Without Wingwoman Rose or Wingman Henry by my side, I’m feeling shy and gloomy for the rest of the feast, and am sick of strangers asking me what New Zealand is like. That’s a big question, and I don’t have anything to compare it to. Apart from the fact it’s pretty and has my friends in it, and I kinda want to go back there.
By the end of the feast I haven’t made any new friends, and the names of my housemates have gone straight over my head – the only ones I remember are Hugo, Lily and Abby, and they’re fifteen. I mean, I’m only sixteen, but they’re in fifth year and I’m in seventh.
Holy crap, I’m in the equivalent of Year 13, I’m going to fail.
“Follow me, Adelaide,” a girl with red hair says, smiling, and I obediently follow her through the castle, feeling like I should remember her name. She’s not Lily, Emilia or Rose, though, which means there are a heck of a lot of redhaired girls at Hogwarts.
We go through a portrait guarded by a fat woman, appropriately known as the Fat Lady, and Girl With Red Hair leads me through the Gryffindor common room and up endless stairs, throwing the door open to a circular room furnished with six beds surrounded by red velvet curtains. I would stop to admire the room – it’s very cosy and medieval-looking – but I’m tired and I want bed.
“This is your bed,” Red Hair informs me, smiling, before sitting down on her own and kicking off her shoes. “I’d introduce you to everyone, but you’ve probably had enough of names, right?”
“Yeah,” I mumble. “Cheers. Um, about names…”
“Mine’s Lucy,” she says. “Lucy Weasley. Don’t worry, I’m awful with names. Just let me known if I call you Annabel or Addison or Alice or some other nonsense, okay?”
“I get Addison a lot,” I inform her. “That’s what starts happening when too many people call me Addie. Lucy?”
“How many Weasleys are there?”
“Put it this way. My dad has four brothers and a sister.”
“Which one’s your dad?”
“You’ve probably met him.” Lucy rummages through her suitcase, throwing pajamas onto her bed. “Tall, balding, red haired—”
“Because that narrows it down.”
“Pompous,” Lucy continues. “Probably introduced himself as ‘Percival Weasley, Minister of Magic.’” She says this last bit in an incredibly haughty voice.
“Yeah, I’ve met him. So you’re the Minister’s daughter?” I ask in awe.
“Does that get annoying?”
“Hell no.” She disappears behind the hangings, poking her head through them. “Half the people at this school have famous parents. Incidentally, half of us are also related. Case in point.” She points at the dark-skinned girl just walking through the door. “Roxanne Weasley.”
“Doing the family tree, then?” Roxanne asks.
“Yeah,” Lucy says. “Most of the Weasley-Potters end up in Gryffindor. It’s in the family, see. Rose and Louis are the exceptions. And Victoire, but she left years ago.”
“You’re related to the Potters too?”
“Yah,” Roxanne says. “Their mum Ginny was a Weasley before she married Uncle Harry. They’re like honorary Weasleys. Then when you add in all the family friends…” She shakes her head and flops into bed as if the very thought has exhausted her.
“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” Lucy notes happily. “We haven’t gone back on a Friday before, that’s cool.We can ease you into Hogwarts, Adelaide.”
“Pretty sure I can handle whatever you Brits throw at me,” I declare, fishing my pajamas out of my suitcase and pulling the curtains around my bed. “See yas in the morning.”
I have no idea what the time is when I eventually wake up, but it’s late enough for the room to be warm and light in that bright-sunlight-coming-through-the-curtains way. I drag myself into a sitting position and glance around the room, deciding I’m lucid enough to start meeting housemates.
“Morning,” Roxanne says brightly. “I think.”
“It’s only ten o’clock, Roxy,” a girl with brown hair who I haven’t seen before says. “Adelaide, isn’t it? Welcome to Hogwarts. I’m Jessie Harper.”
Jessie reaches out to prod the girl next to her, who grunts, punches her pillow and mumbles something about ‘five more minutes.’
“That’s Larissa Macmillan,” Jessie explains. “She doesn’t do mornings. She doesn’t even really do afternoons. You met Lucy last night, yeah? She’s already gone down to breakfast. And Megan Thomas is probably in the library, she’s our resident nerd.”
“I won’t remember those names,” I tell her bluntly.
“You will,” Jessie assures me. “’Specially Larissa, once she wakes up properly.”
“I’m awake,” Larissa mumbles into her pillow. She rolls over, peering up at me through squinted eyes and a mop of curly black hair. “You the Kiwi?”
I like her already for calling me a Kiwi. “Sure am.”
