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PostPosted: Monday 29 September 2008 8:08:40pm 
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Disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter, or Lucky Charms.

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Chapter 13: Stricter Legislation

Matt's birthday dinner seemed to be the high point of the summer. The few weeks following it were much like the time before it. My parents went right back to their secretive meetings and as far as I could tell, things at Dad's work were only getting worse. He returned home later and later everyday and left early in the morning. Dad never talked much about work, but I walked in on him whispering to Mum a few times and they immediately stopped talking when they saw me.

I continued sending letters to both Olivia and Kenzie. Olivia was keeping me updated on all things to do with the Australian School of Sorcery. The new Transfiguration teacher was nice, although Olivia said she was a bit strange. Olivia didn't seem to care. She also told me that Carmen had given up on complaining that Olivia had her own room. In ever letter, she asked for updates about the move. This was the one thing Olivia and Kenzie's letters had in common. Kenzie also constantly wanted moving updates.

Unfortunately, I couldn't give either of them any moving updates. That was because there weren't any. It had been over a month since I found out we were moving and I still had no idea where we were moving to. I asked Mum and Dad about it once a day and they said the same thing every day 'we'll tell you when we know something'. Well, so far they hadn't.

The February full moon came and went, and with it another trip to Richard and Cinda's. This one had been on a Monday, so I had hardly any time with Kenzie at all. I went over to her house when she was done with school, but that was only for a couple hours. Mostly I just lounged by the pool and read. Cinda told me all about her party plans, but I wanted nothing to do with them. Apparently the party was going to be much like the New Year's party. I hoped Cinda wouldn't make me buy a new dress.

My house was very much the same when I returned two days after the full moon. Quiet and empty. Dad left for work as soon as he brought me home. I wasn't sure where Mum was, but she wasn't in the kitchen or the living room. Matt was probably still sleeping since it was incredibly early. Ellie wasn't around either and I figured she was cleaning some other room. She had been doing more and more work ever since Mum started holing up in Dad's study all day.

I poured myself a glass of juice and a bowl of Lucky Charms and sat down at the table to eat them. I hadn't had brekkie at Richard and Cinda's since I left so early. There was a pile of newspapers sitting on the table and I decided to look through them.

I rarely ever read the newspaper since it was usually rather boring. Occasionally there were exciting stories, like ones about escaped convicts and the like, but those were rare. I tossed aside the first paper since the most exciting story appeared to be some old witch out bush who thought she saw a Muggle UFO.

The next paper's headline made me spit out my juice all over the table. I quickly grabbed a napkin to wipe it up and then looked more closely at the front page article.

Werewolf Brutally Attacks and Kills Child

My stomach constricted and I pushed my bowl of cereal aside, pulling the article closer to me. That could have been my brother, two years ago, I thought. If Dad hadn't been able to get the werewolf off of him. Then I really felt sick as I realized that my brother could be the one doing the killing now, if Mum and Dad didn't lock him up every month.

A smaller headline underneath the big one read Wizards and Witches Everywhere Demand Tighter Restrictions and Laws. The article then went on to describe the attack, which had happened just outside some tiny town in the northern part of the country.

Wizards and witches all over the country are writing
to the Ministry, demanding they tighten the restrictions
on werewolves. 'They're dangerous creatures.' Says
Aromina Zander, mother of three young children. 'I
won't let the children outside on the full moon anymore.
I really think the Ministry ought to draft new laws to
increase restrictions on werewolves. They need to be
kept away from regular folk.'

However, not everyone in the Ministry agrees with
Ms. Zander's statement. To read what Walter Eckerton,
Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation
of Magical Creatures, has to say, turn to page six.


I put the paper down and stared into the now disgusting mixture of soggy cereal and milk. I had no appetite whatsoever now. I felt like I was going to chunder, and not just because of the attack. Aromina Zander's comment was almost as bad as that. The way she talked made it seem like werewolves weren't even people. But not all werewolves attacked people. There were plenty of werewolves who were good and made sure they were locked up on the full moon.

To read what Walter Eckerton has to say, turn to page six. I read again. Dad issued a statement about this. For the first time, I realized how hard a job he must have. I wondered how he could react rationally to people like Aromina Zander when they say such awful things. I quickly flipped to page six, where there was a picture of my dad. He looked knackered and he wasn't smiling.

Walter Eckerton has been known for his sympathy
towards werewolves during his three years as Head of
the Department for the Control and Regulation of
Magical Creatures. He had advocated on their behalf
and has rejected numerous amounts of legislation
that would restrict the rights of werewolves.

'What the public has to be aware of,' Eckerton said to
reporters the day after Monday night's attack, 'is that
not all werewolves are irresponsible like the man who
murdered the child last night. Plenty of werewolves
are responsible citizens who lock themselves up so as
to not attack anyone. It is not fair to punish all
werewolves for the faults of a couple. Punish those
who have attacked and try to prevent future attacks,
but we cannot restrict rights that we are all entitled
to.'

But are werewolves entitled to the same rights everyone
else is? That is what many wizards and witches are
wondering right now.

Many are also wondering if it is enough to trust
werewolves to set up their own places to spend
full moons. Protections, spells, charms, and the
like are not always foolproof.

'Spells werewolves use on their safe rooms have
been known to fail,' Ralph Lubar of the Werewolf
Control Unit said on Tuesday, 'There have been
attacks that occur because of charms that do not
hold. I myself am in favor of more strict regulations
on safe rooms and werewolf rights in general.'

There are others in the Werewolf Control Unit who
agree with Lubar. In fact, 70% of them polled on
Tuesday agreed that tighter restrictions are needed.
Eckerton does not agree. In the wake of the recent
attacks, much of wizarding Australia is becoming
concerned with his sympathy towards werewolves
and might soon demand stricter legislation.


I continued to stare at the paper long after I finished reading it. Words kept popping out at me. Tighter restrictions, 70%, charms that do not hold, stricter legislation.... Was this the stress at work that Dad had mentioned? Was this what him and Mum were so worried about? It seemed like Dad was the only one in his office who cared at all about werewolf rights. He was clearly trying to keep the tight laws from going through. What kind of laws was the article talking about anyway? The article never mentioned what the tighter restrictions were.

I heard footsteps coming into the room, but I didn't look up from the paper. The fridge opened and then closed. The footsteps began again and started coming closer to me.

"Hi Amy." It was Mum. She said as she walked over to the table. "How was Richard and Cinda's?"

I ignored her question and continued staring at the paper. "What's going on?" I asked in a shaky voice.

"What do you mean?" Mum asked as she sat down across from me. She glanced from me and then to the paper. "Oh, you saw the article. I-I meant to put that away before you came home."

"Why?" I demanded, glaring at her, "So you could hide something else from me?"

"No, so your father and I could explain properly, without you getting one-sided facts from this paper!" Mum replied.

"Really? Because it sounds like this has been going on for a while. Is this what Dad's so stressed about? He's been stressed for an awful long time. I asked him why and he said I didn't need to know."

"You didn't. You still don't," Mum said, "We don't know what's going to happen with this. We didn't want you to worry about it."

"Well, I've worried about other stuff!" I shouted, all my shock from the article turning into anger, "I worried about the two of you! Dad constantly being home late, completely knackered! The two of you always in Dad's study doing who knows what! I want to know what's going on!"

"Oh, Amy, I had no idea that you'd been paying that much attention to us," Mum sighed.

"How could I not notice Dad coming home later and later every night? Not notice that he's always worn out? Not notice that you haven't been cleaning all the time? It's not like you, Mum, to not help Ellie with the cleaning. She's been doing all of it lately. Not to mention the fact that you don't pay nearly as much attention to Matt as you used to. You used to watch him like a hawk and now you let him go off and do whatever he wants. That's why he tried to climb the wall last month, because you weren't watching him. I can't stop him from doing stuff when he wants to."

"I'm so sorry," Mum whispered, "We didn't mean to make you worry that much."

"It's all right," I mumbled, "Just tell me what's going on. I want to know. I hate not knowing. I hate being the only one in the family who's clueless about everything."

"Matt doesn't know about this either," Mum replied and then looked at me sharply, "And you won't tell him about it."

"I know. I won't." I could only imagine what he would think if he read that article. It would be worse than when he found out he couldn't go to school in Australia. "Now can you please tell me what's going on?"

"I will when your father gets home. We'll tell you about it together. Can you wait that long?"

I nodded, "Yeah."

"Good," Mum wrapped me into a hug, "And again, I am very sorry about making you worry."

"It's ok," I told her.

"All right. I've got stuff to do. Will you be ok?"

I nodded again. Mum kissed my forehead and then got up from the table. "Would it make you feel better if I went and helped Ellie with the cleaning?"

I smiled a little, "Maybe. But I think you ought to go help Ellie anyway."

"I will. Now go put your laundry in the hamper and put your bag away," Mum eyed my bag that I had thrown onto the kitchen floor.

I smiled to myself as I picked up the bag. Mum may be irritating at times with her obsessive neatness, but that was just Mum. I was used to her constantly telling me to pick up after myself and it had been strange not to have her do that. Too strange. She was my mum, and I loved her no matter how neat and obsessive she was.

After I put all my clothes in the hamper and put my stuff away, I went to my potions room. I spent the next few hours brewing, until I got hungry.

Mum and Matt were in the kitchen when I wandered down to find something to eat. Mum was looking more like herself than she had in weeks. Maybe things were finally looking up. She had cleared away all the newspapers and had set down a plate of sandwiches and grapes. Matt was already chowing down on a sandwich.

I sat down across from him and picked up a sandwich of my own. He still looked tired, despite the fact that he only just got up. He had a yellowish bruise on his left cheek and a large scab on his forehead. Other than this, he looked fine. Just looking at him reminded me of the article and made me wonder what kind of restrictions Aromina Zander and Ralph Lubar wanted to put on Matt and all the other werewolves in the country. I doubted that either of them had ever really personally known a werewolf, or they probably would have had a different opinion about the whole thing.

I wasn't even sure how I felt about it. I mean, I obviously didn't want my brother's rights taken away because of a few idiots who didn't lock themselves up on the full moon. But on the other hand, it was one of those idiots who turned Matt into a werewolf in the first place. If there had been tighter restrictions a few years ago, Matt may not have ever gotten bit. Which meant that we wouldn't have to move, that I wouldn't have to switch schools.

******

Dad didn't get home until nearly eight o'clock that night. Mum, Matt, Ellie, and I had already eaten dinner and I was patiently waiting for Dad to come home so he could explain about the article in the paper. Well, ok, maybe not so patiently.

When Dad finally stepped out of the fireplace, I had to wait even longer. Mum told me that she and Dad wouldn't explain until Matt had gone to bed, since they had no plans on telling him about what was going on. Luckily he went to bed around 8:30, so I didn't have to wait long.

"Are you going to explain now?" I asked Mum when she stepped into the living room after putting Matt to bed.

"Yes, Amy, we'll explain now," Mum sat down next to Dad on the couch.

"Explain about what?" Dad asked as he ate his dinner.

"Amy saw the article that was in the paper yesterday," Mum explained.

Dad put down his fork, "Oh. I thought you were going to move those papers."

"I was, but it honestly wasn't the first thing on my mind this morning. I had been giving Matt his potions when Amy got back home," Mum sighed.

"Right. But we weren't planning on telling her about this," Dad pointed out. "I thought we agreed on that."

"She's read the article, Walter," Mum raised her voice a bit, "We have to explain."

Great, I thought, now my parents were going to get into a huge row and not tell me anything. Plus, they were talking about me like I wasn't there. I hated when they did that.

Dad shook his head, "It'll just worry her."

"She's already worried!" Mum snapped, "Ever since she got back from school! She's noticed that you're always at work and I'm always in your study."

Dad sighed, "All right. I see your point. It's just been a hard day."

"I'm sure it has. But you need to concentrate on our family now. And Amy needs an explanation."

"Does Matt know?" Dad asked quietly.

"No. He still hasn't got a clue," Mum told him.

"Good. It'll stay that way," Dad said sternly.

I nodded, "I won't tell him a thing."

"All right," Dad took a deep breath and then turned to me, "You know there has been an increase in werewolf attacks over the past few months?"

"Yeah, that's what it said in the article."

"Well, the article didn't really specify what's going on. The increase has taken place over the past six months. Before that, there would be one, maybe two attacks every couple of months. There were plenty of months without any attacks. Then, six months ago, there were four attacks all on the same night."

I stared at him in shock. I had had no idea about that. Maybe I should start reading the paper more often. Dad never elaborated on what went on at work, but I was amazed he hadn't mentioned that at all.

"Yes, four attacks. Two were on children, only one survived. The other two were on adults, both survived. Next month, two attacks. Then three. Then one. Then three. Then three more. Last week, there was just one. But there has been at least one every month since August. In September, one attack was on a Muggle. He survived, and is now coping with not only that he is a werewolf, but that magic exists.

"The paper has been reporting all of these attacks and hyping them up. Yes, it is something to worry about, but the paper seems to want to create mass hysteria."

I really had been living in the dark. I could only remember really hearing about a couple of those attacks. I had no idea there had been so many.

"Um, were the werewolves caught?" I asked tentatively.

"Most of them. The thing is, we often cannot tell who did the attacking. The only way we can know for sure is if someone catches the werewolf in the middle of the attack," Dad lowered his voice, "Like what happened with your brother."

"What about Wolfsbane Potion, though. Aren't the werewolves taking that?" I asked, thinking of the potion that wouldn't work for my brother. "Or are these werewolves like Matt and it just won't work?"

"Mostly they just can't afford it," Dad answered, "The stuff is expensive since there is only one Potions Master in Australia who can brew it. Most of it is imported from other countries. And a lot of werewolves just can't afford it since it's hard for them to get jobs."

"Oh. That stinks," I replied. It really did. If they could afford the Wolfsbane, they could probably get better jobs.

"Anyway, ever since September or so, more and more people have been demanding stricter laws regarding werewolves. Plenty of legislation has been suggested and presented, and most of it I have turned down. People have not been happy about this, but I've felt that most of the legislation has been too strict and is taking away too many rights."

"What kind of laws?" I asked quietly.

Dad sighed, "Awful laws. The paper never elaborates on what kind of laws. It just calls it 'stricter legislation' and people immediately think that's a good thing. The fact is, that they aren't good laws.

"Laws have been presented that would have a building built with extremely powerful spells on it for werewolves to spend the full moon. This in itself would probably be a good idea, since many werewolves aren't able to create their own safe places. But the law would require all werewolves to spend full moons there."

I shuddered. All the werewolves in one building? Were there any spells that were powerful enough to keep that many of them in? What if they all ganged up on each other and wound up killing one of them? I couldn't imagine Matt in a place like that.

"I had to reject that law. It would take away too many rights. It wouldn't be fair at all to require werewolves that already had safe places to go to one of these buildings. Plus, I could never allow Matt to go to one. Many of my colleagues were upset that I rejected the law, but they didn't have enough support to override my decision.

"Another law would have prevented werewolves from acquiring wands-"

"What?!" I shouted, "That's horrible."

"Indeed. That had a surprisingly large amount of support, especially from other departments, but I rejected it as well. I have rejected numerous others since September.

"The people in my department are starting to get fed up with my rejecting their legislation. They think I'm too soft on werewolves and it's causing innocent people to be harmed.

"I say otherwise. We have to remember that the more rights we take away from werewolves, the more angry and upset they'll become. I think this will cause more attacks.

"Only the people in the Werewolf Control Unit know that Matt is a werewolf. After he was bit and we had to register him, they found out. They are sworn to secrecy and are not allowed to tell anyone, due to the fact that he is underage. They think that the only reason I am rejecting the laws is because of Matt, because I don't want my son to be forced to live by these awful rules. I have to admit that that is partly the reason, but not all of it. I know that stricter legislation is only going to breed more contempt and cause more attacks."

I nodded. So this was why Dad was so stressed lately. His colleagues were putting pressure on him to pass these horrible laws.

"Today," Dad began and turned to Mum, "You don't know about this yet, Julie. Today, they managed to override my rejection of a law."

Mum's face paled, "Which one?" she whispered.

"This one isn't that bad," Dad assured her, "If the Minister signs it, then all werewolves will have to have their places of transformation inspected by the Werewolf Control Unit. Unless they're on Wolfsbane, of course."

"Oh, all right," Mum said, "That's not too bad, then. Do you think the Minister will sign it?"

"Most likely. However, the Minister is very busy and it could be weeks before it reaches his desk. It's got to go through the Magical Legislation Department anyway. It'll go through no problem there, I'm sure of it. They've just been very busy lately as well so it might take a while," Dad replied, "But it's only one small step away from the law requiring werewolves to transform in a Ministry built facility. If a werewolf's place of transformation doesn't pass inspection, then they have to transform in a Ministry facility."

Mum nodded, "Ok, we can deal with that. The basement will surely pass inspection."

"It will," Dad replied and then turned to me, "Does that answer your questions, Amy?"

"Yeah," I nodded. I couldn't believe that they'd been hiding all of this from me. If these laws passed, it could drastically alter our lives. Of course, our lives were being drastically altered already since we were moving. The laws would only affect us if we stayed here, which we weren't. So, it wasn't that bad. I mean, how many laws could get passed between now and when we moved? "Anything else you care to tell me that you've been hiding?" I asked, thinking of how Mum and Dad had been spending so much time in Dad's study.

Mum and Dad glanced at each other. "No, that's about it," Mum replied.

I sighed. I really didn't think they'd tell me what they were doing in Dad's study, but it was worth a shot. I guess that was one mystery I'd have to solve on my own.

"Well, I'm going to go upstairs," Dad picked up his empty dinner plate and got up. "I'm positively knackered."

"I'll join you," Mum replied, "'Night, Amy."

"'Night, Mum. 'Night, Dad," I said.

"Good night, Amy," Dad said and the two of them left the room, whispering to themselves.

I sat in the living room thinking about what Dad had told me for a long time. It still amazed me that I hadn't heard much about these attacks. I really was secluded at school. Nobody at my school really read the paper. Occasionally if something big happened, we would find out, but most of the time we were clueless as to what went on in the outside world. I was definitely going to read the paper from now on, that was for sure. I wouldn't be left in the dark at my new school. Even if I was the only kid who read the paper at my new school, I would read it. I was sick of being clueless, sick of not knowing what was going on.

What was going to happen with these new laws anyway? How many would pass before we moved? My parents seemed extremely worried about it. I wondered if this issue with the legislation may have contributed to their decision to move. Would they still have decided to move even if Matt could have gone to school in Australia? Maybe the whole moving thing hadn't been so sudden. Maybe my parents had been thinking about it for months and Matt not being able to attend the Australian School of Sorcery was just the last straw.


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PostPosted: Friday 3 October 2008 5:47:58pm 
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Posts: 2538
Location: Going through LeakyCon withdrawal
I'm going to try and post twice a week on this one, because there's certain chapters that have to be posted before I can start posting the sequel to Albus Potter and the Tracks They Left Behind.

Just a note about this chapter and the next one- Amy and her family are flying on Muggle airplanes. I haven't flown since I was 5, which was 15 years ago. I hardly remember it. Since then, I've only been to 1 airport, the one near my house which is very very small. So, for these chapters I kind of made up what goes on when you fly, as well as what the Sydney and New York airports look like. Sorry if it's totally inaccurate. But, this takes place in 2014, so I suppose I could just say that everything changed. :lol:

Chapter 14: Off to New York

Dad continued to spend long hours at work the next couple of weeks. I wasn't at all surprised by this and was happy that I finally knew why he was spending more time there. This didn't make me worry any less, though. Dad still came home exhausted and stressed.

Mum spent more time in Dad's study and I was really curious as to what she was doing. I tried to listen in, but she was either making no noise in there or was putting up charms to prevent me from hearing anything. However, she did come out every couple hours and check on Matt and I and make us lunch. She also started helping Ellie with the cleaning again, which I was happy about. I didn't really think it was fair to make Ellie do it all.

"How is your homework coming, Amy?" Mum asked at lunch on Friday.

"Er," I looked up from my soup, "Well, I've got most of it done."

I hadn't done any of my homework after I finished the Potions and Astronomy. I really didn't feel like doing the rest and Mum hadn't mentioned it again until now.

"Can you have it all done by the end of the month?" Mum asked.

I shrugged, "I suppose."

"Good," Mum said, "I'll look it over when you're done and we'll see what else you can do."

"Great," I rolled my eyes, "I'll look forward to it."

"Oh, Amy, you know you've got to keep up your studies," Mum replied.

I rolled my eyes again and continued eating my lunch. I wondered what kind of homework Mum would give me. She'd probably just give me a few new text books and make me read them. Then she'd ask me questions about it.

There was a tapping on the window and I looked up. A large, dark brown owl was hovering in front of the window. I didn't recognize it. It wasn't Olivia's owl.

"Hmm, I wonder who that's from," Mum said as she got up from the table. She opened the window and the owl flew into the room, landing on the table.

"He's a nice owl," Matt commented as he stroked the owl's back. The owl dipped his beak into Matt's cup of milk. "He's thirsty."

"I see that," Mum smiled and picked up the letter that the owl had dropped on the table.

I leaned over Mum's shoulder and tried to read the letter, but she pulled it closer to her chest and gave me a stern look. I retreated with a sheepish look.

"I'll tell you if it's relevant to you," Mum said.

I watched Mum as she opened the envelope and started to read the letter. Her brows were furrowed and her eyes moved side to side. As she continued reading, her face lit up and her mouth cracked into a smile. Finally, she set the parchment down and grinned at Matt and I.

"Well?" I asked, raising one eyebrow.

"It looks like we'll be visiting New York," Mum smiled.

"To see Uncle Jack?" Matt shouted, "Yes!"

"Who's that from?" I asked, "Uncle Jack? That didn't look like his owl."

"No," Mum replied, "It's from the Adirondack Academy of Magic. They've agreed that Matt can attend, given certain precautions. They want to meet with us."

"Really?" I said, "That's great."

"Isn't it?" Mum grinned, "I guess we'd better start planning. The school wants to meet with us sometime this month. They want us to send a reply owl telling them what dates we'll be there."

"Are we going to visit Uncle Jack?" Matt asked.

"Of course," Mum told him, "I'll send him an owl once we're sure of our plans."

"What are we going to do there?" I asked, "Are we just visiting the school?"

"Well, we'll probably look at houses, too," Mum explained, "I don't want to fly over there twice."

I nodded. Looking at houses. I couldn't imagine living anywhere besides here, but we'd obviously need a new house if we were to live in New York. "So are we definitely moving to New York?"

"No," Mum replied, "We'll check out the school and look at houses. I want to visit a couple schools if it's possible so we can pick the best one."

"Oh, all right," I shrugged. "I think I'll go send a letter to Olivia and Kenzie."

I spent the rest of the afternoon in my room. It didn't take me long to send off the letters to my friends, but I really didn't have anything else to do. I worked on homework for a little while and managed to complete my Transfiguration.

Mainly I just thought about visiting New York. It had been so long since we visited Uncle Jack, over two years. I wanted to see him, but I wasn't sure about visiting the school and looking at houses. Going to New York would make this whole thing seem so permanent. It was kind of hard to believe that we were actually going to move when we were still in Australia, just waiting for letters from various schools. Now, with a trip to New York in the works, the whole thing seemed incredibly real.

