Chapter 1 : Home. Apparently where my heart is.
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“Just leave without him, Mum,” I suggest, climbing into the front seat.
“And have him moping around the house until Easter?” Mum asks. “And the neighbours asking why he’s not at school? No way. And where’s Martin—?”
“I’m here,” my older brother says, walking up behind her. “Oh, Adelaide, I claimed shotgun half an hour ago.”
He raises his eyebrows, hand going towards his back pocket.
“Leave that…wand alone!” Mum admonishes, flapping slightly. “I’m not having magic at home, not without your father around to put it right!”
With a slight roll of his eyes Martin climbs into the backseat alongside my little brother Nicholas, who has already plugged a set of headphones into his ears and tuned us out.
Mum’s grumbling as usual as she drives through the city and out onto State Highway 6. “Don’t see why I have to drive you lot all the way to Christchurch all the time, you’d think with magic they’d have thought of an easier way to do things, like that Apparate business you were talking about, Martin, why can’t you do that? Or can’t they just get the bus to stop in Nelson, you can’t be the only wizards here, Christchurch, indeed, a twelve hour round trip it is…”
Mum’s stopped her grumbling by the time we reach the hills and is instead peppering us with questions—or at least, peppering Martin and I with questions; Nick hasn’t spoken since we left.
“So Martin, dear, what am I telling people you’re studying?”
“It really doesn’t matter,” Martin replies, waving his hand dismissively. “Make it up.”
“All right…Physics and chemistry, maybe biology, calculus, of course, and how about English and graphics? And Adelaide, I was thinking maths, English, photography, history and geography…”
“Makes no difference to me,” I reply. In reality I’m studying Charms, Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Potions, History of Magic and Herbology. What Mum tells the other ladies at the office has nothing to do with me.
“Yes, that’ll do,” Mum says, more to herself than either of us. She overtakes a courier van, which sparks off another subject.
“And I wish you would just use the regular postal system,” she grumbles. “Kakapos flying in and out of the windows, I had to convince Mrs Martin next door that you have some very fat budgies, not that she’d believe me even if I did tell her…flying kakapos indeed.”
I poke a finger through the cage beside me, and the kakapo inside nibbles on my finger. “In England they use owls,” I offer.
“Owls can fly!” Mum says. “Owls aren’t endangered, native, flightless parrots!”
Knowing it’s useless trying to argue with her, I instead stare out the window at passing scenery. I must admit, it is one viewpoint Mum and I share—why can’t Dad get us to Christchurch using the Floo Network or Side-Along Apparition or a bewitched car or something? But no, his answer’s always the same, we have to ‘keep in touch with our Muggle roots.’ Personally, I think I’m perfectly capable of keeping in touch with my roots without spending six hours in a stuffy car with my brothers on winding New Zealand state highways.
“I’m hungry,” Nick declares.
Wow, he speaks!
“We’ll stop for lunch in Blenheim,” Mum says. “Get McDonalds or something.”
We stop in Blenheim for lunch, then again in Kaikoura to load up on energy drinks to corrupt the pureblood kids with once we get to school, and by the time we reach Christchurch are heartily sick of being in the car and the Muggle world in general.
“Have fun!” Mum says, having dropped us off in Cathedral Square. “Study hard, text me, no kakapos!”
Mum can’t actually see us off onto the bus, because she’s a Muggle. Martin, Nick and I mutter our assents and walk straight through the nearest wall, where a large green double-decker bus sits in front of us, surrounded by parents and kids and luggage. The side of the bus is festooned with a silver fern and white lettering proclaiming “Southern Cross School of Magic/ Mahutonga Wananga o Makutu.”
“Good shit,” Nick says, dumping his suitcase in front of the driver and vanishing into the bus.
“Dick,” I mutter, apologising to the driver and hefting Nick’s suitcase along with mine into the luggage compartment. Martin’s busy living up to his Prefect title, wading into a crowd of Year 9s and introducing himself. I glance around for my friends, and, having not seen them, conclude that they’re probably already on board. Upstairs, if I know them.
“Adelaide!” a voice calls, and I glance up to see Georgia Solomon hammering on a second-storey window and waving frantically at me. I clamber up the stairs, taking a seat beside Corwin McAllen, dumping my bag at my feet and immediately turning around in my seat to talk to Georgia behind me.
“How were your holidays?”
“Good,” she says. “Went to Aussie a couple of weeks ago. The Gold Coast. What about you?”
“Sat at home,” I reply, shrugging. “Got a job at New World though.”
“You got a job?” Corwin asks, looking surprised. “At a supermarket? What do you do? What’s it like?”
I plop back down in my seat. “I’m a checkout chick.”
“I operate the checkout—Checkout, Corwin, you know, where you pay for everything…” I sigh at his blank face. “Honestly, you purebloods. We have to meet up next holidays, and I have to take you shopping.”
