We stay up late that night, tallking to Rose’s family about New Zealand and various things that Rose missed while at Southern Cross – Ron is particularly excited about a Quidditch team called the Chudley Cannons winning a game against a team called the Holyhead Harpies, and the family discusses this at length. Through this I work out that the Chudley Cannons are Ron’s favourite team and his sister Ginny used to play for the Holyhead Harpies, and apparently Ron was ‘so obnoxious about it that we didn’t talk to the Potters for two weeks.’
I’m reminded of Josh’s request for me to find out who the best Quidditch player at Hogwarts is, so I ask Rose and Hugo.
“Louis Weasley,” Rose says immediately. “He’s our cousin, he’s the Ravenclaw Seeker—”
“Pfft,” Hugo interjects. “Lily Potter, the Gryffindor Seeker, or her brother Albus, he’s a Chaser—”
“Or there’s Emilia Rutherford, the Slytherin Captain, she’s a bitch though—”
“Lucy Weasley, she’s in Hufflepuff, she’s the Keeper—”
“But the best are in Ravenclaw,” Rose concludes. “We have Scorpius, too, he’s a Chaser—”
“You wish,” Hugo says bluntly. “Gryffindor are the best and they always have been, right Dad?”
“Gryffindor,” Ron says firmly. “But don’t sell yourself short, son, you’re an excellent Keeper.”
“S’pose I am,” Hugo says smugly. “And Rosie doesn’t even play.”
“Enough with the Quidditch talk,” Hermione says firmly. “Adelaide, are you wanting tea?”
“I’m not much of a tea drinker.”
There’s a brief silence, and the Weasleys exchange glances. I guess that’s my first cultural slip-up.
Hermione recovers first. “Hot chocolate?”
I feel slightly better when Hugo requests a hot chocolate as well, but still wonder if I should force myself to drink tea for the next three months. I hear it’s healthy.
The next day, the Weasleys inform me we’re going to Diagon Alley to pick up school supplies, the name of which I remember Rose mentioning a few weeks ago. In my mind I’m picturing Kororareka but bigger.
Apparently not. The Weasleys walk into a dingy pub, the sign pronouncing it as the Leaky Cauldron, and walk straight out the back door which leads us face to face with a brick wall. Ron pulls out his wand and taps the bricks, which begin shifting away to reveal the famed Diagon Alley.
I still think Kororareka is cooler, though. To get there, you walk through Russell (modern-day name for what was known as Kororareka to everyone, wizards and Muggles, European and Maori alike) until you get to the Church With The Bullet Hole, and you put your wand in the bullet hole in the church’s wall. That makes you temporarily invisible while you disappear through the door that opens up, and you’re in wizarding Kororareka.
I mean, come on. Do you turn invisible to get to Diagon Alley? I think not.
I have to eat my words after taking a few steps into Diagon Alley, though. There are hundreds of people swarming around, dressed in robes with women wearing pointed witches’ hats. The narrow streets and wooden shop fronts, along with the hand-painted signs swinging in the breeze and the Old English-style lettering, all combine to make Diagon Alley look like something out of the Middle Ages. I stare in awe as we pass a shop called Ollivanders: “Makers of fine wands since 382 B.C” and tug on Rose’s sleeve.
“What? Oh, yeah, Ollivanders. It’s the oldest shop in Diagon Alley, I think.”
“You think? It’s over two thousand years old!”
“I don’t think it’s been in the same premises since then,” Rose says. “I don’t know. It was either Gringotts or Ollivanders that was here first, none of us really know.”
“How old’s Gringotts then?”
“Couple of thousand years,” Rose says off-handedly. “It was around during the Roman invasion, the goblins had a hard job keeping it safe from pillaging Roman wizards.”
I hold up my hands in surrender. “Don’t even go down that road, we don’t learn any history apart from our own at school.”
“I didn’t think you guys had any history.”
“Not a lot, no. But enough to fill eight years of primary school education.”
We go into a bookstore called Flourish and Blotts, where Rose and Hugo load up on piles of textbooks. It strikes me as a waste, having to buy a new set of textbooks for the three months I’m at Hogwarts, but it’s being paid for by our Ministry of Magic and once I’m finished with them they’ll be given to some kid who can’t afford their own.
“This is the book we use for History of Magic,” Rose says, holding up a large, leatherbound book with silver writing announcing it as Heroism and Horcruxes: A History of the Second Wizarding War by Cassian Avitus-Rutherford.
It does look a bit more respectable than the shiny, extravagant Rita Skeeter tome.
“Written by our Head of House’s husband,” Rose continues. Evidently, this is a ringing endorsement. Her Head of House is probably a nerd.
Hugo and I have to buy cauldrons, me because I don’t own one and never have, and Hugo because he melted his last one in Potions last year. He says this with some degree of pride, and I decide I like this kid.