Dad came home around 7:30, and as soon as he Flooed home, Mum told him the news. He was excited too, and the two of them holed up in Dad's study for a while. Matt and I stayed in the living room and played Gobstones and his Nintendo DS. He was becoming kind of addicted to that thing.

When Mum and Dad came out of the study, they had the entire trip to New York planned. We would fly to the United States, just like we had the last time we visited New York, since international Apparition and Flooing weren't allowed. Dad got plane tickets from Sydney to New York City for the following Wednesday, which was the soonest day he could get them for. He told us we were going to Apparate to Richard and Cinda's and then they would drive us to the airport. Once we got to New York City, Uncle Jack would meet us there, and we'd floo to his house. Then we'd stay at his house until we went home. Dad said we would fly home on Monday.

"Why are we staying so long?" I asked. Almost a week seemed like a long time to visit one school and a few houses.

"Well, we'll need about a day to recover from the jet lag," Mum pointed out.

Oh, yeah. Jet lag. I'd forgotten about that. The last time we visited Uncle Jack, I wound up sleeping all day and then staying up all night for two days.

"And we're leaving some time open to visit other schools in the United States if any of them reply between now and then. I'd like it if we could visit a couple more while we're there," Dad added. "I'd rather minimize the flights."

I nodded. That made sense. I wasn't a huge fan of flying myself. First, I didn't like heights. Not at all. Second, the jet lag was awful when we flew to New York the last time. It wasn't something I was looking forward to. Third, it was just so incredibly boring. It took practically a whole day to fly to New York and that didn't include the time spent in security. Muggles were certainly strict with their airport security. Fourth, airplane food was nasty and they didn't let you bring your own food on the plane. I was always incredibly hungry, bored, and tired when I flew to New York. Not a good combination.

******

The next week flew by in a whirlwind of packing and preparation for going to New York. Luckily our passports hadn't expired yet, although it did take Mum a whole day to locate them in Dad's study. 'This is why I organize things,' she muttered after she found them. Next we had to pack up enough clothes to last almost an entire week, which was an interesting endeavor in itself.

We hadn't been to New York in almost three years, and it had been summer there when we last went. In fact, we had not once gone to New York during their winter. Matt and I had never even seen snow. This time, however, we were going to New York in the middle of March, which Uncle Jack informed us was one of the coldest times of the year. None of my family actually had any real cold weather clothes. Sure, we each had a couple jumpers and a light weight jacket, but we didn't need anything beyond that for winter in Brisbane or Sydney.

For winter in New York, we were going to need a lot more. Numerous jumpers, heavy down jackets, scarves, hats, gloves, and warm socks, Dad told us. So, one day shortly before we left, Mum took Matt and I to a Muggle shop in Brisbane that specialized in cold weather clothing. How it could possibly stay in business was beyond me. I suppose there were a lot of Muggles who traveled to colder climates. Mum bought us all a large amount of clothing that I thought would be appropriate to wear to Antarctica, not New York.

"How many jumpers do you expect us to wear?" I asked as we got back to the house after the shopping trip.

"As many as you need," Mum replied, "It's going to be quite cold there. Colder than you've ever experienced."

"Still seems like a lot," I said as I dumped my shopping bags on the kitchen table. In them were six jumpers, a hoodie, four pairs of jeans, a puffy jacket, two sets of gloves, two scarves, and two hats. Mum bought the same thing for herself, Matt, and my dad.

"Well, you'll be warm," Mum said and put the rest of the bags down next to mine.

"There's a couple owls out there," I pointed to the door that opened to the deck. There were two owls pecking at the door. One was small and pale brown and the other was large, mostly brown, and speckled with white.

"Go let them in, Matt," Mum said as she started to pull clothing out of the bags. "I hope they're from the other schools...."

So far we hadn't received anymore responses from other schools, and Mum and Dad were starting to get stressed about it since we were leaving for New York in three days. They had really been hoping to visit multiple schools while we were there.

Matt returned with two letters. "Here you go, Mum," he said as he handed her the letters.

Mum wordlessly took them and sat down in one of the chairs. I watched her carefully as she opened the first one. She read it and a frown appeared on her face. It quickly turned to anger and she crumpled up the letter, throwing it onto the table.

"We won't be visiting Pennsylvania," she said angrily and picked up the next letter.

I nodded but didn't ask her to elaborate on what the letter said. Based on her reaction, I guessed it was a lot like the letter from Professor Killigan.

Mum opened the next letter and after a few moments a smile appeared on her face. "Well, looks like we'll be able to arrange a trip to Massachusetts."

"More flying?" I raised an eyebrow.

"I don't think so. We should be able to just floo to the school there," Mum answered.

"Good," I breathed a sigh of relief. "What's the school there called?"

"The Salem Witch Institute," Mum answered.

"An all girls school?" I stared at her. No way did I want to go to an all girls school.

"Oh, no. They teach boys there, too."

"Then why not call it the Salem Witch and Wizard Institute?"

"I don't know. You an ask when we go there," Mum told me. "I'm glad they responded. We should have plenty to do while we're over there now. We'll need to look at houses in Massachusetts, too."

"Right," I muttered. I had never been to Massachusetts before. Sure, I'd heard about it and everything, but had never been there. The only part of the Sates I'd ever been to was New York. And honestly, that was the only part I would put up with living in. What would be the point of living in the States if we weren't anywhere near Uncle Jack?

"I'm going to go floo your father," Mum said as she got up from the table, "We'll need to make arrangements with The Salem Witch Institute as soon as possible. Why don't you and your brother get started packing?"

"Sure," I replied, although I wasn't exactly sure how we'd be able to fit all those clothes into our suitcases.

******

Somehow, we managed to fit all of the clothes and other stuff we needed to take into four suitcases and four carry-on bags, which was all we were allowed on the plane without paying extra fees. Well, it wasn't that difficult since Mum and Dad just used magic to make the stuff Matt and I couldn't get in fit.

One other school from the United States wound up sending us a letter the day before we left. That school would not allow Matt to attend, but my parents weren't too disappointed since we were already visiting two. Mum said we wouldn't have had time to visit another one anyway.

On Wednesday, we got up incredibly early (even for me) in order to arrive hours before our flight actually took off. Dad told me it was because the security and baggage check could sometimes take hours. Sometimes, the things Muggles did just made me laugh so much. They told us our flight was to leave at 10:50 in the morning, yet they also told us to arrive at the airport at 8 in the morning. It seemed to me that there could be a more efficient way of doing security and all that stuff, but whatever. Then Dad told me that the flight would probably be delayed anyway. Flying on Muggle airplanes was a right pain in the arse.

We said goodbye to Ellie and Apparated with all our luggage to Richard and Cinda's.

Richard and Cinda were actually awake when we arrived. I was kind of surprised since I hadn't seen the two of them up before eight o'clock in years.

"Ready for your adventure?" Richard yawned as he let us into the house.

"Ready as we'll ever be," Dad replied.

"I still can't believe you might move to the States," Cinda shook her head. "You'll be so far away. How long is the flight?"

"Twenty-one hours to New York City," Dad answered, "So an entire day, pretty much."

"Still seems odd that you can't do that disappearing and reappearing thing," Richard muttered.

"You can't Apparate that long of a distance," Mum reminded him, "Plus, the government has rules against foreign wizards just Apparating into the country."

"Guess that makes sense," Richard replied.

"I wanted to fly at night so we could just sleep," Dad explained, "But there weren't any tickets available at this short notice."

"Yeah, jet lag's going to be awful," Richard commented.

"Sure will," Dad agreed, "It'll be about four in the afternoon, today, when we arrive in New York."

"That's mad," I said. "So, if we're up for half the flight to New York, then we sleep the other half, we'll be nice and awake right in time for night in New York."

"Pretty much," Dad laughed.

"I hate flying," I muttered.

"So do I," Dad said, "But we've got to do it."

"Ready to go?" Richard asked.

"Yes," Mum replied, "And thanks for driving us. It's impossible to Apparate into the middle of a busy Muggle airport."

"No problem," Richard said and led the way out the door and to the garage.

Richard unlocked his fancy new Cadillac SUV and opened the back hatch. Richard rarely ever drove this car, only when we were all going someplace together. I hadn't even ridden in it yet, since he just got it a few weeks ago. Usually he preferred to drive his smaller convertible sedan, but we wouldn't all fit in that or in Cinda's car.

Dad loaded all of our bags and suitcases into the back of the SUV and then climbed in with Mum. The two of them were sitting in the middle seats, so Matt and I had to climb into the back.

I wasn't a big fan of cars either. I guess I just didn't like Muggle transportation. Matt, on the other hand, always loved riding in Richard and Cinda's cars.

"What's this do?" Matt pointed to a button on the ceiling of the car.

"Dunno," I shrugged.

Mum turned around in her seat and looked up at the button. "That adjusts the air conditioning. It'll make the car cooler if you're too hot."

"Oh," Matt replied, "Like a cooling charm?"

Mum laughed, "Yes, like a cooling charm."

"What about this button?" Matt pointed to the one next to it.

"That one opens the moon roof," Mum answered.

"Moon roof?" Matt eyed the button suspiciously.

"Not the real moon," Mum explained, "Don't worry. It's what that window up on the ceiling is called."

"That's a weird name for it," Matt said, "So if I push that button the window will open?"

"Yes," Mum said.

"Brilliant!" Matt grinned and pushed his hand onto the button. The moon roof slid back into the main part of the roof and sunlight flooded into the dark car. "Wow, that's like magic!" Matt shouted.

"It's electricity," Mum told him, "I suppose you could say that Muggles use it instead of magic."

"Like Muggle magic," Matt said.

"Yes, like Muggle magic," Mum laughed.

Mum seemed to have loosened up in the past week. She was laughing more and even spending less time in Dad's study. Dad still seemed stressed and exhausted, but Mum seemed so much happier. Probably because two schools had decided to let Matt attend. Either that or she just needed a holiday. We hadn't gone on holiday since the last time we visited Uncle Jack. My parents did travel a lot after Matt got bit in order to try and find cures, but that couldn't really be considered a holiday. Especially since they didn't let me go. I had to stay with Richard and Cinda. This was the longest we had ever gone without going on holiday. Or she was just happy that she was making progress with this whole moving thing. Maybe she was excited about it. Maybe she actually wanted to leave Australia. Even Dad seemed a bit happier that morning. Maybe he wanted to leave too. I guess I was the only one who really wanted to stay. Matt didn't seem to care one way or the other, but why should he? He hadn't started school or made any real friends. He was probably excited about moving as well since he couldn't go to school in Australia.

The ride to the airport seemed to take forever, although I knew that it was nothing compared to the plane trip to New York. Richard and Cinda dropped us off in the front and said goodbye.

We stepped through the doors and into the airport and I realized how much busier the place was than I had remembered. The Sydney airport was absolutely huge and overflowing with people. It amazed me that there could be so many people in the airport and the city of Sydney itself still filled with people.

I stood next to Dad while he and Mum stared around at the huge building. People were still rushing through the doors, muttering apologies as they bumped into us. Mum grabbed Matt's hand as Dad reached into his pocket and pulled out a map. I glanced over his shoulder and saw that it was a map of the airport. A map of the airport? It amazed me that Muggles would build such a big airport that a map would be required to navigate it.

"All right," Dad shouted over the noise after a few minutes of looking at the map, "We need to go to security first, then get our passports looked at, and then we'll be able to go to Terminal 16, which is where our flight should take off from. Oh, and first we've got to go collect our tickets."

I didn't have the slightest idea as to where we would do any of that. All I could see from where we were standing was a huge staircase that led up to what appeared to be a shopping mall. I guessed it was for people who had forgotten things and needed to buy new ones. Either that or buy something to eat if their plane got delayed. Beyond the staircase was a lounge area, where people were reading, sleeping, eating, or chasing little kids around.

There were also mobs of people to the left and right of us. So many people that I couldn't even see what was beyond them.

"This way," Dad shouted and headed to the left. I squeezed through the people and followed Mum, who was dragging Matt through the crowds. I was vaguely reminded of the time we visited Uncle Jack when I was only four. Matt hadn't even been born yet. Mum had bought this Muggle thing that was basically a leash for your kid. She put it on me when we were walking through the airport, but I hated it. So I decided to crawl around on all fours and bark like a dog. Mum's face turned beetroot red and she never put it on me again. She never tried it with Matt either. Although I was beginning to see why she had done it in the first place, seeing how crowded the airport was that day.

I weaved through the crowd, following Dad, Mum, and Matt, until we finally stopped at the end of a monstrously long line in front of a counter. I assumed that was where we were supposed to pick up our tickets.

The line seemed to be moving backwards. We must have been waiting in it for at least a half hour before we finally made it to the counter. I was about ready to scream out of boredom and Matt had been complaining for the past fifteen minutes.

A bored looking man, who looked to be in his middle or late twenties was standing behind the counter. "Name?" he asked monotonously.

"Walter Eckerton," Dad replied.

"Four tickets to New York? Three adults, one child? 10:50 am flight today?"

"Yes," Dad confirmed.

"Flight's delayed," the man replied, "Should leave around 11:30."

"Fine," Dad replied.

The man handed Dad a piece of paper and a pen. "Sign here, initial here, here, and here. Then sign here."

Dad did as he was told, paid for the tickets, and finally the man gave Dad four skinny pieces of paper that I recognized as plane tickets.

"Finally," Dad muttered as we stepped aside from the counter.

"I'm hungry," Matt whined.

"We'll get something to eat after we've been through security and the passport check," Dad replied, "Come on, follow me."


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PostPosted: Tuesday 7 October 2008 8:42:52pm 
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Chapter 15: Muggle Watching

We got lost twice trying to find the security area. Mum wound up asking a Muggle who worked at a fast food place for directions and we finally got there. The line at the ticket counter was nothing compared to the line for security. This line was so long that I couldn't even see the security center.

"Here we are," Dad said as we got into one of the lines, "We'll just have to wait for a while."

A while was an understatement. I think we stood in that line for nearly an hour. I had gotten so bored that I had started listening in on other people's conversations and counting the different number of accents and languages I'd heard. So far I'd heard about six different accents of English, and five different languages that I couldn't understand.

"Can we get something to eat now?" Matt asked for what must have been the tenth time.

"I told you, we'll eat after security," Dad said shortly.

"But I'm hungry now," Matt whined.

"I know. But we're almost to the front of the line and we're not going to wait in this again."

"And my feet hurt," Matt added.

"So do mine. Would you just shut up?" I snapped at him. I was thoroughly sick of his complaining. It was his fault we had to go to New York anyway.

"Amy, don't say 'shut up'. Matt, we'll be done soon. Want me to carry you?" Dad asked.

Matt nodded and Dad picked him up. I rolled my eyes. He was such a baby sometimes. Of course, Mum and Dad kind of enabled it.

After another fifteen minutes of complete boredom, in which I counted twenty sunburned and confused looking tourists, our turn at the security center finally arrived.

"Put your bags up here," a bored looking woman, who was loudly smacking her gum, pointed to a conveyor belt that led to an x-ray machine. It looked pretty much the same way it did the last time we flew to New York.

Mum and I lifted all the suitcases and carry-on bags onto the belt and watched as they made their way down to the machine.

"Good, good," gum-chewing lady muttered after all our bags had gone through the machine. "Carry-on?" she pointed to the four smaller bags.

"Yes," Dad replied.

The woman nodded and picked up the four smaller bags. She set them down on the floor and then put the bigger suitcases onto the back of a nearby cart.

"All right," she said after she was done, "Take off any metal you've got on, and your shoes. Empty your pockets. Put them in this bucket." The woman put a bucket onto the conveyor belt.

I couldn't help but start to giggle at those instructions. Muggles were strange sometimes. I pulled off my shoes and threw them into the bucket. I reached into my pockets and pulled out a few Bertie Bott's Beans, a hair tie, and to my horror, a few Knuts. Why were those still in there? I thought I'd taken them out. Great, now the Muggles were going to see wizard money. I groaned inwardly and tossed them into the bucket. Maybe the woman would just think they were some sort of novelty item.

"Why do we have to take off our shoes?" Matt asked as he pulled off his left sneaker.

"That's just the way they do things here," Mum replied, tossing her wallet into the bucket.

Once we had all finished emptying our pockets and taking off our shoes, the woman gestured for us to go through the metal detector. Mum went through first, then Dad, and then Matt. The three of them went through fine, but when I went through, the machine emitted a loud beeping noise.

I shrieked and jumped over to where my family was standing. "What was that?"

"Step back through, please," the woman said.

I sighed and did what she told me to do. Why had it been me to set off the metal detector? I emptied my pockets. I didn't have anymore metal on me.

"Did you put all your metal in the bucket? Empty your pockets?" the woman asked. "Haven't got any jewelry on?"

"I took it all off," I muttered.

"Step through again," the woman said in a bored voice.

I went through the metal detector again and it started beeping. I stepped back over to where the woman was standing, but the beeping didn't stop. She sighed and started fiddling around with the machine.

People were starting to stare now. There were a few other lines of people waiting their turn at the security center and most of them were now looking in our direction.

"Figures," a large man wearing a horribly tacky Hawaiian T-shirt muttered, "Always get in the line with the dodgy metal detector."

"Is it going to take long to fix, mam?" the large man's wife shouted.

"I don't know," gum-chewing lady answered, not looking up from the machine.

"Can you at least turn off the beeping?" the wife asked.

"I'm trying!" gum-chewing lady replied shortly.

I edged away from the metal detector towards where my family was standing. Mum was staring at the machine and shaking her head. Dad had an amused look on his face and was trying not to laugh. He gave me a half-hearted smile and shrugged.

"Make it stop!" Matt screwed up his eyes and covered his ears. Dad picked him up again and he buried his face in Dad's shoulder.

"I'm sorry about this," the lady stopped messing with the machine and turned to my parents, "I don't know what's wrong with it. If you'll just hang on a second." She pulled out a phone and started muttering into it.

A few moments later, a man appeared and started talking to the lady. I couldn't hear what they were saying over the beeping, though.

"That your daughter?" the man shouted over the beeping.

"Yes," Dad replied.

"She empty her pockets?"

"Yes, we all did," Dad answered.

I could feel my cheeks burning. Why had I set the thing off? And why was it still beeping? Maybe it was broken.

The man seemed to be thinking the same thing because he was now inspecting the metal detector. He pushed a few buttons and it started beeping even louder. People were now stopping to stare at us.

The man pulled out his own phone and muttered something into it. Then he did something else to the metal detector and it finally stopped beeping.

"It's broken," the man said to the gum-chewing lady. "I'll have her go through another one."

The man gestured for me to follow him. I turned around and looked at my parents. Dad nodded his head and I started to follow the man. He led me to the next security station, which was only a few meters away. He said something to the man who was running the station and then told me to go through the metal detector.

I closed my eyes as I did so, hoping there wouldn't be any beeping. Thankfully, there wasn't. I stepped through it without it making any noise at all.

"Sorry about that," the man said once we had rejoined my family and were collecting our stuff, "I don't know why the machine broke."

"That's all right," Dad replied.

The man and the gum-chewing woman were now trying to explain to the people waiting behind us in line that the machine was broken and they'd have to join a different line. The large man and his wife were not taking the news very well and were yelling at the two workers and waving their arms around.

"Glad that's done with," I said once we started walking away from the security center. "Stupid bloody machine."

"Amy, it's actually the magic that was causing the machine to not work correctly," Dad told me, "All four of us emit a kind of magical impulse all the time and the machine kind of went haywire with so much magic around."

"Didn't happen last time," I pointed out.

"Different machine," Dad shrugged, "Anyway, we've got to go get our passports checked."

I followed my parents through the mass of people towards the passport area. I hoped there wouldn't be any metal detectors to go through.

As it turned out, the passport thing only involved standing in another boring line (surprise, surprise), and then Dad handing our passports to the lady behind the counter. She stamped something on them and then handed them back.

"Now can we eat?" Matt asked as we walked away from the passport counter.

"Yes," Dad smiled at him, "Now all we've got to do is go to Terminal 16 and wait for the plane. We've got about an hour. There'll be someplace to buy food at the terminal."

Terminal 16 was far away from the passport counter. We had to squeeze through loads of people to get there. When we got there, I saw that it was basically a huge waiting area surrounded by a few little shops and fast food places. There were couches and chairs and random newspapers and magazines laying around. There were also three or four televisions mounted on the walls, but they were all tuned to boring Muggle news stations.

Dad led us over to a few empty chairs and set his carry-on bag down onto one of them. He started looking around the terminal and said, "Well, what should we have to eat? I see McDonald's and what appears to be some kind of sandwich shop."

"Why don't you just go get a few sandwiches?" Mum suggested, "We'll wait here."

"Sounds good," Dad replied and set off to get food.

I dropped my bag onto the ground and sat down on one of the chairs. A whole hour until the plane was supposed to arrive. An hour of boredom in an airport. And then over twenty hours of boredom on a plane. I leafed through the Muggle magazines that were on the table next to me. Preventative Health, Star Watch (which, to my dismay, did not have anything to do with stars in the sky), Cars & Trucks, Surfer's Weekly, and numerous newspapers. I sighed and tossed them all back down onto the table. Why didn't they put anything interesting to read down on the tables?

Dad returned a little while later with sandwiches, drinks, and biscuits. I practically inhaled mine. It was amazing how you could get so hungry just by waiting in a bunch of lines all morning. I was just happy that that part of the trip was over. Of course, we'd have to wait in more lines when we got to New York, but that was still hours away.

After I finished my food, I resorted to 'Muggle Watching', which I really had been doing all morning and hadn't had a good name for. The large man in the ugly shirt and his wife showed up shortly after I finished eating. They took seats opposite us and started looking through the pathetic assortment of magazines. The man picked up Cars & Trucks, while his wife (who was almost as large as her husband) chose Preventative Health. The two of them quickly became absorbed into their reading material and I gave up on watching them.

Behind me, a couple were in the midst of an argument about what they would do first when they reached New York.

"I think we ought to just go to the hotel. We're going to be completely exhausted," the man was saying.

"I told my parents we'd go to their flat first," the woman said, "You'll have plenty of time to sleep after."

"I don't want to go to your parents' on practically no sleep," the man insisted.

"Fine, you get your beauty sleep. And after we'll go see my parents. Maybe we'll spend the entire week with them."

"Oh, no. This was supposed to be our holiday. We're not spending the whole time with them."

"We'll see," the woman muttered.

In the middle of the waiting area, a husband and wife were chasing five little kids around. None of the kids looked above the age of eight. How they were going to keep the kids still on the plane was a mystery to me.

"Charlie! Get back here!" the wife shouted at the oldest, who was climbing all over the empty chairs.

Charlie jumped off the chair and ran in the opposite direction that his mother was standing. His sister, who looked about five or six, had meanwhile found the remote to the television and was pressing random buttons. The channel changed from a weather station to a loud music station that blasted rap throughout the waiting area.

"Tara!" her mother shouted and grabbed the remote from her hands. She switched the channel back, muttering apologies to the people sitting nearby.

The husband had caught up with the other two kids, who I thought were twins. They had been picking up newspapers and throwing them all over the floor. One of the twins started screaming when his dad took away the newspapers.

He picked up both kids at once and carried them over to where he and his wife had dumped their carry-on bags. The wife met him over there a few minutes later, with Charlie and Tara's hands clamped firmly in her own. Other people were peering at them over their reading material, probably grateful that they didn't have to travel with four young children.

