Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: Four reviews - thanks!
Chapter Three: Amy Simpson
Throughout the month of June, the Westlake house slowly filled as packages and furniture arrived. The entrance hall, with its hardwood floors and dark paneling soon boasted a thick red-and-blue rug and an ornate wooden bench. The rug was from Germany, the bench a family heirloom. Two tapestries – reproductions from an English castle – hung on the walls, one across from the bench and one on the wall above the stairs. A miniature orange tree sat in the corner near the front door, in front of the full-length windows there.
The first doorway on the right when approaching from the front door was the living room, which had a native sandstone fireplace. In fact, the stone of which it was formed had been pulled from an exposed cliff near the back of her property. Its tones of yellow, orange, and red were repeated through the room. The carpet was a rich golden color, a shade between true yellow and orange. The walls were a brighter shade of the same color. The furniture was a dark red, not quite the color of rust, but close. The upright piano that had been in her mother's family for five generations was situated in the corner farthest from the door. The walls to either side of the fireplace were bookshelves done in golden oak. In truth, the room looked more like a formal library than a living room – it even had the heavy wooden desk that had once resided in her father's study now sitting under a window – but Aurilia didn't watch much television and entertained guests even more rarely. It worked for her and Harry, and that was all that mattered.
The first doorway on the left side of the entrance hall was the only door in the house that was always locked. It's only window was a stained-glass picture of the sun over a mountain lake on its east wall. It had taken six months to track down a manufacturer that would do a custom stained-glass job, and when the sun shone through it, or if there was light in the room at night, the window was absolutely stunning. The room itself was more of the paneling that lined the hall, and the floor was the same hardwood planks. This room also had a fireplace of native sandstone, though on a smaller scale than that of the living room, in the center of the south wall. When viewed before Aurilia moved the furniture and decorations into it, one would have assumed it would be either a study or, given that it shared a wall with the kitchen, a dining room. However, an observant person would find nary a single electric outlet in the entire room. The chandelier that hung from a chain on the ceiling was a simple collection of glass and cast-iron, designed to hold candles, not light-bulbs. After Aurilia was finished furnishing the room, the west wall had a large decorative fountain, similar to the kinds seen in oriental restaurants that circulated the water for koi-ponds. The north wall held numerous shelves and cabinets, as well as a long, low table. The altar-cloth from the wooden box covered it, and the other items from that box, in addition to her sea-salt – now the only occupant of its little box – and her silver goblet. The altar also had a large piece of clear quartz, the stone was twelve inches high and nearly that across its base. Her mother had found the stone as a girl, and had always insisted that it had brought her luck and strengthened her magick. As you may have guessed, this room was Aurilia's magick work-room.
The second door on the right of the hall was to the area beneath the stairs. Unlike a similar door in a house a half a world away, wherein in another life, Harry had spent his childhood, this door led down another flight of stairs to the basement. Just about the only things in the basement were emptied boxes. The house's furnace was on the main floor, as well as the water heater, fusebox, and laundry room. In fact, the only reason the house even had a basement was because springtime always brought two or three tornadoes to any given area in Iowa, particularly the western and southern sections. When Aurilia had time, she planned to make sure that the corner of the basement where the cots were now stored also had some more blankets, flashlights and batteries, and some emergency food. She thought to get some army-surplus MRE's – that's Meals Ready to Eat to the unwashed masses. They stored longer than normal canned goods, and had been designed by military scientists to have all the required vitamins and minerals needed for daily life.
Moving back upstairs, the second door on the left led to the kitchen. The kitchen was done in a cheery shade of yellow and its predominating theme was apples. The towels and hot-mitts boasted decorations of apples; the tablecloth covering the breakfast table as well as the placemats had the same decoration. Even the salt and pepper shakers were little ceramic apples. Though Aurilia didn't know it, she couldn't have selected a better scheme for her kitchen. According to psychology studies on color, the colors of red, green, and yellow stimulated the appetite. The kitchen was unique of all the others that her contractor had built in the last six years in that it had an overabundance of counter space. She had plenty of cupboards, a large stove with a gas-powered grill as part of its surface, and the oven was large enough to bake a thirty-pound turkey. She had two additional ovens, stacked one on top of the other, but they were electric and would be used only if she found herself needing to keep large amounts of food warm. In fact, the lower of the two ovens she had no intention of using for food. It was going to be used to speed the drying time of several herbs she intended to plant in the garden, though the garden would have to wait until the following year. Behind the back door, an old-fashioned stick-broom stood, and on the wall near the breakfast table, an ornate woodcut calendar depicted similar images to the Wheel of the Year embroidery on the altar-cloth in her magick room.