“That would be amusing,” Georgia says, leaning against the back of my chair. “Can I come too? At the mall or something.”
“That means I’d have to get to Christchurch again, and Mum grumbles enough as it is about taking us here for the bus.”
“Just Apparate,” Corwin interrupts. “You’ll be seventeen this year, right? Get your licence.”
“Good plan,” Georgia says approvingly. “I can’t wait to get my licence. I’ll probably spilch myself though—”
“Splinch,” Corwin corrects. “Splinch yourself. And yes, you will.”
“You’re nice,” Georgia huffs. “What subjects are you guys taking?”
“Charms, Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Potions, History of Magic and Herbology,” I recite.
“Transfiguration, Defence, Potions, Arithmancy, Magical Theory and Muggle Studies,” Corwin says.
“Damn right you need Muggle Studies,” Georgia mutters. “I’ll be in you guys’ Defence and Transfiguration classes.”
“What else are you taking?” Corwin asks.
“Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, Charms and History of Magic.”
“Ooh,” I say excitedly. “Did you hear about History of Magic this year?”
“What about it?”
“We’re learning about Hogwarts. And I think Mr Muller said something about how the student exchange ties in with it.”
“You mean the Brits are coming here?” Georgia asks. “That’d be cool, makes a change from Sakura.”
Sakura refers to the Japanese school of magic, Sakura Mahou no Gakkou, who we’ve had an exchange student programme going with for the past three years. Last year I made friends with a girl called Ayaka, who came here for six months and was put into Kemp House with us.
Two hours later Georgia and I decide to break out the snacks we bought before we got on the bus. You can tell the pureblood kids from the half-bloods and Muggleborns; they’re the ones fishing sandwiches and pumpkin juice from their bags. Some of the other half-bloods and Muggleborns brought food from home, but the majority of us have dumped supermarket bags onto the tray tables in front of us and are chowing down on pies, sausage rolls, chips, muffins and soft drinks.
“Hey Corwin,” Georgia says with a grin, “Got something else for you to try.” She passes him a large can of V energy drink, which he eyes dubiously.
A Year 9 girl sitting across from us taps me on the shoulder. “Excuse me. When do we get to Southern Cross?”
I glance at my watch. “It’s one o’clock now, so probably about nine or ten tonight.”
“Nine or ten?” she asks, a definite hint of a whine in her voice as she turns to her friend to pass on the information. “Where is it?”
It’s true, none of us actually know where Southern Cross is, geographically speaking. Knowing that the school buses move a lot faster than Muggle ones, and that the bus from Auckland arrives several hours before us and the Wellington one a few hours before us, I would hazard a guess to say that it’s in Northland, but yeah, it could be anywhere.
Halfway through the journey, a group of Year 13 boys start a game of mini golf in the aisle, and, with a few hours to go, some intrepid Year 12s decide to climb out the window and sit on the roof.
“Sit on the back of my dad’s ute all the time, I’ll be sweet as!” one of them proclaims as he hoists himself out the nearest window.
By about seven o’clock, some of the Muggleborn Year 9s are whingeing about lack of dinner, having come unprepared for the trip, and Corwin, with a roll of his eyes and a check over the shoulder for watching Prefects, uses a Refilling Charm on Georgia’s packet of Doritos and throws it towards the nearest group. The bus driver’s voice issues forth from the walls, saying we’ll be at Southern Cross by half past nine at the latest, and could the boys from Kemp House please get off the roof of the bus.
“Kemp House?” one of the Year 9s repeats. “Isn’t that in Kerikeri?”
“’Scuse me,” Corwin mutters, clambering over my legs and approaching them. “Hi, I’m Corwin.” He offers his hand.
The girl closest to him gives him the up and down look, her nose wrinkling slightly as she shakes his hand. “I’m Anna,” she says finally, with a nauseating false sweetness.
“Right, Anna,” he says conversationally, taking a seat in the aisle. “Muggleborn, I guess?”
“Know much about Southern Cross?”
“We have four houses,” Corwin begins. “Named after the four Founders of the school: Williams, Marsden, Kemp and Pompallier. Each house has a core value, and you’re placed according to which core value you fit into. Williams House is Integrity, Marsden is Justice, Kemp is Determination and Pompallier is Ambition.”
“So do we like, pick one or something?”
“No, no, no. You’re placed using a piece of pounamu, or greenstone. You hold the pounamu, and it’ll turn the colour of the house you’re meant to be in.”
“Like a mood ring?”
“I don’t know what that is, but it doesn’t go on your mood. It reads your mind—”
“Ew, that’s creepy!” Anna proclaims.
“Give up, Corwin,” I advise.