Once the kids settled down, I continued to take count of who else would be traveling on the plane with us. A bloke who looked to be in his late teens was sleeping in a chair next to the one Charlie had been climbing on. He was dressed in all black and had ear buds in his ears. A few chairs down from him was a businesswoman typing on a laptop. It was definitely an interesting group of people to be traveling on a plane together.

I turned away from the businesswoman and looked to see what my own family was up to. Dad had picked up one of the Muggle newspapers and was reading it, shaking his head and smirking every so often. Mum was reading a novel that she had brought. Matt was sitting in between them, completely absorbed in his Nintendo DS. They weren't nearly as interesting as the Muggles who were in the waiting area. Of course, if the Muggles knew we were witches and wizards, they would probably think we were the most interesting people in the entire airport.

As the time wore on, more and more people began to congregate in the waiting area for Terminal 16. I soon lost track of the young family, black-clad teenager, businesswoman, arguing couple, and the couple from the security center.

"Should be boarding anytime now," Dad mentioned as he glanced at his watch. He had put down his Muggle newspaper and was watching the television that was displaying the weather. "Looks like we'll have good weather for at least part of the flight."

The last time we flew to New York, there had been a huge thunderstorm during the flight. It was pretty scary. Lightning is much scarier when you're up close and personal with it. I had been hoping this flight would be storm free.

"Jack said there's about three inches of snow on the ground right now," Dad continued, "And they're expecting a storm a couple days from now. You kids will be able to see a real blizzard."

"Excellent," I grinned. I had never seen snow in real life and couldn't wait to experience it. That was one good thing about this trip.

"Flight 531, Sydney to New York, is now boarding at Terminal 16," someone announced over the loudspeaker.

People all around us started getting up and collecting their things. Parents were shouting their kids names, trying to find them. I got up and swung my bag over my shoulder. Dad fished the tickets out of his pocket and we followed him to the back of the boarding line.

I peeked out from the line and saw that there was another metal detector at the front of it. Great, I thought, another one. I only hoped the magic wouldn't interfere with this one.

The line to board the plane moved relatively fast, compared to all the other lines we had waited in that day. Dad handed the ticket lady our tickets and she gestured for us to step through the metal detector.

I held my breath as I followed Dad through it. Then I breathed a big sigh of relief when it didn't make a sound. Mum and Matt walked through after us and neither of them set it off either.

We walked towards the plane, following the businesswoman, and finally emerged into the coach section. It was already crowded with people settling in for the long flight ahead.

Dad looked at our ticket stubs and gestured to us to follow him. Our seats were about halfway down the plane on the right side. Mum and Dad got the two seats closest to the front of the plane, and Matt and I sat behind them. I gladly let Matt have the window seat. I didn't want to look out the window at all during the entire flight. Then I could just pretend that we were still on the ground, even though I obviously knew we weren't.

"We're lucky we got seats together," Dad commented, "Considering how last minute I bought these."

"I like this seat," Matt said, "Look how tiny the people are." He peered out the window.

If they were tiny now, they would be impossible to see after we took off.

I put my bag under my seat and sat back in it. It was relatively comfortable, but I knew I would think otherwise in a few hours. There was a light above me, along with a set of headphones. On the side of the plane, just below the window, was a phone. Maybe I could call Kenzie if I got bored.

Matt had started fiddling with everything. He was turning the light on and off, messing with the headphones, and pulling the tray up and down. This was going to be a long flight. The last time we flew to New York, he had been hyper the first half and then slept the entire second half.

After what seemed like forever, one of the flight attendants finally announced that we were going to prepare for take-off. The seat belt lights came on and everyone made their way to their seats. The plane was packed with people and I couldn't see any empty seats.

I closed my eyes and squeezed the arm rests as the plane started up. I knew it wouldn't be taking off for a little while, since we had to get in line behind other planes and wait for our turn. That's pretty much all we'd been doing all day, was waiting in lines. But I was freaked out anyway. Take-off was my least favorite part of flying, well, that and landing. I wished I could just sleep through those parts. That was impossible, though, since they were also the noisiest.

The plane started moving forward and I opened my eyes a bit. Matt had closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears. Ever since he became a werewolf, he's hated loud noises. Dad told me that his ears are more sensitive now and every noise is a lot louder than normal for him.

A little while later, the flight attendant announced that we were going to begin take-off. I shut my eyes again and listened the engine rumble louder and louder. The plane vibrated and I could feel it tipping up and up into the air. My stomach churned and I swallowed, trying to keep my sandwich where it belonged. That was another thing I hated about flying, it always made me sick.

"How are you two doing?" I heard Dad ask.

"I feel sick," I muttered, my eyes still closed and hands still firmly holding onto the arm rests.

"My ears hurt," Matt's voice cracked, "It's too loud."

"It'll be quieter once we're fully in the air," Dad assured him, "You need a barf bag, Amy?"

"I've got one," I replied, hoping I wouldn't have to use it.

I opened my eyes and loosened my grip on the arm rests when the plane was finally fully in the air.

"You are now free to move about the cabin," the flight attendant announced.

Mum turned around in her seat and looked at us, "Better now?" she asked.

I nodded, not wanting to open my mouth. My stomach still felt uneasy, but it was starting to settle down.

"My ears still hurt," Matt said as he rubbed his ears.

"It's the air pressure changes," Mum explained, "Here, chew a piece of gum and they'll feel better." Mum handed Matt a pack of Muggle gum.

"Ta," Matt took the gum and started chewing a piece, "Hey, this stuff is good!"

Mum laughed, "Dad bought it where he bought the sandwiches."

"Want any, Amy?" Matt offered.

I shook my head and stared directly at the tray in front of me, trying not to think about the fact that we were hundreds of meters in the air.

"Welcome everybody," a voice announced, "This is your pilot speaking. I would like to welcome you to Air Australia Flight 531, Sydney to New York. There will be a brief layover in Los Angeles in order to re-fuel. Please see one of the flight attendants if you are in need of anything."

I was in need of being back on the ground, but I doubted the flight attendants would be able to give me that.

The noise of the engines quieted down to a low roar and the plane started flying a bit more steady. Around me, the other passengers were settling in for a long flight. A few of them had already started leaning their heads back on pillows and closed their eyes. A fair amount of them had ear buds shoved into their ears. Others had pulled out various books, magazines, and newspapers. The business woman I had seen earlier had her laptop out again and was typing away. A few other people had laptops out as well. There were also some kids running up and down the aisles, followed quickly by their stressed out parents.

I dug around in my bag until I found one of my potions books. Of course, to the Muggle eye, it merely looked like a regular old novel. Mum had put charms on all the books I brought before we left so I could read them on the plane. She had even transfigured all of our wands to look like everyday objects. Mine looked like a Muggle pencil and was currently in my pocket. Not that I could really use it or anything, since I was underage. But if anything really bad happened, I'd be able to do something.

Mum and Dad had started talking to each other in low whispers. No doubt it was something not for the Muggles to hear. Matt was staring out the window and shouting out in delight at how small everything looked. It was becoming increasingly annoying.

"Amy, look! The houses look like someone put a shrinking charm on them!"

"Uh-huh," I muttered as I tried to focus on a chapter about the effects of clockwise stirring versus counterclockwise stirring on various potions. "I'd really rather not look."

"It's not that scary," Matt replied.

"I don't like heights."

"But you climb the wall into the bush," Matt pointed out, "And trees."

"That wall's not that high. And trees are different. I can climb down whenever I like and you can't even compare a tree's height to how high we are now."

"Yeah, but it's not like we're going to crash or anything," Matt said.

Great, now I was thinking about the plane hurtling to the ground and all of us dying a horribly slow fiery death. Clockwise and counterclockwise stirring, I thought, think about potions. Think about anything other than the plane crashing.

"And even if it did start to crash," Matt continued, "Mum and Dad would just Apparate us out of the plane."

Unless I was in the bathroom when it happened, I thought. Why did I always have to think the worst when we were flying? Breath, I told myself, breath.

I continued reading my book and ignored everything my brother said. He finally stopped talking and started playing his DS.


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PostPosted: Tuesday 14 October 2008 2:27:11am 
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Chapter 16: Turbulence

My parents were still whispering to themselves. I set my book down and leaned forward to try and hear what they were saying. One good thing about being stuck in this plane was that they couldn't hole themselves up in a separate room to talk. Maybe this was my chance to find out more about everything that was going on.

"I'm still surprised you were able to take this much time off from work," Mum was saying.

"Well, er, I'm Head of the department, so no one could really say I couldn't take the time off... I mean...I haven't taken too much time off in the past year, so it's not like they could've stopped me..." Dad stammered.

"What exactly happened when you said you were taking time off?" Mum asked curiously.

"Er, they weren't too happy about it. They demanded to know why."

"And what did you tell them?"

"Well, you know they know that we pulled Amy out of school. They know we had an, er, disagreement with the headmaster, although they don't know what it was about. I told them I just needed to take some time off to relax with my family, so we were going to visit Jack in New York. Wasn't exactly a lie."

"I'm guessing they weren't pleased."

"Oh, not at all. There was a fair bit of yelling. But like I said, I haven't used up my holiday days yet this year, so they couldn't do anything."

Mum sighed, "They could fire you."

"They could," Dad agreed, "But they won't have the grounds to do it if I take a week off from work. I'm perfectly within reason to do that."

"Nevertheless, it's a strike against you. I really hope you don't get fired over this."

"Honestly, Julie, what would it even matter if I did? I'm going to have to quit anyway when we move."

That was definitely a good point. Although I did wonder what job Dad would find when we moved. There wasn't exactly a high demand for Heads of Departments for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. It's not the kind of job you just apply for anyway. You had to start out in a lower level job within that department. That's how Dad landed his job in the first place. He started out in the Werewolf Control Unit and then got promoted.

"You know full well that it matters," Mum replied, "You'll want to leave on good terms if you've got any hopes of finding a job somewhere else. They'll contact the Australian Ministry, wherever you decide to apply."

"Julie, I'm not ever going to be able to leave on good terms. Not when I'm vetoing all their laws. The only way I'd leave on good terms is if I passed all the proposed legislation. And there is no way I could do that, you know that."

"I do. I wouldn't pass it either."

"I think I'll be getting out of a sinking ship anyway," Dad continued, "The Ministry's gone down hill ever since Gabishi became Minister."

Vincent Gabishi was elected Minister a few years ago. He had actually been the Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures before Dad. Dad got promoted to the position after Gabishi left it vacant to become Minister. I met Gabishi once and did not like him one bit. He's a tall lean man with a pointy mustache and sinister grin. He struck me as extremely creepy. His policies are harsh, yet he puts on a kind face when he addresses the public. That's how he got elected. There was no doubt in my mind that whatever anti-werewolf legislation slipped past Dad would get signed and put into law by Vincent Gabishi.

"I've never liked that man," Mum muttered.

"You and me both," Dad agreed, "The amount of rows we got into when he was Head..."

Mum and Dad were silent for a moment. I rarely ever got to hear them talk about the Minister and the rest of the Ministry. They usually talked about such things behind closed doors. Hell, they probably thought I wasn't even listening right now.

"I have to admit that it kind of worries me what kind of legislation will be passed after we move," Dad admitted, "I'm the one reason most of these laws haven't been passed. Most of the department wants them passed and Gabishi is all for them as well."

"I've thought about that as well," Mum said, "But sometimes you have to put your family before the general public, Walter."

"I know. And that's why we're headed to New York," Dad reminded her.

"Any idea who's going to replace you as Head?"

Dad sighed, "To be honest, it'll probably be Lubar."

Ralph Lubar? That arse who was quoted in the article? I didn't know the man at all, but judging by his comments, he'd make a horrible Head of Dad's department.

"Lubar?" Mum said skeptically, "They can't find anyone better?"

"Lubar's tight with the Minister," Dad said. "And connections are meaning more and more these days."

"You didn't need any connections," Mum pointed out.

"Afton appointed me, remember?"

Zachary Afton had been Minister before Gabishi. He lost to Gabishi, but Gabishi had vacated his spot as Head of Dad's department before he actually won the election. Pretty arrogant, if you ask me. What would he have done if he lost? He would've been out of a job. Plus, he didn't get to appoint the next Head. He was probably regretting that now. Anyway, Afton got to appoint the new Head of department and he appointed Dad.

"Yes, but not just because he knew you," Mum said.

Afton had shared Dad's view about werewolves. He was sympathetic towards them, as well as centaurs, merpeople, house elves, and goblins. Afton was a kind man who always gave people the benefit of the doubt. Pretty much the complete opposite of Gabishi.

"I know, I know. And Gabishi will appoint Lubar because they share the same views."

"When are you going to let them know you're resigning?" Mum asked quietly.

"Not yet. I'm not telling anyone about our plans until they're final. Once we have Amy enrolled in her new school and our new house bought, I'll put in my two weeks. Then Gabishi can go ahead and appoint Lubar or whomever he wants."

"Good idea," Mum said.

Neither of them said anything else. I heard Mum rummaging around in her bag and I knew their conversation was over. I stuck my own nose back into my potions book and got absorbed into it for the next hour or so.

The first five or six hours of the flight went by surprisingly fast. I read a few chapters of my potions book and read an entire novel (yes, that one was actually a novel). I also did a little more Muggle-watching. Most of the parents on the plane spent the entire flight so far chasing their kids around and taking them to the bathroom. The businesswoman, along with a few other people I assumed to be businessmen and women, spent the time on their laptops and talking on the phone. Black-clad teenage boy listened to his music and slept. Hawaiian t-shirt man and his wife spent the time complaining and flagging down flight attendants in order to complain to them. The young couple who had been arguing at the airport had apparently made up and were kissing each other, causing Charlie and Tara to shriek 'ew, gross!'.

I smirked to myself as I saw the couple break apart from each other on my way back from the bathroom. Charlie had just ran up to them and shouted 'Mum, they're kissing!'. Charlie's mum was looking more and more stressed out and tired. She grabbed Charlie by his arm, muttered an apology to the couple, and gave Charlie a glare that I had seen on my own Mum on multiple occasions.

When I returned to my seat, Mum and Dad were talking again, but not about Dad's job. This time they were talking about what kind of house they wanted to buy. I didn't want to listen in on that conversation. I just didn't want to think about buying a new house.

"I'm bored," Matt said once I had sat down, "And hungry."

"Well, I saw them getting ready to serve the disgusting meal back there," I told him.

"Good," Matt replied, completely ignoring the fact that I had said the meal was disgusting. For some reason, Matt actually liked the food they served on planes. Either that or the last time we were on a plane, he was so hungry he would've eaten anything.

"99 bottles of butterbeer on the wall, 99 bottles of butterbeer. Take one down, pass it around, 98 bottles of butterbeer on the wall," Matt sung quietly.

"Ugh, not that song again!" I groaned. The last time we flew to New York, Matt had gone through the entire thing three times. It drove me mad.

I was well on my way to madness when the nasty meal arrived. Matt had made it down to 67 bottles of butterbeer, but stopped singing when the flight attendant put his meal down on his tray.

I glanced at my own food. There was a piece of meat that slightly resembled chicken, but I couldn't be sure. The mystery meat was drowning in some kind of creamy sauce with chunks of who-knows-what in it. Then there was a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. I took off the foil and found that it actually looked like a normal potato. That might actually be edible, I thought. There was also a pile of mixed vegetables that made an odd squishing noise when I tapped them with my plastic fork. Besides that, there was a cardboard cube of chocolate milk and a little tub of chocolate pudding. At least they knew to give me chocolate.

Matt was already digging into his meal. I tentatively stabbed at the chicken and ate a bite of it. I immediately regretted it. The 'chicken' tasted like a combination of cardboard and socks, not that I'd ever tried either. Well, ok, I did eat a bit of cardboard once, but it was on a dare. I'd never tried socks, though.

The only part of the dinner I actually ate was the potato, pudding and milk. The rest of it was just too disgusting. I'd just have to eat a whole lot once we got to Uncle Jack's. That wouldn't be a problem, though, since Uncle Jack always cooked the best food.

"Are you going to eat that?" Matt pointed to my uneaten chicken.

"Uh, no," I raised an eyebrow at him, "You can have it if you want it."

"Excellent," he grinned and grabbed my plate.

Sometimes I wondered how he could still be so skinny and short when he ate so much. Of course, he hardly ate anything the day of the full moon and a couple days after, so I guess it evened out.

I drifted off to sleep shortly after I finished my mediocre dinner. There wasn't really anything else to do besides sleep at that point. I had already gone through an entire book and didn't want to start another one yet.

I was jolted awake by the pilot announcing something on the loudspeaker. I had no idea what time it was.

"Hello, everyone, this is your pilot. I just wanted to let you know that we have crossed the International Date Line. It is now, well, yesterday! It's March 17th. Although we will be arriving in New York on March 18th."

Thinking about that just made my brain hurt. How could it be yesterday? I didn't even want to think about it. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. The plane was dark now, with only the lights from the inside to illuminate it. A fair few of the passengers were sleeping and most of the others were watching the movie that was playing.

Both of my parents were asleep and they were leaning on each other's shoulders. Matt was asleep as well. He had curled up in his chair like a cat and had his head leaned up against the window. That was one good part about being short. You could curl up on an airplane seat. I was much too tall to do that now.

It was still dark out when I next woke up. I kind of liked it when it was dark. I could see the stars and the moon through the window. It was also hard to tell that we were so high up when it was so dark. Mum and Dad were awake as well. Once again, they were whispering, only this time it was so quiet that I couldn't hear them.

I started and finished another book before we landed in Los Angeles to refuel. By that time, the sun had risen and was lighting up the plane again. Despite this, only about half the passengers were actually awake. I was extremely knackered and was feeling achy due to lack of movement. Matt was awake as well and was singing '99 bottles of butterbeer' again. I had long since given up on trying to get him to stop and was trying to ignore his redundant song.

Shortly after we took off again from Los Angeles, we were treated to yet another wonderful in-flight meal. This one was actually somewhat edible since it was breakfast. I received a dried out bagel, some warm cream cheese, a cube of orange juice, and a not quite ripe banana. I ate all of it since I was starving. I hadn't eaten much of the previous meals and this one was a bit better than those. I fell asleep again after eating because the only other alternative was listening to Matt comment on the ground outside.

When I woke up a few hours later, the sky outside was ominously dark. I saw a bolt of lightning and swallowed hard. Great, I thought, we're going to be stuck in a storm.

A loud dinging noise started and the fasten seat belt light started blinking. I grabbed for my seat belt and shakily buckled it.

"We're going to be flying through a storm," the pilot said in an annoyingly cheery voice, "Nothing to worry about, but please fasten your seat belt."

"Nothing to worry about?" I muttered, "We're flying through a thunderstorm and that's nothing to worry about?"

Dad turned around. "It'll be fine, Amy," he assured me.

I nodded but didn't say anything. Thunder and lightning were surrounding the plane and I could see rain drops on the window. We were in the midst of it now. I closed my eyes and gripped the arm rests, waiting for it to be over.

The plane started shaking a few minutes later. It was crashing, I just knew it. We were all going to die in a fiery plane crash.

"Dad?" I whispered, "I think the plane's going to crash."

"It's just turbulence," he replied.

Sure enough, the pilot was on the loudspeaker again. "We're experiencing a bit of turbulence, nothing to worry about!"

What was with this bloke? The plane was shaking and he said there was nothing to worry about? My stomach was starting to hurt again and I was regretting eating my entire breakfast. Why did the turbulence have to come after breakfast?

I opened my eyes and looked out the window, where it was still storming. Matt was sleeping through the whole thing, figures. He can sleep through anything.

The thunder clapped loudly and the plane lit up with lightning. A kid shrieked and my stomach churned. I grabbed for my chunder bag. I bent over and retched into it.

Dad turned around again. "Amy, are you all right?"

I nodded, wishing more than ever that we could have brought potions on the plane. But no, all liquids had to be less than 4 ounces. This was beyond disgusting. It was one thing to chunder in your own house, but on an airplane where everyone could see?

Once we had flown out of the storm, my stomach felt much better. The remainder of the flight was boring but not nearly as nerve wracking as the storm had been.

The plane landed in New York about two hours later than it was scheduled to. We exited the plane and immediately had to go through security and the passport place again. Both went smoothly and I was relieved that I did not set off any metal detectors.

When we finally had finished collecting our luggage and getting through security, we went into the crowded sitting area and I immediately spotted Uncle Jack.

"Uncle Jack!" Matt shouted and ran over to him.

"Hey! Matt, you've gotten so big!" Uncle Jack grinned and picked him up, "How's my little guy doing?"

"Good," Matt replied.

Uncle Jack is my dad's little brother. He's four years younger than Dad, but he acts even younger. He's even taller than my dad and keeps his dirty blond hair in a long ponytail, much to the dislike of Mum. Unlike Dad, his hair has hardly any grey in it and his face isn't lined with wrinkles. My dad and Uncle Jack get along wonderfully, despite their differences in lifestyles. When they were just out of school, they traveled all over the world together, looking to find the 'Deathly Hallows'. These are a cloak that renders the wearer invisible, a stone that can sort of bring back the dead, and an unbeatable wand. They're explained in this kid's story, The Tale of the Three Brothers and most people don't really believe they actually exist, but Dad and Uncle Jack do. Even Mum went with them to look after my parents got married, but eventually she and Dad gave up because they wanted to settle down and start a family.

Uncle Jack, on the other hand, kept looking. He stopped looking actively years ago, but I'm pretty sure he still thinks they're out there. I'll bet if he heard any rumors about them, he'd go check it out wherever it was. He's a very spontaneous and active person. He moved to New York after he actively gave up finding the Hallows because that's just the last place he had traced them to. He liked it there and just decided to stay.

Whereas Dad has a high-powered job in the Ministry, Uncle Jack dislikes the government and wouldn't want to work for them. However he does respect Dad's career. Uncle Jack works at a used book store and does random jobs that I think involve tracing people and magical objects. He makes a decent living and he's got inheritance money, too. I don't think he's ever really had a serious girlfriend and I honestly can't see him getting married.

The best thing is, is that he doesn't care at all that Matt is a werewolf. Richard and Cinda pretend they're ok with it, but I've heard them talking to Mum about it and they're really kind of nervous about it. Uncle Jack, on the other hand, isn't bothered in the slightest by it. He treats Matt exactly the same as he did before he was bitten. Even my parents don't do that.

"Jack," Dad grinned, "How the hell are ya?"

"Brilliant!" Jack grinned back, "I've been waiting here for the past two hours, but no matter. I don't have to work tomorrow so it doesn't matter."

"Hi, Jack," Mum smiled.

"Julie, how have you been?"

"Oh, you know. Surviving," Mum replied.

"Hey, Uncle Jack!" I grinned at him.

"Amy!" Uncle Jack shifted Matt over to one side and hugged me with his other arm. "Guess what I've got at home, just for you?"

"Spiedies?" I guessed.

One of my favorite things about going to Uncle Jack's house is the spiedies. Spiedies are little pieces of marinated meat that you barbecue or cook in the oven. Uncle Jack's preferred method is to barbecue them, Muggle style. They're usually made with chicken or pork, but there are lamb ones too. I like the chicken ones best. You're supposed to eat them on a roll or in a salad, without any ketchup or mustard or any other condiments. They originated in the Southern Tier of New York and Uncle Jack discovered them during his travels. I absolutely adore them and can't get them in Australia. They've stayed pretty local anyway. Uncle Jack says it's hard to find them outside of the Southern Tier and even harder to find them in other states.

