Correctly deducing I would be some time, Luke makes his excuses and heads back to his room.
“I didn’t interrupt anything before, did I?” Amber asks once I’m sitting on her floor reading her report.
“What do you mean?” I ask innocently.
“You and Luke. Did I interrupt something?”
“Not at all.”
She gives me a Look.
“Technically not,” I concede.
She raises her eyebrows at me.
“You have good timing,” I say finally.
“Did you guys kiss?” she asks, her voice rising. I hate girls. They squeal.
“So,” I say, abruptly changing the subject, “How’s Nathan?”
I watch her squirm.
“There’s nothing there,” she says, staring at the floor and going pink.
“Sure there isn’t.”
“Okay, I like him.”
“Wow, really? Couldn’t have figured that one out myself.”
“Is it obvious?” she asks, alarmed.
“Yes, but it’s okay, because he’s just as blatantly obvious as you are.”
“What are you talking about?”
You can tell this one went to an all-girls school for seven years.
“You guys flirt like nothing on earth,” I explain patiently. “Well, you flirt as much as two shy quiet music geeks can flirt, which is actually a heck of a lot more than I expected.”
“How do you talk to them though?” Amber asks. “I mean, do you just go ‘hey, I like you, let’s go out?’”
“That would be quite a direct approach, but it would work.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“Didn’t think you would.”
“What did you say to Luke?”
“I didn’t really say anything. He did most of the talking. I daresay that approach wouldn’t work for you.”
“No, you’re right,” Amber agrees, looking glum. “Anyway, I should finish this stuff, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Lily, just the person I wanted to see,” Luke greets me jovially at breakfast the next morning.
“I can imagine.”
“Wanna be my girlfriend?”
“Sure, why not.”
Marama stares at us. “Did I miss something?” she asks eventually.
“Pretty much, yeah,” I tell her. “Finish your Transfiguration shit?”
She nods happily. “Transfiguration shit is finished. Potions shit will be finished at lunch. I am getting drunk tonight.”
“Good, coz so am I,” I say. “Luke, wanna come drink tonight?”
“Are we all going?” Amber asks.
“Sweet. Nathan, that means you too.”
“Such enthusiasm,” Luke says.
“You weren’t up till four this morning getting shit done.”
“Even more reason to get drunk tonight,” Luke reasons.
“Spose,” Nathan mumbles. “We going to the Omega, then?”
“That’s the best one,” I say.
Marama stuffs the last of her toast in her mouth. “Gotta get to the apothecary, see you guys tonight.”