Anna gives me the up and down look next, and the look on her face says it all; she’s not impressed. I don’t honestly care what Year 9s think of me, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable as she takes in my round, makeup-free face, thick black hair tied back in a plain ponytail, T-shirt, denim shorts and size 12 body. By contrast, she has peroxide-blonde hair, orange foundation that looks like it was applied with a trowel, and short shorts and a singlet that scream “I’M A SIZE 6 AT SUPRE.”
I really hope she doesn’t get put into Kemp House.
“Who’s she?” Anna asks Corwin, still looking at me.
“Oh.” Anna rearranges her face into a smile. “She your girlfriend?”
“Oh, hell no,” I interrupt before Corwin can say anything. “Hell no.” Been there, done that, it was weird.
I let Corwin handle this question, instead turning to Georgia and pretending to throw up.
The bus pulls into the large entrance of Southern Cross at twenty past nine. The light’s almost gone by now, but the stately brick building is still visible, flanked by trees behind a sweeping lawn. The other two buses sit idly beside ours in the cobblestoned carpark, and we make our way up the path that leads to the heavy wooden front door.
The Foyer is large, with wood-panelled walls, a marble floor and light cast from glittering chandeliers, and it’s here we’re met by one of the deputy principals and head of Williams House, Mrs Doherty.
“Wow, it’s posh,” I hear Anna’s awed voice whisper to her friend.
“Welcome back to Southern Cross,” Mrs Doherty says. “Please follow me through into the Dining Hall, where supper is waiting. Year 9 students are to line up along the front of the hall for placement into their houses. All other students are to go to their house tables.”
Corwin, Georgia and I make our way to the Kemp table third from the entrance, along with a good twenty other students.
“Adelaaaaaaide!” a voice squeals, and a tall, thin girl with long red hair launches herself out of her chair and flings her arms around me.
“Ella,” I return, detaching myself after a moment.
“Georgia! Corwin!” she says happily, and crushes them into hugs as well. “I saved you guys a seat, we’ve been here for ages, how long are you guys on the bus for? Must be hours…” she trails off, returning to her seat between Henry Greenfield and Josh Durham.
“Pumpkin fizz!” Georgia cries, leaping forth. “I haven’t had this since November…oh, guys, guys, what did you get for exams?”
“Failed Potions,” Josh says proudly. “I got a Troll, I kid you not.”
“Are you serious?”
“My lowest mark was a P…”
“Mine was Merit…”
“Well, it would be, Corwin!”
“Wait, you passed Transfiguration? That one nearly killed me!”
“I got Excellence for that one.”
“Bet you’re gonna be Dux next year.”
“I dunno, there’ll be heaps in Pompallier…”
“You ain’t beating me.”
“Really, Ella? We’ll see who gets top of Year 12, shall we?”
We watch with mild interest as the South Island Year 9s are placed. Anna, I note, goes into Marsden.
“Wonder how she got in there,” I comment. “She wouldn’t know injustice if it hit her in the face.”
“That’s not nice,” Ella admonishes.
“Oh, but it’s true,” Georgia says matter-of-factly.
At ten o’clock the Principal, Mr Sheppard, sends us back to our houses, and three hundred students crowd through the Dining Hall door and up the two sets of spiral staircases. The Kemp and Marsden areas are on the second floor, along with the Guidance and Head of Houses’ offices on the northern side, and other staff offices on the southern. We’re on the eastern side, and Marsden on the west.
“Password,” says the portrait of James Kemp on the door. A Year 9 screams.
“Scuse me,” one of the Prefects, Lester Davis, calls, fighting to the front of the crowd. “Kemp House 2023.”
“Be it a new year already?” James asks, looking startled. “I shall reset the password immediately. To ‘Kerikeri,’ if I may.”
“You used that one four times last year,” Lester points out patiently. “And seven the year before.”
“Did I? Old age is wearying my mind…Very well, it shall be Gryffindor, for the name of my beloved house at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“Gryffindor,” Lester repeats, and James nods, tapping the picture frame. The door swings open and we crowd inside, the Year 9s taking the chance to marvel at the surroundings and the rest of us either claiming old favourite places around the room or charging down the hallway to the dorms.
“We’re seniors,” Henry says suddenly.
“Good work,” Ella says.
“You know what that means?”
“We’re kings of the school,” Josh says, lounging on an armchair.
“We work twice as hard as last year,” Corwin says.
Henry rolls his eyes. “No. We get baths in our bathrooms. The big ones that look almost like swimming pools.”
“We don’t get bigger bathrooms though,” Georgia says, puzzled. “They’re all the same size.”
“Think like a witch for once!” Henry says. “They’re the same size on the outside. On the inside, they’ve been expanded. Josh, Corwin, I bet we can make a whirlpool in ours!” He’s off, with the other two boys close on his heels.
Georgia grins at me. “This year’s gonna be sweet.”
A/N: I hope the cultural references in this story aren't too hard to follow for the majority of you who aren't Kiwis :) If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a review, they make my day :D