“I can tell, you can’t pronounce a damn thing.” She grins at me. “Still, better than the Australian we had here once.”
I definitely like her.
“Hungry?” Larissa continues.
“Cool. Come with me.” She rolls out of bed, picks herself off the floor and shuffles out the door. I follow her.
“Technically, we’re not meant to wear pajamas in the Great Hall,” she informs me, “But it’s Saturday and I’m a seventh year and they shouldn’t give a damn. So how long’ve you been here?”
“In England, y’mean?”
“Well, Britain, coz you’re not in England anymore. We’re somewhere in Scotland.”
“Oh. Um, ’bout a week?”
“Where’d you spend last week?”
“Stayed with Rose Weasley.”
“Oh yeah, she went to New Zealand. That why you stayed with her?”
“Miss Macmillan,” a voice says sharply, and I look around to see a short, fearsome looking woman with blood-red hair striding towards us. “You are aware of the dress code for the Great Hall?”
“It’s Saturday, Professor.”
“Nevertheless, you should at least be dressed. And you’re setting a very poor example for our international visitors.”
International visitor? Me? Good grief.
“I’m just getting some toast,” Larissa says, “And then we’ll go back to our dorm. The international visitor’s hungry.”
“Don’t let me see you in here in your pajamas again,” the woman says firmly, before turning on her heel and walking away.
“She a teacher?” I whisper.
“Yup. Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Are they all that scary?”
“Nah. Wait till you meet our Head of House. His name’s Longbottom, but we all call him Professor Badass. Toast?”
“Thanks. Professor Badass? Really?”
“Yuhuh,” she mumbles around a mouthful of toast, leading me back out of the hall. “He chopped off the head of Voldemort’s Horcrux snake with the Sword of Godric Gryffindor. He’s badass. Everyone calls him that, even the Ravenclaws.”
“Even the Ravenclaws?”
“Inter-house rivalry,” Larissa explains. “Apparently in our parents’ time it was all Gryffindor-Slytherin rah, but yeah, we’re at war with Ravenclaw, pretty much. There are heaps of theories about why. Several years ago there were these kids, Teddy Lupin and Victoire Weasley, and they were rivals for pretty much anything, and one was in Gryffindor and one in Ravenclaw. Then there’s Professor Badass and Professor Rutherford, they’re both war heroes, went to school together, so they’re always trying to outdo the other.”
“Who’s Professor Rutherford?”
“The scary one. She’s Head of Ravenclaw.”
“Any relation to Emilia?”
“Yeah, she’s her daughter. A fewpeople got up in arms about it, saying she was only appointed Head Girl coz her mum’s a teacher, but that’s a load of crap coz everyone knows Rutherford would have preferred Rose to get it, because Rose is in her house and Emilia’s a Slytherin. And Scorpius isn’t Head Boy, and his mum’s a teacher too.”
“Wait. So Professor Rutherford didn’t want her daughter to be Head Girl because she’s in the wrong house?”
“It wasn’t so much she didn’t want Emilia to get it,” Larissa explains, “Just that she would have preferred Rose. Ravenclaws are crazy competitive.” She pauses. “Actually, so are we. And so are the Slytherins. The Hufflepuffs aren’t as bad. They’re pretty chill.”
Hufflepuff sounds like New Zealand.
Unless we’re talking about rugby or Quidditch. We’re not really chill about that.
I spend the day being shunted around various people. Having secured breakfast for herself and me, Larissa promptly retires again, leaving Jessie to introduce me to the Gryffindor common room and ask me questions about New Zealand. She then takes me to lunch, where we meet up with Lucy, Roxanne and Megan Thomas, who has brought a large leatherbound book to the table and is absorbed in it while eating.
Wow. I didn’t even know people did that in real life. We do that before an exam, and Ella does homework during mealtimes, but this is evidently not homework because term hasn’t even started yet.
Even Britain’s nerds are nerdier than ours. I need to tell Ella to up her game.
Though I’m sure Jessie, Lucy, Roxanne and Megan are lovely girls, I’m nevertheless pleased when Rose rocks on up to the table after lunch and offers to take me on a tour of Hogwarts. I’m feeling slightly out of my depth, not knowing anyone.
“How’s it going?” she asks conversationally as we wander out of the Great Hall. “I see you’ve met some of my cousins.”
“Sure have,” I confirm.
“Poor you,” she says with real sympathy. “They scare me sometimes, and I’m related to them. Shame about the Sorting, right? I’d at least hoped you and Henry would be in the same house.”
