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."
"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 Regulation and Control 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 appear 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 Minister 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 to 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."
"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."
"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."
A/N: Cliffhanger. Sorry! I have to put them in occasionally. Thanks to my betas, Dancer_of_Starlight and Joanne K! Thanks as well to Ms_Krum, XDNLxtlz99, Jen, and JKRowlingFan22 for their reviews!