Liz was very distraught as she got in her car and drove off. She fought back tears the whole time she was driving across town to her mother’s home, and the moment she pulled into the driveway she could hold them in no longer. She turned off the car’s engine and laid her head against the steering wheel in despair, and her tears dripped down onto the leather.
Several different things were contributing to Liz’s current heartache, and she wasn’t sure which was hurting her the most. She was upset at herself, of course, for walking out and leaving Charlie like that, and she was also upset because this was the first real fight the two of them had had – although Liz wasn’t sure if this even counted as a fight. Additionally, she was hurt because Charlie had been avoiding her all week when she had needed to talk to him, and she was also angry at her husband for springing this whole “wizard” thing on her once she finally got the chance to talk to him.
More than any of these other emotions, though, Liz was afraid. Deep down, she was afraid for her husband’s sanity, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. This whole week of Charlie avoiding her had made Liz afraid for their relationship; she feared that she was losing her husband. And when they’d finally sat down to talk about things, he’d told her he was hiding something from her, which, at the time, had seemed to confirm her worst fears. But just when she expected Charlie to admit to infidelity and say that he was leaving her, he’d completely changed gears and thrown in this confession… or joke… whatever it was.
As she sat there crying in her car, Liz kept trying to tell herself that this was just some elaborate hoax Charlie was trying to pull off, because believing that it was a joke was much easier than the alternative. She’d much rather believe that her husband was being an arse than believe that he was actually insane. The thought that this was a cruel joke made her even angrier, though, because although Charlie’s antics normally made her laugh, his timing on this one was horrible.
As the September sun’s rays shone through the windows on Liz’s car, the temperature inside it rose. The leather of the steering wheel got hot against Liz’s forehead, and the air inside the car got stuffy, making it hard for her to breathe. When she’d been sitting there for about ten minutes, Liz could take it no longer. She sat up straight and, in an effort to prevent her mother from seeing her so upset, wiped the tears off of her face and gathered her composure before removing her keys from the ignition and stepping out of the rapidly-warming vehicle.
A stray tear rolled down her cheek as she made her way up the steps to her mother’s front door, and Liz hurriedly wiped it away with the side of her left hand. She came to a stop when she reached the door, taking a deep breath and forcing a fake smile onto her lips before twisting the knob and entering. As she closed the door behind herself, she called out to her mother in an effort to locate her.
“Mum, it’s me,” she called loudly. “Where are you?”
“In the kitchen, Lizzie,” her mother called in return.
Liz rolled her eyes at her mother’s use of the nickname “Lizzie” as she walked down the hallway and turned to the left, entering the bright yellow kitchen to find her mother slumped over the sink, washing dishes. She leaned against the door frame and crossed her arms, shaking her head slightly at her mother’s refusal to use the dishwasher.
“Why do you still call me that?” Liz asked playfully. “I’m not twelve anymore, Mum.”
“I know how old you are,” Amelia Hunter replied in her British accent, “but you’ll never be too old to be my Lizzie. Or would you prefer for me to call you Elizabeth?” At this, she stopped washing dishes and dried her hands on a towel, and once she’d finished drying her hands she turned around to gauge her daughter’s reaction to her teasing with a huge smile on her face. “Elizabeth” was the only name Liz hated worse than “Lizzie.” Her smile quickly faded, however, and a shadow of concern spread across her face as soon as she saw Liz.
When she saw the look on her mother’s face, Liz knew that, despite her efforts at hiding it, her mother knew something was wrong. Panic set in as she tried to maintain her composure, and she flashed her mother a reassuring smile. She could tell by her mother’s facial expression, however, that the fake smile hadn’t fooled her for one second.
“What’s wrong?” Amelia asked as she walked towards her daughter.
“N–nothing,” Liz stuttered, shaking her head.
Almost as though she already knew what was wrong, her mother asked, “Where’s Charlie?”
Liz tried for several seconds to come up with a response to her mother’s question, to tell her that Charlie was just taking an after-work nap, but she couldn’t seem to open her mouth. Hearing Charlie’s name had completely undone every bit of composure she’d managed to muster, and the twinge of pain in her heart made it impossible for her to get any words out. Her eyes began leaking tears once again, silently conveying what her lips could not.