The kitchen had its own door to the outside – the back door – and it also held the door to the utility room wherein the furnace and water heater were kept, as well as the washer and dryer. It also had an archway to the dining room – the last door on the right from the hallway. The dining room held a massive table that had to be assembled in the room, as none of the doors would have admitted it pre-assembled; it would seat twelve comfortably, eighteen if they were friendly. The floor and walls were the same woods represented in her magick room and the hall, and the curtains across the window seat were a heavy, dark red velveteen. A collage of black-and-white photographs of her travels graced the wall shared with the kitchen.
As to the ground floor of the house, the only thing that remains to be said is that there was a half-bath tucked into the exact center of the floor, one door at the top of the stairs to the basement, the other almost hidden in a corner of the living room.
The second floor of the house boasted four bedrooms and two full baths. The master bedroom was the biggest, of course, and was along the northern edge of the house. Aurilia's room was done in shades of blue and green, with her bathroom to match. Despite the heavy use of wooden furniture on the first floor, her bedroom furniture was all brushed steel and glass. Stepping into her room left one with the feeling that they'd been plunged into the ocean.
Harry's room was next door to her own, and was done in bright primary colors. As she'd let Harry select what he wanted for the room, his bed was a loft and beneath it he had stored his toy-chest. He also had a desk and his own set of bookshelves, a chest of drawers, and a large penny bank that was a working gumball machine. Aurilia kept it stocked with jawbreakers, though. She once managed to get bubblegum in her hair as a small child and had never really liked the concept of gum after that. The decorations varied, some were dinosaurs, some were cars and airplanes. All-in-all, it was a room any almost-four-year-old boy would be proud of.
Of the remaining two bedrooms, one was done in neutral shades of brown and the other was empty. Aurilia had a vague notion of setting the last up as a sewing room – she'd always enjoyed making her own clothes – but for the time being, it was empty. The bathroom that the other three bedrooms shared was likewise neutral white.
It was with a relieved sigh that Aurilia unpacked the last box – her father's collection of stemware, beer steins, and other drink-specific glasses – and put everything away. Harry took the box to the basement for her. When he returned, Aurilia grinned at him. "That's the last of them."
Harry smiled back. "Good. Now can we get the horses you promised?"
Aurilia laughed, "Not just yet, little luz. We'll have to build a stable first, and I wanted to wait until next year for that." Harry pouted a little at the pronouncement before heading up to his room to play with his toys.
Throughout the rest of that year, Aurilia and Harry spent the majority of their time learning the quirks of their property. Aurilia taught Harry how to read and write, and began showing him how to do simple arithmetic. She also began scouting out what wild herbs grew in the area, and showing Harry what they looked like. When picking them, she taught him about conservation – "Never pick all of a particular plant, Harry, that way there's more for next year." – and what the plants were used for. She also made sure he knew what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac looked like.
Harry's favorite part was when she would take him fishing, be it along the river that bordered their property, or to Lake Red Rock over on the Des Moines River. During one particularly sunny afternoon in late August, Aurilia taught Harry how to swim. At first, Harry was more than a little afraid of the water – a recent thunderstorm had made the water murky – but by the end of the afternoon, he could float unassisted and was rapidly learning how to tread water and dog-paddle. The remainder of the week was spent, to Harry's delight, at the campground on the lake. By the end of the week, he was swimming better than Aurilia and could hold his breath longer.
Their first winter in their new house was long and lonely. Storm followed storm until the snow was piled three to six feet deep. It was too deep to go sledding, but Aurilia and Harry tried anyway. When it felt as though their faces had frozen into place, they went back inside to some much-needed hot coco and cookies. That year, Santa brought Harry a model airplane that really flew. Granted, it was made of a heavy plastic and 'flew' at the end of a wire lead, but Aurilia felt he was still a little too young for a real model. Perhaps the next Yule, or even the one after that.
