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May 18, 2021 3:19 AM
yer a wizard joey
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"Maybe it's compatible with hugs." He doesn't sound very hopeful.

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"You're gonna be great," Daddy Michael says, instead of engaging with that. Then he relinquishes the hug, after a final squeeze, and puts Joey back down on his own two feet. "Wanna come back down? We're gonna watch The Sword in the Stone. To - commemorate the occasion."

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"I think I'm all out of family time juice right now. Have fun, though."

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"...Okay. Feel better, okay kiddo?"

Then he heads downstairs to rouse everyone and have a TV night.

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At some point in the evening, Ezra slips away from the press of siblings and makes his way upstairs to their shared room.

They talk. There's some crying.

"-I don't want to - not have you - but I can't not have this - it's awfulhate it we were gonna do middle school together - please don't be mad -" "I'm not -" "-if I could share I would -" "-I'm not mad -"

Eventually Joey is just crying with his head in Ezra's lap, and it doesn't feel good but it feels familiar, like home boiled down into one thing, and he'd better start stocking up on that feeling now, before he's on the other side of the planet in Scotland learning to do stupid magic.

"It's- I said this to Dad but it's the most messed-up thing that I'm not happy about this," he mumbles. "This should be so cool."

Ezra says something soothing. Ezra always knows what to say. He's not going to have Ezra in Scotland. He cries some more, and eventually falls asleep.

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He wakes up with the sun shining on his face. Ezra's in the bunk above him, and for a second he thinks he dreamed it all. But it doesn't feel like it was a dream, and he's still wearing yesterday's clothes, and even though Ezra seems to have wiped his face clean (thank you Ezra) he can tell he went to sleep crying.

Well, he's not going to start the day by crying. Seriously, screw that. He's going to start his day by showering, and then having some cereal, and then Ezra's awake and they can go swimming. And then he can paint with Gil, and play blocks with Ben, and try to play soccer with Arthur and Nathan, and-

This sort of world-defying attitude, of goddammit I will have FUN, lasts for another week. Then Daddy Michael and Daddy Jordan sit him and Ezra down and explain, mostly to Ezra, that they know it's going to be hard but they've looked at the way the money works and the family just can't move to Scotland. And he realizes that Ezra's been asking them to move to Scotland for him - that he knows how Joey really feels and he's been trying desperately to find a way around the way the world is and it just isn't working - he cries some more. They hug him.

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He still tries to have fun after that, but a little less manically, and he leaves himself time to be sad too. The Reeds read the list of stuff he needs for Hogwarts, and take a day trip to a magical village on the outskirts of Sacramento, where they purchase most of the list and get him enough wizarding currency to buy in Scotland what he can't get in America.

After some reassurances from a pet shop employee, Daddy Michael also buys him a bird. She's called a faegrecrawe, and she's lovely - she looks like an oilslick-rainbow grackle with a single peacock eye on her tail, but she makes a sound like a finger on a wineglass. The shopkeeper tells him that the species averages about as intelligent as a Kneazle, whatever that is, but this particular specimen is unusual even for a faegre. She'll live thirty years without a significant upset, so he warns them not to buy casually.

"I'm Joey," he says, marveling at her shimmering colors. "I'm gonna call you Thalia. She's my favorite Muse."

     "Joey," she repeats musically, and nuzzles his index finger, then ducks to preen. "Nice to meet Joey," she says around a pinfeather. "Nice to be Thalia."

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"Okay, when he said 'smart' I didn't know he meant that smart," Daddy Michael says with some concern. "You be nice to that bird."

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"Of course I will," Joey says indignantly.

     "Bite Joey if mean," Thalia comments.

"And I'll apparently have help. Thank you, Thalia."

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Time keeps passing. (It's notorious for that.) Joey and Ezra walk downstairs the morning before he's scheduled to leave, Thalia riding Joey's shoulder, only to find the entire family gathered under a colorful banner reading HAPPY BIRTHDAY EZRA AND JOEY.

     "Surprise!" They don't shout it, because Joey's sensitive about loud noises and it'd be a pretty sucky way to start off a birthday to give him an anxiety attack. Still, everybody's enthusiastic about it, even Finn who isn't talking very coherently yet and Ben who's up really early for him.

"It's - it's not our birthday yet!" Joey laughs.

     Arthur shakes his head with great dignity. "No, but under the circumstances we decided to make an exception. Don't make a habit of it." He pauses. "If you do make a habit of it we'll forgive you. Under the circumstances."

