Approximately ten people show up for the trials, and I systematically go around introducing myself to the assembled strangers. There’s Enrico from Italy (Chaser) Sam from Canada (Beater) Demetrius and Nicodemus from Greece (Keeper, Beater) Margot from France (Chaser) and two giggling Spanish girls, Adelita and Carmen, who are apparently Chasers, but I get the distinct feeling they don’t actually know what Chasers do, or what Quidditch is, or that broomsticks can fly. Maybe I’m exaggerating.
I end up leaving before we find out who got on the team, because I need to get to Light Arts. Well, more specifically, find Light Arts, and get to it.
The Light Arts classes are in a block of classrooms at the back of the main Wizarding Studies building, and there are only about twenty-five people. Even though I’ve only been to two lectures, I’ve now accepted 500 people in a lecture theatre as the norm for university, and it’s weird to be back in a Hogwarts-sized classroom.
There’s also a new crop of strangers to get to know, and for once, I’m feeling slightly shy. I was always really outgoing at Hogwarts – it’s difficult not to be when your best friend is Abby Longbottom – and I’ve always had someone around me this week when I’m going around meeting people, but I’m on my own now.
I take my place at an empty table, sitting nervously and waiting for someone to sit next to me. Eventually a very scary, very arty looking girl with black hair, green streaks, black kohl and black clothes enters the room, gives it a cursory glance, and sits across from me.
I’ve found the other Hogwarts student.
“I didn’t know you were here, Potter,” she says by way of greeting.
“I didn’t know you were here either, Amethyst.” I’m on last name basis with enough people. And by enough, I mean one.
It’s weird. I went through all of Hogwarts with Amethyst, but because she was Slytherin and I was Gryffindor, we avoided each other on principle. That, and I was a bubbly nerdy Prefect and she was…not. But towards the end of last year everyone in seventh year started to be civil to each other, if not friendly. I’m not sure where I stand with Amethyst now.
“What degree are you doing?” she asks, awkwardly avoiding eye contact.
“Wizarding Studies, you?”
“Just a Diploma of Magical Art.”
We lapse into silence again, waiting for the professor. He turns up a few minutes later with dreadlocks, facial piercings and an Italian accent. “My name is Professor Durante, but you can call me Claudio,” he begins. “Welcome to the subject of Light Arts, which I think is a stupid name, but I did not choose it, so…it’s okay. Don’t hate me, hate the university.” He grins, and I think I even see Amethyst crack a smile. “The art of charmed portrait painting is a very difficult one. It’s not about putting some paint on a canvas and thinking it will come to life because it will not. Modern abstract art does not work when you are trying to bring a portrait to life.”
I’m already a fan of this class.
“It also includes complicated magic,” Claudio continues, “So if you think you can come and take Light Arts because it is fun and you failed your high school exams, you should probably leave now.”
“Oh good,” Claudio says happily. “You are not idiots. Shall we get started?”
And bam, just like that, I’ve been to all three of my subjects this semester, and I haven’t even done anything. This year is going to be a cake walk.
And I don’t have to learn Greek.
I think back to my Hogwarts days, where I was holed up in Gryffindor Tower on horribly cold nights, as close to the fire as I could be without setting myself alight, trying to keep my eyes open as I slogged through horrible essay after horrible essay. And this is meant to be higher education? I can so get used to this.
I have one lecture tomorrow, one lecture and art class on Thursday, and I have Friday off. Long weekend! Every weekend!
Until the end of the semester, that is, when my timetable changes. Oh well. Feeling infinitely pleased with life, I saunter across the lawn towards Plato Hall, contentedly admiring the long shadows created by the slowly sinking sun. I have friends, I have sunshine, and I have easy courses. This is the best career crisis ever.
I get a massive long letter from Abby a week later, detailing everything that’s happening in her life and responding to what I told her about mine. She’s working as a Welcome Witch at St Mungo’s, which I have to say is something that suits her down to the ground; she’s such a happy, bubbly person and I’m pretty sure if I was in agonising pain at Mungo’s and Abby was the first person I saw, I would feel better. I might be biased though, because she’s my best friend. Well, her and Hugo, but Hugo’s my cousin so that’s a bit different.
She’s enclosed the picture our cousin Roxanne took of us on the last day of school. Roxanne’s a great photographer – I should get her to come here and do the photography course when she finishes Hogwarts – and the picture’s one of the sharpest and clearest I’ve seen. I look at us – me in the middle laughing at something Abby had just said, Abby with her signature blonde pigtails, screwing her face up and grinning at the camera, Hugo staring wide-eyed at the camera before dropping the face and cracking up; one of his ginger dreads nearly pokes me in the eye.
