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Chapter 23 : Fired and Fined
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The next week passed quickly and my parents got more stressed out as the day of Dad's hearing loomed closer. The two of them spent an increasingly large amount of time in Dad's study, leaving Matt and I to do as we pleased. I spent most of my time brewing potions or wandering around in the forest. Mum seemed to have forgotten about my 'home schooling', which was fine by me.
Apparently at some point during the week, Cinda told Mum that she wanted us to go over to her house for dinner on Friday night. I had to turn away from Mum when she told us this, because I knew the real reason was for the party. I was torn about whether to tell my parents about the party or not. Eventually I decided not to, since if I told them, Cinda would get mad at me. But if I didn't say anything and pretended to not have known about the party, nobody would get mad at me.
Olivia owled me back a few days after I explained about what had happened. She said she wasn't mad at me and I was relieved. Olivia's letter was the only nice letter any of us had received the past few days. Mum had been right about the amount of owls that she thought we'd get. The few days following the article in the paper, we must have gotten at least 100 letters. And all of them were incredibly rude or downright mean. I didn't personally receive any, as most of them were for Dad or Matt. But my parents didn't let Matt read any of them. They wouldn't even let me read any, but I did read a few that I intercepted before Mum or Dad could spot the owl.
The day before Dad's hearing was probably the tensest day I had experienced since the few days following the night Matt got attacked. Neither of my parents spoke at brekkie and they went to Dad's study immediately following.
I dumped my empty bowl and cup in the sink and decided to go read in the living room. I was on my way there when I saw an owl flying towards the house. Not another one, I groaned. I sighed and opened the window for the owl.
The letter it had in its beak was very large. I took it and the owl left immediately. It was addressed to my entire family. I tore open the envelope and out fell a magazine. That was it. There was no note or anything to tell me who it was from. Just the magazine.
I turned it over and gasped when I saw the cover. It was the latest edition of Aussie Magik and there on the cover was a huge picture of my family and I. The picture had to have been at least two years old. My brother and I looked much younger, but my parents looked about the same. Well, they did look calmer and less worried if you looked close enough.
Aussie Magik is a magazine that reports on the current happenings of all the celebrity witches and wizards of Australia. My family appeared in it occasionally years ago, before Matt got bitten, but they hadn't printed an article on us in ages. The last one was shortly after Matt got bitten and it basically talked about how we had stopped appearing at public events and such. The reasoning they gave was that my parents decided to raise Matt and I away from any sort of fame.
Across the picture, right under the title of the magazine was the title of the article. Scandal at the Ministry: What Really Happened to the Eckerton Family. I groaned out loud as I read it. This certainly wouldn't be good.
"What's that?" Matt asked.
I jumped, having forgotten he was still in the room. I turned to face him and hid the magazine behind my back. "Er, nothing," I replied, not wanting him to read it. "I'm going up to my room. Don't follow me."
I ran from the room, leaving Matt standing confused next to the table. Despite my misgivings about the article, I still wanted to read it. I just didn't want my brother to read it. I was sure it wouldn't paint him in a good light.
Once I had the door shut behind me, I laid down on my bed and opened the magazine. I quickly flipped past the advertisements for Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, the latest broomstick, and a fancy robe shop somewhere in Sydney. Past the articles about witches who had divorced their husbands and remarried just weeks later. Past the article about the witch who just gave birth to quadruplets. That one would have probably been the front page article if it weren't for this whole mess with the Ministry, I thought.
Right after the article about the quadruplets was the article about my family. There was a two-page photo that was different than the one on the front cover. It happened to be our family portrait from three years ago. I was dressed in lavender robes and my hair was actually down and curled. I still remembered the fuss Mum made over my hair that day. I was eleven then and had wanted to wear my hair in its usual ponytail, but Mum wasn't going to allow it. Matt stood next to me in navy blue robes. Dad's robes matched his and Mum's robes matched mine. I still had those robes in my closet.