"Sure do," Uncle Jack replied, "I'll just cook them up as soon as we get home."

"Excellent," I grinned, "I'm starving. Airplane food is awful."

"Let's go, then," Uncle Jack said and started leading us out of the airport. "There's a Floo station a couple blocks down. Oh, but you ought to put on your winter coats. It's quite chilly out."

I laughed as I looked at us in our t-shirts. I had completely forgotten about the whole winter thing. I opened up my suitcase and pulled out my puffy jacket. The rest of my family did the same and as soon as we were all bundled up, Uncle Jack led us out the door.

I followed, trailing my suitcase behind me. I was immediately hit by the image of New York City in the winter. There were huge buildings all around, cars and buses clogging the streets, steam coming up from the sidewalks, and piles of black snow. There wasn't any white snow in sight. I guess I'd have to wait until we got to Uncle Jack's to see that. Then there was the noise. Cars were honking their horns, brakes were screeching, people were yelling, dogs were barking, and music was blasting out of cars.

"This way!" Uncle Jack shouted and led us to the left, "Stick with me now, it's crazy tonight!"

Matt, who was still in Uncle Jack's arms, had clamped his hands over his ears as a car honked its horn right next to us. I couldn't blame him one bit. Even I hated the noise and I didn't have super sensitive hearing. Cities have never been my favorite places. I much prefer a rural setting.

A few minutes later, Uncle Jack led us into a crowded pub that the Muggles walked past without even noticing. It was dark and there was smoke everywhere. Not the kind of place I would want to frequent very often.

"Floo's in the back," Uncle Jack muttered, "Dodgy place, don't make eye contact with anyone."

I heeded his advice and followed him quickly to the fireplace. I could feel people's eyes on me and wanted to get to Uncle Jack's as soon as possible.

Uncle Jack pulled out a bag of Floo powder and passed it around. Dad went first, then Mum, and then me. I threw in the powder, shouted the name of Uncle Jack's house, and stepped in. A few moments later, I stepped out of the fireplace and into Uncle Jack's house.


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PostPosted: Tuesday 21 October 2008 9:06:01pm 
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I've officially started posting this on Harry Potter Fan Fiction.com. :grin:

Chapter 17: The Adirondack Academy of Magic

The best way to describe Uncle Jack's house is, like Uncle Jack, unique. I have never been in a stranger house than Uncle Jack's. It's situated on a plot of land that's about 5 acres, that he owns. It's mostly bush, but there is about an acre of open area that Uncle Jack uses to grown his own fruit and vegetables. He grows all sorts of stuff like potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peas, corn, strawberries, blueberries, and apples.

The house itself is on the small side compared to mine. Uncle Jack inherited a load of money from my grandparents just like Dad did, but I'm not really sure what he did with most of it. I know he bought his land and built his house with some of it, but I've got no idea what happened to the rest. His house has got to be the strangest design I've ever seen. On the first floor is the kitchen, dining room, and living room. When you first walk into the house, you're in the kitchen. If you turn right, you'll be in the dining room, the left you'd be in the living room. None of the rooms are square. The kitchen's actually got five walls. The other two rooms have four walls, but they're all different lengths. The doorways aren't level either.

On the second floor are the bedrooms and bathrooms. There's three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Only one bathroom's got a shower and tub. These rooms aren't normal looking either. They've got sloped ceilings and strange sized doors. They're also situated in a circle. When you reach the top of the stairs, you're in the middle of a circle. Across from you is a bedroom, next to that a bathroom, then another bedroom, the second bathroom, and finally the third bedroom.

However, the oddly shaped rooms and strange construction of the house is only the beginning. What's more interesting is what you'll find inside the house. The decor is all mismatched so much that Cinda would probably have a hippogriff as soon as she set foot in the kitchen. There's an assortment of Muggle contraptions all from various eras, from a telegraph to a black and white television to a fancy new computer. Then there are the wizard items, from old broken wands to sneakoscopes to worn out invisibility cloaks. Plus, there's the random junk that's just laying around. Uncle Jack swears he'll find a use for all of it, but I'm not so sure. He collects everything and I mean everything. He's even got a large box full of stones of various sizes that he insists he needs.

Today was no different and as soon as I stepped out of the floo and into the living room, I saw the normal piles of stuff cluttering up the room. I didn't even try to suppress my grin as I gazed around at the house. It had been so long since we visited and I hadn't even realized how much I missed the place before now.

Mum and Dad were already looking around at the room. Dad was grinning and shaking his head as he fingered an ugly cloak that Cinda wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole. Mum had picked up a broken copper kettle that no longer had a bottom and was eying it with trepidation.

"Same old Jack," Dad smiled.

A moment later, the fire turned green again and out stepped Uncle Jack and Matt. Uncle Jack lowered Matt to the floor and he immediately went to check out a pile of stuff on the floor.

"Welcome back to my abode," Uncle Jack grinned.

"Hasn't changed a bit," Dad laughed.

"Just added more stuff," Uncle Jack commented, "Now, Amy, Matt, go look out the window."

I ran over to the window and pulled up the blinds. Uncle Jack turned out the light and I gasped as I saw the white blanket that covered the yard. Snow! It was snowing! The snow looked so much better than it had in the few Muggle movies I had watched. It looked so peaceful outside with the white fluffy dots falling softly from the sky. It was as if nothing could be wrong in the world if the snow was there.

"It's beautiful," I murmured.

"I want to go play in it!" Matt shouted.

"Maybe tomorrow," Uncle Jack told him, "It's almost dark now. And it's time for dinner."

"Oh, yeah, spiedies!" Matt exclaimed and ran into the kitchen.

"I'll have to cook them in the oven," Uncle Jack said as the rest of us went into the kitchen, "Since I can't barbecue in the snow."

Uncle Jack had the spiedies cooked in no time. I'm pretty sure he has altered his oven with magic, but I can't say for sure. We all sat down at the table and I piled my roll high with spiedies. Then I added ketchup and mustard. I didn't care if that really wasn't how you were supposed to eat them. I liked the way they tasted with ketchup and mustard.

After dinner, we went back into the living room and Uncle Jack and my parents started talking about the visit to the school the next day. I listened carefully as I played a game of Gobstones with Matt.

"What do you know about this school?" Dad asked.

"Not much," Uncle Jack shrugged, "Never really bothered to look into it much since I haven't got any kids. I know a few people who do have kids who go there, though. They're happy with it, although it's the only wizarding school in New York, so it's pretty much the only option besides home schooling. Just like in Australia."

"Seems like it's that way everywhere," Dad said, "How about the Headmaster? Know much about him?"

"Nope. Never met him. Heard he's a very understanding bloke, though. Kind of the opposite of Killigan."

"That's what we're hoping for," Dad muttered.

"Never thought Killigan would turn out like this, though," Uncle Jack continued, "I mean, he was tough when we were there, but it never crossed my mind that he was so prejudiced."

"Never really would have, though, would it?" Mum said, "I mean, we were kind of blissfully ignorant at that school. Did either of you really think about what the teachers were like outside of school?"

"Not really," Dad said.

"I guess not," Uncle Jack said.

I agreed with that. I hadn't really thought about any of my teachers besides how well they taught. It never once crossed my mind that any of them could be prejudiced or anything like that. They were just teachers to me, there to teach us and nothing else.

"Makes me wonder what would have happened if we did know back then. If it would have changed anything," Dad sighed.

"Think about it, Walt," Uncle Jack said, "Would it really have changed anything? Would you have moved years ago if you had known Killigan was so prejudiced?"

Dad thought for a long time before answering. "Honestly, I don't really think we would have. Do you, Julie?"

Mum sighed, "No, I don't think we would have. Because back then, it wouldn't have really mattered."

"Exactly," Uncle Jack replied, "So you shouldn't be beating yourselves up over this. Nobody could have foreseen this. You've just got to deal with it as it happens."

"I know, I know," Dad murmured. "It's just, I keep thinking that maybe we shouldn't have waited so long to find out if Killigan would let him in. If we had done it sooner, we could have had this all behind us...."

"And it would have been just as hard then," Uncle Jack pointed out, "Maybe even harder. Could you have imagined dealing with finding a new school when you were already dealing with everything else?"

"I guess not," Dad said after a few moments, "But there's plenty going on now...."

"I think it's good you're doing it now. In reality, you could have even waited. Matt's got three years until school. But if you had waited until then, Amy would have been going to a new school just for her last year."

I hadn't thought of that. They really could have waited. I shuddered at the thought of having to switch schools for just one year. Of course, maybe that would have been better. If I hate the new school, I'm going to have four years of it to deal with.

"I suppose you're right," Dad sighed.

"Now, when are you visiting the school?" Uncle Jack asked.

"Tomorrow, ten o'clock," Dad replied, "We're Flooing to the nearby village and the headmaster is meeting us there."

"Mind if I join you? I'm off work tomorrow."

"Not at all," Dad smiled, "We'd be glad to have you. I was hoping you'd be able to direct us to a good real estate agent afterwards anyway. Got to look at houses while we're here."

I groaned inwardly. Look at houses. Houses that we might live in. I just hoped that my parents wouldn't actually buy one this trip. But if they made up their minds that we were going to move to New York, chances are they would buy one this trip.

"Of course," Uncle Jack said.

Mum insisted that we go to bed shortly after that. Since I had slept on the plane, I wasn't the least bit tired, but I didn't want to argue over a simple issue like going to bed. It's not like I had to go to sleep anyway.

Matt and I entered the bedroom we usually stayed in. Our room was also used as another storage place, so there were boxes of random stuff all over it. Among all the boxes were two ornately carved wooden beds with patchwork quilts. I set my suitcase down at the foot of the one that was closest to the window. I gazed out into the night sky and all I wanted to do was stargaze all night. The sky was totally different in the Northern Hemisphere and I rarely got to look at it.

I watched the stars for a long time while Matt rifled through Uncle Jack's boxes. Eventually, the moon rose high enough to shine into the window and I had to close the blinds before it gave Matt a headache. Why my parents had scheduled this trip so close to the full moon, I had no idea. Maybe they were thinking that it would pay off in the long run if we wound up moving here.

I dug a book out of my suitcase, grabbed my wand, and climbed underneath the quilt. Despite the cold outside, Uncle Jack's house was toasty warm. I settled back, lit my wand, and started to read.

"Amy?" Matt whispered after a few minutes, "Are you awake?"

"'Course I am," I muttered, "Slept all day on the plane."

"You don't want to move, do you?" he asked so quietly I could barely hear him.

"Not really," I replied, "I like my school."

"But the headmaster doesn't like me."

"Never said I liked the headmaster," I sighed, "I like my teachers and Olivia's there."

"If we move here, I'll go to school like you do, right?"

"I'm pretty sure that's the point of moving here," I rolled my eyes.

Matt was silent for a few minutes and then mumbled something incoherent.

"What?" I asked.

"What if nobody likes me here either?"

I sighed. I wasn't the person to have an emotional conversation with. Even though I had made it perfectly clear that I didn't want to move, my brother was looking to me for reassurance about it. That made a whole lot of sense.

"Why wouldn't they?" I asked, hoping that maybe there was another reason besides the obvious one as to why he thought nobody would like him.

"Because of what I am," Matt whispered.

Nope, no other reason. "Well, we wouldn't be here if the headmaster hadn't already agreed to let you attend. And you heard Uncle Jack, the headmaster is nice."

"I don't mean the headmaster," Matt's voice cracked, "I'm talking about the other kids."

Oh. I definitely wasn't the one to be asking advice for on this. Most of the other girls in my year didn't like me.

"Well, er, it's not like they're going to know. It's not like you'll be walking into brekkie the first day and shouting, 'Guess what? I'm a werewolf,'" I suppressed a laugh at the thought of that, "None of the other kids will have any idea you're a werewolf."

"What if they guess? What if they figure out why I'm gone once a month?"

"You'll have excuses, they won't find out. And if they do, I'm sure Dad will figure something out."

"Are you sure?"

No, I'm not sure. How could I possibly be sure? "Yeah, don't worry about it."

"Ok."

I sighed and went back to reading. Why was he looking to me for reassurance? It's not like I'd done anything remotely like this before.

"Amy?"

I sighed again and laid my book down on the bed. I guess I wouldn't be getting much reading done that night. I pointed my wand at my brother and he squinted his eyes as the light flooded him. When he opened them again, he looked scared.

"What?" I asked.

"Are you really that mad about moving?" he asked quietly, hardly moving.

"Yes," I said after a moment. There really wasn't much point in lying to him. "The last thing I want to do is move right now, but I haven't got a say in the matter."

"Oh," he replied and rolled over. My wand was now illuminating his small back.

I watched him for a few minutes before picking my book up again. He didn't say anything else. I guess my blatant answer to his question made him not want to talk to me anymore.

******

I must have fallen asleep at some point during the night, because the next thing I knew, Mum was shaking me awake. I groaned and sat up, feeling very tired. I hated jet lag. Now I was going to be tired all day.

I put on the bulky winter clothing I had packed and went downstairs. Uncle Jack, who was a morning person like I usually was, was reading the paper and enthusiastically eating a bowl of cereal. Mum and Dad were both looking exhausted and drinking large mugs of coffee. Matt was leaning his head on his hand and lazily eating a piece of toast. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and began to eat it.

Shortly after I finished, Dad stood up and announced that it was time to leave. Suddenly, I was very nervous. We were about to visit the school that I might be spending the next four years at. What if I hated it?

"We're Flooing to a place called The Mooning Dragon. It's in the village closest to the school, which is in the middle of the Adirondacks," Uncle Jack explained as we followed him to the fireplace. "I'll see you there." He threw in a handful of powder and disappeared.

"You go first, Amy," Dad said.

I nodded and threw in a handful of Floo powder. "The Mooning Dragon," I said clearly after I stepped in.

Once the spinning stopped and I could begin breathing once more, I opened my eyes and stepped out of the fire. I was standing in a room that seemed the exact opposite of the pub we went to in New York City. This place was bright and airy and had a very homey feel to it.

The tables and chairs were all wooden and looked to be hand carved. The bar itself even looked like it was hand carved. The lady behind the bar was a round woman with a large smile on her wrinkled face. Her curly white hair was half hidden underneath a knitted cap. She said hello to me as I looked around her pub.

The walls were adorned with pictures of outdoorsy scenes, many of which included various animals. Most of them were so realistic that they could be mistaken for windows, had it not been the middle of winter.

The customers were also vastly different from those at the pub in New York City. Here, there were parents with giggling children, older couples out for a late breakfast, little old ladies with shopping bags, men reading the paper by themselves, and a few older teenagers laughing at one of the tables.

Uncle Jack was waiting for me next to the fireplace. A few seconds later, my parents and Matt stepped out of the fire and joined us. Uncle Jack gestured for us to sit at one of the nearby tables.

"Welcome to The Mooning Dragon," he said as we sat down, "One of my favorite pubs."

"It's a very nice place," Dad said as he looked around, "Quite rustic."

"That's why I like it," Uncle Jack grinned.

"Jack!" the lady behind the bar said as she strode over to the table, "How nice to see you."

"You, too, Nat," Uncle Jack stood up and embraced the older lady. Then he turned to us, "This is Nat Fernski, she owns the place."

"Nice to meet you," Dad stood up.

"Nat, this is my brother, Walt," Uncle Jack gestured to my dad, "And his wife, Julie, and their kids Amy and Matt."

Nat gave us all tight hugs. "It's really wonderful to finally meet Jack's family. Although I still say he needs to settle down and have some kids of his own."

Uncle Jack blushed, "I'm happy the way things are now, Nat."

"I know you are, dear," Nat smiled, "So, what brings you to New York?"

"They're visiting the school," Uncle Jack told her.

"Thinking of moving?" Nat asked.

"We are moving," Dad told her, "Just not sure where yet."

"Ah, well, the school here is excellent. I went here myself as a girl," Nat said. "Can I get you anything right now?"

Dad looked at his watch, "Maybe after the visit. The headmaster is supposed to be here anytime."

"All right. I'll see you in a few hours then," Nat smiled and went back to the bar.

"She's nice," Mum commented after Nat was occupied behind the bar.

"Oh, she's great," Uncle Jack replied, "Very motherly, though. Keeps telling me to settle down."

My parents laughed along with Uncle Jack and I glanced towards the door. It had just opened and a man stepped in amongst a swirl of snow. He closed the door and looked around the pub.

He was a tall man, who looked maybe ten years older than my parents. His face was lined, but his eyes were kind and he had a smile on his face. The man's hair was mostly hidden by the hood of his cloak, but I could see bits of grey sticking out underneath it.

The man kept glancing around the pub and then his eyes met mine. His smile broadened and he started walking over to our table. I watched as he got closer and closer to our table.

"Are you Walter Eckerton?" the man asked Dad.

"Yes," Dad replied, standing up.

"Hi, I'm Marvin Oliander, Headmaster of the Adirondack Academy of Magic," he said as he stuck out his hand.

"Pleased to meet you," Dad shook his hand, "My brother Jack, my wife Julie, and our kids, Amy and Matt."

The adults exchanged handshakes and greetings as I watched Marvin Oliander. He seemed nice enough. His smile seemed genuine and I didn't get the sense that he was particularly nervous about this. The man radiated a sense of calm and leadership. In the span of two minutes, I could tell that he was a better headmaster than Killigan.

"Well," Oliander clapped his hands together, "I thought we'd start by a tour of the school and then we could talk in my office. I would show you around the grounds as well, but there's a raging snowstorm out there, so we'll skip that."

Mum looked relieved about this, but I kind of wanted to wander around in the snow. I hadn't had a chance to do much with it yet. I wanted to build snowmen and go sledding and all the other snow related stuff Uncle Jack had told me about.

"Sounds good," Dad replied.

"Right this way," Oliander turned and led us out of the pub.

Oliander was certainly right about the storm. Snow was billowing everywhere and my face froze as soon as I stepped outside. I didn't really care though since the rest of me was perfectly warm. From what I could see, the little village was beautiful under the blanket of white.

"The village is called Dichtebos, which means 'dense forest' in Dutch. You can see why it got the name," Oliander shouted over the wind.

I could barely make out the trees surrounding the village. It looked like the village was nestled in the middle of the bush.

"Dutch wizards were the first to settle here," Oliander continued, "Long before European Muggles arrived."

I followed Oliander through the village, passing a few more pubs and some shops. There were also quaint little houses and a church. It looked like a very nice place, but I didn't really want to live there or anything. Oliander explained the history of the village to my parents, but I didn't pay much attention. Mum and Dad were walking alongside Oliander and Uncle Jack and Matt were just behind them. I lagged behind, not really wanting to participate in the conversation.

"The school is just up the path," Oliander said once we'd reached the outskirts of the village. He gestured to a snow covered path that went through the thick bush.

The path was very short and a few minutes later, we emerged onto the grounds of the school. Oliander paused and turned to look at us.

"The grounds start here. Directly behind me a couple yards is the main building, which houses the dining hall, library, my office, the nurse's office, and the other teachers offices. To the right of that is the upper level building, where all the classes for years four through seven. On the other side of the main building is the lower level building, where classes for years one through three are held. Behind the main building are the dormitories. The greenhouses are directly to my left and the Quidditch pitch is to my right. I'll start the tour with the main building."

It seemed to me that we'd be doing a bit of touring the grounds since there were so many buildings. At my school, there were just two buildings. This place had four. I trudged through the foot deep snow behind my brother and soon we made it to the building.

Oliander opened the door and we walked into the Entrance Hall. There was a staircase directly in front of us and a few doors that led off the large hall.

"The dining hall is right this way," Oliander said as we followed him to the left. "There aren't any meals going on right now, so it will be deserted."

Oliander opened the large wooden doors and stepped inside. I followed and saw that the dining hall looked much like the one at my school. It was filled with small round tables and chairs to go with them. There was a large rectangular table in the back, where the teachers probably sat. What caught my attention, though, was the way it was decorated. The ceiling was emblazoned by stars. Twinkling stars that looked incredibly real. They even formed the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere. That was one thing that I really liked. Even the tables each had a star carved into them.

"The ceiling is brilliant," I said as we walked around the room.

"Glad you like it," Oliander replied, "Our theme is the night sky here. Mainly because this is the best place in the state to star gaze. We are most well known for our Astronomy department."

"I love Astronomy," I told him.

"You should like it here, then," Oliander smiled.

Maybe, I thought. So far it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but we had only seen the dining hall.

After we'd finished in the dining hall, Oliander showed us the library. I was very impressed by their collection of Astronomy books and wished I could have just stayed there for a while. There were also a few students there who looked at us curiously, but didn't say anything to us.

Next we moved onto the lower level classes building. It looked pretty much like any other building of classrooms I'd ever seen, not that I'd seen many. I loved the Astronomy department, though. It was much better than the one in Australia. The telescopes were state of the art, even better than the one I had at home. So that was another thing that wasn't as bad as I'd thought. The upper level building looked exactly the same as the lower level, only it was a bit bigger.

The last stop of the tour was the dormitories, since no one really had any desire to see the greenhouses during the raging storm. The dorms looked pretty much like the ones at my school did, with two people per room. Oliander also showed us one of the common rooms, which was also decorated with a starry theme. I had to admit that it was a bit nicer than my common room in Australia.

I was torn in my thoughts about the place as I followed Oliander back to the main building. On the one hand, I actually liked this place so far. But on the other, I still didn't want to move. I liked my school better because that's where Olivia was. I really didn't want to have to make all new friends. I wasn't even sure that I could.

The headmaster led us up the stairs in the main building and down the corridor past the library. He muttered a password to a painting of a knight and it swung forward to let us in.

Oliander's office was a warm cozy room with a roaring fire in the fireplace. There were comfy looking armchairs in front of it. The walls were painted a dark blue and everything else matched it. There were shelves of books and weird looking instruments all over the place.

Oliander gestured for us to sit down in the chairs. I sat down in the one on the far left. Uncle Jack sat next to me and pulled Matt onto his lap. My parents sat on his other side. Oliander took the remaining chair and smiled at us.

"What do you think of the school?" he asked.

"It's very nice," Dad replied, "Seems like a good atmosphere."

"I agree," Mum said, "I get the sense that it's a very relaxed place."

"I like it," Uncle Jack commented, "Seems like a better place than where we went to school."

"Good, good," Oliander said and then turned to me, "And how about you, Amy? Do you like it?"

All eyes fell on me and I tried to think of a word to describe the school. "Er, well, it's nice enough. I like the star theme, but I still don't want to move."

"Understandable," Oliander smiled, "Nobody wants to switch schools in the middle of their education. But I assure you that you'll fit in here."

I wasn't so sure about that, but I nodded anyway.

"And what about you, Matt? Did you like it?" Oliander asked.

Matt yawned and shrugged, "I dunno."

"We're all tired from the jet lag," Mum explained.

"Ah, right. Jet lag is a killer," Oliander replied.

I yawned as well. All I really wanted to do now was go to bed. I hadn't slept much the previous night and now that we weren't walking around anymore, the fatigue was hitting me. With that and the comfy chair and warm room, I was ready to drift off within a few seconds.

"Well, I guess we'd better get down to the details," Oliander began, "The most obvious thing is figuring out some place for him to transform. You said he does not take Wolfsbane?"

"No," Dad replied, "For some reason it does not work for him. It's got no effect whatsoever, so we stopped giving it to him."