I sit in my room, watching the moment replaying over and over, and feel a twinge in my gut. I miss them. Hell, I even miss Hogwarts. Amber, Marama and the boys are great, but it’s not the same as the people you went to school with for seven years – or the family you’ve grown up with.
“Hey Lil,” Amber says, coming into my room. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say, trying to make myself sound chirpy, but my voice catches.
Amber takes the photo from me. “These your best friends from school?”
I nod, swiping an annoying tear from my eye and leaning over her shoulder. “The girl on my left is Abby, that letter’s from her as well. She’s mental…and the guy with the dreads is my cousin Hugo, we’ve been best friends since we were babies…”
“You miss them, huh?” Amber asks sympathetically.
I nod. “I’ve only been away from them for three weeks, I shouldn’t miss them this much…”
“It’s leaving school as well,” Amber points out, taking a seat on my floor. “Even if I was still in the States, I’d miss the Salem girls like crazy. Knowing you’re not going to go to class with them anymore…” Her voice trails off and she smiles ruefully. “Now I’m the one crying.”
“It’s okay, we can cry together,” I say, and we do, sitting on my floor, conjuring tissues and reminiscing about our schools, our friends, and all we’ve left behind.
Luke’s the only person in our group who I don’t have any classes with, but I see just as much of him as anyone else with hall Quidditch practices and random flying expeditions around campus. He convinces me to come along to one of his practical lessons when I don’t have any lectures, and I’m astounded at the complexity of their flying. I’m pretty sure my brothers would sell Nana Weasley to come to one of these lessons, especially considering James’ latest letter saying he was thinking about joining Puddlemere United, and had gotten off his ass to go flying every day.
I wonder if I can invite my brother to come to a lesson that I’m not even enrolled in. I crash lectures all the time – I’ve been to more Magical Politics ones than a lot of the people majoring in it – but Magical Sports classes are about the size of Light Arts and I stick out like a sore thumb when I go there. It’s always worth asking Luke.
“Reckon I could take my brother to one of your classes?” I ask casually as we wander back to Plato Hall.
“I don’t think so. At least you’re enrolled in EUS, they kind of turn a blind eye. Your brother might be pushing it a bit, sorry.”
“Get your brother to enrol next year.”
“Nah,” I say, shaking my head. “He’s looking to join a league Quidditch team back home, so he’s not about to take two years off to come here.”
“S’pose. He must be good, though.”
“Probably better than you,” I say with a teasing grin.
“Bet he’s not,” Luke replies, rising to the bait. “I’ve been on a broom since I was five.”
“So has he.” I can’t believe I’m gloating about my brother’s Quidditch skills to an attractive Australian guy, but being away from home will do strange things to you.
“He hasn’t been on a Magical Sports course though,” Luke says.
“No, but you’ve only been on one for a month.”
“I’ve learned shitloads here though.”
“Dude, our mum is Ginny Potter,” I point out, and he concedes defeat. I’m still not used to pulling the ‘famous parent line’ with regard to Mum, not Dad, but Luke’s endearingly oblivious to any international matters outside the Quidditch pitch. Ask him to name the full 2020 World Cup team from Slovenia and he’d do it, but ask him who Voldemort was and he’ll look at you quizzically and wonder what language you’re speaking. When Nathan informed him that my dad was pretty much wizarding England’s biggest war hero and his name was all over our History of Sorcery textbook, he said, and I quote, “Cool, good for him,” and asked me if I was ready for the weekend’s game against Xenophon Hall.
I’m starting to realise that university’s not going to be the cake walk I thought it would be, having had to turn in a number of essays, research reports and paintings by this point, but so far I haven’t had atrocious deadlines or killer workloads. Marama has though; her courses are probably three times more intense than the rest of ours and we only see her at dinner or in the Voldemort lecture; the rest of the time she’s in her room or in the library. I never realised she was such a dedicated student.
“Work hard, play hard,” she told me during one of our increasingly rare conversations. “You should have seen me at the end of Year 13.”
“I can relate,” I told her. “I applied for here while hung over the week after my final exams.”
I spend most of my days with Amber and Nathan, and things take on a pretty normal routine. Depending on what lecture we have first, we’ll meet for breakfast and head down to campus, and either go to our individual classes and meet up at the Hub for lunch, or go to our lecture, then to the Hub for lunch, before filling our afternoons with other classes (the arts tend to be in the afternoons) and our chosen hobbies. For me, that means flying with Luke (he’s introduced me to a number of different sports that can be played on broomsticks, including Sputch and Karrilan – what is it with broomstick sports and weird names?) and for Amber and Nathan that means being music geeks in the practice room on campus.
