Opening ceremony

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Opening ceremony

Post by Anahera King on Tue Jan 19, 2016 10:09 pm

Anahera woke up early on the first day of the school year. She had been back at Huatahi for the last two weeks now, in part to help set the last things in order, but also because her house was cold and empty anyway, and there was so much life inside the mountain, even without its student body.

January 15 promised to be a lovely summer day. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and when she finally left Huatahi around half past eleven, she found that a cool breeze took the edge off the warmth outside. Anahera boarded one of the canoes and sent it magically up the river, to the cottage just outside the school’s perimeter, where everyone would meet in just under twenty minutes.

Every teacher had been given their assigned students to escort to the school, and Anahera herself was in charge of picking up three students. One of them was a first-year Muggleborn who had never travelled by Floo Powder before, another was a third year whose house did not have a chimney that could be connected to the Floo Network, and the third was her own daughter, who was already entering her second year now.

She checked her watch and waited. At 11:55, she apparated. Jade opened the front door within ten seconds of her ringing the bell and flung herself at her mother. Anahera joyfully picked her up and twirled her around, quickly examining her from top to bottom when she set her back down. They had seen each other on Christmas Day, but it seemed like eons ago, and she could swear Jade had grown at least another centimeter since then.

“Darius,” she greeted her ex-husband with a nod and a polite smile. He returned the greeting and gave his daughter one last hug before she left. “See you for winter break, kiddo,” he said affectionately, and Jade nodded. Anahera held her daughter’s hand and took her suitcase in the other, before they apparated back to the cottage. Jade knew the drill by now, so she waved when Anahera apparated again at exactly 12:00, to pick up the first-year student. She explained the entire travelling process and gave the student’s parents a small pot of Floo Powder for consecutive school years, before travelling to the cottage with the student. A few people had already arrived, and Anahera smiled at Jade before apparating once more to pick up her final student.

At around 12:15, when every staff member had returned with confirmation of successfully bringing their charges to the cottage, and all other students seemed accounted for, the group made their way down to the river, where the large canoes were waiting. Students and staff members alike boarded the canoes with their bags, and off they went. The current took them downstream, and magic steered them away from danger. They passed under the bridge leading to Waiau Island, and the canoes stopped soon thereafter, at the river’s edge, by the trail that would lead to the stone stairs to the school’s entrance.

Like every year, students were instructed to leave their bags by the river, where House Elves would soon come by to deliver them to the appropriate rooms. Everyone but Anahera and the first-year students made their way up to the long, stone stairs and entered the building, while Anahera briefly summarised what would happen at the opening ceremony. Every one of them should have received a letter about a week ago explaining the process in more detail, but it was always possible that something went wrong in the delivery process, and aside from just easing the student’s nerves, it was also important that they would know what to do once they reached the top of the stairs.

After her explanation, Anahera asked if anyone would like to be the one to pick up the wand. This was always the most frightening part of the day for her: what if nobody volunteered? But every year, a few courageous souls inevitably raised their hands, and this year was no different. With relief, Anahera assigned one of them to do the honours, and then she led them up the stairs.

With anxious anticipation, Anahera kept a good pace as they made their way in a long file up the steps to the wide-open front doors. There was just enough room on the platform by the entrance for the entire group to fit if they stayed close together, and Anahera waited patiently until they had all reached the top, and among gasps and excited whispers she nodded at the group inside to start.

The students and teachers had all gathered in the middle of the large entrance hall. The sixth-years, who had the biggest roles in the ceremony, were at the front, and a small group of them stepped forward, taiaha in hand. They were all members of the duelling club, who spent the last few of their meetings every school year preparing for next year’s opening ceremony.

They started the challenge, originally a method of intimidation and show of strength, but for the purpose of the opening ceremony, the duelling club’s performance was more of an impressive show of ability and a way to promote their club to potential new members than anything that could actually be perceived as intimidating. This was done so as not to frighten the nervous first years any more than they might already be, especially those who came from abroad and might not be overly acquainted with Maori rituals.

The leader of the duelling club stepped away from the group and toward the first-years, still continuing the choreography. He lay the wand that belonged to a previous headmaster of the school on the ground, symbolizing a gift for the visitors, and the first-year volunteer stepped forward to pick up. As the student walked slowly back to the group of first-years, still facing the older students, the karanga began, a call in the form of song that was this year, as usual, led by members of the Maori language association. This ended the challenge, and the duelling club members stepped back toward the rest of the group.

Anahera signaled for the first-years to advance, and they did so slowly and deliberately, until they reached the large group of older students and staff members. At this point, everyone sat down on the ground except for one girl, who made a short speech welcoming the first years to Huatahi, giving them an overview of what will be in store for them during their years here, and stressing that they can come to any one of them for help, advice, or a sympathetic ear.

With the end of her speech, it was time for the last part of the ceremony: the hongi, or touching of noses. The sixth-years stood up and took out the white belts they were all carrying. They waved at the first-years to step toward them, and each sixth-year bent down to touch foreheads and noses with a first-year student, before presenting them with their first belt. This had always been Anahera’s favourite part. She still remembered the face of the boy who had done this with her when she first arrived at Huatahi, as well as the girl she exchanged it with when she was on the other end of the ritual in her final year. It was a brief but strong moment of bonding that could not be replicated by anything else, and Anahera hoped that this was also how these students were experiencing it.

When it was all over, applause erupted and echoed across the stone hall, and Anahera could see most of the first-years excitedly put their belt on as the group began to make its way to the opposite end of the entrance hall, where they would have lunch together. The rest of the day, students would be free to roam the school grounds, meet up with friends or make new ones, and because today was a Friday, they would have two more days of freedom before classes started on Monday.


OOC: If anything in this post is not entirely clear or you just want to get a better picture of it, the opening ceremony is called a pōwhiri, and a bunch of videos of it can be found online. Also, if you’re a first-year and you want to be the volunteer, go for it.

Anahera King
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