"How strange. And you've got no idea why?"

"No. We've taken him to numerous Healers, but no one has figured it out."

"Huh. Well then, he will obviously have to transform away from other people. I was thinking I could have another building put up. A small one to be used for this purpose. I would just have to come up with a good excuse as to why it's there.... Well, there's time to come up with excuses."

"That might work," Dad rubbed his chin, "But I'd like to put up wards myself."

"Of course," Oliander agreed, "That would be fine."

"What about your Ministry? Do they have an opinion to this? Did they say it would be all right for my son to attend your school?" Dad asked.

"Our Ministry stays out of school related matters for the most part. I did run this by them, since we've never done anything like it before, and they said it would be fine as long as precautions were taken. They even suggested that if it worked out, that we could advertise the school as a place werewolves could safely attend."

That would be the complete opposite of my school, I thought. I couldn't imagine Killigan ever advertising the place as a school for werewolves.

"That's an intriguing idea," Dad commented, "One I would be very supportive of."

"I had a feeling you would," Oliander said, "I've heard a little bit about your opinions of werewolf control laws in Australia. I daresay I agree with you."

"You're in the minority," Dad said darkly, "Things are changing down there and I cannot stop it my own."

"Well, all we can do is set a good example," Oliander replied, "And having your son attend here is only the beginning."

As I listened to Dad and Oliander's conversation, I became more and more convinced that we would be moving to New York. The two of them were talking about changing the way werewolves are perceived around the world, starting with this one state. I doubted there was anything that would convince my parents to move somewhere else. Even Mum seemed interested in what they were talking about. Uncle Jack looked absolutely fascinated. Matt was starting to fall asleep in Uncle Jack's lap. I turned away from their conversation and started reading the book titles on the shelf nearby. There were some potions books that looked good.

After what seemed like forever, Oliander and Dad stopped talking about changing the world's opinion of werewolves.

"Well," Oliander said, "We've gotten a bit off topic."

"Quite all right," Dad replied, "It was an interesting idea. We'll have to talk about it again."

"I shall owl you soon, then," Oliander smiled, "Now we should get back to the details of your son attending here. We were getting a bit ahead of ourselves."

"A bit, yes," Dad laughed.

"Well, I guess now we've got to talk about what exactly goes on during the full moon. What I'll need to know in order to fully understand."

Dad glanced at Mum and then cleared his throat. "Right. I guess I should start at the beginning, then. He gets tired a few days before the full moon and then gets sick the day of. We usually give him potions for that, but he winds up spending the whole day sleeping anyway. Then he goes down to the basement shortly before the moon rises and spends the night there."

Dad sighed and paused before continuing in a quieter voice. "I'm sure you know what goes on during the full moon if a werewolf is not on Wolfsbane and is shut away by himself. That's what happens with Matt. We get him from the basement as soon as the moon sets. He's always unconscious and we start with the healing spells and potions.

"Is your nurse up to this? We would be able to teach her the appropriate spells if necessary."

"I am sure she will be able to handle it," Oliander assured him, "She is quite skilled at healing. I'll admit that she has never treated a werewolf, but I don't think it will be a big deal."

"Good to hear it," Dad replied, "We will of course go into greater detail if we decide to move here."

If? I thought. If? It seemed to me that Dad had already made his decision. I guess he just didn't want to voice it yet. Either that or he had to discuss it with Mum. She had been awfully quiet.

"Excellent," Oliander grinned. "Do you have any questions?"

"Well, how do the other teachers feel about this?" Dad asked.

"I have not told them yet. If you'd like me to get their opinions before you make your decision, I certainly will."

"That would be nice," Dad replied.

"I will owl them shortly, then," Oliander said, "When can I expect your decision?"

"Soon. We'd like to have Amy enrolled for the upcoming year," Dad said. "We have a few more schools to visit. Within the next two months, we should know."

Two months. I had two more months before I was officially going to move. Would we move right after that? Did I just have two whole months before we left Australia? Two months was nothing. Hardly any time at all.

"All right," Oliander said as he stood up. "I'll be expecting your owl."

"It was nice to meet you," Dad stood up and shook Oliander's hand.

"You, too. I'll walk with you back to The Mooning Dragon."

I followed everyone out of Oliander's office and down the stairs. It looked like lunch was about to begin because students were entering the dining hall, wrapped in layers of winter clothing. They looked happy, though. They were laughing and joking around. Would I be with them in six months? Was there a chance that some of the kids I was watching now would be my friends?


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PostPosted: Friday 31 October 2008 8:20:24pm 
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Joined: Thursday 28 December 2006 6:45:34pm
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Location: Going through LeakyCon withdrawal
Questions, comments, and general reviews always appreciated! :grin:

Special thanks to Fawkes who came up with the name for the real estate agent. :D

Chapter 18: House Hunting

We wound up having lunch at The Mooning Dragon and Nat was delighted to have us there. Oliander told us that he regretted not being able to eat with us, but he had other business to attend to at the school.

Mum, Dad, and Uncle Jack talked about a whole range of topics including the school, Uncle Jack's job, and the weather. I didn't really pay much attention. I mainly just sat there and picked at my food. I wasn't really that hungry and my stomach was a bit queasy. Seeing all the students at the school just hit me hard. Knowing that I might be amongst them next year. It just seemed so weird to see a school that I might go to. A school that's not the Australian School of Sorcery. Could I really do this? Could I fit myself into a group of kids that have known each other since they were eleven?

I sighed and glanced up from my food. My parents were laughing with Uncle Jack and Nat. They looked truly happy. Mum's face was lit up like I hadn't seen it in months. Even Dad looked happy. Maybe we did belong in New York. If we moved here, would my parents be happy like this all the time? Or were they just happy now because they hadn't seen Uncle Jack in so long and because Dad hadn't worked in a few days?

Was I the only one that was going to miss Australia? I felt kind of sick just thinking about it. No one else in my family cared. They would probably move today if they could. They wouldn't care. Surely Mum would miss her parents, wouldn't she? Well, maybe not after Cinda threw that going away party.

I nibbled on a roll and watched my brother's eyes slowly close. He wasn't cheery and happy like my parents were. He looked utterly exhausted, which is exactly how I felt. The jet lag certainly wasn't helping my mood.

"What did you think of the Adirondack Academy of Magic?" Nat asked as she refilled Dad's water glass.

"It was nice," I smiled. What else could I say?

"I'm very glad," Nat replied and then turned to Matt, "And what about you, dear?"

"Huh?" his eyes snapped open and he glanced around confusedly.

"Are you all right, dear?" Nat asked with a look of concern on his face.

"Just tired," Matt replied.

"Oh, right. I keep forgetting you just flew in yesterday," Nat said, "I hope you liked the school."

"Yeah, it was good," Matt told her and then leaned his head onto his hand.

When lunch was finally over, all I wanted to do was go back to Uncle Jack's house and go to sleep. Mum and Dad wouldn't let me, though. They said the best thing to do was just wait until night to sleep and then my body would adjust to New York time. I was less than enthused about this, especially when Mum told me we were going house hunting.

"We'll have to Apparate there," Uncle Jack announced once we finished lunch. "The Real Estate office I'm going to show you specializes in both Muggle and wizard houses, so we can't Floo. We'll Apparate to the closest Apparition center and walk from there."

Mum grimaced. I knew the last thing she'd want to do is walk in this storm.

"It's not near here," Uncle Jack grinned, "So it might not be snowing there. It's actually closer to my house."

I reluctantly followed my family out of the pub and into the street. I didn't really think it was fair that Mum was letting Matt sleep in Uncle Jack's arms but she wouldn't let me go back to his house to take a nap. But Mum always let Matt sleep when he was tired, so I didn't complain about it. I wordlessly went into Dad's arms and we Apparated to the place Uncle Jack described.

We wound up in a small room with a few chairs and a desk. Behind the desk was a very bored looking witch who didn't look much older than me. She was flipping through a magazine and eating French fries. She glanced up as we appeared, but didn't say anything.

"This way," Uncle Jack muttered and we followed him out onto the street. "It's not far from here."

It wasn't currently snowing on this street, but there were high snowbanks alongside the road, so it must have snowed recently. It was also ice cold. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my face and tilted my head down as we walked straight into the wind.

Luckily Uncle Jack was right and we didn't have to walk far. Only a few minutes after we stepped outside the Apparition center, Uncle Jack led us into a building that looked in dire need of a paint job.

The inside was much nicer than the outside. There was a sitting area with green chairs and a television that was tuned into a news station. Nearby that was a desk with a secretary typing onto a computer and talking into a headset. Beyond that was a corridor which seemed to lead to a few offices.

I stood behind my parents as they waited for the secretary to be done with her conversation.

"May I help you?" she asked after a minute or so.

"Yes," Uncle Jack replied, "My brother and sister-in-law have an appointment with Miss Josephina Hawkings."

Dad turned to look at Uncle Jack with a raised eyebrow.

Uncle Jack grinned, "Made the appointment this morning."

"She'll be with you shortly," the secretary gestured to the waiting area.

We all sat down in the chairs and waited for the agent to call us in. The adults talked quietly about houses and I stared at the Muggle news. There wasn't anything interesting on it. Right now they were discussing the snow storm that was supposed to arrive the next day.

Matt was still asleep on Uncle Jack's lap and I was incredibly jealous. I was dreading this house hunting and it appeared that Matt would just sleep through the whole thing. I wanted to sleep through the whole thing. I doubted my parents would let me have much say in the whole thing anyway.

"Walter and Julie Eckerton?" a voice from behind me said.

I looked up and saw a very tall woman with dark brown hair pulled in a tight bun. She had a long face with a pointy chin and a rather prominent nose. She wore glasses on the very tip of her nose. She also seemed to have the same fashion sense as Cinda, based on the peach colored pants suit she was wearing.

We all stood up and the agent stuck out her hand, "Josephina Hawkings."

Dad shook it, "Walt Eckerton, my wife Julie, and our kids Amy and Matt. I believe you know my brother."

"Yes, I helped him find his plot of land," Josephina Hawkings replied.

We followed her down the corridor and into a tiny room that was her office. It was quite cramped with all five of us, plus Josephina in it. There were only three chairs in the room. Josephina took the one behind her desk, while my parents took the others. I stood behind them with Uncle Jack, who was still carrying Matt.

"So, you're looking to buy a house," Josephina said.

"Yes," Dad replied.

"What area of the state?" Josephina asked.

Dad looked at Mum and shrugged, "Well, perhaps somewhere near Jack, but we're not too picky."

"Could you tell me a bit about your current house to help me get some ideas?" she asked.

"Well," Dad began, "It's rather large. Ten bedrooms, six baths, completely walled in-"

Josephina's eyes lit up, "Ah! You live on an estate now! This gives me so many more opportunities! Let's see, there are a few houses like that up for sale. Let me see here..." she rifled through the papers on her desk.

"Wait," Dad said after exchanging a glance with Mum, "We were actually looking for something a bit smaller."

"Nonsense!" Josephina laughed, "Just wait until you see these houses."

"Really, we're only four people, we don't need that much space," Mum told her.

"But your house now is so large," Josephina said.

"It was my parents' house," Dad sighed, "I inherited it, so we moved in. It's not like we would have set out to buy something so grand."

Josephina looked a bit disappointed, "Well, if you're sure...."

"We're sure," Mum said.

"All right," Josephina sighed, "What size were you looking for?"

"Anywhere from three to five bedrooms would be fine," Dad replied.

"And would you be interested in a Muggle or wizarding house?"

"Either is fine," Dad said.

Josephina nodded and pulled out a binder. "Well, the best way is to just see the houses. I've got portkeys for all of them. Does that sound good?"

Dad nodded, "Yes, that will be fine."

"All right then," Josephina pulled out a keyring that had a variety of different colored keys on them. They were all rather large. "Each key is a portkey. I've got a great house for sale only a couple miles from Jack."

Josephina held out the key and we all placed a finger on it. She tapped the key with her wand and I felt myself being transported to some unknown house.

I landed with a thud onto the snow covered lawn of the house. I got up and tried to brush the snow off my pants, but it was already melting into them. Great, now I was going to have wet pants the whole time.

The house looked nice from the outside. It was in the middle of an open field, with hardly any trees. It was painted dark brown and had blue shutters on the windows.

"Four bedrooms, two baths," Josephina said as we started up the path to the front door, "About fifteen years old. The wizards that lived here moved about a week ago. Been on the market for about two months."

Josephina opened the door and we all stepped inside. The outside of the house was much nicer than the inside. The carpet was ripped up in places and had mysterious stains in others. There was no furniture anywhere. The walls had a few holes in them. Not to mention the smell. There was a very odd smell in the entire place.

I followed my parents into the house and we started looking around the living room. Mum had a look of shock on her face and Dad was peering into one of the holes. Uncle Jack was walking slowly into the kitchen.

"Well, what do you think?" Josephina asked excitedly.

Mum stared at her, "Well, it's not in the greatest shape, is it?"

"It's a fixer upper, I'll give you that," Josephina said, "But now you can fix it up however you'd like."

Mum and Dad exchanged glances, "I think we'd prefer something with a bit less 'fixing up' involved," Dad said.

"Oh, gross!" Uncle Jack called from the kitchen. "There's an old cauldron with a fermenting potion in it in here."

Josephina's cheeks turned red, "I guess I'll have to clean the place up a bit."

"We're leaving," Mum announced. "On to the next house."

"Don't you want to see the upstairs?"

"No way," Mum said.

Uncle Jack returned from the kitchen and Matt was awake now, yawning and rubbing his eyes. "It's nasty in there," Uncle Jack muttered.

"It stinks," Matt said flatly, "I don't like this house."

"None of us do, sweetie," Mum smiled at him. "We're going to go look at another one."

Josephina led us out the door and then she pulled out another key. We wordlessly took it and portkeyed to another house.

The entire afternoon was spent looking at houses. I was completely knackered by the time we finally finished. I personally thought the whole afternoon was pointless because we didn't find a single house we liked. They were either too small, too big, too much fixing up involved, or in a bad location. The only nice one we found was a Muggle house, but it was in a neighborhood with the next house only meters away. That wasn't going to work with Matt's transformations.

"I guess we'll just build a house," Dad said as we all sat around the dinner table.

"I think that would be a good idea," Mum agreed.

"So we're moving here?" I asked.

"Nothing's final yet, Amy," Dad told me, "We still have a few places to visit."

I nodded and continued eating my food. I was a bit hungrier now, but still not as much as usual. I was kind of glad we didn't find a decent house, though. Now my parents could just build one and decide for themselves what it looked like.

I went to bed early that night since I was so exhausted. Matt was already asleep when I slipped underneath the covers. I fell asleep quickly, despite my worries about the new school and new house.

The next day I finally got to play in the snow. Dad had to visit the New York ministry and see if there were any sort of jobs available that were anything like the job he had in Australia. The rest of us just stayed at Uncle Jack's house all day.

The snow was completely awesome. I built an entire snow family, complete with a pet dog. Mum, Uncle Jack, and Matt helped as well. Then we all went sledding on a nearby hill. I don't think I've ever enjoyed anything as much as sailing down a snowy hill on a piece of plastic. The wind was bitingly cold, but I didn't care.

We didn't stop until we couldn't feel our fingers and toes. Well, Mum went inside after only two hours, but the rest of us stayed out much longer. Mum had soup and hot chocolate waiting for us when we finally got too cold to stay outside.

Dad returned home late in the day, but unfortunately the New York ministry had no openings in their version of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. He said he would just have to do something different if we chose to move there. It wasn't really something he wanted to do, but he would if it was necessary.

Maybe we weren't definitely going to move to New York. I was sure that if another country had an opening in a place Dad wanted to work, we'd probably move there instead. I had kind of been hoping we'd just move to New York, if we had to move at all. But if Dad couldn't get a job, there's no way we could move there.


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PostPosted: Sunday 2 November 2008 11:21:28pm 
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I finally got around to reading this, Duckie. Great job, yet again! :grin:


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PostPosted: Saturday 8 November 2008 6:14:38am 
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Thanks Obladi! I'm glad you like it. :grin:

Chapter 19: Cross-Country Skiing

"Jack," Dad said, "We have to talk to you about the house."

I glanced up from the book I was reading. We were all sitting in Uncle Jack's living room after dinner. Mum and Dad were looking at Uncle Jack with serious faces. Uncle Jack put down the newspaper he was reading. This is it, I thought. They're going to decide whether or not to sell the house. I swallowed hard, forcing myself not to start crying. They couldn't sell the house.

"Go ahead," Uncle Jack leaned back in his chair.

"Well," Dad began, "We'd like your opinion on selling it. I'm honestly not sure if I should sell it or not. I mean, we obviously won't be living in it much longer. And if we do keep it, should we rent it out?"

Rent it out? I hadn't even thought of that. I wasn't sure if I'd rather have my parents rent it or just sell it. It would be even weirder to have someone living in my room if it was still technically mine. Couldn't my parents just not sell it and not rent it? Then we might move back someday.

Uncle Jack ran a hand through his hair and sighed, "Oh, I don't know. It's strange to think about selling the place. We grew up there and so did Dad, and Grandpa, and generations before...."

Right, I thought, the house has been in our family for generations. We couldn't just sell it now.

"That's why I'm torn," Dad said.

"Do you ever think you'll move back?" Uncle Jack asked.

Dad thought for a moment, "Honestly, no. We certainly wouldn't move back until after Matt graduates, but even then I'm not sure. The way things are going down there, it won't be anyplace for him to live after he graduates. I can't see why we'd move back if the kids are up here. And if I have a job wherever we're moving to."

What about me? I might like to move back to Australia. Didn't that count for anything? Or were my parents just assuming that I wouldn't want to move back either? I was going to graduate in four years and maybe I'd want to find a job in Australia instead of wherever we move to. Although, I honestly couldn't see myself living that far away from my family. It would be too strange.

"It's the end of an era," Uncle Jack said quietly, "All of us moving out of Australia. It'll be odd to have that house belong to someone else."

"How do you feel about it, Jack?" Dad asked, "Because if you don't want us to sell it, we won't."

"I can't say I won't be sad if you sell it, but I just can't rationalize keeping it with no one living in it," Uncle Jack replied, "I certainly have no plans to move back to Australia."

"That's what I was thinking," Dad said, "No point in keeping a house that no one's living in."

"And the way you say the Ministry is heading down there, do we even want any remaining ties there anyway?"

"Exactly," Dad said. "But it's not like we won't be visiting. Julie's parents are still there."

"But their house is big enough for when we want to visit," Mom pointed out, "It's not like we'd be without a place to stay while we visit."

"Sounds like you want to sell it," Uncle Jack said.

"That's what we're leaning to," Dad said.

No! They can't sell it! I grew up there. Dad and Uncle Jack grew up there. How could they just decide to sell it when it was full of so many memories?

"Go for it, then," Uncle Jack told them.

"All right," Dad said, "I'll call a real estate agent when we get back. But there's also the issue of the furniture, paintings, and all the rest of the stuff in it."

The stuff? Wouldn't we take that with us?

"Obviously we'll take enough to furnish our new place," Dad continued, "But there's far too much for that. You're welcome to anything you want and we'll probably sell the rest."

"That makes sense," Uncle Jack agreed, "I'll fly down before you have the sale, maybe in a few weeks or so."

"Wait, you're selling our stuff?" I interrupted.

"Just the furniture we can't take with us," Mum assured me, "Not your stuff. Probably the guest bedroom furniture, the formal furniture, and a few of the portraits. Plus all that silver we had to put away, there's no point in keeping that."

I nodded. All right. I could deal with that, I guess. Just as long as they didn't sell anything I wanted. But now it was official, the house was being sold. In just a few months, I would never set foot in my house again. It didn't seem real.

I didn't want to listen to them talking about selling the house anymore, so I took my book and went up to Uncle Jack's spare bedroom. I sprawled out on the bed and tried to read, but I couldn't concentrate. Everything was moving so fast. I was sure that within a month or so, we'd know where we were moving. My remaining time in Australia was going by so fast. It seemed like just yesterday I was just finding out that we were moving. But that was really almost three months ago. Three months ago, Mum told me we'd probably move in six months. That meant half my time left in Australia was gone.

I got up from the bed and pulled up the shade on the window. The stars were visible despite the clouds that loomed on the horizon. I sat there watching for so long that I found all the constellations that were visible. One thing I loved about the stars was that they were always there. No matter where you were in the world, the stars were fixed points. Sure, they looked different from different places, but they were really the same. Of course, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the night sky was completely different. It was strange looking out at this different night sky. No matter where we decided to move, it would be in the Northern Hemisphere. I wouldn't get to look at the Southern Night sky anymore. That was strange to think about.

******

Mum woke me up the next morning before I had gotten enough sleep. The last thing I wanted to do was get up out of my warm bed, but we had to go visit The Salem Witch Institute in Massachusetts. Our trip was now half over, with one more school to visit. I didn't think I'd like The Salem Witch Institute more than The Adirondack Academy of Magic, but it's not like that would stop Mum and Dad from making me go there. I was surprised how much I liked The Adirondack Academy of Magic and doubted any other school would grab my attention like that.

Nevertheless, after breakfast, we stood once again in front of Uncle Jack's fireplace, ready to floo to Massachusetts. Uncle Jack was going with us for this one, too. Although, he knew even less about The Salem Witch Institute than he did about The Adirondack Academy of Magic.

Dad told us that we were flooing to the Salem Restaurant and Pub. Not a very creative name, if you ask me. Dad flooed first and then Mum with Matt. Uncle Jack told me it was my turn after that. I took the powder and shouted the uncreatively named pub into the fire.

Flooing from Uncle Jack's house to Salem was the longest distance floo I'd ever done. It was kind of strange because it took a bit longer than usual. I had time during the transit to contemplate where I was going.

I stepped out of the fireplace into a very large room with numerous tables and chairs. The tables were adorned with plastic tablecloths and half empty salt and pepper shakers. There was loud music playing in the background and a few waiters and waitresses standing around doing nothing. This was probably due to the fact that the place was dead empty. It did not have the homey feel of The Mooning Dragon.

Once Uncle Jack joined us, one of the bored looking waitresses took us to a table to wait for the headmaster to arrive. She gave us all glasses of water and I sipped at mine just to have something to do.

We sat at the table waiting for the headmaster for what seemed like forever. Dad kept looking at his watch and muttering under his breath. Uncle Jack pulled out a pack of Exploding Snap cards and was playing a game with Matt. Mum just looked around the restaurant with an disapproving glare.

Finally, the door to the restaurant opened and a very short man walked through. He looked around nervously before resting his eyes on my family. He walked over to us and I was able to look at him properly.

He was older than Oliander and was kind of hunched over. His few remaining hairs were grey. He had a nervous look about him and his left eye kept twitching. All in all he was a very odd looking man.

"Um, excuse me," the twitchy man said quietly, "Are you Walter Eckerton?"

"Yes," Dad replied, looking curiously at the man.

"Oh, good...I'm Martin Zane, headmaster of The Salem Witch Institute," the man replied.

Dad stood up, "Well, all right then. This is my brother, Jack, wife Julie, and my kids Amy and Matt."

The headmaster nodded, "Good, good. If you'll follow me, we can tour the school."

I got up and followed everyone out of the empty restaurant. This man did not strike me as the kind of person who would become headmaster of a school. In contrast to Oliander, Zane did not say much as he led us through the town and to the school. Mum seemed happy that it wasn't snowing, but there was a couple inches on the ground. Not nearly as much as in New York, though.