I flipped the page and took a deep breath as I began to read the article.
The Eckerton Family had it all. Fame, money, and
the mansion on the hill. They were at every
event in the Wizarding World, and a few in the
Muggle world as well. What happened two years
ago when they just seemed to fall off the face of
the earth? We were told that Walter and Julietta
Eckerton wanted to raise their children away from
the fame and fortune, but we recently found out
that that's not exactly what happened.
Walter Eckerton was born to Conan and Nancy Eckerton,
the then owners of the Eckerton manor and everything
that went with it. Walter was their first son and has
a brother four years his junior, Jacob, who lives in
New York State. When Walter was attending The Australian
School of Sorcery, he fell in love with a shy Muggle-
born, Julietta Bailey. Julietta was born to Richard
and Lacinda Bailey, who happen to have their own
fortune in the Muggle world. One could say that it was
a story for fairy tales.
The fairy tale was set to continue when Walter proposed
to Julietta and the two of them were married. The two
decided to start a family a few years later, and that was
where trouble began. The Eckertons had problems getting
pregnant. They tried for years to conceive, but had no
When Walter was 35 and Julietta was 34, Julietta finally
became pregnant. The couple was thrilled and life was good.
Amy Marie Eckerton was born on October 27, 1998. Walter
and Julietta enjoyed a few years of joy before their
lives took a turn for the worse. Conan and Nancy
Eckerton were killed in a fiery car accident three and
a half years after Amy was born. Walter and Julietta
were both devastated and wizarding Australia was shocked.
The will was read and Walter had inherited the mansion,
along with a good part of the fortune. Jacob inherited
the rest. Walter moved into the mansion with his family
shortly there after.
The Eckertons had wanted multiple children and had been
trying to have a second child ever since Amy was two,
but it once again proved difficult. Both parents were
beginning to think they would never have another child,
due to their increasing age. However, luck was once
again on their side, and three years after the devastating
loss of Conan and Nancy, Julietta was pregnant once again.
They were not without worry, though. Julietta was 40 when
she became pregnant and the pregnancy was full of
complications. Julietta gave birth to a son, Matthew Conan,
on February 6, 2005, two months before the baby was actually
due. The baby was premature and had to stay at the hospital
for a month and a half, but after that month and a half, he
was fine. It seemed like things were once again looking
up for this family.
Life continued for the Eckerton family, and although
they did not have anymore children, they were happy. Amy
began attending The Australian School of Sorcery in 2010.
Then, in early 2011, the Eckerton family suddenly stopped
wanting to be in the public's eye. They stopped attending
events and seemed to retreat from life. We were told that
Walter and Julietta wanted to begin to raise their children
differently than they both had been raised. Away from fame.
Away from reporters and fancy dinners and such.
The wizarding world believed this. They believed it for
two years. During those years, Walter was promoted to
Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of
Magical Creatures, from his former position of Head of the
Werewolf Control Unit.
And that is where this fairy tale story of Walter and
Julietta Eckerton takes a drastic turn for the worse. In
late December of 2010, the Eckerton family decided to go
camping like Muggles. During one of the nights while they
were camping, a werewolf came upon the camp.
The werewolf attacked Matthew, who was only five at the time.
Walter was able to save his son and help capture the werewolf,
who currently resides in prison. But life for the Eckertons
had changed forever. The Head of the Werewolf Control Unit's
son was now a werewolf.
Life as the Eckerton family knew it was over, and the wizarding
public was fed the lie about Walter and Julietta wanting to
raise their children away from the media. In reality, they
retreated in order to keep the fact that Matthew was a
werewolf a secret.
This worked well for just over two years. The Eckerton family
was no longer in the spotlight and slowly but surely the rest
of us thought less and less about them. Despite the lack of
publicity, the Eckertons by no means became less influential
in the world. Walter Eckerton furthered his career even more
when he became the Head of the Department for the Regulation
and Control of Magical Creatures in July of 2011, a mere six
months after his son became a werewolf.
