It had been a long day - a long summer, really. Normally Anssi spent maybe a month abroad visiting Dagny and/or his Finnish grandparents before he returned home and passed the rest of his school holidays working part-time at a neighbourhood cafe. However, this summer he hadn’t made any money scooping gelato for teenaged girls who kept blinking their eyelashes at him confusingly (he was confused, they were obviously not, which was the main confusing part). Instead he had spent his time mostly in small cities around Lake Balkhash, which was why he was now both very tanned and even more blonde.
How he had ended up in Kazakhstan was not as wild of a story as it might be guessed. Jocke, his sister’s sambo, had finished his last architectural designs two weeks before the start of summer, and with no other projects on his list he had somehow talked Dagny into renting out their flat so that they could go backpacking without any concern about being away too long. Dagny had immediately texted to explain he couldn’t visit this year and asked if he wanted to come along with them, which Anssi of course agreed to; he’d never travelled around Europe just for fun, and if he was going to do it with anyone for the first time, his sister and her partner were good options.
He had never done Muggle-style backpacking before, or any real backpacking at all. (His previous experience was mostly weekend trips with Ruben when they were younger, where he hadn’t been allowed to bring along snacks and remembered feeling both grumpy with how long it took and awe at his success when Ruben managed to find something edible on the side of the road.) Starting in Sweden, they negotiated trains down through parts of western Europe recognizable from news stories and movies before ending up in Greece. Anssi expected that to be the end of it - it was July by that point, and tourists were everywhere - but Jocke had mentioned always wanting to try “real” kebab, so they went to Turkey. Then Dagny heard about a rare population of tri-horned silver urials on a nature reserve in Turkistan, but they couldn’t go through Iran as she had published a political critique recently which may have gone unnoticed but wasn’t worth the risk, so they went through Azerbaijan. But they got on the wrong ferry at Baku, which Anssi was still absolutely blaming on the couple for keeping them all awake the night before doing things that sounded too loud through the hostel walls to be enjoyable. So they wound up in Kazakhstan, and somehow they just… stayed there.
Considering he didn’t honestly know it existed before, it was a very neat country, and it was also neat being able to list off on all his fingers and toes how many cities or towns they had stayed in. But after a month Anssi had started to feel restless, like either he needed to settle down and live there or call it a day and go home. Unfortunately they hadn’t thought to look up Kazakhstan’s exit requirements in advance, and with Apparition illegal while exporting goods (something that wouldn’t have stopped Ruben for a second, but his oldest sibling had common sense) all three of them had to apply for a temporary Portkey at the Swedish embassy in Nur-Sultan. It took two more weeks to be approved, which made sitting in the embassy’s lobby with its exclusive fireplace, one of the few connections to the international Floo network, even more frustrating. Finally he’d been able to collect a date-stamped certificate, grab his old belongings and new acquisitions, and be transported back to Luleå only to have Dagny seize him by the elbow and Apparate him to Houston, where he hastily unpacked, re-packed, and collected the dreamcatcher hanging on his windowsill.
It had been literally five in the morning tomorrow when he’d left Nur-Sultan, and that was more-or-less an hour ago. He had never travelled so far, or so fast, to return to school. In other words, this entire week was going to be a very painful adjustment.
Feeling wide awake for all of the wrong reasons, Anssi made sure his Prefect badge was pinned straight on his robes and followed the small crowd of students into the diner, running his left hand over the side of his head. This had become a minor habit, ever since he decided to shave both sides and let the front grow longer - a change that he had been really enjoying until right now, when his roommate Malachi strode up to point out their similar hairstyles and complimented him in a way that seemed to be a request for credit. He tried to thank him for the compliment without thanking him for the style, which turned out to be harder than expected, awkwardly trailed off, and then pretended to see his Quidditch teammate Giovanni calling him in order to escape.
The opening speech passed in a blur, punctuated by Remy’s name being called out and Anssi’s instant shout of approval, and then finally they could eat. Now feeling hungry for all of the wrong reasons, the sixth-year began scanning passing dishes, but paused when another student acknowledged him. “Hey!” he greeted them. “What do you think is the most breakfast type of food? My mental clock is very far from dinner right now, so any or all suggestions would be great. It’s looking not so good right now,” he added with a grin as a taco-bearing house-elf followed by a small parade of elves with taco toppings scurried past.