She tried to hold herself together, even after the first tears fell, but when her mother quickly walked up and wrapped her arms around her, Liz fell apart. She started sobbing uncontrollably, leaning her head against her mother’s shoulder for support. She cried in a way she hadn’t for a very long time, until the top of her mother’s shirt was soaked with her tears. She cried until she couldn’t cry any longer, and only dry sobs escaped her throat.
When the crying ceased, Liz’s mother patted her back and said softly, “Why don’t you go have a seat in the living room, dear? I’ll bring you a nice strong cuppa, and you can tell me what’s going on.”
“Okay,” Liz whispered in response. She raised her head up off of her mother’s shoulder and wiped her cheeks with her fingertips, and when Amelia removed her arms from around her daughter, Liz quickly and quietly made her way into the living room, taking a seat on the sofa and staring down at the coffee table.
When her mother entered the living room a few moments later, Liz eagerly took the large cup of tea from her. She took slow sips, and something about the beverage’s warmth seemed to ease her tense muscles. By the time she’d finished the cup, Liz felt more relaxed than she had in a while. Seeming to sense her daughter’s anguish slowly dissipating, Amelia Hunter finally broke the expectant silence that the two of them had been sitting in as she took the cup from Liz and placed it on the coffee table.
“Now then,” she said, “why don’t you tell me what’s going on with Charlie?"
“I don’t know, Mum,” Liz replied, staring at her empty cup. She paused before continuing. “He’s either pulling a very mean prank on me, or he’s lost his mind.”
“What sort of prank?” her mother asked, confusion evident in her tone.
Liz took a deep breath to steady herself before answering. “When he got home from work today, he told me that he’s been hiding something from me. I was expecting him to tell me that he was cheating on me or something, but instead he said that magic and technology don’t mix, and that he’s a wizard.”
As she said this last word with incredulity, Liz turned her head to the right to look at her mother. But rather than wait to see or hear her mother’s response to the statement, Liz characteristically kept chattering away. “I mean, I know it’s probably a joke. Well, it has to be a joke, because otherwise Charlie’s gone mad. But it’s a really stupid joke. I mean, when I laughed, Charlie just kept acting so serious. I was trying to have an important conversation with him… why would he keep joking if he knows it’s upsetting me?”
At this point, Liz had talked until she had no air left in her lungs, and she’d also worked herself up to the verge of tears once more. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply to steady herself before reopening her eyes and gazing into her mother’s. What Liz saw in her mother’s eyes shocked her. She had expected to find sympathy, concern, worry, or sadness in her mother’s eyes. Instead, she found something completely surprising and unexpected: anger. A temporary, deafening silence passed between the two women as Liz furrowed her eyebrows and continued to look into her mother’s eyes, searching for an explanation for the unexpected emotion they showed. When she could bear the silence no longer, Liz asked, “Mum, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, dear,” Amelia replied, seeming to snap out of some sort of trance.
“Well, then why are you angry?” Liz asked, clearly confused.
“I’m – I’m not, Lizzie,” her mother reassured her. “I’m just a little confused, is all. What did Charlie say about technology and magic?”
“Well, you know Charlie’s always had trouble with electronics... I always say he repels technology. But today he said that all the problems he has with technology are because magic and technology don’t mix. And then he said he’s a wizard.” Liz stopped speaking and huffed loudly, a sign of her immense frustration. Then she buried her face in her hands and tried to organize her chaotic thoughts. She removed her hands only a moment later and continued speaking.
“I know it’s only a joke,” she said, “but he seemed so serious! He even had a stick hidden in our bedroom; he tried to convince me it was his wand.” She gave her mother a sarcastic look as she said this last word, and she expected her mother to laugh in response. Instead, Amelia’s face fell, and she covered it with her hands, sobbing.
Liz immediately fell into a state of panic; she didn’t understand why her mother was reacting this way. She quickly scooted closer to Amelia on the sofa and pulled her into a hug. “Mum, what’s wrong?” she asked repeatedly. She waited several moments for a response, but her mother said nothing and continued to sob heavily. When nearly ten minutes had gone by, and Liz’s question still hadn’t been answered, she pressed.