Gathering up discarded wrapping paper, Aurilia paused for a moment to watch Harry coloring in his new coloring book – it was a dinosaur fact book. Somehow, I don't think that a stegosaurus' tail was day-glow pink with blue spines. But then again, how would I know? Harry was stretched out on his stomach with his new box of 96 Crayolas spread in an arc around him. He finished up with the periwinkle blue he was using to fill in the spines along the herbivore's back and set it down. Stretching out to reach the russet brown crayon that was just out of his reach, Aurilia blinked. Did that crayon just roll to his had? She shook her head and dismissed it from her mind, certain that she'd been seeing things.
Spring brought a minor flood to the river that bordered the Westlake property, and though the water covered part of the driveway, keeping them from leaving for almost a full three days, the house was far enough up on the hill not to be in any danger. During those three days, Harry once again brought up the subject of horses, and Aurilia verified that, yes, they would be getting some that summer.
In the chaos that was the summer of 1985, a stable was built on the Westlake lands, as well as a small, two-bedroom cottage. Aurilia knew that if she was going to get horses, she would need help with them, and with Iowa weather being what it was, she would rather her hired hands stay on the premises.
She had been so busy overseeing the building of the stable – she had some precise requirements – she had almost forgotten to get Harry registered for kindergarten. It was actually an unexpected visitor from the town of Marysville that reminded her.
"Damnit, Peterson! No! The windmill is supposed to power all the water-needs for the stable! I don't want to have to rely on buckets if the electricity were to go out for any reason."
The contractor merely shook his head in defeat and took the blueprints with him back down to the construction site. The addition of a small black sedan to the dozen or so vehicles that belonged to the construction crew went unnoticed in the general clamor of power-tools, voices, and the roar of a bulldozer deepening a natural depression in the side of the hill – the future location of a farm-pond.
Amy Simpson was, by profession, a lawyer in Knoxville, specializing in estate planning, though she was known to take a court case or two if asked. She was also the mayor of Marysville, though that particular job could more easily be described as 'official complainer to the county.' Just about the only things she had to do was approve the bus-routes for the local school, and make sure the county offices didn't forget to send a road-grader out twice a week to even the gravel; Marysville was the only town in Marion County that didn't have a paved access road.
Amy had watched as the dozens of farm-buildings on the old Walters farm had been torn down the previous year, and as the large brown house with copper roof and green shutters had been built. A quick visit with the contractor, ostensibly to verify their work-permits, had revealed that a woman by the name of Aurilia Westlake had purchased the old Walters place and had ordered the construction. A little research allowed the rather nosy woman to find out that Aurilia Westlake was the only child of Jon and Leanne Westlake – former professors at ISU. It also told her that Aurilia's parents were both deceased and that she was wealthy enough to do just about whatever she wanted for the rest of her life. It hadn't told her, however, that Aurilia had a son. At least, she assumed that the boy was hers and not one of the workers' – who would bring their kid to a construction site?
Aurilia was sitting on the front porch, watching the construction going on just down the hill from her house, the boy playing with a bucket of Legos nearby. Both of them were so intent on their respective tasks that neither of them noticed Amy's arrival. Amy rapped her knuckles on the banister of the stairs up the porch. "Hello?"
The boy glanced up, then went back to his Legos, opting to ignore the blonde woman in the white blouse and navy skirt. Aurilia turned and smiled politely, "Hello. I'm Aurilia Westlake, may I help you?"
Amy returned the smile. "Amy Simpson," she offered her hand. "I'm the mayor of Marysville and the unofficial welcoming committee."
"Oh," Aurilia replied. "Come on up. It's getting hot… would you like something to drink? I've got some iced tea and some lemonade in the fridge."
"That would be nice." Amy said.
After a warning to the boy – Harry, as it turned out – to stick close to the house, Amy followed Aurilia through the entrance hall to the kitchen. She took the offered seat at the breakfast table while Aurilia poured two glasses of lemonade. The two engaged in small-talk, feeling each other out for possible friendship. After a few minutes, the conversation turned to Harry and Aurilia explained how she'd come to be Harry's mom. "Wow. That sounds like something off of a soap opera," was Amy's reply. "You said he's going to be five in a couple of days, right?"
Aurilia nodded, "Yeah."