That's right, Walter Eckerton became Head of the entire
department even though his own son is a werewolf. That bit
of information was kept secret as Eckerton was promoted.
Eckerton was promoted to the position by the former Minister,
Zachary Afton, when the former Head and current Minister,
Vincent Gabishi, quit to devote more attention to his
campaign. Afton, more commonly known as 'The Minister who
twiddled his thumbs all day', was widely known as an advocate
for half-breeds, including werewolves. Eckerton shares those
views, so naturally, Afton appointed him to the position.
Gabishi, currently known as 'The Minister who passed more
legislation in one week than Afton passed during his entire
term', has drastically different views than both Eckerton and
Afton. He advocates stricter laws and harsher penalties for
those who break the laws. Gabishi's views are shared by a
majority of those who work in the Werewolf Control Unit,
including the Head of said department, Ralph Lubar.
It is this that brings us to the most recent scandal. The
most recent law that was passed, Werewolf Control Law 56,
was passed and signed by the Minister shortly before the
most recent full moon. Eckerton rejected this law weeks ago,
but the decision was overruled by his department. The
Minister signed it while Eckerton was mysteriously away
on holiday. The Eckertons returned from holiday the day
of the full moon, to find that their son's safe room had
to be inspected by a Werewolf Control Unit official.
The strict law requires all safe rooms to have certain
spells and charms put on them, as well as have them be free
standing buildings, not rooms in buildings that house people.
Eckerton failed his inspection, as his son's safe room is
inside of his house.
According to the law, Eckerton was required to bring his son,
who for reasons unknown at this time is not on Wolfsbane, to
a Ministry created safe house that houses many werewolves
during the full moon. Eckerton refused and never showed up
with his son.
The Eckertons kept their secret safe for over two years. The
only people to know about their son were those who worked in
the Werewolf Control Unit. It is illegal to reveal the names
of underage werewolves. Despite this, somebody leaked the
information the day after the full moon, and it was front page
news the following day.
What will happen to the Eckertons now? How could one of
Wizarding Australia's most prominent families be facing a
Ministry hearing and possible punishment? Eckerton is not
only facing a punishment for breaking the law, but it is also
highly possible that he will lose his job. Then what? It is
rumored that the Eckertons are considering leaving the country.
An unnamed source has told us that Amy didn't return to school
this past January. One witch who preferred not to have her
name mentioned in this article swore she heard that the Eckertons
are going to integrate themselves into Muggle society.
Whatever the Eckertons decide to do, we will be following up on
this story. If anyone has inside information, please owl it
I tossed the magazine onto my bed as soon as I'd finished reading the article. I glared at it, almost wishing I could set it on fire with my mind. What did they think they were doing, publishing that article? The thing practically told my family's life story, complete with a bit about my parents getting married.
It was the kind of sob story gossipy old witches lived for. The happy wealthy family facing tragedy and then a scandal. At least it hadn't mentioned too many horrible things about werewolves. But now the entirety of wizarding Australia was going to know when and where Matt got attacked. My parents tried so hard to hush that up and now everyone would know.
My parents were going to want to see this article, I thought. I picked it up and left my room. I really had no idea where my parents were, but they had to make an appearance at some point. I mean, they had to eat eventually.
Mum and Dad did emerge from Dad's study around lunch time, although neither of them looked like they wanted to read an article in Aussie Magik that was about themselves. Nevertheless, I slapped it down on the counter in front of Mum as she prepared sandwiches.
Mum took one glance at the front cover, gasped, and dropped the fork she had in her hand on the floor. Dad immediately went over to her and looked over her shoulder at the magazine. He picked it up and flipped to the page that the article was on. I stood silently behind them as they read.
"Where did you get this?" Mum asked once she was done reading. I couldn't see her face, but she talked with no emotion whatsoever, so I imagine her face looked like stone.
"An owl brought it. No note or anything with it. Just addressed to the whole family," I said quietly.