“Mum, please talk to me!” she pleaded. “Tell me what’s going on!”
“It’s all my fault!” Amelia sobbed. “I should have known… I should have seen this coming!”
“Seen what coming?” Liz asked, feeling as though she was losing her mind.
"This!” Amelia replied, finally removing her hands from her face. “I should have seen this coming; I should have known that Charlie was a wizard!”
Taken aback, Liz leaned away from her mother and looked at her suspiciously. She surveyed her mother’s crying face for a moment as she pondered what was going on. Making her decision quickly, Liz released Amelia from the hug she still had her in and crossed her arms. She glared at her mother as she said, “Really, Mum? You’re in on it, too?”
A wild, frantic look crossed Amelia’s face, and she said “No,” breathlessly. She shook her head and grabbed Liz’s right arm. “Liz, you have to listen to me,” she said urgently. “This is not a joke, and Charlie’s not mad.”
Frustrated, Liz removed her arm from her mother’s grip. “It has to be one of those two things, Mother,” she said angrily. “Because Charlie’s certainly not a wizard. I shouldn’t need to remind you that wizards don’t exist.”
“We do!” Amelia replied.
At this, Liz’s eyes bulged, and her eyebrows furrowed at the same time. “We?” she asked incredulously. After pausing for a moment, she said, “You mean you think you’re a wizard, too?”
Her mother seemed to consider her answer for a moment before speaking. “I am,” she finally said. Then, before Liz got the chance to react, she grabbed hold of her right arm once more and looked directly into her daughter’s eyes. “You’ve got to listen to me, Liz,” she said. “Some of this is going to be hard for you to accept or believe… but I should have told you this a long time ago.”
“Told me what?” Liz asked, completely dumbfounded.
Amelia took a deep breath to steady herself before beginning. “During the summer just after my eleventh birthday, I got a visit from elderly man. He told my parents and me that I was a witch. And he gave me a letter, inviting me to a school called Hogwarts – a school for wizards. We – we didn’t believe it at first, but he proved it; he showed us magic!”
“Mum, come off it,” Liz interrupted.
“This is not a joke, Elizabeth!” Amelia replied, sounding frustrated. The tone of her voice startled Liz into silence. “Please, just hear me out,” her mother pleaded. She waited for a moment to see if Liz would argue, and when she didn’t, she continued telling her story.
“Your grandparents sent me to Hogwarts,” she explained. “I studied there for seven years, and in my seventh year, I started dating your father.”
“So my father went to this wizard’s school, too?” Liz asked, disbelief evident in her tone.
“Yes. Your father was a wizard, too,” her mother answered. “He and I fell in love. We were young and careless; we married immediately after we finished at Hogwarts. And just a few months later, we found out we were having you, and we were thrilled. But your grandfather, your father’s father, he didn’t approve. He hated me… every day he tried to convince your father to leave me.”
“Why?” Liz asked, her tone ambiguous.
“Because I wasn’t a pureblood witch,” Amelia answered, fighting back tears. “My parents weren’t wizards; magic didn’t run in the family. Your grandfather thought my blood was tainted; he thought I was a disgrace to the wizarding world, and he didn’t want my ‘dirty’ blood mixing with your father’s ‘pure’ blood. Your father disagreed with him at first, but after hearing it every day, it finally got to him. By the time you were born, your father shared in your grandfather’s distaste for me. When you were less than two weeks old, your father walked out of our door and never came back.”
By the time her mother had finished speaking, Liz’s face had softened. She was now even more confused than when she’d arrived. Liz had never heard her mother talk about her father or her grandfather in such detail before, and the tears slowly rolling down Amelia’s cheeks made Liz think that she was telling the truth. But that couldn’t be right… this had to be just another part of the joke that Charlie had cooked up, didn’t it? Liz tried to think of something to say, or some question she could ask that would somehow clear everything up, but she was unable to do so before her mother continued.
“When your father left us, I felt so alone and useless,” she said sadly. “You would think that having magical powers would have given me an advantage… but even with everything I had learned at Hogwarts, there was nothing I could do to get him back, no way for me to save our family. I was angry: Angry at your grandfather, angry at your father, and angry at myself. And most of all, I was angry at the entire wizarding world. I hated it; I hated the fact that my blood wasn’t ‘pure’ enough for your father, and I cursed the day I found out I was a witch.”