"You absolute dork-" Joey hugs his eldest brother. Then he makes the rounds to hug everyone else, Ezra following behind him.

There's two cakes. One’s got pale pink marzipan encasing jam-separated layers of fudgy chocolate cake, with JOEY piped on top; the other is a relatively conventional cookies-and-cream ice cream cake, but much nicer than something you’d get at Baskin-Robbins or even Cold Stone, with EZRA in bubble letters.

“These are so nice,” Joey says, slightly suspicious.

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"We wanted to make this birthday good enough to make up for... all the other stuff," Daddy Michael says. "And even if it can't make up for all of it, hey, it's a good party."

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For this, Daddy Michael gets a hug.

Cake is eaten (for breakfast, but if you can't have cake for breakfast on your not-actually birthday when can you have it?). Presents are opened. Joey gets a big pile of books, as usual - his brothers know him too well - and a personalized teddy bear from Clarice - who also knows him too well but more embarrassingly - and...

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He hefts the last package consideringly. It's heavy, and cubical, and wrapped in newsprint-patterned wrapping paper. He rips it open. Inside is a leather case, which opens up to reveal a typewriter.

"It's... beautiful. Why?"

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"Professor Suliman said they use quills at Hogwarts, which would be a nightmare with your dysgraphia. And she also said electronics don't work there. But that typewriter's totally mechanical - nothing's going to interfere with it except maybe a paper jam. The manual's in there, and you'll figure it out in no time."

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Further hugs are clearly required.

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Ezra opens his own corresponding present, which turns out to be a camera and a bottle of some unidentified purple liquid. He looks quizzically at Daddy Michael, the Explaining Things Parent.

"Joey's going away, but we can send letters. And pictures, with the letters - and wizards can make their pictures move, with that potion. We've got a subscription to a potion service now, and they'll send us a bottle of it every month, and we want you to take a bunch of pictures so he's not missing as much, okay?"

Ezra nods seriously. Michael ruffles his hair.

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The rest of the birthday is fun and totally exhausting, and Ezra takes a bunch of pictures even though Joey keeps telling him to put the camera down and have fun because it's his birthday too, and Joey flumps into bed at 9:00 tired and happy and barely even thinking about the fact that the next day he's going to go to Scotland and he won't see his family again for months.

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This lasts until he wakes up and showers and goes downstairs and Professor Suliman is sitting in the living room with a cup of tea in one hand, absently twitching her wand to manipulate a set of enchanted knitting needles, and chatting with Daddy Jordan while he feeds Finn.

     "Joseph," she says genially. "Are you packed?"

"Yes, ma'am," he says in a very small voice.

     "Well, I'll give you 'til noon to say your goodbyes - I'm sure you've got a lot of them - and then you can come back down with your luggage and we'll get going."

So Joey retreats upstairs and goes into Ben and Dylan's room to say goodbye to them, and there's hugging and a promise to bring them candy for Christmas, and he goes into Gil and Jake's room to say goodbye to them, and there's hugging and they claim they'll be good while he's gone, and he goes into Arthur and Nathan's room to say goodbye to them, and there's hugging and a brief lecture from Arthur on how he really has to keep up with his schoolwork, not just the English but all of it, all while Nathan makes jackoff motions behind his back, and he knocks on Clarice's door and she runs out in her sleeping sweats and hugs him and tells him to have as much fun as he possibly can, and to send her testimony from at least one of his roommates that he's set up the teddy bear in a place of honor and not just hidden it away in his luggage, and then he goes back into his room and hugs Ezra until about 11:30 and cries on him some more, then he double-checks he packed everything and hugs Ezra one last time and takes his giant suitcase and Thalia’s cage downstairs.

His daddies are waiting with Professor Suliman, and he hugs them one last time and gives Finn a kiss on the forehead and turns to Professor Suliman, looking desperately unhappy.

     She looks at him with a lofty sort of sympathy. "I do think you'll like it at Hogwarts."

"Morituri te salutant," he says petulantly.

     At this, she coughs out a surprised little laugh, then puts her hand over her mouth. "You'll especially like Professor Jenkins, I think," she says. "Or at least he'll like you. Or you'll kill each other."

Then she takes his arm and turns on the spot, and there's a loud crack, and they're gone.

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They land, after a very disorienting few seconds, in what looks like a very old, very fancy train station, with roaring green fireplaces along the walls with various robed figures entering and exiting the flames.

"That... is very cool," Joey admits.