Mum nodded and Dad tossed the magazine into the bin. "Did your brother see this?" he asked.
"Good," Dad replied.
"Could've been worse," Mum whispered.
Dad nodded and went to sit at the table. Mum and I followed suit once she had finished making the sandwiches. Matt and Ellie joined us a minute later and we ate in silence.
The whole rest of the day was spent in silence as well. I worked on potions by myself for the whole afternoon and then I joined my family for another tense, quiet meal. Matt was really the only one who ate much. The rest of us were far too nervous about Dad's hearing the next morning. I pushed my food around on my plate for a while before excusing myself and going up to my room to stargaze and read the rest of the night.
Dad left for his hearing early the next morning. I was eating brekkie as he left and Matt wasn't even awake yet. His expression was emotionless and his face set in stone. He barely said a word, except a short goodbye to Mum and I. We wished him luck and then he flooed to the Ministry.
I had no idea what time he would return and didn't bother to ask Mum. She was tense and snappy the entire morning. She yelled at me for the smallest things, like leaving my book on the couch or not putting my dirty dishes in the sink. I didn't say a word back, because I knew she was just worried about Dad. I was, too. Mum was even short with Matt and snapped at him for spilling his milk. She rarely ever yells at him and certainly not for spilling milk. He started crying at this and Mum quickly apologized.
After that I just retreated to my room for the rest of the morning. It's always best to just stay out of Mum's way when she's stressed. I only returned to the main floor when I got hungry a few hours later.
Mum, Matt, and Ellie were already eating soup in the kitchen when I got there. I sat down wordlessly and started eating mine. The tension was so thick in the room that even Matt wasn't saying anything.
I was just finishing up my soup when I heard the familiar sound of someone flooing into the house. Mum and I looked up at each other and quickly got up from the table, with Matt and Ellie following.
Mum made it into the living room first and I followed only a second later. I saw Dad standing perfectly still with a large box in his arms. His face was hard and his eyes cold. I had rarely ever seen Dad with such an expression on his face. I would not want to be on the other end of his wand at that moment.
I stopped when I was just inside the doorway, but Mum went over to Dad and put her arms around him. He shook his head and sat the box down on the floor. Then he sat down on the couch and Mum sat next to him. I remained standing where I was, with Matt and Ellie just behind me.
"What happened?" Mum asked softly.
"Fired," Dad muttered, not looking at Mum.
"It's all right," Mum replied, "We figured it was coming."
"I know," Dad said.
"But what about the hearing?"
Dad glanced over to Matt and I and then continued staring at the floor. He must have decided that it was all right for the two of us to hear about it, since he didn't tell us to leave the room.
"Entire Wizengamot," Dad began, "Minister, too. They talked for about a half hour about the law and the charges. Then the Minister called in the witnesses, including Ralph Lubar. The git. Nobody mentioned that it was him who announced to the entire Ministry that Matt's a werewolf. In fact, that was never mentioned at all.
"Then, I gave my defense. After that, they deliberated for quite a while, although I'm not sure what they talked about. It was pretty obvious that they were all against me. The Minister read the verdict with a smirk and then informed me that I was fired. Told me to go and clean out my office. Went to do that and had to squeeze through a sea of reporters. Told them nothing. Cleaned out my office and left. Went to go have a drink and then came back here."
"We'll get through this, you know," Mum said quietly, "What happened today sounds awful and I've lost all respect for our Ministry, but we will get through this. We still have our family."
"I know, Jule," Dad sighed and hugged Mum, "I know."
"What was the verdict?" Mum asked after a few minutes.
"Guilty, of course," Dad said.
"I meant the punishment," Mum replied.
"Oh, right. Fine. They won't jail me. That would make them look bad. Jailing a prominent Ministry employee. Hefty fine, though. 1,000 Galleons."
Mum let go of Dad and stared at him. "1,000? That's ridiculous. What do they think they're going to spend that on?"
"Probably Gabishi's next campaign," Dad said bitterly.