There weren't nearly as many trees around The Salem Witch Institute as there had been around The Adirondack Academy of Magic. In fact, the school was nestled right into the town. It was a large Victorian style mansion. Well, I was only using the term 'mansion' because I didn't know a word for a house larger than a mansion. This thing looked about the size of four or five mansions put together. It was almost like a castle, but it looked like a house.

We followed Zane through the wrought iron gates and up the path to the building. As far as I could tell, this place was all one building. Zane opened the door and we emerged into a foyer much like that of a house.

"Ok, then," Zane muttered, "Well, this is the school. Um, the dining hall is to the right, through that door." Zane pointed to a set of wooden doors.

"Can we see it?" Mum asked.

"Oh, sure," Zane hurried over to the left and pushed open the doors.

The dining hall reminded me of a dining room in someone's house, except with more tables. There were paintings on the walls and the tables had tablecloths covering them. Judging by the amount of tables and chairs, there were much less students in this school than the one in New York. I wasn't sure I liked that. The more students there were, the more likely chance I'd make a couple friends.

Zane then led us on a tour of the main floor of the school, which housed the library, his office, the other professors' offices, the nurse's office, and the common room. The common room looked much like an oversize living room, complete with mismatched couches, tables, and a crackling fire. And yes, there was only one common room. Apparently this school had so few students that they didn't have houses. That would be strange, I thought. I wondered how they played Quidditch.

Next we went upstairs, where all the classrooms were. They were all on one floor, which was a bit odd, but would make it easier to find them. So far everything seemed very cramped, despite the fact that the house was easily five times the size of mine. I guess it was due to the large amount of people inside it.

After the classrooms, we toured the dormitories, which were more like regular bedrooms than dorm rooms. They were decorated with fancy pictures and draping. It seemed like the kind of place Cinda would like. I personally thought there was far too much pink in the girls wing. If we moved there, I would have to do some drastic changes to one of those rooms in order to live in it.

Zane informed us that the grounds to the school were far larger behind the house than in front of us. He led us to one of the back doors and then out into the grounds. He showed us the Herbology greenhouses and the Quidditch pitch. There were a good amount of trees back there in order to hide the greenhouses and pitch from the rest of the town.

"It's not very rural," Dad muttered to Mum as Zane led us back into the school.

"No, it's not," Mum said back, "I was kind of hoping for something more rural than this."

Good, I thought, they didn't seem to like the school. I certainly didn't like it. There wasn't nearly enough space and the dormitories were far too frilly. Plus, the headmaster gave me the creeps.

Despite my parents' misgivings about the place, we went with Zane back to his office. Zane's office was much smaller than Oliander's and didn't seem as cozy either. There wasn't a fireplace or nearly as many books. It was a bit frilly, though, with doilies on the tables and fragile looking pieces of china.

"So, uh, any questions about the school?" Zane asked once we had all sat down.

"What sort of protections are on it?" Dad asked, "I noticed it's awfully close to the Muggle town. Hell, it's in the Muggle town."

"Oh, er, the usual standard protections. Anti-Muggle charms and such."

"Did you think at all about where my son would transform if he attended here?"

"Well, perhaps we could build a shed of some sorts on the grounds...."

"A shed?" Dad glared at Zane.

"If that's not satisfactory, we could come up with something else," Zane said nervously.

"It's not satisfactory," Dad muttered, "But I am not convinced this is an acceptable school anyway, considering how cramped the grounds are. A shed may very well be all that would fit."

"I'm sure we could work something out," Zane replied.

A loud bang on the door caused me to jump and I turned to see a very large man storming into the room. He had dark hair cut close to his scalp and his face was etched in anger.

"I'm in a meeting, Valsey," Zane said without bothering to stand up, "What is it you need?"

"Two of the students have dueled, each causing enough damage to the other to send them to the nurse," the man named Valsey said sternly, "The same two who keep dueling each other. We need to send owls to their parents."

"Fine, but it will have to wait," Zane told him.

Valsey turned away from Zane and peered at all of us. His gaze was seemed to penetrate my mind and I turned away from him. I seriously hoped I wouldn't have to go to this school.

"Something important, Zane?" Valsey growled.

"Very," Zane replied, "Remember the potential students I told you about a few days ago? These two are them."

Valsey glared at us and then smirked, "Ah, yes, the werewolf."

"Yes, so the owls will have to wait."

"If you don't mind," Valsey began, "I'll stay for this."

"Um, well, it was kind of a private meeting-"

"A werewolf in this school affects everyone," Valsey snapped, "And you know my opinion on this."

"But it's not your decision to make," Zane replied.

Valsey muttered something incoherent and then conjured a chair, setting it down next to Matt's. Valsey sat down and sneered at Matt, causing him to jump off his chair and climb onto Mum's lap.

"Now where were we..." Zane said.

"Actually," Dad began, "I think we'll have to cut this short. It seems that not all your staff is supportive of this, so I don't think your school is the right match for us."

Thank Merlin, I thought. This place was getting worse and worse by the second. It may have been survivable if that Valsey bloke didn't teach there, but he did.

"Professor Valsey has no say in the matter," Zane said quickly.

"Nevertheless, I cannot send my son somewhere where the teachers dislike him being there. Plus, I really don't think you are equipped to deal with this."

Dad stood up, "It was nice to meet you, but I think we shall be leaving now. We'll see ourselves out."

I got up and followed Dad out of the room, along with the rest of my family. Luckily Zane didn't follow us. Instead he stayed in his office arguing with Valsey. We quickly returned to the parlor and left the school. I felt immediate relief when I stepped outside the gates of the place.

"I think we can cross that one off the list," Uncle Jack muttered.

"I'd say so," Dad agreed.

"Guess we don't have to spend the afternoon looking at houses here, then," Mum commented.

Good, I thought. I had had enough house hunting to last me a lifetime.

"Anyone want to go to The Mooning Dragon for lunch?" Uncle Jack asked.

My parents agreed, so we all walked quickly back to the restaurant we were at earlier. I think Mum was relieved that we weren't going to eat there. We went inside and hurried over to the fireplace. The waiters and waitresses didn't say anything as we left their restaurant. The place was a bit busier now that it was closer to lunchtime.

I was prepared for the long floo traveling this time and it didn't bother me so much. I stepped out of the fireplace at The Mooning Dragon feeling a bit disoriented, but not nearly as much as I had been earlier in the morning.

Nat greeted us with enthusiasm once we had all flooed into her pub. We got a table and settled down into the homey atmosphere. Nat asked us how we had liked Salem and my dad just told her that it wasn't the right fit for us. She said she hoped we moved to New York. I was kind of hoping the same thing, if we had to move at all. I was still kind of holding out on my parents changing their minds, but if we had to move somewhere, I think I'd choose New York.

After the initial description of Salem to Nat, nobody mentioned the visit again. I was happy about this because I just wanted to forget about the creepy headmaster and intimidating professor we had met there.

Once we were done with lunch, we all went back to Uncle Jack's house. I played in the snow for a bit with Dad, Uncle Jack, and Matt. Mum stayed inside and tidied up Uncle Jack's house. He insisted she didn't have to do it, but Mum wanted to. She can never be in a messy place too long.

Dad still wasn't ready to decide to move to New York. He wanted to know all the professors' feelings about Matt attending their school and he wanted to see if any of the other schools had contacted us. Uncle Jack was acting like Dad was all ready to move there and was even giving him the name of the bloke who built his house. Dad had decided that if we moved to New York, we'd build our own house. I was happy about this, as I had hated each and every house Josephina Hawkings had shown us the other day.

The rest of our visit to New York went by fast. With the school touring and house hunting behind us, our remaining day was devoted to fun. Uncle Jack decided to take us cross-country skiing, which was quite the adventure since none of us had ever done it before. I was decent at it, but certainly wouldn't be winning any awards.

"I just don't see the point, Jack," Mum sighed as she got up from the snowy ground for what must have been the tenth time.

Uncle Jack skied gracefully over to her, "Once you get the hang of it, it's a very fast means of transportation."

"Aw, Jule, you'll get it eventually," Dad grinned at her. Dad was incredibly good at cross-country skiing for a beginner.

"Walking's faster at this point," Mum replied.

"We're almost back to the lodge," Dad told her.

"Yeah, Mum. And it's not that bad," I said. I kind of liked cross-country skiing. Especially when we got to go down the steep parts of the trail.

"Sometime I'm taking you downhill skiing, Amy," Uncle Jack grinned.

"I wish we could go tomorrow," I said. The next day we were flying back to Australia.

"I want to downhill ski, too," Matt announced. He tried to ski over to where Uncle Jack was, but promptly fell over. So far, he was skiing more like Mum than Dad or Uncle Jack.

"Sure," Uncle Jack smiled as he helped Matt up.

"Are you all right?" Mum asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Matt assured her. She had asked him if he was ok every time he fell over and it was getting a bit annoying. It's not like he could really hurt himself anyway, with the amount of winter clothing he was wearing.

"If you move here," Uncle Jack began, "We can go skiing all the time."

Mum groaned, "Maybe we should move to a warm climate. I ought to send an owl to the school in Florida."

Uncle Jack made a good point. So far I loved winter in New York and wouldn't mind being around for its entire duration. I shook my head. What was up with me? Was I actually warming up to the idea of moving? It was probably because I had been in New York for the past couple days. Once we got back to Australia I was sure I wouldn't want to move.

Both Mum and Matt fell over a few more times before we reached the lodge. Mum was getting fed up with it, but Matt was still happy. We returned our skis and set off to Apparate in the middle of the forest.

Dinner was relaxing and Uncle Jack made spiedies again. My parents talked more about the move. I read more of my book after dinner, while half-listening to my parents discuss house building. Matt fell asleep early on the couch next to me, probably half out of exhaustion from cross-country skiing and half because the full moon was a couple days away. After I'd read a couple chapters of my book, I went upstairs to watch the stars. It was my last chance to see the Northern night sky for a while and I didn't want to waste any of it. I didn't even want to go to bed, but eventually I was forced to pull down the shade and attempt to get some sleep. I really didn't see the point in sleeping since we would be on the plane all the next day.


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PostPosted: Saturday 8 November 2008 9:36:00pm 
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Great job, Duckie! I assumed they wouldn't be that institute, so yay!


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PostPosted: Saturday 15 November 2008 7:07:39pm 
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Thanks, Obladi! :grin: Yeah, you already know where they wound up, but I wanted to put in their trips to the other schools, too.

Comments, questions, and general reviews are always appreciated!

Chapter 20: Failed Inspection

"We'll owl you soon, Jack," Dad said at the airport the following day.

We were in the terminal waiting area and our flight had just been called to board. Uncle Jack had gone with us to the airport. To get there, we had flooed to the same dodgy pub we had used earlier in the week. The place was just as creepy as it had been before, and I would be happy if I never set foot in it again.

"Sounds good," Uncle Jack replied and clapped Dad on the shoulder, "Good luck with the decision about the move. I'll let you know when I'm going to fly down there once you tell me when you're planning on selling the furniture."

"Goodbye, Jack," Mum smiled, "And thanks so much for all your help this week."

"No problem, Julie," Uncle Jack grinned and gave her a hug, "Maybe next time you'll have a bit more success on the skis."

Mum looked as if she never wanted to see a set of skis again, let alone use them, but she nodded anyway.

"Bye, Amy," Uncle Jack said as he gave me a big bear hug, "I'll see you soon."

"Bye, Uncle Jack," I smiled and hugged him back.

Uncle Jack turned to Matt and picked him up, "Bye, Matt. I'll see you very soon, all right?"

Matt nodded, "I want you to come with us."

"I wish I could," Uncle Jack smiled, "But I have to work next week."

"Then I want to stay here," Matt said and clamped his arms around Uncle Jack's neck.

"Aw, you can't stay here," Uncle Jack replied, "You've got to go keep your dad, mum, and Amy company. They'd be awfully lonely without you."

"They'd survive," Matt said, "Or we could just all stay here."

Well, now it was obvious where Matt wanted to move.

"Sorry, kid," Uncle Jack sighed, "But you've got to stay in Australia for now. But I'll visit you very soon."

Matt nodded and Uncle Jack set him back on the ground. He waved as we joined the queue of passengers waiting to get onto the plane.

Our seats on the return flight were in the same general area as those on the flight to New York. Matt and I sat behind Mum and Dad. I was a bit less nervous about this flight, but still clamped my eyes shut during the take-off. I was glad I had eaten brekkie hours ago before the flight, as opposed to at the airport.

Once we were in the air, I took out my book and read it until I finished it. That used up a couple hours of the flight, but there were still hours upon hours to go. Flights to and from New York were probably the most boring things I have dealt with in my life. Well, not including all the parties I have been forced to attend with my grandparents.

Speaking of parties, I had nearly forgotten about the one Cinda was going to be throwing for us before we moved. She probably had already booked the caterers and thought about the decorating scheme. That, as well as my dress. I sighed to myself at the thought of wearing another hideous dress. Cinda was probably going to try and rope me into party planning in a couple days when I spent the full moon at her house. Dad hadn't really mentioned much about this full moon and when I was going to Richard and Cinda's. I guess he was preoccupied with the trip to New York. But the full moon was on Monday and it was now Saturday. Plus, with the time changes and everything, I was pretty sure it would be Monday when we arrived back in Australia. I hoped my parents wouldn't make me go straight to Richard and Cinda's from the airport. I wanted to at least go home and send an owl to Olivia about the trip.

The plane trip back to Australia passed the same way as the trip to New York. I fell asleep on and off, ate parts of the disgusting meals they served, and read an entire other book. My parents whispered to each other, but as far as I could tell it was only about the legalities of selling the house and setting up an 'estate sale' for selling the furniture. Not really something I wanted to listen to.

Eventually, my parents stopped talking and drifted off to sleep. Matt had been asleep for the past few hours. He hadn't been nearly as annoying on this plane ride than the other one. He hadn't sang '99 Bottles of Butterbeer On the Wall' at all and had slept most of the trip so far. Probably because the full moon was so near.

I looked up from my potions book disguised as a novel and glanced around at all the passengers. Most of them were asleep like the rest of my family was. We had had a layover in Los Angeles hours ago and now it was getting dark outside. I had slept a few hours prior to the layover and wasn't feeling very tired at the moment. I was just enjoying the quiet and the surprisingly smooth flight.

Night fell and we were still flying over the Pacific Ocean. I wasn't sure when we were supposed to land in Australia, but the flight had been delayed a few hours. I always wondered why Muggles didn't just schedule their flights to be a few hours later because they always got delayed.

Matt rolled over in his sleep and started mumbling. I closed my book and turned to look at him. He wasn't saying anything that made sense. I watched him for a few more minutes, unsure about whether or not to wake him. Then the mumbling turned into whimpering and then he started crying loudly.

The lady sitting across the aisle from us peeked her face out from behind her laptop and glanced at us, before returning to her work. I shrugged at her and turned back to my brother, whose crying was getting progressively louder.

"Mum," I reached over to my parents' seats and poked Mum on the shoulder, "Mum!" I shouted a bit louder.

"What is it?" Mum yawned and turned around.

"He's having one of those nightmares again," I told her, pointing to Matt.

Mum wordlessly got up out of her seat and motioned for me to switch with her. I got up and went to Mum's seat, but turned around so I could see what was happening.

"Matt, honey, wake up," Mum said softly as she pulled my brother onto her lap.

"N-no...make it s-stop...I d-don't want to!" Matt cried in his sleep.

"Shhh..." Mum soothed, "C'mon, it's just a dream. Wake up now...."

By now the lady with the laptop was staring again, as was the man next to her. I glared at them, but they didn't stop watching.

Matt rubbed his eyes and looked from Mum to me with a disoriented look on his face.

"It's ok, honey, you just had a nightmare," Mum said quietly.

Matt nodded and then winced. "Mum, my h-head r-really hurts."

"We'll be home soon," Mum assured him and hugged him closer to her.

"B-but it really hurts," Matt cried.

"Oh, honey, I can't do anything now," Mum sighed and then lowered her voice. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I assumed she was telling him she didn't have any potions with her.

"Mum, it's g-getting worse," Matt wailed after a few minutes. "M-make it s-stop!"

"I'm sorry, honey, I can't," Mum whispered, "Try and go back to sleep."

"Wha-what's going on?" Dad woke up suddenly and looked at me curiously.

"Matt's got a headache," I told him and pointed behind us.

Dad turned around in his seat and started whispering to Mum. Matt kept crying and was now attracting the attention of the two people sitting behind him. They were an elderly couple and had looks of concern on their faces.

A flight attendant walked down the aisle and stopped at our seats. "Is he ok?" she asked.

"He'll be fine," Mum replied.

"I've got some Tylenol, if you need any," the lady with the laptop announced.

"That's ok. Thanks anyway," Mum told her. Muggle medicines had absolutely no affect whatsoever on the headaches Matt got prior to the full moon.

"Are you sure?" the lady asked.

"Yes," Mum replied. "He just needs to go back to sleep."

The lady looked skeptical, but she finally went back to typing on her computer. Although she did glance up at us every once in a while. The man next to her went back to his book and the elderly couple started talking to each other.

"He's got a fever," Mum whispered to Dad.

"I thought we'd be back before it started," Dad replied. "Must have miscalculated with the time changes. I guess it's the equivalent of Sunday night now, or even early Monday morning. Damn."

"We're never traveling this close to it again," Mum said quietly. "Any idea how much longer?"

Dad glanced at his watch, "Maybe another hour."

Mum sighed, "He needs the potions."

"I know," Dad said, "We'll just have to make do with what we've got."

"Which is nothing," Mum snapped.

"Excuse me," Dad turned to another flight attendant who was walking by, "Have you got any ice, a towel, and a bottle of water?"

"Yes, of course," the flight attendant glanced at Matt and then hurried to the back of the plane.

She returned minutes later with a couple towels, two bottles of water, and a bucket of ice. Dad got up from his seat, took the ice and water, and then sat down next to Mum. He dumped a handful of ice into the towel, tied it up, and pressed it to Matt's head.

"We'll have to do this the hard way," Dad muttered, "Hold that to his head."

Mum nodded and took the towel from Dad. "Is this going to work?"

"I hope so," Dad said and opened up one of the water bottles. "Matt, you've got to drink this."

Matt opened his eyes, "Will it make my head stop hurting?"

"That's what we're hoping," Dad sighed and put the bottle to Matt's lips.

The ice and water must have helped because Matt started quieting down a few minutes later. I could tell his head still hurt because he was still wincing every so often, but at least he wasn't crying anymore.

Mum and Dad spent the remainder of the flight trying to keep his fever down. Laptop Lady asked if they wanted any Tylenol again and Mum declined. She told the lady he was allergic to it, which got her to stop asking.

The flight attendants let us get off the plane first, since Matt was sick. They hoped he felt better soon. We hurried off the plane and went as fast as we could through baggage claim and the security check.

"Are Richard and Cinda picking us up?" I asked after we'd finally finished all the security stuff.

"No," Mum replied, "They couldn't get us since it's so late. We're going to have to Apparate."

The closest Apparition Center happened to be a couple blocks from the airport. We tried to get there as fast as we could, but it was hard with so much luggage. Dad couldn't carry any luggage since he was carrying Matt, so Mum and I were handling four suitcases and four carry-on bags.

By the time we made it to the Apparition Center, Matt had started crying again and the old wizard running the Center eyed us warily as we entered. Dad nodded to him and motioned for Mum to hand him some of the luggage. He grabbed the handles of a couple suitcases and turned on the spot. Mum wrapped me in a hug and then we did the same with the rest of the luggage.

******

Mum and I Apparated into the kitchen and I immediately dropped the two carry-on bags I was carrying. Mum let go of the handles of the three suitcases she had and turned to Dad and Matt.

Dad was already rummaging around in the potion cabinet with Matt still crying in his arms.

There was a loud crack and I jumped and turned around. Ellie was standing near the table, looking nervous.

"Hey, Ellie!" I smiled, "What's up?"

"Welcome back, Amy," Ellie said quickly and then ran over to Dad, "Master, Ellie has to tell you something."

"What is it?" Dad asked without looking away from the cabinet.

"Someone is flooing into the house this evening. He is coming a few times, sir. He is saying he needs to speak with Master, but Ellie is telling him that Master is not here. He is not liking this and is even hitting Ellie once, sir. He is saying he will be flooing all night until he talks to you."

Dad froze and turned to look at Ellie. "He hit you?"

Ellie nodded, "He is, sir."

"Are you ok?" I asked, walking over to Ellie. Who was this bloke and why was he in our house? What did he think he was doing hitting Ellie like that? And why did he want to talk to Dad?

Ellie nodded, "Ellie is fine now."

"Who was he, Ellie?" Dad asked quietly.

"He is not telling Ellie his name, sir."

Dad glanced up at Mum with a worried look on his face. Mum's face had gone white and she looked even more worried than Dad.

A loud clunk came from the living room and I recognized it as the sound of somebody flooing into the house. I looked up at my parents and didn't move an inch. My heart was pounding as I watched the rest of my family. Nobody else was moving, either. The only sound that could be heard from us was Matt's crying.

I heard the thundering of feet on the hardwood floor and a minute later, a man appeared in the doorway. He was shorter than Dad and rather skinny. His hair was brown and untidy, with a dirty look to it. His gaunt face had a smirk on it and his eyes were very sinister. Despite the difference of appearance, he reminded me of Professor Valsey from Salem. I automatically took a step back and didn't look at him directly.

The man's smirk turned into a grin when he saw Dad and he walked forward to him. "Eckerton," the man said, "I was wondering when you'd show up."

"Lubar," Dad growled. "You know perfectly well that I've been on holiday."

Lubar, I thought, where had I heard that name before? I wracked my brain and then it hit me. Lubar, Ralph Lubar, the man from the article! He was the Head of the Werewolf Control Unit. The man who seemed to hate werewolves with every fiber of his being and wanted the strictest laws possible regarding them. And that was just what I had gotten from what he said in the article. No doubt he was worse in real life.

"I was wondering about that," Lubar sneered, "Awfully bad timing for a holiday, isn't it? Busiest time of the month for my department...."

"You also knew I'd be back before the full moon for obvious reasons," Dad replied.

"You're barely back in time," Lubar muttered.

"Full moon's not for nearly 18 hours," Dad said.

"Still, there's been a lot of preparation work that you've missed," Lubar said, stepping closer to Dad, "Minister wasn't too happy you were gone...."

"I don't need the Minister's approval to take holiday time," Dad seethed, "I have plenty of time stored up and can use it whenever I desire."

"Seems odd you've got so much time stored up when you take three days off every month," Lubar hissed.

"You know why I take those days off, Lubar, as does the Minister. They do not count as holiday time."

Lubar's eyes flitted to Matt, who was still in Dad's arms. He smirked again. "You're right, I do know that. Makes me wonder why you're taking holiday so close to the full moon."

"When I go on holiday is not your concern."

"Where did you go, Eckerton?"

"To visit my brother in New York, not that that is your business either."

"Fishy," Lubar muttered, "You're up to something, Eckerton."

"Why are you here, Lubar?" Dad asked, "Why floo over here every hour and terrorize and abuse my house elf while you're at it? She doesn't have to take orders from you. I could press charges, you know."

"But you won't," Lubar grinned sinisterly, "Oh, I know you won't...."