     "Isn't it just?" Professor Suliman says, leading him to a baggage handling area. "Just put your suitcase on that rune - good. Now, we'll need to Floo to Labrador for the next leg of the trip - just stand in front of the fireplace and clearly say 'Hopedale Station,' then step on in."

"And Thalia and I won't catch on fire? That's very important to me."

     "No, no - make sure to keep the birdcage in front of you and your arms around it, but that's the only danger, there's a persistent Flame-Freezing Charm on the fire when it isn't Floo-capable."

"I have no idea what that means," Joey says, "but you seem to, and I think that's what matters."

     "Indeed. Just follow my lead," she says, and walks up to the nearest fireplace and states "Hopedale station!" The flames flare green, and she steps through.

Joey steps up, shakes his head vigorously, says "Hopedale station!" and walks in.

It's less disorienting than the earlier teleportation was. He feels like he's falling, which he doesn't love, but it's not like he's being aggressively compressed, which he liked even less. After a while he lands, and stumbles out the other side, clutching a complaining Thalia.

     Professor Suliman awaits him, and she beckons him after her. "From here we'll take a series of Portkeys," she says.

"Words, words, words," Thalia comments.

Portkeys turn out to be a class of small enchanted objects that teleport people with yet another entirely distinct unpleasant sensation. They take four of them, from Labrador to Greenland to Iceland to the Faroe Islands, from which Professor Suliman Apparates them (the squishy-uncomfortable kind of teleportation) to Scotland, then London. Specifically a bar, where she sits down, lays a silver coin on the counter, and orders something called Firewhiskey.

"Can I have some too?" Joey asks. Then the bartender pours some, and he smells it, and he wrinkles his nose. "Actually, never mind."

     "It's intensely alcoholic," Professor Suliman explains, "which I currently want very badly, because I hate intercontinental travel." She downs the shot, shudders, and allows a trickle of steam to escape her ears and nose. "Much better. Do you have any shopping to do before we turn in for the night?"

"...It's noon."

     "Time zones, mister Reed, wait for no man. It's 8:00 PM."

"Oh, disgusting," he says, making a face. "I'm not going to sleep in an hour."

     "I have a phial of Sleeping Draught in my pocket that says you will!"

Joey makes another face. "Alright, I guess I'll do the rest of my shopping and then you can drug me. Can I let Thalia out of her carrying cage? She really prefers riding on my shoulder."

     "As long as she prefers it enough that she'll stay there and not fly off, that's fine."

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They shop somewhere called Diagon Alley (what is with wizards and giving things weird names), and Joey picks up a couple of things he wasn't able to get in the States, mostly textbooks and a couple of locally sourced potion ingredients. He also looks longingly at various other books in Flourish & Blott's, but decides to come back after the shopping's over and he knows how much he's got left to spend.

They enter a shop with a sign reading OLLIVANDERS over the front. It's dusty and weird, with narrow boxes lining the walls. Professor Suliman rings a bell on the counter.

     After some insistent dinging, a man of about thirty with large glasses steps out of a back room, blinking owlishly. "Are you here for a wand?" he asks.

"Probably!" Joey says.

     "Well, um, give me one moment, I'm in the middle of-"

         "No, Dorian," Professor Suliman snaps. "You will find Joseph a wand, and then you will return to whatever undoubtedly engrossing experiment with Bowtruckle wood and mermaid hair you were working on. Because if I allow you back into that room, you will not come out again."

     The man makes a wounded face, then sighs. "Alright, fine. Come here, lad - what’s your wand arm-"

"Am I supposed to already know that?" Joey asks Professor Suliman.

         "He's right-handed," the professor says.

     "Alright..." The shopkeeper waves his wand a few times, and a tape measure begins harassing Joey of its own volition. Thalia pecks at it a few times, but when it goes on undeterred she flutters off, muttering tuneful obscenities.

"Thalia-" Joey starts. Then she tugs a box off a nearby shelf. It falls to the floor, and a wand clatters out, which she picks up in her beak and wings back to Joey.

     The shopkeeper raises his eyebrows and recalls the tape measure. "Well, you may as well try it out, if the bird wants you to. We don't discount omens in this shop."

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He takes the wand from Thalia's beak. It's long and straight, the white wood densely etched with strangely iridescent designs, and as his fingers close around the handle a feeling spreads up his arm like sinking into a pool of hot water on a cold day, or cold water on a hot day - but it's not hot or cold, just electric.

He waves the wand in a long swooping motion, and a cascade of fat purple sparks drizzle through the air after it. They hang in place for a moment, then drift towards the floor, winking out before they reach it.