We stop at Felix Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, which, according to Ron, used to be owned by a guy called Florean who gave them free ice creams because they were friends with Harry Potter. There are a couple of other students around, including a girl with sleek auburn hair who comes up to us, giving Rose a smile she doesn’t return.
“Hey, Rose! Welcome back, how was New Zealand?”
“Fine, thanks,” Rose mutters.
She turns her attention to me. “You must be the exchange student! I’m Emilia Rutherford, Head Girl.” She offers me her hand and I shake it, feeling somewhat surprised at the level of formality.
“Term hasn’t started yet, Emilia,” Rose says bluntly.
Emilia blinks. “I know, Rose.”
“So you’re not Head Girl yet.”
“Technicalities,” Emilia replies off-handedly. She turns back to me. “How are you enjoying England?”
“Um, yeah, it’s good. Haven’t been here very long—”
“Oh, no, of course. When did you get in?”
“Oh, right! Well, let me know what you think once you’ve settled in a bit.” She smiles again, makes her excuses and departs.
I’m still amazed at how she didn’t press me for my impressions of her country—after all, I’ve been here nearly twenty-four hours, Kiwis expect foreigners to have a detailed, positive impression within ten minutes of arriving – when I realise that Rose is stabbing her ice cream with particular venom.
“She seems like a bitch,” I lie, knowing how to play this game.
Rose brightens. “She is, right? She’s so fake.”
“Head Girl, huh?” I say, in a poor attempt at casual.
She makes a guttural noise in her throat.
“Shoulda been you,” I continue. “Reckon you’d be better than her.”
Rose grins. “Aw, thanks Adelaide. I mean, I know it would have been hard because I didn’t finish sixth year, and apparently that’s why they didn’t choose Scorpius either, but oh well. At least I went to New Zealand, and she didn’t.”
“Only the coolest people can come to New Zealand.”
My first social obstacle cleared, I settle back to enjoy the ice cream.
With two days until we go to Hogwarts, the Weasleys decide to take me on a driving tour around London, so I can take all my tourist photos outside various tourist destinations. We ride one of the famous double-decker buses, go to the Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben, and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I drag Rose into every photo with me, and we often hive off into various shops without her parents. Given that Rose is a witch with next to no Muggle experience, and I’m a Kiwi exchange student who up till now has never been further from home than Australia, we have no idea what we’re doing, and the result is hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life, and that is a big statement when your best friend is Georgia Solomon.
September first is the start of term, and we’re hauled out of bed at an uncivilised hour of the morning to get ready, even though Hermione had us all packed up last night. Apparently it doesn’t even take that long to get to Kings Cross Station, where the train leaves from.
“I’ve heard of that place!” I say enthusiastically. “It’s in Monopoly!”
The Weasleys don’t even seem to notice the strange looks the Muggles are giving them with their cages of owls and talk of Quidditch, and before I know it they’ve bowled straight through a brick wall.
“Wait a minute,” I say, staring at the wall where Hugo just disappeared from.
“Best to run into it the first time,” Rose advises me.
“It’s a brick wall.”
“Trippy,” I comment. Apparently the old Christchurch stop for the Southern Cross bus involved running through a brick wall, but that was before the earthquake memorial was put up in Cathedral Square, and now it’s a much easier deal of walking through the wizards’ arch that stands next to it as a commemoration for the wizards who died in the 2011 quake.
I shake off these thoughts of home and charge into the wall, flinching until I realise I’ve come through the barrier and have to brake suddenly to avoid ploughing into the giant red steam engine that’s belching smoke at me. Gold lettering along the side announce it as the Hogwarts Express.
“This is cooler than a bus,” I say meekly, watching as hundreds of kids clamber aboard or are farewelled by their parents.
“Addie?” Rose says.
“Um, I have to sit in the Prefects’ Carriage…uh, I’ll come find you as soon as I can, but you’ll have to find a carriage…maybe you could sit with Hugo?”
“If she has to,” Hugo says, sounding bored.
“I have a better idea,” I say, spotting Henry in the distance. “No offence, Hugo.”
“None taken,” he assures me as we make our way towards the Malfoys.
Rose and Scorpius disappear onto the train, closely followed by a blonde woman I assume is Scorpius’s mother.
“Why’s she going on the train?” I ask.
“She’s a teacher,” Henry replies. “Charms.”
“Miss Compton’s cooler.”
“Miss Compton’s cooler than anyone,” Henry agrees. “Just our luck to be hosted by prefects, right? Let’s go find a carriage.”
We do end up sitting with Hugo, mainly because I don’t know anyone else on the train and there are no empty carriages left. He introduces us to his friends, Lily Potter (his cousin) and Abby Longbottom (not his cousin.)
We’re sitting with fifteen-year-olds. Awesome.