I’ve got an A+ average for the Voldemort course so far, though I can’t really claim that’s because of any academic ability or effort on my part. I have an A- average for the Muggle Studies paper and for painting, which surprises me because I’ve never really thought of myself as artistic before. A lot of it is to do with the charms, though, and I got an O in my Charms NEWT, so it sort of makes sense.
Something weird happens one Tuesday afternoon, though. It’s raining, so I’ve decided to stay in the art room and work on our assignment, which is to paint a portrait of someone from memory and animate it, like a photo. I’ve chosen Hugo – I figure I’ll give it to Aunt Hermione for her birthday which is coming up – and am working on his mass of orange dreads when Amethyst speaks to me from across the empty room.
“Lily,” she says quietly. “Can you…help me please?”
I look over at her in surprise. Amethyst and I have maintained a steady but civil silence since we first spoke at the beginning of the course, and considering the work I’ve seen from her, I can’t help but doubt that she needs any help from me. Nevertheless I shrug, put down my brush, and go over to her. “What’s up?”
“I can’t do it,” she says, running a paint-spattered hand through her hair and blinking away tears.
“What are you talking about?” I ask, looking at the painting. It’s almost finished, showing a big, smiling, blonde girl with gleaming eyes. She’s surrounded by an almost ominous looking darkness, but even by looking at it I know the girl in the painting is some kind of glimmer of hope. It’s amazing. I wish I could paint like that.
“The charm,” she says. “I can’t do it, I’ve tried, but I can’t even do a simple animation charm, I’m going to fail as an artist.”
“No, you’re not,” I say, taking the paintbrush from her before she can put more strange colours in her hair. “What were you like at Charms at Hogwarts?”
“I gave it up after OWLs,” she says miserably. “I didn’t think I would need it.”
“No problem,” I say. “Charms is just like any other type of magic, it requires focus. Remember what Claudio said, you’re painting from a memory, a moment frozen in time. You have to remember that moment, remember the person you’re painting. And start small to begin with.”
“How small?” Amethyst asks.
“What was she doing in this moment?” I ask, gesturing at the painting.
“Walking down the hallway at Hogwarts,” Amethyst says with a frown. “She was turning around to talk to me, I was slightly behind her. And she was laughing. She’s always laughing.”
“So there’s movement? Say we start with the Hufflepuff crest on her robes. You’d want it to shift slightly, maybe become partially obscured by her robes, and blurred a bit from the movement.”
She nods determinedly and points her wand at the canvas. It takes a few attempts to get it perfect, but the crest is now animated, and Amethyst sets to work on the rest of the robes, painstakingly animating each fold. If she doesn’t get top of this class, I will eat my broomstick.
From then on, Amethyst and I start talking, swapping stories about the people we’re painting. She’s painting Liz Davidson, the round, happy Hufflepuff in our year, and I must admit I’m surprised. I couldn’t think of two more different people – even I have more in common with Amethyst than Liz.
“I hated her at first,” Amethyst said bluntly, swapping from wand to paintbrush again, “And by ‘at first’ I mean for the first six years I knew her. She was the antithesis of me, you know? But I went through some shit in sixth year. More shit than before, anyway. You probably remember my dad being sent to Azkaban.”
Yeah, it was my dad who sent him there. Awkwardly, I add some shading to Hugo’s nose.
“But yeah, things were pretty shit for a while there,” Amethyst continues. “Having no family and all that. Liz started talking to me. Of course, I told her to fuck off, but she didn’t, and she was the only person who didn’t. She was the only person who cared.” Amethyst shrugs. “So she’s, you know, a pretty awesome chick.”
I start spending more time in the art room with Amethyst, and notice with some pride that my painting’s getting better with the extra time and Amethyst’s expert guidance. I keep helping her with the charms, so it’s a fair trade-off. That, and I’m actually becoming friends with her. Who would have thought it?
Amethyst lives in Xenophon Hall, so I don’t tend to see her outside of art, but out of the blue she asks me if I’m doing anything next Friday night.
“Probably getting drunk,” I tell her matter-of-factly. “I have two assignments due in that afternoon.”
“Plus the portrait,”Amethyst adds.
“Plus the portrait,” I echo, and yelp. “Plus the portrait!”
“Exactly,” Amethyst says, nodding. “It’s D-Day for photography as well. So who are you drinking with?”
“Amber, Marama and the boys, probably,” I say. I’ve talked about them enough for her to know who I’m talking about. “Well, I’m not sure about Marama. Depends how much work she’s got to do.”
“She wouldn’t have too much,” Amethyst points out. “It’s mid-semester break after that, so all the professors are making Friday their deadline. Can I come drink with you guys?”