"Maybe not, but tell me what you're doing here. I'm here now, so what do you want?"

"Things have changed while you were on holiday, Eckerton."

"What do you mean?" Dad frowned.

"Ah, yes, things have changed indeed..." Lubar once again looked at Matt.

Dad noticed this and turned to Mum. "Why don't you give him his potions and put him to bed? Unfortunately, I've got work to deal with."

Mum nodded and took Matt from his arms. He was still crying and Mum tried to soothe him. She took the potions out of the cabinet and headed upstairs quickly.

None of the adults seemed to notice that I was still in the room and I wasn't going to call their attention to myself. Whatever was going on with Dad and Lubar was important, and I intended to find out what it was. Dad seemed to dislike Lubar more than anyone else I had ever seen. The two of them had obviously rowed before. I got the feeling that Lubar knew something Dad would not agree with.

"Now tell me what's going on, Lubar," Dad demanded.

"Laws have been passed, Eckerton," Lubar grinned, "Laws that you would have rejected. You've been overruled and the Minister has signed his approval."

Dad's face paled, "What laws?" he asked quietly.

"Well, all places of transformation have got to be inspected and pass inspection by a Werewolf Control Unit employee. If it doesn't pass, the werewolf using it has to transform in a Ministry approved center with other werewolves. The centers were constructed a few days ago."

"All right, fine," Dad muttered, "That one was going to pass soon anyway. But why in the name of Merlin are you here?"

If it was possible, Lubar grinned even wider. "For your inspection of course. The law states that all places of transformation have to pass inspection. All of them. That includes whatever one your son uses."

All the remaining color drained from Dad's face. "Lubar, you don't actually think I am incapable of providing a suitable place for my son to transform, do you?"

"I wouldn't know," Lubar replied, "I have never seen it."

Dad's face turned from fear to anger within a few seconds. "I know protection spells and charms that other wizards have never heard of. My son's place of transformation is probably the safest one in Australia," he growled, "I can do the inspection myself, thank you."

"Ah, but the law specifically states a Werewolf Control Unit employee."

"Which I was before I was promoted to Head of the entire Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!" Dad shouted, "I do not need you here, barging in here in the dead of night, to inspect my house!"

"If you had been here yesterday when I was doing other inspections, I would not have had to arrive during the night!" Lubar yelled back.

"I was on holiday!" Dad replied, "Now get out of my house!"

"Not before I complete the inspection," Lubar said, "The Minister himself wanted someone other than yourself to do your own inspection. It would have been a conflict of interest, don't you think?" Lubar pulled out a piece of parchment and tossed it to Dad. "Letter from the Minister, himself."

Dad grabbed the letter and quickly scanned it. He set it down and sighed. "Fine," he muttered, "But be quick about it."

"Excellent," Lubar sneered and pulled a clipboard out of his robes, along with his wand. "Show me the way."

Dad sighed and led Lubar out of the kitchen. I watched them leave and listened to their footsteps growing fainter and fainter. I couldn't hear Mum anywhere, so I figured she must still be with Matt. What I wanted to do was follow Dad into the basement. I was really curious about this whole 'inspection' thing. Plus, surely Dad and this Lubar bloke would be talking more about what was going on at work.

I walked over to the door and hesitated before opening it and glancing into the corridor. There was nobody there, but Dad had left the basement door open. Perfect. I'd be able to sneak down there without them hearing. I tip-toed down the corridor and over to the basement. Dad had turned on the lights and the entire stairway was illuminated.

I went quickly down the stairs and into the large basement. Our basement was finished and there were a bunch of rooms in it. Most of them were used for storage and the others were empty. Nobody really spent much time down there. There really wasn't any need when we had such a large amount of space upstairs.

I followed the sound of Dad and Lubar's voices through the maze of storage rooms and to the far end of the basement. Matt's transformation place was a large room without any windows. There wasn't any furniture in it, but the walls and floor were padded. Yes, I have a padded room in my house. When I was little, I kind of always wanted one, but not under these circumstances. Plus, it's not like Mum would let me goof off in it anyway. In fact, I hadn't been in it since Dad set it up.

Dad and Lubar were both inside the room. Dad looked tense and angry and Lubar was still wearing his sneer. I crouched outside the door and tried to breath as quietly as possible.

Lubar was waving his wand around the room and writing things down on his clipboard.

"What sort of things are you looking for?" Dad asked.

"Spells, charms, weaknesses in the walls, windows," Lubar muttered.

"Ah," Dad replied, "Makes sense."

"Indeed it does," Lubar said.

"Have most places passed inspection?"

Lubar glanced up from his clipboard. "Most have not," he answered. "In fact, pretty much all of them haven't. There will be plenty of werewolves transforming in the Ministry approved centers this evening."

"And how do you propose to make them go?" Dad asked, "Last I checked, it was difficult to force people to go someplace they do not want to go."

"Well," Lubar grinned, "The werewolves are required to give their names to the wizard running the center. If someone who's on the list doesn't show up, well, we get to pay them a visit the next morning. And that won't be pleasant for them."

The more I listened to what this man said, the more I hated him. He was downright creepy. He wasn't elaborating on what was going to happen either. Although I got the sense it was probably technically illegal.

"You have to stay within the laws, Lubar," Dad growled.

"Laws are changing," Lubar stepped closer to Dad. "And it is obvious to me that you have not read all the fine print of this one."

Dad looked at Lubar curiously. "What do you mean? And nobody has given me the fine print of the law. I just returned home a half hour ago."

"But of course," Lubar laughed and pulled a piece of parchment off his clipboard, "Read it for yourself."

Dad glared at Lubar and snatched the parchment out of his hands. I watched as Dad carefully read it. I wished I could read it. I doubted that Dad would ever let me read it, though. I'd be lucky if he explained the gist of it to me.

Dad looked up a few minutes later and he was wearing a look of shock, fear, and anger all at the same time. "What is the meaning of this?" he seethed.

"Why, it's what the Minister has approved," Lubar laughed, "So, you must know now that this room will not pass inspection."

I stared at Dad and Lubar, not being able to move a muscle. I could hardly breath. What did he mean, the room didn't pass inspection? How could the safe room, created by the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures not pass inspection? Did this mean that Matt was going to have to transform at one of those Ministry places?

"This law is unfair, Lubar!" Dad shouted, "This room is the safest place in the country for a werewolf to transform! No wizard in the country would be able to create a safe room within these regulations!"

"I find it very reasonable," Lubar replied, "It's not like you're violating a lot of the requirements...."

"Not violating a lot?" Dad yelled, "According to this, the entire room is a violation! According to this, all safe places must be their own contained building! Any room within a building is a violation! Is everyone just supposed to create a shed or something that's impenetrable?"

"That's the general idea," Lubar sneered, "That or transform at the Ministry center."

Dad's face turned ghostly white. "No. I will not allow it."

"You haven't got a choice, Eckerton!" Lubar laughed.

I was finding it increasingly creepy that this bloke was getting a laugh out of all the trouble he was making werewolves go through. He seemed to be enjoying the fact that Dad was violating the new law.

"Why even put that part in?" Dad asked, "Why should that matter?"

"You of all people should know why it matters," Lubar said quietly.

Dad stared at Lubar. "Why?"

"Your wife, your daughter. What if he got loose? He'd be in the house with them."

"He won't get loose," Dad growled, "The spells are too strong."

"No spell is foolproof," Lubar replied.

"Which is why my daughter stays with her grandparents every full moon," Dad told him, "Not that it's your business."

"And what about your wife?"

"My wife is perfectly capable of protecting herself," Dad said, "She knows the spells she'd need if Matt ever got out. Not that that would happen."

"You must not really believe there is no chance of that, if you send your daughter away," Lubar smirked, "But that is not relevant to the issue at hand. The point is, that your safe room does not meet Ministry standards. Therefore your son will be required to transform at the Ministry center."

Dad's face paled again. "That will not be happening," he growled.

"I believe it will," Lubar sneered, "Or you and your son will face the consequences."

"Oh, really?" Dad replied, "Did you forget who's head of the entire department?"

"Not at all," Lubar said, "But just because you're head, doesn't make you above the law."

"I'm well aware of that," Dad said, "But it would be inappropriate for my son to be in one of those centers."

"What makes you think that?" Lubar asked, taking a step towards Dad.

"He's only eight years old," Dad answered, "Do you honestly think I'd leave him in a room filled with adults he does not know?"

"He'll be a wolf!" Lubar shouted, "What does it matter?"

"What does it matter?" Dad roared, "What does it matter? He'll be the smallest wolf of the bunch! They'll rip him apart!"

"Then I suggest you get a safe room that adheres to the Ministry standards," Lubar replied.

"That is not possible before the full moon," Dad seethed, "You can yell and scream all you want, but my son will not be at your Ministry center this evening. He'll be here. And there's nothing you can do about it."

"Oh, believe me, there is," Lubar grinned.

"Fine. Do what you'd like. But I believe you have completed your inspection. Now get out of my house," Dad growled.

I quickly ran back through the basement and up to the main floor. I was into the living room before they even made it to the stairs. They appeared in the living room a few minutes later, neither of them saying a word. Dad glared at Lubar as Lubar threw some floo powder into the fireplace.

Lubar turned around as he stepped into the floo. "This doesn't end here, Eckerton." And with that, he disappeared in a cloud of green smoke.


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PostPosted: Saturday 15 November 2008 7:22:40pm 
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I don't think I've ever hated a character before as much as I hate Lubar. Maybe Kaden, in your first fanfic, but still... Great job Duckie! I may hate the character, but I believe I am supposed to, and I do. So, your writing did it's job, as per usual. Again, great job!


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PostPosted: Sunday 23 November 2008 4:56:04am 
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Thanks Obladi! :grin: Lubar only gets worse as the story progresses.

Chapter 21: Revealed

I didn't move a muscle as I watched Dad pace around the room. He had a pained look on his face and it hadn't regained much color. He also didn't seem to notice that I was there.

Mum came down a few minutes later with a concerned look on her face. Dad stopped pacing when he saw her and motioned for her to sit down.

"He's gone?" Mum asked as she took a seat on the couch.

Dad nodded. "Yeah. Is Matt asleep?"

"Yes," Mum replied, "Took a little while for the potions to kick in, but when they did he went right to sleep."

"Good," Dad said.

"What did he want?" Mum asked quietly.

Dad sighed and turned to Mum, not saying anything for a few moments. "The Minister signed one of the laws while we were gone. Well, he may have signed a few but we really didn't talk much about any others."

"Which one?"

"The one about the Ministry approved transformation centers," Dad told her, "Lubar stopped by to inspect the basement."

"What?" Mum raised her eyebrow, "Why couldn't you just do the inspection?"

"Conflict of interest, Lubar said, but I'm sure the underlying reason was to lord the new law over me, and the general pleasure of being the one to tell me I've failed the inspection-"

"What?!" Mum shouted, "He failed you!? But that's impossible! If our basement couldn't pass, no place could!"

"That's what I told him," Dad said, "I believe that was the general idea of the inspection part of the law. Make it so difficult that nobody would be able to pass, and every werewolf in the country would be required to transform at one of these centers."

"But why didn't the basement pass?" Mum asked.

"All places of transformation must be self contained buildings. No safe rooms maybe inside other buildings," Dad replied, "Absolutely ridiculous."

"What is the reasoning behind that?" Mum asked.

"There isn't any, really," Dad muttered, "Lubar says it's to protect people, but it's really just to make things more difficult."

"What does this mean? For us," Mum asked quietly, staring at the floor.

"There's not enough time to create a safe room outside of the house," Dad replied, "According to the law, Matt must transform in one of the centers."

Mum's jaw dropped and she turned as white as Dad. "No way. Absolutely not. I will not have it! I cannot let my son be in a room full of strangers! Strange adults! That is the most irresponsible idea I have ever heard in my life! You have to fight this, Walter. I will not allow it."

"It can't be fought," Dad said, "The Minister has signed it. Even if I brought it up with the Wizengamot as an unjust law, there's not enough time to get it rescinded. Not to mention the fact that the majority of the Wizengamot is sympathetic with the Minister's ideas..."

Mum stood up. "I don't care! I won't take my son to one of those places, I just won't!"

"Neither will I," Dad agreed, "We'll just break the law. Lubar says there will be consequences, but I don't care. He can do whatever he likes, but Matt will not be at one of those places this evening."

Mum sat down. "All right. I can handle that. But what are the consequences?"

"I didn't ask," Dad said darkly, "But I am sure they will not be pleasant."

"We've got to get out of here," Mum said.

"I know, Jule," Dad agreed, "We'll be gone soon enough."

"I'm not really sure I want to think about what's going to happen in the mean time, though."

"We have to face it, though, Julie. The fact is, I'm not sure how much longer I'll be working at the Ministry."

******

I went up to my room as soon as Mum and Dad left for the kitchen. They never noticed that I was in the room. Well, either that or they didn't really care that I was in the room.

Once I was in my bedroom and the door was shut behind me, I wrote a carefully worded letter to Olivia. I told her all about visiting New York, including the school and house hunting. I also told her about Salem and the creepy headmaster and scary professor. I wanted to tell her about what was going on with Dad's job, but I couldn't figure out a way to do it without giving away my brother's secret.

Despite the fact that it was nearly three o'clock in the morning, I wasn't tired at all. Instead of tossing and turning in my bed, I dragged a blanket out to my balcony and watched the stars.

As I watched them, I thought about what I had heard only a few minutes ago. From what I could understand, this Lubar bloke was out to get Dad. I had no idea why, but he clearly wanted to hurt him in some way. Probably by hurting Matt, which I thought was awfully cruel. Why did this bloke hate Dad so much? The feud between the two of them seemed to be much deeper than just what had gone on in the basement. There was obviously something that transpired between the two of them that Dad had never mentioned.

I wasn't really surprised at this. Dad had never elaborated much about what went on at work. I'm pretty sure that was because a lot of his work was kind of depressing. I wondered if he had ever told Mum about Lubar and whatever row the two of them had had before.

Was Dad really going to lose his job over this? What would happen if he broke the law? He obviously was going to break it, of course, but what exactly would happen? I hoped he wouldn't get sent to jail, but I kind of doubted he would ever willingly go. Plus, it would probably look bad if Magical Law Enforcement arrested the Head of the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures. Although I didn't really sound like Lubar cared about whether it looked bad or not.

Would it even be a bad thing if Dad lost his job? I wasn't too sure. He would obviously have to quit it within a couple months anyway. I was far more concerned about what kind of punishment Lubar was talking about. Was it punishment that went through the Ministry? A fine or something? Or was he talking about something that would be off record that he himself would execute? I wasn't sure, but I thought that Magical Law Enforcement usually handled punishment. Therefore I was kind of thinking that Lubar would be doing something that was off the record. To be honest, the idea of that scared me. Based on what I'd heard and seen just then, there wasn't really anything that Lubar wouldn't do.

I wasn't really aware of falling asleep on the balcony, but the next thing I knew, someone was prodding me and telling me to wake up. I opened my eyes and I squinted in the bright sunlight.

"Wha-what is it?" I yawned.

"You've got to get up," Mum said, "It's nearly four in the afternoon."

I sat up and met Mum's gaze. She looked awfully worried, even more so than usual.

"I'm taking you to Richard and Cinda's soon," Mum said, "Be downstairs in fifteen minutes."

"Where's Dad?" I asked, dragging my blanket back into the room. Dad was always the one to take me to my grandparents' house on full moons.

"At work," Mum sighed, "I'm not sure when he'll be back."

"You're leaving Matt alone?" I asked. I was shocked. Mum never left Matt alone, even when it wasn't the full moon.

Mum got a pained look on her face and I could see a few tears in her eyes. "I don't have a choice. I don't want to. But it will only be a couple minutes and Ellie's here...."

I nodded and she left the room. I wasn't any happier about being shuttled to Richard and Cinda's this month than any other, but I decided I'd better just hold my tongue. This month was even more stressful than usual and I wasn't sure what Mum would do if I started refusing to go to Richard and Cinda's.

Mum was waiting for me in the kitchen ten minutes later.

"How's Matt?" I asked as I walked over to her. His door had been shut when I walked by.

"He's sleeping. Ellie's in his room right now," Mum replied, her face still etched with worry. "Come on, we've got to do this quickly."

I wordlessly stepped over to her and she wrapped me in a hug. With a crack, we Disapparated and a moment later, we were in Richard and Cinda's living room.

Richard and Cinda were not in the room when we arrived. Mum said goodbye quickly and Disapparated before either of my grandparents made an appearance.

Cinda walked into the room a minute later and looked around curiously. "Hi, Amy. Where's your father?"

"At work. Mum took me, but she had to leave as soon as she could since she left Matt alone with Ellie."

"Ah," Cinda replied, "Well, dinner will be ready in about an hour and a half. You're welcome to ask Kenzie to dine with us. But first you must tell me all about your trip!"

I forced a smile onto my face and sat down with Cinda on the couch. I told her all about the trip, down to the last detail. She seemed very interested in the whole thing.

"Oh, I've got to tell you about the party!" Cinda exclaimed after I'd finished telling her about the trip, "I've got the plans pretty much set and the invitations sent out!

I groaned to myself. "Cinda, honestly, I don't think a party is the best idea," I said, thinking of the stress that my parents were now under. A party might put them over the edge.

"Nonsense. A party is what they need. The two of them are always so tense. They ought to loosen up. Parties are the best way to do that," Cinda smiled, "Anyway, I've got it scheduled for Saturday, April sixth. That ought to be enough time for your brother to recover."

Yes, that was plenty of time, but who knew what would be going on with the Ministry and Dad's job then.

"Cinda, I'm begging you," I pleaded, "Cancel the party."

"Oh, don't worry," Cinda said, "You'll have fun. Kenzie's family has already RSVP'd and said they'll come."

Well, that was a plus, but I still didn't want a party. And I knew my parents wouldn't. But, I knew this was a lost cause. There was no way Cinda would ever cancel a party.

"Fine," I muttered, "I'm going to call Kenzie."

Kenzie came over as soon as I called her. She immediately wanted to know how the trip to New York was, and I told her as much as I could without giving away the magic parts. She still couldn't believe that we were actually going to move. Then I told her that my parents were going to sell the house and much of what was in it.

"Really?" Kenzie stared at me open-mouthed, "But I thought you said that house has been in your family for generations!"

"It has," I told her, "But my dad talked to my uncle and they both agreed the best thing to do was to sell it. Neither of them think they're ever coming back here, so it would just sit empty."

"Never?" Kenzie whispered, "There's no chance of you moving back?"

"Not one," I replied, thinking of what was going on at the Ministry.

"Wow," Kenzie said, "I guess maybe I thought you'd come back, you know, after a few years or something."

"I don't think we will."

"But why are they selling the furniture and stuff?" Kenzie asked, "Won't you need that in your next house?"

"Not all of it," I replied, "The next house is going to be much smaller."

Kenzie laughed, "You serious? You won't be living in a mansion? You'll be in a normal house?"

"Yeah," I couldn't help but grin. It was kind of a strange idea, since I couldn't really remember ever living in a normal sized house. "My parents didn't see the need to purchase a mansion wherever we move."

"Any idea when you're leaving?" Kenzie asked after she'd stopped laughing.

"Not really," I said, "I mean, my parents like New York, but I think they want to visit some other schools first. So probably a couple months or so."

"Well, that's good," Kenzie said, "We'll get to see each other a couple more times. Plus there's your grandparents' party."

"Don't remind me," I groaned, "My parents are going to be so upset about that. I don't even want to know what they're going to say to Cinda when they find out about it."

"Your parents really hate parties, don't they?"

"Yeah," I answered, "I can't blame them. Everyone who goes to my grandparents' parties are too stuck up for my liking."

"Agreed," Kenzie replied, "But I'll be at this one."

"Which will make it better for me, but my parents are still going to hate it."

Kenzie stayed at my grandparents' house until late into the evening, when her mum called her home. I stayed up late again since I had slept until four in the afternoon. Who knew when I would actually get back on a normal sleeping schedule.

I paced around my awful bedroom wondering about what was going on at my house. I wished more than ever that I was allowed to stay there over the full moon. Would Lubar wait until morning to hunt down my dad? Or would he show up as soon as Matt didn't show up at the Ministry center? Or maybe he would just find Dad at work the next day. I wondered if Lubar would have the nerve to start something with Dad while the two of them were at work. I tended to think he would, and it worried me that the Mister sided with Lubar. I mean, the chances were pretty high that the Minister would just ignore whatever Lubar did to Dad the next day. The only chance of Lubar getting in trouble would be if Magical Law Enforcement got involved. I wasn't really sure Dad would alert them to anything anyway, since he was breaking the law anyway. I wished I knew what the punishment for breaking this law would be. All the uncertainty was driving me mad.

It was obvious the next morning that Mum and Dad hadn't told Richard and Cinda about the new law and everything that was going on as a result of it. The two of them seemed blissfully ignorant when I sleepily made my way downstairs for brekkie. Cinda was talking to Richard about all the party plans and Richard was nodding his head as he drank his coffee.

"Good morning, darling!" Cinda grinned as I poured myself a bowl of cereal. "Did you sleep well?"

"Not really," I said flatly. Of course I hadn't. I didn't get tired until about two in the morning, and then I couldn't sleep because I was so worried about Dad. Not to mention the fact that I don't usually get much sleep during full moons anyway.

"Well, is there anything special you'd like to do today?" Cinda asked, "I've got to go into Sydney to pick up some party supplies. Want to come?"

"Not really. But I would like to go home," I said as I sat down to eat my cereal.

Cinda gave me a strange look. "But Amy, you know you can't go home yet."

I nodded. I never asked my grandparents' to go home the morning after full moons. There wasn't any point, really, since Mum wouldn't let me. But this month was different.

"I want to at least ask if I can go home now," I mumbled.

Cinda put down her mug and looked at me. She took my chin in her hand and turned my head to face her. I glanced up and saw that there was actually concern in her eyes. Usually Cinda just focused on what she wanted and what was going on with herself and didn't pay much attention to others. I was a bit surprised that she seemed genuinely concerned.

"Amy," she said quietly, "What's going on?"

I put down my spoon and turned away from her. I could feel the tears starting to spring up in my eyes and I didn't want her to see. Mum and Dad hadn't told my grandparents' about what went on after we got home from New York, and they hadn't told me whether I should tell them or not. I had no idea what they wanted me to do.

"Can I just talk to Mum?" I asked. Come to think of it, could I even talk to Mum? We didn't have a phone at home and I didn't have an owl here. Nor was my grandparents' fireplace connected to the floo network.

"Can you talk to me?" Cinda asked, "Maybe I can help."

"You can't," I replied, still not looking at her. Richard was looking at me strangely, but he didn't say anything.

"Why?" Cinda asked, "Tell me what's going on."

I shook my head and the tears started to fall out of my eyes. I didn't want to tell Richard and Cinda about Dad's job. Well, I kind of wanted to, but I wasn't sure if my parents would want me to.

"Does this have to do with your brother?" Cinda asked.

I nodded my head reluctantly, but didn't elaborate.

"What is it?" Cinda asked, "Did your parents think something would happen last night?"

Cinda gently turned my head to face her again when I didn't respond after a few moments. I didn't meet her gaze and just stared down at the table.

"Amy," Cinda said gently, "If something horrible happened, your mother would have told us as soon as possible. It's ten o'clock in the morning. If something happened, she would have told us by now."