The fifteen-year-olds aren’t too bad, to be honest. There’s a lot of Quidditch talk (They’re all in the Gryffindor team, apparently) and gossip about a whole lot of names we’ve never heard before, and which they try vainly to explain to us.
“James is my brother—”
“Lysander Scamander, he’s a family friend—”
“Our cousin, Roxanne—”
“So what’s New Zealand like?” Lily asks, interrupting herself and her friends mid-gossip.
“Uh,” I flounder. “Lame.”
“Compared to you guys. We have no history, we don’t learn half as much magic as you do—”
“But it’s pretty there, right?” Lily persists.
“Uh, sure, if you like trees and mountains and rivers and shit.”
“Adelaide’s exaggerating,” Henry says. “It’s not that lame.”
I snort. “You have to say that, you chose to move there.”
“My parents did, actually,” Henry corrects.
“Where are you from, Henry?” Lily asks, furrowing her brow. “I can’t place your accent.”
“Oh!” Lily says excitedly. “So what’s that like?”
Stupid Henry and his multiculturalness making me seem boring.
Much to my embarrassment, Henry and I are lumped in with the first-years, who are all eleven years old, for the journey from the train station to Hogwarts itself. It involves sharing a small boat with a couple of them and crossing the lake under the direction of a massive, bushy-haired, bushy-bearded man who introduces himself as ‘Professor Rubeus Hagrid, but ye can call me Hagrid. I teach Care o’ Magical Creatures, an’ I look after the grounds. Yer a bit big for firs’ years, aren’t ye?’
This last comment is directed at Henry and I. “Um, yeah, we’re exchange students.”
“Oh, that’s righ’! Stayed with young Rose an’ Scorpius, didn’t ye?”
“For a week, yeah.”
“Righ’, well, hop in a boat then.”
We hop in a boat, alongside two kids who introduce themselves as Katie Corner and Nicostratus Selwyn.
Nicostratus. I shit you not.
“We’re cousins,” Katie tells us, gesturing to Nicostratus.
Is everyone at this school related?
“Second cousins,” Nicostra—screw this, I’m just going to call him Nick—says.
“Or something,” Katie says. “His mum’s sister is married to my mum’s brother.”
“I can’t say I care,” I inform them, but apparently they didn’t understand me because of my accent, so whatever.
Ohmygod it’s a castle.
I mean, I knew that before. But there is a castle looming up out of nowhere in front of us and we’re going to live there and learn there and ohmygod.
“Feel like immigrating?” Henry asks quietly beside me.
“With you? Hell yes.” God, I just said that out loud.
Henry doesn’t even seem to have noticed that comment, or anything strange about it. He just looks up at Hogwarts and gives a low whistle.
We make our way into the castle, where a grey-haired witch in blue robes stands at the foot of a flight of marble stairs. “Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My name is Professor Vector and I am the Deputy Headmistress. Shortly you will follow me into the Great Hall, where the Sorting Ceremony will take place. You will then join your new house for the start of term feast. We have four houses, named for the four Founders: Gryffindor, lead by Professor Longbottom, Slytherin, lead by Professor Malfoy, Ravenclaw, lead by Professor Rutherford, and Hufflepuff, lead by myself.”
Henry and I exchange glances, and I can’t help but wonder which house we’ll be put in. I’m pretty sure it’ll be either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, because Rose and Scorpius are from Ravenclaw and Kemp was founded by a Gryffindor. I’m hoping for Ravenclaw with Rose, but I’m probably not smart enough.
The Great Hall is massive, as the name suggests, and has four long tables running the length of the hall filled with students, and one table across the front filled with teachers. We cross in front of the teachers to the stool where the famed Sorting Hat is now singing.
Singing. The Placing Pounamu does not sing.
These Brits are outdoing us at every turn.
We’re called up in alphabetical order, and I mosey over to the Hat, reflecting on my own Placing. I was what they call a ‘stoneshifter’ where it doesn’t really know where to put you – in my case it was a choice between Marsden and Kemp. It was orange for about three minutes before finally turning red.
“Hmm,” the Hat says. “Where to put you?”
“Ohmygod, you talk.”
“Yes, I do talk. No, there’s really no question about you, I’m pleased to say – GRYFFINDOR!”
Dammit, I’m not with Rose. But it could be worse, I suppose – I’m pretty happy to be in Gryffindor, where James Kemp came from. Because I don’t know anyone else, I squidge into a seat between Hugo and Lily and turn my attention back to the Sorting.
“Greenfield, Henry!” Professor Vector calls.
Please be in Gryffindor. You should be in Gryffindor, you silly boy, you’re in Kemp aren’t you?
Well, that sucks.
That really sucks.
I don’t have any friends in my house. I’m going to be living with and going to classes with a bunch of strangers. Hogwarts is looking less awesome already.
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