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 Regulation and Control 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 Regulation and Control 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 nose back into my potions book and got absorbed in 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 toilet. 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 toilet. 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. My parents like the food, too. They think I'm just picky.
"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 carton 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 aeroplane 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 carton 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 vomit 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 125 millilitres. This was beyond disgusting. It was one thing to chunder in your own house, but on an aeroplane 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 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'. They 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. Aeroplane 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 small 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.
A/N: Thanks to my betas, Dancer_of_Starlight and Joanne K! Thanks as well to XDNLxtlz99, Joanne K, and inkheart for their reviews!