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Chapter 18 : House Hunting
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Also, this chapter is about half the length of the other chapters. I didn't realize this until now and I've already got the rest of the story split up into relatively even chapters, so this one's just going to be short. Sorry about that!
We wound up having lunch at the Mooning Dragon and Nat was delighted to have us there. Roberts 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.
A/N: Thanks to my betas, Dancer_of_Starlight and Joane K! Also thanks to Joanne K and XDNLxtlz99 for their reviews!
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