I lean against the grassy bank, closing my eyes and sighing with contentedness. The tree towering overhead shelters me from the scorching late summer sun and the only sound is the wind whispering softly through the leaves and the chirping of cicadas in the bush behind the house.
I could lie here forever. In fact, I think I might. There’s no place on Earth as peaceful as here, as quiet, as—”
“AARGH!” A loud splash accompanies the unmanly squeal, and I open my eyes to see Scorpius Malfoy floundering in the sea, Corwin McAllen and Henry Greenfield standing on the wharf above him and laughing uproariously.
“Is that a—Oh MERLIN what is that?” Scorpius bellows, loud enough for my best friend, Georgia Solomon, to direct her attention to him.
“It’s a jellyfish,” Henry says with a smirk. “Man up, it won’t sting you.”
“Well, I didn’t know that,” Scorpius replies, affronted. “I don’t know anything about your wildlife, everything could be deadly for all I know—”
“Go die in a hole,” Georgia yells in his general direction.
“Deal,” Henry agrees, and the boys proceed to launch themselves off the end of the wharf. Luckily for us, neither achieves the goal of splashing us, but I decide I’ve sweltered in the February heat long enough and trot across to the wharf to join them, careful to avoid the duck poop and traces of mussel guts from where we went fishing earlier.
“It’s freezing, you know,” Henry informs me cheerfully from the water.
“Icy,” Corwin agrees, teeth chattering.
“Hits you like a punch in the stomach,” Henry continues.
“I’d rather suffer the heat, wouldn’t you?” Corwin asks.
“Definitely,” Scorpius agrees.
“See, even the English kid thinks it’s cold.”
“Move or I’ll jump on you,” I reply, ignoring their comments.
“Stop defying your gender stereotype!” Corwin pouts, and I shrug and launch myself into the water.
The boys are right, it is cold, not that I’d ever admit to that, of course. I float on my back, looking up at the clouds and trying to forget about the jellyfish drifting past me.
It’s the last day of summer holidays for us, but it’s a heck of a lot more than that. Tomorrow marks the Beginning of the Rest of Our Lives, as Georgia rather dramatically dubbed it, where we go our partially separate ways to the furthest flung reaches of the globe—
Or to Wellington, if your name’s Adelaide Crosby. I know, right. Big move. Nelson to Wellington. Blows the mind. I’ll have to take the ferry and everything.
By contrast, Corwin and Ella (The Nerds) are going to go nerd it up in a super-nerdy place called the European University of Sorcery in Athens, Greece, where they can hang out with a bunch of nerdy people in nerd heaven.
…I can’t really talk, I’m going to university too.
To study a Bachelor of Arts. Yeah. Majoring in History.
Five years of magical education has been entirely wasted on me. And Henry, and our soon-to-be flatmate Sophie Moorhouse, who, luckily enough, is also a witch and also went to Southern Cross with us. We’re going to have the trippiest student flat in Wellington.
Georgia and Scorpius are off to…wait a minute. I don’t actually know.
“Hey George!” I yell in the direction of the shore. “Where are you guys going first?”
Georgia scowls. “Someone,” she says, with a pointed glare at Scorpius, “Wanted to go to Australia.”
“What?” he says defensively. “I’ve never been!”
“I’ve already told you, it’s just like New Zealand except hotter, and there are kangaroos and a hell of a lot more things that bite.”
“It won’t be that bad,” Scorpius informs me. “We’re going to all the theme parks on the Gold Coast and using Confundus Charms to skip the queues.”
Dammit, I should go on a magical OE as well.
Not that I’m jealous or anything. Wellington’s a cool city. The world headquarters of the verb.*
I can’t decide if that’s a really cool way to describe a city or a really lame one, but it’s certainly better than Wellywood.
“We’ll come track you guys down on midsemester break,” Henry tells Scorpius.
“Er, good luck. We probably won’t have a clue where we are.”
“Sides, if you do, you’d never want to go back to boring old study at boring old university in boring old Wellington,” Georgia contributes, appearing beside me in the water.
I’m about to whip out my wand and threaten her for dissing my adopted city that I don’t even live in yet, then remember I left it on the beach.
“You’ll hate Wellington within six weeks of living there,” Georgia says. “All that wind.”
“Windy Wellington!” Corwin contributes.
“And walking everywhere. Up hills.”
“Big, steep hills!”
“I hate you both.”
“You’ll miss us when we’re gone,” Georgia says offhandedly.
There’s a long silence, punctuated only by the slap of jellyfish-filled waves hitting the wharf.
“Yeah, I will.”
“I’ll miss you too, dickface.”
“Have I ever told you you’re my best friend in the world?”
“The feeling’s mutual.”
“Don’t forget me.”
“I could never forget your ugly mug, Adelaide Crosby.”
“You have a pretty memorable face yourself. Did it hurt when the train hit?”
“You’re a bitch.”
“Hate you too.”
“Come ‘ere,” she says, throwing her arms around me. “Remember, if you fail university, you can always come live with me.”
“If you get abducted and sold for organ harvesting in some dodgy part of Southeast Asia, I’ll come looking for you.”
“I thought girls were meant to be…nice to each other,” Scorpius said. “You know, all ‘OMG I love you big huuugs we’re going to be BFFs forever’ sort of thing.”
“You don’t know me at all, Scorpius Malfoy!” Georgia wails dramatically. “You obviously don’t care about me, I bet you’re cheating on me, this is over, Adelaide, feed me tubs of chocolate icecream at once while I cry on your shoulder!”
“Go then!” Scorpius yells. “Get fat! See if I care! I have Henry anyway!”