I nodded, but this didn't ease my fears. It wasn't my brother I was worried about. It was Dad and what was going to happen when he went to work. I was worried about what Lubar would do. The creepy bloke couldn't do a thing to Matt with Mum and Dad protecting him, but I was worried about what he would do to Dad.

"I-I just want to talk to Mum," I said again. "Do you know if there's anyway I can?"

Cinda sighed. "Your mother does have a mobile phone for emergencies. She didn't want you to know about it because she didn't want you calling and demanding when you could go home. I have no idea what you're so worried about, but I will give her a call."

I nodded and Cinda got up from the table. She picked up the phone and punched a few numbers into it. Someone answered a few moments later. Cinda talked in a hushed voice and I couldn't make out what she was saying. A few minutes later, she wordlessly handed me the phone.

I took it and ran out of the kitchen and into the drawing room, shutting the door behind me.

"Mum?" I whispered into the phone.

"Amy, what on earth is wrong?" Mum asked in a tense voice.

"I just want to know that everything is ok, you know, with Dad and that bloke he was arguing with."

Mum paused for a moment before answering. "Everything is fine for now. Dad's at work and I haven't heard anything."

"Mum," I said quietly, "I-I want to come home now. Please can I? I can't take it not knowing what's going on."

Mum sighed. "Amy, I'm kind of busy right now. Your brother," Mum paused, "Well, it wasn't one of the better nights. I think it had to do with the time zone changes and loosing a day when we flew back home."

I nodded and then remembered that she couldn't exactly see me. "All right," I croaked, "Well, just, call or come and tell me if anything bad happens or something."

"I will, Amy," Mum replied, "I'd better go. I love you and I'll see you soon."

"Love you, too, Mum," I said and turned off the phone.

Cinda was waiting for me when I returned to the kitchen. I didn't meet her gaze as I put the phone back.

"Everything ok?" she asked.

I nodded, "Yeah. Well, Matt had a bad night. Mum thinks it's because of the time zone changes, but she's not sure."

"He'll bounce back," Cinda replied, "He always does. Now, I'm taking you with me to Sydney to buy party supplies."

"But-"

"No buts. You're coming and that's that," Cinda said adamantly. "Now go get dressed. We're leaving in a half hour."

I groaned and trudged up to my room. I knew there was no getting out of it. Cinda was trying to distract me from what was going on at home. I threw on an old t-shirt and pair of jeans that I knew Cinda wouldn't want me to wear.

Cinda dragged me from store to store the entire morning. I didn't say much during the entire trip, but Cinda kept up a running commentary about the party. Then she took me out for sushi, despite my telling her I didn't want to. The idea of eating raw fish grosses me out. I got plain vegetable sushi, which was ok, but I wouldn't be itching to have it again. The afternoon was spent shopping as well. The only good part about it was that Cinda didn't make me get a new dress.

I was completely knackered by the time we got home and all I wanted to do was go to bed. I was forcing myself to at least stay awake until nine o'clock, though, to try and get used to my usual time zone. Cinda had picked up take-out pasta on our way home and we ate that for dinner. Cinda told Richard about our day, but I kept quiet the entire meal. My mind was still reeling about Dad's job and his row with Lubar. Cinda's distraction shopping trip hadn't worked in the slightest.

After dinner I went into the living room and tried to get lost in a new book, but even that wasn't having its usual effect. This stay at Richard and Cinda's was going to drag on forever, I just knew it. The words blurred on the pages as I let my mind wander to what was going on at home. I glanced at the clock and saw it was nearly seven o'clock. Dad probably wasn't home yet.

A loud crack startled me out of my thoughts and I dropped my book in surprise as I saw Mum standing in the middle of the room. Her hair was disheveled and there were dark circles under her eyes. That was about the only color on her pale face. She looked more tense and worried than I had ever seen before, which was saying something.

"Amy." Mum's voice sounded strained and almost like she was trying to hold back tears. "You're coming home now. Get your stuff quickly. I haven't got time to explain right now."

I stared at her and then jumped up, running all the way to my room. What was going on? Did something happen to Dad? I was thinking up the worst possible scenarios as I threw all my stuff into my bag and ran from my room. Did he and Lubar duel each other? Or did Lubar do something sneaky and underhanded?

"Mum!" Mum shouted as I ran back into the room, "Dad! I'm taking Amy home now!"

Cinda ran into the room a few moments later, with Richard close behind. Both of them wore looks of confusion.

"What's going on?" Cinda asked. "Is Matt ok?"

"Yes, he's fine, for now," Mum replied, "I really haven't got time to explain anything. I'll talk to you soon, I promise."

"Julie," Richard began, "What's wrong? I've never seen you look this worried. What's happened?"

"I really can't talk about it right now," Mum's voice cracked, "We've got to get back home. I'll contact you soon."

"But, Julie-"

"Dad, listen to me, I can't talk right now," Mum pleaded, "I will tell you soon, I promise you that."

Richard sighed and then nodded. Cinda was still staring curiously at Mum. I muttered goodbyes to both of them and then went over to Mum to Apparate.

We Apparated directly into the kitchen and once we were there, Mum immediately released me and started crying. I dropped my bag and went over to the table, where she had collapsed onto one of the chairs.

"Mum," I said, "What's happened?"

Mum cried for another minute before wiping her eyes and looking at me. "L-Lubar," she began, "Has announced to-to the entire c-country that your brother is a werewolf."


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PostPosted: Sunday 23 November 2008 5:29:22am 
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Holy cr*p.


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PostPosted: Monday 1 December 2008 4:36:50am 
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Thanks Obladi! :grin: Quite the cliffy, huh? :lol:

Sorry for the late update. I was home and Obladi came down to visit, so I was pretty busy.

Chapter 22: Suspended

I stared open mouthed at Mum for a few seconds. I had thought that the names of underage werewolves were protected by the law and they wouldn't be released until the werewolf in question became of age.

"What do you mean?" I asked, hoping Mum would actually answer my questions, "How? When?"

"This afternoon," Mum said, her voice still wobbly, "He was angry that Dad wouldn't allow Matt to go to the approved Ministry center. Dad lodged a complaint about the law with the Wizengamot. Apparently Lubar 'let it slip' that Matt was a werewolf while he was getting a cup of coffee. The information quickly made its rounds and now the entire Ministry knows, as opposed to just the Werewolf Control Unit."

"But, but, isn't that illegal for him to do that?"

"Technically, yes," Mum growled, "But seeing as nobody will actually say who they received the information from, the only proof is Dad's testimony. Which of course will not hold up in court since he is biased."

"What's going to happen now?" I asked quietly.

"I'm not entirely sure," Mum replied, "But this is not going to be easy. Amy, I'm explaining all about this now, because within the next few days we are surely to be on the receiving end of many owls from the general public. Not to mention the newspaper articles."

I nodded. "Where's Dad?"

"Upstairs with your brother," Mum answered, "Which reminds me, I don't want you to go in his room for the rest of the night. He needs to rest."

"Ok," I mumbled, "I think I'll go to bed."

I walked slowly up to my room. I paused outside Matt's door, which was open. Dad was sitting on a chair next to his bed and absentmindedly messing with Matt's hair while staring off into space. He didn't notice as I walked quietly by. Matt was sound asleep.

As soon as I'd changed into my pajamas, I went out onto the balcony. I stared up into the sky and thought about what was going to happen now that the entirety of wizarding Australia knew that my brother was a werewolf. There were reasons why Mum and Dad never told anyone. Reasons why I was forbidden to mention it to anyone at school. As much as I hated not being able to be truthful with my friends, I knew the reasons behind it.

My parents tried to make our lives as normal as they could, and part of that was keeping Matt's condition a secret. People would not only look at him differently if the knew, but they'd look at our entire family differently. Of course, the effects of it on me were minuscule compared to what it would be like for Matt. Because we had been so secretive about it, nobody looked at him differently as we walked around amongst wizards, nobody shunned him, nobody refused to let their children play with him, nobody looked at him with fear. All that would change now. Before they just saw a small, quiet boy. Now they would look at him and only see the raging monster he became on one night out of twenty-eight. It was really quite unfair.

The second reason why my parents kept it a secret was Dad's job. The implications of the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures having a werewolf son could be disastrous. Any bit of pro-werewolf legislation that he tried to pass would be seen as him trying to make life easier for his son. People would consider him incredibly biased.

Dad had been the Head of the Werewolf Control Unit when Matt got bitten. He was promoted to Head of the entire magical creatures department just six months afterwards. Dad had always been sympathetic towards werewolves, even before Matt was bitten, and many people were against his promotion. But, there wasn't anything they could do about it. Now, there would be grounds for him to be fired.

And all because of some stupid law. A stupid law that required an eight year old boy to be alone in a large building filled with adults. What kind of idiots would pass such a law? The idiots who believe werewolves to be less than human. I was sure that was how Lubar had rationalized the entire thing.

My mind was racing about what was going to happen. Mum had mentioned us getting nasty letters by owl. I decided I just wouldn't read any. They'd go straight to the bin. Despite all that I had on my mind, I fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion only a few hours after I had gone up to my room.

I woke up the next morning with an awful ache in my back and crick in my neck. I groggily opened my eyes and glanced around. I remembered that I had fallen asleep on the balcony, without any pillows or blankets.

I groaned and got up, remembering the past night's events. I changed quickly and then went downstairs to find a potion for my aching back. The kitchen was deserted when I went downstairs. There were signs of life, though. Empty bowls in the sink, and the newspaper lying on the table.

I grabbed the paper as soon as I'd taken my potion. I waited a few moments before looking at it, though. Did I really want to read the article that I knew would be there? Of course I did. Curiosity always got me in the end. I took a deep breath, looked down at the page, and prepared myself for the worst. There it was, right on the front page.

HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT FOR THE CONTROL AND
REGULATION OF MAGICAL CREATURES'S SON IS A WEREWOLF


Well, nobody will every be able to say that
Walter Eckerton doesn't bring his work home
with him. Yesterday, an unknown Ministry
employee leaked the information that Walter
Eckerton's 8-year-old son is a werewolf.
No one is sure who leaked the information,
and it is widely known that the names of
underage werewolves are normally kept secret
until they become of age. This is why Walter
Eckerton's son has been kept under wraps for
so long. (continued on page 4D)


I hurriedly turned to page 4D and began to read the rest of the lengthy article.

Long since known as a supporter of werewolf
rights, Walter Eckerton has been Head of the
Department for the Control and Regulation of
Magical Creatures for nearly two years.
Before that, he was Head of the Werewolf
Control Unit, and worked in that department
prior to becoming the Head.

Wizards and witches alike are now positive
that most of Eckerton's pro-werewolf laws
are due to his son's condition, despite the
fact that Eckerton was known for his sympathy
prior to the attack on his son.

Details about the attack, that occurred just
over two years ago, are slowly coming to light.
Matthew Eckerton, 8, was attacked at a Muggle
campground sometime between Christmas and New
Years in 2010. He was five years old at the
time. We have not yet been informed of the
attacker's identity.

There have been murmurings throughout the
Ministry since yesterday afternoon about
whether or not Eckerton will keep his job.
Many people have shared that they do not feel
that Eckerton is able to do his job properly
with a werewolf for a son. A few are horrified
that he was even selected for the position in
the first place.


I set the paper down and glared at it. How could they write that? Just because Lubar had outed that Matt was a werewolf at work yesterday didn't give the paper the right to write an entire article on it. Wasn't that law about keeping the names of underage werewolves secret supposed to prevent this type of article? And why should Matt's being a werewolf get Dad fired? He had done a plenty good job for the past two years, so why should he get fired now?

I turned back to the front page to check if there were any other articles that I ought to read. Dad had said the werewolf attacks were increasing, so there may have been one this month as well. Sure enough, there was a very small article about a man who was attacked. I imagined that article would have been the front page article of Lubar hadn't have announced that Matt was a werewolf.

Below the article about Dad was yet another article about him. I quickly started reading it.

MINISTRY EMPLOYEE BREAKS WEREWOLF CONTROL LAW

Less than twenty-four hours before the
announcement that Walter Eckerton's
son is a werewolf, the man knowingly broke
the newest law regarding werewolf control.

The law, known as Werewolf Control Law 56,
requires all places of transformation pass
an inspection by an employee of the Werewolf
Control Unit. The law was signed by the
Minister five days ago. If a place of
transformation fails inspection, the werewolf
in question is required to transform at a
Ministry approved facility. (Werewolves
using the Wolfsbane potion are exempt,
providing that they can give the Werewolf
Control Unit the proper documentation).

Eckerton has long since been sympathetic
towards werewolves and rejected this law
only a few short weeks ago. His department
overruled his rejection and presented the
law to the Minister, who immediately approved
it. Eckerton was mysteriously absent from
work while that took place. Ralph Lubar,
Head of the Werewolf Control Unit says,
'We're not really sure where Eckerton
went. I mean, he said he was going to
visit his brother in the States, but who
knows? He's been awfully secretive lately.'

Wherever Eckerton was, he was not at work
to voice his disapproval of the law. In
fact, Eckerton had no knowledge that the
law had passed until Lubar showed up to
do his inspection on Monday.

To the shock of many people, Eckerton
failed his inspection. 'His safe room was
in his basement,' Lubar told us, 'It had
proper spells around it, but under the new
law, all safe rooms must be self contained
buildings, not a room in another building or
home. It's for the safety of everyone.'

Eckerton was told his son would have to
transform at one of the Ministry centers, but
he flat out refused to comply. Evening came,
and Eckerton's son never showed up at any of
the centers.

What can be said when the Head of the Department
for the Control and Regulation of Magical
Creatures doesn't follow the laws set by his
department? Eckerton is still employed by the
Australian Ministry, but is facing charges for
breaking this law.


I swallowed hard as I set the paper back down on the table. Dad was facing charges. Was he going to go to jail? I shook the thought from my head and turned away from the paper. I didn't care if there were any other articles in it about Dad. I didn't want to read them. They were painting Dad in such a horrible light.

The house remained quiet for much of the day. I didn't see Mum until the early afternoon, when she emerged from Matt's room. Apparently she had been in there the entire morning. I asked her how he was doing and she said he was better, but definitely not back to normal. She told me not to bother him and I certainly wasn't going to argue. Mum still looked extremely stressed out and knackered. I asked her about the articles and she told me it was only the beginning.

"What about the charges?" I asked quietly as she and Ellie prepared dinner.

Mum put down her wand and met my gaze. "What about them?"

"Well, what's going to happen? Is Dad going to have to go to jail?"

"I don't think so," Mum replied, "But I'm sure there will be a hearing. I'm not entirely sure of the details."

I nodded and didn't ask anything else. Dinner was very quiet and subdued, especially since it was only Mum, Ellie, and I who were eating. I didn't even bother to ask when Dad was coming home. Who knew what was going on at the Ministry that day.

Mum went back to Matt's room after we'd finished eating and I went up to mine. I immediately noticed Olivia's owl sitting on my desk as I entered the room. She had probably seen the paper that morning. I hoped she wasn't too mad at me for never telling her about Matt.

I took the letter from the owl, gave her some treats, and sat down on my bed to read it.

Dear Amy,

I'm not even sure what to say, honestly.
I was thoroughly shocked when I read the
paper this morning. The whole school saw
it, too. They all looked to me for answers
since I'm friends with you, but I had no
answers for them.

Part of me is angry at you for not telling
me, but I know it wasn't really your decision
not to tell me. But, really, how could you
keep that from me? Is this the real reason
why your parents wouldn't let me go to your
house? Were they afraid that I'd find out
and tell everyone I knew? I wouldn't have,
Amy, I really wouldn't have. Is this why
your parents are so protective of your
brother? Probably.

Is this also why your parents had that row
with Killigan? I kind of think the two are
connected. Why in the name of Merlin would
your parents pull you out of school and move
across the world just because of an argument?
The argument was about your brother. Was it
because Killigan wouldn't let him go to
school with us? Is that why you're moving so
far away? So your brother can go to school?

I got your letter about New York. The school
there sounds nice. Let me know if you go to
visit any others. Write back really soon. I
want to know what's going on.

Your friend,
Olivia


I set down Olivia's letter and stared out the window. At least it didn't seem like Olivia was too angry with me. It honestly wouldn't have surprised me if she totally flipped out, in letter form of course. This was a secret I'd been keeping from her for over two years. Ever since Matt had become a werewolf in the first place. I still remember when I went back to school after it had happened. I was still upset about it, but I couldn't tell Olivia. She asked me about it for weeks, but I never told her what was wrong. Eventually she just gave up and forgot about it.

I sighed and went to my desk. I pulled out a piece of parchment, a quill, and a pot of ink. I was going to tell Olivia the entire story now. She knew Matt was a werewolf now, so what could the harm be? I wanted her to understand the whole thing. I was sick of lying to her. And most of all, I wanted to tell someone about it. I had never once talked to anyone about Matt being a werewolf, outside of my family.

Dear Olivia,

First, I'm really sorry for not telling you
about my brother. My parents made me promise
never to tell anyone about it. Remember back
in the beginning of second year when I was so
upset and wouldn't tell you why? Matt got bit
over the summer before that year.


I continued and told Olivia all about the camping trip and how Matt got attacked there. I told her about how the Wolfsbane potion wouldn't work for him and how Mum and Dad made me stay with my grandparents every full moon. I told her everything I could possibly think of.

Next I told her everything about the move and the issues going on at Dad's work. My letter was practically two feet long by the time I'd finished it. I stuffed it in an envelope and sent it off with Olivia's owl, who had conveniently stuck around while I wrote it.

I stepped out onto the balcony and watched the owl fly away. Somehow I felt much better after writing that letter. I was still incredibly worried about what was going to happen, but I also felt sort of calm. It was a bit strange.

I decided to go downstairs and see if Dad was home yet. I went into the living room and found both him and Mum sitting in silence on the couch. They both looked tense.

"Hey, Dad," I said as I walked into the room.

"Oh, hi, Amy," Dad replied tiredly.

"Um, how was work?" I asked tentatively.

Mum and Dad glanced at each other before Dad replied. "I've been suspended without pay."

I stared at him in shock as I sat down on a nearby chair. "What does that mean?" I asked quietly.

"Technically, I'm not fired, yet," Dad said flatly, "I won't be working for the next week, until the hearing. Hearing's a week from today. Then they'll decide if I'm fired or not."

"So, you might not get fired?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be fired. The Minister's got the Wizengamot in his pocket. This is just a formality."

"But we're moving anyway," I pointed out.

"I know," Dad said, "But if I'm fired here, it'll make it harder to get a job elsewhere."

Dad didn't elaborate on what else went on at work that day, but judging by his hardened expression, it wasn't anything good. I went back up to my room a short while later and read my book until I fell asleep.

******

Despite the fact that Dad didn't go to work the next day, I hardly saw him. He and Mum went back to their routine of spending hours at a time in Dad's study. I still had no idea what they did in there. Every once in a while one of them would come out and go up to Matt's room, but they never told me what they were doing. Matt still hadn't completely recovered from the full moon and was spending the day in bed again.

I spent the day brewing potions and thinking about everything that was going on. I couldn't believe that Dad was actually going to get fired just because Matt was a werewolf. It didn't seem fair at all.

Right before dinner, Mum and Dad finally emerged from Dad's study. Mum told me she was going to Apparate to Richard and Cinda's to tell them about what was going on. Dad and I waited silently in the living room for her to return. I got the impression that Dad didn't really feel like talking.

Mum appeared with a crack about a half hour later and she sat down on the couch next to Dad.

"What do they think?" Dad asked.

"They don't really quite understand," Mum replied, "Which makes sense since they're Muggles. But they can see why we're so stressed out."

Dad nodded, but didn't say anything.

"But they think it's awful that you might get fired over this," Mum said, "They don't see how you could get fired just because Matt's a werewolf."

"Technically, I won't be fired because of that," Dad muttered, "On the record, I'll be fired for breaking the bloody law that they passed while we were gone."

"Right," Mum sighed.

"But everyone knows the real reason is because Matt's a werewolf," Dad said.

Neither Mum nor Dad said anything after that. The two of them just stared off into space and I turned back to my book. None of us moved or talked much until we heard Matt come in a half hour later.

Both Mum and Dad looked up quickly when he came in. Then they shared one of those parental looks that drove me mad. Although I was pretty sure I knew what this one meant. They hadn't told Matt about any of this yet.

Matt walked into the room and I saw that this month he had his arm in a sling, and there was a partially healed deep gash on his forehead. He went over to Mum and climbed into her lap.

"Hi, honey, how are you?" Mum asked gently.

"Hungry," Matt replied.

"Well, that's a good sign," Mum gave him a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "But before we eat, Dad and I have to talk to you about something."

"Okay," Matt said.

This was it. They were going to tell him about everything that had happened the past few days. I kept my eyes on my book, but I didn't actually read it. Instead I listened to everything they said.

"Remember when Dad and I told you that we can't tell anyone about what happens once a month?" Mum asked quietly. Matt nodded. "Well, some people Dad works with have always known and they had to promise never to tell anyone." Mum turned to look at Dad.

"Do you remember the man who came to the house the night we got back from New York?" Dad asked.

"No," Matt replied.

"Right," Dad said, "You were kind of asleep then. Anyway, that man kind of told everybody what happens once a month?"

Matt stared at Dad and then turned back to Mum. "But, but, you said that if people know about that, then they might not be nice to me," his voice wobbled.

Mum glanced at Dad and sighed. "Yes, I did tell you that. And, it's true. People might not be nice to you now that they know."

"But why?" Matt's voice cracked.

"It's just the way things are," Mum said and I could see tears starting to form in her eyes. "I know it's not fair."

"Why'd that man tell everyone?" Matt cried. "You said they all promised not to tell."

"Because he was mad at me," Dad answered quietly.

"Why?"

"When that man came to the house that night, he came to tell me about a new law that passed while we were visiting Uncle Jack. Because of that law, you were supposed to go to a special place to turn into the wolf. With other people who turn into wolves, too."

Matt's eyes got big and he stared at Dad in shock. "But I don't want to do that! I want to stay here and go to the basement. Don't make me go somewhere else!" He threw his arms around Mum and started crying into her shirt.

"We'll never make you go there," Mum soothed, "Never. You'll stay here to turn into the wolf. Don't worry."

"B-but D-Dad said I h-had to."

"I chose not to obey that law, Matt," Dad said quietly, "I couldn't make you go to that place. And I never will."

"But it's the l-law," Matt wailed, "W-won't you g-go to j-jail now?"

"No, not jail," Dad said, "I have to go to a hearing."

"Wh-what will they d-do at th-that?"

"Decide what my punishment will be," Dad replied, "But it will not be jail time. It will most likely be a fine. And I might lose my job."

Matt picked his head up and stared at Dad. "You'll g-get f-fired. B-because of m-me?"

Dad pulled Matt onto his own lap and looked him in they eye. "No. Not because of you. Never think that this is your fault. It's the Ministry's fault. They're passing laws that are outrageous. This was my decision not to follow an unjust law. None of it is your fault."

Matt nodded and continued sobbing. He buried his head in Dad's shoulder and Dad hugged him for a while. Mum rubbed Matt's back as tears streamed down her face. I watched and couldn't help but feel like I was intruding on something.


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PostPosted: Monday 1 December 2008 9:11:20pm 
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Location: Where no man has gone before.
Awwwww. I'm really sad now... I hope everything turns out okay. Good job, Ducky.


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