"Will he be starting school this fall, then? Or are you going to wait until next year?"
Aurilia blinked in surprise. "School? Shit. I'd forgotten all about that!"
Amy chuckled, "Been busy?"
"That's the understatement of the year. Have you any idea the sheer number of things a house needs? Not to mention all the parcels I'd shipped over from London… It took a month just to unpack! And I'm still finding things that need to be bought."
"I'd believe it," Amy said, sipping her drink.
"I haven't had the chance to drop by the school for this area, yet. What can you tell me about it?"
Amy shrugged, "Oh, I suppose it's a typical rural school. It serves for Pershing, Attica, Bussey, Hamilton, Tracy, and Marysville, as well as all the country kids in between. It averages around four hundred students every year, and that's all grades, kindergarten right through high school. The school itself is about three miles outside of Bussey; one building for K through sixth, and another across the parking lot for seventh through twelfth. It's got cornfields on all sides, so even the high schoolers are required to stay on campus all day. Most of the teachers are a decent sort, there's only one or two who really ought not to be teaching… but I don't control who hires them. Hell, I'm not even on the PTA. I could be, but managing my own business, as well as the town – such that it is – is more than enough for me."
Aurilia snickered, "So, you've your own kids?"
Amy nodded, "Yeah. My daughter, Sarah, is fourteen and my son, Josh, just graduated last spring. He's going to be attending the University of Northern Illinois – his dad's alma matter – this fall. Sarah's a handful and a half, though. She's got it in her head that if it can't be drawn, sculpted, painted, or played, it isn't worth bothering with."
"She's an 'artist,' or so she thinks, though even I have to admit that she's damn good on the piano. Hell, she'd have to be. She asked for lessons when she was three years old and took them right up until this year. That was when the instructor told her that she'd either have to continue learning on her own or find another teacher, because he'd taught her all he knew. But besides art and music, she's been barely-passing all of her other classes. She outright failed math last year and has spent every other day in summer school in Knoxville to make up for it."
Aurilia refilled her glass and offered the pitcher to Amy. "Maybe I could help. I was going to ISU to be a teacher, and when I withdrew I had all the course requirements for a major in Secondary Education. All I really needed were the general requirements in order to graduate. My minor was Spanish, but I wasn't bad at math or history, or really any subject. I didn't like science and I found history boring, but I wasn't bad at them…"
Amy smiled and met Aurilia's eyes, "Maybe so. In any case, I'll leave you with our phone number and tell Sarah to give you a call if she needs help."
"Sure." Aurilia grabbed a pad of paper that was held to the front of the fridge by a magnetic clip and the pen that was always laying across the top of the phone. She scribbled down her own number and handed it to Amy. Their conversation turned to more general topics.
Mr. Peterson – the contractor – noticed a blonde woman arrive and follow Aurilia inside the house and breathed a sigh of relief. He'd not known what he was getting himself into when he agreed to build another project for Ms. Westlake. For the last one, she'd not been in the country, and so he had made weekly progress reports to her over the phone. He found himself longing for those times once again. The woman was a sheer terror to work for, insisting on only the best materials and angles had to be just so, and may God have mercy on the soul of anyone that failed to completely hammer home a nail! Despite that, however, he was completely unprepared for Harry.
When his mom had disappeared into the house with the stranger-lady, Harry'd gathered his Legos up and put them back into the bright blue plastic bucket. With his mom out of the way, he had some questions he wanted to ask Mr. Peterson. He sat the bucket on the white wrought-iron table on the porch and wandered down to where the man was overseeing the last of the dirt work on the pond. He tugged Mr. Peterson's shirt sleeve.
"What? Oh, kid, you should head back up to the house, before your mom gets mad." The absolute last thing Jonas needed was for Aurilia to come running out, upset that he'd allowed her precious little boy so near dangerous machinery.
Harry shook his head, he knew his mom wouldn't be mad at him. She rarely ever got mad. Her yelling at the contractor was more of exasperation than anything else. "What's that called?" he pointed at the bulldozer.
"What? Oh. A bulldozer."
"Why's it called that?"
"Dunno, just is. Sometimes they're called cats. Short for caterpillar. Depends on if they've got treads or wheels."
"You know what a tank looks like, right?" Harry nodded, eyes wide. "And the weird belt they've got running around their wheels, right?" Harry nodded again. "Those are treads."