“Yeah,” I say noncommittally.
Professor Rutherford – the scary one – walks around a corner, stopping abruptly when she sees us, and says, “Ah, Rose. Did you forget about our meeting this afternoon?”
“Oh, crap!” Rose cries. “Sorry, Professor, I was going to take Adelaide for a tour round the grounds, um – ” She turns hurriedly to me. “If I take you to the Hufflepuff common room, maybe you could hang with Henry for a bit? Or you could go find Lucy, or something…I’m sorry, I completely forgot!”
“It’s okay,” I assure her. “I’ll go find Henry, if you show me where the Hufflepuffs hang.”
“Okay, come with me.” She hurries down the corridor, calling over her shoulder, “I’ll be there in five, Professor!”
I jog to keep up with her. “What’s this meeting about?”
“We’re setting up a group tutoring programme,” Rose replies. “We were going to get it up and running last year, but when we found out Scorpius and I were going to Southern Cross we had to put it off till this year. We’re Prefects, see.”
I have no idea where we’re going or how I’m going to make my way back from here, but after turning down corridor after corridor and descending a few flights of stairs, we arrive in a small area that, judging by the smell, is very close to the kitchen. I can also smell cookies.
I’m now jealous of the Hufflepuffs.
Rose steps forward, raising her wand and tapping the barrels sitting in one corner. “Hufflepuff doesn’t have a password,” she explains, “And because I’m a Prefect I can get into all the common rooms. I usually get hexed if I try to get into Gryffindor, but the ‘Puffs are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. Through here.”
There’s a small passageway, and I guess I have to crawl through it. I wave my thanks to Rose, hunker down on the floor, and emerge in the Hufflepuff common room.
It is adorable. That’s the first word that pops into my head when I see it. It reminds me of a beehive, all round and yellow and happy-looking, filled with massive couches and armchairs, and my envy of Henry for living in this cookie-smelling hive of happy increases.
“Hi!” a cheery girl says. “You’re a Gryffindor, aren’t you? Are you looking for someone?”
“Yeah, Henry Greenfield,” I reply. “New kid, South African Kiwi, weird accent?”
She furrows her brow briefly. “Oh, I know the one! Both from Southern Cross, right? Hey, David!” she calls, directing this to a boy on the opposite side of the room. “Seen the New Zealand guy?”
“Think he’s in our dorm,” the kid called David replies. “I’ll go get him.”
I hover awkwardly in the room while waiting for Henry to show. A number of people greet me, evidently not fazed at finding someone from Gryffindor in their common room. It’s weird, thinking of myself as part of a Hogwarts house, instead of Kemp House back home.
“Hey, Adelaide!” Henry calls, and I grin.
“Sup, loser. How’s it going?”
“It’s going okay. Should we go walk around?”
“Sounds like a plan. I have no idea where I’m going, though.”
“Neither,” Henry replies, gesturing towards the hole in the wall that leads out of the common room. “After you.”
I scuttle through the hole, feeling a little bit silly about the whole thing, and lean casually against the wall. It’s the first time Henry and I have hung out, just us, since that time we wandered around Southern Cross at lunchtime before we found out we were coming here. I have this vague need to tell him that I like him, but that would just be awkward. He probably doesn’t feel the same way – I haven’t noticed any signs of it – and considering we’re in different houses here, he would probably seize that as an excuse to avoid Awkward Adelaide and by the time we get home we won’t even be talking to each other.
I’ve given this a good deal of thought.
“So how’s it going?”
“You’ve already asked that.”
“I know,” I say, scrabbling for something to say to cover up my general awkwardness, “But I was meaning, you know, elaborate further.” My arms are windmilling around by this point, and I wonder briefly if there’s something in the water at Hogwarts that’s making me go a bit strange.
It’s either British water or South African boys.
“Oh. Um…” Henry considers this for a moment. “It’s weird. Not being around anyone, you know? I’m not with Scorp, I’m not with you…but at least the people in Hufflepuff are nice.”
“I thought that was their main entrance criteria.”
“Probably.” Henry shrugs. “If anyone back home asks, I’m, um, in Gryffindor with you. Or Ravenclaw with Scorp…even though I’m not that smart.”
“Are you disappointed? To be in Hufflepuff?”
“That was my first reaction, yeah. Didn’t Rose say Hufflepuff was for the rejects?”
“You’re not a reject,” I say hurriedly.
What are you doing, Adelaide. Tone it down. Be cool.
“Spose,” Henry says, apparently not noticing anything strange. “Oh well. I’m in Kemp back home, and that’s what matters. Where are we going?”