"That's awful," Mum said, "They should donate it to a charity or something."
"They really should," Dad agreed, "I'd vote for the Lycanthropy Awareness Fund."
"That would be excellent," Mum said.
"But it would never happen."
"Of course not."
"Well, at least we're getting out of here," Dad said, "I never thought I'd be this eager to get out of this country."
"Me either," Mum agreed.
"To be honest," Dad began, "I'm kind of surprised we kept this a secret this long. I mean, considering my job and everything. I knew there was a possibility of this when I accepted the promotion."
"Don't blame yourself for what's happened," Mum said, "Never would have happened if that law wasn't passed."
"I know," Dad sighed.
"And we'd be moving even if you weren't fired. We decided to move months ago when Matt wasn't accepted to the school."
"I guess that's true."
"Right. So let's just move on. We'll concentrate on finding a new school and go from there. I'd like to visit at least one more place if that's all right."
"That's fine. I kind of would like to do the same."
"Good," Mum said, "There's some soup in the kitchen if you'd like some."
I took that as my cue to leave and went back up to my room. The hearing sounded absolutely awful. I couldn't believe that Dad was actually fired. It just seemed so strange. I never would have guessed that he would ever be fired from any job he ever had. I just hoped he'd be able to find a job wherever we moved.
Mum and Dad seemed much less tense when I went down for dinner. I guess they had come to terms with what had happened and were trying to put it behind them. I wanted to do the same, but it was hard. The two of them wanted to leave Australia, so it was easy to just look forward to moving. I still didn't want to move.
"Amy," Mum smiled at me as I sat down next to Matt. "We just got another letter. We'll be visiting Scotland shortly."
"That's great," I smiled back, although I wasn't too happy about visiting Scotland. If we had to move anywhere, I wanted it to be New York, not Scotland.
"Yes, we got a letter from the Headmaster of Hogwarts," Dad explained.
I spat out the milk I had been drinking. "H-Hogwarts?"
"Yes, that's the name," Dad smirked.
"Bit of an odd name," I coughed. That had to be the funniest name I had ever heard of for a school. Who would name a school Hogwarts?
"Well, no matter what it's called, the Headmaster would like us to visit," Mum said.
"When?" I asked.
"We're going to Cinda and Richard's for dinner tomorrow, so not immediately," Mum began.
Cinda's party. I had completely forgotten about that. I guess she wouldn't be making me purchase another fancy dress. Of course, since it was a surprise party, I probably wouldn't be getting dressed up for it anyway.
"So we were thinking middle of next week," Mum continued, "If we can get plane tickets on such short notice. If we wait much more than that, we'll have to do it after the next full moon. I don't want to run into the same problem we had when we went to New York."
I nodded. Great, more plane trips. Hopefully this would be the last trip, though. It seemed like my parents wanted to move soon, so I doubted we would visit anymore schools after this. Unless of course Britain had more than one wizarding school.
"Are we just visiting this Hogwarts place?" I giggled as I said the name.
"Yes, just that one," Mum told me, "Britain only has one wizarding school. The closest school to Hogwarts is in France and none of us speak French, so we didn't even bother to owl them."
"Ok, so a short trip?"
"Right. Only four days or so," Dad said.
"Where are we staying?" I asked, since we had no relatives in Scotland.
"I suppose I'll have to book a room someplace near the school," Dad said, "Hadn't really given that much thought yet. I know there are a couple places in the nearby village. Jack and I have traveled there before."
I took that to mean they had searched for the Hallows near there. That was pretty much the reason for all of Dad and Uncle Jack's traveling when they were younger.
The remainder of dinner was more lively than meals had been in over a week at my house. My parents told Matt and I what they knew about Scotland and Dad shared stories from when he traveled there years ago. I was actually beginning to look forward to visiting Scotland, but I still didn't want to move there.
A/N: Thanks to my betas, Dancer_of_Starlight and Joanne K. Thanks as well to teddysxxgirl for the review!
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