"Oh." Harry nodded. "Why are they called that?"
Jonas shrugged, "Hell if I know, kid."
Harry decided to ask his mom at the earliest opportunity. "What's the 'dozer doing?"
"Your mom ordered a pond. It's clearing out the dirt and moving it to that pile there, where another machine will tamp it down to form a dam."
"Oh." This was really fun. He was learning a lot. "And what's 'tamp?'"
"It means the dirt will be packed down really tight, so the water won't escape." Jonas flagged the foreman to signal for lunch. The foreman nodded and used an air-horn – the kind powered by compressed air and favored by sports fanatics – to do so. Harry jumped in surprise at the loud blast. "What was that?"
"An air-horn. I just told the foreman to signal for the workers to take their lunch."
"Oh. How? You didn't say anything."
"Since most construction sites are really noisy, the foreman and I have a set of gestures we use to communicate simple things."
"Makes sense." Harry agreed. "What's a 'foreman?'"
"He's the guy who determines what workers will be working where." Jonas began walking towards his truck and his own lunch.
"Oh. Then what do you do?"
"I make sure all the supplies like nails and wood are delivered on time, and the order in which a big project like this is done. Your mom wanted it done before the first of September, so I have to make sure that the stable, the fences, the cottage, and the pond are all completed by that time."
"Oh. Where's the water come from?" he asked.
The contractor blinked at the sudden divergence from the previous question thread. "Huh?"
"The water for the pond. Where's it come from?"
Jonas ran a hand through his hair. He almost wished he was dealing with Aurilia. At least she listened when he said that something couldn't be done, or that he needed to do something. She didn't barrage him with a seemingly never-ending series of questions; he wasn't sure the boy was ever going to leave him alone. "We will be pumping it up from the river."
"With fish, too?" Harry was curious. He knew that a water pump was how they got water in the house, but his mom had also told him not to go drinking the water from any of the other wells on the property because anything in the water could travel up the pump, too. Of course, Aurilia had meant things like bacteria and heavy metals. However, to a four-year-old, bacteria were less real than fairy tales, and heavy metals invariably brought to mind pictures of barbells.
Jonas shrugged again. "I don't know. Probably. Even if some didn't get pulled in by the pump, it would be a good idea to keep a few perch and maybe a bass or two in the pond after it's filled. The fish will help keep the water clean."
Harry's forehead wrinkled. Just how could a slimy fish keep water clean? "How?"
Jonas swore mentally, creatively and colorfully. "They eat the algae that grow in still water."
Jonas wanted very, very much to scream, loud and long. His own kids had never been as full of questions as the green-eyed, black-haired little imp before him. Instead of screaming, he tried to answer the question. "It's a water plant. You know how a puddle will get slimy if it's left in the sun?"
Jonas sighed, "Well… we're sure to get more rain this summer. When we do, take a look at a couple of puddles. Right after it rains, they're pretty clear, or just have mud in them. If they're big enough to stick around for a couple of days after the rain clears, especially if it's warm and sunny, the puddle will start to grow this greenish-brown slime. That's algae."
Harry filed the information away to be researched at a later date. He moved on to his next question, "How come some of the workers take their shirts off when they're working?"
"Because it's hot, and they're cooler without their shirts."
Harry had met all the workers, and most of them were happy enough to take a short break from their tasks to explain to the four-year-old what they were doing. "If it's cooler, then how come Julia and Robin don't, too?" Julia was one of the two electricians on the crew, and Robin – also female – was the operator for the bulldozer.
"Because they're girls… women. It's not right for women to run about without a shirt," Though the world would be more interesting to watch if they did, he continued silently, knowing Harry wouldn't understand the reference.
Jonas nearly threw his lunchbox down in irritation. "Damnit, kid! Enough with the questions already! Ask your mom!" With that, Jonas took refuge in his truck and turned the radio on, really loud, and opened up his lunchbox.
Harry sighed. Most of the workers liked answering his questions. There were a couple, though, that were like Mr. Peterson. Two, three questions were all right, but more than that and they got flustered. Harry decided it was time to head up to the house; he was ready for lunch, too.
A/N2: And that's chapter three. Again, I hope everyone liked it and will continue to read.