“No idea, but I think I’ve seen this corridor before. So what did you and Scorp get up to last week?”
“Not a lot. They live in a massive mansion, it’s insane. And there’s only the three of them, and most of the time Scorpius’ dad is there by himself. I met a couple of his friends though, all in Ravenclaw. What about you?”
“Me and Rose did the tourist thing. Went sightseeing around London, wrecked havoc among the Muggles – ”
“Not really. But we confused a couple of them, mainly because they saw our photos were moving. Rose made up some crap about animated paper, and we ran for it. Oh! Did you go to Diagon Alley?”
“Yeah, the other day—”
“How cool is it?” I enthuse, cutting him off. “It’s so cool. Did you see that wand shop, apparently it dates back to like, three hundred and something B.C, and it’s huge, and—”
“Didn’t go down Knockturn Alley, did you?”
“Knockturn Alley. It sorta runs parallel to Diagon, and it’s full of Dark magic stuff.” He grins suddenly. “You’d be terrified.”
“Would not,” I respond indignantly. “Look who’s in Gryffindor!”
“Yes,” Henry says, “But you’re also from New Zealand, and there is nothing remotely scary in New Zealand.”
“Just coz you’re so fearless.”
“Yeah, I’m South African.”
“But I’m still the one in Gryffindor.”
“South African beats Gryffindor.”
I don’t even bother refuting that, and we settle into silence as we walk through the endless stone corridors of Hogwarts. I don’t know if it’s an awkward or a comfortable silence – though we’ve been friends since Year 9 we’ve never really hung out by ourselves before, and because I like him I’m currently finding everything awkward. What if everything I’m saying and doing is sending out subliminal messages of ‘I WANT TO BE YOUR GIRLFRIEND’?
I decide it’s his turn to break the silence. And after deciding this I realise I’m overanalysing everything and I should play it cool.
Go with the flow. No worries, mate. You’re a Kiwi. You can do chill. It’s part of your national identity.
“So what did you think of the formal?” I ask casually.
“It was pretty cool. Weird, though, going with a date.”
“Did you like Aroha?”
Henry shrugs. “I don’t know. She’s good looking, right? But I didn’t really talk to her much. It was more awkward than anything, and I think if a girl’s the right one for you, it’d be easy talking to her. You know?”
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean,” I say quickly, making a mental note to never be awkward again. Be cool. “It was like that with Tom. I mean, he’s a nice guy, but it was just…weird. Like he was trying too hard.”
God, Adelaide, you’re one to talk.
“I still feel sorry for him,” Henry says, bringing out his Nice Guyness. “Apparently he’s liked you for ages.”
“Don’t remind me, you’ll make me feel guilty.”
“Why didn’t you give him a chance?” Henry continues. “Is it because you were coming here? I’m sure he was only awkward because he’s never really talked to you before.”
“Do you like someone else?” he asks shrewdly.
“I could do.”
“It’s not Scorpius, is it?”
“Scorpius?” I repeat in astonishment. “No way. I’m not into the Brits. I like – ”
No, Adelaide, shut up. Shut up now. You will regret this.
There is a very long silence.
Henry clears his throat. “I see.”
More silence. Really, really long silence. And this is definitely an awkward one.
I wish a hole would just appear out of nowhere and swallow me.
I bet ‘Gryffindor’ is a synonym for ‘stupid.’
I wonder if there’s any way I could salvage the situation. I could pretend I didn’t mean it like that. I’ve always told Henry he has a cool accent. I could say it’s about the accent. Purely the accent.
No, the silence has been too long and too awkward for me to try and salvage anything now.
“So,” Henry says eventually. “Me and my sister are the only South Africans at Southern Cross.”
“I like boys.”
“I wasn’t suggesting that.”
“No. I’m trying to diffuse the awkwardness, because you certainly aren’t.”
“Well…” Henry flounders. “I don’t really know what to say. Nobody’s ever told me they like me before. Even though you didn’t. You told me you like South Africans and boys.”
“Process of elimination, you’re both.”
“Yeah,” Henry says, nodding. “Um, well, this is going to sound really lame because we’ve technically known each other since Year 9, but…we’ve never really hung out before. Just us. So…I don’t really feel like I know you that well.”
“That can be fixed quite easily.”
“Yeah. I know. And I’d like to. But…yeah. I don’t know if I like you back. Yet. Does that make sense?”
“It makes sense,” I say firmly, nodding.
He looks relieved. “Good. So are you as nervous as me about classes on Monday?”