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…
“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.