Tears flowed freely from Amelia’s eyes now, and Liz watched in silence, pitying her mother but still doubting the truth of what she was being told. Her curiosity got the better of her, though, and she quietly asked a question that she hoped would prompt her mother to continue her story. “What happened next, Mum?”
“I ran,” her mother replied. “I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could. I took you and I came to the United States. I vowed never to return to England, and never to use my powers again. And most importantly, I vowed never to tell you any of this. I made up stories to tell you when you asked about your father. I’ve felt horrible for lying to you all these years, and on more than one occasion I’ve thought about telling you the truth… but I swore to myself that I would protect you from the world that had hurt me so much. But I couldn’t stop it, no matter how hard I tried to protect you from that world. It seems you were destined to be a part of it.”
“What do you mean?” Liz asked, her eyebrows furrowed.
“Do you remember the summer after your eleventh birthday?” Amelia asked. “When that letter came addressed to you and you got so excited?”
“Um… I think so,” Liz answered. “I was so excited that I opened it and didn’t even read it; I just went running up to you saying, ‘I got a letter!’”
“Yes, that’s the one,” her mother answered with a slight smile, reminiscing.
“What about it?” Liz asked, puzzled.
“Do you remember what happened when you showed it to me?” Amelia asked.
“Yeah… you got angry with me. You took the letter and sent me off to bed at five in the afternoon,” Liz responded.
“That was your Hogwarts letter,” her mother answered, giving her a knowing look. “I sent you off to bed that afternoon because I was upset. I needed time to think. I finally decided that I’d write back to the Hogwarts headmaster and tell him that I was sending you to a private witches’ school here, the Salem Witches Institute. It was the only sure way I knew to get them to leave you alone.”
It took Liz a moment to understand what her mother was trying to tell her, and when she did, she quickly stood up off of the sofa. “Oh, so now I’m a witch, too, Mum?” she asked. She was uncharacteristically angry, and it showed. When her mother opened her mouth to respond, Liz cut her off. “You know, you and Charlie really are something! I can’t believe how much effort you two have put in to this stupid joke! Charlie started it at home, and you had this whole sob story planned out about my father and how you’ve been lying to me my whole life. And to think – for a minute there, you had almost convinced me! Nice try, but I’d like to think I’d know if I was a witch. So now can we please just stop all this nonsense? It’s driving me mad!”
“Liz, this isn’t nonsense,” Amelia said solemnly. “It’s the truth. I’m sorry that Charlie and I are both springing this on you at the same time, but he really left me with no choice. I either had to tell you the truth now or let you think your husband had gone nutters. And quite frankly, I’m very angry with your husband over this.”
“Oh yes, please go on about how fake mad you are at Charlie!” Liz exclaimed, throwing her hands into the air in frustration.
“Liz, please just calm down,” her mother said softly, getting to her feet. “Sit down and try to relax. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” Liz asked.
“Upstairs,” Amelia replied. “I can prove to you that this isn’t a joke.”
“Great,” Liz said sarcastically. As her mother walked quickly out of the room, Liz flopped down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands again. She couldn’t believe how horrible this day was turning out to be, and she wished it was over already. She lay there in silent contemplation as she waited for her mother to re-enter the room, and when she heard footsteps on the stairs just a moment later, she sat up and tried to mentally prepare herself for the next phase of Charlie and Amelia’s scheme.
Amelia entered with a solemn expression on her face and a small box in her arms, and she eased herself onto the sofa beside her daughter. As she opened the box and began to rummage through its contents, Liz leaned over to peer inside it with a wary expression. To her horror, the first thing her mother pulled out of the box was a stick, very similar in size and shape to the one Charlie had shown her earlier. Liz stared at the stick with wide eyes, and just as she opened her mouth to ask her mother about the stick, Amelia spoke.
“This is my wand, Lizzie,” she said softly. “I haven’t touched it in many years, and I’m not sure how well this is going to work, but hopefully I’ll be able to show you a little bit of magic.” Liz’s eyes grew even wider at this, and they roamed from her mother to the stick and back again.