"Thalia, you're very good at this," Joey says, turning to the bird.

     "And pretty," she says happily, preening.

"Very pretty," Joey agrees. "How much for my wand?" he asks the shopkeeper.

          "Seven galleons. Wouldn't you like to know what it's made of?"

Joey blinks as he counts out the heavy gold coins from his little beaded coinpurse. "Oh! Sure, I guess. What's it made of?"

          "Willow heartwood and powdered fairy wing," the shopkeeper says. "Thirteen inches, flexible but not whippy, with powdered opal resin in the detailing. A wand for delicate work. You may never be a duelist, but you might well be a Healer."

Joey hugs the wand to his chest for a moment. "That sounds nice."

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Professor Suliman brings him back by Flourish & Blott's on their way back to the Leaky Cauldron, and he picks out enough books to wipe out his remaining funds. It's a lot of books; his daddies didn't know exactly how much he'd need, and they erred on the generous side. Soon he's got a pile of books including copies of the Standard Book of Spells for the next six grades, a hefty encyclopedia on the magical properties of various materials and two companion volumes, beginner texts on Arithmancy and Runes, and a paperback about dueling technique and fundamentals.

     "You've got a Ravenclaw's taste in literature," Professor Suliman notes. "Not interested in the young adult fiction section?"

"My life has enough drama in it already, and if I'm magic I want to learn magic," he says absently, considering a tome entitled Dark Arts and Why They're Dark. "What's a Ravenclaw?"

     "One of the Houses at Hogwarts. You'll be Sorted into one of them based on your aptitudes and personality. Ravenclaws value knowledge and skill, Hufflepuffs value loyalty and kindness, Slytherins value ambition and cunning, and Gryffindors value courage and strength."

Joey nods. "And when they're not being pitched... Nerds with no empathy, fluffy pansies, sociopaths, and jocks?"

     "Has anyone ever told you you're a very cynical child?" Professor Suliman asks wryly.

"On occasion. Usually when I'm right."

     "I didn't say you were wrong. Though there are exceptions in each House. Especially Slytherin; ambition can take many forms."

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They return to the Leaky Cauldron with full bags, and Professor Suliman hands him the Sleeping Draught and their room key, then settles herself at the bar.

Joey goes upstairs to the room, brushes his teeth in the washbasin while a mirror tells him to buy a comb, and lays out some clothes for tomorrow. He changes into his pajamas, sits on one of the beds, and downs the draught.

He falls asleep listening in vain for the sound of his brother breathing.

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When he wakes up, there's a thin wash of sunlight through the window, nothing like the light that pours through his window every morning in California. He feels fuzzy, like he slept for way too long. "Ezra?" he says blearily.

     "No," Professor Suliman says, sitting at a small table with a plate of scones and a cup of tea. "Sorry."

He remembers now. He's in England, Ezra's back in California. He's a wizard, Ezra isn't. Tears well up in his eyes, but he wipes them off irritably. He's so tired of crying. He stands up, goes into the bathroom to brush his teeth, change into his clothes and wash his face. He comes back out and sets his shoulders. "What now?" he asks.

     "Now we have four hours to kill before going to King's Cross and getting on the Hogwarts Express," the witch says, then takes a sip of her tea. "You've got your books, and I've got lesson plans to write; do we need anything else?"

Joey considers. "Um. Breakfast? Otherwise no, I can definitely just read for four hours."

So she takes him downstairs and they have some breakfast (Joey flatly refuses beans on toast, but fortunately the English breakfast contains other food items), and they spend the next four hours reading and planning lessons respectively.

Eventually, Professor Suliman's wristwatch chimes, and after ensuring they have Thalia's cage and all of Joey's luggage, she Apparates them onto a train platform bustling with witches and wizards.

     "Here's where I'll leave you," she says. She looks at him for a moment, then crouches down so she's at eye level and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Don't let your homesickness isolate you from the friends you could make here. Your family will always love you, but you need friends for when you can't be with them."

He nods reflexively. "I- I know."

     She stands up, turns, and vanishes.

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Well.

He might as well get on the train, then.

He hefts his suitcase and Thalia's cage up with him, and passes between the compartments until he reaches an empty one. He manages to get the suitcase onto a luggage rack, and lets Thalia out to flit around the space. She trills, explores for a little while, and then lands on Joey's shoulder. He reads a bit; when the train leaves the station he puts the book away and spends a while looking out the window. He's kind of wishing he'd spent more time in the fiction section of the bookstore; these books are useful and cool but they're not really engaging.

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