“Whoa, mate, settle down,” Henry says, holding his hands in surrender. “You know my heart belongs to Corwin.”
“That was meant to be our secret!” Corwin shouts. “And you told the English kid?”
Georgia and I exchange glances.
“Marry me, Adelaide?”
“Of course, Georgia.”
“What’s going on?” Ella calls, slipping into the water. “I hear drama.”
“Your boyfriend’s having an affair with mine,” I inform her.
“Henry’s quite the player, it seems,” Georgia observes.
“I’m gonna miss you guys,” Ella says.
“Don’t start that again.”
“The sentiment. Doesn’t suit me,” Georgia explains.
We wallow in the water for another twenty minutes, until Corwin suggests we make a start on tea.
“Tea?” Scorpius repeats, confused. “It doesn’t take—oh. Can’t you guys just call it dinner?”
“What are we eating?” Georgia asks.
“Well,” Corwin begins. “Seeing as for most of us it’s our last night in NZ, and it’s certainly our last night of summer holidays, I thought we could do something really quintessentially Kiwi…”
“If you’re suggesting we barbecue something, I feel obliged to point out I’d burn everything,” Henry contributes. “Or, alternatively, give us food poisoning.”
“Not at all. Georgia has a boat, and Picton has a number of fish and chip places.”
“I like the way your mind works, Corwin McAllen,” Georgia says approvingly.
We make a beeline for the house, us girls claiming the shower to rinse off the salt and leaving the boys with the hose outside.
“Who’s got money?” Georgia asks, towelling off her hair as she wanders through the house.
“Maybe if we all put in five bucks?” Henry suggests.
“I don’t have five bucks.”
“Bullshit, I saw a ten dollar note sitting in your wallet this morning!”
“What were you doing going through my wallet?”
“Laughing at your student ID, of course!”
“I think I should be exempt from paying, considering it’s my boat and my fuel and my bach.”
“Correction, it’s your dad’s boat and your dad’s fuel and your dad’s bach.”
“It is actually my fuel,” Georgia says earnestly. “Paid for it myself.”
“Fine,” I say grumpily as we start heading down to the boat in a large clump. “You can be exempt. Are we eating there, or taking it back?”
“It’ll get cold by the time we get back. We can sit on the foreshore like cool kids and get attacked by seagulls.”
“Seagulls are vicious,” Henry says. “One nearly bit my finger off in Kaikoura once.”
“Were you eating food in that amphitheatre by the carpark?” Georgia asks.
“How’d you know that?”
“Because that’s asking to be attacked by seagulls in Kaikoura. Can someone get that rope?”
We pull out of the bay, squinting against the light of the late afternoon sun, and cling to the railing as the boat picks up speed. The wind whips past, drenching me with salty spray as the boat launches over the waves. Not for the first time since we arrived at Georgia’s bach in the Marlborough Sounds a few days ago, I find myself immensely grateful I chose to stay in New Zealand, even if it means living in the Muggle world. I found out in Year 12 I couldn’t permanently leave NZ – three months at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was more than enough for me. It took me most of Year 13 to decide what to study, finally settling on a history major in October. I’m also taking a whole lot of other papers that have nothing to do with history – that’s the beauty of a BA, and the result of depriving someone of Muggle subjects for most of secondary school. I took mostly social sciences in Year 13, because they were the only subjects I could pick up without having done them in Year 12 – History, Geography and Media Studies, as well as Photography and Year 12 English.
And, because my dad would have been horribly disappointed if I didn’t, I also took Potions. It’s mostly useless, of course, but it means if any of us get sick this year we won’t have to pay for medicine.
Which is an important consideration when you’re a student. Henry took Charms for a similar reason – you cover Refilling Charms in Year 13.
It might be illegal, but at least we’ll save on milk and petrol.
We arrive in Picton and swarm down the main street of town looking for fish and chip places. Apparently we’re not the only ones with this idea – it’s a balmy evening in late summer and there are far more people than you’d expect wandering contentedly down the street – Picton is, after all, a hole of a town with not a lot of people, but a lot of them would be tourists – a suspicion confirmed when one woman whips out her camera to take a photo of a seagull.
“It’ll eat you given half a chance,” Henry tells said tourist ominously as we pass.
Once the fish and chips have been ordered, we leave Ella, Corwin and Scorpius at the shop while we go to the supermarket down the road for some fizzy and other snacks to sustain us through the evening. Georgia’s just turned eighteen, so she insists on buying a couple of bottles of cheap wine and takes great pleasure in flashing her ID at the checkout chick in Four Square.
“Better enjoy this while it lasts,” she says wistfully, cradling the bottles as we make our way back to the others. “The drinking age’ll be higher in some of the countries we go to.”
“Confundus Charm?” I suggest.
“Yeah, but it’s the thought that counts.”
We do get mobbed by seagulls on the foreshore (a situation not helped by Scorpius throwing chips at them) but are saved by a couple of small children nearby, who run into the assembled hoardes with arms outstretched making airplane noises.
“I’m going to miss this,” Georgia says with a sigh, leaning against Scorpius and draining the last of the Coke.
“I thought you said no sentimentality,” I point out.
“The sun’s going down,” she replies. “Sunset’s a sentimental time.”
“I thought it was a romantic time,” Scorpius says.
I shift my gaze out to the Interislander ferry waiting in the harbour. We’ll be on that tomorrow morning, off to Wellington for university and the next stage of our lives. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when compared with the others’ overseas adventures, but for me it is. It’s university. It’s Muggle university. It is, quite literally, an entirely new world.
Bring it on.
*"The world headquarters of the verb" is from a poem by Lauris Edmond written on a plaque on the Wellington waterfront.