Amelia slowly lifted the stick and performed a swishing movement with it while saying “Accio Cup,” and Liz stared in shock and amazement as the teacup she’d been drinking out of earlier levitated off of the coffee table nearby and floated in her mother’s direction, completely on its own. The shock caused a very distraught Liz to jump up out of her seat and scream.
Picking the cup up out of thin air and abandoning it and her stick – or wand – on the coffee table, Amelia rushed over to her daughter and tried to calm her. “Shh, calm down love, it’s all right!” she said soothingly. “It’s just a little Summoning Spell, that’s all!”
“S-Summoning Spell?” Liz asked, her entire body shaking.
“Yes dear, that’s it. It’s just magic,” Amelia replied.
“M-magic?” Liz asked. Then, without waiting for an answer, she covered her face with her hands once more and said, mostly to herself, “Calm down, Liz. This isn’t real… that did not just happen.”
“Yes, I’m afraid it did happen, dear,” her mother responded. “And I’ve got more things to show you. Come sit down, and try to relax.”
Liz certainly didn’t want to see anything else like what her mother had just showed her; she didn’t want to see anything else that defied everything she had ever known. But her curiosity got the better of her, and she found herself slowly making her way back over to the sofa, taking a seat beside her mother once more.
Amelia, who had retaken her seat and began digging through the box again, pulled out an envelope with green writing on it, and removed two pieces of yellowish paper from it. “This is your Hogwarts letter, dear,” she said, passing the papers over to her daughter.
Liz took the papers from her mother with shaky hands, and her eyes immediately began scanning the first page. By the time she’d finished it, her mouth was agape, and her mind was racing. She just stared at the letter without saying a word, and the silence that passed between her and her mother was almost tactile.
Trying to fill that silence, Amelia spoke. “I’m sorry I’ve kept this from you for so long,” she said softly. “I just couldn’t bear the thought of you having your heart broken like I did, but now I can see that by keeping this from you, I’ve hurt you.”
Her daughter made no response for quite a few moments, still staring down at the letter she’d received when she was eleven years old. Then, for the first time since Amelia had passed it to her, Liz noticed the name written in the salutation, and it made her very curious. “Mum,” she began with a shaky voice, “why does the opening line of this letter say ‘Miss Mulciber’?”
“Because that was your father’s last name,” Amelia replied. “Well, it was our last name, too, but I changed it when we moved to the States. I didn’t want us to be associated with your father or your grandfather anymore, and I didn't want them to be able to find us, so I changed our names from Mulciber to Hunter.”
“You did what?” Liz asked, finally looking away from the letter for the first time since she’d received it and glaring up at her mother with incredulity.
“I – I changed our last name,” her mother repeated, seeming wary.
“I can’t believe you!” Liz shouted, dropping the letter and getting to her feet once more. “It’s bad enough you’ve never told me about this ‘wizard’ thing, but you’ve never even told me my real name?! How could you, Mum?” At this, Liz started walking towards her mother’s front door, thoroughly confused and upset.
“Liz, please don’t go!” Amelia cried, rushing after her. “You’re upset – you shouldn’t be driving while you’re like this!”
Without stopping, Liz responded, “I have to leave! I’ve got to get out of here… I – I need to be alone!”
“But why?” her mother asked desperately, on the verge of tears.
Liz reached the front door of her mother’s home and placed her hand on the handle. Then she paused for a moment, giving her mother just enough time to catch up with her before she answered. “Because right now I don’t know what to think, or even who I am!” she replied. “And I’m not sure who I’m angrier with – Charlie, for lying to me for two years, or you, for lying to me my whole life!”
With that, Liz opened the front door and stormed outside, her mother hot on her heels. Amelia pleaded with Liz all the way to her car, but it was no use. As Liz pulled out of the driveway and drove out of sight, her mother silently cursed Charlie for causing all of this.
Author's Note: Whew! I know, this chapter was a bit of a shocker within a shocker within a shocker! I'm sorry if I've got any of your heads spinning right now! I promise, things will get more clear as time goes on! Please leave me a review and let me know what you thought: was it believable? Interesting? Absolute rubbish? Do you feel sorry for Liz or do you think she's over-reacting? Thank you all SO much for reading and reviewing!