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, aeroplane 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 any 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 aeroplanes 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 bitten 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 centre. 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."
A/N: Thanks to my two betas: My sister, Dancer_of_Starlight, and Joanne K, who Aussie-proofed this for me! Thanks as well to Joanne K and XDNLxtlz99 for their reviews!
Just a note about the airport stuff. I haven't been on a plane since I was 5 and that was 15 years ago, so I'm not entirely sure I got all the details about security and flying right. I'll just plead artistic license on that.
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